Saturday, September 12, 2015

Further thoughts about Roz Chast's "HAMLET vs. AMAZON PRIME"


With updates on my New Phone Day Maybe and
Calvin Trillin's New Yorker Festival eating tour

Surely Roz Chast's "Hamlet hat" will henceforth be de
rigueur for every actor who takes on this marquis role.

by Ken

I'm still preoccupied by this Roz Chast cartoon, from the September 14 New Yorker, which I presented the other day:

I mean, there's just so much to think about here. Like that, um . . . what would you call it?, that heavenward eye roll Hamlet executes as he thinks that soon-to-be-immortal thought: "And yet: FREE SHIPPING." What subtlety, what poignancy, what hope, what inscrutability, what depth is incorporated here! Going forward, how can any actor who tackles the role fail to take it into account? How challenging it will be, though, to make this real and convincing as an expression of the prince's rich inner life.


From now on, what Hamlet director, what costume designer will feel able to send their Hamlet out onstatge without it?


Surely this is a recognition of the historically accurate reality of the primitiveness and unreliability of the battery technology of the prince's time.


Finally there's the coffee cup so strangely distant from our protagonist, as if it had perhaps been shoved out of reach. Interestingly, we can't tell whether the mug is empty, perhaps expressing the prince's resentment or even disgust at having no one in the castle to refill it, or it contains a quantity of coffee that has cooled to undrinkability, thereby reflecting Hamlet's agonized knowledge that the microwave hasn't been invented yet for convenient reheating. Looming over the whole mug question is the suggestion that overcaffeination is a contributing factor, if not perhaps the root cause, of Hamlet's considerable behavioral eccentricities.



As I thought would be understood from the post title, "Nothing to read here -- go on to whatever you had in mind," readers weren't really intended to read the post, except maybe to look at the cartoons -- this one by the great Roz Chast and the "Cocktail Party Heckler" one ("You call that a bon mot?") by Dan Roe. I realize, however, that this may have been taken less as a strict injunction than as some sort of advisory, and so I can't be as harsh as I might otherwise be with readers who apparently went right ahead and read the thing.

For those readers, in the improbable event that they're wondering, I should perhaps report that:

(1) With regard to the event I was celebrating that day, my personal New Phone Day Maybe:

No, I'm no closer than I was then to figuring out what to do upon the completion of my two-year contract using a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone. I suppose this qualifies, at least for the time being, as the option I described like so: "I could, of course, spend nothing on a new phone and continue 'using' (for want of a better word) my S4 -- with the same probable outcome," namely pretending that this time I'm gonna learn how to use the damned thing, déjà vu all over again from two years ago, when I upgraded from my defunct S2 to the S4.

Yeah, let's say that I'm invested in that option, while keeping my future options open. That sounds more like a decision and less like abject whiffing.

(2) With regard to the decision about whether to even try to secure a precious spot on Calvin Trillin's 14th-annual Village-to-Chinatown eating tour:

No, I didn't even try, and maybe that was just as well from the standpoint of my psychic well-being. I've just dug out a report I recalled from the Grub Street website, in which Sierra Tishgart began her "Dispatch from Calvin Trillin's Always-Spectacular 'New Yorker" Food Tour," 2013 edition:
Gaining admission to Calvin Trillin's eating tour for The New Yorker Festival is pretty much the real-life, adult equivalent of scoring a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. The 40-person event always sells out online within seconds (though several lucky attendees actually scored tickets in the last-minute standby line).
Sierra proceeded to offer a stop-by-stop account of the event, from the day before:
Trillin led everyone from Greenwich Village to Chinatown over the span of three hours, pausing to snack at his favorite shops, markets, and parks while narrating New York's culinary history. The stops on the tour have changed over thirteen years, but recent additions include Xi'an Famous Foods and Full House Cafe. For anyone who wants to re-create the tour themselves — or simply would like some recommendations for awesome places to eat — check out the full list, straight ahead. [Note: Food-source links onsite. -- Ed.]

Stop 1: Murray's Cheese Shop and Faicco's Pork Store
To Eat: Pecorino Toscano and soppressata
Trillin's Take: "I used to go to a meat shop around here where the guy would spook customers by popping pieces of raw pork into his mouth."

Stop 2: Blue Ribbon Bakery Market
To Eat: Savory matzoh cracker
Trillin's Take: "If matzoh actually tasted like this the Jews would have never left Egypt!"

Stop 3: Delivery from an unidentified store at Forsyth and East Broadway
To Eat: Greens sandwich
Trillin's Take:"I don't actually know what kind of greens are inside. Some people love it, and some people hate it. The sandwiches used to cost $1 — not that there's a big profit margin on this trip."

Stop 4: Despaña
To Eat: Tortilla Despaña
Trillin's Take: "The biggest change in eating in America was the Immigration Act of 1965. If you're excluding the Chinese and allowing English people, it's sort of suicidal. It made it okay for middle-class kids to become farmers and chefs."

Stop 5: Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich
To Eat: Vietnamese summer rolls with peanut sauce
Trillin's Take: "Most summer rolls taste like grass. These people make them as they go, so they're not sitting in the fridge for days."

Stop 6: Di Palo's
To Eat: Fresh mozzarella
Trillin's Take: "One of the other things that I used to get here is butter inside of cheese. It's an old way of preserving butter. We used to do this when we had parties: If you cut it in half, you can serve the butter and then eat the provolone cheese."

Stop 7: Bánh Mì Saigon Bakery
To Eat: Vietnamese pork sandwich
Trillin's Take: "Bánh mìs are really the only good argument for colonialism."

Stop 8: Xi'an Famous Foods
To Eat: Spicy lamb burger
Trillin's Take: "This young man [Jason Wang] is very entrepreneurial!"

Stop 9: Full House Cafe
To Eat: Soup dumplings (and a side of jellyfish!)
Trillin's Take: "I heard about this place from reading a piece by Robert Sietsema from the Voice about the soup dumplings here ... and eating jellyfish is [my] revenge for whenever they've frightened me."
Of course I have no idea whether the itinerary was changed in last year's edition of the tour, not to mention what Trillin may have in store for this year. Still, isn't this the next best thing to actually being on the tour? Belated thanks, Sierra!

Plus, for me it offers the advantage that it spares me the potential humiliation of trying to express my admiration to the tour leader for his body of writing -- and I don't mean the food writing and the humor writing, or not just the food writing and the humor writing. In his big-boy capacity as a reporter, he has probably taught me more about the way humans live and deal with each other than any living writer.

Still, as an example of the kind of question I would be apt to ask, I have it in mind to offer a demonstration ripped from history, perhaps tomorrow.

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