Sunday, July 18, 2010


Greey-tings from Jolly Owlde London. Chilly knickers fouw-lee rumpowle. Right fluff groo-willy chezzwhuff yellowteeth. Eh, what what? Flahrrngwynnwhyth caerphilly whump whump.

I always thought the Jabber Walk was a genuine linguistic innovation, trumpeting the triumph of syntax over semantics. (No surprise, then, that no such poem exists in German.) No. Carroll is a lying fraud, whose legacy deserves to fade like a leering snotty feline grin. That poem is actually a straightforward rendition of how Londoners speak, with only a few minor changes. And you can learn some useful history once it is properly translated. For example, locals complain of low quality lumber resulting from tree rot (flimsy were the borough groves).

I logged many hours listening to the walking locals jabber, and I am learning quickly. My British skills advanced to where my German was after several weeks of exposure in Germany. I think I am learning so quickly because I took four years of English in my American high school, which has some similar roots. I can order food and get basic directions, and even tea and theater tickets. I did in fact manage to order an official British afternoon tea, which I always wanted to do in England.

Good tea. Liked the scone with fresh strawberries. Cute presentation. Worth maybe 8 bucks, not 16 quid. They could have saved quite a lot by giving me about one tenth of that much butter and jam, which would have been plenty. It is a minor strike against my hotel, the Strand Palace. Most of us who attended these meetings in London stayed here because it is across the street from the meeting location. It is certainly not horrid. And they do have a tea kettle in the room. Yes. And they are most assiduous about providing tea. And they sure do have a lot of tea with their breakfast. No complaints about the availability of tea. This can keep you busy while you are waiting for the elevator, which takes long enough that I took to using the stairs (to the 8th floor). But they do warn you in the name. You will be stranded. This is what I get for that zanahorias trick.

The hotel also happens to be near Soho, so I hung out there a fair amount. Saw old Dietrich Benjes, who I last saw in London 10 years ago. Got surprisingly good last-minute tickets to see “We Will Rock You,” figuring that Queen always was intended to go with theater, and I should see it in its proper context. And this did work. Good idea. Essentially, perform their greatest hits CD, with lots of costumes and dancing and visual effects, interleaved with the usual plotline about music and creativity becoming subsumed in the future by an evil corporation. And thus only a prophesied prodigy can restore genuine creativity and spread it amongst an initially unreceptive and doped populace. “Amateur artists imitate; professional artists steal.” Nothing wrong with it. It worked. It worked, in fact, better than anything I can think of. I’m just annoyed that it took me so long to learn that basic truism. Plus, they did rewrite a lot of lyrics to my amusement, and provide some engaging dialog, with talented people and sexy dancers. I wish they didn’t kill Britney Spears at the end of the first act, since he was an amusing dancer, and could sing like Freddie pretty well for a black guy.

I walked back to my hotel to change before going back to jabber walk around Soho. I noticed a lot of other shows – Legally Blonde, The Lion King, Sister Act, Grease. Probably fun shows, but I do wonder how much the level of imitation/theft has changed. It’s less impressive to make a successful show out of something that was already tested and validated. It makes sense. It’s more likely to make money. I have seen many such shows, and enjoyed them. But what inspired Oklahoma! ?

Similarly, most movies are based on 80s shows, comic books, established fantasy genres, and/or the last successful movie in the franchise, often differentiated only by a single Roman numeral at the end of the title. Not sure if this really is a reduction in global creativity, or that the explosion of mass global culture has forced most or all successful themes forward, or it’s just a side effect of me getting older and thus seeing more and more different efforts at creativity. The second hypothesis is hard to reconcile with Joseph Campbell Hero with a Thousand Faces, which lays out the hero myth across so many different cultures that it can be used as a roadmap for new hero myths, from the Seven Samurai to Star Wars to We Will Rock You. Yet some elements are relatively new. Gilgamesh never struggled with massive, faceless, evil corporations. Homer did not see any problems with techno-oppression. Siddhartha was not escaping mall music and boy bands. There is some novelty left out there. You just have to bedrock it with the right amount of inspired adaptation.

And so kudos to whoever the hell thought of making a musical to mock Enron. This is not uncreative, since they are not really ripping off anything adaptable to the stage. Enron, to my knowledge, did not produce any audience-tested dances, music, catchphrases, or costumes. It is hence relatively brave to invent a musical to mock a tragedy that harrowed my home state and paved the way for its Schwarzennegerization.

I’d see it, but it doesn’t play today. They also have Macbeth in the park. This sounds fantastic – Shakespeare in the Park in Regent’s Park in London. I hope I can make it. But, if not, I’m sure they will be there tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow….

I also found where you can go if you want to change your hairstyle to a long beard and really long curly sideburns:

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