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Don't Try This At Home, Kids [w/ Multiple Updates]

Perhaps he got the lava from Mt. St. Helens?

Exploding lava lamp kills Washington man.

Update (12/02/04): Colby Cosh has a relevant additional link to an even bigger story.

Further Update (12/02/04): Speaking of Mount St. Helens, the volcano has now been declared Washington State's biggest polluter.  Somehow, I just know the Bush Administration will be blamed . . . .


This Propertius Condemned

In comments to my "500th post" post, below, I have been rightly taken to task for fudging my compliance with Robert's Rules of Double Dactylery.  Yes, it's true, I did omit to incorporate a proper name into the poem, preferably in the second line.  Since the poem was All About Me, I thought I might get away with it.  (The critics have kindly foregone pointing out my egregious misuse of the word "quinquecentennial," which itself is not even the preferred form of The Long Word Meaning Five Hundred Years.  "Quincentennial" is favored, although "quinquecentennial" seems to have been applied pretty consistently to the 500th birthday of Nicolaus Copernicus back in 1973.  But I digress.)

Chastened, I crafted this new one in my head whilst toiling on a cross-training machine last night.  It is unrelated to my 500th post -- that's so several days ago -- but it duly incorporates a proper name to fill out a line of dactylic dimeter.

PropertiusPiners of Rome

Elegant elegist
Sextus Propertius,
Cynthia’s synthesist's
Gone to the ground;

Modernist Ezra sez,
Honing his Homage, “Once
In for a pen, he’s now
In for a Pound.”

Continue reading "This Propertius Condemned" »

Beyond Our Ken

I am a one-time champion on "Jeopardy!", in both senses of the phrase: (1) once there was a time when I was a champion, some seventeen years ago, but that time is gone, and (2) I was such a champion only once, succumbing on the following episode to a slow buzzer-finger and a really embarrassing confusion of Field Marshall Montgomery with General Omar Bradley.  I earned some $13,000 and a recliner chair.  The chair is still with me, and is quite comfortable, thank you.  The highlight of my victory was my unstoppable sweep through the subject of "Tunes of the Twenties," which gave me occasion to say on national television: "What is 'Toot Toot Tootsie'?"  Ah, memories!

My earnings on the show come to approximately one-half of one percent of what has been gained (gross, before taxes) by the seemingly unstoppable Ken Jennings, but that rough beast's time has come 'round at last: the Mighty Ken falls today, and if you wish to know the details in advance, you can find them here.  [Link via Colby Cosh.]

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go stir my schadenfreude.

Update [later that same day]:Wow!  I bear witness to the awesome power of trackbacks.  Welcome, and my thanks, to all Jason Kottke readers following my link back here.  I note that Jason has been obliged by some of my brethren of the Bar at Sony to take down the audio file he posted of Ken Jennings' last hurrah, but he is still disclosing the (seemingly easy) Final Jeopardy question that ends Ken's long run.

Further Update [later still that same day]: Well no, actually he isn't any longer disclosing that final question.  Apparently Sony's legal counsel are persuasive chaps when it comes to keeping a lid on prior to broadcast.  Much the same substantive information is available, however, through the Washington Post, a link to which Mr. Kottke thoughtfully provides.

Quintessence of Folly

Boschstone_3But Who's Counting?

Ladies and gentlemen!
Children of all ages!
Friends! If you will, hoist a
Toast with your host:

Foolishness! Forestry!
This double dactyl’s my
Five Hundredth Post!

Many many thanks to each and all of the few, the proud, the perhaps profoundly misguided readers of, commenters upon, and linkers to this weblog, and wishes to one and all for a Happy Thanksgiving and beyond.  Now, onward to Post #1000.  Excelsior!

Now Be Thankful


Now Be Thankful

When the stone is grown too cold to kneel
In crystal waters I'll be bound
Cold as stone, weary to the sounds upon the wheel

Now be thankful for good things below
Now be thankful to your maker
For the rose, the red rose blooms for all to know

When the fire is grown too fierce to breathe
In burning embers I'll be bound
Fierce as fire, weary to the sounds upon the wheel

Now be thankful for good things below
Now be thankful to your maker
For the rose, the red rose blooms for all to know

(Dave Swarbrick, Richard Thompson - Fairport Convention, 1970)

Laurels Grow from Bushes

Congratulations are in order to Culture Weblogger in Chief Terry Teachout on the occasion of his official elevation to the post of Lord High Whisperer In The Ears of Those In Power.  Huzzah!  The honor is well earned.

The Honorable Terry has noticed, as perhaps have others -- I known I have -- that I am Not So Interesting recently as was once my wont, and he has signaled as much by quietly de-linking this Fool from his "Sites to See" blogroll.  O, the ignominy!  Chastened, I shall aspire to do better in future and to make of this a Teachout-able moment.

More John Berryman: Syntax Boldly

The Power Line weblog is a three-man operation (a three-lawyer operation to be strictly accurate) mostly of a political bent and decidedly conservative.  (The site was prominently in the forefront in debunking the forged documents behind 60 Minutes' report on President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard, for example.)  Occasionally, one or another of the PowerLiners will veer in a cultural direction, as has happened today.

Scott Johnson, the Power Line triumvir who posts as "The Big Trunk," offers up a salute to John Berryman (accompanied by much dissing of fellow Minnesotan poet Robert Bly).  That post in turn links to a Berryman appreciation set to appear in tomorrow's Washington Post in Edward Hirsch's "Poet's Choice" column on the occasion of the new Selected Berryman that I mentioned below.  Hirsch kindly quotes one of my own favorite Berryman lines -- which I would have done myself if only the book weren't packed away at the moment -- the closing line of the very late poem, "King David Dances":

all the black same I dance my blue head off!

Shapiro! Wilbur! Zappa[?]! Paglia!

♣ Apropos of my earlier mention of Karl Shapiro (down here), I was looking through a stack of articles, reviews, etc., that I had previously printed and saved, and I came across a May 2003 essay by Joseph Epstein in the Weekly Standard, "The Return of Karl Shapiro?"  Epstein describes Shapiro as "an unsuccessful poet of considerable significance":

[T]oday, when asked to name the key poets of Shapiro's generation, most people at the English-major level of culture would answer Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Randall Jarrell, John Berryman, and (less likely) Delmore Schwartz and Theodore Roethke. All were poets who fell to insanity and alcoholism, or, in Wordsworth's phrasing, in their youth begin in gladness;/But thereof comes in the end despondency and madness. Karl Shapiro never cracked up. Instead he made a few crucial decisions, took a number of significant positions, that went a long way toward scuppering his career.

Before getting on to this, though, it needs to be said that John Updike's compilation of Karl Shapiro's poems--a selection of the strongest poems from the various books of poetry Shapiro published over a long career--is a splendid reminder of how good a poet Karl Shapiro could be. One of the first things to be said about Shapiro's poetry is that, various though it is, it is never gloomy. A pleasure in life, in its richness, variety, and oddity, informs many of his poems, even those that verge on the dark, such as "Auto Wreck," a poem about coming upon an auto crash as a young man on his way home after leaving the bed of a lady friend. The arbitrariness of death by such a cause is what rightly strikes him:

For death in war is done by hands;
Suicide has cause and stillbirth, logic;
And cancer, simple as a flower, blooms.
But this invites the occult mind,
Cancels our physics with a sneer,
And spatters all we knew of denouement
Across the expedient and wicked stones.

♣ Epstein was writing on the occasion of the publication of the Updike-edited American Poets Project selected edition of Shapiro's verse.  The Project is one I endorse when it brings out collections by poets whose work is otherwise hard to come by -- such as Shapiro, Yvor Winters, or Kenneth Fearing (also author of the noir classic, The Big Clock, which tells you a lot about his poetry) -- and its marvelous collection of the Poets of World War II (previously discussed here).  The Project is less useful when putting out editions of poets who are already easily to be had, such as Whitman or Poe.  (The Poe volume is edited by Richard Wilbur.  I am an enthusiast for both Wilbur and Poe, but the combination of the two in this case strikes even me as unnecessary.)  Overall, the Project's virtues significantly outweigh its weaknesses, so I commend the entire series to your attention.

♣ And speaking of Richard Wilbur, Mike Snider links to an appreciative New Yorker review of Wilbur's freshly published Collected Poems 1943-2004.  His earlier career overview (1989's New and Collected Poems) is one I revisit frequently, as is his slim volume from 2000, Mayflies (the only collection he has issued in the interim).  Despite the substantial overlap, this new "Collected" will likely be hard for me to resist.

♣ Changing directions more than somewhat: Professor Althouse last Saturday linked to a New York Times book review, by Camille Paglia on Frank Zappa, which I finally got 'round to reading while cooling my heels in a Van Nuys courtroom this morning.  The review itself offers a useful overview of Zappa's career, but for me the most intriguing item comes at the end, when the Times provides identifying information for the review's author:

Camille Paglia is university professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Her new book, ''Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-Three of the World's Best Poems,'' will be published in March.

[Italics original; underscoring added; enthusiastic expostulation follows:]

New Paglia!  Paglia on Poetry (emulating perhaps her beloved mentor, Harold Bloom?)!  What fun!  But please, dear Professor Paglia, when will you finally get around to publishing the concluding volume of Sexual Personae?  You've only gotten as far as Emily Dickinson and I'm desperate to know how it all ends. (Meanwhile, "Break, Blow, Burn" is available for pre-order.  It would make a great stocking stuffer, if only Christmas came in April.)

Memoirs of Lothar Zogg

"Gentlemen! You can't fight in here: this is the War Room!"
-- President Muffley, shortly before the end of the world

Via Professor Bainbridge comes a lead to today's WSJ Opinion Journal in which James Earl Jones recalls his first film role, as a member of the bomber crew in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove:

As the script evolved, Kubrick decided to bring in the renowned 'bad boy' Terry Southern to rework the film as a satire. Among many other changes, an entirely new character was added to the story--the eponymous Dr. Strangelove (initially called Von Klutz). Southern and Kubrick gave all the characters comic-book names. Sterling Hayden's Gen. Quintin became Gen. Jack D. Ripper. Slim Pickens now played Maj. T.J. 'King' Kong. Keenan Wynn was Col. 'Bat' Guano, and George was Gen. 'Buck' Turgidson. Of course, Peter Sellers took on three roles: Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake, a British Exchange Officer; Dr. Strangelove himself; and U.S. President Merkin Muffley.

My character, the B-52's bombardier Lt. Lothar Zogg, took his name from Mandrake the Magician's sidekick, a black and bald-headed man who provided Mandrake with muscle power when prestidigitation failed. In the original script, the bombardier's role included pointed questioning of the authenticity of Gen. Ripper's command-orders to nuke Russia. But as 'Dr. Strangelove' evolved into a satire, Zogg's voice of reason shrank to essentially a single question: 'Sir, do you think this might be some kind of loyalty test or security check?'

There is much more, including anecdotes involving George C. Scott and Paul Robeson (but not simultaneously).

UPDATE: Also involving Terry Southern and Peter Sellers, Arts & Letters Daily leads us to  a Washington Post article pointing out the prophetic qualities of Southern's 1960 novel, The Magic Christian:

As fans of what Southern used to call the 'quality lit game' will no doubt recall, Southern was into sadistic billionaires tormenting money-grubbing weasels back when prime-time TV billionaires Donald Trump and Richard Branson were still schoolboys.

My Packed Pages, or, O Berryman: Not on the Lone Prairie

It's a hubbub wrapped in a dither wrapped in a hurly-burly these days chez Fool, as we are in the throes of multiple concurrent home improvement projects: painting and recarpeting for the first time in 14 years, installation of built-in bookshelving [oh ecstasy!], and more.  One of the principal upshots of it all has been the temporary packing away into boxes of nearly all of the books in the place.  That necessary arrangement has the unpleasant consequence of preventing me from looking up necessary references for incorporation in to posts here.  I am feeling the pinch of it just now, because without being able to look up appropriate quotations, I can add little to the interesting conversation that has been going on among some of the RPPW [Real Poets With Weblogs].  Still, since one of my favorite poets is one of its subjects, I need to call it to your attention.

Via Nick Piombino, Jonathan Mayhew was led to a birthday-related post at ::: wood s lot ::: (you'll need to scroll down to November 10) collecting material on the poet Karl Shapiro, causing him (Prof. Mayhew) to share that he had studied with Shapiro and had received from him (Shapiro) his (Mayhew's) only "B" in college, and to add concerning the generation of poets to which Shapiro belonged:

He was part of that Lowell/Jarrell/Berryman/Schwartz generation. Nobody reads these poets anymore, except for Lowell. Schwartz survives in biographies and novelizations (Atlas, Bellow), and his connection to the New York intellectuals. Jarrell is known for his criticism. Berryman survives in Henry Gould's echoes, almost nowhere else.

(Emphasis added.)

Josh Corey responded that he for one does read, with particular relish, the poetry of John Berryman.  (He says that he hasn't read much Karl Shapiro.  The most readily available edition of Shapiro's poetry is the Selected edition from the American Poets Project [the lyric adjunct to the Library of America], edited and introduced by John Updike.  My own copy of that volume is one of the many books packed away in those boxes mentioned above, so I am unable to add anything more about Karl Shapiro here.)

Henry Gould not only reads Berryman, he objected to an earlier Mayhew remark  ["A schtick is not a poetics"] which was tied in to the minstrel-show allusions that suffuse Berryman's Dream Songs.

All of this draws my attention because Berryman is a particular favorite of mine, as evidenced by this layperson's appreciation that I posted about a year ago.  By happy coincidence, having done its part to put Karl Shapiro back in circulation two years ago, the American Poets Project has also just published a Selected Berryman, suggesting that they expect someone to be reading him.