davidbrucehaiku: STATING THE OBVIOUS






Pretty blond woman

Sitting among lavender

Wearing absurd shoes


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 1 Henry VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 1, Scenes 5-6

— 1.5 —

The battle began. Lord Talbot fought Charles the Dauphin and drove him back. Joan la Pucelle fought some English soldiers and drove them back.

Lord Talbot said to himself, “Where is my strength, my valor, and my force? Our English troops retreat, and I cannot stop them. A woman clad in armor chases them.”

Joan la Pucelle approached him.

Lord Talbot said to himself, “Here, here she comes.”

He then said to Joan la Pucelle, “I’ll have a bout with thee. Devil or devil’s dam, I’ll conjure thee. Blood will I draw on thee, for you are a witch, and without delay I will give your soul to him — the Devil — whom you serve.”

People in this culture believed that if you drew blood from a witch, you could gain control over her.

“Come, come,” Joan la Pucelle said. “It is only I who must disgrace thee.”

They fought.

“Heavens, can you suffer Hell so to prevail?” Lord Talbot said in a brief break from fighting. “My breast I’ll burst with the straining of my courage and I’ll crack my arms asunder, but I willchastise this high-minded strumpet.”

They fought again.

“Talbot, farewell,” Joan la Pucelle said. “Your hour to die has not yet come. I must go and provide Orleans with provisions immediately.”

She and her soldiers prepared to go into the town.

She then said to Lord Talbot, “Attack me, if you can; I scorn your strength. Go, go, cheer up your famished men who are dying of hunger. Help the Earl of Salisbury to make his testament. This day is ours, as many more shall be.”

She and the French soldiers exited.

Lord Talbot said to himself, “My thoughts are whirled like a potter’s wheel. I don’t know where I am, nor what I am doing. A witch, using fear, not force, like Hannibal, drives back our troops and conquers as she wishes. Similarly, bees with smoke and doves with noisome stench are driven away from their hives and houses. The French called us for our fierceness English dogs. Now, like puppies, we run away, crying.”

Hannibal was a Carthaginian General who crossed the Alps and entered Roman territory, where he terrorized the Romans while roaming up and down the Roman territory at will.

A military trumpet sounded.

Lord Talbot said, “Hark, countrymen! Either renew the fight, or tear the lions out of England’s coat. Renounce your soil, give sheep in lions’ stead: Sheep run not half as treacherously from the wolf, or horse or oxen from the leopard, as you fly from your often-subdued slaves.”

To flee the enemy can be treacherous. Not only is the battle lost, but great loss of life can occur during an unorganized retreat. Lord Talbot was saying that the English soldiers needed to regroup and fight well, or they might as well replace the lions in the English flag with sheep.

A military trumpet sounded and a short fight took place.

Lord Talbot said, “A victory for us will not be. Retire into your trenches. You all consented to the Earl of Salisbury’s death, for none of you would strike a stroke with your swords in his revenge. Joan la Pucelle has entered Orleans, in spite of us or anything that we could do. I wish that I would die with the Earl of Salisbury! The shame of his death will make me hide my head.”

— 1.6 —

On the wall of Orleans stood Joan la Pucelle, Charles the Dauphin, Reignier, the Duke of Alençon, and some soldiers.

Joan la Pucelle said, “Advance our waving battle flags on the wall; we have rescued Orleans from the English. Thus Joan la Pucelle has performed what she gave her word she would do.”

Charles the Dauphin said to her, “Divinest creature, Astraea’s daughter, how shall I honor thee for this success?”

Astraea is a mythological Greek goddess of justice. When she left Earth, the Iron Age began. When she returns to Earth, a new Golden Age will begin.

He continued, “Thy promises are like Adonis’ gardens that bloomed one day and gave fruit the next day.”

Adonis was a figure in various ancient Greek mystery religions; the plants in his garden grew quickly.

Charles the Dauphin then said, “France, triumph in your glorious prophetess! The town of Orleans has been recovered. A more blessed event never befell our state.”

Reignier said, “Why not order the bells to be rung aloud throughout the town? Dauphin, command the citizens to make bonfires and feast and banquet in the open streets to celebrate the joy that God has given us.”

The Duke of Alençon said, “All France will be replete and satisfied with mirth and joy when they shall hear how we have played the roles of men and fought bravely.”

“It is by Joan, not we, that the day is won,” Charles the Dauphin said. “Because of this victory, I will divide my crown with her, and all the priests and friars in my realm shall in procession sing her endless praise. A statelier pyramid to her I’ll rear than Rhodope’s pyramid at Memphis ever was.”

Rhodope was a 6th-century B.C.E. Greek courtesan who became very wealthy from her profession and was said to have built a pyramid at Memphis, Egypt. She was also said to have eventually married the King of Egypt.

Charles the Dauphin continued, “In memory of her when she is dead, her ashes, in an urn more precious than the richly jeweled coffer of Darius, shall be transported at high festivals before the Kings and Queens of France.”

When Alexander the Great conquered the city of Gaza, among the spoils was a richly jeweled coffer that had belonged to the Persian King Darius, who had unsuccessfully tried to conquer Greece but was defeated in 490 B.C.E. in the Battle of Marathon. Alexander used the coffer to carry his most precious possession: the epic poems of Homer.

Charles the Dauphin continued, “No longer on Saint Denis, the patron saint of France, will we cry, but Joan la Pucelle shall be France’s saint. Come in, and let us banquet royally, after this golden day of victory.”


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David Bruce: Music Anecdotes

A couple of bands that were popular in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in the 1980s, reformed in the 2000s for an important cause: to raise money for cystic fibrosis. The impetus was that Allie, the 2-year-old daughter of trombonist/singer John Plymale of the Pressure Boys, was diagnosed with the disease. Quickly, Mr. Plymale began to use his music to raise money to combat the disease. He put together the compilation album Songs For Sixty-Five Roses to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. He also got his old band together to perform at benefit concerts. The band the Sneakers was happy to reform and to open at the benefit concerts, also. Chris Stamey of the Sneakers said that “we are thrilled to be a part of this benefit in particular. Allie is such a sweetheart.” A posed PR photo shows young Allie with the Pressure Boys—she is holding her hands over her ears.

Dolly Parton is a smart artist, and she is a smart businesswoman. In 1974, Elvis Presley wanted to sing her song “I Will Always Love You.” But in order for that to happen, Mr. Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, required that Ms. Parton sign over half the rights to the song. Ms. Parton declined to do that. Way to go, Dolly! The song has made more than $250 million, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Ms. Parton explains why she declined to sign over half the rights to the song: “I knew it was one of my best songs, but it wouldn’t have mattered what song Parker wanted the publishing on. That’s money I’m earning for my family. I couldn’t give it up. It was already a hit for me, but then after Whitney Houston recorded it and I did it two more times, once with Vince Gill, well … I’ve made gobs of money off it.”

Cleveland-based production team the Kickdrums is made up of two people: Matt Penttila and Alex Fitts. They have worked hard, and such luminaries as 50 Cent have used their beats. At times, they have gone to New York with lots of self-produced CDs, and they have stood outside record companies handing out CDs to anyone who passed by, hoping to get one of their CDs into the hands of someone in A&R (Artists and Repertoire). Of course, many people who get a CD are not in A&R. Mr. Penttila says, “If they give you a weird look, then you know it’s a janitor.” Still, says Mr. Fitts, “You start with the guys you can get to. It benefits both sides, because then the low-level A&Rs take it to their boss, and it’s like, ‘I discovered this new talent.’ Eventually, you get a call from a big-time A&R about the CD you gave somebody else.”

Singer-songwriter Baby Dee wrote and recorded a song titled “The Dance of Diminishing Possibilities,” which is described by celebrity interviewer Len Righi as “a Bowiesque cabaret number [that] uses a smashed piano as a metaphor for love let loose and the possibility of rebirth.” In the song, a couple of friends smash a keyboard with an axe on a sidewalk. Bobby Slot and Freddy Weiss, the friends in the song, are real; they were neighbors of Baby Dee when she was young and living in Cleveland. Baby Dee says, “They were bums, guys in their 30s, dumb and harmless,” she says. “They really wanted not to have a piano. That was their dream. So the whole neighborhood got together to make their dream come true.”

Laurie Anderson was forced to study violin when she was a child—it was not a pleasant experience. She says, “I had a teacher who said, ‘If you don’t put your fingers in the right place, I am going to put nails where they shouldn’t be and you’ll prick yourself.’” Ms. Anderson, of course, composed and recorded “O Superman,” figuring that 100 copies of the song would be enough to meet the limited demand. However, British deejay John Peel played it on his radio show, and suddenly demand skyrocketed. She says, “One day, I got a call from London with an order for 20,000 copies of the single, immediately followed by another 20,000 by the end of the week. I looked at the cardboard box of records, which had almost run out, and said, ‘Listen, can I just call you back?’”

It’s possible to fall in love with another culture. In Japan, Yoko Noge fell in love with Chicago blues, and after going to college she went to Chicago to sing the blues. There, she sang like a black woman. Sometimes, a black man would ask her during a break in her act, “Was that you I heard singing?” She would answer, “Yes,” and he would say, “Damn. I thought I was listening to a black woman sing. That’s why I decided to come on in from the street and listen. You sounded good.” This, of course, is a compliment. Also, of course, one needs to respect one’s own culture, and Ms. Noge sings some songs in Japanese, making her act a hybrid of Chicago blues and Japanese folk music that she calls “Japanesque.”

Stephin Merritt, frontman for The Magnetic Fields, tends to think up titles to 26 songs at one time because he finds that it helps his creativity to think up a song title for each of the letters of the alphabet. He says, “This helps me come up with songs like ‘Xavier Says’ and ‘Zombie Boy’ that I otherwise might not think of.” Some people who listen to his lyrics may consider him a pessimist, but Mr. Merritt points out, “A pessimist is always right in the long term. If you read anybody’s biography, you know the ending.”

When Steve Wynn was asked what was the best piece of advice he has actually followed, he told a jazz anecdote about John Coltrane saying to Miles Davis, “Man, when I’m going on a solo sometimes I just don’t know how to stop.” Mr. Davis replied, “Maybe you should take the horn out of your mouth.” This reply is wise, and Mr. Wynn says, “I always try to know when it’s time to take the horn out of my mouth.”


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Edgar Lee Masters: Amelia Garrick (Spoon River Anthology)

YES, here I lie close to a stunted rose bush

In a forgotten place near the fence

Where the thickets from Siever’s woods

Have crept over, growing sparsely.

And you, you are a leader in New York,

The wife of a noted millionaire,

A name in the society columns,

Beautiful, admired, magnified perhaps

By the mirage of distance.

You have succeeded, I have failed

In the eyes of the world.

You are alive, I am dead.

Yet I know that I vanquished your spirit;

And I know that lying here far from you,

Unheard of among your great friends

In the brilliant world where you move,

I am really the unconquerable power over your life

That robs it of complete triumph.