Monday, February 28, 2011

February Numbers

It was rainy this morning and for that reason alone I contemplated not going for a run - even though I'd done exactly Nathan Dick in the way of exercise yesterday because I spent most of the weekend at Teh 'Bro's place in the Poconos, which means we stayed up late (but not too this time) drinking beer (I didn't bring him any, but still scored a six of orphaned beers that Teh 'Bro didn't want ... things like JavaHead Stout or some such) and so on Sunday I didn't feel much like running. Because on Sunday, we celebrated Xmas in February and for GOD's sake, don't mention anything doctrinal w/r/t Xmas in February because SteveQ is probably still lurking in the comments, waiting to pounce.

I should note two things about Christmas in February before I go on to discuss my running numbers for the month:

First: I was WRONG when I said, in my previous post, that Teh 'Bride had managed to get Teh 'Bro and 'S-i-L to agree to the no-gift-exchange-between-adults rule for Xmas. In fact, that was only for birthdays. So we DID exchange gifts all around. (I myself scored a long-sleeved tech shirt and a sweater.) Yes, we DID have gifts for them, because even though I was confused about the rules, Teh 'Bride wasn't and she's the one in charge of dealing with people in our family, included under which general rubric is "buying people presents". (You really don't want to task me with people-dealing stuff.)

Second: I didn't really have a second thing.

But to get back to the monthly numbers ...

I ran 6 miles this morning in the rain so that I could get my February running mileage up to 90 ... 90.58, to be exact. (181.14 for the year.)

Walking: 34.53

Biking: 101.1

Total: 226.21

I'm pretty sure that's my first 200-mile combination (walk/bike/run) month.

Two Videos for you:

First, Ian On Ice:

And now this second one which makes me so happy that you could call me Teh Merry Happy, if you were so inclined; which video I like because it's funny and I TOTALLY didn't steal it from another blog!1!

I'd never do that!1!


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Henry IV Part 1 (Part 1)

Even though there are still five Shakespeare plays left that I have never read — 2 Henry IV; Henry V; Henry VIII; Cymbeline; and The Two Noble Kinsmen — I nonetheless decided, after finishing Richard II, to read 1 Henry IV because I figured it just made sense to read what is often referred to as "The First Henriad Tetralogy" — Richard II; 1 Henry IV; 2 Henry IV; Henry V — in order1. And it just didn't make sense to skip to 2 Henry IV merely because I'd never read it; because that would have obliged me to come back to 1 Henry IV at some point in the future and thus would have violated simple chronology2,3.

So as it stands right now I am nearly finished 1 Henry IV.

I love 1HIV because it has two of my all-time favorite Shakespeare characters, the first of which is the Sir John Falstaff of the Henry IV plays4. Falstaff is a great, funny, entertaining and original character. It's nearly 100% certain that the character of Falstaff was originally named "Sir John Oldcastle", but Shakespeare changed it to "Falstaff" because of a complaint from a descendant of the historical John Oldcastle — for playa was an historically fer-realz dude. Thus, to propitiate this descendant of Oldcastle, Shakespeare essentially did a global-search-and-replace — "Falstaff" for "Oldcastle" — except he was apparently using M$ Word so there were, of course, a couple of fuck-ups left in the text. E.g., in I, ii: Falstaff asks: "And is not my hostess of the tavern a most sweet wench?" To which Hal responds with an apparent pun on the name "Oldcastle": "As the honey of Hybla, my old lad of the castle." (There's no reason for Hal to call him that unless his name was originally "Oldcastle".)

Later, in II, ii, Hal says:
The thieves are all scatter'd and possess'd with fear
So strongly that they dare not meet each other;
Each takes his fellow for an officer.
Away, good Ned. Falstaff sweats to death, [emphasis added]
And lards the lean earth as he walks along:
Were 't not for laughing, I should pity him.
Like most nobles in Shakespeare's plays, Hal, a prince, occasionally speaks in blank verse5, which is what the passage above is; not the greatest example of it: a couple of the lines run long — the first two are eleven syllables rather than ten (no blank verse is perfect and there are often reasons an author might choose to alter lines of verse slightly) — but the only line that is short is the one I emphasized, the one with Falstaff's name in it. If the name "Falstaff" were replaced with "Oldcastle", it would be a nearly perfectly scanning line of iambic pentameter:
... (I could have tried to pass "good Ned" off as an iamb ("good NED") but I'm pretty sure someone would have called "Bullshit!" — rightly — because it's pretty clearly a spondee, which, anyroad, does not change the fact that the passage, overall, is in blank verse).

The above evidence hardly amounts to a smoking gun proving that "Falstaff" was originally "Oldcastle"; but at the end of the sequel to 1 Henry IV — titled, creatively enough, 2 Henry IV: Teh En-Henrying: This Time, 'Sblood, 'Tis PERSONAL!1! —you get a weird epilogue that includes these lines, spoken by a dancer:
If you be not too much cloyed with fat meat, our humble author will continue the story, with Sir John in it, and make you merry with fair Katharine of France: where, for any thing I know, Falstaff shall die of a sweat, unless already a' be killed with your hard opinions; for Oldcastle died a martyr, and this is not the man. [emphasis added]
You can almost hear the L&O CHING-CHING! sound effect accompanying this Elizabethan version of "although inspired in part by a true incident, the preceding story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event".

This post is running long and hence I named it "Henry IV Part 1 (Part 1)" because it seems I'm going to need another Henry IV Part 1 post (which I'll call "Henry IV Part 1 (Part 2)") later.

Because I haven't even discussed Hal yet, but I'll leave you with this:

 Knowing that the historical Hal (King Henry V) looked like this (above) almost ruins it for me. Hey Hal! Nice tonsure! You almost expect this Prince Hal, when he interacts with Falstaff, to be all, "Why you ...!" and, holding up five fingers, "Pick two" — DOINK! Eye-poke!; which would oblige Falstaff to be all, "I'm a victim of soycumstance!" and "Nyuck-nyuck-nyuck!" You'd also expect Poins' nickname to be "Porcupine". SPOILER ALERT!1! None of that Happens in the Henry IV plays

1 Back when I read 1, 2, and 3 Henry VI, I contemplated going on to read Richard III — which would have completed the Second Henriad Tetralogy — but at the time, I was getting tired of reading histories and since I had already read Richard III at least twice and seen it performed at least once, I opted, instead, to move on to Timon of Athens, which I had never read. (And now that is the best thing I can say about Timon — that I've read it.)

It's interesting that each of the two Henriad Tetralogies contains one play about a king not named Henry and in both cases the non-Henry is named Richard and in the First Tetralogy the Richard play (Richard II) is the first of the set, while in the second, the Richard play (Richard III) is the last of the set. So, taken as a whole, the Tetralogies are a King Sandwich consisting of six slices of Henry Meat between two slab of Richard Bread.  

Bon AppƩtit.

2 Even though chronology, frankly, dresses like a whoo-wer and is just asking to be violated. You know you want it, chronology!1!

There, I said it.

3 Whereas not reading Richard III after the Henry VI plays didn't screw up the chronology since Richard III comes last (That's What Queen Anne Said!1!). This kinda-almost makes sense, although I confess it's not what I was thinking at the time I decided not to read Richard III again until later on.

Okay. Busted. By reading the Henry VI plays first, I violated chronology already, because, historically, the monarchs went: Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI [Edward IV, Edward V, whom Shakespeare does not give their own plays], Richard III.

But in another sense, I didn't violate chronology, because Shakespeare wrote the Henry VI plays before the anything else so in that sense, they're chronologically first, as long as th chronology we're talking about is that of Shakespeare's life3a.

See? Told you chronology was a whoo-wer.

3a Which we're not. But chronology is still a whoo-wer.

4 It's necessary to distinguish between the Falstaff of the Henry IV plays and the Falstaff of Teh Merry Wives of Windsor, even though they are ostensibly the same character. TMWoW may have been written at royal command (tradition has it that Queen Elizabeth demanded another play about Falstaff, this time involving his being in love, but the earliest "evidence" of this explanation of the play's genesis dates from one hundred years after it was written, so the "evidence" is far from reliable); the play is set in contemporary Elizabethan times (late 16th century) whereas the Henry IV histories are set circa 1400, when Henry IV was king, which would make Sir John roughly 260 years old at the time of TMWoW. Which is weirder still, since Sir John's death is announced in Henry V, which is set circa 1415.

But the reason I make a distinction between the Falstaff of the Henry plays and the Falstaff of TMWoW has nothing to do with the impossible chronology and everything to do with the fact that the Falstaff of the history plays is far more entertaining than the Falstaff of the comic fabliau TMWoW. He's just not the same guy.

5 Blank verse should not be confused with free verse — i.e., poetry that does not rhyme or have a regular meter —which latter Robert Frost once dismissed as like "playing tennis without a net". (Tennis and poetry, Robert? Gay much? Hahahahahaha! Disclaimer: "Not that there's anything wrong with that!1!" CHING-CHING!)  

Blank verse is simply unrhymed lines of iambic (one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one) pentameter (which just means there are five of those iambs per line, i.e., each line has ten syllables). So there's a definite meter to blank verse; Shakespeare also frequently lapses into rhyme (and these rhyming lines, though mostly still iambic pentameter, are no longer blank verse, because they rhyme; they are, instead, rhyming iambic pentameter (duh!); or, if the rhymes are mostly closed, heroic couplets; the following lines of Richard II (which I quoted a couple of posts ago) are an example of heroic couplets:
God pardon all oaths that are broke to me!
God keep all vows unbroke that swear to thee!
Make me, that nothing have, with nothing grieved,
And thou with all pleased, that hast all achieved!
Long mayst thou live in Richard's seat to sit,
And soon lie Richard in an earthly pit!
God save King Harry, unking'd Richard says,
And send him many years of sunshine days!)
 Imagine how hard it must be to write with these constraints! Frankly, this is part — albeit a small part — of the reason I consider Shakespeare to be such a great writer. He could spin a comprehensible narrative, make his dramas dramatic, while having his characters' speeches conform to these poetic limiters.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Regifting With Extreme Prejudice

This weekend, Ian, Teh 'Bride and I are going up to the Poconos to celebrate Christmas. Yes, in February (just barely). No, it's not some wacko fringe Christmas, like Greek Orthopaedic Christmas or Rosicrucian Christmas or Protestant Christmas. It’s regular (nominal) Catholic Xmas, and the reason we’re celebrating it in February is that, with all that was going on in our lives at real Christmas time (which, I hate to tell you, Greek Orthopaedics, Rosicrucians and Protestants, is December 25 and if you try to celebrate Teh Baby Jebus’s birthday on any day other than December 25, He is no more gonna recognize your untimely "celebration" than your mother-in-law’s gonna accept that gift you gave her a week after her birthday because “I ordered it on time, I swear, but it was out-of-stock at the time” – Pfffttt! Nice try! You’ll still always be That Schmo My Daughter Married For God Knows What Reason When She Could Have Married a Doctor Or Better Yet a Librarian), we never got a chance to get together with Teh 'Bro and Teh 'Sister-in-Law and exchange gifts. (Schedules, you know?) We have been attempting to do so — i.e., Get Together, as Jesse Colin Young personally exhorted us to do — since December and this upcoming weekend turned out to be the first time that everyone’s schedule was clear at the same time.

It’s nobody’s fault, really, which is why I blame Teh 'Bro. He and Teh 'S-i-L live in Philadelphia but they have a vacation home in the Poconos and Teh 'Bro quite simply will not not spend the weekend up there, his philosophy apparently being: "It's my fucking vacation home and I'm going to enjoy the fuck out of it if it kills me!" Thus, if you want to get together with those two, it pretty much has to be Up Teh Poconos, as we say in the Joisey-Pennzer-Delaware-NY tri-state area1. And so there was all this stuff going on in our lives and then it snowed seemingly every weekend during January and February (snow doesn’t deter Teh ‘Bro cos he drives a big four-wheel-drive FUC, but us? Yeah, we drive Teh ‘Bride’s Cooper Mini (Advertising Slogan: “Who knew a car this small could suck this big?”)) and before we knew it, we were scheduling our “Christmas Meet-Up” for late February2, which is so late that Teh Sweet Baby J has, by this time, had time to heal from his first operation, which is Celebrated in Teh Feast of Teh Circumcision of Christ, which is an actual Catholic Feast Day that I totally did not just make up3.

Two-year-old Ian celebrates The Feast of His Own Circumcision by wincing in pain4

It’s not that big a deal, really. The only one getting screwed is Ian, because Teh 'Bride finally - finally - got someone to agree to what she's been lobbying for for years, which is that we all agree to get presents only for the kids, not each other. So while we adults are all laid back, going, "Yeah, ha ha, here it is two month past Christmas and we haven't gotten together yet, but it's okay", Ian's all, "Where the %#@k are my presents, bra?!?!" (What a %#@king mouth that kid has on him!) Because he knows Teh 'Bro and 'S-i-L got him something, he just doesn't know what, and he knows he doesn't have it yet.

Sucks for him.

Now, on to the issue of regifting, as I hereby endeavor to justify the title of this post.

Now, as many of you know, I brew my own beer5. And as a (I assume) large subset of those of you who know that know, Teh 'Bro is possibly an even bigger beer aficionado/snob than I; and as a possibly slightly smaller subset of that large subset who know that know, Teh 'Bro quite simply won't drink my beer. I stopped even trying to get him to over a decade ago. When I told him re: my beer, "The secret ingredient is love", I guess he thought I was talking bodily fluids, for which I frankly don't blame him, because he knows me. But for whatever reason, he won't drink my beer, even though the only "love" in it is the spiritual kind (as long as you don't include that one batch of SpoogenBraĆ¼ I made to try to branch out to the female market (advertising slogan: "Come on, Ladies ... You Know You Want To Swallow")).

And so but even though we don't exchange presents, I always feel bad because when we go to Teh 'Bro's Poconos Retreat, he always has these really great beers there and I end up drinking A LOT of them and so I always try to remember to bring a case or at least two sixes of good beer for him. Problem is, he trusts my choice of beers about as much as he does the beer I brew. Because if I happen to bring him anything other than one of his Currently Approved Beers, he'll say thanks, but I can tell from the look on his face that I'm gonna end up getting it back sooner or later.

Sometimes later, as in, next time we're up there in Teh Poconos, he'll hand me, as I'm leaving, a couple sixes that look very familiar, mostly because they're the very same ones I gave him last time I was there. And he'll be, "Here, take these, because some fucktard or other gave them to me and believe me, I ain't drinking this shit any time soon." (<--only slightly paraphrased)

Sometimes sooner, like that time I found a case of Smithwick's (pronounced "Smiddick's") and bought it and gave it to him for sentimental reasons, those reasons being it was the beer they served on Aer Lingus, the Irish Airline6, when we (he, Teh 'S-i-L and I) first went to Ireland back in 1989. And you literally could not get Smithwick's in the US until a few years ago. We know because we loved it and we looked. So nearly 20 years later I found it, bought a case and gave it to Teh 'Bro.

Yeah, he gave it back to me at the end of that weekend visit.

That, my friends, is Regifting With Extreme Prejudice.

I am not proud. I took it back. In fact? I was PROUD to take it back! And even prouder to drink it.


This morning, less than a half mile into my run, I stepped into a pothole and managed to roll my left ankle, the very same one I rolled about a month ago. The previous time, of course, I also fell ass-over-teakettle onto the pavement. This time I managed to stay erect (That's What She Said!1!), but I thought I had hurt it pretty badly and, seeing as I'm always looking for the slightest excuse to abort a run, I thought about ending my run right there.

But it turns out that the ankle wasn't really bad at all and after I had walked for about 20 seconds, I realized that if I stopped this run, I would be obliged to come home and immediately write a blog post titled "I Am Teh World's Biggest Pussy", which I actually contemplated doing, but eventually decided against. So I continued my run, and I am glad I did.

Because I managed to run 6.42 miles in 56:50 for an 8:48 pace. That, according to MMR, is a 6.8 mph average. I had just about come to the conclusion that I was no longer capable of a pace like that. I'm not saying it's a fast pace in any objective sense; it's just fast for me, and I can't help but be somewhat pleased with the run, overall.

My back is almost completely healed, so it makes total sense that I would hurt my ankle (though not too badly) because it is becoming increasingly clear to me that it is a Kosmic ReKwirement that I always be in some sort of pain. Feel free to swear using the epithet "By Glaven's Wounds!", which you may shorten to "Gl'ounds!" if you so desire.

1 And yes I realize that’s technically four states but Pffttt! Come on. Does anyone really count Delaware as a state unless she's looking to incorporate herself as a bank and hopes to enjoy Delaware's favorable corporate tax rate? State Motto: "Delaware: Come For Teh Corporate Tax Breaks; Stay For the ... Uh ... Come To Think Of It, There's No Reason To Stay. Just Rent A PO Box. The IRS Won't Ask Any Questions." (State Motto thought up by Joe Biden himself. Could you tell?)

2 The logistics used to be easy because we’d see the Heisenberg side of the family on Xmas Eve and Teh ‘Bridal side Xmas day. That was based on traditions: Because when we (“we” = Heisenbergs) were kids, the tradition was for us to go to bed early Xmas eve and Teh Heisen’rents would put the gifts out and then hit Midnight Mass and then afterwards wake us up and we’d all cry because wouldn’t you if some douche awakened you in the middle of the night and wouldn’t you cry more if that douche turned out to be your own ‘Dad? And then we’d open our presents and play till like 3:00 a.m. and then everyone would go to bed and sleep late. But in Teh 'Bride’s family, they were boring and opened presents on Xmas morning, like a bunch of Protestants or Rosicrucians. So as adults, we H'bergs'd still visit Teh 'Mom and Teh 'Dad at the old homestead on Christmas Eve and stay late. But then Teh 'Mom died but we still visited Teh 'Dad on Xmas eve; but then Teh 'Dad had to go into assisted living and so now Teh Heisenberg tradition has just kinda fallen apart and we see each other whenever. But we still visit Teh 'Bride's family Xmas day.

3 Yeah, y'know, it's probably best just not to ask what exactly that gristly meat you're feasting on is. But when you commit to a religion that obliges you to consume the Body of Christ, you probably should expect stuff like this. I don't know about Protestants3a (or Greek Orthopaedics or Rosicrucians), but when it comes to the Eucharist, Catholics are like the Native Americans with the buffalo: we use all parts of the Christ. It would be wasteful not to. And let's face it, not all cuts are going to be USDA Prime ... unless you're at Mass in the Vatican or St. Patrick's or something. Anywhere else? You're essentially playing Catholic Fear Factor3b, and the best strategy is just to choke it down without thinking about what it may be made of.

I would be remiss if I did not give an honorable mention shoutout for Full Usage of God's Body to Renaissance C. of E. foax; because I've been reading a lot of Shakespeare lately, as you may have heard, and in his plays characters frequently swear thusly: "'Sblood!" (contraction of "God's blood") and "Zounds!" (originally 'Swounds, a contraction of "God's wounds", i.e., the stigmata), along with oaths on various other Godly Body Parts such as, for some reason, His eyes. Renaissance C. of E.ers would even use his mom to swear by ("Marry" being originally an oath by the BVM (Blessed Virgin Mary)). So give the Protestants propz for full usage of the Divine Body, here.

Unless, of course, Teh 'Dad is correct and Shakespeare was in fact a closet Catholic.

3a What with that freakish doctrine of consubstantiation rather than transubstantiation.

3b Which, though canceled, is still shown in reruns like 24/7 on like the Chiller channel. Trust me, I know. Because Ian found it and he DVRs it and he's obsessed with it. Yeah, the same kid who makes vomiting noises and horks up all the food in his stomach if he bites into two strands of pasta stuck together can't get enough of the fucktards on FF trying to choke down like hairy goat balls and stuff.

(I should make it clear that the Chiller channel shows reruns of secular Fear Factor, not Catholic Fear Factor. In case that wasn't clear.)

4 Those of you who weren't around three or so years ago when I originally blogged about this, for some reason, probably think I'm making this up, too, but Ian really was circumcised at age two (for medical reasons) and that there photo really is the depiction of his first attempt to stand up, post-op. It should be mentioned that, when Ian woke up post-op, the first thing he did was channel Teh Marcy (RIP) and Punch Teh 'Bride In Teh Face!1! I mean, he really clocked her! She was seeing stars! (Don't worry. I kept my distance and emerged unscathed that fateful day.)

5 Unrelated to anything: I just racked 5 gallons of what will eventually be an ESB into the secondary fermentation tub and it smelled just like Fuller's ESB, one of my all-time favorite beers. If it tastes anything like Fuller's, I will be one happy, and marginally drunk, camper. ("Marginally" because ESBs are not especially high in alcohol content. Fuller's, for example, is considered a strong ESB and it is 5.9% ABV.)

6 Unless you're going straight to Connemara, in which case you  take Conne Lingus. HAR!1! I WISH!1! (That's What She Said, b'gob!1!)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Life Is Not Boring

My running mileage total for February stands at just under 71 miles. I ran yesterday. I could have run today, but I woke up late (for me: i.e., 3:45 a.m.; might just as well not have gotten up), so I opted not to run. My back is still recovering from whatever mysterious thing I did that injured it. It doesn't hurt that much anymore; it reminds me that it is still sore whenever I get up from sitting in my seat.

It'll be a challenge to run 90 miles this month, much less 100. My goal for the year being to run 1200 miles, I would have to average 100 per month. It's less than two months into the year and that already seems unlikely. Lately it's been a struggle motivating myself to go for a run. I run early in the morning so it's always pretty cold, even on days the temperatures end up being in the 40s; today, e.g., is supposed to get up to 43 degrees at some point, but at 4:00 a.m. it was 11 degrees, and that's not factoring in the wind chill. But it's not even the cold, because in many ways I prefer running in the cold to running in heat or humidity. Or at least I used to. When I do run, I find that the cold plays upon my mind more than it should; of late, my 6+ mile runs are at a pace that is usually closer to ten minutes than to nine. I haven't run at a sub-nine pace, or anywhere near it, in I don't know how long; I can't find the spark.

I wore light colored clothes to work today.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Richard II - Unking'd[*]

[*By popular demand (viz., two comment requests, which is good enough for me), I am once again giving my Shakespeare posts their own space to roam free, rather than dumping them in this old post here. That post now contains updates discussing Love's Labour's Lost  and The Merry Wives of Windsor — which appear as addenda at the top of the post — in addition to whatever it was I talked about when I originally posted it ... something about editing Shakespeare plays, I think. But I won't be adding to that post anymore.]

At line 16 of Act II, scene i of The Riverside Shakespeare's edition of Richard II, editor Herschel Baker supplies the following footnote gloss for the word "undeaf":
undeaf. One of several such negative words in the play. See unhappied (III. i. 10), uncurse (III. ii. 137), unsay (IV. i. 9), undo (IV. i. 203), unking (IV. i. 220, V.v. 37), undeck (IV, i, 250), unkiss (V. i. 74)
... and that's it; the footnote ends there. Later in the play, at the various occurrences of each of these other odd "un-" words, passim, Baker supplies additional footnotes referring you back to his original "un-" footnote, but offers no more insight.

It's kind of bizarre that Baker proffers this observation but makes no attempt to tell us what he thinks it means in any larger sense. All of the play's strange "un-" words, I would maintain, collectively supply an excellent point of access into one of the main themes — perhaps the major theme — of the play. I suspect Baker thinks so, too — why else would he point this out? — but for some reason never explicitly comes out and says it1. I appreciate the fact that he footnotally brings attention to these words because there's just no way they would have stood out to me on their own. Hiding in plain sight, they are right up there, I would say, with all of the instances of hendiadys in Hamlet except that those, being occurrences of a relatively obscure rhetorical trope, are even less likely to be noticed on a casual, or for that matter even close, reading; and, in fact, no one really noticed how many there were in Hamlet until the 20th century; and the reason for Shakespeare's borderline-obsessive use of hendiadys in that one play, Hamlet, remains a bit of a mystery. People now realize it's there, like some weird textual Tourette's tic, but no one has a particularly compelling explanation as to why.

But the appearance of "un-" words in overplus in RII makes perfect sense because the play is about the undoing of a king; in fact, the word "unking'd" (which may or may not be of Shakespearean coinage — I haven't had a chance to research it yet) appears twice in the play, in both instances spoken by Richard himself. When Bullingbrook2 asks Richard: "Are you contented to resign the crown?", Richard replies
God pardon all oaths that are broke to me!
God keep all vows unbroke that swear to thee!
Make me, that nothing have, with nothing grieved,
And thou with all pleased, that hast all achieved!
Long mayst thou live in Richard's seat to sit,
And soon lie Richard in an earthly pit!
God save King Harry, unking'd Richard says,
And send him many years of sunshine days!
What more remains? [emphasis added]
Later, just before he is murdered, Richard soliloquizes:
Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented: sometimes am I king;
Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,
And so I am: then crushing penury
Persuades me I was better when a king;
Then am I king'd again: and by and by
Think that I am unking'd by Bullingbrook,
And straight am nothing: but whate'er I be,
Nor I nor any man that but man is
With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased
With being nothing. [emphasis added]
Richard II is about the unmaking of a king, but also about quite a few other kinds of unmakings and undoings, and thus the fact that the text is littered with so many rare and unique "un-" phrasings and neologisms is thematically appropriate and, what's more, meaningful.

Early in the play, Richard himself "uncountries" (so to speak) his cousin Bullingbrook by banishing him from the realm for 10 years — which Richard later reduces to six years when he witnesses the tears this sentence brings to the eyes of Bullingbrook's father, John of Gaunt (who is also Richard's uncle and trusted counselor); later, when Gaunt dies, Richard "uninherits" Bullingbrook by taking control of Gaunt's possessions and lands — which should have gone to Henry Bullingbrook by right — to fund his Irish wars.

It is this insult and gross illegality that causes Bullingbrook, who is far more popular with the common people than Richard, to return early from exile, invade England and demand his rightful inheritance. It is pointed out to Richard that, in taking Bullingbrook's possessions, he is ignoring the very same law of inheritance that made Richard himself King when his grandfather, Edward III, died3. Thus, in a sense, when Bullingbrook invades England, he does so in defense of the principle of inheritance, primogeniture and line-of-succession that made Richard, and every English king, king. Bullingbrook unkings a king who has in a sense unkinged himself at a remove by ignoring the long-standing legal convention that made him king.

The deposing of Richard is, of course, the single most important event (in Shakespeare's universe, anyway) in the civil strife that eventually became known as The War of the Roses; it is the Original Sin, the primary cause of the unrest that ensued and lasted for decades. Richard's "unkinging" cast a pall over every monarch after Richard up until the ascension of Henry VII (in whom the Houses of York and Lancaster were finally reconciled) nearly eight decades later. In Richard II, as in the Henry VI plays, there is much discussion regarding when it is and is not licit to depose a king. And while Richard is portrayed as a poor king, insular, despotic and too easily swayed by sycophantic court  favorites4, when he is deposed and Bullingbrook says "In God's name, I'll ascend the regal throne", the Bishop of Carlisle issues this dire warning:
Marry. God forbid!
Worst in this royal presence may I speak,
Yet best beseeming me to speak the truth.
Would God that any in this noble presence
Were enough noble to be upright judge
Of noble Richard! then true noblesse would
Learn him forbearance from so foul a wrong.
What subject can give sentence on his king?
And who sits here that is not Richard's subject?
Thieves are not judged but they are by to hear,
Although apparent guilt be seen in them;
And shall the figure of God's majesty,
His captain, steward, deputy-elect,
Anointed, crowned, planted many years,
Be judged by subject and inferior breath,
And he himself not present? O, forfend it, God,
That in a Christian climate souls refined
Should show so heinous, black, obscene a deed!
I speak to subjects, and a subject speaks,
Stirr'd up by God, thus boldly for his king:
My Lord of Hereford here, whom you call king,
Is a foul traitor to proud Hereford's king:
And if you crown him, let me prophesy:
The blood of English shall manure the ground,
And future ages groan for this foul act;
Peace shall go sleep with Turks and infidels,
And in this seat of peace tumultuous wars
Shall kin with kin and kind with kind confound;
Disorder, horror, fear and mutiny
Shall here inhabit, and this land be call'd
The field of Golgotha and dead men's skulls.
O, if you raise this house against this house,
It will the woefullest division prove
That ever fell upon this cursed earth.
Prevent it, resist it, let it not be so,
Lest child, child's children, cry against you woe! [Emphasis added]
All of which, of course comes trues, especially during the reign of Henry VI. The play sort of tries to have it both ways, making a case in favor of Richard's deposition, but also foretelling national doom and civil strife for the sin of "unkinging" a legitimate king.

Richard II was a pleasure to read; some of Shakespeare's most beautiful passages appear in the play, including Gaunt's famous paean to the Island of England itself:
This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son,
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
It is, significantly, a speech Gaunt delivers when he recognizes that King Richard, with his policy of leasing out land to raise funds for his war, is in the process of undoing much of what had made England great.

The play also includes this beautiful and despairing speech of Richard's, spoken when he realizes that he will not be able to prevail against Bullingbrook's insurrection:

[... O]f comfort no man speak:
Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
Let's choose executors and talk of wills:
And yet not so, for what can we bequeath
Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
Our lands, our lives and all are Bullingbrook's,
And nothing can we call our own but death
And that small model of the barren earth
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison'd by their wives: some sleeping kill'd;
All murder'd: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear'd and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour'd thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
Cover your heads and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence: throw away respect,
Tradition, form and ceremonious duty,
For you have but mistook me all this while:
I live with bread like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a king?
The despair of the nobly-born on display in the speech above is destined to be even more fully explored in King Lear. But this passage rivals some of the best in Lear.

1 After I read the play, I read Baker's Introduction (I always read introductions afterwards so they don't unduly influence my own take on the play), and nowhere in his Introduction does he pick up on this "un-" thread. This, for me, was for some reason one of the weirdest things about reading this play.

2 I.e., Henry Bolingbroke, later King Henry IV, who deposes Richard II in a weirdly contrived and unconvincing "deposition" scene in which Richard gives long, self-pitying and -contradictory answers to Bullingbrook's more-or-less straightforward lines, such as "I thought you had been willing to resign" and "Are you contented to resign the crown?" The deposition scene is doubly staged because Shakespeare, as author of the play, stages it for his audience; but Bullingbrook, as the usurper looking to legitimize his power grab, stages the scene for his audience — the English people — as well; Bullingbrook needs to make it seem that Richard is giving up the throne of his own free will so that no one can accuse him of being an illegitimate monarch. But of course when the man who is allegedly granting you his crown does so while being held as your prisoner, that is a set of circumstances that is pretty much designed to strain the definition of "willing"; and, in any case, Richard, in the deposition scene, doesn't comply with the requirement that he admit his crimes nor does he ever really say that he is giving up the throne of his own free will.

3 Richard's own father, Edward the Black Prince, predeceased Edward III and so Richard, as the eldest surviving son of the Prince, became next in line to the  throne.

4 This is more discussed than shown. Shakespeare seems here to rely more on his audience's familiarity with Richard II's reputation as an incompetent king who, at one time during his reign, was semi-unking'd when the Lords Appellant ruled and put an end to some of what were perceived as Richard's abuses. All of this happens in the play's pre-history, in the late 1380s; RII begins in the late 1390s, after Richard has already had his revenge on many of those who had challenged him.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Clutch 'S@ck (Roughly the Equivalent of "Grab Bag) Post

This morning, Ian and I went for a one-mile sprint together. A couple of years ago, I used to do one-mile sprints on the days that I didn't do runs, sort of my own version of speed work. I think the best time I posted was something like a 6:52 pace. I have no idea if this helped me, speed-wise. I realize now that I don't really care.

I haven't done a mile sprint in years, though.

Well, my back has been hurting lately and, before today, I hadn't run since Monday. So last night I was talking about running, and I figured doing a sprint would be a good way to see if the back could handle a return to running. Ian has been threatening to run with me for some time but he usually chickens out at the last minute. But he thought he could handle a one-mile sprint, so this morning, while Teh 'Bride was at the health club doing girl exercises, Ian and I ran a sprint:

This is the whole route (click to embiggen)

If you follow the instructions above and click the image, you'll clearly see that the route calls for leaving our house and crossing the street and then immediately turning right. Which I explained to Ian a couple of times before the run. The plan was to do that loop at the end of our street, going past our house and then around back to it, on the return, at the very end of the run.

But ....

Graphic showing how the route was supposed go at the start; and how Ian went.

So I had to call him back. "Ian! THIS WAY!" He hadn't gotten very far, but he had run a couple of hundredths of a mile out of his way.

Ian did a good job, keeping up with me the whole time. But as we rounded the corner back onto our street, I told him not to run to the end of the street, but rather straight home ... to compensate for the extra couple hundredths of a mile he'd done at the beginning:

The upshot is that he ran grand total of .96 miles in 7 minutes and thirty seconds for a 7:50 pace. H never stopped; he ran the whole distance.

Later, I ran an additional 7.24 miles, for a total of 8.26 for the day. Back seems okay with that.

Ian came downstairs while I was writing this post and told me to mention to all of you the fact that he is awesome.

I had a number of posts I started writing and stopped.

Here are the stubs, just so I can be rid of them:

[Four Days Ago]

My back hurts today and I don't know why. So instead of running, I took it easy, doing yoga and riding Morrissey for 10.2 miles.

Mystery back injuries that go away after 4 or 5 days are standard at my age. I strain my back with a certain regularity ... though it's been some time since I did it.

I'm pretty sure it happened while brewing beer. Well, not during the brewing process. Afterward, when I had to lug the 5-gallon tub down to the Secret Fermenting Chamber (aka, the garage).

Totally worth it. That fermenting wort will eventually be an ESB. But I myself will try not to be bitter about the injury it caused.

[Four Days Ago]

My January Stats:

Total Miles: 199.69

Running miles: 90.56 (Way more than I expected, given the weather.)

Walking: 25.53

Biking recumbently: 83.6

[Three Days Ago] 

Many of you probably think I stopped posting about Shakespeare. But you're wrong. Recall I said I would be posting all future play reviews here. And not that long ago, I posted my take on the just-read Love's Labour's Lost there. (What's with the Kanadian spelling of "Labour" there, Will?)

I see no one has accessed that post in quite some time.

Which means you don't know about the latest addition.

Or, more likely, don't care.

[Since I wrote this post, I also included a review (of sorts) of The Merry Wives of Windsor]

[Three Days Ago] 

Speaking of accessed blog post (as I just did in my previous post), this here post, which I clearly labeled "4 Phillies Phans Only", is BY FAR the most popular thing I ever posted. According to Blogger, it has 952 page views (63 in just the past 24 hours) [Update: it now has 1,084], which totally smokes the post with the second most views, this here one, which has 232 views.

Just goes to show you that the Phillies (especially a killer rotation) beats a love story every time.

[Three Days Ago]  

Speaking of the Phillies, which I was just doing in my previous post, yesterday I ordered a three-pack of Phillies tickets for Ian and me. We're going to see the Phils play the Brewers (mmmm ... Brewerrrrrrs ...) on April 19; the Rangers on May 22; and the Padres on July 23.

One of those days is Carlos ("Chooch") Ruiz T-shirt night. [It's the May game.]

With my luck, they'll give the T-shirts only to the kids.


[CONFIRMED: The tees are for kids 14 and under only.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Another Death

Four years ago, a colleague at the library informed me that one of the other Reference librarians, Helene, had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. This was not that long after my own sister, Virginia, had died of the same disease.

Earlier this week I found out that that was incorrect; because this past Monday, Helene finally succumbed to what I learned was breast cancer. Quite possibly, the colleague who informed me of Helene's illness had actually said the cancer had spread to Helene's lungs and I had misheard. Because at the viewing yesterday, I learned from Helene's brother, as he spoke about her, that Helene had been battling breast cancer for fourteen years. It had gone into remission, but came back four years ago.

Think about the utterly inexplicable cruelty of that stark fact.

I really don't hang out with anyone at the library, which is not a judgment against them on my part, because I really don't hang out with anyone other than my family. (I basically inherited Teh 'Dad's homebody tendencies; he'd never have left the house for socializing if Teh 'Mom didn't make him.) And so I didn't know that much about Helene personally. In fact, I didn't even know she was Jewish until two days ago. (Her married surname is classically Irish.)

What I did know, I liked.

Until recently, my job at the library was mostly in the IT department, coding the library's web site and doing other PC-related stuff as needed. But for the longest time now, I have had a Monday night shift on the Reference desk, working from 5:30 till closing at 9:00 p.m. There are three PCs at the Reference desk, but only one of them is set up with my web-authoring tools, so I always sit at that one when I work the desk so I can work on the site when there are no patron questions to research. That PC happened also to be the one Helene favored. When I would come up at 5:30 on Mondays, Helene would be sitting there and she always seemed to be finishing up a reference question; it was not unusual for me to have to stand there, idly twiddling my thumbs — Put me in, Coach, I'm ready! — as Helene took an additional 5, 10, maybe even as much as 20 minutes to finish the final question of her day — for her workday ended at 5:30, or was supposed to.

It simply didn't occur to her to hurry the process up; she took the time she needed to answer the patron's question properly; she never tried to hand it off to me so she could leave (and it's better she didn't because when you hand off a particularly involved reference question, the librarian you hand it off to inevitably ends up re-doing at least some of the work you've already done, no matter how well you explain which strategies you've already tried). Helene was the consummate professional in this and all other aspects of her job. She did this even very recently — while she was in the last stages of her disease; she only stopped working a couple of weeks ago, when she became too ill to come to work.

I found this aspect of her personality particularly admirable, especially now that the state of New Jersey is being run by an ideologue, a fanatic who has effectively fetishized his unfounded belief that all public employees are lazy, tax-wasting cheats, and has spent his time in office vilifying teachers, librarians and other hard-working (and poorly-paid) public workers.

You might read the paragraph above and accuse me of using Helene's death to score political points, thereby diminishing the enormity of it, possibly even disrespecting her memory. But I would disagree with you vehemently.

Because even as I was typing this blog post, I received an e-mail from our union local's president noting the passing of "Executive Board member" Helene. Which sounds like an honorary title, and probably is, for the most part. But for the longest time, Helene was a active member of our union, attending every meeting, keeping us all informed of what was going on in our union, working to better both our working conditions and the union itself, to make our union reflect our needs. She was the library's shop steward and I believe gave up that position only when her illness imposed so many time constraints on her.

Helene herself was, until this week, a living refutation of the viciously cruel canard that public servants are lazy, overpaid wasters of taxpayers' money. She continued to work unstintingly for the public good while she was literally dying — coming in every day, even after undergoing energy-sapping cancer treatments on the very same day. But she also believed that hard-working people should be treated fairly and compensated for their good work and dedication— and she worked hard to achieve that end, for all of us. Is pointing out the conditions under which she continued to do that for all of us really a good example of my scoring petty political points? It's what she did and these were the conditions under which she did it; she did it even though she had a family — a husband and three daughters — to take care of.

It is a large part of the reason I admired her.

As I said, I did not know Helene that well personally, but there is much more I could say about her on a personal level. I enjoyed her sense of humor. I liked how, whenever she would call down to the IT Department to report a problem or ask a question, she would greet me with the words, "Well, hello, Mister Glaven." (I do not require people to call me "Mister Glaven", mostly because if I did require it, I think most people would make a point of not doing so for that very reason.)

Helene will be missed terribly by me and many others.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hot Fun in the Summertime

When you've been buried beneath tons of snow that never entirely melts away before the next storm arrives and re-buries you, it helps to have something Spring- and Summer-ish to look forward to. This is where Teh 'Bride is especially useful1.Because the other day, she arranged our Big Summer Vacation2, viz, a seven-day stay at Tyler Place up at the tippy-top of the Great Concavity. Having this (and the RH Ranch vacation) booked gives us something to look forward to and get us past these Winter Doldrums.

The seven of you who have followed me through my various blogospheric permutations will remember that the H'berg Clan3 went to Tyler Place two years ago. You will recall that I played in the Staff (average age roughly 19) versus Guests (average age: none of your business, whippersnapper!) beer softball game and that I experienced both the agony (I hit into a double-play, which was particularly agonizing, because I didn't realize I was about to be doubled up until I had jogged lazily halfway to first; at which point I tried to put on the speed, and ended up injuring what at the time was my "good knee") and the ecstasy (I, as pitcher, had the only strikeout not just of our game, but of any game that whole summer) that is Beer Softball.

You will also recall that Teh Ecstasy, for me, was essentially a secret subset of the Teh Agony, because the kid I struck out was a Welshman (which I found out because his teammates chanted "Welllllshman! Wellllllshman!" after he struck out, which is such an odd and toothless ethnic slur that I didn't even include it in FN3, below) who had probably  just learned softball that summer; and even though the strikeout was written up in the next day's Tyler Place Daily News Leaflet as the Guests' Highlight of The Game, they attributed it to another Guest named Kevin. And so some of my own teammates were coming up to me and saying, "Hey, Kevin! Your strikeout made the news leaflet!" The only one who didn't say that was, well ... Kevin, who went to the editor of the news leaflet and demanded a retraction.

I also learned, back during that Summer of aught-nine vacation, that every year at Tyler Place, they have this triathlon competition they call "Duckman"4. It was started years and years ago by a guest and now it is traditional. You swim out around this island about 200 yards offshore in Lake Champlain; then you bike a few miles; then you run a few. (In other words, duh, a triathlon.) I didn't participate that first year because I didn't know about it and had already scheduled myself to go on a long bike ride that day, which I don't regret doing. But this year, I'm hoping to participate. It depends. I'd really like to because I have nowhere to swim (I don't belong to a health club) and I still don't own a real bike (even though I came back from Tyler P. two years ago vowing to get one, which — SURPRISE! — I never did) so this might be my only chance to experience a triathlon of any sort. I guess whether or not I do it will depend on whether I think I can swim out to that island and back (that's the big question; I don't care how long it takes; and I know I can run and bike for a few miles); and on whether there's some other event I want to do scheduled at the same time, like another long bike tour.

In any case, thanks to Teh 'Bride's hard work, we all have something to look forward to after this crappy Winter. In addition, Ian and I ordered the MLB package from DirecTV, so now we'll get to see all the Phillies games! Woo-hoo!1! Criff Ree!1! ("Phifer"? Who knew?)

Today I ran 6.17 miles in just under an hour for a 6.4 mph average. That seems to be about as fast as I'm able to go when I run in the dark under these winter conditions. I was running at what I thought was a faster pace two days ago (6.66 miles, believe it or not), until I tripped over yet another unseen small rogue pile of snow and face-planted. Luckily, this fall was nowhere near as bad as the last one and I escaped without injury. But that's the kinda thing that makes you slow down at every shadow you see up ahead: "Is that just a shadow ... or a patch of ice?" Plus, falling kinda takes the wind out of your sails. I ran the remaining three or so miles at a much slower pace. O, well.

I signed up for the same 15k I ran last year; it happens at the end of April. At the rate I'm going, I'd be happy to finish it within 5 minutes of the time I did it in last year.

This Demotivational Poster pretty much sums up my Winter Life this year.

Dr. Nic, incredibly, had no idea who The Inspector was. (Some people just gotz no Kulture.) Ian discovered the Pink Panther cartoons a couple of years ago (he's over them, now) ... so even he knew who The Inspector was. (He's essentially a cartoon version of Inspector Clouseau, though he's not given a name.) We caught Ian a few times humming the Inspector's theme (O, Henry Mancini! Who have you not captivated at one time or another?5):

1 That's right. I describe my loving distaff partner in terms of utility. (Jeremy Bentham would be so proud!) Sorry, Ladies, I'm spoken for!
Jeremy Hilary Bentham, Fud (i.e., PhD), depicted above in the Sea of Holes with four of his closest, and usefulest, friends.

2 Not to be confused with our Small Summer Vacation, here. This short one will be a mere five days' duration and therefore barely worth mentioning. What is worth mentioning is that RH Ranch also has beer softball, only at RHR you play against other drunken parents, not the staff. Beer softball is followed immediately by beer volleyball, which is a total girl sport, but I play it because for some reason, when they wheel the keg over to the volleyball sand pit, I can't help but follow it, even though it is merely a keg of Coors light. But even Coors in a keg has that keg-al magnetic pull to it.

3 That's "clan" with a "c", not a "k", because we're the good guys.

And if you think otherwise, you must be a stupid Dago Mexican Mick Polack Hebrew Chiropractor Tranny Hillbilly3a Unidentifiable Miscellaneous East Asian Menace Cavewhoo-wer Eternally Optimistic and Cloying Pollyanna [Ethnic Slur of Your Choice] person ... not that there's anything wrong with being a stupid person because I don't judge.

3a Jebus Aitch Chryslerbuilding, Cletus! "I Love Riding those Fat Bastards" as a blog post title? Do you enjoy being mocked? Have you ever even seen the film Deliverance, the most famous cinematic instance of a hillbilly riding a Fat Bastard and loving it?

These insults just write themselves, which kinda puts me outta a job, and I resent it.

4 In fact, Duckman happens every week during the Summer, since guests generally stay a week and each set of guests gets to participate in a Duckman tri. I just couldn't figure out a graceful way of saying that above. I might as well also mention here that the Staff v. Guests Beer Softball game happens every week, too, and back in aught-nine, we were there in late August ... so the Welshman I struck out actually had about three months to learn how to hit a softball.

Are you impressed now?

5 Answer: Dr. Nic.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bearded Pix

If you're like me, you can't resist the opportunity, no matter how contrived, to ruthlessly lampoon, take the piss out of, and/or ridicule a friend. Or, to put it another way, if you're like me, you're a dick. Don't get mad at my calling you a dick. You implicitly called me one first.

The contrived opportunity I'm taking advantage of today is this seemingly innocent comment made by SteveQ over at Xenia's blog, in which he said "My high school graduation pic has those same sideburns." (There was a context to this admission, but it doesn't matter for my purpose, which, as I mentioned, is ruthless ridicule.)

In fact, I have ocular proof that SteveQ's pictures had facial hair long before high school:

Just look at those muttonchops this Quick Family Portrait is rocking! They put fucking Elvis to shame! Young Steve could be no more than 10 here.

I am somewhat envious because neither I nor my yearbook picture was capable of facial hair when I was in High School ... and if you've ever seen pix of American men circa 1978, you know how much of an oddball that made me.

[Full Disclosure: That pic above was also sporting a Massive 'Fro, but I cropped it.]


The Inspector now comes in Frozen Concentrate:

Vast Shakespearean Dumping Ground

Merry Wives of Windsor (Added 2/16/11)

In 1978, Teh 'Mom turned 50 and, she having spent a lifetime persistently lamenting the fact that she never got to go anywhere or do anything because she was so busy working and raising the seven of us Heisenbrats1, we self-same Heisenbrats somehow managed, secretly, to raise the money that year to send her, for her 50th birthday, to Europe, where she'd never been before but longed to go, for a week or two — I can't remember how long, exactly. We bought the tickets and arranged the whole thing; and by "we", I mean my siblings. I was, of course, "involved", but only peripherally. Let's just say that when you want something practical accomplished, I am not exactly your "go-to" Heisenberg. I assume Teh 'Dad was in on this, too, but he, like me, is not what you would call "an accomplisher of things"; he was probably more the bagman, the main raiser of funds. We didn't send Teh 'Dad along with Teh 'Mom because his attitude was, "Pffffttt! Europe? Been there; bombed that." (I assume he meant during WWII; if not, possibly the reason he didn't want to go had something to do with outstanding warrants for firebombing.)

I mention this because, while Teh 'Mom was is England on that trip, she visited with her younger brother, my Uncle Joe (an Anglophile who went to John Bull's Isle pert-near every year), and he took her to see a performance of Teh Merry Wives of Windsor. Which, amazingly, Teh 'Mom loved, thought was extremely funny. This is surprising because Teh 'Mom, unlike Teh 'Dad, was not a fan of slapstick or physical comedy, but she thought TMWoW was just wonderful.

The other reason I mention this is, having just finished reading TMWoW, I can think of nothing more interesting to say about it. The play isn't bad. And I'm sure seeing it performed would probably be a genuine hoot. But it's just not that remarkable a play, is all. There are interesting peripheral things about it, such as the apocryphal story that it was written at the command of Queen Elizabeth who wanted a play about the character Falstaff in love.

There are four problems with that story that I can think of offhand:
  1. Though Sir John is a major character in the play, the play itself is not about Falstaff in love; it's more Sir John IS Jack Tripper in "Three's Company"! It's kinda just sit-com-y.
  2. The Falstaff of this play is nowhere near as entertaining a character as the Falstaff of the Henry IV plays. (TMWoW is entertaining despite its inferior Falstaff.)
  3. The Falstaff of the HIV plays lived circa 1400; but TMWoW is set in Shakespeare's own time, circa 1597 (the only play of his that is set in Elizabethan England, a fact that is remarkable in and of itself). So in that sense, this play is more Sir John Falstaff IS time-traveling Dr. Who in "Teh Merry Wives of Windsor"!
  4. The story that the play was written at royal command did not surface until 100 years after the play was performed, which puts that story right up there, in terms of veracity, with the Teh 'Dad's favorite fable about Teh Bard, viz., the claim by Richard Davies (chaplain of Corpus Christi College) that Shakespeare "died a papist". (Teh 'Dad prefers to think of Shxpr as a closet Catholic.) That claim, also, did not surface until the seventeenth century and has no basis in (extant) fact. Shakespeare may have been a secret Catholic; he may have been a secret Muslim, like our current President. We have an equal amount of convincing evidence for either claim, i.e., none.
That said, TMWoW was an okay read. 
But it's another play that I think would be much better if seen performed rather than merely read.

1 Teh 'Dad could have wailed a similar lamentation but did not because he was always a homebody and, if it weren't for Teh 'Mom, probably wouldn't have ever left the house except to go to work or accomplish small errands. When home life got too hectic for him, Teh 'Dad would announce he had to mail a letter — possibly an "important bill" that had to be taken straight to the post office — and he would get up and go out alone and we knew we wouldn't see him again for three hours or more. No, he wasn't out drinking. He was a salesman who spent much of his time on the road and so, when he went out and disappeared, he spent his time at one of around 1500 diners that he knew of in the tri-state area. Teh 'Dad was bucking for sainthood at around 49 or 50 — when he gave up both drinking and smoking the stinkiest cigars on earth (he would start little bonfires in his ashtray with the cellophane that his cheap cigars came wrapped in, spewing what had to be toxic fumes into the playroom's atmosphere while you were trying to watch a Phillies game, which was painful enough because the Phils truly sucked back in those daze; and the cigars themselves were cheap and would have stunk the room up sufficiently on their own, but that just wasn't stinky enough for Teh 'Dad, who evidently secretly longed to be a Factory Smokestack/Human Superfund Site) — and so by that time in his life the only vice he had left was eating and so he had quite the belly on him by the time he was 50 and would refer to his own body-type "like a bug's".

 Love's Labour's Lost (Added 2/10/11)

Love's Labour's Lost — yet another Shakespeare comedy that I had not read before —  has got to be one of the most mannered and self-conscious of Shakespeare's plays. Just about all of Shakespeare's play are about language to one extent on another, but LLL seems almost more about language than it comprised of it, made up of it. The three-word alliterative title itself, with its two opening possessive nouns, smack of self-conscious poetical artifice: it is difficult even to pronounce without tripping up. Much of the language in the play is like that and I assume this play must be especially difficult for actors to perform for that reason. Whether or not you enjoy LLL or consider it a successful play will probably hinge on your attitude toward a nearly post-modern self-awareness regarding language.

The language is peculiarly poetic, including a lot of rhyming, which necessarily strains the syntax of the dialog and makes it often difficult to parse, but yet doesn't make the plot, such as it is, any more difficult to follow. Because the plot is extremely thin: The King of Navarre decides that he and three of his lords will dedicate themselves to scholarship in order to ensure their "fame" so he and the three lords — Berowne, Longaville, and Dumaine — forswear women for three years' time in order to dedicate themselves entirely to scholarship and the pursuit of knowledge. This adumbration of the first few score lines of the play pretty much telegraphs the rest of the play. What do you think might happen — nay, must happen — to four men who forswear love? You wouldn't even need to know that this is a Shakespeare comedy to see where the plot must go.

Which is exactly where the plot goes.

The female characters of the play are perfect foils for the male characters; essentially, the women call the men on their artifice and artificiality. Are the men in love, as they claim, or just in love with the language of love, the idea of love? As far as I know, this is the only more-or-less conventional Shakespeare comedy that ends not with marriage, or even the promise of marriage, but rather with four separate year-long trial periods for the men. The women require the men to experience the "real world" for a year before they, the women, will even consider their suits.

The artifice in LLL extends to self-consciousness about the play's own status as play. As in most Shakespeare plays, there are scenes in which characters in the play secretly watch other characters as if the former were an audience watching a play being performed by the latter. But in Love's Labour's Lost, Shakespeare pushes this conceit to the limit, especially in IV, iii, in which Berowne confesses he is forsworn because, in contravention of the agreement he made with the king in the first scene, he has fallen in love. Berowne then hides as the king enters and confesses the same thing; then the king hides as as Longaville enters and confesses the same; than he hides as Dumaine enters and also confesses that he has fallen in love and is therefore forsworn. This scene unravels itself in reverse order as Lonagville reveals himself to Dumaine, chiding the latter for his transgression; after which, the king does the same to both Longaville and Dumaine; then, of course, Berowne tells them that they have all been pwned by him. It is significant that no one, when he reveals himself as secret spectator, admits the relevant fact that he himself is also in love and therefore as guilty as the transgressor he chides. When Berowne reveals himself, he says "Now step I forth to whip hypocrisy" — everyone's, that is, but his own, because he does not confess, as he chides the others, that he himself is forsworn and as guilty as they. Berowne, of course, is in due time exposed by the fortuitous revelation of a love letter he wrote to Rosaline.

It is little wonder that the female characters are mistrustful of their suitors.

Act IV, scene iii was my favorite in LLL because it could have gone horribly wrong, but manages, somehow, to be amusing and inventive, even if self-referential in the extreme. LLL itself — though contrived, even by Shakespeare comedy standards — is, on the whole, an enjoyable play, but a difficult read.

That's what this post — when I decide to upload it — will be: A Vast and Possibly Otiose Shakespearean Dumping Ground.

When I decided last year to announce that I intended to read all 38 of Shakespeare's plays and blog about each, I knew that it was unlikely that people would read the posts. But, as I said at the time, I need to write about what I read in order to retain anything meaningful from the experience. I don't have an eidetic memory, or even anything approaching it — and it's questionable whether that type of memory would even be useful in a situation such as this — and any thoughts I have while reading something never progress past inchoate if they remain only in my head, no matter how coherent and fully-formed they may seem at the time. All I need to do to see how confusedly jumbled they truly are is to try to express them orally, which merely serves to remind me that I probably don't think in actual words, or that, if I do, I don't think in rational and fully-formed sentences, much less paragraphs; any rational linearity in my thoughts is a later imposition on them as I attempt to verbalize them. Thus, my stabs at oral verbalization are without exception exercises in inarticulateness; it is impossible for me to say what I mean the first time I try to say it. W.B. Yeats once described a dinner he attended at which Oscar Wilde was one of the guests, and Yeats marveled at Wilde's conversational skills, saying, in essence, that one would have thought Wilde had written out and memorized his banter the night before because his conversation was infallibly amusing and his thoughts cogent, to the point, lapidary even; but, Yeats conceded, Wilde couldn't have memorized his words beforehand because Wilde was witty and pithy no matter where the conversation wandered, and no matter who steered it in that direction.

That ability to extemporize is a skill I do not possess.

But along with the process of writing comes the ability to change, revise and even delete the words as they emerge; you might even write a perfectly understandable, cohesive and thoughtful sentence and realize after it has become verbally reified that you don't really believe what you just wrote — perhaps even believe the exact opposite of what it says. But writing down those "wrong" words is a necessary part of the process that gets you to an approximation of the right ones, or a combination of them that might give form to the idea you are trying to communicate. And in my own case, one of the people I am trying to communicate with is me. I never truly know what I think until I write it down because writing forces me to think, a process that doesn't come naturally or easily to me.

So all of this is to say that the reason I am writing about each play is that it is my way of trying not just to understand them, which is probably a forlorn hope, but also just to remember them in some marginally meaningful way. As I wrote when I originally posted about my intentions to read and write about Shakespeare's plays, I spent one summer back when I was a kid reading the whole Bible — Old and New Testament — and because I didn't write about the experience, did not go through the process of clarifying my thoughts and giving expression to them, I took nothing meaningful away from the experience, and might just as well not have done it; because I learned next to nothing. The reading part was less than half the work I needed to do to make the experience meaningful and therefore worthwhile.

Hence, this vast dumping ground, where, from now on, I will dump my thoughts on each Shakespeare play as I finish reading it. This already-long post will become longer, ever-growing, as I add to it until I finish reading all of the plays and writing something about each. That's fine; because I know almost no one reads these posts anyway. This Vast Dumping Ground will make the posts easier to avoid for you, the non-reader.

After finishing King John the other day, I started reading The Riverside Shakespeare's essay on the editing of Shakespeare's writings; like all of the essays in TRS, I found this one pretty riveting and insightful.

When I was in graduate school, I took some "interdisciplinary" courses that were not themselves required to get my degree; but there was a requirement to take a certain number of credits in these interdisciplinary courses, one of which was a course on scholarly editing, which I'm sure I took only because it was held at a time and place that was convenient for me. The instructor (whose name — G. Thomas Tanselle — I still remember lo these 25 years since) was a real authority in the field of scholarly editing, though I neither knew this nor cared at the time. Of course, this course, which I was certain was going to be an excruciating bore, turned out to be pretty fascinating and made me think about things I had no clue even needed to be thought about by me or anyone else. When I had to buy, e.g., a novel for one of my literature classes, my only criterion for selection was that it be as inexpensive as possible. What other consideration could there be?

Well, suppose you were buying a Henry James novel. James famously revised many of his early works later in his career for the New York Editions; a scholarly editor endeavoring to compile a new edition of, say, James's The American has to decide, first of all, which version of that novel he wants to take as his main text: the early one? or the later one? And what is the editing philosophy behind the choice? Do you as editor pick the later version because your philosophy is that a writer is always evolving and so as editor it is your duty to have your edition reflect the writer's last known vision of the work? Or do you believe that the work is frozen in amber upon first publication and any later meddling, even by the author himself, is in some sense a violation of the work's integrity by, essentially, a different person? Or do you believe something that falls in between those extremes? Or possibly outside of them? Should author's intent (assuming it can even be known; as the James example illustrates, an author's "intention" is rarely a static thing) be the ultimate criterion?

So there can be truly vast differences in variant editions of the "same" work.

Scholarly arguments have been made that the author's intention should not be the primary criterion (although it obviously should be a large factor). For example: The typescript for the William Faulkner story "Go Down, Moses" seemingly contains the phrase "the valley rose, bled a river ..." —  a very Faulknerian-sounding choice of wording. But in fact, what the typescript says is "the valley rese,bled a river ..." and the editor decided that this obvious error should be corrected to read as above — "rese" changed to "rose" and a space inserted between the comma and "bled" ; all of which seems reasonable. Until another editor, reexamining all of the evidence for his new edition, noticed that the comma on a typical keyboard is right next to the "m" and reckoned Faulkner intended to type "resembled" not "rese,bled"; thus, the revised phrasing: "the valley resembled a river ..." — which is almost certainly what Faulkner intended. But there is still a choice to be made: the phrase "the valley rose, bled a river ..." had been what readers had been seeing in "Go Down. Moses" for years ... and it sounds better, more Faulknerian even, than "the valley resembled a river ...". Do you keep the former because it is, in your scholarly judgment, better? Even if you concede that it is not what W. Faulkner intended?

These are the kinds of issues that arise when editors deal with modern authors. Imagine the myriad dilemmas and quandaries an editor of a Shakespeare play faces!

With a Shakespeare play, there may exist, e.g., an early, pirated "bad" quarto publication, typically based on an actor's memory of the play (often called a "reported" text); along with a later "good" quarto, based on the author's foul papers (rough copy) or possibly even based on the author's "fair copy"; along with an edition from the First Folio of 1623, which may or may not be more authoritative than the "good" quarto. But even the "bad" quarto could have manifestly authoritative lines or possibly even whole scenes that the "good" quarto and First Folio lack. As a scholarly editor, you must pick one of these editions as your base text ... to which any change you make based on the other editions must be absolutely compelling. Obviously, you as editor can and will incorporate changes; but they must be defensible and philosophically consistent. You can't assert that your purpose is to get as close to the author's intent as possible then keep a phrase or a scene that is less authoritative because you happen to like it. You must have principles and you must stand by them.

The philosophy adopted by the editors of The Riverside Edition is to try to compile texts that are as close as humanly possible to what Shakespeare intended. The essay describing how they go about doing so is very compelling, and I have been reading that in bed for the past two nights instead of moving on to a new play.

Tonight, I must move on ... probably to a comedy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011


As many of you might already know, either through private correspondence with me or, more likely, through this post at Steve Quick's blog, my eldest sibling Cathy died a week ago; and that indeed is why I have not been around of late. Her funeral was yesterday, Thursday, February 3.

Cathy was 60, a decade older than myself. My mother was all of 22 when Cathy was born and she always said that she didn't get to see Cathy for nearly a week after she was born. It was evident even to a naive young mother that there had been some serious problems with Cathy's birth and it's probably not overstating the case to say that we never really found out exactly what those problems were. It seems clear now that it was a complex of things that went wrong because whenever someone in my family sets about trying to describe Cathy, he inevitably starts off by asserting: "I have never met anyone else quite like Cathy ...."

I feel guilt over Cathy's death for a number of reasons, not the least of which being the ones expressed in the paragraph above; because that is how people, myself included, typically begin when they talk about Cathy — they start with an attempt to describe her unique oddness. It's not meant to be a judgment, but it sounds like one; at the very least, it comes off sounding condescending. Cathy certainly had to deal with more than her share of condescension in her lifetime.

But trying to describe Cathy accurately is a fool's mission because it can't be done; but it is also somewhat heart-breaking because Cathy's "oddness" was always the thing that defined her for others. In the same way that you might describe someone who is, say, a college professor as "a brilliant intellectual" or someone who loves music as, well, a "music-lover", Cathy, to others, was always, first and foremost, uniquely and quintessentially odd. I think it is safe to say that, though aware of her own strangeness, Cathy would not have chosen to describe herself in that way. Why would she? For she was also a music-lover and brilliant in her own way and many, many more things in addition.

And so instead of continuing in this vein, I will to the best of my ability attempt to describe Cathy in terms approximating those she might have used to describe herself.

First of all, she was an incredibly compassionate soul. This could manifest itself in strikingly unique ways. From her early teen years, for example, she felt what some might call an inexplicable sense of solidarity with the Polish people — even going so far as to subscribe to a Polish language newspaper when she was around 15, despite the fact that she didn't speak or read a word of Polish. In 1965, it was not as easy as it is today to find a Polish language newspaper in the US, even if you were Polish; but Cathy somehow found one. As I have mentioned on more than one occasion, my family is nearly 100% Irish — there is not, as far as we know, a drop of Polish blood in our veins. Cathy, however, was obsessed with the Poles nonetheless, possibly because she could identify with them over the way they were ridiculed and mistreated. (That is mere speculation on my part; I highly doubt Cathy would have said that that is why she cared about the Poles.) I don't know if this is unique to my era or my geographic location or any of the other particular circumstances of my childhood, but when I was a kid, Stupid Polack Jokes were all the rage, and not just among us Micks; Poles were one of the designated scapegoat ethnicities; I have no idea why. I guess Cathy saw this as a cruel and arbitrary analogue to the way she was routinely treated for being so strange, but, again, that is mere speculation on my part; the mistreatment she was subjected to on a daily basis went into overdrive when she got to public high school because even back then, in the mid-sixties, teenagers were teenagers, which is to say they could be casually cruel and insensitive especially to anyone deemed in any way different. In any case, for whatever reason, Cathy became a great and obsessive defender of the Poles, and woe betide the person who was insensitive enough to denigrate the Polish people or — Heaven forfend! — tell a Polish joke within Cathy's hearing. She would rattle off the many accomplishments of the Poles and hound the offending ethnically-insensitive person with questions as to why he thought the Poles inferior. (The hounding could last for, literally, hours.) This was genuine; she really wanted to know; and for the persons on the receiving end of Cathy's relentless inquiries, enduring the onslaught was all the more difficult because Cathy was truly confused by their sentiments, she really was looking for answers; and when she got like that she simply had no "off" switch.

My brother started to date a young woman of 100% Polish extraction right around the time that the world got its first Polish Pope. He's been married to her now for over 25 years.  Cathy — herself possibly more Catholic than any pope — was in heaven. She declared my sister-in-law a saint, entirely bypassing the usual three-miracles beatification/canonization qualifying process. She was serious. (I love my sister-in-law, but she is no saint. My sister-in-law would agree more with my assessment than she would Cathy's. Perhaps her other-worldly humbleness is one of her miracles. I also once saw her get a really bad grass stain out of a white shirt, so that could be miracle number two. But that's it, miracle-wise.)

Cathy was also an artist. For years, she would commute from our home in Northeast Philadelphia to center city, usually to Independence Mall, to do her portraits of tourists. She would charge a dollar. That is what she charged back in the 1970s when she started doing portraits and that is what she charged over thirty-five years later when she was still doing her art work in downtown Philadelphia. She lacked fine motor skills; her hand-eye coordination was, let's just say, less than optimal. And yet she always managed to capture something essential in her subjects. While not technically refined, her art work was good, she had a genuine talent that couldn't be taught and came through despite her physical limitations.

It was also easy to see in what esteem Cathy held you when she did your portrait because, if she liked you, that would definitely shine through in her art. Cathy, for instance, would always portray Teh 'Bride with stunningly high cheekbones, close to a super model's heroine-addict's chicly starved-looking face. Teh 'Bride does indeed have high cheekbones, but they are not quite as high as Cathy saw them. But that is how Cathy saw them, how she saw Teh 'Bride.

Cathy's utter love of the city of Philadelphia was unmatched. No politician running for the office of Mayor of Philadelphia could pretend to love the city as much as Cathy did. There is — or was, at one point — a board game out there called "Philadelphia" — and no, it is not just a "Philadelphia version" of Monopoly. I'll bet none of you knew that; but Cathy did and she owned it —  as far as I know the only copy ever sold. She didn't play board games and even if she did it is unlikely she would have found anyone willing to play the game of Philadelphia with her; I have no idea what the object of the Philadelphia board game was — whether to Achieve Independence or Experience Your First Coronary From Eating Too Many Cheesesteaks — but Cathy owned that game because Philadelphia was part of her personality and she would support any- and everything that promoted her city. I sometimes think she didn't know where the city ended and she began.

Philadelphia, when I was growing up, was like the Polack of American cities: close to New York City, but obviously (to everyone else) inferior to it and just sort of a joke. I remember Lily Tomlin's appearing on SNL back in 1975 when NYC was on the verge of defaulting and her ending her monologue with a "cheer" for New York that ended with a gratuitous slap at Philadelphia. This was typical for the time: Philadelphia as dependable punchline, ostensibly funny in and of itself. This irked Cathy in the same way that anti-Pole sentiments did. She was Philadelphia's biggest booster in her uniquely obsessive way.

It is the final cruel insult to Cathy that she was not allowed to die in the city that she so loved. It is yet another thing in this whole ordeal the mere thought of which brings tears to my eyes. She wasn't even vouchsafed that.

Cathy lived with my Dad until just about two years ago. Dad was the perfect roommate for Cathy because he not only loved her, he was singularly equipped to ignore her obsessions and compulsions: He was the one person whose nerves Cathy's relentless obsessions couldn't fray on a regular basis. It was always hard for any of us to get Dad's full attention; but this attribute of his worked in his favor with Cathy. Living with Dad, Cathy had someone she could talk at for hours on end when the need arose (and when it did, she had to do that; she couldn't help it), and Dad could endure those verbal assaults by barely noticing or acknowledging them, by occasionally vaguely agreeing with whatever she said. ("Pop doesn't always listen to me," she would sometimes complain.) When you talked to Dad on the phone, asked how Cathy was doing, he would just laugh and say, "She's a character!" — the equivalent of calling Antarctica in mid-winter "a bit nippy".

But a couple of years ago, Dad wrapped his car around a tree and broke his pelvis in the accident. He was in his mid-80s at the time and, though the fracture healed, he hasn't walked since. We had to find an assisted care facility for him, which is where he now lives happily enough, less than two mile from our old home.

But this left Cathy alone.

My youngest sister lives in East Lansing, MI. Ultimately, she insisted Cathy be sent out there to live with her. This was very compassionate of Liz but, in retrospect, was probably a mistake. On paper, East Lansing should have worked out — Liz's home had a private area in the downstairs for Cathy and the town of Lansing is both cosmopolitan and quaint: MSU is there, which is where Liz teaches, so it is a college town with a lot of activities; but it is also a small town, easy to get around in, and pretty picturesque.

Lansing, however, is not Philadelphia. That's an obvious statement of fact but that fact meant a whole lot more to Cathy than it would to anyone else reading that sentence. For her, life in Lansing was an exile decree: She endured it but never lost sight of her long-range goal of returning to Philadelphia. This should have been foreseeable, and to a certain extent it was; but for what I'll just call "reasons of family politics", it was essentially ignored and Cathy was sent to Michigan. (My bother drove her out there. When he and I drove out to Michigan ourselves a week-and-a-half-ago, he said as we hit Ohio, "It was at this point when I was driving Cathy out here that she began asking every 10 minutes, 'Are we there yet? Are we there yet?'" "So you're saying I'm a better travel companion than Cathy?" I asked. "Slightly," he said.)

And to be honest — Cathy living on her own in Philadelphia? This, too, was not a very realistic scenario unless some arrangements could be made. Arrangements that Cathy probably never would have acceded to. But it was never tried.

So Cathy lived in Michigan for two years under circumstances that became increasingly untenable for her and for my youngest sister Liz and for Liz's six-year-old son Colin. I am skipping over a lot of family politics and grief and discussion and, of course, a period of Typical Irish Family Shunning, here. But for the last six or so months, when Cathy would call us, she would talk about two things: the Michigan winter weather, which frightened her (she had slipped a few times on ice); and her determination to come back to Philadelphia and live on her own. She was unrealistically optimistic about the latter topic because, again, she did not view herself as others did.

The opportunity to come back to Philadelphia never came to pass because two weeks ago, Cathy slipped going down the stairs inside Liz's house and fell and broke three vertebrae in her neck. She lay there, conscious but unable to move, until one of Liz's friends who had a key to the house happened by. She alternately pleaded for help and said, "I don't want to be a burden."

The original prognosis was good, or so it seemed. But it turned out that whoever it was in the trauma ward who had told my sister Liz that the doctors, after emergency surgery, "expected a full recovery", simply didn't know what he was talking about. And when it became evident how dire the situation was — Liz was calling us and outright claiming that Cathy was not going to survive — my brother and I decided to drive out there and see what the situation was for ourselves. We didn't want the burden of making a life-or-death decision to be put on Liz alone.

When we got there, we quickly saw that the situation was, indeed, as bad as Liz had said. In 1992, my sister Laura, who was a year younger than Cathy, was in a car accident. Because extraordinary measures were mistakenly taken to keep her alive, she did not die until six years later — those six years being spent in a persistently vegetative state with no chance of recovery. She wasted away and finally died of pneumonia in 1998. From that time on, all of the rest of us had DNRs written up and we made it clear that we did not want extraordinary measures taken to keep us alive in the event of a catastrophe such as Laura's.

Cathy's catastrophe was remarkably similar to Laura's, with the unspeakably cruel difference that Cathy, though doped up on drugs for the pain, was fully aware of her situation. Her eyes, when we saw her, were a mixture of confusion and utter terror. I lasted less than three minutes with her in her hospital room before I had to run out into the hall where I had a total emotional breakdown. When I had composed myself sufficiently to return, I lasted less than a minute before having to scurry out of the room again.

There was no hope. It was like what had happened to Laura all over again.

We arranged to have Cathy transferred to an extremely beautiful hospice in Lansing. They would manage her pain but take no extraordinary measures to intervene once the inevitable occurred. Cathy looked more comfortable in her hospice room (a private room, called "Walnut", because the rooms in the hospice were named for trees rather than given sterile numbers); it's possible this was merely because they were giving her more pain medication. I don't know. I know I was able to stay in the room this time. I didn't think I was seeing that look of terror in Cathy's eyes anymore.

Cathy died at Noon last Friday.

I mentioned above that I feel guilt about all of this for a number of reasons. I can't mention them all (I think you can imagine many of them) but I feel compelled to mention just this one:

We have not told my Dad that he has lost a fourth child. And we have no intention of telling him.

My Dad's short-term memory is essentially gone. Last Sunday, for example, Ian, Teh 'Bride and I went to visit him; we left after about 45 minutes. Less than two hours later, my brother came for a visit and, having noticed that I had signed in a few hours previously, asked dad, when he saw him, "Anyone been to visit you lately, Dad?" To which my Dad answered, "No, not lately." When asked if anyone had called him, he answered: "Yes, Cathy."

Dad gives you the answer he thinks you expect. It would be common, normal, for Cathy to have called and so when asked if she had, he said "Yes" because he couldn't remember. Perhaps he actually thinks she did.

To tell any father that he has lost yet another child, a fourth child, just seems to me to be cruel beyond words. I can barely think about it without giving in to a feeling of profound despair. But if we told my Dad about Cathy's death, he would grieve as he has for the death of my brother Frank, as he has for the deaths of my sisters Virginia and Laura — it would be an ineffable grief, an inexpressible sorrow compounded and intensified by the griefs that preceded it. And the next time we visited him, he would ask about Cathy and have to be told about her death again. And again. And again. Each time, it would be new to him, he would experience the loss all over again.

We simply could not do that to him.

I feel enormous guilt over this because Cathy was his eldest child and he felt especially protective of her because of her afflictions; and of course I feel he has a right to know what happened to his own child.

But he also has a right not to be tormented on a daily basis for the rest of however many days or years he has left on this earth. And the desire to spare this man who has experienced more emotional pain than any other person I know or can even think of — the desire to spare him this additional emotional suffering overrode, we reckoned, his right to know what happened.

We simply couldn't do that to him.

Cathy's musical tastes were very eclectic. I'm not sure if she had an especial liking for Carly Simon, though I know Cathy liked her. So I can't say the choice of song below is because it's what Cathy would have chosen. Rather, it's for me.

I don't especially like Carly Simon either, and I assume this song ended up on my iPod because Teh 'Bride downloaded it; I know I didn't. But for whatever reason, it came on during my run this morning. And as I listened to it, I thought about Cathy and my eyes welled with tears and a lump appeared in my throat that no amount of concentrated swallowing could make go away; and I of course indulged these feelings by listening to the song over and over again because there is something about Carly Simon's typically slightly off-key singing that makes the song seem more poignant and sad and painful. And even though none of us has time for the pain, pain won't be reasoned with and it will find you and demand your attention and force you to make time for it. And you should.