Monthly Archives: May 2009


Walking to Chelsea along the river, with her MRI scan tucked underneath her arm, my mother has been singing:

In the Tower of London, large as life,
The ghost of Ann Boleyn walks, they declare.
Poor Ann Boleyn was once King Henry’s wife –
Until he made the Headsman bob her hair!
Ah yes! he did her wrong long years ago,
And she comes up at night to tell him so.

With her head tucked underneath her arm
She walks the Bloody Tower!
With her head tucked underneath her arm
At the Midnight hour – Continue reading


Das Tweet

Twittergate! Twitter’s very good at relaying the smoke of the news, but abysmal at identifying the fire. But in Germany’s elections, for the first time that I know of, actual, genuine information leaked through Twitter.  Of course, Kohler was the favorite to win. It was the likeliest rumor to spread and I’d expect plenty of unverifiable Tweets along the lines of “am hearing Kohler’s got it. das ist gutt”  But these were actual vote numbers that came over the lines.

Critics insist that only the Bundestag president has the constitutional right to declare a new head of state. He customarily uses more than the 140 characters permitted in a tweet.

“I have absolutely no sympathy for things like this, because it will end up undermining the dignity of parliament,” said Peter Ramsauer, head of the CSU parliamentary party.

Hot News Trends: Marriage Under Threat

Married MPs in the U.K. resign due to unfair criticism. They were only trying to avoid a marriage penalty when it comes to ripping off the British taxpayer. Why should two married MPs be expected to rip said taxpayer off less than two single MPs? -[]- A California court will decide today whether to ban committed loving couples from marrying or to destroy traditional Christian marriage through some kind of long-distance homo-radiation. (Latter view unpacked in an insane tone and at insane length here.) Tricky call. -[]- St. Mel has an adulterous bastard child and just laughs about it. And it’s his wife that’s going to hell?

Only one can win

Hillary versus Obama. Derek versus Ruth. It’s almost as if The Man is only going to let blacks OR women through one at a time. “This is a way of reducing women; it wouldn’t have happened to a man. But then Oxford is a sexist little dump,” says Jeanette Winterson. It’s surely a sign of progress that it’s very hard to find anyone calling Padel racist for passing round a tip about Walcott’s sexual shenanigans — blocking the first black Professor of Poetry with allegations that any undergraduate could tell you plays into well-known stereotypes. In 2005, the race angle was the first thing that came into Jeremy Paxman’s mind when George Galloway beat out Oona King. But back in those easy times, it was the classic battle of Black Woman v. White Man. Not the tricky modern one of Black Man v. White Women.

Halfway decent poem of the Year: XVII

The USNS Comfort Sails to the Gulf By Rachel Loden

Huge red crosses on the whitewashed hull:

Best part: That’s the poem in toto.

Why nominated: The riff on Ezra Pound. The slant rhyme. The fun contemplating whether this poem is better read aloud or silently.

Why it might not reach the final: It’s 65% gimmick.

Why it should reach the final: It’s not 100% gimmick.
Via Tinfish. Via Silliman. Buy the book here.

UPDATE: The poem contains a bad link! (The good one’s here). Discuss the significance of the bad link and how it relates to the rest of the poem from the critical vantage point of Derrida, Marx, Lacan or Bakhtin, possible points of reference might include the chain of signifiers and pseudohypertextualiy.

I like to imagine this is how the Obamas use the White House garden?

Go down the garden and get a very big cabbage.

Shakespeare translations into English

The French get to hear Hamlet as translated by Victor Hugo Jr. Germans get to hear it as translated by Karl Kraus. Ie. their Shakespeare is very close to modern times. John McWhorter laments that we’re unlucky not to have the plays translated into modern English. I half-agree. I do wish we allowed ourselves to be as free with the language of the plays as we are with the settings. A director can set Macbeth on the moon and have Lady MacBeth be his gay lover without eliciting a blink from his audience. But he or she would never dare have Macbeth become Thane of Moonbase Alpha. Baz Luhrman found a typically wonderful way around this paradox by making “Sword” a brand name for gun in Romeo + Juliet.

It would be great to watch a great poet take the liberties with the text that imaginative directors have taken to great effect with setting. It would be a start if characters were actually allowed to ask for their guns when a gun is blatantly what they want.

Here’s why I half disagree with McWhorter —

1. He underestimates how much actors’ actions make up for difficulties with words.

2. He underestimates to what extent Shakespeare’s characters are indistinguishable from their words. It’s literally impossible for me to imagine Hamlet not saying orisons.

3. The only poets willing to take on such a challenge would be morons.  Self-aware writers would surely freeze when it comes to re-doing Shakespeare… the equivalent of all the men who would apparently disappoint Marilyn Monroe by, on the point of realizing they were actually about to do it with a demi-goddess in five seconds, having an irriversible bout of cock-crinkling performance anxiety.  George Bernard Shaw dealt with this theatrical-performance anxiety in Shakes versus Shav.

4. He seems to think plot is the main thing the characters are conveying. If so, then he can watch West Side Story and get roughly the same thing that he would from Romeo and Juliet. Ditto Forbidden Planet for the Tempest, She’s the Man for Twelfth Night, O for Othello and so on.

5. There are modern translations of Shakespeare for lazy high-school students on bookshelves now. They’re quite fun to read — but they are dull, dull, dull. “Is it nobler to put up with all the nasty things that luck throws your way, or to fight against all those troubles by simply putting an end to them once and for all.” Note: that’s not a parody.

6. Is it too much to expect people to read the plays before going to see them? Apparently McWhorter thinks it is. I’m not so sure.

7. We have a lot of modern-language renderings of Shakespeare around the edges of the plays: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Mariana, Gertrude and Claudius and The Sea and the Mirror. I think these works show the best way to accomodate McWhorter’s frustrations with respect for Shakespeare’s work — basically by doing the equivalent of prequels, sequels and parallel narratives. I shudder at the thought of a modern-language Macbeth, but I’d pay to see a modern-language MacDuff.