Marine Biologist The Doorman Opposite George Newman's Mail The Bootleg Marriage
Just Dessert Sleep Desk Late Coffee High Stakes Motor Oil Downtown
Code Cracking Nonfat Yogurt Bad Boy It's Not You I Can't Be... Exploding Wallet
Elaine Flies Coach The Close Talker The Alliance Broccoli Coated Culture Dinner Party
George's Friend Jerry's Haircut Face Paint Mustachioed Smoking East River
Pool Man Dunkin' Joe Life Lessons Reckoning Dog Medicine Shower Heads
Looking Busy George Tips Kramer's Job Empty Tank
Click here for the reference to the "Argonauts" title, below.
Argonauts of the Seinfeldian Specific
Picking right up from our last Seinfeld Ethnography post, we will spend a little time today exploring the cosmetic and social implications of facial hair. In their comfortable booth at Monk's restaurant, George and Jerry discuss northern European ethnicity while sporting distinctive above-the-upper-lip hair styles. George wonders about the nature of identity and employment (wondering aloud about his appearance). Jerry would rather have gone on a real vacation than this "vacation from ourselves" that lands them in the corner diner, reading newspapers, and scratching their noses. Take a look.
|[b] The Works RF|
The mustache is different. It is hard for me to imagine even the most debonair mastodon hunter outlined by a finely honed pencil mustache as he sharpens his spear over the morning fire. By the Neolithic, it was possible to scrape facial hair (and a few gobs of skin) from a hardy face, but the technology was little match for the concomitant, embodied pain.
It doesn't take many hours spent watching, say, NFL football broadcasts to see that obsession with facial hair technology is perhaps second only to beer in financial focus among American men. Scratching, bleeding, scraping, and general dermatological misery (along with the occasional cool, bracing recovery) is the order of our time. With beards—whether today or while enjoying a roasted leg of mammoth—the equation is simple: keep 'em trimmed...if you can.
The mustache is different; it is all about trimming. Indeed, there is no mustache without powerful distinctions between a naked face and a small copse of stubble. Mix technology, artistry, daring, and a little testosterone—voici, we have a mustachioed face. It is that simple...and complex.
We will complete today's cultural and historical lesson with a look at hair in three prominent locations in time and space. Because I am not near my personal library this week, I will have to make a departure from the usual philosophical and anthropological texts that conclude our weekly Seinfeld Ethnography posts. Don't worry, though. In a week or so, I plan to examine the role of facial hair in the history of anthropology. You have no idea how interesting this might be. Look for that in early January.
|[c] Über RF|
Our first text gives a brief picture of the Norse über God Thor and his fiery beard. The second is a snippet from the classic Chinese narrative Journey to the West, which details the travels of a strange band of travelers in seventh century China who journey through untold perils to find the sacred (Buddhist) scriptures in the shadowy and magical lands of "China's" westland. Hair is magical here.
Finally, we conclude with the twelfth sonnet from Shakespeare's admirable collection of structured lyrics. I have always enjoyed memorizing, thinking about, and discussing The Sonnets, but today's search through them might have been the strangest I have ever undertaken. If you have never read through great verse in pursuit of references to facial hair, well, your literary studies are unfinished.
Myths of the Norsemen
Helene Guerber (1909)
|[d] Thornder RF|
Thor, who was honored as the highest god in Norway, came second in the trilogy of all the other countries, and was called "old Thor," because he is supposed by some mythologists to have belonged to an older dynasty of gods, and not on account of his actual age, for he was represented and described as a man in his prime, tall and well formed, with muscular limbs and bristling red hair and beard, from which, in moments of anger, the sparks flew in showers.
First, Thor with bent brow,
In red beard muttering low,
Darting fierce lightnings from eyeballs that glow,
Comes, while each chariot wheel
Echoes in thunder peal,
As his dread hammer shock
Makes Earth and Heaven rock,
Clouds rifting above, while Earth quakes below.
—Valhalla, J.C. Jones
Journey to the West
Wu Cheng'en (Sixteenth Century)
Arthur Waley (Translated 1943)
|[e] Monkeyjourney RF|
|[f] Shakestache RF|
When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night,
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silvered o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from head did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard:
Then of thy beauty do I question make
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast they they see others grow,
And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
Save breed to brave him, when he takes thee hence.
 Helene A. Guerber, Myths of the Norsemen (New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2006), 67-68.
 Arthur Waley, translator, Monkey (New York: Grove Press, 1970), 61.
 Helen Vendler, The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), 96.
Guerber, Helene A. Myths of the Norsemen. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2006.
Vendler, Helen. The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997.
Waley, Arthur, translator. Monkey. New York: Grove Press, 1970.
Wednesday, January 4th
Kramer makes his apartment into a smoking lounge. The rest is history (and culture)...and litigation.