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Archive for October, 2008

Halloween Spider Exit, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Halloween Spider Exit, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Spider Walk, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Spider Walk, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Casket Arts Halloween, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Casket Arts Halloween, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



There was a Halloween Open Casket event at the Casket Arts Building last weekend. We spent several days hanging out in our studio, visiting with community artists and art lovers who stopped by to view and talk about art.

One couple had just moved into the building and we were talking about how the entire 3rd floor was once filled with women who sewed silk casket linings for the Northwestern Casket Company. And the polished maple we were standing on contained patches of thrown away boards from the casket builders downstairs.

That got me to thinking about caskets and, well, things just snowballed from there. Here’s my short list of fun things to do on Halloween.




1) Take A Casket Decorating Class


All things associated with death, including obituaries, caskets, and burials used to be an art form. People spent painstaking hours building and decorating caskets with the art of Rosemaling or Dalmalning. And there are people who still excel at this craft.

Rosemaling is Norwegian decorative painting. In an interview, Casket Painting Uplifted by Folk Art Tradition, Alegria talks about how she got started in casket painting. It’s spiritual work for her:


I do what I do because I have been given opportunities to experience dying, death and loss in the biggest ways, and I want to take what I’ve learned and experienced and help transform grief to glory.


If you head over to the Alternative Funeral Monitor News, you can read the whole interview with Alegria and see a photograph of a casket with Rosemaling.


Here’s an excerpt:


I paint Folk Art, primarily Rosemaling, a Norwegian folk art. I also use other forms, including Dalmalning, which is Swedish flower painting, and Baurnermalerai, a Bavarian folk art. In fact, every country has specific ethnic folk art forms, with designs and patterns that have been used for centuries.

Rosemaling actually comes from the early itinerant painters who traveled throughout Scandinavia. They stayed with families, became part of the family and decorated precious dowry trunks, beams, walls, ceilings and pews in the churches for the people. This art helped to bring light, color and joy into the long, dreary, dark winters.

The patterns and designs invoked spirits that the wood carvers had first carved on the Viking ships, such as acanthus vines, serpents and dragons. The shapes have meanings which they incorporated into the designs of this early work.

In addition, in the earliest burial customs, people were buried wrapped in a shroud. Later, when customs started to change and people harvested timber and used planks of wood to make caskets to bury people in, the custom began of adorning and decorating caskets. The ancient motifs and designs I paint with rise from the subconscious that now really is a form of tribal art.



2) Learn To Build Your Own Casket


The North House Folk School up on the Harbor of Lake Superior in Grand Marais, Minnesota is offering a Build Your Own Casket class. I don’t know about you, but this looks fascinating and fun to explore. What better way to prepare for that final resting place.

There are photographs and more at the link below. Just scroll down the Woodworking page to get to the casket building class.


Bury Yourself In Your Work – Build Your Own Casket
Instructor: Randy Schnobrich
Session Options: 12/5/2008 – 12/7/2008


None of us are getting out of this alive, so you might as well bury yourself in your work. Join a growing number of independent-minded people looking for a more meaningful alternative to today’s burial arrangements. This course covers a range of important details such as: proper sizing, joinery, handle construction, hardware and design options.

The finished casket need not wait for a final departure before being put to use. Above-ground applications include use as bookshelves, coffee tables, storage containers and entertainment centers.




3) Read Old Obituaries (1920’s – 1950’s) & Write Your Own


This one offers immediate satisfaction. We’ve talked about the obits many times on red Ravine. After reading today’s obits, I’m stunned by the richness and character of the old obituaries, how people used to take time to honor people in death by writing about their lives.

Mom uses obituaries in her research on the family tree and they often lead to uncovering buried skeletons. What a treat!  It makes me wonder if there used to be people in a community who excelled at writing obituaries, writers that the grief-stricken would turn to to write the obit of a lifetime.

Here’s a link to FR – FZ section of a few Wisconsin ancestral obituaries. And a little bit about the poetic character of Anton N. Freng in this short excerpt from his obituary:


Anton Nilson Freng was born in Brottom, Norway, on July 31, 1852, and died at his home in South Valley, town of Summer, on November 6, 1933, having lived 81 years, three months and six days. He learned the painting trade under Master Erick Alm. In 1873, the family immigrated to America, stopping at Chicago for a few weeks and then making their home in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

A.N. Freng was a man of action. He served on his school district board for many years, was an organizer and director of the Osseo Canning Company, and served for thirty years as director and agent for the Pigeon Mutual Fire Insurance Company. He was secretary of the South Valley church for the past 45 years.

Mr. Freng was the leader in his community. He was endowed with more than ordinary amount of common sense and courage. His neighbors depended upon his counsel. He was a man of sterling character. He had a kind and jovial disposition. He was loved and respected by all who knew him well. His oft repeated phrase, “Another of our old and venerable pioneers has gone to his well-earned rest” has again come true, and may we add that the greatest of them all has gone.

Coming from a foreign country at the age of 21, not knowing a world of English and having had but little schooling, he rose to heights and power unsurpassed by many who had much greater advantages. He was great because he had ability, because he was honest and sincere. He expended his energies in the right direction, for the betterment and advancement of his community and country. The world is better for his having lived.

      -Written by J. Reese Jones. THE WHITEHALL TIMES – NOVEMBER 15, 1933

 


Mr. Ghoul, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Pumpkin Man, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mr. Ghoul, & Pumpkin Man, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





Any takers? There’s nothing boring about death and dying folks. And for an extra special treat, visit Heather’s blog, Anuvue Studio. She goes crazy every Halloween with all things wild and wonderful.



Happy Halloween. Happy Day Of The Dead. Happy Samhain.





     Casket Arts Glow, Halloween at the Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ghoulish Toast, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2006, photo © 2006-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.String Theory, Halloween at the Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, October 31st, 2008

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hope change hope, A Fourth Street resident in Albuquerque expresses wishes for the ’08 presidential elections, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




My daughters are in on it now. This weekend, driving down Fourth Street in Albuquerque’s north valley, Em points one out.

“Mom, we just passed a really good sign.”

“Was it worth stopping for?” I ask her.

“Yes, yes!”

I pull over, wait for the cars behind me to pass, then do a U-ey. She’s right, this one is gorgeous.

Here’s what we’re noticing as we drive around town. People in the central Rio Grande Valley are expressing their support for Barack Obama in very creative ways. Signs are cropping up everywhere—and not just your ordinary signs. We’re seeing oodles of the large Hope sign that features the bold graphic of Obama’s face. And we’re seeing handmade forms of political expression into which people are putting time, energy, beauty, and humor.

All along the main roads in Albuquerque’s north valley, as well as Corrales, you can see ‘em. Yes, there are plenty of your standard political signs for both sides, but the ones we’re stopping to admire and photograph are standout.

Maybe it’s because New Mexico is a battleground state. In the 2000 presidential elections, Al Gore squeaked by with less than 500 votes. In 2004, Bush won by only 6,000 votes. And in the 2008 Democratic primaries, it took a week before the winner was declared. (Hillary won by about 1,700 votes.)

We get serious about our races in this state, and this year Albuquerque and Corrales—two cities in the central Rio Grande Valley—are working hard to make New Mexico “blue.”

Personally, I’m knocking on doors in historically “red” precincts, and even though it’s not my favorite type of work (last election, homeowners nearly chased me off their lawns by election day) I’m still putting myself out there.

And I can tell you this. Deep in my gut, I know that NM will, indeed, be “blue” this election. I feel it in my bones.

Here are five completely non-scientific reasons why:

  1. The signs. No one ever got this into it in 2004. No one seemed to do anything more than slap a machine-made yard sign in front of a wall. The signs we’re seeing this round tell me something about the level of passion people have—they’re going out of their way to express themselves.
  2. At an early vote rally on the day after early voting began, about 100 Obama supporters and I stood with signs on one of the busiest street corners in one of the most conservative precincts around, and we got a surprisingly large number of thumbs-up, high-fives, and cheers from passing cars. Yes, we heard and saw a few obscenities, but the positives far outweighed the negatives.
  3. Going door-to-door in a “red” district, I’m seeing a lot of Obama signs (ordinary garden variety) and I’m hearing people say, “Yes, you can count on our support!” Some of these folks are NM’s version of so-called “Dixie-crats,” Democrats who in the past few elections have voted based on so-called “culture” issues. One guy came out and said, “I don’t like homosexuals, gun control, or abortions, but I like Obama.” On my most recent round of canvassing, I even ran into Republican couple who said, “We’re done with the Republicans; we’re voting Democrat.”
  4. I’ve gone from being a nervous Nellie to having hope. I worked the 2004 elections and I can tell, something is different this time ’round. I’m proud to wear my Obama buttons and drive around with my “Obamanos” bumper sticker on my car. Last election, people flipped me off when they saw my Kerry bumper sticker. I got to where I cowered over my political expression. All that fear is gone today.
  5. Finally, my kids tell me that most of their friends are voting for Obama. Of course, my kids’ friends can’t vote, but their parents can. I have a feeling these young’ins are echoing their parents’ preferences.



So there you have it. I see hope on the ground, and I feel hope in my heart.

Now let’s go make it happen.
  

 

 



-Related to post WRITING TOPIC – WHY I VOTE.

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Night Flower Faces The Sun, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Night Flower Faces The Sun, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



ONE: The 8th Stage of the Great Round, Functioning Ego, allows you to stand on your own two feet, reach out, and engage the Universe, much like a flower turns to face the sun. Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, and Rainbow Magic pens that change & erase color.




5-Pointed Star, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

5-Pointed Star, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



TWO: In the rising star of Stage 8, others begin to take notice of skills, abilities, and dedication to your craft. The 5-poined star mandala has a firm foundation, arms outstretched, head held high. Medium: Reeves Water Colour Pencils.



Laws Of Nature, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Laws Of Nature, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



THREE: During Stage 8, you take life by the hand and learn to manage the many circles spinning around you. Whether a complex project, people working together in the spirit of cooperation, or the waxing phases of the Moon, you are learning to work in harmony with Nature. Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, and Reeves Water Colour Pencils.




Thunderbird, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Thunderbird, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



FOUR: In this Native American mandala, the static cross sprouts wings and becomes a spinning Thunderbird form, ancient symbol of the Sun. Archaeological evidence of this shape on ornaments dates from the Neolithic period. Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, and Reeves Water Colour Pencils.





August Mandalas — Stage 8 – Functioning Ego


Whether starting your own business, remodeling your home, or managing interpersonal issues as a community leader, Functioning Ego is about taking Action. A time of doing, not being, Stage 8 becomes activated when you take the initiative to bring an inspiration into reality, and really kicks in when you are engrossed in the challenging tasks required to reach your goals.

These mandalas are from the 8th month of a year-long mandala practice that began with the post Coloring Mandalas . Early this year, I made the decision to follow the twelve passages of Joan Kellogg’s The Great Round. According to Susanne F. Fincher, the healing benefits of The Great Round: Stage 8 – Functioning Ego are:

  • ability to work comfortably in group settings, organizations, or alone, whichever is needed to accomplish your goals
  • inspiration becomes reality through great effort, and takes on a form that is seen and appreciated by others
  • you are actively engaged toward personal goals, living life on life’s terms, using the imagination to the fullest to create new and wondrous things
  • on the spiritual level, healing takes place through finding ways of sharing wisdom gently and respectfully with others, in ways they can understand



I’m currently working on the tail end of October’s mandalas, along with a painting in the studio. The textures and colors are kind of wild on the canvas, so I thought I’d continue to use the mandalas to talk about color. Some time ago, when I was researching information on Providence, I ran into Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Theory of Colours (original German title, Zur Farbenlehre).


Goethe's Colour Wheel, 1809, image Public Domain

Goethe, originator of the concept of World Literature (Weltliteratur), took great interest in the literatures of England, France, Italy, classical Greece, and Persia, and wrote what is considered a high point of world literature, the two-part drama Faust. Theory of Colours was published in 1810 and Wassily Kandinsky called it, “one of the most important works.”

The last major color breakthrough had been in 1660 with Sir Isaac Newton whose work in optics led to his creation of the color wheel. For Newton all the colors existed within white light. But Goethe’s Colour Wheel arose from the interaction of light and dark, and the psychological effects of color. Goethe didn’t see darkness as an absence of light, but polar opposite and interacting with light. Colour resulted from the interaction of light and shadow.


He wrote:

Yellow is a light which has been dampened by darkness; Blue is a darkness weakened by the light. Light is the simplest most undivided most homogenous being that we know. Confronting it is the darkness.

–Letter to Jacobi


Goethe's Triangle, image for educational purposes, from Color Mixing and Goethe's Triangle (csbrownedu)

Goethe wanted to uncover color’s secrets and investigated whether rules could be used to govern the artistic use of color. He created a Colour Wheel but later found his ideas were best expressed within an equilateral triangle. In Goethe’s original triangle, the three primaries red, yellow, and blue, are arranged at the vertices of the triangle. He chose the primaries based as much on their emotional content as on their physical characteristics.

To Goethe it was important to understand human reaction to color, and his research marks the beginning of modern color psychology. He believed that his triangle was a diagram of the human mind and linked each color with certain emotions. Blue evoked a quiet mood, while red was festive and imaginative. The emotional aspect of the arrangement of the triangle reflects Goethe’s belief that the emotional content of each color be taken into account by artists.

Goethe’s theories of color and emotional response, once considered radical, are commonplace in today’s world. Over the course of the year, I am learning about my own color preferences in relationship to the circle. Perhaps color observations about our work say as much about us emotionally, as they do our art.



-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, October 30th, 2008

-related to posts: The Void – January Mandalas, Dragon Fight – June Mandalas, Winding Down – July 4th Mandalas, Squaring The Circle — July Mandalas (Chakras & Color), and WRITING TOPIC – CIRCLES

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By Bob Chrisman


My mother and her three sisters believed in the Law of Threes. Well, actually they believed in a “hard” law and a “soft” one. Let me explain.

The basic Law of Threes states that all bad things happen in groups of three. Only bad things, never good ones. The hard law states that if a death places the law in motion, the next two events must involve deaths. The soft law allows for a bad thing (not a death) to happen and then two more bad things, which could involve a death or two, although deaths are not required to fulfill the soft law.

I thought for the longest time that only my mother and her sisters believed in the Law of Threes, but I found out I was wrong.

A college friend called me to say that his 92-year-old mother had died. I expressed my sympathy and made all of the appropriate noises. I couldn’t help but think that his mother’s death had fulfilled the Law of Threes started by the death of another friend’s 92-year-old mother in early February and my own 92-year-old mother’s death at the end of that month—a perfect example of the Law of Threes. Inside I felt guilty for even thinking that way.

When I went to the house to pay my respects to my friend and his family, I sat on the sofa next to his youngest sister. She told me how much she would miss her mother and then paused.

“You know, Bob, I worry about the next two deaths that will follow. Who will die?”

She must have seen the look of surprise on my face because she quickly explained, “Deaths happen in threes. At least that’s what my family always said.” What a relief to know that other people believed in the Law of Threes.

“I understand,” I said. “Let me tell you my story.”

When I was little, my mother would fix my breakfast and then sit at the kitchen table and read the paper while I ate. I knew something was up when she would “Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!” before closing the paper, folding it, and heading for the phone.

“Faye, did you see where Mildred Shunkwilder died yesterday? You know her. She was in Vera’s class in high school. Yes, yes, that’s the one. She married the Sweet boy and they moved to his parents’ farm. Yes, I know. You better call Annie. I’ll call Vera. We can all keep our eyes out for numbers two and three.”

She would place the receiver of the old black phone back in the cradle and shake her head. “I wonder who the next two will be.” She would then call Aunt Vera to place her on alert.

Phone calls flew back and forth. The sisters watched the newspaper. They contacted relatives and friends for information about people from whom they had heard nothing in years. When they discovered someone else who they all knew had died, they would breathe easier yet they didn’t relax until the third death had occurred. Then life for the sisters would return to normal, for a while.

My Aunt Faye fell victim to the Law of Threes in the late 1970s. My Aunt Vera joined her group of three in the late 1990s, followed by my Aunt Annie, who died a few years later. Even as their numbers grew smaller, they carried out their death watches. Finally, my mother was left alone to keep track of the law, but by then she was in her 80s and people she knew were dying all the time.

Even when she resided in the nursing home she would greet me with the news of the latest death. “You know Herbie died, didn’t you?” Herbie was a distant cousin by marriage. His second wife lived down the hall in the same nursing home. “That’s number two. Woodie died last month.” I waited for news of who was number three. I think Emmett, another church member, completed the law a couple of months later.

Then my mother died—number two in the series of three. The Law of Threes wasn’t completed for another five months, at least as far as I knew.

My friend’s sister looked at me after I finished my story. “Would you mind if I borrowed your mother’s death and the death of your high school friend’s mother to complete my three deaths?”

I couldn’t deny her request. I gave her those deaths. You don’t want a Law of Threes—especially not a hard one—hanging open.




Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer whose pieces Hands, Growing Older, Goat Ranch, and Stephenie Bit Me, Too have all appeared in red Ravine. Hands is about the death of his 92-year-old mother.

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funkadelic!!, and a collection of other words and phrases I love to say, pen and ink on graph paper, doodle © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




When I was in high school there was this guy, John Armijo, who had big stretchy lips, white Chiclets for teeth, and a clown smile. He wore his hair ala Vip’s Big Boy, and he talked like a Valley Girl, except masculine.

He made up a word—funkadelic—which he used the way others might say cool.


          “Hey, Charles Castillo is having a party this Friday night.”

          “Funkadelic, man!!”


And there was the way he said it. Funk-a-DELLL-LICK. Emphasis on the DEL with a stretching out of the L, then a slow transition into LICK. Before long, John’s word became part of the lexicon of our entire group of friends.

But more important, hearing John say funkadelic was the first time it hit me that I love the way some words sound. I like how they form in my lips, how they make my tongue touch the roof of my mouth, and how my voice lingers over certain syllables.

That word—funkadelic—had all sorts of word-love associations in my mind, none of which you might expect. Funkadelic made me think of Helsinki made me think of melanoma made me think of lucidity. Something about the way the mouth and tongue and lips worked together got me going in a ribbon of sound and shape.







I will go out of my way to say certain words and phrases. Take the name of that famous discount clothing store, the one where you have to pore through racks to find designer brands in the right color and size. Ross Dress for Less.

I love that place, will frequent it instead of Marshalls all because I have bonded with the name. Never plain ol’ Ross, but Ross Dress for Less. (I was in there the other day looking at trench coats for a Halloween costume and I noticed an abundance of home furnishings. God forbid there’s a name change on the horizon; it just wouldn’t be the same.)

I realize my love of the way certain words sound must have begun long ago, when my brain was still forming synapses (there’s one I enjoy saying). I think back to words of my youth—Piggly Wiggly, Gilligan, Ellie Mae. I can see the dotted line to funkadelic and why whenever I see one of my co-workers, I go out of my way to say her name. Nellie.






When Dee was little, everything she ate she had to dip into sauce—ketchup, salad dressing, barbeque sauce. This led Jim and me to coin the term dippin’ sauce, which ten years later is still one of my favorite things to say.


          “Dippin’ sauce with those artichokes?”

          “Yes, please!”


There are words I start out not liking that later grow on me. Gasamat. Once a word enters that special place between my cheek and gums, I tend to use it as much as I possibly can. Gasamat, Gasamat, Gasamat.

The newly coined staycation was a real annoyance when I first heard it this summer, yet lately I notice it’s growing on me. I think even if the price of gas plummets and airline travel becomes incredibly cheap, I will nonetheless take nothing but staycations for the rest of my days.

Webinar is another word I thought was dumb, and yet I seem to be growing fonder of that one by the day. I might even consider hosting a webinar just so I can say it few hundred times. Who know? Maybe I’ll do four webinars in a week and call it a weborama.

Even when I disapprove of the meaning of a word, what it stands for, I can still like the way it sounds. Robocall, for example.







I’ve decided to start a list of words I love to say. It’s kind of anemic (hmmm, I might consider that one) but I plan to add to it over time. (I also considered making a list of words I didn’t like to say but realized those had less to do with the structure and sound of the word itself and more to do with words being over-used and/or not terribly meaningful.)

Feel free to add words for which you hold a special fondness. Together we can celebrate the joy of vocabulary—in all its funkadelic-ness.




Of all the Words I’ve Loved Before…

   funkadelic
   Helsinki
   melanoma
   lucidity
   Ross Dress for Less
   synapses
   Piggly Wiggly
   Gilligan
   Ellie Mae
   Nellie
   Gasamat
   staycation
   webinar
   dippin’ sauce
   sassy
(pronounced sas-seh)
   gangly
   cauliflower
(pronounced collie-flower)
   billy goat
   marigold
   robocall
   kleptomaniac
   Quetzalcoatl
   bourgeoisie
   Blas
(a man’s name)
   memento
   pimento

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Two Weeks Before Snowfall, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Two Weeks Before Snowfall, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.







two short weeks ago
before winter stripped her bare
the face of an ash



oak branches bend, sway,
leaves darting, one with the wind
October’s last breath





Change Of Seasons, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Face Of An Ash, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.End Of Fall, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Face Of An Ash, Change Of Seasons, End Of Fall, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, October 27th, 2008

-related to post: haiku (one-a-day)

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Two old author friends, beloved by generations of readers and pranksters alike, came together for a brief reunion on red Ravine to talk about the challenges of publishing and staying relevant in today’s world.


I.P. Freely: It’s been ages, Seymour, ol’ boy. What have you been doing??

Seymour Butts: Likewise, I.P. What a pleasure to see you! Well, I never got married—just a perennial bachelor, I suppose. I live with my brother Harry and write books. Pretty sedentary life. Oh, although I just published a new book, inspired by the current financial crisis and the sudden rise of “Joe the Plumber.” It’s called Under the Sink, and it’s the first bestseller I’ve had since Under the Bleachers.

Freely: You don’t say?! Congratulations! Don’t tell me you’ve not been writing for that many years, though. Under the Bleachers must have been at its pinnacle back in the late 1970s.

Butts: You’re right, I.P. I wrote a lot of other books since then but none took off. I had a whole series—In the Locker Room, Women’s Sauna, Memoir of a Proctologist—but for whatever reason, they never made it out of manuscript. It was a bum deal, and I was pretty sore for a long time. How about you?

Freely: Well, Yellow River was great while it lasted, but it set off a host of copycats, notably A River Runs Through It. I was disappointed, of course, that Brad Pitt passed over our film script—in fact, that was a real pisser, but such is life. I had some blockage after that, but things finally got moving. I met a great woman, Toots, and we’ve been married for 15 years.

Butts: Hey, I noticed that red Ravine used your name for a title on a post about bathroom habits and stress incontinence. That might generate a stream of opportunities for you.

Freely: Doubtful, although I was pleased to see ‘em pick it up. Hey, I heard through the grapevine that “Seymour Butts” was the other title they were toying with. That would have been a nice plug for you.

Butts: Oh, indeed. It would have worked, too. Oh well, win some and lose some, or, as I say, see some and see none. It’s been grand talking to you, I.P. One last thing, do you see Mister Completely any more?

Freely: Nah, he got really depressed after his sole book, Hole in the Mattress, was such a downer. He and the Missus got a divorce.

Butts: Ah, that always a risk. Writing—it’s a hard life.

Freely: That it is, Seymour, that it is.


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