Saturday, August 22, 2009

Score, Sixth Style

Perhaps surprisingly, I don't often dream of Doctor Who. In fact, as far as I know, it's only happened once before: a rather charming affair with me riding around in Bessie with the third Doctor.

But that's it, really. Just a drive. Nothing else.

Until the other night.

I had me a dream with the sixth Doctor* (so, uhhh, no doubt about me dreaming in colour, what?). I'm not sure exactly at what point it started, but by the time I'm cognizant of what's going on, the Doctor and I am on the crest of a hill. A hill, I think, either in Gloucester (which I favour) or in Yorkshire: the bottom of the hill is in a mere, the top is bright green and dry. In the distance, we can see one hell of a storm bewing; the clouds are a violent black and purple curdling against an evening sky. The Doctor says he needs to know more about it, so I take a running leap off the hill. The valleys are full of giant broccoli stalks**: I run off the edge and leap onto one, which bows down with my weight into the valley, where a storm is fearfully raging. I pop back as it catapults up.

Later (in the sort of Strindbergian connexion dreams have), I'm driving along with the Doctor in a Morris Minor. We pull into the parking lot of my parents' church, only to see a future version of the Doctor -- the one from Real Time and after that sports a blue plaid version of his coat -- along with two versions of Peri. One from The Two Doctors and one from The Mysterious Panet. I convince my Doctor to pop off, so as not meet the future Peris, but this is where my dreams runs out.

What does it mean? Beats me, except:

*Ever since I purchashed "Attack of the Cybermen", I've been going through and listening to the commentary on each episode. I'm up to Terror of the Vervoids, ep. 3, so you can see where the Sixth Doctor angle comes from. Although Col makes one hell of a commentary guide -- second only to the vegetable man.

**Oh, this is so totally from watching that episode of The Powerpuff Girls with the Broccoloids they aired this week!

Oh, and can I just praise the sort of fate that makes sure I listen to Big Finish's "Company of Friends" the same week I re-read Shelley's Frankenstein? It's totally a B+ for effort and a C- for concept! I mean, did anyone bother to do research on Percy? Clearly not! The exigencies of writing a drama clearly take it up the ass here! I'd be more praising if the play were just not crippled by lazy writers!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Somehow or other, I managed to read both the beginning of Shelley's Frankenstein and watch the episode of Wild Russia on the Arctic on the same day. (If you don't know, the frame story of Frankenstein takes place on a boat in the far north of Russia, past Arkhangelsk and the White Sea). I rather assumed any dreams I'd remember would have been about endless white landscapes and harsh colds.

They weren't. I had a rather odd one, really. To set it up, I should mention that while my academic writing is all done under my own name, most of the rest is done pseudonymously pseudonomically... under a pen name.

In my dream, I'm walking down a street in the town where I went to college. Except this street doesn't actually exist. It was a side street along the main drag which isn't really there; it was all white stucco and tall wooden doors and milk bottles and weeds, like something in Belsize Park.

Anyway, I'm walking down this street with my friend Jamie, who for reasons that remain unclear, is wearing a medium purple pants suit, rather like Hillary Clinton on an old TV set in need of knob-twiddling. We are on our way to a film opening.

Which is in a little cafe that's all brushed steel and glass-top tables. We settle in somewhere in the middle, just in front of a group of people I knew. I don't know who they are now, but they were all people I recognised then. I *think* they were all people I went to undergrad with, which would at least be appropriate to the setting.

And these people are sitting around reading and tearing into a script I wrote. Ruthlessly. I don't know where they got it, and it's clear they don't know I wrote it, but it makes me hugely uncomfortable, and I spend a good few minutes trying to figure out a) how to communicate my discomfort and b) and to tell them I think it's rather good.

The dream itself peters out about there. It's odd because I throw around a fair amount of scripts to people and -- often being harsh in reading others -- expect people to be just as harsh with mine. I'm thick skinned about it, because it's foolish not to take good advice. But apparently I'm not quite as thick skinned as I imagined, at least subconcsiously.

In any event, the next dream I had involved me losing control of a minivan on a slippery road and crashing into a tree. This was also in Chapel Hill -- I could show the exact spot, down to the tree, on Franklin Street going down onto 15-501 where it happend. Weird little book-end...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Seattle Serenade

A few weeks ago, I was in Seattle. I had to step over to a grocery store, and as I was waiting for the car service to pick me up, one of the employees was out front, playing a ukulele and singing.

I asked him if he knew "This Little Ukulele". He didn't so I offered to teach him, since it's only three chords and two verses. (I bet you didn't know I could play the ukulele...) As I was playing it through, someone stopped in the parking lot, pointed, and went "Ohmigod! It's Stephin Merritt!"

I was flattered for a minute, till I remembered the last picture I saw of Stephin.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Another Question.

Since it's Wednesday night, I thought I'd mention Animal Planet's new show, Monsters Inside Me, a show about parasites. It's oddly compelling and pointlessly over-dramatic at the same time, and it gives a distinctly contradictory message: both "go see the doctor when you get weird pains and unexplained symptoms" -- a point I probably should give a great deal more heed to, since my first reaction to any given medical emergency, up to an including basset hounds ripping my lip off, is "I'll be all right in a minute" -- and "your doctors will never, ever recognize these parasite infections and will only make you worse off!".

And the host is kind of hott. At least some of it is my weird little masochistic streak; more than I should, I enjoy the attractive but slightly snotty biologist talking down to me about how rat lung worm got its name (as the name implies, they're worms that live in rats' lungs) as if I couldn't quite get there on my own. But another part is that he looks vaguely familiar. It's taken me a few weeks to figure it out, but here goes -- I think he looks an awful lot like a guy who did a stroke vid a few years ago for A really, really good one. Followed up with an equally good two-hander (as it were).

You decide.

Here is "Charlie Duke":

And here is host Dan Riskin:

Okay, so the screen capture yanked from Youtube isn't the best shot to demonstrate the similarity, but frankly I think the inability to find pictures of Dan is a sure sign I'm on to something.

Friday, July 10, 2009


All right, so it's been a while. I've been travelling: Baltimore to Rapid City to El Paso, and soon to be in Savannah and Seattle. I'll post a link to pictures soon.

But my update:

Several months ago, I posted about Tanya Lee and Joshua from eHarmony. I postulated they were probably far-right Jesus-freak whackos, and Joshua's flaunted assets in the trousers department notwithstanding, they waited till marriage to get it aaawwhhhn.

And I was right.

One of them -- presumably the male -- writes thus:

Marriage is a biblical union under God that happens to be recognized by our government. It is not subject to amendments. I believe that it would be right of our government to offer some sort of union benefit to those who wish to join their lives in a same-sex union. However, this does not mean that the government has any right to step into the church and redefine "marriage". The separation between church and state is not to keep the beliefs of the church out of our governing systems. Instead is to keep the governing systems out of the church. ...

This is not about rights as a citizen of the United States of America. This is about whether we as a country have the audacity to ammend the Bible. "Marriage" is not the term to be used in homosexual unions. This is not ever been defined in the Bible as such. Thus it is not the place or right of my government to change that. In order to keep separate as so many have suggested the church and the state, we must fundamentally re-examine the suggestions being purposed. (Reported via this site.)

Great stuff, huh? "It's not about rights"? "The separation between church and state is not to keep the beliefs of the church out of our governing systems"? I personally like the idea that American law is somehow subject to the law of god, yet nobody who crafted it, practiced it or commented on it at the time ever mentioned that.

I guess Alexander Hamilton was quite right when he said "We forgot."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

People's Court Super-Fan

Now here's something I bet you don't know. There's a People's Court Super-Frea... Fan. Super-Fan.

I don't know his name; I don't know anything about him, but I first ran across him a few years ago when I actually attended a taping of The People's Court.

See, I myself am a fan of the show. I adore it. And, living in the City and all, I decided to go see it made. And it was worth it.

He was there, you see. And clearly the production staff had dealt with him before. You could tell by the tone of their voice. This time, apparently, he had shown up with a People's Court logo t-shirt. Which they couldn't (or wouldn't, maybe --it was pretty hideous) let on the air. He obligingly turned it inside out. They seated him.

As we were waiting for the taping to begin, someone (a audience relations person or some such) prepared us. She gave us the rules -- don't talk, turn off your mobiles, etc -- and then took a few questions. Which SuperFan proceeded to answer for her.

Anyway, since then, I've always noticed him in the little studio audience. He's there a good 40 or 50% of the time. Look for him: he's a little Asian guy, bald, with glasses. And he seems to almost have an assigned seat, the aisle seat on the second row behind the plaintiff.

Now you Know!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

It's Not Just Me, Right?

Now I'll admit I'd never heard of celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito before tonight's episode of The Biggest Loser.

But man, let me tell you, when I saw him a did a double take that verged on a spit-take. Why?

This is Chef Rocco:

...and this is one of the stars of Eurocreme, Philippe Delvaux:

They do resemble each other, right? I'm not crazy.

Anyway, I don't know where exactly you can see the Chef (I think he may be the eponym behind the Rocco's on 22nd Street), but thankfully, you can find Phillipe in PartyBoy*. And -- so I'm told and will certainly be going to check out -- Indie Boyz 5.

*For god's sake, stop what you're doing and go watch the first scene with him and Alex Stevens and somebody else...

Monday, March 02, 2009

In Your Senior Year Did You?

Ever since my grandmother's funeral, I've been sick as a dog. For several days, I was literally too sick to get out of bed, and when I did -- thanks to an ear infection -- it was like a bad day at sea. I'm still suffering from a bizarre lump on the side of my throat (someone seriously suggested Mumps, even though I was vaccinated for it) and even more bizarre fatigue. I /still/ can't make it through the day without a nap, and I've gotten by on four or five hours a sleep a night for weeks at a time before. It's got me more concerned than anything.

Anyway, this little meme was floating around Facebook, so I thought I'd yank it and use it here to ease me back into more regular posting.

Now apparently as far back ago as college, I was already artfully re-arranging my high school career with selective back-outs and misrememberances -- my best friend throughout all of high school and college would hit me on the back of the head and proceed to tell me how miserable I was then, since I only seem to recall being reasonably happy. So I can't swear to the total veracity of what you're about to see. But it all seems true. Possunt quia posse videntur and whatnot.

1. Did you date someone from your school?
No, the only person I could even begin to say I dated went to another high school.

2. Did you marry someone from your high school?
They don't let people like me get married. Nor would I want them to let me marry anyone from there.

3. Did you car pool to school?
God, no. My morning routine was timed out to the minute: I left home at 8.07 to make the tardy bell at 8.20. I couldn't depend on anyone else to be that combination of lazy and regular.

Although we did routinely race each other back home.

4. What kind of car did you have?
For the first few weeks, a 1990 Nissan Sentra L. It was replaced by my faithful 1996 Plymouth Neon.

Yes. Just like Sweet Dee's.

5. What kind of car do you have now?
None. It keeps me smug.

6. It's Friday night...where are you now?
In front of my computer, either editing copy of my thesis or working on my play.

7. It is Friday night...where were you then?
I seem to recall a lot of driving around (often to gawp at the local Car on a Stick) or to find a place that would sell beer to minors.

8. What kind of job did you have in high school?

9. What kind of job do you do now?
Dramaturg. Playwright. Critic.

10. Were you a party animal?
Ha! No.

11. Were you considered a flirt?
Ha ha ha! No. I was only vaguely aware of sex then, and not even aware one could attempt to procure it.

12. Were you in band, orchestra or choir?
Nope. I would have been a drama geek, had there been any theatre classes at my school.

13. Were you a nerd?
I was Captain of the school Quiz Bowl Team and Hi-Q team.

So, yes. Yes I was.

14. Did you get suspended or expelled?
No, although one teacher dedicated herself to that proposition after I called her a bitch on state-wide TV. And there was residual flack from the Urinal Cap incident and the religion that sprung up around it. And around the heresy of the hated Burger King Idol and its ritual immolation.

15. Can you sing the fight song?
I don't think we had a fight song. If we did, it didn't matter -- at my senior year Homecoming football game, we lost 96-0 and were proud it wasn't worse.

We did have an alma mater that started out "Dear Old St. X High School, We..." but the local junior high had one to the same tune (and the chorus teacher there forced us to memorise it) and now I can't tell them apart.

That said, I know every word to "Hark the Sound of Tar Heel Voices".

16. Who was/were your favorite teacher(s)?
Beth Haunton, my English and journalism teacher. Poor woman had to teach me 6 classes in 4 years.

Mr Thomas, the mad US History teacher, was a distant second when he wasn't threatening me with bodily harm or threatening to shoot me with the loaded rifle he kept in his classroom.


17. Where did you sit during lunch?
There was a little balcony for the seniors in the lunchroom. We had three lunch periods -- I had the first -- but there were only a dozen or so seniors in that period. I sat with my friends Darren, Chris and Jonathan.

18. When did you graduate?

20. What was your school mascot?
Uhhh. We were the St X Indians, I think. Or Red-Skins. The high school was one and the junior high the other, and I don't remember any more, if I ever cared.

21. If you could go back and do it again, would you?
Gods, no. The only things I could do differently is tell the teachers they were wrong, but I tended to do that anyway.

22. Did you have fun at prom?
At the prom, no. At the party afterward, yes.

23. Do you still talk to the person you went to Prom with?
I went to my junior and senior prom. The girl I went to the jr. prom with I haven't talked to since I asked her out to fraternity rush event my first year of college.

Yes, really.

The girl I went to my senior prom with I did see when I was at home for Christmas this year.

24. Are you planning on going to your next reunion?

25. Do you still talk to people from school?
No one. Hence the above. They had a Ten Year Reunion a few years ago, and I did get invited but I refused even to respond back.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

In Which Our Hero Falls To Fashion...

...and lists 25 Random Things about himself.

1) I have a mental processing disorder. It's sort of a inability to match up the outside world and the inside of my head. Right and left mean virtually nothing to me, and I can never relate maps or blueprints to real world locations. I get lost a /lot/, even in places I know perfectly well. It's just as well I grew up in the South, where directions are given by landmarks. To this day, I couldn't tell you how to get to The Drama Bookshop, other than you pass the big Synagogue, the door down to the subway that's closed off and past two porno places.

2) The first Doctor Who book I ever read was Nigel Robinson's novelisation of The Edge of Destruction, Easter, 1988.

3) Speaking of Doctor Who, WUNC-TV would air 4 episodes in a row on Saturday afternoons, rather than airing story compilations like they did in the rest of the US. Apparently, when I was very small, I couldn't tell when the story was over and would keep watching WUNC even after Doctor Who went off. The next show was The Almanac Gardner, and my mother would come in and see me learning how to tend broccoli.

4) I have seen one (1) porcupine. It was in Juneau, Alaska. It was a great deal cuter than I expected it to be.

5) There are very few things I hate, but second on the list is deer.

6) I am 1/256th Cherokee. One of my best friends is 1/2 Cherokee and did not fall to the ground laughing when I told him that recently.

7) The best Christmas gift I ever got was a blanket with a tiger on it. I got it when I was 9 or 10 from an aunt and it's one of the few things I've had every place I've lived. And it's still in remarkably good condition -- the only repair I've ever had to do was to stitch the lining back in one spot in college.

8) I learned to make espresso drinks in the Half Moon Junction in Manteo, NC. It's no longer there -- the space it was in now houses its big sister, the Full Moon Cafe, which used to be across the street. It is owned by one of the greatest men I've ever known, Paul Charron, and his wife, Sharon.

9) My favourite painting is La Tempesta by Giorgione.

10) I have never watched an episode of American Idol, nor do I intend to start doing so now.

11) I have broken my right ankle twice.

12) I'm fairly certain that if David Bowie and Stephen Fry had a child, that child would be god.

13) I have never seen a UFO. I have both heard and seen a ghost, though given how much time I've spent in the Outer Banks, this is not surprising.

14) I am an excellent bartender. My bible is a late 1960s Playboy's Host and Bar Book snagged from my father when I was 18. I have only ever made one bad drink on its reputation -- something with Grand Marnier and Rose's Lime Juice -- and only Ben Wheeler and I tried it. I have never mentioned it before now, and may never do so again.

15) I believe Dan Komar's Newshawks is the greatest single gay porno ever made. The first scene has a threesome with Robbie Masters and Cameron Jackson and it only gets better from there.

16) The worst book I have ever read was Caleb Williams, by William Godwin, the father of Mary Shelley and the husband of Mary Wallstonecraft.

17) One morning my freshman year of college, one of my suitemates stopped me and asked if I wanted to go for a drive. There were four of us all told and we drove to Abilene, Kansas -- as far as you can get from Chapel Hill, NC in one day. Then we drive back. It was the first time I ever skipped class.

18) Shows I have seen every (remaining) episodes of: Doctor Who, Fawlty Towers, Black Adder, Are You Being Served?, Home Movies, Cracker.

19) I can start a fire without matches, with flint and steel. And char-cloth. And I can make char-cloth.

20) I'm always sort of afraid horses are going to step on my feet.

21) I have never seen a full set by The Essex Green -- despite having seen them at least 8 times. It usually has something to do with my friend Alicia: one time she asked me to go get condoms for her (still am not sure just why I did that) and another time she got distinctly ill at the Cat's Cradle and I had to take her home.

22) My favourite memory of Laura Llew is her trying to stare down Chris "Beans" Geddes in one of the dressing rooms of the Carolina Theatre during an interview with Richard Colburn.

23) I always tuck book receipts inside the book I've just bought, so I can remember where and when I bought it. I think the oldest books I have done this for come from 1997.

24) I am afraid of heights.

25) The thing I want most in the world? My very own basset hound.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I thought I'd put this up here. It's my response to a comment sent to me (the first paragraph), written by a contributor/reviewer to the New York Times. He's suggesting a variation a fairly common analysis* of Edward II -- "No, seriously, it's /not/ about him being gay. It's about him being a bad king" -- that I tend to think is bunk, as I explain, since I don't think his sexual identity can be separated out from his political actions. Not that I'm suggesting he doesn't make political mistakes, mind.

But then again, I'm not sure using the term "downfall" for the action of a tragedy in general is appropriate, and more certainly questionable for /this/ tragedy, so maybe I'm completely talking out of my arse. It is a rough draft, so please ignore the coarser stylistic elements, and I expect its tone will soften a little ere it gets sent. As for the foot-notes, this is Bray; this is Smith.

*It is a rather dated response. I've heard it argued that it rose as response to the sort of de facto censoring the play garnered pre-1968, justifying the fact that politics was able to get more explicit play than sex in performance. Nowadays, I can't help but see the casual split between the personal and the political as an off-hand way to sweep the whole gay issue under the table.

One of the most interesting aspects of “Edward II” for us moderns is that Edward’s homosexuality is blatant but it isn’t the main reason for his downfall. He’s destroyed because of his indifference to the class anxieties of the nobles, who object to Gaveston’s common ancestry much more than to his queerness. The really interesting subject has to do with the political machinations and motivations in the play in general, of which homosexuality forms just one part."

I have, of course, seen this argument – that the play is about a weak king whose homosexuality is to a greater or lesser degree unimportant – before, but I've never felt it to be very compelling. Personally, I find it a little disingenuous and counterintuitive and I think there are significant arguments to be made against it.

Marlowe's choice in taking the life of Edward II as subject matter is among the first: I'd suggest that there must be something uniquely compelling about Edward's life for Marlowe to pick him. If Marlowe's subject was merely that of a weak king politicking with a rebellious aristocracy and external threats, he had many candidates to choose from. Even restricting Marlowe to sources we know he used, Holinshed, Fabyan and Stow, he still could have chosen Stephen of Blois, perhaps, or (as Shakespeare would take up) John, Richard II or Henry VI. But he didn't. It may be impossible to say to exactly what degree Edward's sexual identity influenced Marlowe's decision, but it does strike me as disingenuous to suggest it was “just one part” but instead a significant part of the determination.

I would also suggest that the “class anxieties of the nobles” that Gaveston engenders comes specifically from the sexual relationship he had with Edward. They are inextricably bound up with each other and cannot be teased into parts. If the struggles the nobles initiate with Edward were just – or even mostly – about anxieties over class difference1, their struggle would be over if not at the death of Gaveston, then when Edward takes up with the (English) younger de Spenser. But it isn't.

And while the nobles frequently do make reference to class division the very way they do it (they most commonly refer to Gaveston as “boy” and “whore”2) are specific sexual terms. Not even the persons of the drama are separating out sexuality and politics when it comes to the shortcomings of the king.

In fact, as the drama progresses, Edward becomes a “better” king within some of the terms laid out by the nobles. Mortimer Junior at several points early on questions or insults Edward's martial abilities as a soldier and warrior. But Edward personally leads his forces back into battle in Scene 12 and wins the battle in Scene 16 through superior force. It takes the duplicity of Isabella and Mortimore's secret return with hired soldiers from Flanders to defeat the King.

Admittedly, this loss and his subsequent capture in Wales stem ultimately from Edward's inability to deal with Isabella, but this is again at least as much a personal failing as a political one. It is because of his love for Gaveston that he ignores Isabel, and her gradual personal hurt becomes the impetus for her maneuvering of Mortimer, and in the end their desire for political power becomes indistinguishable from their personal relationship, so this sort of seamless blend of politics and the personal is not something featuring in Edward alone; it is a distinguishing characteristic of the play.

Which is not surprising. The play Edward II is of its time. For the Elizabethans – subject of a queen who most famously adapted her sexuality identity into a keen political tool – there was no sort of dichotomy between the personal and the political, or any way for them to pick apart the concepts enough to say “this is a major constituent of a series or action” and “this is a minor one.” It is a modern, artificial construct placed onto the text, arguably against authorial intent and historical context, and one that fundamentally changes the meaning and interpretation of the work. You can't trivialize or underplay Edward's sexual identity in this play, or suggest in any interpretation or critical analysis that it is not the most significant factor. Edward may well have political failing, but each of them, adduced to its source, is rooted in his homosexuality.

1Or even differences in nationality, since almost as much attention is paid to Gaveston's French nationality than to his class. Yet even nationality is intimately bound up with sexual identity in this period. (I refer you to pg. 73-5 of Bray.)

2I refer to Smith, Chap. 9 for his specific discussion of using the term “boy”, but I do point out its use within Dido, Queen of Carthage to refer to Ganymede and his specifically sexual relationship with Jupiter.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

You Gonna Make Me Superman Up on You

Usually, when commercials leave me puzzled, I get angry. "Who are these people?" I ask. "Why are these people wasting my time?" I ask.

But this one -- from Mo' Money Taxes -- is different. It amuses me.

It begins in Miami, apparently.

It starts out with a group of people talking to a man in a nice car. They complain -- understandably enough, ipsa re -- about taxes, and how much they are. I suppose at a stretch, somebody with such a nice car has lots of money, and therefore knows about money, or at least how to get a good accountant, so maybe random guy in a (well, I can't tell model of car it is exactly -- maybe a Camero Z28 from the blurry hood ornament, but more likely something with a little more intelligence, judging by the noise the engine makes) car isn't the worst guy you could ask.

So random guy places a call on his cellular phone.

Cut to a scene on a beach (quite possibly also in Miami, but you can't be sure). RG's contact it seems, has quit the business.

One assumes the accountancy game, but you can't be too sure.

So has his partner, a big dumb white guy taking several drinks off a scantily clad waitress. Hearing his (ex-?)partner dis him, he talks about the virtue of his shoes -- babymakes, as he calls them -- and threatens the heading of this post. One assumes the blue t-shirt he's wearing has a Superman symbol underneath the pixellation.

Cut to some other guys on a boat. They're on the phone, too, and one assumes to the original random guy. "Don't worry," they say, "We'll be there in less than thirty seconds." Then we're treated to a montage of the yacht saling by for about half the length of the commercial.

I'm glad, frankly, that I don't live in Miami. It seems to me the yachts on the street (as they would have to be to get to ORG) would be a bitch to avoid.

Cut to a pool in front of mansion, where three people are standing. They might be ORG and the two guys on the boat. I don't know; I can't tell. They're wearing vaguely similar clothes to the men on the boat, but I swear it looks like they've switched shirts. The guy in the middle may well be ORG, but I'm not too certain of that, either. Could be the sunglasses they've all acquired.

"Come down and see us -- you'll be glad that you did," they close.

And I believe them. I do. I would give them my tax returns to file in a heartbeat.

Anybody who could make such an incomprehensible ad /has/ to be better at something else, and why shouldn't that something else be accountancy?

I have to assume that this ad is just another in a series I've never seen, so I just don't understand part of the assumed narrative. But even so, the cuts even within this one ad are /really/ unclear, so you can't quite get the connections between the speakers. It would make exactly as much sense if each of the three parts had no connection whatsoever.

However, that lack of clarity -- and subsequent lack of useful meaning -- is what makes it hysterically funny. It doesn't mean to, but it functions exactly in the way an absurdist play /should/ but seldom does. It makes you question logic behind how you piece together the world around you. Connections that seem like they should be obvious don't quite work correctly and things that makes no sense at all appear to connect seemlessly within the narrative.

Or to put it another way, the strange seems familiar and the familiar, strange.

Which is -- of course -- Brecht's classic definition of the verfremsdungeffekt. Bet you didn't think there was much crossover between him and Ionesco. Or Albee. Or that either had much to did with current Urban marketing.

If I ever got to re-edit this ad, the only thing I would change is to have them shout "It's not that way; it's over there!" a few times at the end.

Bet you didn't see that lil' bit of dramaturgical awesomeness coming at you when you started!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Miss Emily Never Had It So Good

The following story is really not as crazy as it seems.

All right, it probably /is/ but I refuse to take sole credit for it. I was practically invited to write it. But I stand by it -- if I have to justify it, I'll just say it's a response to all the To Kill a Mockingbird crap The Charlotte Observes is foisting on the world at the moment. Frankly, I'm shocked that Southern Gothic never garnered that much parodic response in its own time.

The color of the past is brown.

Not the rich tones of a sepia print or the hazy, golden brown of nostalgia. It's the washed-out, pale brown of dust. Memories don't die, don't get lost as much as they get buried in a sea of choking, wan dust.

At least, that's how it was in that town. Dust colored road. Old clapboard houses, once white, faded down to the color of old dust. Even the stains on the road -- tobacco juice and horse shit -- were brown.

Even old Benbow was brown, old and tanned, and his old linen suit just as faded as the whitewashed boards he sat in front of.

Well, I called him Benbow. I'm not rightly sure what his real name was, but I read a book once -- about flags or somethin' or other in the dust, incidentally -- and he struck me as mighty similar to that Benbow. So I started to call him that. He never corrected me. Looking back, I always assumed he never got the joke. I'm not so sure now.

I walked by him on the way to fetch Mamma some lard and Nehi back from the store.

"I don't take to no women what wear brooches," he said.

That's how he started a conversation with you, a salutation out of nowhere. I say started. Maybe just clued you in to the conversation he already had going on in his brain.

Okay, I thought, I'll bite.

"Why's that Mister Benbow?" I asked.

"Well, you sit yonder there and I'll tell you," he said, as he motioned to the two stairs up to the boarding house porch." When he did so, he returned to silence briefly. After a minute, a brown splat flew out of his mouth and arched delicately in the space between us. When it came down, it covered a scraggly old daisy, the only thing in Miss Hattergold's hopefully desingated "flowerplot" to survive the heat. The only thing in town that wasn't brown.

"I met her down in N'Orleans," he said. "She wore a blue dress with white pokke dots. And gloves. And a big white sun hat. And a silver brooch. Looked like a cat. Almost the size of your fist. That shoulda told me something. But it didn't.

"She wearn't no young woman. Musta been nigh 70. Sorta smelled o' mothballs and sech once you got close to her. And, Lord help me, I did get close to her.

"I first seed her gettin' off the train down at the depot. She just stood, lookin' around with her mouth a little open, as the porter arranged her bags on a cart. Then she clapped eyes on me.

"I warn't but 16 or so. A shoeshiner. Couldn't get no other work that young. Leastways, not addicted to laudnam like I was. Anyways, she claps eyes on me, and I am looking good. I beat a newsie t'death just the day before, and I was all decked out in nearly-new knickers, suspenders, bowtie and a cap. I weren't surprised t'see her lookin', lascivious like.

" 'Lucius?' she asked, a little uncertain.

" 'No'm,' I said.

" 'Surely it's Lucius! The Sweet Lord has finally returned you back from whence he took ye.' She seemed a right smart certain. I wa'n't.

" 'I don't reckon I know nothin' 'bout no Luciuses, ma'am,' I said.

" 'And he's given you back your limbs. You're sound as ever you were! They told me you'd been... injured. All the other boys who came back, they were missing arms and legs. What must have you had to go through if you... couldn't come back to me?' She pulled a little lace hanky outta her sleeve and dabbed her eyes.

" 'I'm tellin' you woman, I ain't no kind of Lucius. My name is...'

" 'I'm a rich woman, now, Lucius. I took the money they gave me and opened a store. And then another store. And then a whole plantation. Now I own 87% of Mississippi, and good hunk of Arkansas, too. They called me hard. They called me a cold woman. But what else could I be when you were gone?' She dabbed her eyes again.

" 'Eighty-seven per cent.?' I asked.

"She nodded.

" 'Reckon you done found your sweet Lucius, sent back by Jesus to find ye. I also reckon He wants you to go and buy me a muffelata. Shinin' shoes and starin' at sweaty male crotches all day is hungry work.'

"She smiled. 'I expect so. I'll be back directly, Lucius.' Then she squeezed my hand. "Then I won't never be far from ye again.'

"I'll be honest here. I thought I had landed in some tall cotton, boy. I expected to be retired for good at age 16. 'Course it don't work that way. Never does.

"It weren't too long ere she came back with my sandwich and a bottle of Co-Cola. It didn't hardly smell like old people when I took a bite. She was happy with just a pickle and a squirt of Old Thomason's Remedy for the Dried Up and Spinisterish. When she suggested we 'repair to my suite at the Pevensy' I couldn't say no. I insisted that we stop at the Woolworth's on the way there so I could stock up on my medicine, though.

"When we got there, she shet the door. She looked strangely at me.

" 'I b'lieve you know what I want now, Lucius. I been a-waitin' since them Yankees up in Fredricksberg done took ye from me them 47 years ago.'

"I weren't no fool. I know'd what she was arter. I war'n't inclined to give it to her, but that 87% of Miss'ippi was a powerful inducement to sweet a-moor.

"She winked at me as she crossed over the room. 'I ain't never bathed since last we were as one. I didn't wanna cleanse myself from your presence.'

"And damned if it weren't true. She took off her pantaloons and the flesh of her thighs above the stockings was black as an ole blue buck. I felt some of the muffelata come back to me.

" 'At least now I knows where old people stink comes from' I thought, as I took an extry large swig of laudanum. I took another just to be safe. I finished the bottle as she took off my shirt.

"I don't rightly know what happened next. I get all hazy. She sort of threw me onto the divan and she took advantage of me. Maybe you heard that 'ere joke about the old workin' girl what suffered the drynesses. I can tell you the first part's true, any road.

"Thank god she kept her top on, so I couldna seen what lay beneath that. All I saw was that ol' cat brooch a zoomin' to me and from me over and over till it was over.

"I say over.

"Th'excitement musta been to much for that old girl, cause she expired right at the height of ecstasy, as it were. Or maybe I choked her to death then. I don't rightly recall. As I said, things went to hazy. All I knows was she was dead when I shot my load.

"I ran outta that room fast as I could get her bony old carcass off'n me. I didn't stop to tell no po-lice or hotel management. What could I tell 'em? Nothin' such as they'd credit. I didn't stop running till I got right to this very spot."

Well, I thought to myself, right there's a moral for a body. Don't be missin' round with no crazy rich war widder. Ain't no gold at the end o' that rainbow.

Ol' Benbow snorted as if he reckoned what I was thinkin'.

"More moral than that. Wa'n't a week passed till my old pecker turned black and fell off. I ain't never had no women since. 'Syphilis' is what ol Doc Forrester called it. Think on that, youngin'."

I got up to walk away. It was almost sundown and Momma was gonna need her lard to fry up a chicken. Benbow's eyes followed me as I walked away.

"Now you mind them old women with brooches on now, y'hear me? You mind..."

Friday, January 16, 2009

This Is Not the Post I Thought I'd Be Writing Tonight...

I watched a wiener dog die tonight. It was oddly emotional.

This was my parents wiener dog. I had never particularly liked it -- they bought her after they got rid of /my/ dog, a fine (but stupid) Labrador Retriever they simply got tired of dealing with. Looking back now, I can't blame them (too much), but I did love my dog and a wiener is hardly a suitable replacement for a boy.

I hated the dog. The wiener dog returned the favour. She never liked anyone else besides my father. She'd run out across their front yard and attack anything that tried walking down the sidewalk, all the time yapping fit to beat the band, so it was a cert the neightbours hated her, too.

But after I left home, it wasn't too much of a concern of mine. I'd see once or twice a year, when she'd spent her time glaring at me from her corner of the couch. A few years ago, I thought she'd had it for sure when I came home and she was riddled with tumors across her belly. She had breast cancer, apparently, but my parents couldn't or wouldn't do anything about it. But she didn't die. She didn't even act sick. The tumors just grew and grew. And she got older and older.

She turned 15 (I think) sometime last Fall. Like most old dogs, all she really wanted to do was lie in the sun and nap. She'd waddle out the front door to go to the bathroom once or twice a day, and she'd yap all the while, but she was virtually blind from cataracts and mostly deaf. If she wandered out so far as the street, someone would have to go and lead her back in.

Last week, she most have fallen down from her place on the couch, because when I stopped by one afternoon she was balled up in front of the couch, shivering and whimpering like she was in pain. When she took a step or two, her back was held at a funny angle. This, I knew, from basset education, was bad. When I tried to suggest they take her to the vet to get examined, they said she was fine, and the next day she was almost back to normal, even if she still held her back oddly.

It was about this time she lost control of her bladder. Undeterred, my parents still refused to take her to the vet.

This afternoon, when I stopped by to check on her, I found her on the couch. Her cushion was covered -- covered -- in pus. It was leaking from somewhere in her back end. I didn't check where. Too gross. I stayed with her till my parents got home from work.

"You have to take her to the vet," I said. "You have to put her down." They still refused. "If you don't," I told them in typically reasonable terms, "I'm going to take her outside and whack her over the head with a shovel. It's cruel to keep her in this state."

I think they took me at my word, because soon she was wrapped up in her blanket. It was after 5.30, so they had to cajole the vet into staying open late and we had to rush over. (When they saw her condition, they didn't complain.) My father wouldn't drive, so I had to drive both him and the dog to the vet. The vet was astounded when she saw the little wiener dog. She didn't question it was the right time. My father wouldn't stay for the final act, as it were, but I didn't think even this objectionable little thing -- who always resembled nothing so much as an overgrown rat -- should die alone. I stayed with her.

The vet gave her a shot to calm her down. She sighed and rolled over to one side. Then the vet gave her another shot that stopped her heart. And she died. I like to think she looked grateful or relieved or something, but if she felt anything, I suspect she was pissed off that the only person she'd ever even acted like she liked wasn't there. I'm not sure I'd want me about when I was dying, either.

And of course I cried, just a bit. And laughed at the same time. I mean, I hated the thing. Always had. It was funny I was so pointlessly emotional. "It's hard" the vet said as she handed me a kleenex. I felt I had to explain to her it wasn't my dog. I didn't know why I was crying.

It took me a while to realise that was the first thing I'd ever see die. My parents are alive; the only grandparent I can ever remember is still alive. I've had two -- maybe three -- uncles die, but never anyone close enough that I was /there/ for the death. Even the pets I've had have died away from me, either at vet's office when I was too young to be there or while I was away somewhere else.

And as I examined my reaction later on, it occured to me that our reactions about death are seldom about death. They're about us. They reflect our concerns about our own deaths. I didn't stay to watch that dog die because I thought she needed to be surrounded by love as she passed to the next world. I don't believe in a next world. I practically don't believe in love.

I stayed with the dog because /I/ don't want to die alone and it's at least a thought in my head I just might.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

It's been terribly interesting watching them announce the new Doctor, hasn't it?

I mean, I'll save you the apparently obligatory "Doctor WHO?" joke. As if say, Sylvester McCoy or Tom Baker were household names when they took over the role.

But the whole "bring out your prejudice" aspect of it all is what fascinated me. People bending over backwards to convince others that, no I'm /really/ not a racist because I think the Doctor can't be black.

I think Paterson Roberts would have been pants, too, but I thought he was pretty painful in Neverwhere. The colour of his skin isn't so much a factor.

(Although that's not a unilateral dismissal of him as an actor. I don't think his genius is suited to sci-fi in general. Not too long ago he was in the National Theatre's production of The Emperor Jones, and I'd've loved to see that. And not just for the idea of a British take on something that is so essentially an American drama...)

And while Matt Smith's chops don't fill me with confidence (unlike David Tennant), I'm not willing to prejudge before I see anything.

Well, pre-judge too much. In his Doctor Who Confidential interview -- a bit low-key and too full of de rigeur self-effacement for my liking -- he did manage to showcase the fact he didn't know when Doctor Who started. If I were just a tad more cynical than I am, I'd think it's a clever little "Look how different I am from David Tennant ALREADY" plug. Though I think David's love for the show was one of his greatest attributes.*

And... well.. there was the little bit in the Guardian article where he mentioned his girlfriend in Brazil. Rio, was it?

Does that mean Brazil = Canada to the British?!**

*I've always thought the reason Eccleston was so distant in his portrayal was because he'd so much be somewhere else...

**Come on, it's an Avenue Q joke! Although it would take a special lady to get past that huge head. Makes Rainn Wilson look proportionate.

Friday, January 02, 2009

In Further Basset Hound News:

Bassett Hound and owl strike up unusual friendship

The pair have become inseparable since meeting at an animal refuge, and are quite happy to cuddle up together on an armchair.

Beryl the Basset Hound, who is a grand old dame at 16 years old, and four-year-old tawny owl Wol struck up a friendship when their owner realised they both loved watching television in the evenings.

Sara Ross, who shares her home in Tenterden, Kent, with the animals said: "They are both rescue animals and they're like best buddies. Wol needs full-time care and one day I was giving him a bit of exercise and he just plonked down on Beryl's back. She doesn't mind, she's really laid back and a bit of a pussycat really.

"She didn't mind at all and now you can't keep them apart.

"Four times-a-week you'll see them settle down to watch what's going on in Albert Square. Beryl barks when it's over and Wol gets a bit upset too, with a bit of flapping.

She added: "They are inseparable. They love cuddling up and watching television together.

"It won't come as a surprise that they love nature documentaries, but they also like soaps like Coronation Street and Emmerdale."

She added: "I've never known two animals who are so different hit it off quite so well. They just love being around each other."

Have your hams gone missing of late?

It could well be the new Stealth Basset Hound model:

I didn't even know there were black basset hounds, but even the local rescue shelter has one.