Monday, June 28, 2010

tOy Veh Story!

I doubt that I'll be going to see Toy Story 3. For one thing, I am not a fan of Pixar animations. If anything they creep me out. I'd much rather watch old Betty Boop cartoons:

I heard from my friend Phil (formerly of Playaz Ball) this weekend. He was taking his children to see Toy Story 3. I had just been reading various reviews of the movie. So many cited this "beautiful full-circle ending for the toys," and "...a beautiful transition ending for Andy's childhood," and " long as we remember that our inner child isn't what we're told, but what we invent."

After listening to Phil's little adventure into Toy world, I wonder how much of his own inner child survived. Here it is in his own words:

This is neither here nor there, but I had to share this. We were taking our girls to see Toy Story 3 today. We had a coupon for a free TS3 movie ticket from a DVD we bought recently. All you had to do was log on and print your ticket with the code they give you.

We logged on to the Disney site, put in our code, and they gave us some "validation code" and they - I sh*t you not - ask you to hand write the validation code onto a ticket you print, then TAKE A PHOTO OF THAT - THEN....UPLOAD IT BACK TO THEIR WEBSITE before they would give you your "free ticket." I thought, "Am I being had? Is someone filming me right now?? Am I running this site?" (meaning the surreal creations on his blog.)

This morning, he sent me the directions and the sample photograph of what Disney provides:

Create Your Proof Of Purchase

1. Place your 1 tickets next to each other on a table.
2. Check out our example proof on the right.
3. Clearly write your unique submission code 8132478 on each of the tickets
using a blue or black pen - as illustrated by our example right.
4. Use a digital camera to take one picture of all the 1 tickets. Try to make
sure that the tickets fill up as much as possible of the picture.
5. Save the picture to your computer (refer to the computer or camera manual
for how to do this).
6. Upload your proof of purchase photo.

Phil said, "I did go to the movie. I did not jump through their (hula) hoops." One reviewer said, "I raise my hand, and without shame, add my name to the list of adult males who shed more than a couple of tears at this movie." I'm guessing after his own ordeal, Phil may be shedding a few of his own over lost innocence. Define "free," eh Phil?

"All this for a ticket? What? You don't think I'm human?"

..that's all folks!

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Friday, June 25, 2010

(Keep On) Truckin' On Tite Street

....get me The Royal College of Heraldry....STAT

Many of you who read my blog know that I sell things online through eBay and Amazon. This past week, I finally had my first royal sale. I sold a cd of the Grateful Dead to a Marquis in London, and "yes," he's the real deal. I googled him.

I always knew there might come the day, when I would be selling a beanie baby to Brad Pitt, or a Hound Dog Taylor cd to Margaret Thatcher, but I never quite pictured a hereditary royal scanning for sales.

The cd was mailed off to his London home on Tite Street, an infamous street in Chelsea that previous housed, among others, Oscar Wilde and John Singer Sargent. I show Sargent's studio in a picture below. My Marquis bought his own home from a Rothschild in the 1990's.
He also inherited the family castle in the Northern part of England. I was telling Reya of about this sale, and how I had a hard time reconciling this man listening to the Dead in his castle. She wrote back, with a *snap*, "Looks like the perfect place to crank up the Dead, if you ask me."

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Man In The Moon White Suit

"Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody."
~~Mark Twain

I caught a blurb in Entertainment Weekly that said a memoir was coming out this November: "The University of California Press will publish Volume I of Mark Twain’s autobiography (volumes II and III are to come at later dates).Twain himself gave the university some 5,000 pages but stipulated that the work had to remain unpublished until the 100th anniversary of his death, so the manuscript has been languishing in the vault all this time — available to scholars (who have been able to use the work for their own Twain biographies) but no one else. On its' website, UCP says that “the strict instruction that these texts remain unpublished for 100 years meant that when they came out, he would be "dead, and unaware, and indifferent’ and therefore free to speak his ‘whole frank mind."

Oddly enough, I had been thinking of re-reading Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn just in the past weeks: both books not read by me in quite some time. On my regular trip to the library I went into the children's section with it's reduced shelves and tiny tables and minute chairs and while there was no Tom Sawyer (off whitewashing a fence, I reckon,) they did have a recently published Huckleberry with some interesting illustrations, so I checked it out, thinking, "A lazy summer read meandering down the river on a raft." I settled into bed. In the introduction, there was what I would call a "disclaimer" about the dialect (Read: "Don't take offense that he has black people talking this way,") and another disclaimer about the use of the "N" word. Lawdy.

I begin. Chapter One. Wait. I have to ask. Have any of you returned to these books in oh...the past twenty years? Hep me Jebus. I was....floored. The dialogue? Not just Jim the runaway slave, but everyone. I suppose this regional dialect writing passed for humor in 1885. I read on Wikipedia that when the novel came out, there was controversy over the "coarse language," (that would be the swearing,) which is minor to what more modern eyes now see. I also Wiki read, " became even more controversial in the 20th century because of its perceived use of racial stereotypes and because of its frequent use of the racial slur _____." If I say "racial slur used every five words," I think I would be understating it.

When I was checking the library shelves for the book, and picked it up, I noted that it seemed remarkably "clean," as in "children haven't been chewing, doodling, or dripping their Creamsicles down the pages." I think a modern child would find it impossible to read what William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, and many other noted authors have labeled "The Great American Novel." Thematically? Perhaps. But the written word? I'm going to be honest. I have read some really dreadful stuff in my time and stuck with it to the bitter end. I couldn't finish Huckleberry Finn. Finn did me in. I swirled in the currents of the Mississippi and sank.

That same day in the library, I stumbled on a tiny book entitled Who is Mark Twain? by "Mark Twain Himself," Never Before Published. What this book consists of is a lot of essays that never saw the light of day, and I might add, Twain was a shrewd editor in leaving them unpublished. To his credit, I do believe that Twain, like many a writer, felt that if you had a calling for writing, then you did it, come what may and let it fall for posterity.

In an 1865 letter to his brother, Twain wrote, "You had better shove this in the stove, for I don't want any absurd "literary remains and unpublished letters of "Mark Twain" published after I am planted." Obviously his brother didn't obey him, nor did many others who received similar requests over the years. Considering that he wrote his brother those words before he had his first big publishing success, and two years before his first book, it was a remarkably prescient thing to say, even jokingly.

When Twain died in 1910, he left behind the largest cache (over half a million pages,) of personal papers of any 19th-century author. How did he really feel about posterity poking through his stuff? I think it is clear that, unlike many writers, Twain wasn't embarrassed by his "literary remains even if they were failures." It is very unusual for a writer to expose his efforts that might caste ill on his posterity, or even something as simple as an unwillingness to let the world see how he worked. Many a time I have read "The letters of...." or..."The journal of..." and it is obvious that every line was carefully written, or correspondence saved, which did not reflect poorly on the deceased.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, a woman who had a heightened perception of her own role in history, and knowing she was dying, called her former school chum (and social secretary) and they sat in front of the fireplace, re-reading and laughing, but burning and destroying page after page of personal papers. Let the walls of Camelot remain sound.

When social commentator and judicial investigator Dominick Dunne died, in his last novel his protagonist (himself,) revealed that he was bi-sexual and had been involved with other men. Mr. Dunne said, just a short time before his death. "You have got to tell the truth at the end. No lies. You have got to tell the truth." I am also of the school, "Let the truth prevail. For better or worse." There's something profoundly sad in someone wanting to control what their life seemingly was--when it wasn't. I say there is more to be gained in telling the truth, because we are all part of this process. Another way of saying, "Be prideful of your scars with your successes," I suppose.
Referring back to these memoirs on Twain that will be coming out (and the delay in their release,) I want to mention that this subject crops up in this book of essays, quoting from Twain's autobiography of 1906 (four years before his death) that the full publication of his life would not occur until 100 years after his death. He makes this precondition explicit, and then explains why he thought he was taking no real risk in the matter:
"I can speak more frankly from the grave than most historians would be able to do, for the reason that whereas they would not be able to feel dead, however hard they might try, I myself am able to do that. They would be making believe to be dead. With me, it is not make-believe. They would all the time be feeling, in a tolerably definite way, that that things in the grave which represents them is a conscious entity; conscious of what was saying about people, an entity capable of feeling shame; an entity capable of shrinking from full and frank expression, for they believe in immortality. They believe that death is only a sleep, followed by an immediate waking, and that their spirits are conscious of what is going on here below and take a deep and continuous interest in the joys and sorrows of the survivors whom they love and don't."

"But I have long ago lost my belief in immortality--also my interest in it. I can say, now, what I could not say while alive--things which would shock people to hear; things which I could not say when alive because I should be aware of that shock and would certainly spare myself the personal pain of inflicting it." other words, Twain was perfectly willing to let us read his most intimate manuscripts precisely because he knew that when we did so, he would no longer exist. Think for a moment, about "...things which would shock people to hear." A world and society where there were still checks and boundaries that prohibited laying it all out there. Is it silly to long for the day when we weren't blasted by the minute with every burp, blat and blather on Twitter? Gee. Should I really write that I have a wart on my labia? Oh...go ahead. Be honest. Tell us what you are really thinking. What would Mark Twain tweet? "My moustache is yellow from smoking these dang nabbit ceegars." The problem is, there are no qualifiers on what is worth reporting. Have you read Courtney Love's Facebook page? Be still my heart. Code blue.

The book wasn't a total waste of rejects. I found an amusing essay about standards Twain set "Whenever I Am About To Publish A Book." His means of jumping the critics by using the verdict of the general public. He states he always showed his manuscripts to a private group of friends composed as follows:

1. Man and woman with no sense of humor.
2. Man and woman with medium sense of humor.
3. Man and woman with prodigious sense of humor.
4. An intensely practical person.
5. A sentimental person.
6. Person who must have a moral in, and a purpose.
7. Hypercritical person--natural flaw-picker and fault-finder.
8. Enthusiast. Person who enjoys anything and everything, almost.
9. Person who watches the others, and applauds or condemns with the majority.
10. Half a dozen bright young girls and boys, unclassified.
11. Person who relishes slang and familiar flippancy.
12. Person who detests them.
13. Person of evenly balanced judicial mind.
14. Man who always goes to sleep.

...and for those who didn't agree with him on any of this?.....

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pumping Mud

I just finished reading a novel called Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes. Given the subject matter, Present Imperfect or Future Imperfect might be more apt.

Fellowes' previous novel, Snobs, was equally good. True to it's name, it was about social classes in Britain, and where you might think Past Imperfect is about social class distinctions, since the bulk of the characters are of the upper class in Great Britain, in truth it's about youthful dreams and time and and what time does to our lives...and our hopes. So many of Fellowes' characters wind up with flawed lives and crushed promise. That won't lure you in?

There are so many changes in social mores that he nails. Ascot. Debutante balls. Toeing parental lines. The death knell pain of being at a party with a controlling personality. In one passage, at a debutante ball Fellowes, like a social anthropologist reporting on tribal mating patterns, describes the pain of trying to engage someone in polite conversation where there is a complete lack of interest, no matter what topic is touched on. He says a friend always said of this type of social interchange, that it was like "pumping mud." Far more vivid than the proverbial "like pulling hen's teeth."

The book opens with a scene that was very painful to me, because it strikes at my heart at this moment. The protagonist is reflecting on the London of his boyhood, versus his middle age, and he says, "London is a haunted city for me now and I am the ghost that haunts it. As I go about my business, every street or square or avenue seems to whisper of an earlier, different era in my history. The shortest trip round Chelsea takes me by some door where once I was welcome but where today I am a stranger. I see myself issue forth, young again, and as I watch beside that wraith of a younger me walk the shades of departed, parents, uncles, aunts and grandmothers, great-uncles and cousins, friends and girlfriends, gone now from this world entirely, or at least from what is left of my own life. They say one sign of growing old is that the past becomes more real than the present, and already I can feel the fingers of those lost decades closing their grip round my imagination, making more recent memory seem somehow greyer and less bright." Washington holds many such losses and ghosts for me.

I remember my father telling me that if you live long enough, you see your friends go away, or even more so, die off, until there is so little left of what was your life. Making new acquaintances is not that easy with the passing of decades, and if it's hard in youth, even more so for the isolated elderly. I can remember in the later years of my father's life, I drove him to a funeral viewing of a man that he had known for decades, that he rode to work with for decades, and when we arrived, and he had paid his respects, he said to me, "Get me out of here. I cannot take it anymore." This from a man always present and accounted for to honor his peers. But he had finally hit the wall. No more. And that...was that.

The next piece I write is going to be about one of my own personal walls, and my ghosts, and how going through something like that can now haunt me, and level me.

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