Hallelujah chorus: time to lay down a generation challenge?

I can’t help smiling at the news that there are likely to be three separate versions of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the charts shortly, including two in the top three:

  • The Alexandra Burke version, the X Factor winner’s single (likely to be No 1)
  • The Jeff Buckley version, the one that people my age think is the best version (likely to be No 3)
  • The original Leonard Cohen version, which I still stay loyal to (likely to be No 30 or so)

Three versions of the same song in the charts, twenty-four years after the original was released. Who’da thunk it?

Why was I smiling? Because an imp of mischief got to me. I began to wonder. Shall we use the web to make the Jeff Buckley version number 1? Against all odds? Wouldn’t it be a fitting posthumous tribute to a master musician? Wouldn’t it be more of a good thing for the songwriter? And wouldn’t it be a fun thing to try?

So. Are we up for it? Can we make the Jeff Buckley version number 1?

Incidentally, there have only been two instances where number 1 and number 2 were by the same artists (the Beatles in 1964 and Usher in 2004). There has never been an instance where No 1 and No 2 are the same song, by two different people. We have the chance to help make history while having some fun across different generations: I cannot imagine anyone buying both versions next week….


Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief:

Polonius, Hamlet, Act II Scene II

I had the good fortune to see the recent RSC production of Hamlet last night. And I really enjoyed it. When I looked around the theatre, there were many youngsters about, including a few of my own. I could not help noticing how bored many of them looked. Bored because they didn’t understand what was going on, bored because they’d never been exposed to the plot.

I guess this was somewhere at the back of my mind this morning, when I took a break from preparing my preach for tomorrow. Whatever the reason, I decided to try and summarise Hamlet in 140 characters, see if I could encapsulate the play in a single tweet:

That was my first attempt. So if you’re feeling bored or creative or mischievous or whatever sometime over the next few weeks, see what you can come up with. Then tweet it, using the hashtag #TwitBard

This isn’t meant to be a literary exercise, there’s nothing serious about it. Just a bit of fun if you feel like it.

Ruminating about costumes

As a family, we love fancy dress parties. My son’s at one right now; we go to at least one a year; if there isn’t one to go to, then we try and host one. I guess it’s something they put in the water where we live.

We like wacky themes. For example, when my wife turned forty, she chose the theme “Come as what you wanted to grow up to be when you were a child”. That led to some great entries, the winners being a couple in their twenties who came brilliantly “aged” as people in their 80s. When the theme was to “come as the opposite of you”, I went as a skinhead. Which was fine, up to a point. This was in the early 1980s, and most of the costume was easy to get hold of. I even managed to buy a plastic thingummybob to cover my hair, a skin-coloured skull-cap-like thing. But it was meant for someone whose skin colour was not my skin colour, and changing that was hard.

Most of the time, I try and go as a hippie; the family are used to it. I’m strange that way.

But I digress. Suffice it to say that we like dressing up in costumes.

Now as you know I come from India; when I first entered the West, I could not get over the kind of pampering that pets received, in terms of food and beds and toys and even shampoos. As a child I was told that the USA and the UK spent more on pet food than on aid, and I believed it. And since I’d been brought up to believe that a dollar of trade was worth a hundred dollars of aid, I was pretty relaxed about it.

Like most families with children, we’ve had canaries and budgies and hamsters and goldfish over the years. When it comes to serious pets, it’s been about cats; we have two great cats, Mudpie and Midnight, inherited from friends who’ve emigrated to the US, and a kitten, Tiger. Here’s a shot of the three of them quietly observing an interloper in the garden.

And here’s one of the kitten on his own. Sometimes he gets left out of things, because Mudpie and Midnight are sisters and they go back a long way. But he doesn’t let that get to him:

I hope by now to have established that (a) we love fancy dress as a family and (b) we’re used to pets. Yet nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for this, very topical, juxtaposition of the two:

What can I say? Politics makes strange bedfellows. Hat tip to Sarah J-L for the tweet that led me to the photo, which is to be found here.

Musing about Alliteration

When I was around ten years old, my father introduced me to this poem:

It was an inflection point for me. Until then, I had always thought of poets as creative people who expressed themselves in verse when caught by the muse; as artists who penned off heaps of poems in seconds flat as and when the mood took them. I had never considered the possibility that some poets worked at structure and tone and metre and scansion. A whole new world opened up for me, suddenly and with no warning, a world I liked as much as the world of “normal” poetry. I loved it, there was something satisfying in knowing that some poetry was worked on with perspiration rather than created by inspiration, without effort.

As a result of looking for the unusual in poetry, I found out more, not just about mnemonics and acrostics in verse, but also about satire. I learnt to enjoy Joyce Kilmer’s Trees (I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree/A tree whose hungry mouth is prest/Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast) while still being able to enjoy Ogden Nash’s variant Song of the Open Road (I think that I shall never see/A billboard lovely as a tree/Indeed, unless the billboards fall/I’ll never see a tree at all). Similarly, I could enjoy the Lewis Carroll Father William as much as the Robert Southey one. And all because my father introduced me to Alliteration, or the Siege of Belgrade. [At least that was how the AA Watts poem was taught to me].

Which brings me to this BBC article that told me about Christian Bok’s Eunoia. A book of five chapters, with each chapter dedicated to the use of one vowel and no more than one vowel. Gimmicky? Artificial? Yes, but so what? It’s the kind of offbeat thing I enjoy.

Incidentally, while looking for the Siege of Belgrade piece (which I found here, my thanks to Poet’s Corner), I also came across this offbeat site, Abecedaria, which introduced me to the delights of Tamil unicode. Now I must admit it never occurred to me to Google that.

Wasilla’s all I saw: the ultimate Palin-drome

I blame Christopher Carfi for this post. It was he who tweeted:

Wasilla’s all I saw

If that was not enough, he went further: he called it a Palin-drome.

Which had me on the verge of snorting green tea out my nostrils in ways God never intended nostrils to be used. Thank you Chris.

You know something? I had absolutely no idea what the etymology for “palindrome” was, so I had to look it up. The -dromos was not the problem, but the palin- sure was. And guess what? Palin is Greek for “back”. Figures.

The wikipedia article does a reasonable job of describing pretty much everything you need to know about palindromes, so if you’re curious or bored go take a look here.

The article also mentions my favourite, apparently said of de Lesseps:

A man. A plan. A canal. Panama.

While on the subject of word games and puzzles, I belong to a generation where learning to type was a normal thing to do. And, particularly when one was young, it meant hammering away at holoalphabetic sentences, sentences that contain every letter in the alphabet.

The commonest one was “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” 35 letters. And that was beaten by “Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs”. 32 letters. Pretty good going, I thought, using 26 letters with only six duplicates, while still making sense.

Letter-crazy kids like me were naturally interested in being the first to get to the ultimate, a 26 letter holoalphabetic sentence.

Sadly, even before I entered my teens, it was done: CWM FJORD-BANK GLYPHS VEXT QUIZ. Translated as Drawings on a fjord bank in a valley confused the expert. Or so they tried to convince me. And they did, enough for me to stop trying.

Anyone got any better palindromes to share, discounting those already in Wikipedia? Anyone got any better holoalphabetic sentences to share? Do let me know.

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