A Fool in the Forest

A fool, a fool! I met a fool i' the forest,
A motley fool; a miserable world!
As I do live by food, I met a fool
Who laid him down and bask'd him in the sun,
And rail'd on Lady Fortune in good terms,
In good set terms and yet a motley fool.

As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7

L'homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l'observent avec des regards familiers.

Les Fleurs du Mal, “Correspondances”

Wednesday, December 31, 2003
It's Alive!

Somewhat sooner than expected, the renovated TypePad version of this site is on the air. Follow this link to A Fool in the Forest Mark II, which comes complete with a rudimentary banner, categorization of posts, comments (shudder) and an expanded list of links. It's still in development -- such as working my way back to categorize all 200+ prior posts that I imported from here -- but you're welcome to peruse it.

This page -- perhaps to be renamed Fool in the Forest Classic -- will remain for the foreseeable future, if only so that all the old links will still more or less function, but I'll be posting new matter on the TypePad version.

Dare I suggest you should Update Your Favorites if you are a regular visitor?
Dactyls, On The Double!

This is what comes from reading through the John Hollander-edited American Wits, the American Poets Project’s new collection of light verse, all in one go: I’ve become suddenly enamored of the double dactyl.

The particular rigors of the form are nicely explained here, and a Googling of the phrase “double dactyl” will lead you to more, and better, examples than the three of my own composition that you’ll find below.

The double dactyl requires two quatrains, each consisting of three lines of dactylic dimeter and a concluding choriamb (or, if you will, another dactyl with an extra syllable tacked on.) The final lines of the quatrains must rhyme. In pure form, the first line should be a nonsense phrase -- “higgledy-piggledy” is the classic example -- the second line should consist of the name of a famous real or imagined person -- “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” fits -- and the sixth line ought to be a single, six-syllable dactyllically diametric word -- such as “phantasmagorical.”

I’ve elected to disregard all but the metrical rules and I’ve tossed in an extra rhyme (lines two and six mostly). So sue me. The double dactyl is a fine form for glib political comment or just for a lark, and no one will ever get the impression that you take yourself too seriously when you use it. So, with that, let's have at it:
Back Channel

Colonel Qadaffi to
One of our diplomats:
“Zounds! What a trouncing you
Handed Saddam!

Allah’s enlightened me.
I took the tip: so that’s
Why I’m renouncing my
Quest for The Bomb.”

Affront Runner

Candidate Dean (he’s a doc-
tor from Burlington)
Flaunts his technique: “My rhe-
torical pow’rs

Consist in this method: I
Run about hurling con-
tempt, then retract it in
24 hours.”

Simplicity Itself

New York Times, Guardian,
Standard and Telegraph,
Lib’rals, conservatives,
Gog and Magog.

Wond’ring, through each ana-
lytical paragraph,
Where lies the truth? Read it
Here on my blog!

Happy New Year, all!
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Moving Day Approaches

In the not-quite-six months I have been generating this weblog, Blogger and Blogspot have been behaving remarkably well on the whole. Still, I have grown fond of the richer feature set available on TypePad, which hosts my more purely Legal posts on Declarations and Exclusions, and I have been planning to migrate the Fool to that platform. The time has come to be on the move: My plan now is to begin the New Year on the new platform. Naturally, glitches are to be expected, but I'll be trying to have things up and running over there (subject to further improvement and revision) by this coming Friday, January 2. Links to the new locale will be posted here when I Make My Move.
Time, Gentlemen!

Lest anyone should think that I am not merely a Fool, but an irresponsible Fool, I feel a moral compulsion to steer you to this colloquy on excessive indulgence in the Demon Alcohol. Think of it as a corrective to my immediately preceding praise of cocktails, if you will, or better yet as a reinforcement of the virtues of moderation in all things. (I recommend the comments to that Crooked Timber post as well, and the link that Chris Bertram has kindly provided to Hogarth's Gin Lane.)
Monday, December 29, 2003
Gyre and Gimlet

I have been thinking -- slowly, slowly and over many weeks -- of posting something on wine and aesthetics: why it is that, to my mind, wine is a supreme beverage precisely because of the occasion it offers for reflection on issues of beauty. That precis is sufficiently hifalutin' and self-important to scare me away from the task at least temporarily, but I expect to succumb in the end. (I have it in the back of my mind that the thing will somehow fall in to place once I make my much-delayed pilgrimage to the big William Morris exhibition at the Huntington Library, which has little to do with wine but a great deal to do with Beauty and its uses.) In any case, that piece is not the piece you are reading now. Instead, it is merely an introduction to my actual topic,


Thousands of miles to our east, Scheherazade has discovered the joys of the Gimlet, and offers as her New Year's Resolution #1 an ambition to Drink More Of Them. Her musings on the subject remind me how enjoyable a good Gimlet is, and how long it has been since I last had one. [Note to self: pick up Rose's lime juice.] She also displays a proper attitude toward the Rituals of the Cocktail, of a kind in danger of being driven from our shores by the well-meaning but nonetheless sinister forces of public safety and neo-prohibitionist puritanism:
For no good reason, I have some strict self-imposed rules about my drinks. I observe the seasons and do not permit myself gin and tonics after September or before the balmiest days of late May, sticking generally to red wine, dark beer or stout, a Maker's Mark on the rocks or maybe some scotch when the flip flops have been retired for the summer. Martinis are permissible all year round.
These are sound rules indeed. Followed in moderation, and in good company, they lend savor and pleasure to life, which is all to the good.

The appreciation of the Gimlet here serves as a reminder that it was favored by the detective Philip Marlowe. In The Long Goodbye, the One True Recipe is specified:
A real Gimlet is half gin and half Rose's lime juice, and nothing else. It beats Martinis hollow.
As with the martini, the notion that you can make the thing with vodka is a mere popular delusion and should not be encouraged.

Update:While we're vaguely on the subject of Potables in Song and Story, I am reminded by a timely e-mail that back in September my chum Rick Coencas shared with us the none-too-surreal recipe for the Luis Bunuel martini. You should certainly try it at home.
And Now A Word From Our Goddess

My holiday weekend reading wandered into an early Renaissance vein and I found myself reading Erasmus' The Praise of Folly. (John Wilson's 17th Century translation is conveniently available for your online enlightenment here.) The introduction to the edition before me remarked that many Americans seemed to confuse "Erasmus" with "Nostradamus." I thought that was a silly confusion at first, but I was wrong.

Behold the awesome prophetic powers of the wily wonder of Rotterdam! Speaking through the Goddess of Folly, it is beyond question that Erasmus foresaw the rise of the Blogosphere:
But how much happier is this my writer’s dotage who never studies for anything but puts in writing whatever he pleases or what comes first in his head, though it be but his dreams; and all this with small waste of [bandwidth], as well knowing that the vainer those trifles are, the higher esteem they will have with the greater number, that is to say all the fools and unlearned. And what matter is it to slight those few learned if yet they ever read them? Or of what authority will the censure of so few wise men be against so great a cloud of gainsayers?