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[Tidbits] The Donner Party


#1

The Donner Party… Cannibalism… Comedy… Tragedy… Tiffany.

You want to talk about a slow… tortuous… labyrinthine route to a
bejeweled end… then you’re in the right place. And so we segue… a
maneuver in which I excel… to a group of American pioneers who set
out to make their way to California via wagon train. It was the
beginning of the Gold Rush. They were the Donner Party. The year was
1846-47. It was winter. They became stranded in the Sierra Nevada.
Some died. Others survived one of two ways. Some ate the flesh of
their dead compatriots. Others… a tad more squeamish in their life
views… roasted their moccasins and ate them to quell their hunger.
Out of a party of 160… 18 survived.

Comedy and Tragedy had their beginnings in the Greek theater around
535 B.C. Tragedy was always in the forefront… tempered by comedy
when at the last minute the protagonist… through no fault of his
own bumbling self… is saved by fortunate mishaps.

The greatest modern representative of this concept was Charlie
Chaplin in his movie: The Gold Rush. Taking his cue from The Donner
Party… in one scene he boils a shoe in order to eat it to stave
off starvation while in another his hungry companion–in a moment of
desperate hunger --sees him as a giant chicken to be dined upon.
Chaplin did not simply eat his shoe… he tucked in his napkin…
salted the softened leather… and began dining upon his sumptuous
meal as though he were in the classiest of restaurants of Paris. This
is considered to be one of the funniest scenes in American comedy.
All born from the Donner tragedy.

And so we go back to the Greeks. According to Aristotle… ancient
comedy involved the spectacle of a group of festive males singing and
cavorting and rollicking (I am just on the edge of beginning to
understand what cavorting is… but what the devil is rollicking…
and how does one go about doing it?) around the image of a large
phallus. It would appear … to the analytical mind… that comedy
has it’s inceptions in the celebration of human sexuality… or
scatological imagery. Which is funnier I wonder.

Which brings us… by the farthest stretches of the imagination…
to Tiffany. The year is not given. But an 18 karat gold and enamel
pill box is created by Tiffany & Co. It is egg-shaped. The enamel is
lime green. It has twisted gold borders. And it depicts… in a
stylized fashion… a version of the satyr masks of Tragedy and
Comedy. I only have the image of one side. You will have to imagine
the reverse. It is however… amusing to look at. Go take a look.
And enjoy.

For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at http://www.tyler-adam.com where you
will scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that
says Current Tidbits… click it… and you will see represented on
our pages an image of a Tiffany pill box visibly depicting Tragedy
while leaving Comedy somewhat obscured.

And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.