Saturday, April 23, 2016

Henry V to I

In honor of #Shakespeare400, here's our homage to the famous St. Crispin's Day Speech from Henry V, originally posted 11/4/09.

"King Henry V [led] a sodden and exhausted English Army against a French force that was said to outnumber his by as much as five to one. . . . But Agincourt's status as perhaps the greatest victory against overwhelming odds in military history--and a keystone of the English self-image--has been called into doubt by a group of historians. . . . The historians have concluded that the English could not have been outnumbered by more than about two to one. And depending on how the math is carried out, Henry may well have faced something closer to an even fight. . . . as some historians see it, the English crown then mounted a public relations effort to magnify the victory by exaggerating the disparity in numbers. "
--The New York Times, October 25, 2009

ACT IV, SCENE III: The English camp at Agincourt.


Glo. Where is the King?

Bed. The King himself is rode to view their battle.

West. Of fighting men they have full threescore thousand.

Exe. There's five to one.

Sal. God's arm strike with us! 'Tis a fearful odds.

[Enter the KING]

West. Oh, that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work today!

K.Hen. What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? Relax, fair cousin.
We won't need 'em.

West. What say you, my sovereign lord?

K. Hen. Really, it's not as bad as you think.

West. But my liege, they number some threescore thousand!

K.Hen. Trust me, they don't even have onescore thousand.

Exe. What! So few?

K. Hen. More like half that! [Giggles.]
No, my coz, wish not a man from England.
We few can whup them with one gauntlet tied behind our backs.
I pray thee, wish not one man more.
For we shall strike them such a blow
That 'twill knock them into the middle of next fortnight.
So sternly shall we smite them
That 'pon their wakening they shall find
Their garments are no longer the fashion of the day.
Oh, do not wish one more! Unless it be my little sister,
For she and I alone could kick those French derrieres.
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart.
His passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse,
Provided he relates to all and sundry
How bravely we faced forty--er, sixty thousand troops.
This day is called the feast of Crispian.
He that shall live this day and see old age
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors
And say "These wounds I had on Crispin's Day,"
Facing a horde of eighty--I mean a hundred…
No, wait, two hundred thousand men at arms.
This story shall the good man teach his son,
Bumping up the enemy numbers in the telling
By a factor of ten--no, twenty--
So that from this day to the ending of the world,
It shall be remembered how
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers
Opened up a cask of whoopass on them,
Though they easily numbered five hundred thousand.
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
Fighting what must have been ten times a hundred thousand--
Maybe more--upon Saint Crispin's Day.

Sal. My sovereign lord, the French are bravely in their battles set,
And will with all expedience charge on us.

K. Hen. Thou dost not wish more help from England, Coz?

West. My liege, would you and I alone,
Without more help, could fight this royal battle!
But a good PR firm would not go amiss.

K. Hen. Well spoken! [To the troops] Once--no, twice more unto the breach, dear friends, twice more!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Smoke Signals: Secret Notes From Inside Conclave

From The Huffington Post:

According to Italian media reports, a diary has surfaced written by an anonymous cardinal who participated in the recent Vatican conclave. Here are some excerpts from this remarkable account, which offers unprecedented insight into this secret ancient ritual.

     How strange to be tasked with electing a new Pope while the old Pope still lives! This thought struck me as I passed near the pontiff's private apartments on my way to conclave—I could clearly hear Benedict singing The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes in the papal shower.
     My brother cardinals and I gathered in the Sistine Chapel, where we would fulfill our sacred duty to elect the new pope. There were many warm greetings and happy reunions, though a certain cardinal from America received a distinctly chilly reception. Many of us were shocked that he was allowed to participate in conclave after he confessed to having a profile on
     As our first order of business, we engaged in a lively discussion of the many pressing issues the new pope would face. High on the list of priorities were increasing the number of cup holders in the Popemobile, and finding a more delicate term to replace "bishopric." The cardinal from Brazil argued that it was time to drop the Lambada from the Church's list of forbidden dances. There was also consensus that we should solve the enduring mystery of why the Swiss Guard is stationed at the Vatican.
     We then turned to the first round of voting. Not surprisingly, this produced no decisive result, and the ballots were burned in the little stove that has been temporarily installed in the chapel for this purpose. Great attention must be given to the color of the smoke produced in this process: White smoke signals that a new pope has been elected, while black smoke indicates that the vote was inconclusive.
     In this case chemicals were added to turn the smoke black, but apparently the wrong chemical compound was introduced to the fire, for it produced neither black smoke nor white smoke but purple haze. Soon the conversation turned to whether the Pink Floyd laser show was still playing at the Vatican planetarium. Some of the cardinals organized an air guitar competition, and one kept repeating the phrase "Oh wow" in tongues. Another scaled the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and positioned himself directly beneath Michelangelo's depiction of the hand of God reaching out to Adam, which he attempted to high-five.
     Voting was suspended for the rest of the morning.

     Our next round of voting this afternoon was also inconclusive. This time we tried making black smoke by burning Dan Brown novels with the ballots, which worked admirably.

     During a break in our deliberations we noticed one of the American cardinals busy near the little stove, giggling uncontrollably. It turned out he was sending smoke signals up the chimney, which conveyed the message: Many blue coats…2 days' ride…lure them into box canyon…. This prank caused confusion among the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square, with the result that the gelato wagons were temporarily formed into a circle.
     The abashed cardinal attributed his mischievous deed to "too many spaghetti Westerns." As penance, he is required to give up both spaghetti and Westerns.

     A report of smoke sighted right after breakfast sent more rumors racing through the crowd today. This turned out to be a false alarm caused by several of the cardinals milling on the sidewalk in front of the Vatican, taking a butt break.

     Habemus Papam—we have a pope!
     With joyous hearts we gathered around the stove and ignited the ballots from our final round of voting. To produce the desired white smoke, we leavened the flames with angel feathers and straw from the Christ Child's manger, along with a healthy dollop of potassium chlorate.
     The new pope announced that he would take the name Francis, an unprecedented choice that caught us quite by surprise. It was not immediately clear which saintly figure had inspired this name, but after conferring briefly we arrived at three likely candidates:
            1. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals.
            2. Francis Xavier, a founder of the Jesuit order.
            3. Frances Bavier, who played Aunt Bea on The Andy Griffith Show.
The truth of the matter will be revealed in God's good time!

     Vatican workmen made a disturbing discovery at the conclusion of conclave. As they were removing the little stove from the Sistine Chapel, they found the remains of St. Nicholas in the chimney. The new pontiff has already begun drafting what is sure to be a tricky Christmas Eve sermon.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Fifty Ways to Hide the Cover: A Song for Readers of Fifty Shades of Grey

You may be among the many, many people who are reading E.L. James's bestselling work of erotica Fifty Shades of Grey.If you are, I'm guessing that you may not necessarily want people to know you're reading it. I mean, what would your mother think if she knew you were reading that smut? And there's a good chance that your mother, who is probably also reading the book on the sly, is having the same worrying thoughts about you.

To that end, I offer a musical guide to disguising the book so that you can enjoy your visits to the Red Room of Pain discretely. It's called "Fifty Ways to Hide the Cover" and it owes an obvious (if non-financial) debt to Paul Simon's 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.You'll find it on The Huffington Post. I hope you'll add it to your rotation.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Hungry Hungry Hippos Games

The Hungry Hungry Hippos Games is up on The Huffington Post--it's a satirical take on The Hunger Games. I know, spoofs of The Hunger Games abound, and a couple of them mash up the movie with the children's game Hungry Hungry Hippos. So I can't claim originality, but at least mine is distinguished by the fact that it spoofs the original novel instead of the movie. That counts for something.

I hope you'll check it out. As you'll see, for me it's all about the games.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Stamp of Approval

I'm flattered that Undead Letter Office is featured on the Bram Stoker Estate's web site.