Friday, May 27, 2011

Wii, the People . . .

There is no place where I feel more like a geriatric alien than the local video game store. But braving the salespeople's red-shirted scorn to get Secundus a gift for his birthday a couple of days ago -- and asking stupid questions, like why can't they make just one version of a game that plays on every system, so I don't have to pay for it more than once and I don't have to struggle in public to remember whether he has a PS or a DS, a box or a cube? -- I overhear the tail-end of an assistant's report to a concerned mother, choosing a game for her son.

"This one only has blood and violence."

Ah, "only."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Seeing is believing. Or not.

From an ambush photo by Tertius
I had temporarily lost my reading glasses again. (Most of the time, I keep them on and peer over the top, but just occasionally I want to look like something other than Professor Doofus. Found them this time in my pants pocket.*)

Secundus has a suggestion:

"You should get some bifocal skepticals."

*Solid plastic, $15 a pair online. And I get compliments on them.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Nobody knows the pretribulation I've seen.

I think this Camping chap has it wrong in predicting the Rapture for this Sunday. It's clearly taken place already. I went into the Post Office today -- a Friday -- at lunchtime and there was no waiting to get up to the counter.

Hey, I nicked this diagram from Wikipedia. Just in case you're at dinner with a bunch of Tribulationists and the conversation starts to flag.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

But I always picked the ability to fly.

Slightly disconcerting item in the sidebar of my Gmail account. It tells me "You are invisible."

Perhaps I'd better have a cup of tea and a lie-down and see if it passes.

(I was going to make some remark about heading for the women's locker room at the Y, but my kids read this.)

So Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island?

Twice in the last week, I've heard one of the rich-voiced announcers on our local classical music station refer to works by "Amadeus Mozart."

Okay, I looked it up, just to be sure. They called him "Wolfgang." He referred to himself as "Wolfgang." He never called himself just "Amadeus," and rarely, if ever, used his middle name in that form.

Of course, Amadeus means "beloved of God," which is why Peter Shaffer picked it up as the title of his play, and probably why since then, it's become an occasional and rather precious soubriquet for the great composer. But this is the Latin version. Wolfie was baptized "Theophilus," a Greek version, after a relative who used that form of the name. And during his lifetime, it was more often translated into German, as "Gottlieb."

Besides, W.A.M. can't afford to lose any more first names. "Wolfgang" is already his third. He never used the first two, which are basically Johann Chystostom. (I stole the latter for the middle name of my amateur detective, Oliver Swithin.)

Conclusion: the WQXR announcer is a pretentious git.

Friday, May 13, 2011

How many degrees of separation?

Just found that my names pops up on a website called Similar Authors. I make the second page in the list of writers who are similar to the site's most popular search, the ever-splendid Janet Evanovich.

Right next to Kathi Taylor and Rhys the Book.
I'll take that. Especially since I share that page with Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block, and the outstandingly talented (and utterly gorgeous) Sparkle Hayter, who once left a lip imprint on my personal copy of An Embarrassment of Corpses but in whose presence I have always been, alas, completely tongue-tied. I need some better lines.

(A Canadian-born mystery novelist whose name really is Sparkle, who spent years as a reporter in Afghanistan, and who these days blogs about Bollywood. Possibly from Paris. Never mind better lines, I need a life.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Compleat coincidence.

Want to hear a strange story about coincidences?

When I first announced that I was moving to Rye from Manhattan, my friend Sylvia* said "I only know one person in Rye. Her name's Anne P_____. You should look out for her."

"Sylvia," I protested, "there are 15,000 people living in Rye. Your friend is hardly likely to stroll up to me with a name-tag saying 'Anne P_____,' is she?"

The first event we attended, shortly after arriving at the new house in June 2003, was a juice-and-cookie gathering in the playground of the Primus's new nursery school, where he'd be attending summer camp. As he runs off to play, we turn our attention to the adults, mostly mothers.

A woman strolls up to us. She is wearing a name-tag saying "Anne P_____."

Anne's son is a contemporary of Primus through pre-school, but when the Elementary years begin, they go to different schools, and I never see Anne and her husband. Just this year, the boys are back together at the Middle School. And I suddenly find myself bumping into Anne again, and not just at school events. We pass in the same section of the same supermarket, obviously at the same time. Not once. Not twice. But just last week, a third time.

But here's where it ramps up -- and falls apart. The attentive among you will know that I am researching the great poet Ogden Nash's early years in Rye. And after several week's research, we think we finally have his birthplace pinpointed, about a mile or so from where we were originally looking, although to my disappointment, the estate no longer exists. But a glance at a 1900 map shows several buildings on the land, one of them on a site that's now virtually a stone's throw from . . . the P______s' house.

Or rather, where they used to live when our kids were having playdates and birthday parties. For a glimpse at the Middle School directory shows me that they've moved in the meantime. Ah well, fun while it lasted. And a mere shadow of some of the other coincidence stories I could tell, including a very puzzling one today; but I won't, because I continue to attach no significance to them.

*Not Sylvia the late centenarian actress, whose friendship, career, and passing has been well noted in these chronicles. Sylvia the mother of Primus's pre-school friend Leila, whose lovely name stuck with him and was transferred a little later to the greatest dog in the universe, who's currently barking at the mailman.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

And you thought it was librarians who were supposed to be straight-laced.

The Timothy Knapp House is thought to be the oldest surviving residential building in Westchester County, possibly dating back to 1667. It's now owned by the Rye Historical Society, and it contains the society's archives.

I spent a pleasant afternoon there, working with Rye's archivist Richard Hourahan on some further research into Ogden Nash's birth and childhood. (We're 90% sure we've identified the house where he was born in 1902, but one or two mysteries remain.)

I'm wading through clippings from the turn of the century -- the turn of the last century, that is -- from the Port Chester Journal, and I can't help getting sidetracked by the sort of events that made the local papers in those days and the language used to describe them.

My favorite discovery of the day -- apart from the report of ON's birth -- was this regular and rather puritanical formulation used to list uncollected mail:

"The following letters were uncalled for at the post office yesterday."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Happiness is a (luke-)warm pun.

Following a link from an online recommendation for a laptop case, I get to Amazon's page for the Pelican 1450 Case with Foam for Camera. Here's the picture that goes with it:

Okay, putting the sheer horror aside and avoiding any rant about the Second Amendment, lets get to the funny.* Puns about shooting -- "point and shoot" included -- too obvious. Can't do "automatic exposure," because it shows a revolver.  Jokes about a "Canon" are way off. Good when you're shooting for stock? Nah, too obscure a reference for both photography and guns. Similarly anything about "opening up." Similarly "Magnum."

Anything mixing up "Arbus" and "arquebus"? Oh wow, that's really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Ha, barrel, geddit?

No, I respect your judgment. Hmmm.

Only for photographers of the highest caliber? Great for a news report? Could do a gag about your work being in a gallery? Or in a magazine. (But again, it's a revolver! I'm a mystery writer -- have to get these things right.) Something about Henri Cartier-Wesson? Or a "Smith & Weston"? (Could be W. Eugene S. and Edward W., or sons Cole or Brett, whose images I prefer to his dad's. Centenary of Brett's birth this year, incidentally.)

Well, since we're going that way, here's one for the cognoscenti. Ahem.

"This case must belong to Harry Callahan.**"

*Or not.

**Put it in Wikipedia and see what happens.

I think I once owned a Harry Callahan, a later print of his 1954 image "Eleanor, Port Huron," if I recall. Included his wife's bottom. Lost it in a divorce. Me, I mean, not Harry, although I suppose if he'd divorced -- which he didn't -- Eleanor would get to keep her bottom. I got to keep the Cartier-Bresson. No bottoms, though. Did you know we all have them?

Monday, May 2, 2011

The daily . . . well, compliment for once, I think.

I'm shaving. Tertius peers at me from the bathroom door.

"Dad, you look pretty good for 54," he says. We're getting ready to head off for his birthday party, so perhaps he's being particularly benign. I thank him.

"Yes," he continues, "most people in their fifties use walkers or wheelchairs."

Er, yeah. (Although by the end of the day, I'm a bit miffed that I didn't get any compliments on my purple sneakers.)