Archives for April 2010

Many is a word that only leaves you guessing …

Today’s Top Excuse

Given by The Wife, after missing a lob in badminton:

“I’ve got old eyes.”

Time Pied

I don’t often remember my dreams, but every once in a while, a doozy comes along that’s not only memorable but has an unaccountable vividness to it which leaves me dumbfounded, staring at the cieling in the morning, mouthing “What the FXXX? What the FXXX?” until my wife tells me to shut up.

And I never forget them, either.

(Matthew might be able to dig up the one I sent him a number of years ago about the two brothers in the Russian Mafia….)

At any rate, I had this dream last night. And I swear on a stack of Psychology of the Unconscious’s (in the original German even) that there is not one bit of embellishment here.

The scene opens with a little boy in bed, crying out into the silence of the dark house. Everyone’s just gone to bed.

“Time for pie?”

The boy’s father, gruff but loved by the boy, says, “No, Tim, it is not.”

His father and mother are lying in bed, side by side. This question and answer routine is a nightly occurrence – or at least ever night before Tim’s father takes him to a special place for pie.

Tim waits a few minutes, looking at his clock.

“Time for pie?”

No answer.

Tim giggles, thinking his father is impatient with him. He decides to wait a little longer before asking again.

Meanwhile, his father has taken his last breath.

Tim doesn’t know this….

Skip ahead many, many years. Tim is an old man.

We’re inside his head.

He’s just walked into the diner his father would take him to early in the morning before the others were awake. It’s a busy but quiet place – old people clustering around the dinner counter. The smell of cigarette smoke and coffee brewing predominate the brownish pre-dawn air.

Then he spies it.

The pie.

Peach, always peach.

And the size of a small spare tire, eight or nine striations thick with sliced peaches, holding their form in tight but moist wedges. It’s the perfect pie.

Still in his own mind, Tim wants the pie. He walks this way and that around the hive of activity at the dinner counter. He can’t have the pie. Too many people occupy the counter seats. Too much work for the waitress behind the counter. No one is noticing him.

Then a pair of old women turn, cigarettes in their mouths.

Smiling, they say, “Time for pie?”

“Yes,” Tim says, slowly nodding.

Just then his older sister appears. She’s about two years his senior. He’s no longer in his head but in a sterile nursing home residence. The cards, flowers, stuffed animals, the whole bit. She has just walked into his room and suddenly stops. She has a shocked look on her face which gentles with a sympathetic awareness.

“No, Tim, it’s not time for pie,” she says with a condescending, sisterly voice – if that can be imagined.

Tim looks down at the pie and realizes he’s been eating his clock radio – literally, whacking pieces from it with a fork and knife and trying to devour it. He tastes the bits of plastic in his mouth. He doesn’t spit them out. He looks down at the clock. It’s still plugged into the wall socket.

Tim cries out with great disappointment, holding the clock from its electrical cord.

Fade to black or waking or whatever….

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof …

I like the spirit of this, but … “I am not worthy to receive you” does seem preferable from a Strunk & White perspective.

What the F#@% is an Aquasock?

In the 2006 offseason, the Spokane Indians baseball team began a process to redesign their logo and uniforms. As per tradition, they began by avoiding the use of any American Indian imagery, but early in the process of redesign, the Spokane Nation contacted the team about officially supporting the team. In the process, the tribe gave permission to the team to adopt subtle and tasteful imagery, in order to pay homage to the team’s history and new connection with the tribe. The cooperation, called “historic” by the team, included the creation of a secondary logo written in Salish, the traditional language of the tribe. [Source: Wikipedia]

If I were Paul Elie…

…I sure as heck wouldn’t be blogging, now would I? Seriously, I would follow my book The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage, which interwove the lives of American Catholic writers Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton, with an English sequel, giving the same treatment to Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Muriel Spark, and Alec Guinness. Every time I think I’m really over being any sort of Anglophile, I come across some new bit of goodness. Last week, it was Piers Paul Read’s Guinness bio, which opens with the line, “My mother was a whore…”

File under: things I’d do if I weren’t a hack journalist.

"No Beber"

This was the sign in the gents’ room at CoolRay field, where we saw the Gwinnett Braves defeat the Norfolk Tides 7 to 2.

Cousin Paul: “Does that mean I can’t just splash a little on my face before I leave?”

Facebook Exchange: Guns & God

Rufus McCain saw a car today with four bumper stickers: 1. “I’m heavily armed and easily pissed off”; 2. “God is awesome”; 3. “In guns we trust”; 4. “God loves you”

Adrienne O’Doherty likes this.

Alex Martini God may love you…. but I keel you!!! LOL (Achmed the Dead Terrorist)

Marcus Carver Either a very ironic funny man or a seriously disturbed and conflicted man. But definitely a man.

Felix Arnold Must be one of the “alleluia and pass the ammunition!” crowd. Comforting to know islam does not have a monopoly on armed fanatics.

Shelby McMorris Pretty confident who you’d stand behind in a fight. I’d take the God fearing, proud to be a gun owner, American citizen any day.

And seriously, comparing him to an armed Islam fanatic? Really? One would do everything to fight for you the other wants to cut off your head.

Adrienne O’Doherty OH GAWD. Let the eyerolling begin.

Rufus McCain Marcus: I thought the same thing. But when I pulled up alongside *him* at a red light, being very careful not to piss anyone off, the driver turned out to be a very mild looking lady with an Indian feather thing hanging from the rearview mirror. Maybe the bumper stickers are his and hers.

Kathryn Kafka Wow. That’s pretty funny! 🙂

Felix Arnold OK, equating this particular person with a armed fanatic (of any sort) is an exaggeration because I really don’t know that this person is a fanatic. (Certainly declaring “God is awesome” isn’t fanatical.) I was admittedly taking the opportunity to express my point that an armed fanatic is an armed fanatic, irregardless of their faith. (BTW, I would not want any armed fanatic “fighting for me”, even if – no – especially if, they claim to share my faith.)

Rufus – remain on the cautious side and don’t underestimate mild looking ladies. She could be armed!

Clementine Miranda Poe his and hers! that would be awesome.

Johanna McCain Definitely a one car “mixed” marriage!

Thadeus McCain schizophrenia or some other undiagnosed mental illness aka “Glen Beck groupie”.

Lawrence Armstrong Hey….That’s my Momma’s car.

Maria Martini @ Shelby – it’s a comedy routine, relax!

Nannette Johnson Dalloway Just saw this quote and thought of that car: “It is time we circled the wagons, pulled out the artillery, rolled up our sleeves, and readied ourselves to be tough with the devil.” Rod Parsley

Johanna McCain The problem is: who is the devil? Your devil may not be my devil.

Thadeus McCain Maybe just a blantant case of sarcasm.

Corrina Wilder rofl at the stickers and all the comments! Love ya’ll!!

Saul Bellow to Philip Roth

Another great moment in the latest issue of the New Yorker:

December 12, 1969

Dear Philip:

Your Note [about “Mr. Sammler’s Planet”] did me a lot of good, though I haven’t known what or how to answer. Of course the so-called fabricators will be grinding their knives. They have none of that ingenuous, possibly childish love of literature you and I have. They take a sort of Roman engineering view of things: grind everything to rubble and build cultural monuments on this foundation from which to fly the Bullshit flag.

Anyway, it pleases me greatly that you liked “Sammler.” There aren’t many people in the trade for whom I have any use. But I knew when I hit Chicago (was it twelve years ago?) and read your stories that you were the real thing. When I was a little kid, there were still blacksmiths around, and I’ve never forgotten the ring of a real hammer on a real anvil.

Do you like Woodstock? I lived across the river for eight years. Was it living? But the place was not to blame. It was beautiful.


Overheard in the Korrektiv Hot Tub

“This place used to have class … now it’s going down the drain along with the rest of the world.” – Quin Finnegan

Today in Porn, Hollywood Edition

“My childhood dreams and fantasies came from the movies, and the images created in Hollywood had a major influence on my life and Playboy. As I’ve said before, the Hollywood sign is Hollywood’s Eiffel Tower and I am pleased to help preserve such an important cultural landmark.”

Mama was busy last night…

…I married my wife for her dough.

Prose, Pros and Cons, and Con Jobs in the Future of Publishing

These sorts of articles on the future of publishing are becoming a standard feature in newspapers and magazines. To my ears it seems a little like it might have been like in Rome, circa 450 AD. The latest at The New Yorker includes this choice quotation:

Publishing exists in a continual state of forecasting its own demise; at one major house, there is a running joke that the second book published on the Gutenberg press was about the death of the publishing business.

To avert this demise, publishers are coming up with new ways of finding buyers, which is now actually the old way, or at least a fairly standard way of buying music or movies or “other media”.

In [ executive] Grandinetti’s view, book publishers—like executives in other media—are making the same mistake the railroad companies made more than a century ago: thinking they were in the train business rather than the transportation business. To thrive, he believes, publishers have to reimagine the book as multimedia entertainment. David Rosenthal, the publisher of Simon & Schuster, says that his company is racing “to embed audio and video and other value-added features in e-books. It could be an author discussing his book, or a clip from a movie that touches on the book’s topic.” The other major publishers are working on similar projects, experimenting with music, video from news clips, and animation. Publishers hope that consumers will be willing to pay more for the added features. The iPad, Rosenthal says, “has opened up the possibility that we are no longer dealing with a static book. You have tremendous possibilities.”

It remains an open question whether consumers accustomed to paying $9.99 for an e-book will be willing to pay $13.99, or more, regardless of extras. Tim O’Reilly, the e-books publisher, has found that the lower the price the more books he sells. O’Reilly’s company sells e-books as apps for the iPhone for $4.95, and he says that they generate “a lot more volume” and profit than his company loses in hardcover sales.

Is this a good thing? Haven’t we seen this sort of thing before, or is Jeff Bezos Dr. Evil?

Publishers’ concerns about Amazon are reminiscent of their worries about Barnes & Noble, which in the eighties began producing its own books, causing publishers a great deal of anxiety without much affecting their business. Unlike Barnes & Noble, though, Amazon generates more than half of its revenues—which total about twenty-five billion dollars a year—from products other than books. Many publishers believe that Amazon looks upon books as just another commodity to sell as cheaply as possible, and that it sees publishers as dispensable. “Don’t forget,” the chief of a publishing house said, “Bezos has declared that the physical book and bookstores are dead.”

Read more:

Good Things Come in Threes, Ersatz Superheroes Edition

Michael Rapaport in Special, 2006.

Woody Harrelson in Defendor, 2009.

Nicolas Cage in Kick-Ass, 2010.

(Which, as a Catholic schoolgirl, I always thought was a dick move on God’s part.)

Abraham’s Twig & Berries…

At the grave of Conrad Aiken

I’m in Georgia this week visiting relatives, and recently read John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil as a way of getting ready for our trip to the city. It’s a good book and a great introduction to a the fourth largest port in the U.S., one of the weirdest murder trials I’ve ever heard of, and a cast featuring transvestites, great American songwriters, and lunatics who manage to make the most out of bad lives as respectable poets. I’m not a huge fan of Conrad Aiken, and the chapter on the poet’s life describes events so awful you want to forgive the poor man for lines such as these:

Mary climbed up the hill to seek her son,
To lower him down from the cross, and kiss
The mauve wounds, every one.

I fixed onto it because of “Cosmos”, which figures in the Walker Percy title and in our conversation over the last few days about Hawking and whether or not we should try to talk to aliens. I don’t recall any direct references to Aiken by Percy, but after reading about the poet, I wonder whether he isn’t a good fit for Percy’s ideas, expressed in various places, about the messy lives of so many writers and their life long love affairs with Death.

My aunt and uncle are the perfect people to tag along with on a visit to Savannah, and to this grave in particular. She (like the rest of my mother’s family) is a Jehovah’s Witness who sees Armageddon in the storms raging across the South for the last few days; he’s a retired lawyer, an atheist or at least a Clarence Darrow type who’s been defending both Evolution and the First Ammendment – if only from his wife – for the last 50 years. He’s also an even bigger fan of bourbon than me, and we’ve managed to soak up a gallon of Maker’s Mark over the weekend.

Anyway, here’s the pertinent excerpt from Berendt’s book:

Aiken kept pretty much to himself. He politely declined most invitations. He said he needed the time for his work. Quite often, though, he and his wife would come out here and sit for an hour or so. They’d bring a shaker of martinis and silver goblets and talk to his departed parents and pour libations to them.”

Miss Harty raised her goblet and touched it to mine. A pair of mockingbirds conversed somewhere in the trees. A shrimp boat passed at slow speed.

“Aiken loved to come here and watch the ships go by,” she said. “One afternoon, he saw one with the name Cosmos Mariner painted on the bow. That delighted him. The word ‘cosmos” appears often in his poetry, you know. That evening he went home and looked for mention of the Cosmos Mariner in the shipping news. There it was, in tiny type on the list of ships in port. The name was followed by the comment ‘Destination Unknown.’ That pleased him even more.

“Where is Aiken buried?” I asked. There were no other gravestones in the enclosure.

“Oh, he’s here,” she said. “In fact, we are very much his personal guests at the moment. It was Aiken’s wish that people should come to this beautiful place after he died and drink martinis and watch the ships just as he did. He left a gracious invitation to that effect. He had his gravestone built in the shape of a bench.”

An involuntary reflex propelled me to my feet. Miss Harty laughed, and then she too stood up. Aiken’s name was inscribed on the bench, along with the words COSMOS MARINER, DESTINATION UNKNOWN.

Read the whole thing, especially if you ever go to Savannah.

San Diego, Downtown, April 2010