Friday, June 7, 2013

The adjective “Wagnerian” and more

This week I returned to Santa Cruz from our half-of-the-year home in Hilo.  Consequently, I don’t have the time to write a post on the current topic (Wagner’s anti-Semitism). Hopefully, I am able to get into the swing next week.  For this week I thought I would play with two short subjects:  Wagnerian adjectives and Wagner’s Bacon number (by my rules, he has one).

First, though, I wanted to take the time to thank my partner and greatest supporter, Leslie.  She has patiently listened to me rant for many years, has encouraged me to write this blog, put up with carting all the Wagner papers and books to and from Hilo, works on household stuff while I am writing and, very helpfully, edits my posts.  She is fantastic and I wouldn’t have done it without her.  So thank you so much, sweetie. [Ed. note: you’re welcome!]

Oh, and Leslie takes trippy pictures for the blog.
Also, thanks, Steve, for arranging access to the University of Hawaii, Hilo, library resources.

The Adjective Wagnerian

Merriam-Webster defines Wagnerian as “of, relating to, characteristic, or suggestive of Wagner or his music, stage operas, or theories.”

All the other dictonairies agree with this definition.  But that is just too vague and, essentially, wrong!  Come on, when used as an adjective, we all know it means something along the lines of over the top, massive, loud, grandiose, overwhelming, bombastic or pompous. But while those characteristics can reasonably be laid on his personality (and, arguably, to his notion of the “total work of art”), they really are misplaced regarding his music as I argued here

If I were to write “Wagnerian sensitivity,” most any reader would think that was intended as an ironic statement, meaning the opposite.  Yet any one who listens to Wagner’s music will find it extraordinarily sensitive.  It is, in fact, a vital characteristc of his music, but no one would know that who didn’t listen and only knew his reputation, as shown clearly by the adjective usage associated with him.  It’s a shame, really, but what are you gonna do? Just enjoy the adjectives as they come; please know that they don’t truly refer to the music, but to the man and his plans.

Here are a just a few. Please send in your favorites:

“Wagnerian slabs of sauerbraten,” from The Corrections, page 392.

“Wagnerian toothache,” from Letting Go, page 67.

“…the drama was at the same Wagnerian pitch I was beginning to become accustomed to,” from Portnoy’s Complaint, page 190.

“The two somewhat grotesque Wagnerian figures marched in waddling footsteps,” from Bourne Supremecy, page 659.

“As my bladder chimes in with a Wagner reveille…,” from Positively Fifth Street, page 20.

“Heil Hitler was used as a Wagnerian, pagan-like chant,” from Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, page 8.

“Wagnerian thunder crashed in the background,” from The Moon is Down, page 22.

“White trash developed a runic system of Wagnerian over-statement: monster trucks, nitro-burning funny cars, seven-foot wrestlers…,” from Redneck Manifesto, page 23.

“Wagnerian Smorgasbord,” from The Cheese Plate, page 103.

“The chorus was a massive Wagnerian throng…,” from First in His Class, page 44.

“…a weapon of near-Wagnerian aggression and power,” from A Supposedly Fun Thing I Will Never Do Again, page 231.

“Wagnerian proportions,” from Art Now, page 39.

“Wagnerian heights,” from All Music Guide to Rock, page 8.

“Wagnerian grandiloquence,” in The A List, page 184  (seriously redundant, this one).

“Wagnerian orgasms from the room next door,” from Red Gold, page 85 (I think I want some of these).

“Only relatives, or creditors, ever ring in that Wagnerian manner,” from The Importance of Being Earnest, page 23 (gotta love Oscar Wilde).

Wagner’s Bacon Number

I assume most know what a Bacon number is, but for those who don’t, read about it here

Now, you might wonder how Wagner can possibly have a Bacon number. Well, I had to expand the definition to include operatic productions (including composer or conductor).  In such a cheaty way, Richard Wagner, who died in 1883, has a Bacon number of 4!  This gives me pleasure for some hard-to-fathom reason.

It goes like this:

Wagner wrote operas that his son Siegfried conducted.

Siegfried conducted several Wagner operas that Lauritz Melchoir sang in during 1928.

Lauritz Melchior was in the film The Time for Keeps in 1942 with Kenneth Tobey.

Kenneth Tobey was in Hero at Large in 1980 with Kevin Bacon.

If you have been in a film, it is very hard to not have at least a Bacon number of 3. Hell, I was glimpsed in Gimme Shelter, so I have a 3 (via either Keith Richards, Mick Jagger or, ironically, the Hell’s Angels leader Sonny Barger. If you don’t know why Sonny is ironic, just ask me.) In fact, I will send one dollar to you (via paypal) if you can find an actor or actress that is commonly known who has a 4. Two bucks for a 5.  Three bucks for a 6.  For the game, known” means known to my movie fanatic friend, Harry.  You can only win once, so make it a high dollar one!

To find any actor’s Bacon number, go here.

This concept of the Bacon number is similar to the mathematical Erdös number. A prolific mathematician, Paul Erdös cowrote papers with many folks. Thus, the number relates to degrees of separation between authors of academic papers to him.  If you know anyone in math-related research fields, ask them their Erdös number; they will know it (or it is pretty darn high). 

For Hollywood types who are scholarly, or scientists who are worldly, it is possible to obtain the rare Erdös/Bacon number.  For instance, Colin Firth has an Erdös number of 6, and a Bacon number of 1, so he has the combined number of 7. Natalie Porter has a combined number of 6. Impressive, Natalie!  On the science side, Physicist Richard Feynman has a 3 Erdös and a 3 Bacon, so another 6.  Carl Sagan also has a 6.  So, isn't that fascinating?  

I know this all has very little do with Wagner, but I am indeed tripping, as in this urban dictionary definition: to dwell, or spend excess energy, on a topic or person for an unreasonably long period of time.

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