Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Deus ex machina

I'm feeling pretty good today. The weather's not bad, in the fifties. I baked bread from scratch yesterday. I've been cooking all week in fact. Although I haven't written much. I experimented with a new dish all of my own creation ... and well I know what needs changing. And it will be a quick change once I get the ingredient. So, yes, life is okay here. In stasis, but okay.

In my email bin I got today's "word of the day."
deus ex machina \DAY-uhs-eks-MAH-kuh-nuh; -nah; -MAK-uh-nuh\, noun:
1. In ancient Greek and Roman drama, a god introduced by means of a crane to unravel
and resolve the plot.
2. Any active agent who appears unexpectedly to solve an apparently insoluble difficulty.

I was going to look up a play for you to illustrate but it turns out I must not have cared much for Sophocles and those types when I took Greek Mythology and then Greek Civ in college(I was this shy of a classics minor) because those were the books I sold back. I kept Gilgamesh, Homeric Hymns, the Odyssey, Thucydides History of the Peloponesian War and even Herodotus' Histories (the book store must not have been offering cash to buy that one back b/c I remember it being rather dull). Then I thought about it ... Sophocles was a little too late, a little too sophisticated. I don't think he employed deus ex machina. After a quick trip to Wikipedia it turns out I was way off base and I should have been thinking Euripides ... No wonder I didn't get it.

The Greek to English translation is literally God on a Machine, referring to the fact that in the play the god was lowered onto the stage by a crane. That's not even shit we attempted in college theater. So kudos to you, Greek play production people.

It's old but it's far from dead!

I immediately jumped to the memory of a friend in the 10th grade. We had English class together and for one unit we were asked to write three short stories. We then shared the stories in small groups, mostly for gathering ideas and proof reading. But Heather, Heather was special. She could get her characters into all sorts of complicated trouble. Really complicated, sometimes dark, at the very least worthy of a daytime soap opera. But she never knew how to get them out of trouble. She didn't know how to end the story. Just like those Greek playwrights of so long ago, she was certain their problems were beyond mortal means of quickly summing up.

So she implemented her own version of deus ex machina: she killed off everyone. Quickly and tragically.

A car crash involving an entire family that you didn't see coming. The boyfriend overdosing out of the blue. I forget how she killed off the third set of characters but it was in the same vein.

She even admitted it. I don't know how to end it, she told me. I don't ...

2 comments:

Jud said...

Interesting bit of theatrical history. But you found Thucydides and Herodotus dull? Heresy, I say! I still have my copies, but then I was a classical history guy (Imperial Rome was my favorite, especially 1st century).

Did you ever read Xenophon, and the march of the ten thousand?

Speak Coffee said...

No, no no! That wasn't my meaning at all! I loved Thucydides! But compared to Thucydidies, Herodotus' Histories were quite dull. I still have both.

What I'm Reading Now

Highly Recommended

Tweet Coffee