Inhuman Swill : December 2011

But what shall we do with Number 4?

| 2 Comments
            

Private printing has arrived!
I know it's not nearly as cool as getting a carton of books from a traditional publisher, but the private printing of The Accidental Terrorist from my Magick 4 Terri auction has arrived, and I think these books turned out really darn well, if I do say so myself.

I've signed and numbered every copy, and I'm excited to get them out to the winners. In fact, I'm heading off to the post office right now to overnight them.

But this only makes a vexing question more vexing. Of the five books I ordered, I'm sending three (Nos. 1-3) to the auction winners and keeping one (No. 5) for our own bookshelf.

But what shall we do with No. 4? I've considered several different options for disposing of this volume, but none that I've quite found satisfactory. If you have any suggestions for where I should send it or what I should do with it, please let me hear them.

Full entry

Apocryphal MacLean

| No Comments
            

theblackshrike.jpg
In junior high school, the Alistair MacLean virus swept through a lot of the boys and some of the girls in my class. I caught it from HMS Ulysses, which my father thrust into my hands at some point and told me I had to read. (He always maintained that war novels and spy novels were more instructive about the real world than science fiction novels.) In truth, though, I had probably caught a mutant strain of the virus in very early childhood, from the movie version of Ice Station Zebra. (My father on occasion would bring a film projector home from the school where he taught, along with library prints of flicks like that or Ivanhoe. I movies, I guess.)

Anyway, those of us afflicted scoured the school and public library shelves for every Alistair MacLean novel we could lay our hands on. Our guide, our index, our grimoire in this pursuit was that most magical of lists, the Also by This Author list in the fronts of the battered paperbacks we passed around. Many of those books were easily found, others discoverable with some detective work, two or three as vanishingly rare as Willy Wonka's Golden Tickets. We thought of them—though in terms more unformed than this phrase—as the MacLean Apocrypha.

I know now that the Apocrypha were apocryphal because they'd been published under different titles in the U.K. (The Secret Ways), been published under pseudonyms in the U.K. (The Satan Bug), or both. But I didn't know this, or care, when I finally managed to lay my hands on the Holy Grail of the Apocrypha—The Black Shrike.

I can only imagine with what anticipation I tore into that lurid tome with the ominous tropical landscape on the cover, an unreal book that seemed to have dropped from an alternate dimension. And as much as I hated to admit it to myself, I discovered an unfortunate fact about apocryphal writings.

Full entry

Cheeta! Cheeta!

| No Comments
            
UPDATE! 11:44 a.m.  I was right to be suspicious of this story. Turns out that R.D. Rosen in the Washington Post debunked Cheeta's supposed longevity back in 2008. The news media has done an abominable job of fact-checking today. NPR itself acknowledged in a sidebar to a Cheeta story in 2009 that the chimp identity was not what it claimed to be. This clearly isn't as big a fuck-up as the reporting in the run-up to the Iraq War, but it's a difference of degree, not kind.
NPR News is reporting in its headlines this morning that (to paraphrase) Cheeta, the chimpanzee who played Tarzan's ape sidekick in the movies, has died at the age of 80. This makes it sound like Cheeta was the only chimp to play Cheeta, which he wasn't, and that his age was well-established, which it wasn't.

There were something like fifteen or sixteen different apes (including at least one orangutan and one human) who played Cheeta in the films and TV shows, often with more than one in the same production. And while the Cheeta who just died is alleged to have been born in 1931, this has never been established as fact, nor has the claim that this chimp was acquired from the estate of Johnny Weissmuller in 1957—nor, really, the claim that this chimp was one of the original actors from the Weissmuller-era movies.

Chimps in captivity have been known to live into their 60s, but 80? It's possible, of course, but the chain of custody on this chimp is based on hearsay. I don't believe it myself. But whether it's true of not, the story being reported in the NPR news blips leaves a lot to be desired, implies facts that aren't facts, and reports hearsay as straight fact.

I swear, it's like NPR based this news report on an email forward from my mother.

Full entry

The season of miracles

| No Comments
            

StKateriTekakwitha.jpg
Now that Christmas is over, let's talk about miracles.

Miracles have been on my mind since last week when I heard the story of Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th century Mohawk-Algonquin woman whom the Vatican plans to canonize. The miracle that sealed her canonization was 5-year-old Jake Finkbonner's 2006 recovery from the flesh-eating bacterium Strep A. His chest, neck, face, and scalp were infected, but a Blessed Kateri relic and prayers to the long-dead woman supposedly halted the progress of the infection before it reached his eyes, brain, or heart.

Jake's recovery is wonderful, perhaps even remarkable, but is it a miracle? We tend to use the word miracle in two different senses without always making much of a distinction between them. Sometimes we mean an occurrence has come to pass that was simply quite unlikely. In this case, miracle is nothing more than a hyperbolic turn of phrase. But often we mean an occurrence that could only have come to pass through some kind of supernatural or divine intervention.

The miraculous waters are only muddied by the frequency with which the word gets tossed around in the news. A game-winning three-point shot from half-court at the buzzer and other impressive athletic feats get the same tag as the 10-year-old Dutch boy who survives a plane crash that kills all 103 other people on board.

Full entry

Merry Christmas!

| No Comments
            

Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Full entry

The right to equal criticism

| No Comments
            

If Bethlehem were Pompeii and Vesuvius spewed molten gold
The house on the corner is a goddamn nuisance.

Laura would probably put it like this: "Someone sure whacked them with the Christmas stick."

It's a big, beautiful house of tan brick, in the Prairie School–derived style that makes so many old Chicago houses so distinctive. We covet this house.

But the Christmas decorations—good lord. Not only is there a half-size crèche occupying half the front lawn, spotlit, but on top of that the whole house is covered in colored lights that flash in sync with the synthesized loop of carols blaring from the hidden speakers. When we walk past it at night, Ella skitters away from the place. I don't know how anyone inside, or even next door, can get any sleep. All together, it's seizure-inducing.

Full entry

Bio

| No Comments
            

I am
a writer
a blogger
a podcaster
a programmer
a designer
an inventor
a collector
a cabinetmaker
a bowler
a moviegoer
a foodie
a traveler
a tinkerer
an atheist
a priest
a curmudgeon
a felon
a photographer
a chauffeur
a skeptic
a rube
a ruffian
a layabout
a lurker
a dilettante
a poseur
a pundit
a primate
an ancestor
an earthling
an alien
a canvas
a convenience
an improvisation
an illusion

Full entry
            

accidental-cover-front-small.jpg
I've finished designing the books that will go to the three winners of my Magick 4 Terri auction and placed my order with Lulu.com. With a little luck, the lucky recipients will have their copies of this special private edition of The Accidental Terrorist before New Year's Day. (By the way, I decided to upgrade them to hardcover with full dust jacket. Yeah.)

Here's a sneak peek of what the cover looks like. Eventual publishers of the commercial edition, please feel free to steal my design.

Full entry

Just-us league

| No Comments
            

So Laura and I joined a bowling league a couple of weeks ago, almost without meaning to. Some friends of ours from our occasional trivia league have been in a low-key league for the past decade, and they invited us to come bowl with them on the most recent monthly outing. The lanes aren't far at all from our apartment, and we both love to bowl, so we said sure.

The lanes, on the second floor over a store, turned out to be so old and divey that they didn't even have automatic scoring machines. The bar was a place where even non-bowlers came to hang out. Laura and I ended up bowling on a team with a couple of very nice guys whose teammates are apparently not very reliable. (Also, I ran into the owner of a local pet-supply store where I shop, who is also in the league.) We had a great time, and we both bowled well enough (not a terribly high bar) that the two guys invited us to be on their team permanently.

We accepted. Duh.

A few days later, Laura saw an ad for an upcoming Neil Diamond concert. Knowing her mother used to like Neil Diamond, Laura called her up and asked if she might be interested in going to the concert together.

Full entry
            

Epidode #61 of The Accidental Terrorist Podcast is now available, in which Bill explains how you can bid to win your very own privately printed copy of his memoir The Accidental Terrorist. Listen up! (Or simply click here to learn more and bid now.)

http://www.shunn.net/podcast?at=61

Full entry
 1   2   Next »
The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

About This Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2011 is the previous archive.

January 2012 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Archives