If you have never heard of Harvey Kurtzman, you have seen his work; for instance, his cover logo for MAD Magazine is one of the most easily recognized of trademarks. Kurtzman was with MAD from the beginning, and it is perhaps what he is most famous for, but he did plenty else, and it isn’t exaggeration to say that if Kurtzman hadn’t put out such prodigious and respected (and funny) work, we might not have had R. Crumb or Art Spiegelman, or Monty Python or the Simpsons.
For some of us it is not easy to get out of bed in the mornings, and some days make it seem hardly worth the effort. The other day I staggered to the kitchen intent on fixing myself a bowl of cereal with some raspberries for breakfast. I had a new box of cereal. I never expected it to be difficult to open.
The doldrums of summer will soon dissipate, perhaps not in temperature ... yet. But, certainly the early rush of autumn activities is here to shake up our languor.
James Joyce’s “Ulysses” has had two big strikes against its reputation ever since it was published in 1922. One is that it is a dirty book. This is a false and silly charge. Long ago the courts decided that it could be imported into the U.S. because it is not obscene, and anyone looking for stimulation by searching for the “good parts” is in for frustration. The other strike is that it is a difficult book. This charge is more accurate. “Ulysses” is certainly not a novel that is as accessible as “Gone with the Wind,” for instance.
This week, Columbus reached out to characters, hysterical and frightened, chic and social, both on-stage and off. The Tennessee Williams Tribute and Tour of Victorian Homes presented a wealth of plays, lectures, tours, luncheons and elegant evenings.
You can bet that Bill Streever likes cold better than you do. After all, standing in his swimming shorts in wind, rain and a chill of 51 degrees, he plunges into the 35-degree water of Prudhoe Bay, 300 miles above the Arctic Circle, for five minutes.
At last week’s charrette, one of the questions posed to us was a form of “what would you like to have in Columbus that you don’t already have?” Among various responses was this one: “A good breakfast place.”
Recently I was talking with a friend from Jackson who told me she was keeping her pre-school grandson. He had taken her cell phone when he went outside to play. When she got after him about it, he protested that he had to have it in order to call for help if he got kidnapped.
The ninth day, of the ninth month, of the ninth year of the century. This cosmic repetition makes an ordinary Wednesday seem somehow quite important. It is as if the calendar is telling us something of great significance. “Pay attention!” it says. “I am repeating this for a reason.”
Given his druthers, Southern Cruisers Car Club member Jimmy Terry of West Point would probably spend all his days bringing old cars back to life, transforming them inside and out into the powerful, gleaming machines they once were.
In 1784, the Empress of China, an American ship bearing American ginseng, sailed to China for trade. It was the first time the new nation had tried such trade, and the Americans did not know what to expect, for instance, in what they might be served at dinners. It was all well if they ate with the British or Portuguese who were already trading there, but dining with the Chinese would have been a problem.
Perfect Portland. That’s what my family calls it, this beautiful jewel of a city on the edge of our continent. I am here visiting my family. My sister, Victoria, and her husband, Rich, were transferred here. In the term “upwardly mobile,” the emphasis is on “mobile.” Mother followed a few years later to be with her only grandchild, Gillian. My mother’s generation reproduced.
My recurring dream has been recurring. Surprisingly, I’ve found that it’s a pretty common dream, a fact that gives me some comfort as to the state of my mental health. There are three variations all centered around my college days: I can’t find my classroom; have lost my class schedule; or a professor drops a three-page final exam on my desk that I have not prepared for and have no hope of passing.
It is one of the shibboleths of evolution that the blind forces which change genes and change creatures have no aim or direction. Our hands and the wings of bats may be wonderfully engineered biological machines, and may arise from the same basic limb design, but it is wrong to think that evolutionary forces set out to build up progressively so that hands and wings could emerge with their current efficient designs.
Competent military commanders have known for centuries that disease will take away more of their soldiers than cannonballs or bullets will. There was no truer case of this than that of Napoleon’s Grande Armée, a multinational force of more than half a million men issuing from various nations in Europe with the mission of conquering Russia in 1812. Sure, most people know that the vicious Russian cold froze away any chance Napoleon had for victory, but his losses to typhus had cut his forces drastically long before the winter set in, and typhus kept killing.
This past weekend was another whirlwind back in Athens, Ga. Terry and I attended the Potlikker Film Festival sponsored by Southern Foodways Alliance. These showings of short films are held at various times in various towns to showcase the documentaries made in conjunction with SFA and to introduce the SFA to new people.
As I remember the story, the Pied Piper contracted with the people of Hamelin to rid the town of rats. As promised, he led them with his pipe music into the river, where they drowned; but the townspeople refused to pay him. So he then piped their children away as well.
Monday evening my “barkler” alarm went off, full force. This signal can mean that some strange person has dared to walk in front of our house, or that one of the neighbor’s cats is sauntering across the porch, clearly invading their doggy territory.
Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager died in May 2008. He was the longest surviving member of the most famous assassination plot against Hitler. Before he died he sat down for long conversations with Florence and Jérôme Fehrenbach, and together they have produced the memoir “Valkyrie: The Story of the Plot to Kill Hitler, by Its Last Member” (Knopf).
August is the cruelest month. (My apologies to that other Eliot, the one deficient in double letters.) August is my most-hated month. It is the time when summer drags on, like an unwanted house guest. Not much to do about it, just suffer and dream of cooler months.
5. A Stone's Throw: The veil COLUMNS