. . . 2001-01-23 . . . The Hotsy Totsy Club
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Our Beloved

Percy Dovetonsils

January 23, 1919 - Never in our hearts

Beloved Child, Parent, Common-Law Spouse, Sponge, Poet, Acquaintance

"I am big. It's the magazines that got little."

. . . 2001-01-24


. . . 2001-01-26

More Poetry, Mom!

(Translate into Hindustani)

(1) The Sun was setting. (2) The waves of the sea were tossing. (3) Lalita was singing a song. (4) Saroj was wreathing garland. (5) A calf was jumping in the court-yard. (6) A gardener was making a nosegay. (7) My head was aching at that time. (8) We were catching glow-worms. (9) The girls were not reading. (10) They were cutting jokes among themselves. (11) A dog was coming from the opposite side. (12) Were you sleeping? (13) A cook was making arrangement for the dinner. (14) The people on all sides were looking at the game with wonder. (12) Akbar was waiting for an opportunity to defeat (to humble) Birbal.

The writer of my favorite single poem of the past five years is unknown, but all that really matters in the Digital Millenium is the property owner -- and, fortunately for us, that owner is Juliet Clark. We thank her for her generous donation.

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Knowing our fondness for the Chinese literary tradition of relyricized tunes, Jonathan Lethem forwards a link to this useful on-line anthology. The Divine Hand will guide you to your own kind of music and your own special song; mine own is assuredly "Hey! Hey! We're not Monkeys!", although "In Heaven There Is No Walrus" makes some good points.

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Poets swear by the Hotsy Totsy Club:  
Stumbled onto your site today --
Where has my lumbago gone?
Thank God it has not steamed away --
Oh, lubricate my joints!
I have no further thing to say --
Rosy-fingered comes the dawn!
No gloom but that will have its Ray --
As Crohn my bowels annoints.
- Maynard Bucksballs Quintor

. . . 2001-01-28

Safety net as fishing tackle

I rely on words to get by, and when they fail me, they do so in a tangle: occasionally (mercifully rarely, these years), it seems that the wrong words have brought me into a situation so fraught that more words are desperately called for even though all I can find are more wrong words. I force a consonant out, or, when luckier, a vowel (less grating), and then stop, appalled at the inadequacy of what I'd planned to follow it with, race (a one-legged race in a burning building) through alternative follow-ons, find none of use, and go back to the first phoneme.

This quivering strangled stammer is rarely successful at easing whatever tensions triggered it in the first place. All that can be done is nothing: to let the web slacken.

Fig. 25

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Safety net as trampoline

After receiving an offer of emotional support, we often seem irresistibly tempted to determine its tensile strength experimentally.

. . . 2001-01-31

Fig. 42 42-Ulp

I figured this would be a low-key, even muffled, birthday. Who cares about 42?

So I wake up around 1 AM and realize that 42 is 3 times 14. So this is the end of my third fourteen-year cycle. So I start thinking about when I was 14 and when I was 28.

14 was when my father retired from the Navy and we moved from Chesapeake, Virginia, and its big integrated schools to a little all-white town in rural Missouri and its underfunded all-grades-in-one-building school. My first class was with the eldritch Miz Arms, a senile monster whose buttocks dangled past her ankles, who punished a miscreant by placing him in front of her chair under her desk (from whence we heard theatrical gasps, coughs, and scratchings), and who, after one of her frequent long silences, announced wistfully, staring out the window at some birds, "At least they have the instinct to stick to their own species." I read a lot of Bertrand Russell and the National Lampoon.

28 was my last full year in NYC and, in retrospect, uncomplicatedly blissful in a way I'm unlikely to see again. DINKs on the Lower East Side -- what's not to bliss? It's hard to pick details out, but that might've been when I introduced Laura Yanagi to comics by giving her a couple of issues of Love & Rockets.

So then I start trying hard to pick out more details because I realize that a sonnet has 14 lines, and so I should do a sonnet sequence with each sonnet devoted to one of these years.

So I ended up not getting much sleep before my birthday, but I still got too much sleep to do a sonnet sequence.

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Personal to Earl Jackson, Jr. - The Nairobi Trio's signature tune was "Solfeggio."

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Movie Comment: George Washington

This and All the Pretty Horses and The Virgin Suicides may herald a new film sub-genre: American Gothic with the humor taken out, or American Goth. For all those folks who thought Luis Buñuel and Flannery O'Connor could've been really important artists if they'd only quit clowning around.

Today's Closure Special!

"Then [David Green] saw Terrence Malick's Days Of Heaven. 'I think it deals with so many subtleties of emotion in a natural and yet dramatic and visceral and surreal way,' he says. 'I saw it when I was probably 14. It changed my life.'"

Apparently nothing else ever would: somewhere during the first three minutes of his movie, I thought, "Is this guy trying to rip off Days of Heaven?" and sometime during the next three minutes, I thought, "Yeah. But why?"

. . . 2001-02-02

TV Comment: "The Replacement" - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

There's a type of male bonding that begins with Calibanism and ends in narcissism: The sheer blatancy of the overlap between our faults brings on mutual hostility (possibly due to a mutual fear of disclosure), whereas continued exposure reassures us that these faults are often found not only forgivable but charming. Which is a delightful thing to learn. For a while, anyway; in my experience, this particular type of friendship doesn't have much staying power.

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42, cont.

Dr. Justine Larbalestier adds it up: "Plus that's how old Elvis was when he karked it. That'd have me thinking plenty."

. . . 2001-02-04

Good Is Dead

From Rose Macaulay's 1956 novel, The Towers of Trebizond:

And, while I am on sin, I have often thought that it is a most strange thing that this important part of human life, the struggle that almost every one has about good and evil, cannot now be talked of without embarrassment, unless of course one is in church. It goes on just the same as it always has.... But now you cannot talk about it when it is your own struggle, you cannot say to your friends that you would like to be good, they would think you were going Buchmanite, or Grahamite, or something else that you would not like at all to be thought. Once people used to talk about being good and being bad, they wrote about it in letters to their friends, and conversed about it freely: the Greeks did this, and the Romans, and then, after life took a Christian turn, people did it more than ever, and all through the Middle Ages they did it, and through the Renaissance, and drama was full of it, and heaven and hell seemed for ever around the corner, with people struggling on the borderlines and never knowing which way it was going to turn out, and in which of these two states they would be spending their immortality, and this led to a lot of conversation about it all, and it was extremely interesting and exciting. And they went on talking about their conflicts all through the seventeenth and eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and James Boswell, who of course was even more interested in his own character and behaviour than most people are, wrote to his friends, "My great object is to attain a proper conduct in life. How sad will it be if I turn out no better than I am!" and the baronet he wrote this to did not probably think it peculiar.... But they went on like this through most of the nineteenth century, even when they were not evangelicals or tractarians or anything like that, and nineteenth century novels are full of such interesting conversations, and the Victorian agnostics wrote to one another about it continually, it was one of their favorite topics, for the weaker they got on religion the stronger they got on morals, which used to be the case more than now.

I am not sure when all this died out, but it has become very dead.

The opportunity to be explicit (even unto melodrama) about one's morality was one of the great enticements of the Haverford philosophy department, and seems to me one of the main benefits obtained by my born-again acquaintances. Although, as the citation of Boswell reminds us, talking about ethics has about as much to do with behaving ethically as talking about being a writer has to do with writing.

. . . 2001-02-08

Movie Comment: Shadow of the Vampire

Remarkable re-creation of a 1960s Roger Corman production -- slapdash editing, fancy lighting, funny actors, crude gags, crude pretensions, pretty scenery, period caricatures, ooky blood, motiveless screaming bitch, and Eddie Izzard slipping into Dick Miller's sandals -- but finally fatally lost by throwing the tragically-obsessed part away on a stiff who spends the whole picture wondering where he mislaid his accent. If only Vincent Price wasn't under exclusive contract to The Simpsons, they really could've had something....

. . . 2001-02-09

A nice cool glass eliminate

Lawrence L. White seems a bit harsh on D. A. Boxwell's gallant defense of Rose Macaulay:

Irrespective of the novels' comparative merits, "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is a much snappier title than "And No Man's Wit." I can't get from "and" to "no" without adding an "uh" & sounding like Chico Marx. & since when is the Air Force Academy an exemplar for higher education in the humanities?
Well, being as Boxwell is a Professor of English at the Air Force Academy, I think it would be impolitic of him to claim otherwise. And Boxwell's topic is comparative war fiction, after all. And Chico was Freedonia's Secretary of War, after all.... Still, there's really no excuse for the background image on that page.

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Continuing our schedule of Irony Supplements ("Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman"), we happened to intercept a note being passed along the unruly back rows:

"Irony is a way for [a weirdo] to put himself down without it looking like he's putting himself down."
Biographically that's insightful, but it might make for misleading critical generalizations. Irony is a narrative approach applicable to many different types of story. It just so happens that the stories I'm most comfortable telling are more-or-less first person.

The imagination of egocentric drama queens like Stendhal or Byron rarely strays far from the self-as-hero, and so their irony is worn form-fitting and pointy-side-in, whereas a less self-obsessed sort like Karen Joy Fowler is apt to seem much less masochistic about the whole venture.

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Dangling syllogism

Being mortal, I suppose other men die.

. . . 2001-02-14

Valentine Special: Free Mind, Ass, and Love

Mother Wit is all you get in your livelong, your livelong livelong life. But for a more limited time -- a few days, let's say -- you can also get George Clinton's magisterial meditation on Athena and Eros, "Never Buy Texas From a Cowboy" (14MB MP3), wherein the goddess of comedy (as incarnated by The Brides of Funkenstein) cheerily reproves the goddess of Cosmic Slop.

. . . 2001-02-10

Science News

What's your Cypress Knee IQ?

. . . 2001-02-16

From Synthetic Zero:

"I recall reading a story about a foreigner who was in Tokyo during one of the firebombings, and these Japanese women were watching the fires and explosions from the window of their paper house. And so they exclaimed, 'kirei-na!' (how pretty!) It's not that they were airheads who didn't know what was happening to them, but the Japanese attitude about such things is that one should accept even the worst disaster as what it is --- because there's no point in pretending or hoping it isn't happening when it manifestly is."
Horrible I remember when I was a holier-than-thou kid struggling with my reaction to aestheticized horror (which holier-than-thou Christianity offers in plenty but with monopolistic intent) -- like a dog cringing because it imagined killing a sheep. And I guess I still sometimes find myself having to consciously work out these distinctions....

The consequences of aesthetic/ethical confusion aren't always so passive. Like when working or semi-pro artists get into the habit of producing new real-life horrors just so's to have another opportunity to represent them. Mainstream American poetry might think it's redeeming horrific experience; to me it looks more like it's rhetoricizing self-righteousness and a rather toothless remorse, both of 'em easily replenishable resources.

So I gotta disagree with Geegaw's saying William Logan's latest hissy fit "is all wrong": it's right that the hissed-at poets are overrated (insofar as poets get any ratings) and that the quoted poetry stinks. But explaining why it stinks, that's where things fall apart. When a currency's so debased that the only people who care about it are forgers and numismatists, critical judgment comes down to stuff like "It's heavy and shiny!" or "This doesn't match the rest of my collection!" And when Logan wants to balance antagonism with some grudging praise, he proffers the Sax-Rohmeresque:

... In the town center
of Kwangju, there was a late October market fair.
Some guy was barbecuing halfs of baby chicks on a long, sooty contraption
of a grill, slathering them with soy sauce.
Baby chicks.
I agree with Logan that these are "memorable lines": "Did you hear me? BABY DUCKS!" But he also calls them "direct and discomforting" instead of "hilarious bathos," so I don't think I'll be going on a shopping spree any time soon....


On my only day off for the last two weeks of February, I visited the inspiring and inspiriting Joe Brainard show at UC Berkeley's art museum (a little room packed to the gills with lovely bustle -- may we someday have a Brainard Memorial Mansion packed to the gills with such little rooms). More than any other late-20th-century artist I know of, Brainard created for the sheer consummating-and-fecund love of artifact. Sings like a fucking bird.

Not an easy bird to spot, either. Although I expect to expound more after my return visits in March and April, here's early notice so that other San Francisco Bay Area clubmembers can have their own shot at multiple visits.

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

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