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Preface: As I've said, oldie writing will be dusted off and plunked blogside (at least at first; new stuff should gradually overtake i...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Double-shot of recycling

Having plunked nothing on the blog for nearly a year, and needing to maintain the fiction that I'm a bustling, producing writer, cranking out the critical stuff at a dizzying rate, let me publish a double-barrelled post--largely an extrapolation and expansion of some recent tweets on Twitter (where your super-annuated kvetch really does maintain a deplorable productivity) and somewhat a consolidation thereof. Namely:

1) "Journey to the land of make-believe"-- an article written in 1982 while Arts Editor of the student newspaper Gateway (original here, and here) after surviving a junket to Hollywood lavishly funded by 20th Century Fox (adventure mentioned in passing on Twitter). Yes, I stole nearly all the hotel-room stationery at the Beverly Wilshire (it's meant to be stolen, right?) but left the towels, since I'm a writer of integrity. And hey, your critic did promise you oldies reprints, way back...

2) "Bob Dylan's Hellbound Buick"--a compilation, consolidation and expansion of some tweets about Dylan's "From a Buick 6" and what the song's wacky-as-usual lyrics might mean. No, NOT "another of Dylan's paeans to his female ideal" as Mr. Gill would have us think (gawd, I wonder what Dylan must think when he reads crap like that--perhaps he just laughs himself silly...)


          *       *       *

(Jan.-Feb. 1982)


Journey to the land of make-believe


    Arts Editor Jens Andersen went to Los Angeles last weekend on a junket sponsored by 20th Century Fox, who are attempting to promote three upcoming films through campus papers in Canada and the States. The following is his report.

Friday, 6:15 AM MST

Made it to the International Airport on time, confirmed my reservation, checked bag, and now I am waiting to board the plane that will take me to Hollywood, Home of the Stars.
    I should be thinking of the three films I am going to preview prior to their release in February and March, but somehow my mind dwells on other details. Is our plane a DC-10? How well have the mechanics checked it over? How slippery is the runway?
    And how will I recognize the Fox representative at the L.A. airport? Will he/she be a glad-hander? Are beige cords appropriate attire for the Beverly Wilshire? (The promo sheet for the Wilshire, which came with the itinerary, shows a doorman in red coat and tophat greeting an arriving Rolls Royce). Will the Great Overdue California Earthquake strike during my stay?
    Such thoughts raise an obvious question: why am I going on this junket in the first place? Certainly not for a good time, for I am by nature a workboy, not a playboy, and even if I weren't, I could have a much better time (I believe) at tonight's unassuming Gateway party than at the scheduled orgies among strangers and publicity agents. Nor am I going because I get to see Quest for Fire, Porky's and Making Love before anyone else, for that is a cheap distinction, and one that will last only a month or two. And it certainly isn't for the plane ride, because I have a holy terror of flying machines.
    No, the reason why I instantly fell for the junket is explainable in a word: curiosity. Are the films as bad as the advance publicity leads me to believe? How will 20th Century Fox attempt to sell them to us? What are directors, actors and whatnot like in the flesh? And is L.A. really the gaudy, vulgar place of legend?

Friday, 3 PM PST

After five hours of gut-wrenching fear in the skies (caused by nothing in particular) I am in Los Angeles. A servitor with a walkie-talkie greets me at the plane, guides me to baggage pickup, and then departs to rescue another delegate. My travel bag is the first off the belt. I stuff my ski-jacket into it and step out onto the sidewalk, as my guide has instructed me to do. The sun is shining in a clear blue sky, the temperature is 61F and palm trees flutter idly in a light breeze. After a minute or so, another young man with a walkie-talkie comes along and guides me to a waiting van. One delegate is already on board, and we cruise around the airport complex for another hour or so, picking up seven more arrivees one by one as they fly in.
    At every curb are loudspeakers droning, "The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading only; no parking." The message is repeated alternately by a male and female voice, over and over again. Just as we junior journalists are running out of small talk, and just before the "white zone" mantra begins to seriously affect our sanity, we get the last person aboard and head for the hotel.
    Along the way the van driver talks about the stars he and his friends have met. A delegate mentions that he saw William Kunstler ("the famous defense attorney") at some airport. I mention the Gateway seizure by the police. Another delegate relates how some army officers seized a whole press run of one of their papers containing a story about the ROTC on campus.
    At the Beverly Wilshire we are met by Fox representatives who help us get room keys, and bestow a canvas shoulder-bag on everyone. In the bag are two t-shirts, one for Quest for Fire and one for Porky's, and a second set of press-kits for all three films. We are allowed two hours to settle in before hors d'oeuvres at 4:30.
    My hotel room is a surprise. It is large, has two single beds (giving rise to interesting questions) and is furnished with the ego in mind. There are three telephones in the suite, one by the bed, one on the desk and one in the bathroom; each one has a notepad and pencil nearby. The bathroom itself has a white marble floor, grey marble walls, and a seven-foot-long grey marble vanity complete with stool, seven-foot-wide mirror and make-up lights. It is also equipped with recessed kleenex-dispenser, a shoeshine rag, a plastic imitation-tortoiseshell shoehorn, a package of needle, thread and buttons, two glasses with paper covers bearing the coat-of-arms of the hotel, an ashtray with a matchbook, each bearing the same coat-of-arms (there are four more ashtrays with matchbooks in the suite), and two soapboxes (with coat-of-arms) containing two different kinds of soap. There are also enough towels to make a window-escape from the fifth floor, though they are probably intended for some other purpose, since I am only on the second.
    The rest of the suite is rather posh too: a dormer window opening onto a foliage-secluded balcony, an antique writing table with stacks of stationery, postcards and pens, an ante-room to the bathroom containing another make-up mirror, a third full-length mirror, a huge chest of drawers and a small fridge, four Los Angeles guidebooks and magazines, a leather easy chair and ottoman, color TV, etc. etc., etc. On the walls are two flashy but cheap bits of heraldry, a banner with a coat of arms (different from the standard one) depicting an anatomically preposterous arm holding a flag, and opposite this two eagles fashioned from stamped sheet-metal which surrounds a fourth small mirror.
    I am almost beginning to believe I am a person of consequence.

Friday 11:30 PM

Another shock as the 75 or so journalists get together for hors d'oeuvres: no alcohol. The legal age in California is 21, and since our contingent has some underage people in it, we must all suffer Coke and 7-Up.
    Also, I'm beginning to get an inferiority complex listening to all the delegates rattle off the names of actors and all their roles in every film they ever played in. My own opinion is that a good actor is like a good bricklayer, praiseworthy but infinitely inferior to the architect (i.e. the scriptwriter and director). Thus I have never bothered to keep track of them, and 80% of the names being mentioned mean nothing to me.
    The talk about various films is likewise depressing since I have probably seen less than 20 films made in the seventies, and missed everything from American Graffiti to Apocalypse Now. Usually the advertisements are enough to turn me off. I feel like asserting that I am proud of my avoidance of certain films, and that I don't give a flying puck about the stars, but why cause friction?
    Besides, as a reviewer I probably have a duty to examine even apparently pathological films.
    After the hors douevres we are bussed to the 20th Century filmlot where Quest for Fire is to be screened. At the theatre we are given a Quest for Fire button and a slick color brochure explaining the film.
    Quest for Fire, you see, is a film about primitive tribes living 80,000 years ago, who speak a language invented by Anthony Burgess, and gesticulate with gestures contrived by pop anthropologist Desmond Morris. Alas, one cannot read the glossary and watch the film at the same time, but thankfully one can, without the pamphlet, determine that the film is a Grade A, oven-ready turkey.
    The film centres on a tribe called the Ulam, who use fire but do not know how to make it. When their fire goes out, and wolves chase them into a swamp, they send out three tribesmen to fetch some. Their adventures as they search for some fire are improbable, unrealistic, and have the unmistakeable aroma of a B-flick.
    Take for instance the scene where the three fire-searchers are sitting around at an encampment, and suddenly a pack of nasty-looking Neanderthals appear over a hill and make menacing noises. What should happen but a pack of nasty-looking woolly mammoths appear on the opposite rise, and add their growling and trumpeting to the din. The film-makers, probably proud of their ingenuity in creating such a novel situation, full of dramatic tension, linger on it as long as possible, cutting back and forth between the nasty Neanderthals, the nasty mammoths and the knock-kneed tribesmen.
    Finally, having milked the basic setup for every last drop of suspense, the film-makers have one of the fire-seekers grab a tuft of grass and slowly climb towards the mammoths. It takes an eternity of screen-time for the fellow to reach the mammoths, with the cameras again cutting between the disgruntled mammoths, the quaking grass carrier, the other two pop-eyed tribesmen, the mammoths, the hesitant Neanderthals, an extreme close-up of the scowling brow of one of the mammoths, who lets loose with a savage honk every few seconds just to keep everybody on the edges of their seats, then back to the fellow approaching the beasts with the clump of grass, who has apparently only edged two feet up the hill, then cut to the Neanderthals, who look impatient to attack, then back again to the grass-carrier who has advanced another1/4th of an inch towards the ferocious mammoths, at which point I feel like getting up from my seat and screaming, "Enough of this crapola! Give the mammoths the grass for chrissake, so they can chase the Neanderthals away and we can get on to the next imbecility!"

    Or how about the  typical specimen of comic relief where one of the fire-seekers (the one typecast as a dumbbell, because who else would the tribe choose to accomplish a heroic feat?) is gathering some long cylindrical squashes to eat. He places them in the crook of his arm, but when he has half an armload he drops one, and as soon as he picks it up he drops another two.
    The sight-gag is far too hilarious to merely be repeated once or twice, so the film-makers repeat it over and over again until it becomes as interminable as the mammoth scene. It finally reaches a climax when Dumb-bell returns to camp and finds one of the others discovering oral sex with a stray nymph from another tribe, whereupon he drops his whole load--and the audience is expected to explode in gales of laughter.
    It is my sad duty to report that some of the assembled journalists actually did so
    Other flaws mar the film

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mystery solved: Prince Harry is totally vile, and his schtick altogether medieval

To clarify: not Britain's current Prince Harry, but "the madcap prince" Harry of 600 years ago, artfully resurrected by Shakespeare a little over 400 years ago.
    You may also know him as Prince Hal (and ultimately Henry V in Henry V) and perhaps you are familiar with his famed tavern-scenes with Falstaff in Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2. The mystery here concerns one of these: Act 2 Scene 4 in Henry IV, Part 1. Its oddball opening-portion has Prince Hal emitting largely incomprehensible babble, ostensibly drunken verbosity in a WTF-moment which has aroused the curiosity of quite a few scholars, including ***drum roll*** Great Canadian Critic Northrop Frye. The scene occurs just after the Gadshill robbery, and begins with HRH Harry and his henchperson Ned Poins waiting at the tavern for Falstaff to return, so they can badger him about his cowardice during the robbery. While they wait, Harry and Poins have some fun with a beer-slinging apprentice named Francis. Since we shall inspect this rollicking prelude with ye olde fine-tooth comb, let me reproduce it in full:

    Enter Prince and Poins

PRINCE: Ned, prithee, come out of that fat room, and lend me thy hand to laugh a little.

POINS: Where hast been, Hal?

PRINCE: With three or four loggerheads amongst three or four score hogsheads. I have sounded the very bass string of humility. Sirrah, I am sworn brother to a leash of drawers, and can call them all by their Christian names, as Tom, Dick and Francis. They take it already upon their salvation that, though I be but Prince of Wales, yet I am the king of courtesy, and tell me flatly I am no proud Jack like Falstaff, but a Corinthian, a lad of mettle, a good boy--by the Lord, so they call me!--and when I am King of England I shall command all the good lads in Eastcheap. They call drinking deep "dyeing scarlet"; and when you breathe in your watering they cry "hem!" and bid you to "play it off." To conclude, I am so good a proficient in one quarter of an hour that I can drink with any tinker in his own language during my life. I tell thee Ned, thou has lost much honour that thou wert not with me in this action. But, sweet Ned,--to sweeten which name of Ned, I give thee this pennyworth of sugar, clapped even now into my hand by an underskinker, one that never spake other English in his life than "Eight shillings and sixpence" and "You are welcome," with this shrill addition, "Anon, anon sir! Score a pint of bastard in the Half-Moon," or so. But Ned, to drive away the time till Falstaff come, I prithee do thou stand in some by-room while I question my puny drawer to what end he gave me the sugar; and do thou never rest calling "Francis," that his tale to me may be nothing but "Anon." Step aside and I'll show thee a precedent.        Exit Poins

POINS: (within) Francis!

PRINCE: Thou art perfect.

POINS: (within) Francis!

              Enter drawer (Francis)

FRANCIS: Anon anon, sir--look down into the Pomgarnet, Ralph.

PRINCE: Come hither Francis.

FRANCIS: My Lord?

PRINCE: How long hast thou to serve, Francis?

FRANCIS: Forsooth, five years, and as much as to--

POINS: (within) Francis!

FRANCIS: (calling) Anon anon, sir.

PRINCE: Five year! By'r Lady, a long lease for the clinking of pewter. But Francis, darest thou be so valiant as to play the coward with thy indenture and show it a fair pair of heels and run from it?

FRANCIS: Oh Lord, sir I'll be sworn upon all the books in England, I could find in my heart--

POINS: (within) Francis!

FRANCIS: (calling) Anon, sir.

PRINCE: How old art thou, Francis?

FRANCIS: Let me see, about Michaelmas next I shall be--

POINS: (within) Francis!

FRANCIS: (calling) Anon sir. Pray stay a little, my Lord.

PRINCE: Nay, but hark you, Francis: for the sugar thou gavest me, 'twas a pennyworth, was't not?

FRANCIS: Oh Lord, I would it had been two!

PRINCE: I will give thee for it a thousand pound. Ask me when thou wilt, and thou shalt have it.

POINS: (within) Francis!

FRANCIS: Anon, anon.

PRINCE: Anon, Francis? No, Francis; but tomorrow, Francis, or, Francis, o'Thursday, or indeed, Francis, when thou wilt. But Francis--

FRANCIS: My lord?

PRINCE: Wilt thou rob this leathern-jerkin, crystal-button, not-pated, agate-ring, puke-stocking, caddis-garter, smooth-tongue, Spanish pouch--

FRANCIS: Oh Lord, sir, what do you mean?

PRINCE: Why then, your brown bastard is your only drink; for look you, Francis, your white canvas doublet will sully. In Barbary sir, it cannot come to so much.

FRANCIS: What, sir?

POINS: (within) Francis!

PRINCE: Away, you rogue. Dost thou not hear them call?

    Here they both call him; the drawer stands amazed, not knowing which way to go.

    Enter Vintner.

VINTNER: What, stand'st thou still and hear'st such a calling? Look to the guests within.     Exit Francis    My Lord, old Sir John (Falstaff), with half a dozen more, are at the door. Shall I let them in?

PRINCE: Let them alone a while, and then open the door.     Exit Vintner   (calling) Poins!

    Enter Poins

POINS: Anon, anon, sir.

PRINCE: Sirrah, Falstaff and the rest of the thieves are at the door. Shall we be merry?

POINS: As merry as crickets, my lad. But hark ye, what cunning match have you made with this jest of the drawer? Come, what's the issue?

PRINCE: I am now of all humours that have shown themselves humours since the old days of Goodman Adam to the pupil age of this present twelve o'clock at midnight.     Enter Francis, hurrying across the stage with wine.   What o'clock, Francis?

FRANCIS: Anon, anon, sir.    Exit

PRINCE: That ever this fellow should have fewer words than a parrot, and yet the son of a woman! His industry is upstairs and downstairs, his eloquence the parcel of a reckoning. I am not yet of Percy's mind, the Hotspur of the North, he that kills me some six or seven Scots at a breakfast, washes his hands, and says to his wife, "Fie upon this quiet life! I want work." "Oh my sweet Harry," says she, "how many hast thou killed today?" "Give my roan horse a drench," says he, and answers "Some fourteen" an hour after, "a trifle, a trifle." I prithee, call in Falstaff. I'll play Percy, and that damned brawn shall play Dame Mortimer his wife. "Rivo!" says the drunkard. Call in ribs, call in tallow.

      Enter Falstaff...

    *       *       *

Okay, that's all we need. Anyone familiar with the play knows how the scene progresses to Prince Harry confronting Falstaff, as he has confronted Francis, by means of a certain brow-beating. Or rather Prince Harry attempts to brow-beat Falstaff, but unlike Francis our heavyweight buffoon possesses verbal sparring skills to hold his own--all of which culminates in the pair playing out a King-versus-wild-oats-son-Hal impromptu at the end of the long scene.
    A splendid one, most would agree, one of Shakespeare's best. But why not just start it with Falstaff's entry? As Ned Poins himself asks, what's the point of the escapade with Francis?--an especially intriguing question  given the curious "all humours" answer (or non-answer) that Hal delivers to Poins. Or to nobody in particular.
   The question intrigued Northrop Frye as well, in the aforelinked book, and Frye is where I plunged quite haphazardly into it. The year was 1995, I was taking a Historical Drama course (something of a pratfall in itself) at the University of Alberta, floundering, getting behind as usual (hey, married with kids!) and desperate for a topic for a final essay. Scrounging frantically around the Salter Reading Room my eye lit on the Frye book, where I found his "Bolingbroke Plays (Richard IIHenry IV)" and ultimately used it as starting-point to crank out an essay concerning Hal/Henry V's character and what Shakespeare may have been doing in resuscitating the celebrated monarch of England. NOT glorifying him, trust me!--nor do I subscribe, as Frye and many others do, to the theory of Hal's reform from his madcap ways (and it is a puzzle why Frye didn't proceed through to Henry V, which really does tie up his story with remarkable tidiness).
     But the thing that snagged my attention and ignited the essay was the Francis segment. Ultimately I deduced from it that Hal/Harry/Henry is a pretty aggressive fellow (and stays aggressive to the very end; but that's another story). Still, what the hell WAS he babbling about to Francis and Poins?? I must have read it and re-read it, stood on my head and squinted at it, peered three times at every footnote (let's see: "dyeing scarlet" might be urine-chemistry, a doublet is a tight-fitting Spanish-style jacket, Barbary is in North Africa--yeah, that's all a big help), and nearly went cross-eyed trying to figure it out. Nope.
    But luckily it was now burned into my brain. Luckily, because four years and several pratfalls later I lurched into a course in Medieval and Tudor Drama (surely "lurched" is the right word, because it was offered only rarely, as one of those Way-Obscure-If-Not-Pointless courses that regularly get snickered at by mainstream-media smarties, who would prefer to train another 10,000 computer programmers and attain the total robotification of humanity--and I was just "fortunate" enough to flunk a Biochemistry course the very semester before it was offered, then belatedly realized that my last course before graduating could just as well be in English as in Biological Sciences). So I jumped, and in that Medieval/Tudor course, and, thanks to the scorch-marks in my brain, discovered Shakespeare's source. Also perhaps a glimmer of his methods.
    Not that I was specifically looking for either. My impetus for taking the course in the first place was a burgeoning interest in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, a play that is regarded as the most puzzling of puzzlers, and which is known to have medieval roots. Reinforcing the importance of those roots was an article I stumbled on in a discarded scholarly journal (the U of A English Department has or had a pretty interesting used-books/periodicals table for charity) in which a professor (possibly Dr. Velz) had made an impassioned (by professorial standards) plea that Shakespeare was generally quite influenced by medieval literature and those roots should be investigated in detail. So, mayhaps I could clear up a few things in Troilus and Cressida? (shockingly, a lot got cleared up, but that's another story).
     But for the first part of the course, our little class of about 15 students was just struggling through that weird, archaic Middle English (somewhat modernized in our text, the massive Medieval Drama, ed. David Bevington; and keep an eye on his name--he's something of a punchline to this long story). The fact that medieval drama is largely religious is likely to send most folks scurrying thither, but once you get past the language-barrier the plays are actually a great deal of fun, and certainly the morals and messages in the plays are not flogged more obscenely than in your average crappy Hollywood flick. No, the medieval plays can be lively romps, possibly written by funky monks or clergypersons appealing to an even funkier agrarian audience, and it is quite possible to delight in them even now.
   Indeed, they have a legacy that continues today, in what is known as the comedy of evil. If some movie today, usually of the horror variety, shows it's chief bogeyvillain doing something humorous, a portion of the royalties should really go to an English monastery, if any still exist, or to a Doctor of Divinity program in Old Blighty. Those holypersons invented the schtick.
    And certainly the comedy of evil is present in the medieval play Mankind, which we plowed through about midway through the course. It portrays an everyman-protagonist named "Mankind" who tills the land like his fellow peasants. But into his allegorical onstage life comes those evildoers, Mischief, New-guise, Nowadays and a fourth oddball named Nought, a sort of straight-man-zany. Acting opposite these "Vices" and mediating things stands a Virtue named Mercy. The Vices are soon joined by their devilish boss, a gentleman titled Titivillus (Latin for all-vileness) whose costume is so horrifically awesome (including a metal tube of gunpowder flaming out his arse) that the Vices pass a hat through the audience for money before he is allowed to make his spectacular appearance (the first recorded admission-charge in English theatre). The bad dudes proceed to harass Mankind, placing a board in the soil to frustrate his digging, stealing his tools and seed-sack from behind his back, and so on. The Three Stooges with a mean streak.
    Shortly into the play's Middle English and Dog Latin, at line 122 I hit this:

MERCY: Mercy is my name and my denomination
I conceive you have but a little favour in my communication.

NEW-GUISE: Ay, ay! Your body is full of English Latin.
  I am afeared it will burst.
'Pravo te" quod the butcher unto me
  When I stole a leg of mutton.
Ye are a strong cunning clerk.

NOWADAYS: I pray you heartily, worshipful clerk
  To have this English made in Latin:
'I have eaten a dish full of curds
And I have shitten your mouth full of turds'
...

Very guffawsome, in the low, slapstick style of the Vices, but what caught my eye and pre-scorched brain was the "Pravo." Somehow it echoed with Shakespeare's Rivo, although the similarity is very faint, little more than a vaguely parallel Latin-ish spelling. I note that David Bevington, who has also edited an edition of Henry IV Part 1 did not make any connection between Pravo and Rivo, and why in hell should he? No, the imaginary echo was surely a trick of my lamentably digressive neural pathways. As the rational part of my brain told me, "It's just a coincidence, you moron!"
    Nevertheless, I stared at it. And if fading memory serves, the next thing I noticed was that both Latinates were grammatically almost identical ("Rivo" says the drunkard; 'Pravo te' quod the butcher). Then the fact that both exclamations are followed by butcher-shop references (ribs, mutton). Then the mutual use of the word cunning nearby.
    At that point my rational side was probably still pushing the likelihood of coincidence, but my paranoid lobe prevailed, and I placed the two texts side by side for what the scholars call close reading. Whereupon the parallels came tumbling in, most electrifyingly the contextual ones. It wasn't just the linkage between Goodman Adam and Good Adam, between anon anon and Mankind's anon anon anon (comic repetition also occurs in Mankind in such outbursts as anow anow anow, and nay nay, ser! nay nay! Or if you prefer Latin, hic hic hic hic hic). No, there was also the realization that Hal's suggestion to Francis to flee his indenture echoes Titivillus's insinuation to Mankind that he abandon his farm labours. Then, more joltingly, the realization that Hal's first speech actually describes Mankind: "three or four loggerheads" (i.e. Vices; it is unclear if Shakespeare shares my doubts about Nought's status, or just counts him arithmetically as zero) amongst three or four score hogsheads--these 60 or 80 kegs suggesting at first glance a staff/storage room in the tavern, but also matching a description of the staging of Mankind in an innyard, on a platform atop barrels (a picture of such staging is found in Bevington's Medieval Drama).
    Or what of Hal's statement that he is "of all humors that have showed themselves humors"?--pretty close to an admission of playing Titivillus, eh? (I confess my eyes popped a little at this correspondence). Note too that Mercy warns Mankind that Titivillus cannot be seen (line 295).
    So of course Mankind is the "precedent" that Hal is showing Poins.
    But the biggest adrenalin-shot was yet to come--arriving two-thirds-way through Mankind in the shortening-the-coat segment. In this action, Mankind has been duped into following the Vices, who arraign him in a mock-court, take his coat and drastically shorten it, until it verges on non-existence. The clip-job is done in two installments (for prop-purposes three coats are used) where the Vices take the coat offstage and return with a trimmed version (the entrances and exits from the raised platform are via steps; and Mankind too "is upstairs and downstairs" a few times).
    Here New-Guise has taken the coat away for the first trimming and the mock-court resumes:

NOUGHT: Hold, master Mischief, and read this.

MISCHIEF: [Reads] Here is-- 'Blottibus in blottis
Blottorum blottibus istis.'
I beshrew your ears, a fair hand!

NOWADAYS: Yea, it is a good running fist;
   Such an hand may not be missed.

NOUGHT: I should have done better, had I wist.

MISCHIEF: Take heed sir, it stand you on hand!
(continues reading) Curia tenta generalis,
In a place there good ale is,
Anno regni regitalis
   Edwardi nullateni.
On yestern day in Feverere (February) the year passeth fully.       685
As Nought has written, here is our Tully,
  Anno regni regis nulli.

NOWADAYS: What, ho, Newguise! Thou makest much [tarrying]  688
  That jacket shall not be worth a farthing.
 Re-enter Newguise with shortened coat....

Did you catch anything there? Something Shakespearean? It is surely helpful to have a scholarly note to tell us that "Tully" refers to Cicero, an exemplar of Latin composition, as Nought is not; but it wasn't exactly Tully that caught my eye, but the triplet rhyme fully/Tully/nulli, which could be expanded to a tetrad with Shakespeare's sully. And the proximity of another jacket, i.e. Francis's canvas doublet.
    When Prince Hal says, "Why then, your brown bastard is your only drink; for look you, Francis, your white canvas doublet will sully. In Barbary sir, it cannot come to so much"--scholars struggling through the semantic mess generally assume the "it cannot come to so much" refers back to the pennysworth of sugar, which has skyrocketed to a thousand pounds, whereupon the economic bubble burst. But the reference may be closer, to the doublet/jacket, which, like Mankind's coat, doesn't come to so much (a jacket not worth a farthing would not come to a penny, right?) Again, if this "it" does indicate the coat, it would not be the only case of Shakespeare playing fast and loose with a coyly ambiguous pronoun).
    Anyway, tentative parallels, but as yet no adrenalin shot. Somehow the allusion was too faint, barely there. Surely there had to be something else in the vicinity to reinforce it? But squint as I might, nothing came. Would monks even know of Barbary in North Africa? There were alehouses mentioned in Mankind, but no "brown bastard" (a sweetened wine, I recollect from somewhere). The word "doublet" hinted promisingly of double-meanings, but led nowhere.
    I was scouring the above extract for maybe the 20th time and cursing my habit of over-thinking things, when I idly eyed the word "tarrying" for the 20th time (actually it may be "taryynge" in my Bevington edition, which is currently misplaced). The word is in fact an interpolation by an earlier editor, of a word missing and/or illegible in the manuscript (specifically the Macro manuscript, where Mankind has its only surviving existence) and the editor's hypothetical word is based on the dramatic situation and a possible rhyme or near-rhyme with "farthing" (and maybe partly-legible letters??--the text didn't say. I have since found an undated (early-1900s) Chief Pre-Shakespearean Plays, edited by Joseph Quincy Adams, that reproduces the above Edwardi nullateni as  Edwardi millateni, and a reader has to sympathize with editors trying to decipher the fraying medieval penmanship).
    Alas, there is only a very short break while the coat is sent off to be tailored and returned, so "tarrying" seems a bit dubious. My brain, which on rare occasions actually writes poetry, and now was on auto-pilot and, lacking anything better to do, started checking for other possible rhyme-words that might fit the context better, which, in my brain's case means trying every consonant in the alphabet, from barthing to zarthing. It didn't have far to go.
    Bar... BARBERING!!!
    As I said, a shot of adrenalin. It was perfect! As every schoolboy knows, barbers in those days didn't just do haircuts, but most jobs involving sharp blades from surgery to hedge-trimming, and surely they could do a ripping job on a jacket, including making it resemble the tiny remnant of a pant-leg scissored up by Harpo Marx. Moreover, Shakespeare could do something similar in imaginatively slicing, dicing, and reassembling the pieces of Mankind into a little schtick in a historical scene. For a comparable achievement in literary carvery, you'd need to trot out some of Bob Dylan's wonky transfigurations of Shakespeare plays into folk-lyrics.
    Indeed, such was my 1999 delight in the discovery that, checking and finding David Bevington alive and kicking at the University of Chicago, I e-mailed him with the suggestion of "barbering"--minus the evidence, which you have to admit is rather long and convoluted. To my gobsmacked surprise he actually e-mailed back approving the emendation on its contextual merits alone. For 15 minutes I was in heaven.
    But of course every rose has its thorns. Mainly, what was now to be done with the detective work? I'm somewhat allergic to scholarly journals and their inexorable dulling-down, but eventually, possibly a year or two after the discovery, I relented and approached a journal of medieval studies with the idea for an article on how Shakespeare can be used to reconstruct a missing word in the Macro manuscript, but didn't even receive the courtesy of a "no thanks" from the theoretical thunkers. Prejudice reinforced!
    Still, the research sort of fits into my other Shakespeare snoutings, in a very small way. If my edition of Troilus and Cressida ever gets off the ground (debatable) the Francis bit will be included as an example of how Shakespeare does sneaky things. And he most surely did some wondrously sneaky things in his work. Sneakiness is almost a constant in his writing, at least until James I arrives on the throne, frowning at the rampant hidden meanings of those sly Elizabethan dramatists.
    But within the general area of Shakespeare and his Henry plays, the Francis-clarification adds a smidgen of clarification, reinforcing the notion that Shakespeare performs covert allusions like nobody's business--subterfuges that are plentiful, significant, and yet to be fully ferreted.
    In the meantime, some unfinished business has been tidied up, and another blogpost has been nailed to the cyberwall, bait for anyone who wants to hire an offbeat critic. Someday my editor will come. But that's another story.

Postscript: So yesterday, Friday Oct. 2, 2015 Anno Domini, the article is done. Consummatum est. Except for a thousand niggling, nagging afterthoughts, such as how I didn't manage to whiplash snidely about "give my roan horse a drench" being an obvious and structural sex-metaphor. Really, I could waste another week researching how ALL the studious scholars missed this easy one, even the compilers of thick tomes on Shakespeare's bawdy. Furthermore, Mankind has a sexual horse-metaphor too. Maybe such things are too common to comment upon? Or maybe nobody noticed that when Prince Hal says, "I'll play Percy, and that damned brawn shall play Dame Mortimer his wife." he is effectively saying, "I'm going to fuddle Falstaff the way Percy fuddles his wife, and the way I fuddled Francis." Come on, sleepyheads, WHAT DO YOU THINK PERCY AND WIFEY WERE DOING DURING THE HOUR BETWEEN QUESTION AND ANSWER?! Adjusting the dosage of Dr. Whinny's Oats Supplement??? Sigh.
    But having put far too much time and effort into this, I tweet out a blog-notice and wait hopefully for reverberations. The Blogger-stats tell me that within the first few minutes this baby has gotten about 8 visits. Then for the next 24 hours absolutely nothing. No visits, no replies, nada. Perhaps the entire interweb is all mega-data now, and the 8 clicks were just government computers routinely checking for indicators of terrorism, criminality, money-laundering, bullying, federal election polling, box-office trends, celebrity eruptions, economic growth, and the sustainability of buzzwords like sustainability (please note my helpful boost on that last one).
    Other than that, I just wait for... what? Godot? A literary prize? A good-paying gig at Esquire magazine? And while waiting, I neurotically tweak the article, trimming a word here, adding a phrase there, restructuring a sentence for more punch, etc. And double-check those "funky monks" that I cited from memory. Hm, seems that while Mankind is anonymously written, it is knowledgeable enough that a university-educated author is suspected. Were monks university-trained? Where did I hear about those monks anyway? Is it just false-memory syndrome??
    And is David Bevington still around?--heck, yes, and in 2015 even issued or re-issued a book he edited of essays on Henry IV Parts 1 and 2! Appallingly heavy on documentation, like his Arden edition of Troilus and Cressida. Wow, it even features a scholar named Ronald MacDonald! Seriously! Not doing fast-food Shakespeare but something called "speech act theory" which apparently postulates that Shakespeare can adjust his literary style. Oh yes!
    No word, however, on the significance of Henry V talking about his horse in tones reminiscent of his tavern hijinx, as he woos Katherine after Agincourt. Yep, first let's kill all the theorists.

PPS: And you could well describe the play Mankind as "the parcel of a reckoning"--a metaphor that fits Shakespeare's Second Tetralogy too.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Cookies, cookies, everywhere, and lots of data to drink...

    The routine check of the blog this morning reveals a couple of visitors, a normal statistic (a few weeks ago there were 40 or 50 one day, wildly unusual). Click a button and I can see where my recent visitors hail from--the last few weeks (which is the time-window if I recollect) it has been the U.S., Germany, France and Portugal, in that order if my eyesight for shades of green isn't failing. The Blogger Stats page also tells me of the latest post(s) viewed (just the previous "Ass in Gear" today) and "Traffic Sources"--today just something called http://theculturaluniverse.blogspot.de/ ...whatever the heck THAT is (the "de" I'm guessing indicates Deutschland).
    Even bigger heaps of data for its own nefarious uses, I'm assuming, are reaped by Google, the cyberfeudal e-Lord of your quasi-trusty blogserf. No doubt Google also knows your name, age, medical health, marital status, criminal record, bank balance, credit rating, political parties, charities and NGOs supported, promptness in washing your dishes, thoroughness in getting them really clean, and exact amount of time spent surfing for online porn. And likely this blog is accomplice or at least accessory to this info-harvest.
    All of course made possible by cookies, those cutely-named data-collection algorithms which comprise roughly 83% of the average hard-drive, as your personal computer is now so infested with cookies it's as if your hard-drive was caught in a Girl Guide-factory explosion.
    And now of course the government, which is always looking out for the welfare of its peons... er, citizens, wants to clearly let us know that cookies exist, and what they are doing. No, no not the Canadian government, because the Harper Conservatives view the interweb as just another field of profit-dreams, and because the CRTC is so pedantically clueless that it is still trying locate its gluteus with a gyro-compass (it's last great spasm of activity, you will recall, was an irony-free attempt to launder Dire Straits "Money for Nothing" because the song asserted, "The little faggot has his own jet-airplane/ The little faggot is a millionaire"). Nor is the Obama administration launching any cookie-control or cookie-awareness legislation, perhaps because of Republican stonewalling, or because the CIA and national-security agencies need room to plant a few zillion cookies per year themselves.
    No, it is the EU, the good old European Union, that now requires cookie-disclosal and cookie-permission (wait... is disclosal a word??) to the surfers of internet sites. So, for the freedom-loving and privacy-hugging explorers of Cyberia, or for Europeans anyway, rest assured that the situation is under control! Even this blog, Google tells me, now carries some sort of Euro-caveat. All hail Brussels!
    As for me, I'm still reactionary enough to yearn for a return to just newspapers as a universal medium (okay, a thin gloss of TV too). And police physically tapping into phone lines with alligator-clips. And just tell the damn internet to just go bake itself.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

On shifting one's ass into gear

A little quote from the eminently quotable T. H. Huxley:

It is when a man is free to do as he likes that he encounters his worst difficulties.

It now sits as part of the pre-fab signature at the end of my e-mails, although I fear it pins me to the specimen-board like a gonzo butterfly. For there is an hour or two in the morning when the laws of Canada and the general economy of things allows me an hour or two to write whatever I damn well please; furthermore I am now enjoying a few weeks vacation allowing me even more time, and... well, the results, as they say, are not pretty.
    Firing up the laptop, I am more likely to drift over to Facebook and Twitter, checking what other folks are up to, browsing the topics du jour, dropping a mere quip or ten just to prove I'm sociable. Actually I am quite anti-social, and getting decidedly crabbier with age, as seems normal. Hey, the unexamined life is not worth grousing about, right?
    What I should be doing is attacking the horribly overdue book of poetry criticism I've contracted for, although that project too has it's snares and fetters, like dredging up a lost essay from the 90s to reprint, avoiding the impulse to devour just one more poem or item about poetry under the guise of doing research, or mustering the Muse for actual writing.
    Most days I accomplish little or nothing, and then it's time to head to work (the money-making kind in the taxi) and/or walk the dog, and/or attend to a dozen or more domestic chores. At least with these things it's a fairly cut-and-dried application of time and effort. But the long-lingering backlog of writing? Nothing but an empty arena populated with question-marks.
    And it's too late to become a lawyer or a machinist. Writing is what seduced me and writing is what I'm married to. Now the only option is to make like an automaton and go. And if that requires a cup of coffee after the morning bowl of cereal, so be it. Although, oddly, I've found that half a teaspoon of the instant stuff seems to kick better than a full teaspoon.
    Whatever works...

Friday, June 12, 2015

On the cover of the poesy tome! Blurb plus!!

Yes, Virginia, there IS a book of poetry and poetry-criticism (mostly the latter) blurping like bitumen though the constricted pipelines of my brain, blurping, blorping toward publication. As I have joked elsewhere, a guaranteed worst-seller! Anyway, here's the back-cover blurp... er, blurb, unless the publisher thinks of something better:

Questions, questions, questions...


So does Robert Frost’s poem “Fire and Ice” actually MEAN anything? What about Jonathan Swift’s “Verses on the Death of Doctor Swift”? Why are the profligate professors flapping all over the map about THAT poem? And how does it happen that after four centuries the same damn professors STILL don’t have a clue about Shakespeare’s “The Phoenix and the Turtle”? Okay, admittedly a clue or four about this part of the poem, or that bit. But no general idea whatsoever about the poem as a whole. Nothing at all. Nada. Zilch. When will our theory-infested, jargon-ridden blithering class manage to decipher it? Never? Or maybe when they read this brilliant book? Again, what’s the deal with all those ultra-weird Bob Dylan songs on the Basement Tapes?  Uh, let me guess, did Bobby plagiarize those hillbilly-flavored goofs from somewhere? What?—from Shakespeare?? Are you joshing me? Wait a minute, how much Shakespeare is in this book anyway? Quite a lot? Maybe 30% or more? Shakespeare... wow... seriously boring.  Worse than frigging high school! What?—and this book has some of Andersen’s own poetry too? Poetry from grubby, redneck, tar-tarnished ALBERTA? From a cabbie??! LMFAO! C’mon, admit it, this is a really, really boring book, right? Total snooze-button, right?


Tedious answers inside!



     *     *     *

Ah yes, have some fairly definite ideas about the front-cover too, but your alleged critic will be coy about THAT. Hey, it'll be a bit cartoonish, with a teensy pic of John Lennon in one corner, saying, "...and for those of you who want to know why Old Flat-Top has feet down below his knees, that'll be answered inside too..."

Heh.  =]

Thursday, April 23, 2015

On bewailing the "public intellectual" shortage

Most days it is hard to flip open the laptop, even to merely slap together a tweet.
    Age. Cynicism. The daily drudgery of existence. The futility of launching another fart into the sulfurous hurricane of the internet.
    But fetching the morning papers today, presto!--here we have the National Post with "Culture Wars: Where have all the public intellectuals gone?" p.1 on the mast-bottom. An arrow to my heart!--although not exactly an untackled question. Moreover, don't we already have a few public intellectuals in Canada? Jonathan Kay, Colby Cosh and Dan Gardner spring immediately to mind, and there are others, although you may object that most are too tainted with journalism and reality to qualify as genuine beard-stroking thunkers. Worse, you could argue that despite their mediapodia, they don't have a great deal of of traction in the Canadian mind. And whatever happened to Mark Kingwell? Did our ivory-tower eminence get tired of mud-wrestling in the journals of lower learning? How grubby is this public-intellectual thing anyway? What exactly is involved in the mainstream-media cleanup after our crappy educational system has dumped its load?
    As it turns out the Post article is Yankee-sourced, concerning a new documentary film Best of Enemies, centred on the televised debates between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley on ABC during the August 1968 Republican Convention (heavy topic the Vietnam war of course). Total buzz-kill for this blogger, instantly suggesting two hotheads: Vidal calling Buckley a Nazi, Buckley snapping back "you faggot" at Vidal amid otherwise over-familiar and inconclusive platitudes.
    Or is this just a media-distortion now filtered through my lousy memory? (Fact-check: it was actually "crypto-Nazi" and "goddamn queer"--an exchange now captured online like pretty much every other sorry fragment of intellectual history).
    But the National Post story, Calum Marsh's "When the culture wars were worth fighting" mentions this hot exchange not at all, perhaps as being unseemly for Public Intellectuals of the Golden Age--his theme and the film's appearing to be our society's supposed loss of high-level punditry nowadays. He does note that "the network (ABC) didn't anticipate the vigour of their chosen conversationalists," alleging that "millions were held rapt by Vidal and Buckley's nearly half-dozen debates."
    Actually, I suspect that if Nielsen had been monitoring the audience closely, it would have found hundreds of thousands were actually reaching for beer and/or snacks during the more tedious parts, and significant numbers missed the minute-long Nazi/queer exchange during a bathroom break. Certainly it is notable, perhaps astonishing that in an article on Big Thunkers wading through five debates, Mr. Marsh fails to dredge up a single witty quip (or any other kind) by either Vidal or Buckley, nor does he even give much of a summary of the duo's ideas (dully left-right, i.e. painfully ideological, truth be known).
    If you check back to the YouTube clip, you will find, embedded in the name-calling, Vidal positing Europe's sympathy to the legitimate aspirations of the Viet Cong for national unity, and Buckley tut-tutting the temerity of the Cong in daring to shoot at U.S. Marines, but whether these two banalities are better, worse or typical of the general debate is left for us to guess (I'll conjecture no better). Or perhaps Marsh just wants to avoid any spoilers for the HotDoc a-coming.
   In any case, it is hard to muster any enthusiasm for Marsh's and the film's manufactured discrepancy between today's cheap pundits and the "literary pedigree" bred into the "iconic" Buckleyesque-Vidaloid intellectuals of yesteryear. Buckley I managed to plow through in depth eons ago, yielding a deep-seated dislike for the man. Like Vidal he oozes that erudite mid-Atlantic accent, but his ideas are a threadworn patchwork of mean-spirited sophistry. Vidal I know less well, but on the basis of his introduction to The Impossible Mencken I'd venture that while he might be a seven-foot intellectual giant, he falls well short of America's ten-foot colossus. The Sage of Baltimore is a fine measuring-stick for public intellectuals of any era, and both heirs to his artillery would have benefited from reading his essay "On Controversy."
    Finally, keep in mind that the Buckley vs Vidal confrontation was television, mere impromptu cut-and-thrust. I close my eyes and imagine two bespectacled junior-high achievers, suddenly facing off in the schoolyard while surprised students gather round, shouting, "Nerd fight! Nerd fight!"
    Durable works of the intellect are produced by more leisurely contemplation, and committed to the printed page. Buckley and Vidal may seem like ancient history now, but 1968's two perishable eggheads have also been left in the dust-up, quite remote from the Socrates and Aristotle of The School of Athens.
    As the Bible says: "Ask not why it is that former days were better than these--for it is not from wisdom that you ask this."

Monday, March 9, 2015

It's really about... Mencken? Utah???

Got a dozen writing projects at CRUNCH TIME (or past) so what do I do? Answer the National Post's call for 100-word or less suggestions to solve the problem of Iran's nukes.
    Hey, I'm a professional thunker, a professional digressor and a professional oddball too. So really, why isn't Obama dragooning me to be Secretary of State? Eh?
    Note that the following version comprises the FULL letter--the Post trimmed a few items from it when they printed it today, like "funky farmer-ambience" and "Sunni Arabia"--possibly to make me look like a normal human being. Nice try, guys!

In 1938, immediately after Kristallnacht the notorious American anti-semite H. L. Mencken demanded that the U.S. government quickly accept German-Jewish refugees (it didn't) and suggested western Canada could take thousands too, where they'd improve the funky farmer-ambience. The solution to Iran's nuclear schemes today is the same: evacuate Israel (incl. any gay/straight Arabs who wish to tag along) and transplant them in Utah, partitioning it to create a 51st state. Then blow Iran a goodbye-kiss with two or three tactical nukes into their facilities, lest they get Plan B ideas about Sunni Arabia. Problem solved. Easy as borscht.

      *       *       *That's it. Lets slip this one into my writing dossier and see if anyone will now hire the Western Wacko...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

"Is he crazy?"--a covert answer, and close but no cigar

    Clawing through the high stack of current newspapers, I randomly pull a September 14 Edmonton Sun--and accidentally stumble on a feature by Michael Platt of the Calgary Sun, headlined:

UNBEARABLE TRUTH COST FRANKLIN
PIONEER PROPER RECOGNITION

The editor in me cringes at the awkwardness of the double-stack (especially the split "Franklin pioneer" which is somewhat vague to begin with), but the story it tells (yes, online too) is a fascinating tale of dullards thinking inside the rut, until after a century and a half a sharp mind o'erleaps the mucky track and rolls to proper conclusions. I would headline it:

BRITAIN FINALLY RECOGNIZES RAE,
MALIGNED ARCTIC EXPLORER

John Rae in fact was the seaman who in 1854 discovered some remains of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage, including evidence of cannibalism among the desperate Franklin crew before they perished; and also the final link of the Northwest Passage, the Rae Channel, which Amundsen used (with full credit to Rae) in his pioneering voyage through the Passage in 1903-4.
    All of which is interesting in itself, as are the literary heroics of Ken McGoogan in telling the whole tangled tale in a number of books (he also spoke at the laying of a ledger-stone to Rae in Westminster Abbey).
   But for me the punchline is the 150-year delay in recognition--a classic case of shoot-the-messenger. Because Rae had concluded and reported cannibalism, he was rendered persona non grata and shunned. No one likes to hear horrific things (unless the horror is safely contained in Hollywood claptrap).
    This verity strikes close to home, as it may help explain a curious puzzle in my Bob Dylan research. If, as I concluded in my investigation into Dylan's wholesale expropriation of Shakespeare for the Basement Tapes, Dylan has effectively solved the "Hamlet problem" which has dogged scholars for centuries, why did he plant the solution with extreme obscurity in his song "Crash on the Levee"? (aka "Down in the Flood"). Couldn't he just have, um, written a letter to the editor of the Shakespeare Quarterly or something?
    In theory, he could have. Except that would be obtuse and boring. And Dylan is dealing with (and is probably fully aware that he is dealing with) a double-horror: first, the appalling news that Prince Hamlet is not a tragic hero but a vicious schmuck, a prince who is not just "melancholy mad" (with the emphasis on the melancholy, please) but actually crazy. It is a helluva jolt when one discovers this, and it is notable that almost all the scholars pussy-footing around the fact--and there have been quite a few--tend to avoid the conclusion or gloss over the evidence supporting it--wherein the second horror, that our critic-psychologists "who prophesize with the pen" have been routinely diagnosing Lord Lunatic as merely... stressed-out? For 400+ years. Has our western brain-trust really been so dense and derelict for all these centuries??
    With the exception of a handful of critics, yes. And even these few approach and circle the question most gingerly, never quite uttering the unthinkable. Perhaps the most notable of these hesitants is T. S. Eliot, who wrote a famous-in-academe essay on Hamlet (my most recent rediscovery of it came in a criticism textbook) wherein he lists the numerous ways in which the play Just. Doesn't. Add. Up.
    Included is the perennial question of "what's bugging the Prince of Denmark?" (if you have the time and a weird sense of humor, check every scholarly explanation of why Hamlet kills Polonius, sight unseen). At the end of the essay Eliot tosses up his hands, supposing it is just Shakespeare being his usual sui generis self, breaking all the rules for tragedy, God knows why. But still basically composing a tragedy. Go figure.
    To give a modicum of credit, Eliot clearly had good intuitive suspicions, even if they never found footing. My own literary lion, H. L. Mencken also had a few stray remarks about Hamlet, if not an entire essay; in one of them he flatly calls Prince Hamlet a "sophomore" which may be the lowest estimation of Hammie's character I've ever encountered. Clearly he had suspicions too. Maybe the two had even read Voltaire, who entertained some of the earliest and most extensive hunches about Hamlet not being quite on the level. (In his memoir My Life As Author and Editor, Mencken describes a casual meeting with Eliot where the two discussed the technicalities of their respective magazines; we can only speculate what they might have accomplished if they had butted heads about Hamlet instead).
    In any case it is easy to imagine Bob Dylan sitting dismayed at his ugly discovery and mulling how to handle it (he mentions the Hamlet-problem glancingly in his book Tarantula) until finally deciding to deflect the rotten Dane into another of his opaque cryptogram-songs.
    Yep, who needs the headache of sorting out the details of Shakespeare's closet-satire, and answering the yowls of the dull academics?-- leave THAT noise to posterity. Most astute.
    And in another century or so Will and Bob, those two sly speakers of the unspeakable, may get rehabilitated enough to get ledger-stones in Westminster Abbey too.

    PS: The title of this post comes from an very sharp English professor, who asked "Is he crazy?" as the very first comment on teaching the play to us. She asked the question as intently as if it really mattered, and it does.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ask Bob: Is there something to "Nothing to It"?

The little critic-inside-the-critic sneers and taunts me:
    "So, how is the big Bob Dylan project going?"
    "Lousy. Beyond rotten. Don't ask."
    So my little critic just sits there, head tilted, with a patient smirk, expectant and waiting. Her usual pose. Me, I'm off to the English Language & Usage/ Stack Exchange, a newly discovered website where it is possible to waste hours and days exploring the nooks and crannies of the lingo we speak, earning points, badges and other rewards while possibly improving the expression of it. For merely knowing the word "moocher" indeed, I have piled up points and badges galore. Gotta love success, even the somewhat nebulous cyber-Pavlovian kind.
    But in the back of my distracted mind remains that inner critic and the Dylan-problem. Part of me says just ditch it. Abandon the intractable knot. Bequeath the headache to the grandchildren...
    My cute inner critic, however, readily pops by and starts asking pointed questions. "So, a quitter, eh?
    Well, not quite. While waiting for some sort of brainstorm on publishing my heap of Dylan-research I can still add to it. And the Basement Tapes lyric-trove, happily, has expanded with a whole album of new songs released in late 2014 with lyrics written by Dylan during the 1967 Basement Tapes period, and performed by Elvis Costello &Co. Are they too Shakespeare-based? Seems so, here's Macbeth, signifying "Nothing to It" (and that IS a dagger you see before you at about 1:47 of the video which is also the video-illo as you first encounter it on YouTube; cute, Bob, very cute). "Married to my Hack" clearly derives from All Is True aka Henry VIII. Already mentioned these two roots in detail on Twitter to dead silence and, I'm guessing, utter incomprehension. Initial indications too are that "When I Get My Hands on You" is derived from all the detached hands in the revenge-saturated Titus Andronicus--although maybe I'll let someone else do all the word-by-word, concept-by-concept, pun-by-pun analysis for me. Getting sort of weary of it.