I couldn't conform.
I couldn't shape up as a prisoner.
I couldn't conform.
I couldn't shape up as a prisoner.
We never wrote poems. It could get you killed, and we were risk-averse.
Rips up the clouds
My love please help me mend them.
As you looked into my eyes
Hardly any families had scruples. Any neighbor needed a screw pulled, they came right round to us.
I was recently reminded about Educating Rita, a play and film which present education as a journey of self-discovery.
Watching the film anew, I got to where OU student Rita (Julie Walters) gatecrashes alcoholic lecturer Frank (Michael Caine's) seminar on tragedy, because she's just seen a performance of Macbeth, and has been blown away by it.
The literary sense of tragedy, Frank explains, is a great person brought down by a character defect, not just the popular meaning.
Rita's response is something like, "I don't understand all that. It's just such a great story!"
At this point Macbeth jumped in. I forgot about all educating Rita and straightaway watched a couple of film versions of the Scottish play.
The first was the 1978 version with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench. There have been many films of the play but this may have set a gold standard.
The second was from 2010, with Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood. I'd never seen this version before but found it astonishing and compelling. It's set, not in medieval Scotland, but in some 20-centrury totalitarian country, a sort of Stalin's Scottish Soviet Union. Sometimes new settings for plays don't work, but this one succeeds brilliantly.
Macbeth is a somber play, and Macbeth's last soliloquy unrivaled in its bleak despair. I decided I would learn by heart it, though, to add it to the few bits of Shakespeare I know. Here's my test, do I have it right?
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
I went upstairs for a reason
But I only came down with a poem.
Where I grew up all the families fought one another. Ours was at the bottom of the feud chain.
The price of balloons has shot up. Inflation.
The meek shall inherit the earth. Subject to probate.
(Think about it)
I'll have worn a rut in the lane.
A dog is love without bounds but a dogma is belief without grounds.
As I stumbled along the beach of life I came across an accidental tongue-twister, a sort of object trouvé, like the pebbles beachcombers collect.
Every day the Times of London has a Quick Cryptic Crossword.
Try saying the phrase out loud 10 times in rapid succession.
I've always adored tongue-twisters. My favorite is one I heard many years back on the radio. I don't know who invented it but I'm very grateful to them. It comes with a little backdrop story.
The late Queen Mother was going round a saucepan factory. Pausing by a workman she asked what he was doing, which lead to the following noblesse oblige conversation:
"Are you aluminiuming them my man?" "No, I'm copper-bottoming 'em Mum."
I've often wondered whether there is a theory of tongue-twisters. Could a computer design phenomenally hard ones? There must be some kind of analysis possible that would let us understand what makes a phrase hard to say repeatedly.
Step forward MIT. In 2013 a research team collected and analyzed a collection of speech errors made by experimental subjects. Based on this they devised a fiendishly difficult tongue-twister. Are you ready? Do you want to fetch a glass of water for safety's sake? OK here we go.
pad kid poured curd pulled cod
Call that tongue-twisting? Feeble, isn't it?
Science, successful in so many ways, flunked here. And commentators were too lazy to say so — or couldn't — or wouldn't.
In contrast, here is a real killer I was taught by a Polish friend. For background, Lola is a woman's name; loyola means 'is loyal'; 'nie' pronounced 'knee-ay' means not. But the meaning doesn't matter really. Just remember how 'nie' should be said. 10 times out loud remember.
Lola loyola. Lola nie loyola.
The word tongue-twister is fairly recent it seems. The Oxford English Dictionary only records it from 1898, and in 1904 the Speaker offered this, which ain't bad
Miss Smith's fish-sauce shop
Favorite tongue-twisters anybody?
He told me he was a futures trader. I was like wow, yes let's swap.
I've been reading The Idler's Companion and came across a Chinese poem that begins
Reply to Chang Yin
I have a cottage in the Chungnan foothills
The Chungnan mountains face it.
All year long no guests.
And the gate remains shut.
This a genre I've always found appealing: a person of letters and action retires to a place of seclusion; there to live in quiet contemplation; and seek wisdom.
It's by Wang Wei, who lived in the 8c: a painter, poet, and high official in the imperial administration. I looked Wang Wei up and found another celebrated poem.
When those red berries come in springtime,
Flushing on your southland branches,
Take home an armful, for my sake,
As a symbol of our love.
Last night in my local, the Moon Under Water, talk turned to how the Roman road known as Ermine Street, which runs near here, got its name.
One theory was that it was called after the animal, the stoat in its white
winter coat with a black-tipped tail, and derived from
this a heraldic 'tincture' which is a background of white with black tail tips arranged in a pattern .
Few saw easily what the connection could be though, and in fact the explanation is totally different.
Ermine street is a corruption of an Anglo-Saxon name Earninga Straete, which would mean "the Roman road of Earn's people", Earn presumably being a tribal leader.
The word earn is the Anglo-Saxon for eagle and survives today in the form erne, meaning the sea eagle (or possibly the golden eagle too). Probably the tribal leader wasn't actually called Earn, because Anglo-Saxon names tended to be dithematic — composed from two parts, such as Alfred, "elf counsel" or Mathilda, "mighty battle".
However these names often got shortened. To any Maddys reading: did you realize you were warlike? Alfs, did you think of yourself as guided by supernatural beings?
In a similar way Earn was perhaps short for Earnwald, "eagle power". In forms such as Arnold it remains a common name today. Arnie?
And where did Earnwald's people live? Probably somewhere near the Cambridgeshire village of Arrington, which lies on Ermine Street. In the Domesday book it is Erningtone, "Ern's people's farmstead", which lends support to this idea.
I wondered what the Romans called this road. We have no idea. It seems we know the Latin names of few, or no, Roman roads in Britannia, although names were certainly given to roads elsewhere.
To end on a Roman
note: here is an example of true eagle power. Jupiter was supposed to ride a
chariot pulled by eagles, as shown in this spirited engraving. Sorry it is a bit dark but there was a bit of weather about as you can tell.
Use his lance a lot
Would whisper in our ear
If she were here.
All these government watchdogs are toothless. Just take the one meant to stop us being overcharged by dentists.
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