Ear Worm for you

Having made the mistake of listening to old folk songs, I now find that my brain can’t stop singing Four Rode By. Please click on this link so that you too can become infected with this grand song!
Four rode by,
Rode through here,
Three Mclean boys and that wild Alex Hare.

Alex HARE– heavens, perhaps a long lost great great great uncle!
Who did no credit to the family, however. Hanged.

There are some charming pictures of the 17th century Japanese reaction to their foreign invaders-those horrifying Hairy Barbarians!

Too too disgusting.

HOWEVER, it turns out that modern Asian ladies are not viewing this facial hair with anything like the disapprobation of their ancestors.
There was a story in yesterday’s Journal about a youthful Indonesian entrepreneur who aspired to the bearded hipster look as an aid in his romantic endeavours–but his face, like that of so many Asian men, refused to sprout anything but sparse pathetic wisps. So he started rubbing his cheeks with minoxidil, the active ingredient in Rogaine. AHA! Luscious facial abundance! The ladies giving him the eye! And he has now embarked into a profitable career in helping other Asian youths acquire that oh-so-lovable chin fuzz.
There is no end to what young men will do for the sake of young ladies.
An interesting side note in the article mentioned a study of English facial hair fashions (1842-1971), which found that beards and moustaches burgeoned whenever there were more men competing for fewer women–as is the case in Indonesia today.

Image result for victorian beards

I watched two entirely unrelated shows this weekend, and as always, I am completely taken aback by the enormous effort–the reckless outlay of life force, the vast expenditure of treasure and human power–that is gladly undertaken by countless armies of men and women in the effort to entertain me.
Well, me and the rest of the paying audience that is.

The closing credits of Kubo and the Two Strings–an absolutely charming stop action film, all witty origami and Japanese woodcuts–scrolls on and on, hundreds of people listed–and so delightful were the accompanying drawings, I watched the whole thing.

This work of art was produced by the same company that produced Coraline, another gorgeous show. The story is engaging, the images are beautiful, and the lovely scene of Kubo and his friends setting the glowing lanterns afloat on the waves to honor their dead brought tears to my eyes.

Well, well, it is true that almost anything in that vein will do that.
The incredibly demanding work of animating this show included making hundreds of puppet heads on 3-D printers, sewing hundreds of kimonos, and making the sets–the village, the ship. And then smoothing it out with elaborate computer graphics. The end result is really really lovely.
Image result for making kubo and the two strings
The other show I watched involved real live people strutting about on a stage, busting a gut in their effort to amuse me. Well, me and the the rest of the paying audience as mentioned before. This was yet another in David Ives’ sprightly retellings of 17th century French plays (see review of previous one here), all decked out in modern language wittily set in Iambic pentameter. The play is called School for Lies, and is based–LOOSELY based–on Moliere’s Le Misanthrope. Ooh la la, such delightful silliness! Well, delightful after the first few obligatory political references, which the audience obediently chortled at. Then, on we went, ridiculous costumes and stunning hairstyles–such fun!

AND, only one act long, a thoughtful courtesy to the audience–we laughed, we clapped, we went home.

How I honor the valiant bands of dedicated jongleurs, prestidigitators, and lunatic visionaries who entertained me so well this weekend.
And now I shall do a little work.

Metro does it again!

In my haste to tell you about the Ghost Band and their dirty laundry, I see I inadvertently left a note about Yet Another Metro Failure (YAMF) tacked on to the bottom of the post.
I know you are ANXIOUS to hear the whole story!
On Tuesday morning as my fellow commuters and I glumly took our places in the escalator to descend into the gloomy depths of Friendship Heights, we noticed two commuters rushing UPWARDS against the flow, like salmon leaping upriver.
Image result for salmon leaping upstream
Frivolous FUN SEEKERS, I thought disapprovingly–and yet, their faces, as they approached and then passed on their way up had nothing of the sportive expression one would expect. Quite the opposite, in fact–grim and furious.
As we arrived at the bottom I noticed two more adventurers valiantly embarking on the upriver adventure.
And, the reason for their insane resolve:

  1. Metro had closed down the third escalator to the station some time ago–one of those renovation projects which stretch into millennia–and so there were only the two remaining.
  2. The other escalator was not functioning
  3. AND–just to add insult to injury–CLOSED. Which is to say, a barrier had been placed in front of it.

There was a vast line of fuming commuters waiting for the (one) elevator.
What can I say–YAMF!

There was a story in yesterday’s paper about Ghost, a Swedish heavy metal band whose mystique is one of dread satanic evil–they are nameless, always perform masked, and their lyrics are laden with pentagrams and demonic possession.
It appears that the mystique has been somewhat compromised due to a recent spate of litigation–the associate Ghosts have been suing the Head Ghost for back pay, and the process has exposed the normal tawdry details that every traveling band has to deal with–laundry arrangements, heated discussions about food, etc.
It so reminded me of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon night in Terry Pratchett’s Guards Guards:
“I call the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren to order,” he intoned. “Is the Door of Knowledge sealed fast against heretics and knowlessmen?”
“Stuck solid,” said Brother Doorkeeper. “It’s the damp. I’ll bring my plane in next week, soon have it–”
“All right , all right,” said the Supreme Grand Master testily. “Just a yes would have done. Is the triple circle well and truly traced? Art all here who Art Here?…
Image result for swedish band Ghost
Well, you know how it is–the mystic black robes of power need to be cleaned from time to time, and NOBODY wants to be the one sitting in the laundromat after the show.

Dr. Strange!

WHY, you will no doubt be plaintively asking, would Hope watch Dr. Strange, yet another imbecilic entry in the comic book dramatization Hall of Shame?
Answer: Benedict Cumberbatch.

VERY fetching in his dashing cape, and as for that perfect coiffure and goatee, TOO TOO adorable.
The perfect coiffure and goatee come late in the film, once Ben has achieved enlightenment. Previously he was either clean shaven (as eminent but arrogant surgeon) or lavishly hairy à la unabomber (after ghastly car accident in which his skilled surgeon’s hands were maimed).
So, after the accident (which was totally his fault) Dr. Strange heads off to Kathmandu in search of mystic healing.
And WHAT DO YOU KNOW? He finds it! In the person of Tilda Swinton, head shaved and sporting long mystic robes. Actually, I could watch Tilda in just about any outfit, she is so lovely and has the voice of an angel. So, she teaches him to do lots of Important Mystic Stuff because he may just be the one who will save the world! Not only does he learn Mystic Stuff (including magic rings!) but he also learns some pretty fancy fighting techniques, the kind that requires acrobatics, très Cirque de Soleil. Also, he starts wearing mystic robes like all the other students of the Mystic Arts, AND gets the coiffure and goatee as mentioned above. VERY becoming!

However there is trouble ahead, of course. Extremely Evil Sorcerer Kaecilius (I kept hearing ‘silly’ instead of ‘Cilius’–somewhat blunting the ominous effect) has Evil Plan to DESTROY THE WORLD! He is played by Mads Mikkelson, that compelling Danish actor who was so fine in After the Wedding and The Royal Affair–movies in which he played grown ups. In this movie he wears stunning eye make up (and mystic robes, of course) and soon crashes the party together with his group of fanatical followers (all wearing matching eye makeup).

Vast battles ensue! All is LOST! Except it isn’t! Except it is!
Well, well, we wind up at a final battle in Hong Kong and just when all seems to be lost yet again, Dr. Strange flies off into the sky (because, magic cape) to confront the Satanic Lord of Something or Other Which I Can’t Remember, who is vastly large–a sort of planet. And MEAN! They have a Mutual Mock Fest, and then the Satanic Lord KILLS DR. STRANGE! Only he doesn’t of course, because Dr. Strange has a magic bracelet: Backward turn Backward oh Time in Thy Flight! It is a pleasing shade of green (green=magical) and whenever he twists it, time is set back. One twist= one minute? Or perhaps one hour?–it is not made clear. So anyway, Dr. Strange and the Satanic Lord play a kind of Groundhog Day Game–he’s DEAD! No he’s not!–until boredom sets in, and then the Satanic Lord promises to leave the earth alone, and take the bad fanatical people to play with instead. So, all’s well that ends well!
Though I wonder how Dr. S managed to twist the magic bracelet when he was, you know, DEAD. However.

Silver Lining!

To deal the calamitous loss of so many files I eventually downloaded all unrestored deleted files to a folder on my computer and started the plodding work of going through them and stowing them where they should go. See, in the disaster, many files were stripped of their tags and paths, so that they were completely lost and afraid in a world they never made.
May I add that I have not yet forgiven Sugarsync, and never will.
In the business of going through old files I came across a couple winners.
For example, here is a droll Gilbert and Sullivan pastiche, which I had totally forgotten about. Amusing, especially for the classical scholars among us. Of whom I’m sure there are many.

Related image
Xena the Barbarian Princess

We join our operetta already in progress. The infamous Pirates of Pergamum have just seized a bevy of beautiful Mytilenean maidens, and are attempting to carry them off for matrimonial purposes. Gabrielle intervenes, with a recitative:

Gabrielle: Hold, scoundrels! Ere ye practice acts of villainy
Upon the peaceful and agrarian,
Just bear in mind, these maidens of My-TIL-ene[1]
Are guarded by a buff barbarian!

Pirates: We’d better all rethink our cunning plan;
They’re guarded by a buff barbarian.

Maidens: Yes, yes, she is a buff barbarian.

[Xena leaps in from the wings, with a tremendous war cry, does a mid-air somersault, and lands on her feet on the Pirate King’s chest.]

Xena: Yes, yes, I am a buff barbarian! [The orchestra starts up.]

I am the very model of a heroine barbarian;
Through Herculean efforts, I’ve become humanitarian.
I ride throughout the hinterland — at least that’s what they call it
Those sissy towns like Athens (I, myself, am Amphipolitan).
I travel with a poet who is perky and parthenian[2]

And scribbles her hexameters in Linear Mycenian[3]
(And many have attempted, by a host of methods mystical,
To tell if our relationship’s sororal or sapphistical).

Chorus: To tell if their relationship’s sororal or sapphistical!
To tell if their relationship’s sororal or sapphistical!
To tell if their relationship’s sororal or sapphisti-phistical!

Xena: My armory is brazen, but my weapons are ironical;
My sword is rather phallic, but my chakram’s rather yonical[4]

(To find out what that means, you’ll have to study Indo-Aryan[5]).
I am the very model of a heroine barbarian!

Chorus: To find out what that means, we’ll have to study Indo-Aryan —
She is the very model of a heroine barbarian!

Xena: I wake up every morning, ere the dawn is rhododactylous[6]
(Who needs to wait for daylight? I just work by _sensus tactilis_[7].)
And ride into the sunrise to protect some local villagers
From mythologic monsters or from all-too-human pillagers.
I hurtle towards each villain with a recklessness ebullient
And cow him with my swordwork and my alalaes ululient[8];
He’s frightened for his head, because he knows I’m gonna whack it —
Aware that his opponent is the _Basileia Makhetes_!

[The music crashes to a halt, as the Chorus stares at Xena in utter
confusion. She sighs.] It’s *Greek*. It means “Warrior Princess”!

[Light dawns on the Chorus, and the music resumes.]  . . .

Chorus: He knows that his opponent is the _Basileia Makhetes_!
He knows that his opponent is the _Basileia Makhetes_!
He knows that his opponent is the _Basileia Makhe-makhetes_,

Xena: Because I’ve got my armor, which is really rather silly, on
(It’s cut so low I feel like I’m the topless tow’rs of Ilion,
And isn’t any use against attackers sagittarian[9]).
I am the very model of a heroine barbarian!

Chorus: It isn’t any use against attackers sagittarian —
She is the very model of a heroine barbarian!

Xena: In short, when I can tell you how I break the laws of gravity,
And why my togs expose my intermammary concavity,
And why my comrade changed her dress from one that fit more comfily
To one that shows her omphalos[10] (as cute as that of Omphale[11]),
And why the tale of Spartacus appears in Homer’s versicon[12],
[She holds up a tomato:]
And where we found examples of the genus _Lycopersicon_[13],
And why this Grecian scenery looks more like the Antipodes,
You’ll say I’m twice the heroine of any in Euripides!

Chorus: We’ll say she’s twice the heroine of any in Euripides!
We’ll say she’s twice the heroine of any in Euripides!
We’ll say she’s twice the heroine of any in Euripi-ripides!

Xena: But though the kinked chronology, confusing and chimerical
(It’s often unhistorical, but rarely unhysterical),
Would give a massive heart attack to any antiquarian,
I am the very model of a heroine barbarian!

Chorus: ‘Twould give a massive heart attack to any antiquarian —
She is the very model of a heroine barbarian!

[As the orchestra plays the final chords, a wild Xenaesque melee ensues, and the curtain has to be brought down.]


[1] Actually, “Mytilene” would properly be accented on the third syllable; Gabrielle always did have trouble with rhymes. (Mytilene, incidentally, is a city on the isle of Lesbos — the hometown of the poet Sappho, as a matter of fact. It is not clear what, if anything, Gilbert is trying to imply here.)

[2] parthenian: virginal.

[3] Linear Mycenian: Mycenian is the ancient dialect of Greek which was written in Linear B (a form of Greek writing that predates the adoption of the alphabet). The implication is that Gabrielle does her writing in Linear B; if _Xena_ takes place around the time of the Trojan war, this is chronologically reasonable.

[4] yonical: “Yonic” is the female counterpart to “phallic”.

[5] Indo-Aryan: The language group consisting of Sanskrit and its close relatives. Both “chakram” and “yonic” are of Sanskrit derivation.

[6] rhododactylous: rosy-fingered. (Homer makes frequent reference to _rhododaktulos eos_ — “rosy-fingered dawn”.)

[7] _sensus tactilis_: Latin for “the sense of touch”.

[8] “Alalaes” are war-cries (the Greeks spelled a Xena-like war cry as _alala_ or _alale_) and “ululient” is a coined term, apparently meaning “characterized by ululation”.

[9] sagittarian: archer-like.

[10] omphalos: belly-button.

[11] Omphale: Legendary queen of Lydia. From context, we must assume that she had a cute belly-button; however, no known classical source seems to address this vital issue.

[12] versicon: a coined term, apparently meaning “collection of verse”.

[13] _Lycopersicon_: the biological genus to which tomatoes are assigned. (The tomato is a New World plant, and was entirely unknown in the Old World in pre-Columbian times. Thus, having tomatoes in a _Xena_ish context is an even greater anachronism than having Homer tell the tale of Spartacus.)

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