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The Autocoprophagy Of Mark Twain

My wife loves me and looks after me. Many and many a time I have noticed, when I wake up in the middle of the night for some reason or another, that the pillow is only gently pressed to my face.

She visits the library here in town quite a bit. It’s a Carnegie library — a wonderful thing wherever you find it. The town I live in values it highly, of course. It is rarely actively on fire when we drop by, and a solid voting quorum of the slate roofing tiles aren’t on the sidewalk yet. They did hire a person, whose name is likely shrouded by the mists of near-antiquity, modesty, and an unpaid bill or two, to design an addition for the building, back when the town was still booming and the parades had more people on the sidewalk than commiserating on the floats. That addition could compete in elegance, in beauty, and in comfort with any dentist’s office, but holds slightly-less-current magazines. The old, original part is built like a brick redoubt designed by a renaissance polymath: elegant but ready for battle. But new ideas like the design of the addition resemble mildew — they get in and corrode a place from its innards, no matter how well-defended the perimeter.

As I was saying, my wife looks after me. She unwisely brought me back the Autobiography of Mark Twain from the library to read. I say unwisely, because it’s nearly 750 pages, hardbound, and if I get to lifting it often enough, I may eventually become strong enough to defend myself against her nocturnal depredations, and the assaults of her housecat.

In addition to my newfound physical abilities, this titanic tome is cultivating in me a powerful urge to seek out the editors and amassers and packrats that¬† produced the book. Not because I picked the thing up, no; I unwisely read the thing, too, and it makes me want to strike someone in the face, and not with an upholstered cushion, either. I realize assault and battery and eye-gouging and mayhem and attempted murder are, if not strictly illegal, at least frowned upon in literary circles, but I’m willing to sit in an electric chair by the hour as long as the mouthbreathing, windowlicking, buttsniffing, dimestore intellectuals that dug up Mark Twain’s literary corpse and rifled through his pockets are forced to sit in my lap. I bet I can outlast the whole lot of them on pure spite alone.

Why, oh why was Twain’s unpublished work turned over to these jackanapes to paw through like illiterate raccoons looking for rancid bits to eat? Yes, yes, I know they style themselves “The Mark Twain Project,” and have devoted their mortgages, if not lives, to Twain, or at least to raiding his intellectual larder to stock their shabby ivy-stricken midden over at Berkeley.¬† So what? The mental contortions needed to adduce that their name and their sinecures makes them capable of understanding such a writer is like saying that a dog has ticks so the ticks should inherit the dog’s estate. Haven’t you drawn enough blood from the man already, you stooges? You’ve been carving out a living carving your initials, likely misspelled, into the outside of Twain’s bier for a century. Who allowed you to climb in there with him and start carving away on the inside?

There’s Twain inside this book, don’t get me wrong. It’s exactly, precisely what you always get from Twain. His laundry list is a Dead Sea Scroll. His lunch order is a Rosetta Stone. He has more intellectual horsepower under his fingernail after a trip to his ear than Berkeley has in a building, and that’s if the building is full of janitors, the smartest people there. At least janitors know how the world works. The buildings full of these scholars need fumigating. Lock the doors, first, from the outside.

It was easy enough, if annoying, to tread across the minefields of intellectual delirium tremens these invertebrates have made of Twain’s writing, leaving their little piles of brain droppings here and there like badly behaved dogs, explaining Twain. I put on heavy shoes and plowed ahead. Then I got to page 468, the glimmer of a tear still in my eye over SLC’s description of his older brother, Orion, filled with pathos and love and respect and affection and a wistful, unspoken wish that his brother wasn’t doomed by his nature to miss the life Twain got by the thickness of one of Sam’s famous whiskers — and then I turned the page, and there on page 469 was text as terrible and incomprehensible as the writing on your own tombstone, delivered early: The rest of the book, almost 300 more pages, was entirely comprised of the stark, raving drivel of these toads, with only bits of Twain embedded in it like reverse carbuncles. Good God. I’ll hold my nose and run through Twain’s Elysian fields, keeping an eye peeled for your intellectual Beserkley cowpies the whole time, but I’m not treating myself to a one-man Easter-egg hunt in a sewage treatment plant.

Explaining Twain. Think of that. Why not send a cigar store Indian out on a speaking tour to explain smoking. He stood outside the shop for a hunnerd years. He must know something about the topic by now.

Electric, And Electrifying, Edwardians



Jamaica Street, Glasgow, 1901.

I can’t stop looking at these movies. They’re from a collection called Electric Edwardians. Two fellows, Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon, were hired by the equivalent of a circus to take movies of mundane activities in Great Britain. The promoters would then show the movies to the locals, who were mostly there just to see themselves, or people like themselves, for the sheer wonder of life captured on film. Getting amusement from the mundane to make a few quid. The ICANHASCHEEZBURGER of their day.

The films were ignored and lost for nearly a century, mouldering in a basement. They were only rediscovered because the building was going to be demolished. The British Film Institute restored them as best they could, and they’ve been shown as a television show, and now are available as a DVD.

I rarely watch television, read newspapers, or listen to the radio. I read books by dead persons, pretty much. I have little use for 99.9 percent of the Internet, because it’s just people telling me that they can watch TV and read the newspaper harder than me. The average intellectual’s head is full of tapioca. On the Intertunnel, it’s rancid tapioca.

You cannot tell what’s going on by what people say. You’re past daft if you think you can tell what’s going on by listening to a third party tell you what people say. You can only tell what’s going on by looking at what people are doing.

People say they want a time machine. But then again: Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do on a rainy afternoon. They sit in mom’s basement watching reruns of remakes of a crummy space opera and fantasize about what they’d do with their holodeck, if only they could live with the wonders of the future and access to the past. Unaware that this is the future, and by the way, here is the actual, unvarnished past, they’d turn the channel if this video came on — a real life time machine.

I wouldn’t. Look, there, on the screen. It’s not Tutankhamun’s tomb. It’s Tutankhamun.

Take Another Bite Of Your Apple Economy



My father, now dead and buried, used to joke when his children left the house to play: Write if you get work!

There’s nothing but the blackest residue of humor left in any gibe like that for anyone I care about. There’s no joke left in nearly anything for me anymore. Decent people don’t joke about cancer in a funeral home with the corpse and the family present.

I can spot no class of squalid self-interested behavior that hasn’t been perfected, never mind tried, by the legions of invertebrates, possessed of no souls and negligible intellects, that lord over our affairs, great and small — affairs they should be ashamed in their ignorance and sloth to even comment upon. They know nothing of steel and wood and earth and sweat, just the faint yellow musk of ink and paper and the weight of  the great, stolen seals of an empire gone shabby in their pockets.


Hoard gold. Amalgamate pixels. Cultivate politicians. Mine clauses. Weasel patents. Stripmine people, and sell them into a titanic servitude for them for a trifle for you; but no matter what, don’t allow anyone to do anything. A whiff of perspiration on the breeze –even a hint of duty — disturbs the International Brotherhood of Lotos-Eaters.

The Lotos blooms below the barren peak:
The Lotos blows by every winding creek:
All day the wind breathes low with mellower tone:
Thro’ every hollow cave and alley lone
Round and round the spicy downs the yellow Lotos-dust is blown.
We have had enough of action, and of motion we,
Roll’d to starboard, roll’d to larboard, when the surge was seething free,
Where the wallowing monster spouted his foam-fountains in the sea.
Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind.
For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurl’d
Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curl’d
Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world:
Where they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands,
Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands,
Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships, and praying
hands.

But they smile, they find a music centred in a doleful song
Steaming up, a lamentation and an ancient tale of wrong,
Like a tale of little meaning tho’ the words are strong;
Chanted from an ill-used race of men that cleave the soil,
Sow the seed, and reap the harvest with enduring toil,
Storing yearly little dues of wheat, and wine and oil;
Till they perish and they suffer–some, ’tis whisper’d–down in hell
Suffer endless anguish, others in Elysian valleys dwell,
Resting weary limbs at last on beds of asphodel.
Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore
Than labour in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar;
O, rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.

Tennyson

Chicks Dig Guys With Skills. You Know, Like Nunchuck Skills; Bowstaff Skills; Computer Hacking Skills; Pinstriping Skills…



They’re building Royal Enfield motorcycles:
 

That’s a very cool bike. The company was founded in England in the 1850s; they originally made sewing needles. Then came boneshakers, springs for seats for “safety bicycles,” and then bicycles themselves. Then rifle parts –that’s where the “Enfield” moniker came from, and their slogan for all their stuff: Made like a gun. Then came motorcycle precursors: tricycles and quadricycles with small engines. They tried making cars around the turn of the twentieth century. They looked like lightly armored personnel carriers and had eight-horsepower engines, not considered enough to mow your lawn while sitting down nowadays. They got over that urge and started making true motorcycles, and sold a bunch to the army for World War I. They had a neato one with a stretcher sidecar.

The company was a pioneer in using the saddle tank (a fuel tank that sits atop and straddles the frame) which you see the fellow in the video striping so ably. In the late forties, the company opened up a shop in Madras, India, to supply motorcycles to the Indian army.  At first they just assembled parts sent from England; they eventually made the whole thing themselves. They made one design, unchanged, for thirty straight years. England gave up manufacturing pretty much anything in the second half of the twentieth century, and started importing the bikes from India.

Hand skills like that fellow in the video displays are always show-stoppers in any manufactory.

All The Small Things

Yesterday was National Skate Day, 2011.

June 21st is the national holiday of skateboarding, apparently, whether Hallmark knows it or not. Oh little town of Rumford Maine had their own fete in honor of four wheels and no homework. The Sun Journal was there:

Hmm. That racket in the background sounds familiar. Ah, yes, it’s my fifteen-year-old son and his friends playing their first gig. The Meteor was there, too:

Lessee. He broke two strings on the first song, and had to play the rest of the day with a borrowed guitar. The PA system the event organizers supplied was a karaoke machine, so the lads had to rush home and cobble together another one on a moment’s notice. The second singer was grounded and couldn’t come, so The Heir had to sing everything. The other bands didn’t show up, so they got asked to play all afternoon instead of an hour. No matter what happened, they kept going, and used their heads to solve their problems.

Take care of all the small things, and the big things never show up.

Month: June 2011

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