Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Well done

I do a lot of carping over stupid, derivative, obvious images. This cartoon by David Simmons of the Arizona Daily Star is an example of how the right treatment of a very obvious concept can be transcendant. Nice work. (Tip of the hat to Daryl Cagle)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Quote of the week:
I don't know who Jon and Kate are, and
I pray to God I never learn.

-- Peter King, Sports Illustrated

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mythology at Weekly Storybook

Should have mentioned this last week, but Weekly Storybook is now featuring a series of Greek and Roman myths, retold by me and illustrated by Dylan Meconis. This was the first feature I worked with Dylan on, and it was a real treat because she has an interest in the subject and had already done some work in the area, so I didn't have to explain anything to her. (She later did the illustrations for "Stories in the Stars," a series on mythology and astronomy I wrote with help from Prof. Sherwood Harrington and former astronomy columnist Brian Fies.)

The stories change at midnight Sunday. As I write this, the current story is "Arachne," but it will change to "Echo and Narcissus" tonight. One difference in this series is that some of the stories ("Cupid and Psyche" and "Ceres and Proserpina") are divided into chapters, though not many. And the stories are archived, so that, if you miss a chapter, you can go back and read it later. (I suppose I shouldn't say that -- No, you must visit every week, absolutely!)


Monday, June 15, 2009

Unemployment has its benefits

They say that being unemployed is a full-time job, but the fact is, after you've checked in with unemployment, run through a number of on-line job sources, applied for something promising and checked your post office box, well, there's a little time for culture.

And I have a new favorite sport -- Figure 8 Trailer Racing. The goal is to go around a figure-eight track the fastest without losing your trailer. As you can hear, this is a sport that is taken very, very seriously.

If nothing turns up, you'll know where to look for me next. You can earn $300 for winning one of these races, after all.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Early wisdom

I'm getting ready to move and going through a lot of boxes, as part of which I came across this 1976 Doonesbury that once adorned the wall next to my desk, in the basement office where I worked in my freelance years, a little more than a quarter century ago.

I used to spend the day with the kids and then go down into the basement to write after putting them to bed, but I kept an alarm set to 12:30 AM but with the pin not pulled out. In the olden days, a mechanical alarm clock would "click" when it hit the time that it was set for, if it wasn't actually armed to go off.

That was all I needed. I'd hear that click and know that it was time to wrap up, that anything I wrote much after that would be crap and I'd have to re-do it the next day anyway.

It was one of the first solid pieces of maturity I achieved as a writer -- knowing when to knock off and get some sleep. It may not sound like much, but there aren't many lessons of any greater import than that.

Oh, and the cartoon also makes me laugh. And now that I've put in some time as an editor, it makes me laugh even more.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

And now this commentary ...

Emily Litella: What's all this I hear about our government resettling wiggers in Palau? Why on earth do we have to resettle wiggers any place? Just tell them to pull up their pants and stop looking so sullen all the time! I don't know why Palau would want those obnoxious young people living there anyway, with all their terrible music and their ridiculous attitudes ...

Chevy: Miss Litella? Miss Litella? Excuse me. It's not "wiggers. " It's Uighars. Turkic Muslims from China. Not "wiggers." Uighars.

Emily Litella: Oh. Oh, well, that's quite different then. Never mind!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

"It's not like it's dead, and it's not like
it only belonged here."

Twenty years ago, I interviewed Arlo Guthrie for a story that ran June 16, 1989, in the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh, NY. It was the second time I'd interviewed him, and both times we had a very enjoyable conversation that could only be hinted in the story that came from it. But this time, he said some things that have stuck with me and that I've referred to many times since, and thought of many more. Here's the story.

Staff Writer

SARANAC LAKE - Arlo Guthrie will be bringing his guitar and his catalog of songs to Saranac Lake Friday, June 23, for an 8 p.m. concert at the Harrietstown Town Hall. It's a quiet style he has been pursuing for the past year and a half, after touring previously with a backup band and a country rock approach to his music.

"I really haven't toured like this since '67 when (Alice's Restaurant) came out," he said, in an interview from his rural Massachusetts home. "It's been great. I'm having a lot more fun. It's a little more work, but it's a little more intimate, too."

Although he is a country-dwelling family man, Guthrie still maintains a busy schedule. He spends more than 200 days out of the year on the road, and recently went into the record business, buying out the rights to the 13 albums he recorded for Columbia, bringing them out on his own Rising Son label and handling distribution through mail-order and at his concerts.

"It's been fabulous," he said of the cottage industry approach to recording. "We're actually making more money than we were when we were with the company."

That busy schedule is made a little busier by the fact that his four children are no longer young enough to simply come along. So a lot of his touring is in short spurts, with trips back to Massachusetts and the family between gigs.

"They're in that sort of critical time when they have to be in school, and they're involved with sports and all those kinds of things, so they can't just pop up and go anymore. But my wife is here all the time; she doesn't travel with me as much." Then he laughed. "They only go where there's palm trees."

But other people's teen-agers do go to his concerts, which he admits is not what you might expect, considering he made his mark as a 1960s' troubadour.

"Surprisingly enough, it seems there are a lot of younger people who are showing up," he said. "I haven't asked them why; I really don't want to know. But I find it interesting."

The fact that his audience is made up of more than 1960s veterans helps keep his music fresh, he said. "It's one of the things that makes me not want to stop doing 'Alice's Restaurant' right away, because it's a whole herd of people showing up who only know it through the record or through the movie. Live, it's a different thing, and so I'm playing it for the first time to a lot of people, and it doesn't turn out to be the nostalgic ballad it could be if I were playing it for my own peers over and over."

The fact that younger audiences respond to it may be part of a general trend among young people to look back on the 1960s with longing, and the feeling that their own time is not as interesting as their parents' was — that there is nothing going on for them now.

"I think their instincts are probably right," he laughed. "I think it was a fabulous time to be alive and it was a fabulous time to be a teen-ager. It was great; there's no doubt about it."

But that doesn't mean that there is nothing interesting going on right now, he noted: "It just isn't going on in the United States. For other young people, in other places, this may be the generation their children wax romantic over.

"I think what's going on in the Soviet Union right now, and what's going on in China right now, and what's going on in Poland, for those young people, this is that time," he said. "It's not like it's dead, and it's not like it only belonged here."

Moreover, Guthrie said, the various movements towards freedom and democracy will continue to inspire young people in other places, just as they always have. "There were people in other countries in the world who, 20 years ago, were looking this way. Younger people, I think, shortly, will begin to look elsewhere and see that they can participate in what's going on."

Of course, those people who know what happened in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, one Thanksgiving already know it only takes three people to make a movement.

For those who don't know, or may have forgotten, or want to hear it again, Arlo Guthrie will be appearing at the Harrietstown Town Hall in Saranac Lake, Friday, June 23, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.50 in advance and $14 at the door and may be purchased at the Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce and Peacock Records in Plattsburgh.

(I took my son, Jed, to the concert. We had a great time. In two years, he'll be the age I was then.)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

I'm gonna miss this view

Not sure how long I'll be looking at this. Lease runs out at the end of the month. Without a plan, I'll either try to negotiate another month or start looking for a summer sublet in town. Meanwhile, it's good to have a few evenings like this.

Though some of us prefer the sunshine.

Friday, June 05, 2009

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside--

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown--
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

-- Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Parçalı Bulutlu with a chance of Yağmur

For some reason, decided to publish the details of the weather forecast in a language that, cosmopolitan a guy as I am, I couldn't quite parse. Click on the above illustration for details.

A search for a term on the first screen, today's conditions, brought the information that "Parçalı Bulutlu" is Turkish for "partly cloudy." (According to Babylon, "patchworked cloudy.")

The word in tomorrow's forecast, highlighted above, "Açık," is less specific and translates as "n. shortage, deficient amount, shortfall, deficiency, deficit;adv. expressly, in blank, explicitly;adj. open, uncovered, wide open, visible, apparent, obvious, bare, clear, unclouded, cloudless, definite, exposed, blank, aboveground, articulate, avowed, broad, candid, categorical, clean cut, clear-cut, confessed, crystal, decided, declared;v. get hungry, feel hungry, feel peckish

In meteorological terms, I assume we should use "clear, unclouded, cloudless." Good news for early Friday, the period I was actually inquiring about.

However, just after noon, we're looking at "Yağmur Olasılığı," which translates to "possibility of rain."

I'll guess I'll just cross my parmak and hope for the en iyi.