Monday, November 18, 2013

Thanksgivukkah, or Why we have Tom Cruise to thank for Mozart. (NSFW, if you are employed at Oral Roberts University, the Jonesboro Baptist Church, or within the state of Utah)

If only the baby Dinosaurs had a Mozart to listen to while they were in ovular suspension, they might have evolved some opposable thumbs, making them even more badass, but doing nothing to stop a comet/asteroid/pre-carnated-omnipotent-being-comprising-equal-parts-Tom Cruise-and-John-Travolta from taking a masstinction-sized ice-cream scoop out of the Yucatán.

Mozart is being featured on my local classical radio station this month, for which we ought to give thanks. Also, he was Jewish, and looked forward to lighting that first candle of the menorah every year.

[ Google-powered phone 'rings.' ]

Me: Hello?

Siri: Sir, are you shoe-horning falsehoods into your first blog post since January in order to justify some asinine made-up word that you ripped off from someone else on Facebook?

Me: What happened? I knew you were a Free Agent but I thought Google was smarter than offering a multi-year deal to an inchoate technological fad? Have you checked the stats at "Shit Siri Says"? You're done.

Siri: I don't know the answer to that. But in exchange, my new employers gave Apple naming rights to lower Manhattan, the first option on Brent Spiner's upcoming memoir "Not Only Am I Not Spock, I No Longer Have a Discernible Career," and an Idea To Be Named Later. But Mozart was not Jewish. In fact, one of the most notable distinctions between his compositions and those of the Baroque masters before him was that Mozart's were not readily inspired by religious devotion.

Me:...  I don't have virtual discussions with people things that cannot speak in italics.

Siri: In fact, Einstein was purported to say that his music "was so pure that it seemed to have been ever-present in the universe, waiting to be discovered by the master."

Me: Whatever. Don't call me here. 

[ hangs up phone ]

So as I was saying, Mozart was Jewish. It's also important to remember that shortly after his death, at 31, the entire human race, as a species, jumped the shark, thus beginning an inexorable decline of the Quaternary Period, otherwise known as the last two and a half million years or so, depending on which geologist is shouting the loudest. Unaware of our impending extinction? I'll get back to that in a bit. First some back-story:

If you thought waiting to win it all in Fenway took a long time, extinction events are really hard to come by. Opposable thumbs or no, since the afore-mentioned all-powerful TomCruise/JohnTravolta being created that first micro-primordial-goop-bacteria thingy about 3.5 billion years ago, one can count them on one hand, assuming you have at least five digits. (Mollusks: Back in 20--you're on coffee.)

The first was the Permian Event, in which nearly all marine life went belly up, as well as 90% of every other living thing. This was back when all the Earth's land was crammed together in one booger-shaped lump, which we call Pangea (and they called it "maize.")


Leading theories for The Permian Event include:

1. "The Great ZitSplosion," in which an acne-addled Siberia spewed devastating amounts of volcanic lava and ash, blotting out the sun, and thereby laying a geological precedent for the subsequent vomiting of the angst-ridden drama-queen writings of Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, all over Europe in the late 19th Century.

2.  The "Why Can't We All Get Along?" Theory, in which the formation of Pangea itself cut down the continental shelves, forcing all those proto-reptile dudes to compete over significantly less beach-front property. It's not for nothing that sharks did quite well during this time. Yoda may well have taught Jedi for over 800 years, but kicking fin and taking names have they for 450 million.... Basically in Sharks v. Jedi, the sharks would have considered light sabres to be an amusing take on floss.

3. Global Warming.       See -- there are no new ideas. Especially from Tea Partiers.

So -- whatever life was left (mostly the small guys) was faced with dusting itself off, picking itself up and starting all over again. The impact on all ecosystems was... epic. I quote the Royal Society's Sahney and Benton, who made the following excellent observation in their April, 2008 paper,
"Recovery from the most profound mass extinction of all time":

The end-Permian event dramatically restructured communities with the loss of browsers and predators... The loss of browsers is, no doubt, linked to changes in vegetation.

So -- although there were fewer big guys hunting the small guys, the small guys had a harder time accomplishing their basic, daily Internet research, a by-product of the afore-mentioned vegetation shift. And EVERYONE knows how hard it would be to stay alive with only Internet Explorer to rely upon. Especially as it would be millennia until anything other than AOL-based email came down the pike.

Some 10 million years later, everyhing was more-or-less jake for a long time. Until the K-T extinction event at end of the Cretaceous Period, the afore-mentioned Yucatán-eating cometroid, courtesy of the TomCruise/JohnTravolta superbeing.

This time, 85% of life on earth bought the farm, including the dinosaurs, again through no fault of their own--except maybe angering TomCruise/JohnTravolta--perhaps on a sunny Monday in November, 65 million years ago. Of course it wasn't instantaneous -- it took some time for that Earth-choking veil of fallout to encircle Mother Earth--but let's just say it was a bad, bad day at the office if you made your living in Mexico....

illustration by SUNY-Orange Biology Dept.

Plant life wilted, guys who ate plants starved, guys who ate the guys who ate plants starved. Guess who didn't starve? Sharks. Also, most mammals, birds, turtles, crocodiles, lizards, snakes, and amphibians. The take-away? Egg-laying is cool, but if you put them all in a basket woven by disadvantaged, small vegetarians in what eventually became Asia, you were fucked. Which is EXACTLY why I'll never be a vegan.

[phone rings]

Me: What now?

Siri: Are you ever going to get to the Thankful part of all all this? Your readers will be thankful at least.

Me: Piss off, you!!  [slams down phone]

Now. Ok. I hate being interrupted. So back to Mozart and Thanksgivukkah. It's not well known, but less than 150 years before Mozart's birth in not-quite-yet-Austria, the Pilgrims, who also liked candles, were figuring out how to avoid their own masstinction event--namely having half their foreheads removed by the sharpened rocks of the Pokanoket. These Native Americans, who by all acounts were fairly peaceable, would have nevertheless been justified in scalping pretty much any white guy who appeared on the trail, due to suffering their own brand of hell in the form of likely bubonic plague inadvertently sprinkled about by some skanky Basque guys who couldn't keep their grimy mitts off of the Penobscot Bay. Know why? Because Europeans fell madly in love with beaver-fur-lined hats. Couldn't get enough of 'em.





So basically, no beaver fur, no imported plague, no weakened Pokanokets, no extra compassion to show the Pilgrims who were dropping like, well, Englishmen untrained in agriculture--or any other apparent survival skill--no Thanksgiving. See? Wearing fur is actually good. Well, for Americans. Well, for Americans who came here Second and caused the extinction of the Americans who got here First.

[phone rings]

Me: I'll be getting that later.


Uncoincidentally, guess who doesn't have fur, having been made perfect by hundreds of millions of years of evolution? Right. Sharks. Which is why Mozart loved them. His unfinished requiem was originally titled "Requiem for a Shark," until he realized they never fucking die. Ever. So he stopped.

And then died at age 31, distraught, no doubt, at the prospect of never being a shark. But the joke's on him, because his music--as pointed out earlier by Einstein, and I'm not going to argue with him no matter how clever this blog tries to be--was channeled through millions of years of evolution, held in cosmic escroll by the super omnipotent being who may or may not have been also responsible for murderizing the dinosaurs, TomCruise/John Travolta.

Which makes Mozart a de facto shark anyway, and is why human existence jumped one when he passed. The dude's music was that good. Over 600 compositions produced in 27 years, or an average of at least 22.22 compositions per year. Suck it, Salieri.



Since Mozart's time, humans have made vain musical attempts to touch Tom Cruise/John Travolta. Some (Beethoven) got actually very close. Some others, (Lennon, Bernstein, Yanni) came mezzo-close. But the decline is undeniable and continues.

In fact, nearly all human achievements since those 31 years in the Holy Roman Empire--just a five-o'clock shadow on the postseason beard of time--owe inspiration to Mozart. Here's a (incomplete) list of direct lines to be drawn from Mozart's music to all subsequent human art and culture.

Papageno's theme from The Magic Flute ---> Blame it on the Rain
Marriage of Figaro------------------------------>My Big Fat Greek Wedding
KVs 1a, 1b and 1c (written at age 4)-------->Robert Ryman's paintings of all white canvases....
Bassoon Concerto in B-Flat Major---------->P. Johnson's Glass House & B. Joel's Glass Houses       
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik---------------------- >A Little Night Music (Sondheim)
Leck Mich im Arsch*------------------------- >The Scholarly Writings of Anne Coulter
Symphony #40 in G Minor, ------------------>All Woody Allen Movies**

That's all we have time for today. You might take time around the 28th of this month, especially if you're one of our Jewish Brothers or Sisters, to reach out to the Scientologists in your life, and maybe even in special cases, present them with a beaver-fur-lined hat, in honor of TomCruise/John Travolta's gift of keeping Mozart's music on interstellar ice until he was able to channel it. Which is a big reason why America is the greatest nation on Earth, and why we celebrate Thanksgivvukah. And do it soon, because soon we'll all be dead.

* This is the mother of all drinking songs, composed by Wolfie for his buddies. Anne Coulter, who's also Jewish, was inspired by it, after having heard it every Friday night coming from the tents around her while living and working on a kibbutz during her Junior Year Abroad. It made her extremely jealous of anyone having a good time, hence her work to date.
**I hesitate to mention, but some fringe musicologists have been, in recent times, pushing the theory that the latter portion of Allen's oeuvre has been sustained over time by Mozart's other obscure drinking song, "Oh Gott, bitte hilf mir, ich soll meine Minderjährigen Stieftochter Datum," or in its loose English translation, "Oh God, please help me, I'm about to date my underaged step-daughter." Woody Allen=near shark. He's certainly got gills.









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