Friday, May 29, 2009

Un-Ready Teddy

At my age you'd rightly be expected to have encountered enough bouts of boredom to be able to stifle a yawn or two when another one comes along. You've been there , yawned that , got the T-shirt, come out this side of alive.
Children's books though are a whole other ballpark. When the wee beloved hauls across her latest favourite for you to read out while you're trying to take in a half decent show on TV you don't break out in spontaneous dance.
You notice the sheer bulk of it. I mean 80 pages ? So you try opening it at page 65.
Fat chance. Wee beloved wants it from the begining.
Which is Goosey Gander , Georgie Porgie , Rock-A-Bye Baby and Tom The Piper's Son. These followed by sustained endurance thereafter of Teddy's Birthday Party , Teddy's Favourites , Teddy's ABC and a seven-page epic entitled Teddy Goes Flying that has you feeling like you're on an especially turbulent flight you decide you've earned the right to skip a dozen or so pages.
Dream on Daddy.
And know that there's no missing Uncle Sailor Bill . Nor anything else in that book.
You have nothing against either reading or reading aloud. Quite the contrary. What pains is the sheer absence of traction, grip , hook.
I mean take Teddy's Favourites. Hardly the stuff you've been dying to know all your life. Or Teddy's ABC - edifying but don't bet on it creating an intellectual breakthough to solve the planet's problems (of which Kid Lit by the way is no small component). Granted Hey Diddle Diddle has a certain surreal appeal but only to a point. The delight of knowing the dish ran away with the spoon begins to wear thin by around the nineteenth reading.
While these pieces can be read away within a reasonable couple of minutes each , things like Teddy Goes Flying are a far tougher kettle of fish. They are long. They are meant to be stories.
Huh ?
Teddy sees a bird and thinks how nice it would be to fly. He tries all manner of ways and can't. His Uncle Bill then gives him a ride in a helicopter. Teddy decides that is exciting enough.
The end.
Roald Dahl it ain't.
Nor an Agatha Christie whodunnit. Nor anything that dwells on the human condition. Why , not even on the bear condition. As I recall it , Milan Kundera in his Art Of The Novel wrote of the five or six stages in which a character or plot progressively develops. You wouldn't find half of one in Uncle Sailor Bill. And one shudders to think what E.M. Forster - author of Aspects Of The Novel (of which sad to say I couldn't understand a word) - would make of The Three Bears.
So there you go. It's not easy.
One thing it has to be said that does link your wee beloved's fav. books to some well known works of high art - like , say , Joyce's Ulysses or William Burrough's Naked Lunch - is the effect it has of decimating any trace of wakefulness within an inch of your life. No doubt the competent author of Grumpy Bertie Bear is in the reckoning for a Nobel and good luck to her.
The difference though is that with Ulysses or Naked Lunch you have a choice not to partake.
With wee beloved's treasure trove of Kid Lit , it's Fat Chance.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

So Pigs Have Wings ?

Last time it was Bird Flu which , come to think of it , isn't such a big deal .

I mean , birds will be birds and they will fly.

And a good thing too ; probably wouldn't have got Norwegian Wood if they didn't.

But swines ?

Friday, May 8, 2009

The (brief) Return Of Sherlock Holmes

"Mr Buchanan's theory is not without its merits" , remarked Sherlock Holmes
It was a cold and gloomy afternoon as we sat in our Baker Street apartment watching the IPL on television.
" And what , Holmes , do you base that opinion on ?" , I asked
This took him by no small surprise.
" Well ", he ventured with some hesitation, "Er , ..that is to say ..., it is based on certain logical conclusions that I have arrived at by the usual deductive process of reasoning that you are aware , dear Watson, I hold much store by and indeed - and this at the risk of sounding immodest -have employed profitably in the past ."
Readers of my more recent chronicles would perhaps be aware of my growing dismay with this man's failings of late. Holmes' unquestionably great powers have been on the wane. What has made it pitiable is his attempts to obfuscate the fact with utterly unconvincing bluster , this Buchanan comment not least amidst many.
" Come come Holmes , this is hardly becoming of you " , i rebuked.
"But my dear Watson ! When it came to such aspects as the toss , for instance , multiple captains would spread the risks associated with the luck of any one individual over several and thereby average , as it were , the probabilities. For another , players would have more captains to look up to. Not to mention the fans' delight at having more than one captain to take photographs with and have signed autographs from. And what ,pray, of press conferences where multiple voices would provide a Surround Sound effect in keeping with the times which , incidentally, the IPL is all about. But just think of the commercial opportunities from that alone , man ! I fear , my good Watson , your thinking is much too rooted in the 19th century".
More obscurities that I was not prepared to suffer.
" And I take it you have deduced the outcome of the next Knight Riders game ?" , I asked with a strong tinge of sarcasm , almost scorn.
Holmes' pat reply - it made me to happy to note - had such a ring of confident authority as I had not heard in a considerable length of time : " They will lose."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Quit Pro Quo

We shall smoke on the beaches, we shall smoke on the landing grounds, we shall smoke in the fields and in the streets, we shall smoke in the hills; we shall never surrender!

So Churchill didn’t say that – cigar in his mouth possibly? – but that’s pretty much how it has been for a while.

Not good.

This piece I read suggested that you begin with an analysis of the habit and jot down on a clean sheet of paper the reasons why you smoke.

Why do you smoke? What is a smoke ?

It’s an escape, a seven centimeter-long vacation several times a day. It’s trading off the weight of the world for five mg. of a chemical with bad karma and worse PR. It’s a stimulant of thought, a reasoning aid, a sense maker, a sort out-er.

It’s an agreeable act of thoughtlessness.

It’s a dare. It’s the thrill of doing drugs without the hassle. It’s a natural compulsion to self destruct. It’s a liberating surrender to addiction, to irrationality, to Big Tobacco, to petty worries, to Yes We Can’t. It’s high style at less than two dollars a buy. It’s a boost of confidence, a paper rocket to launch into ash-oblivion whenever you’re bored. It’s a satellite to orbit the world of meals, beverages and coffee breaks. It’s a personality prop, a playmate for your neurons, a function for your fingers. It’s like breathing. You don’t jot down reasons why. You don’t quit breathing. You have to quit smoking.

Or you quit breathing.

Uphill this task.

Excuse me while I light another.

That’s the trouble with cynicism: always seeing the cigarette half unsmoked.