Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

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Anita O’Day with a great version of  a great song.

Oscar Peterson – piano

Herb Ellis – guitar

Ray Brown – double bass

John Poole – drums

Thanks to YouTuber jburidan

Rendering Shakespeare: Sonnet 126

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At this year’s Shakespeare’s Birthday Sonnet Slam, where all 154 sonnets are performed, because of no-shows, producer Melinda Hall unexpectedly pressed some of us into double duty bound; in addition to performing our pre-arranged sonnets (mine was Sonnet 27) we performed other sonnets as well, with fifteen minutes notice.

And that is how I became acquainted with Sonnet 126. Here’s what I saw when the paper was handed to me:

O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy pow’r
Dost hold Time’s fickle glass, his sickle, hour,
Who hast by waning grown, and therein show’st
Thy lovers withering, as thy sweet self grow’st—
If Nature, (sovereign mistress over wrack,)
As thou goest onwards still will pluck thee back,
She keeps thee to this purpose: that her skill
May Time disgrace, and wretched minute kill.
Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure;
She may detain, but not still keep, her treasure.
Her audit, though delayed, answered must be,
And her quietus is to render thee.
  (     )
  (     )

 

If this looks strange to you, you’re on the right track. It looks very different from all the other Shakespeare sonnets. As you probably know if you’re reading this, the Shakespearean sonnets are three quatrains of alternating rhyme, and then a final couplet to make fourteen lines. Now take a look at Sonnet 126—first of all it’s only twelve lines long—the last two lines seem to have been truncated—and what’s more the remaining lines are all couplets. It barely deserves to be called a sonnet. And, to my way of thinking, the content of it is more pessimistic than most of Shakespeare’s other sonnets.

Ever-reliable Wikipedia tells us that Sonnet 126 is the capstone to the group of sonnets known as the Fair Youth sonnets. As a group they speak of a young man of sexual power who, despite the ravages of time, will live on—either through his immortalization in the poet’s words, or through the siring of offspring. Sonnet 126 is the last of this group, but it appears to tell a somewhat different story: our Fair Youth might think, even as he gets older, that  he is cheating Nature and Time in his pursuit of worldly pleasures,  but it is all for naught. In the end, Time demands his due, despite Nature’s endowing the Youth with potency even in his later years—no, Nature must eventually render thee; that is, surrender him, as money paid in debt. Indeed, the end comes so suddenly, it can even come two lines too early. We have run out of Time.

It’s a bleaker outlook than many of the other sonnets. While Shakespeare never denies the inevitability of death in his writings, it is rare that he wags it so forcefully in the face of his sonnet subjects without some promise of remembrance. There’s a palpable jealousy there of the youth’s enduring power. There doesn’t seem to be a chance of redemption.

And yet, hidden within the last words is a double meaning that seems kinder. For the word render not only means “to surrender,” but also “to depict,” as in the rendering of a portrait. Nature may not only surrender him to Time, but will portray him. So once again, the Fair Youth has the opportunity of becoming immortal through his children or through Shakespeare’s rendering of him in his poems.

And so he has.

 

 

Baby Workout: Jackie Wilson

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Monday morning, the incredible Jackie Wilson, Mr. Excitement, at his height, leads you in your morning exercise routine.

The clip is from the “Shindig” television show, back before they allowed too many black dancers on TV. But Jackie just makes the onstage whitebread crew look foolish. He influenced Elvis and Michael Jackson and through them, just about everyone else in pop music.

Thanks to YouTuber Dariane Mello Jackson

You Don’t Look A Day Over 450

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In celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday this past week, Mary Murphy and I put together a short segment about the Shakespearean sonnets, aired last night on the Arts Express program (on radio station WBAI 99.5 FM NYC). I talk a bit about the history and structure of the poems, and then we read five of our favorite lesser-known sonnets. Click on the triangle above to wish Will a Happy 455th.

By the way, the portrait above may just well be the only extant likeness of Shakespeare done in his lifetime, . It is purported to be Shakespeare at age 39. I like the idea of seeing  of seeing him with a full head of hair and a sly smile.

I Read The News Today, Oh Boy

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Photo by SplitShire on Pexels.com

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And here’s yet one more installment of the humorous news commentary that I wrote  a few times a week in 2014/15 for a local radio personality.  I don’t know that the references (or humor) hold up anymore, but I thought you might enjoy reading some of them, because remember:

Fame is fleeting, but Bad Jokes are on the Internet forever.

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Power-To-The-People Dept.:

A U.S. federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked President Barack Obama’s plan to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. Some 26 states, led by Texas, sued the administration to halt the programs, arguing that Obama’s orders violated constitutional limits on his powers.

Comment: Because the President only has the right to secretly bomb the crap out of foreigners, not to give them asylum.

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See-This-Is-Why-We-Can’t-Have-Nice-Things Dept.:

Hoping to better understand the health effects of oil fracking, the state in 2013 ordered oil companies to test the chemical-laden waste water extracted from wells. Data culled from the first year of those tests found significant concentrations of the human carcinogen benzene, in some cases, levels of benzene thousands of times greater than state and federal agencies consider safe.

Comment: I’ll have my Vodka-benzene martini shaken, not stirred.

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I-Can’t-Remember-To-Forget-You Dept.:

Among the items discovered by Neil Armstrong’s widow, Carol, while cleaning out their suburban Cincinnati home was a bag containing long-lost Apollo 11 artifacts. Neil never told anyone on earth about the items and no one knew about the existence of the items during the 45 years since he returned from the Moon.

Comment: Armstrong’s widow declared, “Hey, that’s what happened to all my Helen Reddy, Strawberry Alarm Clock, and Peter Lemongello record LPs!”

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Five’ll -Get-You-Ten Dept.:

The national debate over so-called ‘education reform’ has come into sharp relief in Philadelphia, where a pro-charter organization has offered the cash-strapped city school district up to $35 million to enroll an additional 15,000 students in new charter schools; but the Philadelphia School District says it would cost as much as $500 million to enroll the new students in new charter schools—about 20 times more than the amount offered by the non-profit.

Comment: It’s the new math: we give you a few dollars with one hand, then take your shirt and pants with the other.

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Do-Not-Adjust-Your-TV-Screen Dept.:

Bacteria that haven’t evolved for more than 2 billion years have been discovered in the ocean floor sediments off Western Australia.

Comment: The bacteria were caught watching Milton Berle re-runs and explaining to their offspring that color TV has not yet been perfected.

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Don’t-Let-Science-Stop-You Dept.:

Pennsylvania groundhog ‘forecasts’ 6 more weeks of winter

The handlers of Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, said the furry rodent has forecast six more weeks of winter.

Americans Dismiss Climate Change And Reject Theory Of Evolution In New Survey

A new survey in the U.S. has revealed that huge numbers of Americans reject the theory of evolution and don’t believe that human activity is in any way responsible for climate change.

Comment: They do believe, however, that the weather can be predicted by a groundhog.

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Say-It-Ain’t-So-Ed Dept.:

Snowden files show that Canada’s electronic spy agency has been intercepting and analyzing data on up to 15 million file downloads daily as part of a global surveillance program.

Comment: In related news, thousands of Canadian intelligence agents reportedly quit, saying they couldn’t stand snooping on one more freakin’  phone conversation about hockey and Celine Dion.

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Seeds-Of-Faith Dept.:

Pope Francis will  push for climate change policies, in a year when global warming is shaping up to be a central issue both for the Vatican and Washington. He’ll  push United Nations leaders to  write an international agreement to reduce emissions and help poorer countries adapt.

Comment:  His Holiness will recommend green farming methods such as compost heaps and home-made fertilizers. However, he warned, Catholics may only use the fertilizers the three days a month when there is no danger of conception.

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