Decapitating the luminaries

I made a concerted effort to do absolutely nothing today, and I must say, for the most part, I was entirely successful.

Luckily, I yesterday managed to avoid using any of the “Thanksgiving Phrases to Avoid” given on my Forgotten English desk calendar:

There may be noticed a ludicrously vulgar refinement of speech common to pseudo élégants, namely the use of synonymes so awfully select as might well astound a [perfectionist]. We heard of one young man in America who, desiring some stuffing with his turkey, asked for ‘some of the insertion,’ exquisite refinement with a vengeance. [And] the old joke of ‘decapitating the luminaries,’ for snuffing the candles, is continually and seriously being realized in America. Really well-educated people…are infinitely more careless in their expressions than those less favored, whilst the elevated style, occasionally necessary in literature, would be considered by gentlemen vulgarly pedantic in ordinary society.”

Ah yes, that old joke about decapitating the luminaries. That had high society rolling in the aisles back in 1844.

French dog?

According to my Forgotten English desk calendar, today is Lord Mayor’s Day, which

is a great holiday in [London]. The populace is particularly rowdy, turning into lawless freedom the great liberty it enjoys. At these times it is almost dangerous for an honest man, and more particularly for a foreigner, if at all well dressed to walk in the streets, for he runs a great risk of being insulted by the vulgar populace. He is sure of not only being jeered at, but as likely as not dead dogs and cats will be thrown at him…When the people see a well-dressed person in the streets, especially if he is wearing a braided coat, a plume in his hat, or his hair tied in a bow, he will without doubt be called “French dog” twenty times perhaps before he reaches his destination.

It’s almost a relief, then, that practically nothing happened here today. Mostly just work, and lots of it.

Wednesday various

Monday various

  • Today is the first day of the online raffle in support of the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series. There are lot of excellent prizes, from signed first drafts and story critiques to used keyboards (Neil Gaiman’s) and Tuckerizations galore, all for the cost of $1 each. I’ve not yet actually made it to a KGB reading myself — they’ve either conflicted with my schedule or I’ve been a little intimidated about going to one by myself — but I understand they put together a really great series. The raffle runs until October 25.
  • Today is also Columbus Day. (In America. Some people insist on claiming it’s Thanksgiving elsewhere.) After reading this article about the real Columbus, you may be wishing it wasn’t.
  • You know, there may very well be lots of edible mushrooms in NYC, but I think I’ll pass.
  • I was sure this was an Onion headline when I first saw it: Google Cars Drive Themselves, in Traffic. But no, not in the least:

    The self-driving car initiative is an example of Google’s willingness to gamble on technology that may not pay off for years, Dr. Thrun said. Even the most optimistic predictions put the deployment of the technology more than eight years away. [via]

  • And finally, I find the final word in today’s Writer’s Almanac just a little odd:

    It was on this day in 1975 that Saturday Night Live premiered….There was a fake advertisement for triple-blade razors, a product obviously considered ridiculous by comedians in 1975, just after the two-blade razor came out—the faux commercial ended, “Because you’ll believe anything.” These days, there are many more blades on razors—in 2006, Schickette announced plans for a nine-bladed razor—and Saturday Night Live is now in its 35th season.


Sometimes I think my Forgotten English desk calendar is making things up. About a month ago, it was “fourteen hundred,” which was supposedly “the cry uttered on the London Stock exchange when the presence of a stranger [was] detected. It was supposed to be derived from the fact that the number of members of the exchange was, for long, limited to 1399.”

The word for this weekend is “melsh-dick,” meaning “a wood demon who is supposed to guard over unripe nuts.” No, seriously. “‘Melsh Dick‘ll catch thee lad,’ was a common threat used to frighten children going nutting.”

Children just don’t go nutting as often as they used, do they? There’s just not as much call for demons to protect hazelnuts “from the depredations of mischievous boys.”

I wonder if that’s what the mischievous boys I saw across the earlier tonight were doing. It looked like they were trespassing on our neighbor’s property, using the fact that the house has been dark and for sale since he passed away in July, as an excuse to drink in the backyard — or, for all I know, try to break in. I only saw them briefly, rushing from around the side of the house, and speeding off, so I don’t want to assume too much. Maybe somebody called the cops, or maybe it was all perfectly innocent. I don’t think hazelnuts grow in this area, but you never know. Not with young boys and their depredations. And not with Melsh Dick lying down on the job.

Otherwise it was a quiet Saturday for the most part, largely spent writing and hanging around the house. I did mail out a few more copies of Kaleidotrope this morning, which should be everybody except new subscribers (hint hint) and a few reviewers. I was tempted to go see The Social Network this morning — the matinee, weirdly, was actually 10:30 — but I wasn’t sure that my back could take it. I’m still not sure, but it has seemed better today, maybe thanks to the heating pad I’ve been using since last night.

This evening, my parents and I had a very nice dinner out, then I came home and watched MacGruber. It was okay. Some of it, the sillier parts, were almost inspired. But I can’t help but feel Nathan Rabin was right when he noted that “It’s so obsessed with getting the hair, clothes, beats, clichés, music, and conventions of cheesy ’80s action movies in the Cannon vein right that it sometimes forgets to include jokes.” It also sometimes mistakes dick and fart jokes for good jokes, but that’s almost to be expected.

If nothing else, the celery was funny.

And what more can you ask from a day than funny celery and protected hazelnuts? What more indeed?