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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

A chucklesome comment from Sali Lamo, New Yorker cartoonist: “Not to be a downer or anything, but Michael Jackson’s dying is really going to hurt the credibility of the hyperbaric-oxygen-chamber industry.”

Which is an insightful and previously neglected thought; although I would say this:  people didn’t seem to be put off running when the health convert Jim Fixx, doyen of jogging, dropped dead from a heart attack at the age of 52.

joggers bw

Even now you can’t throw a plimsoll in Central Park, Hyde Park, Stanley Park or Albert Park without it bouncing off the cranium of somebody sweatily loping around its perimeter. And at times it seems that there are more people at any one time taking part in marathons around the world’s great cities than laying on the couch watching them.

Death can kindly stop for anyone, though, and slowly drive them off in his carriage. His  lifetime-sized hourglass currently hangs over Patrick Swayze; and he has previously transported away Syd Barrett, Luciano Pavarotti, Rene Magritte, Dizzy Gillespie, Randy Pausch and Bill Hicks in the glossy landau he calls ‘Pancreatic Cancer’.

death carriage

This coach usually draws up alongside octo- and septuagenarians but can also squeak to a halt alongside the young and healthy. Nobody really knows why. Pancreatic cancer is not genetic. Bill Hicks blamed it on his energetic smoking, which certainly cannot have helped; yet Keith Richards still somehow walks the earth, while Randy Pausch never let a cigarette pass his lips.

Professor Pausch was a computer science lecturer and researcher at Carnegie Mellon whose ‘last words’ were an inspiring ‘Last Lecture‘. Which I’ll get around to watching and getting inspired by at some point. Before I die, let’s say.

The last words of Bill Hicks were a more pithy “I’ve said all I have to say” on Valentine’s Day 1994. And he was as good as his word, staying silent for his final twelve days on this world.

Bill Hicks

To come full circle, though, here are some of the great(est) comedian’s thoughts on the subject at hand:

“Does anyone remember this, when Yul Brynner died, and came out with that commercial after he was dead? ‘I’m Yul Brynner and I’m dead now.

What the fuck’s this guy selling? I’m all ears.

I’m Yul Brynner and I’m dead now, because I smoked cigarettes.’

Okay, pretty scary. But they coulda done that with anybody. They coulda done it with that Jim Fixx guy, too, just as easily. Remember that guy, that health nut who died while jogging? I don’t remember seeing his commercial. ‘I’m Jim Fixx and I’m dead now. And I don’t know what the fuck happened. I jogged every day, ate nothing but tofu, swam five hundred laps every morning, and I’m dead. Yul Brynner drank, smoke, and got laid every night of his life… he’s dead.

Shit.

Yul Brynner’s smokin’, drinkin’, girls are sitting on his cueball noggin every night of his life! I’m running around a dewy track at dawn. And we’re both fuckin’ dead. Goddammit.

Yul used to pass me on his way home in the morning, big long limousine, two girls blowing him, cigarette in one hand, drink in the other. “One day that life is going to get to you, Yul.” ‘

They’re both dead. Yeah, but what a healthy looking corpse you were, Jim. Look at the hamstrings on that corpse! Look at the sloppy grin on Yul’s corpse! Yul Brynner lived his life. Sure, he died a 78-pound stick figure, okay. There are certain drawbacks.”

“Does anyone remember this, when Yul Brynner died, and came out with that commercial after he was dead?
‘I’m Yul Brynner and I’m dead now.’
What the fuck’s this guy selling? I’m all ears.
‘I’m Yul Bryner and I’m dead now, because I smoked cigarettes.’
Okay, pretty scary. But they coulda done that with anyone. They coulda done it with that Jim Fixx guy, too, remember that guy, that health nut who died while jogging? I don’t remember seeing his commercial!
‘I’m Jim Fixx and I’m dead now. And I don’t know what the fuck happened. I jogged every day, ate nothing but tofu, swam five hundred laps every morning, and I’m dead. Yul Bryner drank, smoke, and got laid every night of his life… he’s dead. Shit! Yul Bryner’s smokin’, drinkin’, girls are sitting on his cueball noggin, every night of his life! I’m running around a dewy track at dawn. And we’re both fuckin’ dead. Yul used to pass me on his way home in the morning, big long limousine, two girls blowing him, cigarette in one hand, drink in the other. “One day that life is going to get to you, Yul.”‘
They’re both dead. Yeah, but what a healthy looking corpse you were, Jim. Look at the hamstrings on that corpse! Look at the sloppy grin on Yul’s corpse! Yul Bryner lived his life. Sure, he died a 78-pound stick figure, okay. There are certain drawbacks.”

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We’re excitingly close to picking a winner for both this week’s Dark-and-Stormy-Hemingway contest and last week’s Word Verification Competition — remember that? I hope that you will forgive this unforgivable delay — if that’s not too much of an oxymoron. There’s still time to enter yesterday’s: type your brains in the comments of the post below.

I now need to ask a question. Was it just my father or did everybody’s parents, grandparents or vaguely creepy uncles relish relating that infinitely-nested, never-ending tale entitled “One Dark and Stormy Night“?

Here’s how it went:

“One dark and stormy night

Three men sat in a cave.

One said: “Jim — tell us a tale”,

And this is the tale he told them:

One dark and stormy night

Three men sat in a cave.

One said: “Jim — tell us a tale”,

And this is the tale he told them:

One dark and stormy night

Three men sat in a … ” ” ”

You get the idea.

I seem to remember being haunted by this saga at a very young age on holiday at Blake’s hotel, Broadstairs, in the county of Kent. My father took as inspiration a dark, brooding, shadowy and, frankly, pants-wettingly terrifying painting of three ne’er-do-wells huddled against the elements in the mouth of a cavern. Or ‘cave’, if you will. In my mind’s eye I can still readily conjure up the sepia, tobacco and shit-brown pigments of what I recall as a nightmarish scene reeking of foulness and unspeakable deeds of secret unpleasantness. Thanks, Dad.

I have seen a couple of variations on this endless quatrain but not many: so is or was this a parental meme, or has an original work of my father’s trickled, in very modest fashion, around the globe? He’d be very proud.

three men in a cave

Here are three men in cave, the best I can do for the inevitable figurative distraction. Evidently it’s Dr Gamelin from Orust, Customs Inspector Bundsen and Dr Robert Nordwall sharing a shot of something presumably tasty and alcoholic in a cave in Lysekil, Västra Götaland, Sweden, captured by Carl Curman in 1862. I’m willing to bet that they are enjoying the perks of friend Bundsen’s confiscatory trade.

Obviously it depicts neither the men nor the cave of the verse in question: nobody can look particularly frightening when they are dressed, as Dr Gamelin appears to be, like a glum Mr Pickwick.

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Four lines of doggerel

Slap my parts with hollandaise sauce
then fetch the Irish Setter;
Eighteen hours at Gas Mark 5,
They’ll soon be feeling better.

I thank you.

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I’ve been pondering this ‘Alan Rickman comprising a thousand smaller Alan Rickmans’ mosaic for the last few minutes, and I’m moved to wonder whether the thousand small Alan Rickmans are each made from a thousand even smaller Alan Rickmans … and on until one’s mind itches.

It’s perhaps like catching oneself between badly-placed mirrors in a barber shop, and disconcertingly viewing both the back and front of one’s head into infinity, which would have been especially distressing at the time of my last ill-advised hair styling.

It also reminds me of a few lines that sound like they should be by Ogden Nash but are not. They were written by the Victorian mathematician and logician Augustus De Morgan, who in turn was expanding on an earlier verse by Jonathan Swift:

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on,
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.

Ogden Nash himself was rather more succinct on the subject of fleas:

Adam
Had ’em.

I bet Alan Rickman doesn’t.

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