Your Jest is Earnest… I familiarly sometimes do use you for my fool and chat with you.

What: The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare

When: July 21 and 22, 2021

Where: The Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company

William Shakespeare’s play “The Comedy of Errors” is a better play than many believe and the Royal Shakespeare Company current production of it is better than I expected…

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The New York Yankees in June – Part Two – The Pitchers (2021)

The world of baseball pitching began to be shaken up in late-May and early-June as MLB announced that it would be checking the hats, gloves and belts of pitching staff during games.

Rumours had begun to spread about the use of a substance called Spider Tack which was allowing pitchers to get a better grip on the ball and consequently increases spin speeds. Players like Josh Donaldson of Minnesota became very vocal in their criticisms of pitchers including, for example, the New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole.

Now, there have been allegations like that. There also been suggestions that spin speeds for certain pitchers have dropped since the announcement of the rule-enforcement may have caused some pitchers to relearn their craft but so far that’s all we know.

So as we examine these statistics for the month of May, let’s consider those pitchers whose performance seems to have varied most dramatically – but I’ll go no further – the jury is still out – and we may never really know.

Here’s the stats for the whole team and then we’ll begin with a closer analysis of the starting rotation:

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The New York Yankees in June – Part One – The Batters (2021)

The New York Yankees were a mess in June. You don’t have to take my word – no less luminaries than Brian Cashman and Giancarlo Stanton agree with me and the language they used was far less kind than mine.

Their record for the month was 12 wins and 14 losses. They lost 5 of the last 6 games in the month. At one point, they lost 7 of 9.

Their roster is full of batters who hover around the Mendoza line (.200). There are others who appear way beyond their sell-by date. Let’s survey the team’s performance on the month:

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The New York Yankees in May – Part Two – The Pitchers (2021)

As previously noted, the New York Yankees have not had the start to the season that they expected in 2021. However, it is the start of the season that they deserved. With the season a third complete, they finished May at 29-25 and in third position.

Instead of hoping to win the American League East, they are more likely to be targeting the second wildcard spot and only then if their bats begin to do their work.

In May, their pitching was less culpable than the batting line-up in adding to their woes.

Let’s survey the strengths and weaknesses of the players who took the mound:

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Passion and Betrayal – Bob Dylan – Tell Tale Signs reassessed

(This article is an expanded version of a review that I wrote when this album first came out. I was really unhappy about the way that the magazine, who commissioned me to do it, published it. They changed the title. They printed it in a way that removed paragraph breaks and they made editing changes to it without consultation. Needless to say, I stopped freelancing for them shortly afterwards. I revisited the article, originally just with the intention of restoring it to the way it was meant to be but then as I read it and listened to the music, I figured perhaps there was more to say. It concentrates on the spiritual and faith-based references in Mr Dylan’s lyrics but touches on other matters too.)

“Those old songs are my lexicon and prayer book.  All my beliefs come out of those old songs, literally, anything from `Let Me Rest on that Peaceful Mountain’ to `Keep on the Sunny Side.’ You can find all my philosophy in those old songs. I believe in a God of time and space, but if people ask me about that, my impulse is to point them back toward those songs. I believe in Hank Williams singing `I Saw the Light.’ I’ve seen the light, too.”

This was Bob Dylan speaking in 1997 – a period which provides 11 songs on his 3-disc set “Tell Tale Signs” (10 out-takes from his “Time Out of Mind” set and 1 live recording).

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Bob and Hilary James – They are “Flesh and Blood”

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A Salute to the Salutation!

In March 2020. I was asked to put together an event at one of our local pubs. The Salutation in King Street, Hammersmith, London had been a little quieter than normal since the local Town Hall had closed for refurbishment and I was asked to put on a bill of varied artists in order to get new people over the threshold.

After a few phone calls and a little planning, we had six acts, across a broad range of styles:

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John Shuttleworth is back!

Where: Leicester Square Theatre, London

When: March 2020

Who: John Shuttleworth

When: John Shuttleworth’s back

Or is he? Due to an error in Ken Worthington’s printing of the flyers and posters for the tour, it reads “John Shuttleworth’s back”, making it sound not so much like our hero’s return to live performance but a reference to the rear features of the star. This is not the first time that Mr Worthington has messed up the promotion and so the gallant star plays the first few minutes of the show with his back facing the audience in order to fulfill the promise of the posters.

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Nobody Sings Dylan Like Dylan

What: The Girl from the North Country

When: February 2020

Musical by Conor McPherson, Songs by Bob Dylan (used by permission, Dylan has no formal involvement)

This is not “We Will Rock You” or “Mamma Mia”. The Queen and Abba musicals are essentially vehicles to promote the greatest hits in the back catalogue of two acts that are no longer recording. The songs are made to measure into storylines of varying ridiculousness and unbelievability.

It is also not “Jersey Boys”. There the story of Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio’s musical partnership is told (albeit in a truncated form) and the songs are inserted to illustrate the development of the 4 Seasons’ career. This indeed was a level higher and a completely different approach to your average “jukebox musical” as the first category has often been labelled.

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Seasonal music – another good reason for the season

If you’d have said to me when I was a young adult that I’d be enjoying Christmas music later in my life, I would probably have laughed at you.

But here I am, it’s 2019 and I have many Christmas albums and it feels untrue how we develop and change. Now, it has to be said that any fascination for Christmas I had when I was younger had been turned right around by the time I hit my teens and in the intervening years some remarkable transitions have taken place in my life. These have caused me to re-evaluate why Christmas should be celebrated – and celebrated in a totally different way. But, back then I had exactly one Christmas-flavoured record. It revolved at 45rpm and had one song on each side. Now, I have more than thirty albums of seasonal music – mostly songs of faith and about the birth of Jesus but some that are just about the festival and carry their own joy.

This list may come too late for you to listen to them but at least it gives you some time to add to your own collection before next year. It is the nearer the day when the true love brought five gold rings than the day when we celebrate the birth of the Messiah – so perhaps you’ll find some jewels here for 2020:-

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