Confused Reality

From whiskey river:

The most interesting thing about the world is its fantastic and unpsychoanalyzed character, its wretched and gallant personality, its horrible idiocy and its magnificent intelligence, its unbelievable cruelty and its equally unbelievable kindness, its gorilla stupor, its canary cheerfulness, its thundering divinity, and its whimpering commonness.

(William Saroyan [source])


The Great Clod belches out breath and its name is wind. So long as it doesn’t come forth, nothing happens. But when it does, then ten thousand hollows begin crying wildly. Can’t you hear them, long and drawn out? In the mountain forests that lash and sway, there are huge trees a hundred spans around with hollows and openings like noses, like mouths, like ears, like jugs, like cups, like mortars, like rifts, like ruts. They roar like waves, whistle like arrows, screech, gasp, cry, wail, moan, and howl, those in the lead calling out yeee!, those behind calling out yuuu! In a gentle breeze they answer faintly, but in a full gale the chorus is gigantic. And when the fierce wind has passed on, then all the hollows are empty again. Have you never seen the tossing and trembling that goes on?

(Chuang Tzu [source])

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Midweek Music Break: Theme-Park Earworms

The Missus and I took a much-needed mini-vacation this past weekend, trekking off to central Florida for (among other things) our first visit to the other theme park in that neighborhood. We love amusement parks and fairs (county, state, you name it), but neither of us is a big roller-coaster fan; most of the rides at our destination park were pure roller coasters, or adaptations of the genre. And if you look through the place’s Web site, you will observe that pretty much all the happy, screaming people in the photos are no more than half our age, and the majority much younger.

Still, we found plenty to do, although we spent only about five or six hours at the park itself (counting a full dinner).

The single activity I spent most of the four days engaged in — other than driving, haha — was reading. It felt almost irresponsible, reading so much. I finished one book I’d been reading for weeks; started and finished another in the next 24 hours; and put a huge dent in a third. I read for hours at a clip. (Of course, it helped that I’d sorta-but-not-quiiiiiite-finished this draft of Seems to Fit a couple days before. The very last chapter still needs work, but even so, my head was largely empty of responsibility to my own story.)

Anyway, headed into the midweek I got thinking about theme- and amusement-park music. Usually — at least to my mind — this music is associated with carousels, merry-go-rounds, whatever-you-call them, and often has that characteristic hurdy-gurdy sound. (The rides’ up-and-down round-and-round rhythms favor short songs played over, and over, and over, and over…) When I was a kid, a carousel appeared on the streets of our own town every now and again in summer, and the single number I remember it playing was (maybe unsurprisingly) “The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down.”

Wikipedia says:

[It was] written in 1937 by Cliff Friend and Dave Franklin. It is best known as the theme tune for the Looney Tunes cartoon series produced by Warner Bros. Cartoons, used from 1937 to 1969.

Here’s one Looney Tunes rendition, not the opening-titles instrumental but as sung by an early version of guess-who in “Daffy Duck and Egghead” (1938):

But the cartoon version was (is) waaay too fast to be played by any carousel other than one about to fly apart at its welded seams. The one I remember was paced more like this disturbing version from television’s old Lawrence Welk Show:

(The cartoon version of the song, though, provided me with the title for Merry-Go-Round. The sequel to that, called Merrily We Roll Along, gets its title from the theme song for the Merry Melodies cartoon series — also by Warner Brothers.)

Now it occurs to me that another carousel song was adapted for use in short comedies from the same mid-1930s era: “Listen to the Mockingbird,” the first theme song for The Three Stooges’ films. (They later switched to “Three Blind Mice,” but I’ve never heard a carousel play that one. Maybe the transference works in only one direction.)

At any rate, no matter how much I enjoy theme and amusement parks, especially those in central Florida, I can never dissociate them from this song:

Yeah. That (the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair) was the first place I ever heard it, too — maybe fifteen, twenty years before first re-encountering it at Disney World. What a surprise *cough* that it stayed with me during all that time in between!

In the above clip, the voiceover celebrates how many languages sing the song during the ride. Of course, the more languages in which it’s sung and instruments on which it’s played, the more times the maddening tune must be played, and the more desperate the riders grow to be freed from the little boats they’re trapped in. I like to imagine the Disney crew in their white short-sleeved shirts and ties, brainstorming around a table in a bar in late-1950s Southern California, laughing, growing ever drunker as they call out, “We’ve gotta do it in Sanskrit!” “Wait — Tagalog!” “Don’t forget Urdu!” “Old Norse!” “Pygmy Bantu!”…

I opted here not to use any of the videos which play all of “It’s a Small World.” If you’re a glutton for punishment, you’ve got a lot of them to choose from.

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Experience, Meet Hope

[Video: “Wiley vs. Rhodes,” a live-action Road Runner cartoon]

From whiskey river:

Ten Thousand Idiots

It is always a danger
to aspirants on the Path

when they begin
to believe and act

as if the ten thousand idiots
who so long ruled and lived inside

have all packed their bags
and skipped town

(Hafiz [source: none canonical, as far as I can tell, but it’s quoted at various places around the Web, including here])


Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. It’s true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above the ground lasts only a single summer. Then it withers away – an ephemeral apparition. When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity. Yet I have never lost the sense of something that lives and endures beneath the eternal flux. What we see is blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.

(Carl Jung, from Memories, Dreams, Reflections [source])


They say that every snowflake is different. If that were true, how could the world go on? How could we ever get up off our knees? How could we ever recover from the wonder of it?

(Jeanette Winterson [source])

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Another Looney Tunes Stereotype Bites the Dust

So I just got back from having this test done. It wasn’t a big deal but it held a certain academic interest for me: it was an echocardiogram. Not electro-. Echo-.

Say what?

As the, um, echocardiogrammatical technician (or whatever her title is) led me to the room where the test would be performed, I asked, “So is this like an MRI or something? Or an EKG?”

She didn’t answer that question directly; she just told me what it was. “It’s an ultrasound. Like pregnant women and babies?”

But I wasn’t, uh—

“No.” She smiled. “You’re not pregnant. This is an ultrasound of the four chambers of your heart and a couple of blood vessels in your neck.”

In the examining room, she had me take off my shirt and lie flat on the bed/examining table/whatever they call that thing. She did the gel thing which you see them on TV doing (yes) to pregnant women’s swollen bellies, only to my chest and neck, and then she rolled me on my side and held a wand to the gelled spots, one at a time, for a few minutes each.

I couldn’t see the monitor of the machine from where I lay, so I don’t know if it showed an image of what lay inside. But I do know it had a speaker.

You know how in old Tex Avery (and other) cartoons, when a guy (I think often a wolf, literally) sees a woman he thinks is hot stuff, and his eyes bulge out of his head, and he howls and sometimes says something like Hubba-hubba!, and this heart-shaped protrusion pushes rhythmically in and out of his chest? You know the sound? Right: ba-BOOM… ba-BOOM… ba-BOOM…

For real? What the human heart actually sounds like is, well, say you got a tiny microphone, and you inserted it into a convenient orifice or cavity in the surface of a live snail, and you put the snail on the ground with a wire leading to a powerful stereo speaker, and you touched the snail — gently, repeatedly — with the sole of your foot. That’s what the human heart sounds like:


Just in case any of you were wondering.

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From whiskey river:

As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.

(Native American Indian saying)

Not from whiskey river:

Don Juan and don Genaro stood up and stretched their arms and arched their backs, as if sitting had made their bodies stiff. My heart began to pound fast. They made Pablito and me stand up.

“The twilight is the crack between the worlds,” don Juan said. “It is the door to the unknown.”

He pointed with a sweeping movement of his hand to the mesa where we were standing.

“This is the plateau in front of that door.”

He pointed then to the northern edge of the mesa.

“There is the door. Beyond, there is an abyss and beyond that abyss is the unknown.”

Don Juan and don Genaro then turned to Pablito and said good-by to him. Pablito’s eyes were dilated and fixed; tears were rolling down his cheeks.

I heard don Genaro’s voice saying good-by to me, but I did not hear don Juan’s.

Don Juan and don Genaro moved towards Pablito and whispered briefly in his ears. Then they came to me. But before they had whis­pered anything I already had that peculiar feeling of being split.

“We will now be like dust on the road,” don Genaro said. “Perhaps it will get in your eyes again, someday.”

Don Juan and don Genaro stepped back and seemed to merge with the darkness. Pablito held my forearm and we said good-by to each other. Then a strange urge, a force, made me run with him to the northern edge of the mesa. I felt his arm holding me as we jumped and then I was alone.

(Carlos Castaneda, Tales of Power — the last words of the book. I always thought Castaneda’s entire “Don Juan” series would have ended perfectly at this point, but no: he went on to write numerous further books, none of which attained the convincing — and impeccable — power of the early ones.)

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