Thursday, January 5, 2006 |
10 years ago
Greetings, Los Angeles. As you may know, we are at the beginning
of another Gregorian year. In New York, where I live, the ball has dropped.
The rivers of champagne have run dry. Over 3,000 pounds of confetti, broken
promises and shredded Justinian calendars have been removed from the canyon
of Times Square. Now it is time for sober, hung-over reflection and of course
for failed palindromes. Because amongst the momentous turmoil of 2005, the de-
and re-Poping, an amphibious assault on our shores by hurricanes, I am humbled
to report that my small book was published: The Areas of My Expertise,
a compendium of fascinating trivia and historical oddities like any other, with
the distinction that in my book, all of the amazing true facts are made up by
me. I make no claim that this small book is important, or even amusing; but
I do hope at least that it is distracting in a year when distraction was needed.
May these small, good-natured lies help you forget the facts for a moment. And
to the Failed Palindromes below I may add two more:
2. THE YEAR 2006, READY YET?
When Writing, Please Avoid These Failed PalindromesSlow speed: deep owls
Drat that tard
Two owls hoot who owls hoot too (owt)
Sour candy and Dan C. roused
Desire still lisps: Arise! D.
A man, a plan, a kind of man-made river, planned.
Eh, soccurs to me to succor she
Tow a what? Thaw!
Idiosyncrasies of the Great Detectives
Miss Millicent McTeague This elderly spinster is not as senile as she
seems! Also, she eats cats.
Juno Dix This refined, morbidly obese attorney solves crimes without
ever leaving his own bathtub.
Inspector Franz Duvet-Perez This fastidious foreigner refuses to say
exactly what country he is from, thus keeping everyone guessing.
Buddy Jimmy Smith This freckle-faced fourth-grader is actually the
reincarnation of an Egyptian slave whose ancient memories of embalming techniques
mystically guides him as he cracks The Case of Janeys Kitten, Who Has Been
Missing for Days.
Brother Metrigon This 10th-century monk actually believes he is a
Sergeant Demonicus Rex This uniformed police officer is also a high magus
in the Church of Satan.
Dr. Kathleen Pietro This brilliant medical examiner occasionally wears
the victims skin in order to see the crime through their eyes. This habit
becomes something of a liability when she begins wearing the victims skin to
nightclubs and restaurants.
Lord Miles Overstreet This debonair, mentally ill aristocrat does
not realize that he is his own nemesis, the mad Dr. Craig Kittles.
Nine Presidents Who Had Hooks for Hands
Jefferson (who designed his own hook)
Van Buren (known as Old Kinderhook)
Garfield (when President Garfield was shot, Alexander Graham Bell attempted
to locate the bullet with a crude metal detector of his own invention; instead,
he discovered a curved, metallic sharpness in the vicinity of the wrists end.
Historians agree: hook)
T. Roosevelt (first draft: speak softly and pierce their eyes with a
F. Roosevelt (note: his hook was actually a wheelchair)
Nixon (many believe that the sight of his horrific hook lost him the
first televised debate with Kennedy, who was hookless)
Bush I and II (however, Bush II replaced his hook with a chain saw in
an effort to seem less privileged)
Edward Thach Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard (although technically, President
Blackbeard was only president of the pirates)
Colonial Jobs Involving Eels
Eels, as any schoolchild knows, were the true main course at the Pilgrims first
Thanksgiving, largely because the eels themselves had eaten all the turkeys.
While its difficult to imagine now, our nations rivers were once glossy and
black with majestic herds of eels. And the eels played a critical role in the
economy and culture of colonial New England.
Paling Man A legitimate eel merchant.
Eel Picker A person who sorted through the village trash to find reusable
Eel and Bone Man An itinerant merchant of eel carcasses and especially
eel teeth. (See Scrimschonger, below.)
Eel Crier A young man who was posted to watch at the edge of a town or
settlement for eels. Often an unintelligent person.
Eelwright Maker of false eels as decoys or for decorations.
Ratter Someone who caught rats to throw at eels to distract them. It
was well-known that an eel would stare at a rat for hours, allowing a human
a quick escape.
Eel Checker Once the eels were first spotted on land, an eel checker
was often employed to check a home for hidden eels and to check under wagons
for the same. This was not a skilled job and should not be confused with an
eelsmeller, who was an artisan trained in the art of detecting eels that had
disguised themselves as Dutchmen.
Eel Almanacker Many printed almanacs predicted the eel seasons, those
periods when the eels would be plentiful, and when they would disappear for
months on end to spawn. An eel almanac would also include a calendar of when
eels would be wistful, secretive or accusing.
Scrimshander or Scrimschonger An artisan who carves scenes of daily
colonial life in delicate, small etchings upon eel teeth. Many family portraits
and early images of colonial life were immortalized on eel teeth.
Toothsmith A dedicated eel-tooth polisher and seller. The best eel teeth
were those found lodged in trees, which eels would often attack at night.
Eel Meterer One who wrote poems about eels. When the eels proved amphibious
and began walking on land, they became objects of deep and fearful fascination.
And so many folktales were spawned of Dan Crate, the Brackish Man, who tied
eels together to build a rope ladder to the clouds, and at the same time of
Sleek Cynthia, the noble eel who stared down the sea.
Eel Tonguer One who learned the language of the eels.
Eel-Orphan A human child raised by eels after his parents had died
or willingly given him up to become an eel tonguer. The eel tonguers parents
were usually held in high regard for their sacrifice, though one printed memoir
by an eel-orphan, The Eel-Boys Confession and Spelling Handbook, suggested
that the author was much happier with the eels.
Rod-Man Also known as an eelpoker. Self-explanatory.
John Hodgman will be reading at the REDCAT Theater at 8 p.m. on
Sat., Feb. 11, and at Book Soup at 7 p.m. on Mon., Feb. 13.