Friday, April 27, 2007

Chaucer speaks

You will just have to take my word for it: the following is from the evil genius who originated the Chaucer blog. Enjoy! And thank you, "Geoffrey Chaucer," for this post.

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IF YOU REALLY want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is how it started and how I got the idea. Because this is the first time I’ve gone and written about it in my own words – broke character and all.

The thing is, it didn’t start out as anything special. I was messing around with that old friendster site and people were having a time making fake accounts for people like Dorothy Parker or Babe Ruth. So I made one for Chaucer. Then what the friendster people did, they started giving blogs to everybody on friendster, because of that crumby myspace having more features and all. So I thought what the hell and just started typing up stuff in Chaucer’s blog, I guess around May 2005 every once-in-a-while. Then I did that "internet abbreviations" job and people started commenting on it. Boy, I was glad just to get a couple of comments. And when you get readers, the thing is then you can make it a back and forth. So Chaucer did an advice column and somebody wrote in and asked about if the Gawain poet ever met Chaucer and I guess you could say I had a big old idea. I had Chaucer write about necking with the Gawain poet in France and I based it around that movie – Brokeback Mountain – that everybody was seeing back then. That’s when people started linking to it. I started seeing that danged post around the web. Somebody on livejournal even made a danged icon about it. I guess people thought it was sort of funny because it mixed things together in a way that didn’t really make sense but also sort of did. I was practically jumping up and down because there were these people out there who like hearing old Chaucer talk about crazy things in Middle English. I know it sounds corny but I felt kind of better about people because of that and so I thought it would be a helluva thing to have Chaucer’s blog get read by even more people.

Then I moved it to blogspot which was not necessarily a thing I knew about, but I knew it was better looking than that lousy friendster blog. That was March 26, 2006. The next part I don’t remember so hot. I guess it just sort of took off because of a lot of real decent people liked it. Like these two editors, Patrick and Theresa Nielsen-Hayden, they have this blog called Making Light that was one of the first big blogs to link to it. Boy, I bet about a thousand people must read that thing every day and they all saw the link to Chaucer. Also around the same time, it seemed to me all these medieval scholars were setting up websites. In the Middle started up around January 2006, I guess, right? And the medieval types that already had blogs, well they started talking to the new ones and everybody just kind of started talking to each other. For the first time at kalamazoo all the medieval bloggers met up. I guess you could call it a medieval blogging renaissance except medievalists get real teed off when you use that word. Anyway, all I did was I got on that bus and I rode it. A rising tide floats all blogs, yessir. All these people kept linking to old Chaucer, all kinds of people and too many to all say thank you to, though a couple stick out: In the Middle has for like a million years been saying things about the blog that sound real smart, like that thing that the blog “crosses historical lines so gleefully that the whole project can be called temporally impure,” which pretty much read my mind about what I wanted to do; and I’m real grateful to good old Doc Virago and Stephanie Trigg, and that crazy singer guy Momus who isn’t even a medievalist. And then they say a professor referred to the danged blog in a speech for a big meeting about Chaucer in July 2006. I wasn’t there on account of my flight not getting in yet and all so I didn’t hear him say it, but that really killed me to see that the blog was getting some “press.”

And that’s pretty much how it happened that I get all these terrifically intelligent people coming to the blog, even though I haven’t posted anything for like a hundred years and I feel lousy about it. The whole thing has just about knocked me out and I feel real thankful to everybody who’s liked the blog and linked to it and commented on it. It sure is a nice thing to write some jokes and have people like them.

And to tell you the truth I don’t mind making a buck here and there when I can either, so I started making some funny t-shirts for the blog and doing them through this site called zazzle, where you just make up the shirt and they sell it and you get little bit of the money. I can tell you I have made over a thousand u. s. dollars on those little tiny percentages and that is one heck of a thing, yes it is. The t-shirts that sell the best are the ones that aren’t too specific, like you might guess. Number one is “CHAUCER: Because Shakespeare was Too Easy,” number two is “I study medieval literature; because that’s where the money is” and third place is “Swynke, Drynke, Swyve, and Aftir Make Retraccioun.” I don’t understand why people are all crazy about that last one. Maybe somebody bought it for all of their family or something. Now that would be an unusual christmas. Anyway, it sure is something to think about me just walking down the street somewhere and seeing somebody wearing a t-shirt I put the words on. That would just crack me up.

Let’s see what else I can tell you. I get all kinds of crazy people writing in and I always just answer the emails as Chaucer in Middle English and all. The people who confuse me the most are the ones who make a big deal about things being accurate. Like this one person sent me an email saying “When exactly is this supposed to be happening. I’m guessing you’re setting it in 1385, but if so, why do you have?...” The reason I’m not specific is because I don’t want people to know whether it’s the past or the present, because that’s where the funny stuff happens. Like Chaucer playing video games or Lowys listening to rap or whatever. Boy, also sometimes somebody will write in and go around correcting my language, which I guess you could say I appreciate some of the time. But you see, I make stuff easier on purpose so that people can read it. Like I use “must” instead of “moot” and all that kind of stuff. That’s part of the mission, which is to be able to walk people into Chaucer who maybe only read his stuff like in one class and to also be funny to these brainy types who have like all of Jacob’s Well memorized. So when people correct me about the little kind of “mistakes,” boy I really get fired up. But I don’t want to sound like I’m perfect and all. I’m not exactly always putting my final e’s in the right places and remembering my subjunctives and all that. It’s a funny thing how you can read a language but not be able to write in it proper. And I appreciate the corrections but some people sure sound really angry about the subjunctive and I think, well I wouldn’t want to have a cocktail with them.

But there’s also a bunch of swell people who write in, too. Some of them help me. And some of those helpers, I don’t even know their names. This person who writes Katherine Swynford, I have no idea who it is. What we did, we just “met” through our characters. I saw her blog and when my family went on holiday – back when I was trying to do a post every week, what a time! – I had Chaucer email his “deere suster-in-lawe” and ask if she would like to guest blog. And she did it, old Katherine, she really did write some madman entries. Katherine Swynford, if you’re out there, give old Chaucer an e-mail. He’d sure love to have you back.

Also, Chaucer keeps trying to interview people who other people might have heard about. My idea was I’d have him ask people crazy questions. But not too many folks have been excited about it. Chaucer emailed old Harold Bloom and you know what Professor Bloom did? He actually responded, which is more than I can say for some people, and he was a real gentleman about it and said “Dear Chaucer: I am worn down this summer and can not be interviewed. With good wishes, Harold Bloom.” I swear to God. And there were some other people who were real nice but then got really really busy (I am looking at you Ray Smuckles). I do have one interview on file with this swell guy named Lord Whimsy who’s this kind of a modern-day dandy – he even wrote this terrific book about dressing up and all that’s a real hoot -- but I need to type that out and put it up. I’m pretty lazy, to tell you the truth. I could be about the laziest person in the world. Anyway, also people sometimes write in to interview Chaucer and once or twice they even wrote in to ask about putting something from the blog into a magazine. It never worked out with the magazines because they want my real name. And Chaucer always has to say something like “Ich am yclept Chaucer and ich haue the parish records to proue it!” and then Wired doesn’t get back to me because I don’t want my name in the byline. Because I’ve got this real thing about staying anonymous. I know it sounds crazy, but I think it’s real important.

You know, it’s like when you have someone in your family gets all dressed up as Santa Claus. And everybody, they know it’s not really Santa Claus. They probably know it’s Uncle Robin or whatever because they can see his wart on his nose. But if Santa Claus doesn’t go breaking his character, you’ve still got the make believe and everybody can have a good time. Or maybe it’s like how somebody puts this stuff on boozy old Poe’s grave every year on his birthday. Now that is just one helluva thing. But what would it be like if everybody knew that that somebody was Mrs. Carla Durbanville of Clichy-sous-Bois, France, who flew over every year? I don’t want to know that this person who puts flowers and booze on Poe’s grave is Mrs. Durbanville, or even that it’s a French lady. And even though the Chaucer blog isn’t exactly some big mystery like that, I don’t ever want people to know who I am or even what type of person (though I wish they could see my hat, I’ve got this red hunting hat that’s pretty terrific). I think it should be a “blog written by Chaucer” not a “blog written by a Canadian gender-studies expert recently tenured in a large Midwestern research university in the voice of Chaucer.” If you like the blog, write to Chaucer. But don’t go trying to figure out who it is. Unless you really hate the blog, I guess, and you want to ruin it for everybody and for me too. But in that case I hope you have better things to do like maybe make your own blog about your problems with anger.

That’s about all I’m going to tell you about. I guess I can probably say I got some plans for the future. My big plan is, I’m just going to keep writing the danged thing until it jumps the danged shark, and then I’ll write it until it jumps the shark again because I don’t give a damn and sharks can be fun to jump. Heck, it’d be swell if I could push that interview thing, get a bunch of people who you look at them you wouldn’t think they like Chaucer but on the blog they talk about it. Maybe I’ll try old Will Wheaton. He really cracks me up. I’d like to have some professors talk about why they read Chaucer and all. I see that sometimes profs or teachers use the blog in assignments, so I’d like to make some parts of the blog that are about pegag- pedag- pedoogo- about teaching stuff, like maybe some fun stuff about Chaucer and his times and all, or about showing how the Middle English on the blog isn’t really like what you see exactly in Chaucer’s writings. Anything goes, as long as it’s not boring. I sure hate being boring and I try to avoid it all the time, which is why I’m not too sure about this long old paper I’m writing for you now, I tell you. If you want to know the truth, the whole blog is a viral marketing campaign for this pretty smart guy. His name is Chaucer. So I guess you could say I have an obligation to come up with some good plans all right, and to try and keep it funny, ywis, ye koude saye swich a thing.

15 comments:

Karl Steel said...

So Holden Caulfield mellowed out and started a Chaucer blog?

Thanks for posting it nostre GC. Worth the wait.

Andrea said...

Chaucer, your shirts really do get around. I saw someone wearing one in the Bodleian Library this February. She disappeared into the stairwell before I could compliment her on it.

Andrea said...

PS. I have a question. Would you tell us if you're also the person who writes Mandeville and the Tremulous Hand? (If so, kudos on the dialect-switching! If not, kudos to them!)

Ancrene Wiseass said...

Will Wheaton has a posse. And it includes Chaucer.

How cool is that?

Anonymous said...

PS. I have a question. Would you tell us if you're also the person who writes Mandeville and the Tremulous Hand? (If so, kudos on the dialect-switching! If not, kudos to them!)

...

Those are two other far-flung contributors who really do a bang-up job, if you really want to know.

-?

Sharon said...

Thank you for this post, whoever you are. It just about made my day.

Eileen Joy said...

I don't get it. I thought you really were Chaucer. The thing is, I'm like, totally against temporality. For real. So, to me, you are Chaucer. Not somebody's uncle wearing a Santa Claus suit. So please don't post things like this again and upset me so much. Cheers, Eileen

J J Cohen said...

It is somewhat disconcerting, I admit, for the curtain of the Chaucer blog to have been pulled back and for J. D. Salinger to be revealed standing there. But you know, what were you expecting? Carolyn Dinshaw?

Eileen Joy said...

I don't think Dinshaw would be very good at drag.

Michael O'Rourke said...

Alan J. Fletcher once told me, in all seriousness (I think) that I looked like Carolyn Dinshaw. But i could never do that smile.

J J Cohen said...

I never thought of that possible resemblance, Michael, but now that you point it out ...

Dr. Virago said...

It is somewhat disconcerting, I admit, for the curtain of the Chaucer blog to have been pulled back and for J. D. Salinger to be revealed standing there.

Next thing you know, *that* curtain will be pulled back and Thomas Pynchon will be there.

GC -- I think it's real swell that you called me "old Doc Virago" and thanked me and everything. I'm glad you're not one of those phoneys. You really kill me. Even that dang friendster profile and blog was good.

Gavin Robinson said...

I got hella depression but I would love to see that Chaucer dude all interviewing such as Ray.

(To be fair, Ray Smuckles is currently retarded having been hit in the face by a baseball thrown by Charles Mingus's cat. How about Philippe interviewing King Richard?)

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you who Chaucer needs to interview, Manolo the Shoeblogger.

Now that would be a hoot.

Natalie Grinnell said...

My fantasy would be Chaucer interviewing Terry Pratchett. Or just having drink with Terry Pratchett. Given his illness, I guess that won't happen.

What about that guy who attached balloons to his lawn chair?