Robert Benchley: The Score In The Stands


I like baseball and won’t argue with people whining that it’s a slow sport because they mostly go in determined to find something to disapprove of and there’s no reasoning from that starting point. (I’ll grant it’s horribly served by television, though.) Robert Benchely, I’m delighted to remember, had a bit about the opening week of baseball in Love Conquers All that looks at the action in a game. I think the fifth inning the high point of this match.


The opening week of the baseball season brought out few surprises. The line-up in the grandstands was practically the same as when the season closed last Fall, most of the fans busying themselves before the first game started by picking old 1921 seat checks and October peanut crumbs out of the pockets of their light-weight overcoats.

Old-timers on the two teams recognized the familiar faces in the bleachers and were quick to give them a welcoming cheer. The game by innings as it was conducted by the spectators is as follows:

FIRST INNING: Scanlon, sitting in the first-base bleachers, yelled to Ruth to lead off with a homer. Thibbets sharpened his pencil. Liebman and O’Rourke, in the south stand, engaged in a bitter controversy over Peckingpaugh’s last-season batting average. NO RUNS.

SECOND INNING: Scanlon yelled to Bodie to to whang out a double. Turtelot said that Bodie couldn’t do it. Scanlon said “Oh, is that so?” Turtelot said “Yes, that’s so and whad’ yer know about that?” Bodie whanged out a double and Scanlon’s collar came undone and he lost his derby. Stevens announced that this made Bodie’s batting average 1000 for the season so far. Joslin laughed.

THIRD INNING: Thibbets sharpened his pencil. Zinnzer yelled to Mays to watch out for a fast one. Steinway yelled to Mays to watch out for a slow one. Mays fanned. O’Rourke called out and asked Brazill how all the little brazil-nuts were. Levy turned to O’Rourke and said he’d brazil-nut him. O’Rourke said “Eah? When do you start doing it?” Levy said: “Right now.” O’Rourke said: “All right, come on. I’m waiting.” Levy said: “Eah?” O’Rourke said: “Well, why don’t you come, you big haddock?” Levy said he’d wait for O’Rourke outside where there weren’t any ladies. NO RUNS.

FOURTH INNING: Scanlon called out to Ruth to knock a homer, Thibbets sharpened his pencil. Scanlon yelled: “Atta-boy, Babe, whad’ I tell yer!” when Ruth got a single.

FIFTH INNING: Mrs. Whitebait asked Mr. Whitebait how you marked a home-run on the score-card. Mr. Whitebait said: “Why do you have to know? No one has knocked a home-run.” Mrs. Whitebait said that Babe Ruth ran home in the last inning. “Yes, I know,” said Mr. Whitebait, “but it wasn’t a home-run.” Mrs. W. asked him with some asperity just why it wasn’t a home-run, if a man ran home, especially if it was Babe Ruth. Mr. W. said: “I’ll tell you later. I want to watch the game.” Mrs. Whitebait began to cry a little. Mr. Whitebait groaned and snatched the card away from her and marked a home-run for Ruth in the fourth inning.

SIXTH INNING: Thurston called out to Hasty not to let them fool him. Wicker said that where Hasty got fooled in the first place was when he let them tell him he could play baseball. Unknown man said that he was “too Hasty,” and laughed very hard. Thurston said that Hasty was a better pitcher than Mays, when he was in form. Unknown man said “Eah?” and laughed very hard again. Wicker asked how many times in seven years Hasty was in form and Thurston replied: “Often enough for you.” Unknown man said that what Hasty needed was some hasty-pudding, and laughed so hard that his friend had to take him out.

Thibbets sharpened his pencil.

SEVENTH INNING: Libby called “Everybody up!” as if he had just originated the idea, and seemed proudly pleased when everyone stood up. Taussig threw money to the boy for a bag of peanuts who tossed the bag to Levy who kept it. Taussig to boy to Levy.

Scanlon yelled to Ruth to come through with a homer. Ruth knocked a single and Scanlon yelled “Atta-boy, Babe! All-er way ’round! All-er way round, Babe!” Mrs. Whitebait asked Mr. Whitebait which were the Clevelands. Mr. Whitebait said very quietly that the Clevelands weren’t playing to-day, just New York and Philadelphia and that only two teams could play the game at the same time, that perhaps next year they would have it so that Cleveland and Philadelphia could both play New York at once but the rules would have to be changed first. Mrs. Whitebait said that he didn’t have to be so nasty about is. Mr. W. said My God, who’s being nasty? Mrs. W. said that the only reason she came up with him anyway to see the Giants play was because then she knew that he wasn’t off with a lot of bootleggers. Mr. W. said that it wasn’t the Giants but the Yankees that she was watching and where did she get that bootlegger stuff. Mrs. W. said never mind where she got it. NO RUNS.

EIGHTH INNING: Thibbets sharpened his pencil. Litner got up and went home. Scanlon yelled to Ruth to end up the game with a homer. Ruth singled. Scanlon yelled “Atta-Babe!” and went home.

NINTH INNING: Stevens began figuring up the players’ batting averages for the season thus far. Wicker called over to Thurston and asked him how Mr. Hasty was now. Thurston said “That’s all right how he is.” Mrs. Whitebait said that she intended to go to her sister’s for dinner and that Mr. Whitebait could do as he liked. Mr. Whitebait told her to bet that he would do just that. Thibbets broke his pencil.

Score: New York 11. Philadelphia 1.

Not Because They Were Eaten, That Would Be Silly


Why look at unimportant questions? Because it’s possible the reasons they’re unimportant might be important. So here are some.

  1. Why aren’t artichokes? Artichokes are, so the question is pointless.
  2. Are you enjoying sofa work? This question is irrelevant to everyone who is not furniture, and the task of being furniture has been almost completely automated thanks to the modern steam-powered couch. It thus lacks the general application or consequences needed to be important.
  3. Why aren’t there people with purple or green skin? The only role served by purple- or green-skinned people is to allow persons to insist they aren’t racist because of how eagerly they would hire or even, if absolutely unavoidable, befriend people who are like the people they don’t hire or befriend except for not existing. This role is sad and depressing, so we rule it out as an important question because we don’t like being saddened and depressed by questions.
  4. With hamsters upon the rock-rimmed ride? This isn’t even a question at all, despite a valiant effort to give it the shape of one. Thus, it can’t possibly be an important question. It’s barely even a sentence, although that alliterative r stuff at the end makes it enough fun to bother looking at.

Why Programmers Sometimes Punch Computers


So. The project would be really great if it were to make use of the slick, speedy capabilities of GeoPackage. GeoPackage 1 is beautifully documented, with slick interactive demonstrations of every nook and cranny of the system. It depends on OtherPack version 3, produced by a different programming group. OtherPack version 3 is no longer distributed because OtherPack 4 is so very much better. GeoPackage 1 can’t work with OtherPack 4, but, GeoPackage 2, which is lurching towards alpha release, does. GeoPackage 2 doesn’t have any documentation but there are many points it has in common with GeoPackage 1 and it even has a dozen demonstration pages showing how neat it’ll be if it ever finishes working. Oh, but, GeoPackage 2 actually only works with OtherPack 4.0 and 4.1. The OtherPack group just got OtherPack 4.2 released and GeoPackage is sadly incompatible with the new release, although this isn’t worth mentioning anywhere except on a desperate-plea-for-help web site where the original question is accused of being “terribly vague”.

See previous comments about the need to roar indistinctly at the computer.

Cheaper by the Elevens, Maybe


Like most people I find that I’m short on time to do all the things that I really need to have got done beforehand. At least I assume I’m like most people that way. I know I never hear people wandering around saying, “oh, if only I didn’t have so very much time then I’d finally be able to get around to learning Latin or figuring out how to paint historical markers” since they fixed the water supply. Anyway, I can’t be bothered worrying about solutions for what everybody has to do; my concern has to be figuring out what it is I’m doing, and why I’m doing it, and what historical marker has to be painted in Latin today. The goal, then, has to be getting more efficient.

One of the first points to being more efficient is finding ways to consolidate lots of little actions. You see, it takes some time to start doing anything, what with deciding whether to do it, whether it ought to be done, how it ought to be done, whether it’s worth filing paperwork for, and noticing the time to get it done has long since passed, and then getting around to doing it in a manner just late and awkward enough you feel guilty about having to do it again. If you want to do the thing a couple times over there’s all that setup and possibly clean-up work afterwards. If you don’t do the thing in separate blocks, you save considerably on the setup time.

For example, it’s generally polite to at least make eye contact with someone, but even an introvert like me might interact with people — cashiers, sales clerks assuring me they can find what I want even when I don’t want anything, people in the hallways who don’t actually live here but seem pretty confident about themselves — dozens of times a day. Far better, then, to simply make all the eye contact of the day at once, with whoever the first person I see is, and then don’t dare look at any other person until nightfall. Not only does this save preparation and recovery time but before long people aren’t expecting me to make eye contact with them at all and point out that I may stay home instead.

Another task that can be done all at once is making incomprehensible, animal-like roars at the computer because it has these bizarre ideas of how it ought to behave or thinks it’s important to interrupt my workflow to warn you there are too many icons on your desktop, or that it can’t shut down and restart because it’s too busy shutting down. If I roar at it right now for all the time in the next year I’d spend dealing with the computer’s obsession regarding unused desktop icons it’ll take over two hours solid, but your time after that my days will be my own and people will scuttle quickly past my workspace.

A similarly-spirited approach I’m not good enough to do is to make a single motion do the work of two. For example, suppose you need to eat, but you also have to wash your car, and on top of that there’s that tree in the backyard needing to be reshingled. If you can attach your Fish McDippers to a hammer, and have your meal out by the tree, swinging your arm broadly with each dab of tartar sauce so as to also hammer a nail in place that still won’t do anything for your car, but let me know if any inspiration strikes you.

If you’re really into clipboards and stopwatches a more sophisticated approach is to carefully study the motions you make while doing a thing, in the hopes of dividing them into even tinier motions, until eventually your task is divided into such tiny enough pieces of motion that they evaporate. The result is a considerable savings in time as there’s no longer anything you actually do. Sadly, thermodynamic principles require that you so subdivide and document the motions that you can’t achieve any real savings, but you can be satisfied that what was formerly fourteen motions might be shrunk down to six motions, with an extra eight abstaining and two voting “present, but not sure that a `therblig’ is a thing”. They’re wise beyond my years.

Publicity Break


If I may have a moment from finding that every possible WordPress theme is almost but not quite satisfying to my eye — in fact, each just manages to have something that turns an otherwise decent-looking appearance into unpleasantness, like finding a tolerable-looking pair of shoes, only they’re an awful color, and there’s a pebble in them, and they’re made of antimatter so when you try setting them on there’s a terrible explosion, and the laces broke anyway — there’s a couple of links I ought to share in the interest of publicizing, er, me.

The most important are the links for Oh, Sandy: An Anthology Of Humor For A Serious Purpose, edited by Lynn Beighley, Peter Barlow, Andrea Donio, and A J Fader. This is a collection of short essays written after the need to do something useful after the Superstorm. I have an essay in there about my strange feelings from watching a catastrophe strike home and not being able to quite find out what was happening, or to do anything even if I did. It’s available also through CreateSpace.

Less portently, a Paper.li “newspaper” titled The Lighter Side Of Life Part 2 aggregated one of my daily short entries for its edition of the 31st of March. I’m flattered and mystified by how that one made the cut. They have a daily collection of things and there’s a fair chance that you’ll find something else there that’s amusing.

Fleeting Popularities


Well, that was a wasted afternoon. I was looking through the used DVD section in the store and they had 1999’s The Mod Squad under Popular Movies. The staff must get asked about it a lot because they told me to go ahead and put it where I thought it fit. Two ours later I was almost satisfied to just slip it into the Wii Games section, wrapped inside the cover for Nerf N-Strike Elite, but I did feel like that might have been cheating. Finally I went to the candy shelves, arranged it on top of some bags of microwave popcorn and underneath a carton of Milk Duds, asked the lead cashier to unlock the bathroom for me, and snuck out while she was walking through Horror. I just know this will come back to haunt me.

And Now I’m All Wet


Well, that shows me. After another angry phone call I actually went out and checked the back yard and what do you know? I peeked under the blanket of light snow and the pond in our backyard had got out. I don’t know how long it’s been doing this but when I do track down where it’s gotten I’m going to have to have a serious talk with it, and I don’t know how to do that. I’ll take advice, if you have any.

Georges Melies: Going to Bed under Difficulties


The film pioneer Georges Méliès is credited for many things, most prominently, for making astounding films by the simple use of stopping the camera and changing what was on set, and for creating illusions that are still rather jaw-dropping just by exposing the film twice. He’d do this, incredibly, with a hand-cranked camera and simply turned the film back the correct number of cranks before filming the second round of whatever the stunt was. And you can’t even start writing anything about space travel in popular culture without referring to his 1902 A Trip To The Moon.

What he doesn’t get much credit for, despite the awe and wonder and dreamlike enchantment so many of his films inspire, is being funny, so I want to share a two-minute-long short from 1900: Déshabillage Impossible, or, Going To Bed With Difficulties. The premise is simple: the traveller wants to undress for bed. It’s quite simple, and funny in a way that doesn’t show a hundred-plus years of age.

Méliès did pretty much the same film again in 1900 — I believe later in the film, based on the Star Film numbers — to similarly good effect, although I don’t think it’s quite as good. Still, that take, Le Réveil D’un Monsieur Pressé or if you prefer How He Missed His Train, is also fun and only a minute long, so it isn’t asking much of you.

Problems of Web Site Design


It’s always so tempting to go around and tinker with my web site, because it’s a fine way to stay vaguely busy in 2002. But there’s always questions about what to drop, like, the mailto: links. The only time I’ve eve found a mailto: link that worked was on a functioning gopher: server. I think I’ll replace it with a little form that takes the note, compiles it into a JSON object, and then turns it over to jQuery to pop up an error message, allowing me to claim three more areas of web design expertise.

Corrections


In this column recently we erroneously quoted Michigan state Senator Carl Levin as saying, “a mapping \phi: M \rightarrow M for a manifold M is structurally stable if any C^r perturbation is topologically conjugate to \phi, where C^r is a function \psi such that \psi is close to \phi and that the first r derivatives of \psi are also close to the respective derivatives of \phi ”. State Senators are notoriously shy, reclusive, almost mythological creatures and it was not our intention to embarrass one by printing his name where anyone might see it. We apologize for the error.

The Unbearable Sweetness of Sixteen


I suppose it isn’t quite too late to make a decent round of March Madness predictions, what with Madness having another six and one-third years to run before the Grand Neurostability Field penetrates the inner Oort cloud and reshapes the Earth in such dramatic yet peaceable fashion. Also March has two or three days left to run depending on just how you want to count things like “two” or “day”. The competitions so far have seen a whole lot of upsets, particularly with teams finding out what the others have been saying about them online, and everyone’s in a pretty foul mood, which should make for an exciting Sweet Sixteen round of competition provided the players can refrain from slugging one another.

The most interesting development, I think, is going to be in the East, where I’m expecting Georgetown — previously eliminated in a contest that made my uncle who went there holler loud enough to be heard in an adjacent state (he lives in Rhode Island, so it wasn’t that loud) — to sneak back into the tournament. This they’ll do by luring Miami of Florida’s actual players out to the old amusement park on Whelk Lake, and then leaving them stuck in the line for the Dodgem Cars, by the expedient of turning on all the lights and having their Assistant Ball Rounder pose as the ride operator and insist they just have to do one or two more test runs before it’s safe to ride. While that’ll go well, unfortunately Georgetown will lose to Marquette (in fact, the Georgetown players who wanted to go to a movie instead, only to find the didn’t know what was playing and were horrified by the selection) after their Assistant Ball is found to be insufficiently round for tournament play. Connecticut and Massachusetts should know that’s what they’re going to be hearing.

In the Midwest division, Minnesota chapter, I see the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode number 620, Danger!! Death Ray, surging ahead of episode number 505, The Magic Voyage Of Sinbad, as a result of a deep disagreement among online voters about which one of them has the “Nummy Muffin Coocol Butter” sketches. This is a pretty silly reason for one to win out over the other, particularly since I’m pretty sure everyone knows those sketches were in show number 615, Kitten With A Whip. Just saying.

In the West, I see the contest between computer languages finally resolving the struggle between Logo and Pilot just in time for people my age to insist there was too a computer language called Pilot and it probably had some features that made it attractive to use. Those features included great use of the colon, which otherwise doesn’t get any attention in computer languages, and it probably did much to support the self-esteem of the psychology professor who created it. The winner of this match will go on to face WATFOR-11S, which I expect will be an easy win as even WATFOR-11S has never heard of WATFOR-11S and thinks I’m making it up. I am.

The next round should see an exciting battle between people’s brackets for college basketball taking on brackets for favorite web comics, while the brackets for best episode of the new Battlestar Galactica goes on to contest the favorite colors and/or words spelled the same in different languages. That last is a powerful bracket because of its flexibility and tendency to pop up in daily trivia e-mails.

In the Final Four, I expect that Two will beat Three, while Three goes on to beat One. Two falls to Four, and One defeats Four, at which point the entire contest is called off on account of intransitivity. A training session to raise awareness of this problem will be held in early May, but be called off following an inconclusive rock-paper-scissors match.

The winnings from the office pool for all this are expected to go right into the pizza fund, just like was done last year, according to Tom, who won last year, or to go right into buying Tom an iPod mini, according to Bill, who runs the pizza fund.

The First No-Show


I really didn’t see that coming. No matter how shaky our rehearsals might have gone — and I’d like to point out we got pretty good at remembering there’s a part of the classic Tin Pan Alley song where you sing “and the music goes round and round and … something … it comes out here”, and that there’s probably other bits of words and melody that go around that — I didn’t see how our first performance back together would work out. I still don’t recognize any of the others in the group.

So. We got out on stage. We were ready, we weren’t too terrified, we knew some music shops where we’d be able to go later and get our instruments tuned up if that turned out to be a problem, and what happens? This turkey pops out on stage — I’m not being retro-ishy and 70’s here, I mean an actual turkey, with feathers and issues with Thanksgiving and everything — and started a safety lecture. Not just about how to get out of the venue in case of fire, either, it was about all the ways you could do yourself harm and how to not do them, with a lot about traffic safety tucked in. We tried nudging him off stage, but he got into this thing about rattling his tail and I know I sound ridiculous but it’s pretty scary, in person, all right? By the time he was satisfied that we’d been properly drilled, our little group didn’t have any time left to perform.

We’re undeterred, or at least everybody else is in no greater state of deterrment than they were before. I still don’t really remember who these people are and I’m pretty sure we’re just making music angry the more we try playing, but we’re looking for the next chance to perform.

Mammoth Engineering Works


I’m seeing these days a lot more idle talk — I hope it’s idle talk — about bringing mammoths back from extinction through the cloning and whatever else of preserved mammoth DNA. I admit that’d be a pretty good trick, and a fine solution to the nation’s crippling mammoth shortage. It’d certainly make drive-through safaris an even more exciting affair, as after a herd of deer blockade your car you could then have a mammoth give you the choice of surrendering your cup full of kibble or getting your Scion tC sat on.

If they ever achieve it, though, then what are future genetic engineers supposed to do to impress us? I think they’d have to start doing it the hard way, and bring mammoths back into being using nothing but quokka DNA instead, or maybe skip the DNA altogether and breed new mammoths using nothing but some string, a megaphone, and a highly surprised squirrel. Thus ever do the standards required for science stuff to impress us keep rising.

Was It Getting The Yard Muddy?


“Are you going to do something about that pond of yours?” said the angry voice on the phone.

“What about that pond?” was the best I could answer.

“It’s in my yard making a mess of things!”

I looked out the back window, and the pond was right where it’s been all winter, tucked under its blanket of ice and that strange snow that stays on top of little ponds all winter whether it snows or not. “Sorry, but I’m looking at it right now and it’s here in my yard.”

The voice harrumphed at me, but I stuck to my story, and then hung up.

Obviously this calls for action, so I’m replacing our phone with a model that’s in a softer and less anger-rousing color.

Comic Strips: The Heart of Juliet Jones


I don’t wish to spend too much time doing snarky humor on this blog — not because it can’t be fun, but because there is so much of it already around — but I realized I’ve spent so much time giggling about this particular comic strip that I really ought to share it. The web site Dailyink.com runs, besides a bunch of the King Features Syndicate comic strips you can’t quite believe are still running (The Katzenjammer Kids Somehow Because It’s 2013, Right?), some classics from the old days (The Katzenjammer Kids Slightly Less Somehow Since It Was 1940 I Guess).

Among them is Stan Drake’s The Heart Of Juliet Jones, the long-running soap opera strip about how Juliet Jones does not get married. In a strip rerun just a couple days ago, originally printed the 28th of December, 1955, her engagement with Johnny the Civil Engineer certainly appears to have wrapped up its mild complications (Johnny was so into the chic of building bridges he hasn’t minded that he’s under-paid and under-promoted at work) when, well, here. You don’t really need even that much introduction to follow it.

The ruthlessness with which the potentially happy ending is crushed makes me laugh in a way that can’t have been meant — or could it?

I’ve listened to quite a few old-time radio mystery and suspense shows, with the arch, melodramatic acting and loud organ stings at every carefully highlighted moment building to the twist Rod Serling would later rip off; they can manage to be both tolerably suspenseful and utterly unbelievable at once, and I wonder if the original audiences were listening with the same mix of suspense and incredulity that I have. Remember that one of the great radio suspense shows of all time, really and truly, was — exactly as the Bill Cosby routine had it — an episode of Lights Out about a scientist whose biochemical experiments caused the beating heart of a chicken to grow until it consumed the East Coast. Scary? Yes. Too ridiculous to be scared by? Yes. (Unfortunately only truncated versions of the original radio broadcast seem to be available.)

How long have they coexisted? And were the great soap opera strips of the past living in the same intersection of reality and disbelief?

What I Know About Kurt Cobain Or Vitamin B-12


Since people are curious, here are the things I know about Kurt Cobain or Vitamin B-12:

  1. Intentionally struck out so as to not have to play little league.
  2. Was discovered by Mary Shaw Shorb, in the University of Maryland’s Poultry Science Department, who was investigating a concentrated liver juice product on a $400 grant.
  3. Had a great-uncle, Delbert, a tenor who appeared in the 1930 film King of Jazz.
  4. Can treat both pernicious anemia and cyanide poisoning.
  5. As a child, could, and did, accurately draw Aquaman.
  6. Developed the game show I’ve Got A Secret for Mark Goodson and Bill Todman in 1952, who instead of paying him for it made him one of the show’s producers.
  7. Is commonly known as riboflavin by people who’ve mistaken it for Vitamin B-2.

Kurt Cobain? All right, Kurt Cobain.


OK, dream mind, I don’t know why it was so extremely urgent last night that you had me explain at length Kurt Cobain and his meaning to Nirvana — who you’d think would have some idea about him and his legacy, although maybe they’d just forgot the true meaning of Kurt Cobain — and the cast of The Big Bang Theory — who, I don’t know, am pretty sure existed in the early 90s so what are they doing missing it — at an amusement park but I hope you’re glad I did. Especially since I’ve never really been that up with current news about music so I had to fill in things I didn’t know with information about Allan Sherman or vitamin B-12. They seemed satisfied and so they should.

Don’t Go Back To High School


Don’t go back to high school.

Maybe you weren’t tempted anyway since high school contains so many high school memories. But based on a leading dream I just had, high school has gotten more worse than you imagined. For one, everyone insists on doing these interactive exercises instead of just letting you sit quietly in your seat and wait for college, where you can sit quietly in your seat and wait for grad school, where you can sit quietly in your seat and wait for student loans to come due, where you can sit quietly in your seat and weep. No, now you have to go up to the board instead of sinking underneath your desk.

Second, your physics teacher isn’t that kind but slightly odd Mister Gregor, with the huge backlog of Starlog magazines he’s trying to get someone, anyone, to take for the eighth year running. Instead he’s comedian and voice acting legend Stan Freberg, who remembers you very well, possibly from that time you had a report due on space. He’s just going to introduce you to the entire class, you know, and point out what an outstanding student you were and how glad he is to see you back, and you’re going to face the collective scorn of dozens of 16-year-olds who don’t want to hear about masses on springs and certainly don’t want to hear about how good you were with them.

Third, after you get back from the bathroom — now one of those annoying fancy hands-free ones where the toilets don’t work until you awkwardly shuffle back and forth, and then they don’t quite really flush, and the faucets don’t notice you at all until you punch them, which your middle school principal for crying out loud watches without comment — you’re going to get called right back into the classroom experience which is not about the masses on springs you thought Mister Gregor Stan Freberg liked you doing.

No, what this project is all about is going up to the board, one of those agonizing super-incredible touch-screen thingies that responds and draws stuff far beyond your ability level, the kind cable news channels keep buying instead of paying for reporting. And Mister Gregor Stan Freberg wants you to draw a cover for an impossibly complicated science fiction/fantasy novel and won’t take your excuses that you missed the entire description of the novel and you can’t even draw a tree without your drawing pointing at you and laughing as excuses. “You’ll be fine,” he says, “You’ll inspire the students,” one-seventh of whom agree in a shrugging groan.

Fifth (fourth was that you’re picked as inspirational) when you do try drawing, sure, the magic cable news screen takes your little scribbly Y thing and turns it into a great rendition of a tree, and turns your little scribbled Ewok-y figures into fur-perfect renditions of the ranwor-level hunters of the Culakly tribe from Ageli, the fourth planet orbiting Iota Librae, but your efforts to catch the moment before the klent-lead conspiracy sets ablaze the ceremonial dousti tower leading up to the top of the sacred grove is foiled when the picture springs to life and the entire dousti burns before your eyes, though not those of the class. At least, you think that’s what he wants you to show because Mister Gregor Stan Freberg insists on mumbling the plot to you no matter how many times you tell him you can’t hear what he’s saying.

Worse, while the fire and panic wouldn’t be a bad idea, the scene catches almost dead-center the 1988 silver Chevy Celebrity of one of the production assistants from the movie based on the book, which just ruins the scene because a Celebrity looks like what you put in the scene to later be replaced with an actual car, and you can’t get the monitor to take a reverse angle. In fact you look foolish ordering the screen to reverse view, and one of the xiple-beasts clearly snorts at you before running off to the trumia-bushes.

All Mister Gregor Stan Freberg offers as advice is to whisper to you that the name of the novel is something like “Cumumburumbubmlemun” and that you should figure where to set the title for best aesthetic value.

Overall, the lesson is: don’t go back to high school. You’ll look like a total drell.

‘Oh, Sandy!’ now on sale


Some splendid news! The anthology, Oh Sandy: An Anthology Of Humor For A Serious Purpose, has come out. For just now it’s in Kindle e-book version only and the editor, Lynn Beighley, is working on some formatting issues so it’s getting a little bit fixed again. But it’s also to appear in print through CreateSpace which I admit I haven’t heard of before. The print versions are supposed to be available through Amazon and Amazon Europe in around a week. Proceeds are to go to organizations aiding victims of Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy. And I have a slice, a couple hundred words, out of the total collection.

The editor has talked about the need to promote it, which is something new to me. While I’ve coauthored two books before they were academic books, for which promotion just isn’t done because you really, really can’t sell someone an $80 book about statistical mechanics treatments of inviscid fluid flow. University libraries might buy it, but I’ve never been in one which had it. I’m skeptical there’d be much interest in readings about the book from my base in Michigan, but perhaps something might be worked up while I was back east for something. The editor also mentioned podcasts, which are a form of audio communication that it seems like I ought to be interested in, except I’ve just never got the hang of listening to them. I’m sure that my voice, combining as it does soft tones and a mushy, indescribable accent (“You don’t sound like you’re from … anywhere”), would be perfectly suited to MP3 formatting.

What We Have In Common


There’s many things each of us have in common and in these trying times (before 11 pm, although I note that before 8:15 am is an extremely trying time) I thought it worth reviewing some of them. We each believe that we’re in the last group it’s acceptable to ridicule and stereotype in public. We all believe that we’re better-than-average at Skee-Ball. We each think that we must have missed the day in middle school where they explained how to grow up to become a Muppet, which is a pity as we’re pretty sure we would have been a good one. We all think it’s kind of amazing that people talk so little about that time a couple years ago when the continents were depopulated by people using that exotic device on Jupiter to turn into giant telepathic monsters living on the surface of that world, giving whole nations over to the dogs and robots. And we’re all horrified by how many pictures of random groups of people from the 70s include some terrible, terrible thing we used to wear, possibly as late as 1994. That’s about everything.