All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ask Uncle Eyeball

Having received today this artful creation of eyemuscle muttonchops from Daughter in Chicago, I decided to test a format I have not attempted since writing for the Kerr Courier in 1964, an advice column. It is New Year's Eve and I am not entirely in possession of myself, so I don't know where these questions are coming from, but I shall in all my best respond.

Dear Uncle Eyeball,
I don't usually consider myself old but lately I have seen my grandfather's face in the mirror --if you know what I mean. What should I do? --Boomer

Dear Boomer,
No, I don't know what the hell you mean but my grampa was born in 1872 and I had the same problem. I kicked the old boy out of the bathroom and told him not to monopolize the mirror. If, however, you are speaking figuratively and your mirror makes you feel old, just move it farther away until it conforms to your youthful self-image. I have done this repeatedly and successfully. My bathroom mirror is now located somewhere in Japan.

Dear Uncle Eyeball,
We are thinking of buying our first home. Please advise!--Normal Guy

Dear Normal,
If you really are normal, you should watch out for things realtors never tell you --like hardly anybody in any neighborhood they move you into is anything close to normal. In fact, current sociological studies show that every fourth house on Earth is full of creeps. In densely populated tracts you'll have neighbors borrowing  tools to permanently remove mufflers from their cars and motorcycles. This initiates tingo, an Easter Island word defined as borrowing things until nothing is left. You may wish to save up until you can buy two properties on either side of you, or move out of town. Even in the peaceful panorama of the bucolic countryside, the statistic holds, there's just more room. I opted for the latter and you can see how happy I am.

Dear Uncle Eyeball,
What is New Year's really? --Janus

Dear Janus,
I thought you had this settled long ago. New Year's is an heroic annual attempt made by the Cosmos to bridge the awful gap between you, me and fabulous wealth. Each year brings promise and hope, hope for peace, prosperity, tolerance and understanding --but mainly for compassion and love. These may sound like magical qualities with little chance of success and proliferation, but I assure you it is at least more than what every fourth person in the world wants. Perhaps you could get with the other gods and narrow that down.

And so to business. Let's all treat each other decently and have a Happy New Year!
Best wishes,
              Uncle Eyeball

Friday, December 20, 2013

Lesser-known Christmas Stories, Part three: Ave Maria, Iterum

"Hello, Mary."

"Olá menino. What are you doing?"

"I am meditating upon the pure present. What are you doing?"

"Pulling a plow around in the early 1950s. What does that tell you?"

"That my technique needs work, that I'm not following instructions very well. I'm supposed to ignore the past and future, concentrate on the moment."

"Ah, mau menino! You think the field needs no care, even here, so long ago?"

"I'm not a 'bad baby', Mary. I'm 64 years old!"

"A place to start, followed by another place to start and another."

"Mary, is this true?"

"If the premise is sound, so is the proposal, Geo."

"I'm confused, Mary. Anything you can tell me will be helpful."

"Pobre menino, can one live in the moment when one is a composite of an entire life, a history and future? Consider Isaiah 63:13:  "Who led them through the depths? Like a horse in the desert, they did not stumble." We did not stumble because we were bred to have huge hooves."

"Like yours, Mary. Like a work horse. It began there?"

"Yes, we saw a star, full of bioelectric patterns in a state of flux, indicating a being who was not native to our continuum. We were laden with gifts and diapers and ridden across the sand."

"Horses are Christians?"

"Nothing so grandiose, Geo., we are sensitive but never exaggerate ourselves. No we only like to smell babies' heads, just like everybody else."

"Can you advise me, Mary? How do I proceed?"

" I can only give one piece of advice. I know you have trouble with spelling in every language you've studied, but you must --above all errors-- avoid confusing flamenco with flamingo...
....especially when ordering tights!"

At this juncture, the last of my three-part series, I'd like to wish everyone prosperity and peace in this and all seasons. We have a busy Yuletide ahead and mustn't buy too many gadgets. To suddenly transform a society with technology can be harmful and destructive, especially if your forget to buy the proper batteries. I have gone repeatedly back out to stores to correct this oversight. Go thou and do likewise. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lesser-Known Christmas Tales, Part Two

[My thanks to Laoch of Chicago for, "Did you ever notice that just by changing the order of the letters that Santa becomes Satan?" Also thanks to Willie in Sonoma for a hilarious phone discussion on Faust this evening.]

It began when Dr. Faustus, student of all knowledge, went to the department store to see Santa. The mezzanine sign was composed of distracting colors and idle hands. He got confused and veered right,  became separated from his mother and headed down the wrong stairs of Marlowe's Emporium!  He hopped up on Satan's knee and told him what he wanted for Christmas.

"I want 'us' off my name. Faustus Faustus --the other doctors tease me-- 'Faustus with the leastest', big laughs, big stupid laughs! It makes me tired."

"Ok," said jolly Satan. "Anything else?"

"Yeah, I don't wanna be no old doctor no more. Just Faust. No stinkin' responsibilities. No stinkin' old. Just Faust, young Faust!"

"Would you mind being a tenor?"

"No, fine with me!"

"Ah, then let's skip up 200 years. You want Gounod."

"Yeah, yeah, lots of gonads!"

"Sort of, it's an opera. Behold: the lovely Marguerite; Siebel who wins all hearts with his 'Flower Song' and whose life you make intolerable; Valentine, who outsings you to the bitter end; the family you hector into desolation!"

"Sounds great to me!"

"Only if they don't do the ballet in act 4. That's where you and I get disgraced."

"What else you got?"

"Well, we could skip sideways and try Goethe."

"How d'you spell that?"


"That's 'ghost' while holding your tongue-tip out. Other doctors tricked me into saying 'my father works in a shipyard' doing that. No goeth for me!"

"That's Goethe, pronounced 'Gay-tee'. You get to hook up with Helen Of Troy --a great beauty of the Mycenaean Age."

"When was that?"

"Oh, four or five thousand years ago."

"Mommy! Mommy!" Cried Doctor Faustus. "Santa wants to give me to some really old lady!" He leaped up and ran off in search of his mother. Satan picked up the intercom handset.

"Hello Santa? Satan. I think you got a problem-kid on the way. I'll have my helpers lend your helpers some pitchforks and, if that doesn't work, just mention Helen Of Troy.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lesser-Known Christmas Stories, Part One

Once upon a time there was a boy named Alexander The Great. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. The Great, decided it would be a good idea to move to Macedonia.  Young Alexander would have to go to a new school. He was worried. His parents assured him he would make new friends if he was polite and exchanged names with other kids right away. Alexander was afraid his surname would complicate these introductions but he tried.

"Hey, new kid," he was asked. "Who do you think you are?"


They crowded closer. "Alexander what?"

"Alexander...uh...The Great." He replied, and was promptly beaten up.

Alexander went home and asked his mother how long it was until Christmas break. Since the year was 350 BC, she told him it'd be quite a while, but she'd take him to see the still-Pagan Santa when they went shopping in December. So he endured the beatings and dirty looks from his peers for some months.

Finally, Mrs. The Great went holiday shopping and placed little Alexander on the department store Santa's knee. Santa said: "Ho ho ho! What do you want under the tree this year?"

"I want an army. A big army!!!"

Since Alexander had been a good boy all year, his return to school was well-rewarded. Bullies converged upon him and taunted him. He warned them to stop or he'd beat them up.

"Oh yeah, Alexander The Great NOT , you'n what army?"

"That one." Said Alexander as  the thunderous clatter of arms and hooves built up behind him. The rest is history. History carried the surname: Antiochus The Great; Pompey The great; Ashoka The Great; Catherine The Great; Peter The Great.

It was not until 1925 that the family name was legally changed to Gatsby.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday Sermon: Entropy?

In physics, we learn entropy is the degree of disorder in a closed system, and it is always accompanied by heat. This is how we get TIME and why we have to pull off the road when the temperature gauge says our car engine has got too hot and, if we continue, will be broken. But this Sunday evening sermon deals with a conflicting definition, one that Norma brought to my attention this morning. Here is her alarming photograph of our garden sundial:
It is covered with frost! Its gnomon casts no shadow! There is only one explanation: the rotation of our planet has frozen to a standstill. There is disorder afoot, but no heat. Is it entropy?

I repaired to the bathroom for further experiment. I brushed my hair and heard a snapping sound and something fell onto the floor. Either my old brush handle had broken or my head had snapped off. Sudden hearing-loss is a symptom of decapitation, so I tried talking to myself to see if I could hear what I was saying. I said, "It is a far far better thing I do than I have ever done," and thought immediately of Ronald Colman. Yes, like every highschooler of my vintage, I read A Tale Of Two Cities as a sophomore but couldn't recall an important particular: did Sydney Carton deliver that line before or after he was decapitated? I came out here and looked it up:
The result was inconclusive.

I reached for my pen to take notes but it flew from my fingers, skittered energetically across the kitchen floor then out the door and down the road. Some vigorous sort of disorder was at work but what? I did my best to puzzle it out. My first step was to repair the seal on our stove door.

I thought of other things too. Was the Phoenix rising from ashes a Greek myth of rebirth or caution about smoking in bed? Does the universe think because time and thought are inseparable or is it the other way around? Does Genesis mention God taking his finger off the clay? Nothing! I could not think! Surely this indicated calamity but there was no heat involved --only cold. Norma said "Brrrrrrr!"

Second step is to get some logs glowing in there and use the poker to knock a blaze out of them.
I shall keep this up until bedtime which should restart entropy, time and thought in the universe, but if morning arrives and the planet is not yet rotating I must call upon all able-bodied Earthlings to get out and push.

Go in peace.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Prophesy And A Minor Miracle Examined

We are entering a season famous for its hierophanies. These are sacred showings that cannot be explained by normal thought. Fortunately, I am unencumbered by this disadvantage and have made some progress toward understanding enigmas. A survey of mental spasms by which I achieved this insight must begin in a nearby town. Twenty or thirty years ago, the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce conducted a contest in hopes of getting a town slogan.

Results were confusing. Unlike other towns like Brandon, South Dakota ("Building A Better Life") or  Burlington, Iowa ("The Loader-Backhoe Capital Of The World"), Elk Grove's new slogan was neither energetically optimistic nor industrially enthusiastic. I don't know that Elk Grove even has any industry or, reckoning by other evidence, overmuch optimism. The winning entry: "Home To A Happy And Contented Herd", got onto a couple rural signs but, since there are no elk in Elk Grove and its cattle ranches became housing tracts, nobody knew what sort of herd was under discussion and the slogan lost civic momentum. A new sign off the interstate reads:
It is a fine sign, historically and geographically accurate, but lacking the panache (except for panache meaning antlers in The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2000 edition) of prophesy --which my own entry contained. It was improvidently passed over by the judges. However, had it been accepted, the sign would now read:
There is some scriptural mention mention (N.T. Luke 13:57) regarding this omission, identifying the gift of prophesy as an inconsistent honor, which brings us to the Bible. I was photographed today while moving a potted olive tree and holding a rope.

This reminded me of something I heard as a kid. Another kid told me the Bible said Abraham tied his ass to a tree and walked into Jerusalem. I opined it must have been a very small tree. Kid went away disappointed. He was joking, but also in search of a minor miracle. He was not alone. Over the years, I've heard this feat attributed to Jesus, Saul, Jacob, Balaam, even Moses --who didn't quite get to Jerusalem City-- but never ran across any mention of it in the Bible.

I tied the pot to my handtruck so the tree wouldn't bounce off and walked it to another part of our garden. This seemed simple, effective and dignified. I am not in the miracle business, especially this long after the scriptural press deadline, but was pleased to have solved this one, at least, in principle.