Friday, January 21, 2011

Celebrating Charles Dudley Warner

As I begin to write this here post at a little past 4:00 a.m., I realize that I am about to Celebrate Charles Dudley Warner, who, despite what you may have heard, is almost certainly the source of the quote, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it1."

Because I am about to talk about our local weather while intending to do fuck-all about it!1!

It is snowing here in mid-Northish Joisey, which means that Ian's school will almost certainly have a late opening or be closed altogether. Which means either Teh 'Bride or I will have to stay home with him. I hope it's a delayed opening, because then I could stay home with him till his school opens, then drive to work when the roads, in theory, will be clearer and there will be fewer foax on them, to boot2.

[5:10 Update: The robo-call just came. Verdict: Schools are closed.]

But here's the thing: Because it is snowing yet again, I will, yet again, be unable to run this morning, which means more time spent riding Morrissey, my p*ssy-@$$ recumbent exercise bike. Look, I'm all for giving it to Morrissey — HARD!1! — (and God knows he's into it) but, really, all this Morrissey-riding is starting to put the dick in ridickulous because, as a dude, I am genetically predisposed to seek out different forms of exercise. It's a "fact"3. Look, it's not that I don "love" Morrissey in my own way, but he gets boring after a while and sometimes? I just want to get the whole experience with him over with as quickly as possible.

There.

I said it.

If that makes me a horrible person and a selfish exerciser, so be it. I don't intend to change now, at this advanced age.

Yesterday, I was able to get in a 6.86-mile run at a 9:24 pace. This is pretty bad, even though it was dark and there were still patches of snow and ice to avoid and I can conveniently blame my slowness on that. But it has been a looooong time since I have been able to run 7 miles at a sub-9-minute pace. Okay, so maybe expecting to be able to do that in winter conditions is expecting too much. But a nice compensation for the slowness would be having the opportunity to log more miles with additional runs.

But that ain't happening so far.

I guess I should just be happy that my old, dependable whoo-wer of a recumbent exercise bike is around for me to take this frustration out on.

Because he likes it rough. And I'm in the mood to give it to him that way: HARD!1!

1 Yeah, everybody "knows" it was Mark Twain, but there's like zero evidence for that. For the longest time, the earliest known instance of this quote was from Teh Hartford Courant of Connecticut dated August 27, 1897, in an editorial almost certainly written by Warner in which he foolishly said:
A well known American writer said once that, while everybody talked about the weather, nobody seemed to do anything about it
 ... evidently believing that his readers would know that the "well known American writer" he was referring to was he himself. Fucktard. Because who the fuck is Charles Dudley Warner and why would anyone attribute anything to him other than Honorary Wienerhood for having such a Wiener name? Little did CDW know that there is a Quotation Equation in every red-blooded American's mind that goes: "Words + Funny + Pithy + Quotable = Source: Mark Twain" which kicks in in the absence of any overt attribution for any Amusing Quote. (In much the same way that "Words + Blatant Factual Inaccuracies + Vague-to-Overt Racism + Wingnut Slant = Source: Faux News/Rush Limbaugh" kicks in, too, in the absence of attribution; but that latter formula has the saving grace of giving you a better chance of getting at the truth than the former does.)

Anyroad, some intrepid quote-investigating soul evidently traced that saying back to a couple of even earlier dates and found it being overtly attributed to Warner. So the issue of the true source is pretty much settled. Yet as we all know, it will continue to be attributed to Twain based on the above formula. Which is perhaps his compensation for having his masterpiece bowdlerized. Again.

When, O, when will We as a Nation learn that only Rush should be allowed to get away with using racially-charged epithets?

2 Because when there are a lot of people on the road? I like to boot them.

And if you're wondering why I should be the one who gets the benefit of the later, theoretically clearer, commute instead of Teh 'Bride, here's why:

Teh 'Bride's commute: Three miles.

Mine: Twenty-four.

Say it with me, my 7 regular readers: "Mine's Bigger."

3 Propz to Rush and Faux News, who own the copyright on "facts", and who have generously allowed me to use that term to describe assertions that I would otherwise have to characterize as "blatant mendacities" (without the quotation marks).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Go Here

I.e., here.

Read.  Do as asked.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Two Daze in a Row

It's raining outside so I made the executive decision not to go on a run. I call it an executive decision because it is my experience that most executives are pussies and the decision not to run was so pussified — or "executive" — that I think I might qualify for a billion-dollar bonus from Goldman N*ts@chs.

This makes two days in a row that I have not run; rest assured, I took my frustration out on Morrissey, my p*ssy-@$$ recumbent exercise bike, riding him — HARD!1! — for 30 minutes or 10 miles, whichever came first; luckily they came at the same time, even though I suspect Ten Miles was faking it. "Yeah, Thirty Minutes, that was grrrrreat ... you really rocked my world ... um, Woo-Hoo? ... Could you hand me my knitting? ... No, no, you were fine, really ... anyway, what truly matters is you're a good provider ..."

Tomorrow is supposed to be nicer so I gotta run no matter what.

I just finished King John — full title: The Life and Death of King John — and have come to conclusion that, just as Dick Cheney's favorite pastime was using quail-hunting as an excuse to shoot people in the face and possibly turn them into food for human consumption1, so English nobles must have loved torturing and/or killing children. Because in KJ2 yet another young claimant to the throne is killed. Okay, okay, technically Arthur kills himself, but that's only after Hubert is sent by King John to kill Arthur and he (Hubert) arrives with two "Executioners", whom Hubert sends away, and then Hubert spends the next hundred lines or so threatening to blind Arthur with red-hot irons and Arthur pleads not to be blinded and the reader is sitting there going, "Blinding? I thought you were there to kill the kid, Hubert? Because you weren't accompanied in this scene by two characters called 'Ophthalmologists' — they are clearly called 'Executioners'."

And here's the scene where Hubert was given his instructions:
KING JOHN
[...]
Good Hubert, Hubert, Hubert, throw thine eye
On yon young boy: I'll tell thee what, my friend,
He is a very serpent in my way;
And whereso'er this foot of mine doth tread,
He lies before me: dost thou understand me?
Thou art his keeper.

HUBERT
And I'll keep him so,
That he shall not offend your majesty.

KING JOHN
Death.

HUBERT
My lord?

KING JOHN
A grave.

HUBERT
He shall not live.
So if you read between the lines, it's pretty clear John wants the kid dead.

So why all this talk of blinding? Not that it matters. Hubert doesn't kill (or blind) the boy, but Arthur, thinking that situation could change at any moment, tries to escape and falls to his death.

And the King gets blamed for assassinating the kid anyway. But not without first trying to blame Hubert:
KING JOHN
[...]
Why urgest thou so oft young Arthur's death?
Thy hand hath murder'd him: I had a mighty cause
To wish him dead, but thou hadst none to kill him.

HUBERT
No had, my lord! why, did you not provoke me?

KING JOHN
It is the curse of kings to be attended
By slaves that take their humours for a warrant
To break within the bloody house of life,
And on the winking of authority
To understand a law, to know the meaning
Of dangerous majesty, when perchance it frowns
More upon humour than advised respect.

HUBERT
Here is your hand and seal for what I did.

KING JOHN
O, when the last account 'twixt heaven and earth
Is to be made, then shall this hand and seal
Witness against us to damnation!
How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds
Make deeds ill done! Hadst not thou been by,
A fellow by the hand of nature mark'd,
Quoted and sign'd to do a deed of shame,
This murder had not come into my mind:
But taking note of thy abhorr'd aspect,
Finding thee fit for bloody villany,
Apt, liable to be employ'd in danger,
I faintly broke with thee of Arthur's death;
And thou, to be endeared to a king,
Made it no conscience to destroy a prince.

HUBERT
My lord--

KING JOHN
Hadst thou but shook thy head or made a pause
When I spake darkly what I purposed,
Or turn'd an eye of doubt upon my face,
As bid me tell my tale in express words,
Deep shame had struck me dumb, made me break off,
And those thy fears might have wrought fears in me:
But thou didst understand me by my signs
And didst in signs again parley with sin;
Yea, without stop, didst let thy heart consent,
And consequently thy rude hand to act
The deed, which both our tongues held vile to name.
Out of my sight, and never see me more!
My nobles leave me; and my state is braved,
Even at my gates, with ranks of foreign powers:
Nay, in the body of this fleshly land,
This kingdom, this confine of blood and breath,
Hostility and civil tumult reigns
Between my conscience and my cousin's death.

HUBERT
Arm you against your other enemies,
I'll make a peace between your soul and you.
Young Arthur is alive: this hand of mine
Is yet a maiden and an innocent hand,
Not painted with the crimson spots of blood.
Within this bosom never enter'd yet
The dreadful motion of a murderous thought;
And you have slander'd nature in my form,
Which, howsoever rude exteriorly,
Is yet the cover of a fairer mind
Than to be butcher of an innocent child.

KING JOHN
Doth Arthur live? O, haste thee to the peers,
Throw this report on their incensed rage,
And make them tame to their obedience!
So ... the king orders Hubert to murder Arthur; Hubert can't do it, but tells John he did; at which point, John, seeing how child-murdering is a bit of a political liability, berates Hubert for doing what he was ordered to do. At which point Hubert, say, "Hey Dickhead! Guess what? I didn't do it!"

Then? They discover Arthur's dead body and nobody believes they didn't murder him.

"Nobles"!

1 With the catchy brand name of Soylent Whittington.

2 Who, by the bye, is the same John as in the Robin Hood legend; ie., John-Teh-Brother-of-Richard-Teh-Lionhearted. King Richard was off fighting a Crusade in the Middle East (because his adviser Richard "Dick-Teh-Pacemaker-Hearted" Cheney claimed the Saracens had Crossbows of Mass Destruction) and left his brother John in charge of the country. He was such a suck-@$$ ruler, according to the legend, that even Errol Flynn wouldn't have sex with him, which is saying a lot.

Of course, this was before John became king and was such a suck-@$$ ruler that his own barons revolted against him and made him sign the Magna Carta (Latin for "MasterCard"), on which they had already, unbeknownst to John. run up thousands and thousands of pounds of charges ordering Internet pr0n, on which charges they only ever paid the minimum so ... surcharges? There were surcharges out the ass!2a

2a Surcharges Out the Ass! being one of the internet pr0n videos that the barons ordered like 57 times because they were into some really freaky stuff; but who could resist the tagline: "See the video where Maid Marian becomes Made Marian"? Which she does courtesy of the Spoonerifically named character "Triar Fuck", who evidently does not take his celibacy vows very seriously. But first? She rejects Little John, For obvious reasons.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Long Weekend Draws to a Close

I managed to get in two runs this weekend, the first of 7.31 miles and the second of 6.94; so I made up for some of the mileage I lost due to my taking 5 days off from running after my ankle injury. I had hoped to be able to get in a run this morning, but it snowed a bit overnight and it is now doing something else nasty, possibly sleeting or raining, so a run is just not going to happen.

The second run mentioned above was at a 6.5 mph pace, which I am not too ashamed of, considering the conditions under which I ran it — viz., in bitter cold weather and on roads that were still somewhat icy in places. But since I ran in daylight for a change, I was able to see approaching patches of ice and other obstacles that wanted to maim and/or kill me and thus was able take preemptive evasive action.

So this morning: exercise for about an hour, including 20 minutes on the exercise bike (6.7 miles).

Just got the robo-call: Ian's school is closed. Lucky Ian gets a 4-day weekend now.

Just started King John; I finished the first two acts and with any luck will have read it all by Wednesday.

After finishing Pericles a couple of days ago, I, not wanting to dive immediately into another play, began flipping around in The Riverside Shakespeare for something short to skim. The great thing about these Compleat Shxpr editions is that they all have these critical essays and appendices and histories, etc.; and if you get bored between plays it's easy enough to find something short and interesting to read to divert and sooth your brainpan after reading Shakespeare's sometimes challenging prose and poetry. Anyroad, I somehow came to rest upon The Riverside Edition's Appendix B: Records, Documents & Allusions, one part of which consists of "Contemporary Notices of the Plays and Poems"; these "notices" are conveniently numbered, and my eye was drawn to number "21. [Henry VIII and the Burning of the Globe]"— the Globe, of course, being Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, which burned to the ground during a performance of HVIII on June 29, 1613.

That is obviously very sad. But then there is this:

A certain Sir Henry Wotton wrote to a Sir Edmund Bacon describing the fire, and the excerpt from his letter included in The Riverside Edition ends thus:
This was the fatal period of that vertuous fabrique; wherein yet nothing did perish, but wood and straw, and a few forsaken cloaks; only one man had his breeches set on fire, that would perhaps have broyled him, if he had not by the benefit of a provident wit put it out with bottle Ale.
Beer. Is there anything you can't do?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pericles

I just finished Pericles, Prince of Tyre and I consider it to be a pretty successful play overall. That assessment, at first blush, might sound like a bit of a no-brainer because you're sitting there all Pffttttt! Well, it is Shakespeare after all. But that's one of the problems with it; there are questions of authorship surrounding Pericles, especially with regard to the first two acts. There is little question that Shakespeare was one of the authors of the play because there are unmistakable Shakespearean touches to it, some of which can even be found in the first two acts, which has led to speculation that Shakespeare touched up the other author's work in the first two acts — but not too much — before moving on to write the last three acts of the play himself; for it is pretty much agreed that Shakespeare himself was in all likelihood the primary author of the latter three-fifths of the play.  The first two acts, though, are pretty schematic and largely "unShakespearean" (however you want to define that slippery term); there are tons of textual corruptions throughout the play but most especially in the first two acts1; and the play as a whole is pretty desultory and meandering, just kinda all over the place in terms of setting: It opens in Antioch, then moves to Tyre, Tharsus, Pentapolis, Ephesus, Mytilene ... and the open sea, where one of the main characters, Pericles's daughter (fittingly named Marina), is born and another seemingly dies.

The sea has always been a symbol of change, sometimes sudden and violent change, for obvious reasons, and it is fitting that Marina, who experiences quite a few vicissitudes in her young life, should be born on the open sea during a raging storm; it is also fitting that the body of Thaisa, who appears to have died giving birth to Marina, should be pulled from the sea and miraculously revived by Cerimon's medical/magical arts; for the sea also symbolizes rebirth, and along with the many changes of fortune in Pericles, there are quite a few rebirths — not the least of being Pericles's own.

Pericles is told that his daughter has died and he falls into mourning, resolving, in his woe, never again to cut his hair or speak or engage with the world — indeed, barely eating enough to stay alive. It is a form of death-in-life. When he meets with a young woman who2 he gradually realizes, from attending to her life story, is his daughter, he says:
O Helicanus [Pericles's friend and plenipotentiary], strike me, honour'd sir;
Give me a gash, put me to present pain;
Lest this great sea of joys rushing upon me
O'erbear the shores of my mortality,
And drown me with their sweetness. O, come hither,
Thou that beget'st him that did thee beget;
Thou that wast born at sea, buried at Tarsus,
And found at sea again! [emphasis added]
The daughter here symbolically gives birth to the father, brings him back to life. The sea imagery in the passage above is typical of the play as a whole, particularly the last three acts. A large part of the reason I consider Pericles to be a successful play despite its flaws is that it is replete with passionate and movingly poetic language such as that above; the reunion scenes are emotionally satisfying and genuinely affecting; and I would be surprised if they are not even more so when performed. 

Pericles in many ways recalls Lear — particularly in its echo of a father's loss of and ultimate reuniting with his daughter, with the significant difference that Pericles, being a romance, ends happily, whereas Lear, famously, ends quite tragically indeed: Daughter dies while father, happily deluded into thinking daughter is still alive, dies fooled3. Pericles is kinda an anti-Lear in its attitude toward Providence — "the gods" — as well. Characters in Lear are forever attempting to interpret what the actions in the play mean with regard to the gods' attitude toward us lowly humans: Do the god love us, hate us, are they indifferent to us? Gloucester, after having both of his eyes put out, famously says:
As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods.
They kill us for their sport4.
Lear itself neither endorses nor disputes this view; it is certainly not an unreasonable stance for Gloucester to take, he having recently been ruthlessly deprived of sight by having his eyes gouged out — "out, vile jelly!"

But interestingly enough, when Gloucester is being blinded by Cornwall, one of Cornwall's servants attacks his master for this cruelty and mortally wounds him (a major theme in Lear is the question of what constitutes being a "good servant"; i.e., when, if ever, it might be preferable for a "lowly" servant to be defiant of his "better" whom he is supposed to serve); Cornwall lives long enough to put Gloucester's other eye out though. This cruelty, complete with the servant's revolt, is later reported to Albany:
Messenger
A servant that he bred, thrill'd with remorse,
Opposed against the act, bending his sword
To his great master; who, thereat enraged,
Flew on him, and amongst them fell'd him dead;
But not without that harmful stroke, which since
Hath pluck'd him after. [i.e., the servant wounded Cornwall, but Cornwall killed the servant; Cornwall later died of the wound received from the servant]

Albany
This shows you are above,
You justicers, that these our nether crimes
So speedily can venge! But, O poor Gloucester!
Lost he his other eye?

Messenger
Both, both, my lord.
Albany uses the self-same incident of the blinding of Gloucester to claim that it proves that the gods are just. Then asks, So um ... did his other eye get gouged out? To which the answer is, Yep, you bet. Which kinda undercuts Albany's pollyanna-ish view that the gods are just and that they "speedily ... venge" earthly wrong-doings. Because first? They let the evil dude gouge the innocent guy's other eye out.

But in Pericles, there are frequent references to the beneficence of Providence, of the gods; Diana is invoked more than once, and she actually appears to Pericles in a dream, instructing him to go to her temple and make a sacrifice ... and it is there that Pericles and Marina are finally reunited with wife and mother Thaisa, long thought to be dead:
Thaisa
O, let me look!
If he be none of mine, my sanctity
Will to my sense bend no licentious ear,
But curb it, spite of seeing. O, my lord,
Are you not Pericles? Like him you spake,
Like him you are: did you not name a tempest,
A birth, and death?

Pericles
The voice of dead Thaisa!

Thaisa
That Thaisa am I, supposed dead
And drown'd.

Pericles
Immortal Dian!

Thaisa
Now I know you better.
When we with tears parted Pentapolis,
The king my father gave you such a ring.

Shows a ring

Pericles
This, this: no more, you gods! your present kindness
Makes my past miseries sports: you shall do well,
That on the touching of her lips I may
Melt and no more be seen. O, come, be buried
A second time within these arms. [emphasis added]
Note how Pericles's your present kindness/ Makes my past miseries sports echoes Gloucester's more accusatory As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods./ They kill us for their sport. Using language remarkably similar to Gloucester's, Pericles inverts its meaning. Thus in Pericles you get the type of ending that people like Samuel Johnson thought Lear owed them. Pericles, in this sense, is Happy Lear.

Needless to say, Pericles is simply not in the same league as Lear, which latter is arguably the greatest play in Shakespeare's oeuvre, if not the greatest play in all of Western Literature. It is not a great criticism of Pericles to say that it is not quite up to that standard, because what is? But look again at the speeches Pericles and Thaisa make and try not to be moved almost to tears by them.

There is an attempt to tie the disparate elements of Pericles together with the character of Gower-as-Chorus. This is kinda quaint but, to my mind, doesn't add much to the play. This feeling is not helped much by the fact that the use to which Gower is put changes slightly in the course of the play: In the beginning of Pericles, Gower introduces each act, speaking in rhyming tetrameter couplets; but by Act IV, Gower is speaking in pentameter couplets, sounding more Shakespearean than self-consciously Olde-Tyme-y, and showing up not just at the beginning of the acts, but also as Chorus in the midst of the acts. Generally, Gower serves to mark the passage of time and changes in situation that, in a better-constructed play, Shakespeare probably would have found a way to incorporate into the action or dialogue of the play itself. Gower/Chorus isn't the first time Shakespeare used this shortcut, but it's probably his most extensive use of it in any play that I can recall5.

It's possible that Gower can be viewed as artist stand-in in Pericles, but he is far less successfully integrated into the play than, say, Prospero is in The Tempest; and if we view the magic of Prospero in the latter play as a gloss or comment on the "magic" of well-constructed literary art, or any art — as critics have done for quite some time, viewing Prospero's vow to give up his magic as Shakespeare's own farewell to writing plays — we learn a whole lot more about art than we do from Gower's clumsy rhyming and rudimentary stage-managing.

The character of Gower is not Pericles's only structural problem, however. I have mentioned a couple of times that there are numerous apparently corrupt passages in Pericles that are next to impossible to parse and whose meaning will probably never be known. But there are also just outright clumsy attempts at exposition that seem more characteristic of a rough draft than a finished play. My favorite example is from Act IV, Scene iv; Marina has been bought by a couple of bawds (whoo-werhouse owners, one of whose names is ... "Bawd"); they're trying to make her into a whoo-wer, but she is so pure and chaste that she gets all who approach her to renounce their whoo-wering ways, instead, and she remains a virgin throughout. At this point, a new character, unmet before this time, enters, and is introduced thus:

Bawd
[...] Here comes the Lord Lysimachus disguised.

This line took me quite aback, because I was at first certain that this was a stage-direction that, through corruption, somehow got incorporated into the dialogue. But then I realized that couldn't be possible; you can have a stage direction "Enter X, disguised" only if the audience is already familiar with the character entering or if the point of the scene is to fool both the other characters and the audience and have a Big Reveal at a later point. But this is a new character and neither of those situation obtains. So how do you cue the audience in to the fact that this stranger to them is in disguise? You have one of your other characters say that, which leads to utterly clumsy lines like the one above6.

There are many clumsy lines and poorly constructed scenes in Pericles.

But the play, as a whole, somehow transcends them and works for me. The basic plot of Pericles, while all over the place, is nevertheless easy enough to follow. And in the last three acts, you encounter some of Shakespeare's best lines and most affecting scenes. How could that not be worth it?


1 One explanatory hypothesis for this textual corruption being that Pericles must be a reported text, i.e., based on somebody's memory of the play's lines rather than on any authoritative playscript, and that there may have been two different reporters, the second of whom was much more reliable, which would account for the fact that acts III-V seem so much more Shakespearean in style. That's certainly not impossible, but that there is a whole lotta theory based on less-than-overwhelming supporting evidence. We do pretty much know that reported texts were not that unusual in Shakespeare's day. A publisher, noting a particular play's popularity, would set about trying to find someone with some measure of authority to recite the lines for him to set down and ultimately publish and sell, thereby bypassing the author altogether. (Copyright laws in Renaissance England weren't quite what they are today. The fact that the author was being totally fucked over didn't necessarily prevent these pirated texts from featuring the author's name prominently on the title page, thereby implying these pirated copies were approved by the author and that the author himself was getting his cut of any profits.)

The sources of these reported texts were not infrequently the actors in the play itself. And it was usually pretty easy to know which parts these actors played because there tended to be very little corruption in the lines of their characters; then possibly a little bit of corruption in the lines spoken by the characters that their characters were interacting with in any given scene; but there would be far more textual corruption in scenes in which this actor's characters were not involved, the actor having not bothered to fully memorize lines he would neither have to speak nor recognize as his character's cues. And so in some "bad" quartos, scholars can pretty much say with authority which character(s) the reporting actor played in the drama based on which characters' lines display the least corruption.

The There-Were-Multiple-Authors theory and the This-Is-a-Reported-Text theory, by the way, are not mutually exclusive, which obviously further complicates the matter of establishing authorial responsibility; then we have the further complicating issue of the play's being based largely on a work by Medievial author John Gower — a close personal friend of Geoffrey Chaucer, but not nearly as talented —and therefore possibly written in an intentionally simplified form because Gower was pretty much viewed by Renaissance authors (including Shakespeare) as an Olde-Tyme-y writer of simple verses. So it's possible some of the clunky lines — at least the ones put in Gower's mouth — are intentionally clunky and shouldn't necessarily be counted as evidence of authorship by a lesser talent than Shakespeare.

2 No, slg, not "whom", if you were thinking of challenging that; the nominative case is called for here because "who" is the subject of "is" even though subject and verb, in this instance, are separated by nine words of parenthetical observations.

Admit it: You were gonna challenge that.

3 Lear's final words:
And my poor fool [i.e., Cordelia] is hang'd! No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!
Pray you, undo this button: thank you, sir.
Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
Look there, look there!

Dies
Lear evidently dies thinking he has just seen signs of life in Cordelia's face, just as he was certain, a couple dozen lines earlier, that she was still breathing.

The ending of Lear is so relentlessly bleak, it's little wonder that a version of the play with a happy ending was developed in 1681 that was far more popular than Shakespeare's tragic version. Samuel Johnson endorsed the happy ending version, and when he himself edited a version of King Lear, he kinda kept it at arm's length, fearful he'd be infected by its "atheistical" mojo. (See above for more on Lear and its theme of man's relationship to "the gods", to some "divine providence".)

4 This line never stood out to me in the play when I read it, but I remember once discussing the play with Teh 'Dad and hearing him quote it — this had to've been over 30 years ago — and it has been one of my favorite lines from Shakespeare ever since.

5 A Chorus is used extensively in Henry V, opening each act, but I haven't read that play yet. This is still a more sparing use of the device than what we see in Pericles.

6 It should be noted, as well, that the scenes in the whoo-werhouse are comic ones, and there is a pretty funny moment later in this particular scene when Lysimachus (who turns out to be a whoo-wer-mongering government official, or, as we would call him today, "a government official") is talking to Marina and learns that his disguise was for naught because the bawd had already told her who Lysimachus was and that he was in disguise. But from a strictly structural standpoint, his introduction into the play is poorly handled.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Stiffness

As usual, I woke up waaaaay too early this morning — as should be immediately evident to you by the fact that this post has a 5:30ish a.m. time stamp and I have already done my hour-long run this morning — and so I was ready to run before 4:30 a.m. In one sense this is good because I get the run over with quickly; in another sense, it sucks hairy goat balls because it's winter in New Joisey and do you have any idea what the temperature is at 4:30 a.m. in mid-northish Joisey in winter? I'll tell you what the temperature is: it's 7 degrees — and a whole 10 degrees by the time I returned at 5:30. (What I won't tell you is how I know what it's like to suck hairy goat balls; a boy has to keep some sense of mystery about his life.)

To put this morning's temperature in terms that may be more meaningful to you: When I got back from my run I immediately came down here to the Macintosh and pulled up the raunchiest Intertubal porn I could find and after staring at it for a full minute, for the first time in my life in such a situation, the stiffest part of my body was not located below the waist! Hahahahaha! It's funny because I'm frostbit!

But I've been pussificatorily putting runs off lately because of the weather — snow; ice; sky like unto blood and the moon as if sackcloth — and so when I came down here, looked up the weather, and saw it was 7 degrees out, I was tempted to bag yet another run. But then I thought to myself, "You know, it's a slippery slope once you accept temperature alone as a valid reason not to run. I mean, what's next? Omens? 'I saw a black cat!' Oooooo! Better not run! When it gets to that point, are you really a man anymore? You might as well hang up you n*ts@ck!"

Like all good If-we allow-this-what-would-be-next? arguments — e.g., "If we let dudes marry dudes, what's next? Allowing dudes to marry chickens?" (I don't know about you, but I don't want dudes marrying chickens in my state1! Therefore, NO GAY MARRIAGE, you proto-chicken-fuckers!1!) — this argument swayed me. It was entirely convincing in its irrelevance, so I dutifully mapped out a 6.32-mile run and I was out the door.

But here's the thing: Running in 7-degree weather sucks hairy goat balls, as mentioned above, but I reiterate this fact here because, above, I forget to mention that sucking hairy goat balls is also legal in the Carolinas, and not just for other goats, if you get my drift2. Because it was so cold out, it took like twice as long for me to be able to feel my fingers despite my time-tested warm-up technique of frenetically-paced and repeated clenching-and-unclenching-of-my-fists. (I was wearing gloves, of course, but in this weather? Pffftt! Might just as well not be.) I was sure I was gonna lose a pinky or two. (I have three.)

But warm up they did, at around the 3-mile mark, so there went that excuse for aborting the run early.

Then I started in with the negotiations: Look, if I stop the run after 4 miles, I swear, when I get home, I'll ride Morrissey for FIVE MORE miles! That's gotta be worth 2.32 running miles!

But you know what? That's just the terrorist in me talking and I don't negotiate with terrorists. "Let me return home now and I promise not to let your pinkies get frostbite and fall off!" "NO DEAL!" "Okay, how about your dick?" "Okay. Home it is, then."

Hahahahahaha!1! Just kidding! My penis was never in any actual danger, Ladies, because for Xmas I got these boxer briefs that are really great at keeping the ol' junk up close to my core where it — the junk — stays relatively warm. Plus? The codpiece really shows off my junk to nice effect. I mean, I never really needed any help in that area? But these boxer briefs really give you an idea of what you'd be dealing with. And Ladies? I don't blame you for being a little bit frightened.
 Junk-flattering boxer-briefs (full disclosure: mine's bigger)

Anyroad ($ir Paul just got a royalty cheque for 5 pounds!), I finished my run and survived.

6.32 miles in 59:18 for a 9:24 pace and 6.4 mph. In cold, icy conditions? I'll take that.

 1 Don't worry, Cletus. I don't care if you Carolinians continue to marry your chickens. You fought and lost the Wah of Nawthun Aggresshun for that right, so go to it1a!

1a See? I told you, Sarah (D-MI), that your request that I stop taunting Cletus was denied! I hope that is now clear to you.

2 In fact? It is illegal for a dude-goat to suck another dude-goat's hairy balls because THAT WOULD BE TOTALLY GAY!1!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Morrissey LIVES!1! PLUS ... Etc.

Yesterday we got like 6 or 7 inches of snow and, even though the boro managed to clear the roads quickly and well, I had to stay home because we got the "School will be closed" robo-call last night and someone had to stay home with Ian, so I did. Tough life.

Made this here video to share the experience with you:



I just finished my morning workout; I guess I could have gone for a run, but I opted not to. So I did exercise, yoga, stretching, and 10 minutes on Morrissey (3.5. miles). All told, about an hour's workout.

Yesterday I did 10.1 miles in an hour on Morrissey. In order to reach my goal of running 1200 miles this year, I'm obviously going to have to average 100 per month. It's far more likely I'll ride Morrissey for 100 miles this month than that I'll run that many miles, because as it stand right now,

Running: 30.91 miles
Biking: 45.5

With any luck, I'll get at least 80 running miles in this month and I'll make up the other miles during the less inclement months. The suck-@$$ thing about being a morning runner is you're always running in the dark, especially this time of year, so slipping on ice is always a possibility, even when there's very little ice to be slipped on. I wear a headlamp1 but that enables you to see only very large hazards, like parked cars and such, which I have been able to avoid running into. So far.

But I had the headlamp on the other week when I ran into that Rogue Snowpile (which appeared out of nowhere when pert-near all the other snow hereabouts had already melted) and my seeing it didn't save me from jumping in the wrong direction and landing on the uneven juncture between road and driveway curb and ending up twisting my ankle, etc.2 So short of wearing a klieg light on my head, there's very little else I can do, which is why, instead of running this morning, I gave it — HARD!1! — to Morrissey.

I suppose I'll have to run tomorrow morning and I should really try to run an extra mile or two to make up for my laziness and fat-@$$ery.

Speaking of fat-@SSery, there are quite a few people out there (so far I've counted three) who have made a goal of losing weight. There's Cletus, who's already lost quite a bit and at the rate he's going there won't be anything left of him to make fun of soon, so I'm gonna get as many shots in as I can now, such as this: Even as a fat-@$$, he was already far too enamored of himself, taking every opportunity he could to post pictures of his shirtless bloated, pasty-white, Irish torso; this trend will only get worse, I imagine, as he loses more and more of that avoirdupois. On the plus side: I can always just go to his site if I feel the need to purge.

Also losing weight: Teh Peachy Escargot. And I noticed Sarah (D-MI) has also vowed to drop a few.

I like beer, especially good beer, which tends to be very calorie-laden. Inspired by those foax above, I am giving serious thought to giving up beer for February (the shortest month, not that size matters) to see if I can manage to drop a few myself. This is not a resolution, but more an experiment, because I have a feeling already that this "experiment" will fail on approximately the first Friday night of February. But in any case, I think my fat Irish @$$3 could stand to lose a few and I'm gonna give it a try.


I started Pericles yesterday afternoon and am approximately halfway through. I know this thrills all of you because, yes, I'll be writing about it when I finish.

1 Because I'm 50 and I believe safety comes first; and also, at 50, I realize, headlamp or no, my chances of being attractive to young hawties are essentially nil, so I might as well be safe with the headlamp. Plus? Then at least I can attribute the young hawties' laughter to the headlamp, as long as I ignore what they're saying, which is, "O my GAWD, lookit that old dude! He's so OLD!1!" Which I manage to ignore by alwayd having my iPod on so I can listen to music that is twice as old as the young hawties.

2 There. I just saved you a clickthrough to the post where I took like 2000 words to describe that self-same event after it happened and just now you only had to read like 15 words to get the exact same information. So don't you fucking dare even think about complaining at having to come way down here to read an irrelevant footnote, because you're still ahead of the game, time-saving-wise, you ingrate.

3 Hahahahahahaha! That is of course figurative language because, as an Irishman, my @$$ is about the only part of my body that just has NO CHANCE of getting fat. Fortunately I have been compensated for this by being ... let's just say "front-loaded".

Am I turning you on, Ladies?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Couple 'A Goombahs From Hoboken

SIKE! This post is actually gonna be about Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona —  a horrible name for Shakespeare's not-bad comedy that I just finished — but I decided to title it as above to trick you into thinking it was actually about like a couple of Joisey Shore-type dickheads and would therefore be worth reading. Hahahahahaha! IN YER FACES, much-abused Readers!1! I dragged you kicking and screaming into another 5 billion-word post about some dude who wrote and talked funny and wore a codpiece1!1!

Personality, identity, deliberate obfuscation of identity, unintentional obfuscation of identity, disguises, cross-dressing, sexual confusion ... ("THESE are a few of my FAVORITE Things ...!") ... also, all of these are major themes or elements2 in just about all of Shakespeare, including his sonnets (regardless of whether or not you buy into the whole Dark Lady plot that people try to impose on the sonnets to make them into some sort of coded narrative (Personally? I don't buy into that)). They all occur, with slightly less development, in TGoV. Shakespeare is kinda trying them out, to good, if limited, effect, I would argue. You'll see them better-developed in later plays, but this is a good early attempt3.

There are very few characters in TGoV — fewer than 20, I guess, all told — and the opening sentence of Anne Barton's Introduction to the play in the Riverside Edition goes thus:
"The Two Gentlemen of Verona has the unenviable distinction of being the least loved and least regarded of Shakespeare's plays."
Yikes! She goes on to note that it is rarely performed, seems schematic (most of the dialogue includes no more than two or three characters) and, in the course of her essay, stops to note its glaring flaws, of which there are quite a few, and Sister, when these flaws glare, they fucking glare! Some of its flaws are not so horrible, and you probably wouldn't even notice them if someone didn't point them out. In Act I, scene ii, for example, Lucetta, Julia's "waiting-woman", mentions Julia's father; Barton gives a gloss to this in the footnotes:

"your father: After one other reference to her father ... Shakespeare seems to treat Julia as a wealthy orphan [...]", Barton then citing a line later in the play where Julia seems to be in control of her own estate, which, presumably would have been controlled by her father if he were alive. This is interesting in its own way, I guess but .... 4

The major flaws of Two Gentleman occur almost entirely in the final act, the final scene, of the play. Proteus5, who had been betrothed to Julia from very early on in the play, has by this time decided he loves Silvia and has managed to have Valentine, Proteus's own best bud and Silvia's leman, exiled so that he, Proteus, can try to win Silvia over. But Silvia thinks he's a total douche, not just for fucking over Valentine, but also for abandoning Julia.

In the final scene, Julia is present (disguised as a boy-servant to Proteus and obviously broken-hearted over P.'s pursuit of S.) as is Valentine, who is hidden and does not yet know that Proteus betrayed him. So ... in this setting, Proteus decides he's waited long enough for Silvia and tries to rape her; at which point, Valentine reveals himself and calls Proteus out for being the dick that he is; Proteus is all, Dude, I'm really sorry! And Valentine, who, remember, can't bear the thought of living without Silvia, says to Proteus, That's good enough for me! We're best buds again, and, furthermore, why don't you take my chick?

If you think I am kidding about how quickly all of this happens, well, first off, Fuck You, because I don't lie! And second, here's the actual relevant unedited episode itself:
PROTEUS
Nay, if the gentle spirit of moving words
Can no way change you to a milder form,
I'll woo you like a soldier, at arms' end,
And love you 'gainst the nature of love,--force ye.

SILVIA
O heaven!

PROTEUS
I'll force thee yield to my desire.

VALENTINE [revealing himself]
Ruffian, let go that rude uncivil touch,
Thou friend of an ill fashion!

PROTEUS
Valentine!

VALENTINE
Thou common friend, that's without faith or love,
For such is a friend now; treacherous man!
Thou hast beguiled my hopes; nought but mine eye
Could have persuaded me: now I dare not say
I have one friend alive; thou wouldst disprove me.
Who should be trusted, when one's own right hand
Is perjured to the bosom? Proteus,
I am sorry I must never trust thee more,
But count the world a stranger for thy sake.
The private wound is deepest: O time most accurst,
'Mongst all foes that a friend should be the worst!

PROTEUS
My shame and guilt confounds me.
Forgive me, Valentine: if hearty sorrow
Be a sufficient ransom for offence,
I tender 't here; I do as truly suffer
As e'er I did commit.

VALENTINE
Then I am paid;
And once again I do receive thee honest.
Who by repentance is not satisfied
Is nor of heaven nor earth, for these are pleased.
By penitence the Eternal's wrath's appeased:
And, that my love may appear plain and free,
All that was mine in Silvia I give thee.

JULIA
O me unhappy!
This all happens in like the space of what — 35 lines? This wouldn't have worked even if Shakespeare had named the Play Two Douche-Satchels of Verona, although that title would have been more appropriate. Eventually, of course, everyone ends up with who they are meant to be with: Julia's presence is revealed, Proteus is forgiven, Valentine is unbanished, Silvia is unraped, and weddings are planned!1! FAHHH-bulous!1! (It take another couple dozen lines to accomplish all of that.)

But the truly vitiating thing about this ending is not all of the quick changes in general; it is, rather, Valentine's totally unbelievable and unnecessary giving-away of Silvia to her would-be rapist, the right to do which he doesn't even possess (Silvia's dad is not only still alive he's the fucking Duke of Milan!). It boggles my mind that Shakespeare for some reason included that problematic item. Comedies tend to come to quick and not necessarily believable conclusions, so I didn't really have a problem with that in TGoV — even though it is particularly abrupt in this respect. But the whole Silvia give-away?

Kinda hard to forgive when judging the overall worth or quality of the play.

Next: Pericles. You asked for it, BrianFlash; so you got it. God alone know why you would want it ...





1 MINE'S BIGGER!1! In fact, I call it The Sitch-ee-a-shun Teh Coicumstance because all the evidence I offer as to its true size is coicumstantial, thus making ALL of you Victims of Coicumstance.

2 I add the words "and elements" because, really, can cross-dressing be called a theme? It happens a lot in Shakespeare, but it's more a means of exploring the theme of identity, I guess, than a theme itself.

On the other hand, cross-dressing is a theme in the Life of Teh Tranny B*tch, who evidently has fallen off the face of the blogosphere.

3 Astute Readers of this blog — by which I mean those of you who are undaunted by 10,000-word posts that have zero to do with running or even anything interesting and are really just instances of my getting all hobby-horsical, as I am wont to do — will have already grokked that the themes mentioned above are the very same ones I wrote about when I did that series of posts on The Who that nobody read. And that is why I include, above, the video for the trippy, almost acid rock Who song "Disguises". It seems apropos. Also, now you may have a better idea as to why I consider The Who to be such great artists in their own right. They deal with many of the same themes that Shakespeare does, and do it well.

4 Let's put it this way: A while ago, I was excited to discover this web site called What Goes On that exhaustively catalogs what it calls "anomalies" in every released Beatles song. The fact that the site is named after one of my least-liked Beatles songs turned out to be an omen. Because unless you care that there are, e,g., "Offbeat clicks, left channel" at the 1:08-1:11 mark of "Baby You're a Rich Man", you're not gonna gain any insights from this site, largely because there are none to be had. The fact that Ringo's bass drum pedal can be heard squeaking on more songs than I care to list is about as interesting, to me, as the continuity errors that Trekkie retards endlessly offer up as Gotcha!s when they attend a Trek Convention, the point of doing which seems to be to assert, See, Gene Roddenberry? I'm smarter than you! No wonder you're dead and I'm not! But really, who the fuck cares?

Barton's footnote above is nowhere near that level of nerdish inconsequentiality, but the fact that Shakespeare is inconsistent with regard to a non-character who doesn't even appear in TGoV doesn't particularly affect the play itself.

But while I'm on the topic of the footnote glosses, I might as well point out that it can be pretty revealing (or, to put it more accurately, unrevealing) what the footnotes don't note. For example, in V, ii, the following exchange takes place:
THURIO
Sir Proteus, what says Silvia to my suit?

PROTEUS
O, sir, I find her milder than she was;
And yet she takes exceptions at your person.

THURIO
What, that my leg is too long?

PROTEUS
No; that it is too little.

THURIO
I'll wear a boot, to make it somewhat rounder.

JULIA
[Aside] But love will not be spurr'd to what
it loathes.
Proteus is, at this point, trying to win Silvia for himself, though Thurio doesn't know it (in fact, the latter thinks Proteus is helping him, Thurio, press his own suit). And it seems to me that there is an obvious dick-size double entendre going on in the talk about the size of Thurio's "leg" — Proteus, the undisclosed rival, implying Thurio's dick is too tiny — but Barton, in her footnote glosses, ignores it, telling us instead that "spurr'd" means "incited" and is an "obvious quibble on Thurio's reference to being booted" (which itself, in this context, could have a bawdy meaning, too; but Barton ignores that as well).

Thanks for the "spurr'd" gloss, Anne. But how big is the dude's penis? Teh Lady Readers need to know!

5 Whose name, admittedly, is essentially synonymous with constant change (though it actually means "first" or primordial"), and so you're kinda warned right upfront what kinda dude he'll be; but even so, the series of changes that happen in the final act of TGoV? Way more than a mere stretch.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pretentious Gits; Or, I Myself Am a Petty Git

Last night while I was working at the reference desk, a patron who vaguely resembled Margaret Dumont from the old Marx Brothers movies came in and asked, first, if we had a dvd of some PBS version of the musical Les Misérables. I searched the catalog and told her that, although we had a couple copies of the 1935 movie starring Fredric March and numerous editions of the Victor Hugo novel and we even had a 1934 French film version starring Teh Fredric March of France, Harry Baur1, we did not have the particular item she was looking for.

 HUBBA!1! Call me a whoo-wer, but I would TOTALLY hit that. WAY before I would resort to screwing my shoes2.

She kinda rolled her eyes at this, as if to say Typical Public Library Philistinism. Then she asked if we had an obscure art cd-rom from some art museum in Philadelphia – “Because I think the library should have a copy”, she sniffed –  which right away I suspected we wouldn’t have because it was pretty clear that it was the type of thing the museum sold in like its gift shop and it wouldn’t be available from the media vendors we use and, even if it were, the patron didn’t have a title for it, only the name of the museum whose holdings it was about; but I went through the motions anyway and searched the catalog by general keyword using the name of the museum in question and came up with bupkes, cd-rom-wise (though we did have some books about the museum and some of its holdings). I explained that if she had a title for the cd-rom, we could search our media vendor’s database to see if it were available; but she said she didn't know its title and she thought it was available only from the museum, anyway.

Then she’s like, “My daughter is writing her thesis and she needs a break, she says, so she asked me to see if you have this dreadful dvd called Legally Blonde.” She had to make it clear to me that she would never be asking for such an atrocity as Legally Blonde for herself – Heaven Forefend! – it was for her daughter, and even that only because the daughter needed a break from the sanctioned, non-eye-roll-inducing activity of thesis-writing. (Of course, we did have the dvd of Legally Blonde. Score one for low-brow art!)

Later, she came back and rolled her eyes while asking for the dvd of A Clockwork Orange for her son. She mentioned, unnecessarily, something about its starring “Roddy McDowall” and – I swear this was out of my mouth before I could help myself – I muttered “O, yes … A Clockwork Orange ... with Malcolm McDowell”; and she goes, “O, right. You got me.”

It was not my intent to get her. In fact, I kinda think my inadvertent correction of her actually rivals her general dickishness.

The proper and professional way to have handled this would have been to have waited till she left, turned to a colleague and whispered, "Can you believe she thought A Clockwork Orange starred Roddy McDowall! Yeah, and Planet of the Apes starred Holly Hunter!"

Then? An eye-roll.

I did not feel like running this morning but I knew I would have to because it's supposed to start snowing this afternoon and continue through tomorrow so who knows when it'll be safe to run again if I don't run today? And you might be thinking, Yo, G, you sure it's a good idea to run two days in a row on a hoited ankle? I appreciate your totally hypothetical concern, Reader, but the truth of the matter is this:

The ankle was never really all that bad; and after I fell, I took like five whole days off from running when it really should have been more like three, tops. But the weekend rolled around and I didn't feel like running in the cold so I told myself I was refraining from running for the ankle's sake, which was only partly true, maybe 25%; the other 75% being the fact that I'm a pussy. And so instead of running, I would exercise, do yoga and ride Morrissey.

Whenever I make that decision, I'm all YEAH!1! I get to stay indoors today becuase nothing is worse than running in the cold!1! Until you're doing exercise in a cold garage (you'll remember that's where my birthday exercise area is3) and you're riding Morrissey for like 20 minutes and you're all sweaty and bored and you're like, It would be sooo much better to be outside.

Of course, on the days you run outside, you're like, This TOTALLY blows!1! Why didn't I stay in and ride Morrissey? You especially think this during the first mile-and-a-half or so of your run, because you're quickly and frantically making and unmaking fists to get the blood to flow to your fingers, which, though gloved, are frozen, and even though you know they'll be warm by mile two, and sweaty by the end of the run, you're like What if they never warm up and I keep stupidly running and I lose all my fingers to frostbite? How will I break the awful, awful news to my n*ts@ck? Who will keep him warm? My fingerstubs? I AM FILLED WITH DUBIETY!1! I should turn back NOW ...

And so no matter what you choose to do — run or stay in and exercise — the grass is always greener ...

Anyroad, thanks to my fucking dog — who at like 1:30 a.m. sidled up to the bed and planted himself on the area rug on my side and, before deciding to lie down there, had to like scratch the fucking rug for TWO FULL FUCKING MINUTES, thereby waking me up, and I'm reaching down from the bed trying to HIT him to get him to stop but he's out of my reach and that just serves to make me even more fully awake and I never get back to sleep so it was easy, this morning, to be out on a run bu 4:50 a.m. But it was cold. Cold as in the laces to my hoodie sweater were frozen stiff with my sweat by the end of the run.

Which run was exactly 6.3 miles in 58 minutes for a spectacularly unspectacular 9:30 pace. But I didn't slip on any ice and get another boo-boo, so call it a win, overall.


1 (1880-1943) Who “[j]ourneyed to Germany to make a movie, but after completing it he was arrested by the Nazi authorities - apparently because his wife was Jewish and suspected of engaging in anti-Nazi activities in France - and tortured for information. He was eventually released, but was found dead shortly afterwards”; facts I know thanks to imdb where this information – his being tortured by the Nazis and then fucking killed, possibly also by the fucking Nazis – is listed under, I swear to Sweet Baby Jebus, “Trivia”.

So, here is AN ...

IMPORTANT, NON-TRIVIAL Fact About Harry Baur: He liked to play tiddlywinks.

2 If you get that joke, congratulations! Because you're either Diana or you have nothing better to do in life than read the comments on my old blog posts. If the latter, I would TOTALLY DO you On a BET till it HURTS as long as you put a Margaret Dumont wig and some pearls on. Because remember: You can't spell dowager without "ow", "wager" and "do".

3 I blogged about this back in May, but I am continuing my policy of not linking to my old posts because, as I noted in yesterday's post, none of you fuckers ever clicks through to the old posts, without why bother?

Monday, January 10, 2011

First Post-Tumble Run; Disappointing Timon

This morning I went for my first run since that one last week during the course of which I fell and hurt my ankle and I'm not providing a link to that older post because let's face it: I've proved I can read stats and my stats invariably show me that my linking to an older does not lead to your clicking through to that post and reading it; so ... Way to defeat the whole purpose of hyperlinks and perhaps the whole idea of Teh Interwebs, People Who "Read" My Blog! Thanks to you, Teh Terrorists have won.

Lately, since the fall1, I've just been riding Morrissey so as not to aggravate the ankle. I rode him — HARD!1! — for like 23.2 miles in four rides. But I figured today was the day to test the ankle out with a short run.

So I headed out the door on to the still-partially-icy sidewalks for a short run that turned out to be 4.04 miles in 37:40; which is 6.4 mph and a 9:18 pace. Not great or even, strictly speaking, good, but I'll take it because it was the first run in a week on an ankle still a little sore; and it was icy out so there were a few turns where I slowed down to something approaching a sub-walking pace.


I finished Timon of Athens last week and I guess it had to happen that I would eventually run across a Shakespeare play that would be disappointing. It's not so much that Timon is bad — though it is by no means good — it's just that, being a (supposed) late-era Shakespeare play, I expected much better. I didn't expect great because I knew enough about the play's checkered history to know it is considered one of Shakespeare's "problem plays"— themselves a pretty heterogeneous group because there are different reasons each is considered a "problem". In the case of Timon, one of the "problems" is ... what the fuck is this thing, exactly? Because in the 1623 First Folio, it was listed among the tragedies, and while it could technically qualify as a tragedy, it's a pretty crappy one. But it certainly isn't a comedy, a romance or a history. In being difficult to classify if you limit your options to Comedy, Tragedy, History, Romance, Timon is kinda like Troilus; only you can say about Troilus, "Okay, this is Shakespeare's one and only satire." No such Option E exists for Timon.

Timon's transformation from paragon of generosity to wilderness-dwelling misanthrope is sudden and, to my mind at least, lacks what Eliot, in his characterization of Hamlet as an "artistic failure", called an objective correlative. There's nothing in the play that allows the reader (or viewer) to feel, and thereby validate, Timon's emotional reactions. My feeling was, Dude, bit of an over-reaction there, dontcha think?

The introduction to the Riverside Shakespeare edition of Timon was written by Frank Kermode, who evidently just died this past August. In grad school, I took a Shakespeare seminar with Kermode and pretty much disliked it, largely because I got the feeling that he was trying to drive at something but I just could not for the life of me grasp what it was. I started getting a bit panicky as the semester ended because I knew I would have to write a paper of at least 20 pages, but I had no idea what angle he could possibly be looking for, even though I was equally certain it was something specific. I finally ended up writing a paper on Hamlet that had like zero to do with what Kermode discussed in the seminar and, in his comments on it, he essentially said, "This is well-written enough, a close reading of the play, but I don't see what it has to do with what we discussed all semester." To which my reaction was, Yeah and whose fault is that, Commode? because I was a real dick of a 24-year-old back then and I would make fun of people's names like that though now I'm far too mature for puerile things like that.

Anyroad, Kermode, in his introduction, offers a number of possible explanations for Timon's crappiness, and even floats the theory that it wasn't supposed to be included in the First Folio at all but was a replacement for another play that the compilers of the First Folio were having difficulties with and so they replaced that latter one with this, essentially, unfinished early draft of a play. Kinda interesting.

Also, in Act V, i 18, Kermode, in his role as editor of the play, provides the following footnotal gloss: "visitation: visit. Shakespeare knew the word visit only as a verb."

I didn't know that. So now, 25 year later, I can finally say that I learned something from Sir John Frank Kermode, may he Rest in Peace.

1 N.B.: Not Teh Fall, i.e., the one in Eden where, With Adam's Fall/ We Sinnéd All. I'm talking about the more significant fall, the one that gave me my hand and ankle boo-boos.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Gulet Mohamed

[Before I even get into the main part of this post, I want to point anyone reading it to this post of mine from back in April, 2010.  In particular, these passages:
I ... made the truly startling discovery that  [...] you [...] are not a captive audience.[...] If anything I write here offends you, you are, obviously, free to opt not to come here and read my posts anymore. That may come out sounding as though I am deliberately trying to drive people away, but I'm not [....] My hope is that if you disagree with something I say, you'll stay around long enough to post a comment saying why; or, if you find something I write offensive, you'll say why. I'm pretty sure the only comments I've ever deleted from my posts have been ones that were, essentially, spam, so my view is [that] your take on things in the comments can be as different from mine as you would care to make it; and you can be just about as vehement in your expression of your view as you'd like [....]

The one thing you can't really say with any credibility is that something I write here is somehow off-topic or inappropriate for a running blog. Because I guess what I'm saying — what should already be obvious — is This Is Not A Running Blog. Or not just. I say that not to drive readers away, but merely as a pro forma Full Disclosure: If you want posts that have consistently to do with running, this is probably not the blog for you.
This is going to be one of those posts — the kind many of you really won't want to read. And I am letting you know that up front.]

As any of you with more than two brain cells to rub together have doubtless sussed out on your own by now, I was and am no fan of the Bush/Cheney regime. That should go without saying because I think I have made it more than clear on numerous occasions. To be blunt, I consider the Bush regime to be the absolute worst in the history of this country, which is saying a lot.

I think it pretty much almost necessarily follows from that that it really wouldn't have taken much for whoever became president after Bush to be, in my view, a better president than Bush. To accomplish that, the next president wouldn't have to be great, or good, or even so much as mediocre — hell, he could even be awful and still be better than Bush, just so long as he wasn't so awful that he qualified as the worst president in the history of this country.

As we all know, Obama became president after Bush. He ran explicitly, overtly on the platform of reversing the lawless Bush regime: no more sanctioning of torture; no more throwing people in jail and refusing them their right to their day in court (i.e., no more arbitrary suspension of habeas corpus); no more rendition of innocent people — or any people — to third countries where it is known they would be tortured; no more warrantless spying on the American public; etc.

But Obama has not, and has made it quite clear that he will not, reverse any of these Bush-era policies1. They are now also his policies, and he has had his justice department aggressively defend them whenever they are challenged in court, the default argument being the same as the Bush administration's: These are issues of "National Security" and nobody has a right to question them and no court has the right to declare them illegal.

Being a better president than Bush should have been, to use a now-suspect cliché, a slam-dunk. But Obama seemingly hasn't even tried to be, at least insofar as these human and civil rights issues go.

I am not ready to say that Obama is worse than Bush, but I am very close to saying he is just as bad, that he is one of the worst presidents we've ever had. Again, as with Bush, that is saying a lot. But how could I not say this and still consider myself honest? Obama has not only continued all of the Bush/Cheney policies, he's expanded them

I read Glenzilla's (Glenn Greenwald) blog all of the time. I like the fact that he stands for principles, not parties. He has given Obama no quarter on these issues, and he is right to do that because none should be given. Torture is torture; illegal detention is illegal detention. Many times, after reading a Greenwald post describing a particularly egregious injustice, I have been tempted to write a post about it myself because of the sense of unbridled outrage I felt. I have, until now, been able to ride that feeling out. But last week, when I read Glenzilla's post on Gulet Mohamed, I found myself virtually sputtering with outrage at what our government has done to this boy and has allowed another government to do to an American citizen:
Gulet Mohamed is an 18-year-old American citizen whose family is Somalian. His parents moved with him to the U.S. when he was 2 or 3 years old, and he has lived in the U.S. ever since. In March, 2009, he went to study Arabic and Islam in Yemen (in Sana'a, the nation's capital), and, after several weeks, left (at his mother's urging) and went to visit his mother's family in Somalia, staying with his uncle there for several months. Roughly one year ago, he left Somalia and traveled to Kuwait to stay with other family members who live there. [...]

At all times, Mohamed traveled on an American passport and had valid visas for all the countries he visited. He has never been arrested nor -- until two weeks ago -- was he ever involved with law enforcement in any way, including the entire time he lived in the U.S.

Approximately two weeks ago (on December 20), Mohamed went to the airport in Kuwait to have his visa renewed, as he had done every three months without incident for the last year. This time, however, he was told by the visa officer that his name had been marked in the computer, and after waiting five hours, he was taken into a room and interrogated by officials who refused to identify themselves. They then handcuffed and blindfolded him and drove him to some other locale. That was the start of a two-week-long, still ongoing nightmare during which he was imprisoned for a week in an unknown location by unknown captors, relentlessly interrogated, and severely beaten and threatened with even worse forms of torture.

Mohamed's story was first reported [...] by Mark Mazzetti in The New York Times [...]. He writes that during his 90-minute conversation, "Mr. Mohamed was agitated as he recounted his captivity, tripping over his words and breaking into tears."

[...] Mohamed says he was repeatedly beaten with a stick on the bottom of his feet and his palms, hit in the face, and hung from the ceiling. He also says his captors threatened him with both the arrest of his mother and electric shock, and told him that he should forget his family.

He still does not know why he was detained and beaten, nor does he know what is happening to him now. [...] He has been told that he will be deported back to the U.S., but is now on a no-fly list and has no idea when he will be released. American officials told Mazzetti that "Mr. Mohamed is on a no-fly list and, for now at least, cannot return to the United States." He's been charged with no crime and presented with no evidence of any wrongdoing.

[...] The questions Mohamed was repeatedly asked -- including two days ago by American embassy officials and FBI agents who visited him in the detention facility -- focused on whether he knew Anwar al-Awlaki, the American cleric in Yemen who has become an obsession of the Obama administration, as well as why he went to Yemen and Somalia. Kuwait is little more than a subservient American protectorate, and the idea that they would do this to an American citizen without the American government's knowledge, if not its assent and participation, is implausible in the extreme. That much of the information they sought from Mohamed is of particular interest to the U.S. Government only bolsters that likelihood.

Independent of all that, the U.S. Government has an obligation to protect its own citizens. Mohamed described to me how both embassy officials and the FBI expressed zero interest in the torture to which he had been subjected during his detention. The U.S. Government has said nothing about this matter, and refused to comment about Mohamed's treatment to The New York Times.
Think about that: The Obama administration's only interest, when they learn that an American citizen has been detained and severely tortured by a foreign government, is in finding out whether that citizen knows a man the Obama administration has declared to be a terrorist and on whom the Obama administration has essentially put out a hit. Anwar al-Awlaki is also an American citizen and even the lawless Bush administration never claimed the right to extra-judicially assassinate American citizens without offering even the semblance of due process.

And so instead of trying to help an American citizen who is being detained and tortured, Obama has essentially ordered his people to allow him to continue to be tortured to see if he has information that will aid the Obama administration in its quest to assassinate yet another American citizen whose views the Obama administration doesn't care for.

The al-Awlaki family has asked, in court, for the Obama administration to offer proof that Anwar al-Awlaki is an "enemy combatant" who has done anything to harm anyone; but the Obama administration's response has been, essentially, we say he's bad, trust us, and, yes, we will kill him if the opportunity presents itself.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden is sent out to call any "liberals" who don't fully support the president a bunch of whiners.

Because putting extra-judicial hits out on your own citizens and allowing your own citizens to be illegally detained and tortured are good liberal values and we should support our "liberal" president whose policies these atrocities are. These policies that Obama himself called "lawless" when he ran for president; these policies that he promised he would reverse.

Is Obama as bad as Bush? It is extremely difficult to make the case that he is not if you judge him based on principles instead of party affiliation.

1 A big part of the reason that people like the teabaggers and Faux News and Rush Limbaugh and the Republican party in general have zero credibility, as far as I'm concerned, is they "discovered" the issue of the illegality of the Unitary Executive only after their guy, Bush, was out of office. They were all fine with the idea of a president who proclaims the right to enact, on his own, what are essentially oppressive, illegal and unConstitutional policies ... when Bush was president.

Many of us who opposed these Bush-era policies did so not because we didn't want Bush to have those powers — we didn't want any Executive to have them, be that Executive a Republican, a Democrat or anything else (not that there's much else out there with any chance of becoming president). When Bush instituted the policies, Faux News, Limbaugh, and those who would later become the teabaggers all cheered for him and they called anyone who opposed Bush or his illegal policies a traitor, unAmerican, terrorist-coddlers; as a result, those illegal and immoral policies became, in effect, informal precedents; and now they are even further entrenched because they are also Obama's policies.

The only people who elicit from me a feeling of revulsion and contempt that approaches what I feel for Bush/Cheney's enablers are those who protested against these policies when Bush was in power, but now — now that their guy Obama is in power — have turned around and demanded that "the left" support Obama unquestioningly; including these policies, which are now Obama's. And their name is legion. Even though illegal detention is still illegal, still immoral, still something that a true Beacon of Freedom to the World shouldn't be doing, even if it's your guy doing it, these hypocrites tell us it's okay now because it's Obama doing it.

They are as devoid of principles as Limbaugh, Hannity, Faux News and the teabaggers.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Key Words: Tam Lin in Chicago

 I freely confess to being a bit obsessed with blogger's relatively new Stats Tab1, the existence of which is largely why I changed my blog's GR display from Full Frontal (You Ladies get to see my posts' junk) to Truncated (Preview of Posts stops just before the goodies. Sorry, Ladies).

You see, I want people to click through to my site so I can see where they are from, who/what sent them, etc. Don't worry. I don't have boundary issues, like some people2. I just find this stuff kinda fascinating. I also kinda wish that everyone who reads a post would leave a comment, but I know that will never happen, possibly because my posts tend to be so long that I think most people throw their hands up after like word 1000 (the eye-rolling starts at around word 750, I estimate) and move on  to the next blog.

And whenever I look at the key word searches that bring people to my blog, I'm kinda fascinated by both the valid-but-puzzling ones and the seemingly invalid ones. Among the valid-but-puzzling ones are the following:

eicay vare, eise narde
"eicay vare, eise narde" translation
her kirtle green
kirtle green
"janet tied

carterhaugh
describe tamlin characters
i forbid you maidens all

These are valid. I'm just puzzled by them. Because the first two searches bring foax to my blog because of this post, which is a post I uploaded ages ago in which I compared the Spencer Davis Group's version of "I'm a Man" (in which the lyrics mention the narrator's thought-to-be-trimmed-with-chrome toilet3) and Chicago's version, in which those lyrics are changed to "and my body's pretty strong" and it is unclear whether that strength is a byproduct of pooping on chrome, but I'm going with "not" because the only reason I would even think it might be is because of the earlier version of the song, which should be treated as separate and distinct from the later version.

Anyroad, in that post, I mentioned in passing the nonsense Italian lyrics in the Chicago song "Saturday in the Park"; viz.,  Singing Italian songs/ eicay vare, eise narde/ Can you dig it/ Yes I can.

Now, apparently, there is somebody or — more frightening still — somebodies out there who wants or want to know just exactly what those words mean. And this schlub or schlubs keeps or keep getting sent to my blog when he or they searches or search using those key words. I mean, this search turns up just all the time in my stats! And if I knew what those words meant, I'd fucking tell you, but I don't! I really don't! And by way of a sincere apology, I want to say to this schlub or schlubs:  
Ooo eee ooo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang
which I believe is Danish for "Duuude, I am soooooo sorry!"

The second thing that keeps showing up in my stats is all these terms having to do with the song or poem "Tam Lin": 

her kirtle green
kirtle green
"janet tied
carterhaugh
describe tamlin characters
i forbid you maidens all


I wrote about the Fairport Convention song "Tam Lin"  over a year ago, when none of the 7 of you who now read this blog knew about it (my blog, I mean, not "Tam Lin"), much less read it. Yet that page continues to get hits because, much to my surprise, there are all these foax out there who seemingly want to know something about "Tam Lin" and I feel kinda bad because they keep getting sent to my blog where they will learn exactly nothing. I don't feel bad for you all who are now reading this; because you foax know better than to expect anything. But these poor foax who get sent here using innocent Google searches? I feel bad for them! To them I offer this second sincere Danish apology:

Glibby gløøp gløøpy Nibby Nåbby Nøøpy Lå Lå Lå Lø Lø
Såbba Sibby Såbbå Nooby åbba Nåbbå Le Le Lø Lø
Tøøby øøby wållå nøøby åbbå nåbbå

It is unfortunate that this apology makes fun of noobs while apologizing ("Nooby åbba Nåbbå", which, if you ask me, is pretty uncalled for and not funny and nearly vitiates the whole apology) but what can I say? Danes can be real dicks sometimes.

Other fun keywords searches that got people here somehow but that just kinda puzzle me:

aleece you cocksucker
dildoconnoisseur.com
gay male jobber torture blogspot
banana between legs
horny dad fucks the

I especially like the last one because it is a sentence that ends with the word "the" and therefore reminds me of the ending of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, as I'm sure it does you, as well.


In other news, Blogger continues to mock and hate me because I'm old because I went to SteveQ's blog to comment this morning and here's the word verification word it gave me:
 


I guess it coulda been worse; I guess it could have given me "erektiledysfunkshun" as a word.

Fucking blogger! It's a bigger dick than a Dane sometimes.


UPDATE: Here's a graphic with the 4 latest keyword searches! I circled the one that I was especially surprised to see (sorry — my circling skills are a bit shaky):

Feel free to give your answers in the comment section below.


1 It could, in fact, be old. I probably should call it "Blogger's-possibly-new-but-in-any-case-only-recently-noticed-by-me" Stats Tab.

2 I'm looking at you, SteveQ, and thinking of poor Xenia ... which is kinda making me a bit sexually confused.

3 Full Disclosure: The singer (Steve Winwood) of the SDG version is NOT actually claiming that his toilet is trimmed with chrome; he's saying that people think that for some reason, because they like to imagine that Rock Stars even poop on better materials than we mere mortals do3a. And so the point of that line is, Pffttt! No it's not trimmed with chrome! I poop in GOLD-trimmed toilets!

And I mention this because some dude named Les swung by and got a bit het up by what he saw as my implication that Steve Winwood pooped in chrome-trimmed toilets and lectured me on the true meaning of Christmas the song. Sadly, Les's name was not hotlinked anywhere, so I couldn't go to, say, his blog and pedantically lecture him on Teh True Meaning of Satire.

3a In case you're wondering, you, mere mortal, most likely poop on- or into a material made from "vitreous china in a liquid form called slurry slip" according to the Toilet Page from the How Products Are Made site. Of course, more stuff is done to this "slurry slip" in the manufacturing process, but I thought you'd like to know that the material you poop on just sounds as though it might be equally offensive as your poop.

Friday, January 7, 2011

In Caelo Non Cervisiam Quamobrem Hic Potus

That there above is a quote from Pope Barnius Googlius I's Papal Encyclical Hic Est1 which was the first Encyclical he issued and that phrase, as you surely already know, means: "In Heaven they have no beer; that's why we drink it here."

I mention this well-known Encyclical— more famous for its compulsive repetition (17 times in 6 paragraphs) of the phrase "Vere amo quis. Voco" [I really LOVE you, man. I MEAN that] — because I received in the mail the other day Teh Popener I won from Xenia.

I'd like to be a mensch and just say "Thanks, Xenia!" but the truth is, I am of two minds about Teh Popener, and not just because I have my hand on my n*ts@ck as I type this and am therefore thinking in twos (and, occasionally, threes, when I get a really good handful).

No. I am of two minds about Teh Popener because I happen to know its Long and Glorious and FULL Blogospheric History. Or at least I know more of its history than most. And that history goes something like this:

A long time ago, Xenia was based, not in England, where she currently resides (most of the time), but instead, in Rome — HOME of Teh Popener-manufacturing plant, which is why X. has exclusive access to them. At least, that's where she was when I discovered her. And make no mistake: I discovered her! Because before I came along, she was nothing but a Lowly Chorus Girl. Thanks to my management, she is now an archaæologist, which not only PAYS less, but has even less of a future to it than Chorus Girl, because let's face it, "Chorus Girl" is really just a polite code-word for "Whoo-wer" (it's what these whoo-wers tell their families they do for a living, but they're not fooling anyone) and while the world can take or leave archaæologists, the world can NEVER have enough whoo-wers2

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Or maybe behind. Possibly both ahead of and behind myself at the same time3.

But the point is this. Xenia was living in a Roman Nerditorium at the time and she would occasionally post quizes on her blog and she started offerring the prize of a Free Popener to those who answered the most questions correctly. Much to her surprise (I assume), Teh Popener became highly sought-after. Every time she had a contest, people would leave comments like, "I want a fucking Popener!1!" Or "Gimme a fucking Popener!1!" Or "Popener me, Bitch!1!" etc. Some of these rudely acquisitive comments were even made by people other than me, I believe.

This happened every time Xenia announced one of her give-aways. I think at one point she tried to give away something other than a Popener for which sin she was was Hanged in Effigy, which is a suburb of Rome ("Effigia" in Italian, I believe), but she survived because she has a very tough and resilient neck and throat area because ... well, she did used to be a "chorus girl" after all ... that's all I'll say about that4.

Anyroad, the point is, for me, my whole strategy vis-à-vis Teh Popener was approach and avoid, just like Herbert Stencil.  Because the whole POINT of Teh Popener was being able to complain about NOT HAVING ONE, which was especially fun to do when someone else won one and you could get all, "S/HE's UNWORTHY of MY Popener!1!" etc.

But now ... I have one. Sure, it opens beers for me (see graphic above, featuring first Popener-opened Glaven-brew), which is nice. But I am now Herbert Stencil after having solved the question of V! I have no purpose in life now.

So thanks a FUCKING LOT, Xenia!1! I might as well just become a whoo-wer5!


1 Incidentally, Hic Est should not, in this case, be translated "It is this"; the correct translation is "It is a hiccup" because Pope Barnius Googlius I was using "hic" in approximately the same way that Andy Capp uses it when he stumbles drunkenly home from the pub — in its English sense, that is, not Latin — because Pope BGI was pretty ripped on beer at the time, which was not unusual for him because he was evidently pretty drunk on beer when he chose his pope name because he took it not from the cartoon character Barney Google, but rather, in part, from the cartoon character Barney Gumble and in part from Google Translate, which helped him translate his Encyclicals, Bulls & whatnot — mostly composed in English on the backs of cocktail napkins — into Latin.

2 Whoo-wering is recession-proof, ladies. So break out the fishnet stockings and get out there on the corners and HELP THE ECONOMY OUT ALREADY!1!

3 Woo-hoo! One-man menage-a-trois! WHO'S THE WHOO-WER NOW, HUH, XENIA?!1?

4 It makes you virtually gallows-proof: This is yet another side benefit of becoming a whoo-wer, Ladies.

5 Joke's on YOU, Xenia, because I already am!1! Hahahahahaha!1! O, yeah: Ian and Teh 'Bride say "Thanks for the Xmas card". But me? I still say: "FUCK YOU!1!"