My Shep-quest is never-ending. Working and networking go onward and upward. Seeking, gathering, creating, promoting—however I can. Why? Spreading the word about Shep for its own sake; expanding the historical record about him; the thrill of the chase through networking and having unexpectedly enjoyable adventures; and let’s not forget the possible financial gain and ego-enhancement via book, or play, or film, or television.
Every day on the computer I check www.flicklives.com, the shepgroup email, and facebook-Shep-group chats and ebay for some previously unknown item, and I sometimes search a book site or http://www.google.com for Shepherd’s name in hope of some new gold panning out. Indeed, at times, I encounter a new nugget.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS galore
As of this writing, no new material has come forth from Shep’s will—all the known radio, TV, film, and writing has been available for years before Shepherd’s death. And the ACS musical, good as it is, derives from the movie, which comes from the printed stories, which come from Shep’s spoken work on the radio.
In mid-2006 a newspaper article featured the promotional efforts of Spalding Gray’s widow: a play, a CD, and a documentary.
a documentary, a play, what else?
One wishes that someone with the enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject and who has power and access to media would do the same for Shepherd. A proposed sitcom has not happened, but it would’ve had the mere ghost of a chance of having some value—it probably would have been written and produced by people without sufficient understanding of Shepherd’s wide-ranging and complex work and life, probably on the same dismal level as most sitcoms.
I push for news and I wait—like the kid who’d sent a quarter and a proof of purchase and now daily checks the mail for the equivalent of the secret decoder pin—like little Ralphie Parker.
I was the kid who sent a quarter
checking the mail daily for–
The Atom Bomb Ring!
One never knows what will turn up, what major recognition of our hero! A while ago I was surprised that recently deceased Harvey Pekar, creator of the serious, multi-issue autobiographical graphic novel, American Splendor, has his own rather diminutive bobblehead. I wonder how he felt about that. (I gather that it was produced for the opening celebration of the movie based on American Splendor.) But wouldn’t it be a nice recognition if our hero Jean Parker Shepherd could be so-honored? I know I’d want one to add to my Shepherd shrine, and if I know ol’ Shep, I’d expect him to do two things: conceal his secret delight; gather every-one he could find and smash their bloody slob-art bodies to smithereens.
Jean P. Shepherd Bobblehead–
In my dreams.
As I quest, I imagine a scowling Shep himself pacing and fuming from the heights of heaven or the depths of hell, praying that I’ll find the holy grail of early radio recordings. Will I receive the call from possible fans such as Bob Dylan, Dave Brubeck, Woody Allen, and who knows who else? Maybe a call from TV-land or from Hollywood saying yes, Kevin Spacey wants to play Shep in a Major Motion Picture—yes, yes, yes! All dreams.
J. S. K. S
Never the end concerning Jean Shepherd. Special announcements to come? Even more episodes to come? What has the picaro learned, and will he finally tie it all up into a neat bundle of profound truths? Listeners, the baton has been lifted—kazoos at the ready! Listen to that announcer’s deep baritone: “Don’t touch that dial!” Bahn Frei theme music starts here. Remember it’s a polka, so get up on your hind legs and dance.
“…let’s go out into the fields dressed as shepherds,
as we decided to. Perhaps we shall find the lady Dulcinea behind some hedge,
disenchanted and as pretty as a picture.”
—Sancho Panza to Don Quixote
in the final chapter
of their book of knight errantry.
DRESSED AS SHEPHERDS
Fields, Shepherds, Sancho, Rocinante, the Lady Dulcinea disenchanted, pretty as a picture. And of course, the grail. “This glorious quest.” “With my last ounce of courage….” Can you hear triumphant theme music? Is it from Man of LaMancha or is it that equally stirring piece of intoxicating inspiration, “Bahn Frei”?
Sancho Panza said that the great highway to glory looked to him just like the road to a little village where one could buy chickens cheap. Cheap chickens as ancillary compensations? Okay, you arm-twisted me into admitting it: the highways of the internet and the byways in the real world I travel by snail mail, phone, and loose-knees-assisted shanks’ mare; the peasants and lords and ladies I meet who assist me and give me gold to present in posts—the stuff I learn and experience along the way, are a joy. I enjoy the nuggets. Shep stories, Shep stories, Shep stories—the good, the bad and the sad, but I hope, all entertaining and informative. Essential for the historical record of Jean Parker Shepherd’s creative career and the quest it engenders. I get great pleasure out of this quest. It’s worth any number of my other potential creations that will never be. Ah—the thrill, ah the realization that the quest, the journey itself, with all its intermediate little defeats and triumphs, is indeed the best and ongoing treasure of the enterprise! Yes, it’s a good journey in the land of Shep. For all I desire that damn grail, “the journey is the destination.” See, I’ve said it, you Infernal Gremlins in the Works—no longer any need to torment me with denial! Destiny, you stingy, double-crossing son of a bitch, now that I’ve said that I might even be able to live without it, fork over that Holiest of Holies!
Come forth, Unknown Specter,
and dump your treasures into my sweaty lap.
Hey, man, you got tapes?
A comment of Adam Thirlwell in his The Delighted States, a book about the sometimes combative relationship between translation, style, and art. He is discussing a lecture on that subject that Vladimir Nabokov gave in 1937: “Life—this was Nabokov’s final point, in exile, in Paris—life, this succession of failures and mistakes, at certain visionary moments was structured with the deft formal properties of art.” Nabokov hunting
I hope that out of Jean Shepherd’s disasters and artistic triumphs, the gods-of-fate have been at least a bit artistic.
Were Jean Shepherd’s disasters and artistic triumphs worth it for him? Life short, Art long? Faulkner said art was worth any number of old ladies. Was Faulkner serious or was it a tasteless joke? What about any number of Shepherd’s friends and lovers, wives and children? Worth it? I’m not going to answer that one.
But how about us, milling around on this Great Playing Field of Life? We’ve discovered that Shepherd’s Art is not just a coldly calculated construction; that his Enigmas can coalesce into more solid figments than we’d believed possible; that this goofy Game we’re in, in all its unexpected surprises and connections–almost as if it had a mind of its own–had launched, as Shepherd might have it, a nutty fruitcake of existence careening at each of us across life’s shaggy infield grass. And that some of this phantasm even makes sense. Sure, as we lunge to make the catch we may bobble it a bit, but we snag the nutty confection going away. In the middle of our leap we twist into a 180 and sling the baked goods straight and true to first like a Yankee shortstop (Derek, in my mind, I see ya doin’ it).
in a 180,
slinging it fast and true.
So we grasp some of the fundamentals. We make the play (at least this time) because all our sensibilities are attuned to that Voice in the Night and we’ve managed to keep our knees loose.
Shep, ya did good!
Well, ten minutes after I get to Australia, this buddy of mine says, “Listen, you really want to see some sport, you really dig sports?”
I say, “Yeah.”
He says, “I’ve got this friend, Freddy, he’s got a boat. We’ll go out and really have some sport.”
I say, “What do you do?”
He says, “Well, you know, just it’s a big sport here in Australia. Come on out. I’ll surprise ya.”
I say, “What is it? You like fishing?”
“No, no, wait till you see, mate.” He says, “Come on, let’s go out.”
We went out in the boat. The Pacific Ocean is a curious kind of dark jade green and it stretches all the way from Australia to the Antarctic. We went around a big bend in the shoreline and there was a bay and these beautiful combers come rolling in. They have a surf in Australia that you just wouldn’t believe—It just comes in, these long waves just come rolling in endlessly. Well, I see these boats out in the water. I’ve got on my bikini bathing suit, the whole bit, and these Australians, of course, have giant muscles. Muscles all over.
We’re out there in the boat and I say, “What’s going to happen?”
He says, “Wait till you see, mate.”
And then I see. Here is a boat near us with two Aussies in it and one guy has this little motor going like mad, and the other guy’s standing up in the bow, both dressed in these bikinis. All of a sudden the guy in the bow is hollering at the guy at the motor, who is maneuvering the boat and I can’t see what they’re trying to do. The big combers are coming in, the guys are yelling back and forth and the guy in the bow goes schoooo! and he dives in and he bobs up like a cork and he’s moving like you never saw—he’s moving like a shot through the water!
I say, “What’s he doing?!” And then I see. He’s got something in his hands! He is holding the fin of a shark!—guys dive in and jump on the back of a shark—and they grab ‘em by the fin! The object is to see how far you can ride the shark before he disembowels you or something. He’s riding on the shark and the other guy takes out after it with the boat and they’re yelling and hollering, “Oh woo oh!” and you see the guy who’s sitting on the shark—there’s a wake going up around his chest because the shark is about two feet under water.
The guy pulls the shark up so you see its nose and it is mad! You see these two little red bee-bees looking around—it’s not often you have a guy sitting on the back holding on the fin! And the shark dives, sounding, diving straight in the water and the guy lets go, ruuuup! Up he comes like a cork and the boat goes over there like mad to pick him up because instantly of course, what happens is the shark wants to do something about it. So the next trick, the second act of the drama is whether or not the guy can get to the boat. It’s not over yet, he’s swimming like mad and with that I see the shark coming around with the big fin and they drag the guy into the boat and they all cheer and laugh and then they’re all set for another big moment. They wait for another shark.
Well, I thought to myself, “This, boy, what an event for The Wild World of Sports!” You know, there is something about living on the frontier (After all, Australia is a frontier compared to the rest of the world.) that makes people have a sense of—I don’t know what it could be except—courage. Fantastic physical courage. They really have got this thing, so I was very impressed by all the stuff I saw.
End of Part 3
Sydney, Martinis, and ANZAC DAY to come
For his upcoming birthday
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Jean Shepherd was the recipient of many honors,
including honorary doctorates from universities,
from Playboy magazine for best humor story of the year—several times.
Shep was given the honor of an extraordinary presence
in a New York Times crossword puzzle
(March 15, 1972):
Yet, he was not satisfied.
He deserved more.
So here, for the first time,
I present other well-deserved awards to
Jean Parker Shepherd.
PRESIDENCY OF THE UNITED STATES
For creating a body of work
that honors the every-day millions
of us ordinary American folk
who yearn for a tad of recognition.
NOBEL PRIZE IN RADIO PERFORMANCE
For superb use of the unique radio medium
better than anybody else
before or since.
HIGHEST CELEBRITY HONOR
(For being the celebrity extraordinaire–
authentic Jean Shepherd bobbleheads
–sometimes referred to as head-knockers–
to be given to the first 60,000 White Sox fans
who yell “Excelsior!”).
OK, BIG FELLA?
Satisfied at last?
Here, take one of these also:
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Australia is a Very Exciting Country
You know, Australia is a very exciting country. I’ve been to Australia, and I just want to say that of all the countries I’ve been in—now I’m not talking about beauty because that’s something else—probably the one that is physically exciting beyond any stretch of real estate I’ve seen in the world—is Australia. Boy is that a wild place! Oh, I’ll tell you! Wild in more ways than one. One of the things that I remember about Australia is the absolutely unbelievable women.
A lot of people wouldn’t like Australia and I’ll tell you why. Because Australia—if you have intellectual pretensions, if you’re an intellectual type, you’d probably flip in Australia. It’s a totally physical country. Yes it is, it really is a physical country—it’s one of the things I remember about it—the first impression I had. Of course I read a lot about it when I went over there, but nothing you read about any place has anything to do with the actual reality when you encounter it. It’s like living in Indianapolis or someplace, you can read all you want on New York but the reality of New York is very different from what you’ve read, because here it’s all hitting you. It’s a very personal reaction.
In Australia, because of the climate, because of a lot of things, they’re practically all physically-oriented. Well, it’s not a coincidence that the Prime Minister who was here a couple of years ago died skin diving in very dangerous waters. As a matter of fact, in Australia the theory is not that he drowned but that the sharks got him. The sharks, of course, are famous in Australia.
Oh boy! That’s what I wanted to tell you about Australia that I remember. I went to the beach there and of course their whole world, their beach-world, is very different from ours. It’s a way of life there so they don’t make a big issue of being at the beach as people do here in America. Here, you go to Jones Beach, it’s a two-and-a-half-hour trip, it’s a big holiday. But it’s every day there. It’s ten minutes from wherever you live there because everything’s right on the coast. So the people are very different at the beach. They’re really cool and really on top of it. Nobody’s pushing to have a good time, they’re just—they’re like animals.
And you wouldn’t believe their bathing suits! Did you see on television a couple of nights ago the movie The Endless Summer? A big sequence of that beautiful movie—I love that movie—a big sequence was shot in Australia. And the one thing, the very little sex in that movie showed these two guys who were supposed to be, well actually, they were just surfboarders, but the only time they mentioned sex was in Australia when they saw these women there.
TITANIUM POUCH.PRICE: AU$20.00
Now why it is—Because from the time they were little kids they’ve been swimming like five miles a day and they have tremendous physiques. I mean really! It’s obscene, I’ll tell ya! That, that—Believe me, I was with a guy who had these thick glasses—a very nearsighted guy in Australia. And it’s the only time I’ve ever seen—The temperature was eighty-five degrees that day—His glasses actually clouded up. It was—was sickening. One chick walked by and you saw a crack came in his glasses. Just a—the dynamic kinetic heat just generated inside of him, see, just broke his bu—And why? Because they’re so oriented to the outdoors, that their bathing suits—here’s the curious didactic quality about it and also it’s a paradox. It’s also, simultaneously, a very prudish country.
They’re very prudish. You know that Playboy is not even allowed in the country. [It is now.] Can you imagine what they would do with Times Square? Playboy is not allowed in the country! That’s considered unbelievably obscene. Well, so, on the other hand you go on the beach and these girls are walking around—believe me, they have bathing suits that are made out of like Band-Aids! I’m serious! You never saw anything like it. You don’t even see how they can stay on ‘em.
And they go past you and the men—I’m serious, the men have bathing suits that—you know what a very hip bikini would be here—they make that look Victorian. So here you are out on the beach—eighteen thousand people that are totally naked—I mean really. You can’t believe it. And so I’m walking around digging the scene, see, and I’ve got my bathing suit on, which, of course, I bought at magnificent Alexanders before the trip. And it was a very hip one by American standards and here in Australia I’m looking like grandpa Charlie. so this Australian guy I’m with says to me, “Hey, mate, a very interesting swimsuit there, mate.”
And I say, “Yes.”
So I say, “It’s a museum-piece, it’s camp all the way.”
So I bought myself one of those swimsuits. I had to, just for self-protection. It was a great moment. I put this thing on, the breezes are blowing over me and I go out on the beach. I’m holding newspapers up all around me.
Ever since I bought that thing I’m kind of afraid to take it out in the States. I’m thinking of trying it once at Jones Beach. I’d get arrested.
End of Part 2
Stay tuned for Australian Sharks,
Sydney, Martinis, and ANZAC DAY
GIVES ME GOOD GOOSEBUMPS!
I’ve commented previously that “Goosebumps” author R. L. Stine is a Shep fan. I’m delighted to receive this additional confirmation:
Here are the references to Jean Shepherd in the autobiography of author Stine:
Gives me happy chills just to see it in print! –eb
In a publication about “Who Wrote That?–R. L. Stine” it notes where he lives:
The apartment is lined with custom-made bookshelves, some of which display the dozens of titles Stine has produced over the years. Many of his favorite books line the shelves as well: titles by P. G. Wodehouse, Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Bradbury, and Jean Shepherd, among others.
On the Barnes & Noble website page “Meet the Writer–R. L. Stine,” he’s asked for his all-time favorite books, and among the ten he writes:
Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters by Jean Shepherd–Wonderfully told hilarious Midwestern adventures, wise and goofy at the same time, by one of my all-time heroes.
→ • • • • • ←
My goosebumps ↑
Jean Shepherd, preceding this wide-ranging trip, mentions various countries he will visit before describing his arrival in the northern Australian city of Darwin. He talks about visiting Australia on at least two different occasions, beginning each with a prologue, describing what he anticipates doing. I include both prologues here because they each add something to our pleasure in his excited anticipation.
In addition to his descriptions of the trips themselves, Shepherd, a few times, diverges to a related topic regarding the nature of Australians and humans in general. The diversions are typical of Shepherd’s habit of diverging from whatever his main topic–they add to the surprise and entertainment factor of his broadcasts. I offset these paragraphs a bit to distinguish these from the basic descriptions of locations.
Shepherd will display his usual descriptive strategies—acute observation with its attention to detail that makes it come alive. He love the varied sounds in different parts of the world. Among other things, he uses tone and pacing of voice, and exuberant enthusiasm, and he uses his voice to capture the exact sounds he hears, represented here as best one can in type. He is a master, a vocal magician!
He delights in describing the ordinary occurrence that most would not think of, but which everyone recognizes once Shepherd goes about his right-on descriptions. His perceptions described are entertainments unto themselves. He delights in describing the experience of being in a plane about to land, and one receives the thrill of recognition—yes! that’s exactly the way it is!
As he does from time to time in his travel stories, Shepherd takes the opportunity to complain about the then-current anti-American sentiments he finds in the turbulent, confrontational 1960s, not only around the world, but in America itself—he finds the good and the bad almost everywhere in the world. Not a super-patriot, but a lover of his own country, he dislikes unfair simplifications.
Jean Shepherd loves Australia. He gives us a startling description of living with sharks, comments on Australian prudery, and gives a somewhat different take on his experience at a party in an extraordinary house on a Sydney hillside. As always, he describes his very personal observations and comments regarding contrasts between cultures.
Despite his love of Australia, Shepherd does not deny himself the pleasure of disparaging some aspects of it. Australians discovering his attitudes must be torn between pride and wrath.
Pay special attention in one episode to his description of Australian women at the beach. He is overwhelmed. In over a thousand Shepherd programs heard so far, this is a rare time that he has been encountered incoherent.
Let’s begin with one of his introductions:
We are going to go—I’m using, of course, the “editorial we,” meaning me—me and my flight bag. I am going to leave this Sunday via a plane, and I’m going to arrive at Frankfurt a couple of hours later. You know the marvels of the jet age.
And then, from Frankfurt I will take off in another aircraft on my way to Athens. Mysterious, romantic, ancient, decadent, smelly Athens. I’ll be in Athens for a while, I’ll futs around, and walk around, blow my nose and yell, and then I’ll get back in a plane, and a few hours later, guess where I will be. I will be in Cairo for a moment, and then the plane takes off once again, on its way to mysterious Bangkok. I’ll find out if what they say about Bangkok is true, and I’ll report to you if what they always say is true. Then I will leave Bangkok and I go to Singapore. Sinister, mysterious Singapore, that plays such a strong role in the great dramas of the sea written by Joseph Conrad. The mysterious, decadent waterfront, where the British cannons all pointed in the wrong direction when the Japs snuck up from behind. What a fiasco. It was one of the great fiascoes in history. And then I’ll fool around in Singapore and then I will leave Singapore and the next moment I will be in the ancient land of India. I will be in Karachi, New Delhi, and then, finally, after dining sumptuously on sacred cow, I will land at Darwin! Darwin, named after Charles Darwin.
This is where Darwin sailed around and—what was the name of his boat? No, it was not the Pequod. And it was not the Bounty. No, it was not the U. S. S. United States. Yes, that’s right, The Pinwheel—you’re right, yeah, I remember that it was The Pinwheel. The H. M. S. Pinwheel. Yeah, what the name of the captain? Somebody named Horatio Hornblower. The famous cruise of the—what’s the name of it? Well, anyway, I’ll be in Darwin, which I understand was bombed during the war, wasn’t it? Japanese laid a couple of eggs right on there.
And then I will get back in a plane and I will be on my way to Sydney, and then I will go all over Australia. I’m going to go Outback—I’ve made arrangements. For those of you who love to travel—to me, traveling is the ne plus ultra of life. It is it. The roses come to my cheeks.
And then I made arrangements to get my hands on a private plane in Sydney, and I’m going to fly all over Australia as much as I can in the time I’ll be there, which should be about ten days, and I’m going to go Outback and I’m going to fly all the way back into the wilderness. Back there where they tell me the kangaroos are so thick that they have to buzz the ground about five times with their airplanes to clear them out before they can even land.
And I’m going to go back into the sheep country, I’m going to go out on the Great Barrier Reef, I’m going to fish for sharks. They have the greatest—I understand, some of the greatest deep-sea fishing in the world off that barrier reef there. I’m going to make the whole scene there.
I’m going to find out what they say—you’ve heard what they say about Australia. I’m going to find out if what they say about Australia is true. And I’m gonna report it to ya. A lot of things they say. Well, for one thing, they say that the water—when you’re letting the water out after you’ve washed your hair—the dirty water in the sink—that it revolves a different way than it does here. I’m gonna watch that. I’m gonna make very sure that that’s true.
I’m taking with me my Uher tape recorder.
A Uher portable recorder model (from end of the 1960s)
I have a beautiful little tape recorder and I’m going to record sounds—not interviews. I’m not going to walk around and say, “How do you like being a native of Bangkok, friend?” Nothing like that. I’m just going to record sounds, because to me, one of the most fascinating parts of going to other countries, one of the most interesting things, is the way different countries sound. They really do sound differently from each other. The sound of America is very different, for example, from the sound of Holland. How do you think Holland sounds? Just walking around the streets at two o’clock in the morning, opening your window and listening? Doesn’t sound like America.
When I was doing the Beatles piece in Playboy a few months ago, I was particularly fascinated by the sounds of Scotland at two o’clock in the morning. Forever and ever and ever the sound of Scotland will be the sound of old steam locomotives coming through the hills with that peculiar English/Scottish whistle—Weeeeeeeeeuu. You know that crazy whistle they’ve got—Weeeeeeeeeuu! You hear Chuchochuchuchuchuchuchu woooooooo! Chuchuchuchuchu. And there’s a kind of wonderful dark blue, golden quality to the sound of boats. You can hear ships. One night in Dundee, for example, I could hear the sound of buoys and they have a special kind of buoy that doesn’t sound like the ones in Maine. Buoys, the sound of water, the sound of the harbor in Dundee, that sort of fits in and makes all the sounds distinctive and real there in Dundee.
I’m going to record how it sounds in Bangkok. Have you ever wondered how it sounds at two o’clock in the morning in Bangkok? What do you hear? Well, you know, that’s an awfully hot country and I’ll guarantee you’ll hear a lot. And I’m going to put the old microphone out the window and turn the gain up and just record the sounds of a Bangkok night. And I’m not just talking about street sounds or night spots or night clubs—just the way it sounds. Ordinary sound. I’ll record sounds in Germany, I’ll record sounds in Athens, I’m going to record sounds in Singapore. And you can hear how all these different places sound. And I intend to have them on the air as soon as I get back. I’m really beginning to get excited.
Shepherd introduces his beginning to talk about Australia by commenting again about sound as a fascinating part of his world, and repeats his general enthusiasm for–and the importance of–travel as an important human activity.
I have just returned from a trip half-way around the globe. One week ago tonight I was lying in a seamy sack, feted temperatures of one-hundred-and-five degrees, humidity one-hundred-seventeen percent, in the heart of Bangkok and I could hear off in the distance, the wind is tinkling the temple bells ever so gently, and the sound of those great fans moving through the air above me, plowing their way through an endless wall of mosquitoes. And I lay there thinking what a great thing it is to travel. How beautiful travel is—and wishing I’d brought some Ex-Lax.
Australia is a Very Exciting Country
End of Part 1
Stay tuned for Australian Sharks,
Sydney, Martinis, and ANZAC DAY
NEW (WIMPY) KID IN TOWN
Diary of a Wimpy Kid and its many sequels as kids books (originally composed with adult readers in mind, so the author says) have, reportedly, 150 millions copies in print and been made into a movie. An article about him in the NY Times says “the illustrated diary of an acerbic and devious middle-school boy named Greg Heffley. The stories were semi-autobiographical, loosely based on Mr. Kinney’s childhood and ‘put through the fiction blender.'” Thus, author Jeff Kinney’s work would seem to have some similarity to Shepherd’s.
I’ve skimmed this first volume and find it witty and well done, though not, as it claims on the cover, “a novel.” (Remember that Shep’s IGWT is described on the cover–and by Shep himself–as “a novel.”) Wimpy does follow the kid through his first year at middle school, seems not to have the structure of a novel, but, indeed, has, one after another, dozens of individual bits and pieces, each quite good as stand-alone, funny vignettes. They do add up to a volume that keeps one’s interest through funny little episodes and funny kid-like comments by the wimpy kid.
Neither does the book seem to be told through the drawings on every page (Described on the book cover as “cartoons.” The drawings are really very funny illustrations to the text. Altogether a well-done creation.
Does author Kinney have any acknowledged debt to Shepherd? I hope to find out.
An interview by David Hiltbrand posted online in March, 2010, comments. “Jeff Kinney had a clear template when it came time to adapt his wildly successful Diary of a Wimpy Kid children’s books to the big screen. ‘I went right to A Christmas Story,’ says the author, citing the 1983 film based on the stories of radio humorist Jean Shepherd.‘ ‘In most kids’ movies, the stakes are very high,’ says Kinney, 39, in Philadelphia this week to promote the movie, which opens March 19. ‘The world is going to end or somebody is going to die or something awful is going to happen unless the characters do such and such. In this movie the stakes are incredibly low. There are two friends who break up and you want them to become friends again. In A Christmas Story, the stakes were perhaps even lower. A kid wants a BB gun. We kept reminding ourselves when we were working on the film that you can tell a good story even on the big screen with really low stakes as long as the emotional part of it works.'”
In another interview he says, “I see my books as joke-delivery mechanisms. I’m trying to get as many laughs as I can per page. And if I can figure a way to get a good story out of it or something credible then I’m very satisfied, but really, I’m trying to keep the kid laughing, and often, if I have a lot of plot, it gets in the way of the joke and it burns through too many pages so I will sacrifice a good story for a good joke any time.” So we see that his intention is not the same as Shep’s long-form humorous tales (Though A Christmas Story, not a Shep-alone but a joint-creation, is constantly laugh-out-loud funny for me and my wife every time we see it.)
By the way, I also like the weird, kid-like drawing style of Wimpy Kid–it also has its appropriate, funny look to it.
Kinney is opening a large, independent bookstore in his home town. He’ll have a special spot for all the Wimpy Kid books and ancillary, money-making by-products.
Imagine how envious Shep would be regarding all this!
(Although there’s no focus on Shep’s total creative output
at the A Christmas Story House’s store,
maybe it’s the best we should expect.)
[Our mentor is talking to an engineer–we presume–and Shep is, in a sense, as we are “listeners,” talking to us also. He is pissed.]
So come on now, you know. Let’s can this. You know what the phrase is. Man, you are like all the rest of us. You are up the same creek. And you know the name of that creek. We all do. And we have all lost the same paddle, man. So don’t give me any of that jazz.
[<A Scottish slang term meaning to be stuck in a bad situation without any way of fixing it. The bad situation being ‘**** creek’ and the ‘paddle’ being the solution.>]
I am not being fooled for one minute. That is, no more than you’re being fooled, Mac. Which is to say, most of the time. But at least I have the good grace to be with–a certain style. So let’s cut it, you know? All of you.
[See, he is also talking to us. Pause. Loud piano chord.]
Eh! Now I want to do it once–I want to do it. ‘Course I’m not going to do it tonight. So you might as well knock off. It is not going to happen tonight. But sometime, somewhere, someplace, somebody somehow is going to say it–for all of us–not me–I’m chicken!
But then again, who are you to say I’m chicken? You slob! Sitting out there throwing your beer cans into the air shaft, waiting for Gisele McKenzie to do it for you on The Hit Parade. It ain’t going to happen. So I mean, you know–and by the way, don’t–don’t be without next week’s TV Guide. You gotta have some kind of guideposts in this world. So what are you trying to say to me, you know, are you trying to tell me? Because I’ll tell you one thing, daddy-o, I’m not trying to tell you–I am just trying to tell me all the time. Me. And if you happen to stick your miserable eves-dropping ear into this thing, don’t come around and tell me I’m getting commercial with me. Because if I’m fooling me, that’s me that’s going down the tray [“tray”?], and not you–except the sad part of it is that I’m only joining all the rest of you because–you know–it’s the same problem with the creek. You know the old creek, man. So do I.
It’s–it’s, you know? Let me tell you this–ah–what’s the point, you know? I know–you know. So who’s kidding who? You think that little old lady there made entirely out of celery and Brillo pads is….The only thing she’s doing is she’s taking a different tack, man. She is trying to make a paddle out of crochet needles and it ain’t gonna work either.
[Is this incoherent–or stream-of-consciousness, or has he begun celebrating New Years Eve a night early? CHAOS? WHAT IS “CHAOS THEORY” ANYWAY?*]
I mean, you see, each guy makes it his own way. And goes down his own way–that’s the thing. So if you think you’re gonna make a paddle out of –no–it ain’t gonna work. It’s been tried before by better men. By better men! That one’ll strike right down in there like it’s made from a soldering iron. Pow! Better men. Than any of us can ever hope to be. And where did they go? Yeah. So, you know? Don’t give me any of your lip, Mac. None. N–o–n–e–e–e–umlaut. [Piano. Cymbal.]
[That seems to be the end of that evening’s rant–at least as it appears on this particular recording. Because what follows immediately, about Little Orphan Annie and her dog and her propensity to say “gloriosky,” is surely an audio-recording-error by the original listener/recording person, splicing a different program segment here–reminding us of Shep’s engineer’s errors earlier in the program. What an ironic, appropriate way to end this particular, chaotic audio. Little Orphan Annie. Leapin’ lizards! This whole magillah will probably forever remain a mystery–what happened, what was he thinking–what is going on here in The World of Shep–in The Voice in the Night?]
I can’t say that I’d want to hear too many strange and incomprehensible
programs end-to-end. But this one, beyond total understanding,
with all its surrealistic mystery, remains with me
a thrilling jolt of chaotic pleasure.
“Chaos theory” is a scientific principle describing the unpredictability of systems. Most fully explored and recognized during the mid-to-late 1980s, its premise is that systems sometimes reside in chaos, generating energy but without any predictability or direction. These complex systems may be weather patterns, ecosystems, water flows, anatomical functions, or organizations [Such as monologs?]. While these systems’s chaotic behavior may appear random at first, chaotic systems can be defined by a mathematical formula, and they are not without order or finite boundaries.>
End Part III
No more Parts
(in the foreseeable future).
“I Really Came Here for Serenity and Peace
and Koto Music”
I just got back last week from a trip around the world. Yes sir, Shepherd gets around, by George. And the last place I was in was Tokyo. Most people who have done any international traveling, and studying the situation for the last couple of years recognize this, that, let me tell you, you’re going to hear a lot more from Japan in the next fifteen years. I suspect a lot of things.
But Japan is a fascinating place, and beautiful in some ways—many ways, in fact. I’d been in Japan once before, but it looked different than I thought it did. The one thing you will not hear much of in Japan—and I found this out as a kind of a disappointment—is Japanese koto music. We always think of Japan as being a kind of serene, quiet place, little pools with rose petals falling into them and all that jazz.
Forget it. Tokyo reminds me of one continuous, revolving, Times Square twenty-four hours a day. I mean, one continuous revolving. So about the only place you’re going to hear any koto music is right here. You won’t hear it in Japan.
In fact, I was listening to FM in Japan—they have a lot of dramas and stuff on FM, a lot of rock, a fantastic amount of rock. But more than that, what surprised me is there’s a lot of jazz on FM over there. The real stuff. So, if you think jazz is dead, friend, it’s alive and livin’ everywhere else in the world—except here.
But Japan is a place that stuns a lot of people. It really hits you right from the very instant you get into their fantastic airport, which is enormous and sprawling. The terminal itself is a tremendous glass icebox when you get into it. Just innumerable passages and signs, everything in both English and Japanese.
I carry with me, always, a little tape recorder and make comments to myself as I go, including some while watching Japanese television. You can tell a lot about a society by its popular arts. And I’ve heard all my life about the Ginza, which is almost like a combination of Fifth Avenue as a big, famous, shopping center, with an overlay of Times Square and also a touch of Coney Island, but then again, it’s specifically itself because it is Japanese.
It’s a place where, if you’re any kind of merchant at all in Tokyo, you have to be on the Ginza. It seems to go twenty-four hours a day. It’s been rebuilt and rebuilt again, sort of persistent like a fantastic mushroom cloud of commercialism, and it is wild, man, I’ll tell you. I went down on a Saturday night.
Saturday night on the Ginza
GINZA GINZA GINZA GINZA
I just walked around with my tape recorder. Few tourists—almost all Japanese wandering up and down the streets. Thousands of tiny shops and they sell everything in the world. You can buy complex astronomical equipment and the worst kind of pornography, all cheek-by-jowl. There’s hundreds of unsmiling men in black suits, white shirts, and black ties all playing in slot-machine emporiums. I’ve been all around the world, and I must admit I’ve never seen anything like the Ginza.
In keeping with almost everything I’ve found everywhere else I’ve been, our ideas of things are almost one-hundred-and-eighty degrees out of phase with what they really are, you know? The one thing that you don’t find in Japan much of these days is the famous, serene, Japanese quiet little pool filled with goldfish, with drifting lily pads. You see it on postcards. But man, what you actually see is twenty-eight million Toyotas running all over the place with horns blowing, with guys working their two-way radios, taking pictures at the same time, running their hi-fi at full blast.
As I left the hotel, the guy at the desk said, “You buy hi-fi. You take hi-fi home?”
I said, “No.”
He said, “How come? You want hi-fi, we have good hi-fi here.”
I said, “Well, I really came here for serenity and peace and koto music.”
“Koto—oh, ah, ya. Think we have some someplace. Ya, ya, you may find it somewhere. Ya.”
Serenity and peace and koto music.
And I drifted on out into the street and I figured, “Well, Kipling was right. Ha ha. East is East and West is West, and we constantly drift along.” Problem is, we have the same planet, you know?
[After Shepherd signed off on his around-the-world trip, the evening news of the hour focused on the latest Northern offensives and American bombings in the Vietnam War.]