Sunday, March 15, 2009

time flies like an arrow

fruit flies like a banana

Stan Apps, at whatever his blog is called today, has a post about reading text backwards.

which post brings to mind an Anecdote:
When I first moved to Chicago (the first time) (in 1996), I went to the Loop to what was then Marshall Fields to look at the Christmas display and not knowing that the window displays would tell a narrative, I started on the wrong end and worked my way backwards. The window display that year was based on A Christmas Carol, and so the story went something like:
A repentant man buys a goose, then grows increasingly cynical.

(I did this in subsequent years; all Christmas stories backwards are depressing, which is to say more accurate, except for The Nutcracker, which evades explanation in either direction.)

I am also reminded of sitting in a movie theater, which I would have spelled "theatre" at the time, with my friends, waiting for Arachnophobia (‽) to start and talking about running movies in reverse (Kurt Vonnegut does this in Slaughterhouse Five, but we didn't know that): my friend said, "Jaws is about a shark that keeps throwing up people until they open the beach."

This is great!
But is it too great? It seems stolen from something he would have seen on HBO, which I did not have. Googling it now, I find references to it in basically these exact words, though not many, so maybe it is true that we were all funnier a long time ago. Reading old Outlook archives seems to confirm this.

n.b. The picture above of Stan Apps holding a sword is one that I found looking through an Outlook archive. He is not holding a sword because he is about to cut some Gordian Knot of Poetry by reading it backwards; but he is holding it hilariously because this is around 1994, a time when everything was hilarious.

W/R/T poetry, though
Other than liiike Philip Larkin, who for some reason I find hard to get enough of, I don't read much poetry, unless it's in the NYer and it's short enough (sorry, @Erato!) and is hopefully about someone who used to be a dog, but if a poem does manage to get itself read, I usually forget I'm supposed to be paying attention and when I get to the end, I definitely read it backwards (but it's cool: I think we all know that Leonhard Euler figured out the Seven Bridges of Königsberg problem by starting at the end and working backwards), based on my misunderstanding of the way "poetry" works, viz--:

(1) a good poem is one that has a real sockdolager at the end
(2) find the sockdolager, and you will "unlock" the "key" to the poem (note: these are metaphors)
(3) then you can go back and reread it with "what you were supposed to have gleaned from it" the first time through in mind

It is all defensive and tricky, but there is one hole you can shoot your "photon" into and then it explodes (it is possible I read that narrow fellow in the grass thing too many times in school).

For: reading bottom to top will increasingly be the practice as we all start going through old email threads in our Outlook Archives to see how funny we used to be and to try to figure out what happened (I was really funny over email in 2000.) (i.e., before the events of 9/11) (but after Kurt Cobain died! Strange!)

All of this to say:
if you sometimes find yourself missing the Silver Age of the Internet when everyone was funnier (before they "bought the goose") (see what I did there?), and regret specifically the deletion of the entire tmftml blog at popfactor ("popfactor"!) and more specifically regret that the Elizabeth Skurnick "Ballad Of The Love-Scorned Anywoman" post is gone: fear not, it is also here on her own blog.

Note: even though it is poetry that is not about a dog, it should be read forward, due to the sockdolager.


Jackson's Father said...

Perilous--not hilarious.
The sword is being wielded--ala "Augie"--Paul Rudd's "little" in Role Models--not with hilarity, but with mockery at the pretend but not pretend double-ponyboy-ed "cowboy" aiming the real hunting bow with the real arrows at the artful Davidian-knit hoodie fellow or perhaps at the pretend poet on the floor only having rhymed to woo high school girls onceuponatime:

Gordiun Knot Poem Unfinished ala "Jason Warner 1990 Writers Club": The Divination of Pat O’Mortenson

‘tis terrible true ‘neath the moon pale and blue
That ol’ Pat he a-met his bleak end
The tombstoneys there have a tale they would share
‘bout a poem-man crossed by a friend.
On that fateful dark night with no trusty flashlight
Ol’ Pat did rhapsodically wait
As the poem-man snuck darkly—no stars shone very sparkly
When I bludgeoned O’Mort to his fate.

Now Pat, full of sand, was from Sugarland, where the people seem nice and are thrifty
His folks brought him to Dallas where his heart became callous and in red-converse shoes he grew shifty.
Pat enrolled into school where he quickly gained tools in mathematics, in science, and in wit
He even tried acting, his Cancer man was impacting, and his black trench coat—strong—double-knit.

I met him in Chemistry, though I dropped mid-semestry, stoichiometry my persecution…
But a teacher of writing found our words quite delighting—and our history—rattle-cage-Revolution.
Soon a cedar-haired vixen, completed the mix in a triad—bound green-color cardboard.
A spiral! Blank pages! Three poets—certain sages! Trumpets blared, Troyannes danced, Estes roared.

(my boss walked in at this point)

‘twas a terrible night ‘neath the moon blue and bright
Where ol’ Pat met his end quite completely
While the wind purred and sighed O’Mort bled and died
And I made my way off quite discreetly.
‘neath my shanty light’s humming my heart races, drumming
Once more lifting poem pen in hand
Biting down on my lip, still obsessed with Pat’s quip…
I write, “My mule his name *WAS* Tallyrand…”

Holy hell, man, the plummeting cow is right over his shoulder!!! Sio, sio...

Forgive me, fruitbasket.

Jackson's Father said... what you SAID reminded you of something I'd written in high school. Tallyrand, tallyrand, tallyrand, tallyrand, tallyrand.


Patrick M~ said...

Hey Jason!
In high school you were also voted most likely to be this guy

Check, and mate.