Category Archives: Woody Allen

Hot Air

And I Quote…

You know those quizzes that are cluttering up the interwebs these days? The ones that tell you what or who you were in a previous life, whether you’re a liberal or a conservative (as if you didn’t already know), what age you’ll die, and other pressing personal trivia?

I saw one this morning that asked something on the order of “Which famous quote describes your life?” The results all seem to be Maya Angelou quotes telling you what a beautiful and vibrant flower you are.

Flower

You

Now, naturally, telling a person that she or he is a vibrant flower does absolutely nothing for them in the scheme of things, other than to make the recipient feel all warm and nice for about seven and a half seconds. Just like masturbation.

So I figured I’d compile a little list of quotes that really mean something. Pick whichever one you want to describe yourself or the world around you. I’m not in the mood to kid you by telling you a particular one of these lines is perfect for you. Do it yourself.

Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.

— Margaret Mead

I don’t know where I’m going but I’m on my way.

— Carl Sandburg

Sandburg/Monroe

Carl Sandburg (With Marilyn Monroe)

Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company.

— Mark Twain

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.

— Mark Twain, again

My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.

— Woody Allen

Reality continues to ruin my life.

— Bill Watterson

Watterson

Bill Watterson (With Calvin & A Hobbes Doll)

Parents are the last people on earth who ought to have children.

— Samuel Butler

I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.

— Oscar Wilde

If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

— Flip Wilson

Wilson

My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son of a bitch.

— Jack Nicholson

Feeling warm and nice yet?

 

Hot Air

Revolution For The Fun Of It

Who says all protest movements have to entail hardship, confrontation, possible arrest, and clunks on the head from cops’ billyclubs?

Chicago 1968

Ouch!

This coming Monday folks who object to the recent US Supreme Court decision to allow corporations to take a cafeteria approach to their responsibilities — Ooh, no, thank you, I don’t want to obey that law, I’ll have the other one over there — had planned to gather at the grand opening of the Hobby Lobby store in Burbank, California to, well, fk.

Now there’s a protest participants could really enjoy.

A noted Southern California political activist named Lauren Steiner scheduled the protest, originally called “Let’s Fuck Inside Hobby Lobby,” which, I imagine, didn’t sit well with the hall monitors of the various social media she was flogging (sorry) it on. Steiner and friends had talked of grandiose plans to have couples copulating here and there among the sock monkey fixin’s and Santa Claus figurines. Once finished with their statements of protest the couples were advised to, um, “leave a deposit” in the aisles of the heretofore shiny new store.

Steiner

Steiner

Such civil disobedience, apparently, was too much for Twitter and Facebook, etc. and perhaps even for the local constabulary. Next thing you know, Steiner has renamed the event “Let’s Condom… er, Condemn Hobby Lobby at Their Burbank Grand Opening.”

Steiner describes herself thusly on her Twitter account: “I am a activist fighting to protect people and the planet from the greed of billionaires and transnational corporations.” Fair enough. She also, it appears, possesses a wicked sense of humor. Too bad she’s not going all in with the demonstration. Now, the event has been vanilla-fied to this:

To protest the recent Supreme Court decision which now gives privately held corporations the right to withhold four forms of contraception from its female employees based on the owners’ religious opposition to abortion, we will be doing a creative flash mob at the grand opening of the Burbank Hobby Lobby. To celebrate the beautiful sexual autonomy which people (but especially women) posses, people should feel free to simulate “sexual relations,” to use former President Clinton’s term, or dress up like giant condom or whatever the spirit moves you to do. Since male employees of Hobby Lobby are still entitled to insurance covered Viagra and vasectomies, please bring unused, unopened, viable condoms as presents for the male employees.

Please bring signs expressing your displeasure with this decision. “Boycott Hobby Lobby” “Impeach the Supreme Court” “What Happened to Separation of Church and State?” “Corporations Are Not People & They Don’t Have Religious Rights” etc.

Simulated sex? Bah. The people who run Hobby Lobby prob. figure that’s the way sex ought to be.

The Thought Was There

This would have been the perfect spot to embed the scene from Woody Allen’s Everything You Wanted to Know about Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask where Allen and Louise Lasser, playing a bored Italian couple, spice up their love life by engaging in public sex. The scene shows them sneaking behind a hutch in a furniture store and proceeding to rattle it as if an earthquake is rolling through.

From "Everything..."

But, try as I might, I couldn’t find a clip of the scene. It seems every other scene is clipped on YouTube and elsewhere, but not that one. Bummer.

Me, Lazy?

In flogging yesterday’s post on Facebook, as I generally do, I wrote:

Facebook

Turns out I was selling myself short. I wasn’t so much lazy as flu-ridden. Yuck. What a revolting development in the middle of summer!

Anyway, that’s why today’s post is short as well.

Hot Snowy Air

The Scoop

WFHB‘s Joe Crawford blew all the other local media out of the water with this one.

Firehouse Broadcasting’s Assistant News Director took on an ill-conceived Bloomington architectural preservation process that may lead to radical changes in some of our town’s neighborhoods. Crawford found that folks who for years lived in “conservation” districts suddenly do not.

Crawford

Newshound Joe Crawford, Being All Arty

The conservation district idea was an historic district-lite kind of thing. As Crawford explains it, “full-blown historic districts” allowed the city’s Historic Preservation Commission to review and pass on or deny property owners’ plans to alter their structures within those districts. The conservation districts only allowed the Commission to wag its finger at owners who wanted to alter or destroy properties within them.

It might not sound like much but finger-wagging from a public body means a lot in these parts. If conservation designation didn’t exactly legally bar property owners from building a soulless row of townhomes in a neighborhood of charming old brick homes, it made said owners think long and hard about their plans. Often, property owners would drop their plans in the face of such opposition.

Paris Dunning House

The Paris Dunning House In An Historic District

It turns out, according to Crawford, the conservation districts can be upgraded to historic preservation districts after a few years due to a technicality in state law, thereby hamstringing property owners from doing any remodeling at all without submitting to an onerous hearing process. Owners in a couple of conservation districts that have recently morphed into preservation districts in this way are livid.

The original municipal statute creating the two-tiered system was flawed, sure. But the City Council has not done much to rectify the sitch. Listen to Crawford’s report for yourself (or simply read it via the same link). Then stayed tuned to see how the City Council digs itself out of this mess.

And remember, this is the same City Council that gave us our universally beloved parking meters in downtown B-town last summer. Yeesh.

Love The Art; Hate The Artist?

Funny how the two-decade old Woody Allen child molestation scandal is back in the news just now, considering today is the 100-year anniversary of the birth of another artist whose personal life also was less than exemplary.

Far less than exemplary.

William S. Burroughs, who wrote Naked Lunch and a pile of other notable books, and who was a cohort of many of the Beats, shot and killed his common law wife in cold blood in Mexico City in 1951.

Burroughs

Burroughs, Later In Life

First, a caveat. I’ve long considered Woody Allen a brilliant comic, a terrific writer, and one of the greatest American film directors. Burroughs, on the other hand, I can take or leave. Truman Capote’s famous dismissal of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road — “That’s not writing; that’s typing.” — can be applied pretty much across the board to all the Beats’ and their pals’ works. And that includes Burroughs’ tortured, tortuous tomes.

But that’s just me. Many knowledgeable people in the literary world consider Burroughs a fab penman. I won’t argue with them. Perhaps they see something in his words I don’t. I only bring it up in the interest of full disclosure (and to spout the aforementioned opinion.)

Anyway, neither Burroughs nor Allen was punished for their respective alleged crimes. Only Burroughs’ crime really isn’t alleged. He was convicted in absentia in a Mexican court of homicide or manslaughter (the record is not entirely clear). See, he’d taken a powder before his trial was to begin. According to independent accounts, he traipsed around South America, looking to score a storied drug called yagé, while his part in the death of Joan Vollmer was being adjudicated.

The Beats and their ilk eschewed all the trappings of American conformity and the shackles of authoritarianism. So much so, apparently in Burroughs’ case, that he considered himself above the societal norm that kept the rest of the common clay from blowing the brains out of their spouses.

Burroughs apologists say he was drunk when he and Vollmer engaged in a game of “William Tell,” leading to her demise. Numerous times before, they say, she’d put an apple on her head and he’d take aim with his pistol and shoot it off the top of her coconut. They even like to elevate the reckless game to some sort of artistic allegory. Experimental writer Charles Talkoff has asked and answered his own question about the shooting:

After Burroughs shot Joan in the forehead and the apple fell to the ground, what did Burroughs do with the apple? I like to think he ate it.

Burroughs initially told Mexico City cops he’d tried to shoot a water pitcher off Vollmer’s head in a variation on their William Tell game. He missed, tragically, he told the police the first time they interviewed him. The next day he told the police he’d been trying to sell his pistol to a friend and, while handling it, the gun went off and — wouldn’t you know it? — Vollmer’s cranium happened to be in the path of the bullet.

Only much later was it revealed he’d been telling friends moments before the shot was fired that he was sick of Vollmer and the time had come to “do something about it.” Not only that, in the weeks before Vollmer’s death Burroughs had been chasing a young man with whom he’d become infatuated all over Central America.

According to independent accounts, money was passed out to various Mexican officials to ensure the original murder charge against Burroughs would be reduced. Burroughs, you see, came from a wealthy family. In fact, when he finally did go on trial — again, after he’d skipped the country — he was charged merely with a form of culpable homicide.

Headline

The Pistol Did It

It’s been said by people who know his work well that Burroughs’ writing changed profoundly after Vollmer’s death. You can read for yourself if that’s true or not. He’d written a self-described “not very distinguished work” entitled And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks with Jack Kerouac as well as Junkie and Queer on his own prior to the shooting. It was only after Vollmer’s death that he launched into the most productive and, as many would say, the most creative part of his writing life. He later wrote, “I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan’s death….”

Some muse.

Vollmer

Joan Vollmer

The Woody Allen scandal is more notorious. He split up with Mia Farrow after beginning an affair with her adopted daughter, Soon Yi Previn, whom he later married. Amid ensuing child custody hearings, Farrow accused Allen of sexually molesting Mia’s daughter Dylan, whom Allen had adopted. (He’d never adopted Soon Yi, by the way.) Denials and investigations followed, no charges were filed, and the thing went dormant until Dylan wrote an open letter published in the New York Times Saturday.

Dylan laid out a heart-rending tale of the act and its consequences. Now the interwebs are buzzing with opinionators taking one side or the other. Me? I won’t defend Allen, even though I viewed him as an idol when I was in my early 20s. I was so enamored with Allen and his movies that, for a while, I even gave thought to becoming a Jew. A very short while.

Dylan Farrow concluded her letter with a challenge:

So imagine your seven-year-old daughter being led into an attic by Woody Allen. Imagine she spends a lifetime stricken with nausea at the mention of his name. Imagine a world that celebrates her tormenter.

Are you imagining that? Now, what’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?

I used to watch Allen’s movie, Manhattan, again and again, for the laughs, for the music, for the insular and seductive world of the intelligentsia it portrayed. The focus of Manhattan is the Allen character’s love affair with a young girl. He’s 42, IIRC, and she’s 17. Somehow, the weirdness of that coupling didn’t alarm me at the time. After the molestation charges became known, I found myself unable to watch it again. In fact, I haven’t seen Manhattan again in more than 20 years.

I feel soiled thinking about it.

Scene from "Manhattan"

Now It’s Creepy

Our cultural arbiters tell us we must separate the art from the artist. But it’s oh so hard. To this day, the playing of the music of notorious anti-Semite Richard Wagner in Israel arouses howls of protest. I’m not a Jew (despite my childish fantasy when I was 22) but I still feel itchy when Wagner comes on the radio. I can’t enjoy Manhattan anymore. And I’ll probably never again pick up a copy of one of Burroughs’ books. There are plenty of other artists who won’t make me feel so itchy.

The Pencil Today:

HotAirLogoFinal Wednes II

THE QUOTE

“Raised by two mothers? Wow. Most of us barely survive one.” — Woody Allen

Allen

WISSING WELL

Our town’s international gumshoe reporter, Doug Wissing, is gearing up for a second trip to the wilds of Afghanistan.

C-SPAN Image

Wissing on C-SPAN

Wissing, a noted freelance investigative journalist, has a hot item on the Book Corner‘s shelves these days, entitled “Funding the Enemy: How US Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban.” During his first foray into the Afghan theater of war and corruption, Wissing learned that much of America’s dough wends its way through a maze of unsavory characters and entities into the hands of the very people we are shooting at.

Now he’s headed back to Southwest Asia. He’ll catch a flight in that direction on New Year’s Eve night. Wissing tells The Pencil he’ll stay in Afghanistan for a month or six weeks, with an eye on writing a second book on the 12-year-old conflict.

BBC Photo

Afghanistan (image from the BBC)

“I’m interested in seeing how the end game is turning out,” he says. He wants to get back in touch with American soldiers, many of whom hipped him to the cat’s cradle that includes venal US officials, greedy private corporations, Afghan kleptocrats, and the Taliban.

The new project will be Wissing’s seventh tome.

The Pencil advised him to stay out of trouble in those dangerous environs. Wissing replied, “That’s what I go there for.”

MOMMIE DEAREST

So, now Liza Long is taking heat for her viral “I am Adam Lanza’s mother” blog post.

Image from Blue Review

Liza Long’s “Crazy” Kid

In the immediate wake of Friday’s mass assassination of schoolkids and teachers in Connecticut, Long’s essay on raising a child whom she diagnoses as, well, crazed struck a chord. According to early sources, the Sandy Hook shooter also had psychiatric problems as a child. Ergo, Long’s post was originally viewed as a plea for help from a Mom who feared her kid might one day take up assault weapons against seven-year-olds.

Long was characterized as a trail-blazer, courageous in her everyday life as well as her willingness to reveal the most embarrassing details about her troubled son.

Image from NBC News

Courageous?

The more we’re exposed to revelations like this, the thinking went, the easier it might be to prevent the next Sandy Hook.

But blowback is inevitable in our info-tainment culture. Another blogger posted that maybe — just maybe — Long’s heartfelt tale of life with a disturbed kid isn’t all it was first cracked up to be.

Anthropologist and communications scholar Sarah Kendzior, who earned an MA in Central Eurasian Studies from Indiana University, wrote that an in-depth reading of Long’s blog revealed a “series of vindictive and cruel posts about her children in which she fantasizes about beating them, locking them up and giving them away.”

Funny thing is, most of the mommies and daddy-os I know have expressed similarly dramatic dark thoughts about their kids despite the fact that none of them would go so far as to describe their little angels as clinically deranged.

In fact, Kendzior herself writes, “In most of her posts, her allegedly insane  and violent son is portrayed as a normal boy who incited her wrath by being messy, buying too many Apple products and supporting Obama.”

Fairey Poster

If Your Kid Has This Poster, Institutionalize Him

Still, for at least a few days after Sandy Hook, Liza Long was the poster mom for heroic parents everywhere who’ve brought whacked out kids into the world.

My immediate guess is the name Liza Long will be long-forgotten by the spring.

As for her kid, well, some team of shrinks is going be putting down payments on luxury yachts after he reaches the age of thrice-weekly psychotherapy — even if he’s not certifiably cracked.

Millions in this holy land now know him as that mentally ill kid who’s somehow tied in with the Sandy Hook shooter. Thanks, Mom.

And now, Kendzior and Long have kissed and made up. They issued a joint statement the other day. Kenzior wrote in her blog, “We do not want to be part of a ‘mommy war’….”

The statement reads, in part: “We both agree that privacy for family members, especially children, is important… We love our children and hope you will respect their privacy.”

Natch, the best way to maintain your kids’ privacy is to write about them using a media technology that can be accessed by billions of inhabitants of this weird, weird world.

Personal to Long from a veteran blogger. You don’t have to post your every thought and feeling. Sometimes what you write needs to stay unpublished. Take it from me: Any number of times I’ve clacked out a post that I’ve deemed not ready for the light of day. And often I won’t have a replacement post in me on those particular mornings. Ergo, The Pencil skips a day.

So far, no one’s psyche has been damaged by those missed days.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Raised by two mothers? Wow, most of us barely survive one.” — Woody Allen

BEAUTY

Happy birthday, Phyllis Diller. She’s 95 today.

IT HASN’T CAUGHT ME YET

Today’s also the 61st anniversary of the release of the iconic book, “The Catcher in the Rye” by the reclusive JD Salinger.

And you know what? I’ve never read it.

LIFE’S A MOTHER

A guy was browsing through the music section at the Book Corner yesterday and came upon the Loretta Lynn book, “Honky Tonk Girl: My Life in Lyrics.”

The words of one of her songs hit the guy so squarely between the eyes that he felt compelled to read them to me, in toto.

I’ll share them with you in a moment. First, though, it’s important to consider that Loretta Lynn gave birth to six children before she decided to hit the road as a country singer. And get this: she had four kids by the age of 19. Jesus holy Christ!

Anyway, in 1972 she recorded a song written by Lorene Allen, Don McHan, and TD Bayless that pretty much summed up her pre-career young adult life. Lynn, of course, was just about the biggest thing in country music at the time. The big boys at her record company wanted no part of the record, though. They were petrified that the pious citizenry of this holy land would string them up if they released it.

It wasn’t until 1975 that “The Pill” was released. And the record company executives were right. So many radio stations refused to play it that the song didn’t hit the top three in the country charts as every other Loretta Lynn release did in those days.

The Book Corner browser and I thoroughly enjoyed the lyrics. For a brief few moments, the store became the site of a poetry slam. Try to picture it as you read these lyrics:

You wined me and dined me when I was your girl

Promised if I’d be your wife you’d show me the world

But all I’ve seen of this old world is a bed and a doctor bill

I’m tearing down your brooder house ’cause now I’ve got the Pill

All these years I’ve stayed at home while you’ve had all your fun

And every year that’s gone by another baby’s come

There’s gonna be some changes made right here on Nursery Hill

You’ve set this chicken your last time ’cause now I’ve got the Pill

This old maternity dress I’ve got is going in the garbage

The clothes I’m wearing from now on won’t take up so much yardage

Miniskirts, hotpants, and a a few little fancy frills

Yeah, I’m making up for all those years since I’ve got the Pill

I’m tired of all your crwoing about how you and your hens play

While holding a couple in my arms, another’s on the way

This chicken’s done tore up her nest and I;m ready to make a deal

And you can’t afford to turn it down ’cause you know I’ve go the Pill

This incubator is overused because you’ve kept it filled

The feeling good comes easy now since I’ve got the Pill

It’s getting dark it’s roosting time, tonight’s too good to be real

Aw, but Daddy don’t you worry none ’cause Mama’s got the Pill

Can you imagine what a revelation the song was to the backwoods women of America? And the guardians of our morals again were right to be worried about the affects of something so seemingly silly as a popular song. Country doctors reported a dramatic increase in the number of women asking for birth control prescriptions after the song hit the charts.

The worst had happened in the minds of the sacrosanct — women now felt they could control their wombs.

THE PILL

Aw, hell, let’s just hear the song.

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

Butler ParkMessy Mania, gooey art activities for pre-schoolers, aged 2-6 with parent; 11am

People’s ParkLunch Concert Series: Pan USA, steel drum music; 11:30am

KRC CateringPoliSci Professor Marjorie Hershey speaks to the monthly meeting of the Monroe County Democrats Club; 11:45am

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesLecture, Dr. Cătălin Pavel presents “Homer’s Trojan War and the Archeological Remains of Troy”; noon-1pm

The Venue Fine Art & Gifts“The Art of the Switchyard Park,” by Mick Renneisen; 5:30pm

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — David Miller; 6-8:30pm

Jake’s NightclubKaraoke, final round; 6pm

Boxcar BooksCartoonist Steve Lafler’s Bughouse Book Tour; 7-9pm

◗ IU Wells-Metz Theatre“The Taming of the Shrew”; 7:30pm

The Player’s PubBlues Jam hosted by Cliff & the Guardrails; 8pm

The Root Cellar at Farm Bloomington — Team trivia; 8pm

The BluebirdBloomington’s Got Talent, hosted by Leo Cook; 9pm

Ongoing:

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • John D. Shearer, “I’m Too Young For This  @#!%”; through July 30th
  • Claire Swallow, ‘Memoir”; through July 28th
  • Dale Gardner, “Time Machine”; through July 28th
  • Sarah Wain, “That Takes the Cake”; through July 28th
  • Jessica Lucas & Alex Straiker, “Life Under the Lens — The Art of Microscopy”; through July 28th

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • Qiao Xiaoguang, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts” ; through August 12th
  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th
  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th
  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th
  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th
  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st
  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012
  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st
  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits:

  • Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show; through July 21st
  • Bloomington Photography Club Annual Exhibition; July 27th through August 3rd

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World Cultures — Closed for semester break

Monroe County History Center Exhibits:

  • “What Is Your Quilting Story?”; through July 31st
  • Photo exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“There is no salvation in becoming adapted to a world which is crazy.” — Henry Miller

GOD, THE BULLY

Now I ask you, are the hardcore Christian fundamentalists of this holy land just angling to become a satire of themselves?

I mean, honestly, if a funny person were to write a skit lampooning them, wouldn’t she, say, have them battling anti-bullying laws because, hell, it’s mostly homosexuals who are being bullied so who cares?

Wouldn’t that make a comedy audience roar with laughter? They’d say, How hilarious! How could that ever happen?

“Hah! That’d Never Happen In Real Life!”

But that’s precisely what is happening in America today.

In two weeks, on Friday, April 20th, high school students across the country will participate in the Day of Silence, during which they’ll remain mum from morning until night to protest bullying. And, of course, the prime targets for bullies in elementary, middle, and high schools are gays or kids who exhibit even the slightest hint that they may be too effeminate (in the case of boys) or tomboyish (girls).

Day Of Silence

Now, what kind of lunatic would find a problem with an anti-bullying campaign?

Answer: the lunatics who populate the USA’s god parties.

Groups such as Mission America, the Illinois Family Institute, the American Family Association, Citizens for Community Values, Faith 2 Action, the Liberty Counsel, Save California, and others have responded with their own anti-anti-bullying action to take place on the Day of Silence.

The god-ists are calling their action the Day of Dialogue.

And that’s weird because if there’s one thing the theocrats seem most allergic to, it’s dialogue.

“Go Ahead And Kick The Crap Out Of ‘Em — They’re Gay.”

Yup, the fundamentalist Christians are falling back on their old woe-is-us canard, you know, the one where the whole world is trying steal away their rights to worship god as they please and discriminate against anybody they think god hates?

They’re saying the Day of Silence not only is fascist, natch, but it promotes the gay, lesbian, and transgender lifestyle.

Perhaps I’m giving people too much credit, but I would think nobody is so deranged that they’d believe there’s really a group of people trying to push teenaged kids into getting their genitals surgically altered.

“Please Don’t Let Them Make Us Cut Off Our Penises.”

Oh, alright, I am giving people too much credit.

I suppose the only question I have for these pious folk is where in your Bible does god say, Be an asshole in my name?

I SMELL A RAT

I just happened to be going through the Modern Library‘s lists of the 100 best fiction and nonfiction books. The ML puts out two lists for each category, one chosen by the organization’s board, the other open to the public.

The board has chosen James Joyce’s “Ullyses” as the greatest English language novel. That’s cool, even though I don’t have the spare 150 years to be able to read and decode Joyce’s inscrutable stylings. The board also tabs “The Education of Henry Adams” by Henry Adams as the finest nonfiction book. Again, cool, even though I haven’t read it nor do I plan to.

James Joyce

After all, I have to get through cracked.com every day; I am a man of letters, you know.

Anyway, these are tomes that have been celebrated by the best and the brightest for decades and, while I don’t necessarily genuflect before “experts,” I’ll defer to them in this case.

Funny thing is, the public’s lists vary wildly from the board’s. In fact, the public’s greatest nonfiction book does not even appear on the board’s entire list of 100. And four of the public’s top ten fiction books were penned by an author the board saw fit not to name anywhere on its list.

These idiosyncratic choices all are the fruits of one author’s feverish mind. The public has called Ayn Rand’s “The Virtue of Selfishness” the greatest work of nonfiction in the English language. On top of that, two books about Rand and her post-traumatic stress disorder nightmare philosophy also made the public’s top ten.

“Welcome To My Nightmare.”

Not bizarre enough for you? Four of Rand’s endless novels make the public’s top ten greatest fiction works. Four!

Rand famously riposted to an editor, who’d advised her to apply an eraser to huge swaths of her rambling prose, that no one edited the Bible.

The Bible, as in the word of god.

As Woody Allen once said, you have to pattern yourself after somebody.

Methinks Rand’s acolytes stuffed the ballot box, no?

CRAZY

“Crazy” was penned by a then-struggling young songwriter named Willie Nelson in 1961. According to legend, he pitched it to Patsy Cline‘s husband, Charlie Dick, at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville one night over drinks.

When Dick brought the song to his wife, she hated it because it was uptempo and its lyrics were spoken. Her producer re-worked it into a languorous ballad and the rest is history.

By the way, Loretta Lynn swears she remembers hearing Cline perform the song for the first time at the Grand Ole Opry while on crutches; Cline at the time was recovering from an auto accident that had nearly killed her.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

The Countess: You are a great lover!

Boris: I practice a lot when I’m alone.

— Dialogue from Woody Allen‘s “Love and Death

FLYING SOLO

So, the guy who made that viral Kony video was caught in the self-service aisle in public in San Diego.

Man. Isn’t that the most humiliating scandal a human being could possibly endure?

Here’s the latest hot video on You Tube, (minus the tug action, natch):

It’s even worse than the scandal poor Paul Reubens endured a little more than 20 years ago. Remember? Reubens was nabbed with his stage-namesake in his hand in a porn movie theater. Just in case you were living under a rock back then, Paul Reubens was Pee-wee Herman.

If some evil mad scientist pointed a ray gun at me and said I’d have to make a choice between being torn to shreds by crocodiles or being caught masturbating in public, I’d still be sitting there in the crosshairs a half hour later trying to decide.

Reubens/Pee-wee at least was operating the joystick within the confines of an arena wherein that type of activity is considered sporting. This Jason Russell character, though, was scratching the itch while in the nude on a well-traveled big city street corner.

Russell

The first reports on the Russell incident indicate that witnesses thought he was drunk or on drugs.

Trust me, if I were Russell I’d jump on that alibi like a hunk of floating debris in the middle of the Pacific. But his family hastened to shout out to the inquiring media that their dear boy has never, ever had a problem with drugs or alcohol and couldn’t possibly have been in an altered state at the time of the incident.

Gee thanks, mom and pop.

The statement issued by Russell’s family says he was suffering from dehydration. Now, I’ve suffered from dehydration a couple of times in my life and on neither occasion did the idea of yanking the package out for a little exercise cross my mind.

In fact, I’m willing to bet that of the seven billion souls alive on this planet at this time, the number who would buy that excuse is statistically negligible.

Anyway, my pal Anna in Los Angeles told me last night that she went to an Invisible Children event not long ago. Here’s the transcript of our chat about it (all sic):

Anna: invisible children had a screening of one of their films last year on campus…

this is when I was really broke, so i went for the free pizza…

and i can’t remember specifics, just that despite it’s obviously on the side of good, it was extremely manipulative and poorly structured…

i sat thru about a 1/2 hour of it before leaving…

and that 1/2 was more about the filmmakers than about the sudanese war and child soldiers.

but i’d had enough pizza by then.

me: At least you got pizza.

Anna: domino’s, but hey, food’s food.

The Kony 2012 thing has been called the single most viral video of all time. I have a feeling it’ll be a short-lived title-holder.

SHE BOP

Out of the cesspool that was 80’s music (or should I say 80’s “music”?) Cyndi Lauper emerged as one of the very few recording artists whose cassette tapes were worth keeping.

For those of you who are younger than 35 or so, this was the fate of every music cassette ever manufactured:

Now then, Lauper hit it huge with her song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” back in 1983. A year later, she hit again with her ode to masturbation, “She Bop.”

Lauper never explicitly mentioned the art of self-love in the song because she wanted it to get widespread airplay. She once told Howard Stern that she’d hoped kids would interpret it to be about dancing and then, as they got older, they’d understand what it was really about.

Cyndi Lauper has never been caught masturbating in public.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Those who, in principle, oppose birth control are either incapable of arithmetic or else in favor of war, pestilence, and famine as permanent features of human life.” — Bertrand Russell

KINKY STUDENTS

Student academic fraud is on the upswing, according to a piece in the IDS this morning.

We’re talking cheating on a test or hiring a ringer to write a paper, that sort of thing. Some 366 cases of such enhanced achievement misconduct were adjudicated last year. This year the number of cheaters already is approaching that total, according to the article, even though the spring semester isn’t even half over.

Giraffing

Using last year’s figure, let’s just assume the actual number of cheaters was three times the official number. That gives us a shade under 1100 future Wall Street icons…, er…, I mean, cheaters. That’s a pretty heartening number, no?

When you consider that some 95,000 aspiring scholars attended classes at the seven Indiana University campuses, you realize that only .0038 percent of students are kinky, to use an old alley cop term for lawbreakers.

“So, Cheating On Your Semester Finals, Eh?”

Not bad, eh? The pressure on college students to succeed, especially in this Great Recession era, is enormous. When only one in approximately 261 students spits on the academic code, in my hypothetical scenario, I think we can safely say IU crammers by and large are honest souls.

The whole subject reminds me of that great Woody Allen line: “I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me.”

PRIVATES PARTY

Miles Craig, Crystal Johnson, and Mike Cagle all posted this funny pic on their Facebook pages.

If the GOP anti-sex league wasn’t so scary, it’d be funny.

WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS WOMAN

Bloomington author Joy Shayne Laughter paid her respects at Soma Coffee‘s unofficial Big Mike Table this morning when she came in for her daily IV drip. Joy was all agog over an essay she read by a writer named Andrea Balt on the web journal Elephant.

Balt tries to explain women. Don’t get me wrong, I love Joy to pieces, but now, after reading the essay, I’m more confused than ever about those folks who possess different plumbing than I do.

Then again, perhaps my confusion means I really get it now.

Women are like quantum mechanics. As Richard Feynman reportedly said, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

Particle Paths Illustrating Quantum Mechanics Probabilities

SCHOOL DAYS

Was there ever a cooler girl group than the Runaways?

Joan Jett and Lita Ford are underappreciated among rock ‘n roll experts only because they carried the wrong set of chromosomes in their cells.

And, by the way, doesn’t it look as though Joan Jett is chewing gum in this video? Maybe it’s my imagination, but if she is, it’s the perfect touch.

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