Little Nell Is Dead, But Don Draper's Gone Hippie
Posted Last Week
There's nothing new. We are told that when Chapter 71 of 'The Old Curiosity Shop' arrived by ship in Boston harbour, a huge crowd was waiting. They shouted, 'Is Little Nell dead?' When the captain shouted back that yes, the fictional character had gone to meet her maker (aka Charles Dickens, and she probably had a few choice words for him about his script), the crowd groaned in agony.
That was in 1841.
Last night, the last installment of AMC's 'Mad Men' aired in the US. People live-tweeted that they were in tears. Farewells, love scenes, fraught phone calls...the eight-year journey of the people from Sterling Cooper Draper Price at last reached its triumphant end with perhaps the most memorable advertising jingle of them all:
Is that what came out when the ad man finally chanted 'Om....mane padme om...'?
Charles Dickens had it easy. There was no way the newspapers would have cancelled his serialised novel, no matter what the ratings were. But Matthew Weiner has weathered the vagaries of changing tastes and network finances, the demand for 'teasers' that reveal too much, onslaughts of fan ideas, fan fiction, and Mad Men theme parties. But he's taken his vision all the way home. To California, as we suspected.
Now go out and enjoy all the outraged, tearful, and amused commentary on the internet today.
And maybe read about that Coke ad, which was dreamed up by a man from McCann-Erickson (the bad guys in 'Mad Men') while on a layover in Ireland. All that green landscape must make ad men think cheerful thoughts.
A Dracula Funny
Posted 2 Weeks Ago
I don't usually pass around stuff from other websites like this - at least, not stuff that wasn't written at least a hundred years ago - but this one made me laugh until the tears came.
For UK readers: our postal service is terrible these days. I'm sure yours is much better. Apparently, back in 2012, somebody at the Huff Post told this writer to re-imagine the classic epistolary novel 'Dracula' - but under 2012 postal conditions.
Theoretically, all these events are possible - or would be, if foreign post offices were as bad as ours. We harbour the suspicion that the mail in Transylvania may NOT be worse than the mail in the US, however. After all, communism has been defeated.
Here it is, 'The Undead Letter Office'.
PS I wasn't really goofing off, honest. I was researching literary connections between Walt Whitman and Bram Stoker. Well, okay, I was goofing off by reading about those two...who cares? it's all good.
Pedestrian Report: Adjusting to Small-Town Life
Posted 5 Weeks Ago
This town is beautiful, once the snow melts. The bunnies in the backyard are cheerful, and the daffodils are in bloom, and even the feisty little red squirrel who has a lien on the place seems a bit less crotchety than before.
Some people asked me, 'Why do you want to move to a small town? You've lived in big cities.'
Are you kidding? This place is every bit as colourful as Philadelphia, Cologne, or Athens. And living only a block away from the main drag, I feel like I own the place. After all, the out-of-towners have to pay to park, even on my one-way street. Whereas *I* have garage space. Okay, the garage is about a foot wider than my little SUV, but if I'm very careful, I can close the door. They didn't plan for SUVs in 1910.
We've been out exploring the territory on an early Saturday afternoon. I took pictures, which should be nice once they're developed...in a couple of weeks. I didn't have a digital handy, and film is going the way of the dinosaur.
This place has charm to spare. We walked...nay, strolled up Main Street as far as the courthouse. The courthouse, from the 1880s, has a big steeple with a statue of Justice with Scales 'way up top. It has that German Rathaus feel - but, alas, no moving figures around the clock. I think this was remiss of them. I wanted to see a Civil War cavalry charge, or similar, at noon.
The little park across from the courthouse is wonderful. In the centre is a huge Civil War memorial, a big pointy thing with soldiers and sailors and such. The park sports two WWI howitzers, and memorials to the veterans of WWI, WWII, and Korea. The best is the Vietnam memorial, though: It is its own piece of The Wall, and contains the prose poem that is also in Washington, 'If you are able...', which reads in part:
'If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go...' Written in 1970 by Major Michael Davis O'Donnell, who was killed in action in that war. That memorial brought a tear to the eye. All in all, the park's a place for reflection.
You can sit down anywhere you like in town - there must be a park bench every 20 feet. And the view is always interesting. The town's well kept up...let me put it this way: it looks like they took 1915 and wrapped it in plastic. Not in a bad sense - they just covered the wood in vinyl siding and kept the wind out with double glazing. Good moves, both.
Elektra stops traffic downtown. Or she did, until I explained to her that if she's standing on the red squares on the pavement, the cars will stop. She got it. You have to wait for the lights at the courthouse, though. I suspect some of our fellow citizens of speeding. The sign said 25 mph, and they were doing at least 30...half a block from where all the cop cars were parked, too...
Ah, near where the cop cars were parked was an amazing sight...let me see if I can find a picture of this breathtaking building....
Ah, here it is. Isn't it insanely interesting?
Apparently, that monster cost $120,000 to build, back in the late 19th Century. They only ever hanged one person there, a murderer named Voycheck in 1911. Allegedly, tickets to the hanging are treasured historical heirlooms...
Needless to say, this building is no longer in use. I think the real jail's a few miles down the road. Probably more secure, but does it have two-foot-thick oak floors? Octagonal projecting wings? Two-foot-thick ashlar dressed sandstone walls? I imagine not. No appreciation for masonry these days.
We saw other things on our walk: a tiny Pomeranian sunning itself in the window of the nail salon near the tattoo parlour, both in a quaint old building across from the courtyard (with Harleys parked in front). Other people strolling with happy dogs. Antiques in one window, computer parts in the next. The 'County Seat Restaurant'. Guys busy at the car wash. And the biggest crowd downtown today: exactly where we were going, the CVS Pharmacy. There must have been 20 people in there at one time...
Most of whom were listening, as were we, to the clerk explaining why he wouldn't be there himself when we picked up our film in two weeks. He was accepting a new position at Walmart...we'd never met him before, but we appreciated the news, and wished him well, as did the elderly couple behind us.
Like I said, what's not to love about a place so friendly, so picturesque, and so full of historical conundra to ponder? I feel privileged to have had the walk.
I'll share the pics when they get back from their journey.
And Now a Word from Luftwaffe HQ
Posted Apr 11, 2015
Find of the Day. First, a quiz:
- Did you enjoy reading 'Struwelpeter'? Then you're completely barmy. Did you get a chuckle out of 'Max und Moritz'? Okay, then you probably know what a German primer looks like. The German word for primer is 'Fibel'.
- Do you have the slightest curiosity about World War II? I mean, would you watch that war picture if it didn't have Tom Cruise in it?
- Have you always wondered if those guys weren't, in their heart of hearts, a bit more like silly, scared kids than they made out?
Then you're going to love this discovery from the Internet Archive. The person who posted it, bless their heart, didn't know what it was, and commented that it was 'bizarre'. A more experienced reader explained.
It's called 'Horrido: The Fighter Pilot's Primer', and the illustrations alone are worth the read.
This helpful publication was authorised by General Adolf Galland, fighter pilot extraordinaire. He knew what he was talking about: he had one functional eye (memorised eye chart), and smoked cigars while flying. Had a sense of humour, too. And no, he didn't bomb your chippy, because he was a FIGHTER pilot. He may have shot down Uncle Reginald, though.
'Horrido' teaches fighter pilots how to survive and shoot down B-17s. It does this in children's book form, with handy, easy-to-memorise rhymes so beloved of Germans:
'Das Fluchen macht der Kopf nur heiss,
Bist du am Feind - so kalt wie Eis.'
'Cussing just makes your head get hot,
If you're pursuing the enemy - be cold as ice.'
Come to think of it, some of this advice will work in peacetime. And even if you're not in an ME 109 or FW 190. Although you probably don't need the handy chart that tells you which armour-piercing ammo to use on a four-motor enemy bomber plane.
The book warns you NOT to take this book with you into combat. No sense in making MI5 any wiser - there are also charts of the firing panels for Messerschmidts and Focke-Wolfs. Come to think of it, no sense in making them laugh, either - although come to think of it further, did anybody in MI5 ever laugh? Oh, well...
'Horrido' has two good points besides the rhyming:
1. It addresses the pilot as 'Du' throughout. This familiar pronoun dispells the notion that all Germans are stuffy. The Luftwaffe were obviously a friendly, childlike lot.
2. It contains many interesting cartoons. Most of them have nude, semi-nude, or otherwise provocative-looking Maedels (women) in them. This is a very good way to make sure fighter pilots pay attention. Good educational psychology, there.
A note for the non-German speakers: If you find a couplet next to a particularly intriguing picture, just ask any one of our bilingual h2g2ers to help you. When Mala and KB get back from eating yet another piece of Linsertorte, I'm sure they'll be glad to oblige.
Oh, and the title? 'Horrido' is sort of like 'Tally Ho!' It's a hunting cry.
Meditations on a Cold Saturday
Posted Mar 7, 2015
Ah, a snowy Saturday. Determined for once to think my own thoughts, and get a rest from the stresses of moving, and winter, and whatnot, I've been rabbit chasing all afternoon. I won't bore you with the links in the daisy chain, but here are a few titbits I've gleaned that you might enjoy:
- None of this modern religious music can hold a cnadle to a simple song, lyrics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
(I know, I was trying to get ready for choir practice, and I used 'Von guten Maechten' as a mental palate cleanser.) Roughly translated, Bonhoeffer's song's chorus goes, 'Wonderfully surrounded by good powers, we await, comforted, whatever may happen. God is with us, night and morning, and certainly on each new day.' He should know - he wrote that from a Nazi prison, so there. Hitler only outlived him by about three weeks.
- Speaking of Bonhoeffer, which I was, here's a great poem inspired by him, but written by WH Auden:
That poem makes me laugh in all the right places. It might make your head hurt, but in a good way, I think.
- Auden, of course, was the great poet who got fired by Dale Wasserman as lyricist for 'Man of La Mancha'. This is because you can't SING stuff like that.
Think about it. Would you rather sing:
'Once the voice has quietly spoken, every knight
Must ride alone
On the quest appointed him into the unknown.'
'...that one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable stars...'?
I rest my case. Come to think of it, that song pretty much describes Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
- Bonhoeffer dodged the draft by joining the Abwehr. O-kay...that kind of sounds odd. Kind of like avoiding going to Vietnam by joining the CIA. Of course, the CIA probably doesn't usually hire theologians, anyway. Of course, it was 1944 before Hitler found out the Abwehr's main objective WASN'T to defeat the Allies. It was to kill Hitler. (They weren't very good at it, unfortunately.) When Hitler read Admiral Canaris' diary (You're head of a secret service. You keep a diary? And it's not in unbreakable CODE? I'm speechless. Couldn't you score a spare Enigma machine, Herr Admiral?), the Fuehrer apparently had a conniption fit.
- Two days after Hitler came to power, Bonhoeffer went on the radio and made a very good pun about their Fearless Leader. He said Germans had better watch out: the Fuehrer might become a Verfuehrer. Get a German to explain this to you...
Oh, and Bonhoeffer's broadcast was cut off in mid-sentence. I guess Goebbels was listening.
- On the memorial to those executed in Flossenburg, including Bonhoeffer and Canaris, is inscribed 2 Timothy 1:7, 'For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.' I always liked that verse, for personal reasons. You know, if everyone around you is worried you might not be too tightly wrapped, you appreciate the offer of 'a sound mind' from a spiritual quarter. 'Von guten Maechten wunderbar geborgen,' indeed...
Yawn. I really ought to move. It's cold outside, and I'd better check on the snow situation...
May the invisible spirit that guided Bonhoeffer be with you all, in saecula saeculorum.