7th Myth and Theatre Festival / New Orleans July 27 - Aug. 1, 1999

HERMES
Quick, Cool and Crooked

Editorial & The Telephone Party Line

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Editorial

Hermes, the messenger, the Greek God of communication, of commerce (and thieves!), is also the one who will turn up one day with your death warrant, and offer to guide you to the Underworld.... His charismatic and uncanny smile can be terrifying, deadly, or lead to the most casual of meetings: he may simply ask if you have some change to spare, or a cigarette (Lucky Strike!). For the Romans he was Mercury; for the alchemists, Quicksilver. In old anglo-norse "qwik" meant "alive / resurected". Hermes is quick... because returning from the dead?

The last Myth and Theatre Festival (August 1997, in Southern France) was dedicated to "The Enemy." One of the most polemical lectures was titled "I am the Enemy of Cool", by Jay Livernois. In New Orleans he will take sides with Hermes whom he does not consider to be cool: "The cool god is Dionysus especially in his dual role of Lord of the Dead (the ultimate cool, like dead James Dean and our contemporary Kurt Cobain) and intoxication. Saturn is old man cool, Athena butch cool."

Honorary president of the Festival, writer and psychologist James Hillman, admits his special dislike of e-mail. In recent articles he has spoken up for Hestia, Goddess of the hearth whose home shrine is resolutely NOT the laptop glowing screen of quick hyper links. Hillman warns against a new cyber-Hermes inflation and monotheism: all communication, but no heart, no hearth, no center, and finally, no content. Michel Serres, the French-Californian 'guru' of communication, on the other hand, exults in monotheism's angelology: only one God, but many many messengers! Whereas the polytheistic Greek Gods and Goddesses have only one messenger!

Enrique Pardo and his Pantheatre - Pan is a son of Hermes, one should be reminded! - often look for "the rules that confirms the exceptions" (sic), a fundamental performance principle (from the "tragic flaw" to musical counterpoint). This search is a hermetic, crooked quest for one of Hermes supreme moves: when (and how) to be 'wrong'. The spirit of the law turns against the letter and vindicates an old flemish saying: "When Hermes passes, a lawyer dies"!


The Telephone Party Line

Exchanges towards Title and Editorial, edited by Enrique Pardo (EP)

Enrique Pardo's original title proposal was "Hermes : Quick, Cool and Wrong". It then moved to "Hermes : Quick, Cool and Crooked". The exchanges that follow amount to the beginnings of The Tribunal and the HUGA, where we will be discussing the hottest ideas of the Festival.


These are first notes towards a 'take' on Hermes, following on from past Festivals. Hermes made an unruly appearance with a white hen during a ritual at the 1995 'Magic' Festival : there had been lots of films with animal sacrifices, so everyone thought there would be real blood... (EP)

"Someone 'chickened out'!" (Nick Hobbs)

Re. "The Hermes Trust" (Hillman's Cyber-Hermes, and Michel Serres' polytheism that has only one messenger) : speak up neo-pagans! speak up feminists! Speak up neo-pagan feminists (what about Iris?)! Speak-up Bill Gates! (EP)

"I still think that if "wrong" is on the posters and ads in New Orleans, then free-thinkers will believe that it is a Christian-far-right faction attacking the paganism inherent in New Orleans. Same bullshit, different tactic.... While seasoned archetypalists will get it, it may alienate everyone else we want to sign up. Louisianna is in the Bible-belt, remember. It's a complicated town! " (C.S.)

.. maybe: "Quick, Cool, and Incorrect" would strike more of a nerve around here... everyone would head straight for the Tribunal... but then again, right and wrong are pretty interesting too. Reading James Hillman this morning in The Myth of Analysis on what he thinks Confucius must have meant by RECTITUDE of language--"right-speak" must not be narrowed and straightened (says Jim) but complex, pumped up with emotion, ambiguity and historical association - which would be all-wrong according to the scientific set. Hermes certainly lurks in Incorrect Speech, bad grammar, working class diction: colorful, seasoned, peppered --on Bourbon street in N'awleans, but also in poetry (on which Jay declared war at last Myth & Theatre). He would defend the straight talk of the fathers that comes out in arguement, debate and conclusion. The problem is that Hermes-talk doesn't do well in a tribunal setting come to think of it-- it posits images, makes jokes and circuitious statements and would more likely trail off into nowhere than defend itself! -N (Nor Hall)

Nor is right. "Wrong" is wrong. I don't think the word should be expurgated from the "editorial" but as far the the title goes, it will flop here. Nancy and Jay agree. Isn't there something else you could focus on? Besides, you are courting disaster calling the gods wrong. (C.S. to EP)

Dear Cindy : I'm afraid I love the idea of "courting disaster"! The idea of the Gods being wrong is awesome, and worth challenging - shall we ask Wolfgang Giegerich? As I've said before, "wrong" suits my purposes, it is at the core of my "hermetic" work. Maybe the subtitle should be "Quick, Cool and Crooked" - it fits into the picture. It makes the humour clearer and simpler... Lets crook it! (EP).

New Orleans is a city that has preserved more polytheism than any other in the continental U.S. Why do you think Hermes is cool? The cool god is Dionysus especially in his dual role of Lord of the Dead (the ultimate cool like dead James Dean and our contemporary Kurt Cobain) and intoxication. Saturn is old man cool, Athena butch cool. Hermes moves between realms, yet is not of any one realm. I have tons to say on Hermes, after all my name, Jay, is from the old German meaning 'quick' and is related to him.... (Jay Livernois)

Dear Jay - I proposed "cool" as a bait and a wink to you : for lack of time you could not give the full lecture I am the Enemy of Cool at The Enemy Festival - yet, it stirred up lots of polemics. I am also thinking about our exchange on "flippancy" (note : being flippant about/with Hermes, and ending up mugged): so, yes, lets talk about today's cinema psychopaths, those cool, sharp and totally non-emotional so-called heroes and winners... Evil as 'cool soul'... Cute Hermes as ruthless mugger... and the safe side of neo-pagan speculation, of gods and goddesses talk, until events get too close and real; then language shifts, mythology becomes superfluous and we go "back to basics", back to reality (guns and pharmacology). The answer is a keen combination of both. (This turned into a sermon!). These adjectives ("cool" and "wrong") create lots of responses: your agenda is impressive - I look forwards to hearing it! (EP)

My preference: Quick, Cool and Crooked. New Orleanians understand "crooked" and really like it. We have elected a governor 3 times who has been indicted by a federal grand jury twice (Edwin Edwards a/k/a "Fast Eddie," married to Candy Picou. (Nancy Cater)

Re. Hermes and lawyers - when commenting on those silent, social moments when "an angel passes" (in Greek mythology, it is Hermes), the Flemish have a saying that the silence signifies that "a lawyer has died". When working on The Hermetic Theatre (casuistics, rules and exceptions, the mercurial Fool, stealing the show, and especially, being "wrong") we put both together : "When Hermes passes, a lawyer dies". What it usually means is that someone attacks me under the guise of an apparently na´ve legal question : "but you are now complimenting someone for something you said a moment ago was forbidden!"... those persons get shot! As a friend of Hermes I am sure you'll be MY lawyer on that one! (and I often need one in those shoot-outs !) (EP to Nancy Cater)

(EP to Nor Hall) How to draw Hermes into the Tribunal? Ours is the classically corrupt judiciary system, because under political and police influence. Judge (to some extent) and police (thoroughly) are bribed with one priority in mind: CONTENT - the Tribunal must deliver quality in terms of IDEAS, the excitement must come first and foremost from what Sonu described as "the dance of ideas". At Avignon, the Tribunal police kept shouting "this is not theatre, this is a tribunal!" when theatrical effects took over : excessive playing to the public, emotional diversions, impersonations, 'acting' (!), 'poetry' (?), and some of the tricks at which crooked Hermes is so good at... (and which made it so much fun...) Yet, yet... Are we saying (again!) that Hermes refuses to be drawn into content? into message? into 'serious' exchanges? Can we be drawn in by that very attitude? Is it not simply literal acting out? Bad theatre? Cannot "the dance of ideas" prevail? (I am reading Giegerich at the moment; have reached page 100, going into the Actaion myth - and can see that he is influencing me on this count!). If Hermes cannot become (sometime, somewhere) "the Hermes Idea", then I would say Hermes is wrong! Ay, ay ay! --- Idea : we set up the "Homeric Hymn to Hermes" as a theatrical Tribunal (after all, they did go to Zeus as judge). I could volunteer as Apollo's lawyer (a sure loser..) ! (EP)

The snatches of contending voices came through like a telephone party line intercepted by a radio phone and gave rise to some odd combinations, such as Hermes in (or below) the Bible belt - which reminds me of Guy Davenport's great story in the Eclogues of Hermes and Zeus in disguise, being pelted out of a village; Myth and Theatre: Recipes for Disaster? or Giegerich (a must have) on Have Myths (and Psychology?) Passed Their Sell-by Dates (by a century or two)? I then turned to Samuel Johnson's dictionary. For 'quick' it gave a live animal, the living flesh and living plants (illustrated by Spenser and Dryden - no poetry, no language. Q. E. D.) I must say I liked the word "quillet" : "subtilty; nicety; fraudulent distinction. Ply her with love letters and billets, And bait them well for quirks and quillets." And as for the cool, as it will be in New Orleans, how about some jazz - Myth, Theatre and Music (with siberian shamans excluded), Masterclasses with old blues musicians and the like, all talks to be given in bars, or, as cabarets. (Sonu Shamdasani)

How about instead of 'wrong' - 'corrupt', 'corrupting', 'corruption'. The consequences of Hermetic trading and double dealing. What are these in relation to the actor, the text and the body? (Maggie Baron)

some possible alternatives to wrong: wilful // bad (in ghetto-speak "bad" is a compliment) // very bad (underlines the ghetto sense) never wrong // "never wrong" might be a way out as it's ambiguous and contains the sense that even when doing wrong, it's not wrong - (Nick Hobbs)

Hermes ex-communicator !!! (Marie Elliot-Gartner)

Hermes is a favorite of mine. The Greek god of swindlers, not the pompous mage Trismegistus. (Rachel Pollack)


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