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Friday, June 17, 2022

Another Biggest Moment

 In one of the earliest seasons of the Simpsons, Lisa has a substitute teacher (voiced by Dustin Hoffman) who she falls in love with on every emotional and intellectual level she has. He's magic. He understands her, stimulates her, and deals patiently with her grade-school crush.

Like any sub, he can't stay around. Lisa's teacher gets over her illness and shows up in class. Lisa runs to find him, and they have a scene at the train station, where he sadly, patiently, explains that he is needed for the slowest kids, the troubled kids, the trouble kids. 

"But what about ME?" Lisa demands. Why is it always someone else's turn? When it is her turn? What will happen to her? The teacher gives her a note, and says that everything's going to be okay. Wait till the train goes, and read the note. And away he goes, smaller and smaller, out of sight, and before that happens, she has unfolded the paper and read the words:

"You are Lisa Simpson."


Biggest Moment

There's an episode of the original Star Trek series, not a distinguished one, where Kirk has to escort a trophy wife for some political alliance, and she uses her alien wiles to force him to fall in love with her. As the show ends, McCoy and Spock are discussing the heartbroken captain. "I've sedated him," says Bones. "He's all right physically. If he could only just forget." Spock says nothing. The doc leaves, still muttering.

Spock watches Kirk for a few moments, his face impassive, reflecting nothing. Then he extends his right hand in a very Vulcan configuration, seeks a spot on his friend's temple, and intones the word:


The episode is more than fifty years old, and it still hits me behind the eyes.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

"B" Attitudes

To everything, there is a purpose, and a time for every season under Heaven. There is a time to put your right foot in, and a time to take your right foot out. A time to Kung Fu, and a time to Wang Chung. There is a time to hit the bus, Gus, and a time to never let you go.

There's a time to eat the plums, and there is a time to refrigerate plums together. There is a time to hold them, and there is a time to lay them upon the table. There's a time for getting what you want, and there is a time for getting what you need. There's a time to roll over and a time to wake up Maggie. There is a time for jazz hands, and there is a time for happy feet. There is a time for little green apples, and a time to shake the peach tree.

There is a time to like short shorts, and there is a time for tequila. There's a time for knowing what time it is, and a time not to really care. There's a time for getting to Phoenix, and there's a time for working on the line. There is a time for a ball and chain, and a time for a ring of fire. There's a time to ride, captain, ride, and there's a time to not rock the boat. There is a time for dancing in the moonlight, and a time for leaving the cake out in the rain.

There is time for the journey of a covered wagon, and there is time for a three-hour tour. A three-hour tour. There is time for a jump to the left, and there is time for a step to the right. There is time for me to cry at my party, and there is a time for Judy to cry. There is a time to tune in tomorrow, and a time to tune in next week. There's a time for placing things, and there is a place for timing them.

There is a time to talk to a horse, of course, and there is a time to sit on it. There is a time to buy a vowel, and there is a time to spin the wheel; a time to introduce yourself and a time to write your final answer in the form of a question. There is a time to watch your mail, and a time to look under your seat. There is a time to just do it, and there is a time to ask your doctor if it is right for you. There is a time to fuck around, and there is a time to find out. There is a time to save a stitch, and there is a time to spend nine. There's a bit of spinach between your teeth; there it goes.

There is a time and a place for everything, but there is no time for sergeants.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Ellipses Are … Your Friend.

The humble ellipse has several purposes. It’s not just for avoiding punctuation any more! Though it still fills that need admirably. I picked up an issue of THE HIGHWAY EVANGELIST at a truck stop on I-80, many years back, and one feature that would have caused Mark Twain to prick up his ears was bad poetry of a pathetic nature. The alert reader has already tumbled to Twain’s fondness for mawkish funerary verse, and this was a near cousin to it.

The epic in question was arranged to look like verses. I don’t recall that it had much in the way of rhymes or meter. What stays in my mind was the choked sentence fragments, separated by roaming trios of periods. “She was…just a child…” Line after line of half-chewed partial sentences, disgorged randomly. I’ve seen other vox pop publications that seemed to accept whatever was sent in, provided it avoided bad language, and bad language wasn’t the only thing they avoided. Good language was pretty scarce, too.

Of course, ellipses are handy for sharpening up a quote to reduce meandering, improve focus, and change the meaning to something that will sell your movie or can of beans or whatever. Moreover, they will serve the same functions when you wish to represent the ideas and stands of someone who’s on the opposite political side from your own. Really skilled operators can even do it with audio or video of the opponent, particularly if luck is on their side and all that is required of them is to cut away the exculpatory parts of a phrase before and after the apparently incriminating nugget.

Then, there is the ironical use of the ellipse, which doesn’t even seem to be an ellipse at all when you look at it closely, which is why I refer to the formation instead as The Three Dots of Irony. Many a prose writer, unhappy that words on a page can’t convey the rise of the eyebrow, the hopeful smile, the whimsical shrug that says “I’m being humorous. Please laugh now!” The pronunciation of the Three Dots could, therefore, be similar to an actual laugh: Ha, ha, ha.

My experience goes back to the 70s, in print fandom, where jolly raconteurs, unhappy that their physical aspect was no longer part of their narrative, took to adding the three dots after remarks intended to convey humor in order to imbue it with irony and a hint of self-mockery. Often, they managed to convey also that despite his best efforts, the speaker was a windy bore who tended to finish each sentence or paragraph with an appeal to the listener to agree or affirm what has just been said.

The “Joke over; laugh now” purpose is supplemented nowadays with emoticons, bright little fuzzy dots of color which, in some media, contain a hovertext that might explain what word they’re standing in for. Many convey no information, but are overt requests for a particular reaction, most often laughter (but sometimes tears).

In the 70s social writers in apas and fanzines experimented with brief text cues whose usual purpose was to deflect an adverse reaction to some facially hostile sally or witticism, so that such things could be said with (hopefully) less consequence. S,AS stood for “Smiling, Always Smiling,” and meant something akin to “I was just riffing when I called you that awful thing, and I hope you won’t be so gauche as to insult me back!” NS,N was somewhat unusual in that it stood for “Not Smiling, Not,” and actually amounted to a writer confirming their being invested in what they’d written, rather than the expected nimble dance away from it.

Today’s writers have their preferred way of doing the same thing, with “/s,” representing the supposed closing of a mythical ‘sarcasm tag’ or ‘snark tag.’ By throwing in an actual label that disowns the words they just wrote, they have reached a new plateau in laughing at their own joke out of fear that their sarcasm is insufficient for a reader to detect without a helpful marker. The same people sometimes bemoan the lack of A sArCaSm FoNt (see what I did there?), because its nonexistence leaves them faced with the horror of having to either write sarcasm well enough that most people will get it (you won’t get everybody to see it, since RW cranks never tire of the delirious joy of pretending not to understand sarcasm when someone else uses it), or to not make the joke that was begging to be unleashed on a humor starved world just seconds ago.

So they’ll either make a quip that’s a standard thing someone on the Right might say, then punch it up with the SARC tag so we all know it’s funny, or they say something so vastly exaggerated (often well past humor) and then suddenly worry that they haven’t gone far enough, so they slap the tag on there to compel laughter.

Correct essay form is demanding that I end this article on an ellipsis… but nerts to that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Their Dogs

The paranoid’s dog learns to utter a soft bark, almost a cough, to announce itself before entering a room.

A wolf put its nose under a human’s arm by the fire. The human’s arm went up in reflex, then down, where he was petting the wolf before he could stop himself. There were no words for how the wolf made him feel. Literally, there weren’t really words. The wolf’s mouth hung open an inch, and his tongue lolled, and the human knew what it meant, and he mimicked the open V made by the angle of the wolf’s head. Dogs taught humans to smile.

The ADHD fellow’s dog is the most patient beast. He hints to his human for many minutes before the human is ready to look up, though he will pet him the while. Then the human will know it’s time for the dog to go out, and he will turn back to what he’s doing as if he will quickly finish it, and will deal very shortly with a couple of things that have just come up. The dog will not actually start feeling hop until the human stands decisively, and then the dog must watch human put on outside garments and check for the proper equipment in pockets and have a drink of water. Then there’s something new on the screen. Then the human follows the leading dog out into the hall, stepping back to switch off the lights. The dog looks back frequently. There is a bathroom that the human often goes into for some period of time just before a walk. Sometimes the human spends time brushing teeth. Then the human remembers something else back in the room. Then the human puts on another garment. Then the human runs up and down the stairs again for whatever reason, and then the dog is almost ready to go out.

Murray, why do you wrinkle your brow?

The homeless man’s dog is the luckiest of all dogs. Master is always present. Master spares no extent to make dog happy, though dog scarcely notices anything but Master. Rich dogs rightly envy them.

Purse dogs learn to get by on secondary affection, half-power pets and scritches while the mind is on another task, but still guaranteed by constant proximity.

"Ding ding--PSYCH!" --Pavlov, being a jerk.

Annie Warbucks’s Sandy might seem expensive to feed, but he’s worth his weight in human lives. He’ll probably scout out his own food while securing a supply for you as well. His power lies in his ability to walk a tightrope between being amazing (a dog who can fake snoring to fool a Nazi) and losing his canine identity as another hairy comedic second lead. As far as I know, Harold Gray only took us into Sandy’s thoughts one time, and then in a narratorial voice describing his thoughts without trying to mimic them. Considering how long Sandy trod the panels as a major player, this restraint is almost superhuman. In today’s strips, he’d have thought balloons, hobbies, and multiple internet accounts.

I will never forgive the creators of one of my favorite shows for their treatment of the protagonist’s dog.

After the last war, some former military androids got together and discussed whether they had a purpose, and they decided to use the tech available to them to build something of the wreckage of the world. As they sat on boxes in a ring, one of them felt a nose on its arm and looked down to see a military canoid looking up at it. He patted its cranial receptor to indicate acceptance and, to amplify the message, mirrored its expression.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Fox Walk


I just had a walk with Murray, as is customary for such a time of day.
He was asking for it. I prefer it to be my idea, but what the heck.
Out we went, after I looked at the temps and stuck my beak out the
front door to second-guess the weather people.
My face evaluation confirmed that it wasn’t cold,
but there was a moist coolness in the air that brought the feeling lower,
so I dressed for it and leashed the hound and opened the door.

He checked out the air himself, sizing up the day as he always does,
sniffing an extra second or two before heading into it. 
We launched ourselves straight forward this time, walking from porch 
to flagstones to grass, passing the tree swing, which I regarded with affection 
for a moment before we were passing over the patch of straw thoughtfully strewn 
a season ago by the men who had torn up the yard for pipe work and left it 
awaiting final repair, through which new grass stands straight to see over 
the scattered stems. Mark across the street says they’ll come around 
and make good on it, and he’s not worried. That’s a relief, as I often feel 
for Mark that he has to see my lawn while I get to see his.

Murray sniffed enthusiastically along a route I’d tried unsuccessfully to interest 
him in yesterday, a path where I’d looked up from the piano to see something 
larger than a cat which turned out to be a reddish fox, of healthy pelt and bushy tail, 
which departed the front of our yard, crossed the street, and vanished between 
Mark’s and Mike’s houses. He wanted to follow the trail right on past the yellow 
hydrant that stands between them, but I drew the line there, and we went on down the street. 

As always, he found reasons not to walk on the left. Had to sniff this, had to sniff that. 
We got down to the end of the block and wandered toward the beaten green 
that connects this subdivision with the Knickerbocker field and the path to 
the railroad trail that connects to everything else. 
As always, he sniffed a lot, sometimes on the ground, sometimes in the air 
while listening intently and looking off into the distance, muttering 
monosyllabic comments to himself under his breath from time to time. 
Another dog and human connected by a leash went by, and I had a short 
meteorological chat with the latter while Murray chose the moment 
to relieve himself (I am displeased that he so often picks yards where kids play. 
What’s with that?), so I didn’t get around to telling the neighbor about the fox 
that had been in my yard.

A minute later, Murray was looking intently between two of the houses at the end of the block, 
and I looked up just in time to see the fox unhurriedly traverse the last couple of yards 
and step behind the second house. I continued clutching the leash, a thing I often think 
I’m getting good at until the day Murray decides he needs to be a vector, 
and I’m an irrelevant constant to be disregarded. We hurried along the street now, 
both hoping to see Reynard again, but we didn’t. 

It’s easy to see, in retrospect, that the trail was fresher today. 
Lots fresher, with a working fox on the other end of it. 
Of course I didn't get any photos, but I can at least offer a legit pic of a similar animal 
(though sadly mangy) seen and snapped in this very back yard. 
A red fox that found my yard worthy of being in, 2012.


I saw this one a few times about ten years ago. Relation, perhaps.


Blogger has made some change that resulted in my pasted-in text 

having no right-hand margin, so I had to throw in line returns 

in hopes it would work on other screens. Sorry, it's all their fault, not mine.


Sunday, April 10, 2022

By the Numbers

One is the loneliest number. 

Two is how many can live as cheaply as one.

Three is how many are a crowd.

Four is the start of the Gettysburg Address, in scores.

Five is how many senses, when I was a kid.

Six is the rule that there is no Rule Six.

Seven is the listmaker’s number. Seven of this, seven of that.

Eight is “enough.”

Nine is the number of stitches saved by the one in time.

Ten is any one?

Nineteen’s what Boomers start checks* with. (*what?)

Twenty-three is the point at which you skidoo.

Twenty-six red cards in a deck.

Twenty-nine miles to Santa Catalina.

Thirty pieces of silver.

Thirty-one flavors of ice cream.

Thirty-three is the speed of an LP.

Thirty-six is a good first and third measurement, gals.

Thirty-nine was Jack Benny’s age. Well!

Forty-two is the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Forty-three is the wrong answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Forty-five is a calibre, a malt liquor, a rock single.

Forty-nine! Forty-niners! We’re gonna be rich!

Fifty’s half of fifty-fifty. Presumed average.

Fifty-four is, along with forty, fighting words.

Fifty-seven varieties.

Sixty-four is now nostalgia for Sir Paul.

Sixty-six is now a nostalgic route for that California trip.

Sixty-seven was that Expo in Canada.

Sixty-nine was that smutty number, nudge nudge.

Seventy-six was the spirit of a nation, in trombones.

Seventy-eight was the music of our ancestors.

Eighty-four was the dystopia we feared then failed to notice.

Eighty-six was banned from itself.

Eighty-eight keys on a Steinway grand.

Ninety-seven’s the unlucky engine that fateful night.

Ninety-eight? That’s normal. (WEAKLING!)

Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall.


One hundred is what you want to keep it to.

One oh one was a silly millimeter longer.

One oh nine was JFK's PT.

One eleven is Cosmic Time in Digital.

One seventeen was always the answer page in Children's Digest.

One twenty was the speed of my most used 35mm film.

One forty-four is, to be blunt about it, gross.


Two hundred motels, per Frank Zappa.

Two twelve is where water boils in Fahrenheit.

Two twenty-one with a B... calling on Mister Holmes. 

Two two two: the solution to a sinister clue from the Riddler, Robin!

Two-three-two, an RS connector that used to matter a lot.

Two fifty-three, the highway number of a local street. Only time I'll do that.

Two fifty-six, one of the multiples of two that one sees out in the wild.

Two seventy-six, the "that's us" part of our old rural route address.


Three hundred issues, the goal of Cerebus creator Dave Sim.

Three oh three, the first area code I ever learned.

Three sixteen, the chapter and verse (in John) that Bible lovers can recall.

Three fifty-seven: Magnum, another iconic high-calibre size.

Three sixty, a panoramic view or one complete revolution. 

Three sixty-five, the days of a year. We won't discuss freak years here.

Three sixty-six, and it's leapt out of my control.

Three ninety-seven: down this week only from three ninety-nine.


Four Hundred, an elite caste of capitalized capitalists.

Four oh four, not found.

Four oh nine, the fungal formula for getting things clean and funny smelling.

Four eleven, the number that tells you all the other numbers.

Four fifteen: Income Tax Day. Treasure chest becomes a brass check. Ho ho.

Four twenty: As we get too old to laugh at sixty-nine, we will always have four twenty, man.

Four thirty-five cycles per second is a favored pitch for supposed baroque concert A.

Four forty is today's concert A, and we have electronic machines to enforce it.

Four forty two Glenwood Avenue is a girl group song I was just listening to.

Four fifty is as hot as you can make a book without it going Full Bradbury.

Four fifty one! You fool! Didn't I just warn you?



Saturday, April 02, 2022




A competitive game for two teams.

Each team to be composed of a dozen players of any ethnicity.
The team will eventually end up consisting almost entirely of minority members.

In addition, each team has a Star Captain, who must be a white male of means,
accustomed to giving orders. .

The object of the game is for the Star Captain of a team to put a medicine ball in a receptacle
that’s about seven feet from the ground, not very different from a basketball court setup.

The Star Captain is to be seated in a chair of specified construction (comfortable) at all times. 


The SC is to be carried in the chair at all times. His feet are not to touch the floor of the court. 


The chair’s feet are not to touch the floor of the court. 


The height of the receptacle is awkwardly high so that the team will need to raise him enough
to place the ball inside without taking his bottom off the chair.

Conventions of the game:

The SC is, of course, the only player on a team who can score, and by design should be
the only player who is credited with achieving success. 


To help in this aim, the team members are differentiated as little as possible, 

and their names are not shown prominently on their drab uniforms. 


Bless their hearts, they wouldn’t know what to do with it if we gave it to them.

The team ends up consisting mostly of ethnic minorities after a while, as individuals who are 

used to enjoying privilege off the field tend to resent losing them in the game. 


They also get sore about the pay, despite the strict injunction against discussing it.

The team often ends up practicing without the SC, as the glamorous life of an important player 
sometimes requires these sacrifices in order to carry out the vital social responsibilities 
of a leading athlete. 


At these times, the team uses a weighted mannequin that flops about 
realistically to stand in for the SC. They usually get more done at these practices anyway,
for some reason.

Benefits of the game:

The fact that SC is the only one who can score proves just how valuable SC types 

are in society. It’s a metaphor.


Thursday, March 03, 2022

Sleeping Beauty

 There's a particular Fractured Fairy Tale I am inordinately fond of. It's a bit of a departure, and you'll soon see why.

The beginning simply recounts that she went to sleep and all that. The cartoon picks up right away when they introduce the Prince.

He talks like Phil Silvers, but this (card-carrying!) prince looks like the King of Cartoons himself. And don't just take my word for it, but witness his actions.

He starts toward kissing her, then realizes: "I could be throwing away a GOLD MINE! Awake, she's just another princess, but asleep..."

Visions of Sleeping Beauty wigs, Sleeping Beauty dolls, Sleeping Beauty BUBBLE GUM!

So, just like that, SLEEPING BEAUTYLAND is born, and cars full of people throng the gates.

"MOATLAND! Have your X coupons ready, please!"

"Welcome to ENTRY HALL LAND! Y coupons, please!"

STAIR LAND is, unsurprisingly, a Z coupon attraction.

We don't find out what kind of coupon you have to have to see Sleeping Beauty Herself.

"DOZE DOLL DUZ WIZ BIZ" --Variety "One million one... one million two..." --Prince Walt

We meet Yolanda, the evil fairy who made all this possible, and she wants half the operation.

"Well, let's have a look at OUR operation, PARTNER!!"

"This is DUNGEONLAND! Enjoy your stay!"

"Two million and..." "I'm BACK! They don't make 'em like they used to!"

"The SUBMARINE RIDE! Excuse the cement! It's a SAFETY precaution! The city MAKES us do it!"

"Three million and one, three..." "HELLOO!"

Souvenir shop! "That's $1.69 for the Sleeping Beauty Lasso! And you qualify for a special prize!"

"...A FREE moon rocket! Bon Voyage!"

Then--tragedy! The crowds dwindle. 

Prince Walt, despondent, tells her the ride is over, and she can have the whole thing. 

"Let's wake 'er up!" suggests never-say-die Yolanda. "Only I can't do it 'cause I'm not a fairy. Just evil!"

"I can't do it! I'm not really a prince--I couldn't afford the union card! ... I'm a HOG FLOGGER!"

Just then Sleeping Beauty sits up and opens her eyes. "I wasn't really asleep."
"Then why did you act like you were for twenty years??"


There is no moral. The blackness of life closes in around you. We do not escape, ever.

 (Rim shot!)


Thursday, February 10, 2022

Outside the window



Invisible child

Dawdles in the swing again;

Bored, this winter morn.