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I first became seriously hooked on Wagner when I was 12 or 13. Everything I’d been listening to up to that point—Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brahms—seemed to be little more than building blocks culminating in his final opera, Parsifal, and all the music that came afterward was a falling away. It wasn’t until a few years later that I began hearing about Wagner’s personal views and accidental associations, and you know what? It just didn’t matter. To this day nothing has changed. From all I’ve learned and read about him (including his massive autobiography), Wagner the Man was an insufferable blowhard and a jerk, someone I likely wouldn’t care to spend too much time around. But his monumental, glorious music remains central to me, and always will.
Today marks the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth, but you can’t hear anything about it without also hearing that Wagner was an anti-Semite and a friend of Nietzsche’s and a Nazi.
Yes well. OK, those three things seem to be far more important to most people than, say, The Ring Cycle, so let’s take care of these one by one.
I read recently that sales of Bazooka bubble gum are slipping, which isn’t very surprising, since it’s not often you see kids blowing bubbles on the street. “Bazooka Joe,” star of the tiny comic strip that until recently was wrapped around the gum, is now a character who’s been—like Beaver Cleaver, Dondi, Mr. Ed and the great cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller’s Sluggo—consigned to the annals of minor mid-20th century pop culture. Lots of people still chew, of course—every time I watch an Orioles game, for example, there’s center fielder Adam Jones tracking a fly ball while blowing an enormous bubble—but the part that gum plays in everyday American life has ground to a halt.
At approximately 3 p.m. CST Monday afternoon, Godzilla struck just outside of Oklahoma City, claiming dozens of lives, several of them children, and leaving a 20-mile-long path of flattened homes, schools, and businesses in the wake of his unstoppable onslaught. It represents the monster’s deadliest attack on the nations midsection since his appearance two years ago to the day in Joplin, Missouri, which at the moment is still considered one of his most devastating attacks on U.S. soil. As the clean up begins and rescuers continue to searchthrough the rubble left behind in Moore, Oklahoma, and the surrounding area, however, this may change.
A day earlier, three were killed after Godzilla made a brief appearance in the same region, though further west. That he would reappear so soon after that initial attack caught many residents of Moore, a town of 55,000, off guard. They were given only 16 minutes warning to gather their loved ones and find some kind of shelter after Godzilla was initially spotted heading in their direction.
As illustrated by last week's News of the Weird column, there's been heady goodness all over the damn world. And sometimes, believe it or not, the heads even remained attached to the bodies.
If you recall, back in January of 2008, then 40-year-old Vince Li, a Canadian citizen, was taking a relaxing Greyhound excursion when he stabbed, decapitated, and partially ate another passenger, 22-year-old Winnipeg resident Tim McLean, a carnival worker. The two had never met and never spoken prior to the incident. According to other passengers, after a rest stop Mr. Li took a seat in the back next to McLean, who was asleep. It was all quite unexpected when Li whipped out a knife and began hacking away.
The story was reported in the States more for the fact that it was a Canadian who’d done such a thing than for what he’d actually done. Anyone who’s taken a long trip on Greyhound could probably empathize with beheading and eating of another passenger, but a Canadian? Now, THAT was news!
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