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All That Jazz
All That Jazz
DVD ~ Roy Scheider
Offered by Penny's Product
Price: $14.95
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh, no! They're taking their clothes off !, June 13, 2003
This review is from: All That Jazz (DVD)
And so they do in what is arguably the most electrifying erotic sequence captured on film. Nope, it's not an orgy nor a couple faking passion---It's a dance number.
Do you dance? I mean have you ever really, really gotten into it at a party or a nightclub? When it clicks, the gods take hold. Dionysus made flesh.
With the phenomenal success of "Chicago" a new generation has been re-discovering the director of 'Cabaret' and 'All That Jazz'---Broadway's greatest choreographer, Bob Fosse.
Dead for nearly two decades, his influence continues to grow. Many have tried but no one has been able to match his style.
Ok, so what's the plot of the movie?
Roy Schreider plays Joe Gideon, a thinly disguised Fosse. He's the director and choreographer of a Broadway musical who is fighting the clock to come up with original ideas before opening night.
Ruthlessly self driven, He pops amphetamines, so he can be always 'on.' (It's Showtime!) Destructive towards his health, he ends up fighting the clock in more ways than one.
Though Gideon states that his only belief, his only certainty is the reality of death, he's really a woshipper of The Goddess. To call him a womanizer is to miss the point. Women are his religion.
Thus we have Jessica Lange, a sexy and bemused Angel of Death, who is is mythically woven in 'dream sequences' with the real women in Gideon's life: A threefold Muse arrangement comprised of his young daughter, his current girlfriend and his older ex-wife. Men are not important. There is no secondary male lead.
The music is spectacular. The dancing even more so. Schreider and the supporting cast are superb. The flaboyant show biz world, contrasted by the intimate scenes at home work well to pull the audience into Gideon's mind.
Many a good film is derivative from an earlier classic. The Nutty Professor is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Jaws is Moby Dick and "All That Jazz" is Chaplin's bittersweet masterpiece of soul, "Limelight." Too many similarities to explore, so I'll confine myself to two: Both are love letters to artists and both are the 'last will and testament' of the director, a tribute of his life.
(Moral: If you're going to steal, steal from the best.)
People, you've got to see this film!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 3, 2009 10:58 PM PDT

Death by Government
Death by Government
by R. J. Rummel
Edition: Paperback
Price: $29.56
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96 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Important History Book You've Never Heard Of ., June 2, 2003
This review is from: Death by Government (Paperback)
And with reason. There is none of the sacrifice, drama or nobility reported in battles. It's not about Thermopylae or Gettysburg.
This is an account of what humanity has done to itself--and continues to this day. It's a book on comparitive demonology. One almost gets the impression that a soldier ripping a baby from his mother's arms, tossing it in the air and catching it on the point of his bayonet is the rule, not the exception. Ditto for POW's captured by front line troops.
The author is a professor of Political Science who finds it amazing that his colleagues write texts on the purposes of government, yet fail to mention that (with the possible exception of the Jewish victims of Nazi genocide) instead of protecting citizens from "the savagery of the jungle" by rule of law, governments have and continue to be, THE greatest killers of all.
"Democide" is the word he coins to combine genocide (murdering because of membership in a hated race, ethnicity,or religion,) plus politicide ( murdering for political purposes, e.g; dissidents ) and mass murder (indiscriminate killing).
Democide is always committed by governments. It is as organized as taxation or road building. Discounting civilians accidentally killed in cross-fires, or even in the aerial bombardments of cities, this still leaves horrifying numbers.
Pre-Twentieth Century? An estimate of 169,198,000 human beings massacred. Since this includes the victims of Genghis Khan, Incas, Conquistadors, etc., There's an obscene tendency to see them as not quite human, not quite real due to the distance in time. So Tarmelane, the Turkish conqueror slaughtered 100,000 people outside of Delhi and he liked to make pyramids of human heads?--Who cares?--Just stuff in history books. . .
Is WW2 is close enough? We all know about the 6 million Jews, but did you know that constituted only aprox 13% of the victims of The Nazi Genocide State?
Overall, by genocide, euthanasia, killing of hostages, reprisal raids, starvation, forced labor camps and so forth the figure is anywhere from 15 to 31 million, most likely 21 million. Rummel admits he may be off somewhat in numbers, but certainly not as to the State's intentions. The Nazis still head the list when it comes to killing people in occupied territories, with the Imperial Japanese Military being second.
As to murdering one's own people, it's estimated some 35,236,000 for the Communist Chinese Anthill. The author notes that those who were shocked by the 1989 Beijing massacre of students, really shouldn't have been--it's the norm. But even that figure is topped by 54,800,000 victims of The Soviet Gulag State.
(Not counting an additional 5-7 million comprised of German POW's plus non-combatants deliberately murdered by The Red Army).
For sheer numbers, Stalin is our grand prize winner in brutality. In terms of percentage, however, the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot beats his insanity--they wiped out nearly one third of all Cambodians.
The chapter on The Vietnamese War State is most instructive, not just for the total toll of 1,670,000 victims but for the inferences Rummel draws: Before the U.S. entered the war, the Viet Minh were already as hardened a bunch of mass killers as the most disciplined SS units under Himmler. America had no idea what it was getting itself get into.
The Balkans are something else. Off the scale.
Required reading.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 19, 2012 9:52 PM PST

The Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Four Novels and Fifty-Six Short Stories Complete
The Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Four Novels and Fifty-Six Short Stories Complete
by Arthur Conan Doyle
Edition: Hardcover
56 used & new from $2.83

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "But he had not the supreme gift of the artist., May 12, 2003
the knowledge of when to stop." Thus remarks Holmes to Lestrade about the villainous Jonas Oldacre
( By the bye giving an excellent piece of advice to all artists, villainous or not. Truly the stage, as Watson keeps reminding us, lost a great actor when Holmes embarked upon the profession of consulting detective )
It would appear that Jonas, in his attempt to send the innocent John Hector Mc Farlane to the gallows, could not resist adding a final touch which brought his nefarious plans crashing down---he planted a stain of blood on the wall upon which Mc Farlane's fingerprint would be found!
Lestrade: "You are aware that no two thumb-marks are alike ? "
Holmes: "I have heard something of the kind. "
Whereupon Wiliaim S Baring-Gould, greatest of Holmseian addict/scholars treats us to a footnote on the margin regarding Galton's method of fingerprining, given to the British Association in 1899 and concludes that--
By my gold amethyst encrusted snuff-box, this is fun!
It's the best rendering of Conan Doyle's canon, complete with maps of London, illustrations from Collier's, vintage 1903; coats of arms, photographs, drawings--in brief, the world of S.H. made explicable, and vivid.
Naturally you knew that when Watson informs us that their long suffering landlady, Mrs.Hudson, lived on the first floor flat, he's using it in the English sense: what we Americans would call 'the second floor.' Or that a 'life preserver' was a short bludgeon, usually of flexible cane, whalebone, or the like loaded with lead at one end. Or that--- what was that about the supreme gift of the artist?

Fitzcarraldo [VHS]
Fitzcarraldo [VHS]
DVD ~ Klaus Kinski
Offered by missmarybooks
Price: $9.88
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars " Life without music would be a mistake"---Nietsche., May 11, 2003
This review is from: Fitzcarraldo [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Documentaries have been made about the love/hate relationship between the greatest German director and the greatest German actor of the twentieth century. Kinski claimed that he kicked Herzog during the making of this film and that "Herzog groveled." For his part Herzog claimed that when Kinski threatened to walk off the set, Herzog took a high powered rifle and swore to Kinski that he would shoot him as his motorboat passed around the bend.( They were filming in the The Amazon ) Kinski stayed.
Only these two superbly talented megalomaniacs could have pulled off this tour de force of directing and acting.
Fitzcarraldo is, quite simply , one of the greatest films of all time. No other actor could have played the lead as well as Klaus Kinski, and no other director could have conceived eschewing props and actually hauling a 300 ton steamship over a mountain, or, for that matter, hiring warring tribes of headhunters as extras.
It works.
The story is set in the late 19th century when rubber (and robber!) barons created great wealth in the remote jungles of South America, built on the monopoly of the rubber plant. We moderns know that this artificially created civilisation will soon collapse, when the plant is smuggled out; so what better setting than these ephemeral cities of gold and palaces of opulence to tell this tale of man's capacity to dream?
Here is a world where elegance mingles with crudity. In one scene, a millionare, proud of his collection of rare carps, tosses them them large bills, while he jokes in front of an impoverished Fitzcarraldo about how fond the fish are of the taste of money.
Fitzcarraldo has a passion for opera. If the viewer does not share this, the film can still makes sense, provided the viewer has a passion for SOMETHING. If not, forget it. It'll be incomprehensible to anyone without blood in his veins. Just the story of a nut.
Not that Fitzcarraldo is not er . . .speculative in his business schemes. When he announces to his lover, a successful brothel keeper, (Claudia Cardinale) " I have an idea! " She responds with: " Oh, no! Not another one! "
But she bankrolls him, nevertheless. Now all he has to do is--well, as Einstein once eloquently said, to achieve the impossible, we must attempt the absurd.

Mountains of the Moon
Mountains of the Moon
DVD ~ Patrick Bergin
Offered by ustrade
Price: $24.93
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51 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How dare a white man say he discovered Africa?, May 6, 2003
This review is from: Mountains of the Moon (DVD)
Is what Sir Richard Francis Burton (Patric Begin) tells his wife Isabell (Fiona Shaw ) after she rushes in to their London home exclaiming: " Newspapers! Mr. Speke again! "
At which point one of the most intelligent and best written love scenes ensues---in one of the most intelligent and best written films of all time---as Isabell demands that the hitherto heroic Burton--who has given in to drink and despair, publically confront his former friend, John Speke (Ian Glen) who is damning him in the press, and fight to vindicate his good name.
Irony of Ironies! In the Victorian age, Burton, for all his dashing bravery was considered less 'respectable' than Speke. Burton had been the first European to enter Mecca, disguised as an Arab (he was fluent in 23 languages), a swordsman who published manuals on the use of the saber in combat, and translated The Kama Sutra and The Arabian Nights into English. He had a reputation for wildness in an age of conformity.
Speke, of the other hand, was a British officer, a member of a prominent family, and a discreet homosexual.
The irony continues. This is perhaps the best foreign film that ever bombed at the American box office. Why?
1. The heterosexual ends happily, the homosexual does not. Furthermore another homosexual, Larry (Richard Grant) plays the part of 'Iago' lying and separating the two friends into bitter rivals. Worse still, unlike, say, "Kiss of the Spider Woman " Speke, does not get his sexual fantasies fulfilled. That part of his love for Burton goes unrequited.
2. Africans in the 19th century are not represented as 'Noble Savages ' living in egalitarian harmony with each other. Rousseau would have been disappointed.
3. Outside the aforementioned outburst "How dare a white man.say he discovered Africa! Africans discovered Africa! " There is no apology for British colonialism. In fact, it's rather unimportant to the main focus of the film.
4. There were no STARS, that brought in an audience, only great actors.
( One shudders at the thought of a Hollywood remake with Tom Hanks and Tim Burton in the leads and Whoopi Goldberg delivering an impassioned speech at The Royal Geographical Society. )
This film is a glorious, true life, adventure story about the discovery of the source of the Nile. Yes, it is an "epic" , wonderfully photographed. David Lean would have loved it.
Especially since the plot is driven by the characters, not the outside world, exotic as the surroundings may be. There is a tone of melancholia, a bittersweetness that prevails throughout. It is a tragedy about the friendship of Speke and Burton. The first gay as a breeze, the second a raving heterosexual but both, (without any excuses to audiences trained to expect that only 'ordinary folks' are believable ) presented for what they were: Heroes.
Indeed if the word 'hero' did not apply to Speke and Burton, it would have no meaning. I lost track of how many time they saved each other's lives. A brilliant, subtle and touching film.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 22, 2009 12:17 PM PDT

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
by Christopher Moore
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.92
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mark Twain would have loved it., May 5, 2003
The author of 'Practical Demonkeeping' and 'Blood Sucking Fiends: A love story', now brings us The Gospel according to Biff, (Levi bar Alpheus, Christ's childhood pal) a hilarious yet poignant and reverent account of the life of Jesus, from his birth to the begining of his ministry.
As that theological publication, Playboy magazine, noted of Christopher Moore: "If there's a funnier writer out there, step forward."
BTW, in the 3rd century A.D. (or for those of you who are tragically hip, C.E.) there really was an "Infancy Gospel" attributed to St. Thomas, in which J.C. was presented as an irrepresible 5 year old kid who made clay sparrows on the Sabbath (and turned them to real ones that flew away) cursed his teachers for being doofuses, and eventually learned to control his divine temper. The Church wisely decided that it was, at best, 'Apochryphal'.
Here, Biff is brought back to life by the angel Raziel to write his gospel in English, thus he is given the gift of tongues, which he notes is quite useful, as Hebrew not only had far fewer words, but a third were synonyms for guilt, anyway.
Biff and Raziel are holed up in a five star hotel. ( Biff notes that in his own days inns were measured by the number of harlots and is not quite sure how to make the conversion into stars )
Raziel, angel of the Lord, is on the side of Good, but he's not the brightest halo in the firmament. While he commands Biff to write, Raziel becomes completely engrossed with T.V. , especially soap operas and professional wrestling---which he's convinced are real. "Soap Opera Digest" obviously being a publication written by a prophet.
Biff notes "I understand there's a joke in your time about people with yellow hair being stupid--guess where it came from. "
The story involves Joshua trying to learn how to be The Messiah, and his travels with Biff to Afghanistan, China and India--in search of the wisdom of Balthasar, Gaspar and Melchior. The Three Wise Men--who recognized Josh's divinity at birth, but who have their own agendas.
Biff is protective of Josh, who, though the Son of God, has problems surviving on the road due to his being way too honest.
Besides he's not allowed to 'know women'. Which brings great side benefits for Biff--when the babes fall over themselves for Josh--- but doesn't help their chances of survival.
As Biff notes, the problem with his friend not knowing women is that he fails to understand the most basic truth about men; namely that we're lying pigs who will say anything to get what we want.
When Josh objects that Confucious (whom he has been studying under Balthasar's tutelage) says the Superior Man never acts contrary to virtue, Biff replies: "Of course, but the superior can get laid without lying, I'm talking about the rest of us!"
Balthasar's five nubile Chinese concubines couldn't agree more.
In addition to concubines, there are other wonders on their travels including a Yeti, a Kung-Fu Buddhist monastary where Josh develops a system of fighting that won't hurt anyone (Jew-Do, the way of the Jew), Bloodthirsty priests of Kali, an ancient text which Biff concientiously studies while Josh practises his Yoga (The Kama Sutra) The Turin Shroud, and an elephant they ride back to Galilee.
And then it gets even better . . .

The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature; Revised Edition (Signet Shakespeare)
The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature; Revised Edition (Signet Shakespeare)
by Ayn Rand
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
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31 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sore on the lip of a beautiful woman, May 5, 2003
Is merely an accident in real life. On a painting it's obscene. Why? Because the artist CHOOSES. He does not 're create' real life. He always makes a statement, knowingly or not. Therefore, choosing to portray beauty marred by a sore lip is ---
What am I doing? I can't explain it better than Rand!
Read this book if you are interested in the nature of art. And especially if you've ever wondered about the phenomenon of 'modern art.'
It's a great series of essays despite (or because of) Rand's prejudices--she was a strange combination of teenage ugly girl duckling sexual fantasies out of Danielle Steele combined with the mind of an Aristotle and the Romantic triumphalism of a Victor Hugo.
For all artists, and especially writers, ( Er. . .remember those tiny details like theme, plot, and character? ) this short work is outstanding. Many will choose to worship, others to ridicule her views; while still others will grant her grudging admiration.
But all should read it.
Someone once defined a classic as a pop hit that remains 'on the charts' as time goes by; e.g. Beethoven may not be the number one hit in the recording industry this year, but he's not in any danger of running out of new listeners who will continue to purchase his music. Hence, he's a bonafide "classic." Got it?
Likewise, there's a reason why Ayn Rand, decades after her death, remains THE most widely read novelist in the world. The sales of "Atlas Shrugged" alone continue to number in the hundreds of thousands.
Perhaps she was on to something. . .
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 9, 2012 12:36 PM PDT

Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics
Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics
by Reginald Horace Blyth
Edition: Paperback

30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hamlet vs. Don Quixote, May 5, 2003
Few books are 'cult classics', especially those that deal with, of all things, literary criticism.
This is one of them.
Can't say authoritatively if it has anything to do with 'real Zen ' since I'm not, to my chagrin, the living Buddha, and apparently not one Zen master in a hundred claims to be 'enlightened' these days, at least not among the second generation bumper crop of American and European Zen masters-- A source of relief if you've ever read their vapid and banal pronouncements on life, death and the meaning of the universe.
Guess they just don't make 'em like they used to in ancient China.
Go sit.
Nevertheless, Zen appealed to the young Western intelligensia via the writings of Suzuki, Watts and company. It's almost a religion tailor made for dashing bookworms (Is this a koan?)
Here, R.H. Blyth gives the reader a, as Jung would say, 'mythological Zen' that perhaps never was, but should have been, and he does so in an amazing book on English Lit.
So what's your attitude to life? The heroic as exemplified by Henley's great poem "Invictus"? Or are you a child crying in the night, crying for the light , and with no other language but a cry?
That section alone is worth the price of the book, but it's in the analysis of Hamlet as the archetypal 'zen-less' Western man that R.H really springs to life.
There are about as many critical interpretations of Shakespeare's prince as there are of Jesus, but R.H. has come up with one of the most outstanding.
Hamlet, THE greatest figure in tragedy since Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripedes put ink to papyrus, suffers from 'Words, Words, Words'--for R.H. the clue to his (and our own ) malaise, as contrasted with the 'Zen-filled man ', the one and only Don Quixote de La Mancha !
R.H's study of Quixote--and Cervantes--is brilliant, though he modestly begs the reader's pardon for including the greatest of knights in a work of English, rather than Spanish literature.
Go read.

Something for Everyone [VHS]
Something for Everyone [VHS]
9 used & new from $12.56

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deliciously Evil, April 28, 2003
The film opens with Conrad (Michael York) bicycling through a lovely forest in Germany. He stops for a rest and looks up at a majestic castle perched on a hill, then opens a storybook--at which point "Fairy Tale " music starts playing in the background as the pages turn to reveal the film's credits.
Thus begins the best dark comedy since " Kind Hearts and Coronets "
The castle is inhabited by the widowed Countess (Angela Lansbury ) and her two teenagers. They are upper class but impoverished since the war.
"How odd " says Lansbury (who has never been better) " to have to concern oneself with the price of strawberries ". This is directed at her solicitor/accountant. When he replies with some bromide about how times change and how we all must adapt she seethingly counters with: " Not eagles, even in captivity they just sit there and glare "
The countess is a descendant of Attila the Hun.
Conrad enters into their lives as a lowly servant. Well he doesn't enter, exactly, he casually commits murder to make a vacancy for himself, seduce the (well everyone, really) and set into motion a scheme to make his childhood dream come true; to become the lord of a castle---with millions to spare.
Conrad, wonderfully played by York, joins the ranks of Richard the Third, Professor Moriarty and Orson Welle's 'Harry Lime ' in 'The Third Man' as one of the most engaging and absolute villains ever created, and for the same reasons: He is a logical genius, who anticipates every ruthlessly evil move he makes with flawless cunning.
It's all part of his sweet boyish charm.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 2, 2010 7:42 AM PDT

The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft
The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft
by Ronald Hutton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $22.15
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How many Wiccans does it take to change a light bulb?, April 25, 2003
Answer: What would you like it to be changed into?
This is a sympathetic book towards neo-pagans. Ironically, because Hutton does not buy the party line of a pre-historic, nature religion whose tecahings have survived in an unbroken line through family clans, it's not popular with advocates of the matriarchal apostolic succession. In other words, pop Wicca 101 writers hate his guts.
A Wicca, in case you haven't got a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary handy is a 'male witch' ( as contrasted with Wicce, a female )
However if you've changed your name to Snowflake, Blackjack-for-my-Tribe, or some other Native American or Celtic ..., it's re-defined as someone who practises the 'Craft of the Wise', and to Hades with linguistic analysis. Who do these scholars think they are, anyway?
Native American names are popular, since they had a splendid history of women's rights. Celtic ones are also cool, since the Druids were an all male priesthood who, like the Aztecs, practised human sacrifice , but c'mon, those redheaded Irish babes were hot!
All Praise to Brigid!
Wiccans or Witches are NOT--as they never tire of pointing out to the public--Satanists.
Which of course makes absolutely no difference to the majority of Jews, Christians or Muslims, let alone fundamentalist ones; but I imagine it must be a source of great relief to Satanists, who consider Wiccans fluffy, neo-pagans, with atrocious taste in poetry. Hate to to say it, but they've got a point.
"The Charge of the Goddess", for example, is a watered down ... of Crowley's Egyptian hymn to Nuit. Hutton suggests Wiccans would be better of with the lunar poetry of Shelley, Keats, Graves and other romantics.
I hope I'm not making it sound like Hutton is ridiculing anyone;s religion. He's not. He's an old school Brit and goes out of his way to be cordial. It's just that the man IS a historian, so faced with some of the more bizarre claims of 'Traditional Wiccans' his polite response may sound to some hard core believers as if he's punching out the Tooth Fairy in front of a kindergarten class.
For example, take the question of how a pagan polytheistic religion, whether invented or re-discovered in England by the likes of Gardner, Sanders, Dion Fortune and company--who were politically somehere to the monarchical right of Attila The Hun, cross over to the USA and become an evangelical, feminist, ecolological and de facto monotheistic (THE Goddess )religion?
It's a fascinating historical tour de force by Hutton, a mystery story that weaves the threads of archeology from Sir Arthur Evans in Crete to Mariaja Gimbutas in Anatolia; combining the longings of 19th century Romantic writers--Charlotte Bronte included--to the celebration of Yule and other worldwide nature rites, to the "Burning Times"--a wildly revitionist view of the witch trials in medeival Europe--courtesy of Gardner, to the ancient worship of goddesses from Egpypt to Europe who were far more likely to be associated with motherhood, or war, than with rollicking about in the forest, invoking the moon.
Perhaps the best defense for a belief in a worlwide Lady and Lord of the Woods pre-historical religion ( where did I put my VHS of 'The Wicker Man'?) comes from the craving of the soul. In a short story by Lovecraft, whose name I can't remember, a man brings an ancient vase to an archeologist who informs him that it's a fraud---no more than a hundred years old. The man counters by telling him that it's even more recent--he painted it himself last night, but the image came to him in a dream, and dreams are older than mankind. Hutton borders on the same point.
As Robert Graves observed, though nominally The West is Christian, in actuality, most of us live as if we were ruled by what he called the 'unholy trimverate' of Pluto, god of wealth, Apollo, god of science and Mercury, god of thieves.
May The Goddess protect you from having to sell used cars for a living. . .

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