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Bob North

Monday 12/7/20

* Sold an essay about John Lennon and "Help!" to The Wall Street Journal. Will be out in tomorrow's paper.


* Wrote a piece about Billie Holiday for JazzTimes. Learned yesterday that Dizzy Gillespie was the first subscriber to JazzTimes and pianist Kenny Drew the second. Pretty cool.


* I wrote a story called "Balloon Day," about a girl named Court who cannot read. She's telling the story later as an adult. We can surmise that she's probably in first grade when the action occurs. She's in a room with the special needs kids, a number of whom are in wheelchairs, doing all of these exercises for the tongue. Her mother, when she's older, never believes that she was in this class, which takes place in a room adjoining the "regular" class, in part because it sounds like she might be some kind of writer. Each day before lunch, the teacher from the standard classroom comes to the room to fetch Court for what is a kind of daily responsibility: she has to walk a boy named Harold to a luncheonette outside, after the teacher gives him some money. He's new. He's the best reader in class. So good at reading that he doesn't have to do the lessons, and just reads books instead. The luncheonette is across the street from the village green, where the school has balloon day each year. The kids write a note and note has to school's address and into a balloon it goes, so that someone far away might find the note and send it back in the mail with a note of their own. But Court can't write anything, so she just writes her name, because she knows her name is also a word. She feels beneath this boy, and beneath everything, so when they go outside she slams her arm in front of him at the crosswalk like he'd otherwise get hit by a car that is not there. Trying to even things up. Make him feel below her. They go the luncheonette, he gets his food, and they sit on a bench in the village green. The sense is that the boy is being fostered, maybe by someone elderly, or he's from a broken home, a mother who had to move away with him from a bad or abusive situation. And they start talking about balloon day, and we find out what the boy wrote, and why. 1100 words. It's for Longer on Inside: Very Short Fictions of Infinitely Human Lives, of course.


* I listened to the ten-part BBC Radio Sounds series of Children of the Stones, based on the 1977 mini-series, which I'm writing about for that book on overlooked masterpieces or notable art. It's a smart, effective update. The current-day terminology does not grate. It's natural. Screened the entirety of the TV series as well. Did a back-to-back thing.


* Yesterday marked 1631 days, or 233 weeks, without a drink of alcohol.


* I listened to a 1933 radio production of a show called "Christmas Eve Ghost," which was quite interesting. This was the very early days of radio as a form of entertainment. The episode only lasts fifteen minutes. It's a sea tale, so naturally I'll be drawn to that, and one of those open-ended kind of ghost stories, which are often the best ghost stories. Creaky, maybe, yes, but effective in a rough-hewn, folk art way. I think of the 1935 movie adaptation of A Christmas Carol--called Scrooge--this way.


* More unfollowers on Twitter because I noted that it was singular that the Patriots won 45-0 with their quarterback throwing for only 69 yards. This is controversial? Offensive? So, what, you can't say anything now, no matter how innocuous, or accurate? I am sure nothing like this has happened in the modern NFL. That is, if you were to look at the largest margin of victory, and fewest number of passing yards, I bet you couldn't get the former above 45 points and the latter below 69 yards. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a team that won by 45 points or more, with a QB throwing for less than 100 yards. Or 200. Now, if you went back to the 1930s, when it was a different game, sure. Consider the 1940 NFL Championship Game--this was long before the Super Bowl era--when the Chicago Bears beat the Washington Redskins--relax, that's what they were called, of course--73-0. Actually, this game occurred eighty years ago yesterday. I should have mentioned that on the Twitter, but five other people would have become angry and unfollowed. Washington defeated the Bears 7-3 three weeks earlier. There's a nice recollection of all of this by Bulldog Turner in Myron Cope's 1970 oral history, The Game That Was, which I've talked about on the radio. The coach, George Halas, brings in a consultant, Clark Shaughnessy, in the lead-up to the rematch, who sounds a lot like Belichick. "This play's gonna work. Now, then, if it don't, here'll be the reason why." Sid Luckman was the Bears' quarterback. He threw 4 times for 3 completions and 88 yards. Was a completely different game. It seems to me now that it borders on the impossible to say something intelligent, learned, and not have people find it offensive. Because this, with Newton and the Patriots, was interesting. A total statistical oddity, and perhaps a record of a sort. A stat line--especially when you factor in the shutout component--unlike any in another NFL box score, and that's going back into five plus decades.


* I saw a little while ago that someone wrote an op-ed in the LA Times a while back about how little I know about football. Ha. Come on. You have to do better than that, don't you? Shouldn't you want to? This was before the site existed. The site makes this kind of popgun drive-by harder to do. You need me more out there as this kind of nebulous concept, with not enough in one place. Otherwise one looks ridiculous. This site proves too much.


* Artists I am more and more impacted by the deeper I get into life: Thoreau, Orson Welles, Louis Armstrong, Radiohead.


* I passed out before I could see too much of the Chiefs v. Broncos game last night, but I find myself always looking now to see if a Chiefs game is on TV, regardless of their opponent. Mahomes has become one of those athletes like Pedro Martinez, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, that you feel compelled to try and see because you're watching something special and you will perhaps see someone do things no one else ever has or can do. I think of Mahomes in 2018 losing to the Patriots as akin to Gretzky succumbing to the Islanders in spring 1983. That was going to be it for the Isles, and Gretzky's time was at hand.


* Ran three miles.


* I feel like Snow Miser has a better song and dance routine--his kind of meteorological song of the self--but Heat Miser has two excellent touches during his song: When he eats those flames, like they're potato chips--who wouldn't respect that--and when he yells out "sing it!" It struck me the other night, though, as I was watching The Year Without a Santa Clause, when Snow Miser, after telling you what a half dozen of his nicknames are, sings, "My friends call me Snow Miser," as if that's this extra-special nickname, and maybe isn't his actual name at all. What if it's like Bob? Bob of the North? Bob North.


*By the way: the person who wrote that LA Times piece was Dave Zirin, sports editor of The Nation. Baffling that they'd have a sports editor, given that it's The Nation, but I used to pitch this guy, having no idea about the piece he wrote. And he is such a coward that he never once replied. Never once said, "Oh, yeah, I don't think much of you, see what I wrote here." They are almost always cowards. A coward like that gets off on watching someone better than they are try, knowing they have this power to act like a child--an unprofessional, incompetent, insecure, tittering child.


* It was on this day in 1963 that the Beatles performed a homecoming Christmas show in Liverpool, in which they make comments about the Cavern. This was when they were big solely in England. It's one of their better live recordings, and a rare one in that it features both "Money" and "Twist and Shout."


* Tomorrow on Downtown I'll discuss the Lennon op-ed, the above 1933 radio program, "Good King Wenceslas," and Judy Garland, including her first live performance of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," which I also wrote about for my book on overlooked masterpieces.


* Anything you read about the serial novel Varney the Vampire (1845) by James Malcolm Rymer says that is a penny dreadful, and quite dreadful at that, when in reality it's rather competently done. I've read it in full, and was reading some of it again the other day.


* On the side of the Dunkin' Donuts--I refuse to drop the second word--seasonal coffee cup this year, one finds the term "Cheersin'." What the hell does this mean? Why would you pitch that as the term to go on the side of the cup? It's confusing. What's the pun? I think it's supposed to be a pun. As in cheers? Who raises a Dunkin' Donuts coffee cup and says, "cheers"? I would think if you do that, you'd also be inclined to drink mouthwash as a cocktail. A man I used to see on my early morning walks in the Common would be drinking mouthwash, and he told me--he was quite adamant on the point--that the orange-colored mouthwash tasted better. Is it "cheersin" as in, "I'm going around, spreading cheers, which is to say, cheersin', bitches"? I see it and it looks like "cheer sin" to me. As though Satan--who features in a Mexican film called Santa Claus from 1959, which I discussed on NPR--spearheaded the marketing campaign. This reminds me of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (thanks Donovan), which has nothing to do with Michael Myers and is my favorite of the Halloween films, with this plan to end mankind embedded in an annoying TV commercial jingle about masks that someone could co-opt for these COVID times.


* I was thinking the other day what a great decade tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson had in the 1980s, but his live album Four, from 1968, is surely one of the best of that particular decade.


* I saw a story in Boston last night that ex-Bruin--he was with the team for a single season--Jarome Iginla was interviewed as part of a news puff piece on driving in the snow, and he wasn't billed as ex-Bruin or HOF'er Jarome Iginla, because they didn't know who he was. You wouldn't, unless you were a hockey fan. And this is a bad thing? The guy can't just be a guy out in the world? He has to be lionized? Hockey players tend to be better people than most people--they're easily the most grounded of athletes from the four major sports--and Iginla did a nice job answering the questions. I was somewhat surprised that he lives, at least part-time, in Massachusetts, because as I said, he only had the one year here at the end of his career and he's Canadian. But he was kind of a low-level superstar, though I think there was a very brief time period when he was the best player in the world. He had a jump in his legs at the 2002 Olympics that no other player did. He scored 30 goals for the Bruins, with a lot of them seemingly bouncing off of his person. I remember how upset he was when that Bruins team got bounced from the playoffs, saying it was the best team he had ever played on. Iginla scored more than 600 goals, but was only in the top ten in goals four times. To put that in perspective, Tim Kerr was in the top ten five times.


* Now I have a blend of the Bob North's song, the Halloween III jingle, and a dash of Bach cantatas playing in my head. Less than euphonic.