A pleasant enough day; I like it when Daughter is on break and just hanging around, and I can try to forget that this will come to an end some day and for now I'm bounding downstairs irritatingly cheerful in the morning, whistling the same same song. Wake Up and Sing. Good morning!
Would you like a full repast to start this mortal allotment? I can make eggs
Rhghm i can make an egg
Grand! Would you like some salsa on it? There's fresh salsa. It's good on eggs!
Okay, okay. Jeez. I know how she feels, which is why I do it. I was once a sullen waker. Now there are things to do and fun to be had, so let's start pounding coffe and creating stuff. At 10:30 we left for downtown, since we were both to be on WCCO radio, the John Hines show. I spoke about the Vegas trip and he asked her a few questions she parried with cheer and an absolute utter lack of mike-fright; I am so proud. She spools right up and talks and gives me a few elbows, which is perfect. A writer and a radio natural; dad is so proud.
Then we went back to the office; she wrote in the Writing Room - an odd thing for a paper to have, but there it is - and I typed away at various projects. On one site there was a link to an account of the career of Terry Southern, written for reasons I can't quite explain. Because he's freshly dead? Not really. Because he was important? Apparently - you can't say "Dr. Strangelove" and "Easy Rider" weren't important, albeit for different reasons. I suspect it's because Southern was part of the Beat / Counterculture story, and the hagiographies of the big players are already done. The article (and the Wiki bio) has all the usual names. Hopper, Nilsson, O'Donahugh, Buck Henry, and so on and so on. The level of talent varies. The ability to produce varies. The constant, with the exception of the truly talented artists in this milieu (Kubrick, Sellers), is the effect of drugs and irresponsibility on those who were sufficiently talented to accomplish a few things early on. Either the excesses ruined their abilities or they revealed their limitations. Or possibly both. At the end of reading the Southern story you're not surprised that nothing much came of him after "Strangelove" and "Easy Rider," because he just wasn't a great talent in the first place, and survives as an object of interest only because the period itself was supposedly so rich and creative.
The same phrases keep popping up: the movie was released yo generally mediocre reviews. The long-delayed novel was released to generally poor reviews. (Wikipedia's entire entry: Blue Movie is a satirical novel by Terry Southern about the making of a high-budget pornographic film featuring major movie stars. It was published in 1970.) Entire decades drift into smoke with "projects" being discussed but coming to naught; my favorite was "a screenplay called Merlin, based on Arthurian legend, which was written with Mick Jagger in mind for the lead role." You can just see the bales of weed responsible for that one, can't you - the sudden conviction that this was genius, the scribbled notes, the letter to Mick (who no doubt humored him) and then months of stoner talk with impressionable hangers-on about the movie he was doing with Mick Jagger, after which nothing was written and nothing happened. But the hangers-on - who had limited talent, if any, and whose purpose was to flatter the guy who Did That One Thing, would somehow believe that they were part of a great creative era because they had gotten high with the writer while he talked about Mick Jagger, who was interested in this project. Mick Jagger, man! He knows Mick! And the people to whom he's telling the story think then his dope must be really good.
There's a deadness at the heart of the period. Endless hours of unlistenable psychedelic music, endless pages of unreadable prose, cheap movies - it may have had a bright spark at the start, but it all got bong-waterboarded fast, and all they knew how to do was saw through the supports of the bourgeois conventions, because that's what the artist was supposed to do. Southern, for example, wrote a novel - "The Magic Christian" - about a billionaire who used his wealth to pay people to abase themselves and traduce their supposed principles, a commentary on those sad materialistic souls who will do anything for The Almighty Dollar - but the author ends up broke because he can't manage his own money, and his sober patrons evaporate. He ends up doing anything for the aforementioned Dollar, while those L-7 Squares, the Herberts, Man, plug away and save and maybe invest and end up helping the grandkids with college. That says nothing about the civilization, though. That says nothing about its norms and ideals. A book about a guy who tosses money in a pit of offal to watch people swim in filth for cash, that's that piquant prescient insight.
The last gasp of this cohort happened on "Saturday Night Live," and I remember in the late 70s and early 80s feeling as though I should think Buck Henry was some comic genius, because he had been there, wherever that was. Then Michael O'Donaghue, who struck me as the kind of guy who believe that society would be complete when you could joke about raping Helen Keller on the Today show and everyone would laugh. Comic nihilism is a young person's game; we expect nothing more, because they know so little. When it's revered in adults because they were there when Important Sixties Things were happening, then you have a peculiar situation where the next generation actually venerates the one that came before, instead of rejecting it. But that's because the counter-culture became the culture, and the new generation - unsure of its own abilities - had to genuflect to the counter-culture as some astonishing achievement, when it was just an adolescent spasm.
From the Oxford piece:
The 1950s were Southern’s apprenticeship years, and he spent them learning to write fiction, his lifestyle largely funded by the women in his life. The letters provide a collage of his Paris days: bar fights and rejection slips; the Moroccan café owner, Hadj, who served hashish pipes with his lemon tea; smoking opium at Jean Cocteau’s apartment and going to see L’Avventura with Charles Mingus and Miles Davis; the time George Plimpton tried heroin (“an Ichabod dandy,” Southern calls him, “but not a shitty rat-prick”). Southern married French model Pud Gadiot, and in 1952 they moved to Greenwich Village, where they seem to have subsisted mostly off Gadiot’s modeling work. Southern preferred to spend his afternoons getting stoned, listening to jazz records while he watched a muted television set through the glass of a tropical fish tank.
And yet no great cohesive body of work emerged. A mystery, that.
The angst of college life. When things are so dreadfuly important you have to strum instruments and warble words of protest while your oddly-jointed roommate tries to cheer you up with card games.
I don't know, it's just . . . everything. You know. War. Ecology. Prejudice.
It's the richest kind:
If you recall, our hero had been trapped in a locked room with gas pouring out of a vent. The room was sealed. There was a microphone so CG could taunt our hero. Because this is a serial, the gas was not instantly lethal, but required, oh, three or four minutes of sustained inhalation. I have to tell you: didn't seem an easy way out of this one.
So: the director says "look that way, then that way, then the other way, then act like you're in a hurry."
Back at the lab, they take apart the skull the Crimson Ghost used for remote tauntin' 'n' gassin':
Inside is a POWERFUL CONDENSER, which is NEW, and ONLY SOLD by a few places. Our hero goes to investigate who might have bought this RADIO PART. Because that's a natural path to cracking the crime. Meanwhile, the criminals realize that the "heavy water" they stole was "actual water," so they need some more. They'll break into Cornwall's Chemical Company, which apparently has untold gallons of the stuff. But how to get into the vault? The Crimson Ghost says "Pete Synder is making an electronic stethoscope," so don't worry. It will amplify the sound of the tumblers. Problem solved! Oh, by the way, Mr. Hench, go pick it up at . . .
I think you know where this is going. Our hero shows up, and it's time for fist-o-rama.
This is my favorite piece of fighting in the history of Serial Fisticuffs. You! Get up on that file drawer! Now come down for punching!
Our hero loses, and winds up tied to a chair, but escapes by backing up against a rotary saw and cutting the ropes. Of course Mr. Hench didn't kill him; that would be silly. Back at the factory, the Crimson Ghost uses the Cyclotrode to open the electrified fence, and then he sends in the henchmen to get the heaby water, which they need for . . . for . . . well, something bad. However, at the conclusion of the heist, our Hero shows up, and after an exchange of 18 pistol shots, it's a car chase. THIS HAS EVERYTHING. But it can't end with the car going over the cliff, because we've one that.
Have we? We end up at the airfield, where the heavy water will be spirited away, and our hero is in hot pursuit.
Well, that's unusual.
Today: the start of the long, long delayed 1939 World's Fair site. I mean, I've had this thing in the works for 10 years. Not to get your hopes up, or anything - it's just stuff. But lots of images await at the link, if you're interested in the Fair. Enjoy, and I'll see you around.