The Conversation Continues


Welcome to Page 3 of my ďforum.Ē The subject matter here is anything to do with literature, books, reading, and writing, with a little philosophy thrown in, as well as other tangents and revelations that spring naturally from ďintelligentĒ conversation. To participate, send an e-mail. Thatís all there is to it. When I receive your message, I will add it to the bottom of the newest page ó unless, of course, it is rude or crude, in which case I retain the right to not post your message. The same goes for blatant advertising. Pertinent recommendations of reading material and related websites, though, are welcome within the natural context of our conversation. We all have plenty to gain from each otherís knowledge and experience. So, whether you are just reading or actively participating, enjoy your visit. I will post new messages as soon as possible after they are received. Be sure to check in often for the latest responses.

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To return to my December 2002 Barbaric Yawp interview with John Berbrich, click here.
To read our original 2001 interview, click here.
William Michaelian: Now. Where were we? Oh, yes. We were about to propose a toast. A good idea, indeed. To Anthony Quinn ó no, heís not the guy either. To the wailing Toohies ó no, thatís Mr. Hinshawís mythical beer. Ah, the heck with it. To friendship, and all that goes with it. By the way, I just remembered another movie Mr. Hinshaw made me watch once. It was set in Australia ó The Sundowners, I believe it was, with Robert Mitchum. Seems like there were sheep involved. Which reminds me ó weíre having a leg of lamb for Christmas, and youíre all invited.
Anita: Ahh. The Sundowners, another classic Aussie movie and Robert Mitchum is the source of a quote I am rather fond of. Iíll bring the mint sauce for the leg of lamb. But first a toast: to friendship and to the Internet. That wonderful invention that enables like minds across the globe to connect and come together and sit in virtual parlours drinking VB while William hogs all the walnut fudge. As for 2005, to quote my old mate Robert Mitchum when he met Ava Gardner: ďStick with me kid and youíll be farting through silk.Ē Hereís mud in ya eye!
John Berbrich: Youíre the boss, Willie. At least until your wife gets home. Uh, she wonít mind that you have a little unexpected company, will she?
William Michaelian: No, sheíll be delighted. But we donít do the mint sauce thing Anita mentioned. We poke a lot of garlic into the lamb, salt and pepper the heck out of it, and roast it with a lot of little red spuds. Then we use the lamb broth to make pilaf with bulghur. Oh ó tell your bride we will be counting on her for the hummus.
Anita: I poke lots of rosemary when I do leg of lamb. I have a seriously large rosemary bush by the front verandah that smells lovely when you walk past. I broke with conventional gardening rules and planted a scented herb garden in the front yard, but I digress. Before you poke in the rosemary, rub a mix of flour and paprika all over the leg of lamb, then poke in lots of rosemary and bake as usual. Itís luvverly.
Judy: Iím outta here until 3 January. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone. Our next book club book is Appetite for Life about Julia Child. The book recommender/discussion leader suggested we all try a recipe from the book that we can talk about at the meeting. What would yíall like?
William Michaelian: Well, I ó oh. Sheís gone. How do you like that? And she didnít even give us a menu. Anita, tell us more about your garden. Any strawberries yet? Where you live, Iíll bet the tomato plants are off and running already.
Anita: Timely question, William. There was one ripe strawberry and one ripe cherry tomato in my garden today and I promptly ate both of them. Lots of green tomatoes, so they are coming along nicely. The strawberries are a bit slower ó maybe the bees were goofing off. I am about to put in some seeds ó radishes, silverbeet (this I cannot believe), chives and sweet basil. The apple tree is chok-a-blok, but they are crabapples. I am going to revamp my front garden and make a heart garden. A friend gave me three packets of mixed flower seeds for Christmas and I thought about potting them up, but I am the Terminator with potted plants at the moment. Just to make the farmers happy, a locust plague has just crossed the NSW-Victoria border. Got any good recipes for locust?
Tim Hinshaw: Something I look forward to each year, the winners of the Bulwer-Lytton contest ó AKA the Dark and Stormy Night Contest (run by the English Department of San Jose State Univ.), wherein one writes only the first line of a bad novel. Hereís the Top Ten:
10. ďAs a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it.Ē
9. ďJust beyond the Narrows, the river widens.Ē
8. ďWith a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned, unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description.Ē
7. ďAndre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the East wall: ĎAndre creep . . . Andre creep . . . Andre creep.íĒ
6. ďStanislaus Smedley, a man always on the cutting edge of narcissism, was about to give his body and soul to a back alley sex-change surgeon to become the woman he loved.Ē
5. ďAlthough Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from eking out a living at a local pet store.Ē
4. ďStanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do.Ē
3. ďLike an over-ripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor.Ē
2. ďMike Hardware was the kind of private eye who didnít know the meaning of the word Ďfearí; a man who could laugh in the face of danger and spit in the eye of death ó in short, a moron with suicidal tendencies.Ē

AND THE WINNER IS . . .
1. ďThe sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the frogís deception, screaming madly, ĎYou lied!íĒ

Wish I could rite good like that. Happy holidays, Mates.

John Berbrich: Thank you, Mr. Hinshaw! Excellent digression! An oblong of applause! Say, we could have our own competition. Anyone interested?
William Michaelian: Well, I was really hoping we could dedicate a month or two to discussing the meaning and importance of Boccaccioís Decameron, but this is a good idea too. Iím game if everyone else is.
Anita: Iíd like to discuss the deeper meaning of The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales, but need to read both books first ó have seen the movies though. *snort* But Iím all for some playing ó keeps one young.
John Berbrich: Okay, me first! How about this: ďLittle Jean-Paul rushed down the stairs on Christmas morning and ripped open his only present; he found the brightly-colored, gift-wrapped box was empty: thus was modern French Existentialism born.Ē
William Michaelian: Ah, excellent! Very clever. Now hereís mine: ďBeing a humble man, Abdul never boasted of his job as Head Scooper Behind the Royal Elephants, yet somehow ó and this remained a mystery to him ó wherever he went, his reputation preceded him.Ē
John Berbrich: Willie, thatís brilliant! Sounds like Abdul had a crappy job. Anita? Tim?
Anita: You guys are good. Iím having a brain fart ó canít come up with anything original if I tried. But this is part of the first paragraph from another Aussie book I am fond of, The Perfect Stranger, by P.J. Kavanagh (a book that haunts you for years): ďRecently I had to make arrangements for my gravestone. This came about in a certain way, the result of things that had gone before, and I felt a need to write down some of those things before it was too late ó after all anyoneís gravestone is an understatement.Ē Iím sure if I had some Mills & Boon, I could have found something really ridiculous. Seems like writing fiction isnít a genre that comes easily to me. Nuts. Hmm . . . interesting little love poem in here, the page just flipped open:

Can you forgive the fastidious cannibal
His unusual pleasures? Does your charity
Embrace the noisy whore, forgetting her manners
In front of your daughter? The cocky-walker
Who teaches your wife to care about clothes again
And look in the mirror? And yet defend
Your wife from your enemy and your daughter
From the convincing whore, your life from the cannibal?
When you can do this, and this, and lose
Your wife, your life and always your curious daughter
Then we may talk of love and what we mean.

John Berbrich: Sounds like a poem by Ed Gein. This is part of the book by Kavanagh?
Anita: Yes, John, this poem was written by Kavanagh and appears on Page 128 of my copy of his fine memorial to youth and love. Many people have asked Kavanagh to write a sequel to A Perfect Stranger ó he has resolutely refused to do so and wrote back in 1984: ďIn other words, if I ever came to write a sequel to this book it would be theocentric, mystical, and that I do not yet feel prepared to do. Perhaps nowadays such matters are best expressed in glimpses, from different angles, in the hope that someone should come across some piece of it that has managed to get itself expressed and say with surprise, ĎWhy, thatís what I feel!íĒ But if you prefer watching Ed Gein, John ó go for it.
William Michaelian: Shows how much I know. I donít even know who Ed Gein is.
John Berbrich: Heís a famous cannibal from Wisconsin. Dead, now. The Kavanagh book sounds pretty good, but I doubt Iíll ever find a copy around here. The world is filled with beautiful little books, all seeking their mystical readers. Like a hand fits perfectly in a certain glove, so do certain books fit with certain readers.
Anita: I am not that familiar with Ed Gein but have noticed there is a DVD at Blockbuster about him. I have read a few books about serial killers, quite fascinating how their minds work ó what possesses them to do what they do. I do have a lot of empathy for Aileen Wournos though. The documentary they made of her was heart-breaking. As a Holistic Healer, I could really identify significant stages in her life where if just one person had shown her compassion and love, had valued her, it would have made all the difference in the world. I was quite surprised to feel empathy for a serial killer particularly as my life was touched by the Hoddle Street Massacre in the 1980s by a serial killer and a colleague of mine was killed. Also a guy I grew up with was wounded and he is still suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The seventeen-year-old son of another colleague was trapped in the gas station and just waiting for the bullet that had his name on it and he saw shit he didnít need to see. Then there is the Queen Street Massacre when some guy went on a killing rampage in a post office building because he lost it being jerked around by customer service representatives. A cautionary tale indeed. Melbourne is haunted thatís for sure. When I first went on a tour of the Old Melbourne Gaol, the hairs on the back of my neck prickled big time and I used to work opposite this post office building in Queen Street ó could tell you a juicy tale about the vibe I got from that place. I love a good ghost story. Why donít we adjourn outside when it gets dark, light a fire, toast some marshmallows and scare the bejebus out of each other. I daresay after all the Christmas feasting and rich food, ghost stories will cure the festive season constipation. *snort* Come on guys, donít be sooky la-las ó it will be fun.
John Berbrich: Okay with me, but itís you first this time. And be gentle with Willie, heís easily frightened. Looks like weíll have to send out for more brandy.
William Michaelian: S-s-s-send out f-f-f-for m-m-m-more brandy? G-g-g-good idea. B-b-but Iím
n-n-not s-s-s-scared. Hey! What about Mr. Hinshaw? He hasnít kicked in with the first line of his bad novel yet.
Tim Hinshaw: My entry: ďLittle Bobby was squashed by a school bus and the building was immediately besieged by grief counselors, snarling at each other and kicking parents out of the way in their headlong rush to justify their existence and ensure themselves another federal grant, shouting ĎAlert the media!í but the media hadnít been alert for many years and was, in fact, as flat and dead as little Bobby.Ē
Anita: Well, John, it seems like SeŮor Hinshaw has beaten me to the punch with the first spooky story. Now Iím really scared. Oooh ó I got one, I got one! The first paragraph of my bad novel: ďThe Evil Queen looked into the mirror and asked, ĎMirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?í The surface of the mirror swirled with an image and a sweet and dulcet voice broke the silence: ĎThank you for calling the Oracle of the Mirror. All our operators are currently engaged. You have three options to choose from. . . .íĒ
John Berbrich: Anita, very good. Iím sure the call was important to the oracle. Really the competition called for the first sentence, not the first paragraph. But Iíll let you slide, although it looks as though our host Willie is preparing to take punitive measures. Look out!
William Michaelian: Hey, you guys know me better than that. I was just reaching for a glass. Anyway, rules are made to be broken. Isnít that why weíre all here? So let me congratulate each of you on your wonderful entries. At the beginning, nothing was said about prizes, or about how we would determine the winner. Therefore, I would like to be the first to cast a vote ó for Mr. Hinshaw. I think his entry showed him to be truly gifted in the art of combining humor, social commentary, and a vigorous and visual prose style in such a way as to render anything that follows completely meaningless. As for prizes, we should probably skip it, because it might go to his head. Now, who will vote next?
Anita: I vote for me because if I donít, nobody else will.
William Michaelian: Hmm. An interesting strategy. Donít look her in the eye, boys, I think sheís up to something here.
John Berbrich: Hey, this is tough. Gimme a minute.
Anita: Geez Abdul, you make me sound like Medusa. Iím flattered, thatís quite a compliment. *blows a kiss*
William Michaelian: *splat* Gee, uh, thanks. All right, then. While Mr. Berbrich and Mr. Hinshaw are ďthinking,Ē let me just say that my loving bride was nice enough to give me a copy of a book we mentioned quite awhile back ó Letters from the Earth, by Mark Twain. Right off the bat, I read The Great Dark. It was potent, indeed. Itís a shame the story was unfinished. And unfortunately, The Mysterious Stranger isnít included in the book, so Iíll have to catch up with that one later. But I have wrestled with similar thoughts. At this point I am not willing to conclude that there is really any difference between the so-called dream and the so-called real. It seems likely that they are one and the same, or a part of something much larger. Sadly, my continued consumption of alcohol prevents me from being more accurate.
John Berbrich: Willie, itís like this. Iíd like to vote for my own First Line, but that would somehow seem greedy and self-interested, donít you think. Besides, Sartre was Jewish and doubtless wouldnít celebrate Christmas anyway. I canít vote for Anita, as compelling as her Paragraph was, because that would give her two votes and sheíd win. Same goes for Hinshaw ó I certainly donít want him to win. I could vote for you, but again yours was kind of a crappy opening line. Tell you what ó if anybody cares to grease my palm, it could influence my vote.
Tim Hinshaw: This constant bickering is giving me a headache. Think Iíll rustle up some scotch and watch football (Ore. State vs. Notre Dame tonite). If these one-liners can cause such consternation can you imagine if we all got involved in one of those musical chair novels that were on the scene a few years ago? Noted ďarthersĒ took turns writing chapters of a book. What a comedy if this crew were to do that. And oh, yes, JB, Iíll be faxing a check to you shortly to guarantee my win.
John Berbrich: Willie, Iíve given this a lot of thought ó put me down for Hinshaw. So Tim wins, unless he votes for Anita, in which case thereíll be a tie, which will require a playoff, best two out of three. And you know, I too was thinking about some kind of a take-your-turn story written by all of us, but I donít know if itíd work.
William Michaelian: There are a few things here that need to be addressed. First of all, you are assuming Mr. Hinshaw wonít vote for me. Second, no one has voted for your entry. I suspect this bugs you, though you are trying not to let on. I also suspect that you realize you canít expect Mr. Hinshaw to vote for your entry, because you insulted him earlier by saying you didnít want him to win. Furthermore, the whole process was polluted when you solicited a bribe, and further polluted when Hinshaw took you up on your offer. What this means, in effect, is that both of your entries will have to be disqualified. That makes Anita the winner, because I have already voted, and, since he is a crook, Hinshaw canít vote. Anita? Congratulations. By standing proudly behind your own entry, you have triumphed. Then again, look at who you have beaten.
Anita: Hmm . . . yawn . . . what was that again, William? I wasnít listening. Was doing a bit of knitting while you three were strutting your superiority. Donít get in a boat, yaíll . . . now where was I? Knit one, purl two, knit two together, slip one stitch over . . .
William Michaelian: Ah, so sorry, dear. Weíll try to not to bore you in the future. One thing you have to understand is that we rotters ó I mean writers ó are a very jealous, small-minded, quibbling bunch. Perhaps if we were to take up knitting, we wouldnít always feel the need to get in the last word.
John Berbrich: Does this have anything to do with the etiology of the common phrase to knit-pick?
William Michaelian: Iím not sure, but it does have everything to do with foot-in-mouth disease, a condition I have suffered from since childhood. But my real trouble is my mustache. Since it hides my mouth, people canít tell when Iím smiling unless they look at my eyes. If you will look now, for instance, you will see that I am full of mirth ó and, if I may anticipate Anita, yes, I readily admit that that is not all I am full of.
John Berbrich: I thought you were trying out for the Friedrich Nietzsche look-alike contest.
Anita: I donít think the Round Robin novel idea will work either. However I do have an idea if mein host agrees to clear the table. . . . Why donít we each write four stories. The themes would be Chance, Mystery, Passion and Hope. The first story, about Chance, to be submitted to Billy the Kid no later than March 22. The second, about Mystery, June 22; the third, Passion, by September 22, and the last, Hope, by December 22. That is of course if you jealous, small-minded, quibbling bunch of rotters recognize that itís a gauntlet I have dropped and not a handkerchief.
William Michaelian: Well, this is interesting, indeed. This is something weíll have to talk about. If you guys want to do this, I am willing to provide the cyber-space for the stories. Iíd have to figure out the best way to present them, but thereís time for that. I do wonder about the long-range aspect of the project. We might consider shortening the time-line. Or, another approach would be to write the first story, and to then huddle and decide if we want to continue. I say this because an awful lot can happen in three months. From where I sit, an awful lot can ó and does ó happen in a week, even a day. I donít want anyone to feel they are absolutely bound, or under the gun. We all have our private lives and projects. So, anyone who would want or need to bow out should feel free to do so at any time, and with the blessing of the others. Or to not even participate, for that matter. One technical thing we might need to hash out is a word limit. But Iíll say this: if we do it, it wonít be a contest, or even a competition. There are plenty of websites for that already, and weíre here to have fun. So. What do you say?
Tim Hinshaw: Deadlines. Yech! Hateíem. But Iím game. Havenít written a short story since I was busy flunking out of college in the Sixties, so it will be a challenge come March 21. This is all getting pretty interesting.
Anita: Oh, you didnít read the fine print, William. Hereís your specs ó see there, where it says about Intention. If any of you agree to undertake this, then you are required to write all four stories and to commit and see it all the way through. Not deadlines, Tim, but a discipline and I think the three-month interval does take into account the other commitments we all have with our private lives, work and writing. As for the time-line? If you notice it coincides with the changing of the seasons, the passage from Winter to Spring, Spring to Summer, Summer to Autumn and back to Winter again. Itís my observation that we write differently according to how nature inspires us and impacts on us. As for word limit ó we are all adults and the point doesnít need to be belaboured that we have private lives, work commitments and our own creative projects to attend to. My suggestion is that we write the stories to the length that they want to be but keep in mind the length of the stories that we are most comfortable reading for ourselves. If you make the intention to play then you must follow-through, guys. Now who was it who said that the road to Hell is lined with good intentions?
John Berbrich: Iím in. Do we want word limits? Willie ó I volunteer you to be coordinating maestro. If itís any good, maybe BoneWorld will consider publishing it.
Anita: I second Johnís nomination for William to be the coordinating maestro. A four-scribe quartet. Who knows, maybe one day there could be a full symphony orchestra if the word gets out that we are just having too much fun in here.
William Michaelian: Thanks, guys. I always wanted to be a volunteer. And since none of you walked through the doors I so humbly and graciously opened a moment ago, then fine, so be it. Four theme-based stories it is, due on the dates specified, and they can be any length, as long as they can be read comfortably within one sitting by anyone who is not a speed-reader. As for discipline, Anita, that is a matter we are each already intimately familiar with, and have long since addressed in our so-called private lives. I still insist that anyone who wants or needs to bow out should feel free to do so at any time. Speaking for myself, I cannot honestly sit here and predict what I will be working on several months from now, where I will be, or what might be required of me in my daily life. Iím not sure any of us can. But donít get me wrong. I love your idea, because I love to write. And since you guys do, too, I am happy to be a part of the whole thing. Itís a pleasure and an honor. And I reiterate my offer to present the stories on my website, and if J.B. wants to issue a BoneWorld print edition when the time comes, I think that would be great. Now. Is there anything else we need to cover before we turn our attention to other things, such as our rapidly dwindling beer supply?
John Berbrich: Hey, thereís still time to work on our New Yearís Resolutions. But I admit, beer is a priority.
William Michaelian: Okay, I resolve to remember my resolutions ó that is, if I make any, which I probably wonít, since I canít remember which, if any, I made in the past, and would hate to repeat myself. I suppose I could simply resolve to remember, but on its own it seems a bit vague. Or, I could remember to resolve, but that doesnít qualify as a resolution. Or does it? Darn. Iím confused. Come to think of it, thatís the way I started 2004. Oh, well. What goes around, comes around, I guess. Happy New Year, everybody.
John Berbrich: Hey, think about this ó for Anita itís already 2005. Sheís probably sawing zís by now.
Anita: Auld Lang Syne, you Septic Tanks. Actually, I stayed awake all night and watched the sunrise on a braw New Year. I tell you what, William, resolve to get some fine whiskey like Glenfiddich and letís raise a glass to Rabbie Burns, who penned the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne after hearing an old man sing them. The lyrics had never been put down on paper before. Iím very fond of Rabbie and when I was Dunedin, New Zealand, nineteen years ago, I took a lot of photos of the Octagon in the centre of Dunedin, where eight roads meet around a park. Thereís a grand statue of Wee Rabbie there right in front of this magnificent cathedral, Saint Paulís Cathedral, an Anglican cathedral. In 1863, the first St Paulís was built on the site from Caversham sandstone. In 1900, a chappie by the name of William Harrop ó and by the way, my married name was Harrop ó left the residue of his estate to build a cathedral on the site of the old St Paulís and threw down a gauntlet, that 20,000 quid be raised in 21 years and a further 10,000 quid be spent before the sum could be claimed. Bishop Nevill took up the challenge and the money was raised in 1915 and the present neo-Gothic nave, was consecrated, together with a temporary chancel, in 1919. The modern chancel and sanctuary were added in 1971. Itís a fine piece of architecture and Edward Rutherfordís book, Sarum, is a mighty piece of historical fiction, telling the story of five families through 100 centuries and revolves around the creation of Salisbury Cathedral. As a craftsperson, I really love reading these novels about characters who excel at their craft. Thereís another fine work of historical fiction by Ken Follett, The Pillars of the Earth, thatís a bit more of a juicier read and I have read that book over and over. My love of big, fat books came from commuting every day to work on the train for about ten years. Thatís when I read most of James Michenerís books. I recently surfed onto a site where there was an interview with Michener and he was asked how he best wished to be remembered. He answered, that he preferred to be remembered by his books in a row on shelves around the world. I looked at my shelf with all of Michenerís books and whispered, ďAuld Lang Syne, Jimmy, thanks for the memories.Ē Iíll stop talking as soon as you get me that glass of Glenfiddich, William. Iíll take it neat. íTis a crime to spoil good whiskey by adding water to it.
William Michaelian: Very well. We will take a chance and satisfy your passion for the glorious mystery of Glenfiddich. If that doesnít work, we will give up hope and talk of earthly things. John? The bottle, please. John? Did you hear me? Hey! Save some for us!
John Berbrich: Forget it, Willie . . . (belch). I been working on my resolutions. (deep slug) If you stop to think about it, Anita was communicating with us from the future. She was talking to us from the year 2005 while we languished back in 2004. But she was here with us, sitting on yer lap, the whole time. (hic) Whatís it all mean, Sir Willie? Or, whatís it all about, Wil-lie? Sounds like a song.
William Michaelian: Is it just . . . for the . . . moment? . . . Whatís it all about, when we started out, Wil-lie . . . ohhh . . . Itís come to this, eh?
Anita: Yeah, does sound like a song . . . from the movie Alfie with Michael Caine. You guys arenít going to start singing now, are you? As a former barwench, I have often observed the alchemical effect of alcohol on men, which invariably leads them to singing. Wine, women and song indeed! Or as they say in the Navy: rum, bum, and gramophone . . . not that thereís anything wrong with that.
John Berbrich: I like that naval saying, Anita. Reminds me in a way of W.H. Audenís comment that the worst effect of alcohol is that it leads people who canít sing to believe that they can. Well, thatís me and Willie, Iím afraid. Willie ó hereís the bottle; I think thereís a few drops left. But Anita, my child ó surely among your many talents you possess a voice like a blue jay, I mean a starling. Wonít you please grace our ears with a song?
Anita: Lead me not into temptation John, I can find the way meself, and I am very tempted to DO you with my banshee rendition of ďAmazing Grace.Ē I sing like a angel by the way ó one with a frog stuck in her throat! But I will grace your ears with the only song I ever heard my father sing ó one of those moments you never forget. Do join in boys ó I double brown-dog dare ya!

I wish I was single again
I wish I was single again
For when I was single
My pockets did jingle
I wish I was single again.

I married me a wife, O then
I married me a wife
I married me a wife
She troubled my life
I wish I was single again

My wife she died, O then
My wife she died, O then
My wife she died
I laughed till I cried
To think I was single again.

I married me another, O then
I married me another
I married another
She was the devil's grandmother
And I wish I was single again.

Boom Boom

I daresay my old man got put on K rations after teaching me that one. You donít know what K rations are? Thatís when your wife tells you that you can have sex on any day that has a K in it. Thatís a traditional folk song, by the way, and as my father hailed from Yorkshire in Great Britain, that was the version he learned. So you foolhardy boyos can get the tune right, hereís a site that has Real Audio ó this is quite a nice variation. Did any of you see the fillums O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Songcatcher ó wonderful folk music in both movies. I love the movies the Coen Brothers make ó every one of them. I get more out of O Brother every time I watch it.
Tim Hinshaw: Personally, I like my scotch with soda. But, then, I donít buy great scotch, either. Good on ya, Anita. I, too, am a fan of Brother, which I should just buy and get it over with and save rental fees, and I enjoyed Songcatcher as well. But, then, Iíve always been a Dapper Dan man. By the by, anyone here a Paul Theroux buff? Just checked out of the library a collection of his travel essays. Have always enjoyed the cranky old fartís stuff, although I would have no interest at all in actually traveling anywhere with him.
William Michaelian: I donít blame you. Surviving that would take a lot of scotch. Far better to sit back and read the results. More important, have you tried Fop?
Tim Hinshaw: Only with soda.
William Michaelian: Ah. I guess that explains the hair.
Judy: Holy-schmoly, I really missed out on a lot the past week and a half. I read some Theroux, I like his travel books more than his fiction. Mosquito Coast had such a dislikable protagonist or whatever that word is, that I actually didnít like the book. Maybe thatís a tribute to his writing. I liked his irreverent style in Pillars of Hercules ó itís about his journey around the Mediterranean. I donít recommend the Julia Child biography. Itís like reading a 500-page newspaper column. It wasnít laced with recipes like the recommender thought it was. There were only three, and two of those were from her mother. They were baking powder buttermilk biscuits and codfish something something. Canít get good fresh seafood here, so forget the codfish something something. The only recipe of Juliaís was some Queen of Sheba fancy chocolate cake ó I donít do desserts any more. So the only thing on the menu is baking powder buttermilk biscuits, or something like that.
William Michaelian: Welcome back, Judy. Maybe all is not lost with the Julia Child book, because I see weíre fresh out of biscuits. But it does seem strange, a book about Julia Child without a ton of recipes. Seems like something she wouldnít have approved of. Must have been one of those ďunauthorizedĒ biographies.
Anita: Judy, Judy, Judy . . . nice to have ya back. Iíve not read Theroux so Iím going to sit back and listen to what the blowhards have to say. Now, you wouldnít have the recipe for that Queen Of Sheba chocolate cake ó sounds like something I would enjoy. Have you heard of the latest Mistress of the Mixing Bowls in the States ó Nigella Lawson?
John Berbrich: I think that theyíre setting us up for a sequel on the Child book. By the way, Anita, thanks for the loverly song. You do possess a pretty nice voice. I donít like Scotch. Much.
William Michaelian: Say, Iíve read next to nothing by Oscar Wilde, but I found this anonymous poem in my ďinboxĒ courtesy of Today in Literature, a website I like and visit regularly. The poem appeared in the Chicago Daily News back in 1882, prior to Wildeís lecture tour.

He comes! The simpering Oscar comes!

He comes with words sublimely dull,
     In garb superbly silly,
To tell us of the Beautiful,
      The sunflower and the lily.

Behold him here among you now.
     Oh, how divinely utter!
His sensual chin, his narrow brow,
     His brains like April butter.

Here in the energetic West
     We have no vacant niches
For clowns with pansies in the vest
     Or dadoes on the breeches.

We do not live by form or rule,
     We love our wives and lassies;
We like to look at Western mules,
     But not aesthetic asses.

Judy: Julia Child just died. Actually I do think the bio was authorized. She wouldnít have wanted a bunch of recipes in it because it might cut into cook book sales. She and her husband both believed in nothingness after death. I think sheíll come back as a person who prepares frozen dinners and eats at McDucks all the time. I have not heard of Ms. Lawson, Anita.
William Michaelian: I was aware of Juliaís departure. Quite the personality, really. Iím sure she could have given Oscar Wilde a run for his money, except perhaps in the wardrobe department.
John Berbrich: Thanks for the poem, Wil-lie. I really like Wilde, his poetry and his prose. His essays and reviews are delightful models of wit and clarity. Of Theroux I have not read a word. Not bad for a blowhard.
Anita: Julia had a good inning ó hitting ninety-one before dying in her sleep. Pleasant way to go. I read that she became infamous at the age of fifty, which means there is still hope for me! Nigella Lawson, an Englishwoman, is a domestic goddess and has put the sex back into cooking. Nobody licks a spoon quite like Nigella. Her latest book, Feast, Food to Celebrate Life is wonderful. Iím reading it a page at a time ó whenever I go to the bookstore that is. Dear old Oscar ó he loved well but not wisely. Thereís a quote of his that Iíve been quite fond of for some years: ďIn this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.Ē After having loved well and not too wisely myself, I really understand what dear Oscar meant.
John Berbrich: One of my favorite Oscar quotes is, ďI can resist everything but temptation.Ē Anita, you seem to have a soft spot for him. Iím touched.
Anita: Would that be touched in the head, John? Left yourself wide open there. So Judy, what did you get up to when you were away?
Judy: Oh, a nice variety of experiences. Helped in a soup kitchen in Lewiston, Idaho. Went to a New Yearís Eve party for the first time in years. Most people there were older than dirt ó good thing Iím young ;-). It was a New York time party, so thankfully we didnít stay till midnight. Had some meals out. Have to walk 100 miles a day for a while now. Also got my car backed into by the friend of my nieceís older son. The friendís dad didnít want to file an insurance claim; he wanted to just pay directly. He had the gall to ask me to get a second estimate, so I gritted my teeth and managed to find a higher estimate than the one my favorite auto body shop gave me. So I can take the car to get fixed where I want to. The advantage for him is his insurance rates wonít go up. The advantage for me is the insurance company would have probably totaled my car, and Iím not in a car shopping mood right now. Actually Iím not running at a 100 percent right now. More about 75 percent. Iím gonna go home, sleep, and pick out my next book to read.
William Michaelian: Always a good remedy. As for John being ďtouched,Ē heís here, isnít he? Speaking of Oscar quotes, here are a few I like that I found on this page:

ďI am not young enough to know everything.Ē
ďI think that God in creating Man somewhat overestimated his ability.Ē
ďMorality, like art, means drawing a line someplace.Ē
ďSeriousness is the only refuge of the shallow.Ē

And a nice short biography of Oscar Fingal OíFlahertie Wills Wilde can be found here.
John Berbrich: Willie, Anitaís picking on me again.
William Michaelian: Be strong, my friend. Together we will weather the storm.
John Berbrich: Thanks, pal. Anita is rather like a bloody storm.
William Michaelian: Well, Iím no meteorologist. But I did grow up on a farm, so Iím pretty good at predicting the weather. I could be wrong, of course, but Iíd say this storm will blow itself out presently, and then calm will be restored. Speaking of the weather, whatís it like in BoneWorld these days?
John Berbrich: Unseasonably warm. A couple inches of snow this afternoon mixed with freezing rain. Roads were awful, filled with snow and slush. Itís a long winter. The river out back is about half-frozen. Global warming, Willie, get with the action.
William Michaelian: Okay, Iíll try. In the meantime, it sounds like youíre having some good reading weather. Whatís on your night stand these days? Or do you read by the stove?
John Berbrich: Okay, you asked. Iím working on a pile right now. Does it Matter? by Alan Watts, a sort of zen hippy philosopher-of-the-divine from several decades ago; Close Encounters with the Deity, a collection of short stories by Michael Bishop, a sci-fi author who transcends the genre; Best American Essays, 2004; a weighty collection of lectures by Freud on Psycho-Analysis; The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand, theories of art and life; and Rain, a collection of short fiction by Maurice Kenny, a local author and professor. Almost too much of a good thing. So many more I canít wait to get to, some of which are already old friends. If I never bought another book, Iíd never finish reading what I already have on these shelves.
Anita: A man after me own heart . . . s/he who dies with the most books is cursed by the relatives who have to organise the yard sale! What I wish was a book, is the latest online edition of Edge. A most interesting question was posed: What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it? A change in the weather you think, William? Methinks it was just the eye of the storm. *snort*
William Michaelian: Uh-oh. Better get the books to high ground, J.B. It looks like the storm has changed course. Another interesting question would be, What do you believe you can prove, even though it isnít true? Good old Alan Watts. Read a little of his stuff back in the Eighties. Hereís a quote from one of his books, The Way of Zen, that I saw online just yesterday: ďZen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.Ē
John Berbrich: Willie, I loved The Way of Zen. Iíd almost say that the book changed my life. Actually, my life was changing at that time ó my perceptions of life anyway ó and I was mysteriously drawn to that book at just precisely the right instant. Watts says that too many people eat the menu instead of the meal, a line Iíve never forgotten. Zen sees to it that you at least know the meal is there. I believe in lots of things that I canít really prove. Real proof is tough to come by. Regarding Willieís puzzler, let me ponder it.
William Michaelian: Well, I wouldnít gnaw on it too long. It might start to mean something. As this might, if you think about it long enough: We believe what we cannot prove because if we donít, there is nothing to believe.
Anita: Which is a belief in itself. My favourite saying is I have lived with several Zen masters ó all of them cats.
John Berbrich: Good one. That old Zen koan about dogs not having Buddha nature says nothing about cats.
William Michaelian: Jealous of the dogís happiness, the cat punishes him with silence. The dog wags his tail and knocks over the fish bowl. The cat eats the fish, but the dog is punished by his master. The dog is punished twice for his happiness; the cat waits for another chance.
John Berbrich: Willie, is this the beginning of your ďHopeĒ story?
William Michaelian: No, itís the end of a story Iíve decided to call ďWatts for Dinner?Ē
Anita: Fritz Perls used to say that everything before the ďbutĒ is bullshit.
William Michaelian: Wow. Heavy. That must be where the term ďperls of wisdomĒ comes from.
Anita: Not forgetting ďDo not cast perls before swine.Ē
John Berbrich: This entire discussion is degenerating. Weíre seriously out of liquor.
William Michaelian: Right you are, J.B., though we seem to have plenty of imitation perls. Fortunately, I have a jug of Armenian moonshine here that Iíve been saving for a special occasion. Itís mulberry vodka, about 135 proof. Care for a snort? Hinshaw, relax. Youíll get yours. Okay . . . thereís a full shot glass for each of you. Now, I know youíre all experienced in these matters, so I donít have to tell you itís proper etiquette to down this is stuff all in one go. No second thoughts. In fact, after weíve had a belt or two, I doubt there will be any thoughts. Hinshaw, I said relax. This isnít a duel. And now, a toast: To literary rambling true and sincere; to literary gambling in the coming new year; to the books we will read and the books we will write; to the presence of friends on a cold winterís (or summerís) night ó though I have nothing at all against spring or fall, if you know what I mean. Oh! One more thing. When weíve emptied our glasses, I suggest we each relate a pleasant childhood reading memory. Okay, here goes . . .
Judy: Okay, a pleasant childhood reading memory: Some background first. I went to a one-room country school house in rural Montana that had a coal burning stove, water pump, two outhouses, horse barn, one swing set and one teeter-totter. Sound familiar, Anita? The teacher lived in a two-room teacherage on the end of the school itself. I was so eager to go to school that my parents and the school let me start first grade when I was five ó somewhat common in the rural areas. It was during that first year that the teacher gave me a lesson in something that was apparently not very interesting to me at the time ó probably arithmetic ó then went on to work with the older kids. The urge to read something, anything, came over me, and it was overwhelming. I thought maybe if I opened the lid to my desk just enough to open a book and turn the pages maybe no one would notice. So I did, with the top of my head holding up the lid. I donít remember at all what I was reading, but I was very happy. Of course everyone noticed. The teacher, Miss Blaine, came over to me and said, ďDonít worry, Judy, itís okay for you to read. You donít have to hide it.Ē The other students chuckled of course, but that must have been a powerful validation of a personís right to read for me. I never did get the hang of math. Eventually one of the older kids told me that Miss Blaineís first name was Edith and not Miss, and that Mom and Dad were Santa Claus. But I always remember that happy feeling from reading. Canít wait to hear the other stories. . . .
Tim Hinshaw: I had many pleasant childhood reading experiences, but I guess my favorite was a day in spring when my mother took me to the Bend Public Library and I was issued my very first library card at the age of eight. It was my pass to another world and I took full advantage of it. Had to put a basket on my bicycle just to hold the books I checked out. Gimme another shot, Willie.
Anita: Well, with me, there are several peak reading experiences that stand out and they are associated with birthdays and Christmas. In 1970, for my ninth birthday, my father gave me the Collins Modern Encyclopedia in Colour, the content of which fascinated me for years. Then for my tenth birthday, Dad gave me the Paul Hamlyn Encylopedic World Dictionary. I never lost another spelling bee competition at school after that. Lastly, for Christmas one year, probably around that same time, my parents gave me a four-book collection of The Wonderful Worlds of Walt Disney published by Grolier in London. The titles being Fantasyland, Worlds of Nature, Stories from Other Lands, and America. Looking back, I can see just how significant these gifts were in terms of shaping who I am now. The best thing is that I still have all these books and I love them as much now as I did thirty-odd years ago. Getting my first library card at Reservoir Public Library was significant. I would struggle out with as many books as I could carry. Just before Christmas, I re-joined the Reservoir Library, which is just three kilometres away and I struggled out with as many books as I could carry. Some things never change.
William Michaelian: Thank goodness. Those are good memories. Judy, I loved your undercover reading story. What a beautiful scene. Like Mr. Hinshaw, my life took an exciting turn when my mother introduced me to the public library in our old hometown. She herself practically lived in the place when she was growing up, so it was only natural that she would take me as soon as I could be trusted not to make a racket. No noise was tolerated in the library, and to this day, that lovely silence is something I miss. Our old library was a true sanctuary. One entered by climbing up a long set of wide steps, and then opening a tall wooden door with glass windows. Straight ahead was the big circulation desk. To the right were the card catalog and the books for grown-ups, to the left was the childrenís section and study area, which consisted of several shiny oak tables and chairs. All around the library were tall windows that looked out over the city park, which was shaded by sycamore trees. From one side you could see City Hall, the firehouse, and the base of the water tower, which was climbed once by a young man back in the late Sixties, with a little help from LSD. He made it all the way to the top, too, but needed help getting down. I understand he has been down ever since. But back to the library. My mother and I went so often when I was little that the place was as familiar as our living room. Iím sure I read most of the books there, and the ones I didnít read I took down and paged through, and held up to my nose so I could inhale their intoxicating scent. The bindings, the texture of the paper, the print, the typestyles ó these were all things I marveled at, and still do. I need books ó not just to read, but to be around. They are an anchor in my restless, pathetic life. I have other library memories as well. My mother and the two librarians were good friends, of course, and several years in a row she made big Christmas wreaths from the various conifers in our yard, with ribbons and ornaments. One was hung on the main door outside, and another inside. I helped her haul them up the steps, and watched as the librarians gathered round and helped as the decorations went up. Great small town stuff. A time I will always treasure.
Judy: Speaking of some things never changing ó people were worried for a brief time that books were going to go digital ó that weíd have to wear out our eyes reading on a computer screen. The physical book will never go away. There has been quite a proliferation of book clubs in the past few years. Also the idea of an entire area reading one book and discussing it has taken off. It may have started in Seattle and moved to other areas. We have One Book Montana. Do yíall have anything like that where you live?
Anita: Youíve heard this story before Judy but the otherís havenít. When I moved to Bendigo after my marriage ended, I started up a book discussion group called ďOpen Leaves, Open Minds.Ē I didnít know anybody in Bendigo, didnít have a job and Melbourne and my friends were a ninety-minute drive down the highway. Once I got settled, I rocked up to the Bendigo Community House and offered my services as a volunteer. Knowing absolutely nothing about computers, I soon found myself as the Editor of their bi-monthly newsletter. I also joined the local quilting group and quilters are like Masons, would you not agree, Judy? Anyhoo, the Council of Adult Education (CAE) in Melbourne facilitates book discussion groups throughout Victoria and the existing book clubs in Bendigo werenít accepting new members, so I started my own. One woman from the Community House joined and two women from the quilting group joined as well and despite advertising for more members, nobody else joined. So it was just the four of us. The first book we read was Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, which I suffered through ó I canít stand that flowery writing from the 1800s. We also read Culloden as one of the women had visited Culloden in her travels. I canít remember what else we read as this was back in 1999, but pretty soon we spent more time talking about ourselves rather than the books we were reading. ďOpen Leaves, Open MindsĒ only lasted a year as the CAE required a book group to have thirteen members to make it financially viable for them to send up the books in big crates. I still have the Catalogue for CAE Book Groups as one day I plan on reading my way through all the books listed in it. As for these three women that joined my short-lived book discussion group? They are my closest friends ó my Saving Graces. Which by the way is a title of a book written about four women who met at a book club.
John Berbrich: Thatís a nice story, Anita. And I have to agree with Judy, that books seem to be as popular now as ever, although Iím not sure thatís true with the younger generations. I hope it is. But now my story. When I was little I loved Dr. Seuss. Before I could read, my mother read me The Cat in the Hat over and over, until I pretty much had the whole thing memorized. One time when I was about three or four, my favorite uncle was visiting from New Jersey. ďUncle George,Ē I said, ďI can read.Ē ďNo, you canít,Ē he said. ďYes, I can,Ē I insisted, and dragged out The Cat in the Hat. I really couldnít read, but I figured that since I had so much of it memorized all I had to do was to recite the book and turn a page now and then and Uncle George would never know. As it turned out, after a few pages my memory faltered and I was probably on the wrong page anyway. Uncle George got up and walked away. ďYou canít read,Ē he said. This time I couldnít argue with him.
William Michaelian: I think itís time for another belt. Here you go, guys. . . . Anita. Judy. . . . Hinshaw. J.B. All right. Hereís to Uncle George ó he sure had a way with kids, didnít he? And hereís to J.B., and to his present reading adventure. Ahh. . . . Wow. It pays to buy the best. Judy? You mentioned One Book Montana. I seem to remember something similar going on in Portland, but Iím not sure. I think someone organized a city-wide reading project last year, or maybe the year before. Mr. Hinshaw might remember, because heís a more careful newspaper reader than I am.
Judy: I had a book memorized like that too ó in fact I ďreadĒ it backwards to somebody ó so my mother said.
William Michaelian: Hey, maybe John could read us Hat the in Cat The. Okay, maybe not. But you know, young peopleís reading habits notwithstanding, there are also many people our age and older who donít read, and who actually see reading and the improved vocabulary that goes with it as a sign of weakness. And the scary thing is, a lot of them are voters. Not that reading itself guarantees an enlightened outlook. Heck, Iím proof of that.
Judy: That attitude of reading and better vocabulary being a weakness is very disturbing. And the concept of reading less or not reading in the summer? Whatís with that? I read about the same amount year round.
Anita: I agree, Judy. If it wasnít for summer, none of those Harlequin books would ever get read because they are the only books you would risk dropping in the water as you float in the pool on the inflatable of your choice. I have certainly met people who sneer at so-called ďbookworms.Ē The main criticism being that if you read so much you donít have a life or that you are missing out on life by having your nose stuck in a book. I suspect those sorts of people caint read that well or read just too durn slooow. Whatís the other jibe I have heard? Oh yes, ďYou canít learn about life from a book.Ē Pass me another shot of that fine mulberry vodka, William, and donít be a stepmother . . . what? . . . tideís out is it? Put some more in. . . . Gentlemen and Lady ó I raise my glass to the ignoramuses in the world and thank them for every bit of criticism they have given me. May they all live happily ever after in trailer parks reading Harlequin and Mills & Boon. Skoal.
Judy: Skoal . . . to the wasteland (oops, it was northland) . . . skoal.
Tim Hinshaw: Poils before swine, all right. Is it ignoramuses or ignorami, Anita. Platypuses or platypi?
William Michaelian: My aunt lives in a trailer park. Sheís a librarian.
Judy: Iím a faux librarian. Never got the advanced degree, but worked in a library for thirty years before I semi-retired. Iím sitting inside the library right now, off hours. Have never lived in a trailer park though. We faux librarians donít get paid as much as the real librarians, so I do know a faux librarian who lives in a trailer and reads like crazy. She was a literature major. By the way, has any of you ever read The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie? Rushdie is giving a lecture at this institution in March. When the library got The Satanic Verses in, I looked through it but couldnít understand why it pushed buttons in the Moslem world. I might have more understanding now . . . especially if I read it. Or perhaps one has to be Moslem to understand.
John Berbrich: Sorry, havenít read Rushdie yet. But I have seen the inside of a library. My wife Nancy and I serve as volunteers on the local library Board of Trustees; sheís the correspondence person, writing letters for funding to state and local politicians. Iím Treasurer, which might explain why our libraryís so small. During our monthly meetings, I sit there as the others discuss bake sales and other fund-raisers, my eyes scanning the shelves, reading the enticing spines over and over. Worlds of suspense, mystery, murder, sex, thrills, the unknown. Itís hard for me to get excited about a four-wheeler safety course or a walk-a-thon.
Anita: Thatís a blast from the past, Judy. The Satanic Verses. Thanks for bringing it up; I knew there was a book I had forgotten to read. I did read Rushdieís Midnightís Children in the mid-Eighties, which was quite interesting and thought-provoking. I believe Indira Gandhi was upset about what Rushdie wrote in that book. The Ayatollah and Gandhi are no longer among the living and Rushdie ó I sincerely hope ó is writing a new book that will really blow somebody out of the water. Now isnít that something to look forward to. . . . I think Iíll head off home now and catch up with some reading. Yaíll keep your powder dry.
William Michaelian: Anita, I hope you donít plan on driving in this condition. Then again, the stuff weíve been drinking is potent enough to render vehicles obsolete. I havenít read The Satanic Verses either, and only snippets of Rushdie otherwise. Seems like a nice enough guy. Itís hard to imagine what he went through, knowing he could be killed at any time. Makes the trivial things that upset us seem pretty silly, somehow.
John Berbrich: Awful quiet around here, Wil-lie.
William Michaelian: Hmm. Maybe I was right about the weather after all. Care for another snort? How about you, Hinshaw? Youíre looking rather mournful there. Whatís on your mind? A shot for your thoughts.
John Berbrich: Hey, Willie ó Hinshawís . . . g-g-g-gone. This is getting creepy.
Tim Hinshaw: Shhh, Willie, youíre waking me up. Iím busy nodding off in front of my computer at work. Must be Monday. And, yes, Iíll take another shot. Thanks, Buddy.
William Michaelian: Crimony. You guys are both nuts. Berbrich is blind and Hinshaw thinks heís at work. Thatís what I get for bringing out the good stuff. And yet look at me. Iím coompleetlee soober. Why, I could malk a while in a camelís hooes . . . uh, shoes, and the famelíd never snow the difference. You guys, on the other hand, are skinked as a grunk. Say, do you suppose itís some kind of curse? Well, no matter. Iím used to being cursed. Which reminds me of something Anton Chekhov once said. You guys remember old Anton. He said, ďAny idiot can face a crisis. Itís the day-to-day living that wears you out.Ē That, my friends, is a wise statement, made by a wise man. Poor guy. I read once that they nearly ran him out of town when his play, The Seagull, was first staged. Had to hide backstage during the play. Vowed never to write another one. The oodiots. The dimpled swine. Imagine treating a man like Chekhov in such a fashion. Doctor Chekhov, no less. Oh. I think Iím going to cry.
Tim Hinshaw: Whatís on your nightstands, fellow forumites? Am currently reading a book titled Blue Latitudes, written by an American journalist who revisited all the stops Capt. James Cook made during the latterís epic voyages in the 1700s. The author (donít have the book at hand at the moment and canít remember his name) has a lot to say about Australia and New Zealand which occupied quite a bit of Cookís time and energy. A tidbit I found interesting is that the Maoris of N.Z. are apparently making words from their language for new items in the popular culture instead of using the English terms. Their word for computer, for example, translates as ďfast brain.Ē In this respect theyíre one up on the French, who just whine about foreign words (read American) entering their lexicon and try to get people not to use them but canít coin any alternatives. Not that I dislike the French, mind you. I speak it fluently: chevrolet; gigi; champagne. Must sign off now and order up some Freedom Fries for lunch.
William Michaelian: Yeah? Well, pardon me if I donít salute. And thanks for the ďfast brainĒ tidbit. That gives me more information to lug around. See, Iíll remember that. But in exchange Iíll have to jettison something useful, like how to clean and preserve paint brushes, or whether or not a car is supposed to be running when you check the level of transmission fluid. A few shots ago, J.B. was kind enough to tell us what was in his reading pile, so I think itís my turn to do the same. I just finished Eugene OíNeillís Long Dayís Journey into Night, which is a fine, melancholy play. I was going to say sobering, but as the characters were drunk throughout, Iíll stick with melancholy. Some might say depressing ó always a high recommendation in my view. One Iím about to start on is Gentlemen, Scholars and Scoundrels, a 1959 collection of stuff that appeared in Harperís beginning in 1850. I think I mentioned Mark Twainís Letters from the Earth awhile back, the book J.B. brought up that was edited by Bernard DeVoto. Plenty of good stuff in there. Iíve temporarily set aside Lord Byronís Don Juan, but not because I wasnít enjoying it. Actually, it got covered up by other books ó smashed, really, by an old edition of The Readerís Encyclopedia, which I have been chipping away at, and which is full of fascinating literary trivia, such as the following: ďHonorificabilitudinitatibus. A made up word on the Lat. honorificabilitudo, honorableness, which frequently occurs in Elizabethan plays as an instance of sesquipedalian pomposity, etc.Ē I love that etc. Letís see. I finished Twainís Life on the Mississippi not too long ago, and did a short writeup on that. Iím also trying to get started on A World of Great Stories, a nice batch of 115 stories from around the globe. Iíve been staring at it for months now. My original idea was to read a story from the book and then write a new story of my own afterward, and then keep at it until Iíve read all 115 and written 115. No wonder I never got started.
Judy: Tony Horwitz wrote Blue Latitudes. He also wrote a book about hitchhiking around Australia (canít remember the title), and Baghdad Without a Map. Baghdad was written pre-9/11 of course. He is married to an Australian woman, Geraldine . . . um . . . Brooks, I think. You may have mentioned her, Anita? She wrote Nine Parts Desire about Moslem women which I intend to read sometime. Currently I am reading Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. I managed to find what the term ďangle of reposeĒ means by looking up repose. Itís the angle at which one thing will barely keep from sliding off another. An angle of fewer degrees will not fit the definition. I think it refers to marriages that barely hang together, but itís still early in the book, so I may change my opinion. You sound tack as a sharp, William.
William Michaelian: Why, thank you. For a second there I thought you might accuse me of making sense. It has happened, you know ó back in í58, I think it was, and then once again in 1973. That time I really got mad. But Iím over it now. In the meantime, it seems Anita has made good on her threat to go home and read, but Iíve heard footsteps crunching in the gravel outside, so one never knows. Itís awfully dark out. Maybe she couldnít find a cab. Or maybe weíre being surrounded by Homeland Security. You know how touchy they are about books.
Judy: Actually I was asleep at the switch. I meant to say tark as a shap or shark as a tap or something. Myself, I plan to read as many subversive books as possible. Hear that, Homeland Security??? Hear that???
Homeland Security: All right, keep your hands on the table. Donít anybody move.
William Michaelian: Well, howdy! Say, you look tried. How about a drink? No? A bedtime story, maybe? John hereíll read you The Cat in the Hat, wonít you, John? John? Drat. I hate when this happens. Hey ó watch where youíre pointing that thing. You almost knocked over the bottle. Sheesh. Just like a government agent.
Homeland Security: Which one of you is Chekhov?
William Michaelian: Chekhov? Chekhovís dead.
Homeland Security: I heard you talking to Chekhov. Is it him?
William Michaelian: Him? Chekhov? Thatís Hinshaw. Does he look like a Chekhov to you?
Homeland Security: What about him?
William Michaelian: Berbrich? Well, I admit he looks like a playwright, but he hardly resembles Chekhov.
Homeland Security: Then you admit Chekhov is alive.
William Michaelian: I admit nothing of the kind. I want to see a lawyer.
Homeland Security: No lawyers, friend. I know who Chekhov is now. Youíre Chekhov!
William Michaelian: Bah! Whatís the use. Who can argue with these guys? Okay, Iíll go, but on one condition. Tell us who your favorite author is.
Homeland Security: Author?
William Michaelian: I knew that would get him. Thatíll have him confused for hours. Now. Where were we?
Judy: Well, when a certain person says his favorite philosopher is Jesus because he doesnít know or canít remember the names of any philosophers, I expect Mr. Homeland Security will come back in a few days and say his favorite author is God ó you know, the one who wrote the Bible.
Tim Hinshaw: I thought Chekhov wrote the Bible.
Anita: And letís not forget the many times the Bible was rewritten starting with Emperor Constantine in 321AD or thereabouts. Iím quite sure the chap from Homeland Security wonít be back. By the way, William, that was a nice deep hole you had dug outside ó Mr. Homeland Security fell right into it. Think we should go outside and give him a hand? No . . . didnít think so. Who wants some pizza?
William Michaelian: Pizza? I do. Thanks. As for the hole outside, I like to think ahead. Frankly, I think Tolstoy would have done a better job on the Bible, but he was born too late and had to settle for War and Peace. A favorite philosopher. I never thought of that before. I donít have one. Here I am, a grown man and the father of four, with no favorite philosopher. How embarrassing. Iíll have to think about this. Do any of you have a favorite philosopher?
Tim Hinshaw: My fave is Alfred E. Newman. What, me worry?
Judy: My favorite philosopher is . . . um, I dunno. But then, I never pretended I could be president.
William Michaelian: Not to get your hopes up, but there is that Bible story about the burning bush.
John Berbrich: Careful, Willie ó Homeland Security will be back. Favorite philosopher? Gotta be Nietzsche, the German with the famous mustache, although he did at one time claim to be Polish. I prefer Aristotle to Plato. Also like David Hume, the Scot.
Anita: Hmm . . . hard choice, thereís so many philosophers I like and not all of them history has recognized as philosophers but if I had to narrow the field down to one, I would say Lao Tzu is my favourite.
John Berbrich: Good choice. The Chinese have a way of chipping things down to their absolute simplest form. I always liked Lao Tzuís saying that once everyone agrees on what is beautiful ó there is ugliness. Oriental philosophy has always fascinated me, especially the idea complementary principles of yin & yang.
William Michaelian: Lao Tzu? Gesundheit. I hope you guys arenít coming down with something. But just to be on the safe side, why donít we continue this on a new page?

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