Scene4 Magazine - Arthur Meiselman

Arthur Meiselman


An Open Letter to
Christopher Hitchens

Dear Christopher,
You had no right to die.
It was bad form and bad timing.
Stop it, right now, you hear!
The shit-fiends are loose all over the country
and you need to flush them away.
See you soon, yes?
arthur, your sancho panza

Marrying the Merrisome Jane Eyre

Oh what a grand novel Charlotte Brontë hath wrought in the 19th century. Everyone around her died of consumption and fever. She sadly died at 39, but her most successful book, Jane Eyre, descended like an underground aquifer into the bedrock of culture and media. It's story—provincial, submissive but willful young girl-woman conquers the heart of arrogant, worldly, but troubled masterly man. For over 150 years, its theme has been embedded in hundreds, nay thousands of retellings: adaptations, plagiarisms, radio, film, television, media of all kind.

Of all the media adaptations two stand out:
Fukunaga's 2011 film starring Michael Fassbender as Rochester and the 1943 film starring Orson Welles as Rochester (reportedly directed by Welles behind the scenes, as he was wont to do).

The 2011 film, in color, is beautifully photographed and one of the most faithful adaptations of the novel, which is nice but not warranted. An adaptation is an adaptation, a translation from printed word to visual imagery. The result is a rather tepid experience without passion and curiously without the harrowing undercurrents of Brontë's novel. Fassbender is a good actor but he can't rise above the placidity of the script. Instead he gives us a cold, somewhat arrogant English squire of the 20th century not Brontë's towering, mysterious Rochester.

The 1943 film, in black&white, is an entirely different experience. It's pure Welles! Produced only two years after Citizen Kane it brings the startling photography, the shadows, the angles, the dark moods, the driving pace of that earlier great film. Welles coyingly has Jane narrate the story reading from the pages of the novel. And Rochester... Welles gives us a demonized man with a promethean ego. As one of the great film actors, Welles had a sensibility, nourished by his roots in theatre, that most film actors do not. Instead of only performing for the glass eyes of the cameras and the blurry eyes of the crew, he brings a sense of the live audience to the screen.

Both of these film versions end with a blind Rochester. In one, Jane triumphantly kisses a humbled Fassbender finding her way to his lips through a bird’s nest of a beard. I’m not sure what she made of this. In the other, Jane kisses a less masterly but defiant Welles as they make their way to the horizon of their future. I think she married him.

A Bridge in Paris

She was born with only three fingers of her left hand. He was born with only three fingers of his right. They met on a bridge in Paris. When they reached out to each other, her left hand to his right, they had six fingers between them. When they entwined their other hands, they had an additional ten. It was magic. Sixteen fingers, four eyes, two tongues, two mouths, four arms, four legs. They were unique. They were in love.


No one likes to be called 'dumb'... uneducated, okay, because it's a fact. 'Ignorant', maybe, because it has the feel of being temporary. But 'dumb' is like truth serum, it settles deep in the conscious and stirs the sub-conscious with a big paddle. Even the truly dumb, who truly can't acknowledge that they are 'dumb', react with anger and menace when labeled with the term.

Of the few television shows that I can bring myself to watch, I'm attracted to "Real Time with Bill Maher". It's not really an unusual blah-blah talk show, but it's sometimes quite funny. What attracts me is 1. Maher's unrelenting disgust for the dumbness of religiosity, and 2. his oft-repeated pronouncement that the American electorate is dumb, a democracy of sorts that is propelled and perverted by 'dumb' voters. Which raises the question: is it dumb or ignorance? It's probably both.

As I travel here and there, I’m constantly amazed at people’s confidence in assuming they know who they are, where they are and what it is they are doing. They typically don’t! They have no idea what’s going on in the world or the universe for that matter. They have no perspective of history or science or art. At the brim of their confidence, they simply don’t care and they don’t know they don’t care. The ageless clichéd trope has never been more relevant than it is today: Ignorance is bliss.

About the Horse

When I was a little human, I lived in a small city that still had horses on the streets with stripes of horse-droppings much like the yellow traffic stripe down streets today. They pulled carts for selling goods, for ice delivery in the day when ice-boxes outnumbered electric refrigerators, for picking up junk, for myriad transportation tasks. One sunny day, a junkman stopped in front of our house to haggle for the unwanted stuff my mother had cleared out of the cellar. He was a sour, grumbling old man. After he dropped a heavy weight chained to the horse's bridle and went into the house, I carefully moseyed up to the horse for a closer look. She was old and tired and not well cared for (as I realized later when I learned more about horses). She had blinders on so she didn't see me at first. But she heard me tip-toeing, I could tell from the way she moved her ears and lowered her head. As I came around, she slowly turned her head to look at me and then slowly turned away. I guessed she didn't consider me a threat. Reassured, I stepped closer to look at her face. And then I looked into her eye. What I saw was a revelation that took my breath into my head, one of many that awakened me that year. I was seven. What I saw, deep in that large brown eye was... pain and stupor.

That first experience expanded by hundreds more down through years led me to an understanding and committed belief.
It is this—
Horses do not like to pull carts.
They do not like to race.
They do not like to perform.
And most of all:
They do not like to have a body on their backs
or a strap/clamp in their mouths.
By instinct they are curious but wary of humans
and they do not imprint on humans at birth.

One of the more magnificent species on this planet, the horse has been around as long as humanoids, and all the bullshit about them, horseshit if you will, is the same as the self-aggrandizing, self-righteous, self-justifying bull&horseshit spewed by slave owners in the American South (and elsewhere) when describing the human animals that they were and are oppressing, exploiting and torturing in the name of their gods, their cambric brains and their penises.

Tell me different. Tell me that horses are 'stupid', not dumb, not ignorant, 'stupid'. Tell me that horses love what they do, love their masters and wouldn't have survived with out humankind. That's what cowboys say and equestrians and meat purveyors. Let's test it. Let's put a 100 or so pounds on your back, a metal bit in your mouth, and some whip lashings to keep you on the straight and narrow.
Love in your heart or... blood in your mouth?

On Religion

The first elected female state governor in the United States, M.A. ("Ma") Ferguson, when asked if the Bible should also be taught in Spanish replied: "If English was good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for me." And that about sums up the ludicrous nature of all religious activity, of Christianity, Judaism, Muhammadism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Consumerism, and the myriad tribal brayings that have comforted and plagued the human species beginning with the first hominid who heard the first thing that went bump in the first night.

The Bible, the Judaic/Christian bible, the new and old testaments. Written about people who probably could not read or write. Written by people many years after the fact, not about the facts. They wrote from hearsay and gossip and made the rest up  as they went along through the centuries to the testament of King James and beyond. The revealed, printed word of Him.

Image this: Holding up the twisted, contradictory, misbegotten scribblings printed on paper in a book over the head of a woman about to be burned.

The only way to overcome things that go bump in the night is to turn on all the lights, look into a mirror, and see You. You are the thing that goes bump in the night!

Looking and Seeing

We, you and I, are one of two types of people:
We are either people who walk past each other and do not look at the other, or, people who walk past each other and look at the other, to see if the other is looking at 'me'. For the latter, everything we do to our faces and bodies is to present to the other what we desperately want them to see... what we think we see in the mirror. It's a kind of prehensile narcissism.
Monkey do, monkey see.

The Sleeping Shirt

It's not a pajama. It's that special shirt one pulls over the head and sleeps in, and seldom washes (has to do with the comforting scent). Women wear a Sleeping Shirt naked or not underneath. Men wear one to cover... why do men wear them naked underneath or not? That's a mystery. A Sleeping Shirt is like the little blue baby blanket you slept with and dragged around until it was in tiny tatters. Remember that? Comfort and security and your thumb... can't do without them.

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Arthur Meiselman is a playwright, writer and the Editor of Scene4. He also directs the Talos Ensemble and produces for Aemagefilms.
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©2016 Arthur Meiselman
©2016 Publication Scene4 Magazine

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Volume 17 Issue 4

September 2016

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