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 Twelve English Words from Four Characters

P E R I O D  III  1 9 9 8

5 March 1998
Twelve English Words from Four Characters
Twelve English Words from Four Characters is just that: opt, opts, post, pot, pots, so, sop, spot, stop, to, top, and tops from o, p, s and t. It's simplistic bordering on moronic; it's very relaxing. And it's available in the PDF format.

6 March 1998
Literary Requirements
Kurt Vonnegut says he was told the characters in a short story have to do at least two of the following:

  1. change
  2. learn from their mistakes
  3. apologize

I'm sure glad I never took any litterature courses!

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7 March 1998
So Blind
I believe it was Martin Mull who said "None is so blind as he who cannot see." (Or was it Martin Mull?) I was reminded of this when I thought there was something disconcerting about the eight ball I have connected to my computer. And then I realized that a few months ago I had drawn an eight ball from memory for my Pool Table piece, while all the time I had my hand on a real eight ball.

Sometime I'm so blind it hurts.

8 March 1998
English (Dis)Advantages
I hate responsible journalism. Why do a handful of contemporary reporters feed us inconclusive balanced stories when everyone knows we want simplistic black and white analyses?

The hemorrhoidal story in question is "English as The Global Language." That's either got to be a good thing or a bad thing, right? Wrong. It's both, or maybe neither.

It turns out English is becoming the de facto language of Earth. (You're not reading thing in Navajo, are you?) That should be good for me, since English is all I speak except for a smattering of Russian. (And anyway, the Russian proved useless fifteen yeas ago when I was captured by Russian soldiers in Siberia, who were of course at that time Union of Soviet Socialist Republics soldiers in Siberia. I sang the national anthem and said "I want to drink vodka" and they just laughed at me. Not with me, at me.)

So, speaking English should make me a king of the global hill, no? No. It turns out that a lot of people who pick up English as a second (or third or fourth or fifth or sixth or seventh) language use it much more well than do I. I may once have had an advantage, but I slept while the window of opportunity opened then closed. (Again.)

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9 March 1998
Practical Engraving Expectations
I told the park groundskeeper that I enjoyed the optimism implied in the monument to those who died in World War I and World War II: the designers didn't leave space for World War III. I felt this was a remarkably cheerful aspect of an otherwise somber monument.

The park groundskeeper told me I was wrong. He said the monument was build in the age of atomic weapons, so they left just enough room for one year in the assumption that a nuclear war wouldn't last all that long.

10 March 1998
The Nature of Genius
I couldn't think of anything to do today until I read Louis Aragon's observation: "We know that the nature of genius is to provide idiots with ideas twenty years later."

And so I'm off to the library to plagiarize some ideas from dead geniuses. Or is that genii? All I know is that I'm neither.

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11 March 1998
An Ambiguous Relationship
I'm looking at a Thomas Pink of Jermyn Street advertisement that shows a photograph of a handsome older white-haired man with an attractively wholesome and healthy looking (not to be confused with sexygorgeous) young woman. Father and daughter? Businessman and trophy wife? Grandfather and granddaughter?

On closer inspection, I discovered that the grey lines at the bottom of the photograph were actually a caption set in four point italic type. It is a photograph of a man and his granddaughter, "London's most talked about new model." And the ad's official message is this: the old guy says "We both love English handmade shirts."

I wonder how many older men with failing eyesight see "trophy wife!" I suppose one day I'll know.

12 March 1998
Cosmic Doom
The radio announcer tells me there's a huge meteor (or is it an asteroid?) headed this way. It's gonna smack Earth around October 2028. Kablooey! That's all, comrades!


Why is there always a maybe? The maybe makes this information useless, perhaps even worse than useless. If life as we know it is going to end when I'm seventy-two I'd like to know so I can plan accordingly.

Hold it; why am I even thinking about this? I'm not planning on being alive then, anyway: my father died a few months short of his seventy-second birthday; why should I hope to do otherwise? I've always found resonance in the phrase, "like father like son."

13 March 1998
Bread and Butter Nudes
Willa Cather wrote this in 1920, the year my father was born:

    Writing ought either to be the manufacture of stories for which there is a market demand--a business as safe and commendable as making soap or breakfast foods--or it should be an art, which is always a search for something for which there is no market demand, something new and untried, where the values are intrinsic and have nothing to do with standardized values.

Willa's right. I'm starting to get bored making the second type of art, I'm thinking of the visual equivalent of soap or breakfast foods, a series of photographs called Bread and Butter Nudes. They'll be literally just that and, if they sell well, they'll be my bread and butter income. Buttery bodies and phallic baguettes should walk off the shelves!

14 March 1998
I Prefer Cabbages
A couple of years ago Andreas asked me to write a brief piece for his magazine with a list of my eighty favorite arts-related Internet sites. Eighty! He had to be kidding, but he wasn't. I talked him down to twelve.

After a long frustrating search I came up with a dozen sites I thought were pretty well executed, with reasonably interesting writing and work. I haven't been back to one of them since. This Internet stuff is overrated; I prefer cabbages.

15 March 1998
A Funny True Story
Some anecdotes are too good not to be repeated. And this one's even true; I read it in a periodical that's legendary for its fact-checking department.

It's the end of April 1945, it's the end of World War II, and some American soldiers are cruising the Bavarian Alps looking for a place to set up a command post. They find a great place in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which turns out to be the home of an eighty-year-old man. The old guy announces (in English, of course) that "I am Richard Strauss, the composer of Rosenkavalier and Salome."

Now here's the part of the story that sounds improbable. The soldiers have heard of Strauss, and they treat him with respect. Everything's going OK, but the soldiers keep pointing to a bust of Beethoven and asking who it is. This is all a bit too much for Strauss, who whispers to a family member--here's the punch line--"If they ask me one more time I'll tell them it's Hitler's father."

Roll over Ludwig!

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16 March 1998
Unlimited Supply!
Decades ago automobile companies used to exhibit their cars at auto shows with beautiful women in, around, or on them. The approach was so successful that now learned people use serious tones to describe cars as sexy. Sex with a car? God bless America! Mercedes über alles!

It took a long time, but finally some marketing genius at EMI records guessed that the same sex that sells cars can also sell so-called classical music. And so we were told that an attractive Eurasian teenager in a wet shirt is a fine violinist. Beethoven babe! Said teenager's sold jillions of recordings.

If one cute woman can move "classical" music, three might work even better, so EMI has thoughtfully brought us the Eroica Trio. I only know two things about the word Eroica: it's the name of Beethoven's third symphony, and it's a misspelling of erotica. I suspect the marketing people at EMI favor the latter interpretation; their ad copy wouldn't take much rewriting to be used for a porn film: "three striking young women ... exhibit a vibrancy ... sheer exuberance in performance that has enchanted audiences ... one of the most exciting chamber ensembles on the scene today!"

A friend likes the idea of cute women providing aural entertainment. "There hasn't been a popular female musician since Janis Joplin that wasn't obviously physically attractive." (Or, I might add, one who could sing so well.) "Since my ears aren't that good, if I have a choice between a recording with a picture of cute women in a black cocktail dresses or a recording with a fat balding old sweaty guy with flabby jowls, which one do you think I'm going to buy?"

"And what makes you think that the recording with a picture of cute women in a black cocktail dresses on the sleeve wasn't performed by a fat balding old sweaty guy with flabby jowls?" I asked. He didn't answer. (That was a cheap shot, but I couldn't resist the sophistry.)

I actually feel a bit sorry for the Eroica women. I'm sure they are talented committed musicians; I'm equally sure that they'll never be taken seriously until they're closer to menopause than puberty. I'm so fortunate I was never cursed by being handsome.

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©1998 David Glenn Rinehart