On January 25th I attended Peter Shaffer’s 1973 play ‘Equus’, for the opening night performance at Twilight Theatre Company. The rather nondescript rectangle of a building on North Lombard and Brandon is entered through a small door around the side. Walking upstairs I find a charming little lobby decorated very much like a cozy and informal living room. Twilight is a community theatre and makes do without the luxuries afforded by the rather excessive concentration of sponsorships bestowed upon Portland Center Stage. Rather alarmingly I read in the program that JP Morgan Chase, their largest corporate sponsor, has given between $50 and $250 to the theatre this season.
The troop of Twilight theatre actors are not sitting serenely in a green room, composing themselves and settling into character. Instead they bustle around making final adjustments to the set, serve drinks at the concessions counter, and help elderly people navigate their way to their seats. I myself am led to my seat by Jeff Gibberson, who plays one of the horses. To my surprise I am seated up on the stage itself.
‘Uh oh. Am I going to be in the play,’ I ask Jeff.
‘Yes,’ he says, in the grave tone of an actor who has been mentally preparing himself for the coming performance.
‘Umm, am I going to be asked to participate?’ I ask nervously. I have never seen Equus before.
This is a great relief. I love to sit up close, but I hate to become involved in ‘audience participation’ hijinks.
The inaugural production of Equus was performed at London’s National Theatre. Shaffer describes the stage setting as ‘a square of wood. The square resembles a boxing ring. On the square set are three little plain benches. Further benches stand upstage, and accommodate the other actors. All the cast of Equus sits on stage the entire evening. They get up to perform their scenes, and return when they are done. They are witnesses, and especially a Chorus. Upstage are tiers of seats in the fashion of a dissecting theatre. In these blocks sit members of the audience.’ This is where I myself am sitting. Before me is a scene almost identical to the original set created 46 years ago.
The audience is seated, the 8th hour of afternoon passes, and the lights dim. The entire cast walks onstage in the not quite fully black darkness. The lights begin to glow again. Christopher Massey, playing the part of the inpatient psychiatrist Martin Dysart, is front stage right. Center backstage, Skye Walton, playing the teenage patient Alan, is nuzzling Gibberson, who plays Nugget the horse. The rest of the cast, as mentioned, sits stage left and right. Their eyes are all focused impassively, laconically, suspiciously, at Dysart, who looks troubled.
‘With one particular horse, called Nugget, he embraces,’ says Massey, looking troubled and introspective. ‘The animal digs it's sweaty brow into his cheek, and they stand in the dark for an hour, like a necking couple. And of all nonsensical things I keep thinking about the horse! Is it possible, at certain moments we cannot imagine, a horse can add its sufferings together and turn them into grief? What use is grief to a horse? You see, I’m lost. What use are questions like these to an overworked psychiatrist in a provincial hospital? They’re worse than useless. They are, in fact, subversive.’
Massey seems to fill the role of doctor Dysart with a subtle sort of riveting acting, for from his first moments to his last on stage, I feel as if I am watching an actual psychologist. He uses none of the pacings of poetry so often interjected into theatre. Nor does he display any of that loathsome love of exhibitionism, in which the actor pours his own self struck confidence into all roles. Instead, he exudes a sense of struggling self control and forced calm, and talks in the cool tones of a practiced caretaker. Psychiatrists and psychologists themselves are always repressing displays of emotions, and this pitch perfect portrayal right away pulls me in. Only later would I realize the role of Dysart itself has become an enduring statement upon the conflicted nature of those who inhabit the uneasy gulf between medicine and philosophy, and my respect for Massey grows further.
Massey continues, ‘That’s the feeling. All reined up in old language and old assumptions, straining to jump clean hoofed on to a whole new track of being. But I can’t see it, because my educated, average head is being held at the wrong angle. Yet I handle children’s heads… I’m sorry. I’m not making much sense.’
The set is minimal and gives us no cues. This is a play utterly reliant on the actors. Crystal Lemons and Georgia Ketchmark, who play a public defender and a nurse respectively, come and go, and their naturalistic portrayals of alternately bored and stressed functionaries ground us very firmly in a bureaucratic process who’s only saving grace is the rare decent person who cares. Lemons brings a troubling new case to Masseys attention.
‘Martin, this is the most shocking case I ever tried. My court wanted to send the boy to prison. It took me two hours solid arguing to get him sent to you instead.’
‘What’s he done?’ says Massey, weary and already suffering from overwork.
‘He blinded five horses with a metal spike.’ And it is as if that metal spike went into Massey right then and there. His weariness flakes right off and we see that beneath his depression and confusion is truly a gentle and caring man.
After a few minutes Alan Strang is ushered into his first appointment with Dysart.
‘Won’t you sit down?’ offers Massey. I am sitting on stage, just a few feet from the actors themselves. Massey is performing for the audience, but I sit stage right. I feel as if I am not being performed too, but am able to see from a different, more personal angle. I can see clear as real life that Massey is struggling to put on a hopeful face, and heaped on top of Dysart’s professional depression is the shocking and perhaps terminal decline of Alan Strang into psychosis. Skye, who we have been able to watch for all this time, is now hunched and boxed up with tension, like a stubborn 10 year old on a visit to the principals office. But he is also morose like a convicted criminal, fresh from the courthouse to the nuthouse.
Massey continues, ’Is this your full name? Alan Strang? And you’re seventeen, is that right? Seventeen? …. Well?’
Suddenly Skye unleashes a manic expulsion, singing with anger and contempt a contemporary TV jingle, ‘Double your pleasure, double your fun! With Doublemint, Doublemint, Doublemint gum!’ His face is now beet red from yelling and singing these lines with an insane gusto. But he returns to his reclusive, shut down state. Massey is calm, but I can see the psychiatrist logic clicking away in his brain, or perhaps in his eyes, brows and mouth. He is outwardly calm and determined, and uses one strategy after another to eventually crack Alan open a little and be able to peer inside. At one point, after improvising a bit, Dysart hits upon the strategy of a game of truth for truth.
‘All right, it’s my turn now. You tell me! Answer me!’ Like a Wagnerian opera, Alan pivots from stubborn silence to explosive forcefulness. The entire cast acts in an extraordinarily naturalistic manner, with the sole exception of Skye, who plays Alan with a sort of overwrought psychosis, like the actors from the silent films or operas, who over gesticulate. He is perhaps playing an actor playing a madman, inhabiting the role of a boy in the grips of a quasi religious fervor. That being said, his neurosis looks to my eyes much more natural then Firth’s neurosis. The main document of record is his movie, the two play runs being lost to time. His film portrayal is confused and psychotic in the masculine equivalent of hysteria. Skye is more naturalistic. I recognize the behavior in the growing crowds of homeless people. I do not see Firth in the homeless people in Portland, but they are west coast American and Firth is a British child TV actor.
‘We’re not playing that game now,’ says Dysart, attempting to assert control over the session.
‘We’re playing what I say,’ Skye demands, petulantly.
‘All right, what do you want to know?’
Calming down due to ego indulgence, Skye asks, ‘Do you have dates?’
‘I told you, I’m married.’
‘I know. Her name’s Margaret. You see, I found out. What made you go with her? Do you have girls behind her back?’ says Skye, like a peeping Tom bragging of his success.
‘Then what? Do you fuck her?’ he says with devilish lust and joy.
‘I said that’s enough now.’
‘I bet you don’t. I bet you never touch her. Come on, tell me. You’ve got no kids, have you? Is that because you don’t fuck?’ Skye is triumphant with success, Massey is flustered and himself personally exposed. These are not intellectual insights of mine, I am a mere witness to the clarity of the acting.
While Alan is a crippled charity case with very little sense of conscientiousness, Dysart is like a multilevel wedding cake, growing stale from the inside out, since his main aspiration is to present honorably and professionally. The elaborate pipings of fondant cloud or choke his heart.
‘Wicked little bastard! He knew exactly what questions to try.’
Drawn in and fully consumed by the production, which presents the play not only in it’s original and thus minimal form, but also reveals the psychodrama of Shaffers script like taking LSD and visiting a Robert Irwin installation, I desired to talk to the director and the actors about the play, with the excuse of writing a review.
I meet Skye McLaren Walton in a NE Portland coffee shop.
‘I thought your portrayal of Alan Strang was just riveting. You portray him with such a manic burst of psychotic energy, I imagined that I was watching Peter Firth himself, who of course is the original lead who was directed and coached by Shaffer. Would you say this was the most challenging role you’ve done? You seem to be very young, and cannot have had much experience,’ I say.
‘Yes, I am 23, and Alan is supposed to be 19, so I suppose that’s a good fit. Well, this role was different for me. But I did play Dupree in Marat/Sade last season at Twilight,’ says Skye.
‘So what is your experience? What sort of acting have you done so far? Are you a part time actor, which Twilight Theatre seems to encourage, or are you a professional actor?’
He quickly aspirates a nervous laugh at this question.
‘Well, I suppose I’ve been acting since I was young. I grew up in Portland and began acting in the middle school plays. It came naturally to me, or at least, I felt like I was having fun. Then I went to college at PSU and studied with Devon Allen in the acting program there.’
‘What’s the method she uses?’
‘She teaches the method of Uta Hagen, who herself was a disciple of Stanislavsky. She believes that one needs to get the lines into the body. After memorizing the lines, which is simply the first step, then you need to work on knowing and relating to each line. Tobias Andersen, the director of this production of Equus, was very helpful. He was such a great combination of opinionated and knowledgable but he also encouraged me to come to my own understanding.’
‘Hmm. Ok. Well I’m not exactly an expert on the theatre, but my understanding of Stanislavsky, who I guess does the so called method method, is that this is the opposite of the character actor. The character actor is like DeNiro, they just play themselves. You’re saying you have some sort of process that results in the simulation of emotions?’ I worry I am out of my depth and wasting Skye’s time.
‘Well, no. Let’s see. How do I explain? First off, I don’t think DeNiro is a character actor. In any case, yes, character actors just play themselves or some single type of role. A method actor is a versatile actor. But they are not faking emotion. The method essentially involves working with the director or the other actors and coming to an interpretation of the role that… lets say the role of Alan. And so Alan for instance, he has some sort of psychotic break and then stabs out the eyes of these horses. I have never myself felt psychotic nor have I stabbed out the eyes of horses. So I try to find, I need to find, some corollary in my own experience. For instance, I have had moments of confusion in my life. And I’ve also been very angry. So then when I’m rehearsing I try to juxtapose the memory of these emotions onto the various scenes in the play, when Alan does this or that. Then when I’m acting I’m actually not faking the emotions, like you perhaps thought. I’m actually feeling them, or, if everything is working properly I would be feeling the memories of my own emotions mapped onto this particular script and role.’
‘That is fascinating. I don’t know if I knew that’s what method acting was. So have you ever played a role like the role of Alan?’
‘No, this was new for me.’
‘Wow. Well would you say this was your most challenging role?’
Skye thinks for perhaps 10 seconds, then says, ‘Actually, yes. I think this might have been the most difficult role I’ve done.’
‘But you seemed very natural. And I also thought one thing that stood out for me was that with many plays, especially with the ones with higher production values, the actors seem quite conceited and full of themselves. They talk with mid Atlantic accents. Showboating to a lesser or greater degree is more or less expected, even by the audience. You were just so devoted to the role I felt so drawn in, as if there was very little distance between me, you, and the character.’
‘Oh, thank you. Well I try not to assume I know everything. I want to be a good actor, an actor who fills the role. It takes a lot of work, that’s really the key. Going over and over until not only the words, but the emotional connection itself is a sort of habitual thing. Then if I’m successful the role sort of happens and I’m not tripping over myself.’
‘That’s very impressive. I myself have intense stage fright so it must feel very liberating to achieve a state like that. Now, when you walk onto the stage, after all that practicing, there must still be some sort of adrenaline or intensity that happens when you walk onto stage?’
‘I don’t have stage fright. But yes, I guess it is quite exhilarating to have an audience in front of you. You miss that when you do TV or movies.’
‘But this method your describing, it seems to require something dreamlike, if you are in fact training yourself to go through these emotions every night, on command. Is there a dreamlike quality when you are on stage? Or are you very aware of the audience.’
‘Hmm. Well I guess I go back and forth. Sometimes I forget about the audience and the set, and I’m in character. Sometimes I’m back on stage.’
This was all quite surprising for me. Just as I was astonished at Skye’s performance on stage, so was I astonished at the depth of his thinking and devotion to the role and indeed to acting in general. And another suspicion was verified after talking to him. I had felt that the actors on stage were themselves entirely devoted to the roles, and had dispensed with grandstanding, bravura performance, or my much hated ‘Shakespeare style’ acting affectations, but they were entirely devoted to being a unit in an ensemble. And here was Skye Walton describing a very touching and almost selfless style of acting. A process of continual doubt and refinement. While other actors I have known seemed very concerned with telegraphing to me the confidence that buoyed their charisma, and described moments of rapture in which they were hyper conscious of the eyes of the audience watching them, in thrall to them, here was Skye describing often the reverse. He sunk into himself and felt a sort of cathartic release, with a consciousness of the audience being a sign of falling out of character. While the awareness of the audience was nonetheless an adrenaline inducing moment, this surge of adrenal secretions would then propel him back into the character.
Perhaps many actors are more selfless than they seem? When John Gruen interviewed Firth in NYC for his review of the Broadway production, they were combative.
‘Moving and shifting about on a couch in the lounge, Firth restlessly fidgeted with his hands. He seemed continuously on the point of fleeing from the interview “God! Interviews make me anxious. Must we go on?” said Firth.’ And indeed many of these so called critics approach their craft as if they sit on top of the actors, when in reality they are far below them, often growing stale with a sedentary sort of writing, but nonetheless scrounging for scraps of feelings and exciting moments, like omnivorous trolls. But due to our respect for Judgement, and of course Final Judgement, in a sense the critic is able to convince their readers they are the final word.
While it was fascinating hearing Skye talk of his craft, I was still wrapped up in the riddle at the center of the play. I pumped him now and then for his ideas about the moral of the play. Was this a critique of Christianity? A critique of psychiatry? A critique of Freudian analysis? He was indifferent to such questions, and brushed them off as insignificant. For him meaning was to be found within Alan himself, who he found to be intelligent yet tortured. Why was Alan tortured? Did his parents harm him? Society perhaps? Skye was uninterested and seemed to think I was getting distracted with irrelevant conjecture. The important thing was that Alan was tortured, and through our sympathy with him we would find catharsis and release from our own demons, which will never resemble Alan’s. Everyone is unique and different, the important thing is sympathy.

But my mind kept returning to the horse, who Alan had used or confused as a substitute for Jesus Christ. Back in the theatre, in the timeless realm of the eternal present, Alan’s mother visits Dysart alone. Again and again, when we see a cripple and a failure of a human, we look to the parents. Is it evidence and story Dysart seeks, or is he examining the psychopathy of the parents themselves?
Alan’s mother Dora Strang, played by Rebecca Morse, seems rather checked out, but is nonetheless a sweet woman who worries about her son.
‘You see Mr. Strang and I thought you ought to know. We discussed it, and it might just be important,’ she says to Dysart.
‘Ah. So what was it you wanted to tell me?’ he says again in that neutral slightly questioning voice. We can tell Dysart is a pure character because Massey is a pure character, of pure heart, and his fault lies elsewhere. With Burton that is not so clear. However the play takes the form of Greek cathartic drama, the movie tries to purge that element from it’s structure.
‘Well, do you remember that photograph I mentioned to you. The one Mr. Strang gave Alan to decorate his bedroom a few years ago?’
‘Yes, a horse looking over a gate, wasn’t it?’ Dysart is clued into the symbolism.
‘That’s right. Well, actually, it took the place of another kind of picture altogether.’ Dora clearly has some guilty nagging thought.
‘What kind?’
‘It was a reproduction of Our Lord on his way to Calvary. Alan found it in Reeds Art Shop, and fell absolutely in love with it. He insisted on buying it with his pocket money, and hanging it at the foot of his bed where he could see it last thing at night. My husband was very displeased.’ Morse is telling the story as if she has practiced this before, as if talking to a therapist about her criminally psychotic son is a difficult chore requiring her to remove a part of herself.
‘Because it was religious?’
‘In all fairness I must admit it was a little extreme. The Christ was loaded down with chains, and the centurions were really laying on the stripes. It certainly would not have been my choice, but I don’t believe in interfering too much with children, so I said nothing.’
‘But Mr. Strang did?’
‘He stood it for a while but one day we had one of our tiffs about religion, and he went straight upstairs, tore it off the boy’s wall and threw it in the dustbin. Alan went quite hysterical. He cried for days without stopping, and he was not a crier, you know.’
‘But he recovered when he was given the photograph of the horse in its place?’
‘He certainly seemed to. At least, he hung it in exactly the same position, and we had no more of that awful weeping.’
‘Could you describe that photograph of the horse in a little more detail for me? I presume it’s still in his bedroom?’ Dysart and Massey are very skillful at presenting themselves as a sort of Sherlock Holmes, but we have been privy to Dysart’s thoughts, and it seems unclear if he is grasping or calculating, or simply asking questions to ferret out the character of the parents.
In the movie, directed by Sidney Lumet, many questions are asked or answered with angry demands or fearful subjugation. In Tobias’s staging the questions are asked with a gentle confusion or questing and answered honestly and truthfully.
‘Oh yes. It’s a most remarkable picture, really. You very rarely see a horse taken from that angle, absolutely head on. That’s what makes it so interesting.’
‘Why? What does it look like?’
‘Well it’s most extraordinary. It comes out all eyes.’
‘Staring straight at you?’
‘Yes, that’s right…’
Later, Alan’s father Frank comes to see Dysart. He is a blustery opinionated father, who Greg Prosser represents as a sort of 1950’s go get em boomer type.
‘Your wife told me about the photograph,’ says Dysart.
‘I know, it’s not that. It’s about that, but it’s worse. I wanted to tell you the other night, but I couldn’t in front of Dora.’ Prosser has established the father as terse and displaying the forced bravado of a man with a confused and overly traditional mindset, but who must meet the standards of confidence demanded of American men in the fifties. The play takes place in exurban London I should mention, as Shaffer is British, but these slight tweaks to accommodate regional character types help greatly in providing clarity.
‘Go on.’
‘It was late. I’d gone upstairs to fetch something. The boy had been in bed hours, or so I thought.’
‘Go on.’ Massey needs to offer encouragement, as Prosser is tongue tied while talking of his sons perverse anti social behavior. We later find out it is due to guilt at his own pornographic escapades.
‘As I came along the passage I saw the door of his bedroom was ajar. I’m sure he didn’t know it was. From inside I heard the sound of this chanting.’ Prosser presents a very understandable father figure duality of overbearing, spunky and intrusive but secretly guilty and depressed.
‘Like the Bible. Those begats. So and so begat, you know. Genealogy.’
‘Can you remember what Alan said?’
‘Well, I stood there absolutely astonished.’ It is as if he is trying to explain to a Catholic priest he caught his son masturbating. But at this point Franks descriptions stop, as Skye is sitting on a bench as if it were a bed, recreating the memory for us, the audience.
Skye as Alan says, ‘Prince begat Prance. And Prance begat Prankus! And Prankus begat Flankus! Flankus begat Spankus. And Spankus begat Spunkus the Great, who lived three score years! And Legwus begat Neckwus. And Neckwus begat Fleckwus, the King of Spit. And Fleckwus spoke out of chinckle chankle. And he said, Behold, I give you Equus, my only begotten son!’ Fleckwus, the King of Spit, reminds us of the white semen like horse drool Shaffer accentuates. Sexual and Christian references are continually being brought to the fore.
Frank continues to describe the scene. ‘I looked through the door, and he was standing in the moonlight in his pajamas, right in front of that big photograph.’
‘The horse with the huge eyes?’ ask Dysart.
‘Right. He said, Equus my only begotten son. Yes, no doubt of that. He repeated the word several times. Equus.’ It is as if Frank is describing the most humiliating memory of his son. The moment when he knew he had gone fruity. And it was his mother’s fault, who had introduced the irrationalism of the Bible, which had now infected even secular imagery.
And so I was quite excited to meet with Tobias Andersen, the director. I wanted to know what he felt the issue was. Was Shaffer pointing to the corrupting influence of Christianity, a brutal and irrational faith? The nascent field of psychotherapy was perhaps completely unable to deal with such an enormous millennia long indoctrination of irrational dehumanization, perhaps that was what Shaffer was getting at?
When I came to meet Tobias at, where else, another coffee shop, I found him trying to explain to the barista, in a feisty yet exasperated way, the particular manner in which he wished his cappuccino to be made. Then he began intensely questioning her about her opinions of different styles of coffee drinks. I am very inexperienced with interviews, and grew nervous that he might be hard to talk to. I ordered a coffee myself, we said hello, and sat down.
‘Well, what do you want to know?’ he said, staring me intensely in my eyes. His voice was deep and melodious. It had the practiced intonations of an experienced actor. At about 70, he has 50 years of acting and directing under his belt.
‘Well, I guess I’m fascinated by the play. You just seem like a very skilled director, and I thought it would be interesting to talk to you.’
‘Ok, what do you want to ask me?’
My mind sort of went blank, and I just launched into my suspicion of interpretation.
‘I feel like the play is getting at some sort of tug and pull between Christianity and Freudian analysis. I’m wondering if that’s something that informed your direction, your conception. It seems clear to me, based on how cohesive the ensemble of actors played with each other, that you must be the unifying element.’ He looked at me with a curious sideways glance, and I suddenly had the feeling I was myself auditioning for a chance to perform.
‘That’s an interesting perspective. I’ve never heard that before. Where’d you get that idea about it being about Christianity.’
‘Well….’ I stammered, ‘Some of the original reviews in the seventies seemed preoccupied with that dynamic.’
‘Hmm. Well, that’s the beauty of art isn’t it? You can see whatever you want.’
‘So, I see. You don’t see much of a Christian element?’
‘No, not particularly.’
‘What about the criticism of psychology? Isn’t Shaffer taking the Langian view, which was rather radical at the time?’
‘I don’t know about that.’ He did seem good natured. It was almost like he enjoyed pawing at me.
‘So what is the play about?’ I continue to ask my direct questions.
‘It is… about no less than what it means to be a human being. And the constrictions of being normal.’ Tobias offers this up matter of factly, as if I am the 50th person he has said this to during the pre production process.
I feel that this is on the right track. ‘So mental illness is a good thing? I mean, Dysart worries that curing Alan will remove or stunt some core humanity in him. But the kid is a total basket case, he doesn’t seem at all like a representative human, more like a misguided Christian.’
‘Your getting too wrapped up with details. The play is a universal metaphor, and I’ve approached it, or all of us have approached it as a metaphorical drama about humans who are confused and suffering.’
‘It sounds to me like perhaps as an actor or theatrical director you think the universal message is something related to performance? In that the performative process appears to be based on the ability to relate to extremities.’ He snorted with a sort of disgust at this hesitantly offered response of mine.
‘Look, I’m certainly not denying that the staging and the actors were not anything but pitch perfect, however each of them was a certain type of character. A doctor, a psycho kid, a religious checked out mom, a small business owning fifties father. But you’re saying it all adds up to a universal message not about any of those things?’
We did continue to have a pleasant discussion, as I dropped my initial rigid views and he told me about the production, and some of his past experiences, which I was very interested to hear. He says he is working on a memoir of his career and life, and I would be quite interested to hear more of his stories.
I had to admit, after talking to two of the principals, that my initial thoughts on the play seemed perhaps not relevant. Perhaps the value of the play was just that it was a well staged human drama that was deeply affecting? Not as a series of ideas, but in the momentary and timeless space of the theatre. Watching a real human experiencing real things, as opposed to watching a film composed of cut up and disembodied moments. The good film is alienating in its grandeur, whereas the theatre is human in scale. And to my mind, the community theatre is better then the well endowed theatre, for these very reasons.
But I have failed to mention Jill, played by Lydia Ellis Curry. A more perfect woman the combined talents of Shaffer, Tobias and God himself could never provide for Alan. She is played by Lydia with a slightly less naturalistic sense than the rest of the troop, other than Alan as I mentioned. She is more of an ideal woman, a girl really. In the play she is perhaps 17 or 18. In real life, late twenties perhaps. And truly heaven sent a woman she is, as she lacks entirely judgement nor guilt giving, and loves Alan for his individuality. She offers herself to him slightly loosely, and Alan is a virgin. She is like one of Shaffers perennial twins, beautiful and naked alongside Alan. But Alan is destined to reject Lydia. She is a sacrificial woman. Skye was also nude and bereft, Alberich like, Nietzsche like, stooped in trauma.
Jenny Agutter’s performance in the film version represents Jill as somewhat predatory and demanding, but Lydia shows us a Portland version of Jill. Sweet and not smothering. Playful and pagan not Catholic and rebellious. As sweet as honey whereas Agutter is like milk about to turn.
As the performance came to a close, the ensemble took their seats stage left and right. Skye lay before Massey, Dysart’s sacrifice. He had gone through the terrible, humiliating, psychotic break, stripped himself naked, poured out his heart, and was now calming down. His breathing was becoming slower. The sweat was evaporating from his body and hair. This was not acting, for he was done and was, as he later told me, going through a transitional process to calm himself down and get out of character, so he could go home and get a good nights sleep.
Dysart and Massey were still confused. They stood center stage, lost in their thoughts.
‘He’ll be delivered from madness. What then? He’ll feel himself acceptable! What then?’ The therapeutic process did seem to come to a conclusion, with a re lived catharsis having brought Alan closer to purging himself of whatever demon was inside of him. However, Dysart has estimated 59 more months of therapy will be required to bring about a so called cure.
‘My desire might be to make this boy an ardent husband, a caring citizen, a worshipper of an abstract and unifying God. My achievement however, is more likely to make a ghost! Let me tell you exactly what I’m going to do to him. I’ll heal the rash on his body. I’ll erase the welts cut into his mind by flying manes. When that’s done, I’ll set him on a nice mini scooter and send him puttering off into the Normal…’ Shaffer capitalizes this word ‘Normal’ in his first edition of the script.
‘…the Normal world where animals are treated property. Made extinct, or put into servitude, or tethered all their lives in dim light, just to feed it! I’ll give him the good Normal world where we’re there beside them, blinking our nights away in a non stop drench of cathode ray over our shriveling heads. Passion, you see, can be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created.’
Massey looks to Skye now, ‘You won’t gallop anymore Alan. Horses will be quite safe. You will however, be without pain. More or less completely without pain.’
He turns to the theatre and the audience. I see him in profile. ‘And now for me it never stops. That voice of Equus out of the cave. Why me? Why me? Account for Me! All right, I’ll say it. In an ultimate sense I cannot know what I do in this place, yet I do ultimate things. Essentially I cannot know what I do, yet I do essential things. Irreversible terminal things. I stand in the dark with a pick in my hand, striking at heads.’ This is of course Alan’s crime as well.
‘I need a way… a way of seeing in the dark. What way is this? What dark is this? I cannot call it ordained of God. I can’t get that far. I will however pay it so much homage. There is now, my mouth, this sharp chain. And it never comes out.’ He refers to the bit which reigns a horse in.
A long pause. The lights slowly dim. The cast walks slowly and solemnly off stage.
I am left with my thoughts. I cannot relate to Alan, although I sympathize with him. But I know fully what Dysart is saying. Or perhaps my prejudices know. While some psychiatrists are good people, in fact most are good people, as is to be expected in the selfless care taking profession. They lack something. They lack the tools of the ancients. Redemption. Traumas that elevate. Instead they sedate. Exorcise.
The audience applauds. The actors go home. And they return and do it again. The final performance is February 10th, after which the actors will disperse and slowly forget their memorized lines. The play is not videotaped, that would be to cheapen the performance, so no record will exist. Only we who went have experienced these particular actors, placed by this particular director, perform this particular play. Such is the transitory nature of true theatre. And for this and other reasons, perhaps this is why films are consumed with the petty while theatre continues to pursue the timeless?

Screed upon 2 small points in Contemporary Poetry with reference to 1 old and 1 new source

The death of poetry is a very well known trope. When criticism of the internet, troll culture, television, and literature is being shared, a sign of this is said to be the slide of poetry into oblivion. We have lost a vital organ of humanity they lament. In the old days culture was held together with Homer and Virgil or whatever regional bard tells the story of a nation. 

Vernon Shetley, professor of English at Wellesley, offers such a critique in his book ‘After the Death of Poetry.’ I’ll leave out the second clause of his title, as I hate dual clause titles, a sign of an age of confused personalities. He muses upon the cause of the descent of poetry into irrelevance by examining the nature in which audiences have become alienated or turned off by poets, a fairly simple task. The audience has become low, and the poet has become high. However, like many academics who themselves toil in obscurity, his prescription is more insightful as to the continued irrelevance of poetry rather then offering his hoped for ‘path forward’, as his goal is to ‘enable the art to regain it’s lost stature in our intellectual life.’

Shetley is concerned with difficulty, a common complaint, and defines it thus. ‘I begin from the premise that difficulty is not an inherent quality of texts but rather a particular kind of relation between author and reader.’  For his goal is to, ‘restore poetry's respectability among thinking people.’ One hears hints of feudalism in this assertion, for when the Pope decrees all meaning, the word becomes simple. And many academics, though quite radical in their thoughts, nonetheless long for a return to the age of the Holy Roman Empire when the word was golden and punishments deliverable to the unbelievers and wrong word users. The relationship between Shetley himself and his readers is an expanse of darkness, ( or a gulf of light, as his student learn ) for his book is subsidized by his institution, and the merits and honorifics bestowed on his book hinge upon a relatively small number of gatekeepers with discourse control rather then sales to public readership.  And such is his ideal: governance by the best, an aristocracy of criticism. Mind you, a Catholic aristocracy, for there there after an initiation and legal bond they are treated as equals and their lineage matters not. I say this not to criticize him, but to highlight an aspect of poetries decay, as it is no longer living but ‘intellectual’ and ‘academic’ and ‘Catholic’, and seems to spiral in such a circle.

Shetley quotes Joseph Epstein, ‘contemporary poetry has not grown more but less difficult, and the audience still isn’t there’ and he laments that ‘the canon of great modern poetry’ has slipped in its stature and regard. But high stature for Epstein can be ‘the reverence in which these poets were held is found in the way they were worshipped by the generation of poets… who followed them’. I am imagining the swirl of a toilet.

John Ashbery, a poet of the highest stature, and recently deceased, is held up as an example of how an incisive mind can cut through the muck with trenchant verse. He has a poem entitled, ‘What is Poetry’, no question mark, as a declaration. As is quite normal, the words are so dense that a large amount of padded white space is required to not overwhelm the reader. I refer to Ashbery’s layout, not the manner in which my blog renders paragraph breaks.

The medieval town, with frieze, of boy scouts from Nagoya? The snow

That came when we wanted it to snow? Beautiful images? 

Trying to avoid Ideas, as in this poem? But we, Go back to them as to a wife, leaving

The mistress we desire? Now they, Will have to believe it

As we believed it. In school, All the thought got combed out:

What was left was like a field., Shut your eyes, and you can feel it for miles around.

Now open them on a thin vertical path., It might give us--what?--some flowers soon?

What is Ashbery asserting? We wanted snow in a medieval town but got Japanese tourists? Poetry is like a failed marriage and the pursuit of gentle fantasies? Schools groom the mind like a field of wheat? He clearly hates that, yet he seems to go so far in the other direction that communication through language itself is burdensome. If we have a fantastic thought it’s like a little flower?

Is this the King of American poetry? Yearning for the medieval but hating the schools. Looking for love but always loving the memory of the best partner who left you? While he was a sweet gentle man in person, if a little grumpy, his poetry is nonetheless something you would never want to give to a young child, an old person with Parkinson’s, or anyone else struggling to grow or maintain a clarity about the world. Instead such a work is read like ritualistic sacrifice, and out of a yearning to grow closer to another person questing.

Nietzsche, who was something of a philosopher poet, asserts, in contradiction to the school of Shetley et all, that meaning in the past was of a fundamentally different nature then meaning today. Shetley would perhaps agree that a great and generous culture, with great art, unifies a people. A rapacious and greedy culture, with no soul, such as we live in, fails to support those intellectual giants who have much to teach us.

While discussing the origins of class in an aristocratic society, Nietzsche says, ‘It is in these cases, for instance, that "clean" and "unclean" confront each other for the first time as badges of class distinction…’ He goes on with more examples of a common activity being co-opted to function as a description of an abstract idea, but then the method of meaning making pivots, and ‘this is an example of the first juxtaposition of ‘pure’ and ‘impure’ as signs of different estates; and later ‘good’ and ‘bad’ develop in a direction which no longer refers to social standing’. And so we can then use abstract words as the signified for other signifiers.

In plain English, In the past people had a smaller vocabulary, and each word meant more things. We still have vestiges of this, but are encouraged to avoid such word usage. We are told now, there is no connection between cleanliness of the body and cleanliness of the soul. We should not say a country cleansed themselves of filth, nor that the filth of a nation defiled all that was good, but that an illegal military action was implemented. We are told to be aware that what is filthy to the sight can indeed be clean and sterile thanks to modern hygiene. All this may well be true, but in the past, and the further one goes into the past, the more meanings each word can be used for. Poetry was easy, and akin to talking. Ah yes, if I only had a bottle of Jack Daniels then I could speak as the ancients did. And perhaps there were unique generational traumas begot by our fathers and grandfathers, in which they either were in the role of censor or censored, to the highest degree and furthest extent, and it has cursed all their words, the specific words and the general words, and the associations are too strong to overcome, and that the nimble word meddlers see this as an opportunity to insert new meanings.

The task of the poet in the present is therefore either to return us to this ancient, simple, expansive state of inspired reverence for the human spirit or heart or combination of heart and mind, with words that are both simple and profound. Or elegantly express a feeling of helpless torture, or mental degradation, as the case may be. The old words still exist and still maintain many of their residual meanings, yet modern people are not accustomed to think in such a manner, as they desire precise technical words and are afraid to speak generally. And yet… they trip over themselves. For the old words with many associations are fixed with certain associations. And the so called poets, who are in reality successful academics who can earn their own wage, are filled with the revolutionary fervor and love of their own spirit. By extension, they may love other people. But nonetheless the old world is to them a horrendous confusion, and their spirit is thus tortured. On the one hand the ancients ( by which I mean, your father or your grandfather or the founder of your nation or your favorite writer of words ) had brutality and starvation. On the other, beauty and truth. The modern world is clean and sterile, yet lacking in truth, and the so called poets self appointed job is to bring truth to our sterile world.

To begin to approach my conclusion I will state very plainly my complete indifferent and mocking attitude to so called contemporary poetry. It’s desires for intellectual recognition. It’s contempt for ordinary life by way of a transported soul, as if these atheist scribes were Augustine saints. Their seeming desire for the powers of a monopolistic Catholic like institution of meaning making. And they tell us, ‘poetry is dead’, as if they are telling us, ‘Christ is risen!’ And yet, I see poetry everywhere. Are not our bards the musicians who we all listen to day after day, at all times? To wake up to, to work alongside, then to party towards euphoria? But their words are so simple, can this really be a connection to the ancients and therefore to all the other people of the earth? Most certainly, they are not studied, nor are they said to be intellectually rigorous. They speak in plain English. They sing of common struggles of struggling people.

Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd. The very summoning of such a name will send a shiver down the spine of any poet who reads this. Is John Dovydenas uneducated? How can he put those crass people, lustful of money and drugs, on top of King Ashbery? And indeed, the written lyrics sound so utterly simple, and are so easy to understand. But to an academic, such songs reek of Capitalism, greed, money, and all that is evil. One poem causes the mind to flex and grow they say, the other poem is a hypnotic bromide. Is not an academic an enlightened person, someone who should maintain cleanliness of the mind to the highest degree? Who should crank their thoughts up into a tornado of criticism? Who should digest endless stacks of obscure and scientific examinations of Marx, Foucault, power, class and privilege? Is not meaning a thing that exists behind the word, within the culture? Surely only a colonially minded person would say that there is no unconscious thought and that the word is itself the idea? Has this person not read the arguments of Plato?

But I think the Ivory Tower is truly the proper metaphor. For those poets, many of whom wished to tear down the world of their fathers and mothers, learned from their leaders. And they were told, ‘use the tools of the master against him!’ Take the word that crushes the soul and bend it to your meaning. Take the constricting language of your fathers and tear it apart! Then from the bits and pieces of words write your own meaning upon the world. And yet…. they have torn down meaning and from where will they get more but from their own animal souls? If the word is the idea, and there are no ideas that are not words, what do these words mean to you? What will your torn apart and reassembled poetry say to someone who is not you?

Hello, is there anybody in there?

Just nod if you can hear me.

Is there anyone home?

I hear you're feeling down.

Well I can ease your pain, get you on your feet again.

Relax, I need some information first.

Just the basic facts.

Ok, just a little pinprick.

There will be no more… screaming.

But you may feel a little sick.

Can you stand up?

I do believe it’s working. Good.

That will keep you going for the show.

Come on, it’s time to go.

There is no pain, you are receding.

A distant ships smoke upon the horizon.

You are only coming through in waves.

Your lips move, but I can’t hear what you're saying.

When I was a child, I had a fever.

My hands felt just like two balloons.

Now I’ve got that fever once again.

I cannot explain, you would not understand, this is not who I am.

I have become comfortably numb.

Politically pointed reviews of Star Wars

I've always enjoyed reading both the extreme right and the extreme left take on things. With Star Wars it's just as fun. I really liked this review of 'The Force Awakened', from last year, in the Communist magazine Jacobin. The National Review did a good review, from a extreme conservative angle, of the newest movie, 'Rouge One'. Jacobin also did a 'Rogue One' review, but it wasn't as good as the previous one, which has become a sort of classic on the web.

Wag the Dog

Having just watched Wag the Dog, I am amazed. It was released one month before the Clinton Lewinsky scandal and immediately was hailed as prophetic. The parallels with Trump are uncanny. For some reason my mind moves to the state of the Black Lives Matter movement. It is under assault from left and right. On the left, I've now seen two analysis of it's import recently from a Hollywood point of view ( thus Wag the Dog ). Dave Chapelle recently did a routine on Saturday Night Live. Michael Che from I think NYC also delivered another critique. What turmoil surrounds us all!

Classical Music in the age of the Post Moderns

Classical music now is a funny thing. Classic versus Modern. It’s rather like the difference between conservatism and modernity. Or Royalty and Democracy. Or Deism and Atheism. It is beyond argument that it is currently a dead art. Of course it is played more regularly then in it’s heyday, mainly due to population increase, but no composers of merit currently exist. Our current practitioners have a sound and feel that smacks of nostalgia, hokey romanticism, or obscure atonality of one sort or another. It’s rather like the difference between Caravaggio and Thomas Kincaid. Or Bartok versus Reich. Passion versus Sentimentality. The Classicists were “in it”, and are only retrospectively classified as “Classicists” by reason of the subsequent death of their style. Our current crop of self defined and so called “Classical composers” are underneath, behind, definitely not in front or on top, and most certainly not inside. 

In college me and my friend Chris would debate about music. He was more technical and informed. I liked Beethoven, he liked Brahms. I liked Jessye Norman he liked Elizabeth Schwarzkopf. Oddly, we both liked Glenn Gould. I still cannot tell a C from an F, he plays classical piano. It’s fun thinking back about the conversations and arguments we would have, all very good natured. We were both young, naive, and passionate, and we both had a sort of conservative view of culture and detested the post modern mainstream scene at our school. I think, actually, that Glenn Gould was the only performer we could both herald. We otherwise neatly divided the whole musical world in half, perhaps partly out of a mutually contrarian nature.

There is a racist trope in the classical performance community that asserts that while an Asian performer may be technically excellent they will nonetheless lack passion. However, no one asserts thus of Glenn Gould. He is known as the piano player par excellence. He is often criticized for being too technical, yet oddly, these critics chalk this up to obsession and philosophical purity, perhaps even a sort of hermetic seclusion. His playing references no one or nothing but the notes themselves, each played perfectly crisply. Where another performer might mute some notes, or play some notes gently, with Gould each note is like a perfect gong, none to be dismissed, for he never played a piece for which he did not believe in down to every note. At the beginning of his career he played Bach's Goldberg Variations very fast. It must certainly have been to astonish, for even at a high speed each note was perfectly audible. At the end of his career he again played the Variations, this time slower and ever so slightly with more variation in the timing and force. Old age had made Glenn a sentimentalist after all.

For Chris I think he appreciated the musical purity. Something almost mathematical for him is what he appreciated. For me what I hear is a crystalline structure interwoven with gentleness. The melody is soft, yet Gould emphasizes each precise note, even playing some chords as trills. 

Before I met Chris it had not occurred to me to think about music, for me it was more at a gut level. I might now say emotional, but when I was a teenager I did not know what emotion meant. My parents introduced me to classical music and I felt an intuitive connection. Rock and roll was of course what my friends listened to, but the rawness and directness was almost too much for me. I felt assaulted. Only later was I able to appreciate Nirvana, at the time they seemed like a rude affront to me. Classical music, it’s form, it’s structure, is gentle. It is the music of gentlemen and ladies. And so it was a refuge, not a riotous mob.  

Bartok I happened upon randomly in my fathers CD collection in about 1997. I had made an impressionistic movie about a man who is harassed by a woman, beaten up by two thugs, chased through the woods, then leaps off a cliff and swims to freedom. The 2nd movement of his 2nd string quartet immediately appealed to me and I set the short movie to this piece. Having described the movie, I hardly need to describe what appealed to me about the music. The peice is certainly not classical in the sense of Bach or even Brahms. Indeed Bartok was inspired by Hungarian folk music. Yet today no one could compose such music. The tradition is dead. This is sort of the final gasp of classicism, a final attempt to justify itself before being wiped off the face of the earth by the ahistoric Communists in the east and by an industrialization in the west which empowered a middle class more content with Kurt Weill then Wagner.

Another piece of music I happened upon accidentally in ’96 or ’97 was Jessye Normans recording of Richard Strauss’s 4 last songs. 

But of course Classical music did not die in 1917, it merely felt as if it might. By 1948 the quality of composition was getting worse and worse. Strauss, known for being the composer of the theme used in 2001: A Space Odyssey, nonetheless composed a few more subtle pieces devoid of bombast and pomp. At the end of his life, consumed with various financial burdens and such, his children convinced him to simply stick to music and write a few last compositions. All four songs are about death in one way or another. When I was younger this particular recording would always bring me to tears. I suppose perhaps now I consider it a little sentimental, but the vibrato of Norman is really very touching, and I loved her more passionate rendering over the crispness of Schwarzkopf. About this me and Chris argued for many hours. Perhaps when I am older and near death, such distinctions as sentimental vs. emotional or elegant vs. passionate will seem very silly.

Anyway, the music that really got me jazzed up was fun stuff. Like Beethoven's 9th, Sibelieus’s 5th, and anything by Mozart, especially his operas! 

The harmonization is very energizing and beautiful. Contemporaneously a man might perhaps think, "how beautiful are the sweet nothings of women!" Now a refined modern man thinks, "what unique structuralism!" But who knows, do they not say to keep meaning out of music?

The Magic Flute was another favorite of mine, and in this recording Schwarzkopf hits each note like a perfectly manufactured pipe organ. I’m not sure Mozart cared about much except beauty and elegance and surprise. He was the diamond of Classical music, perfect and transparent. His music is not hard to understand. It’s all on the surface, although perhaps Chris would argue with me. He preferred Mozart compositions that I considered dry and not very exciting, but which to him were more interesting musically. I knew nothing and still know nothing about music, other then what I can hear.

To return to the idea that ideas do not belong in music, that it is a hermetic monastery of pure sound, along came Wagner, swinging Nietzsche’s hammer, to utterly steep his music with politics, gender, war, argument, and most especially Ego! In 2005 Chicago’s Lyric Opera staged Wagner’s ring cycle and I signed up rather unwittingly, inviting Chris along with me. My head was smashed open! I immediately felt that Wagner was the true inflection point of music, who anticipates rock and roll and absolutely everything else! I think Chris was somewhat disapproving of his meandering musical structure. About this we argued much.

Whereas 80 years later Richard Strauss was writing nostalgic death music, Wagner composed in a highly unusual, but by no means atonal style. He single handedly brought “Classical” music into a new era, one that recognized machines, the end of romance, the beginning of the harvest of science, the rise of the capitalist, the crucifixion of Christ, the rise of the dollar, and of course most horrendously, the worst wars the world has ever witnessed. And yet his contemporary composers mainly remained in agonized denial. They still remain in denial, and all wish for a return to the innocence of Mozart, the gentlemanly order of Bach. To them Wagner was a destroyer not a builder.

The opening of Das Rheingold to me leads directly to Brian Eno. It is literally representing the flow of a golden river. Water and Gold represent all that we come from. We all are born from Woman in a flood of water, and our lives are structured according to the forces of Gold and money. 

The entrance of Siegfried at the beginning of Siegfried likewise is literally representing the rise of the individual, of creative destruction, of overthrow and a change of the order of the world.

Later Siegfried learns of beauty, which in the story is tied up with the learning of his destiny. A bird foretells of his great success. Ego and Beauty are one for Wagner, one element in which he is deeply sympathetic with Nietzsche.

Of course the hero must die tragically. As Christ died. As all of us must die. And to be brave is to be fearless of humiliation, which is ultimately the fear of dying without the vindication of honor and the respect of our peers. Siegfried sings as he dies, having been stabbed by the upstart bourgeoisie greed monger Lord Hagen, in one of the most beautiful pieces of song. This is then followed by his funeral march.

The funeral march for Siegfried might as well be the death march of Classicism, although at the time most people of high minds and cultural sophistication saw Wagner as brutal, unsophisticated, and ugly. Britten, Strauss, Debussy, Shostakovich, Copland, and Schoenberg among many others tried to keep the old going and to reform it with new ideas. Some of them created beauty, but none created a persistent movement. They all failed, and were all derivative in their own ways. Schoenberg was off the rails with his desperation and his school of thought went nowhere. Britten was a sentimental sop. Classical values had died, killed by the avarice of Hagen, who cared for nothing but plunder, who lacked any sentimentality. We are all now the children of Hagen, neglected, tasteless, with our crude music of Nirvana and The Grateful Dead.

However, I asked my architect friend Katie why no one builds in the Classical style anymore, and she said, “they could always start again in the future”. A cultural ethos that persisted for 3,000 years can disappear for centuries and still resurge. With our computers we can be more wordy, more emotional, and faster. Yet we struggle to create a single new idea. Roman decadence is our own decadence resurgent. Sexual mores of every stripe have existed before. Marxism and Communism derive directly from Sparta and Plato. But yet each human life must still forge it’s own path and discover itself anew each and every time. 

Blood Pressure

My resting blood pressure is slightly above what doctors define as healthy. 130/90. That is to say, when sitting still, my resting blood pressure is 90 millimeters of mercury, and my pumping pressure is 130 millimeters of mercury. I have a digital blood pressure meter and occasionally take my measurements. During the runup to the election my pressure maxed out at 190/100. I felt stressed, tense, and worried that I would suffer from a stroke or a Victorian fainting episode. Fortunately my doctor tells me that a healthy young person can have episodic pressures up to 240 or above and still be fine. It makes me wonder what my blood pressure is when I go running and my heart is at 170 beats per minute. When I was younger and in much better shape I could get my heart rate up to 210 bpm!

But what do these numbers even mean? Why do we measure blood pressure in millimeters of mercury? It seems so 18th century.

A millimeter of mercury is such an obtuse and ancient measurement of pressure. Liquid mercury is poured into a glass tube. It then falls due to gravity. The space at the top is a vacuum. The inches or millimeters or distance of this vacuum is the "pressure". This was the first method of defining pressure. One could just as easily use water, or any other liquid, and a different distance would be measured. Why the medical community, which prides itself on being modernity itself, continues to use this antediluvian measure of pressure, is very odd.

And again, why do doctors use terms such as systolic and diasystolic? Why not use terms such as “rest” and “pump”? Like everything medical and legal, the origins of these terms are from Latin and Greek. Systolic, which is what doctors use to describe the maximum pressure in the blood vessels during the pumping phase of the heart, is the opposite of diasystolic, which is the minimum pressure of the blood vessels during the period between heartbeats. It derives from the ancient Greek word “sustole”, which means contraction. The modifier “dia” means opposite. Thus the opposite of a contraction is a relaxation, ie “diasystolic”. Why they do not use the word “eirene” or "pasithea", both which could mean “rest” is strange. The word “diasystolic” is very obtuse. It's like saying “I ain't no such thing" which can also be stated as “nope”.

Military organizations and medical organizations share a common characteristic, they are both setup to operate during a crisis. For a hospital, the crisis is of the patient. For a military, the organizational structure is designed to operate itself within the crisis. The patient is itself. The enemy is the disease. Military and medical organizations are both steeped in jargon. However they differ in one dramatic degree. In a military the jargon is created by the lowest ranking members, and works it’s way upwards. In a medical organization, the jargon is created at the top and works it’s way down. The military speaks in the vernacular. The medics speak in Greek and Latin.

To return to blood pressure, what the hell is 100 millimeters of mercury? It’s actually very simple. It’s 1.93 pounds per square inch, or for the non Americans, 13.3 kilopascals. 200 mm/hg is 3.9 psi. 250 mm/hg is 4.8 psi. This latter figure is considered "off the charts" for blood pressure but is surprisingly still fairly low when translated to an industrial terminology.

Why do doctors cling to obtuse Greek terminology and 18th century methods of measurement? I think it’s very simple. They operate on a top down organizational structure. The grunts are not respected, and the poo baa's are in control. In the military the grunt is given great respect, and the officer, while respected, is nonetheless held slightly in contempt, as they are not in the line of fire. 

We must respect those who do the actual work. And we must respect the common vernacular. That is my opinion.