b Papa Dog's Blog: Odds, Ends (Mostly Tardy Ones)

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Odds, Ends (Mostly Tardy Ones)

I did watch the last debate t’other night and have to say, in my usual objective and non-partisan way, that Governor Bush got clobbered like a Rock-‘em Sock-‘em Robot with a broken joystick. The insta-pundits after the show were saying that it was Bush’s best performance of the three debates, but I think it was probably his worst, or at least his second-worst – I didn’t see all of his scowling in Debate I. I thought Bob Schieffer's questions were the toughest and most unpredictable we’ve seen in a mostly softball debate season. Governor Bush looked particularly flummoxed by the question about influenza vaccine. I don’t have an exact transcript at hand, but I recall his answer being something along the lines of “Uh – bwuh – fuh – uh – vaccine – uh – hum – er – it was England’s fault!” He was so flustered, he couldn’t even think of a way to make it about the terrorists. Then there was his staggeringly blatant lie about never having said he was unconcerned about Osama bin Laden. Granted, it’s been a couple of years since he made that statement, but it got so much media play at the time that even in this short-attention spanned amnesia-prone electorate, a great number of viewers surely recognised that they were seeing a flat-out lie being told by this allegedly square-talking straight shooter. Kerry, by contrast, was never thrown off stride, was direct, aggressive, and confident, and kept his answers short and simple enough for even the most blighted log in the pile. And as has been the case in each of the four debates, the Democratic candidate made fewer, smaller, and less crucial distortions than the bad guy. Yes, it’s sad that it comes down to who tells the smallest whoppers, but now more than ever that’s politics in America.

I may be a wishfully thinking new parent here, but I’m convinced that Baby Dog has in the last few days learned to understand a new phrase. The last weeks or so, she’s started to react to having her tummy tickled. She grins, squirms, and even laughs. Encouraged, I’ve made a game of it. I’ll bug out my eyes and waggled my fingers and say “Tummy tickles!” as a prelude to the actual tickle. She seemed to find that even funnier, so I made a bigger production out of it. Today, I noticed that even without the eyebrow bobbling and finger waggling, when I say “Tummy tickles!” she starts to laugh in anticipation. She knows what’s coming.

Got a little bit of reading done the last while. I’m still in mid-August with the newspapers, but at least I retired a few sections. You may have noticed in the sidebar that I finally finished Nana, which was splendid. I’ve started reading Love and Hydrogen, a collection of short stories by Jim Shepard. I’ve finding it less compelling than a novel of his I read last year, but anthologies are always a mixed bag. This one is assembled from the sort of pop cultural detritus I usually like. In the first six stories – as far as I’ve gotten thus far – we have doomed lovers on the Hindenburg; a tale of dysfunctional siblings filtered through recollections of Mast Attacks cards; a child who identifies with Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera; and the one I’ve found most intriguing thus far, where Shepard does to Creature from the Black Lagoon what John Gardner did to Beowulf in Grendel - he retells the story, only from Gill Man’s point of view.

Actually, having written that, it’s striking me more and more as just a rehash of the sort of thing Gardner did thirty years ago, and so maybe “intriguing” is overstating things. But he does get cheekiness points for putting a crappy 50s monster movie on an equal footing with the most ancient surviving narrative of western civilisation.

Which reminds me. I remember reading a story in the news some years back about the discovery of a set of tablets on which was carved at least some of the tale of Gilgamesh. A big deal was made, because it was the oldest version of the story ever unearthed. What enchanted me about the story was the fact that on the back of the tablets there was carved some more prosaic material – inventories of grains or livestock or something like that. When I read that, I felt a sudden awareness of the kinship I bear to distant ancestors, because it seemed obvious to me that whoever wrote that version of Gilgamesh wrote it the same way I’ve written most every story I’ve managed to finish in the last ten years – at work, getting paid to do something else. Clearly, the table was like an anti-boss screen saver. The anonymous scribe would compose epic poetry until the sound of the overseer’s footfalls. Maybe somebody called out “look busy.” Over flips the tablet and by the time the boss has arrived, all there is to see if the number of chickens requisitioned for sacrifice to Baal. I guess there’s something to be said for feeling like part of a tradition.


Blogger RachelleCentral said...

Gilgamesh by Joan London (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0802141218/qid=1098055952/sr=8-5/ref=pd_csp_5/104-7174424-9697537?v=glance&s=books&n=507846) is a book that won many awards in Australia, written by an Australian woman, although I have no idea what it is actually about.

4:33 PM  

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