Thursday, March 31, 2011

March Numbers; You Want A Percentage But I'm The Fool Payin' The Dues

The Numbers:

Having run a mere 90 miles in January and then again a mere 90 in February, I was in a 20-mile deficit right from the jump in my quest to run 1200 miles for the year, which I may have mentioned once or twice is a major goal of mine for this year.

I didn't set out trying to make up that deficit in one month, but for me, March came in like a lion and stayed a lion the whole time; but running-wise? I fucked March a felt gnome (in the good sense).

Because I made up that deficit and then some this month.

Today's run: 6.33 miles in 55:45 for an 8:48 pace and a 6.8 mph average. I have a 5k race in two days and it was just nice to see managing a sub-9-minute pace for more than 3 miles had not devolved into a mere theoretical possibility for me. I could still actually do it. I guess running a sub-9 six miles is like fucking a felt gnome: You never really forget how. (Though some of you probably wonder: Why?)

Running: 122.55 miles
Biking: 108.7
Walking: 47.66
Total: 279.91 

[Bolded numbers adjusted 4/1 because I was able to get my lunchtime walk in yesterday because it wasn't raining so bad]

I was never that big a Fleetwood Mac fan, possibly because, growing up as I did in the 1970s, it was pert-near impossible to escape Rumours, which got played into the ground, especially the Stevie Nicks songs; and I never particularly liked her songs or her voice.

I always liked Lindsey Buckingham's songs, though; but even more than his songs, I liked his style(s) of guitar-playing. I happen to think he's one of the most under-rated guitarists in rock. No one seems to notice his stellar playing, though, even though he is an excellent player in quite a few different styles. (He did not make the Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists, for example.)

"Hold Me" is not a Buckingham song, but I've been fascinated by one of the guitar parts on it for quite some time, possibly because, musical fucktard that I am, it took me quite some time to realize it was a guitar part:

It's a good song, with evocative lyrics; it's a Christine McVie song, which I did not know till I looked it up today; there are multiple voices on it and, to my ear, Buckingham's is the most prominent and I therefore assumed it was his song.

But even though Buckingham didn't write it or sing lead on it, to me, it still is his song because of that guitar part. You don't hear it right away; this being a C. McVie song, the  first instrument you hear is her piano. The guitar part I'm referring to comes in (or first becomes audible) at the 40 second mark of the video above. It consists of a kinda "tock-tock-tock" sound; I guess I always knew it was there, but until relatively recently, it never occurred to me to try to figure out what instrument was making that sound. I guess I had always assumed it was some light percussion instrument, like a block or something.

But after I keyed on it for some reason or other (possibly because it was more noticeable when heard with earbuds directly in my ears), it finally dawned on me that this was a guitar, one of the many guitar parts in the song (there's also an acoustic guitar being played, which is prominently isolated for a few strums at the 2:12 mark; and at least two more conventional-sounding electric guitar parts). Evidently, throughout just about the whole song, Buckingham is producing this tocky-y rhythmic sound by (this is pure speculation on my part) finger-picking harmonics and intentionally deadening the sound. You can still hear that they are distinct notes, but they don't sound like they're being played on a guitar; at first blush, they don't even sound like notes, at least not to my naive ear.

This makes for a pretty unique sound, though it is far from prominent in the song; it's just one of many guitar things going on. And in fact, the only reason I was able to figure out that this is what LB was doing was because, just after the musical break, at roughly the 2:38 mark, the tock-y guitar part comes back in; at the 2:50 mark you can hear a few unmistakably "guitar-y" notes escaping for the tock-y guitar; and then at the 2:57 mark Buckingham segues straight from the "tocks" to a distinctly guitar-y wail, giving up on the "tocks" for the remainder of the song.

I play the guitar, but incompetently. I have no idea how hard that style of playing is (I know it is faaaaaaarrrr beyond my capabilities), but I find it to be inventive and entrancing and, now that I have noticed it, it is always the thing I notice  most about "Hold Me" and, hence, why I consider it a Lindsey Buckingham song.

It is far from the only Fleetwood Mac song that I think is made notable, if not outright spectacular, by the deft guitar work of Lindsey Buckingham.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dudes! You Must All Learn That Gnome Means Noam

I just got my replacement Popener in the mail from Xenia and, at the risk of sounding like an ingrate, the first thing I noticed when I opened the package — and I noticed it with some dismay and chagrin — was that the Popener was accompanied by what Xenia herself called a "felt Gnome" (see picture):
I immediately recognized the implied insult in this addition: Xenia was insinuating that I was some sort of Depraved Gnome-osexual.
 Passive-aggressive note that accompanied the Popener and Gnome. If you read between the lines, you'll notice the Gnome-ophobic slurs and you'll also see where X implies I'm worse than Hitler. Sure, X! Call me HITLER then end with a smiley face — LIKE THAT MAKES IT ALL BETTER!1!

Well the joke's on Xenia because since the package arrived? I've fucked that Gnome seven ways from Sunday. And if it wasn't felt before, believe me, it's been felt now because I was ALL hands1! AND IT LOVED EVERY MINUTE2 OF IT!1!

The lesson here is if you're going to call me a Gnome-osexual, get it right: I'm actually a Noamosexual because I lurves me the political writings of famous American Dissident Noam "Cunning Linguist" Chomsky.

In any case, this is about as close as I'll ever get to saying "Thanks", Xenia, so just take what you can get. (That gnome sure did! And THEN SOME!1!)3

Just mapped out a 6.2-mile run, which I hope to start in about a half-hour.

UPDATE 6:30 a.m.: Ran 6.45 miles in an hour for a 9:18 pace.

1 "Hands" here being, of course, code for "penis".

2 Full Disclosure: I rarely last a full minute.

3 On the anticipated objectionss from some quarters that perhaps my disquisition on gnome-fucking goes just a bit too far, is a little beyond the pale:

I just last night started reading Shxpr's Two Noble Kinsmen (the last of the canonical plays that I have not yet read) and these here are the honest-to-Jebus first lines:
New Playes, and Maydenheads, are neare a kin,
Much follow'd both, for both much mony g'yn, [...]
New plays are like a virgin's cherry, quoth the fucking Bard!

I think my tales of gnome-fucking are restrained in comparison.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Harlot Farmers

Today is not my usual day to do QandA but I was covering for a colleague from 9 to 10 and fielded six questions (I could easily have had more because it was busy). Among the six was this here one, which, the more I think about it, has got to be my all-time favorite:


Yeah, the patron was YELLING at me the whole time, which is always fun.

But after first noticing that the patron was a Capital Letter-Lovin' anti-j'og, I then noticed that, thanks to all the misspellings, I couldn't at first tell what the patron was actually asking. I finally decided she meant "What horse farm", not "What whore's farm" - though I guess it's not impossible that Snooki or Paris Hilton or Teh Merry's Bike might own a farm and might have named it after a baking powder company.

But that was unlikely.

So I went on the assumption that "horse farm" is what was intended.

So I responded: "Hi, [patron]! Hold on while I see what I can find."

Turns out this shouted question was pretty easy to find the answer to. But while I was searching, the impatient patron writes, yet again: "WHAT HORES FARM WAS NAMED FOR A BAKING POWERD BUNIESS" - evidently still on the lookout for new and better ways to yell misspellings at me.

There was really no need to yell, because I had already found, and was just about to push to the patron, this page. [The Q&A software pushes the actual PAGE to the patron when you send her the URL. So she had this Wikipedia page to look at, the VERY FIRST PARAGRAPH (pardon my yelling) of which is: "Calumet Farm is a 762 acre (3.1 km) Thoroughbred breeding and training farm established in 1924 in Lexington, Kentucky, United States by William Monroe Wright, founding owner of the Calumet Baking Powder Company."]

So I politely ask (as I always do): "Do you see the page I just sent you?" and "I believe it contains the answer to your question." [Okay. This may seem a dickishly roundabout way to provide an answer to a question, but, as a reference librarian, I am obliged to provide a source for my answers, no matter how ridiculously simple the question might be.]

No response from YELLY PANTS.

So I ask: "Do you have all the information that you need?"

At which point the patron screams at me: "WHAT IS THE AWENSWER"

To which yelp I respond with the following quote from the Wiki page: "'Calumet Farm is a 762 acre (3.1 km) Thoroughbred breeding and training farm established in 1924 in Lexington, Kentucky, United States by William Monroe Wright, founding owner of the Calumet Baking Powder Company.'"

So now I have, I think, successfully pre-chewed this morsel and spit it directly into ANGRY YELLY BIRD's mouth.

And I ask: "Do you have all the information that you need?"

Response: "NO"

Me: "Okay. What else can I do for you?"

No response for over 5 minutes.

At which point I send the following (canned) script: "We have some other people waiting for help, so I'll need to log off now. If you need further help, please feel free to log in again. It's been a pleasure serving you at"

And I gracefully exit the session.

And when I go out to see if any other questions are waiting in the queue, what do I see but this:

*Sigh* At least she learned how to spell "BUSINESS".

Laud We Teh Gods (Goo Goo G'Joob)

Last night, I finally — finally — finished Cymbeline. The fact that it took me so long should in no way be taken as a reflection on the play itself which, though far from great, is okay; it's really more a reflection of my own sloth and lack of focus of late. Rather than bore you with details about that, instead I'll bore you with details about the play because when it comes to boring you? I am far from a one-trick pony1.


Unless you're a total fucktard, you already know that at the end of Teh Beatles' "I Am Teh Walrus", you can hear certain lines from Shxpr's King Lear2, specifically these here:
Slave, thou hast slain me: villain, take my purse:
If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body;
And give the letters which thou find'st about me
To Edmund earl of Gloucester; seek him out
Upon the British party: O, untimely death!


I know thee well: a serviceable villain;
As duteous to the vices of thy mistress
As badness would desire.

What, is he dead?

Sit you down, father; rest you
This is from Act IV, Scene vi of Lear and is the scene in which the disguised Edgar kills Oswald in a sword fight. Edgar identifies Oswald, who is Goneril's manservant, as "a serviceable villain;/ As duteous to the vices of thy mistress/ As badness would desire"; this is an important theme in Lear: The role of servants and the issue of when it is a good servant's duty to defy the wishes of his master (or mistress) because he (or she) has gone astray. As Edgar notes, Oswald, in this sense, is a bad servant, because, though "duteous", he is so in service to Goneril's vices, which, if you've read the play, are legion. (There's a reason her name sounds like an STD. So maybe her vices are also lesion. HAR!1!)

This same theme is developed in Cymbeline and, just as in Lear, the question of what the bond between servant and master should be is extended to other bonds as well, especially the nature of the bond between parent and child. King Cymbeline takes a hardline approach toward his daughter Imogen when she defies him by marrying a man below her station; he exiles her husband Leonatus Posthumous, just as Lear exiles Cordelia when she refuses to play along with Lear's public tell-me-how-much-you-love-me game. What binds one person to another just in general is a major theme of both plays.

Lear, of course, does a far better and more thorough job of exploring this theme. But Cymbeline does a pretty creditable job. When the exiled Posthumous sends a letter ordering his servant Pisanio to murder his wife Imogen (Posthumous has been tricked into thinking she has cuckolded him), Pisanio, upon reading the letter, soliloquizes:
How? of adultery? Wherefore write you not
What monster's her accuser? Leonatus,
O master! what a strange infection
Is fall'n into thy ear! What false Italian,
As poisonous-tongued as handed, hath prevail'd
On thy too ready hearing? Disloyal! No:
She's punish'd for her truth, and undergoes,
More goddess-like than wife-like, such assaults
As would take in some virtue. O my master!
Thy mind to her is now as low as were
Thy fortunes. How! that I should murder her?
Upon the love and truth and vows which I
Have made to thy command? I, her? her blood?
If it be so to do good service, never
Let me be counted serviceable. How look I,
That I should seem to lack humanity
so much as this fact comes to? [emphasis added]
If doing this bidding of yours makes me a good servant, Pisanio thinks, then never call me serviceable. Cf. Lear's Oswald who is "as serviceable to [his] mistress as badness would desire". Pisanio is more like Lear's Kent, who, when banished by Lear for daring to defy Lear when his wrath causes him to act rashly, disguises himself and comes back to serve Lear and keep an eye on him.

This theme of what constitutes Proper Bonds is pretty overtly developed throughout the play, so I won't belabor it any further. Instead I will note that Cymbeline is now classified as a Romance whereas Lear is, obviously, a tragedy. Of course Shakespeare himself did not so classify it and Cymbeline was, in the First Folio of 1623, itself classified as a tragedy. It's not ... unless you have a really broad definition of "tragedy"; the play's a little too dark to be considered a comedy, though. (One of the characters is decapitated and both his bodiless head and headless body are brought on stage — kinda hard to laugh off; but the guy, Cloten, was a real dick so it's really not that disturbing.) Cymbeline is a prime example of why latter-day scholars came up with this fourth Shakespearean play-type, "Romance" (the First Folio acknowledges only "Comedies, Histories & Tragedies").

Thus, Cymbeline can be forgiven, to an extent, for not being as effective as Lear because the latter is a genuine tragedy. But I think Cymbeline is actually not even as effective as a romance as Pericles, even though Pericles is a far more problematic play textually than Cymbeline. Pericles has just a ton of corrupt passages and parts of it were probably not written by Shakespeare, or, if they were, they were written on a day he was feeling particularly uninspired. Yet despite Pericles' not-quite-finished feel, its resolution is far more affecting than Cymbeline's, particularly the scene in which Pericles is reunited with his long-lost daughter, Marina — a scene that brought a tear to my eye.

In Cymbeline, Posthumous and Imogen are re-united, as are Cymbeline and Imogen and a few others ... let's just say there are reunitings in overplus in the last scene of Cymbeline, but none is as powerful as the Pericles-Marina scene in Pericles. Cymbeline, Imogen and Posthumous are just far harder to care about than Marina and Pericles, but, despite that, the reunitings in the last scene of Cymbeline are handled a lot better and more affectingly than I had anticipated. For which,
Laud we the gods;
And let our crooked smokes climb to their nostrils
From our blest altars.
Goo Goo G'Joob.

1 Not that I've ever turned a trick with a pony. In fact, I changed my college major from Animal Husbandry to English when I found out that I had fundamentally misunderstood what "animal husbandry" entailed, which, take my word for it, isn't that interesting or, let's just say ... "hands-on". Bummer. (<-- Totally stole this joke from Tom Lehrer. I'm pretty sure I've used it before, too.)

2 I am totally fucking with your brainpan! Because even though I think I've mentioned this "IAtW" weirdness on this here very blog before, you wouldn't have remembered it or cared about it unless you, like me, were a total Beatles Geek.

In any case, "IAtW" is a weird enough song on its own, but among its more obscure weirdnesses (an example of a less obscure one being the lyrics, which, though themselves obscure in meaning, are at least easily discernible) is the fact that John had a radio on while they were recording it and the radio was playing a BBC version of King Lear. At the 3:57 mark of the video I link to above, you can clearly hear, in the background (as long as you know its there), Oswald saying "Villain, take my purse ..." and then the rest is pretty clear too, when you know what they're saying.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Did Not Run Today

... though I did do some yoga, exercise and p*$$y-@$$ recumbent biking. So, you know, there's that.

The not-running today means I probably won't hit 120 miles this month, which, had I done so, would have put me at 300 for the year and thus back on pace to do 1200 by year's end. But that's okay. Unless this crappy weather continues, I should be able to make up some of that 20 mile deficit this month and as the Spring and Summer months roll in, I can chip away at it slowly, slowly, which is also how I run.

Coming up in just over a week: My first race since the Turkey Trot — a 5k along the Delaware River. I can't believe I went over 4 months without having a race, but I did. Upon further investigation, it appears I do this race-hibernation every year, so not racing after the Trot till April would seem to be status quo. At the end of April? A 15k race.

Other News

For those of you who don't read my tweets, the H'berg family just got an iPad and WiFi. This was Teh 'Bride's idea and project so it happened quickly; whereas when I wanted to upgrade from 56k dial-up to broadband a year or two ago, I had to go on a pilgrimage and slay a dragon first1. In any case, she ansd Ian spent most of yesterday downloading apps, one of which was for me — the compleat works of one Wm Shxpr. So last night I was reading the 5th act of Cymbeline — which is the play I'm on now (and when I finish it, there will be only one more that I haven't read, viz., Two Noble Kinsmen, which will be next) — in bed on the iPad and thus for the first time was not in danger  of being crushed to death by Teh Riverside Shxpr, which weighs roughly infinity.

So ... win-win, right?

Wrong. Because the WiFi signal reaces up there to the bedroom all the way from the basement (as it ought to) and so after reading like ONE scene of Cymbeline, I was, of course, tweeting2, watching Funny or Die videos, and just generally fucking off on the Interwebs.

At this rate, I may never get to Two Noble Kinsmen.

Those of you who have noticed that I haven't posted anything on Shxpr in awhile and wish I would — or as I like to call you collectively, "Teh Null Set" —should take comfort (or more likely "take to the hills") because I will be writing something about Cymbeline pretty soon.

That's a threat. And I always follow through on my threats.

1 I may have accidentally gone on a dragonage1a and slain a Pilgrim instead, but it's all good. Fucking Pilgrim has it coming, always strutting around with that cool hat with the buckle on it!1!

1a Word o' teh Day: "Dragonage": A pilgrimage in drag; usually undertaken by acolytes of Teh Church of Teh Poison Mind, whose High Priestesses are Boy George and RBR, whom you never see in the same room at the same time NOT because they are one and the same person but rather because they share the same wardrobe:

2 This here, by the way, is what it was so important for me to tweet last night:

"Tweet from bed, b*tches!! With wifi!1!1"

See what you're missing, non-followers?

Monday, March 21, 2011


Or, as some would call them, Updates:

Look, I'm not saying this makes me the most pathetic person in Teh Blogosphere (because as far as I know, Teh Peachy Escargot still lives and blogs), but it does put me right up there and calm down I'm getting to what exactly the "it" I'm referring to is. Geez, chill already!

You'll recall that I won a Popener from a certain pneumatic, hoity-toity, arugala-eating, so-far-over-on-teh-East-Coast-she's-in-England, egghead-intellectual blogger who shall remain nameless but her name rhymes with "Wienier"1 (which is what you call someone who's an even bigger wiener than someone else). Then it broke. Obsessive chronicler of the meaningless minutia of my own life that I be, I blogged about both of these occurrences; viz. Teh Winning and Teh Breaking of Teh Popener.

Well, allegedly I'm getting a new Popener, which is "in the mail", but until it comes2, this is what I've been opening my beers with:

Yeah, that's a fake-donut-with-sprinkles-on-it bottle opener, which I believe is a Simpsons Movie tchotchke that I picked up somewhere or other. It is virtually unbreakable, but not what you'd call very functional. I mean, if you expend sufficient energy, you can get it to open a beer bottle despite the fact that the donut part gets in the way of the opener part — but it ain't easy. That's why it'll never be Pope, although I'm pretty sure Scientologists would be willing to worship it. (KERTWANG!1! to all you Scientologists who read this blog!1! Hahahahaha! Your Messiah is short and hasn't made a decent movie since Rainman!1!)

The next update is baseball-related:

Ian got a new batting helmet but hasn't quite figgered out how to wear it, yet:
He's taller and more animate than a donut-shaped bottle opener so Scientologists would probably not worship him, but they might beatify the helmet since I think it might help defeat bad engrams.

Managed to run 16 miles over the weekend, which is putting me in a good position to recoup the 20 miles total I fell behind in my pursuit of a 1200-mile year; I ran a mere 90 miles each in January and February; but March could be a 120-mile month. Then if I could just manage to run consistent 100-mile months for the rest of the year ...

Hahahahahaha! Like that'll happen!

1 I am, of course, assuming here that you have one of those thick Boston accents that puts R's where they don't belong, which accents, by the way, are even wienier than NYC accents, if not whinier. Because if you're from Boston, you probably pronounce "Xenia" "Xeniar", not that that's whom I'm talking about, you stupid fucking Massachusetts Mick.

2 But Popeners have, unfortunately, taken a solemn vow not to, though there's no real reason for that.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Chase Utley Lives!

A couple of posts ago1, I told you about the fact that Ian's room was in the process (since finished) of being painted; and that the painter — Teh Fantastic Mr. Fox — was going to paint a big Phillies "P" on the wall.

Well, we jettisoned the latter plan because we found some Fathead wall stickers online, and when Ian saw he could get a half-size Chase Utley wall sticker, all bets were off:

This here is the Phillies Logo that was included with the Chase Utley Sticker ...
... and this here is the Chase Utley sticker itself. It was difficult getting this pic because Ian decided he wanted the sticker on the pented wall in his room and so I had to lie on my back on the floor to get this pic because if I shot it straight on from a standing position, Chase looked like this:
 ... i.e., kinda like a midget little person, with short, stumpy legs, which, if he were a midget little person in real life, he'd be Teh 'Bride's favorite player, what with her freakish obsession with little people and all ... This angle also kinda makes him look like Stretch Armstrong:
Anyroad, Chase is Ian's favorite player, and even though Chase is injured and we have no idea when (or if) he'll be back this season, all you Utley Phans out there can take comfort in knowing Chase Lives on Ian's bedroom wall.

Yesterday, Ian and I played ball for about 45 minutes before dinner; per the usual agreement, on his last hit, I had to chase the ball down and race him to home plate, he trying to score, I trying to get him out before he gets to the plate. Of course, he gave the last pitch a ride into deep right (he's been taking me long a lot of late), and I was like, "Really?" And I was determined to get him out for making me have to run so far. And so when I get the ball, he's already rounded second and I'm screaming, "YOU'RE A DEAD MAN!1!" and he's giggling as he runs and is almost out of breath and then it's a footrace to the plate and he just beats me there and a couple people in the park were watching us and they cheered as Ian crossed the plate safely, out of breath from running and laughing.

I'll get him next time.

1 No, I'm not going to conveniently link back to the post referred to because even if I did, none of you would click that link. I used to be okay with that, but now? I think you people are just fucking arbitrary. No, hear me out on this — if, at the end of this anti-you diatribe, you don't agree with me that you are totally lame and owe me an apology, I hereby grant you leave to stop reading this here post and go on about your business, guilt-free1a.

So okay, here's the thing: When I link back to one of my own older posts, you never click that link. I know because I look at my stats and I can tell. The only older posts of mine that people ever look at are the one I did called R2C2 (4 Phillies Phans Only), which I never link to (it's just various pix of the Phils' four starting aces, Roy, Roy, Cole and Cliff (hence, R2C2)), and, for some reason, a post I did on the Fairport Convention song "Tam Lin" (search phrases including the word "kirtle green" continue to show up in my stats on a regular basis and I am forced to conclude that there is a small, but persistent and die-hard, group of Lovers of Teh Legend of "Tam Lin" out there, which who knew?). Okay? I appreciate the visits of these foax who never leave comments (selfish bastards!) but those people come here independent of any promotion on my part. Those people are are not you who are reading this now; they find me, take what they want from me, then just dump me, leaving me feeling like a total whoo-wer1b.

But okay, so you don't follow my self-promoting, borderline masturbatory links. Fine.


Except that like yesterday, a Random Tranny links to one of my older posts in one of her posts and then that post of mine gets more hits in 10 hours than the rest of my blog posts combined!1! According to Blogger, I have 19 "Followers"1c (most of whom I suspect "follow" me in about the same way that Charlie Sheen is "winning!"); but RBR? She has fucking minions. People who do her bidding! People whom she can bend to her will!1! Look, look, it's not that I'm jealous or envious or want to beat her @$$ for being a successful cult leader or find out what brand of TigerBlood she drinks1d; and I know this makes me sound like an ingrate, but that's just because I'm winning! and you're not. But geez, people. What do I gotta do? And don't say fewer footnotes cos — Pfffttt! — we all know that ain't happening.

In conclusion: Winning!1!

1a (Offer not valid if you're Catholic because even I don't have that kind of juice.)

1b It's a good feeling.

1c The really funny part? It took me all this time to get nineteen people who were willing to "follow" my blog? But now that I've been on Teh Tweeter for a week? I was up to 19 followers in like three days!1! Of course, I'm down to 17 now, having lost two for some reason or other; and of the 17, quite a few are, frankly, trolls, like Ariel Vanean, whose tweets consist of observations such as: "amazingly Ariel Vanean is the most favorite belami boy that you need to see naked #belami" and "Photo: Justin sucking on Dolphs big fat uncut cock! #hotboys #bigdicks #uncut #jocks #BelAmi" which latter included an URL which I suspects leads to a photo depicting what the tweet advertises but I wouldn't know because no I didn't follow it because even though Ariel Vanean follows me, I have not returned the favor because I really don't need photos of big fat uncut cocks being sucked. Also? I suspect, though I can't prove it, that somehow it's Teh Peachy Escargot's fault that Ariel Vanean follows me. It is completely within the realm of possibility that AV is Teh Escargot's alterego, totally fabricated by him just to see if he could get me to click a link that will allegedly lead to sucking yada and uncut blah, etc., etc. But the only way I could prove this theory is to click the link, which I refuse to do. So in the absence of proof, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that Ariel IS Teh 'Escargot.

I sure hope Ariel doesn't stop following me because so far? He's the hawtest of all my followers; and also I'd then be down to 16 followers. And if I keep hemorrhaging followers like this I'll lose my corporate sponsorship.

1d Full Disclosure: That's a total lie. I am, and want to do, all those things. And that alone I think should qualify me to be a cult leader. Which brings me back to my main point: What the fuck is it with you people that I am not? I'm doing my part — drinking tigerblood daily and winning! It gives me the strength of Two and a Half Men!1! What are you doing to help my cult?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hanq Cinq

I've mentioned before that Hal from the Henry IV plays is one of my favorite Shakespeare characters, possibly because he, like me, was a bit of a late bloomer; now, I won't say I went on, after sucking in early life, to win a battle for my country that is the equivalent of Hal's Victory at Agincourt (French for "Court of Teh [v]Agin[a]"), but I did run an extra 1/100th of a mile in my 6.91-mile run this morning so FUCK YOU, PEACHY ESCARGOT, JUST FUCK YOU!1!!1!1

As I wrote when I discussed the Henry IV plays, they are about Hal's coming of age, about his giving up of the selfish and hedonistic ways of his youth to become a man worthy of a kingdom. In 1HIV, he proves himself in battle against his counterpart, Hotspur; in 2HIV, he rejects Falstaff (and the sybaritic lifestyle he represents) entirely and, rather than take revenge upon the Chief Justice who had had him jailed for his youthful transgressions, Hal praises him for his impartiality and adherence to the rule of law as it pertains to all, both high and low.

Henry V is about Hal becoming the warrior king he had always had the potential to become. There is little humor in Henry V — Falstaff dies in it, but the death happens offstage and is merely reported and not dwelt upon. Henry V, while not entirely bereft of humor, is a far more serious drama because the stakes are much higher and the odds that need to be overcome are much greater. Some of Shakespeare's most rousing speeches are in this play, not the least of which is Henry's own St. Crispin's Day speech, in which he convinces his men that they should embrace the fact that they will face overwhelming odds at Agincourt come dawn because the glory of victory will be all the greater. That's a tough sell. Henry's men buy it, but, more important, so will you, the reader (or, if you're lucky enough to see a performance, you, the audience).

After reading the play then going back to read The Riverside Shakespeare's introduction to the play, I was taken aback by the fact that Herschel Baker, the introduction's author, opted to dwell on past "critical dissatisfaction" with the play. Hazlitt, Johnson and a few others take turns taking a dump on Henry V, mostly because of the character of Henry V. They are especially harsh regarding the play's ending. At the end of the play, when Henry woos the King of France's daughter (who speaks little English2), it certainly strains credulity, but I think a case could be made that Shakespeare hits the exact right note with the air of awkwardness and unbelievability of that scene. Henry, after all, is wooing the daughter of the French King, whose county He has just basically taken over; and the marriage (the actual, historical one) was more a Realpolitik consolidation-of-interests deal than a Love Match; yet Shakespeare attempts to sell it as a love match nonetheless, but doesn't sell it very well — intentionally? Who knows? Still, to my mind, the scene has a certain charm to it, and I caught how Branagh and Thompson did it and it is, in its way, touching, as Henry tries to win a heart without having command of the typical lover's words. Katherine does not speak the English language; Henry does not speak the language of love. Until he does.

That, I think, is the point of this scene, not its weakness.

1 He knows what he did!1!!1! As for the undoubtedly confused rest of you, let me put it this way: Tweets can HURT, you know!1! So don't be a hatah and a character Tweetsasinator.

2 One of the few humorous interludes in the play is the scene in which Katherine attempts to learn English from her attendant, Alice, but is embarrassed when the English she speaks ends up sounding like a French vulgarity. I'd tell you what, but I don't use vulgarities on this blog, especially not bilingual punning vulgarities.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Broken Popener; Or, EFFIN XENIA!1!

Yeah, EFFIN1 XENIA!1! Last night? In celebration of Ian's Gotcha Day? I go to open a bottle of ESB I brewed — which had been conditioning for only 5 days, really too early to drink by at least a week, but I wanted to see how it turned out — with Teh Effin Popener that Effin Xenia gave me and guess what?

Here's what:

I debated internally going with writing 1000 words about what happened to Teh Popener, but in the end, I decided, No — go with the picture. See? Twittering has made me far more concise! That there above, for those of you who aren't Catholic, is a Broken Popener.

I spent the rest of the evening burning everything in the house that I could think of that might generate White Smoke in hopes that the smoke would be copious enough to reach Jolly Ol'2, where currently-blogospherically-sabbaticalling Xenia resides, and thus inform her that Teh Old Popener Was Dead And We Needed A New One, but it didn't Effin Work!1! Also? It may have been a tactical mistake because our house doesn't have a fireplace3.

I Effin Forgive Effin Xenia, though. Not because Teh P'ener was a crappy tchotchke4 to begin with and was living on borrowed time right from the moment it popped its first cap off a bottle o' beer ... no, that's not why. I forgive her because, as I said right in this here post, the whole POINT of the Popener is NOT to have one so you can complain about how you don't have one and how everyone else who has one is less worthy of it than you!1!! And now, THANKS TO EFFIN XENIA, I don't have one DESPITE my worthiness!1! Why does she hate and mistreat me so? What did I ever EFFIN DO TO HER?!1??

This here, below, will give you an idea of the color Ian's bedroom walls now are:

That's a robot with spiky hair and freckles that Ian painted on the wall, which has since been painted over. The original version of the robot also had a penis and n*ts@ck, but Teh 'Bride, who is evidently a prude, made Ian go back up to it with a paint brush and neuter it. After which, it sorta looked like this for awhile.

But it got better5.

1 Fucking lucky for Fucking Xenia that I fucking gave up cursing, especially the "F"-Word, for Fucking Lent1a!

1a I did, of course, negotiate a Footnotal Exemption on This Lenten Prohibition of Teh Word "Fuck". Teh 'Dad, you see, was Jesuit-trained and I learned the Society of Jebus Tergiversational skills at his knee.

2 I.e., England.

3 But it will when we get the insurance money and start rebuilding.

4 Spellcheck didn't know the word "tchotchke" and tried to convince me that the word I wanted was "crotchless".  Fucking Xenia, don't you DARE send me a crotchless Popener as a replacement, you FUCKING HEATHEN!1!

5 On the off-chance that you read this post FUCKING XENIA, I want you to know I included that picture to show you there are no hard feelings because I know how much you like that picture.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gothcha Day

Eleven years ago on this very day, Teh 'Bride and I traveled to Newark Airport to pick up an Important Package — that package being our newly-adopted son, Ian. He was three-and-a-half months old at the time. He was flying in from Korea, escorted by a young Korean woman, many of whom, our adoption agency case worker had told us, were typically paid for their services with that very same free transportation to the US. The young woman barely spoke any English, but she was all smiles when she told us: "He poop three time!" (Whew! we thought. At least that part of him works1!)

I'd like to say that this represented the end of what was, at the time, a more-than-one-year-long process, but of course it didn't. There was still a lot of paperwork to do, finalizing the adoption, getting Ian full citizenship, etc. To expect it to be over after Ian's safe arrival would be the equivalent of a biological parent thinking Whew! Glad that's over! after she gave birth. It — no matter how you define the "it" of parenting — never ends. The adoption process just naturally segued into the parenting process, which latter goes on to this day; and for me will, God willing, continue until they carry my lifeless carcass out of this house in a plain pine box — something I hope will not happen for a long, long time.

 Incredibly crappy picture priceless picture of us with the judge who made Ian a naturalized citizen. [Caption amended per trailturtle.]

Ian's eleven years old now, which never fails to blow my mind when I stop to think about it, which I often do. He actually still likes it when we tell him about the funny little things he used to do as a baby, a toddler, a kid ... because he's accepted the fact that he is no longer a baby, a toddler, a kid — which is far more than I've allowed myself to do — and so those stories, for him, might just as well be about some other kid, not him; I, of course, will always see him as that baby, that toddler, that kid. While not losing sight of that former-Ian, I trust I am also accepting him as he is now, dealing with him on terms that are appropriate for an eleven-year-old boy. It's funny to remind him that he didn't learn the first-person singular personal pronoun until looong after he learned to speak and, hence, for the longest time would refer to himself as "Ian": "Ian hungry, Daddy"; or (my personal favorite, which I constantly tell him about) that time I didn't put enough chocolate syrup in his sippy cup of milk and he, after taking a sip, held it back up to me and said: "Ian no feel no choklit." I totally lost it laughing and squeezed about half a bottle more syrup into his cup as a reward for his being so unintentionally funny.

So I don't (can't) lose sight of those things, but I try to enjoy who he is now, too — which is easy enough to do. He's a great kid. At this moment, his room is being painted by our handyman guy — Teh Fantastic Mr. Fox — and Ian opted for a darkish blue color. That part is already done, but that doesn't matter: What matters is he got Mr. Fox to agree to try to paint a giant Phillies "P" on his wall. That still hasn't happened but, believe me, it will ... or heads will roll.

Ian got a little bit interested in the Phillies a couple of years ago; I myself, at the time, hadn't followed them in what must have been decades. I had other, more important things to do. Now, thanks to Ian, little else is as important as the Phillies! Because his interest in baseball has grown exponentially over the past two years. We've already got our tickets for three different games in this upcoming season, and in all likelihood we'll go to a few more. (We went to one game last year; I hadn't been to a game in I don't know how long. Possibly not since the late 1970s.) The Phillies got knocked out of the running in the National League Championship series last year, but, despite that, gave us an exciting season. Yes, I now care enough to want the Phillies to do well, which is a gift my son gave back to me — continues to give back to me.

It is an egregious and unforgivable cliché to claim baseball (or any sport) is a metaphor for something else; let that first half of this sentence serve as fair warning that Here Comes a Cliché2:

Back in August of 2010, Ian and I were watching the Phils play a game against the Dodgers on TV, a rare treat for us because we get NY stations where we live and thus never get to see the Phils unless they play the Yankees or the Mets or are on national TV. (We ordered the MLB package on DirecTV for this season.) Anyroad, it was a night game and it was getting late and since the Phillies were going to lose anyway — they were down by seven runs in the eighth — I sent Ian to bed, probably around 10:00 p.m., because I'm the Dad, the authority, and I can do that. "They lost," I said: "Bedtime."

Ian of course didn't want to go, and I could hear him there upstairs NOT going to bed; just rattling around. "What are you doing!" I demanded. "I hafta pee!" "AGAIN?!!?" "I HAFTA PEE!!!"

He was pulling out all the stops, but I'm the Dad — his superior, the voice of authority. "Get to BED!!!"

Then a funny thing happened. The Phils scored a few runs in the 8th, and Ian was still upstairs "peeing" or something  unrelated to going to sleep, so I, still not believing this was the beginning of a comeback, relented and said, "Okay, Ian, the Phils are at least making a game of it. Come on back down."

He was already at the top of the stairs, so he was down in a second.

"They're gonna lose, but they're making it interesting."

"They could come back," Ian said.

"Never happen. They're still down by three runs and it's the 9th. Never happen."

But it did. They won that game 10-9. (They did things like that a lot last year.)

And I realized the only reason it mean so much to me was that I was sharing that experience with my son — not as his superior, as his better, as his Dad, as The Authoritythat was the guy who'd sent him to bed — but rather as his peer, as just another guy who loved his home team. We were equals in this experience and I hoped in my heart of hearts that the comeback I didn't believe would happen would happen, but it would mean so much less to me if I didn't experience the win with the one person in the world I most wanted to share it with:

My son. My friend.

I guess it was then that I first consciously realized that our relationship had changed. I was still his Dad, but I was also his peer, because I had decided that we were also friends ... that I wanted to be his friend. And he was aching to be mine.

"See? SEE!?!" Ian excitedly screamed as the rest of the Phils mobbed Chooch after he got the game-winning hit: "You always say they can't come back! Then they do! I told you! I TOLD YOU!"

"You were right! When will I ever learn, Ian?"

I am lucky to have him to teach me.

1 Update: Still does.

2 Specifically: Baseball as metaphor for Male Bonding Experience.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Henry IV Part 2

For those of you who are like me — i.e., you hate rhetorical excess, unnecessary prolixity, and value, above all things else, concision and radical get-to-the-fucking-pointedness — you have the option of skipping this post altogether1 yet still getting a review of 2HIV by going to my Twitter feed, where, this very morning, before 5:00 a.m., I successfully summarized the essence of the play in 140 characters. Proving once and for all that Shaxberd was just one needlessly wordy fuck of a hack writer because — SPOILER ALERT!1!his version of 2HIV is waaay longer than 140 characters. Shakespeare could never have made a living in this day and age because he lacks pith. There! I said it! And I don't care how many people it pitheth off!1!

Anyoad, yeah. Here I am nearly finished Hank Cinq and I still haven't discussed 2 Henry IV. So I'll be brief. Prince Hal — whom I insist on calling "Prince Hal" even though he's just as often called "Harry" in the Henry IV plays — completes his journey to Noble Worthiness in this play by rejecting Falstaff at the end, though Falstaff, now that his drinking buddy Hal is king, refuses to believe it, insisting he'll have it made under the regime of Henry the (as Shakespeare often has it) "fift":
God save thy grace, King Hal! my royal Hal!

The heavens thee guard and keep, most royal imp of fame!

God save thee, my sweet boy!

My king! my Jove! I speak to thee, my heart!

I know thee not, old man: fall to thy prayers;
How ill white hairs become a fool and jester!
I have long dream'd of such a kind of man,
So surfeit-swell'd, so old and so profane;
But, being awaked, I do despise my dream.
Make less thy body hence, and more thy grace;
Leave gormandizing; know the grave doth gape
For thee thrice wider than for other men.
Reply not to me with a fool-born jest:
Presume not that I am the thing I was;
For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
That I have turn'd away my former self;
So will I those that kept me company.
When thou dost hear I am as I have been,
Approach me, and thou shalt be as thou wast,
The tutor and the feeder of my riots:
Till then, I banish thee, on pain of death,
As I have done the rest of my misleaders,
Not to come near our person by ten mile.
For competence of life I will allow you,
That lack of means enforce you not to evil:
And, as we hear you do reform yourselves,
We will, according to your strengths and qualities,
Give you advancement. Be it your charge, my lord,
To see perform'd the tenor of our word. Set on.

Exeunt KING HENRY V, & c


That can hardly be, Master Shallow. Do not you
grieve at this; I shall be sent for in private to
him: look you, he must seem thus to the world:
fear not your advancements; I will be the man yet
that shall make you great.
Falstaff thinks Hal's elevation is his dream come true, but King Henry V tells him that what came before was a dream (I have long dream'd of such a kind of man,/ So surfeit-swell'd, so old and so profane;/ But, being awaked, I do despise my dream). One of the perks of nobility, it seems, is that you get to be arbiter of what is a dream, what reality. (It is indeed good to be the king.)

All-in-all, 2HIV lacks the drama of 1HIV — Hal isn't in it much, and he and Falstaff are almost never together in it, which is a bit of a disappointment, but dramatically necessary, I guess, to show the distance that is growing between them. The play makes much of a threat of rebellion, but the threat is negotiated away by Prince John (Hal is not even involved), a negotiation that sees Prince J. turn on the rebels after agreeing to their demands, noting, essentially, that they never specifically negotiated that they be given immunity. So he has them arrested and killed ... after they dismiss their armies. (In many Shakespeare plays — be they tragedy, comedy, history or romance — you will encounter this kind of language manipulation, where the letter of an agreement is adhered to but the spirit of it is violated as blithely as when King Louis sneaks up on Marie Antoinette in her garden, raises her skirt, and starts thrusting away.)

Other highlights of the play: The Father and Son reconciliation speeches in Act IV: Hal, thinking his father dead, walks offstage with the crown to weep alone; the king, waking up and seeing his crown gone, mistakenly believes Hal is happy to see that he (the king) has died; Hal's speech in particular is affecting; the king's is also quite good at inducing guilt in Hal, but not Irish-Catholic-Mother-good.

2HIV also includes the justly famous quote (spoken by King Henry IV): "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." Henry IV is still haunted by the questionable means by which he became king — i.e., by deposing the previous king, Richard II. It's not hard to understand why his head is uneasy and he can't sleep. He passes this worry on to his son Hal, though, because in Henry V, King Hal vaults into a similar soliloquy during his sleepless dark-night-of-the-soul before the battle of Agincourt, in which speech he argues that even "the wretched slave" has it better than he, the king, because all the king has to comfort him is meaningless "ceremony" whereas the slave? He's livin' the fuckin' high life in comparison. Henry V is famous for quite a few things, not the least of which is the truly stirring St. Crispin's Day speech that King Hal, at his most regally inspiring, gives to rally his men2, a speech that even the most peace-loving pacificist would have to concede is unsurpassed in its soul-stirring rhetoric, I think. But in the same play, Hal also gives this self-serving and -pitying "Ceremony" speech, which, while I was reading it? I couldn't help thinking: Pfffftt! Bullshit! throughout. The speech isn't bad, and it is arguably in keeping with Hal's developing character, but this whole the-wretched-poor-don't-know-how-easy-they-have-it argument leaves me kinda cold, though admittedly, Shakespeare handles it much more elegantly than Faux News, where that argument is made essentially every night.

Well, I'm getting ahead of myself a bit — a discussion of Henry V is for next time — so I'll just leave things at that, then ... for now.

1 Footnote designed to BLOW YOUR MIND: You have always had this option. "O, sure," I hear you say — for my Twitter account has given me super hearing — "now he tells us, some 300 posts into his (latest) blogging career." Well, when Dorothy gets to the Emerald City, which is at like the very end of Teh Wizard of Oz, it is only then that Glinda Teh Good Witch tells her, "You have always had the power to go back to Kansas!" Now, in a more realistic movie, Dorothy would have answered: "The fuck would I wanna go back to Kansas for? You ever been there, you Big Old RBR-Like Drag Queen? Know what's waiting for me there? Some old sepia Gertrude Stein-looking lesbian, and these three pedophiles [gesturing at her 'friends'], except there, they're not dressed up like a lion, a scarecrow and Mitt Romney."
Point is, you (readers) can leave (the Oz of my blog) any time you want — just click your heels three times, not because it'll help, but just because it makes me laugh thinking you just might do it. Okay, NOW click your mouse on a different hyperlink — any other hyperlink — and you're out of here and back into the vast black-and-white Kansas that is the Rest of Teh Interwebs That Is Not My Blog.

Full Disclosure: Okay, yeah, I just wrote a whole footnote featuring an elaborate Wizard of Oz conceit, but I am NOT gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Nor am I Kansan. Because, whoo-boy! There'd be something wrong with that.

Fuller Disclosure: No Kansans were hurt in the writing of this post, unless you count their feelings. But why would you? Because I'm pretty sure no Kansans read my blog. Fuck 'em! Snobs!

2 j'og, who seems to have disappeared from the blogosphere again, at one point e-mailed me about a competition (started by some other blogger) that he was entering in which foax were committing to learning that speech then videoing themselves declaiming it and posting the results on youtube, I think. (I probably have some particulars wrong, here. It was awhile ago.) I don't know if he ever followed through on it ... or, for that matter, if anyone did because I can't remember which blogger issued this challenge.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

2Tweet or ~2Tweet

I have answered this age-old question by deciding to Tweet. Yes, foax, see how lucky you are? If you stumbled upon this post, you're lucky enough to have found Teh Last Person In Teh World 2 Sign Up 4 A Twitter Account!1!

Teh 'Bride hates FaceBook because she thinks it's just a way for foax going thru a mid-life-crisis to hook up with their old HS boy- or girl-friends, so, for me, FB is out. But even I am not skilled enough to seduce someone in 140 characters or fewer, even if I Tweet in my tightest Skinny Genomes1, so I figure it's safe for me to tweet. Be honest: If you read this blog even semi-regularly, you don't even believe I can write a sentence of 140 or fewer characters, do you? You DICK!1!

Well, get this! I have already written THREE  tweets and a full 67% of them stayed withing the 140-character limit. So as Cee Lo Green would say, F***2 You!1!

Anyroad, I am a librarian, an information specialist and so I felt it was professionally derelict of me NOT to be up on the latest in circa-2006 communication technology. Luckily, nothing new has happened in the world of abbreviated communication since 2006. Or, if it has, no one has tweeted about.

In any case, my twitter feed is glavenq, or @glavenq or whatever. However you say that in Twitter-speak.

Ladies, go there to be seduced by my 140-character sonnets; prove me wrong when I say I can't get you to drop your knickers in 140 characters or fewer. (Sample potential future tweet: "@ladies: drop ur knkrs, l8ees!1!")

1 HAR! An uproarious witticism you couldn't possibly get unless you read my previous post, which, itself, requires you to go back to the post previous to it and read a comment there that will make sense to you only if you read the entire post. Or, to put it another way, too much work just to understand that there joke up there re: Skinny Genomes.

2 The "***" represents "orget".

Spring Training

Yesterday morning's run of 7.33 miles1 — which gives me 27.4 running miles here in the first week of March, which would seem to bode well for my quest to make up for the mileage-deficient months of January and February — was at the slow pace of 6.3 mph (a 9:30-mile average). I attribute this to the following fact:

Saturday was a really nice day. So I decided, what with it being such a nice spring-like day, Ian and I should head to the local baseball diamond and get in our first day of Spring Training. I have been telling Ian for some time that we were going to work on his becoming a contact hitter, like Placido Polanco:

Here we see two pix of PP NOT batting. The first pic is just a random one I took of Teh Interwebs; but that one right above these here words? I took that myself last year when Ian and I went to see the Phillies play Teh Giants and they beat them 8-2. This pic was during practice before the game. Polanco had just tossed a ball into the stands to some adolescent girl and I was thisclose to trying to intercept it before I realized how that would make me look — i.e., like a Yankees fan.

So Ian and I headed up to the park and got in an hour of batting practice. I told him just to practice making contact; I didn't care if he hit every ball fair, as long as he made contact. Which he did nearly every time. Most of them went fair, too. He missed maybe 5 or 6 pitches out of what must have been 60-70 I tossed at him. I wasn't taking it easy, either: I gave him some heat. So I was happy with that, as was he.

Ian's relatively small, so he doesn't have long-ball power; I was just trying to show him that he shouldn't try to kill the ball every time. The last time we played, which was probably last November, he was trying to kill the ball and so just missing it all the time. I told him, "Look at Poli. He just puts the ball in play and almost always advances the runner; and he batted almost .300 even though he had a bad elbow all year."

Ian found, to his amazement, that he drives the ball further when he just tries to meet it, too.

But I'm burying the lede here; because the real story is not about Ian. The real story is about how, when you play a real sport for the first time in months? Your body aches all over. I mean, I do yoga and I exercise etc. on those days when I don't run, so there's your much-ballyhooed "cross-dressingtraining", but even with all the running and "cross-training", my body, the day after playing baseball for one hour, ached as it hasn't since ... well, probably last spring's first day of ST. Or maybe after a couple of games of beer softball while on vacation last summer.

So, to tie things up, come full circle2, as it were, that's why my running was so slow yesterday. If it's slow again today?

Same excuse.

[6:50 Update: 6.02 miles in 55:03 for a 9:05 pace; 6.6 mph.]

1 I hope also to get at least six miles in this morning, but having been issued this challenge last night, I have stupidly wasted most of the a.m. sequencing genomes using dideoxyribonucleotides — whereas hitherto, I had been content to leave my genomes1a in a heap in the corner over by the hamper (I have a horrible dirty-clothes jump shot), near my sweaty running thongs. I am not happy that I can be so easily manipulated into a stupid Über-Geek competition. THANKS A LOT, B*TCH!1!

Sing it with me: 

Forrrrrrrr ... he's a jolly good luuuzer
For he's a jolly good luuuuzer
For he's a jolly good luu-whooo-zerrrrrrrrrrr ...
Which nobody can DNA!1!

1a They're new Levi's Ex-Girlfriend Skinny Genomes, too, that really show off my @$$ to great effect. They make me look like a CHICK!1!

2 Not to be confused with the viral Intertubal video "Come Full Circle", starring Charlie Sheen in his weekly circle-jerk gathering. (Charlie plays the Jerk.)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Need A Breakspeare From Shakespeare?

You're in luck, because on Friday, one of the other Reference Librarians at the library where I work pointed out that this week's New Yorker1 contains a short story by David Foster Wallace, titled "Backbone"; the story is pretty short and is available, at the moment, on The New Yorker's web site (though for who knows how long? Get it while it's hot).

The story is essentially about a little boy whose goal in life is "to be able to press his lips to every square inch of his own body." (That phrase, with slight variation, is repeated four times in the course of a 4700-word story.) The boy starts this quest while extremely young — at the age of six. No one knows why, least of all the boy. He injures himself early on in his quest:
The outside area of his foot beneath and around the lateral malleolus was the first to require any real contortion. (The young boy thought, at that point, of the lateral malleolus as the funny knob thing on his ankle.) The strategy, as he understood it, was to arrange himself on his bedroom’s carpeted floor with the inside of his knee on the floor and his calf and foot at as close to a perfect ninety-degree angle to his thigh as he could manage. Then he had to lean as far to the side as he could, bending out over the splayed ankle and the foot’s outside, rotating his neck over and down and straining with his fully extended lips [...] toward a section of the foot’s outside that he had marked with a bull’s-eye of soluble ink. He struggled to breathe against the dextrorotated pressure of his ribs, stretching farther and farther to the side, very early one morning, until he felt a flat pop in the upper part of his back and then pain beyond naming somewhere between his shoulder blade and spine. The boy did not cry out or weep but merely sat silent in this tortured posture until his failure to appear for breakfast brought his father upstairs to the bedroom’s door. The pain and resultant dyspnea kept the boy out of school for more than a month. One can only wonder what a father might make of an injury like this in a six-year-old child.
The boy's story (he recovers from the injury described above and continues his quest) is interspersed with tales of "holy" men and women and the bodily wounds, the stigmata, they endured, or caused to appear on their bodies, for their faith:
Facts: the Italian stigmatist Padre Pio carried wounds that penetrated both hands and feet medially throughout his lifetime. The Umbrian St. Veronica Giuliani presented with wounds in both hands and feet, as well as in her side, which wounds were observed to open and close on command. The eighteenth-century holy woman Giovanna Solimani permitted pilgrims to insert special keys in her hands’ wounds and to turn them, reportedly facilitating the pilgrims’ own recovery from rationalist despair.

According to both St. Bonaventura and Tomás de Celano, St. Francis of Assisi’s manual stigmata included baculiform masses of what presented as hardened black flesh extrudent from both volar planes. If and when pressure was applied to a palm’s so-called “nail,” a rod of flesh would immediately protrude from the back of the hand, exactly as if a real so-called “nail” were passing through the hand.

And yet (fact): Hands lack the anatomical mass required to support the weight of an adult human. Both Roman legal texts and modern examinations of a first-century skeleton confirm that classical crucifixion required nails to be driven through the subject’s wrists, not his hands. Hence the, quote, “necessarily simultaneous truth and falsity of the stigmata” that the existential theologist E. M. Cioran explicates in his 1937 “Lacrimi si Sfinti,” the same monograph in which he refers to the human heart as “God’s open wound.”
Also woven into the story: The boy's father's attempts to bring meaning to his own life with self-help bromides and gurus, which seems not to work too well. The father becomes bored with his wife, and acquires a mistress; he quickly bores of her but can't endure the thought of anyone else having her, so he keeps her, but seeks out yet another mistress ... whom he inevitably gets bored of ... but can't let go. And so on.

The story has that typical and distinct whiff of Cartesian solipsism2 to it that one sees in just about all of Wallace's work: The boy is intensely fixated on his own body to the exclusion of anything else, and, significantly, wants to possess "every square inch of it" with his lips; the father is unsuccessful in his attempts to break out of his own self-involved life of meaningless sexual conquests and is obviously unfulfilled by Dale Carnegie-like positive thinking; even the holy men and women who are trying to be like Christ have the "wrong" wounds — their amazing stories are possibly meaningless in any sense other than a Ripley's Believe It Or Not! one; their wounds could not possibly be like Christ's.

But Wallace's fiction is also typically about trying to find a higher meaning in the quotidian; it is about recognizing that there is a heroic aspect to making it through a typical day — in finding genuine meaning not just in the average, but even in what could be seen as the excruciatingly boring. His posthumous novel, The Pale King, due out next month, is a 500-page story set in an IRS office precisely because being an accountant — and worse still, an accountant for one of the most hated government agencies — is stereotypically boring and excruciatingly unrewarding and possibly even approaches being an unbearable life sentence3. The mantra of many of the recovering addicts in Wallace's Infinite Jest is that no single moment in life, no matter how painful, is, in-and-of-itself, unbearable; the object, your goal, when confronted with what seems unbearable pain, is to make it through, a moment at a time. Some people do make it; some don't. It is easy to see why such an outlook would appeal to Wallace himself, since he was a life-long depressive; he ended up taking his own life at the age of 46 when his anti-depression meds began to fail to work for him; he fell into a prolonged suicidal depression as a result, eventually giving in to the despair and hanging himself

"Backbone" is not a great story, but it is quintessentially Wallacian, and good enough to remind me of why I will miss his unique writing talent.

[Confirmed: This story, "Backbone", is an excerpt from The Pale King.]

1 I like The New Yorker, but I don't subscribe to it and I rarely have the time to read it. My sister-in-law (Teh 'Bride's sister), who lives in NYC, gave me a subscription to it back in, I guess, the mid-to-late nineties? This is back when The NYer's evident policy of publishing only those cartoons that made no sense — that were, it seems, intentionally not funny — was at its height. It was so bad that Seinfeld built an episode around Elaine's quest to find out why a particularly opaque cartoon in The New Yorker was considered funny and therefore publishable. She goes to the offices of The New Yorker and it turns out even the editor does know what's funny about the cartoon — he just likes the kitty in it. I thought this episode was hilarious because that's pretty much how I felt about The NYer's cartoons at the time.

Anyroad, if you follow the link above to the DFW story, the page includes a New Yorker cartoon, and this one is recognizably funny. I mean, more or less. Season to taste. A few years ago on Dr. Seuss' birthday, Stephen Colbert changed the introduction to his show to: "Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!/ This is The Colbert Repoose!", which I thought was so funny I pert-near busted a gut laffin'. (It's certainly better than anything Dr. Seuss himself ever wrote.) I  shared this witticism with a friend, who promptly said he didn't "get it". Hmm, thought I, What's not to get? But, you know ... humor. It can be idiosyncratic at times, I guess.

2 The last lines of the story — "He [the boy] would find a way to access all of himself. He possessed nothing that anyone could ever call doubt, inside" — obviously evokes Descartes' own application of universal methodic doubt to establish a bedrock upon which to build unequivocal meaning. But if dubito ergo sum — "I doubt, therefore I am" —  proves anything (and it is questionable that it does), all it proves is that I exist and everything external to me exists only in my perception of it. Descartes' method validated solipsism at best.

3 Which it may or may not be in real life; what it is in real life is hardly the point.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Democrat Post ....*

... for Ellora Dr. Nic:

Here's a link to SteveQ's Blog that somehow got Nic's blog in there too.

And here's how to fix it in Edit HTML:

Just delete the "" part.

* Title Footnote: ZOMG!1! Hahahahahaha! I meant to typed "Demo Post", but accidentally type "Dem", which my TypeIt4Me Utility automatically expanded to "Democrat", which is what I set it to do. Hahahahahaha! So I'm leaving it that way because I believe it is a sign from Above! Welcome to the Party, Nic! Feel free to start taxing and spending and Hating America!1!

Let me know when you're read this post, Nic, so I can take it down. Because ... O ... it's going down!

** Free-floating Footnote: Tags for this post: "dr nic", "Dr nic is ethnically insensitive" and "dr nic is also a misogynist" are the only three "dr. nic" tags I have that already existed. Instead of making a new one, like "Dr. Nic Goes to Cyber-school", I figured I just use what I already gotz.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Anything Goes Friday

Bass-ackwards blogger that I am, I title these things before I write 'em, based on what I think my topic will be. That is why my titles often don't match the content — such as it is — of my post.

But today's post is going to be pretty much all over the place; so first things first:

Read this here post (which has nothing to do with running, I should warn you), in which AQA Aleece goes all Aretha on yo' @$$ by asking for Just A Little Respect. I left a loooong, polemical comment on her post, but don't let that deter you from visiting her blog because when I tried to post my comment? Her fucking blog EATED IT!1! (To quote famous existentialist Philosopher JP Sartre: Le GAHHH!1!) So my original comment isn't there, but I may go back again at some point today and gin up my outrage, possibly using real gin, and recreate my comment.


Next. Today I ran 6.56 miles in 1:01:05 which is a 9:18 pace. I am okay with the slowness because, unlike yesterday, today I was once again running in the 5:00 a.m. darkness. So I'll take that pace.

Now the real post:

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, both Teh 'Bride and I took the morning off yesterday to meet with Ian's teachers. Ian's in fifth grade now and doing well (not to get all Proud Dad on you, but straight A's for the first two report cards this year!), but last year he was having a difficult time getting C's, forget about A's. We had various tests done and found out he had an auditory processing disorder. (I won't bore you with details; I already wrote about it here, if you want to know more about it.) Essentially, he hears background noise as foreground noise and has a hard time filtering it out when it comes time to concentrate. It's easy enough to surmise how this might impact his academic performance.

We worked together with Ian's teachers, guidance counselors, etc., both last year and this to address the problem and try to help him deal with it. Most of the solutions were quite simple — such as having him work in smaller groups when possible and having instructions read out loud to him to make sure he grasps them ... things of that sort. In fact, it took very little of that to turn Ian right around, to make him into the student he was always capable of being. He's not perfect — who is? — and it's still a bit of a struggle to get him to read anything but fishing magazines, but all-in-all? Teh 'Bride and I couldn't be happier with his transformation.

This is the boy who, when I'd pick him up from aftercare last year and ask how much of his homework he got done, would answer, "None. It was too loud." But this year? It's the rare Tuesday (Teh 'Bride's late night at the library, so the only day I pick Ian up) when he doesn't answer, "I got all of it done." Occasionally there are one or two items he needs my help with at home. But more often he's done it all himself — and done it correctly. He's learned strategies to help him concentrate in environments that used to be too awash in noise for him to deal with them effectively.

This is attributable, largely, to two factors, the first of which is Ian's own efforts.

But the second is the hard work of all the public school teachers and counselors and administrators who didn't abandon him, who took a beyond-the-call-of-the-job interest in seeing him reach his potential. We pay pretty high taxes in my part of Joisey; even before we had Ian, I never begrudged a cent of it that went to public education because I have always maintained that I have a vested interest in seeing that everyone in my community has a decent education, and that it is the government's job to offer it. I'll gladly pay for that. Without it, too many kids would go without what should be considered their right: An education that will prepare them to participate fully and fruitfully in our society.

I also don't mind paying those taxes because I always suspected, and now can testify firsthand to this fact, that the lion's share of that money went into the kids' education. We live two blocks from the school Ian attends; there are no Ferraris or luxury cars in the teachers' parking lot; these teachers aren't wearing designer clothes; as far as I know, they aren't snorting the best Colombian cocaine in the teachers' lounge during lunchtime, either.

They make middle-class, five-figure salaries. They work at home and on weekends, grading papers, coming up with lesson plans, trying to think of innovative ways to engage the kids, to make them learn and enjoy learning. (Ian typically has a writing assignment due every Friday; the boy who, last year, always wanted to wait till Thursday to do anything due on Friday, now insists on at least getting started on it no later than Tuesday. I am still amazed at this sea-change.)

The meeting Teh 'Bride and I had with Ian's teachers lasted roughly 45 minutes. It was very informative. Ian's teachers know him; they like him. We listened to what they had to say. Teh 'Bride took notes, as is her wont.

Teh 'Bride was quite capable of handling this meeting all by herself — much more so than I. In fact, I attended for two reasons only:

To demonstrate my interest in my son's education.

But more important, to thank these hard-working public servants for their role in helping my child to reach his potential. We simply could not have achieved this change in Ian without them — or without the teachers he had last year, as well. (Who, by the way, continue to take an interest in his development, even though Ian was at an entirely different school last year.)

And so that's what I did — I thanked them. Profusely.

It was important to me to let them know that, even though it is now quite fashionable for fat-cat pundits and corrupt and lazy politicians and mendacious media fucktards — all of whom do make millions of dollars a year — to attack public workers for daring to want to make a livable wage, there are still many of us actual middle class citizens who appreciate what our teachers do for us and for our children.

If you have had an experience similar to ours, please remember to thank a teacher.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wait! Don't Run!1! It's NOT a Shakespeare Post!1!*

I'm reading 2 Henry IV currently — WAIT!1! Come back! I'm not going to blog about it1!1! I'm totally going to blog about something else, possibly even something running-related.

But just let me say this: Prince Hal is one of my favorite Shakespeare characters and I think I finally — finally— figgered out why. Because I'd never read 2HIV before and Hal doesn't show up in it till Act II, scene ii, and when he does, these, below, are his first lines: After Poins jests with him by saying he's surprised that something as quotidian as weariness could attach itself to a person of Hal's "high blood", Hal sez:
Faith, it does me; though it discolours the complexion of my greatness to acknowledge it. Doth it not show vilely in me to desire small beer?
He's tired and he asks for a beer!1! Just like me after a run!1! We could be brothers! I may actually be of royal lineage!1! On your knees before me, varlets! (And ladies, while you're down therrrrrre ... hyeh-hyeh-hyeh!)

So anyroad, this morning's run: I ran at like 6:00 a.m, which is late for me. I took the morning off to:

1. Attend a parent-teacher conference at Ian's school
2. Then go get my PSA test done at some lab for my appointment with the urologist next week. The perils of being 50.

Anyroad, I'm starting to think my speed is affected by my ability to see where I'm going. Big revelation, huh? It's actually light enough at 6:00 a.m. that I could run without my headlamp, and I could see the potential pitfalls in front of me long before they were underfoot and attempting to kill me to death. So my run, of 6.43 miles, was accomplished at a pace of 9:11 which was 6.6 mph on average according to Dr. Nic's nemesis, MapMyRun. That's waaaay better than I've done on an early morning run in quite some time.

And now it is 7:30 a.m. and I'm ready for a small beer. Just like Hal, my hero.

* [Title Footnote]: Sike!1!

1 ... today. Hahahaha!1! SUCKERS!1! I reserve the right to blog about it — AT LENGTH!1! — at a later date. Possibly. And I intentionally made this fact a footnote so you'd click through the truncated feed in Google Reader to this post, thinking it was safe to do so, because I'm a DICK!1!

But seriously, foax (not that I wasn't serious when I said I was a DICK!1!), when I write these posts? I have no idea how long they'll be or exactly where they'll go. The whole point of writing them is to find out, which I clearly stated in this post, when I announced my intention to read all of Shakespeare's plays:
I have for some time now been kicking around this idea of spending a season (or however long it takes — a full year?) reading all of Shakespeare's plays[...]. Because [...] I've always felt that it would be an enriching experience to read them all.

But what would be the point of reading them if I didn't retain anything meaningful about them?

And the only way to do that, as I said, would be to write about them.

Because as you, my faithful readers, well know, I am constantly looking for new and better ways to alienate you all and — hell, why be coy? — just generally irritate you and piss you off. And it seems to me that there can be no better way to do that than use this very blog to inflict upon y'all my thoughts re: Shaxberd's plays. And so it is my intent, starting, roughly, in January 2011, to begin reading all of Shxpr's plays and then write something or other about each in a post in this here already extremely off-putting blog.
Now, that's why I write them. It's for a good reason.

But uploading them and inflicting them on you?
That's just me being a dick.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Henry IV Part 1 (Part 2): Redeeming Time

Spoiler Alert: The Henry IV plays aren't really about Henry IV. If you want a Shakespeare play about Henry Bullingbrook (i.e., King Henry IV), read Richard II, which is only partly about Richard II; because it's also about — WAIT FOR IT!1! — Henry Bullingbrook, the future Henry IV. Shakespeare is big on setting up comparisons and contrasts, and in RII, the comparison/contrast is between the ineffectual poet-king Richard, who speaks nothing but the highest of high-brow poetical1 rhetoric, and the plain-spoken, man-of-the-people warrior-king Henry. In 1HIV, the comparison is between Henry Monmouth (Prince Hal, the king's thus-far wastrel son) and the brave and noble, yet impetuous, Henry Percy (Hotspur)2.

But even in RII, Shakespeare is setting the stage for one of his greatest characters ever: Prince Hal, the future Henry V. For in Act V, scene iii of RII, (now-)King Henry asks:
Can no man tell me of my unthrifty son?
'Tis full three months since I did see him last;
If any plague hang over us, 'tis he.
I would to God, my lords, he might be found:
Inquire at London, 'mongst the taverns there,
For there, they say, he daily doth frequent,
With unrestrained loose companions,
Even such, they say, as stand in narrow lanes,
And beat our watch, and rob our passengers;
Which he, young wanton and effeminate boy,
Takes on the point of honour to support
So dissolute a crew.
It is no accident that the person who answers this query regarding the king's wanton and girly-man son is that other son Henry, Henry Percy, the "Hotspur" of the 1HIV3: "My lord, some two days since I saw the prince,/ And told him of those triumphs held at Oxford."

Continuing directly:
And what said the gallant?

His answer was, he would unto the stews,
And from the common'st creature pluck a glove,
And wear it as a favour; and with that
He would unhorse the lustiest challenger.
Pfftt! Hotspur! Fucking narc! "He said he'd celebrate your triumph by going to a whoo-wer house and consorting with common whoo-wers as though they were the finest ladies and well worth jousting over."

Yet despite this, the king still holds out some hope for his seeming-wastrel son:
As dissolute as desperate; yet through both
I see some sparks of better hope, which elder years
May happily bring forth.
Yet right there, we have, in miniature, the (let's call it) "Three Henrys" conflict that will be central to 1HIV: Henry Monmouth (Hal) versus Henry Percy (Hotspur); and, as part of that conflict, Hal's attempt to replace Hotspur in King Henry's affections.

Hal and Falstaff are introduced to us in Act I, scene ii of 1 Henry IV, as Falstaff enters asking: "Now, Hal, what time of day is it, lad?"

To which Hal responds:
Thou art so fat-witted, with drinking of old sack and unbuttoning thee after supper and sleeping upon benches after noon, that thou hast forgotten to demand that truly which thou wouldst truly know. What a devil hast thou to do with the time of the day? Unless hours were cups of sack and minutes capons and clocks the tongues of bawds and dials the signs of leaping-houses and the blessed sun himself a fair hot wench in flame-coloured taffeta, I see no reason why thou shouldst be so superfluous to demand the time of the day4.
This comment not only effectively characterizes Falstaff — for Falstaff is a rampant id, thinking only of his present comfort and luxury, and changes not a whit over time — but also implicitly alludes to Prince Hal's imago, the self he hopes to become, knows he must become. This becomes explicit at the end of the very same scene, when Hal — speaking royally, now, in verse — soliloquizes about his intention to end his wastrel youth and surprise everyone by not merely becoming a man, but a man of worth and merit:
I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humour of your idleness:
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That, when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wonder'd at,
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.
If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work;
But when they seldom come, they wish'd for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So, when this loose behavior I throw off
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men's hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glittering o'er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I'll so offend, to make offence a skill;
Redeeming time when men think least I will.
Hal begins this scene oddly and inexplicably discoursing at length on the issue of time merely because Falstaff asks him "what time is it?"; but it is in this speech that we find out just why time is of such moment to him5.

1HIV is about Hal's redemption. The king, at one point, reveals to Hal that he has so little confidence in him, is so suspicious of him because of his behavior, that he fears Hal will confederate with the king's enemies and help overthrow his own father:
For all the world
As thou art to this hour was Richard then
When I from France set foot at Ravenspurgh,
And even as I was then is Percy [i.e., Hotspur]  now.
Now, by my sceptre and my soul to boot,
He hath more worthy interest to the state
Than thou the shadow of succession;
For of no right, nor colour like to right,
He doth fill fields with harness in the realm,
Turns head against the lion's armed jaws,
And, being no more in debt to years than thou,
Leads ancient lords and reverend bishops on
To bloody battles and to bruising arms.
What never-dying honour hath he got
Against renowned Douglas! whose high deeds,
Whose hot incursions and great name in arms
Holds from all soldiers chief majority
And military title capital
Through all the kingdoms that acknowledge Christ:
Thrice hath this Hotspur, Mars in swathling clothes,
This infant warrior, in his enterprises
Discomfited great Douglas, ta'en him once,
Enlarged him and made a friend of him,
To fill the mouth of deep defiance up
And shake the peace and safety of our throne.
And what say you to this? Percy, Northumberland,
The Archbishop's grace of York, Douglas, Mortimer,
Capitulate against us and are up.
But wherefore do I tell these news to thee?
Why, Harry, do I tell thee of my foes,
Which art my near'st and dearest enemy?
Thou that art like enough, through vassal fear,
Base inclination and the start of spleen
To fight against me under Percy's pay,
To dog his heels and curtsy at his frowns,
To show how much thou art degenerate. [emphasis added]
The king sees more of himself in Hotspur than he does in Hal; even though Hotspur is engaged in open revolt against the king, Henry has respect for him; whereas the king sees Hal as more like the ineffectual Richard II, whom Henry felt he had to depose for the good of the realm. Furthermore, the king thinks Hal incapable of leading, seeing him as far more likely "through vassal fear,/ Base inclination and the start of spleen/ To fight against me under [Hotspur]'s pay"6.

Hal, continuing directly:
Do not think so; you shall not find it so:
And God forgive them that so much have sway'd
Your majesty's good thoughts away from me!
I will redeem all this on Percy's head
And in the closing of some glorious day
Be bold to tell you that I am your son;
When I will wear a garment all of blood
And stain my favours in a bloody mask,
Which, wash'd away, shall scour my shame with it:
And that shall be the day, whene'er it lights,
That this same child of honour and renown,
This gallant Hotspur, this all-praised knight,
And your unthought-of Harry chance to meet.
For every honour sitting on his helm,
Would they were multitudes, and on my head
My shames redoubled! for the time will come, [emphasis added]
That I shall make this northern youth exchange
His glorious deeds for my indignities.
Percy is but my factor, good my lord,
To engross up glorious deeds on my behalf;
And I will call him to so strict account,
That he shall render every glory up,
Yea, even the slightest worship of his time,
Or I will tear the reckoning from his heart.
This, in the name of God, I promise here:
The which if He be pleased I shall perform,
I do beseech your majesty may salve
The long-grown wounds of my intemperance:
If not, the end of life cancels all bands;
And I will die a hundred thousand deaths
Ere break the smallest parcel of this vow.
[F]or the time will come, Hal assures his father; you will be proud to see me as your son. But at this point in the play, Hal has elevated only his rhetoric. His ultimate redemption7 comes when he elevates his actions to match his rhetoric.

Which Hal, of course, does in face-to-face, one-on-one battle-to-the-death with Hotspur. But before Hal even faces Hotspur, he shows himself worthier, more noble, than Hotspur. Hotspur continues to hold Hal in contempt, while Hal's recognition of, and praise for, Hotspur's worth is manifest throughout; but Hal is no less determined to face Hotspur in battle and best him.

After Hal kills Hotspur, he eulogizes him thus:
[...F]are thee well, great heart!
Ill-weaved ambition, how much art thou shrunk!
When that this body did contain a spirit,
A kingdom for it was too small a bound;
But now two paces of the vilest earth
Is room enough: this earth that bears thee dead
Bears not alive so stout a gentleman.
If thou wert sensible of courtesy,
I should not make so dear a show of zeal:
But let my favours hide thy mangled face;
And, even in thy behalf, I'll thank myself
For doing these fair rites of tenderness.
Adieu, and take thy praise with thee to heaven!
Thy ignominy sleep with thee in the grave,
But not remember'd in thy epitaph!
Hotspur was in open rebellion with the crown; the king seemed, as far as Hal knew, to hold Hotspur in higher esteem than he did Hal, his own son; yet Hal finds time to offer "fair rites of tenderness" and has no doubt that the traitor Hotspur is yet worthy of heaven: "Thy ignominy sleep with thee in the grave,/ But not remember'd in thy epitaph!"

It says much for Shakespeare as a playwright that, even though Hal's journey to greatness is only half finished in 1HIV; and even though the play is, for the most part, about that very journey; yet the play itself does not have a half-finished vibe to it. Though it ends in medias res, in more ways than one, it nonetheless stands well all on its own; because Hal's redemption, while not complete, is still impressive and (unlike some of the last-minute "conversions" in a few of Shakespeare's comedies8) seems entirely earned. Hal is more regal, but not entirely so. He shows the fault that still haunts him at the end of 1HIV: Falstaff finds the dead body of Hotspur and lugs it over to Hal, claiming that he, Falstaff, killed Hotspur. Hal, of course, knows better, but still feels affection for Falstaff and the life-out-of-time he represents:
Come, bring your luggage [i.e., the body of Hotspur] nobly on your back:
For my part, if a lie may do thee grace,
I'll gild it with the happiest terms I have.
Hal will back the lie — Falstaff's transparently false claim to have killed Hotspur — to help Falstaff gain favor with the king.

This is touching and humorous and makes us love Hal all the more.

But Hal's journey to greatness will not be complete until he rejects Falstaff, and what he represents, entirely.

1 You get nobles and nothing but in RII. (Well .. almost.) The play is entirely in verse (rare for a Shakespeare play), but Richard's rhetoric tends to be the purplest. Henry B., though he speaks in verse as well, has a speech pattern and style that is distinct from, and stands in relief against, Richard's more high-flown rhetoric. Not all verse is created equal. Shakespeare fits the style of speech to the character.

2 In a speech quoted above, the king chides his son because Hotspur is so very much more accomplished than Hal, though "no more in debt to years than thou" — i.e., though the same age. Shakespeare's gaming the system here to make his comparison work; because the historical Hotspur was born in 1364, whilst Henry Monmouth (Hal) was born in 1387. (Presumably, in 1388, the king was all, "Hal, young Hotspur has a wife, a kid and a job already. You'll never have that if you keep pooping your diapers! That's a total turn off to most chicks, and the ones who are turned on by it you don't wanna marry! Trust me on that.") Also, the historical Hal took an arrow to the freaking face and nearly died when he was like 15 fighting a war for his Dad, so no wastrel son he. But obviously my point in telling you this is that whatever the historical originals of these characters were actually like doesn't matter and is irrelevant to the play.

3 Who, of course, will rebel against his king, out of pride, and will become Prince Hal's chief rival, though they do not meet until they face each other in battle at the very end of the 1HIV. (Seemingly. Except Hotspur's speech in RII (see above) clearly states that they have already met. Then, for the purposes of dramatic tension in 1HIV, their having met before is apparently sent down the memory hole, or, given Hal's wastrel habits, possibly Teh Glory Hole.)

4 Yeah, royal Hal, the Prince of fucking Wales and heir apparent, is introduced speaking prose (cf. RII, in which there are exactly zero lines of prose), like a commoner, and he speaks a lot of prose in 1HIV, especially at the beginning of the play when he's hanging out with Falstaff et al. and not living up to his father's expectations or his own potential. But even Hal's prose is pretty poetic, in its way. Note, for example, how often he (and others) mention the sun (e.g., "and the blessed sun himself a fair hot wench in flame-coloured taffeta", above), a significant punning word in a play where a son is trying to redeem himself, trying to shine, in his father's eyes.

5 Absent this explanatory speech, Hal's response to Falstaff's simple question would be as off-puttingly ponderous and obnoxiously pseudo-profound as Robert Lamm's response, in the Chicago song "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?", to "a pretty lady"'s asking the time: "Does anybody really know what time it is?/ Does anybody really care?/ If so I can't imagine why/ We've all got time enough to cry."

Yeah, fuck you, Robert. Just tell us what time it is. AND DON'T SAY 25 OR SIX TO FOUR!1!

Full disclosure: I still think "DARKWTII" is a great song.

6 Needless to say, there are Oedipal issues a-plenty in 1HIV. But it would be a mistake to emphasize them too much because the king, while massively disappointed in his eldest son, nevertheless makes it clear on multiple occasions that he still has tender feelings for him; and Hal is obviously shocked and saddened by the esteem in which his father holds him, which spurs him, however, not to resentment, but determination to redouble his efforts to redeem himself and be worthy of his father and, eventually, the English crown.

7 In fact, I should say partial redemption. For at the end of 1HIV, Hal's journey is only partially over. He has not yet entirely redeemed himself.

8 This is not as much of a criticism of those comedies as it may at first seem. Hal's character is integral to the plot of the Henry IV plays; in comedies, character, generally speaking (and this not just for Shakespeare), is subordinate to plot and the conventions of comedic resolution. At times, that subordination of character causes problems, especially in the Shakespeare comedies that take a darker turn and cannot be so easily, even flippantly, resolved by comedic conventions. In those comedies, Shakespeare nevertheless "resolves" things in that easy fashion, thereby causing more problems (in the reader's mind, at least) than he resolves. This certainly makes those comedies more interesting. This is also why they are referred to, collectively, as Shakespeare's "problem plays".