In 22 Days
(John Muir)Sometimes we wonder if these people ever visit the lands they speak so knowingly about. For instance in Mexico in 22 Days, the description of the ferry service from the Mexican mainland to La Paz makes it sound like a fun-filled lark --- but those who have had to scramble for two or three days with non-linear Mexicans for boarding privileges, fighting off truckers and bribe-takers in the process, know that it's less a pleasure trip and more of a screw-up.
And when Rogers & Rosa translate "Are there eggs?" as "¿Hay huevos?" do we know, for sure, that they are deaf and dumb to the realities of Mexican slang: "huevos" means "balls." "¿Hay huevos?" would convulse many a Mexican short-order cook. (Eggs, the kind you want to eat, are referred to as "blanquitos.")
Carl Franz of the excellent People's Guide to Mexico gave this book a nice write-up, but it may have something to do with the fact that both are published by Muir, and that they refer to him in the text as "our old friend."
Other boners: they refer to the "hero" of The Power and the Glory as "a renegade priest" which certainly ain't our reading of Graham Greene's superb novel. They casually suggest for the "budget traveller" going by train between Mexicali and Mexico City --- not mentioning that it is, especially in the summer, what with the Sonoran Desert and all, no better nor worse than a Japanese WWII sweat-box, with temperature range of between 120 and 130 degrees, air conditioners that burned out thirty years ago, and the oldest traditional forms of smog --- called dust, sand and grit --- drifting in the open doors, into the coaches, into your hair, shorts, teeth, eyes, ears, and down your back.
A New History of
of Early English Drama
John D. Cox and
David Kasten, Editors
(Columbia)If you had the misfortune to be born in 16th Century England, there wasn't much to do with your day except till the field, shiver in the winter, sweat in the summer, breathe the dust and cow manure, contemplate the heads of criminals mounted on the pikes in London, and --- for entertainment --- drink bitter ale in the local pub. And go to the theatre.
The English then (as now) took their play-going seriously. In fact, drama wasn't all that far from the site of God: passion plays had been presented in the churches since the 11th or 12th centuries, and, well into the 16th, these "mysteries" still continued to present religious instruction. Paul White tells us that dramas like Nice Wanton and The Longer Thou Livest the More Fool Thou Art tell us that Catholic parents incline their children to wickedness; the plays invite kids to convert their parents and themselves to Protestantism. Sort of a late medieval Tammy Faye Baker.
Now, far be it for us to tell these fancy-dan professors in A New History (there are twenty-eight of them listed) how to go about a book on early English drama. After all, some of us never made it much beyond Bonehead English. Still, we wonder how they could put together 566 pages of this nonsense and leave out that old favorite of ours, Gammer Gurton's Needle, a rouser from 1566, with Hodge (Gamer Gurton's rude lover), Diccon the Bedlem (the troublemaker), Tib and Cock (Gamer's maid and boy), Dame Chatte (the upper class element) and Doctor Rat (just what you would expect).
The plot line is right out of the Three Stooges: Gammer Gurton loses her sewing needle --- 99-cent stores had yet to arrive --- and Chat, Rat, Tib, Cock and Gamer turn the household upside down looking for it. Of course, this gives them ample opportunity to make play on the sharp prick of the needle (get it?) which obligingly turns up exactly where we should have looked for it all along: in Hodge's backside.
Besides being the second verse comedy in English (the first was Ralph Roister Doister, more in the early Laurel and Hardy style), Gammer Gurtons Nedle gave us a great drinking song, to wit:
Back and syde go bare, go bare
booth foote and hande go colde:
But Bellye god sende thee good ale ynoughe,
whether it be newe or olde.
Vim & Vinegar
(Harper)Ms. Moore seems to have this thing about cider vinegar. Cleans pots, pans, lawn furniture, destinks the kitty litter box, sweetens water in canteens, removes skunk odor, softens blankets and sweaters, removes water rings, eliminates paint fumes, removes cement, gets rid of stomachaches, and --- are you ready? --- dump some in a hot bath water and soak your bod for fifteen minutes to relax.
She recommends it for homemade drinks, candy fruit cake, and, get this, "Vinegar Pie." She says that making vinegar at home is a "fun hobby" but somehow, we will probably restrain ourselves and continue making fudge brownies in the kitchen and gin in the bathtub.
Ms Moore is referred to as a "nationally-known frugality expert," which is quite a handle. Still, it is nice to know that spraying vinegar on ants kills them dead, and mixing a bit with the dog or cat's drinking water drives away the fleas --- and if you spray some on the trash when you put it out at night, it'll keep away the dogs, cats, and, presumably, the FBI and the bag-ladies.
--- R. R. Doister