. . . 2000-11-11 . . . The Hotsy Totsy Club
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Elegy for a Friend or Family Member

We both knew when I snubbed you,
Or stole from you, or lied,
Or hit you, I was thinking
Of th'embittered tragic poem I'd someday write.

Well, here it is! And you know what?
It turned out pretty nice.

-- A. D.

  David Auerbach supplements our Neuraesthetics Writerly FAQs:
"Writing has served, for authors from Rilke to Fitzgerald, as a way to make safe concessions without having to make them to anyone -- to give them an out for self-recrimination and self-doubt that does not have to manifest itself in any concrete way, allowing the social persona that may have discomfitted them to continue on its way. The depression would come from this containment, an only half-expressed portrayal of misery that they can't permit to overflow its literary bounds. Hence, I'd say, why so many writers are jerks in spite of being depressives. And partially (to answer a third question) why so many writers mistake cruelty for honesty."

. . . 2000-11-13

Science News from Fjord Norge AS Travel Guide 2000:

Solving the mysteries of the fjords

How did the fjords come to be here in the first place? It's a question often asked as your cruise boat rounds a spectacular corner and another incredible vista unfolds in front of you and above you. But the fact is that there were no fjords in the first place.

And more science news from this month's conference of The Society for Neuroscience as reported by The New Scientist:

. . . 2000-11-14

Cascade Desolation
"In the muddle of my life, I became lost in a dark wood...."
  Bound and determined

When I was a kid, I tried to do what I was supposed to. In my twenties, I tried to do what I thought of. In my thirties, I tried to do what I felt like. Now I try to do what I can.

It's at least as much a shift in perception as in performance. I used to get upset over questions like "When will he finish that second volume?" or "Why does she keep writing those puky songs?" or "How dast he stop weblogging?" Instead nowadays I figure anyone who makes something probably had nothing as their only other option.

- photo by J. Clark

. . . 2000-11-15

The Red Pencil of Courage

The innate human need to muck around lies behind most revised-and-corrected editions, but it's an unusual editor these days that explicitly relies on whim: modern scholars figure they have to follow some explicitly stated rule instead.

Which just passes the burden of whimsicality on to historical gaps in one direction and on to the purchaser in the other. Do we choose the last thing that we're pretty sure the author had their personal hands on? Or the last thing there's no evidence of the author objecting to? Or do we throw everything up in the air and let the hapless reader pick and choose?

Stephen Crane was a fast and hungry writer who didn't seem too interested in yesterday's papers. So inasmuch as anyone cares to justify an editorial approach by biography rather than whim, the final extant manuscript of The Red Badge of Courage might have an edge over the final published version of The Red Badge of Courage. But whim will have its way, and the choice of editorial rule pretty much depends on which version the editor likes more. Henry Binder liked the one that was sent to the publisher; J. C. Levenson liked the pared-down one that got published.

An entire introspective chapter and big introspective chunks of others were taken out, mostly devoted to watching Henry Fleming's self-image swing from self-abasing flagellation to Byronic villainy and back again. Pretty funny stuff, but, yeah, repetitious over the long haul; if Crane had been interested in revision, these would've made good targets. But, more importantly, the mood of the book's last chapter was shifted from viciously ironic to inspiringly upbeat:

More than any of the restored cuts, the excision of this sentence makes me favor the Binder edition, because, more than anything else, this sentence is why I never much liked The Red Badge of Courage: it's the point at which Crane seemed to decide to give up his eccentric tough guy act and ride like thunder toward commercial success.

. . . 2000-11-16


A reader who wishes to remain anonymous queries re our most recent Science News:

Shouldn't that be "fnords"?
And Tom Parmenter wades into Election Madness with "a jump-rope rhyme for Florida's children by Montana Miller":
Butterfly, butterfly! Bush or Gore?
Count those ballots -- who got more?
My grandma went to the polls,
But she punched the wrong damn holes!
Who's the hero? Who's the goat?
How many times can grandma vote?
One, two, three, four. . . .
[If you mess up, recount: One, two. . . .]
He won't let go the apple

. . . 2000-11-17

Ah, we like sheep! (link via Geegaw)

Suddenly... But then...

. . . 2000-11-22

Marketing Ideas for Beggars in Highly Touristed Areas
first in a series
  • Deaf in Venice
  • Venetian Blind
  • My Mom Went To Venice And All I Got Was This Crummy Sign
  • Hard Rock Cafe

. . . 2000-11-23

Fac-simile Telegraph

A reproduction of a drawing made in pencil on common drawing-board, and sent through a wire by this apparatus. This very ingenious system is called the Fac-simile Telegraph. It has been tried between New York and Philadelphia, though not used as yet for commercial purposes. It is a system promising many advantages, because it gets rid of the Morse operators, and does away with the expense of copying the message.

  Science News from "The Telegraph of To-Day," Harper's New Monthly Magazine, October, 1881:

The needle at the transmitting end glides over the paper so long as the paper is smooth. When it meets the slight dent made by the lead-pencil tracing the message, it drops into the depression in the paper and closes the circuit by touching the fingers on the arm that supports it. The closing of the circuit makes a mark at the receiving end, and the aggregate of all the marks reproduces the message, be it words, plans, designs, or figures, exactly as it was drawn or written.

. . . 2000-11-29

Omission Statement

Intentionality is supposed to be a spur but a lot of the time it acts like a stall. Like, I decide what my next Hotsy Totsy entry is going to be. And then, every day, I decide that I don't quite feel like writing that particular entry, so I don't write anything. And then decide that I really can't email or phone people till it's done. And then that I really shouldn't have dessert till it's done. And so on to absolute zero.

What's even dumber than usual about this situation is that the Hotsy Totsy format was specifically designed to prevent it -- I was tired of consciously deciding on some fairly large project and then settling into a long glum staring contest with the decision, and wanted a project whose only spurs were of the moment. But goal-sitting is a habit that dies hard.

In fact, so many of us are so often found frozen in place with our hand on a doorknob that one might almost start to wonder if there's some higher purpose to it. Sort of like that theory that sleep evolved to keep us from walking off cliffs in the dark or getting eaten by nocturnal predators....

Actually, I think that's a silly theory.

. . . 2000-11-30

I dreamt I found in an early issue of the Acme Novelty Library a previously overlooked inset of "Underground Cartoons from Mainstream Publications," guest edited by Mark Newgarden. The one I opened to was a 1950s-New-Yorker-ish ink wash of two seals happily inspecting their new-fangled friendly-habitat zoo environment and a zookeeper explaining, "Of course, in autumn you'll be hunted down and slaughtered just like everyone else." I flipped back a couple of pages to a spidery line drawing of several groups of people standing on their balconies in a tall apartment building; the caption read "An Experiment in Directed Hearing" but I woke before I could figure out the joke.

+ + +

Without a strong hand at the till of the ship of state, our nation's copyeditors continue to run wild in the streets. From the very first issue of the Acme Novelty Library to the current Amazon bestseller, Jimmy Corrigan has remained consistently The Smartest Kid on Earth. But evidence collected by conspiracy theorist Juliet Clark suggests that over half of the newspapers who've responded with "Zoom! Bam! Pow! Comics Aren't Just For Geeks Anymore!" book reviews instead for some reason consistently refer to "The Smartest Kid in the World."

In the race to incompetence, San Francisco's own ChronEx wins by a bulbous red-veined nose. Directly beneath a large reproduction of a graphic containing the original title, it refers consistently to "The World's Smartest Kid," trimming Chris Ware's wordy epithet by a full 20%. Compare and contrast; let the voters decide!

  this second sort

. . . 2000-12-03


Spectators huddle closely ("otherwise you won't see anything but a blur") around a rickety flickering contraption tended by a woman with an odd accent. We bob and weave so's not to miss a single tawdry apparition, strain our ears to catch the wavering, trite, obscure, and thrilling message. The images shimmer like silver, or silverfish.

Effects were made the old-fashioned way: directly in the camera and shaken back out. The exaggerated planes of depth simulate, remarkably closely, late 19th century accounts and photographs of spiritualist triumphs: things appear at you -- ridiculously clunky handmades and hand-me-downs, what thrills in their appearance is precisely their undeniably transient appearance. (Yes, that's probably why polarized 3-D's used mostly for sex, but the match to spiritualism's even more uncanny.)

"Its light roupagem allowed that the beautiful azeitonada color of its neck, the shoulders, the arms and the ankles was seen very well. The long black and wavy hair went down for the shoulders until below of the chest and were tied by a species of teeny turban. Its feições were small, correct and gracious; the eyes were black, great and livings creature; all its movements were full of those infantile favours or as of a young gazela, when vi, shy and the determined one, among the curtains."

"The most convincing bio-pic since Man Ray, Man Ray!"


Narratologist Juliet Clark points out that statements like "The mystery is solved" are a wonderful way to end an autobiography, or any other story, especially if the explanation is incomprehensible. I liked Jim Thompson's "This World, Then the Fireworks" better when I was mystified by its undeniably conclusive final sentence than when I understood it.

Other suggestions for further reading:

  • Zoe Beloff's introductory remarks about the alarming concentration of spiritualist power in feminine hands and the extent to which the Victorian séance served as a outlet for bad behavior put me in mind, of course, of our dear friend Pooter.

  • The querulous tone of Elizabeth d'Espérance's voices from the other side -- like mean-spirited senile relatives -- was replicated a century later by Hannah Weiner's transcriptions. We don't cling to our dead because they have much to offer in the way of wisdom or personality. We cling to them because they're blood.

. . . 2000-12-04

Free and direct discourse

Speaking of William Wegman, I heard a great story about a Video Arts class at MIT this year (MIT has lots of arts -- its museum is where I saw "Piss Christ," for example -- it was unbelievably pretty) which showed that fat-frat-boy-or-Dad trick where the camera is focused on his tubby torso and he pulls his belly in and out in time to a soundtrack to make it look like his navel is whistling and humming and so on. So this student starts laughing, right?, and the teacher, like, completely yells at her for desecrating Wegman's wispy sensibilities with her philistine ignorance! I don't remember the exact wording, and it's not like I was there in the first place, but she got some speech about Wegman's concern with The Body and how she's supposed to be there to learn.... I guess if Wegman asked the prof to pull his finger, it would be a meditation on mortality.

. . . 2000-12-05

Hotsy Totsy readers ask the tough questions that THEY don't want you to think about:

What is your website about anyway? I was surfing for poetry and came across some stuff on your site, and discovered the rest of it. It was weird. But cool. How old are you and what inspired/possessed you to make that site? Me and my friends were just wondering. Write back as soon as you can k? thanks! BYE!

. . . 2000-12-06

Movie Comment

"Hello, Governor?"

"There's no need to get snippy."

Is Al finally beaten?

No way!
He's just going Underground.


As the latest in our continuing series of abdicated responsibilities, we're pleased as punk to announce that Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 has set up an official band-owned-and-operated website. Now they'll get rich for sure!

Aside from the obvious value of the reference material, I find there also Anne Eickelberg's tour diaries and (indirectly) account of life in the big leagues, and (also indirectly) a live performance video that I haven't seen yet 'cause my network connection has been down for two weeks....

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

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