. . . 2000-08-06 . . . The Hotsy Totsy Club
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Responses welcomed

Addenda

David Auerbach writes:

Regarding "Scrooge McClock," I can't resist bringing up Barks' "Heirloom Watch" story, where the gears of time dictate nature; if a 200-year-old watch says that the next solar eclipse will be in two minutes, despite all scientific predictions to the contrary, the eclipse will still happen, courtesy of a previously unknown planet. Scrooge to Gyro: "Be sure to tune up the part that predicts the eclipses of the sun!"
And old-timey readers might like to know that our Boy! What a Girl text has been spiced up with a shot of "Slam" Stewart bowing the bass and a page of jitterbugging stills (oxymoron intended).

. . . 2000-08-07

So I was collecting the empties from under my desk yesterday when what should I find but a previously unpublished installment of Constance Kandle's Nonprofit Chronicles featuring Bossy the Clown! It may not be so timely anymore but Kandle sacrificed her life to capture this story and the least you can do is read it.

Bossy the Optimist

From Bossy's recent report to the agency that funds The Big Project:

"Also in this grant period, Constance Kandle attended a professional conference. This was a valuable experience, as it confirmed that all of the methodologies used in The Big Project are correct and in conformance with national standards.

"We have also been involved in discussions with authorities on the evolving legal issues that impact our Project, and we are confident that everything will turn out in our favor."

(Constance would have suggested some revisions to these paragraphs, but Bossy asked for comments on this draft of the report five minutes before it was due to be picked up by Federal Express. )

. . . 2000-08-08

Stewart forwards another or two Word of the Days:
Ray, did you already know "sprezzatura"? Wonderful word. Hypothecations is also good.
For the benefit of the incognoscenti, "Sprezzatura" is a curiously refreshing artichoke-flavored carbonated beverage; I credit a chilled bottle with literally saving my life during one hot afternoon walk down from the Fiesole hills. Sprezzatura is sold in crude glass replicas of architectural and sculptural masterpieces which are almost as collectible in Italy as beer cans are in the USA!

Hypothecations derives from hypo ("below") plus thecate ("cover"); thus, "underwear." For example, technically speaking, the Venus de Milo wears hypothecations -- but not much else! Ha ha ha ha! As another example, the OED cites "the hypothecated jewels had been rifled." Ouch! Ha ha ha ha! -- excuse me, please, I'll be right back....

Bevete!

. . . 2000-08-18

on Software   Cholly on Software
On Managing Software

Goddamned kindergarten world
My geekiest college friends lived together one year off-campus, in a condo-like complex rented out both to students and to real people with families and jobs. Which could be rough on the real people, families, and jobs. Once when my geeky friends were coming home, probably while working out all possible variants of a Monty Python sketch, they met one of their neighbors leaving for work; as respective doors closed, they heard him mutter "Goddamned kindergarten world."

I used to think that I'd wind up as one of those sweaty guys you see pushing their way around the city muttering nonsensical obscenities nonstop under and occasionally way over their breath. But now I'm starting to think maybe I'll wind up just muttering "Goddamned kindergarten world" nonstop instead.

Or, what do you think, maybe I could do both? Like, one mutter for interiors and the other for commuting?

. . . 2000-08-19

A Long Happy Life in Literature,
as Told by a Slip of Paper Tucked into My Copy of
Lewis Warsh's Information from the Surface of Venus

CORRECTIONS

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Addenda

A reader writes:

sprezzatura -- reminds one of Cel-Ray...
Although Cel-Ray provides a perfect name for my consulting business, Cynar-and-seltzer more closely approximates the taste of Sprezzatura, much like dark rum and Calistoga Black Cherry Flavor Sparkling Mineral Water approximates (from above) the taste of Coca-Cola.

. . . 2000-08-20

There's no denying the mythic catchiness of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe. And there's no admitting his possibility. Just where would a glib dumb prissy pushy tall dark handsome breast-beating alcoholic intellectual low-brow heterosexual urban nostalgic two-fisted prose stylist idealist spring from? Los Angeles? Regretfully, no. And how would he make a living? As a private detective? I think not. Marlowe can only be explained as a self-loathing writer's pastless futureless power fantasy, who springs only from a book and makes a living only in books.

Which entices moviemakers into a dried river bank surrounded by giant ants, n'est-ce pas, cherie? Movies are supposed to be able to handle detectives; it says so right here in my Popular Culture Handbook. But how can the movies straightfacedly present such an unjustifiable character? ("With Cary Grant" is the best answer, but Chandler didn't manage to talk the studio into it.)

The first successful Chandler adaptations saved themselves by keeping some snappy lines and imagery and ditching the leading man: Edward Dmytryk's "Marlowe" reverts to sleazy Hammett-style professionalism and Howard Hawks's "Marlowe" anticipates James Bond's irresistable aplomb.

Less successful as film but more interesting as critique, two later adaptations tossed out the easy stuff like Chandler's dialog in favor of Chandler's essential oddity. Proving again that hostility towards one's source material is the healthiest stance for a director, Robert Altman's attempt to destroy Marlowe is cinema's first real tribute to the character. The Elliott Gould "Marlowe" could be an aging trust-fund kid who's retreated into fantasy, but there's no way of knowing for sure; the movie preserves his inexplicability while giving it a believable presentation (this Marlowe is as passive, inarticulate, threadbare, and isolated as most self-deluded personalities) and environment (this Los Angeles is too universally self-absorbed to take notice of any particular citizen's delusions). And Sterling Hayden's towering and toppling "Roger Wade" is just the self-loathing powerful writer to shove the Chandler subtext explicitly into our face and down our throats where it belongs.

The only movie ever influenced by The Long Goodbye was The Big Lebowski, a hoot-and-a-half in which Altman's ego-gored hostility is replaced by the Coen Bros.' aimless playing around. Since Jeff Bridges' character pretty much shares their attitude, the result is the most warm-heartedly engaged take on "Philip Marlowe" yet, even if there's not much Brotherly affection left over for any of the other characters....

For a long time -- like, a really long time, let's not even go there -- I've dreamt about my own fully explicated version of a Chandler detective: he's a paranoid schizophrenic who's assigned cases by the voices in his head and whose secretary / leg-man is his pet parakeet. But I have a hard time writing fiction so I've never committed this dream to print. Probably just as well.

Perhaps a similar dream prodded at young Jonathan Lethem, who came up with an admirably tailored science-fiction-y explanation for the Chandleresque narrator of Motherless Brooklyn: Tourette's syndrome. The gap between the narrator's careful prose style and his hit-me-harder banter? Tourette's syndrome affects speech and not writing. The narrator's weirdly monastic dedication to the case? Tourette's syndrome is associated with obsessive-compulsive behavior. His inability to sustain a sexual relationship? Say no more. If anything, it's too well-tailored: even the narrator eventually notices the snug fit, but, of course, is able to explain that explaining his every trait as a symptom of Tourette's syndrome is actually just another symptom of Tourette's syndrome. Clothes make the man if you're selling clothes, syndromes make the character if you're selling pop psychology, but a novel's air gets kind of stuffy by the end....

Which also counts as a Chandleresque effect: Chandler's The Long Goodbye was more like The Long Squirm in a Pinching Suit (but in an interesting way, if you know what I mean), and I could never spend more than a couple of minutes in Playback without rushing back outside for a breather....

. . . 2000-08-21

Continental Divide

Excerpts from a poem by Frank O'Hara

what does San Francisco have
that we don't have
a volunteer Fire Department and a Skid Row
you're like a wall that shuts out all the sunshine from the park
I don't want to be but I am

Look, a knife has just dropped into the ocean.

Frank O'Hara
Jack Spicer Excerpts from a letter by Jack Spicer

any letter written from/to NYC is full of worms.

They made it utterly impossible to identify God. They purged history of contemporary reference.

Religion is the shadow of the obvious. On holidays you can see the shadow that the thing casts.

When you rush bravely against the mirror shouting 'This is also my universe' you are likely merely to get a bloody nose. That surface has no patience with violence.

... the violence of the impatient artist

. . . 2000-08-22

The Media Question of the Month (and potential Word of the Day) was raised by Joseph Gallivan in the New York Post:

On hearing last week that Freenet was on hit list of Hilary Rosen and the RIAA to be shut down, Clarke laughed. ".... any legal action against me would be just as ridiculous as taking legal action against the manufacturer of women's [pantyhose] that were used in a bank robbery. Both Freenet and women's [pantyhose] provide anonymity to those who use them."
So what word or phrase do you reckon is hiding behind the "[pantyhose]" brackets? I hope it's a dirty word for pantyhose, 'cause I've been wanting one bad!

. . . 2000-08-23

Today we're proud and kinda sad to present the final episode of Juliet Clark's "The Dream Factory". Let's hope that her subject has infected Clark with a touch of sequelitis....

THE DREAM FACTORY

Hold Your Man (1933)

When I was an actress, in the early 1930s, I played a girl in love. In this movie I wanted to marry you, but social issues kept getting in the way. Labor struggles, for example: once we had a wedding, but the minister had to go out on strike before he could put the ring on my finger. We chased him through the halls of the apartment building and into the street, but lost him in the crowd of striking preachers. After that you got disillusioned about marriage and started dating other people, including a tall, dark and sullen girl who worked at the candy counter with me. (I used to be a lot smaller and blonder back then.) We all went out to dinner at a restaurant, and to teach you a lesson I decided to disguise myself as the waitress. I became even smaller and blonder, and more intriguing; everyone wanted to dance with me. But you kept getting distracted, and eventually I was so discouraged I turned into a piece of candy in a plastic box. Not a very appealing candy, either -- I was lumpy and misshapen, and my chocolate coating was a pale streaky brown. However, the minister eventually returned from the picket line and offered to finish the ceremony. We all met again at the restaurant and the preacher got ready to put the ring on my hand, but it was so huge it fell right off again. So the minister had to run to the restaurantís coal-burning stove, melt the ring down, and re-shape it to fit my dainty finger. I thought things might fall through again at any moment. I thought, "This wedding is even more suspenseful than the one in Hold Your Man!" (Although this movie was otherwise pretty dissimilar. I was less glamorous than Jean Harlow, and not in a reformatory.) But finally the wedding was complete, and we were both overcome with joy -- all our doubts and struggles were past. You gazed into my eyes and told me, "Now youíll be my lover forever. Though you might not realize it yet, youíre going to die soon. But youíll be a beautiful ghost, my beautiful lover from beyond the grave, so you see nothing will ever change." Thatís what I call a happy ending.

2000-08-24

The Mirror Tableau
All which our ordinary Students, right well perceiving in the Universities how unprofitable these Poetical, Mathematical, and Philosophical Studies are, how little respected, how few Patrons, apply themselves in all haste to those three commodious Professions of Law, Physick, and Computer Science, sharing themselves between them, rejecting these Arts in the mean time, History, Philosophy, Philology, or lightly passing them over, as pleasant toys fitting only table talk, and to furnish them with discourse. They are not so behoveful: he that can tell his money hath Arithmetick enough : he is a true Geometrician, can measure out a good fortune to himself; a perfect Astrologer, that can cast the rise and fall of others, and mark their errant motions to his own use. The best Opticks are to reflect the beams of some great man's favour and grace to shine upon him. He is a good Engineer that alone can make an instrument to get preferment.
-- The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton

... an' anotha thing ...... then again ...

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
All other material: Copyright 2000 Ray Davis.