March 13, 2010

Big, smoky and orange

Random animal picture.

The phone in vent section of our local newspaper is a constant source of entertainment and enlightenment. Here are three of my favorites for the week. There seems to be a food theme going on.

First, there's the thick and thin of it:

There are skinny people where the food just won't stick to them no matter how much they eat. As far as someone being obese, that doesn't come from nowhere, they had to have been eating too much.

There there's Girl Scout cookies and childhood memories:

Girl Scouts, your cookies haven't shrunk, we all just grew up. When I was young, I remember I caught a bluegill that was longer than I was wide. Haven't done it lately.

I had a similar experience as a kid, when I hooked a crawdad and thought there was a whopper on the line.

But the winner for the week has to be this one:

What weighs 300 pounds, smokes, and is colored orange? A West Virginia, according to recent news reports that West Virginia leads the nation in obesity, smoking and tanning bed usage.

Now that's an image that sticks in your head.

March 12, 2010

The readiness is all

Certain lines from a work like Hamlet are bound to stick in one's head. One that has stuck in mine for years and years is "the readiness is all."

In another lifetime, when I was mired in poverty and stuck in a pretty much dead end job, a friend asked me what I wanted out of life. I answered, "To be ready." I think that's my final answer.

In context, however, those words are really about death rather than life. They appear in the play as things are headed towards the climax. Claudius and Laertes have conspired to poison Hamlet during a fencing match and the challenge has just been delivered.

Hamlet admits to Horatio about misgivings but refuses to cancel the engagement:

...we defy augury: there's a special
providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now,
'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be
now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the
readiness is all...

Methinks he has a point.

JUST DO IT. Pass health care reform, that is.

ECONOMIC RECOVERY. Nobel economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz warns that cutting public expenditures too soon could make the recession worse.

FORECLOSURES. A new wave could be on the way.

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS. The WV Senate Finance Committee advanced a bill that would provide for public funding of state supreme court races, but gutted the provisions which would adequately fund it. This legislation was in part a response to the 2004 fiasco.


March 11, 2010

I have something in me dangerous

(Goat Rope is almost done with Hamlet, but you can skip to the links if Shakespeare doesn't do it for you.)

Ordinarily, you don't want a lot of drama at a funeral. Dealing with death is enough of a task. But, this being Shakespeare and all, there is quite a bit at Ophelia's funeral.

Hamlet's banter with the gravedigger is interrupted by a funeral procession which turns out to be hers. Her brother Laertes is already outraged by the abbreviated funeral rights, which are due to the questionable nature of her death. In the past, suicides were typically denied Christian burial and hers could have been interpreted as such.

Laertes curses Hamlet, who he blames for her madness:

LAERTES: O, treble woe
Fall ten times treble on that cursed head,
Whose wicked deed thy most ingenious sense
Deprived thee of! Hold off the earth awhile,
Till I have caught her once more in mine arms:

(Leaps into the grave)
Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead,
Till of this flat a mountain you have made,
To o'ertop old Pelion, or the skyish head
Of blue Olympus.

Hamlet then announces himself and leaps into the grave himself. Laertes goes wild and tries to choke him. Hamlet has a great response, one that I hope to use next time somebody chokes me:

I prithee, take thy fingers from my throat;
For, though I am not splenitive and rash,
Yet have I something in me dangerous,
Which let thy wiseness fear: hold off thy hand.

He claims a far greater grief for her that Laertes (not that either of them did her a lot of good):

'Swounds, show me what thou'lt do:
Woo't weep? woo't fight? woo't fast? woo't tear thyself?
Woo't drink up eisel? eat a crocodile?
I'll do't. Dost thou come here to whine?
To outface me with leaping in her grave?
Be buried quick with her, and so will I:
And, if thou prate of mountains, let them throw
Millions of acres on us, till our ground,
Singeing his pate against the burning zone,
Make Ossa like a wart! Nay, an thou'lt mouth,
I'll rant as well as thou.

Methinks he doth protest too much. Eventually, the two are separated and it's pretty clear that the trouble between them isn't over.

THE WAITING is the hardest part, as philosopher Tom Petty noted some time ago. Lately, unemployed workers have been waiting longer than at any other time on record before they find another job.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, the Senate yesterday passed a bill extending unemployment benefits and other provisions aimed at spurring recovery.

CONTRARY TO WHAT YOU MAY HAVE HEARD, most Americans want changes to health care.

WHO'D A THUNK IT? It might be possible to generate electricity from "bottled air" stored underground.


March 10, 2010

A fellow of infinite jest

(Goat Rope is almost done with a long jag on Hamlet. If you like this kind of thing, click on earlier posts. If not, scroll on down to the links and comments section below.)

If you ask just about anyone what image comes to mind when he or she thinks about Hamlet, chances are it is the prince holding Yorick's skull so there's no way I can pass by the graveyard scene in act 5 without including it.

Hamlet and the gravedigger have been bantering back and forth when the former picks up a skull and asks who it belonged to.

First Clown: A whoreson mad fellow's it was: whose do you think it was?

HAMLET: Nay, I know not.

First Clown: A pestilence on him for a mad rogue! a' poured a
flagon of Rhenish on my head once. This same skull,
sir, was Yorick's skull, the king's jester.


First Clown: E'en that.

You know what comes next. He takes the skull and launches into the second most famous speech in English literature:

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at
it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know
not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen?
Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let
her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must
come; make her laugh at that.

The thing is, that back that bore him a thousand times was probably the major--and possibly the only--source of affection in his childhood. Hamlet Senior seemed to be pretty busy smiting the sledded Poles and engaging in combat with Norway to get too involved and his mother was probably preoccupied with her own affairs (no pun intended).

A NEW KIND OF BUSINESS? Here's an interesting item from NPR about how lawyers are working to create some kind of legal status for corporations that are more interested in positive social outcomes that the bottom line.

FREE LUNCH OR FREE MARKET. In this piece, Dean Baker takes on the misconception that conservatives rely on the market while progressives rely on government intervention. In fact, both groups use government to pursue their ends. The real question is, who benefits?

PAY EQUITY. Here's a new look at the gender gap in wages.

MORE THAN LINES. This National Geographic article looks at the Nasca culture in ancient Peru.


March 09, 2010

How absolute the knave is!

Goat Rope is still climbing Mount Hamlet, although we're nearing the summit. If you don't care for Shakespeare, you can scroll down to the links and comments section--although if you do, you'll be missing the graveyard scene.

As I mentioned yesterday, the gravedigger is the only person in the play who can hold his own against Hamlet. In their first exchange, Hamlet asks a simple question:

HAMLET: ...Whose
grave's this, sirrah?

First Clown: Mine, sir.

O, a pit of clay for to be made
For such a guest is meet.

HAMLET: I think it be thine, indeed; for thou liest in't.

First Clown: You lie out on't, sir, and therefore it is not
yours: for my part, I do not lie in't, and yet it is mine.

HAMLET: 'Thou dost lie in't, to be in't and say it is thine:
'tis for the dead, not for the quick; therefore thou liest.

First Clown:'Tis a quick lie, sir; 'twill away gain, from me to

HAMLET: What man dost thou dig it for?

First Clown: For no man, sir.

HAMLET: What woman, then?

First Clown: For none, neither.

HAMLET: Who is to be buried in't?

First Clown: One that was a woman, sir; but, rest her soul, she's dead.

HAMLET: How absolute the knave is!

Hamlet, just back from his pirate adventure, has no idea that the grave will be Ophelia's. They banter some more before that becomes clear. It turns out that the gravedigger has had the same job since the day Old Hamlet slew the king of Norway and young Hamlet was born. He even knows about Hamlet's madness and trip to England, although he doesn't realize who he's talking to.

Playing along, Hamlet asks about reports of himself:

HAMLET: Ay, marry, why was he sent into England?

First Clown: Why, because he was mad: he shall recover his wits
there; or, if he do not, it's no great matter there.


First Clown: 'Twill, a not be seen in him there; there the men
are as mad as he.

HAMLET: How came he mad?

First Clown: Very strangely, they say.

HAMLET: How strangely?

First Clown: Faith, e'en with losing his wits.

HAMLET: Upon what ground?

First Clown: Why, here in Denmark: I have been sexton here, man
and boy, thirty years.

Hamlet is usually untouchable in verbal sparring, but he can't score a point on this guy.

HEALTHY AND HAPPY. Here's an interview with Richard Wilkinson, co-author of The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better.

WHO'S POOR THESE DAYS? Lots of people.

DEFICITS aren't the main problem right now, according to economist James Galbraith.



March 08, 2010

Your dull ass will not mend his pace with beating

Goat Rope is still plowing, albeit not in a straight line, through Hamlet. We're all the way to one of my favorite parts, the gravedigger scene at the beginning of Act 5. If Shakespeare doesn't do it for you, you can scroll down to the links and comments section below.

Harold Bloom has noted that Hamlet plays Falstaff to himself, meaning that he provides his own comic relief. In fact, there's only one person in the whole play who can hold his own with him in a verbal sparring match and that person is a gravedigger. Here's some banter between the digger and his companion before Hamlet and Horatio arrive on the scene:

First Clown : ...There is no ancient
gentleman but gardeners, ditchers, and grave-makers:
they hold up Adam's profession.

Second Clown: Was he a gentleman?

First Clown: He was the first that ever bore arms.

Second Clown: Why, he had none.

First Clown: What, art a heathen? How dost thou understand the
Scripture? The Scripture says 'Adam digged:'
could he dig without arms?

I suppose every profession has its own pride of place, but our friend makes a strong case for his own:

First Clown: What is he that builds stronger than either the
mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter?

Second Clown: The gallows-maker; for that frame outlives a
thousand tenants.

First Clown: I like thy wit well, in good faith: the gallows
does well; but how does it well? it does well to
those that do ill: now thou dost ill to say the
gallows is built stronger than the church: argal,
the gallows may do well to thee. To't again, come.

Second Clown: 'Who builds stronger than a mason, a shipwright, or
a carpenter?'

First Clown: Ay, tell me that, and unyoke.

Second Clown: Marry, now I can tell.

First Clown: To't.

Second Clown:Mass, I cannot tell.

First Clown: Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull
ass will not mend his pace with beating; and, when
you are asked this question next, say 'a
grave-maker: 'the houses that he makes last till

I think he may have a point.

SPEAKING OF GRAVES, a lot more people will be in them if we don't reform health care. Here's a report on this from Families USA and here's some WV coverage of the same issue.

GOT FIGS? Here's the latest edition of the Rev. Jim Lewis' Notes from Under the Fig Tree. I see he's got a little Shakespeare of his own going on this time.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, there's seems to be a drop in children's bullying.

THE BUTLER DIDN'T DO IT, an asteroid did.