Monday, July 11, 2011

Peter and the Wolf and Scut Farkus

I got a wonderful package in the mail today from my Aunt Becca, or rather Graham got a package. It was this lovely CD:

I told Nathan I want to name one of our girls "Bowie," and he said no. Pout.

David Bowie? Yes, please! In a wolf hood? For sure! To Prokofiev! !!!!!!  Aunt Becca, you know my soul.

So I started to play the beauty music (a musical symphony with narration, written for children-how cool!) while I made leftovers for dinner, and Nathan realized he recognized it! Not just the music, but the narration. And I thought that maybe I did, too.

Then, track six started to play. A chill filled my heart as "the wolf" motif played. I definitely knew this song, but from somewhere else ...


I am delighted that one of my favorite movies, A Christmas Story, used a composition by a Soviet composer. Then there's the parallel between the scene in the movie and the plot of "Peter and the Wolf": the cute and innocent are attacked by the furry and ugly ... but then the cute and innocent triumph over the furry and ugly.

This reminded me of one of the main benefits, I think, of being educated about the humanities: you recognize them. I realize this doesn't sound that cool, but it feels really great when you recognize a subtle homage to something artistically grand. Especially when it involves mythology. Greek mythology is everywhere, and until I took a class on it, I had no idea! Once you get educated, it's like you're in on the elitist joke. Otherwise, you are completely oblivious to all these sub-levels of thought and detail that went into a work--you don't know the why.

It's all homage and allusions. Artists paying tribute, winking at, piggybacking off of their predecessors and contemporaries, saying "we're connected." Connections make things funny, relevant, interesting. When you are aware of those connections, you can experience the movie, the song, the book, the photo of tourists recreating the cover of Abbey Road that much deeper. And it doesn't always come from a knowledge of the classics--just knowing stuff helps. Like the little dragonfly in The Rescuers (1977-had no idea it was that old) who pushes the mice around in the leaf boat. His name is Evinrude. Weird name, I thought as a kid. Years later I learn that Evinrude is a brand of outboard motors! Haha! How fun, how witty, how thoughtful. It was completely lost on me, confusing even, until I had the key to unlock its meaning. The key: education.

Get off Facebook, turn off reality TV (except Masterchef ... never Masterchef!), and read something! Listen to good music! Go to the art museum! Live! I promise, so many other areas of your life will be enriched. Your cultural vocabulary will increase. You will know what people are talking about. You may even make some witty allusions yourself! 

A silver dollar to the person who can come up with the best allusion-containing caption to this picture.


  1. Never look a gift horse in the mouth. Or a squirrel, it would just be full of nuts.

  2. I'm about 98% sure JBaum wants to name one of her sons Bowie. I would love to hear you two debate about whether it's a boy name or girl name...

  3. "You should have bought a squirrel...

  4. It didn't print correctly...



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