. . . 2000-10-28 . . . The Hotsy Totsy Club
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A Ticket to Copenhagen

From Hans Christian Andersen's "The Millenium" (1853):

They will come on wings of steam, the young citizens of America will fly through the air, across the great ocean, to visit old Europe....

"There's so much to see in Europe," the young Americans will say. "And we have seen it all in a week, just as the famous guidebook promised we could. Then they will discuss the author of the book which they all will have read: Europe Seen in Seven Days.

. . . 2000-10-29

Progress Report

Our readers are outnumbered but determined, god bless 'em! Here's a new harvest of suggestions for our

New Name & New Logo
Mush Love Splattered mash potatoes on a mirror
The Bluebeard of Happiness George Steiner's wedding album
On the Take Misappropriated Monopoly artwork
(actually, I like that as a name...)
Pukin' Dogs Sans Reproache

Dumbmonkey reminds us that "there also happens to be a Blue Moon Saloon [née Wanda's] now on San Pablo." And a suave reader-of-the-world exclaims "Hoity Toity a la croix a l'air vachement formidable! Felicitations!"

Oh, Mother, I simply cahn't choose -- cahn't we have them all?

. . . 2000-10-30

Famous Ballads Illustrated: The Parting Glass

O, all the money e'er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm that ever I've done,
Alas, it was to none but me.
And all I've done for want of wit
To mem'ry now I can't recall;
So fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be with you all.
A fair maid
If I had money enough to spend
And leisure time to sit awhile,
There is a fair maid in this town
That sorely has my heart beguiled.
Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips,
I own, she has my heart in thrall;
But fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be with you all.
O, all the comrades e'er I had,
They're sorry for my going away.
And all the sweethearts e'er I had,
They'd wish me one more day to stay.
But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise, and you should not,
I gently rise and softly call,
Good night and joy be with you all.
You should not

. . . 2000-10-31

Extreme Unction, What's Your Function?

Here's our seasonal link from Beth Rust (thanks, Beth!), and our seasonal scary story:

His arm craned over his head, the back of his hand resting on the street. The posture might have been uncomfortable if he wasn't so tired; instead it was good not to have to move.

Without moving he watched the plashes, slow and steady, off the wrist.

Still going...

... 21, 22, 23, 24, ...

-- no, wait, you're supposed to count backwards, aren't you? A wave of confusion and shame overwhelmed him.

. . . 2000-11-01


Brown coleen Juliet Clark relieves us of the responsibility of Illustrating one Famous Ballad ourselves by finding a rare photo of "The Rocky Road to Dublin," which, it turns out, was a scenic railway in Coney Island. And I didn't even know that the Clancy Brothers had been to Coney Island! For that matter, I didn't even know that Coney Island was scenic!

I loike (typo, but I'll leave it) much about our previous Famous Ballad, but probably most the way it uses "Since it falls" in one line and "I should rise" in the next and then, since it already used "fall," completes the parallelism with the unexpected unrhymed flatness of "not." Piquant! The syntax may be stilted, but where would humanity be without stilts?

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In an attempt to wrap our recent unplanned series of extremely morbid entries up in shiny black ribbon, I confess that yesterday's Robert-Benchley-lies-bleeding vignette was drawn from one of the many nightmares in which I've passed on due to car crash, plane crash, interpersonal violence, or atomic warfare. And when I say "passed on," I mean on: at the end of the dream I'm resting in peace and remain resting in peace for an indeterminate time after. Most people apparently wake up at such climaxes, but the CTO of my dream factory decided long ago that death makes a dandy cover for the transition from REM to deep sleep.

One thing about dying a thousand deaths is that you start to get used to the idea, and, although total extinction leaves me with an unpleasantly disoriented hangover, for waking up screaming and morning-long malaise it doesn't begin to compare with nightmares in which lovers walk out, my family falls into some disaster, or friends tell me what they really think.

. . . 2000-11-03

Fulfilling an old pledge, Kokonino now hosts an illustrated edition of The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith, formatted and corrected from the Project Gutenberg edition originally scanned and proofed by David Price; apply liberally as needed.

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Le Mouton Sinistre writes:

The cluelessness of the Florida company marketing Bluebeard's Castle as a romantic wedding spot rang in my head today as I read a quote by Thomas Keller, whose Napa restaurant The French Laundry ["TAKE YOURSELF TO THE CLEANERS!"] recently raised its corkage prices to an apalling $50/bottle.

"When you go to have the oil changed in your car, you don't bring your own cans of oil," says Keller, who appears to be unaware that a customer, blessed to be allowed entry to such a shrine of gastronomy, might not be pleased with the image (not to mention the bouquet) of a 1963 Castrol 10W-40 in his Reidel stemware.

(In case it's not clear, the stupid French Laundry joke is mine. Also, lots of mechanics don't mind customers bringing their own oil. Also, it's really hard to find a good meal in Napa or Sonoma. We tried the other day and failed expensively. Picnics are the way to go. And with a picnic at Hop Kiln you get ducks, chickens, and a kitty. Their wines are darned reasonable, too.)

. . . 2000-11-04

Neuraesthetics: Writerly FAQs

  1. Why are so many writers depressive?

    According to research headed by B. M. Dykman and published in The Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, the depression-prone don't suffer from low self-esteem so much as from labile externally-based self-esteem; that is, depressive types use external evidence to decide their opinion of themselves. (Depressed people also tend to have fewer self-delusions, to make less distinction between self and others, and to be more accurate in determining consensus than non-depressed people. Not that only depressed people rank high in those categories, thank goodness....)

    Which sounds sensible enough until you consider the wild and unpredictable mood swings that external evidence hands us if we're gullible enough to pay attention to it: one rude person, one missed question, or one clumsy remark can mean catastrophe. And, catastrophe being painful and all, we start to rely on pessimism as a stabilizer.

    Thus far Dykman. But evidence is a matter of data recollection as well as collection. Conscious prodding of memory teaches us just how malleable memory is, especially as we try to reconcile it with that unpredictable external evidence. What did I really say? Then what did she really say? What did that really mean, anyway?

    If only there was some way to record our actions, or at least our words -- to fix them across time, so that they could be returned to and reassessed....

    And then if there was only some way to fix them, to make them better.

    Writing is the fix. Of course, once you get words down in a somewhat-publicly accessible medium, you're potentially dealing with a whole new set of those damned external reactions again. But still, what a relief to have them down.

  2. Why are so many writers alcoholics?

    This is an association that seems less mysterious once you reverse the causality: Why are so many alcoholics writers?

    Many more people can write well than become (much less stay) writers. Writing is a painfully unreliable way of making a living or inflating an ego, and most talented people decide, more or less early on, more or less reluctantly, it's not worth the hassle.

    A solid reason for sticking with it, though, is that writing is a job that allows erratic hours and a bottle close at hand.

"At the moment when I begin a book it is always lovely. I look at it, and I see that it is good. While I am at the first chapter of it it is so well balanced, there is such sweet agreement between the various part, as to make its entirety a marvellous harmony and generally, at that time, the last chapter of the book is the finest of all. But it is also, from the very moment it is begun, followed by a horrible shadow, a loathsome, sickening deformity, which all the same is like it, and does at times -- yes, does often -- change places with it, so that I myself will not recognize my work, but will shrink from it, like the farm wife from the changeling in her cradle, and cross myself at the idea that I have ever held it to be my own flesh and bone. Yes, in short and in truth, every work of art is both the idealization and the perversion, the caricature of itself. And the public has power to make it, for good or evil, the one or the other. When the heart of the public is moved and shaken by it, so that with tears of contrition and pride they acclaim it as a masterpiece, it becomes that masterpiece which I did myself at first see. And when they denounce it as insipid and worthless, it becomes worthless. But when they will not look at it at all -- voilà, as they say in this town, it does not exist. In vain shall I cry to them: 'Do you see nothing there?' They will answer me, quite correctly: 'Nothing at all, yet all that is I see.'"
-- Charles Despard to Æneas Snell in Isak Dinesen's "A Consolatory Tale";
Snell's response supplies the bulk of the story

. . . 2000-11-05

What's a presidential election year without a Gore Vidal interview? Incomplete. With it, an abode of bliss.

I remember Jim Abaresque of South Dakota, a poor boy Senator, he told me, he was sitting in a boring committee meeting with John Heinz of the 57 Varieties, who had spent $7 million -- at that moment, it was the highest amount anybody had ever spent for a Senate seat -- he said, "Why on earth did you spend all that money to sit here, and we're bored to death, the two of us?" he said. "I'm poor, I had no place to go." And Heinz said, "Jim, you don't understand. It was just play money." (laughs) Monopoly.

. . . 2000-11-08

Copper burst asunder by disease

. . . 2000-11-09

Robert Glück seems miraculous to me: smart, honest, experimental, and exquisitely gracious, yet in the founding thick of a literary group which, left to its other devices, would be at least as noxious as every other literary group.

Here the miracle tries to explain itself. Inadequately. Which is where dogma and hierarchies come in, I guess.


Movie Comment: The Tall Target

As Americana indexer Juliet Clark points out, film noir lighting and camerawork are perfectly suited to handle a mostly-nocturnal 1861 train trip, and although The Tall Target may sound like an episode of The Wild, Wild West, it's actually more like The Narrow Margin with Marie Windsor replaced by Abraham Lincoln.

And with no love interest.

And with no police backup.

And with a civil war.

  New York Zouaves

Domeless Capitol   And -- here's the real sad part -- with Dick Powell as the hero.

Director Anthony Mann always inclined to sullen stasis, and having to rely on Powell as his man of action takes all the spunk out of him: the stalemates are convincing, but oh, how those tired old joints creak in the plot transitions.

The period look and feel are gorgeous, though, and there's the anachronistic spice of seeing a character named John Kennedy try to stop a conspiracy of twenty well-hidden sharp-shooters with telescopic rifles from assassinating the president....

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In a two-party system, no one goes out much

In 1864, after such unpopular innovations as a military draft and a federal income tax, it seemed clear that the Republican Party, with its wild-eyed radical reputation, wasn't going to win against the Democratic candidate, one of Lincoln's discarded generals. So former-Republican Abraham Lincoln ran instead on a "nonpartisan" "National Union" ticket with former-Democrat Andrew Johnson as running mate. (The wild-eyed radical Republicans were sweet enough to give their support to the new party.)

Still, 1864 is the start of our current two-party habit. In 1860, for example, there had been a four-way split in the presidential race. If the northern branch of the Democratic party and the southern branch of the Democratic party had managed to agree on a single Democratic candidate, they would've managed 47% of the popular vote against Lincoln's 40%. Luckily, we're long past dealing with that kind of nonsense!

  An Enemy of the Human Race

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

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