Life in the Snowy Boondocks
Posted Last Week
This is a beautiful little town. Think Mayberry. It would be even more beautiful, in my humble opinion, were it not currently buried under several FEET of snow.
More of which fell this morning - though, thankfully, only about an inch. A light dusting, here.
You know that sense of awed wonder you feel as a child when it snows? This disappears quickly when the sight of snowflakes means one thing: snow shovels in your future.
My greatniece and greatnephew thought the best feature of this house was that we had...wait for it...
A Harry Potter closet. We decided to keep our extra wands and magick books in it.
The worst feature? Upstairs rooms with low ceilings. Elektra can put her hand on them. Our box springs wouldn't go up the stairs... however, the house warms up easily. These people obviously built on the model of Rekjavik: snug and small.
Elektra's convinced they were Scandinavians. Some of the kitchen cupboards are too high, even for her to reach. I see ladders in our future...
So, greetings from the snowy forests of Penn's Woods. I hope the rest of you are all snug.
A Word from DG
Posted Last Week
Just a quick note to let you know that we've arrived and are online.
I'm typing this from the northern Appalachians. In other words, we are still hillbillies, only with slightly different accents.
The view from my window showeth sun, gleaming on snow. LOTS of snow...
As Mr Micawber said, 'In short, we have arrived.'
Personal Smiley Request
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
Certain internet behaviour kind of reminds me of the hobo I ran across in Cologne back in the 80s. He used to ride the trolley occasionally. This particular hobo was very colourful - he wore a hat with a garland of plastic roses. Otherwise, he was like Red Skelton's Freddy the Freeloader, only with a Koelsch accent.
One day, the guy climbed onto the trolley, turned to the other passengers, and announced solemnly:
'I suppose you're all wondering why I called you here today...'
Getting rid of the 'bo was not easy, even though he hadn't paid the fare. You see, in Germany - at least, back then - riding on public transport was on the honour system. You bought a ticket, or you 'rode black'. Riding black was gambling: if a random inspector showed up, and you had no ticket, the fine was 20 marks. I thought this was an elegant system.
Again, it sort of reminds me of the internet - you know, ugc sites like ours, where we get lazy bums - sorry, less involved users - riding along...unfortunately, we don't have any ticket inspectors...
Nah, that's not fair. After all, this site has tens of thousands of uninvolved readers. We cast our bread upon the waters here...come one, come all.
But just generally, on all websites with fora and chat threads like the 'Atlantic Monthly' one I read yesterday, where the nuts kept derailing a serious historical discussion...don't you get tired of the trolls with the plastic roses on their hats?
I suggest a smiley type with an audio component. The animated smiley should should display Miss Sweety Poo from the Ig Nobel Prizegiving ceremonies, an eight-year-old girl with pigtails. She should be declaiming loudly:
If it shuts scientists up, theoretically, it should work on internet bores.
Dreams of La Mancha with Archy and Mehitabel (links incl.)
Posted 5 Weeks Ago
Today, I woke up with a song in my head. Part of the lyrics go like this:
'Why do you march through that dream that you're in --
Covered in glory and rusty old tin...'
I didn't know why I was thinking of it, but I knew where it was from. 'Man of La Mancha', one of my favourite operas...er, musicals. (The difference is technical, and slight, in my book.) I went looking for the rest of the words, satisfied my curiosity on that score, and then got nosy about the lyricist, a man named Joe Darion.
Nobody seems to know much about him. He wasn't all that famous. Wikipedia even has his birth year wrong. He was born on 30 January 1911, so he has a birthday coming up. He was 90 when he died.
Darion wrote lyrics to everything from pop songs to oratorios. He's responsible for the lyrics to the musical version of 'Archy and Mehitabel', which contains this song:
If you find this song inspiring, you might want to watch the animated version with the original singers from the 1950s:
Kafka it ain't. It's MUCH better than Kafka. Says an old German teacher. I'll take Archy the Cockroach over Gregor Samsa any day.
I can't find the oratorio about Galileo, or the cantatas. One was called 'Mass for Cain'. I'd like to hear this. He wrote the lyrics to 'Ricochet', a novelty song:
Yeah, okay, it's silly - but what clever lyrics. He also wrote the words to the 'Ho-Ho Song', a 1953 hit for Red Buttons:
Okay, cool fella. But what does this have to do with the songs about the knight who fights 'battles that aren't your own'? And that more famous song, the one that's probably forming in your head.
We almost didn't have those wonderful songs, you know. We wouldn't have, if playwright Dale Wasserman had been a snob. Thank the gods he wasn't. You see, the first lyricist hired for 'Man of La Mancha' was...
Auden was considered by many, apparently, as the greatest writer of the 20th Century. He's definitely considered a great poet - and hey, he's not too bad. Look at this one, 'The Fall of Rome':
Pretty good stuff. But could he write 'The Impossible Dream'?
Could he, heck no. Here's what Auden wrote:
Mr Auden, we have an idea. Why don't you call up Pete Jackson and write something suitable for the next Hobbit movie? There's a good lad.
In case you don't remember, here's what Joe Darion, the not-so-classy poet, came up with instead:
Who was it said that it wasn't enough to be good - that you had to be good for something? I forget, but that's a very true statement. A poem can be a good thing. It can also be terribly self-indulgent. But a good set of lyrics - one that makes 'music and sweet poetry agree', in the immortal words of Shakespeare - can touch the hearts of millions. Something few poets manage to do.
So thank you, Joe Darion. My kind of genius. The guy who finds the right word for the right occasion.
Oh, and there was another reason WH Auden and Dale Wasserman didn't agree. Auden didn't like the premise of 'Man of La Mancha'. He thought Wasserman was taking liberties with Cervantes. Of course he was. Wasserman's version is much better. As Wasserman said, 'The novel is bleak, it renounces dreams...Quixote dies sane and beaten. The madness is what I love, and it`s what the people in the play respond to.'
Amen, brother. Long live the Impossible Dream.
And now, enjoy the song I woke up with, and the pantomime mules:
If you're like me, the Auden poem will stick you with another improved lyric, which I think is better than Auden's poem. Can you guess...?
Hobgoblin nor foul fiend can daunt our spirits...
Posted Jan 20, 2015
I've got a little treat for you. Some kind soul on Youtube has made a slideshow to a scrumptious rendition of John Bunyan's hymn, 'He Who Valiant Be'. It will take you on a little trip - and I think, like Bunyan, that the journey's worth the fare.
First of all, in case you don't know who Bunyan was (no, Yanks, he wasn't the lumberjack with the blue ox): John Bunyan wrote this hymn while in Bedford Gaol. He was serving a 12-year sentence for...wait for it...preaching without a licence.
We will pause while you ruminate on the wisdom of English law. There will be opinions pro and con, we suspect....
Ahem. Back to the topic, which is magical journeys. Bunyan also wrote 'Pilgrim's Progress', which is really the English answer to Dante, as far as I'm concerned. And pace Dorothy Sayers and generations of medieval scholars, I find Bunyan's version superior. It's a vision for the common human, and I think he was a cool mystic, Mr Bunyan.
His hymn is usually described as, er, 'robust'. That's a good word. Not enough robust hymns around. Here are the words, both modern and original:
The modern words are the ones sung by church people. Now, look at the original - much more fun. Question, students: why wouldn't churchgoers want to sing Bunyan's original words?
Er, 'hobgoblin', seriously?
I know this stunt. They fancify Isaac Watts, too. When I was young, a good old-time preacher chided the congregation about it. 'You don't want to sing 'for such a worm as I', do you? You don't think you're worms? Makes you squirm, does it? Well, let me tell you...'
This amused me much as a ten-year-old.
The tune, 'Monks Gate', is from the sacred domain of Sussex. Where else? Google informs me that from Brightling to Monks Gate is 37.9 miles - but it will take you an hour and 14 minutes on the A272. Which is haunted, but hey. Maybe you will see the ghosts of John Bunyan's pilgrims.
Enjoy the slideshow:
And thanks to whoever put that up. It's a glorious bit of dimensional travel.