pseudopodium
. . . Boston

. . .

Boston, 1994: A goateed guy in his twenties swipes a "Prosperity Ahead" CA/T public relations poster off the T ad strip. "McGruff Wants Me," he paraphrases to us from the poster underneath.

. . .

Who needs food when the menu's so delicious? Department:

"Bare lists of words are found suggestive, to an imaginative and excited mind" - Emerson
Otherwise the quotes themselves are bring-downs. But the table of contents for the online Concordance to the Collected Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson makes the best poem Charles Bernstein never appropriated:

Adequate to Adults
Advance to Affairs
Altered to Amatory
Amphibious to Anglo-Saxons
Arbiters to Army
Army to Artery
Atmosphere to Attire
Attitude to Autobiography
B--, Aunt to Banquets
Beast, Beauty and the to Becky Stow's Swamp
Birth to Blurs
Bonny to Bosses
Boston Advertiser to Brazier
Budgets to Byzantium
Chilblain to Christ's Jesus
Class to Cloisters
Close to Coldness
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor to Combustion
Compliance to Conducts
Cones to Consciousnesses*
Consubstantiation to Contriving
Control to Copula
Copy to Countless
Court to Creature's
Cuba to Czars
Day, Commencement to Deadness
Deaf to Declaring
Degenerate to Demonstrator
Desirable to Devotions
Distemper to Doctrines
Drank to Driving
Droll to Dyspeptic
Effeminacy to Elicits
Eligible to Employs
Emporium to Enemy's
Energetic to Englishwomen
Eustachius to Everywhere
Evidence to Excessive
First to Fitting
Flowing to Forborne
* Link via Juliet Clark
Foundation to Fowls
Gladiators to Go-Carts
God, Almighty to Goitre
Gold to Good
Good (continued) to Grab
Graze to Great Desert
Habeas Corpus to Handling
Hand-Looms to Harms
Heat to Hemispheres
Hole to Hooted
Hung to Hysterical
Infantry to Inmates
Intrusion to Intelligences
Jabber to Joyfully
Joying to Juxtapositions
Law to Lax
Leather to Leg
Librarian to Life
Line to Littleton
Look to Lost
M. C. to Magnanimously
Maladies to Man
Meal to Mechi
Medal to Memphis, Egypt
Menace to Methuselah
Mince-Meat to Minded
Negotation to Nevermore
Nothing to Nymphs
Once to Opium-Shop
Opponent to Organisms
Organization to Overwork
Ovid to Oysters
Passenger to Pays
Peace to Penury
Permutation to Perspire
Poets to Polls
Pollute to Positives
Proprietary to Puberty
Public to Purlieus
Quack to Questions
Remedies to Replying
Restricted to Revolutions
Revolve to Rigging
Romes to Ruling
Rum to Rylstone Doe
Sail to Samos
Samples to Saxons
Seize to Sensations
Separable to Set-To
Shatter to Short-Sighted
Shot to Sidewise
Sinful to Skills
Sockets to Sometimes
Spirits to Squid
Squint to Stars
Steady to Stimulus
Strong to Subduing
Subject to Suetonius
Surprises to Sweeps
Taverns to Tempestuous
Templars to Testify
Testimonies to Thin
Tidal to Timely
Toledo to Tow-Head
Town to Trains
Truth to Turnips
Ubiquitous to Unexhausted
Unexpected to University, Yale
Unjust to Usages
Vat to Victory
Wave to Wealth
Wept to Whithersoever
Wit to Wolves
Woman to Woo
World Fairs to Wormy
Worn to Writings
Writs to Wyman, Jeffries
Yeoman, Middlesex to Yunani

. . .

Doug Asherman queries: "Here's something probably no one cares about, but....is there a conspiracy to hide all the good music from us? And the good books? Are people in the arts laughing at us for buying their crap? And if so, what can we do about it?"

Meanwhile....

Disclaimer: Ray Davis is a paid contributor to The Salon.com Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors.
 
Despite my familiarity with Salon, I was surprised by the Reader's Guide. It's like stooping to pick up what looks like an ordinary mediocre valise only to find that it's been packed full of mediocre lead bricks. According to the official mission statement, "We decided to let our contributors' enthusiasm and curiosity be our guides." These guides would seem to share one enthusiasm (the New York Times Book Review), one curiosity (what's on the front page of the New York Times Book Review?), and one path (to the trade paperback table at Borders).

I'm hardly a specialist in late-twentieth-century fiction, but if I'd wanted to provide a service to readers I would've found room for Joanna Russ, Patricia Highsmith, Chester Himes, Carol Emshwiller, Jack Womack, Bob Gluck, Barbara Comyns, Thomas Disch, Alexander Trocchi, Wendy Walker, M. John Harrison, Pat Califia, John Crowley, would've asked someone to tell me more about Patrick O'Brian and Dorothy Dunnett....

In fact the book includes only two authors that really matter to me: Karen Joy Fowler (given a short entry) and Samuel R. Delany (a short entry). Broadening my selection to writers I merely respect would add Elmore Leonard (a short entry) and Toni Morrison (a long entry, because she publishes in the mainstream genre) to the overlap.

And it's not because I haven't heard of the book's choices, which are beautifully (if unintentionally) parodied by John Updike's inset guide to "Timeless Novels about Loving," apparently repurposed from TV Guide:
"Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert - A young bourgeois wife seeks spiritual and sexual fulfillment away from the marital bed and runs grievously into debt."

"The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne - Among the Puritan pioneers of Boston, a promising clergyman falls afoul of a dark-haired protofeminist and her wizardly older husband."

Yeah, my list is idiosyncratic. An idiosyncratic list is what you'd expect to get from a serious pleasure reader. Whereas the Salon.com Guide is what you'd expect to get from a serious follower of publicity.

The depersonalized author selection ensembles beautifully with the reviewers' khaki prose. Dumbed down for ease of swallowing, it's the house style of virtually every free weekly paper: "authority" and "irreverence" and "wittiness" depilated of information or personality or humor. Journalistic blatherers used to flatter their readership by pretending it was full of good taste and morality while somehow simultaneously dumb as a stump. Nowadays the readership's still dumb as a stump yet somehow full of detached ironic wit.

Thus it makes sense that the only writer given full stylistic rein is "Pagliacci Dave" Eggers, who ends his celebrity roast of Kurt Vonnegut:

"So. Vonnegut is good. If you like books, and like to read them even if they are easy to read and frequently funny, you will like the work of Kurt Vonnegut, a writer. Also: He has a moustache."
Robert Benchley, move over! ... Or roll over. Do something, man! ... Guess he's dead.
Even John Clute, one of the most eccentric stylists ever to write a review, is sanded down to transparency here. Which is extra sad, since his argument against the tyranny of the "mainstream literary" genre lances so precisely the core of this book. Restricting yourself to mainstream fiction in the late twentieth century is like restricting yourself to heroic tragedy after 1650. The mainstream's just not where good writing is being done. Unless you crave watery flavorless writing.
How did this awful thing happen? One clue may be found in the opening of the entry for Angela Carter:
"Carter enjoyed little renown during her life, but after her death...."
"Little renown"? Say what? Angela Carter? The only way I can make sense of this is to translate it as "I wasn't assigned Carter in high school and I didn't read the New York Review of Books back then, but after I graduated...." An editor should've caught the gaffe, but since an editor wrote it, it was probably immune.
Someone on the staff did make time, though, to reduce my already undistinguished sentence:
"An early devotee of poststructuralist and feminist theory, Delany in 1979 began Return to Nevèrÿon, an archeological fantasy series that was to occupy him on and off through the 1980s."
to complete nonsense by deleting "in 1979." Maybe someone in the publishing business could clear this up for me: Are copyeditors paid more for adding lots of mistakes to a manuscript, like programmers whose productivity is measured by lines-of-code? Or do they fuck things up out of sheer gotta-leave-my-mark egotism, like programmers who work nights and weekends?
Another clue: from what I can gather, my topic was originally assigned to a friend of the editors who decided only when the deadline was nigh that it was too hard to finish the research. These aren't enthusiasts trying to communicate their enthusiams: they're a clique trying to act like grown-ups.

From the mission statement:
"We encouraged our contributors to think of you, the reader, as an intelligent, interested friend or relative who'd just asked, 'So tell me about John Updike. What are his books like?'"
I find it unlikely that your auntie would be asking you such a thing unless she was checking how well you'd learned your lessons.
What we got here is not just smugness, but downright noisy celebration of shared limited knowledge. It's like that guy in the museum painstakingly explaining every perfectly obvious thing to his wife. It's like my geeky friends parroting TV shows. It's what they teach you to do in school. And it's what makes a successful journalism career. Salon.dot critics are they who seek to enjoy, without incurring the Immense Debtorship for, a thought thunk.

See Also: Anyone who enjoys this crap should probably seek out the opinions of more journalists. Those intrigued by my crackpot theories can find them expressed more calmly in a 1998 response to Jonathan Lethem.

Ray Davis will be appearing with other contributors to The Salon.com Readers Guide to Contemporary Authors at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books in San Francisco, Thursday, September 14, 7:30pm.

. . .

Stalwart Beth Rust trots out the unwelcome news that the Green Street Grill, the only decent restaurant (other than ice cream parlors) I ever found in the greater Boston area, has changed its image. Let's hope it's still distinguishable from the ruling overpriced mediocrities once you close your eyes and stick your fork in your mouth.

. . .

My Life of Crime (linked with the proviso that "State & Local" governments are clearly more villainous than "Big" government)

Virginia
  • No trick-or-treating on Halloween.
  • No tickling of women.
  • No spitting on sea gulls in Norfolk.
Missouri
  • No oral sex.
  • No worrying squirrels in Excelsior Springs.
Pennsylvania
  • No more than 16 women can live together (accessory after the fact).
  • No singing in bathtub.
  • No public arousement in Allentown.
New Jersey
  • No frowning at police officers.
New York
  • No flirting.
  • No hanging clothes on clotheslines without a license.
  • No jumping off buildings.
  • No talking in elevators.
  • No slippers after 10 pm.
  • No greeting by putting one's thumb to one's nose and wiggling one's fingers.
  • No body-hugging clothing on women (accessory).
Massachusetts
  • Mourners may eat no more than three sandwiches at a wake.
  • No snoring unless all bedroom windows are locked.
  • No going to bed without a full bath.
  • No sex with woman on top.
  • No reproaching of Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost.
  • No Quakers or witches (accessory after the fact).
  • No kissing in front of a Boston church.
  • No crossing of Boston Commons without a rifle.
New Hampshire
  • No tapping of feet or nodding of head to music in a tavern.
  • Machinery cannot be run on Sunday.
  • No excretion while looking up on Sunday.
California
  • No oral sex in San Francisco.
  • Ugly people cannot walk in San Francisco.

. . .

I got my act together and it closed in Boston

My characteristically glum affect skewed yesterday's scattered reflections, but that's what happens with scattered reflections....

. . .

Look Away, Look Away, Look Away

Tom Matrullo responds to Richard Godbeer:

By some weird-ass coincidence too odd to ignore, I happened across this today in McCullough's bio of Adams:
"A cartoon published at Newburyport, titled 'A Philosophic Cock,' pictured Jefferson as a rooster strutting with his dark hen Sally. In October [1801] the Boston Gazette ran the words to a song of several stanzas, supposed to have been written by the sage of Monticello to be sung to the tune of 'Yankee Doodle':

Of all the damsels on the green
On mountain, or in valley
A lass so luscious ne'er was seen,
As Monticellian Sally.
Yankee Doodle, who's the noodle?
What wife were half so handy?
To breed a flock of slaves for stock,
A blackamoor's a dandy."

Apparently one of Jefferson's own polemicists turned against him and broke the Hemings story, which "spread rapidly."

Jefferson "made it a 'rule of life' not to respond to newspaper attacks."

Jefferson's precepts were typically high-minded, reasonable, and a source of justified ridicule. In this case, though, he also followed a regional habit: the would-be aristocrats of eastern Virginia took a "don't ask, don't tell" approach to rape and to the ambiguous role of the slave.

Slave owners further west were less guarded. Godbeer quotes a horrified traveler's account of breakfasting with what passed for polite society while they traced the lineaments of their host in the face of the slave serving their food, and excerpts a jocular debate in a newspaper's letter column over whether a new shipment of women from Africa was more enticing than the local white girls.

Sex with male slaves offered no equivalent financial reward for female owners, of course: only the risk of pregnancy and, later, legal prosecution. Still, availability would occasionally out....

. . .

In 1870, the political career of Henry Adams detoured into academia.

Characteristically, he made himself at home on his new perch by sawing at the limb. Having become a Harvard professor and the editor of a leading scholarly journal, for his first major article in that journal, he ransacked his distinguished grandfather's diaries and printed, with acidulous glee, the most embarrassing notes he could find from John Quincy Adams's two years at Harvard College:

However that may be, the syllogists all got together this evening and drank till not one of them could stand straight, or was sensible of what he did. A little after 9 they sallied out, and for a quarter of an hour made such a noise as might be heard at a mile distant. The tutors went out and after a short time persuaded them to disperse. Mr. —— had two squares of his windows broke.... Borland, it seems, was the most active of them all; he collared Mr. —— and threw an handful of gravel in his face, and was rather disrespectful to Mr. ——.
This excerpt may help to explain the hostility:
May 3d, 1786
We had after Prayers a Class meeting, about making a present to our Tutor. It is customary at the end of the freshman year to make a present to the Tutor of the Class: but it has been delay'd by ours to the present Time, and many would still delay it, and lay it wholly aside. The Custom, I think is a bad, one, because, it creates partialities in a Tutor, because it increases the distinction between the wealthy, and the poor Scholars, because it makes the Tutor in some measure dependent upon his Class, and because to many that Subscribe it is a considerable expence, but the Salaries of the Tutors, being so low, and it having been for many years an universal custom, I am sorry to see our Class so behind hand, and several, who could well afford it, and have really subscribed, meanly endeavouring, to put off the matter from Quarter to Quarter, till they leave College.
Here are a few additional Harvard memories which escaped publication in 1872:

May 16th, 1786
After commons as Hale, was going through the alley, an universal hiss, was heard from the juniors. This is almost the only way, that the Students here have, to keep the Tutors within any bounds. With all their pedantic despotism, they affect Popularity, and I believe the fear of hissing, or shuffling often prevents them from being so arbitrary as they would otherwise be.
August 17th, 1786
Drank tea with Mead in his Chamber which is contiguous to mine. The Club are quite in a Dilemma, how to do since the boys are sent off. They are unwilling to send Freshmen, and think it beneath their dignity to go themselves for what they want. At about 10 o'clock this evening, Stratten, a crazy fellow came, and knock'd at my door; just as I was going to bed; I opened it, and he ask'd me for some water; I told him I had none, and shut the door upon him: "Damn you, says he, do you refuse a man a little water." After thumping two or three minutes at the door, he went away, knock'd at all the doors in the entry; ran up and down stairs, came again, to my door and stamp'd at it, and finally ran to the window in the entry, push'd it up, and leapt immediately out of it. I instantly got out of my bed, went to my window, and saw him lying on the ground. After 3 or 4 minutes he began to groan "Oh! I've broke my leg." Charles had not gone to bed; I desired him to go and call up Dr. Jennison; who immediately came out. The fellow complain'd in the most doleful manner. However, after examining his leg, (for he was not at all hurt any where else) the Doctor said, there might be a bone crack'd but that none was displaced. It was with a great deal of difficulty that we were able to get Stratten, into one of the lower Rooms which is empty. He persisted for two hours in attempting to walk, for in addition to his State of mind, he was then as drunk as a beast.
November 24th, 1786
This evening, just after tea, at Chandler Ist's chamber, we were all called out by the falling of a fellow, from the top to the bottom of the stairs. He was in liquor, and tumbled in such a manner, that his head was on the lower floor, and his feet two or three steps up. When we first went out, the blood was streaming from his head, his eyes appeared fixed, and he was wholly motionless. We all supposed him dead. He soon recovered however so as to speak, and was carried off, about an hour after he fell.
May 30th, 1787
Election day. About two thirds of the Students went to Boston. Those of us who remain'd pass'd the day, in amusement; I was at Cranch's chamber the whole day. The Sophimore Class with their civil Officers at the head march'd in procession to the Hall, and as soon as they came in a pistol was fir'd by their governor. The same ceremony was repeated after commons were over. In the evening they were at Thomas's chamber, much intoxicated and very noisy. Dr. Jennison paid them a visit at nine o'clock, and sent them all to their chambers.
May 31st, 1787
The Sophimores are very fearful that their yesterday's conduct has brought them into difficulties. Mr. Reed, who found his door broken through, when he return'd from Boston, is very much incensed and will probably, take measures to discover the persons who offered the insult. Mr. Williams gave us a lecture upon a number of optical instruments. I trifled away this day.

The younger Adams claimed that his goal was to help the reader "obtain a correct idea of the gradual steps by which the standard of high education in America has been slowly raised," and I suppose I must have something similar in mind.

. . .

Higham Robert Osbourne

Boston Blackie Goes Hollywood (1942)

  1. Breaking the Code through Prosody, Part 2:

    BLACKIE: ... And this is my associate, The Runt.

    GLORIA: [PLEASANTLY] Hello... [CONTEMPTUOUSLY] runt.

    THE RUNT: [MOLTO PRESTO] Gee, I wish I could think of a good comeback.

  2. Jessie Arnold's and Victor Travers's finest moment:

    [A MAN AND A WOMAN IN BED LISTENING TO RADIO. BOSTON BLACKIE ENTERS THROUGH WINDOW.]

    BLACKIE: I love this program, don't you? [EXITS LEFT]

    WOMAN: Why... yes! Yes, I do!

    MAN: Who was that?

    WOMAN: I don't know, I never saw him before.

    . . . several shots later . . .

    [A MAN AND A WOMAN IN BED LISTENING TO RADIO. THE RUNT AND ARTHUR MANLEDER ENTER THROUGH WINDOW.]

    THE RUNT: Oh! Pardon us! [EXITS LEFT]

    MANLEDER: Excuse me! [EXITS LEFT]

    MAN: And who was that?

    WOMAN: Why, I never saw them before either.

    MAN: ... I liked the first one better.

Responses

Received September 5, 2007:

I have visited your site 248 times

If they were all in the last three weeks, I'm truly sorry and I take full irresponsibility.

Barbellion's been posting pretty much every day but then he's not working....

a dog came into town one day his christian name was runt

. . .

Ba-lue Mun-deii Ba-lues-Are : Ed's Man's World

Like everyone else I liked Mudhoney and acknowledged the one hit of the one-hit crybaby. But my favorite grunge band was Ed's Redeeming Qualities. When I first heard them in '89, Ed's consisted of four songwriters and one musician:

Eugene the Jeep
Sleeve of Ed's Day EP

Together they seemed happier than they expected to be apart; they sounded like a 1989 unheated-apartment version of boiled cabbage at the Hungry Hash House. Or, OK, then, they sounded like "garage-folk, with an emphasis on storytelling and black comedy and poignancy." They taped a couple of cassettes and released an EP, curated and hosted a fine vaudeville series, made mistakes on the radio, and then Dom Leone got sick.

Characteristically the opening number of Ed's next release, a final cassette of the original line-up, promised "So many things that can kill you dead; if you don't have cancer there's a hole in your head." Someone like They Might Be Giants could easily have recorded a tribute to the periodic table of elements; Ed's made it personal.

Carrie, Dan, and Neno moved to San Francisco, kept playing Dom's songs, and kept sticking Dom's scrawls on the merchandise. Their first CD was gratingly bare, but their second seemed more at home in the trio format. Third was best, recorded live, with all-musician no-songwriter Jonah Winter to put sonic love handles on the old favorites.

For now, though, and with the aid of these fine digitizations, I'm reaching back to 1989. From the "Ed's Day" EP, Carrie Bradley explains how the patriarchy maintains power in one solidly idiomatic pun. From a tape made the year before, Dom Leone explains how the patriarchy maintains power in one completely moronic consultation.

Responses

Part 2 of this exciting serial!

 

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.