NOTE! Hiatus announced; after this entry, there will be a week of silence. The Bleat returns on Monday the twenty-something.

And then it will be Thanksgiving. I wonder if we’ll have snow. Last night’s flakes were just a feint, a scouting party. We should have snow by Thanksgiving, if only for all that over-the-river-and-through-the-woods stuff. (As I may have mentioned before, when I was young and we had Thanksgiving at the farm, we literally went over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house.) There’s nothing better than a Thanksgiving conducted while winter howls anew outside. The snug heat of the house the hearth. The smells of the bird. The warmth of a good red wine. Hot buns and melted butter, and a vacant Friday to follow. God bless us everyone, and all that.

At the grocery store today I saw the Christmas stuff go up, and watched it with clinical detachment. Sometimes you gnash and snarl: too soon. For some reason this year I welcome it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t detect the sound of the seasonal merchandise machinery at work. You pass the endcap where the cookie tubes are kept, and realize you can identify the time of the year simply by looking at the shapes at the center of the Pillsbury ready-made cookies. Hearts / Eggs / Flags / Pumpkins / Turkeys / Snowflakes.

A similar judgment can be made by looking at the hue of the filling of Oreo cookies. A confectionary calendar that celebrates non-sectarian events by invoking a sympathetic vibration with deep spiritual and civic commemorations. AKA “The Holidays.”

When the workmen came on Monday they covered everything in the kitchen with plastic sheets, so we couldn’t have breakfast in the family room as usual. We ate in the dining room, which is a ceremonial space for big gatherings. Natalie said she liked it, and wondered if we could eat there tomorrow; sure. And so for this entire week we have had our breakfast in the dining room. I set out tablecloths and dishes. We read the paper and spend our 12 minutes together in the usual fashion: brush your hair. Where’s your lunch bag? What’s the weather going to be? Garfield funny? Really? If she complains about the Family Circus tomorrow, I’ll have to tell her that the creator died. And that she had an ice-cream sundae at one of his favorite Arizona haunts years ago. So, respect, child. You draw something with such a recognizable line. It’s been a long while since I looked at the strip, but it really does say something about the cultural shift in the last half-century: there’s absolutely no way anyone could seriously pitch a strip today that had a dead Grandpa-angel who wore a robe with a corded belt, sandals, and a halo. But that was the standard vision of the afterlife, wasn’t it? I never quite got that as a kid; why do we have to dress like monks or Jerusalem dudes? Does everyone really get a harp? There’s no more confusing vision of heaven than the idea of plunking away on a harp while sitting on a cloud, because nothing in your life indicates that you want to sit around and play a harp. It’s like being taught that heaven consists of sitting around in a Nehru jacket playing the clarinet. Huh? What? Why? If I had to bet, I’d say that consciousness survives death, and you’re granted a glorious moment of comprehension before you are willingly, and gratefully, subsumed in the music of the spheres. The idea of being Me, Forever, aware of Being Me, seems terribly dull.

She also likes Peanuts because Snoopy is cute.


So tomorrow we will have an omelette at the dining room table, and then I’ll bade her goodbye, and get the standard eleven-year-old desultory side-hug. She’ll say something that will make me smile: this morning was “I’m haunted by the size of those big stars.” (We watched the “How the Universe Works” show last night.) I said I was too. In fact, as a kid, I had nightmares - probably common to children - about the egregious, implacable differences of scale, the sense of being so small in a realm so big. It was a sensation felt in the twilight space between consciousness and sleep, perhaps nothing more than a remnant of a dream. So I get that. Off she goes to school; I lock the door, turn around, and there’s Jasper, as always, eyes alert, ears up: food? Any more, or are we done? I give him the pat as I pass and get some coffee and head upstairs to work.

So it has been for years. But there’s always something new. The breakfast in the dining room. The dog crap on the floor.

Yes. For about six months he’s been forgetting. Now and then, the Gift, simply because he’s so interested in breakfast scraps he doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do when he goes outside. Usually I pick it up with a plastic bag and throw it outside in the Bag of Canine Leavings, but today I had a revelation: you know, I could just flush this.

We took a walk at five PM today. He’s slow on evening walks, because it’s dark, and his eyes are cloudy. He’s slow. When there’s light he trots. The wind was mean and the chill had set its claws in the land. I walked fast. He kept up. He bounded up the stairs, eager for a plate to lick or a treat at the end of the journey. Every day, the same furry fellow I met 16 years ago. And at the end of every night, I carry him up the stairs to the bed. You know, once or twice a day he’ll make his way up the stairs to come to my studio to see what I’m doing.

At the end of the day he puts his paws on the bottom step and looks back: you’ll carry me, right? Right.

Hearts / Eggs / Flags / Pumpkins / Turkeys / Snowflakes. Then back to Hearts.

I am never forget the day I listen to the great Tom Lehrer. For some reason I decided to listen to his entire catalogue the other day, and found myself humming along with nearly every tune. Three songs stand out - the “Vatican Rag,” which is hilarious, “The Elements,” which isn’t his tune but delightful to hear, and “Lobachevsky,” which is the first example of his facility for accumulating rhymes and piling them on top of each other. “Plagiarize! Let no one else’s work evade your eyes! Remember why the good Lord made your eyes, so don’t shade your eyes, and Plagiarize, Plagiarize, Plagiarize!”



That’s nothing compared to the little masterpiece in a song about porn: “Smut / Give me Smut and nothing but / A dirty novel I can’t shut / if it’s uncut / and unsub . . . TLE.” It’s that last one that always makes me laugh; he has to pause between the second and third syllable to make the rhyme work, then land hard on the third syllable, which underscores the meaning of the word.

But it’s the melodies, the effortless tunes, each of which is a parody of a genre while somehow sounding better than the thing they’re mocking.

Never seen these performances; they lack the higher-octane cheer of the album, and seem slightly forced. But I couldn't do it.



Never seen this, either: much later work.



Never seen this, either: much earlier work.


I believe at the end he’s excusing himself to urinate. But for all the admiration of the best work, there’s something in the end that puts me off - the contemptuous, simplistic political commentary of his later years, his spitting distaste for the manned space program (!? Really. And he says it in such a way that makes you realize he has contempt for anyone who disagrees) and the misanthropy that curdles underneath the cheerful declamations.

Well, that was more than I intended. I mentioned there were updates aplenty: yes.

Matchbook Museum starts the Hotel section, here.

A Comic Sins.

Joe Ohio for subscribers.

Black and White world adds some stuff from old Bleats - the Laird Cregar series. I Wake Screaming. The Lodger. Hangover Square.

Disney shorts, here.

That’ll hold you for a week. See you a week from Monday with some thrilling tales! Be good.




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