Random Thursday: Random Ranting Iambic

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

It’s only fair: I did one on Bacon.

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Fitzgerald Monkeys

I was going to make some kind of parallel
with the perils of downsizing without adjusting one’s expectations,
but that’s sort of the definition of Fitzgerald, so . . .

(Thanks for the reassurance, Andy!  Ook Eek!)

ooooooooooOOOOOoooooooooo

Beautifully Written, but Still Statutory

Romeo and Juliet for Reals

I feel the same way about Romeo & Juliet that I do about The Giving Tree.

Since that little nerve is already starting to tick in my left eyelid,
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

(Thanks, Kev–I needed that!)

 ooooooooooOOOOOoooooooooo

Who’s in Primary?

Lay on, Mr. Leibowitz.

And damned be him that first cries, “I’ve heard enough!”

(My husband sent me this to celebrate baseball season.  Huzzah?)

 ooooooooooOOOOOoooooooooo

If He Had . . .

Shakespeare makes it up

. . . .we’d be using it right now.

Kind of frightening, right?

ooooooooooOOOOOoooooooooo

If you ever encounter someone who wonders aloud why Shakespeare isn’t translated into modern English so people can understand it
inform them that Shakespeare actually wrote in modern English
and slap a copy of the Canterbury Tales into their hands.

After they ask you why you’ve given them a Dutch doorstop,
take another big linguistic step back
and hit ’em upside the head with a untranslated copy of Beowulf
and send ’em to the theater to see Midsummer Night’s Dream.

(I might be a little testy today . . .)

ooooooooooOOOOOoooooooooo

To Edit or Not to Edit

You have to wonder . . .

“Bums in seats.”

Well . . . yeah.

So . . . How was Your Weekend?

Jane had a friend over Saturday night, which was sincerely fun—her guest is a great kid—but ended up being a platonic game of musical beds, in which Sunny fell asleep in our bed and her friend ended up falling asleep in Sunny’s bed, and instead of trying to put Sunny down in the sleeping bag without a) dropping her from a height that Child Services would deem iffy or b) playing tiddly winks with my vertebrae, I slept on the living couch—which had almost the same effect on my back as option b, but live and learn.

The next morning, after my husband left to teach his Sunday morning class, I made Pokemon Rabbit pancakes* for the remarkably bright and bushy-tailed kids and a staggering amount of coffee for the zombies adults and we all did an MST3K-like viewing of Toy Story 2 (with pillow fight) before Jane’s friend went home and I started cleaning up because my MIL, who had been away for the weekend, was due back that evening and I didn’t want to hear it.**

And then my husband returned and we went to a baseball game.

My friend Cha-Cha came, too, because she’d never seen a live baseball game before—I’m not certain how much of the game she saw, since the kids were there to “enhance” her experience, but a good time was had by all, including the man in front of us, who thought Janie’s explanation of baseball was funny as hell, which was a relief*** because it went on forever, until Cha Cha intervened.

” . . . There’s a fastball (duh), a curveball (which goes like this), and a spitball (which is against the rules and germy), and a slider, and a knuckleball, and—“

“What’s a knuckleball?” I asked, mostly so she’d take a breath.  “Is it the way you hold the ball or something else?”

“It’s like this,” Cha Cha said, grabbing Jane.  “Right?”

“That’s not a knuckleball!” hollered Jane, struggling.  “That’s a noogie!”

NomNomNom

Sunny, who was so tired from her late night that she’d come through total exhaustion to the other side, had no interest in baseball but loved that the popcorn comes in plastic helmets.  I took her to the bouncy house playground for the last few innings, hoping to wear her out, but she did ten rounds on the Big Slide without making a noticeable dent in her energy level until we had to climb the stairs to get back to our seats.

Our team won the game, too, which was nice.

We went home, where my MIL and Watson were waiting with open arms and some new clothes for the kids, because my MIL’s favorite way of spending her vacation is to buy clothes for everyone else.  That isn’t a complaint, by the way, just an amused observation.

While Sunny and Jane did an impromptu fashion show, with music and runway, and my husband did the grocery shopping,*** I dragged myself to the bathroom mirror and realized that a) I’d had a bit more sun than I’d thought and b) it was unlikely that I was going to be awake enough to re-rework the chapter that I’d forced myself to stop messing with the previous evening because my sense of continuity was slipping and I couldn’t see to type through my yawns.

Which is why I’m sitting in front of my laptop today^^ with a layer of aloe on my bright red nose and cheekbones trying to reintegrate a very minor character whom I’d ruthlessly cut before I realized that she’s the one I should have kept instead of the two other minor characters, whose only reason for surviving was an inside joke that no one else would get because I’d cut their set-up.

And why this post was a bit later than usual.  Sorry.

So . . . how was your weekend?

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*Because kids won’t eat Deformed Rabbit pancakes, that’s why.

**Except I heard it from my kids, who were upset they’d missed Sunday School and didn’t understand why I can’t provide instant teleportation on command.

***The poor man also had to hear Cha Cha and I discussing our favorite baseball movies (I’ve seen the end of The Natural ten times, but never the whole movie) and sports movies (Does Simply Ballroom count?), and my personal opinion (once Janie left to get drinks with my husband) that umpire pants might look shapeless, but are actually quite flattering (“Watch that one at home plate when he crouches down to—see?  Isn’t that nice?”).

^He volunteered because he needed the alone time and I let him because I needed to sit down.

^^I have the day off from the library for good behavior.  More or less.

Bragging on my Husband

Last night, the family went to see this man play the Sandlot Baseball All-Star Showcase at a real stadium:

We kind of had to—he’s ours.

Obviously:  Who else but a Wesson would play catcher in an old fencing mask?


Have to say, though, he looks good in uniform:

Pretty darn good:

It was a good game, even though the (blue) Turtles were trounced by the (orange) Crushers and Janie ate a blue-iced cupcake that showered everything within a two-foot radius with  teal speckles  and a very sleepy Sunny stuck herself to my shirt by her chocolate frosting goatee.

The entry fee for the game was canned goods for a local food bank and I heard that they collected over eight hundred pounds-worth from the family and friends who came out to watch them play and eat hotdogs and oddly-colored desserts and smush bugs and dance to the music and cheer on the players* and fall asleep on their Mommies until it was time to go home.

We had a great time.

You done good, honey—we’re proud of you!

___________________

* “You can do it, Daddy!  Just hit the ball !”

Short Reading Lessons in Writing: Zane Grey’s Rube

A morning short story reading group meets at one of our library branches on the second Monday of each month. The library provides the short stories, snacks, and a staff member to make coffee and keep things moving along.

That staff member is me.

I’m learning a lot about how readers read—and that chocolate chip cookies are the true favorite American pastime.
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The first story I ever moderated for this group was a Louis L’Amour western tale, and it went over like a lead balloon that hadn’t been rigged by Adam Savage or Jamie Hyneman.

It’s not easy for a first-timer to lead a discussion about a story no one much liked* in a genre no one cared to read. So when I was compiling stories for this year, I almost passed over Zane Grey—until I discovered that aside from myriad western novels and scripts, he also wrote baseball stories.

I took a chance.

This month’s story, “The Rube,” is narrated by the manager of a 1920s baseball team which has fallen to pieces. The manager goes scouting around in the barn leagues for a miracle and finds a lulu of a pitcher—he’s so good, he starts him in the next game.   Unfortunately, the fans’ heckling makes the new fellow so nervous he can barely hit the ground, much less the catcher’s mitt.

The manager is tempted to pull him, but he remembers something he was told about the pitcher’s temper, so he enlists the team to get him good and mad with various insults, including calling him a Rube and a useless coward. The pitcher tells each of them that he’ll defend himself after he finishes the game—and proceeds to strike out every player he faces. The relieved manager goes into the dugout where, instead of a celebration, he finds that the Rube has kept his promise and decked every one of his teammates.

Turns out, the majority of the readers don’t care for baseball stories, either.

Those that did like this story thought it read like the old games they used to listen to on the radio, with every play described. But they admitted it was the baseball that held them, not the characters.

Those who weren’t baseball fans had a difficult time wading through the heavy vernacular—there was a discussion over whether or not the Rube was supposed to steal second and if he actually did, which ended with a chorus of, “Well, why didn’t he just say that?” Without the baseball draw, those readers simply weren’t invested enough in the characters to care about the outcome—which, it was pointed out, was not in question, except for the punching, which no one found particularly funny.

They decided that either the story was too short for character development or too long for such a dense lump of baseball game—even our baseball fans agreed that it went on for two innings too long—though a few thought it was unrealistic to have the turn-around of Rube during his first game—one short paragraph about a bad game or two might have been better, “Even if it would make the story longer.”

All this might have reflected the style at the time it was written—we weren’t sure about that—but it didn’t work for us.

No one denied that Zane Grey was a good writer—most of us had read or watched his westerns—but they had expected better of this story.  “His writing is different in this story,” said a reader who claimed to have read all his westerns.  “Not bad, but . . .  is he trying too hard to be different?”

And no one denied that Zane Grey knew the game—he’d won a baseball scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania and went on to play for a while with a minor-league team in West Virginia, while his brother played for the Pittsburgh Pirates—and it was obvious that he loved it, too, but it was the general consensus that he didn’t write baseball very well.

“Maybe he wrote it for his brother, and it was published because he was famous,” someone said.

I winced and mentioned that he’d written two books of Rube baseball stories, and that the characters and Mr. Grey’s skills at writing baseball  might have developed through the series. But no one seemed interesting in finding out.

“He wrote such good westerns,” someone said. “He should have stuck to those.”

“He did,” said her friend.

“Good.”

The morals of this month’s discussion, then, seem to be that Writing What You Know and Love may not always work and brilliance may not cross genre lines.

What do you think?

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*I hadn’t learned yet that this can make for a much better discussion.

Poetry Wednesday: Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Except for “Casey at the Bat,” which I think I originally saw on Wonderful World of Disney-–which dates me if anything does—I didn’t put baseball and poetry together until a couple months ago, when I heard the guy behind me recite this:

One runner’s safe, one runner’s out,
Or so the ump has beckoned.
The one who’s safe touched second first,
The one who’s out, first second.

I made him repeat it again so I could write it down.* He didn’t know anything else about the poem, so I did some resarch. It’s called “Numbers Game,” and was written by Richard Armour around 1975.

Along the way, I found more poems about the game, including an in-depth description that appealed to me a lot more than my husband’s explanation of the inside fly rule (is that what that’s called?):

Umpires have a tough, thankless job. Sunny’s godmother’s oldest is a Minor League umpire, and let me tell you, it’s tough to hear the things people yell. Notice the date; this abuse has been going on for more than a century!

Slug The Umpire
(Anonymous, 1886)

Mother, may I slug the umpire
May I slug him right away?
So he cannot be here, Mother
When the clubs begin to play?

Let me clasp his throat, dear mother,
In a dear delightful grip
With one hand and with the other
Bat him several in the lip.

Let me climb his frame, dear mother,
While the happy people shout;
I’ll not kill him, dearest mother
I will only knock him out.

Let me mop the ground up, Mother,
With his person, dearest do;
If the ground can stand it, Mother
I don’t see why you can’t, too.

Mother may I slug the umpire,
Slug him right between the eyes?
If you let me do it, Mother
You shall have the champion prize.

But this one—this one is for Janie (that’s her softball trophy to the right there):

The New Kid
(Mike Makley, 1975)

Our baseball team never did very much,
we had me and PeeWee and Earl and Dutch.
And the Oak Street Tigers always got beat
until the new kid moved in on our street.
The kid moved in with a mitt and a bat
and an official New York Yankee hat.
The new kid plays shortstop or second base
and can outrun us all in any place.
The kid never muffs a grounder or fly
no matter how hard it’s hit or how high.
And the new kid always acts quite polite,
never yelling or spitting or starting a fight.
We were playing the league champs just last week;
they were trying to break our winning streak.
In the last inning the score was one-one,
when the new kid swung and hit a home run.
A few of the kids and their parents say
they don’t believe that the new kid should play.
But she’s good as me, Dutch, PeeWee or Earl,
so we don’t care that the new kid’s a girl.

___
*This tickled him. He told me he’d been watching me scribble stuff down all season—I do some of my best writing at the ballpark—and wondered what I’d been doing. “You a poet?” he asked. “Nope,” I said. “Eavesdropper.” He laughed, but his wife wasn’t sure.