Dear Mr. Was

Re: Shake Your Head


Whilst on holiday in Spain recently, and in order to validate your statement, we went to the Bioparc, situated in Fuengirola, armed with our Kindles. There, much to the bemusement of a group of school children and also a multilingual tour guide, we took it in turns to recite extracts from ''The Merry Wives of Windsor'' to a buffy-tufted marmoset, ''As You Like It'' to a golden bellied capuchin, ''Measure for Measure'' to a gray-footed chacma baboon, and ''Titus Andronicus'' to a celebes macaque. Although each primatal audience seemed distinctly unimpressed (with one even reaching around threateningly to its nether regions at the mention of ''strict statutes and most biting laws''), we did not experience any stemming of or disturbances to the actual discourses themselves.

Although it is to be conceded therefore that literal enlightment pertaining to 16th Century playwrights is debatable, we must respectfully counter that you can talk Shakespeare to a monkey.

Your claim that I cannot fight the armed forces is also flawed on the basis that any opponent can be battled; it is merely victory over it which may prove unsuccessful.

If we may speak candidly, Mr. Was, virtually every couplet intoned within your ''catchy smash'' could be convincingly challenged, and it is sincerely hoped that the chorus of ''Shake Your Head'' is in fact a reference to the dissapproval of each aforementioned falsehood.

Forgive me kind Sir but I really must now ''go to bed''.





Derek Philpott (and son)


Good gentles! Verily you have cleft my very innards with this latest broadside -- as if growing older and more forgotten by the fortnight isn’t slingy and arrowish enough for one benighted troubadour! Have you no pity, nuncles, nary a heartbeat for a once-Was? And to slander a nano-classic like “Shake Your Head” – obviously “respect” is a word rarely uttered at Chez Philpott (nor ever properly conferred).

Is mercy not a virtue yet honored on that “wat’ry Neptune, that scepter’d isle’ I once beheld so fondly? Where hath collegiality fled, whence compassion, my pitiless judges? If you Tase me, do I not quiver? Shame, gentlemen, shame!

But let’s get to specifics, shall we?

Your slipshod field-work with various simian sybarites may impress anthropological amateurs, but I myself have conducted such research in the bush, as ‘twere, not within theme-park reach of a cool Sangria and a cellphone charging station. Harrumph!

Ah, the nights I spent floating on a palm frond on the Limpopo River while limning a few of Shakespeare’s couplets to the pulse of a distant bougarabou (Google it – I did!). Little did I know at the time that I had unwittingly attracted some of our bestial little cousins from the other side of the Darwinian tracks: in a word, Apes!

Frankly, I didn’t know a Rhesus from Croesus as I continued to dispense with the bard’s sonnets and soliloquies from Kinshasa to Kenya and beyond -- in what I now realize was a foolhardy attempt to “civilize” these thankless, cross-eyed chimps. No, I wasn’t trying to “convert” them, as some have accused, I was really just trying to see if, well, I could get a rise out of the Platyrrhine hordes. Actually, they don’t need any help in that department (Hey, you brought up “nether regions!”).

Further demonstration of your macaca-myopia is evident in the choice of plays with which you chose to arrest their fleeting attention. “The Merry Wives” (despite my personal fondness for the show – having essayed the role of Welsh parson Sir Hugh Evans once upon a time) are of no consequence to a monkey. Why, “Falstaff-in-love” couldn’t be successfully pitched to a downscale cable TV network (“Too soft – where’s the edge?”). Not even an orangutan would go in for that farcical piffle!

But, in the name of rigorous empiricism, we are talking a whole different mound of termites when it comes to older male gorillas, many of whom wept elephant (?) tears as I went into King Lear’s rageaholic scene -- sans lightning or thunder FX, I might add. I held those drooling monsters in thrall, I know not why, though my histrionic declaiming has been known to stop a bowl of skittish goldfish in their tracks.

What I’m implying is that your entire methodology is suspect, and that it takes a fine eye and even bolder voice to declare one’s inability to “talk Shakespeare with a monkey”-- if by that we mean cracking open a cold lager and grunting meaningfully at each other next to a roaring fire. You can talk at an ape, but good luck expecting an even semi-witty riposte. By the by, they will yawn at you but good if you’re not “selling” the character, but rarely enumerate what one could do to polish one’s performance. What they didn’t like about my “Bottom” I guess I will never know, though I confess my Polonius was played too broadly tedious and foolish for most critics.

As for your defamatory critique of my considerable wisdom when it comes to warfare (Sunny Tzu was my nom de guerre when I fought alongside Che and Fidelito), let it only be said that one can indeed “engage” with state-sponsored militias, but bringing an extra limb and a tourniquet is not an altogether daft precaution to take. I have bonded with enough bayonets in my day to know whereof I speak.

If you have world and enough and time, o pitiable creatures of leisure, I heartily invite you to further parse and pontificate on my lyrics for the amusement of your cynical readership. I for one stand by every silly syllable therein. Not only is it “time for bed,” my able provocateurs, I’ll have you know I wrote this screed without arising from my “second-best” Tempur-Pedic mattress. Did you think I’d actually bother replying if it meant turning off the telly for an hour? This guy Trump is hilarious! Talk about a hairy ape!!

Ever thine,

Willy the Shake (Your Head) Was




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