woensdag, oktober 29, 2003

The Unknown Citizen
by W.H. Auden - March 1939

(To JS/07/M/378 This Marble Monument Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports of his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of the old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the war till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report of his union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day,
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows that he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High--Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Installment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A gramophone, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of the year;
When there was peace he was for peace; when there was war he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation,
And our teachers report he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

maandag, oktober 20, 2003

Blaine Returns To Earth

"DAVID BLAINE is back on earth. At 10pm precisely, the 30-year-old New Yorker was lowered in his 7ft by 7ft by 3ft Perspex box by the crane from which it had dangled for the past 44 days. As he stepped out he burst into tears.

Calm in his goldfish bowl, against the dramatic backdrop of the floodlit Tower of London and Tower Bridge — he could not have picked a more spectacular setting — Blaine smiled down beatifically at the waiting throng below."

Of course, FAR more interesting than watching this nutter hang suspended in a box, was the hostility he generated. People threw threw eggs, golf balls and beer bottles at him, had gay people throwing sausages at him, taunted him by grilling meats below him as he fasted, had hamburgers flown by remote control helicopter to tease, bared their breasts, taunted him about his dead mother, etc. Maybe people were just upset about the excessive traffic-tie ups caused by David Blaine gawkers at the Tower Bridge.


For Halloween, the Osama masks are outselling the Saddam masks, much to DT's bitter disappointment. After all, the scariest costume in the world must be the face wearing the dreaded Dubya masks.

Considering that we'll be celebrating Halloween at Black Swan in Henley in Arden, perhaps an I'm Fighting For Whitey! mask would be more appropriate.


Are exams really that hard at NYU? After the first two library suicides maybe it's time to reassess the students themselves rather than the balcony barriers. After all, only 18% thought that NYU beats prison.


From the Why Can't This Happen To Dubya Department:

Tony Blair underwent treatment at the Hammersmith Hospital in West London, where he was admitted earlier in the day after feeling unwell. It was revealed that the British Prime Minister suffered from an irregular heartbeat and will follow doctor's orders to rest today. Oh, right. You have to have a heart before you can have a heart scare.


Meanwhile, disaster was averted as Birmingham City fans called a truce against Turkish villan and Aston Villa player Alpay. Game time was moved to an unsightly noon on Sunday making the hours-long pregame drinking ritual impossible and thereby avoiding a greater degree of violence than usual. For shame.

zaterdag, oktober 18, 2003


Dylan Thomas

Sometimes the sky's too bright,
Or has too many clouds or birds,
And far away's too sharp a sun
To nourish thinking of him.
Why is my hand too blunt
To cut in front of me
My horrid images for me,
Of over-fruitful smiles,
The weightless touching of the lip
I wish to know
I cannot lift, but can,
The creature with the angel's face
Who tells me hurt,
And sees my body go
Down into misery?
No stopping. Put the smile
Where tears have come to dry.
The angel's hurt is left;
His telling burns.

Sometimes a woman's heart has salt,
Or too much blood;
I tear her breast,
And see the blood is mine,
Flowing from her, but mine,
And then I think
Perhaps the sky's too bright;
And watch my hand,
But do not follow it,
And feel the pain it gives,
But do not ache.


God Loves Bush

An outspoken general in the American War Machine has some groups hopping mad (or in the case of Desultory Turgescence, doubled over, gasping in laughter) because of comments he's made regarding radical Muslims.

Gen. William Boykin is a Christian and one of the men overseeing the hunt for Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

At a recent religious meeting he spoke about why radical Muslims hate America.

He said, "One of the most fundamental reasons they hate us is, a: We're a nation of believers; and, b: We support Israel."

Some groups are saying Boykin should resign, but Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says he has a right to express his opinions, apparently, no matter how stupid they are. Rummy should know. He's the professor of the Stupid Sayings Faculty.

The Los Angeles Times reports Gen. Boykin told an Oregon Christian group in June that radical Islamists hate the United States, "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian and the enemy is a guy named Satan."

(I like that: "the enemy is a guy named Satan." -- the war on terrorism is now a war on Satan. Deftly, he's cut out the possibility of opposition. Whereas some have gotten confused as the lines blur between a "terrorist" and an oligarchic putsch that slaughters innocents because they are unfortunate to be in the way of the big war machine, everyone knows Satan is bad. Even the Muslims know Satan is bad. Isn't that what they've referred to America in the past, "The Great Satan"?)

Referring to a battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia, Boykin told another audience, "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

Ah, yes, the ole, 'My God is Bigger Than Yours' argument. Brilliant.

And the Los Angeles Times reports that Boykin said that President Bush is, "in the White House because God put him there."

Finally! An explanation. God Wanted Him There. In which case, your vote as a citizen is pretty useless since God has the final say anyhow...


The new rage in Denmark is issparkning which, I suppose, could roughly be translated as ice cream kicking. Roughly indeed:

Officielle regler

1 liter vanille is stilles på højkant og sparkes fra flad jord med bar fod uden sko og strømpe så langt som muligt. Kun vanille is er tilladt og kun i rektangulær firkantet indpakning (Frisko, Premier, Polar). Længste spark vinder.


Det er med til at højne totaloplevelsen såfremt du har en hat eller dragt på.


Den optimale vinkel er 45 grader - såfremt du sparker i vakuum. Da de fleste har svært ved at efterkomme dette sidste punkt er der ikke andet at gøre end at eksperimentere. Sparker du i en vinkel på ca. 50 grader er du ikke helt galt på den. Isen tages ud af indpakningen og placeres på højkant. Man afprøver lige sit tilløb til et par gange, og så sparker man ellers. Isen skal som udgangspunkt være kold og hård som muligt. Tjek fryseboksen i den forretning hvori du køber isen. -20 grader er anbefalet. Er isen blevet for hård kan du lade den stå et par minutter. Husk også toiletpapir eller håndklæde så du kan rense din fod efter sparket.


Vanille Flødeis (8% mælkefedt) med vanillesmag

Ingredienser: Skummetmælkskoncentrat, glukosesirup, sukker, mælkefedt, vallepulver, emulgator (mono- og diglycerider af vegetabilske spisefedtsyrer), stabilisator (guargummi, johannesbrødkernemel, carrageenan), aroma
Nettovolumen: 1000ml
Næringsindhold: pr 100ml pr 100g
Energi ca 393kJ (94 kcal) 771kJ (184 kcal)
Protein ca 1,5g 3g
Kulhydrat ca 12,1g 23,7g
Fedt ca 4,3g 8,5g

Meanwhile, in Bolivia, instead of kicking one liter containers of vanilla icecream, El Presidente de Bolivia, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, firmó su renuncia a la Presidencia de Bolivia y partió en vuelo a la ciudad de Santa Cruz de la Sierra (900 kilómetros al este de La Paz), informó un empresario cercano al mandatario.

dinsdag, oktober 14, 2003

"Yi Sang v

Four Poems
Translated by Walter K. Lew

Poem no. XIII
Holding the razorblade my arms became severed and fell off. Looking closer I see how cold and pale they are as if seriously threatened by something. Confronted with this I stood my pair of lost arms up as candlesticks to ornament my room with. The arms are dead but seem to show all the more nothing but fear of me. Such frail etiquette I consider more lovely than any flower basin.

Poem no. II
when my father dozes off beside me I become my father and also i become my father's father and even so while my father like my father why do i repeatedly my father's father's father's... when I become a father why must I lopingly leap over my father and why am I that which while finally playing all at once my and my father's and my father's father's and my father's father's father's roles must live?

Poem no. X
In the tattered wallpaper I see a butterfly dying. Secret mouthpiece bearing endless traffic to and from the other world. One day in the mirror I see on my beard a butterfly dying. Wings collapsed in exhaustion the butterfly eats the meager dew that collects glistening out of my exhaled breath. If I die while blocking the mouthpiece off with my palm the butterfly too as if starting up after resing shall fly away. Never do I let any word of this leak out.

Poem no. XI
That porcelain cup resembles my skull. I was grasping the cup tight with my hand when out of my arm another arm absurdly sprouted like a grafted branch and the hand pending from that arm grabbed the cup in a flash raised and hurled it against the floor. My arm is defending the porcelain cup to the death and so the shattered peices of course are my skull which resembles the procelain cup. If my arm had budged before the branching arm like a snake crept back into it the white paper holding back the flood water would have torn. But just as before my arm defends the porcelain cup to the death.

"The writer generally known as Lee Sang was born Kim Hae-gyeong in Seoul in 1910 and was trained as an architect. During his short literary career he showed an interest first in poetry, turning out some highly idiosyncratic and experimental pieces, and then short fiction and anecdotal essays. In the fall of 1936 he journeyed to Tokyo, where he soon ran afoul of the authorities and was imprisoned. He died of tuberculosis in a Tokyo hospital in 1937.

His "Nalgae"(Wings, 1936) is one of the best-known modern Korean stories. Whether its read as an allegory of colonial oppression, an existential withdrawal from the absurdities of contemporary life, an extended suicide note, or simply the degradation of a kept man, it is strikingly imaginative.

Lee Sang was a writer ahead of his time. While his debt to Western and Japanese modernism is evident, recent scholarship has investigated the influence of traditional Korean literature on his work. Since the 1970s his critical reputation has soared. In the 1995 issue of the review Muae(U.S. edition), the translator of the poems published below writes: "Lee Sang characterized himself as split between 'the 19th century's solemn morality' and 20th-century modernity, labeling himself a 'vagrant who slipped into a crack between the centuries with the sole intent of collapsing there.' What this typically self-deprecating remark omits is his undaunted, far from vagrant development of a new, intensely melded Korean idiom that exploited the particular recursive possibilities of the language, as well as its compendious, richly nuanced lexicon. For all their pranks and provocations, the poems' underlying designs are deft explorations of patterns of repetition and divergence, identity and repression, desire and dissipation. Yi Sang's work stands as an important sign of the greatly underestimated range and vigor of Korean responses to the influx of modernist culture, both high and low."


Meanwhile, somewhere in the world, the beer is just too big to handle.

maandag, oktober 13, 2003


I go with my father's staff in my hand
My burning heart on the staff

My footsteps murmur the letters
Which the holy road writes out

I trace them in the sand with my staff
Before sleep
At every hospice

Lest they be wiped from my memory

I am still far from guessing
Their meaning
But they look like the constellation Wolf

No empty nights for me
If I get home safe and sound

--Vasko Popa

tr. Anne Pennington
fr. *Earth Erect*
[London: Anvil Press Poetry, 1973]

zaterdag, oktober 11, 2003

Stratford Mop Fair

Despite the exhaustive research of picking through the locals for an answer, it was only via the internet where I've finally come across a lucid explanation of what this weekend's Mop Fair in Stratford-upon-Avon is all about.

I'm not even sure why I bothered, considering that The Stratford Herald proclaimed in bold headlines this week that Stratford Demoted to a 'Third Rate Tourist Town'.

To the untrained eye, it looks a little like chaos. The main streets through town are all blocked off, carneys appear out of nowhere, rides, food and kiddies. But its on everyone's lips as in, are you going, have you gone, etc...

So, relying on my own handy servant, the internet, here is the explanation I've long been looking for:

However, ‘Mop Fairs’, which were held twice a year and it was here that servants were hired. Groups of servants, dressed in their best clothes, walked to the fair where they stood in rows waiting to be picked out.

The mop fair tradition goes back centuries and stems from hiring fairs, where farmers, tradesmen and householders gathered to employ their servants for the coming year. very word 'fair' coming from the Latin for holiday, 'feria'

It was customary for those looking for work to display an item which showed their trade. Waggoners wore whipcord in their hats, a knot of horse hair indicated a groom, while more lowly workers wore a piece of mop, which is where the mop fair name comes from...Mop fairs where servants were ritually bought and sold to the present day, where fairs are based purely on entertainment rather than trade.

If you were chosen for a job, you were given cash as a retainer which was usually spent at the fair on sideshows, food and drink and having a good time.

In Stratford, which is home to one of the country's biggest fairs, the mop became a funfair after World War I. This was also when the custom developed of the mayor holding a pig or ox roast before the opening of the fair.

The custom remains today and with typical Stratford pomp on civic occasions, the mayor reads the mop proclamation and the master of the mop leads the mayor around the fair before the mayor selects a ride to go on.

On the first morning of the fair, which is almost always 12 October, children of the town enjoy the rides free of charge.

Charity is also a huge part of the mop. The first slice of meat from the pig roast is auctioned, which often raises hundreds of pounds.

The fair operator and master of the mop, William Wilson of Bob Wilson Funfairs, also makes a contribution from the takings on charity night, which is traditionally the first night of the fair.

Anyway, as a precursor to the big England-Turkey match today, I'll be having a look at the Mop Fair, snap some shots, step on a few toes and see what the fun is all about.

Brotherhood of Pigs

"America’s Iraq-sticker-shock may turn to anger when taxpayers discover the small group of men and companies reaping the benefits of President Bush’s newly found appreciation for nation building.

While Vice President Dick Cheney’s company, Halliburton, has attracted most press attention for its Iraq-related contracts, Halliburton is hardly the whole story. Its share is but a slice of the multi-billion dollar pie being divided up among a brotherhood of unusually well connected and economically related individuals and entities.

Cukoo For Christianity

Oh. whom to root for on this one? On the one hand, while there is a strong belief that fundamentalists of any religion should be rounded up and executed, TV Evangelist and Fundamentalist Christian, Pat Robertson suggested that the State Department should be nuked.

But this wasn't even the first time he suggested it.

In a June interview with Mowbray on the "700 Club", Robertson made similar remarks. "Maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up like Newt Gingrich wants to do," he said.

Just Another Drug-Addict

Looks like the debate is over. A little over a week ago, Rush Limbaugh, the waterboy for the Pathologically Ignorant, noted that "I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well,'' Limbaugh opined. "There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."

Some applauded his honesty but everyone outside of Republican monkeys and racists, were appalled by the stupidity and ignorance of such a remark. Shortly thereafter, Limbaugh resigned his position on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown pregame show where he worked primarily to draw in the remaining moron viewing audience who somehow weren't already drawn to the NFL to begin with.

Not surprisingly, those whacky remarks can now be attributed to drug addiction. Limbaugh now whines that that he is addicted to painkillers and is checking into a rehab center to "break the hold this highly addictive medication has on me."

Why is HE the one taking the painkillers when his he's such a pain in the ass himself?

woensdag, oktober 08, 2003

The Society of the Spectacle

"The world at once present & absent which
the spectacle makes visible is the world of the
commodity dominating all that is lived. The
world of the commodity is thus shown for
what it is, because its movement is identical
to the estrangement of men among
themselves & in relation to their global

— Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

Item One: Sexually-harassing Nazi wins the day in California. Californians voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to recall Gov. Gray Davis and chose as his replacement Arnold Schwarzenegger, the bodybuilder and movie actor making his first run for office, according to a survey of voters leaving the polls. Perhaps California, not New Mexico, should be named the Dumbest State in America.

Item Two: In a "shocking" revelation, President George Bush has said he does not know whether federal investigators will ever find who leaked the identity of a CIA agent:

"This is a large administration... I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official"

What more would one expect from an administration that can't find any weapons of mass destruction?


By now, everyone must know: Absinthe is the drink of Champions! C'est ma santé!


The Jury Is Out:

Justice Thurgood Marshall reportedly told one of his law clerks during the Reagan administration that "if I die while that man's president, I want you to just prop me up and keep me voting."

"It has been assumed that President Bush would have an opportunity to appoint one or more justices. However, since Bill Clinton selected Stephen Breyer in 1994, the high court lineup has remained unchanged — longer than any lineup in more than 150 years. Retirement speculation reached fever pitch in the spring, when pundits predicted that as many as four justices might retire."


Was it all the nuclear testing back in the 40s that finally did them in? New Mexico is officially ranked as the Nation's Dumbest State.

And to think, California is 44th! Who will New Mexico elect as their new governor...the Alien of Roswell?

Meanwhile, the President Bush Dog Toy has its day.


Threatening to throw a monkey wrench in an already highly anticipated match,the England football squad last night voted unanimously to strike unless Rio Ferdinand was reinstated to the squad.

The players said that they would not travel to Turkey for Saturday’s vital European Championship qualification match unless Ferdinand, who was dropped from the team for failing to take a random drugs test, was given his place back.

dinsdag, oktober 07, 2003


Nothing is left and this nothing is increasingly
aggressive, totalitarian, & omnipresent.

Our experience today is the strange one of
empty political institutions in which no one
has any confidence any more, of a system
of government which functions only in the
interests of a political class, & at the same
time of the almost infinite growth of power,
authority, & social control which makes any
one of our democracies a more authoritarian
mechanism than the Napoleonic state.

— Jacques Ellul,
Anarchie et Christianisme

If it's true, what they say, that California is the trendsetter for America, well then, some of you bastards are in for a hard ride ahead.

They say poetic justice is defined thusly: The rewarding of virtue and the punishment of vice, often in an especially appropriate or ironic manner.

Ladies and gentlemen of America, may I present your reward for idly standing by or even applauding as your half-wit President led the nation into economic ruin, bloodshed and scorn:

The Ultimate American Dream: Arnold Schwarzenegger, soon-to-be governor over the 5th largest economy in the world. You might say he's come the full circle.

It's a shame he can't be President because virtually no man better symbolizes the half-wit nature of American politics while simultaneously exemplifying the single-minded glorification of greed for the almighty Dollar that led the world into the invasion of Iraq and the blood-letting of the American economy.

Now I can let the cat out of the bag:

All I want for Christmas is a bombed-out dollhouse:

Welcome to the new millennium of war toys. Gone are cartoonishly idealistic action figures, soft plastic guns and the model jet fighters of yore. They have been replaced by bazookas with explosive noises, exacting copies of long-range sniper rifles, a "peacekeeper" battle station complete with tripod-mounted cannon and counterterrorism advisers as action figures.


driving the freeway while
listening to the Country & Western boys
sing about a broken heart
& the honkytonk blues,
it seems that things just don't work
most of the time
& when they do it will be for a
short time
well, that's not news.
nothing's news.
it's the same old thing in

from the poem: "The Last Song," by : Charles Bukowski

maandag, oktober 06, 2003

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950). Renascence and Other Poems. 1917.

Sonnet II

TIME does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side, 5
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!

There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,—so with his memory they brim! 10
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him!

(sans commentaire cynique)

•$3.6 million for 600 radios and phones ($6,000 each). Administration has requested $3.6 million for 400 handheld radios and 200 satellite phones at an average cost of $6,000 each. According to Businessweek on May 12, "When Baghdad's telephone system was knocked out during the war, small-time Iraqi businessmen ordered up satellite phones from Jordan for $900 each.

•$33,000 a piece for 80 pick-up trucks. Administration has requested $2.64 million for 80 pick-up trucks at a cost of $33,000 each. Prices in the United States for a new truck begin at $14,000.

•$2 million for museums and memorials - Administration has requested $1 million for "Memory Foundation" to record Saddam's atrocities, $500,000 for a memorial marking atrocities his son committed against Iraqi athletes, and $500,000 for a memorial at Abu Gharaib prison.

•$50,000 per prison bed - double average U.S. cost. Administration has requested $400 million to build two 4,000 bed prisons for a cost of $50,000 per prison bed. The Federal Bureau of Prisons estimates that incarceration in high security prisons in the United States costs $26,134 annually.

•$10,000 per month for business school - more than double monthly cost of Harvard Business School. Administration has requested $20 million to teach a 4-week course business course at a cost of $10,000 per student. Tuition at Harvard Business School costs less than $4,000 a month.

•$200,000 per person witness protection - nearly 20 times cost of U.S. program. Administration has requested $100 million to protect 100 families with average of 5 members per family. Per person cost of protection is $200,000. The U.S. Federal Witness Protection program costs $10,273 per person and the Iraq's GDP per capita is $2,400.

•$10 million for 48 bureaucrats ($200,000 per bureaucrat). Administration has requested $10 million to establish an office for 48 staffers to "regulate and inspect the standards and training of the guards of public facilities." Cost per staffer of $208,333.

•$333 for a month of half days of computer training. $55 million for computer training, including $40 million for a $333/month half day course. American community colleges charge between $100 - $200 for computer training (6 months, three hours a week).

•$1500 per student for a 6-month English class - at least 50 percent greater than U.S. cost. Administration has requested $30 million to enroll 20,000 students in a 6 month English class in Iraq. American community colleges charge between $500 and $1000 for a comparable ESL course.

•$9 million for a state-of-the-art Iraqi postal service. Per capita, this amount is greater than the federal government spends annually on the U.S. Postal Service.

SOURCE: Office of Senate Democratic Leader - September 30, 2003


excerpt from To Shout In the Ruins
by Louis Aragon

Let's spit the two of us let's spit
On what we loved
On what we loved the two of us
Yes because this poem the two of us
Is a waltz tune and I imagine
What is dark and incomparable passing between us
Like a dialogue of mirrors abandoned
In a baggage-claim somewhere say Foligno
Or Bourboule in the Auvergne
Certain names are charged with a distant thunder
Yes let's spit the two of us on these immense landscapes
Where little rented cars cruise by
Yes because something must still
Some thing
Reconcile us yes let's spit
The two of us it's a waltz
A kind of convenient sob
Let's spit let's spit tiny automobiles
Let's spit that's an order
A waltz of mirrors
A dialogue in the void
Listen to these immense landscapes where the wind
Cries over what we loved
One of them is a horse leaning its elbow on the earth
The other a deadman shaking out linen the other
The trail of your footprints I remember a deserted village
On the shoulder of a scorched mountain
I remember your shoulder
I remember your elbow your linen your footprints
I remember a town where there was no horse
I remember your look which scorched
My deserted heart a dead Mazeppa whom a horse
Carries away like that day on the mountain
Drunkenness sped my run through the martyred oaks
Which bled prophetically while day
Light fell mute over the blue trucks
I remember so many things
So many evenings rooms walks rages
So many stops in worthless places
Where in spite of everything the spirit of mystery rose up
Like the cry of a blind child in a remote train depot

zondag, oktober 05, 2003

Shakespeare Myths and Notes

The days are flying by recklessly, stuffed with sorting out the details of relocation and acclimating oneself to the locals; the (coughcough) “necessary” visits to the White Hart in order to “research” local information. No, not just the daily quality control checks of the Adnams from the cask, but also to fill in on the local gossip, detail the activities in Newbold on Stour and begin to sketch in the character of oneself so as not to arrive each late afternoon a nameless skeleton form of a visitor but giving shape to the individual instead. Shape which not only defines one to the locals but which legitimizes one’s very existence in the place to begin with.

When not busy with that, there is the daily morning bike ride into Shipston On Stour for a stop by the butcher, the news agent, etc.

But Friday, at least, was a break in the pattern – wandering instead, the streets and parks of Stratford Upon Avon. Actually, Thursday night was peeled away with Mick in the Garrick Inn, listening to him wax forth on the fraud that is Shakespeare, the fraud that is Stratford, the lies told to tourists, etc.

So the following morning, I went to a used bookstore and picked up a copy of Ian Wilson’s Shakespeare: The Evidence: Unlocking the Man and His Work. I figured to try and sort out a few myths of my own, arm myself a little with knowledge for the next conversation. And in fact, one chapter in particular caught my eye, entitled "Stratford-upon-Avon ‘One of the Biggest Frauds in England’?"

So I took the book with me to Bancroft Gardens and sat around by the Swans, watching tourists meander along the canal in between passages. On occasion, stretching out the legs to have a look at the Prince Hal statue since I thought the Prince Hal I already know from Banana Fish Zero might get a kick out of seeing a replica of his namesake.

You could compare the two yourself, actually:

Banana Fish Zero's "Prince Hal"


Shakespeare's "Prince Hal", aka, Henry, Prince of Wales.

Of course, with the sun ducking in and out all afternoon and the tourists getting louder, I decided to try and find a quieter locale, dipping in and out of pubs, sating a beer craving as the thirst of knowledge evolves, when wandering alone, into a thirst for beer and the two must be equally sated.

In any case, some of the quotes, overall that shocked or were of interest with my own occasional, parenthetical commentary:

•“Shakespearean England’s meat quality controls required butchers (Shakespeare is often cited as being a “butcher’s son”) to have licenses, and Stratford’s only known licensed butcher in John’s (Shakespeare’s father) time was town Alderman Ralph Cawdrey of Bridge Street.”

•John being the son of Richard Shakespeare from the neighboring hilltop of Snitterfield (where a friend of mine, also named Richard, currently lives), where he farmed as a tenant on additional land….but sometime before John must have left to set up in his own right in Stratford, for in that year he somewhat ingloriously enters the historical record with a fine more amassing a dunghill…(apparently, dunghills were hygienically located in a town and you weren’t allowed to build your own dunghills wherever you felt like it)

Now these first few chapters go on to detail how it was highly unlikely that Shakespeare was merely a butcher’s son and that in fact, Shakespeare’s father was largely involved in land, money and local politics, rising in fact, to the height of what was today’s equivalent of local mayor, in Stratford.

What interested me more at this point were the historical accounts and references, trying to visualize Stratford in the 16th century rendered even odder perhaps, by the fact that many of the streets of today’s Stratford had the same names they did back in Shakespeare’s day, the highly original Sheep Street, Chapel Lane, Wood Street, etc. The layout, at its core in any event, doesn’t seem to have changed very much from that time. It lends a little more weight to the walking, I believe, when the visions can be so exacted.

Rather than just ramble on and on, I’ll bullet a few more passages, which for personal reasons, I found interesting. Even if no one cares to read it, I’m still saved the trouble of having to look it up for reference in conversations later…

•“Of this latter, most notable in his particular year was the rising of the Northern Earls, a serious pro-Catholic rebellion that threatened to overthrown Elizabeth and replace her with the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, now Elizabeth’s prisoner in England.”

•“The Jesuits were the Roman Catholics most militant arm, founded in 1534 to counter the tide of Protestantism…

•There was a big demand for priests and Catholic missionaries to cater to England’s secret Catholics (of which, it is alleged Shakespeare’s father was a member according to a disputed Catholic will found in the attic rafters of Shakespeare’s house many years later that indicate even while Shakespeare’s father was running things from a Protestant point of view in Stratford to keep up appearances, he might secretly have been a Catholic...

•“Pope Pius V’s excommunication of Queen Elizabeth as a heretic in 1570, declaring her monarchy illegitimate and thereby sanctioning any Catholic attempt to overthrow her. It meant all English Catholics could be regarded as, and treated as, traitors, whatever their true feelings on the matter.”

•“At Tyburn on 1 December 1581 Campion (a Catholic missionary) and two fellow priests were despatched by being publicaly hanged, cut down while still alive, then having their genitals cut off and their bowels drawn out before their eyes” – sounds like one of those teary-eyed and somber descriptions the pro-Invasion advocates like to give in justifying the Invasion of Iraq for reasons of Saddam’s tyranny)

•“Conversely, anyone over sixteen who did not attend Anglican services was liable to a fine of £20 per month, a sum equivalent to a year’s wages for those of middle income, and therefore quite impossible to pay except for the very rich…” (just an interesting background note, I thought, on religious intolerance…)

”In 1552 money-lending had been forbidden as ‘a vice most odious and detestable’ -- it still is (performed by odious and detestable people like bankers and credit unions…too bad it’s not still outlawed)

There’s plenty more, but this covers the outline of the first few chapters. Perhaps I’ll toss in more quotes as time goes on, given reasonable appeal indicated by readers.

For now, I’ll leave it at this and recover, pending further reading and catching up on other sorts of andecdotes.

donderdag, oktober 02, 2003

The Marajuana Tax Act, signed August 2, 1937 in the United States, notes that there are 100,000 total marajuana smokers in the US and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their "Satanic" music, jazz and swing, result from marajuana usage.


For those of you who demanded it incessantly: Asterix, Découvrez leurs différentes pages consacrées à l'univers d'Astérix.


On the other hand:

"American 'energy'... is the energy of violence, of free-floating resentment and anxiety unleashed by chronic cultural dislocations which must be, for the most part, ferociously sublimated. This energy has mainly been sublimated into crude materialism and acquisitiveness. Into hectic philanthropy. Into benighted moral crusades, the most spectacular of which was Prohibition. Into an awesome talent for uglifying countryside and cities. Into the loquacity and torment of a minority of gadflies: artists, prophets, muckrakers, cranks, and nuts. And into self-punishing neuroses. But the naked violence keeps breaking through, throwing everything into question.

from Susan Sontag, Styles of Radical Will


Poem of the Day:

Form Rejection Letter

We are sorry we cannot use the enclosed.
We are returning it to you.
We do not mean to imply anything by this.
We would prefer not to be pinned down about this matter.
But we are not keeping--cannot, will not keep--
what you sent us.
We did receive it, though, and our returning it to you
is a sign of that.
It was not that we minded your sending it to us
That is happening all the time, they
come when we least expect them,
when we forget we have needed or might yet need them,
and we send them back.
We send this back.
It is not that we minded.
At another time, there is no telling...
But this time, it does not suit our present needs.

We wish to make it clear it was not easy receiving it.
It came so encumbered.
And we are busy here.
We did not feel
we could take it on.
We know it would not have ended there.
It would have led to this, and that.
We know about these things.
It is why we are here.
We wait for it. We recognize it when it comes.
Regretfully, this form letter does not allow us to elaborate
why we send it back.
It is not that we minded.

We hope this does not discourage you. But we would not
want to encourage you falsely.
It requires delicate handling, at this end.
If we had offered it to you,
perhaps you would understand.
But, of course, we did not.
You cannot know what your offering it
meant to us,
And we cannot tell you:
There is a form we must adhere to.
It is better for everyone that we use this form.

As to what you do in future,
we hope we have given you signs,
that you have read them,
that you have not mis-read them.
We wish we could be more helpful.
But we are busy.
We are busy returning so much.
We cannot keep it.
It all comes so encumbered.
And there is no one here to help.
Our enterprise is a small one.
We are thinking of expanding.
We hope you will send something.

--Philip Dacey. *How I Escaped from the Labyrinth*. Carnegie-Mellon UP,

woensdag, oktober 01, 2003

Plugging in the Kettle

Now that we’ve had a chance to “plug the kettle in” (as BT’s new customer welcoming letter to us read), it’s time to set forth with the inaugural Desultory Turgescence British Home Office entry.

First and foremost, the content will likely be changing if it hasn’t already. Although long-winded political ranting cleverly-disguised-as absurdist distortions of the lies and destruction of the Bush Administration upon its own, until recently, majority-ignorant population and society, was quite a lot of fun and had become some sort of a hallmark of Desultory Turgescence, it was often the final resort of a heart and mind sickened with disbelief over the chain of events that began with the theft of a presidential election that officially turned the United States of America into a banana republic of corruption and lies and has continued on an unprecedented rampage of cynical, reductionist manipulation masquerading as patriotism with such vigor and verve that living even in a city as open and exciting as Manhattan once was had became unbearably toxic.

(whew! Now there is a sentence that would be hard fought to complete in one breath...)

However, now freed of the incessant barrage of ignorance and stupidity, no longer hamstrung by fears of caustic reactionaries belching out their undigested thoughts of patriotism and morality or offended by the sickening degree of selfish indifference while the world collapses around them, Desultory Turgescence is prepared to embrace a world as far apart from Manhattan as is chalk from cheese, as they say.

That embrace begins with our new digs in the tiny village of Blackwell.

One of the primary reasons for restarting the blog at this point in time, convinced that Desultory Turgescence had already long ago exhausted the limitations of Bush-whacking and political raving, was the rather flowering realization that no longer living the lie of politics in America did not necessarily mean that commentary of a different sort couldn’t flourish as well. Seeing so many opportunities to observe and remark upon; the graphic contrast of urban versus rural, the mean-spirited autocratic morality of Manhattan’s midget mayor compared with Shakespeare’s Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day? or a mayor who kvetches about his city having no gambling casinos?

Small wonder, getting out.

For one thing, its difficult to work up an righteous indignation out here. The things to complain about seem less urgent. For example, here is a small letter to the editor I cut out from the Stratford Herald last week, so touched was I not only over the issue of complaint but the ferocity of the rage involved in what some might consider such a trivial matter:

”Sir: In your issue of 7th June 2001 you were good enough to print my letter “Pee-d off with locked loo”, referring to Bell Court, Stratford.
I am now even more brassed off with the new toilet in Town Square: not only is it locked, they’ve never even bothered to open the damned thing. I can only assume the people in charge, whoever they are, consist of a constipated, bottle carrying brigade, who have no regard for the normal bodily functions of our many visitors or the poor benighted folk who live in Stratford.
Please, please open these toilets and I promise to buy my own toilet roll.”

Finally, after to all these years, I’m beginning to glean a sense of what Monty Python was on about.

Even this still-small taste of the kind of dry, sardonic British humor typically spilling out from street corners to pubs to bicycle shops and side-remarks in libraries and news agents, is sufficient to understand that one is not dealing with the same sort of oneupmanship of creeping meatballism and boorishness that one was force-fed so often on the streets of America. Not at all.

But I don’t want to give the false impression I’m actually in Stratford. Only for trips to the Holy Trinity Church to maudle over Shakespeare's tomb in between pints at the Garrick Inn just down High Street, sometimes, when the urge for department store shopping becomes overwhelming, and every great once in a while when I get lonely for the sight of large swarms of German tourists brought in by buses crowding the streets with their big feet and bellies. Otherwise, it's just a crazy burg 8 miles up the road from here.

In fact, from where this is in Blackwell, Stratford-Upon-Avon is a virtual metropolis. They’ve got the Royal Shakespeare Company, theatres, shopping centers, 500 year old pubs, housing developments and tons of tourists.

Blackwell on the other hand, has houses, a few horses and a few sheep. The nearest pub is a mile and a half down the road in Newbold-on-Stour, called The White Hart. It is there that in time, I am going to one day learn how to cook partridge and pheasant properly or learn how to skin a rabbit.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the refreshing change of pace and the lack of outrage and sense of injustice. For some reason, the mind functions better riding a bike along empty roads on cool mornings as the translucent veil of fog is still lifting off of plow fields and horse farms, and the air is ripe with manure and burning wood. Those last few weeks in Manhattan were positively Dantesque with the stale urine and rotting garbage wilting upwards from the asphalt in the stultifying humidity.

Humanity seems much more edifying when not experienced through the excruciating persistence of its morality monopolists and the dull hum of what some might deem to be civilization.

In the meantime, "Wouldn't it be weird if in twenty years Iraq had a functioning Social Security system but America didn't?". Lovely to see Get Your War on back in the pits.

Lastly, two brief announcements which are utterly unrelated:

The first trickle of hope for America? Looks like the Draft Clark mission was a success. Congratulations. Since seeing him for the first time on Meet The Press several months ago, he's been my favorite choice.

The last trickle of hope for Queens? Looks like The Great Satan Quarterly is back on line. The pressure's on, lad. You're my primary source of local sports now that I can't pick up the Daily News at the local bodega anymore. Now the only thing to sort out in the absence of the Daily News is where to find all those shots of Beyonce's bum.

That isn't to say I haven't seen some strange things out here. Without a doubt, I still do a double take every time I see a sign for Faggots and Mushy Peas.

But I'm hard at work already here. Only last Saturday night, I won a free t-shirt at the British Legion's Third Chipping Campden Beer Festival five miles down the road from home in lovely Chipping Campden for quaffing ten different pints of their mind-altering ales and ciders.

So Desultory Turgescence is strapping it back on again. And as once mulled in that song for the generations by EBN-OZN, EIOU and Sometimes Y,

"Yeah she took me home man she threw me all
around the room man
I mean this chick was really hot she was nice
to me you know
She let me keep on my cowboy boots and everything..."

So it feels, smoking up the Drum once again in pubs, no longer under the thumb of the mismanaging moralists and happy to be free again.