pseudopodium
. . . Booze

. . .

Gimlets are metal: Gins and Roses

. . .

In production: MGM returns to musicals with Ben Stiller's remake of Lost Weekend, starring an unshaven Jim Carrey, a shaven Gwyneth Paltrow, and the Dalai Lama as Joe the Barkeep. Andrew Lloyd Webber's score packs such potential VH-1 hits as "The Brandy Man," "Tomorrow (I Guess I'll Clean Up My Act Tomorrow)," and "Sink":

Sink,
Sink till sunk.
Life is simple
If you live it drunk.
Don't worry if you're not good enough
To manage a goddamn thing.
Just sink,
Sink till sunk.

. . .

Critics rave:

You call this a club? I came in for a drink, and all I get is this?
-- Doug Asherman
Yes! Yes! Manuia (paka-paka)!

. . .

The Miracle of Digestion (via Cardhouse): What finer way to celebrate Halloween than with a prepared foods professional convention?

This most recent association of vodka and vitality was probably suggested by the renaissance of the Finnish film industry.

. . .

When life gives you lemons, make very bad gimlets.

. . .

Where there's a swill, there's a sway.

. . .

Affirmations:

I have a drinking opportunity.

. . .

Affirmations

"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is a hangover." -- Anselm Dovetonsils

. . .

And the Words of the Day just keep on comin', as Damian Murphy provides us with a rare example of oeonotaphonomy, as well as a promising suggestion for how to impress a girl:
Speaking of rather eccentric fascinations with buried items, a friend recently came up with the idea that he bury a number of bottles of very good wine in various locations about the city or the edges thereof. Some time later, when he intends to impress a girl for example, he can dig the bottles up, making no mention of the fact that it was him that buried the thing on the spot before.
Seriously Carol!
M. K. Brown, from Twisted Sisters

. . .

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.
Alas
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

. . .

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.)

. . .

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

. . .

News that stays news

I hope the well-funded London tourist office is lending full support to the Pumpkin Publog, East Eire's first real allurement since the British Museum shoved all those books out of sight. Miss not the Blue Posts Crawl, December 4 - 12, 2000. It's what I call an epic.

. . .

Daylight Squandering Time, or, Did July When You Said Juluvd Me

"As for God's graces, what can we see except in the dark? Daylight is opaque, like water we've washed our hands in."
-- Basil Bunting to Victoria Forde, 1973

(Possibly related: "I never drink before sunset. After that, the deluge." As quoted by Tony Millionaire.)

The Elater Noctiluccus

. . .

Willie McTell  
And Willie McTell wasn't exactly "authentically" a blues musician. It's true he's marketed as blues: there's no other way for an African-American guitarist-singer from Depression-era Atlanta to be marketed. And he recorded a fair number of songs with "Blues" in the title: record companies pushed them at the time. But how many other musicians in the blues bins could've recorded under the pseudonym "Hillbilly Willie" or would've pulled "Wabash Cannonball" from a drunken memory rummage?

McTell played blues songs not because they were blues but because they were popular, and he handled them superbly not because he was a blues musician but because he was a pop musician. In fact, when I first heard him twenty-some years ago, his eclecticism and detached engagement reminded me more of the Kinks than of any of the bit of blues I knew.

Now I can place him more accurately in the songster tradition, and more specifically among an assortment of drawling, danceable, dry-eyed tragicomedians that include Robert Wilkins and Blind Blake: simultaneously down-home and show-biz slick, languid and virtuosic, aiming above all for an appearance of natural aristocratic ease. (Peaks of energetic enthusiasm are typically expressed by McTell with a laconic "That made me sweat.") When need arises, I usually group them under the (admittedly unsatisfactory) umbrella term jug band, although determined taxonomists vivisect their seamless sound into more established categories like "folk," "blues," "ragtime," "vaudeville," "gospel," "hillbilly," or "hokum."

But McTell remains unique, with a uniqueness that tends to be overlooked because it can't be successfully mimicked or explicitly credited. McTell wasn't a composer of songs but of line readings; a master of nuanced affect, he's as phrase-intent as Webern. I've heard maybe a dozen versions of "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie," but no others flaunt hooks to match McTell's shifting vocal delivery and breaking-glass-organ "mess-arounds" (probably played on the headstock of his 12-string guitar); his demand for that "gal over there with that rrrred frrock on" exults in its peculiar lasciviousness as much as Ian Hunter's demand for "you there! with the glasses!" The structure is a given; the joy is in the details.

McTell himself said of his most strikingly original composition, "Dying Crapshooter's Blues" (1.9MB MP3): "I had to steal music from every which way you could get it to get it to fit." Although the criminal's mock testament has a history ranging from Villon to "Streets of Laredo" and "St. James Infirmary," McTell's three years of tinkering resulted in a structure part recitation, part theater -- a three-act pop opera complete with opening fanfare.

In it, he achieves a kind of fantastic naturalism: the reporter enchanted by the sordidness of his own fantasy, breaking in with interjections to remind us of the frame story, smoothly shifting back into the observer's world during what's chanted as one long limber line, the front-rhyme of "North" and "no" sealing the transition watertight:

Twenty-nine women outta North Atlanta no little Jesse didn't pass out so swell....
with military honors And then the deadpan summary of Jesse's farewell:
His head was aching, heart was thumping,
Little Jesse went down bouncing and jumping.
Folks, don't be standing around old Jesse crying:
He wants everybody to do the Charleston whilst he dies.
One foot up and a toenail dragging,
Throw my friend Jesse in the hoodoo wagon.
Moving to full-throated song again for the "moral" and the "memorial":
Come here mama with that can of booze.
Dyin' crapshooter's blues, I mean
The dyin' crapshooter's blues.
It's not rural music, and it's not nightclub music; not exactly earthbound, but nothing close to ethereal. McTell is the ideal musician for the dreamy grimy rubbery urbanity of archy & mehitabel, for E. C. Segar's Thimble Theater (or for the early Fleischers' Popeye -- they never found a scorer as perfect as Cab Calloway was for Betty Boop), for the silent comedies of miracle-working white-faced saints with dirt-blackened hands....

Responses

Jesse Anderson kindly writes:

Just a little note about the 'breaking glass organ' in Pinetop's Boogie Woogie - I'm pretty sure that this was McTell hitting the strings below the bridge rather than above the nut. It'd be hard to get that much volume out of the strings at the headstock. This is an uncommon sound because it can't be reproduced in pin-bridged guitars - that is, guitars whose string ends go into holes in the guitar top just behind the saddle. But McTell's 12 strings we often more 'trapeze' style bridges - as you can see in the 2nd and 3rd pictures on your page, the string ends are passed through bracket connected to the bottom of the guitar, and there is a short section of string between this bracket and the saddle that could produce these high tones.

. . .

Every man is an island, but he can make day trips when the ferry is running

Those who are curious but who for whatever reason couldn't make it to Friday's performance can be assured that it went, actually, surprisingly well. (Or at least the reception did -- for obvious reasons, I can't speak as to the quality of the performance, although a Chronicle columnist acclaimed it as "AMUSING!") Given the unhipness of the notion (that same columnist, I'm told, expressed misgivings about "attending a lecture on a Friday night"), the audience was astonishingly supportive and friendly, and I glowed like a fat old white guy after a sauna and rubdown even before I started spending my portion of the door's take on booze.

I may not quite be ready to make the Cory Doctorow career leap to professional speaking (I'll need to cover more than one night's bar tab for that), but I had a lovely time as spectator, listener, and participant, and I thank the organizers. You thank them too, OK, when you see them?

. . .

Some days you raise the bar and some days the bar raises you

No party will be dull The life of any party Liven up your next party
Don't let the next party be dullsville
Taylor Gifts 1969 Catalog generously pilfered from Kate Small

. . .

Affirmations

Hangovers are nature's way of preparing us for the experience of chemotherapy.

. . .

Consumer News

A free market is a dumb market. I mean, even aside from its stubborn feuds with education, health, species survival, and so on even on its own terms of delivering quality goods to people who'll pay for them, it's a screw-up. Look at how short-sighted zombie-lived speculative greed over copyright has blocked consumer access to a wealth of wonderful reissues. Look at the Betamax. Or fresh produce.

But in those cases I know what went wrong. A more mysterious failure of American capitalism is the vanishing of orange bitters, key to such classic cocktails as the Manhattan which can bull on through regardless of casualties, like the Dirty Dozen Minus Two and, more tragically, the martini.

A mere mix of gin and dry vermouth is as dull, oily, and incoherent as the defeated executives who classically swill it. But with a brush of this liquid Philosopher's Stone, in a harp-and-bell glissando a bad marriage becomes a Drink an sich and you're transformed from Henry Jones to William Powell.

So why isn't it stocked anywhere? It's not like the bottles are that big.

Anyway, I'm not saying this just to taunt you, unless you don't live in the East Bay. I found a shelf that carries orange bitters at Monterey Liquors, 1590 Hopkins, Berkeley, conveniently near a source of fresh produce. Go thou and do likewise. (As garnish for the complete Cholly Martini, olives stuffed with preserved lemon are available from the Spanish Table on San Pablo Ave.)

Responses

Je zia sano!

Off your vole! (A raised glass: the truly universal language.)

By gum, that's an inestimable public service you just performed. Come over some time for a martini or three. -paul

It'll take a while to work out just which Paul this is. Happily, I have almost a pint of orange bitters.

I've been reminded that some connoisseurs "suggest simply allowing a ray of sunlight to shine through a bottle of Noilly Prat before it hits the bottle of gin." And it's true that the most sophisticated solution to bad marriages is to spend days at the office and nights at the Club. Hélas! I am a sentimental shopkeeper at heart.

Jordan turns out to be a child of privilege. Huh.

Under the provocatively proper subject line "I like 2:1 myself", brilliant Richard Butner pours:

Agree on free market = dumb market. Oh so many examples.

[...] But, re: the cinepad link in your recent post. Ahem. Bunuel (sorry, no tilde in this mail program) was right about a lot of things, but probably not the proper role of vermouth in martini construction. (At least he got the brand right.) See LCRW #12! A martini without vermouth is just a punchline to a bad joke.

I'm with you and we are right. I tried to let the spirit of Buñuel down soft and easy with some self-deprecation, but the sincerity of my self-deprecation wasn't meant to negate the sincerity of myself. I like the idea of a saved marriage.

A martini without vermouth is just a reference. Not even a joke. And I know the difference, 'cause I can't tell jokes.

 

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.