— From the Fool —

“Mommy, do people get thrown under a bus?”

“No sweetie, that’s just an expression.”

That was in a supermarket line. Even serious Fools have to stand in supermarket lines. But that’s where you hear stuff that makes you think. Colleges should give courses where kids stand in supermarket lines.

But then I’m thinking about the notion of throwing under a bus, as in “For the greater good of the human race, and us, we need to throw Jerry under the bus.” The sense is you don’t just do it for kicks, you do it for a purpose.

But that phrase doesn’t quite work for me. First, I guess, you have to wait for the bus to come along, and what if it’s late? And then I get the image more like you’re tossing him in from the side, like luggage, with kind of a curve-ball spin, and how do you do that if Jerry’s got a belly on him?

If you toss him in at the front of the bus, he might go under. But what if it hits him square and he lands a hundred feet away draped over a stop sign? You’re trying to toss Jerry under the bus, not bounce him off it.

You might persuade him to crawl under the bus of his own accord. For that matter, lots of days, just getting out of bed is crawling under the bus.

The supermarket mom should have answered, “Sure, sweetie, people do. Everything you can ever think someone might do, they’ve already done it. The human race is proactive. Get used to it.”

— From EF —

Memory’s a big item right now. Conrad has been working diligently cramming the entirety of King Lear into his brain. I have fewer lines, but I also have to memorize when to take all the tech cues, when to rip the map up, where to stow the used-up knights, and how to find Edmund’s letter. Lotta stuff.

Well, yesterday our digital memory “assistants” all went nuts. First off, the flash drive, which CB uses to transfer work from his iPad to the Mac, suddenly decided that it was read-only and refused to be reformatted. It’s a nice pendant for a necklace now. (Fortunately, everything on it had already been transferred.) But I wasted an hour researching whether anything could restore it to sanity. Nope.

Then there was the matter of transferring some spoken-word files into iTunes, so they could be loaded onto CB’s iPod. (Right now, he’s into running while listening to murder mysteries.) They went in, yes, but arrived in a form totally unrelated to the original.

Every three minutes’ chunk has a different name, and they’re out of order. And half of another disk put itself into a new folder with a name made up out of the blue.

By dinner, we were both pretty gnarly. But then memory reached out from a completely different direction and made it all right again — better than all right.

Our son Eli gave CB an inspired birthday present: Criterion Collection’s Complete Jacques Tati. We employed will power and started with the first film Jour de Fête rather than zooming straight to Mr. Hulot’s Holiday. Wise choice.

Electronic memory gone wrong had wrecked our afternoon, and then made up for it by enabling us to see this delectably funny sweet film. The print had been digitized in a server somewhere, Criterion had put it on a DVD, and we stuck it into a machine and laughed ourselves silly.

It was made in 1947, in a tiny French village to which Tati had fled in 1943 when the Nazis occupied Paris, and his affection is as dense as honeycomb. Like all comics of genius, he finds the silliest images in what is closest to him, including himself. He’s a superb physical comic acrobat (with the unusual impediment of being very tall), and what happens when he tries to finish his bicycle route after being dared into chugging three straight cognacs . . . well, you had to be there. And we were.

So, thanks to Eli and to Jacques Tati and to the computer gremlins who first tied us in knots and then gave us the gift of laughter.

— From CB —

The line between farce and tragedy is very thin. The main difference is that in the latter people die. Watching Tati’s hilarious Jour de Fête last night, I thought he came closer to nailing one key essence of King Lear than any great tragedian I’ve seen.

Lear’s mercurial changeability, his moments of vehement decision: instant reversal as Tati starts to go in five directions at once. Lear’s obsessive plunge: Tati out-pedals Tour de France cyclists in a frantic bid to become the world’s fastest postman. His blindered illusion? Tati, hypnotized by drink, follows a floating balloon. King and clown battle the vagaries of nature and the night. In the farce, no one is blinded, poisoned or killed, but what’s shaken is the security of our own footing.

I don’t propose to play King Lear as farce. But, following up my remarks last week, I’m confirmed in my sense that one has to access multiple personalities to play Lear. He’s the deterioration of a towering monument, but stolid-fireplug Lears leave me cold. It’s as if his mind is a cage for a dozen ravenous dogs, growling, yelping, howling for release — and for love.

It’s been said that the difficulty of the role of Lear is that by the time an actor is old enough to play it, he doesn’t have the stamina. “Old enough,” I think, doesn’t refer to your looks. It’s the point when you have nothing to lose, nothing to prove, when you can trust your volatility, silliness, madness, yearning, and go where the verse demands. Even five years ago I couldn’t have attempted this — Prospero was only a way-station. Now, stamina holding, I will.


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© Bishop & Fuller 2014

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