Gifted and talented kids
Episode 56: Poor Angus, Pirate Captain Jim – Shel We Read a Poem?
British Voice: Shel We Read a Poem?
Russ: Hello all and welcome to Shel We Read a Poem. I’m Russ.
Lauren: I’m Lauren.
Russ: Today I met an all you can pet cat.
Russ: An all you can pet cat. That’s amazing.
Lauren: They’re wonderful. Where was this cat?
Russ: Yeah, he was outside the apartment building. He very much wanted to come inside but he was forbidden. And so he was trying to convince everyone who came by to let him in. And no one was having it and I checked his tag and was informed that this is normal behavior for him. Just try not to let him in and he’ll come home eventually.
Lauren: I’ve seen cat tags like that. One was this cat named Moxie and she would come in the house that I was living in, at the time. You’d open the door she just come right in. Friendly little tabby and her her tag says “I’m not shy. Please don’t feed me. Put me back outside when you are done.” And she’d come and she… I’m not much of a napper, but there was something magic about that cat. That cat would come in the door and be like “naptime,” and then I would just fall asleep.
Russ: I bring sleeps.
Lauren: Yes. She was great.
Russ: I don’t think you met a cat. I think you met like one of the fae folk.
Lauren: Well, she was wonderful and she was always welcome back.
Russ: Well, what are we talking about today?
Okay. Today I am doing “Poor Angus.”
Oh what do you do, poor Angus,
When hunger makes you cry?
“I fix myself an omelet, sir,
Of fluffy clouds and sky.”
Oh what do you wear, poor Angus,
When winds blow down the hills?
“I sew myself a warm cloak, sir,
Of hope and daffodils.”
Oh who do you love, poor Angus,
When Catherine’s left the moor?
“Ah, then, sir, then’s the only time
I feel I’m really poor.”
Russ: Poor Angus.
Lauren: And he is a lad with a very long pointy chin, long fairly pointy ears and a very very, very long sticky up hat.
Russ: Is the band Poor Angus named for this poem?
Lauren: I don’t know. Let’s find out.
Russ: I’ve learned nothing. I feel like I’m just going to get savaged. People are like “No, you fucking idiot, of course it’s not.” Poor Angus is a band from Hamilton, Ontario. And they do versions of Celtic folk music, but no one is from Hamilton, Ontario. And so it was just one of those things that felt coincidental. But maybe it wasn’t. I don’t know.
Lauren: All right. I don’t know. If you find out. Oh, we should edit…
Russ: …post in the show notes!
Lauren: Yeah. Or we can edit it to make sense if you figure it out while we’re talking.
Russ: Hey, shout out to Poor Angus. Keep creating.
Lauren: So looking at Poor Angus… I didn’t actually come up with this, but I was looking up people talking about the poem and a post from Reddit came up where someone was mentioning that it might be an allusion to Wuthering Heights, because “Who do you love when Catherine’s left the moor?” and Wuthering Heights, the woman’s name is Catherine and they live on the moors. And the word “moor” is for a barren landscape and also called the moorland and sometimes they are conflated—or there may not be much of a difference—between moorland and heathland. The name Heathcliff, who is the main guy in Wuthering Heights, is simply pretty much a heath, near cliffs. And so, yeah, I don’t know. There’s no real Angus name in Wuthering Heights. Nobody’s named Angus. There’s Heathcliff but there’s no Angus. And maybe there’s something to the name Catherine, and it being an allusion to Wuthering Heights, but I’m not really sure.
Russ: Well, it’s funny in my 70 seconds of Googling, you are not the only one and it’s pretty well regarded that yes, it is an allusion to Wuthering Heights.
Lauren: Well, why don’t you tell us about it since you found more about it than I did?
Russ: I just told you everything.
Lauren: Okay. Both laugh.
Russ: Yes, that is a correct answer.
Lauren: What a big difference Angus is than Heathcliff. Heathcliff is such a jerk. He’s the worst.
Russ: You know, it’s funny. I’ve never read Wuthering Heights.
Lauren: Well, pretty much these two teens are have passionate love for each other. The boy teen goes away. And the girl teens like, “Well, fuck, what am I supposed to do now?” I mean, she’s much higher class than he is. So maybe they never had a chance. But she ends up being married off to another high class family and then Heathcliff comes back and is like, “Why didn’t you wait for me?” And she’s like, “You fucking left and now I’m pregnant and dying. So what about it?” And then she dies. And then Heathcliff is so mad, he ruins everybody’s life.
Russ: Laughs. Damn, now I’m gonna read this. Sounds amazing.
Lauren: I don’t know. There’s a lot about it that’s pretty boring. Have you heard Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights?”
Lauren: It’s a great song.
Russ: I’m 100% ignorant of the story. And it’s so funny because it seems like one of those things that you would read in like AP Lit in high school.
Lauren: That’s when I read it.
Russ: And then you’d hate it. And then you’d come back later as an adult and reread like, “Oh, this isn’t so bad.”
Lauren: I don’t know if that’s how I would feel about it. I don’t really like the pacing of Victorian literature.
Russ: Any film adaptations and I’ve never seen a film adaptation. I know nothing. I know that Heathcliff is a character. That’s all I know about Wuthering Heights.
Lauren: He kind of just emotionally tortures everybody until they’re dead.
Russ: That’s great. Does every adaptation involve like people coughing blood into cloths?
Lauren: I haven’t seen any adaptations. The only like, really the only thing I’ve seen is the music video for Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights.” Why don’t you give that a quick listen and look at the music video. It’s great. Are you watching the white dress or the red dress version?
Russ: No, she’s wearing a white dress. Should I be watching the…?
Lauren: No, I… Some people like the red dress better. I like the white dress better.
Russ: Oh, okay. I know this chorus.
Lauren: Yeah, sometimes I do this song at karaoke when I just want the night to be over.
Russ: Weirdly, I now kind of want to go to a party where Kate Bush is in attendance.
Lauren: She seems amazing. Russ laughs. I think in this music video, she’s 19. She wrote this song when she was 19.
Russ: Damn. How are people so smart? I don’t even… At 19, I think I was playing like Nintendo 64.
Lauren: I was writing poetry. It wasn’t amazing, most of it.
Russ: Was this during your phase where there were like long unpunctuated poems and everything was in lowercase?
Lauren: Hmm, did I have a phase like that?
Russ: I had a phase like that.
Lauren: I don’t think I did.
Russ: It’s like you read your first e e cummings poem and it’s like “This is the most brilliant thing I’ve ever encountered. I’m doing this forever.” It’s like, “Oh wait, only one person did that for a reason.” Laughs. As you were describing Wuthering Heights, I was storyboarding this in my head. I feel like every one of Heathcliff and Catherine’s arguments has to take place in driving rain, and she’s also coughing the entire time.
Lauren: So it’s less driving rain and more like creepy, foggy moor.
Russ: I’ll take it. I was at the Culloden battlefield in Scotland and went on a tour that was in the morning. And it was fantastic and mystical because it had one of those Scottish fogs where you couldn’t see 10 feet in front of you. And then you’re wandering this old battlefield. It’s like wow, this sucks. People were fighting over this? Knock it off.
Lauren: Yeah, that’s the sort of thing you should imagine when you think of Wuthering Heights.
Russ: Well, how would they see each other?
Lauren: Maybe they’re within 10 feet of each other.
Russ: Laughs. KATHERINE!
Lauren: Well, that’s why she has to wave so much.
Russ: Oh, I see. The music video: It’s not just a clever song. It’s also a reenactment.
Lauren: She is trying to grab his soul away. Both laugh.
Russ: Kicks ass.
Lauren: Yeah, it is kick ass. I love “Wuthering Heights.” Well, that means the music video and the song, not the book. Victorian literature doesn’t do it for me. But I think you would be… You seem to like characters that are extremely vindictive.
Russ: I love vindictive. There is nothing I love more than a hateful protagonist.
Lauren: Yeah, he’s pretty bad.
Russ: And not in the way… I was watching the Aaron Sorkin Steve Jobs biopic, the one where Michael Fassbender plays Steve Jobs. Michael Fassbender plays hateful really well and Steve Jobs was just a horrible human being. And he brings that across really well. And it’s really hard to root for a character where it’s like, “this is the worst person I’ve ever seen in my my entire life,” and I kind of enjoy this. I guess because I want to be that person.
Lauren: Did you ever read Geek Love?
Russ: I’ve never even heard of Geek Love. What is it?
Lauren: So Geek Love is a book by Portlander named Katherine Dunn and it’s about a family of sideshow freaks that… Well, it reminds me a lot about Wuthering Heights because one of the characters just makes it his mission to ruin everybody else’s life and his family. And he starts a cult. I think you would like Geek Love.
Russ: This isn’t the modern definition of geek this is the old definition of geek. You know, I think it was a… What just came out? Yeah, Nightmare Alley. That’s the same deal, right?
Lauren: I don’t know much about Nightmare Alley.
Russ: It’s a noir movie, but it’s about like sideshow freaks and how they became so.
Lauren: No idea.
Russ: There’s a 1947 version. And then there’s a Guillermo del Toro directed 2021 version. I haven’t seen them.
Lauren: I’ve seen ads for it, but I wasn’t sure what it was about.
Russ: I know that the geek show figures prominently. Here we are discussing things we are unqualified to discuss.
Lauren: Right. Well, maybe we should cut that out if we’re not saying something interesting.
Russ: No, no, I’m not. Everything we say is interesting. We are golden gods and everyone wants to hear our voices.
Lauren: The other thing I want to talk about was comparing this poem to Wordsworth. What a great name for a poet by the way: Wordsworth.
Russ: What a great name.
Lauren: Are you worth your words? Daffodils.
Russ: Oh, yeah.
Lauren: You know—
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Russ: I hate this poem.
Lauren: Yeah so, I first heard this poem when I was in elementary school. And one of my friends walked out on the stage for the talent show, dressed in a white dress, it was kind of Grecian looking holding an armful of—I’m not sure if they were fake, or real—yellow daffodils and recited this poem. And I remember thinking that her dad must have put her up to it. And I don’t know if that’s because she said something about her dad before she did this performance, or if I just figured anything that I found kind of embarrassing must be the fault of one’s father. Because at that point, I only had a father and not a mother. And so my dad heavily influenced everything that I did.
Russ: I feel like if you brought this poem to like a spoken word event now you would be savaged.
Lauren: Yeah, it’s…
Russ: The rhyming scheme is juvenile, to say the least. And there’s nothing deep happening here. This isn’t interesting. I have no idea why this is so famous. Did Wordsworth invent rhyming? Is that one of those things where…
Lauren: Wordsworth was considered one of the poets of the Romantic movement and why…? There must be more to his poetry than just this one, but this is the one that I know the most.
Russ: Yeah. They’re just doing too much laudanum. And it’s like, “Yeah, William another banger. Let’s hear it. Let’s hear the flower poem again. Where’d you wander lonely as a cloud? Ooooh!”
Lauren: Laughs. And I remember thinking this poem was kind of cringe even in elementary school. Russ laughs. Although I did appreciate the poem more when I went to Wales and saw a field of daffodils and was like, “Damn, that really is actually something to see.” The daffodil is considered a symbol of Wales and it is not native to Wales, interestingly.
Russ: This is wonderful. This is the inspiration for the poem. And these are the words of Dorothy Wordsworth, Williams’ sister. And, my god, her description of the inspiration of this poem makes for a much better poem than the poem itself does. This is the most like fainting couch, hand to Kleenex, Victorian nonsense I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Listen to this: “When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side. We fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and yet more and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here and there a little knot and a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity and unity and life of that one busy highway .We rested again and again. The Bays were stormy, and we heard the waves at different distances and in the middle of the water like the sea.”
Lauren: That is better than the poem.
Russ: Jesus also, he wasn’t wandering lonely as a cloud. He was with his sister. She just said so. Fuck you, William. Gonna find your grave and throw stones at it.
Lauren: These words aren’t worth very much are they?
“Wordsworth?” More like Words-poor.
Lauren: Like Poor Angus.
Russ: I was like, “Man, I hope Lauren doesn’t say ‘like Poor Angus.'” Jesus. Fuck you, Wordsworth.
Lauren: Laughs. I mean really, I saw a scene not unlike this and it was was pretty amazing.
Russ: Guess what William Wordsworth died of.
Lauren: I forget what pleurisy is.
Russ: Oh, pleurisy is that thing where the membranes that surround your lungs, like, inflame and cause shortness of breath and all kinds of other stuff.
Lauren: Okay. Does that happen to people with COVID?
Russ: Maybe? I don’t know. There’s probably some comorbidities. What a thing that die of? My god. What did you die of? The pale wasting. Laughs. Or like the diseases that don’t exist anymore or have been renamed. It’s like what killed him? Heart dropsy. What the hell? Man, I’d love to die in old-sounding disease. What got him? The thumpers. Oh, jesus.
Lauren: What would the thumpers be?
Russ: Getting hit by a bus.
Lauren: Laughs. I was gonna say some kind of heart arrhythmia, but I like that.
Russ: Yeah, but that’s boring. They have to you like turn everything into a euphemism. What got him? The Old Greyhound. Both laugh. There was that one throwaway line from Mrs. Doubtfire? Where it’s like, “Oh, it was the drink that killed him.” It’s like, “Oh, he was an alcoholic?” “No, he was hit by a Guinness truck.” Man, I love this podcast. We talk about poems like for eight seconds and it’s just screaming about ridiculous shit.
Lauren: Do you have a poem today?
Russ: I fucking have a poem today. Let me tell you. I’m glad that you mentioned that we hadn’t done this one yet because I because I love this one. I wanted to do this one. I’m gonna do “Pirate Captain Jim.”
“Walk the plank,” says Pirate Jim.
“But Captain Jim, I cannot swim.”
“Then you must steer us through the gale.”
“But Captain Jim, I cannot sail.”
“Then down with the galley slaves you go.”
“But Captain Jim, I cannot row.”
“Then you must be a pirate’s clerk.”
“But Captain Jim, I cannot work.”
“Then a pirate captain you must be.”
“Thank you, Jim,” says Captain Me.
Lauren: And the picture?
Russ: The picture is a big old pirate captain—you know with like the pauldrons and the pirate hat and the sword—ordering a little boy to walk the plank and the boys just staring up at him like “no.”
Russ: That was the thing of it, where it’s like, “What job can’t you do? Well, you’ll you’ll do the next one by process of elimination.”
Lauren: Right, or in this one, you’ll just tell other people to work, if you aren’t good at anything.
Russ: I was a teacher for a few years. And usually in public education, if you’re good at your job, you get promoted up. And so you know, you go from a teacher to an administrator to, you know, on a ladder. Generally speaking, there’s plenty of really great teachers that stay teachers forever, because they don’t want the nonsense. And I should have thought as they thought. They’re the smarter amongst us because I was like, “Yeah, that’s, that’s a thing I’ll do.” And I was a really good teacher, then I became an assistant principal. And man, was I terrible at that job. Oof, that was, but by that point, it’s like, I can’t give up the money. If I had to do it again, would I have done the same thing? Definitely not.
Lauren: Yeah, it sad that people get rewarded by management, that the reward of doing a good job is to be put into management when managing people is its own skill.
Russ: It really is. Yeah, I’m fortunate right now to have a manager—well, several managers—that are really good with people, but then… It’s not as though a technical person got promoted into their position as such, just because it’s such a wildly different skill set. Yeah. Making me a manager that would be such a bad idea, putting me in charge of people. Oh, man.
Lauren: I can only do a few. The idea to make me make me the manager of, like, a whole bunch of people. I don’t think I can handle that.
Russ: If you had to run a store front business. What would it be?
Lauren: Oh, probably thrift store or a secondhand store. Just all sorts of crap that I found, because I’m a magpie.
Russ: Now, this is stuff that you… Are you selling off your own curation?
Lauren: Oh, yeah. Curated crap.
Russ: Oh, doesn’t that make you like a docent? Aren’t you running a museum at that point?
Lauren: No. I mean, you can be like, maybe an antiques dealer, but mostly, you’re just running a secondhand store.
Russ: Man, I’d like to run a museum. That’d be a fun job.
Lauren: You’d have to work with people.
Russ: Yeah. Would have to work with people.
Lauren: You’d have to manage people.
Russ: What if I was one of those like, it was a museum, but it was one of those really specialized museums and was only like 1000 square feet. And so it was like me and our receptionist and that was it.
Lauren: Sure. I’ve seen ones like that.
Russ: That wold kick ass. Yeah, the contemporary here in Vancouver is like two rooms.
Lauren:Well, it doesn’t have to be an art museum. either. You could have a museum of lawn gnomes for whatever. People do stuff like that. Sometimes collectors will just turn their stuff into museums because they have so much of a particular thing.
Russ: That’s one of my favorite things is when it’s just someone’s weird shit. And now it’s a museum. That’s great. What is the best museum you’ve ever been to?
Lauren: The Museum of Bad Art in the Boston area was nice. Especially, the best touch about the Museum of Bad Art was that they had a restroom, but it stank.
Lauren: No, I don’t think so. I think they just rented out the shittiest space they could find and there was like, ooze coming down the wall onto some of the pieces. And I was just like, “This is great. I love this,”
Russ: Decorative ooze.
Lauren: It’s decorative ooze. I did like the Museum of Bad Art. It was just the venue was just as bad as the art and that made it all better.
Russ: I had this one I’ve never been to that I want to and it’s the Mütter Museum, which is in Philadelphia, I think, and it’s medical curiosities. Then there are two that I have been to that were both way better than they should have been. And one was the Potato Museum in Belgium, in Brussels. Are you picturing what the potato museum looks like? You’re exactly right. That’s what it looks like. Russ. Is there a section on the history of potatoes? Yes. How far does it go back? Antiquity. Is there a section on the cultivation of potatoes? Yes. What about selective breeding? Yes. And then what happens at the end? You get french fries. This is the best museum that has ever museumed.
Lauren: Laughs. I like that a lot.
Russ: And then the other one is of course—and mostly because one, they have a diamond encrusted specialized knife for this product, and the other because they give out samples—and that is the Amsterdam Cheese Museum.
Lauren: That’s really cool.
Russ: I have no idea how we made it from “Pirate Captain Jim” to museums, but there you go.
Lauren: Oh, wow, you’re right. It had to do with managing things and people.
Russ: Yeah, god you… We have a couple of GT brains, don’t we. It’s like every single connection has to be explored no matter how frivolous.
Russ: Yeah, gifted and talented. That’s what they used to call this.
Lauren: Well, I always heard it “G and T.”
Russ: Oh, that’s a gin and tonic. Now listen, I’m a teacher again. And I’m picturing coming walking in the classroom to like “Hello, my little G and Ts.”
Lauren: Well, the worst thing is I’m thinking about the people that I know who were in the G and T program with me and like the G and T program itself was really nice and we had a good time. And now a lot of us that I still know of our just have intense mental health issues.
Russ: I knew you were going to say that.
Lauren: The more brilliant they are, the more like, completely messed up they are.
Russ: Everyone has anxiety or depression and they sit around and they have existential crises on a regular basis.
Lauren: Oh god. I remember one of the people I went to the G and T program. he eventually moved out… We like dated briefly in high school and then he moved out to the Portland area and like, I remember being in his bedroom in Portland and like him pulling out a gun and just like talking about his gun and me being like, “Uh… exit exit exit quietly exit. Calmly exit. Don’t look at the gun. Pretending it’s nothing. Let’s get out of here. Let’s go.”
Russ: Oh, god, why is he petting it? Why is he calling it Mr. Whiskers?
Lauren: Oh, it was kind of like that. He should never had a gun actually. Russ laughs. Maybe he’s killed himself. I don’t know.
Lauren: Anyway, let’s end this real fast. This is getting very dark. We started out with with like, beautiful spring flowers.
Russ: We were on a happy roll there for a minute. Well, it is a very happy day and I’m gonna see if I can find that all you can pet cat.