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And I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was that unreal. He had reached up and flicked on a neon light and that light made it look even more spectacular. This thing began to gleam with that light. And there it was.
We were looking at one of the great automobiles. I mean one of the great automobiles. By ‘great’—this car had appeared in probably two or three hundred catalogs of great masterworks—that specific car. Even today that car is almost priceless. It was one of the finest works of one of the great artists of the twentieth century–considered possibly his prime work. Ettore Bugatti. Did you ever hear of the name? Ettore Bugatti. The maestro. A man who created automobiles the way Michelangelo created altar cloths. He created them as works of art.
And there, resting on the floor under that flickering neon light was a dark, rich, plum-colored 57SC, one of the great moments in the career of Ettore Bugatti. An automobile that had been created for a French duke late in the 1930s—around 1937. A car built specifically for mountain driving. An alive, magnificent, evil, sensual-looking machine that lay low. It didn’t’ really squat on the floor, it just sort of lounged, stretching out low and flat—sensual. And looking at that car you felt flight in every inch of it. Not only flight but movement and statement. And a curious kind of truth. It was so honest.
A one-off before continuing with Shep’s kid stories.
How would Shepherd have reacted to spam?
When camping in the wilderness, I enjoyed it un-canned and fried hot.
As of May, 2018, wordpress.com, my blog provider, has protected me from lots of spam: “Akismet has protected your site from 21,600 spam comments already. There’s 1 comment in your spam queue right now.” They also give the opportunity to see a fraction of these in the “spam queue.” I suppose it’s for me to decide that they are indeed spam. Yes, they are.
One consistent trait is that they never comment on anything specific in the blog, but just use generalities, yet seem aimed at enticing a direct response. I never respond. Another attribute of these phishing expeditions is that, although they’re written using English words, any member of the grammar-police as I am, can easily see that the results of the word mash-ups are not the product of your normal English language user. The results provoke a smile and shake of the head. I thought others might find a few of them amusing. The following have been directly copied/pasted:
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Next, further Shep Kid Stories.
He says, “Well, I’m marrying Stella. And you’re invited. We’re getting married the Monday after graduation.”
I say, “Bolis, you don’t know her. Gee, she looks like a nice girl, Bolis.”
“It’s good. Nice girl.”
I say, “Yeah, very nice.”
And Bolis says, “Yes, I believe she is a very nice girl.”
“Bolis, how’d you get together?”
“My mother and father got together with her mother and father and decided we should be married.”
I say, “Oh. She never knew about you?”
“Oh, yes, I guess my mother and father must have spoken to her mother and father about us, but, we’re going to be very happy.”
And I was ushered out into the darkness. With my baseball glove in my left hand and my baseball in my right. But, I will say one thing—I was wearing my White Sox cap a little straighter.
I walked out into the darkness. I could smell the spring flowers just beginning to bud. Overhead the sky arched with a million stars, and somewhere, a mile or two over the horizon, the Great Lake that we had bathed in and played on lo these many years, sent a soft fragrance of spring through the air. It was then that I knew—our scragging days were over forever. Forever and ever.
[END OF PART 10.]
Final 2 stories to come. Shep the kid develops into a man.
DON McLEAN BREAKS A STRING, ETC.
Don McLean’s “American Pie” is one of my favorite songs.
(I also very much like his “Vincent” and “Dreidel.”)
I’ve seen him perform live three times.
One of those times was in a small church basement in Manhattan, where there must have been a hundred or less in the audience. I had my sheet music of “American Pie” with me and asked him to sign it. At first the pen didn’t work and, to get it started, he squiggled twice on the page—and I winced—he was marring it! He then signed it with a flourish beneath. So I have his signature, his flourish, and his two authentic squiggles.
The first time I’d attended a live concert of his was at Carnegie Hall in 1973.
Another of my major memories was his television performance on Austin City Limits (1982?). The You-tube of the song doesn’t have the purity and finish of the official recording, and it’s blurry, but it has the vigor of a live performance and McLean’s reaction to a damn string.
With backup instrumentalists, he began singing “American Pie.” In the middle of it, one of his guitar strings broke but he kept singing–while wrenching out the broken string, picking up packets of replacement strings, installing a new one and tuning it. So without having hesitated he continued singing and playing his restrung guitar to the song’s conclusion.
It was a glorious moment in the immortal life of “American Pie.”
He did this so smoothly and seemingly unperturbed—with what I refer to as
total ARTSY FARTSY aplomb.
I remember another moment.
In the era of CD audios I bought one of his “greatest hits.”
In it, disc producers had truncated “American Pie.”
I guess 8 minutes was too long to fit with the rest on the disc.
I flung it into the garbage and bought a complete version.
I see this light. It’s a cold, rainy, miserable, crummy night. I slow up, and I see ahead of me a great, dark mass on the road, stretching endlessly. In the middle of this great dark mass is a man carrying a lantern. One of these Coleman lanterns. You can see a circle of light about ten or fifteen feet around him. This apparition all around him is a writhing, moiling crowd of turkeys. It’s insane, weird-looking, like a monster movie—and the man is walking along the road with this herd of turkeys, and he’s taking them somewhere.
The bright light from the Coleman lamp is playing on these turkey heads. Now, a turkey is not a beautiful bird. From the head up it looks bad. He’s got these red wattles, the comb, and the eyes! There’s a certain strange, maniacal quality to a turkey’s eyes. With the light hitting the turkey eyes you can see them glowing. If you’ve ever looked a turkey in the eye in the dark, it’s enough to have you swear off anything.
I pull up. Here’s these turkeys. They’re all sort of moving like a great mob of ants or something and they all stay together, very close, tight-knit. They go gwaglewaglewagle gwaglewaglewagle, calling back and forth in the darkness. I stop. Here’s this farmer walking along with these turkeys. He must have had seven trillion of these babies. The turkeys are spread out on the shoulders of the road. I can’t get around them. I’m not driving over the fields with the Ford, busting axels. It is just like getting behind some herd of warthogs or something. I decide, holy smokes, I’ll never get through here. What I’m going to do is back up.
I look in my rearview mirror and I see another light! I start backing up and I hear somebody hollering, “Hey! Hey!” I open the door and look out, and behind me is the avant garde of another herd of turkeys! The guy back there is yelling, “Don’t back up, mac! What do you think you’re doin?” The two guys are driving them all down in two big herds. I am stuck. I am stuck between two merging herds of turkeys.
Ron Offen, the publisher/editor of Free Lunch, had the policy of, when rejecting poems, including some useful literary comment on one’s work when returning it. After submitting poems over a period of many months, Offen, gifted me with a free subscription to Free Lunch—and they say there is no free lunch!
For years, the New York Transit Authority placed car-cards on their trains in a series titled “Poetry in Motion.” These consist of a short poem surrounded by a decorated boarder. As a daily rider, I appreciated this and used the card’s title and decoration for promoting my own little ditties by making small versions of the cards with my poems and distributing them scattered on empty seats. I got no fame or fortune, but it was fun:
I gather my poems into chronological groupings and hold each group together with an inexpensive binding: First Poems. More First Poems, Even More First Poems, Second Poems. Third Poems, Fourth Poems.
My poems vary in style, from the loose (free-form) to attempts at two of the more traditional, organized forms: the sonnet and the villanelle. For a couple of my favorite sonnets, I recommend Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “God’s Grandeur” and “Pied Beauty,” which use such strange word and organizational combinations (Hopkins called the use “sprung rhythm.”) that they sound as though they must be modern. For a villanelle, I like Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”
In my Fourth Poems, I encounter a villanelle of mine I still like. The villanelle’s organized form takes a line and repeats it in a specific way. The effect is a kind of obsessiveness that has a strong, emotional effect for me. I’ve written poems on a variety of themes. Here’s one of mine—as one might guess, its a meditation on artsy-ness, based on topiary and associated crafts. The other is also on art, in a loose form:
Devoted to Art and Ice
We seek transcendent craft with mind and heart,
though choosing nature’s text exacts a price:
the nature of the natural—or the artifice of art.
(But a bush that’s shorn like sheep will stand apart
as should a swan contrived and carved in ice.
See: weakened craft devoid of mind and heart;
their makers rake in bucks, but without Art.)
We have our purity, our pride, our mundane sacrifice.
It’s the nature of the natural and the artifice of art.
Could we then, concoct and cast some chart
and condemn those dolts to hell for all their vice,
while we seek transcendent craft with mind and heart?
Where would we live, uplifted, while the crass depart
when purged? We’d weekend in our artful paradise
if we nurtured all the natural and the artifice of art.
It’s we, with our damned sensibilities, who pray apart;
convinced, in faith, that “beauty” does suffice
when we seek transcendent craft with mind and heart
and the nature of the natural and the artifice of art.
Walt Whitman, John Marin
Universe in a leaf of grass and mountain in a wet-brush swath.
We live, say Walt and John, between sensation and act,
or should, but our minds intrude, denying life’s immediacy:
Power bound in the brain, constrained from free release,
Confounded by inflexible alphabets in books, broken on the rigid rack of prose.
What we feel must thrust through muscle surge
As pigment strokes unmindful of the mind’s devices—
Urge, urge, long lines must burn the page
From here below where every body knows: barbaric yawps of words and paint.
Yes. Yet what thin and thoughtful lines: with each page and new edition
Pentimento commas, brushed word shifts,
Palimsests of crafted washes, charcoal indirections—
Careful (not random) inflections go and come, settle down and glow,
Underlie the flush and sweep preceding sweet, controlled abandon.
I love turkeys—as a food. It’s one of the great foods. I’m literally a turkey-nut. And anyone who’s ever been in the great Midwest—outside the New York area—knows a lot about turkeys. You know, the turkey is one of the world’s dumbest birds. The turkey has a brain about the size of a pinhead. A real dumb bird. If you have a flock of turkeys and one turkey panics for one reason or another, all the turkeys go totally ape and go over a cliff or something worse than lemmings, and kill about five-thousand of them in about five minutes.
One time I really got bugged with turkeys. They grow a lot of them in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan, where turkeys are particularly suited to that climate. Now turkey is not grown the way you grow chickens. Most people think of a turkey as a kind of a big chicken. Oh no. A very different breed, I’ll tell you! This is a side of turkeys you never see.
I remember one cold, dark night, I’m in a hurry. I’m driving. I say to myself, “I know this road, I’m going to take a shortcut and go over there, and go down that road. I’ll cut out a half an hour. So I’m driving like mad. I’ve really got to get to this place. To be honest, it involved a girl. When you get mad over a chick, that’s bad mad!
So I’m hurrying and it’s dark and cold and I’m in my Ford and I’m about eighteen years old and really got to see this girl and I’m driving through this road, when all of a sudden, I see a light ahead of me. Right in the middle of the road. So I start slowing up. I figure there’s a car stopped there. It’s a narrow road, about a lane-and-a-half. One of these asphalt roads you see in the country.
POETS—Manque and Pro. 1 of 2
What’s it like to be a poet manqué or even a real pro-poet, in a country that doesn’t read poetry? Well, decades ago I wrote over 150 poems, tried a few times to get some published. Ogden Nash, probably our most funny and Beloved American Poet, once complained on a TV show on which he was a panelist, that poets such as himself had to be on such panel shows just to make a living.
A bit of Ogden Nashery:
Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.
Billy Collins is a former U. S. Poet Laureate. He tends to write amusing stuff. I read a profile of him in a major magazine which noted that he had a photo of Jean Shepherd pinned over his desk. I contacted him and interviewed him for my book on Shepherd and he expressed how important he’d been to his growing up: “I had to get my Shepherd fix. He actually made you feel that you weren’t alone….I think he had the best influence on my sensibility. And I think it helped me kind of pursue that sense of being different, being an individual.”
A poem by Billy Collins:
Introduction to Poetry
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
Bill Knott was a funny, quirky kind of poet, hard to determine if he was for real or not—but poems of his appeared in the New Yorker–WOW! He also achieved a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was highly regarded by some (a comment that he might well have found funny—or annoying). Jeff Alessandrelli, in the LIT HUB website wrote: “He was an odd person, determinedly so. Attentively discombobulated; idiosyncratically calibrated. Most poets are sheep. He wasn’t most.” A New York Times book reviewer described him as “…the brilliant poet and morbid eccentric…” He died in 2014.
I can’t remember the circumstance under which I’d contacted him, but in response he sent me, five autographed batches (books) of his self-published poems. I responded by sending him a copy of my Excelsior, You Fathead! Here’s some Knott:
New Yorker poem, Plaza de Loco poems
Charles Wright is, indeed, highly regarded, and his Black Zodiac poetry book won the Pulitzer Prize. I bought it and several of his subsequent books, but find Black Zodiac by far the best for my taste and understanding. A sample from it and, when I went to a reading of his, his autograph for me:
Eugene B. Bergmann
I only occasionally submitted my poems for possible publication, and only twice was accepted. A Canadian poetry journal, Undertow published two of my poems! (“Arcadian Commute,” and “Nature Morte.”)
When I encountered a contest using magnetic words that one adheres to one’s refrigerator to create poems, I submitted and am now the proudly (?) published author of two poems in The Magnetic Poetry Book of Poetry. In bookstores I still encounter that book, amused to think that my two poems are probably read more than those of Robert Frost or any other American poet! (That little piece of irony is maybe not funny, but just true.)
End Part one of two.
From that night on, when Pearl and I stood next to each other in biology class, it was an entirely different thing. She always said, “Please,” now. She didn’t have the little spangles, the tassels on her “Yes.” She’d say, “Would you pass the green dye, please.” Her nostrils would flair a bit. “Pass the dye, please.” I’d say “Yes,” and I’d give her the dye. She’d say, “Excuse me. Do you have yesterday’s assignment in your notebook?” That cool, beautiful, rich smile. I’d say, “Yeah. Yeah, yeah.”
From that time on I had trouble eating red cabbage, I could no longer mix it with the mashed potatoes, and ketchup was dead. My father’s hair was a kind of dirty gray and I wanted to say, “Dad, why isn’t your hair white?” My mother was always there in that big old bathrobe saying, “How about some red cabbage, gang?” I’d say, “I’ll have another helping, please.” And that was the day that changed my life.
That’s all Shep says about Pearl.
Her story’s over. We can understand how his date
with her changed his way of thinking about his family and the differences money
makes to status. Is it what made him a liberal in some aspects of his thinking?
We don’t quite know in what ways it changed how he differed in his life.
Next story we go from Pearl to turkeys.
Degas Pastel–Getting My Hackles Up
The recently encountered Degas picture found in a bus is not a “painting” as widely described. When I first saw it shown for a moment on TV, I said to my wife, “Oh, look, a Degas pastel.” Then I saw it reproduced in the New York Times (2/24/2018) described as a “painting,” and I thought I’d mis-interpreted it on the TV screen. After all, the Times title to the news story used the word “painting,” and the article referred to it as a “painting” nine times, but once as: “The painting, a colorful pastel.” That phrase is a self-contradiction. Googling the picture, all the first page hits (NYT, AP, Reuters, The Guardian, etc.) refer to it as a “painting.”
I opened a large photo of the piece on my computer screen and confirmed that the technique and nature of the work shows it to be, without doubt, not a painting, but a pastel. (I’m also aware that Degas did many pastel works.) Pastel is an art medium in the form of sticks consisting of pure powdered pigments and a binder–similar to chalks used on a blackboard. The picture is not a “painting” any more than a pencil drawing, etching, lithograph, wood-block print, or a tapestry, is a “painting.” The mass media, following “painting,” blindly galloped lemming-like over the cliff of ignorance.
My large catalog of the 1988 Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Degas exhibit shows it in color with a detailed description of the work, starting with: “The Chorus. Pastel over monotype on laid paper.” Looking up “monotype” in my Art Terms book, I found that it’s a form of printing in which wet paint on glass is pressed onto paper in a technique similar to etchings and lithographs—thus, over that basic, printed, under-layer, Degas created his predominately pastel picture.
My Random House Dictionary of the English Language Second Edition, copyright 1987, defines painting as “A picture or design executed in paint.” I had to confirm this because dictionaries can be outrageously confusing and downright wrong, as was Webster’s Unabridged, 3rd Edition (1961) in its defining “hoi polli” as both the lower class and the upper class. (Sure to confuse unknowing readers for generations to come, as will Webster’s 3rd defining “uninterested” and “disinterred” as the same—would you want to come before a judge who is uninterested in judging your case, or who is disinterested while judging it?) Wrong word-usage matters—it pollutes and confuses accurate understanding of our major means of communicating.
In this close-up, note overall pastel work,
especially in the oranges and the gray hair.
will the media give you no rest?
This is an extra special Artsy inspired by the 2/22/2018 New York Times article in–not the sports section—but the ARTS SECTION.
The feature article, by dance critic Gia Kourlas, describes the ice dance competition in the 2018 Olympics. It is a powerful and elegant description and promotion of figure skating—especially ice dancing—as a fine art. It is a wonderful argument for skating as an art—saying more knowledgably than I could in my two ARTSY FARTSY essays of Jan. 2 and Jan. 5, 2018, which described ice dancers Torvill and Dean, and figure skating soloist John Curry.
Short quotes from the Gia Kourlas article:
.. as a dance critic, I judge skating by different rules, and to me, no team, gold medal or not, matches the artistry of Ms. Papadakis and Mr. Cizeron.
When a free dance program shows two bodies moving as one, as Ms. Papadakis and Mr. Cizeron’s did, it is just as ethereal as ballet.
… for me the real hero of the Olympic Games has been ice dancing.
Yes, it’s skating and yes, it’s dance, but it’s the combination of the two that captures the freedom of what skating can be.
… ice dance pushes skating to a more poetic place.
I am thrilled and it brings tears to my eyes to read Ms Kourlas’ essay, and to watch Papadakis and Cizeron skate their art via YouTube. at:
papadakis cizeron 2018 olympics
Bravo Papadakis, Cizeron, and Ms Kourlas!