A Bottle and a Friend

Robbie BurnsThere’s nane that’s blest of human kind,
But the cheerful and the gay, man,
Fal, la, la, etc.

Here’s a bottle and an honest friend!
What wad ye wish for mair, man?
Wha kens, before his life may end,
What his share may be o’ care, man?

Then catch the moments as they fly,
And use them as ye ought, man:
Believe me, happiness is shy,
And comes not aye when sought, man.

Other Titles Ta’ Raise A Brow

  • Bessy and Her Spinnin’ Wheel
  • Cock Up Your Beaver
  • The Fornicator
  • Nine Inch Will Please a Lady
Alltop will be raisin’ a wee dram this evening in honour of his birthday.

Selected Media Fads Through the Ages

Von Willendorf venus statue, circa 24,000 bce

24,000-22,000 BC: chunky fertility goddess statues (pictured at right: notice the prominent and large brains.)

10,000 BC: cave painting

4,000 BC: ziggurat construction

3,000-1,250 BC: pyramid raising (later revived by Mesoamericans and I.M. Pei)

1480-1700: Witch burning

1500s: homoerotic sonnet writing

1600s: pirate singing

1700s: pamphleteering

1760-1762: spreading syphilis

1790s: opera

1800s: novel-writing

1900-1914: being optimistic about the future

1919-1922: cutting up pieces of paper and pulling them out of a hat, also, painting

1925: jazz music

1927: soap-based radio

1933: burning books (mostly in Germany)

1951: find-the-commie (kind of like peek-a-boo, but with Senators)

1964: screaming (usually Beatle-related)

1966: TV

1976: disco

1977: DIY pet rocks

1982-1988: taking odds on Reagan-related nuclear holocaust

1987-1997: making answering machine messages (see below)

1998: web sites about your cat

1999: cappuccino drinking (related to dot-com bubble)

2000: looking forward to the future (this didn’t last as long as the previous fad in this genre)

2003: Friendster

2004-2005: blogging

2006: MySpace

2007: Facebook

April 2008: Twitter

2009 (Jan.-Aug): talking/writing/broadcasting about Twitter in MSM.

2009, Sep. 15: Blogging (again, briefly, but only about Dan Brown’s latest “masterstroke of storytelling”

2010 (Jan.-Feb.):getting really excited about the release of the iPad.

2010 (Mar.-May): trying to remember what all the fuss about the iPad was all about.

Answering machine messages: the most important creative outlet of the nineties!

YouTube Preview Image

Video here if it doesn’t beep. (via)

Alltop and enjoys their Bebo. From my collection, Pirate Therapy and Other Cures.

Byron’s Epic Swims: The Alps

The Swiss AlpsTo this day, no one has been able to recreate the feat of naiant heroics that Byron managed in the dark fall of 1816.

Having finished buggering Percy Bysshe Shelley senseless, Bryon decided to spend the winter in Venice. He also determined that he would swim there, OVER the Swiss Alps.

The first part of his journey was relatively straightforward. He did the backstroke up Lake Geneva (Leman) to the burbling Rhone, heading east towards the headwaters of the famous river. Once in the current of the river itself, Byron was forced to use the front crawl almost exclusively.

Through difficult rapids, he developed a new kind of stroke in which his body made a dolphin-like wave motion, with synchronous leg kicks and arm strokes.  This was not named until later in the century, when a young Australian Sidney Cavil “invented” the Butterfly or “fly” stroke.

It is a good thing he had this stroke in his aquatic arsenal, because the Rhone was a torrent from Brig all the way to Valais, where the river began as an effluent of the Rhone Glacier.

Here though, Byron faced a major challenge. How to penetrate the divide between the Western and Eastern Alps. As he shivered by the deep blue wall of the Rhone Glacier, Bryron was met by what he relates in a letter to his friend: “A wizened, and strange man, with white fur covering his feet.”

This “eldritch long-bearded creature” told Bryon there was a way to swim underneath the glacier and through the mountains, to emerge in Val Bedretto, on the Ticino River.  He promised to tell Byron the way, and in exchange, Bryon would write a poem for him. Byron supposed odd little person was either mad, or one of the lost fairy folk of Europe, but he had no other options. He could seek his help, or end his swim at the glacier. He agreed, and wrote a poem for the creature — a poem that is lost to us today. All we know is that Byron called it “The Berbagazi”. (Probably named for the Swiss folk creature, the Barbegazi.)

Byron never related what happened to him as he swam under the mountains, but later, he wrote the poem “Darkness” which opens with the ominous, cold and claustrophobic lines:

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy Earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day

Many believe this poem was about the darkness in Europe caused by the massive eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, and Bryon even says this was the inspiration in his journal, but now we know otherwise.

Byron Swims the Alps, Circa 1816

Once he had traversed the bowels of the Alps, it was an easy matter for Byron to swim downstream to Lake Maggiore, out through the Ticino, where it eventually runs into the Po. Compared with the earlier part of his journey, the Po was a relatively easy swim.

Byron followed the Po to its estuary, which led to the Adriatic Sea, and his goal, the fabled city of Venice.

Alltop also has hairy white feet. Alps photo by Artur Staszewski on Flickr.

Lush, lyrical and strangely moving experimental fiction

Voices, by Kyle Muntz

city in the rainI need to state at the outset that I don’t read much experimental fiction, so it was at first difficult to pull away the lens of more traditional plot and character structures when reading Kyle Muntz’s poetical prose novel Voices. But once I’d accomplished this, there is SO much to admire in this book.

For starters, Muntz is a hell of a good writer.

The prose is electric, vibrant, thrumming with vitality and interest. The theme of “voices” runs throughout the work — voices in the narrator’s head, voices in your head as you read and the phonation of Muntz’s poetry in prose form. The story, as much as I can speak of it, follows a narrator who is strangely absent. He is a poet, a would-be wanton, and a wanderer in a surreal city-scape with his friends.

The narrator’s voice is consistent, but as I say, it is almost as though the brilliant observations and music of his language is his only way to maintain his existence. Without it he would simply vanish into the singularity that is his soul.

Muntz’s work is intense. It’s clearly designed by a great intellect, which is why I found it so strange to have such an emotional reaction. The text can vary wildly, from incredibly vivid scenes of beauty to images that are filled with existential horror, particularly whenever he visits his friend Jacob. It seemed to me that some of the best scenes were of intimate encounters like this one:

“We kissed
on the veranda. It was her arms and mine, sanctified: soft smooth skin, running hands down her back running them up. The night didn’t call to us, because the night couldn’t call, but we were there and we were really there. She tasted like something that wasn’t moonlight. Scent and oranges, color, ellipsoid racing, we kissed. It started to rain. She didn’t pull away. The rain matted her hair to us, a fall of water. We kissed. Her essence and the rain, gorgeous,
she didn’t
pull away.”

voices, by Kyle MuntzNow, I have an intimation of another way that “voices” influences this story, but I won’t share it here and spoil the chance for you to find it yourself.

So if you’re into beautiful writing, and not afraid to stretch your understanding of narrative, you should definitely give this a go.

Voices, by Kyle Muntz, vailable on Amazon.com. Get more info at the publisher’s website. Rain in the city photo by Abac07.