8824 NE Russell St.
Portland OR 97220

Black Lamb

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Black Lamb was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Published monthly. (more)

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The anniversary schmalz

January 1st, 2012

BY ED GOLDBERG

Number 9, Number 9, Number 9….
— “Revolution 9,” The Beatles, 1968

This is the ninth anniversary of the Black Lamb monthly, and congratulations to Terry Ross for his perseverance, and for reading and enjoying my brain droppings for these years. I have relished the soapbox for my views on everything from the moribund condition of the literary novel, to the state of pop music in twenty-first-century America, to why George Romero’s zombie movies transcend their own genre.

I have received mostly positive comments, even from people who may disagree with me. Recently, Terry printed a dyspeptic rant from someone who found my politics to be, oh, bullshit, I guess. It was a great piece of verbal psychodrama and talking-point bile, and did nothing but reinforce everything I wrote.

(Just to set the record straight, I do not own a bumper-sticker festooned Volvo, but a Ford hybrid with no stickers. Unlike, say, Sarah Palin, everything I believe can’t be reduced to a slogan. And, does he still deny that Rick Perry is a preening ass and moral leper? I am not a red, although there’s nothing wrong with that, but I am deeply pink. I also take pleasure in the fact that the writer lives in Berkeley, and every day for him must be a vista of hell. Nyuk nyuk nyuk.)

Nine is a fraught number. In its printed form, it is not unlike a spermatozoa, or a stylized embryo. Human gestation lasts nine months. One is high on Cloud 9, or in the Ninth Circle of Dante’s Inferno. The pop geniuses Lieber and Stoller knew that the real-deal love potion was Number 9, and the literary lion Kurt Vonnegut made the apocalyptic substance that destroyed the earth Ice-nine. There used to be nine planets. (Sorry, Pluto.)

Many people believe that there is a curse on composers limiting them to nine symphonies. Sure, Mozart wrote 41 and Haydn 104, but this was pre-Beethoven, who established the curse, and it affected Dvorak, Bruckner, Schubert, Mahler, and Vaughn Williams. Schoenberg referred to this phenomenon in an essay about Mahler: “It seems that the Ninth is a limit. He who wants to go beyond it must pass away. It seems as if something might be imparted to us in the Tenth which we ought not yet to know, for which we are not ready. Those who have written a Ninth stood too close to the hereafter.”

Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain has re-animated the flat tax corpse with his 9-9-9 plan, or as I like to think of it, Nein! Nein! Nein!

Nine figures in world religions, superstitions (do I repeat myself?), and folk beliefs. Catholics perform a novena, a devotion consisting of a prayer repeated on nine successive days, asking to obtain special graces. Islam counts nine openings in a man, nine nodes of the bamboo for Taoists, the nine spiritual gifts of God enumerated by St. Paul, nine choruses of the Angels in heaven, Jesus Christ expired at the ninth hour on the cross and appeared nine times to his disciples and apostles after his resurrection.

There are nine girls of Belenos for the Druids. There are nine stages that the souls of Aztecs should traverse to reach the eternal rest. They also counted nine underground worlds. The Freemasons have made it the eternal number of human immortality. There are nine Muses in Greek mythology. Some people believe that there is a certain sense of finality associated with the Number 9 because it is the largest and last digit.

Nine is considered a good number in Chinese culture because it sounds the same as the word long-lasting and is strongly associated with the Chinese dragon, a symbol of magic and power. There are nine forms of the dragon; it is described in terms of nine attributes (the nine creatures that make up a Chinese Dragon: head of a camel; eyes of a demon; ears of a cow; horns are stag’s antlers; neck of a snake; belly of a clam; tiger’s feet; eagle’s claws), and it has nine children.

Perfection is anything “done to the nines,” and there are many numerical/mathematical oddities and interesting facts about the number nine.

More importantly, there are nine men on a baseball team and nine innings in a standard game. But I believe that for this essay, this is the whole nine yards.

My deep gratitude to Terry and my fellow contributors for making this a publication to look forward to every month. If you are reading this and fancy yourself a writer, join us. It has been fun. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Goldberg, Ninth Anniversary Issue | Link to this Entry

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