Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What's Your Sign?

Last week I was standing next to a steaming vat of Nickel Sulfate reading a sign.

Couldn't help feeling pity for spelling skills of whoever posted that sign. Not even knowing how to spell 'Carcinogen' is a real shame. I must've stood next to that tank more than twenty minutes, thinking how stupid some people can be.

I just like signs generally though. Sometimes even, a sign can say one message to a larger audience, while speaking directly to a specific person.

Modern example of that would be like a restaurant men's room sign reading;
"All employees must wash hands...especially you, Harold."

Was just that sort of sign got Oscar Wilde put in prison actually. Well, somewhat indirectly I guess, I suppose.

Starting at the beginning, once Dinosaurs ruled the Earth. Hmmm, maybe I should compress the time line somewhat?

OK then. There's probably some HS teacher in some AP English Lit class today, somewhere in America, told a bunch of mush heads the great writer Oscar Wilde was sent to prison for two years for being a homosexual. Wrong on two points. He wasn't a great writer really. And he didn't directly go to prison for being a homosexual; his real crime was acting like a moron about the British judicial system.

I start where the story began. Once, Dinosaurs ruled the Earth...Oh, cut it out Dave!

All right then. Oscar Wilde was having a very public homosexual affair with Alfred Douglas. Alfred was son of the Marquess of Queensbury, and the Marquess didn't cotton to the romance much.

Given context of the story, I think 'Queensbury' is a hilarious word, but I digress.

The Marquess, unable to dissuade his son from this attachment, turned all his ample venom against Mr. Wilde. A personal campaign of humiliation was engaged. Very logical. The Marquess can't hate his son, so he must hate the man his son loves. The Marquess has been publicly humiliated, so he must publicly humiliate.

Getting back to signs? The Marquess' campaign culminated with a visit to Oscar's club. In those days, you went to see somebody and if they weren't there? You left your calling card and a short message written on it, so Club Steward could sort cards on the silver platter and direct each to intended party.

Marquess left his calling card. Helpfully wrote on it who the card was intended for: "...Sodomite Oscar Wilde."

Historians argue to this day why Wilde decided to sue the Marquess for libel. They have TOTALLY too much free time at the Harvard faculty lounge my opinion. Consensus is that Alfred pushed Oscar to the suit. This, believing Wilde would win against the Marquess' allegations, when Alfred would provide damning evidence against his father.

It's lost to the Harvard faculty lounge and me, what exactly the damning evidence was. Perhaps the Marquess was a wife beater with a string of mistresses, some same sex, or maybe the Marquess was a lousy tipper, I dunno.

What I do know? Some lawyers are homosexuals, but not all homosexuals are lawyers. One can't pursue a libel charge by attacking the character of the accused. Whatever the damning evidence about the Marquess may have been, certainly wasn't allowed in court.

I'm not a homosexual or a lawyer, but I'm fairly sure it's a bad idea to sue someone for libel about saying something that's true.

Oscar lost the libel case, and given the evidence submitted, Crown had to follow through, so that's why Mr. Wilde went to the big house.

Had the public (and correct) insult of a hurting father been laughed off, no prison time for Mr. Wilde. Instead he was silly enough to chase his doom. Some people, perhaps many, hold within them the seeds of their doom.

On a more positive note though? I reported to management that bad spelling on the Nickel Sulfate tank sign. I'm happy to report it's been corrected.


I'm not nosey by nature, but I MUST find out who this 'idiot' character is. Seriously? I'm willing to stand next to the Nickel Sulfate tank all day, just to learn the identity of this fool they're talking about.

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