Final Note on Tomi Ungerer

Got and read (the whole whopping 32 pages) his flat-out children book, Crictor (1958). I feel I have enough of his stuff now. Points:

Lovely that it’s set in a “little French town” where he can get the costumes and shops and landscapes intriguing and correct. Especially fun parts include: Madame Bodot feeding her “baby” boa constrictor milk from a bottle; knitting him a long wool sweater to wear in the snow; his diverse and clever interactions with French kids; and of course his foiling of a burglary in Madame Bodot’s apartment which makes him a snake-hero. Especially weird part: Madam Bodot being tied up and gagged by the thief reminds you of Ungerer’s bondage proclivities.

The ages recommended for the book are 4-8 and I was 6 when it came out. Wish I had read something by him at that time. Can’t imagine my reactions. But I know why he didn’t turn up in my elementary-school bookshelves.

The teachers sensed he was weird. Could cause waves.

Hear Crictor read.

 

University Mechanations

With all the hoo-hah about rigged admissions to prestige colleges, I thought I would add a very long-term reflection on the process.

My Father was Amherst Class of 1912 (yes, he was born in 1890). His whole interpretation of what a college education meant was just, duh, accepted by me as a little kid, though resisted when it came time for me to do the thing myself.

For Dan Miles, the product of a relatively old-elite family in MA, a college degree certified your presence in the higher WASP orders. Very few were intended to get them.

For Milo Miles, the product of a relatively farmland-elite family in MT, a college degree was what the majority of high-school graduates who had their shit together needed for at least a middle-class future.

I’ve mentioned on Twitter how the news of a gay-rights demonstration at Amherst kept my dad from insisting I go there (that wasn’t all — he sensed that there was more freedom of choice for young-uns at the end of the ’60s). I decided that “going away” to college would shred my worthwhile MT roots (there’s more to it, but Nunya), so went to both MSU Bozeman and U of M Missoula.

I got the degree, with a couple buffs added. Dad died the next year (at 85). I’ve always thought that part of it was that he was determined to hang on until I got that college certificate, which meant that my work life would be taken care of from then on. At once a nice and nasty dream.

I Used To Work on Illuminated Manuscripts

At least that’s what it feels like in memory, from an era before Evelyn Berezin made the typewriter an antique. Doing papers in college was hell — I could type fluently since I had learned early in grade school because my handwriting was mere scribbles, but there would always be enough typos and lame-ohs to require at least one edit. Meant marking up the manuscript with a pencil and typing the whole damned thing again. Good that I was young, with boundless energy. Did I mention the last time I stayed up all night was 12 years ago?

There Goes Simon’s Rhymin’

We voted this morning (Yes, Yes, Yes and Mr. Baker is toast and even better there was no doughnut table to guilt-trip you about not donating something to the polling-place school).

Then I did my initial listen to what, for now anyway, is Paul Simon’s final album, In the Blue Light. And it felt like closing a circle.

Back in Park Senior High, the simpering set adored Simon & Garfunkel, but I thought “Parsley” puke and even “Sounds of Silence” too quivering-nerve. “Bridge Over” was impossible to scoff away, however, and did provide my first revelation: the simp set was in love with Artie and Paul was ready to divorce all of them.

I think the Dean has had a damn-near-perfect ear for Simon through the decades and we responded to identical same tracks. Except that I always adored “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor,” which came out the year I became an official adult and started living in my own apartment. Yeah, here’s somebody mirroring my mind. But I did have trouble with “Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War” — thought it was abstruse. I have not checked to see how much lyrics were modified, but sure enough, this is now a masterful metaphysician operation.

Biggest stinko of the whole set (I’ve listened to it twice and realized I did not even grok this cut the first time through) is that “Love” is track #2. It’s a plain regression to S&G manners and mores and even language. Worst of all, it confirms that part of Simon still respects simp swill. And if “The Teacher” is clearer than it used to be, I still can’t bother to pierce its opaque. It is abstruse.

“Darling Lorraine” is a casually complex example of the Simon the old pimple farms would never grasp — he became an adult, even a weathered adult, not just a pop star with years heaped on him. “How the Heart Approaches What It Yearns” pulls back every lonely era of my life and best of all “Can’t Run But” delights me anew as a twittering and trumpeting machine that radiates the sensibility of the saints.

Thanks for the trip.

R.I.P.: Dr. Larry Martin

Which is what we called him when I took his BU disinformation class in 1979.

As you can tell, very witty, yet made sharp, even corrosive points. One story I remember is that he mentioned learning Elvis Presley songs on acoustic guitar “so young people would trust us at parties.”

One of the most informative and enlightening classes I ever attended.

Historic Mistakes

Sometimes you know full well the topics of history you were not taught properly. Even as a young teen I knew I’d gotten miserable explanations of race and Commie hysteria in America. But other items loom large only later — much later, maybe.

I understood that Warren Harding was the worst POTUS of the 20th century. A genuine diddling doofus. However, the overall thrust of the lesson was: “Boy, was that ever an embarrassment. But don’t worry, it will never happen again.” Only reservation I had back then was that I had an unsatisfactory sense of how he got in the office. If it could never happen again, though, that wasn’t so important.

One aspect I did grasp (I have not done any additional research other than my grade-school history-class memories) suggests some parallels with Bush Jr.: the Roaring 20s were never going to end and times were so good who cared who was Prez? But the side of things I wish had been filled in more was that Republican corruption was out of control and Harding was selected as the tool least likely to do anything about it. And (like Unca Ronnie) he looked real Presidential. That’s exactly why the multiple corruption investigations seem so on-target and so many GOPers are tolerating outrageous nonsense: they know today’s Teapot is about to boil.