Friday, February 13, 2015



GRANDSON: "Tell us again how you met Grandma."

GRANDPA: "Aw, I must have told you that story five times at least. Don't you want to hear something else?"

GRANDKIDS (ALL): "No! No! We wanna' hear about Grandma. Pleasepleasepleaseplease!"

GRANDPA: "Ooookay. Okay. Weeell, it was at a little park by the sea..."

GRANDDAD: "I wasn't looking where I was going and we just bumped into each other. I tried to apologize but I found I couldn't speak. My lips refused to move. Infront of me was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen and all I could do was look. 

She must have felt something for me too because for the longest time we just stared and stared at each other's eyes, our faces slowly inching closer and closer."

GRANDAD: "Then, when we could stand it no longer, we threw open our arms and clung to each other, clung as if our lives depended on it!"

GRANDPA: "I guess we weren't paying attention to what was going on around us. The biggest thunderstorm you ever saw was starting overhead."

GRANDPA: "The rain came down in torrents."

GRANDSON: "(GASP!) Did you get wet?"

GRANDPA: "Oh, yeah...soaked to the gills...but we didn't care."

GRANDPA: "Holding Grandma was like..."

GRANDPA: " was like...diving into a burning volcano."

GRANDPA: 'It was a kind of insanity."

GRANDPA: "Well, I'll never be able to find the right words."

GRANDPA: "Anyway the storm got worse and worse."

GRANDPA: "By the time we realized what had happened it was too late."

GRANDPA: "We were swept out to sea, a mile from the shore."

GRANDCHILDREN: "Woooooww!!!!"

GRANDPA: "But that wasn't all. We soon discovered that we weren't alone."

GRANDPA: "From out of nowhere a big old shark came up and swallowed your grandma!"

GRANDDAUGHTER: "Did you karate chop him?"

GRANDPA: "Huh?...karate chop? Er, oh yeah, sure...but it didn't do any good. It was a tough situation. With her sitting there in all those digestive juices, I knew Grandma had only minutes to live."

GRANDPA: "Fortunately I always carried a spear and flippers."

GRANDMA: "Kids, it's time to go to bed. Grandpa can finish the story in the morning."

KIDS (ALL): "Awwwwwwwwww!!!"

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


This is about beatnik girls. "Why not beatnik guys?" you ask. Well, Beat girls had their own take on Beat culture, and it was a bit different than what the guys were doing. Read on, you'll see. 

The amazing thing is that something as esoteric as the beatnik ideal appealed to girls at all. Only a generation before girls were bobbysoxers (above) who liked to giggle and go nuts at Frank Sinatra concerts.

Then rock and roll came along and everybody young bailed into that. Rock had its own culture and beatniks were just a side line. While millions were doing the Twist and having fun, the handfull of Beats were living in poverty and listening to horribly depressing jazz. It seemed like a movement that was destined to fail. How odd then, that in the long run it turned out to be the Beats who changed the world...through the hippies, I mean.

I just looked at a lot of old pictures of beatniks and my favorites are the ones that portray them as jovial Maynard G. Krebs-types, who wear berets and play the bongos. I like that image. It's the way Shag (above) pictures them. That's the way they should have been.

Unfortunately, they were probably weren't like that. In pictures and memoirs they seem like a pretty serious lot: confrontational, smug, very ideological, and very intolerant. A lot of them were actually kind of mean.

In my last year of high school I briefly went out with a beatnik girl and she was hard as nails. It was the hippie era but she preferred to be a beat for some reason. She made it very clear that I was beneath her and she was only seeing me because she had nothing else to do. She had that distant, far away look like Peggy Cummins (above) in "Gun Crazy."

Mostly we just hung out and tried to look cool. What I remember about her is that she was bored all the time, and had terrible disdain for the ordinary people who passed in the street.        

She liked to perch somewhere and chain smoke with a pained expression.

She didn't look like she was having much fun.

Beatnik women hardly ever looked like they were having fun. Guys on the other hand, at least looked like they were getting by. Haw! Maybe that's because they had something to look forward to. The beatnik code included free love and the guys were no doubt salivating at the very thought of it.

In the pictures beatnik girls frequently have a look that says, "Life is a drag, Man! Life is a DRAG!" That strikes me as tragic. Only a generation before girls looked effervescent and optimistic...the way young people are supposed to look...and now here are the Beats in the 50s looking neurotic and nihilistic. Yikes! Maybe they were just tired of wearing sunglasses indoors.

You have to wonder how that ennui came about. My guess is that they were copying the world weary look of Hollywood superstars like Dietrich (above) and Garbo.

 The cold, icy look had been standard in women's magazines for years.

Maybe girls out on their own for the first time, living the life of rebels, wanted to live the be icy and aloof like the models they secretly admired in fashion magazines. Maybe beatnik girls were always sneaking peeks at Vogue. Maybe fashion magazines contributed as much to the Beat movement as somebody like Alan Ginsburg or Jack Kerouac.

Well it's possible, isn't it?

Before I sign off I have one more picture to post (above). It's a really neat picture of a beatnik walk. I don't think anyone ever really walked this way but they should have.

For more on the history of Beatniks see the archived 6/4/10 Theory Corner post,
"Who Came Before the Beatniks?"

Saturday, February 07, 2015


This is a blog about visiting your parents, something that most adult children dread, probably with good reason. I'm a parent myself so I can see it from the other side, but even I have to admit that visits home can be something to be endured. Parents are judgemental.

I don't blame old people for that. They're just victims of predatory salesmen, like the kind that sell Lazboy chairs. NEVER give in to the temptation to buy one for your parents, even if the thing is on sale. Even if it's free. You might as well buy them heroin. Old people can't resist the things and once they settle into them and turn on the TV you won't be able to pry them out with a crowbar.

 So what should old people do? That's a good question, and I don't know the answer. Some moms knit. Maybe that's the answer.

You can always tell a home that's occupied by a knitter. They don't know when to stop. They knit everything. Knitters are not as common as they used to be, and that's because the hobby is slowly being supplanted by another one... hoarding! To qualify as a cat hoarder you have to have at least 6 or 7 animals. It's hard to talk people out of cat hoarding because the practice has been ennobled in their eyes by people who call it "cat rescue" or "cat sheltering." Old folks see themselves as providing a home for abandoned cats...cats who probably escaped from other cat hoarders.

It's always a good idea to take your parents out to a restaurant, but they'll probably insist on going to a place like The Copper Kettle, which is a favorite of people with knitted sweaters who smell like cats.

The Kettle specializes in dishes like canned spinach and macaroni and cheese, the kind of dishes that are called "comfort food." Old folks like it because the portions are big and the spoons and forks are clean.

 Thanks to the 60s a new type of older parent is with us, the aging hippies. They're not above hoarding cats but they also like marijuana brownies. They eat things like kale, which is like green leather, and are quick to point out that whatever you like to eat is probably full of toxins put there by the CIA to produce a population of zombies.

Faced with the massive intimidation of Copper Kettles and cats and kale, visiting young people have come up with a weapon of their own...the cel phone. You can always tune out your parents by dialing up your friends to see if their nails are dry.

Thursday, February 05, 2015


That's James Witcomb Riley above, author of the poem "Little Orphant Annie." You probably think he stole the character from the comic strip but actually the comic derived the character from Riley, from this poem as a matter of fact.

The poem isn't perfect. You get the idea that an even better one might have been made from the same structural elements, but millions of kids memorized it without much coercion, so it must have had something going for it. Here's (below) a link to a little two year-old girl reciting it.

The poem was so popular that Harold Gray made a comic strip (above) out of it. Gray must have liked writing because the strip was the most wordy comic ever. It's a wonder that the characters didn't get stoop shouldered from having to scuttle around under word balloons as big as pianos.

Gray solved the balloon problem by running the excess dialogue down the characters' backs and over their faces and chests.

Annie was so goody-goody that she spawned a zillion sex parodies. I'm guessing that Annie was second only to Little Red Riding Hood in that regard. Here's (above) Little Annie Fannie by Harvey Kurtzman.

She was well represented in radio and film, too.  If you have the stamina to listen to this 45 minute video of Jean Shepherd's radio show you'll hear the story of the boy who got the shock of his life when he decoded Annie's secret message and discovered she was a rip-off artist.

Wood (above) did a sexy take-off, too.

Even Tijuana Bibles got into the act. Poor James Witcomb Riley. He was a gentle soul who probably never dreamed his poem would would spawn a whole cottage industry of sex and crime parodies.

BTW: Thanks to Steve for turning me on to Riley.

Monday, February 02, 2015


Here's a poem by Vachel Lindsay that every kid used to learn in school. It's almost unique in that it has a driving rhythm that makes parts of it very hard to forget. I wouldn't be surprised if hearing it only once addicted millions to the sound of English words.

Unfortunately the poem sounds sounds racist to modern ears and so isn't read as often as it once was. That might be okay if there was an adequate substitute, but there's not...none that I know of, anyway. There's the beautifully paced prologue to "Romeo and Juliet": "Two houses / both alike in dignity / in fair Verona / where we lay our scene." There's also Blake's famous stanza about the tiger.  They're great, and very hard to forget...still.....

Anyway, if you can forgive the racial content, here's (below) an excerpt from Lindsay's "Congo."

by Vachel Linsay

Well, it goes on.

Here's a reading by Lindsay himself. Fans regard this as definitive, but I can imagine one that might be even better. See what you think.