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march 31, 2004

Corpus Christi

Walking along the street yesterday evening, an emphatic gentleman clothed in a billboard advertising Eternal Salvation kindly handed me a leaflet featuring a colored illustration of a smiling, haloed Jesus ushering small children into an ivy-clad church: "Thanks", I said.
It was an interesting image, you know, the usual blue-eyed Messianic ideal, which made me want to turn around, waving the leaflet at my benefactor and yelling, "Hey. Wait a minute. This isn't Him! You've got a picture of the wrong guy on this. Jesus doesn't look like this at all!"
Obviously, with the exception of those who have unshakeable faith in the authenticity of the Turin Shroud, nobody really knows what Jesus actually looked like, although it is highly improbable, of course, that he was Caucasian with wavy, golden hair and neatly trimmed beard. He may have been black, olive, brown, tan, sandy yellow, conch red - "Bethlehem beige", even, in Ralph Lauren Speak - but God most certainly did not said His only son to Earth looking like a fresh-faced, shaggy-haired mid-seventies era High School English teacher wearing a dressing gown. One can only imagine the scene occurring in Heaven if Jesus had attempted to descend into the world in such a guise: "You are not going out of the Pearly Gates looking like that. Go back to your room and change into something more Biblical this minute."
I would have disposed of the leaflet in the garbage when I arrived home, but although I am the most vacillatingly undecided of agnostics, I can never bring myself to throw out anything possessing a religious connection, no matter how trivial the object may be or how tenuous the connection. I suppose this makes me superstitious. However, the one thing in this life I am sure of is this: it is better to be safe than sorry.

stephenb 08:36 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 30, 2004
Great Uncles of Literature

Reading Uncle Fred in the Springtime (some hope considering the present weather conditions), I found myself contemplating the great Uncles of literature: Uncle Fred himself, of course; Uncle Silas; Uncle Giles; Uncle ..and then I remembered my own modest belles-lettres contribution to this illustrious breed: my own Uncle Thomas.
In many respects, my Uncle Thomas is merely a watered down version of Anthony Powell's fascinating creation Uncle Giles, although my Uncle Thomas is a portrait from real life. Anyway, searching through my documents I found the record I wrote of Uncle Thomas, and here it is:

Uncle Thomas

The reading of my uncle Thomas' last will was an occasion of singular interest to me, since I had not witnessed such an event before, and, even more intriguing, before he finally met his maker - in my uncle's case an exceedingly poor craftsman, according to my father - uncle Thomas seemed to intimate that I would be named among his beneficiaries.
Uncle Thomas had always been a remote and obscure figure, rarely emerging from amid my family's disconcertingly ever-increasing flock of black sheep; his name only invoked by my parents as the personification of varied worthless traits and habits, or as a dire warning of potential personal catastrophe: "you don't want to end up like Uncle Thomas, do you."
Having been an individual whose personal administration was not a subject dear to his own heart, my parents thought it unlikely that Uncle Thomas would have put his affairs in order prior to departure for the next world. Consequently, they refused to attend the ceremony on the grounds that The Will would undoubtedly be merely a litany of befuddlements and family embarrassments, and therefore a complete waste of time. My father in particular was disinclined to believe that Uncle Thomas could possibly have been "of sound mind" at any point in his chaotic life. Nevertheless, I decided to go and hear what Uncle Thomas' lawyers had to say. Obviously, considering the circumstances, I did not expect to receive much in the way of a financial bequest of any kind. But, I decided, anyone who had lived in his life in such an unconventional manner as Uncle Thomas had, would probably have accrued a few objects of enduring and risible interest that he might consider leaving to his only nephew; objects that might possibly be defined as "very cool" within the aesthetic parameters of a contemporary culture in awe of retro oddness.
And so my first experience of an Office of Law, an exact replica of the visual experience I imagined it would be: an aggressively bald lawyer sat behind an oak desk reading from his brief through thick spectacles, surrounded by green lamps and weighty leather books. Apart from this person who was apparently not very pleased to have been appointed my uncle's legal representative on Earth, I was the only person attending the reading of uncle Thomas' will.
His estate - if you can dignify it in such terms without smirking - amounted almost entirely of threadbare clothes stuffed into battered suitcases, the pockets of which were bulging with bad debts. His remaining belongings consisted of some large, rectangular brown-paper parcels leaning against the wall and a small box that the bald lawyer handed over to me.
"Bad luck," he said, as I became the disenchanted owner of a silvered commemorative fountain pen and three decrepit seascapes 'Grainger'.
The seascapes each depicted a distinctly choppy and vacant sea, and each had a different colored violent sky: imagine Turner with a headache and no inspiration and you have some idea of the style, although it was rendered without skill or talent. God knows when they were painted.
"The frames may have some value," my father said sniffily when I showed the pictures to him. "Why don't you put them on ebay."

stephenb 14:26 - [Link] - Comments ()
A Chip Off And A Day Late

Yesterday was the birthday of the Robert Benchley Society
stephenb 10:35 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 29, 2004
A Shopping Expedition

For those members of Another Age convinced by scripture and sermon that Hell was a red-hot, subterranean landscape of brimstone, blinding ash and burning flesh, observing volcanic activity of any kind must have been an extremely frightening experience indeed.
How comforting, then, for those of us in the Modern World who know that Hell is in fact not a subterranean landscape echoing with the screams of the damned, but rather a suburban Shopping Mall echoing with the cries of those whose credit cards have finally been exhausted.
I belive it was the prophet Elijah who said, "And there was a great flaming Visa sign appeared in the Heavens, and the Lamb of God sayeth unto them, your credit card shall be sliced in twain for it is foul in the eyes of the Lord. And there was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth thereof."
Perhaps you too have been forced to wait in line behind such a repulsive, fat and credit-less cretin at Mall stores such as Borders Books And Music And Videos And Toys And Cakes And Coffee And Cookies And Magazines And Goodness-Knows-What-Else-They-Sell-These-Days.
stephenb 08:54 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 28, 2004
Mental Image

I have never actually met Andrew's wife, but when he speaks to her on his cell phone he always refers to her as "woman", and therefore conjuring, in my mind at least, the picture of a bare-footed, pallid, solemn-faced female in a threadbare gingham-checked smock with her hair tied back into a bun as she aggressively sweeps the dirt floor of some timber logged shack built on some lonely praire. This is unlikely however, since Andrew lives in the Bayswater area of London.
stephenb 13:16 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 26, 2004
The Solemn Harvest

After awakening to discover yet another Brillo pad cloudy and rain-drizzled day forming outside my bedroom window, it took me a considerable period of time to swipe the sleep from my eyes and gather my wits this morning: and while gathering my wits, I felt rather like a particularly stony-faced kindergarten teacher furiously trying to restore order to an unruly classroom: some of my wits were fighting on the living-room floor; other wits were riding aimlessly around the edge of the rug while the delinquent wits smoked and drank behind the couch. And so I marched around, clapping my hands together loudly and calling out: "Come on wits, it's time to go. Put those things away now, wits. Hurry up now, little wits, jump in the brainsack and let's get going. Come on, wits, it's time to go." - Clap. Clap - "Move it you wits, Come on." - Clap. Clap.
And eventually, by this method, I managed to gather all my wits and made it to work on time.
The end.
stephenb 09:36 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 25, 2004
The Thursday Judgement (is always final)

In the Dock Today: The Art of Paul Gauguin

I have never cared for the art of so-called Monsieur Paul "Where's my floppy hat" Gauguin. His paintings look like the sort of images you might use to decorate the exterior of an earthenware vase that has a petrified sunflower stuck in it; you know, the kind of earthenware vase that you purchase from a discount store and leave on your porch or verandah with curling, browned leaves scattered around the base.
And that is the Thursday Judgement on the Art of Paul Gauguin. It is final. There is no appeal. So if you think I am paying good money to traipse around the Gauguin Exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, then you are very much mistaken .. I'm not going, darling, no matter what you promise to cook for dinner.
stephenb 13:20 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 24, 2004
Stephenhead's Tips To Beat the Economy Blues

If your job is becoming obsolete thanks to recent advances in computer and robotic science, why not move to one of those Historical Re-enactment Villages? Hey presto! You will suddenly be way AHEAD of the technology curve again!
Boost your employment prospects and your EGO and impress the MILKMAIDS by taking your car with you. Make that bearded fool with the horse and cart feel like a REAL LOSER as you zoom past him at sixty miles an hour. And why not put him out of a job by delivering all those sacks of corn sooooo much faster than he ever could with his rackety outmoded method of transport.
Yes! Living in a Historical Re-enactment Village can provide many "get rich quick and be a big shot" opportunities for the truly ruthless entrepreneur!
Grab your jerkin and knee britches and enroll in The Past TODAY!

stephenb 13:40 - [Link] - Comments ()
The Washing of the Spears - Via Email

Dear Friends,

I am Mrs. Deborah De Armee-Coup, one of the wives of Late President Laurent De Armee-Coup of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly Belgian Ga-Ga Land. Consequent upon the assassination of my husband, beheaded by a World Music Compilation CD fired from specially adapted authentic Congolese catapult, I am in possession of AD 58,000,000 (Fifty Eight Million Albanian Dollars) being funds earlier embezzled from foreign aid to my Congo and used to increase my shoe collection and provide bullet-proof hairpiece for my husband which he wore on ceremonial occasions only. This fund has since been deposited with a fraudulent security company in West African country of Togo (formerly French Runowayoland), where I am residing now with Late President De Armee-Coup's seventy bereaved children.
My plan is to live in United States and open 24 Hour Spear Washing Service in New York area while I wait for my money to be sent via postal order from Togo. Until this happy time I need friends in United States to send me their Visa number and cell phone number so that I can by shoes to look nice during Opening Ceremonies of Flagship Spear Washing Service.
(continues for another sixty paragraphs or until email is deleted)

stephenb 09:47 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 23, 2004
Walking Tour

And what of those tarmac oblongs of black and white painted roadway running perpendicular to the traffic upon which it is presumed safe for pedestrians to stroll across the street, even during the busiest of rush hours? Picturesquely, perhaps as a reminder of their time in Africa, the British call them "Zebra Crossings". What do we Americans call them? I do not know. Nobody seems to pay much attention to them here. In our world, the pedestrian is a freak: a maniac: a baboon who might just as well swing from lamp post to post as walk along the sidewalk to reach his destination.
Although I live not two or three blocks from Boston's bustling Newbury Street with its restaurants, shops and art galleries, I still consider the Back Bay area where my home is located as a residential district, suitable for walking or strolling, or running, even. And to be sure, examine the roads with an archeologist's patience and you will unearth traces of the black and white painted pedestrian crossings; yet observe the oblivious traffic speeding around the quaint little streets and you might think you were in the middle of Le Mans 24 Hour Road Race ... beeeeeeeeeep! Look out!
stephenb 09:21 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 22, 2004
At Homes

The Boston Globe reported that the burger and fries chewing obese multitude are spending even more and more money on mammoth, looming Home Theater systems so that they can erase even more of their already puny intelligence with the banal dreck that passes for popular entertainment in this cretinous day and age - well, all I can say is: what about investing in Home Library systems instead, you overweight, square-eyed, slack-jawed morons. If you had any self respect at all you would spend the $2,000 on fine literature for yourself and your kids rather than wasting it on electronic mind-mulching equipment. Try raising your brain level rather than lowering your attention span for a change. Go on. Just do it ... as they say.
stephenb 12:22 - [Link] - Comments ()
Long Island

As you may already know, I spent the weekend on Long Island (the name comes from the Indian word for "Land of Pale Faced Big Hairs"), where I was attending a wedding (the name comes from the Indian word for "alimony").
I crossed to the Island via the car ferry from New London (the name comes from the Indian word for "Someday they will wear shoes like ours at St. James' Palace"), and the passage could be described as moderately calm, despite the insolent, choppy waves of the dark, detergent-green Sound.
The car ferry itself is like a huge, floating, oil-stained suburban homestead garage; so much so, in fact, that I half expected to trip over a garden rake and coiled plastic hosepipe as I strolled along the deck, sent tumbling into a pile of sticky paint cans, toolboxes, and rusting patio furniture.
After the ferry docked, we drove through a town called, if memory serves, Mammowammotauk (the name comes from the Indian word for "Where the hell are we?"), and then Nannoatauk (from the Indian word for "Are we there yet? How much further is it?"), and then Silenceotauk (from the Indian word for "Shut up already!").
This is rural, empty Vineyard Country, and you are invited to tour the vineyards in season - although they all look the same to me, and most New York State wine I have drunk has been bloody awful, so I would not advise it.
Still, the wedding was nice.
stephenb 09:58 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 18, 2004
On the Road

With a red and white gingham patterned knotted 'kerchef tied to a pole and slung over my shoulder, a song in my heart and a smile on my face, I hit the road tomorrow - Long Island bound - there to attend the nuptial ceremony of good friends.
While visiting "the Island", I shall be staying at a moderately ramshackle roadside establishment, and therefore have been warned to be worried about being bitten by bedbugs. However, I don't see why I should be concerned, since by their very nature surely this particular variety of mite must be the laziest type of bug there is; a type of bug who, by virtue of their very lethargy, find themselves unable to rise from the comfort of the linen sheets they recline upon and nibble through the cotton pjamas of someone like myself.
At least that is what I am hoping.
stephenb 15:27 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 17, 2004
Islam O' Fascists

Bearing in mind the dates 9.11 and 3.11, one's mind boggles wondering what significance the number 11 must have for the 'terrorist community'... could it possibly be symbolic of the "two vast and trunkless legs of sand" mentioned in Shelley's great poem Ozymandias, and the poem's theme of a once great civilization reduced to windswept, barren desert?
Yes, I suppose that is exactly what the significance of choosing the eleventh day for their atrocities must refer to.
stephenb 18:21 - [Link] - Comments ()
Saint's Day

St Patrick's Day: a time, so they brogue, for the "wearin' o' the green", and also a time, it seems to me, for the "wearin' o' the sick down the front of the college student's shirt for he has drunk too much, to be sure."
Furthermore, it is a time for the "wearin' o' the ill-fitting, cotton blend tee-shirt with some ludicrously banal Celtic slogan cheaply silk-screened on the front of it."
And all this means, o' course, that it is most definitely time for the rest of us for the "wearin' o' the grimace".
stephenb 09:06 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 15, 2004

The political mouthpiece of the Campaign to Elect John Kerry as President, 2004 - also known as the frontpage of the Boston Globe - has been unusually silent concerning the hot topic of exactly what brand of toothpaste the gleaming dentured Senator Kerry likes to brush his teeth with when he wakes up in the morning (and also when he goes to bed at night, too, kids!). Considering the amount of smiling and grinning the Senator will be doing on the campaign trail, doing toothpaste endorsements would be an extremely smart way to increase his reportedly meagre and paltry "campaign war chest" .... especially since he needs so desperately to increase the amount it contains so that it more closely matches that of our current President, George W. "get this Tom's of Maine enviro-animal-friendly crap out of here and bring me my Crest with extra whitening power" Bush.
stephenb 15:46 - [Link] - Comments ()
P.G "Tips" Wodehouse and Dorothy "Nay" Sayers

Why are Wodehouse's "Jeeves" stories written in Bertie Wooster's first person narration, while the same author's "Psmith" stories are written with a non-participant narrator?
The answer is simple:
If he did not narrate the "Jeeves" stories himself, Bertie would appear as merely a simple cretin, and therefore not funny. As it is, we know that Bertie is actually a raconteur of genius who enjoys a good laugh at his own expense. In short, we like him and find it pleasurable listening to what he has to say.
Whereas ... considering his ornate mode of interlocution, Psmith would actually be unbearable, nay wearisome, company (possible a crashing bore, even, if allowed to ramble on in his ludicrous manner for too long). Therefore Wodehouse is forced to place an intermediary between the character of Psmith and the reader.
Where am I going with all this? ...I can't entirely remember, but it had something to do with Dorothy L. Sayers' "Mr Bunter" character and how the authoress obviously used Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster creations as models for the characters in her Lord Peter novels, but swapped out Bertie for Psmith in the process. It was something along those lines that I was going to say before I forgot about it. Oh well, I suppose it can't have been that important.. so much for my literary criticism, eh. Sorry for wasting your time.
stephenb 14:06 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 14, 2004
Stephenhead C. Clarke's Mysterious World of Gas Bills

Amongst all the baffling, science-defeating conundrums currently puzzling the brains of the world's riddle solvers - even more eminently esoteric than "Can pyramid power sharpen my new three-blade razor?" and "Am I Crown Prince Alexei, heir to the Romanov fortune?" - is the ancient, arcane question "Why is my gas bill so high?" the answer to which is known only to a secret sect of heavily bearded sages who work at a company called Keyspan Energy.
Fortunately, weird hieroglyphics I found printed on an obscure document discovered in the deepest, darkest recesses of my mailbox may provide a solution. After I translated these odd hieroglyphics with the aid of a stolen utility company Rosetta stone, I learned that it has something to do with the cost of gas delivery to my home: apparently, gas must be delivered to my house by chauffeur driven Rolls Royce, or in one of those new-fangled Hummer Stretch limousines, for only this luxurious method of transport can justify the enormous gas delivery charge Keyspan adds to my monthly usage bill.

stephenb 14:59 - [Link] - Comments ()
Bizarre (Doin' Time On Planet Oblomov)

There are people who write "Czar", and then there are people who write "Tsar"; there are also people who write "ov" and people who would rather write "off"; and there again, there are people who listen to hour-long radio programs about Stalinist Collective farming tractor rotation during the Five Year Plan, and people who are still "off" people, if you know what I mean.
stephenb 13:30 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 12, 2004
Memory Lane

A few Ghosts of Stephenheads Past that people remembered and mentioned to me recently, re-posted because my brain is mulch today:

A True Story

I made rather an embarrassing faux pas earlier today as I was purchasing my morning coffee at Dunkin' Donuts on Boylston Street. There were two police cruisers parked outside, always a sight to make an innocent man nervous, but no doubt the cops were just picking up refreshments for the car chase they were planning later on.
Anyway, I walked in, waited in an orderly manner behind the cops until it was my turn to order, strode confidently up to the counter like someone with nothing to hide, and then loudly asked for a "small cop of coffee" as one of the shorter Gentlemen In Blue collected his change beside me.
A truly wince-inducing experience. I would have wished for theground to open up and swallow me, but I'm not sure that they mop the floor very often at Dunkin' Donuts, so God knows what the ground beneath it is like.

The Little Shop Around The Corner

When in Boston you absolutely must visit the Museum Of Food on fashionable Newbury Street. The naive tourist can easily confuse the building with a regular grocery store because they look so similar, but fortunately, the stench of decomposition should guide you to the right door - "just follow the flies on the fungus trail." as the locals say.
Besides rotten meats and vegetables, the museum possesses the world's largest collection of milks from bygone eras, all authentically curdled and encased in leaky cartons that have made a mess of the antique refrigeration unit. Other popular sights include a fine selection of stale breads featuring different gaily-colored molds, rusted cans of soup with the labels missing, and a vintage box of smashed up and unidentifiable crackers from the turn of the century. My personal favorite is the greenish-looking chocolate that has melted out of the package and oozed all over the dusty shelving, and apples so bruised they appear to have been beaten up by a gang of bitter and vicious melons.
Don't complain if the cases in the Deli wing of the museum are occasionally empty, this is due to the chicken and beef exhibits being temporarily removed for repair and restoration work.
The most interesting fact about the Museum Of Food is that their entire collection is apparently available for purchase. It might seem that this adventurous policy would eventually deplete the Museum's stock, but luckily most customers who buy an exhibit usually return it within a few days so others can view it later.

Hop Head

I have been invited to write an Op-Ed article for the Boston Globe newspaper, and they have agreed to print the following slice of wisdom:

So anyway, it's like three-quarters of the kids in the Third World don't get any clean drinking water because they don't have a kitchen and what they have is the same as their toilet anyway so it's not a proper one and that moron Bush has taken all the Kurds hot water tanks and turned them into a massive coffee thermos for the Pentagon and they get free refills at Starbucks. So all the Third World kids have to drink neat gin instead and all the big multinational conglomerates like Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire and the other one won't let the starving Africans get the deposit back on the bottle because they are against recycling and so all the forests die because the US military eats twenty-times their own body weight in Chicken Mcnuggets every day.

My Favorite Thing

My favorite thing: when someone believes something to be stupid because they do not understand it. I love these people, flapping their arms, frowning, and gritting their teeth with their chins extended.
There was an aging hippy on the subway platform this morning, shambling, bearded and grizzled, who could not grasp which particular train he should board to reach his destination. A knotted, threadbare Tibetan sack was slung over his shoulder, festooned with slogan bearing badges, and his sandals had seen better days. He demanded that we "Feed The World", although he himself could not figure out how to get from A to B on the subway map.
Here was a man who thinks that George Bush is personally responsible for ninety percent of the world's toothaches, and has the cheek to call the President of the United States a moron.
The Boston subway map is actually a model of coherent layout and design. Different colored lines represent alternate routes, and the connecting stations in-between are clearly marked. This man, however, stared up at it uncomprehendingly, hands on hips, slackened jaw, furiously shaking his head from side to side as though it were an indecipherable hieroglyph. Occasionally, he would turn around with a manic grin spread across his face, expecting his fellow travelers would be equally bamboozled, but they either boarded their trains or read their newspapers and waited.
After I had finished being amused by him, I walked over and asked if I could be of assistance. He gave me the address of the two cross streets where he wanted to go. I asked him why he was searching for a specific geographical location on a map that only displayed subway stations. He just shrugged his shoulders, returning his attention to the map, reminding me of the small boy in the cartoon, straining to push open the door marked "pull".

Voice Over for a brief 1950s travel and tourism film about Boston

Here on the banks of the mighty River Charles, free men built the city of Boston with honest toil. Boston. Land of myth and fable. Birthplace of a nation. Boston, primary citadel of America, built by honest, simple men as the first golden rays of the dawn of civilization brightened the world and freed it's people from the dark ages of classical Europe. Boston, home to simple, honest folk. Puritan stock. Pride of the founding fathers and the brood-mare mothers. Farmers, fishermen, shipbuilders and tax emigres. It was here in Boston's famous North End that Paul Revere delivered the first horse-drawn pizza. It was only made of burnt crust. But ask those simple, honest Puritan folk and they will tell you it tasted good. History was made here in Boston. Made by simple, honest men. Men like Ambrose Belcher and Jesuphat O'Doone. Honest, simple men not afraid of a hard days work in uncomfortable breeches and buckled shoes with their socks pulled up over their breeches. And women like Old Mother Pym. Simple, honest women. Women who knew their place was in the home accusing others of witchcraft while their menfolk toiled. Honest, simple homes, built here on the banks of the mighty River Charles in Boston. Land of myth and fable. Birthplace of a nation. And the mighty River Charles flows in to the famous Boston Harbor. Cradle of the Atlantic. Gateway to the Ocean.
Boston Harbor. A welcome sight to the simple, honest fisherman who has spent long days picking the fruits of the sea....

.....You know, it is quite often my job to watch such films and evaluate them. They are always the same.

stephenb 18:58 - [Link] - Comments ()
Happy Face Sad Face

The Modern Theater: some spot-lit, bandy-legged overweight wooftah shouldering his obesely overfed ego; smothered in make-up and slithering across "the boards" as he gesticulates and emotes like a flea-bitten gorilla in psychosexual heat; declaiming his so-called "lines" - should his "character" find himself lucky enough to have been given any! - as if his Deaf Aunt Fanny was sitting in the back row and was so brain-addled and demented that she actually wished to hear every word of whatever tedious claptrap got spit out of her actor nephew's booming mouth.
And that, in a nutshell, is the modern theater as I see it (way overpriced at $78 per ticket)

stephenb 18:33 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 11, 2004
The Widow

Since I have nicknamed her "The Widow", the stairwell leading from the apartment of this sour-faced woman to that of my friend Suzanne, naturally enough, has become known as "The Widow's Stairwell" - especially when she ascends the steps to complain about the noise, usually declaring that living below Suzanne is the most wince-making of inconveniences she has ever suffered through.
Whether or not The Widow has actually suffered such bereavement as her nickname implies, I am not sure, but she certainly maintains a heaviness of soul and blackness of dress reasonably to be associated with some sort of great loss or other. A reserved, chilly woman, cloaked with an aura of restless nights and dripping taps, silently gliding through the chalky fluorescent corridors of the converted warehouse she calls home, The Widow seems out of place set amongst the unconventional - often bizarre - artists with irregular habits who also live in the loft spaces. Dressed in simple, unaffected and unprepossessing black, she appears almost a figure from another age; perhaps, even, the phantom spirit of some prim secretary once employed by the Victorian business that occupied the building in years long past, doomed to wander the halls forever, wringing her hands over examples of poor craftsmanship and the prospect of impending bankruptcy.

stephenb 10:39 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 09, 2004
Story Time

How many of you have read that wonderful Aesop's fable, The Hare and the New Yorker Subscription?
What a truly wonderful story it is. No matter how fast the Hare runs, whenever he looks over his shoulder, there is the plucky New Yorker Subscription right behind him. The Hare moves house, but somehow the gutsy New Yorker Subscription manages to follow him. The Hare does not renew his New Yorker Subscription, and yet that tenaciously brave New Yorker subscription manages to catch up and find the perplexed Hare wherever that Hare goes!!
stephenb 17:47 - [Link] - Comments ()
The Poet's Garden (updated)

Here lies one whose name is writ in compost

As soon as I am able to evict all those doddering, witless retirees currently taking up valuable space in my summer house, I can begin creating my The Poet's Garden in the backyard. I shall start by burning all the wisteria and lilies the old, decrepit idiots have planted during the years that they have been driving down the property value with their poor taste and incoherent, drool-dripping babble.
So far, as I sprawl here on the chaise lounge of my winter home, I have made a handy list of all the elements that a proper The Poet's Garden will require. For example: a Grecian urn, obviously; and a small, weed-infested stream suitable for virginal maidens to drown themselves in; there should be a collection of stones piled up to resemble a castle wall that the splendor can fall on (must remember to order some splendor!); an enormous hedge artfully trimmed into the shape of a huge albatross; and, of course, an ivy clad "Tomb of my Youth"; and oh, the list is endless ... a poet's work is never done. We're not just pretty faces in frilly shirts, you know. Poetry involves a lot of manual labor.
stephenb 13:12 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 08, 2004
Points From The Weekend

1. People in the civilized world do not smoke cigars with decent port .. so why do they allow this abominable practice at the Cigar Masters on Boylston Street?

2. My dreams have not been up to snuff recently, so I flicked through a book of Rene Magritte's paintings - lingering over a reproduction of his The Giantess for quite some time - before retiring to bed, hoping they might inspire my sleeping mind to new heights of imaginary oddness .... without success.

3. Whether it issues forth from a short, squat, stringy-mustachioed and narrow-bearded Oriental sage engraving elliptical wisdom on a jade tablet, or a scrunched up tiny roll of paper released from the belly of a fortune cookie, Eastern philosophy is a load of nonsense as far as I am concerned.
stephenb 13:32 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 07, 2004
In The Park

A gaunt, raven-haired woman decorated with a slash of lipstick, her body wrapped in furry and satiny bits and pieces, looking, at least to my mind, like an exiled gypsy queen, sat down upon one of the green benches in the Public Gardens, staking claim to her ground by forming a protective, walled perimeter around her feet and knees with the large number of shopping bags she had been carrying. Ignoring the bemused legion of hungry birds who fluttered around her expecting slices of bread, the gypsy queen fished around in her shopping bags as one might when dandling one's hand in a seaside rockpool searching for interesting shells and colorful stones, until, with a gasp of delight, she pulled a tiny clockwork plane from amongst the packing tissue that covered her other purchases, whatever they might be.
Carefully, with intense concentration, the gypsy queen wound-up her little clockwork object and placed it on one of the slats in the bench beside her, watching with glee as the plane taxied down its wooden runway; so overjoyed was she with this tiny toy flying machine that I thought she herself might take off into the heavens, wafted upwards by the dreams of Icarus, joining the pigeons up above the treetops in search of eternal breadcrumbs.
stephenb 13:23 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 05, 2004
The Devil Will Find Work...

Surely it must be about time that someone wrote a book about the intriguingly obscure female lighthouse keeper, Virginia Woolf.
She has been dead for over three hundred years and still we know nothing about the life of this triple-crowned water-skiing champion. Not only did she and her tribe defeat the Ancient Romans at the Battle of the Boyne by throwing moose testicles at them, she later married Bonnie Prince Charlie and became Queen of the Belgians for two whole months. Unfortunately, her affair with Luke Skywalker is the only real shread of evidence we have that Virginia even owned a parrot called Mozart that could play the piano from behind the Iron Curtain.
And what of her circle of friends, the Bloomsbury Team? Without the efforts of these wonderful people there would be no cure for French Acne! Surely they are worth the odd coffee table album of never before seen aquatint photographs retailing for $89.99 and available at all good bookshops?
But what do we get instead ... Harry Potter and the Grisly Aftermath of the Children's Crusade!
What is the book trade coming to?
stephenb 18:33 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 04, 2004
Why Harvard University is Old and Boring

Some dreary, humdrum, humor-absented killjoy at the Harvard Institute of Politics (Y.A.W.N) is pouting because a retailer named Urban Outfitters is selling T-shirts with the slogan "Voting Is For Old People" printed on them.
In a letter to the CEO of Urban Outfitters, the Harvard monkey wrote: "We would be eager to work with you to suggest alternative products that send the right message to America's young people, and better reflect the considerable social conscience and political participation of today's youth .... You might consider 'Voting Rocks!'"
Oh dear: out of touch, or what!!!
Nevertheless, the statement on the T-shirt is, of course, absolutely true ... voting is for old people: I mean, being a teenager is "old" now, isn't it. Twelve is probably "old" too. Look at these young kids! They grow up fast these days; anyone of voting age is obviously not only old, but also passe and unhip. Pre-teen is where the zeitgeist smoulders in the Modern Age. Get used to it Harvard Baldy!!
stephenb 18:11 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 03, 2004

Once again, despite all their expensive gadgets and diploma weilding scientists, NASA have completely failed to observe the interesting and profound connections between the planet Mars and my grandfather's knee - both are red, barren landscapes, both once contained water, and both might once have shown signs of life.
And finally, the planet Mars is home to little green men, whereas my grandfather is a little green man (except for his red knee, of course).
Can this mean my grandfather is a Martian? Possibly ...
Surely, then, NASA should provide me with vast pots of money to study this important question in depth.

Eerie Roswell Factor: strangely, although my grandfather's knee is a red, barren landscape that might once have shown signs of life, it still manages to run faster than my internet connection!
stephenb 18:09 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 02, 2004
Youth and their Attire

It is interesting to observe how, in order to provide themselves with a means of locomotion from one obnoxiously loud and garish place to another, the youth of today are forced to wade through their enormous filthy jeans like overweight bathers wading through the breaking waves of a particularly seaweed strewn and polluted ocean: some of the girls, moreover, not only wade but also shuffle and waddle like the aged and arthritic women they will some day actually become; forced into this inelegant form of movement and posture by their over-sized ridiculous clogs and flip-flops. Why do they wear such sluttish footwear - even in winter?!
stephenb 19:29 - [Link] - Comments ()
End of an Era

It seems that Alistair Cooke has read his last Letter From America on BBC Radio. The show was broadcast for fifty-eight years, and in that time Cooke made over 3,000 programs.
A damn pity it is too. I always enjoyed Cooke's show when listening to it on my shortwave ... back in those halcyon days when the BBC World Service actually bothered to send a signal to North America. In these days of fast internet connections they no longer do, and consequently we miss all that lovely crackling "wireless" reception that added such a nostalgic quality to the atmosphere of the particular audio we were listening to.
Alistair Cooke always read his letter in a calm, even tone; whether he was elated, curious, weary, or plain saddened by the subject made no odds. How I wish other sources could convey news with such dignified equanimity.
stephenb 13:13 - [Link] - Comments ()
march 01, 2004
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Sauce

What a pity that we no longer adorn the walls of our great cities with the severed heads of our enemies; foreigners defeated in battle; traitors and spies; local murderers, pickpockets, and barrel organists; city merchants who sell food stuffs past their sell-by date; tradesmen who do a shoddy job mending that wall at the back of the garden; subway train passengers who talk about "The Lord of the Rings" in a loud and annoying voice (see below); Anna Neagle; those persons responsible for the Three Tenors; oh, I could go on, etc...
Anyway, it is such a damn pity that we don't do that anymore, and that I am not in charge of it. If we ran out of room on the city walls (as I am sure we would), then I would gladly accomodate some of the excess heads on my own front stoop, especially if they were the severed heads of dangerous criminals personally known to me. For instance: P------ W----- and A--- H-----, and all the others who work at P------- , and who most certainly were born in bastardy.
stephenb 18:23 - [Link] - Comments ()
Another World

An extraordinary celebrant was holding court on the subway platform this morning, dressed in a "Lord of the Rings" souvenir sweat shirt and a "Lord of the Rings" novelty baseball hat, a Hobbity keychain dangling from her frayed belt. Apparently the film that inspired this person's garish apparel had won some sort of award last night, and the celebrant spoke as of this achievement with a great deal of pride, as if she also was partly responsible for its success, as though she were "one of the team" who had triumphed over impossible odds and stiff competition. Naturally, she was gross, fat and repulsive to look at.
How awful, I thought, to identify so strongly with a dramatization of a work of fiction set in a imaginary land featuring species that do not exist.
stephenb 09:15 - [Link] - Comments ()