The Fifth Element #63

"Puer natus est!"

Of course, the Latinists among my readers (all three of them) already know that the ancient Romans would have carved this column's title "PUERNATUSEST." (Not that the Romans gave a fig about that particular puer until much later . . . ) All in capital letters, because lower-case (ie, minuscule) letters were not invented until scribes in the Middle Ages wanted to write faster by not having to lift their pens so often between strokes. Spaces between words also came after Roman times.

Similarly, the exclamation mark was not invented until the Middle Ages. There is a theory that the exclamation mark began as a calligraphic representation of Io, the Latin word for "joy." The I is represented by the vertical stroke, the o by the dot below it. Whether that charming story is the actual origin of ! is beside the . . . point. This, after all, is the season for joy, and for giving gifts. In due course I shall recommend several excellent recordings, seasonal and otherwise; a demon tweak that costs not a lot of money at all; and a bookóall of which will make excellent gifts.

But first, the results of August's write-in competition, in which I asked readers to send in their lists of the recordings that strike their mystic chords of memory.

Those Mystic Chords
The response was gratifyingly robustómore than 150 entries. I chose 14: 12 official winners and two favorites of my own. The official winners received their choice of a single CD from Stereophile's online store, and I gave John Marks Records CDs to my two picks. The backstory of the latter is that I really loved an entry that violated the rules, and it would not have been cricket to give that entry a Stereophile prize. The other pick wasn't an entry at all, but packed enough of a wallop that its author, too, gets a JMR CD. Scoot over to the results pages and read them all. Thanks to everyone who entered, and to John Atkinson for once more tolerating my enthusiasms.

In reading the entries that most impressed me, I was most moved by their self-revelatory quality. I came to the conclusion that while my own original picks, which ranged from Linda Ronstadt to Frederick Delius, indeed were and remain strongly evocative for me, they do not plumb the depths touched by the choices of some other entries. So, casting inhibitions to the four winds, I take advantage of the fact that this space is mine to fill and dig a whole lot deeperóscary deep, to give you some additional mystic-chords-of-memory recordings to remember, ponder, or learn from.

1) Tom Rush: "Biloxi," by Jesse Winchester, from Wrong End of the Rainbow, or "Wild Horses," from the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers

First real love: pure, chaste, trembling. Lying on the porch swing with her head on my chest, I was in heaven. She had a KLH compact stereo she'd bought with her earnings from shelving books in the public library. We kept the porch door open so we could hear the music.

2) Ella Fitzgerald: "Easy to Love," from The Cole Porter Songbook, Volume Two, or Villa-Lobos: Aria, from Bachianas Brasileiras No.5, with mezzo Salli Terri and guitarist Laurindo Almeida, on Duets with Spanish Guitar

Disillusioned, kinda make-do, "adult" love. The other kind is better. But there was a stereo here, too—even though the best music was on mono LPs, such as the above. I put a long cable on one speaker and moved it into the bedroom.

3) Wham!: "Careless Whisper," from Make It Big, or Michael Franks: "In the Eye of the Storm," from Sleeping Gypsy

When married love jumps the rails and ends up in the hands of lawyers.

4) Jackson Browne: "Fountain of Sorrow," from Late for the Sky, or Morten Lauridsen, "Contre Qui, Rose," from Les Chansons des Roses

Staying up too late, drinking port, trying to make sense of it all.

5) Christy Moore: "So Do I," from This Is the Day, or David Gray: "This Years Love," from White Ladder

Feeling 19 years old againófor a while, at least. It was nice while it lasted. Hope springs eternal, I guess.

And if that is all a bit too heavy for you, what follows came in right on deadline, from my friend Jeff Mitchell, who is my listening companion Bob Saglio's partner in their custom-installation and home-integration business.


JasonVSerinus's picture

In John Marks' otherwise excellent column, he repeats misinformation about Cuba's policy toward and treatment of homosexuals. Based on a 26-year old film, he makes a totally unsupportable and untrue statement - that the present-day Castro regime imprisons and tortures homosexuals. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Official Cuban policy is totally supportive of lesbians, gays, and transgenders. Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro and head of Cuba's National Sex Education Center, has spearheaded a huge campaign among the populace about the need to treat lesbians and gays as equals. There was even an officially sanctioned gay rights march in Havana in 2009. Transgenders (some of whom are homosexual) are not only afforded the same free medical care as everyone else, but can also receive gender reassignment surgery after two years of counseling and preparation.

Cuba's former President, Fidel Castro, publicly apologized last summer for the repression of homosexuals in the early days of the Cuban revolution, and called it "a great injustice." It was. But that was before the 1993 Cuban film, Strawberry and Chocolate, and the documentary In the Wrong Body instigated a nationwide discussion of historic attitudes toward homosexuals and the need for change. Although Cuba has yet to sanction same-sex marriage, same sex civil union legislation is currently being debated in the Cuban parliament. All things considered, Cuba's official policy toward homosexuals is light years ahead of state policy in many parts of the world.