Subverting Dogberry -- fairly geeky

So, I don't really need to be the ten thousandth semi-lapsed LJ user to post this comic.

Better to put up some actual, if trivial, content.


I was thinking about my favourite Shakespeare play in the shower this morning (as one does), which without question or shame would be MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.  I was particularly thinking about how two recent adaptations / retellings I recently encountered either drastically reduced or completely eliminated the Dogberry bits, and how much I appreciated that.

Why, I wonder?  I have nothing against low comedy in general, and in Shakespeare in particular.  I love malapropisms, and adore wordplay of all sorts.  Why do Dogberry's scenes always make me cringe?

I decided that it's because they commit the cardinal sin of comic satire: they punch DOWN, rather than UP.  We're supposed to be the educated, sophisticates who laugh at the rural bumpkin's attempts to appear literate beyond his caste.  And, to be honest, I'm pretty sure that's what the Bard intended.

But it doesn't HAVE to be played that way.

Just like TAMING OF THE SHREW can be presented as a slyly feminist sendup, so could a modern production include a Dogberry for our (well, MY) tastes, without changing a word.  What if he were played as self-aware, a canny rural detective deliberately adopting a bumbling persona to sucker the nobs into revealing their secrets?  I'm thinking of Asey Mayo, perhaps;  or, if you are sadly unfamiliar with the Codfish Sherlock, consider the rumpled Lieutenant Columbo .  With the admirable (and admiring) Verges as his Watson, maybe -- familiar with his methods, but struggling to keep up.

This conceit would help explain /SPOILER ALERT/ the Watch's pivotal role in uncovering Don Jon's deceit; I always thought that Boracchio and Conrad ("gentleman") caved far too easily. When I tried re-reading the scene this way, it also gave a subtle inflection of sly malice to the Constable's apparent inanities, and a masterful fillip of sarcasm to his concluding declaration, "Forget not that I am an ass."

It would take a clever actor to pull of such a subversion, though.  I wish that Michael Keaton had tried it, instead of his bizarre carpet-chewing turn.  Who else, I wonder?

Pete Seeger has died

I cannot believe this.  I mean, I knew that he was old, but he has been such a permanent fixture of my life.

I'm just going to copy and paste what I wrote a couple years ago in another context:

"These songs were the backbone of the soundtrack to my childhood. Labor songs, yes, but also peace songs, protest songs, Pete Seeger and Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan and Peter Paul & Mary, the Gospel according to Mahalia, the Carter family and Johnny Cash, songs "against poverty, war, and injustice". I'm ashamed that I never realized how truly radical my parents were (especially in our southern Midwestern environs); nobody talked about politics and social justice. Not even behind closed doors.

So the only legacy of my parents' ideals were the values they installed within me; deep, beyond conscious thought and memory, through the songs that were always playing on the stereo.

One of the most powerful images I retain of my mother was seeing her curled up in an armchair in a living room, broken down in tears. My mother was a strong woman, of great self control and discipline; she considered any display of emotion vulgar beyond expression. But here she was sobbing, in great gulping ugly gasps, like the world would end. On the stereo the Weavers were singing "We Shall Overcome."

It wasn't until many years later that I realized that this must have been early in April, 1968."

God rest you, Pete Seeger.  Kick down the doors of Heaven, march up to the golden Throne, look God in the face, and demand to know what's taking so long.
  • Current Mood
    grateful grateful

Fourth Sunday in Advent: Lesson and Carol

It's  entirely your fault, Amaryllis, that I find myself resorting to T S Eliot for this lesson:

The Journey Of The Magi

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

I had originally expected to go back to Paul Simon for a final carol, but I think the poem above requires a more ... definitive ... response. So, preach the good News, Brother Huey:

(Actually, that might work better as a Pentacost hymn.  What do you think?)
  • Current Music
    Power of Love

Third Sunday in Advent: Lesson and Carol

It's Gaudy Sunday (from the first word of the Introit for the day: "Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete" -- "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice"), so therefore I'd post something oddly joyful.

But setting aside one’s tiny tendency toward cynicism, in the meantime — in Advent — we wait; and hope appears if we truly desire to see it. Maybe it’s in tiny little packets here and there, hidden in the dying grasslike winter wildflowers, but we find it where we can, and exactly as it comes to us, while the days grow dark. We remind ourselves that you can only see the stars when it is dark, and the darker it is, the brighter the light breaking through. Advent is about the coming of Emmanuel, which means “God with us,” and so as the fields outside our windows go to sleep, we stay awake and watch, holding to the belief that God is with us, is close and present, and that we will be healed.

I want that belief, and that patience; I checked the box on the form choosing that. But it has not been forthcoming. I have instead been feeling a little — what is the psychiatric term? — cuckoo. My mind has been doing a Native American worry chant, WORRYworryworryworryworryworryworryworryWORRYworryworry … It’s not that I don’t have a lot of faith. It’s just that I also have a lot of mental problems. And I want to fix them all, and I want to do that now, or at least by tomorrow afternoon, right after lunch.


So I called my Jesuit friend, Tom, who is a hopeless alcoholic of the worst sort, sober now for 22 years, someone who sometimes gets fat and wants to hang himself, so I trust him. I said, “Tell me a story about Advent. Tell me about people getting well.”

He thought for a while. Then he said, “OK.

(From Annie Lamott's transcendent My Advent Adventure, now fifteen years old and still the most beautiful thing I've ever read about the season.  Go and read the whole thing RIGHT NOW. I'll have a carol for you when you come back.)

And who can sing better about grace than Paul Simon?
  • Current Music
    Love Is Eternal, Sacred Light

Second Sunday in Advent: Lesson and Carol

    "I have always been thinking of the ways in which Christianity is taught, and whenever I find one way that makes it a wider blessing than any
  other, I cling to that as the truest -- I mean that which takes in the most good of all kinds and brings in the most people as sharers in it.  It is
  surely better to pardon too much than to condemn too much."
        -- Dorothea, in Middlemarch by George Eliot.

  • Current Music
    Over the Rhine

First Sunday in Advent: Lesson and Carol

From the first chapter of the Gospel according to Mark:

"The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
   who will prepare your way;

the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
   “Prepare the way of the Lord,
   make his paths straight” ’,

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins."

  • Current Music
    Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
  • Tags

Duelling Limericks

Okay, I just said I wasn't posting much here, but this was way too amusing (to me, at least) and definitely won't fit under 140 characters:

So hapaxdaughter (currently gainfully employed as a library page while saving up or law school) e-mailed me this morning:
  A member of the library collective/
  (who did not see old ideas as defective)/
  While combing the stacks/
  For books read then put back/
  Realized “in-house check” was effective./

I answered (as one does):
  A librarian who hated to weed/
  Older books that someone might need/
  Still discarded them, knowing/
  She prevented shelves overflowing --/
  Because books (just like bunnies) will breed/

She answered:
  The necessity of getting new shelving/
  Was quite clear to all in the building/
  Ten days for our chore/
  Building media drawers/
  Yet our DVDs are still overflowing./

My riposte:
  The librarians thought to themselves,/
  "Why not simply purchase more shelves?"/
  But were forced to think twice/
  When they checked on the price:/
  TEN THOUSAND? Go ask Santa's elves!/

and so it went on all day.

  With no space left to grow the teen section/
  And with new books expanding the collection/
  We had book club kits/
  But they had no place to fit/
  So in storage they languish in dejection/

  New location codes, once enabled:/
  for sub-genres, cross-genres, age labels; /
  More formats! With pictures!/
  Plus DRM strictures!/
  We've more micro-collections than tables!/

  All the pages hate children's nonfiction /
  And regard shelving there as affliction;/
  We push other carts ahead/
  And shelve fiction instead;/
  Till the section falls victim of our dereliction./

  Preferring print -- looks, feel, and smell --/
  Still I can see E's rationale; /
  'Twould surely be grand/
  To hold in one hand/
  The entire Bibliotheque Nationale/

  The things one can check out are wild;/
  The library (beyond books) has compiled:/
  Fishing rods, laptops, and games - /
  One can almost not blame/
  The parents who think they can check in their child!/

   Our modern high-tech state we’ve assured/
  While shushing (and buns!) we’ve abjured/
  Still some secretly miss/
  Cloistered silence and bliss/
  Of books with chains to the shelves once secured/

 At this point, I went home to make dinner, and daughter (one hopes) found something better to do on a Friday night than sling limericks with the maternal unit.

Good thing too, since I'm running out of rhymes.  Anyone want to restock my arsenal for the weekend?


I ATEN'T DEAD -- Just Elsewhere

I'm fairly certain that there hasn't been even the smallest segment of Teh Internets scratching their heads and wondering "what's up with hapax?", but in case I'm wrong, I've been doing most of my "social media"* activity on Twitter of late.  If you are loathe to miss any of my immortal bon tweets, you can follow me @hapaxnym.

In these fraught times, I find myself less and less capable of sustained reasoned argument.  But a 140-character limit means I can only froth and flail so long..


*Five Gods, I hate that phrase.  I do realize that real live people interact, make friends, conduct feuds, even fall in love over the Internet.  I've done a bit of all of the above meownself.  But if I were truly honest, I would admit that for the most part my keyboard-and-screen relationships are, at best, pseudo-social.  It's a safe way to approximate that contact we all need to maintain our human status, without all the accessibility and vulnerability that non-virtual interaction requires.

That's one reason I'm forcing myself to tweet more.  The good Lord knows I don't put much of myself out there, but at least it isn't as hedged in and protected as it is on my private listservs, professional blogs, and friendlocked LJ.
  • Current Mood

Not Rocket Science

So, this happened today:

House Republicans narrowly pushed through a bill on Thursday that slashes billions of dollars from the food stamp program...

The bill, written under the direction of the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, would cut $40 billion from the food stamp program over the next 10 years. It would also require adults between 18 and 50 without minor children to find a job or to enroll in a work-training program in order to receive benefits.

It would also limit the time those recipients could get benefits to three months.

So, let me get this straight.  The plan is to take food out of the mouths of four million hungry people (half of them children), in order to force them to get jobs -- which haven't existed for some five years.

Note:  these are the same epistemically-chtallenged Tea Party wingnut who not only want to lift every restriction on owning firearms, but make it impossible for authorities to destroy them or even track them.

Let's think this through.  Four million starving people.  No jobs, no government assistance.  Unrestricted, nay practically obligatory access to guns.

What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

A Litany for Peace

We have prayed for peace,
Unknowing of what we truly ask.
Peace cannot come into the house
Where love is unwelcome.
Peace cannot come into the land
Where injustice and oppression live.
Peace cannot enter or be fostered
In souls that still engage in dispute.
Peace does not come meekly and unarmed.
Peace needs the pathway of our will to change.
Peace will not come to the troubled world
Unless we first invite it under our own roof.

Peace, I am disarming myself of the need to be right;
Peace, I am disclaiming my need to feel superior;
Peace, I am dissolving my contract with fear.
Peace, I am removing my armor of anger;
Peace, I am dismantling my anxious illusions;
Peace, I am ringing down the curtain on my theatre of war;
Peace, I am undoing the locks and bolts.
O sevenfold Peace, it is I who have kept you out:
Come in and welcome!