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December 2016
Vol. VI, No. 292

December: Masks, Masking & Unmasking

"Mask of Zanni" (Photo by Tom Banwell)

“Mask of Zanni” (Photo by Tom Banwell)

From Elizabeth Boleman-Herring: Søren Kierkegaard stated, “Don’t you know that a midnight hour comes when everyone has to take off his mask? Do you think life always lets itself be trifled with? Do you think you can sneak off a little before midnight to escape this?” Now, at year’s end, in the dark, cold midnight hour, our electorate (in the US) having been unmasked for who they are—those who did not vote, a majority who voted for Clinton, and a victorious minority who, with the collusion of those who suppressed the vote, FBI director James Comey, and Russia, brought Trump to power—it behooves us to glance, or gaze, into our mirrors, and report on what looks back at us. Seven Weekly Hubris writers contribute speculative essays on “Masks, Masking, and Unmasking” this month: Alan Gauvin, with a close-to-the-bone piece on transexuality; Helen Noakes, with a fragment of her play “Memento Mori”; your editor, with a meditation on the president-elect (who will never be ‘her’ president); Diana Farr Louis, with a timely dispatch from crisis-stressed but seemingly peaceful Athens, Greece; Dr. William Ramp, with a ‘big’ essay on the sociology of masks; Alexander Billinis with an account of a life lived wearing three (at least) “national” masks; and William A. Balk, Jr., with an essay on masks and masquerading, both on stage and in the streets, from Thalia and Melpomene, to Anonymous. We welcome, this month, a new Contributor to our ranks, Dr. Guy R. McPherson, whose column, “Going Dark,” will document his ongoing, groundbreaking, and internationally acclaimed work on the Anthropocene Sixth Extinction. (He writes, this month, about the illusions of Western Civ.) Our December issue closes with a prose-poem from Weekly Hubris‘s Archives: “Rising Time,” by Claire Bateman; and two video-offerings (dessert!) by the band “OK Go,” which comprise Tim Bayer’s little stocking-stuffer for Weekly Hubris‘s benefactor, F. Theresa Gillard.

The author’s twin in the mirror.

The author’s twin in the mirror.

Maine Cat

“The Life & Times of My Twin Sister (& The Idealized Concept of Transexuality),” By Alan Gauvin

AMITY Maine—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2016—At five years of age, in 1950,  I became especially fascinated by a sheer embroidered organza blouse over an exquisite lace brassiere. When she hugged me, as a mother does, the appearance, texture, and lightness of the fabric, the gentle, all-pervading sound it made moving to and fro, mesmerized me. Left alone at play, I wandered into her closet and slipped into the blouse. It was a pleasant tactile experience and an agreeable rush. (Read more . . .)

Faiyum portrait.

Faiyum portrait.

Waking Point

“The Masks We Choose,” By Helen Noakes

SAN FRANCISCO California—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2016—A semi-finalist in the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center’s 2009 National Playwrights Conference, my play, Memento Mori, is an exploration of the price women pay for political power and the masks they are forced to wear in male-dominated societies. Because the play resonates so powerfully in our current political climate, and because our editor assigned us the task of writing about masks, I’m including a small segment of Scene 3. To give you an idea of what preceded: (Read more . . .)

Boutique window in Kifissia.

Boutique window in Kifissia.

Eating Well Is The Best Revenge

“Where’s The Crisis? The Masks Of Athens,” By Diana Farr Louis

ATHENS Greece—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2016—“Tell me, you who live here, where is this crisis we’ve been reading about? We’ve been in Greece for several days now and there’s no sign of it.”

It’s the day after the US elections and I’ve been invited to dine with a group of well-educated Americans in a posh restaurant in the leafy Northern Suburbs. We try not to talk about what’s just happened, so the conversation focuses on Greece and its problems, instead. They’ve visited the Acropolis Museum and the Benaki Museum; they’ve traipsed around the Central Market, watched gyros swirling slowly, and gaped at the bounty in the food shops and the crowds sitting in the sun outside cafés. (Read more . . .)

Trump Halloween mask.

Trump Halloween mask.

Small Things Recollected

“Masks: How Emperors Are Clothed,” By William Ramp

LETHBRIDGE Alberta, Canada—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2016—The word mask descends from the old French masque, signifying a covering for the face. Masque also entered English as the name for a particular kind of courtly entertainment involving elaborate stage settings, pantomimes, singing, dancing and acting. Further back, mask has an interesting, if confusing lineage through words standing, variously, for specter, nightmare, ridicule, darkness or blackening. There is, then, something both sinister and comedic in the history of the term, as there is in the image of the clown: a minor panic on social media in the run-up to Halloween 2016 and the US election focused on frightening clown figures appearing randomly at night. (Read more . . .)

“Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne,” by Francis Bacon (1966)

“Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne,” by Francis Bacon (1966)

Roaming East Roman

“Unmasked Nostalgia,” By Alexander Billinis

CHICAGO Illinois—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2016—Some people wear the mask of only one nation, assigned them at birth, while I wear three. There’s my American mask, a legacy of birthplace, upbringing, and living four-fifths of my life here. There is the Greek mask, bequeathed me by grandparents and parents, later made more solid due to dual-citizenship and life experience. Finally, there is the Serbian mask, now worn, at times, due to intimate association (marriage), three years’ residence in my wife’s homeland, and the close religious, geographical, and cultural association between Serb and Greek. (Read more . . .)

Proboscis.

Proboscis.

Epicurus’ Porch

“A Lie? ’Tis But The Truth In a Masquerade,” By William A. Balk, Jr.

ELKO South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2016—Her sudden, madcap decision to spend a few days visiting Rome and Venice had resulted in my friend’s returning with a gift for me, purchased from a mascheraio on one of Venice’s canals and offered in a  sumptuous, handled bag of marbled paper and gilt tissue. I unwrapped a glorious zanni mask, the face of one of the formalized masked characters from the Carnevale di Venezia, the one with the obscenely protuberant nose. Not a plastic version made in America or China, this mask was fashioned of gesso and gold leaf, to be saved and worn many times for Carnival.  (Read more . . .)

Flores, Homo sapiens, and Neanderthal women, and admission-paying visitors, Musee des Confluences.

Flores, Homo sapiens, and Neanderthal women, and admission-paying visitors, Musee des Confluences.

Going Dark

“Pandering to the Populace,” By Guy McPherson

SAN ANTONIO Belize—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2016—The masses are confused after they select a wealthy, overt misogynist and racist in a culture characterized by . . . overt misogyny, racism, and monetary disparity. They seek to blame others. Sometimes, a society gets the politicians it deserves. Appealing to the lowest common denominator in a dumbed-down culture leads to the abyss. Confusion reigns. It’s accompanied by abundant denial, anger, bargaining, and depression, and also by very little acceptance or gallows humor. (Read more . . .)

The face in our mirrors.

The face in our mirrors.

By Way of Being

“The Face in My Nightmares: Trump,” By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

PETIT TRIANON Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2016—In my dream, I am face-to-face with Donald Trump. Our faces—those masks we cannot remove—are inches apart . . . . Usually, it takes decades for people to cross over from my present-tense, analog life, into my dreams . . . and nightmares. But Trump has jumped my blood-brain barrier in record time. (For the sake of perspective, I have not yet dreamed of the monsters Bush and Cheney, though I hold them responsible for the millions murdered over the course of their ongoing Middle Eastern wars, wars funded by my, and your, tax dollars.) (Read more . . .)

They went up and up, ever smaller as they plumbed the darkness.

They went up and up, ever smaller as they plumbed the darkness.

Speculative Friction

“Rising Time (A Prose-Poem from Our Archives),” By Claire Bateman

GREENVILLE South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2016—One afternoon, three children playing in a back corner of their garden came upon a pair of large stone fingertips sticking up out of the soil and pressed closely together as if the hands were positioned palm to palm. So they all went to get their digging spoons, and set to work, the eldest with his sterling silver baby spoon from very long ago; the middle child with her sea-shell-shaped sugar spoon; and the youngest child with the runcible spoon. (Read more . . .)

OK Go defying gravity and time.

OK Go defying gravity and time.

Won Over By Reality

“Defying Gravity & Time,” By Tim Bayer

BRIGHTON New York—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2016—While other Contributors have submitted columns on point with the monthly theme provided by our editor, “Masks,” I’ve been granted the latitude to wander off into the Internet’s visual weeds to see what I might find. In the process, I’ve come upon two videos that have nothing to do with the theme, but which are fascinating to me for two reasons: 1) Visual pop, and 2) technical sophistication and planning. (Read more . . .)

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