Saturday, May 14, 2005
Michelina 1, Thing 0

Michelina cried out, surprised, and fell backwards, the painting coming with her, and tumbled to the floor, knocking over a wastebasket and an umbrella stand as she went. Surprised voices from the other room. Running footsteps. She tore free of the ruined canvas and squeezed into a dark little crevice between the desk and the wall. Don't breathe, she told herself, don't so much as breathe.

All the lights in the office flickered on.

"I'm sure I heard someone," said one of the policemen.

"So did I," said the Thing in its oily museum director's voice. "Look over here."

"This painting's been damaged."

"There's blood on the wall," said a third policeman.

"Really," said the Thing. "What on earth from?"

"I don't get it," said another policeman. "It's almost like someone was trying to throw themself through the painting into the wall. Which makes no sense at all."

"Mmm," said the Thing, closer now. Michelina drew her knees up against her chest. The Thing's black shoes and sharply pressed grey pants appeared in the gap between desk and wall. The Thing squatted, bringing its torso and its horrible face into view. "The door's open," it said smoothly in its director's voice, widening its jaws and exposing its grey double-row of shark's teeth. "I'll see you out. If you go now you'll be able to catch her on the stairs." Locking eyes with Michelina it raised a long white finger to its lips, then stood again, moving quickly out of sight.

Michelina could scarcely breathe. It's going to lead them away, and then come back and kill me.

That finger on its lips.

Why doesn't it want me to speak?

So they won't know I'm here.


They'll protect me. To them I'm just a silly kid.

Keep it off balance. Don't do what it expects you to.

Michelina screamed.

A rush of footsteps. The Thing's face dropped into view again, its features contorted in an expression of unbelievable rage, but it did not say a word. It can't, she realized, or it'll give the whole game away. It's trapped! She screamed again, feeling more in control of the situation with every passing second.
Friday, May 13, 2005
Or, for example, the twenty seconds of time changes opening The Boston Rag.
An explaination of sorts, for those who accused me of having no theory. See also Kelley Walker, Sturtevant, and The Culture of the Copy:

Sample and Hold
Words and music by Neil Young

Hair: Blonde
Eyes: Blue
Weight: 110
Disposition: Even
Mood Code: Rotary Adjustable

I need a unit to sample and hold
But not the angry one
A new design, new design.

I need a unit to sample and hold
But not the lonely one
A new design, new design.

I need a unit to sample and hold
But not the lonely one
A new design, new design.

Sample and hold.

We'll send it out right away
Satisfaction guaranteed.
Please specify
The color of skin and eye
We know you'll be happy.

Don't hesitate to give us a call
We know you'll be satisfied
When you energize
And see your unit come alive
We know you'll be happy.

I need a unit to sample and hold
But not the lonely one,
the lonely one,
the lonely one
Sample and hold.

Perfection in every detail
Fabricated from
the curl of the hair
To the tip of the nail
Because our units never fail
We know you'll be happy.

I need a unit to sample and hold.

Don't hesitate to give us a call
We know you'll be satisfied
When you energize
And see your unit come alive
We know you'll be happy.

I need a unit to sample and hold.

We know you'll be happy
We know you'll be happy
We know you'll be happy.

But not the lonely one
A new design, new design
Perfection in every detail
Sample and hold.
North Surrey Lions Club Sale @ 9am (Surrey Place Mall), followed by a hopscotching route from Corporate Thrift Store to Corporate Thrift Store, to use up all of my expiring-at-tomorrow-midnight 30% discount coupons.

Lunch at a tiny cafe on Clarke Street, Port Moody, opposite the rail tracks. $5.95 for a huge multigrain roll stuffed with wild smoked salmon, capers, red onions, & etc. Flat grey light on Eagle Ridge's forested hummocks, and on the green trees across the rail tracks from our table.

A Muzak version of "What A Shame About Me."

A whole ledger page of sales in my absence.

Cold Okanagan Spring Pale Ale in the fridge.

Light rain peppering the sidewalk after dark.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
All the ultrasound was normal, ditto the blood test, ECG, urine & etc. Later on in the grey morning I waited at the bus stop opposite Benny's Bagels for the #9. An erratically flying crow caught my attention. This crow had a big stick in its jaws, and would climb, drop the stick, dive, roll, catch it in mid-air, ascend, and drop it again. I've seen other animals playing before, but never crows. I gawked, and the crow swooped and rolled on down Broadway, totally oblivious to me.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Narrative as Landscape -- excellent paper by Bob Hughes, found today at wood s lot.

"'War and Peace' really is a landscape, and the text Tolstoy has given us is simply a route he found through it; his other works traverse different parts of the same landscape, by different routes, of different lengths.

I certainly get a similar experience from all Tolstoy novels - and indeed from all Tolstoy sentences. Which is not unlike one's experience of walks in a real-world landscape: whether it's an afternoon stroll or a whole day on the peaks, you still get the 'Snowdonia experience.' What's more, Tolstoy behaves as if he is in a landscape. He is famously apt to indulge in what we call 'digressions,' where he 'leaves the main path' of the tale to explore some philosophical or historical issue at length - just like some good mountain guide who takes you off the track for a while to show you some ruins, or an interesting geological structure, or a fantastic view, or to pick bilberries. (And he shares this tendency with just about every other story teller, from Milton - king of the extended metaphor - to stand-up comics like Eddie Izzard, to you or me). This tendency makes it very hard for a 'path-centric' narratologist to write a rule for writing Tolstoy novels: like trying to program an anti-aircraft gun to shoot down flies."

CJB: Hi, I'm calling about your used Ford.

UFAV: What?

CJB: The used car you're advertising for sale. This number's posted in its back window.

UFAV: It is?

CJB: Yes. Can you answer some questions for me about the car, please?

UFAV: It's $900. But let's make a deal.

CJB: What year is the car?

UFAV: Ah...uh...1994.

CJB: How many kilometers does it have?

UFAV: I don't know. It's a good deal!

CJB: Anything wrong with it? Rust...accidents?

UFAV: There's a leak.

CJB: Where?

UFAV: In the transmission. Listen, I give you my mechanic's number, OK? He will tell you.

CJB: About the leak.

UFAV: Right, right. [Gives long distance number].

CJB: This number is, uh...

UFAV: In Edmonton.

CJB: In Edmonton.

UFAV: Right, right. Listen, you and I, we make a deal, okay? $400. Whatever you want to pay.

CJB: Well, I'd like to, uh, see the car first, and maybe take it for a test drive.

UFAV: Ah. The car is not working.

CJB: Not working.

UFAV: No. Not today. It will not start. But the battery is new! [Pause] $200, okay?
Day off today, departing in a second for somewhere far from books. Two quick notes:

1. Apologies to Internet Explorer users, who reported yesterday's Alice Notley quote uncharacteristically gibbled. Now fixed.

2. That's SGB on that Air Canada 767, not me. She's off to a month's residency in "Polo Mint City" -- East Kilbride, Scotland. Business as usual for the Incredible Talking Cats and I: wash the dishes; dump the garbage; test drive every <$2000 beater in the neighborhood; ignore the City of Vancouver Sewer Department crew who fired up their drills and backhoes outside my open bedroom window this morning at 7:50am.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005

"Enjoy Scotland," say the Incredible Talking Cats. "Don't forget us." Posted by Hello
Mr. John Latta quotes Ms. Alice Notley: "I wanted to be clear, and not consciously innovative in language: I had done that before in discussing poetry and probably will do so again, but I didn’t want to make, as much as to serve. However, I did want to invent a viewpoint in each instance according to what was required, that is, to see what was there without a predetermined terminology or logic getting in the way. Any contemporary poem or poet deserves to be approached without preconception. If it’s of now, who knows what it is?" Those first and last sentences sat me bolt-upright, so I poked around in the Buffalo archives while finishing my decaf, discovering Ms. N's amazing clarity for myself:

"I'll look up 'love' in the dictionary. They're beautiful.
Bodily they're incomprehensible. I can't tell if they're
me or not. They think I'm their facility. We're all about
as comprehensible as the crocuses. In myself I'm like a
color except not in the sense of a particular one. That's
impossible. That's under what I keep trying out. With
which I can practically pass for an adult to myself. Some
of it is pretty and useful, like when I say to them
'Now will I take you for a walk in the snow to the store'
and prettily and usefully we go. Mommy, the lovely
creature. You should have seen how I looked last night,
Bob Dylan Bob Creeley Bob Rosenthal Bob on Sesame Street.
Oh I can't think of any other Bobs right now. garbage.
It perks. Thy tiger, thy night are magnificent,

it's ten below zero deep deep down deep in my abdomen.
It pulls me up and leads me about the house. It's got the
sun in the morning and the moon at night. It does
anything in the world of particulars without wanting.
The anyone careless love sees that everything goes, minds.
The melody was upsidedown, now the melody turns over.
One note: my feet go."

Constant Reader Jamie Tolagson sends along Jen Sorensen's Accidental Hipsters, provoking the first real laugh of the day. That guy in panel #4 undoubtedly has a stash of old Nilsson records and Bantam Gold Medal paperbacks ("Just kind of liked them...never really was one to throw anything away...") out in the barn.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
Burnaby reader Reiko Tagami emerges from the woodwork:

"Up until now I've refrained from emailing, but your mention of The Three Investigators rocked my world. I too read them in elementary school -- we had some in our school library here in Burnaby, and then some family friends gave me a beginning collection for Christmas one year.

I wanted to BE Jupiter Jones or Pete Crenshaw, or the third guy (Tom? I forget his name) with glasses. There were many times I regretted the fact that my parents did not own a junkyard in which my friends and I could construct a secret lair with five secret entrances.

Among other things, The Three Investigators taught me about rhyming slang, and Waltzing Matilda -- the first time I'd ever seen the lyrics in print.

I wanted so much to be The Three Investigators, that in Grade 2 I convinced my two best friends -- neither of whom read the books -- to form a private investigation firm with me. We called ourselves 'The Private Eyes' -- how creative was that? -- and the graphics teacher at the high school where my dad taught printed us up a bunch of business cards with our company name and a big eye in the middle.

We even had one case. The enrichment teacher at our school hired us to solve 'The Case of the Missing Soldering Iron.' He drew us a bad sketch of a soldering iron and tried to explain what it was used for. We never found it. But I remembered it fondly whenever we did electronics in Grade 8 IE."


One last title: Russell Hoban's Mouse and His Child (1967), illustrated by Lillian Hoban, which I did not read as a child, but as a 20-something adult in Elliot B. Gose's kids' lit class at UBC in the early 1990s. My favorite children's book of all time, which includes a sophisticated parody of Beckett's Endgame as performed by a troupe of talking animals, many strongly-rendered depictions of nature, and a powerful child's-eye view of the world unmatched by any other kids' book I know. The currently in-print version has tasteful illustrations by an artist whose name I almost immediately forgot; Lillian Hoban's illustrations are absolutely essential to Russell Hoban's text, and the book is diminished without them.

Russell Hoban: "The Mouse and His Child was a book in which I had an idea from a toy. When I wrote the book these were almost impossible to obtain, but the same company made a number of other toys of similar type and I used a clown-juggler for a stand in. At that time, I lived in Wilton, Connecticut, by a pond in which there were snapping turtles and dragonflies and frogs and all kinds of things. And I had a little pond aquarium in my study in which I had for a time small catfish and a snapping turtle and various kinds of larvae. And I had the clown-juggler standing in the bottom getting rusty with his clothes coming off and so forth. And I actually saw the dragonfly nymph metamorphose out of that aquarium and fly out of my window. A remarkable thing to see." Posted by Hello
Dru writes to remind me to include John D. Fitzgerald's Great Brain series in my children's lit shout-outs. Six or seven novels, set in rural Utah in the late 1800s and early 1900s, illustrated by Mercer Mayer. A kind of rugged companion to Little House on the Prairie, a surprisingly unsentimentalized account of Gentile life in a Mormon town, leavened with quick humor and the inventive moneymaking schemes of John's older brother Tom, "the Great Brain." In one story, Tom is asked to spade the garden. He proceeds to hide a tin can of "treasure" in the garden, sections it off into quadrants, then charges the neighborhood kids a "treasure hunting fee" to look for it. Generous as usual, Tom even lets them bring their own shovels.
Just as I was finishing up the last post I heard stealthy footsteps outside the office door, which puzzled me, because a/ I closed at 7pm, and, b/ the front door was locked (or so I thought).

No green ghost, just Mel from Aurora Bistro next door, with a tupperware container full of homemade angelfood cupcakes, frosted with little caps of whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

As I recall, the ghost turns out to be cheesecloth suspended from a wire, and covered in luminous paint. But this rational explaination in no way stopped it from scaring the bejesus out of six- or seven- year old me. One of the novels actually written by Robert Arthur, an honest-to-god suspense writer vacationing as a children's novelist. The early Three Investigators stories nicely balance humor and moments of real menace, and are much better written than just about any other kids' series going.

(Ed Vebell cover art courtesy T3I, an excellent fan resource).

Apropos of all this nostalgia for grade school days, my pal and fellow children's-book collaborator Jamie Tolagson offers some T3I nostalgia of his own:

"I read every single one of those books at least twice in elementary school. I checked them out of the McCall, Idaho library again and again. The covers of some of them are still etched in my mind. I went back to McCall about 8 years ago and looked for them at the library. There they were, with my name still scrawled in the checkout card, only three or four names after it, and in some of them none!" Posted by Hello

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