Monday, November 5, 2012

Remember, Remember

It's interesting how November has a general connotation of remembrance or observance of times gone by. Whether it has something to do with the time of year - after the traditional business of harvest time - or because of the lull that sets in before real winter hits, November events have a dramatic, bordering on desperate, flair ... and I don't just mean the American Presidential Election. The nature of November just makes for strange happenings.

I'll write more about Remembrance Day later in the week but today's connection to remembrance has been made more generally accessible by the 2005 film V for Vendetta and the appropriation of Guy Fawkes by the Occupy Wall Street movement last year. The Fifth of November is celebrated in the UK (and some British offshoots) as Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night. The celebrations involve fireworks, the obvious bonfires and the burning of the "Guy" in effigy. The begging of a "penny for the Guy" is another (now mostly ignored) tradition where children would parade the effigy/scarecrow they had made to be burned and ask those they passed for a penny to spend on firecrackers or sweets. (A more straightforward version of Trick or Treat, I guess.) I first heard about Guy Fawkes when studying T.S. Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men" which starts with a reference to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness ("Mistah Kurtz - he dead") followed by "A penny for the Old Guy". Juxtaposing the two iconic personalities - the mad tyrannical ivory trader and the failed political bomber - seems to reflect Eliot's dim view of humanity.  Today, we're much more into the bang than the whimper.

Speaking of bangs... Today's shirt is from the best bangs for a buck around. Back in January this year, the mastermind duo behind the Mythbusters show, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, held a couple of live performances here in Vancouver. It was an incredibly fun way to spend an evening, educational and personal and entertaining. Jamie and Adam were wonderfully forthcoming about their inspirations, their method and their madness.

So, in honour of Mister Fawkes who could only dream of the explosiveness we take for granted today, enjoy a minute of the best ka-blooies the Mythbusters ever orchestrated.

For my smarty-pants readers out there, try this quiz put together by the NY Times last year.  (I say again, November is strange times.)

And for those of you with your heart set on setting some(one)thing on fire tonight:

Remember, remember!
    The fifth of November,
    The Gunpowder treason and plot;
    I know of no reason
    Why the Gunpowder treason
    Should ever be forgot!
    Guy Fawkes and his companions
    Did the scheme contrive,
    To blow the King and Parliament
    All up alive.
    Threescore barrels, laid below,
    To prove old England's overthrow.
    But, by God's providence, him they catch,
    With a dark lantern, lighting a match!
    A stick and a stake
    For King James's sake!
    If you won't give me one,
    I'll take two,
    The better for me,
    And the worse for you.
    A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
    A penn'orth of cheese to choke him,
    A pint of beer to wash it down,
    And a jolly good fire to burn him.
    Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
    Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!
    Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!