So for the past four days, I've been reading Earth Abides, the utterly gripping 1949 post-apocalpytic novel by George R. Stewart each night before I fall asleep. And every night the same thing happens. At some point I wake up enough to look at my good lady wife sleeping next to me and think, "oh thank GOD! Another human! I'm not alone any more!" And thus relieved of my horrific solitude, I drift back off to sleep.
And a few hours later, at daybreak, to the familiar sounds of my boy's always frantic first thing in the morning ablutions in the kids' bathroom, I wake just enough to turn and make sure she's still there. And then I think, "oh...it was just a dream." And then I gaze at her a second longer and I think a tiny bit more and realize, "oh, wait...no, it wasn't."
So the other night I discovered, to my shock and horror, not just that I had seven billion children, but that I also had not one single copy of any of the myriad collections of Gary Larson's The Far Side in the entire house. Seven billion to zero is a ratio wildly out of whack.
This was insanity. This was horrifying. This Would Not Do.
Stunned at how terrible Top Management and I clearly are as parents (read: me), I immediately went to Amazon. And then quickly shuttered that idea and went to our library system where I found dozens, scores, hundreds of thousands of copies of various Far Side collections...almost all of which were checked out.
But! Not absolutely all of them. A little baksheesh may have greased the computer system's virtual palm, and mere days later, I get a notice that the first two galleries are in.
I rush to the library like a bat outta heck, grab the books, make a run for the car, get tackled by the librarian who must run the 100m in under 10, go back inside, check them out like the good law-abiding citizen I am, run back to the car, drive home in a safe and secure manner, come into the house, and casually say to the first child I see (which just happens to be The Bean), "hey, here you go—you might find this mildly amusing."
I observe her silently reading for two, five, ten minutes: no smiles, no chuckles, just page solemnly turned after page. Finally, I can stand it no longer.
"So," I say, as casual as all get-out,"How is it?'
She takes a long moment to look up, her eyes finally focusing. "It's awesome."
She pauses. "It's very odd," she adds. "And he's very fond of cows."
But then, paydirt. Five minutes later, she suddenly yells, "Hey! Ginger!"
I look up, confused.
She turns the book around to show me the page, an enormous grin lighting up her face, and one of our family's most quoted pop culture moments clearly on display.
Okay. Maybe we (read: Top Management) haven't done absolutely everything wrong.
So it's been more than a little while since I last posted about my favorite series in the entire world. But I read this interesting piece on Harry Potter. It's fairly short, so you should click through and read the whole thing, but the part that really made me think was this:
The biggest problem begins with that obnoxious Sorting Hat. Eagle-eyed readers will notice that every last one of the major heroic characters gets sorted into Gryffindor, the “brave” house. Nearly all of the villains get sorted into Slytherin, the “ambition” house.
Already you’ll notice that things are getting a little bit vague, as “ambition” is a substantially more nebulous concept than “hard work” or “cleverness.” Well, that or it simply comes packaged WITH all those other virtues. But the point is our heroes and villains all get lumped in together.
So, not only is bravery implied to be the best of all virtues, but it also apparently trumps intelligence or hard work. Fine, sure. We’ll just go with that. And we’ll also try to ignore the blatant violation of these sortings that occur over and over again through the series.
I get that this is just a way to make a “hero” house and a “villain” house. Normally I’d write this off as typical fantasy-movie simplicity. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and a host of others do the same thing; they create a group of cartoonish baddies to embody the opposition to our hero. We’re not meant to really question it. Evil is evil.
The problem with doing this in the Harry Potter universe is the books and movies are obsessively focused on tearing down the walls built by prejudice and groupthink.
So why, then, is it just like… totally cool to write off as bad every single person chosen to be in Slytherin House?
I mean, I know WHY. Slytherin students are constantly undermining their classmates, and adults who graduate from the house tend to go on to undermine the rest of the wizarding community. It’s stated as fact that no evil wizard ever walked the earth that WASN’T a member of the house at some point.
And there 'tis.
Assuming that the bolded part is correct—and I don't recall it ever being stated that baldly, although I'm not much of a HP scholar and, either way, it is the clear implication—it seems to me the real question here is one of cause-and-effect, or maybe chicken-and-egg: are these kids—and that's all they are, just little, little kids at the beginnging—inherently bad, or are they already lost causes...or does Slytherin itself cause them to all go over to the dark side? And if that's the case, how on earth could Dumbledore and all his predecessors possibly justify keeping the house around?
So Top Management is having a crisis because she's a writer and that's what creative people do.
No problem. I've been a (theoretically) creative person for 20+ years and, much more important, in addition to being married to a legitimate artist, I've been an editor for much of that time and have dealt with creative people and I get it. I know how these things go. I know that it's not unusual for even the most creative of creative people to hit a wall, for whatever reason, and worry that they've lost it, that this isn't working out, that they're never going to be able to do anything worthwhile again, that that's it, it's all over. Usually, a little talk gets them off the ledge and a (generally very productive) day later, it's as though it never happened and I mean that: often I think that just a day later they literally don't recall feeling so deathly despondent no more than one day earlier.
So Top Management and I talk but it's the witching hour, as she used to call it. It's the evening, and the kitchen needs to be cleaned, the dinner dishes done, homework overseen, hair washed, laundry folded and put away, kids slammed into bed, the whole shebang. So I listen for ten minutes but then I just, I have to go, I really do, but I promise to come back in just a bit and angst with her some more.
Fifteen minutes later I walk in, things semi-taken care of, temporarily. "I'm ready to be understanding!" I announce heroically.
She slowly and silently looks up at me as though I've got three heads, one of which is speaking Mandarin, another Swahili and the third vomiting blood. "What's wrong?" I asked, actually worried for the first time.
She just keeps staring for a few more very long seconds. "I'm writing," she finally manages to mutter, after painfully switching from the right hemisphere to the left in order to be able to process and answer my question.
All righty then.
Man, I'm good.
I love the internet.
I just read the following comment:
do the lirics to Springsteens song
" born in the USA" bother anybody else besides me???
And I wanted to say:
Yes! Thank you! I thought I was the only one!
Although, you know what's even worse? Have you ever read The Grapes of Wrath? Oh my goodness! You won't belieeeeeve the way America is portrayed.
It's shameful, really.
UPDATE: Ah, now I see why the lirics bothered the aforementioned internet poster.
It always goes back to Glenn Beck, doesn't it? What we do without him?
I grabbed this here list of the 100 greatest English-language novels since 1900 from the aptly named List of the Day.
1. ULYSSES by James Joyce
2. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce
4. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
5. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
6. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
7. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
8. DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler
9. SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
10. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
11. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
12. THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler
13. 1984 by George Orwell
14. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
15. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
16. AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
17. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
18. SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
19. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
20. NATIVE SON by Richard Wright
21. HENDERSON THE RAIN KING by Saul Bellow
22. APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA by John O'Hara
23. U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos
24. WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson
25. A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster
26. THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James
27. THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James
28. TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
29. THE STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY by James T. Farrell
30. THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford
31. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
32. THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James
33. SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser
34. A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh
35. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
36. ALL THE KING'S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
37. THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder
38. HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster
39. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin
40. THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene
41. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
42. DELIVERANCE by James Dickey
43. A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell
44. POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley
45. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
46. THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad
47. NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad
48. THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence
49. WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence
50. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
51. THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer
52. PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth
53. PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov
54. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
55. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
56. THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett
57. PARADE'S END by Ford Madox Ford
58. THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton
59. ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm
60. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
61. DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP by Willa Cather
62. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones
63. THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLES by John Cheever
64. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
65. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
66. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
67. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
68. MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
69. THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton
70. THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durell
71. A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes
72. A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul
73. THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West
74. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
75. SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh
76. THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE by Muriel Spark
77. FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce
78. KIM by Rudyard Kipling
79. A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster
80. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
81. THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH by Saul Bellow
82. ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner
83. A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul
84. THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen
85. LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad
86. RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow
87. THE OLD WIVES' TALE by Arnold Bennett
88. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
89. LOVING by Henry Green
90. MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
91. TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell
92. IRONWEED by William Kennedy
93. THE MAGUS by John Fowles
94. WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys
95. UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch
96. SOPHIE'S CHOICE by William Styron
97. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
98. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M. Cain
99. THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy
100. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS by Booth Tarkington
I believe I have read nine of these, but there are at least a few more that I started and never finished...and at least half a dozen I was supposed to read in college but didn’t. I would love to have read them all...I think. Looking at it again, I realize how much I disliked several of the ones I did read. I mean, Angle of Repose was brilliant. Just stunning. On the other hand, The Magus? Gimme a break. Sucked. Suh-huh-huh-hucked.
Not that I’m opinionated or nothin’.
Well, this is interesting.
J.K. Rowling has outed one of the main characters of her best-selling Harry Potter series, telling fans in New York that the wizard Albus Dumbledore, head of Hogwarts school, is gay.
Speaking at Carnegie Hall on Friday night in her first U.S. tour in seven years, Rowling confirmed what some fans had always suspected -- that she "always thought Dumbledore was gay," reported entertainment Web site E! Online.
Rowling said Dumbledore fell in love with the charming wizard Gellert Grindelwald but when Grindelwald turned out to be more interested in the dark arts than good, Dumbledore was "terribly let down" and went on to destroy his rival.
That love, she said, was Dumbledore's "great tragedy."
"Falling in love can blind us to an extent," she said.
The audience reportedly fell silent after the admission -- then erupted into applause.
I must say, while the evidence was unmistakably there—it was pretty damn blatant—I didn't really take it into account when thinking about the last two books in the series. And one of my biggest problems was how incredibly out of character the young Dumbledore was revealed to have acted. I felt that was a tremendous mistake on Rowling's part, designed to add depth and complexity but in reality merely tarnishing yet another hero, so that in the end there was no one unambiguously heroic—hell, by the end, I barely thought there was anyone truly likeable. Certainly not Harry and with the revelation that (SPOILER!) Dumbledore had at least temporarily flirted with, essentially, magical Aryanism, not even ol' Albus, greatest wizard of all time and kindly father figure.
Ah, but love? Love can make us out wildly out of character and leads oh so many of us to do things which are incredibly stupid and frankly inexplicable later. Why, just look at the normally quite rational and brilliant Top Management and her one glaring blind spot as regards love.
I still think the series sadly and unnecessarily flawed. But I'm certainly more than willing—happy, in fact—to admit it may not be quite as disappointing as I'd previously thought.
From the redoubtable KC at the wonderful Cabbage Patch comes the following meme:
Grab the nearest book.
1. Open it to page 161.
2. Find the fifth full sentence.
3. Post the text of the sentence along with these instructions.
4. Don't search around looking for the coolest book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.
"He wanted to be noticed."
Sheesh. As if everyone won't immediately know what book that's from…
Them what got blogs and feel like playing, go fer it; either post your answer and/or link in the comments or just post at your own joint. Them what don't but do, leave your answer down in the comments, yo.
So. The redoubtable Top Management tagged me with this here meme a while back (as in, about eight damn months ago) and, in my oh speedy way, I finally responded. Aren't you lucky?
1. One book that changed your life?
Batman: The Killing Joke, by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. The single-greatest Batman story ever (followed by Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli). A relatively straight-forward story about the Batman and the Joker and the way their fates are inextricably intertwined, yet with incredibly sophisticated but crystal-clear storytelling, perfect characterization, immaculate pacing and phenomenal dialogue, all brought to life by the finest art any Batman book has ever had (although Mazzucchelli’s art for Batman: Year One comes damn close).
The Killing Joke led me to other—honestly, superior—works, such (in order of discovery) Swamp Thing, Watchmen, V for Vendetta and Miracleman (as well as, much later, after they’d been written, From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and so many others). He is not only one of the finest writers of the past thirty years, he’s one of the most important, something which will, I suspect, be blindingly obvious in another thirty years.
2. One book you have read more than once?
One? In honor of his passing, I'll go with Welcome to the Monkey House, my favorite Kurt Vonnegut book, which I’d guess I've read a half-dozen times at least—and a few stories from it as recently as yesterday. In fact, I read stories from it out loud to Top Management while she rocked Max to sleep as a newborn. Because what says familial bliss and romance like a Vonnegut story?
I've also read the books in Fred Chappell's series of novels about Joe Robert Kirkman and his family—I Am One of You Forever, Brighten the Corner Where You Are, Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You and Look Back All the Green Valley I don't know how many times, and each time they get more magnificent than the last...and they're magnificent from the first; I've actually read a few of the chapters to the girls as bedtime stories, and did so just last night. His tales are as accessible as any pulp writer’s, but as befits North Carolina’s poet laureate, his prose is luminous. Innerestingly, actually, his first chapters tend to be much more challenging, often quite dense, in stark contrast to each novel’s subsequent chapters, almost as though he’s testing the reader, making sure they’re up to the task, a sort of “you want to play, you gotta pay” thang. It is well worth the effort, to put it mildly. Gorgeous, hysterical, haunting works of art.
3. One book you would want on a desert island?
Oh, what the hell. I'll cheat and go the easy (but truthful) route and say the collected works of William Shakespeare. Either that or some sort of survivalist’s guide since, let’s be honest, it’s obvious I wouldn’t last two weeks otherwise.
4. One book that made you laugh?
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. I don’t think I've ever laughed that hard at a book. Although I do recall reading some Paul Zindel book in eighth grade (during geography, which may explain why I failed geography) and being unable to keep from laughing hysterically at one point, which kinda blew my cover of Assiduously Studying the Major Exports of Guatemala.
5. One book that made you cry?
Across the Puddingstone Dam. I've read it five times and it’s made me cry every damn time. Also All the Places to Love, which is sheer poetry.
But Puddingstone's even better.
6. One book you wish had been written?
A final chapter to the His Dark Materials trilogy that was remotely worthy of the first installment. And, of course, anything else by J.R.R. Tolkien, especially, say, a huge collection of short stories featuring our beloved characters; the scene he wrote which was collected…in the Silmarillion maybe?...showing Gandalf in an inn talking to Thorin, and first broaching the idea of employing a hobbit as a thief was magical. Would that we had an enormous book of such.
7. One book you wish had never been written?
I'll go along with Top Management and say that I’m not comfortable with this question. But I will say that one of my major problems with so much speculative fiction—the hoity-toity name for sci-fi, horror, fantasy, alternate histories and the like—is that authors spend so much time creating these amazing worlds that they’re loathe to leave them. And the result, alas, is often novel after novel which fail to match the initial offerings and instead simply provide diminishing returns. So I guess I'm not going to name names, but I do wish some authors knew when to leave well enough alone, rather than tarnish the reputation of the original works by cranking out such substandard sequels. As Miles said, "Take the horn out of your mouth, [friend]."
8. One book you are currently reading?
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Apparently, I must live a long, long life. S’okay with me. And I'm currently reading The Horse and His Boy to the girls at bedtime.
9. One book you have been meaning to read?
The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow. Got it. It’s been sitting on the night stand since…well, since Virginia. It made the westward trek, it just hasn’t gotten quite as far as mine eyeballs yet.
10. Now tag five people:
I shall not. But if any of my regular Left of the Dialians who are sans blog wanna chime in down in the comments, that’d be awesome. Bring it, yo.
So I got a wicked groovy present this week. Well, two, actually, but Top Management says I’m not allowed to talk about one of ‘em.
The other one is this:
How gorgeous is that? It is not only one of my favorite pieces of art ever, it is probably my single-favorite Superman shot of all-time. The juxtaposition of the photorealistic background with the cartoony, European-with-just-a-hint-of-Japanese Superman figure is incredibly powerful.
Not to mention that Superman just plain looks freakin’ cool.
This piece was done by Dave Taylor about a dozen years ago and is, in fact, the first time I ever encountered his artwork; I was so stunned that I hired him on the spot. We went on to do an awful lot of work together, much of which I'm as proud of as anything I've ever worked on, and I’m delighted to be working with him again after a gap of about eight years. And apparently the poor sod’s pleased enough to be working with me that he felt compelled to give me a pretty. I suspect it’s my smooth moves on the dance floor. Gets ‘em every time.
(Actually, he said he sent it to me so I’d finally shut up about the damn thing. Artistes.)
Left of the Dialian Tom E pointed me to this site. It’s…it’s…you know, just describing it doesn’t really do it justice. It’s two great tastes that taste great together, but that’s not quite right either. It’s as though you combined, say, filet mignon and, I dunno, whipped cream. And it somehow tastes good.
Not that I actually like filet mignon. But you get the point.
Anyhoo, that’s this: random quotes from Nietzsche paired with random Family Circus art.
And it works. Every single time.
“The fish is not wrong.” Words of wisdom. And one of my favorite phrases ever.
This article is nearly four years old now, but I found myself thinking of it when pal Karen mentioned that she stolen two of the pieces from Left of the Dial, the thief, for classroom use. My rage was mitigated ever so slightly by the fact that I was therefore further influencing yet another young and malleable generation, even if it was in a secondhand sort o’ way. You’d think such brainmolding would get old and yet it really doesn’t. Also soothing me somewhat was the fact that I'd previously stolen both of them for Left of the Dial. Whatever. Shut up.
Anyhoo, here's a very long excerpt, but the entire piece is worth your time.
by LOUIS MENAND
What Dr. Seuss really taught us
December 16, 2002
The Cat in the Hat was a Cold War invention. His value as an analyst of the psychology of his time, the late nineteen-fifties, is readily appreciated: transgression and hypocrisy are the principal themes of his little story. But he also stands in an intimate and paradoxical relation to national-security policy. He was both its creature and its nemesis—”the unraveller of the very culture that produced him and that made him a star. This is less surprising than it may seem. He was, after all, a cat.
Every reader of "The Cat in the Hat" will feel that the story revolves around a piece of withheld information: what private demons or desires compelled this mother to leave two young children at home all day, with the front door unlocked, under the supervision of a fish? Terrible as the cat is, the woman is lucky that her children do not fall prey to some more insidious intruder. The mother's abandonment is the psychic wound for which the antics of the cat make so useless a palliative. The children hate the cat. They take no joy in his stupid pet tricks, and they resent his attempt to distract them from what they really want to be doing, which is staring out the window for a sign of their mother's return. Next to that consummation, a cake on a rake is a pretty feeble entertainment.
This is the fish's continually iterated point, and the fish is not wrong. The cat's pursuit of its peculiar idea of fun only cranks up the children's anxiety. It raises our anxiety level as well, since it keeps us from doing what we really want to be doing, which is accompanying the mother on her murderous or erotic errand. Possibly the mother has engaged the cat herself, in order to throw the burden of suspicion onto the children. "What did you do?" she asks them when she returns home, knowing that the children cannot put the same question to her without disclosing their own violation of domestic taboos. They are each other's alibi. When you cheat, you lie.
The cat's improvisations with the objets trouvés in the home he has invaded are obviously an allegory for his creator's performance with the two hundred and twenty arbitrary words he has been assigned by his publisher. The cat is a bricoleur. He has no system—or, rather, his system is to have no system. He is compelled to make meaning from whatever is there. He fails, the bricolage topples, the fish ends up in a teapot; and this hint of semantic instability is expanded on in Dr. Seuss's most difficult work (No. 26 all-time), "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back," published in 1958.
"The Cat in the Hat Comes Back" is the "Grammatology" of Dr. Seuss. It is a book about language and structure, those Cold War obsessions. That the "Cat" books' appearance coincided with the publication of Noam Chomsky's "Syntactic Structures" (1957) and Lévi-Strauss's "Structural Anthropology" (1958) is, as they used to say during the Cold War, no accident. Chomsky's work in linguistics, it might be noted, was supported in part by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, the Air Force's Office of Scientific Research and Air Research and Development Command, and the Office of Naval Research. Not all of the increase in military spending went into missile research.
Synopsis of "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back" is easy enough. Abandoned again by their feckless mother, those two sad sacks, Sally and me, are consigned to shovelling snow from a recent blizzard. The cat chooses the moment to make his return. Sally urges her brother to bar his entrance ("Don't you talk to that cat. / That cat is a bad one"). The cat brushes off the brushoff and enters the house, where he is discovered soon afterward in the tub, eating a cake. He is banished from the tub by the boy ("I have no time for tricks. / I must go back and dig"), but when the water is drained a pink stain is left. The rest of the action concerns the problem of getting rid of the stain. It is first transferred, by the cat, to a series of household items, some plainly off limits to the children, including the mother's dress, the father's shoes, and the bed in what is described as "Dad's bedroom" (no doubt a response to the mother's extramarital adventures). Unable to erase the stain, the cat reveals, under his hat, various little cats named for the letters of the alphabet ("He helps me a lot. / This is Little Cat A").
These semiotic felines do exactly what a deconstructionist would predict: rather than containing the stain, they disseminate it. Everything turns pink. The chain of signification is interminable and, being interminable, indeterminate. The semantic hygiene fetishized by the children is rudely violated; the "system" they imagined is revealed to have no inside and no outside. It is revealed to be, in fact, just another bricolage. The only way to end the spreading stain of semiosis is to unleash what, since it cannot be named, must be termed "that which is not a sign." This is the Voom, the final agent in the cat's arsenal. The Voom eradicates the pink queerness of a textuality without boundaries; whiteness is back, though it is now the purity of absence—one wants to say (and, at this point, why not?) of abstinence. The association with nuclear holocaust and its sterilizing fallout, wiping the planet clean of pinkness and pinkos, is impossible to ignore. It is a strange story for teaching people how to read.
When you look through the secondary literature on "The Cat in the Hat," you read that children instinctively respond to the cat's sense of mischief. I wonder how many children really do react that way. My own identification, as a child, was entirely with the fish. I didn't admire his hysteria, of course (very uncool). But I understood what he was trying, with his limited vocabulary, to say, which is that "fun" is only a distraction from the reality of separation and abandonment. Pink snow, and those personified genitalia, Thing One and Thing Two, are no substitute for what we have lost. We don't want to be amused; we don't even want to amuse ourselves. We want to be taken care of.
Later on, in the nineteen-sixties, I, along with many other Americans born around 1952, began to understand the cat's appeal—in particular, the whole Thing One and Thing Two business. The fish, let's face it, was an uptight little dude, a tin-pot Puritan, and the domestic sphere in which he served as resident superego proved, on closer examination, to be a site of exclusion and oppression. New combinations seemed possible—seemed necessary. Maybe bricolage and différance were the way, after all. Misrule became the new rule, and the cat was its cockeyed lord. Having learned to read, we learned to misread. Phonics, which was supposed to make us into superscientists, cooking up formulas for landing those ICBMs right in Khrushchev's kitchen, had unleashed instead the spirit of "anything goes." It was Pinkisme partout.
Dr. Seuss, too, flush with the wealth his contributions to the national security had brought him, fell prey to the countercultural forces that his own cat, one of the Cold War's most potent unguided missiles, had helped set in motion. In 1971, he published "The Lorax," a book about the environment that was much despised by the patriotic timber industry, and in 1984 he brought out "The Butter Battle Book," a work criticizing (of all things) the arms race. "The Butter Battle Book" was attacked in The New Republic for being soft on Communism. That's not the kind of thing people used to say about "The Pokey Little Puppy." Dr. Seuss took the same course as that other doctor who hitched a ride on the baby boom and the government gravy train it rode through school and into college: Dr. Spock. They went pink. (We won't get into the later career of Noam Chomsky.)
But that was then, a long time gone. Now we have something different: we have "anything goes" without the spirit. "Transgression," "subversion," "deconstruction" are praise words bestowed as solemnly as "structure" and "order" once were, little gold stars awarded to rappers and television comics. Cakes on rakes are everywhere. A million cats cavort frantically for our attention. Even the fish has been co-opted (though what choice did he have?). "Enjoy!" cries the fish. "Consume! Everything will be fine when your mother gets home." But the fish is whistling into the wind. The mother has left, and she's never coming back. It's just us and that goddam cat.
Two additional notes:
1) Thing One and Thing Two are not personified genitalia, they’re personified bodily fluids and
B) the stain on the mother’s dress predates Monica and yet could not more clearly be the same thing, unless of course it’s entirely a metaphorical stain which I suppose is possible.
So Ted Geisel was either a Freudian or a pre-cog—take your pick. Either way, it’s just another indication of his underappreciated genius.
So I’m sitting on the couch in the living room and I suddenly realize that The Rose is right next to me, having materialized in that way she has, like a cat with a transporter.
She’s looking at me with a small smile, so I say, in my oh so benevolent fatherly way, “Yes?”
She tilts her head. “Does Wonder Girl have a daddy?”
“Uh…” I say, searching my decrepit memory banks for the little I've ever known of Wonder Girl’s twisted continuity. “No. No, I don’t think she does.”
Her small smile because a triumphant grin. “Yes! I knew it!” she hisses, and runs off down the hall.
I am left with a feeling of vague uneasiness the rest of the night.
I don't know who was searching for "historical fiction alaska explosion opthamologist" but they must have been mighty disappointed when Left of the Dial was one of the first hits.
But now I'm most intrigued. What was this person looking for? Is there really such a book? Can it possibly be as wonderful as it sounds? Is there a market for a book like that? Have I stumbled onto a veritable gold mine of story?
Ah! But suddenly things become at least slightly clearer. You see, the searcher spelled "ophthalmologist" wrong. And that's why he ended up with Left of the Dial as a result (as well as about a hundred other joints). But if he spelled it right, he'd get one hundred times as many results.
Which leads one to suspect I'd misspelled it earlier myself in a previous piece. But obviously that's an impossibility.
A small and easy way to help New Orleans (remember it? Big city down south? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?):
The New Orleans Public Library is asking for any and all hardcover and paperback books to restock the shelves after Katrina.
The books can be sent to:
Rica A. Trigs
New Orleans Public Library
219 Loyola Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70112-2007
I’ve also heard that the post office will offer a discounted rate to ship items to this address.
Seems that the above information isn’t exactly incorrect…but it ain’t exactly the whole story neither.
So. I reckon if you really wanna help the NOLA library system, as everywhere else, they prefer cash.
So do I, of course. But I’ll also take checks.
And, yeah yeah yeah—if you can only help out one of us, I do believe NOLA should get your dosh first. But if there’s enough to go around…
[Special thanks to the mighty Hools for watching my back on this one. She makes blankets for lizards and yet has time to fact-check blogs...simply amazing.]
oniomania (O-nee-uh-MAY-nee-uh, -MAYN-yuh) noun
Compulsive shopping; excessive, uncontrollable desire to buy things.
Top Management and I do not have opulent tastes. We are, however, gluttons. Not so much for food (well, not usually), however. Books and CDs, on the other hand…oy. We may indeed have a slight case of oniomania, if it’s, in fact, possible to have a slight case of oniomania. We are slight oniomaniacs. We live in a slightly oniomaniacal fashion. We live slightly oniomaniacally.
We try really hard to buy books and CDs new when we can, in order to support the artists who created the works. When it comes to certain authors—Charles Dickens, say—we don’t worry too much about it because, you know, I think he’s doing just fine financially right now.
We certainly do buy a lot of stuff used and make enormous use of our marvelous local library, and even occasionally the UVa library, since life as freelancers tend to leave finances somewhat…tension-filled, shall we say? We tell ourselves that that’s apropos for writers.
But when we can, we buy stuff new as much as usual, just to show some love to our fellow creators. Oh, sure, it’s a drop in the bucket but if enough people make the effort, right? So with U2, f’r instance, it doesn’t make a lot of difference but, hey, with The Replacements or Dinosaur Jr it just might make a noticeable spike. "Say…why are we doing so well in the Blue Ridge Mountains these days?" I can imagine the fine folks in Minneapolis wondering.
This is also why we’re such sticklers about not making copies of officially released albums or accepting them from well-meaning friends. Neither of us are, alas, in a position where we get much mileage out of royalties, but we get some, as I’ll discuss in a moment, and we very much hope someday to get more. Much, much more. Oh so much more. Oodles and boodles more. [Besides, making copies for others is, well...you know...stealing, even when it’s done by a well-meaning friend. But more on that another time.]
So. I received my bi-annual (or is it semi-annual? I can never remember and I’m way too lazy to look it up right now) royalty statement today from DC Comics and as usual the unexpected windfall allows to us buy…well, not a new house or a Lamborghini, but at least a couple of pizzas. And I’m not complaining, mind you—as my former boss used to put it, you already got paid for the work and you weren't expecting anything more, so it’s basically free money. And, hey, a couple of pizzas, man…that’s a guaranteed good time.
But what makes this particular gift so unexpected and so pleasant is that it’s for foreign publishing. Not that I got nothin’ against good ol’-fashioned ‘Murican publishing, by any means. But here in the States, you pretty much print a comic and it’s done. Unless it’s later collected, it’s basically out-of-print after a few weeks. Such is the transient nature of comics.
I have had several things collected, so it’s not all that unusual to get tiny little royalties for them. Not surprisingly, the story I’ve made far and away the most money on (enough for nearly a dozen pizzas, maybe) is also easily one of the two worst pieces of writing I’ve ever done. Well, and gotten paid for, that is. Just horrible. Horrible, horrible, horrible. Nice artwork, though. And it might have been slightly better if I hadn’t had to write the first half the week before Max was born (when Top Management was already a week past her due date) and then finish it the week after Max was born (when I had even less of a clue about both writing and parenting than I do now). Oh, and if I hadn’t had to toss my original ending because it was too good. Seriously. Long story of interoffice politics and, actually, they made the right call, much though it bummed me at the time. Beautiful art, though. Really gorgeous. Much better’n my writing deserved. But then that’s true of even my best stuff. Tim, Brian, Jim, Phil, Rick and all the rest--thanks, fellas!
But that’s not what was in this latest statement. This statement was pretty entirely made up of the reprinting of some of the Gotham Adventures books I did with pal and brilliant artist Tim.
And where were these little gems reprinted? The usual places: England. India. Russia. China. Egypt. Lebanon. And Indonesia.
Much as our nation’s most brilliant jazz musicians often found more receptive audiences in Europe and Asia, so too must I go abroad to be hailed as the genius I (and, alas, only I) recognize myself to be.
I mean, how cool is that? My Batman is in Russia and China and India. It was already in England and Canada, from being printed the first time, and most of it’s been reprinted in Mexico and Argentina. Sometimes France and Germany and Spain and even, if I recall correctly, South Korea (I may not be remembering correctly, however, since Batman doesn’t actually translate very well into Asian cultures, interestingly).
But Egypt? And Lebanon? I mean, I’ve now had my work printed in virtually every one of the biggest and most important countries in the world.
Or, as Top Management put it:
Germans love David Hasselhoff.
But Indonesians love Scott Peterson.
So a loving friend sent me this here link to this fine site. The germane part, of course, is this:
Went to Amazon and plugged "Scott Peterson" into its search engine. There were 253 results. Two hundred and fifty-three. Some of them don’t count, since there’s a children’s book author with the unfortunate name "Scott Peterson," but most of them are about that Northern California guy who was convicted of killing his wife and unborn son.
Okay. Now I can see why someone would think my name was unfortunate, given that little creep what killed his wife and unborn child and who was all over the news for a bizarre amount of time—I mean, even without cable, it didn’t seem like you could swing a resting or perhaps slightly stunned cat without hitting a newscaster talking about the twisted son of a bitch. And I don’t mean to pick on the writer of this blog since, after all, she’s expressing sympathy for me and my plight.
But, you know, I had the damn name first. For quite some time, in fact.
I think I wrote on here a while back about voting in November and how rude the old lady who signed me in was. "Well, there’s a name I certainly wouldn’t want to have," she said loudly to the old lady sitting next to her. I looked at her like she was insane, and she just glared back at me, like I was the damn felon sitting in a cell in California. Bizarre. I’ve also had people tell me with pity, "Hey, it could be worse—your name could have been O.J. Simpson."
Great. Thanks so much.
While I’ve never really liked my name—the name Scott, that is; I’ve always been very fond of the name Peterson—I’m now getting to the point where I’m a bit defensive about it. Although very few people actually make jokes about it. Mainly they just ask if I get a lot of jokes. Which is really pretty considerate.
But now in my dotage I’m able to appreciate that it’s a well-balanced name, sounds okay, and looks classy enough in print, which is a good thing, since there are at least twenty million comics out there with my name in ‘em, and maybe triple that many. So, no, it may not be quite as catchy a name as, say, Batman. But I think it’s okay.
What’s more, there are at least two other writers with the same name, one a writer of joke books and one a journalist who’s written about his experiences in Somalia, Sudan and Rwanda. I’m thinking of contacting them and seeing if they’re interested in going to try to get the little punkass murderer to legally change his name; Punkass Murderer has a nicely appropriate ring to it, don’t you think? Or barring that, maybe we’ll just get together and kick his ass.
Since either of those options would require me to actually leave the house, of course, it’s mighty doubtful I’ll really do either. [Because, yes, that’s really the impediment to actually putting this plan into effect.]
But I can also talk big on Left of the Dial. God bless the internets.
So the other night pal Dave said something that got to me thinking. We were discussing the almost unbelievable fact that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was recorded on a 4-track. Given that with Pro Tools you can pretty much have an at least theoretically unlimited number of tracks to work with these days, assuming you’ve got enough computer power, why aren’t there more masterpieces created? Where are the geniuses nowadays? Where’s today’s Bob Dylan? For that matter, where’s today’s Mozart or Beethoven? Or Shakespeare?
But the thing is, the reason we hold up, what, a few dozen artists of that caliber and ask where the successors are, is exactly because those artists were so extraordinary.
There were thousands of musicians composing and performing regularly between 1760 and 1791, yet the only two anyone but the hardest of the hardcore really bothers with these days are Haydn and Mozart. Of the thousands and thousands of baroque composers, the only two anyone really cares about anymore are Handel and Bach…and Handel’s mighty far behind Bach, especially if you take away his Water Music and his Messiah. [Feel free to toss Vivaldi in there if you care to; I’ll not stop you but I won’t join you neither.] We talk about Shakespeare’s contemporaries, such as Johnson and Marlowe, but the number of times they’re actually performed is equal to but the tiniest fraction of Shakespeare productions.
Something like 96,100,000,000 people have ever lived on the earth. How many of them turned out something as magnificent as the Sistine Chapel? Or The Art of the Fugue? Or To Kill a Mockingbird? Or Abbey Road?
I often write on Left of the Dial about how I see the glass as being half-full. The joke, as anyone who knows me in real life can easily attest, is that I’m actually a guy who almost always tends to see the glass as being half-empty. I try to view it as half-full, but that’s a conscious decision; my first natural inclination is almost always to see it as being half-empty.
So does it suck that we don’t have someone today equal to the greatness of Bach or Beethoven or Shakespeare or the Beatles or Dylan? You bet. But even better is that we ever had them at all, and that thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we can still enjoy their genius whenever we want.
One in a million? The Beatles were four out of ninety-six billion, one hundred million.
Each of ‘em was 1 in 24,025,000,000.
And I’m just mighty glad they ever were.
Listen, I’ve been an editor and I’ve been a freelancer. They’re both tough gigs with good parts and bad parts. And while I may enjoy a good round of editor-bashing as much as the next guy (especially if the next guy is an editor—nothin’ better’n bashing someone to their face, I’ve found; that behind-the-back stuff lacks the same thrill), I never downplay what a tough job an editor has. In comics, at least, it’s a position of tremendous responsibility and very little power. And very few make the kinda bucks that’ll make that disparity worth it.
Now, having said that…
I can so feel this guy’s pain. Not least because, in addition to having been on the receiving end of this kind o’ feedback on occasion, I’m pretty sure I dished some of it out back in the day…ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.
So how are things going with your Agent or Editor—or What’s a Writer to do?
Ever had one of those weeks? Two of those weeks, three of ....
Agent—The young officer that gets injured, can you eliminate the main character and make him your protagonist instead?
Editor—I love the older cop angle, everything today is slanted towards youth.
Editor—I think you have nailed the terrorist mindset!
Editor—Can you tell the story more from the terrorist perspective?
Agent—Can you show more feelings on behalf of the terrorists?
Agent—I really like the seemingly unconnected murders and the tension that they build!
Editor—Can you perhaps do away with a couple of the murders?
Editor—Your main plot theme of the attack is brilliant very unique!
Agent—My biggest issue is with the main attack it caused me to sigh somewhat in disbelief.
Editor—The part with the young officer is very suspenseful I squirmed as I was reading it!
Review—One undiscovered helicopter-crash victim’s survival made me groan but Clackson stays well within the bounds of wide-eyed anticipation.
Review—In a way, one can believe that terrorists must think in these black-and white terms otherwise they could not continue through with their tasks; tasks they believe are blessed and directed by god.
Editor—Do you really think that the terrorist are that single minded with their only purpose to inflict damage?
Review—There are a couple of delightfully unexpected plot twists. One is a romance angle involving the terrorists.
Editor—The part with the two terrorists romantic involvement didn’t work for me and can maybe be taken out?
Such as when a brazen, audacious, utterly shameless and reprehensible theft is taking place in broad daylight?
In keeping with yesterday's post about bad—or at least mediocre—people being given far too much power:
Marvel Comics: stealing our language
Marvel Comics is continuing in its bid to steal the word "super-hero" from the public domain and put it in a lock-box to which it will control the key. Marvel and DC comics jointly filed a trademark on the word "super-hero." They use this mark to legally harass indie comic companies that make competing comic books.
A trademark’s enforceability hinges on whether the public is likely to associate a word or mark with a given company -- in other words, when you hear the word "super-hero," if you think "Marvel and DC," then Marvel will be able to go on censoring and eliminating its competition.
One way of accomplishing this dirty bit of mind-control is by adding a ™ symbol after the word "Super-Hero." That TM lets the world know that you claim ownership over the word it accompanies. If you can get other people to do it, too, eventually you may in fact get the world to believe that the word is your property -- and then, it becomes your property.
"Super-hero" isn’t Marvel’s property. They didn’t invent the term. They aren’t the only users of the term. It’s a public-domain word that belongs to all of us. Adding a ™ to super-hero is a naked bid to steal "super-hero" from us and claim it for their own.
The latest trick in its move to steal the word is using the ™ symbol in the bumpf for its California science centre show -- they’ve recruited a science museum to help them steal "super-hero."
Here’s a proposal: from now on, let’s never use the term "super-hero" to describe a Marvel character. Let’s call them "underwear perverts" -- as Warren Ellis is wont to -- or vigilantes, or mutants. Let’s reserve the term "super-hero" exclusively to describe the heros of comics published by companies that aren’t crooked word-thieves.
Back in the 1990s, I was told by folks whose job it was to know that the only term DC Comics and Marvel Comics officially had the rights to was "Super-Hero"—note the hyphen. When it was used as one word, proofreading always had it changed, making a point of doing so, as neither Marvel nor DC had the sole rights to "superhero," merely the hyphenated version. But as any good supervillain knows, you don't conquer the world by taking half-measures.
Neither DC Comics nor Marvel Comics invented the superhero. This is like Disney attempting to trademark the words "cartoon" and "animation." It isn’t quite as bad as the various cretins who tried to trademark "Let’s Roll" on September 12, 2001…but it’s not that far off either.
I’m revolted, although I wish I could say I was surprised. The industry deserves better than this. Even more, the medium itself deserves better than this. Much better.
Or to put it in a way that at least one of the people bringing this legal suit would understand:
Superman would never, ever do this.
But Lex Luthor would.
So brother Jay sent me this Word o’ the Day today. I am at a loss as to why:
uxorious \uk-SOR-ee-us; ug-ZOR-\, adjective:
Excessively fond of or submissive to a wife.
This word could not possibly apply less to me. Because while, yes, it’s true, I am indeed extraordinarily fond of and submissive to my wife, I am by no means excessively so.
It’s simply not possible to be excessively fond of Top Management.
Who wouldn’t be insanely fond of human perfection in one adorable, brilliant, currently-somewhat-round due to her unusually-fertile nature? I’d have to be insane to not be. And while, yes, I may indeed be somewhat whacked, even I’m not that crazy.
Except about her. Of that I am more than happy to plead guilty on all counts.
So here’s a concept with which I’ve been familiar for over ten years now, ever since I joined my first email list—I believe it was the late, lamented Luckytown, the first list devoted, of course, to Bruce Springsteen.
Anyone who’s spent anytime on a list or an online board will be familiar with this concept, but I have to admit, I did not know of the actual name of it. On the offchance there’s anyone out there as ignant as me (I know, what are the odds?) I offer the following, from the often-but-not-always reliable wikipedia.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Godwin's Law (also Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies) is an adage in Internet culture originated by Mike Godwin on Usenet in 1990 that states:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.
There is a tradition in many Usenet newsgroups that once such a comparison is made, the thread in which the comment was posted is over and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.
It is considered poor form to raise arbitrarily such a comparison with the motive of ending the thread. There is a widely recognized codicil that any such deliberate invocation of Godwin's Law will be unsuccessful.
Debate and controversy
One common objection to the invocation of Godwin's Law is that sometimes using Hitler or the Nazis is an apt way of making a point. For instance, if one is debating the relative merits of a particular leader, and someone says something like, "He's a good leader, look at the way he's improved the economy," one could reply, "Just because he improved the economy doesn't make him a good leader. Even Hitler improved the economy." Some would view this as a perfectly acceptable comparison. One uses Hitler as a well-known example of an extreme case that requires no explanation to prove that a generalization is not universally true.
Some would argue, however, that Godwin's Law applies especially to the situation mentioned above, as it portrays an inevitable appeal to emotion as well as holding an implied ad hominem attack on the subject being compared, both of which are fallacious in irrelevant contexts. Hitler, on a semiotic level, has far too many negative connotations associated with him to be used as a valid comparison to anything but other despotic dictators. Thus, Godwin's Law holds even when making comparisons to normal leaders that, on the surface, would seem to be reasonable comparisons.
Godwin's standard answer to this objection is to note that Godwin's Law does not dispute whether, in a particular instance, a reference or comparison to Hitler or the Nazis might be apt. It is precisely because such a reference or comparison may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued, that hyperbolic overuse of the Hitler/Nazi comparison should be avoided. Avoiding such hyperbole, he argues, is a way of ensuring that when valid comparisons to Hitler or Nazis are made, such comparisons have the appropriate impact.
From a philosophical standpoint, Godwin's Law could be said to exclude normative (emotional) considerations from a positivist (rational) discussion. Frequently, a reference to Hitler is used as an evocation of evil. Thus a discussion proceeding on a positivist examination of facts is considered terminated when this objective consideration is transformed into a normative discussion of subjective right and wrong. It is exacerbated by the frequent fallacy "Hitler did A, therefore A is evil" (Reductio ad Hitlerum). However, as noted, the exceptions to Godwin's Law include the invocation of the Hitler comparison in a positivist manner that does not have a normative dimension.
In general, Godwin's Law does not apply in situations wherein one could reasonably expect Hitler or Nazis to be mentioned, such as a discussion of Germany in World War II. Exceptions, of course, may exist and should be obvious given the preceding discussion.
A post-script: discuss almost anything long enough, especially political matters and, indeed, it becomes difficult to refrain from mentioning Hitler or the Nazis, even without your emotions playing a factor or attempting to score a most palpable hit. Hitler, the Nazis, and WWII were some of the most important people and events in the history of humankind and to automatically exclude any mention of them from a discussion is tremendously limiting. Nevertheless, with the exception of a few twisted individuals, it is true and understandable that as soon as a mention of Hitler comes up, it becomes virtually impossible to continue the discussion in a rational manner. I mean, I’ve never read Mein Kampf for two reasons: 1) I feel like I should be really rather don’t want to and 2) I don’t own a copy and am extremely reluctant to buy one or check one out of the library. I mean, I even feel slightly uncomfortable posting this. Silly, perhaps, but there it is.
Which is why in internet discussions I usually bring up Stalin instead.
Seriously. It’s an interesting thing I’ve found on lists. Bring up Stalin and the conversation can generally continue as it was, despite the fact that Stalin killed something like 25,000,000 of his own citizens; some put the number as "low" as ten million and some as high as fifty million. Anyway you cut it, that’s one serious mass murderer. And yet the mere mention of Stalin’s name doesn’t cause the blood pressure to instantly skyrocket. I’ve never tried, but I’d assume the same would be true for Pol Pot, whose numbers were far smaller but percentage-wise were greater.
Humans are interesting things.
What the--?! A word of the day? A freakin’ word of the day!?
But, but, but, Scott, I can hear
thousands hundreds dozens some a few maybe one of you mutter, we look forward to Left of the Dial to start our day off just right. We need some righteous indignation, we need ranting, we need raving, we need precious bodily fluids flying in a mindless frenzy of ethical outrage.
And I can understand that. I can. But there’s only so much outrage one man can dish out to even the wantingest of worlds. Hence today’s Word o’ the Day.
And it’s a good one. Yes it is.
I mean, look, words just don’t get much better’n this:
titivate \TIT-uh-vayt\, transitive and intransitive verb:
To smarten up; to spruce up.
It's easy to laugh at a book in which the heroine's husband
says to her, "You look beautiful," and then adds, "So stop
-- Joyce Cohen, "review of To Be the Best, by Barbara
Taylor Bradford," New York Times, July 31, 1988
In The Idle Class, when Chaplin is titivating in a hotel
room, the cloth on his dressing table rides up and down,
caught in the same furious gusts.
-- Peter Conrad, Modern Times, Modern Places
Titivate is perhaps from tidy + the quasi-Latin ending -vate.
When the word originally came into the language, it was
written tidivate or tiddivate. The noun form is titivation.
The modern spelling is definitely a big improvement.
So you see what I’m sayin’? Seriously, isn’t this a fine way to start your day? A spot o’ larnin’, and an invigoratin’ spot o’ larnin’ at that.
In fact, if I may be so bold, I do believe I have just titivated your life, even if only a bit.
A shot of titivation, from me to you.
Left of the Dial: titivation for your life.
Left of the Dial: titivating since 2005.
Left of the Dial: the internets’s Number One titivator.
Left of the Dial: titivatious!
Needs work. But we’ll get there.
Oh, and don’t worry. I’ll be back to frothing at the mouth on the morrow. Or maybe I’ll tell you a cute kid story. Or post a music review. One never knows. Even I don’t know until after I fire up the internets and see what I’ve posted; I tend to go into a fugue state when composing these puppies—which explains the rambling asides.
But they’re titivating asides.
So I’ve been re-reading a biography of Jean Sibelius. As with Bach and Beethoven and Tchaikovsky and so many others, this brilliant composer had a patron. In fact, he had several. What’s more, the government of Finland actually began sponsoring him, correctly realizing that he was one of their true national treasures.
I don’t think I’m either up for that or down with it, but the patron bit sounds pretty groovy. So, showing my appreciation for history, I am now accepting applications for the official position of Left of the Dial Patron.
No corporations need apply, of course, unless they understand that they’ll get shredded on a regular basis just to show that money has not diluted or dulled my razor-sharp wit nor my edgy, edgy edge and general distrust of authority. Individuals, however, will be treated with considerable respect, as anyone sagacious enough to have sponsored me will therefore have shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that the individual in question obviously has outstandingly fine taste, something for which I have the utmost respect.
What’s more, if the level of patronage is high enough, you can be the patron of not only Left of the Dial but, indeed, the entire Scott Peterson oeuvre. You’ll be thanked in all my future writings and I’ll even consider taking specific commissions—so if you want a novel dedicated to you and I’ve got an idea for a novel (and I’ve got at least three that are dying to be written—and, alas, I’m entirely serious), I’ll move that up in the queue.
Want a picture book? I’ve got several ideas and with you allowing me to ignore some of the mundanities of everyday life—such as finding paying work so I can pay the bills—I’ll hop on it post-haste. I’ve not much talent in the way of poetry, though I love it, but I’d be willing to take a stab at some haiku or limericks. I used to love writing short stories and vignettes and would be more than happy to try my hand at such forms again. Graphic novels, screenplays, teleplays: the sky’s the limit and it’s all on the table, provided the financials work out favorably.
Now, in the interest of honesty, I’ll have to say upfront that there are no guarantees on this—after all, I’m a writer, not a trained monkey. It’s possible that the muse will simply refuse to visit and that try as I may, try as I might the well will run dry just as I’m searching for the perfect rhyme to cap off my little ditty about orthopedics. But I will guarantee my best effort. And if you’re reading this, you know what that looks like. (Wow, talk about the ol’ soft sell…)
I’ve got several hundred regular readers of Left of the Dial and surely many of you have sufficient cash flow to enrich our great nation and indeed the entire civilized world in this manner. After all, if you’re not fabulously wealthy, what are doing spending so much time reading this site? So of course you are. Don’t bother denying it. Just get together with your accountant, figure out how much you can comfortably afford to shift out of those offshore accounts in order to support my wit and wisdom, add another ten percent just to be on the safe side, and let’s talk.
Bach’s cello suites, Beethoven’s middle quartets, Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony and my novel The Sight (currently half-finished and not only a most excellent page-turner with significant emotional depths but also quite likely the ability to bring permanent peace to the Middle East…not to oversell or nothin’). You could add this timeless masterpiece to the world’s collection of great works. And, you know, that ain’t an offer that comes along every day. So what are you waiting for? Do you really wanna get outmaneuvered by The Donald (again?) on this? Of course not.
Operators are standing by.
Well, now, isn’t this weird? I mentioned some Words of the Day which’d been highlighted in Left of the Dial over the decades, one of which was the fine if somewhat ubiquitous (can something be only somewhat ubiquitous?) word "meme."
At which point someone emailed me, asking about "meme." Claimed to be a regular Left of the Dialer (Left of the Dialian?) and yet to have missed the "meme" memo.
So I checked. And it seems that I wrote about "meme" back in mid-November but never actually posted it. How odd. But now you can probably understand why my phone kept getting turned off back when I lived in NYC—I just kept forgetting to pay the bill. What the hell, there was no one I felt like talking to anyway.
Therefore, with little further ado, I present for the first time a repeat of a golden oldie making its long-delayed debut:
I give you…meme.
What is with the word "meme" these days? I can’t swing a dead cat without hitting it—or at least someone using it. Okay, so I don’t actually swing dead cats. That much. Any more. But if I did, boy…
Jeez. Now I lost my train of thought. And I’m hungry.
Ah, yes, of course. Meme. Knew if I just waited a few moments it’d come back. It’s funny that way. Read a blog, read the word. It (almost) never fails. Meme is the new black. And soon that concept shall be the new meme. It’s floating out there, in the ether. Almost like a…well, like a meme.
If you’re one of those rare but highly-cultivated individdles who reads few blogs, perusing only Left of the Dial with your morning cuppa, trying desperately to overlook the rambling and asides and rambling asides, you may not have run across the word meme. Allow me, then, to introduce you. Because, after all, this is a blog. And therefore I must use the word "meme."
meme (me¯m) noun
A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.
[Shortening (modeled on GENE) of mimeme, from Greek mime¯ma, something imitated, from mimeisthai, to imitate. See mimesis.]
An idea, thought or piece of information that is passed from generation to generation through imitation and behavioral replication. Coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book "The Selfish Gene," memes and memetics are the cultural counterpart to the biological study of genes and genetics. Using the evolution analogy, Dawkins observed that human cultures evolve via "contagious" communications in a manner similar to the gene pool of populations over time.
It is, incidentally, pronounced "meem." And, yes, that does actually count for quite a bit in its favor.
You know, just going by his own oeuvre, the overwhelming majority of which I’ve not only read, but read in some cases hundreds of times, I do not think Mister Theodore Geisel would be entirely displeased by this:
I do not like that Abramoff!
"Would you like to play some golf?"
I do not want to play some golf.
I do not want to, Abramoff.
"We could fly you there for free.
Off to Scotland, by the sea."
I do not want to fly for free.
I don't like Scotland by the sea.
I do not want to play some golf.
I do not want to, Abramoff.
And if you think either this or its inspiration (meaning either reality or the book) are ridiculous, wait until you hear about the proposed new ethics rules.
"Now, Fox, this time I really mean it—do you absolutely promise that if I give you another chance to guard the henhouse that you won't eat any more of the chickens? Well, okay, then. I believe you. I'm sure seven-thousandth time's the charm."
And much as I wish I'd thought of it, credit for the title goes to http://micah.sifry.com.
Today's Benjamin Franklin's three hundredth birthday. We could sure use a guy like him these days.
"All wars are follies, very expensive and very mischievous ones. In my opinion, there never was a good war or a bad peace. When will mankind be convinced and agree to settle their difficulties by arbitration?"
"Well done is better than well said."
"Half a truth is often a great lie."
"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."
"Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don't have brains enough to be honest."
"For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right but found to be otherwise.
"When you're finished changing, you're finished."
"Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness."
"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."
"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
" 'A time comes when silence is betrayal...'
"The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on."
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
So we’ve got a little bit of a family tradition. Sometime around Christmas Eve, we cuddle up on the couch and watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas. (And, no, it’s not a tale of Bill O’Reilly. After all, in this one the Grinch is redeemable.)
A good time is not, alas, had by all. Because The Boy doesn’t like television much. At least, he doesn’t like kiddie shows. All he likes are The West Wing, Signing Time and live concert DVDs. He’s…interesting.
Since the Grinch is animated, The Boy's got little interest. But he gets pissed that he’s left out of the fun, even though he doesn’t want to actually partake in the fun, so he just bitches until Top Management takes him into another room. So she misses most of it. Which sucks for her. But it’s for the best. Because the rest of us are happy. And isn’t that what counts at Christmas? And, for that matter, the rest of the year? Of course it is.
Actually, I grok where The Boy is coming from. That’s sorta been the story of my life. I don’t want to go to Place X or Event Y but when everyone else goes, I stay by myself feeling lonely. Waaah. Poor pitiful me. And, yes, The Boy really does enjoy curling up with us and watching The West Wing. Whenever we first put the DVD on, as the show’s menu pops up and the music’s playing in the background, he comes running in and just watches the stills slowly fading in and out on the screen. And he can watch the credits run over and over. He’s a freak.
So. Curling up and watching together’s one of our traditions and I realize it’s not exactly a unique one. But the girls love it and so do I. So naturally we’d like to keep it going, maybe extend it a bit. Top Management suggests Miracle on 34th Street, a film which I’ve never actually seen all the way through. But I’ve seen more than enough pieces of it here and there to know that much of the point is that no one believes Santa Claus is real. And since I don’t feel like introducing that doubt into our kids, I nix the idea for this year.
I should take this moment to say there are some spoilers coming up. So if you don’t want to talk about The Secret of Santa Claus, skip today’s edition of Left of the Dial.
Okay. All gone? All here? Good. Let’s proceed.
The one piece of advice my dad gave me upon the birth of our first kid was, he said, the one piece of advice he’d been given by my Uncle Roy when he, my dad, first became a father. And that advice was this: no matter how smart you think your kids are, they’re always way smarter.
Good advice and oh so true. Which isn’t to say they can’t be idiots and boneheads sometimes, of course. Because they can. After all, in our specific case, they’ve got 51% of my genetic material, so how could they not? But still and all, kids are goofy smart. Which is something that gets overlooked way too often.
But even more than it gets overlooked, it gets confused. Because just because kids are smart doesn’t mean they’re hip. Yet commercials and television shows and movies and books and so on don’t seem to get the difference.
When Top Management was expecting The Rose, we got a ton of books as presents. The books were intended to help Max deal with the arrival of a rival, someone with whom she would vie for her parents, their love and their affection for the rest of her life. The books explained that babies were noisy and smelly and fussy and turned life upside-down but that it’d get better eventually and that despite all the horror involved with a new baby, they, on balance, were a good thing. Or at least not an entirely terrible thing.
We thanked the people for the books and buried them on bookshelves in the closet. And when The Rose came along, Max loved her to pieces and never had any idea that she was supposed to be possessed by the green-eyed monster. The only sibling rivalry she ever showed was when Grandma came to visit. That was maybe a little tricky for the first few minutes. But Mom and Dad? Feh. More than enough to go around.
When The Rose was somewhere around three months old, she was laying on a blanket and Max was stretched out next to her, playing with The Rose’s toes. Top Management was in the next room and, unbeknownst to the girls, was watching. The Rose reached over and grabbed Max’s hand and tried to stick it in her mouth. Max laughed and the two of them lay there, holding hands, looking at each other. Max then said very quietly, "Friends forever."
What brings this all up? Just that a few nights after watching the Grinch we watched Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. That’s the one narrated by Fred Astaire and with Mickey Rooney as Kris Kringle. Great stuff. Jessica Claus nee The Schoolteacher is so smokin’ly hot it’s bizarre; even Top Management gasped the first time young Jessica appears in profile. And the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Claus have been living in sin all this time—they say in the cartoon that they weren’t able to get married officially, so they just held an impromptu ceremony themselves, with only the animals as witnesses; I believe that their sham "marriage" is one of the things the Defense of Marriage Act is supposed to protect us good ‘Muricans against—is a bit of a mindblower. Oh, and Santa’s a felon. Which is weird. Actually, it’s even more than that. But whatever.
So far, so good. By and large. But then a few nights after that we decided to watch A Year Without a Santa Claus.
Now, the drop in quality is most noticeable. I loooooooved this show as a kid—it’s the one with Heat Miser and Snow Miser and Santa deciding to take a holiday (which seems to ignore the fact that he only works one damn night the entire year and he can’t even be arsed to show up for that?) and "Blue Christmas" and all that. But watching with adult eyes you realize that the story’s all over the place. It’s not well-paced and the acting’s awful—yes, even by puppet standards; there’s this one sequence where Santa just makes these utterly bizarre grunting noises for about a minute and a half with no explanation. Oh, and everyone lies all the time. Santa fibs to his wife, who then fibs right back. Then she sends two moronic little elves off to do a job for which they’re woefully unqualified and then they have to fib in order to do it and…ugh.
[And, yes, I know you’re really only allowed to use the word "arsed" in that context if you’re actually British but there’s no truly equivalent expression in the US. So I make do and risk the disdain of millions worldwide. Just another Thursday afternoon. And since it is, I shall now put on the Brian Eno album of the same name. Thank you for reminding me. Is this another of those rambling tangents I’ve been informed make up the majority of blogs?]
But there’s a bigger problem with A Year Without a Santa Claus, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s the same problem I have with Miracle on 34th Street or the otherwise beautiful book The Polar Express (and, I’m sure, the film as well, but I’ve not seen it). And that problem is this: it takes for granted the idea that people don’t believe in Santa Claus. That believing in Santa Claus is absurd and only for the smallest of children.
In A Year Without a Santa Claus there’s a little boy who helps out the elves and Mrs. Claus. Just how he does this isn’t really clear—what he really does is simply tag along in dangerous situations but they say he’s helping them so even though he doesn’t do anything helpful I guess he must be. The kid seems to be in about fifth grade. He’s a really nice kid, friendly and polite, and when asked if he believes is Santa, his reply is, "Heck no! I’m too old for that stuff. That’s just for little kids." And his dad then explains that he too felt the same when he was a little boy.
So I’m watching this with the girls and The Bean sorta cocks her head at that part. She’s too caught up in the story to ask the question that’s clearly just popped up in her active little brain and, thankfully, she doesn’t remember to ask later why only little kids believe in Santa. But there it is. The seed’s been planted.
And here’s the thing: we’ve never told the kids there’s a Santa Claus. Society does that for us. We’ve never had to bring it up because it’s absolutely everywhere (meaning my Jihad Against Christmas clearly continues to be a miserable failure).
Top Management doesn’t believe in lying to kids, and we’ve both met a surprisingly number of adults who said they truly felt betrayed by their parents when they found out the truth. So we’ve never told the kids there is or isn’t a Santa…unless they’ve asked. So far the only one to do that was Max, in a very roundabout way.
She asked if the Tooth Fairy was real. Top Management reminded her that we always answer a question if it’s asked so was she sure she really wanted to know? Max assured her that she indeed did. So the news was broken. Max smiled and said she’d suspected—the difference in pay between what she got per tooth and what a good friend got per tooth had sent up little red flags since, clearly, the Tooth Fairy had some sort of sliding scale or was skimming off the top when it came to our household.
Max thanked Top Management and started to walk away. Then she turned back and said very seriously, "Mom, some day I might ask you about Santa Claus. And when I do, I want you to tell me. But only when I ask, okay? And I’m not asking now."
So I’m not some dude who’s all into the whole Santa thang; in fact, I’m about as far from it as it’s possible for a semi-normal semi-Christian dad to get. But that’s not the point. The point is that our society encourages kids to believe in Santa, and then they tell ‘em stories that are designed to inspire doubt in the very same thing—and both those happen in the exact same stories. The dissonance there is just bewildering to me. Why set it up in the first fifteen minutes of the story just to knock it down in the next fifteen…and then build it up again in the last fifteen? Pick a damn lane, man.
I think what it comes down to is that people think kids are hipper than they are. I don’t believe that’s true. Smarter, yes. Hipper, no. Or at least, not naturally. But I think they’re forced into a state of premature hipness by people who simply assume the kids are there already and thus prod them into it before they’re necessarily ready for it. And then the kids are hip so if someone raises this kind of objection, the rebuttal is, hey, my kid’s hip already. And they are. But maybe they weren’t ready to be. And it’s too late to do anything about it now.
And, hey, some kids are ready for it. Of course they are. But some aren’t. And the one-size-fits-all thing really takes away some of the magic of childhood, I think. And I really don’t think a five-year-old, in the overwhelming majority of cases, is. And since that’s pretty much right there in the target audience for these things I’m mentioning, we run into that cognitive dissonance. A sixth grader? Sure. A kindergartner? Not so much. As in, not at all. I just don’t get it.
I’ve always had a Holden Caufield thing, even when I was in high school, but this just seems a shame to me. That whole adulthood thing lasts for the overwhelming majority of a person’s life, and it’s a wonderful thing (for the most part). Childhood’s such a fleeting period and, as Mister Young put it, "once you’re gone, you can’t come back." So why rush it?
I don’t remember why but the story of the scorpion and the frog came up the other night when I’d finished reading the girls their bedtime story—we’re currently reading "The Tale of Despereaux : Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread" by Kate Dicamillo.
[As far as I can remember, what we were reading has no bearing on the story at hand but I’ve been informed recently that my little asides, such as this thingie right here, are the most charming part of my writing. Or maybe the least charming. Hm. Hard to remember, what with all them little asides and ramblings I toss in hither and yon and don’t bother to take back out when rewriting because after all bloggers don’t rewrite they just spew and then hit "send." At least, I think that’s the way this blogging thing works. It’s the way I’ve heard it works. I think. Anyhoo, doesn’t make sense for my asides and off-the-top-of-my-head stream-of-consciousnesses to be my least charming, though, does it? I mean, there’s some pretty stiff competition there. But I digress. As usual. Charmingly.]
Anyhoo, in case there’s any of you what don’t know the story of the scorpion and the frog, here’s a quick version:
A frog is hopping along a river bank when he sees a scorpion. The scorpion says, "Excuse me. I need to get to the other side of the river. Would you give me ride on your back?"
The frog says, "What, do I look crazy to you? You’re a scorpion! You’d sting me."
The scorpion says, "But I can’t swim. So if I sting you, you’ll die and then I’ll drown. And what sense would that make?"
The frog sees the logic in this and allows the scorpion to climb on his back. He starts swimming but halfway across the frog feels a sting on his back.
As the poison starts to take effect, the frog manages to stammer, "But…but why? You’ve killed me. And now you’re going to die too. So…why?"
And as the water begins to close over them both, the scorpion answers, "Because I’m a scorpion. It’s what I do. It’s just in my nature."
Now, the first time I ran across that story—perhaps while reading "Siddhartha"? Or Aesop’s fables?—I thought it was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. It was probably a good decade later that I saw the sad truth in it. But it took even longer to realize that, alas, I’ve got more than a bit of the scorpion in me. And being aware of that helps. But not as much as it probably should.
Of course, scorpions have always totally freaked me out. As a kid I couldn’t even look at a picture of ‘em. And our first spring here, Top Management killed one on our back patio. Symbolism?
So, with that prelude, here’s today’s word of the day:
quiddity \KWID-ih-tee\, noun:
1. The essence, nature, or distinctive peculiarity of a thing.
2. A hairsplitting distinction; a trifling point; a quibble.
3. An eccentricity; an odd feature.
Quiddity comes from the scholastic Medieval Latin term quidditas, "essence," from quid, "what."
Special thanks go to Brother Jay for forwarding me this word of the day; he and I are on different "word of the day" email lists so once in a great while he’ll send me one that he thinks I’ll be particularly interested in. Why he chose this one I could never possibly guess. I mean…I’m not that obvious. Am I? Nah. 'Course not.
This piece made me happy. I’d never even heard of the book "Goodnight Moon" until Max was born. Dunno how I missed that one as a child but I gotta say, I don’t think my life was seriously impaired. Of course, perhaps it was and I’m simply unable to tell because I was never read "Goodnight Moon" seventeen thousand times as a toddler.
Whatever the case, I have since rectified all that by reading the book seventeen thousand times to each and every one of my daughters. I’ve tried reading it to The Boy but since he can’t hear me anyway, it hasn’t really taken; he brings you a book and then stares at your lips. It’s kinda sweet, actually, and maybe a little bit heartbreaking. And the result is that he’s only had it read to him four thousand times. What can I say? The older kids always get doted upon and the younger ones ignored. Can you tell I was the youngest in my family?
By KAREN KARBO
Published: December 4, 2005
"Goodnight Moon," the children's classic by Margaret Wise Brown, has gone smoke free. In a newly revised edition of the book, which has lulled children to sleep for nearly 60 years, the publisher, HarperCollins, has digitally altered the photograph of Clement Hurd, the illustrator, to remove a cigarette from his hand. HarperCollins said it made the change to avoid the appearance of encouraging smoking.
- The New York Times, Nov. 17
EXCELLENT start, HarperCollins, but why stop there? The text of "Goodnight Moon" itself is laden with messages that are potentially harmful to our youngest readers. At a minimum, these changes should be made:
A. Huge gilt picture frames have no place in the nursery, especially those that are not properly secured. Should these three little bears sitting on chairs crash down during the night, Bunny risks suffering massive head trauma. Suggested change: digitally replace with piece of lightweight non-toxic fiber art.
B. The blue stripes are adorable, but the reader has no way of knowing whether Bunny's pj's meet current flammability standards. Suggested change: digitally alter to include visible "flame resistant" label, in accordance with recommendations made by the Consumer Products Safety Commission. Digitally removing pj's is not an option.
C. Tell me this rug is not made of the skin of a Siberian tiger. Suggested change: Digitally remove to avoid appearance of condoning hunting of planet's endangered species.
D. How long has this bowl full of mush been sitting here? A single drop of sour milk contains more than 50 million potentially fatal bacteria. At the very least Bunny is in danger of contracting irritable bowel syndrome. Not to mention mush is low in fiber. Suggested change: Digitally remove.
E. Balloons cause more choking deaths among 3- to 6-year-olds than any other toy. Suggested change: Digitally remove.
F. Given proximity and brightness of stars and moon, it's apparent that Bunny's room is in a high rise. Both windows lack either locks or any type of window guard or restraining device. Suggested change: To avoid the appearance of encouraging children to peer out of unsafe windows, and thus tumble to their deaths, digitally remove windows. Bunny can easily bid goodnight to a moon painted on the wall with nontoxic, lead-free paint.
G. Mice carry hantavirus, hemorrhagic fever, salmonella and Lyme disease. Suggested change: Digitally remove.
H. A fire blazing in the fireplace while Bunny sleeps? Suggested change: Get rid of it. At the very least, digitally add a fire extinguisher to the wall. And hello? Where are the smoke detectors?
I. The United States Fire Administration advises against using "alternative heating devices" like fires to dry clothing. Suggested change: Digitally move mittens and socks to other end of the room.
J. Clearly the bookshelf is unanchored to the wall. If an earthquake hit, Bunny could get squashed flat. Suggested change: Digitally remove. We can't see the titles on the spines of the books anyway, which might convey to children it's all right to pick up any old book and read it.
K. Who exactly is this rabbit? Bunny says, "A quiet old lady whispering hush?" But what do we know of her really? Suggested change: Digitally alter quiet old lady's apron with a message emblazoned across the front that says she was hired from a reputable agency, is a citizen and has passed a criminal background check.
L. Penetrating injuries to the chest by knitting needles are not uncommon. Also, someone could lose an eye. Suggested change: Digitally remove. The quiet old lady is not getting paid to knit, anyway.
Karen Karbo is the author, most recently, of "Minerva Clark Gets a Clue."
But wait! That’s not all!
'Goodnight Moon,' Without the Sharp Edges
Published: December 7, 2005
To the Editor:
As someone who reads "Goodnight Moon" to my daughter Lucy sometimes three or four times a day, I found Karen Karbo's Dec. 4 Op-Ed article, "Goodbye, Moon," a scream.
The first thing that popped into my head when HarperCollins announced that it was removing the cigarette from the illustrator Clement Hurd's hand was, "What about putting a grate on that fireplace in Bunny's room?" My partner is always saying: "Sure, mush rhymes with brush. But who would have a bowl of mush next to the bed?" Yes, "Goodnight Moon" is a beloved classic that I will always enjoy reading to Lucy. But now I will be able to read it knowing that someone else is also worrying about the obvious dangers that could befall Bunny.
Los Angeles, Dec. 4, 2005
To the Editor:
Karen Karbo missed a few obvious hazards in her good effort to bring "Goodnight Moon" up to current safety standards.
The spiked curtain rods are dangerous and could easily skewer Bunny.
That clunky old telephone at Bunny's bedside is also a danger. Really, Bunny, if left unsupervised by the quiet old lady, could be brained by the heavy receiver or strangled by the cord. Replace it with a new lightweight cordless or, better yet, a wall-mounted monitoring unit that would also enable letting go the quiet old lady.
Bunny's bed has no restraining rails. Bunny could roll out of bed and be seriously hurt. These should be installed at once.
Bethesda, Md., Dec. 4, 2005
To the Editor:
Karen Karbo's suggestions, while excellent, do not consider Bunny's mental health.
A close examination of the clock above the fireplace shows that the time is 7 p.m. at the start of the book. At the end of the book, the time is 8:10 p.m., indicating that it takes Bunny 70 minutes to fall asleep.
It is concerning that the book implies that this length of time is acceptable.
On the contrary, 70 minutes to fall asleep suggests that Bunny is suffering from undiagnosed and untreated insomnia. Suggested change: Digitally alter the clock so that the elapsed time is 20 minutes. Alternatively, add a footnote indicating that Bunny is seeing a sleep specialist or child psychotherapist to address the insomnia.
Indianapolis, Dec. 5, 2005
The writers are clinical psychologists.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
Saw this poem on the kitchen table. Although it is not credited, diligent research undertaken by top experts has produced a consensus that its author is none other than mine own daughter, The Rose.
Horse come to ye
Horse come to ye
Come to The Rose who loves you
Horse come to ye
Sounds like an Olde English blues, doesn’t it? Can’t you just see a travelin’ bard with a lute singin’ ‘bout the hard times and the mead wench who done him wrong?