Lunedi Lunacy

In a comment on a recent in-depth posting on Shakespeare by my friend Debra in deepest darkest Alberta someone mentioned a piece by Robert Benchley the American humourist, journalist, and actor. Benchley is perhaps best know for a telegram he sent to his editor when he arrived in Venice. “Streets flooded. Please advised.”

In the following little vignette he out-scholars the scholars.


Carrying on the System of Footnotes to a Silly Extreme


Enter first Lady-in-Waiting (Flourish, [1] Hautboys [2] and[3] torches[4]).

First Lady-in-WaitingWhat [5] ho![6] Where[7] is [8] the[9] music?[10]


1. Flourish: The stage direction here is obscure. Clarke claims it should read “flarish,” thus changing the meaning of the passage to “flarish” (that is, the Kings), but most authorities have agreed that it should remain “flourish,” supplying the predicate which is to be flourished. There was at this time a custom in the countryside of England to flourish a mop as a signal to the passing vender of berries, signifying that in that particular household there was a consumer-demand for berries, and this may have been meant in this instance. That Shakespeare was cognizant of this custom of flourishing the mop for berries is shown in a similar passage in the second part of King Henry IV, where he has the Third Page enter and say, “Flourish.” Cf. also Hamlet, IV, 7: 4.

2. Hautboys, from the French haut, meaning “high” and the Eng. boys, meaning “boys.” The word here is doubtless used in the sense of “high boys,” indicating either that Shakespeare intended to convey the idea of spiritual distress on the part of the First Lady-in-Waiting or that he did not. Of this Rolfe says: “Here we have one of the chief indications of Shakespeare?s knowledge of human nature, his remarkable insight into the petty foibles of this work-a-day world.” Cf. T. N. 4: 6, “Mine eye hath play’d the painter, and hath stell’d thy beauty’s form in table of my heart.”

3. and. A favorite conjunctive of Shakespeare’s in referring to the need for a more adequate navy for England. Tauchnitz claims that it should be pronounced “und,” stressing the anti-penult. This interpretation, however, has found disfavor among most commentators because of its limited significance. We find the same conjunctive in A. W. T. E. W. 6: 7, “Steel-boned, unyielding and uncomplying virtue,” and here there can be no doubt that Shakespeare meant that if the King should consent to the marriage of his daughter the excuse of Stephano, offered in Act 2, would carry no weight.

Drawing by Gluyas Williams

4. Torches. The interpolation of some foolish player and never the work of Shakespeare (Warb.). The critics of the last century have disputed whether or not this has been misspelled in the original, and should read “trochies” or “troches.” This might well be since the introduction of tobacco into England at this time had wrought havoc with the speaking voices of the players, and we might well imagine that at the entrance of the First Lady-in-Waiting there might be perhaps one of the hautboys mentioned in the preceding passage bearing a box of troches or “trognies” for the actors to suck. Of this entrance Clarke remarks: “The noble mixture of spirited firmness and womanly modesty, fine sense and true humility, clear sagacity and absence of conceit, passionate warmth and sensitive delicacy, generous love and self-diffidence with which Shakespeare has endowed this First Lady-in-Waiting renders her in our eyes one of the most admirable of his female characters.” Cf. M. S. N. D. 8: g, “That solder’st close impossibilities and mak’st them kiss.”

5. What—What.

6. Ho! In conjunction with the preceding word doubtless means “What ho!” changed by Clarke to “What hoo!” In the original Ms. it reads “What hi!” but this has been accredited to the tendency of the time to write “What hi” when “what ho” was meant. Techner alone maintains that it should read “What humpf!” Cf. Ham. 5: O, “High-ho!”

7. Where. The reading of the folio, retained by Johnson, the Cambridge editors and others, but it is not impossible that Shakespeare wrote “why,” as Pope and others give it. This would make the passage read “Why the music?” instead of “Where is the music?” and would be a much more probable interpretation in view of the music of that time. Cf. George Ade. Fable No. 15, “Why the gunnysack?”

8. is—is not. That is, would not be.

9. the. Cf. Ham. 4: 6. M. S. N. D. 3: 5. A. W. T. E. W. 2: 6. T. N. I: 3 and Macbeth 3: I, “that knits up the raveled sleeves of care.

10. music. Explained by Malone as “the art of making music” or “music that is made.” If it has but one of these meanings we are inclined to think it is the first; and this seems to be favored by what precedes, “the music!” Cf. M. of V. 4: 2, “The man that hath no music in himself.”

The meaning of the whole passage seems to be that the First Lady-in-Waiting has entered concomitant with a flourish, hautboys and torches and says, “What ho! Where is the music?”

July 22 is Casual Pi Day – People in countries that write their dates correctly in the date/ month format celebrate Casual Pi Day on 22 July or 22/7. Go figure – repeatedly.

The Ways of Displays at Christmas

This is the time of year when curmudgeons like me moan about how things aren’t like they use to be – how Christmas was less commercial and things were simpler when we were young.   I found myself thinking that in November while regarding the Christmas lights on Regent Street.  As well as celebrating Christmastide – sort of – they also rang bells for a soon to be released animated movie based on my beloved Mr Peabody, but let’s not go there.  A walk past the windows at Selfridge’s would lead one to think that Christmas was about high-end perfumes and designer dish towels.  And Harrod’s?  Well what can be said about that parody of a once great emporium that is now the Disneyland of department stores.  Though we didn’t get a chance to stroll down Piccadilly I understand from a video (click here) that Fortnum and Mason eschewed last year’s highly commercial salute to a theatrical chain’s Panto mixed in with their fine food stuffs to once again display a little nostalgic animation in their windows.  Mind you their fine products are still very much on display but its things like Christmas pud, crackers and the like.

By the time we reached London we were pretty much pictured out; however here’s a shot of
Regent Street during the day light hours.  I must admit I was a bit bemused by this year’s
lights?  Mr Peabody and Sherman – well now there’s a Christmas theme I never thought of.

Now Madrid is, or at least was, a different story.  The light displays there are created by well-known designers and reflect all sorts of styles and creativity.  Unfortunately we were only there for a few hours to change trains during daylight hours but did get a chance to get downtown.  And I hate to say it but LNB and myself both gave into the crass commercialism that appeared to represent Christmas at  El Cortes Inglés in Madrid.  After a wonderful lunch at De Maria we strolled over to the main store at Puerta del Sol and stopped off at their Christmas shop – hoping to, despite a vow of abstinence, find a Christmas ornament that cried “Spain”.  Well we found lots that smirked “China” but nothing that you couldn’t find most other places.

Sadly there was nothing at El Cortes Inglés that couldn’t be found at any department story anywhere in the world. We had been hoping to find something that would remind us of our times in Spain but …….

By the time we hit the third floor of their six story Christmas store we were right smack in the middle of commercial Christmas with a capital C.  So if you can’t fight ’em!

Laurent seems to have this, dare I say “unhealthy”, obsession with mice.  And keep in mind this is
the man who will not take me to Disney World. But he’ll cavort with El Ratón Mickey in Madrid.
Even Sidd bought into the commercialism – these straight gnomes!  And Cinderella was just his sort of girl – plastic!
Apparently Sulley (James P. Sullivan) got over his fear of the toxic touch of humans
or it may have just been Sidd’s calming presence.

Sorry but Spidey was getting just a little too up-close and personal! 

And of course being selective in applying my curmudginliness I am truly delighted by the wonderful display that graces Henri Bendel‘s window in their New York flagship store.  Okay Al Hirschfeld may not have much to do with Christmas but his marvelous creations are cause for some sort of seasonal celebration.  Someone over at a Broadway musical group I belong to (You belong to a Broadway Musical group, says incredulous reader?  Quelle surprise!) discovered that the brilliant caricaturist is lining Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein at his worktable. 

A click on the poster heralding the Hirschfeld Spectacular will take you to  detailed photographs of the window and the iconic drawings that have been brought to, if not life, life size for the holidays.  And the store is decorated with Hirschfeld’s – the originals as well as 3D reproductions.  And yes “Nina” is hidden in full view!

Okay maybe this old curmudgeon isn’t entirely against commercialism – I noticed a bit of store promotion in quite a few photos of the old Eaton’s windows that I loved so much.  And I guess that’s the whole point of window displays – to get you in and to get you to buy.  But I do wish London would rethink those lights!  Mr Peabody and Sherman??? And not even the real thing just some cheap Dreamworks imitation!  What sort of Christmas celebration is that?

December  29 – 2003: The last known speaker of Akkala Sami dies, rendering the language extinct.

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Stuff – Josephine, Hirschfeld and Sable

Though it is a little early to start our inventory – well actually it is never too early and when we arrived here 3 years ago I vowed to keep the inventory up-to-date and dutifully enter each new item when it was purchased. I really must find out where the inventory programme is on the hard drive. Let’s hope it wasn’t on the PC that fried last year!

Anyway I’ve been taking a look at a few of the things that we have hanging around the house and checking evaluation – mostly for insurance purposes. And I’ve been getting a few surprises – and so will my insurance company when I talk about a new policy.

Back in the late 70s early 80s we got into the habit of spending a week in Provincetown every summer with our friends Bernie and Don. It was a week of sun, food, drink, drag shows (Charles Pierce, Jim Bailey) and just relaxing – though somehow we never made it to the Tea Dance at the Boathouse. I know what the hell sort of gay men were we?????

There was (and I discover still is – 41 years in business) a gallery called Graphics Etc on Commercial St where I bought two lithographs -a caricature by Al Hirschfeld, one of the greats of graphic arts, the other by Kas Sable, whose work I recall as appearing in After Dark magazine. I still have both – the Sable has always hung in the bedroom no matter where we’ve lived and the Hirschfeld in the living or family room.

I will always remember the look on the face of the poor customs officer at the Canadian border when I brought this litho across. She was a young summer student and she wasn’t at all sure I wasn’t trying to bring pornography into the country. I had a feeling there was a discussion between her and her supervisor afterward as to what constitutes art and what is just plan smut. I haven’t been able to track anything down on Sable so I’m not sure if the litho actually appreciated or not – and frankly I’ve always enjoyed it so it doesn’t really matter.

The reason I bought the Hirschfeld was two-fold – first it was a Hirschfeld and I had seen his Broadway drawings in books since I was a wee laddie and second because it was of an entertainer that I adored: Josephine Baker. I believe it was done when she made her comeback in New York in 1973. As I have said before I was fascinated with the French Music Hall from an early age and had read about, listen to recordings of and seen pictures of La Bakir and when she appeared at the old Imperial Room in Toronto I made sure I was there to see her live. Not only did I see her perform but met her afterward and helped her into her slippers – don’t ask!

On April 8, 1975 at the age of 68 she opened in a new revue at the Bobino on the Left Bank, not quite the Folies Bergere or Casino de Paris of her past but a triumph nonetheless. Four days later she was found laying in a coma surrounded by the newspapers and magazines heralding her success – she died later that day. I had a ticket for a performance the following week.

As always with a few strokes of his pen – and including his signature hidden NINAs – Hirschfeld captured the glamour, showmanship and joy of performance that accounted for Josephine Baker’s success and popularity over 50 years. When I bought it back in 1980 or 81 it cost $150.00 USD – a not inconsiderable sum in those days but still within my budget. When I checked what Hirschfeld lithos were going for these days I was frankly astounded. It appears that the little stroll into Graphics etc was a wise investment move.

Hirschfeld worked almost up until his death at the age of 99 – recording in pen and ink the history of the American theatre and cinema. This video shows him at work on a drawing of Paul Newman as he appeared in Our Town in late 2002.

27 giugno – San Cirillo di Alessandria