Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Last Will and Testament of Silverdene Emblem O’Neill

The American modernist playwright Eugene O’Neill might have been said to step out of his way when he wrote this little piece. Characteristically non-modernist (and non-dramatic), this last will and testament was written to comfort the O’Neill children after their beloved Dalmatian Blemie had died. It is a moving piece which is sure to strike a note with dog lovers everywhere.

Eugene O'Neill

The Last Will and Testament of Silverdene Emblem O’Neill

I, SILVERDENE EMBLEM O'NEILL (familiarly known to my family, friends, and acquaintances as Blemie), because the burden of my years and infirmities is heavy upon me, and I realize the end of my life is near, do hereby bury my last will and testament in the mind of my Master. He will not know it is there until after I am dead. Then, remembering me in his loneliness, he will suddenly know of this testament, and I ask him then to inscribe it as a memorial to me.

I have little in the way of material things to leave. Dogs are wiser than men. They do not set great store upon things. They do not waste their days hoarding property. They do not ruin their sleep worrying about how to keep the objects they have, and to obtain the objects they have not. There is nothing of value I have to bequeath except my love and my faith. These I leave to all those who have loved me, to my Master and Mistress, who I know will mourn me most, to Freeman who has been so good to me, to Cyn and Roy and Willie and Naomi and -- But if I should list all those who have loved me, it would force my Master to write a book. Perhaps it is vain of me to boast when I am so near death, which returns all beasts and vanities to dust, but I have always been an extremely lovable dog.

I ask my Master and Mistress to remember me always, but not to grieve for me too long. In my life I have tried to be a comfort to them in time of sorrow, and a reason for added joy in their happiness. It is painful for me to think that even in death I should cause them pain. Let them remember that while no dog has ever had a happier life (and this I owe to their love and care for me), now that I have grown blind and deaf and lame, and even my sense of smell fails me so that a rabbit could be right under my nose and I might not know, my pride has sunk to a sick, bewildered humiliation. I feel life is taunting me with having over-lingered my welcome. It is time I said good-bye, before I become too sick a burden on myself and on those who love me. It will be sorrow to leave them, but not a sorrow to die. Dogs do not fear death as men do. We accept it as part of life, not as something alien and terrible which destroys life. What may come after death, who knows? I would like to believe with those of my fellow Dalmatians who are devout Mohammedans, that there is a Paradise where one is always young and full-bladdered; where all the day one dillies and dallies with an amorous multitude of houris, beautifully spotted; where jack rabbits that run fast but not too fast (like the houris) are as the sands of the desert; where each blissful hour is mealtime; where in long evenings there are a million fireplaces with logs forever burning, and one curls oneself up and blinks into the flames and nods and dreams, remembering the old brave days on earth, and the love of one's Master and Mistress.

I am afraid this is too much for even such a dog as I am to expect. But peace, at least, is certain. Peace and long rest for weary old heart and head and limbs, and eternal sleep in the earth I have loved so well. Perhaps, after all, this is best.

One last request I earnestly make. I have heard my Mistress say, "When Blemie dies we must never have another dog. I love him so much I could never love another one." Now I would ask her, for love of me, to have another. It would be a poor tribute to my memory never to have a dog again. What I would like to feel is that, having once had me in the family, now she cannot live without a dog! I have never had a narrow jealous spirit. I have always held that most dogs are good (and one cat, the black one I have permitted to share the living room rug during the evenings, whose affection I have tolerated in a kindly spirit, and in rare sentimental moods, even reciprocated a trifle). Some dogs, of course, are better than others. Dalmatians, naturally, as everyone knows, are best. So I suggest a Dalmatian as my successor. He can hardly be as well bred or as well mannered or as distinguished and handsome as I was in my prime. My Master and Mistress must not ask the impossible. But he will do his best, I am sure, and even his inevitable defects will help by comparison to keep my memory green. To him I bequeath my collar and leash and my overcoat and raincoat, made to order in 1929 at Hermes in Paris. He can never wear them with the distinction I did, walking around the Place Vendôme, or later along Park Avenue, all eyes fixed on me in admiration; but again I am sure he will do his utmost not to appear a mere gauche provincial dog. Here on the ranch, he may prove himself quite worthy of comparison, in some respects. He will, I presume, come closer to jack rabbits than I have been able to in recent years. And for all his faults, I hereby wish him the happiness I know will be his in my old home.

One last word of farewell, Dear Master and Mistress. Whenever you visit my grave, say to yourselves with regret but also with happiness in your hearts at the remembrance of my long happy life with you: "Here lies one who loved us and whom we loved." No matter how deep my sleep I shall hear you, and not all the power of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail.

Tao House, December 17th, 1940


Thursday, 14 April 2011

To Rise Above the Beasts - Derek

The fourth post in the To Rise Above the Beasts series introduces Derek Paravicini, a musical savant.


Derek Paravicini was born too early. Because of this, oxygen treatment was administered which left him blind and autistic with learning disabilities. He seemed destined for a hard life outside society, byt Derek is world famous. His disadvantages have made him a musical genius.

Being unable to see and originally having difficulties understanding speech, his skills tended towards the musical side. He has absolute pitch and is able to repeat any piece of music he has ever heard. In addition, he is able to merge styles and songs in quite an extraordinary manner. Starting off, let's watch him play Flight on the Bumblebee on two pianos.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Wodehouse Characters Illustrated

The Wodehouse stories themselves are famously, and some would say fortunately, not illustrated. However, if someone were to do it my voice would ring out like that of the eternal bard in praise of Kevin Cornell, illustrator and designer extraordinaire. My attention is fixed on this bird's homepage waiting for further emanations. Below are some of my favourite qoutes concerning these foul young blots on the landscape, sullen octogenarians and scourges of the Western Civilisation, and as word and image adds up, God seems to be in his heaven and all right with the world.

"My Aunt Agatha, for instance, is tall and thin and looks rather like a vulture in the Gobi desert, while Aunt Dahlia is short and solid, like a scrum half in the game of Rugby football. In disposition, too, they differ widely. Aunt Agatha is cold and haughty, though presumably unbending a bit when conducting human sacrifices at the time of the full moon, as she is widely rumoured to do, and her attitude towards me has always been that of an austere governess, causing me to feel as if I were six years old and she had just caught me stealing jam from the jam cupboard: whereas Aunt Dahlia is as jovial and bonhomous as a dame in a Christmas pantomime"

"I hit Woollam Chersey at about four o'clock, and found Aunt Agatha in her lair, writing letters. And, from what I know of her, probably offensive letters, with nasty postscripts."

"London is not big enough to hold Aunt Agatha and anybody she happens to be blaming."

“I sauntered along the passage, whistling carelessly, and there on the mat was Aunt Agatha. Herself. Not a picture. A nasty jar. […] She legged it into the sitting-room and volplaned onto a chair.”

"'Bertie,' said Aunt Dahlia firmly, 'you will sing "Sonny Boy" on Tuesday, the third prox., and sing it like a lark at sunrise, or may an aunt's curse -'
'I won't!'
'Think of Angela!'
'Dash Angela!'
'No, I mean, hang it all!'
'You won't?'
'No, I won't.'
'That is your last word, is it?'
'It is. Once and for all, Aunt Dahlia, nothing will induce me to let out so much as a single note.'

And so that afternoon I sent a pre-paid wire to Beefy Bingham, offering my services in the cause, and by nightfall the thing was fixed up"

"'Stop me if you've heard it before. Chap goes up to a deaf chap outside the exibition and says, "Is this Wembley?" "Hey?" says the deaf chap. "Is this Wembley?" says chap. "Hey?" says the deaf chap. "Is this Wembley?" says chap. "No, Thursday," says the deaf chap. Ha, ha, I mean, what?'

The merry laughter froze on my lips. Sir Roderick sort of just waggled an eyebrow in my direction and I saw that it was back to the basket for Bertram."

"'The modern young man,' said Aunt Dahlia, 'is a congenital idiot and wants a nurse to lead him by the hand and some strong attendant to kick him regularly at intervals of a quarter of an hour.'"

"'Darling!' said Mrs Bingo, blowing him a kiss.
'Angel!' said Bingo, going on with the sausages."
For more Wodehouse quotes, click here

Friday, 8 April 2011

Great "Death Bys"

From time to time you come across different "Death Bys". Some are shouted theatrically. Those are the best. Others appear on a button or in a song but they are still amusing. These are my three favourite "Death Bys".

3. Toy Story 3 - Death by Monkeys

In Toy Story 3, the evil Dr. Porkchop presses a button labelled "Death By Monkeys", which releases a barrel of monkeys from his ship. These monkeys then proceed to stretch our heroes in amazing concert. Thus:

2. In Johnny Cash' The Man Who Couldn't Cry - Death by Stretchmarks 

Intriguing idea in a great and very humourous song.

Those who did not quite make the top three:

Death by Chocolate (click to view)
Death by Spoon (click to view)

1. Futurama, Episode 3x5: Amazon Women in the Mood - Death by Snu-Snu

What is snu-snu and why would the shouted horrible, fabulous sentence of "DEATH by SNU-SNU!" bring joyous exclamations to the lips of any victim? Watch and concur!

Sources: Pic1, Pic2, Pic3

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Don McLean's "Crossroads"

This is one of the most beautiful songs I know. It features on Don McLean's iconic album American Pie. The lyric and intensely personal nature of the text moves me in a way very few poems do. Apart from W.H. Auden's Funeral Blues, there would be hard to find any verse that echoes within me like Crossoads does. Like Coleridge and Shelley's aeolian harp.

And just like their aeolian harp and, indeed, the first poems this text is accompanied by music. Don McLean has his song presented in simple vocals and solitary piano which combine to give us as complete an experience as we can possibly wish for.

Don McLean - Crossroads
I’ve got nothing on my mind:
nothing to remember,
Nothing to forget,
and I’ve got nothing to regret,

But I’m all tied up on the inside,
No one knows quite what I’ve got;
And I know that on the outside
What I used to be, I’m not

You know I’ve heard about people like me,
But I never made the connection.
They walk one road to set them free
And find they’ve gone the wrong direction.

But there’s no need for turning back
`cause all roads lead to where I stand.
And I believe I’ll walk them all
No matter what I may have planned.

Can you remember who I was?
can you still feel it?
Can you find my pain?
can you heal it?

Then lay your hands upon me now
And cast this darkness from my soul.
You alone can light my way.
You alone can make me whole once again.

We’ve walked both sides of every street
Through all kinds of windy weather.
But that was never our defeat
As long as we could walk together.

So there’s no need for turning back
`cause all roads lead to where we stand.
And I believe we’ll walk them all
No matter what we may have planned.

Best of Woody Allen

Seeing as I have already presented Wanda Sykes, I might as well show some of my favourite Woody Allen snippets. First off is the "Down South" routine:

The "Moose", from English 1965 television:

Very much in the same madcap fashion:"The Great Renaldo":

The love story is nice but the bit towards the end is really amusing too:

And finally, how to deal with nazis. Not quite sure which preceeded which, but there is a pretty obvious relationship to "Not the Nine O'clock News" there: