Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Helen Rittelmeyer on AD

I recently discovered Helen Rittelmeyer, who writes careful, thoughtful and highly intelligent posts about not particularly important things. (This, more than anything, is what I look for in a writer—you think, yes, but don’t expect me to.) I particularly liked this one, analyzing the relationship dynamics of Arrested Development.

At this point I can't tell if I've proven that Mitch Hurwitz was definitely inspired by The Brothers Karamazov, or if I've "proven" it the same way your crazy uncle can prove that the Denver Airport is ground zero for the worldwide lizard-people conspiracy. Certainly I wouldn't want to ruin a good joke by taking it too seriously. But if AD is an updated version of TBK, then it's worth asking what updates Hurwitz thought necessary in order to bring the story up to date, apart from the set dressing.

Confession—I've not actually read The Brothers Karamazov. I read all the classics on my parents' bookshelf at the age of nine, lost interest in real literature, and have read nothing but junk since. If they had Dostoevsky, it was kept up really high. But I enjoy Helen's comparison all the same.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Not one of my better days

Writing is boring. Boring and lonely and not fun. This may be the worst job I've ever had, and I've had some doozies. It's just me, the computer and the cat, and my Black Keys Pandora station seems stuck on an endless loop of Jack Johnson clones.

Hah! I 'disliked' a wretched Ben Harper whine and got me some Junior Kimbrough.

I hate when I step away from my computer long enough to have to read a whole chapter before I can remember what the heck is going on.

Honestly, I just hate reading my writing.

And I especially hate when someone like this interrupts my ENTIRELY JUSTIFIED pity party with maturity and well-reasoned optimism, and leaves me with Don't Stop Believin' stuck in my head.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Who Killed Cock Robin?

When I was about four, I had a book of Mother Goose rhymes that was the most beautiful book in the world. Its illustrations were, I think, reminiscent of an illuminated manuscript, with intricate drawings with bright, jewel-like colors done in panels in the margins. I'm not entirely sure, because I didn't learn about illuminated manuscripts until a decade later, and by that time the most beautiful book in the world was long gone.

I can only clearly remember the panels on the "Who Killed Cock Robin" page, that being my favorite at the time.

"Who killed Cock Robin?" "I," said the Sparrow,
"With my bow and arrow, I killed Cock Robin."

"Who saw him die?" "I," said the Fly,
"With my little eye, I saw him die."

I'm not sure how old I was when I received this particular Mother Goose book. I believe I had others. It was most likely given to me when I was pretty young, because I tore the cover off early on and by the age of four, I already couldn't quite remember what it looked like.

"Who caught his blood?" "I," said the Fish,
"With my little dish, I caught his blood."

"Who'll make the shroud?" "I," said the Beetle,
"With my thread and needle, I'll make the shroud."

I spent hours (okay, minutes—time was different then) trying to remember the cover illustration, because I was quite certain it had been the most beautiful book cover in the world. I even—I think—spontaneously cleaned my room once or twice, trying to find it. This probably gave my parents a completely mistaken impression about my level of conscientiousness and work ethic:

"Who'll dig his grave?" "I," said the Owl,
"With my pick and trowel, I'll dig his grave."

Every now and then, I try to find a copy of the book, although I've not done anything more demanding than Google searches so far.

"Who'll be the parson?" "I," said the Rook,
"With my little book, I'll be the parson."

Nursery rhymes make a very useful source of childhood wonder, mainly because they are utterly incomprehensible to their intended audience. What's a parson? What's a trowel? Why are English people under the impression that lark rhymes with clerk?

"Who'll be the clerk?" "I," said the Lark,
"If it's not in the dark, I'll be the clerk."

It would really, really help if I could remember the cover illustration. Why don't you just do an image search for Cock Robin, since it's the one you remember? you ask.

"Who'll carry the link?" "I," said the Linnet,
"I'll fetch it in a minute, I'll carry the link."

I'll just give you a few seconds to think through the flaws in that strategy.

"Who'll be chief mourner?" "I," said the Dove,
"I mourn for my love, I'll be chief mourner."

Actually, out of sheer stubbornness, I did do a search for Cock Robin. I even—with one eye closed in trepidation—turned off Google Safe Search to do it. Nothing. Not even relevant porn.

"Who'll carry the coffin?" "I," said the Kite,
"If it's not through the night, I'll carry the coffin."

"Who'll bear the pall? "We," said the Wren,
"Both the cock and the hen, we'll bear the pall."

I also tried searching for "Goosey Goosey Gander," because I think I can sort of remember one of those panels—the one where the gander kicks the guy down the stairs. A goose in a frock coat is a fairly memorable image.

"Who'll sing a psalm?" "I," said the Thrush,
As she sat on a bush, "I'll sing a psalm."

I vaguely remember reading "Four and Twenty Blackbirds," mostly because so much of it was impossible to understand, but the pictures have faded from my mind.

"Who'll toll the bell?" "I," said the bull,
"Because I can pull, I'll toll the bell."

Perhaps I had a thing for nursery rhymes that were death- and/or bird-themed. Or maybe it's just a coincidence, since so many nursery rhymes are death- and/or bird-themed. The death I get—people are ghouls—but what's with the birds?

All the birds of the air fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,

When they heard the bell toll for poor Cock Robin.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Austin impressions

I. Pecan trees in winter: The very best haunted house tree. Knobbly knuckled branches tipped with dead nut shells. They go very well with the psychotic grackle screams. Not to mention the crying-baby doves.

II. Adult Swim: The kind, generous, brilliant, talented and stunningly sexy friend who is letting me camp out in her apartment sleeps all day and stays up all night watching Cartoon Network. Not my favorite shows, but I’ve discovered they make perfect background noise for the writing process. Just amusing enough to keep me from ignoring them completely, but not so engrossing that I quit working altogether.

II.a. I should have a third thing here. I do everything in threes, including criminal charges in hard news ledes. Seriously, if you try hard enough, you can make it fit in every story. Ha ha! Kidding! The facts determine the story! Sensation is for hacks!

III. Ah, yes—the housing market: Every single apartment ad on Craigslist is spam. Every. Single. One.

(Previous posts on moving to Texas can be found here, here, and here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Oranges & Lemons

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement's.

You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin's.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

(Editor's Note: Today's post was brought to you by Blogger's Block [TM], and the ghoulish children of early modern London.)

Monday, January 7, 2013


So. This has happened.

I’m not sure I can blame my lack of posts and twitterings entirely on the move, but I’m going to anyway. The fact that I didn’t do a Road to Austin: Phase III post, or discuss the realization that the only way I could afford to move was to sell my ancient car, or at least acknowledge New Year’s Eve and develop some appropriate resolutions offends my sense of plot, but I suppose real life never does have a coherent story.

Although I am camped out on a friend’s couch, car-less and unemployed, I have to say I love Austin. Early impressions: (1) Creepy birds, mainly the doves, which sound like a crying baby, and a species of grackle which makes a variety of charming car-alarm noises when excited, which is all the time. (2) Street con artists. I’ve seen my fair share of begging, both here and abroad, but Austin seems to have more than its fair share of able-bodied, sober, perfectly sane, well-dressed and suspiciously articulate beggars, all with a story to tell. This is excellent. My goal in life is to live in a post-apocalyptic movie, but with plumbing, and I think I am getting closer to that point. (3) College students. There are a lot of them, and at some point in the past decade, they apparently began admitting a bunch of twelve-year-olds as freshmen. Bah humbug, get off my lawn, et cetera, et cetera.

Anyway, the important thing is this: About two months ago, I got all wrapped up in selling the car, packing, saying goodbye, repacking, filling out job applications, and packing, and I quit writing, and social media-izing, and as I look at this long, rambling, inarticulate post, I’m thinking maybe I should have stayed quit, but be that as it may, I’m back.

And I’m in Texas. And here I will stay, at least longer than I’ve stayed anywhere else. I am too old to be constantly picking up and moving. Let’s see, I lived in Georgia four years, which was longest, so that means I have to stay in Austin for five, which means 2018. In 2018, there will be a new president, and I will be—gah, old. But whatever happens, I’ll be here.