If you type “word of the year” into google, you will get results. The first page has three dictionaries weighing in, and several repeat entries. A few new stories report a fourth contest. “Searches related to” turns up a fifth. This is enough. Pictures for this report are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.
Oxford Dictionaries gives the top spot to Post-Truth. “The compound word post-truth … seems to have been first used in this meaning in a 1992 essay by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich in The Nation magazine. Reflecting on the Iran-Contra scandal and the Persian Gulf War, Tesich lamented that ‘we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world’.” The OD shortlist: adulting, alt-right, Brexiteer,. chatbot, coulrophobia, (rare extreme or irrational fear of clowns) glass cliff, hygge, Latinx, woke.
Merriam Webster gives the prize to Surreal. The MW short list: revenant, icon, In Omnia Paratus, bigly, deplorable, irregardless, Assumpsit, Faute de Mieux, feckless. To see the short listers, you have to click on the arrow. After feckless, the next stop is 9 Christmas Words with Surprising Histories.
Dictionary.com gives us Xenophobia. “The word xenophobia is actually relatively new, and only entered English in the late 1800s. It finds its roots in two Greek words, xénos meaning “stranger, guest,” and phóbos meaning “fear, panic.” In lieu of a short list, links are provided to What Character Was Removed from the Alphabet? and What’s the Grossest-Sounding Word in English?
Collins Language gives the WOTY prize to Brexit. Rounding out the top ten: Hygge, mic drop, Trumpism, throw shade, sharenting, snowflake generation, dude food, Uberization, JOMO.
American Dialect Society honors Dumpster Fire as the WOTY. In a rather wonky press release, ADS lists contenders in a few categories. WORD OF THE YEAR: dumpster fire, woke, normalize, post-truth, #NoDAPL, POLITICAL WORD OF THE YEAR: deplorables (basket of), nasty woman, Pantsuit Nation, post-truth, unpresidented, DIGITAL WORD OF THE YEAR: fam, Harambe, tweetstorm, SLANG WORD OF THE YEAR: fire, receipts, woke MOST USEFUL/MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED: chip, gaslight, normalize, turn up MOST CREATIVE: -exit, facticide, gynotician, laissez-fairydust EUPHEMISM OF THE YEAR: alt-right, fake news, locker-room banter, small/tiny hands WTF WORD OF THE YEAR: bigly, cuck, cuckservative, pussy, yuuuge, HASHTAG OF THE YEAR: #blackgirlmagic, #NoDAPL, #OscarsSoWhite, #pussygrabsback. ATTITUDE OF THE YEAR: liberal elite nonsense ADS prejudice.
American Name Society (Promoting the study of onomastics) is a sibling organization of the ADS. “Aleppo was chosen the Name of the Year for 2016 by the American Name Society at its annual meeting in Austin, Texas on January 6, 2017.” Other winners include Personal NOTY Drumpf, Fictional NOTY Hamilton, Trade NOTY (tie) Brexit, Uber.
It has been a strange week for a David Bowie fan. On Friday, I was looking for a rerun to post, and was reminded that January 8 was his birthday. (Along with Elvis and Shirley Bassey) I put up a piece about Mr. Bowie, and fashioned a poem out of his song titles. Aquarian Drunkard reissued a collection of the “best and most interesting Bowie oddities”. A new album was released, with a lot of comments about how strange it was. Strange is something Bowie fans turn to face.
On Monday, I woke up. Go on the internet. MSN news says that David Bowie has died. This is surprising. I know what people are going to talk about for a few days.
I typically download the new wtf podcast on Monday. The show is “supported” by Columbia records, presenting David Bowie’s new album “Blackstar.” Marc Maron gushes on about how ” DAVID BOWIE I LOVE DAVID BOWIE. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” The single is called “Lazarus.”
The timing of the whole thing is bizarre. Was this planned? To release a puzzling new work on your sixty ninth birthday, and then die two days later. With the master media manipulator involved, prior planning cannot be ruled out. Or was it just a parting shot of synchronicity? We will never know.
In what might be a new move for celebrity deaths, sex scandal rumors emerged. A lady named Lori Maddox claims that Mr. Bowie “devirginized” her. Miss Maddox was underage at the time. Some people think that this incident makes Mr. Bowie a terrible person, whose artistic output should be ignored. One made the inevitable comment “As someone who sees White stars get a pass for things that celebrities of color get crucified for.”
I learned a long time ago to separate the performer from the performance. I also apply this rule to David Robert Jones. (David Bowie was a stage name. The legal name was never changed.) In 1976, there was an interview, where the artist said “Don’t believe anything you hear me say.” While the creative/marketing genius can be enjoyed, there was always a bit of coldness behind the mask. Some press reports say that this softened as the years went by. In the end David Bowie was human. Ziggy Stardust was a character played by an actor. Does it matter that they were a Cracked Actor?
It is ironic that David Bowie played Andy Warhol in Basquiat. Both combined creation of art, and the marketing of art product, into a seamless unit. The two did not have a good first meeting. “Remember, David Bowie was not a big star. He was just some guy off the street as far as Andy Warhol was concerned. They found a common ground in David’s shoes. David was wearing yellow Mary Janes and Andy had been a shoe illustrator, which David knew so they began talking about shoes.”
This would have been in 1971. Mr. Bowie discusses his adventures in between songs of this show. There is another story from that first tour: “I think that must’ve been part of the Mercury Records publicity tour in early 1971, Gus. Ted Vigodsky, if I remember correctly, brought Bowie by The Great Speckled Bird’s offices on North Avenue where Moe Slotin and I met him. Bowie was dressed in an ill-fitting gingham dress and looked something like a gaunt, poverty-stricken woman in one of those Walker Evans photos from the Depression. He informed Moe and me that he was gonna be the next big star in rock-n-roll. It took all of our will power not to laugh in his face. This was before anyone in America had heard of him and he had no records out yet (“Space Oddity,” a hit in England in 1969, was not released in the USA until 1973). Six months later Moe and I realised we had completely underestimated him. I had forgotten Charlie had called you about interviewing him.” Pictures today are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.
David Bowie is 69 today. Elvis is ageless, and Sarah Palin is obsolete. This Bowie tribute is a repost. Pictures are from The Library of Congress.
A webpage called CaptainsDead had a download of a David Bowie concert. (It is here on “A Portrait In Flesh” (Full show L.A. Sept. 5th 1974)) Most Bowie live recordings are pretty dull. While the Thin White Duke is renowned for his concerts, they tend to be live events, that depend on staging and costumes as much as music. This show, from 1974, is different. Focusing on material from “Diamond Dogs”, the sound he produces comes close to matching the studio sound.
The next move for Bowie in 1974 was the “white soul” sound of “Young Americans”. He is moving in that direction in this show, even while he lingers in the glitter apocalypse. This tour included a stop at the Fox Theater, the first Atlanta show for Mr.Bowie. On the way to Florida for the next show, the truck with the sets and costumes crashed into a swamp full of rattlesnakes. The show in Tampa was performed in street clothes.
Maybe it is time for a Chamblee54 tribute to David Bowie. It is six am, and PG has stumbled into a job. The time and energy required to write new material is not always available.
The first album by David Bowie that PG heard about was “Hunky Dory”. At the time, Mr. Bowie had generated some buzz by admitting that he fancies blokes, or some uber british expression for being queer. In time, this would be seen as more publicity stunt than brave confession. The RCA debut got some good reviews, but not much else.
The next year produced “Ziggy Stardust”, a concept album. At about this time he did a tour of the United States, with costumes and onstage antics that generated even more publicity. More and more people started listening, some in spite of his outrageous image, and quite a few more because of it. He broke up his band, the spiders from mars, and announced his retirement. The band, according to reports, learned about this while standing on stage behind him. Mr. Bowie, for all his genius, is not always a nice man.
In 1974 there was an album, “Diamond Dogs”, about the decadent urban life in the scifi future. A stage show based on this album…the source of the download mentioned above…marked a return to the concert stage. The next year gave us “Young Americans”, and the year after that “Station to Station”. Every year was a different sound and vision.
Meanwhile, the artist was not doing so good as a human being. According to all reports, he was doing mountains of cocaine. (There is a story of going to meet the parents of Ava Cherry, one of his girlfriends. He shows up at 3am, and does coke on the dining room table.) There was an interview in Playboy (or maybe it was Rolling Stone ) where the first thing he says is, don’t believe anything I say. He went on to say that he admired Adolf Hitler. Have we mentioned the physical appearance of David Bowie in 1975? He looked like he was dead, and nobody bothered to tell him. (By contrast, in recent photo collections of rock stars, Mr. Bowie looks pretty good for a man who is 69 yo.)
This was the era of Rocky Horror show. At one point, Riff Raff sings (Tim O’Brien wrote the show, and gave himself some darn good lines) Frank n furter, it’s all over, your mission is a failure, your lifestyle’s too extreme.I’m your new commander you now are my prisoner we return to transylvania prepare the transit beam While this may not have been directed at David Bowie, he took the hint.
We interrupt this David Bowie tribute with an emergency announcement. A person, reputed to be an entertainer, was seen using the n word on facebook. The screen shots have disappeared, and all we have is the word of the accuser. More details will be available as soon as anyone is interested.
David Bowie saw himself at a dead end, and possibly a dead life. He moved into a little apartment in West Berlin, on top of a garage. Brian Eno offered his assistance, and a series of electronic albums was the result. The next few years saw rock and roll, dance music, and finally, crap. PG bought a Bowie album in 1984, the first time he saw it on sale, and was immensely disappointed. The last David Bowie album that PG got was a free cd that was given to people buying a magazine.
Around 1981, MTV was born, and radio was suddenly obsolete. A visual artiste like David Bowie was a natural for video. Unfortunately, many of these videos are not available for embedding in blogs. Ashes to Ashes was a staple of early MTV. Boys Keep Swinging , off the “Lodger” album, is a return to the gender bender Bowie of younger days.
David Bowie continued to do tours, and PG got to see two of the shows. In 1987, something called the “Glass Spider Tour” came to the Omni. (In a later interview, it turns out Mr. Bowie was extremely unhappy during this tour, and close to suicide at some points.) The Glass Spider was this mass of lighting effects that hovered over the stage, and was used to best advantage during “Scary Monsters”. The show featured Peter Frampton on guitar, and had a pack of dancers. (One apparent female took her drag off during the finale.) A good time was had by all.
In 1990, another retirement tour came to the Omni. This one had movies projected on a screen behind the stage, and featured guitar hero Adrian Bellew. The night had the feel of a contractual obligation. David Bowie is too professional to give a bad show, but this one did not have the fire of “Glass Spider”. PG had a new set of contact lenses, and his eyes were painfully dry most of the night.
This David Bowie Death Day tribute is a triple repost.
Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Tag some others who might enjoy this. You can’t use the band I used. Try not to repeat a song title. It’s a lot harder than you think! Re-post as “my life according to (band name)”Pick your Artist: David Bowie
Are you a male or female: The Bewley Brothers
Describe yourself: Quicksand
How do you feel:Always crashing in the same car
Describe where you currently live: Life on Mars
If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Width of a circle
Your favorite form of transportation: Queen Bitch
Your best friend is: Young Americans
You and your best friends are: Kooks
What’s the weather like: Changes
Favorite time of day: Eight Line Poem
If your life was a TV show, what would it be called: Scary Monsters
What is life to you: Panic in Detroit
Your relationship: Fame
Your fear: Sound and Vision
What is the best advice you have to give:Somebody up there likes me
Thought for the Day: Hang onto yourself
How I would like to die: Ashes to Ashes
My soul’s present condition: Moonage Daydream
My motto: Andy Warhol
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PG notices details, sometimes. One thing is the time on clocks and watches in ads. The time is 10:09:36. Sometimes, it is 01:51:25. There are occasional exceptions, but 10:09:36 seems to be an industry standard. This is a repost. Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.
It focuses attention on the top part of the watch, and makes the bottom part visible. Typically, the logo of the manufacturer is framed by the hands. The manufacturer wants the logo to be visible in the ads.
The hands lifted upward make a welcoming gesture. If you hold your arms out at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions, it will look like you are about to hug someone. This shape also looks like a smile.
After this, we get into the myths. At this particular time (10:09:36) US deployed the atom bomb on Japan. This particular time is used to remind people of the US dominance. A bit of research into pre atom bomb advertising might disprove that, but PG thinks that is too much work.
Another hypothesis is that Abraham Lincoln was shot at 10:15 pm on April 14, 1865, and died at 7:22 the next day. How this translates into 10:09:36 is anyone’s guess. However, standard time was not used in the United States until 1883. The precise “time” of Mr. Lincolns retirement is not known.
Someone wrote the Timex company about this issue.
A: WE CALLED TIMEX FOR YOUR ANSWER AND IT SAYS THE HANDS ON A CLOCK ARE PLACED AT TEN-TEN BECAUSE IT’S A CREATIVE STANDARD INDUSTRY. TIMEX SAYS THE HANDS ON TIMEPIECES ARE PLACED AT TEN-TEN SO THE COMPANY LOGO ON THE FACE WILL BE FRAMED AND NOT BLOCKED BY THE HANDS.
TIMEX SAYS THE INDUSTRY STANDARD USED TO BE EIGHT-TWENTY BUT THAT LOOKED TOO MUCH LIKE A FROWN AND CREATED AN UNHAPPY LOOK. TIMEX SAYS IN ITS ADS, THE CLOCK HANDS ARE PLACED AT TEN-NINE AND THIRTY SIX SECONDS, EXACTLY.”
Another source discusses this issue when the “creative standard industry” was 8:20. At that time people still said it was the time that Abe Lincoln was shot and or died.
Yet another source, the poetically named stupidquestion.net, has a few more tidbits. It seems like in the 1880’s, pocket watches became popular. In ads, the case was shown more than the face. The omega watchmaker established the 10:08:35 standard in 1915, and the industry followed suit. This would also seem to contradict the atom bomb theory given above.
PG has always wondered something else. Are all photographs for watch ads shot at 10:09:36? If not, then the ads are a lie. According to StupidQuestions, watchmakers send out non functioning dummy watches that are frozen at a certain time. PG (who does not wear a watch, but uses wall clocks) says this makes him question the honesty of the ad.
Towards the end of Razor Girl, Carl Hiaasen has another fit of alliteration. Somebody doesn’t care is a lady is “bisexual, bi-polar, or bio-hazard.” Those three buys sum up the plot nicely. Key West makes the first part redundant. Florida makes the next two necessary. Quote marks were not used.
Mr. scary last name (Carl heAHSin) writes fun books. There is a formula. The hero is a man, with a checkered past. He falls for a damsel in distress. The bad people are New Jersey refugees baking in the sun. As Hunter S. Thompson might have said, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
CH said, in a promotional interview: What’s next for you? “Right now I’m working on another book for young readers. I can’t say much about it because it’s early, and I have no idea where the plot is going at the moment. But the characters are pretty smart, so I’m sure they’ll figure things out.”
There is a plot innovation. The damsel in distress is one of the criminals. Merry Mansfield is paid to crash cars into other cars. When the crashee goes to investigate, they find a red haired lady, shaving her pussy. One early participant is Andrew Yancey. He is a former detective, who was demoted to inspecting restaurants, i.e. the roach patrol. This does not reefer to the end of a marijuana cigarette.
Since chamblee54 avoids spoiler alerts, we will not say whether razor girl does the bone dance with roach patrol dude. There are crimes to solve. A mid eastern man falls off the conch train, and is stabbed to death by a ceramic dolphin. A sleazy lawyer begins to use Pitrolux®, the deodorant/testosterone combination. The attorney has TV commercials promoting his class action lawsuit against the manufacturers of Pitrolux®, where he claims to be a fellow victim. He was telling the truth. Just because the lips are moving…
Razor Girl has a few plot twists that make no sense whatsoever. The reader learns to roll with it, and enjoy the fun. A certain morality exists. The book is slick commercial product, designed by Soonyoung Kwon. Pictures, for this chamblee54 book report, are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”
Today is National Fruitcake Day PG sees a chance for some text to put between pictures. He would be nutty as a fruitcake to turn down this chance. This is a repost. Part two of this recycled holiday blog party is a tribute to The Fruitcake Lady.
Fruitcakes were buried with the dead in Ancient Egypt. It’s true. Ancient Egyptians used to fill the tombs of the dead with all the supplies that they would need to enjoy the afterlife, including food and water. Fruitcake was often put into the tomb of a deceased person because a fruitcake soaked in a natural preservative like alcohol or fruit juice would last a long time. It was thought that the preserved fruitcake would not spoil on the journey to the afterlife. Fruitcake was a staple food of other ancient Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian and Mediterranean cultures as well
Candied fruits are used in fruitcake because using sugar was the only way to preserve the fruit long enough to get it back to Europe from the Middle East. When the Crusaders began carrying exotic fruits back to their European home the fresh fruit would spoil long before they were able to get it home. Ingenious traders began drying the fruits by candying them with sugar which made them an even more delicious treat and preserved them indefinitely. Once the candied fruits were sent to Europe and to other parts of the world they were baked into cakes so that they could be shared with family and friends on special occasions.
Fruitcakes will last for years without spoiling. It’s true. A fruitcake that is properly preserved with an alcohol soaked cheesecloth that is then wrapped in plastic wrap or foil can be kept unrefrigerated for years without spoiling. In the past, before refrigerators came along, families would make fruitcake for holidays and special occasions months in advance of the actual event and then let the covered fruitcakes sit wrapped in an alcohol soaked cloth until the event happened. As long as the cloth was remoistened with alcohol occasionally the cakes not only didn’t spoil, they actually tasted richer and sweeter because they had been soaking in brandy and rum for a couple of months.
To millions of fruitcake consumers, the town of Claxton GA is very special. This south Georgia town, just down the road from Reidsville, is home to Claxton Fruit Cake . The story of the Claxton Fruit Cake company is a sweet one. Savino Tos founded the Claxton Bakery in 1910. He hired Albert Parker in 1927, and sold him the business in 1945. Mr. Parker decided to sell Fruit Cake to America.
No story about fruitcake is complete without mentioning the “Fruitcake Lady”. Marie Rudisill , an aunt of Truman Capote, wrote a book of fruitcake recipes. She became a tv celebrity, before going to the bakery in the sky November 3, 2006.
The urban dictionary has nine listings for fruit cake. The ones for homosexuals and crazy people are there. UD gets creative with this selection: “The act of releasing green chunky diarrhea onto your partners face then, ejaculating on it, then punching him/her in the nose causing the colors to mix together to form a fruit cake like color.”
If you tire of jokes about fruitcake, you can go to The society for the protection and preservation of fruitcake . (If you click on the “new URL”, you will be invited to join in the green card lottery.) There used to be a link on the society page that enables you to buy Fruitcake Mints. “Keep your breath fruitcake fresh with these festive mints!”
Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.
There was a political comment on facebook. The last sentence was “No wonder Georgia turned Republican after the Clintons sold poor people out.” The person making this comment was born in 1980, the same year Georgia elected a Republican to the US Senate. This person also was born and raised in Florida. PG thought of a smart comeback. This is a repost.
There was a famous video by the Fruitcake Lady. In the first part, a young lady asks who to vote for in an upcoming election. FL makes a face, and said “you’re gonna ask someone who lives in FLORIDA how to vote?” This is along the lines of a Floridian transplant explaining the Republicanization of Georgia. Unfortunately, the video with the Fruitcake Lady had been taken down for copyright infringement. The spell check suggestions for Republicanization: Recapitalization, Cannibalization.
PG wasn’t really doing anything, and was in the mood for a google wild goose chase. This led to an amazing article, Sweet as Sugar, Rude as Hell, My Lost Interview with Truman Capote’s Aunt. A writer for the fishwrapper went to a mobile home in Hudson, FL. He talked to Marie Rudisill, who was best known as Truman Capote’s “Aunt Tiny.” The meeting took place in 1997, and was not what the writer expected. A family friendly version of the meeting was published The journalist received a slice of fruitcake in the mail. Everyone concerned went on with their lives.
Marie Rudisill died November 3, 2006, after becoming famous as the Fruitcake Lady. As for the journalist: “When I left The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2009, I stashed 27 years of old newspapers, tapes and ephemera in my garage. Nothing is more depressing to me than those boxes of old newspapers. It’s my own private morgue — replete with the sickening scent of dust and roach pills…. When I finally mustered the courage to dig around, I found the Lewis interviews — as well as a cache of other recordings. Three of the tapes had Rudisill’s name scribbled on them. I was not quite ready to listen, though. I put them in a box and labeled it.”
In 1924, Truman Streckfus Persons was born in New Orleans LA. His mother, Lillie Mae (Aunt Tiny’s older sister) left her husband behind, and took the boy to Monroeville AL. They lived in a wild household. A neighbor was Harper Lee, who wrote “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Miss Lee was a close friend, as was Sook. This is Truman’s cousin, the fruitcake chef herone of “A Christmas Memory.”
After a while, Lillie Mae married Joe Capote, who adopted the boy. They moved to New York, where Aunt Tiny joined them. Truman was sent to military school. Everyone, except Lillie Mae, thought this was a terrible idea. The effort to butch up young Truman did not work.
Aunt Tiny wrote a book, Truman Capote: The Story of His Bizarre and Exotic Boyhood by an Aunt Who Helped Raise Him. It was published in 1983, a year before Truman died. “The book scandalized Monroeville — and Capote. He told The Washington Post: “If there are 20 words of truth in it, I will go up on a cross to save humanity.” Said Harper Lee: “I have never seen so many misstatements of fact per sentence as in that book.”
There is one story that sticks out…. “Rudisill breaks down just once during our interview. It’s when she recalls “the first time Truman ever had a sexual encounter with a priest.” She was living in Greenwich Village, having followed Lillie Mae and Truman to New York. “He was sitting on my doorstep when I came home from work, and he had blood all in his pants, and then he told me about this priest. And nobody, I don’t think anybody in the world ever knew that but me.”
There is more to the story. If you have the time, you might enjoy reading the full article. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.
Until 2009, PG had never heard of Mithras.
Mithras is a Persian deity, from the Zoroaster tradition.(That is pronounced Zor uh THRUS ta.) Not much is known about Mithras … did he really exist, or was he a legend? There was a cult of Mithras in the first century Roman empire.
There are supposed to be similarities between Mithras and Jesus. These include the virgin birth, the birth on December 25, and rising from the dead after three days. Some spoilsports say the early christians grafted Jesus onto the legend of Mithras.
One indication that this might be true is The Catholic Encyclopedia. “Some apparent similarities exist; but … it is quite probable that Mithraism was the borrower from Christianity.” This repost has pictures from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.
With one day before it was due, PG finished reading Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor , by Brad Gooch. The author is a professor of English at William Patterson University in New Jersey. He spares no citations, to show where he gets his information. This is a repost.
Chamblee54 has written before about Miss O’Connor , and repeated the post a year later. There is a radio broadcast of a Flannery O’Connor lecture. (The Georgia accent of Miss O’Connor is much commented on in the book. To PG, it is just another lady speaking.)
Mary Flannery O’Connor was born March 25, 1925 in Savannah GA. The local legend is that she was conceived in the shadow of St. John the Baptist Cathedral, a massive facility on Lafayette Square. Her family did leave nearby, and her first school was just a few steps away. This is also a metaphor for the role of the Catholic Church in her life. Mary Flannery was intensely Catholic, and immersed in the scholarship of the church. This learning was a large part of her life. How she got from daily mass, to writing stories about Southern Grotesque, is one mystery at the heart of Flannery O’Connor.
Ed O’Connor doted on his daughter, but had to take a job in Atlanta to earn a living. His wife Regina and daughter Mary Flannery moved with him, to a house behind Christ The King Cathedral. Mr. O’Connor’s health was already fading, and Mother and Daughter moved in with family in Milledgeville. Ed O’Connor died, of Lupus Erythematosus, on February 1, 1941.
Mary Flannery went to college in Milledgeville, and on to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. She dealt with cold weather, went to Mass every day, and wrote. She was invited to live at an artists colony called Yaddo, in upstate New York. She lived for a while with Robert and Sally Fitzgerald in Connecticut, all while working on her first novel, “Wise Blood”. In 1950, she was going home to Milledgeville for Christmas, and had been feeling poorly. She went to the hometown doctor, who thought at first that the problem was rheumatoid arthritis. The illness of Flannery O’Connor was Lupus Erythematosus.
Miss O’Connor spent much of that winter in hospitals, until drugs were found that could help. She moved, with her mother, to a family farm outside Milledgeville, which she renamed Andalusia. She entered a phase of her life, with the Lupus in relative remission, and the drugs firing her creative fires, where she wrote the short stories that made her famous.
Another thing happened when she was recuperating. Flannery was reading the Florida “Market Bulletin”, and saw an ad for “peafowl”, at sixty five dollars a pair. She ordered a pair, and they soon arrived via Railway Express. This was the start of the peacocks at Andalusia, a part of the legend.
During this period of farm life and writing, Flannery had several friends and correspondents. There was the “Bible Salesmen”, Erik Langkjaer, who was probably the closest thing Flannery had to a boyfriend. Another was Betty Hester, who exchanged hundreds of letters with Miss O’Connor. This took place under the stern eye of Regina O’Connor, the no nonsense mother-caregiver of Flannery. (Mr. Gooch says that Betty Hester committed suicide in 1998. That would be consistent with PG stumbling onto an estate sale of Miss Hester in that time frame.)
The book of short stories came out, and Flannery O’Connor became famous. She was also dependent on crutches, and living with a stern mother. There were lectures out of town, and a few diverse personalities who became her friends. She went to Mass every day, and collected books by Catholic scholars. Flannery was excited by the changes in the church started by Pope John XXIII, and in some ways could be considered a liberal. (She supported Civil Rights, in severe contrast to her mother.)
In 1958, Flannery O’Connor went to Europe, including a trip to the Springs at Lourdes. Her cousin Katie Semmes (the daughter of Captain John Flannery, CSA) pushed Flannery hard to go to the springs, to see if it would help the Lupus. Flannery was reluctant…” I am one of those people who could die for his religion sooner than take a bath for it“. When the day for the visit came, Flannery took a token dip in the waters. Her condition did improve, briefly. (It is worth speculating here about the nature of Flannery’s belief, which was apparently more intellectual than emotional. Could it be that, if she was more persuaded by the mystical, emotional side of the church, and taken the healing waters more seriously, that she might have been cured?)
At some point in this story, her second novel came out, and the illness blossomed. Much of 1964 was spent in hospitals, and she got worse and worse. On August 3, 1964, Mary Flannery O’Connor died,
PG remembers the first time the name Flannery O’Connor sank in. He was visiting some friends, in a little house across from the federal prison.
Rick(?) was the buddy of a character known as Harry Bowers. PG was never sure what Harry’s real name was. One night, Rick was talking about Southern Gothic writers, and he said that Flannery O’Connor was just plain weird. ”Who else would have a bible salesman show up at a farm, take the girl up into a hayloft, unscrew her wooden leg and leave her there? Weird.”
Flannery O’Connor was recently the subject of a biography written by Brad Gooch. The book is getting a bit of publicity. Apparently, the Milledgeville resident was a piece of work.
PG read some reviews of this biography, and found a collection of short stories at the library. The book included ” Good Country People”, the tale about the bible salesman. Apparently, this story was inspired by a real life incident. (Miss O’Connor had lupus the last fifteen years of her life. She used crutches.) And yes, it is weird. Not like hollywood , but in the way of rural Georgia.
Some of the reviews try to deal with her attitudes about Black people. On a certain level, she is a racist. She uses the n word freely, and her black characters are not inspiring people. The thing is, the white characters are hardly any better, and in some cases much worse.
The stories are well crafted, with vivid descriptions of people and places. The reader floats along with the flow of the story, until he realizes that Grandma has made a mistake on a road trip. The house she got her son to look for is in Tennessee, not Georgia. She makes him drive the family car into a ditch. Some drifting killers come by. Grandma asks one if he prays, while his partner is shooting her grandchildren. Weird.
In another story, a drifter happens upon a pair of women in the country. The daughter is thirty years old, is deaf, and has never spoken a word. The drifter teaches her to say bird and sugarpie. The mother gives him fifteen dollars for a honeymoon, if he will marry her. He takes the fifteen dollars and leaves her asleep in a roadside diner.
There was a yard sale one Saturday afternoon. It was in a house off Lavista Road, between Briarcliff and Cheshire Bridge. The house had apparently not been painted in the last forty years. Thousands and thousands of paperback books were on the shelves. The lady taking the money said that the lady who lived there was the friend, and correspondent of, the “Milledgeville writer” Flannery O’Connor. This is apparently Betty Hester, who is mentioned in many of the biography reviews.
PG told the estate sale lady that she should be careful how she said that. There used to be a large mental hospital in Milledgeville, and the name is synonymous in Georgia with mental illness. The estate sale lady had never heard that.
This is a repost. Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”. It was written like James Joyce. An earlier edition of this post had comments.
Fr. J. December 10, 2009 at 3:00 pm I am glad you take an interest in Flannery, but to say baldly that she is a racist is to very much misunderstand her. For another view on Flannery and race, you might want to read her short story, “Everything that Rises Must Converge.”
chamblee54 December 10, 2009 at 3:17 pm “On a certain level, she is a racist.” That is not the same as “baldly” labeling her a racist. (And I have a full head of hair, thank you). As a native Georgian, I am aware of the many layers of nuance in race relations. I feel that the paragraph on race in the above feature is accurate.
SFFILK (Not his real name) passes along a story about Mel Tormé. It seems like Mr.Tormé was eating a leisurely breakfast at a food court in Los Angeles, and a quartet appeared singing Christmas songs. They wound up performing “The Christmas Song” for co- author Tormé … and the singers had no idea who he was. It is a good story, better told in the link. (The link no longer works.) This is a repost, with pictures from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.
According to the inerrant Wikipedia, Mr. Tormé collaborated with Robert Wells, until they had a falling out. One afternoon, on the hottest day of July in 1945, Mr.Tormé went to visit Mr.Wells, and saw the first four lines of “The Christmas Song” (including “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose”). The lines were on a note pad, and the two agreed to beat the heat of summer by completing the song. Supposedly, Mr. Tormé did not like the song very much. After three divorces, he probably didn’t see many of the royalties.
Mel Tormé was the music director of the ill fated “Judy Garland Show” in the early sixties. He wrote a book about it… The Other Side of the Rainbow: With Judy Garland on the Dawn Patrol . The story is that Miss Garland would get blasted, call Mr.Tormé in the middle of the night, and pour out her troubles. (This review is much less sympathetic towards Mr. Tormé.) While the show did not last longer, there are some great youtube clips left over.
Godwin’s Law has become an internet staple. “As an online discussion continues, the probability of a reference or comparison to Hitler or Nazis approaches 1.” Mike Godwin created this rule around 1990, when Saddam Hussein was the official next Hitler.
GL filled a need, and has flourished. GL is also misused, as when people say GL has been “proved” or “violated.” Mr. Godwin does not “personally believe all rational discourse has ended when Nazis or the Holocaust are invoked.” GL hopefully sparks critical thinking, and enables people to see through the smoky rhetoric. Maybe, if you act appropriately, you can put out the fire that causes that smoke.
The Washington Post published the article cited above. Recently, a Post reporter found an article praising Donald Trump in The Crusader. This is a 12 page newspaper, published in Harrison, Arkansas. It calls itself “The official Newspaper of The Knights Party.”
Once the Post got wind of this, it morphed into KKK’s official newspaper supports Donald Trump for president. This chestnut got into the national political discussion, where it was accepted without question. The KKK endorses Donald Trump!!! Surely, he is the next Hitler. Orange hair has replaced the little mustache. The national pearl clutching grew so intense that the pearls fell off the string.
Mr. Godwin made a mistake. “It’s still true, of course, that the worst thing you can say about your opponents, in our culture, is that they’re like Hitler or the Nazis.” No, the worst thing you can say about someone today is that they are RACIST. The scarlet R is a damaging charge. Those accused are guilty until proven innocent. The fact that many say RACISM as a thoughtless reflex action does not diminish the power. Some would say that Mr. Godwin’s assertion that the Nazi label is the worst possible insult… that it is worse than saying RACIST … that this statement itself is RACIST.
Maybe this is an extension of Godwin’s Law. As any discussion of american life progresses, the likelihood of invoking the KKK, and the R word, increases. Many see Hitler comparisons as the end of rationality in a discussion. What do white sheet jokes say about the person making the charge?
While researching this post, I dug up an article, Racism In America Is Over. The feature was published December 30, 2008. A charismatic son-of-a-white-mother had just been elected POTUS. The salient quote is more true today than ever: “When decrying racism opens no door and teaches no skill, it becomes a schoolroom tattletale affair. It is unworthy of all of us: “He’s just a racist” intoned like “nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!””
Twitter hosted a recent exchange. It refers to a comment made by the ex-wife of Steve Bannon, during a divorce. @carlreiner “I, a Jew, was willing to give Trump a chance til I heard his cheif of staff say he’d not allow his kids to go to a school if Jews attended.” @hausmuva “translation: I was willing to empower whiteness/white supremacy until I learned that I may not be considered white in the white imagination.” Maybe this twitteration can be included in a future edition of Reductio ad hitlerum : Une théorie du point Godwin.
Maybe it is time to calm down the name calling… be it Der Führer or Grand Dragon … and get down to the hard work of getting along with each other. Pictures today are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.
Obviously,there is something to be said for wanting to speak up, but not having anything to say. To prove that, I am going to talk about a word…esoteric. According to Wiktionary , esoteric is :”1. Having to do with concepts that are highly theoretical and without obvious practical application. 2. Understood only by a chosen few or an inner circle. 3. Confidential; private.”
The “E word” plays a role in a story from 10th grade English. We were discussing a story, “The Rocking Horse Winner”, by D.H. Lawrence. The story was, well, boring and obscure, just like most of what I have seen by Mr. Lawrence.
The summer after 10th grade I worked in a movie theater. The ushers wore ghastly yellow uniforms, and saw the movies over and over. When I started, the Lenox Square 2 theater was showing “Women in Love”, based on a novel my D.H. Lawrence. Glenda Jackson copped an oscar for her portrayal of Gudrun Brangwen, and young Larry Kramer was one of the screenwriters. It did not improve my opinion of D.H. Lawrence. If the censors had not touched “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” D.H. Lawrence would be forgotten today.
Back to 10th grade english. We were discussing this wretched story, and a girl raised her hand. Why would any author would write something so esoteric? The teacher had never heard of this word before, and was amazed to hear it.
The Lenox Square 2 theater was a long, slender thing with a small screen. This was in 1970. The multiplex concept had not matured. LS2 was under a grocery store. When their automatic door openers operated, you could hear the motors in the theater below. The movies the rest of the summer were Fellini Satyricon, The Christine Jorgenson Story, and The Landlord.
Back to esoteric…or did I ever go away? Before you can understand esoteric, you must plumb the depths of pedantic. “1. Like a pedant, overly concerned with formal rules and trivial points of learning. 2. Being showy of one’s knowledge, often in a boring manner. 3. Often used to describe a person who emphasizes his/her knowledge through the use of vocabulary; ostentatious in one’s learning. 4. Being finicky or picky with language.” Pedantic is an adjective that describes itself. This repost has pictures from “The Special Collections and Archives Georgia State University Library”.