One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Niles, Michigan

The Google Map below is an attempt at explaining why a Southern Michigander might not ever go through Niles, MI. Certainly I've traveled the 94 corridor from Jackson to Lake Michigan to Chicago many times, but I can't remember ever needing to go south on Highway 31 toward Niles. Nor have I ever needed to take the 12 that far west.

Ring Lardner (1885 - 1933)

Ringgold Wilmer Lardner (March 6, 1885 – September 25, 1933) was an American sports columnist and short story writer best known for his satirical takes on the sports world, marriage, and the theatre.

Writing Career

In 1913, Lardner provided lyrics for "That Old Quartet" for composer Nathaniel D. Mann.

In 1916, Lardner published his first successful book, You Know Me Al, an epistolary novel written in the form of letters by "Jack Keefe", a bush-league baseball player, to a friend back home. The letters made heavy use of the fictional author's idiosyncratic vernacular. It had initially been published as six separate but interrelated short stories in The Saturday Evening Post, leading some to classify the book as a collection of stories; others, as a novel. Like most of Lardner's stories, You Know Me Al employed satire, in this case to show the stupidity and avarice of a certain type of athlete. "Ring Lardner thought of himself as primarily a sports columnist whose stuff wasn't destined to last, and he held to that absurd belief even after his first masterpiece, You Know Me Al, was published in 1916 and earned the awed appreciation of Virginia Woolf, among other very serious, unfunny people", wrote Andrew Ferguson, who named it, in a Wall Street Journal article, one of the top five pieces of American humor writing.[3]

Lardner went on to write such well-known stories as "Haircut", "Some Like Them Cold", "The Golden Honeymoon", "Alibi Ike", and "A Day with Conrad Green". He also continued to write follow-up stories to You Know Me Al, with the hero of that book, the headstrong but gullible Jack Keefe, experiencing various ups and downs in his major league career and in his personal life. Private Keefe's World War I letters home to his friend Al were collected in Treat 'Em Rough.

Lardner also had a lifelong fascination with the theatre, although his only success was June Moon, a comedy co-written with Broadway veteran George S. Kaufman. He did write a series of brief nonsense plays which poked fun at the conventions of the theatre using zany, offbeat humor and outrageous, impossible stage directions, such as "The curtain is lowered for seven days to denote the lapse of a week."

Lardner was a close friend of F. Scott Fitzgerald and other writers of the Jazz Age. He was published by Maxwell Perkins, who also served as Fitzgerald's editor. To create his first book of short stories Lardner had to get copies from the magazines he'd sold them to—he held his own short stories in light regard and did not save copies.

He was in some respects the model for the tragic character Abe North in Fitzgerald's last completed novel, Tender Is the Night.[citation needed] With the exception of You Know Me Al, which was initially written and published as six separate stories, Lardner never wrote a novel, but is considered by many to be one of America's best writers of the short story.

Lardner was also a well-known sports columnist, who began his career as a teenager with the South Bend Tribune. Soon after, he took a position with the rival South Bend Times, the first of many professional switches. In 1907, Lardner moved to Chicago, where he joined the Inter-Ocean, considered the worst newspaper in the city. Within the space of a year, he moved up to the Chicago Examiner, then to the Tribune.[4] Two years later, Lardner was in St. Louis, writing the humorous baseball column "Pullman Pastimes" for Taylor Spink and the Sporting News; some of this work was the genesis for You Know Me Al. Within three months, he was an employee of the Boston American.
Lardner returned to the Chicago Tribune in 1913, which became the home paper for his syndicated "In the Wake of the News" column (started by Hugh Keough, who died in 1912); it appeared in more than 100 newspapers, and still runs in the Tribune.

Sarah Bembrey has written about a singular event in Lardner's sportswriting experience: "In 1919 something happened that changed his way of reporting about sports and changed his love for baseball. This was the Black Sox scandal when the Chicago White Sox sold out the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Ring was exceptionally close to the White Sox and felt he was betrayed by the team. After the scandal, Ring always wrote about sports as if there were some kink to the outcome."[4]

Walter Allen stated "It is like Lardner perfectly feeds a specific American trait into every character of every story he ever wrote."

In the 1988 movie about the Black Sox, Eight Men Out, writer-director John Sayles (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Lardner) portrayed Lardner as one of the clear-eyed observers who were not taken in by the conspiracy. In one scene, Sayles strolls through the White Sox train, singing a parody of the song "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles", changed to "I'm Forever Throwing Ballgames".[5]
Lardner's last baseball writing was Lose with a Smile in 1933.

Lardner influenced Ernest Hemingway, who sometimes wrote articles for his high school newspaper under the pseudonym Ring Lardner, Jr.[6] The two met in December, 1928 thanks to Max Perkins but did not become friends.[7]

He died September 25, 1933, at age 48 in East Hampton, New York, of complications from tuberculosis.

After his death, J.D. Salinger referred to Lardner in two of his works: The Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey.

[From Wikipedia:]


Ring Lardner (1921)
[From Wikimedia Commons]

Football in Niles, Michigan about 1900

I'll have to take his (i.e., Laxlon's) word for it, i.e., that's Lardner on the left and Uncle Bounce on the right.

A friend gave me a book of Lardner's short stories and I was impressed by the fact that he hails from Niles (I'm originally from Jackson). Never been to Niles, but I've seen the sign--how many times--and now maybe I'll have a reason to go.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pencil Magic from "Transparent Things"

Eureka! It was an easy find because the passage is near the beginning.

Here goes:
     In his search for a commode to store his belongings Hugh Person, a tidy man, noticed that the middle drawer of an old desk relegated to a dark corner of the room, and supporting there a bulbless and shadeless lamp resembling the carcass of a broken umbrella, had not been reinserted properly by the lodger or servant (actually neither) who had been the last to check if it was empty (nobody had). My good Hugh tried to woggle it in; at first it refused to budge; then, in response to the antagony of a chance tug (which could not help profiting from the cumulative energy of several jogs) it shot out and spilled a pencil. This he briefly considered before putting it back.

     It was not a hexagonal beauty of Virginia juniper or African cedar, with the maker's name imprinted in silver foil, but a very plain, round, technically faceless old pencil of cheap pine, dyed a dingy lilac. It had been mislaid ten years ago by a carpenter who had not finished examining, let alone fixing, the old desk, having gone away for a tool that he never found. Now comes the act of attention.

     In his shop, and long before that at the village school, the pencil has been worn down to two-thirds of its original length. The bare wood of its tapered end has darkened to plumbeous plum, thus merging in tint with the blunt tip of graphite whose blind gloss alone distinguishes it from the wood. A knife and a brass sharpener have thoroughly worked upon it and if it were necessary we could trace the complicated fate of the shavings, each mauve on one side and tan on the other when fresh, but now reduced to atoms of dust whose wide, wide dispersal is panic catching its breath but one should be above it, one gets used to it fairly soon (there are worse terrors). On the whole, it whittled sweetly, being of an old-fashioned make. Going back a number of seasons (not as far, though, as Shakespeare's birth year when pencil lead was discovered) and then picking up the thing's story again in the "now" direction, we see graphite, ground very fine, being mixed with moist clay by young girls and old men. This mass, this pressed caviar, is placed in a metal cylinder which has a blue eye, a sapphire with a hole drilled in it, and through this the caviar is forced. It issues in one continuous appetizing rodlet (watch for our little friend!), which looks as if it retained the shape of an earthworm's digestive tract (but watch, watch, do not be deflected!). It is now being cut into the lengths required for these particular pencils (we glimpse the cutter, old Elias Borrowdale, and are about to mouse up his forearm on a side trip of inspection but we stop, stop and recoil, in our haste to identify the individual segment). See it baked, see it boiled in fat (here a shot of the fleecy fat-giver being butchered, a shot of the butcher, a shot of the shepherd, a shot of the shepherd's father, a Mexican) and fitted into the wood.

     Now let us not lose our precious bit of lead while we prepare the wood. Here's the tree! This particular pine! It Is cut down. Only the trunk is used, stripped of its bark. We hear the whine of a newly invented power saw, we see logs being dried and planed. Here's the board that will yield the integument of the pencil in the shallow drawer (still not closed). We recognize its presence in the log as we recognized the log in the tree and the tree in the forest and the forest in the world that Jack built. We recognize that presence by something that is perfectly clear to us but nameless, and as impossible to describe as a smile to somebody who has never seen smiling eyes.

     Thus the entire little drama, from crystallized carbon and felled pine to this humble implement, to this transparent thing, unfolds in a twinkle. Alas, the solid pencil itself as fingered briefly by Hugh Person still somehow eludes us! But he won't, oh no.

Pninisms and Magical Pencils

Pninism: "I search, John, for the viscous and sawdust" = I search, Joan, for the whiskey(s) and soda"


The pencil figures hugely in Invitation to a Beheading and, though foggy from distance, there's a wonderfully magic passage in Transparent Things re this writing implement (I believe, along with the index card, it was Nabokov's weapon of choice).

Anyway, here's a third paean to the pencil in Pnin:
With the help of the janitor he screwed onto the side of the desk a pencil sharpener -- that highly satisfying, highly philosophical implement that goes ticonderoga-ticon-deroga, feeding on the yellow finish and sweet wood, and ends up in a kind of soundlessly spinning ethereal void as we all must.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Intersection of Pnin and His Creator

Dentures Pictures, Images and Photos  
Started re-reading Nabokov's Pnin.
A few early underscores:
  • languid Eileen Lane, whom somebody had told that by the time one had mastered the Russian alphabet one could practically read "Anna Karamazov" in the original
  • A race was run between the doctor's fat golden watch and Timofey's pulse (an easy winner)
  • his greatest course (with an enrollment of twelve, none even remotely apostolic)
  • The evolution of sense is, in a sense, the evolution of nonsense
  • "I must warn: will have all my teeth pulled out. It is a repulsive operation"
  • Pninizing his new quarters
  • It surprised him to realize how fond he had been of his teeth. His tongue, a fat sleek seal, used to flop and slide so happily among the familiar rocks

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Resting Racquetball

Resting Racquetball by Imagine24
Resting Racquetball, a photo by Imagine24 on Flickr.
I'm learning. It's a healthy addiction.

Nabokov's Metaphysics

Finished with Invitation to a Beheading and I have to admit (though my "underscores" point to flashes of N's usual brilliance): I was a bit disappointed with the master. I kept thinking Early and Nabokov practicing Nabokov, but I know (because I've looked) that others think this one is chock-full of ideas (something N usually pooh-poohed) and heavy (light) stuff.

I'll only say: Let me revisit it in a couple years. First readings are sometimes "first readings," and, admittedly, I've had some "life-objects" in my way.

Let me also point you to two interesting essays I've unearthed (unfortunately I haven't the time to read them in toto):

The Informing of the Soul by Gennady Barabtarlo

Nabokov's Invitation to Plato's Beheading by Alexander Moudrov

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gnostical Turpitude

A few more "underscores" from Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading:

  • Accused of the most terrible crimes, gnostical turpitude
  • Again a butterfly wing would slide between his fingers, leaving colored powder on them
  • the bliss of relieving oneself, which some hold to be on a par with the pleasure of love
  • Around his left nipple there was an imaginative tattoo--two green leaves--so that the nipple itself seemed to be a rosebud (made of marchpane and candied angelica)
  • flashed by so quickly as happens only amid very familiar surroundings, in the dark, when the varicolored fractions of day are replaced by the integers of night

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Endeavour Flyover/Landing (LAX)

These photos are from my wife's BlackBerry.

I didn't see a thing, though I felt the effect long after the event, i.e. heavy traffic in downtown Long Beach. I think the claim exaggerated, but a few people down at Chronic Tacos (near the Belmont Pier) claimed around the pier and/or on the beach it was as busy as the 4th of July.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Nabokov's "Invitation to a Beheading"

One of the few novels by Nabokov I haven't already read, and it took me a while to get started (ever since a friend's reading it inspired me to read it, it has been patiently waiting for me on the "list").

I picked it up before Stiller (got through the intro in which Nabokov denies Kafka's influence; made a couple false assaults on the text), but finally Stiller won out.

Anyway, now I'm up for it (already 20% through a relatively short text: 180 pgs), and a somewhat lackluster beginning (or was it only me?) has been followed by a carriage of words that has steadily pulled me in and along.

Perhaps the first underscore worth repeating:
. . . but here is what I want to express: between his movement and the movement of the laggard shadow--that second, that syncope--there is the rare kind of time in which I live--the pause, the hiatus, when the heart is like a feather . . .

Sunday, September 16, 2012

September Birthdays

Seems like I brought this up last year, so this post will be a little more subdued.

Also, it's jumping the gun a bit, but birthdays are always "right around the corner."

Sept. 24th: F. Scott's and mine.

Sept. 26th: T. S. Eliot's


Found a quote by T. S. Eliot that might almost fit:

"The years between fifty and seventy are the hardest. You are always being asked to do things, and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down."
~ T. S. Eliot


birthday  cake Pictures, Images and Photos 

Ferme vaudoise

Ferme vaudoise by Diegojack
Ferme vaudoise, a photo by Diegojack on Flickr.
Almost finished with Stiller. I know: slow-going, but it's because of LIFE. Kept reading about "ferme vaudoise" (I got the Vaud part, but wasn't sure about the "ferme," which equals "farm"). Of course Frisch has to throw in Montreux and Lake Geneva and (just to fill me with Wanderlust). So "ferme vaudoise" = a farm in the Vaud (Switzerland).

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Few More "Stiller" Bullets

I love autumn, I love September. But when will the heat let up?


To Stiller:
  • a labour of Sisyphus
  • In face of the fact of life and death there is nothing whatever to be said
  • A shivering child, who is coughing very ominously, as though anxious to join the dead, is allowed to sample the sweetmeats already, although the food still belongs to the dead
  • We then discussed the well known line: Him I love who craves the impossible
  • At times I have the feeling that one emerges from what has been written as a snake emerges from its skin
  • We possess language in order to become mute
  • difficult to carry a knowledge that can never be proved nor even uttered
  • I worked for a month in Detroit; I fell in love with the daughter of a Conservative senator, who had a Cadillac, and we swam in Lake Michigan
  • either we smash ourselves to pieces on one another, or we love one another

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Subfinder vs. TomTom and a few "Stiller" Bullets

After all it is the Age of Machines. Why shouldn't Subfinder do battle with TomTom? These days (is it simply ironic or something more malignant) I hope TomTom wins.


Just a few closing bullets from Frisch's Stiller (yes, my reading has suffered, slowed, but I keep pecking away -- at what I'm uncertain -- pecking for pecking's sake):

  • Anna Karenina
  • Effi Briest
  • Rodin's Thinker
  • Orlando Furioso
  • The 'ripping' restaurant proved to be an orgy of 'ye olde' Switzerland such as Stiller couldn't stand at any price
  • two extensive menus printed in the style of the Gutenberg Bible
  • Stiller looked at her like a dog that doesn't understand human speech, and Sibylle had half a mind to stroke him like a dog

Monday, September 3, 2012

Shadow of a Doubt (1943) - still

Jack: Well, it's not quite as bad as that, but sometimes it needs a lot of watching.

Hitchcock cameos, "Frenzy", 1972

Continuing to look for Waldo (I mean Hitchcock) and broaden my Hitchcock vocab. Saw his "Frenzy" last night (second time in two years). Loved the girl in a potato sack sequence.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mouse trap 1

Mouse trap 1 by D-W-J-S
Mouse trap 1, a photo by D-W-J-S on Flickr.
My wife made me do it and she wouldn't even look at the victim. And it wasn't even in the house. I had noticed it--running back and forth between garden and sandbags on our patio--several times. Once I told her about it the mouse idyll was over.

Photo via Flickr and D-W-J-S.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Un problema con el 'rouge'

Un problema con el 'rouge' by barvaron
Un problema con el 'rouge', a photo by barvaron on Flickr.
Watching Hitchcock's "Marnie" tonight.

Hitchcock's Soda City

I was watching Saboteur last night (Encore has a slew of Hitchcock's films up now) and wanted to know more about Soda City. Figured it wasn't real. It's not. Apparently it was shot somewhere in Nevada (makes sense).

This site gives a nice run-down of the various places throughout the US that Hitchcock used in his films: Hitchcock's America.

Emily Carr: Before Attending to My Muse

Before I attend to a few images suggesting a poem, I'll jot down a few impressive (to me) bullets from Emily's Hundreds:

  • Ghost flowers grow in the woods -- beauties. I shall take a big clump home. They are mystery flowers
  • Yet, as I was mounting sketches today I felt so many shortcomings and I believe more and more that one's only real critic, the one that counts, is one's own soul
  • The educated look for technique and pattern, colour quality, composition. Spirit touches them little and it's the only thing that counts
  • It's my own awful longing to possess a dog and of course it's very real to me [Emily is most certainly talking about artistic "possession"--nothing dark or perverted here]
  • She was really interested in my work. She said that it appealed to her like religion. Art and religion you can't separate, for real art is religion, a search for the beauty of God deep in all things
  • living above paint, above colour, above design, even above form, searching the spirit
  • Poor soul, wrestling, striving to learn its lessons out of the old book of flesh, tossing the book impatiently aside -- stupid dull print -- and picking it up again to reread the words and get the sense clearer
  • There's a row of pine trees that won't leave me alone