Archives for April 2016

Fruit flies trespassing !!

Today, this blog received a terribly interesting comment:

Hvor træls for ham. Forhåbentlig møder han op til de samme klassekammerater, som han gik i 0. med sidste år imorgen. Flotte frugtposer. Bananfluer adgang forbudt !!

Google Translate helpfully identifies the language as Danish, and the syntax as fractured:

How træls for him. Forhà ¥ hopefully he encounters with the same classmates, as he went 0 with last year ¥ s tomorrow. Beautiful fruit bags. Fruit flies trespassing !!

It is very good of this drive-by commenter (who is, I assume, not one of the 3.6 Loyal Readers) to warn me about the trespasses of fruit flies. Presumably they are doing it in aid of the beautiful fruit bags, or perhaps concealed inside of them. How træls for him. How very træls indeed.

Upon sober second thought, I have decided not to allow the comment to stand in its original place, but to immortalize it here, without the accompanying link.



In other news, I have been consulting my monstrous regiment of M.D.s, and they have concluded to keep me on vitamin D (which I have been taking lately) and renoberate my other medications, in the interest of preventing me from occasionally lapsing into narcolepsy. This should improve my ability to Get Work Done. I am still on the last stages of foot-slogging, or rather footnote-slogging, through Style is the Rocket; after which I shall probably put together a little collection of short fiction, tentatively entitled The Worm of the Ages and Other Tails.

‘April Fools’

M*A*S*H: A writer’s view. #14 in the series.

M*A*S*H, as I have mentioned before, reached a grand climacteric in 1979. Before that, while the series gradually changed in tone, becoming more dramatic and less consistently funny, it remained substantially the same show that Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds had created. Actors left the cast, but new characters were invented to replace them; writers left the show’s stable, but new talent was recruited. The newer writers were not in the same league as Gelbart, Laurence Marks, or Greenbaum and Fritzell; but they were quite good enough to ensure the smooth running of the machine that those more gifted hands had built.

After 1979, the show stopped developing altogether. [Read more…]

When to cut a manuscript

Those who are regular followers of the doings of Arthur Dent may have received an impression of his character and habits which, while it includes the truth and, of course, nothing but the truth, falls somewhat short, in its composition, of the whole truth in all its glorious aspects.

And the reasons for this are obvious. Editing, selection, the need to balance that which is interesting with that which is relevant and cut out all the tedious happenstance.

Like this for instance. ‘Arthur Dent went to bed. He went up the stairs, all fifteen of them, opened the door, went into his room, took off his shoes and socks and then all the rest of his clothes one by one and left them in a neatly crumpled heap on the floor. He put on his pyjamas, the blue ones with the stripe. He washed his face and hands, cleaned his teeth, went to the lavatory, realized that he had once again got this all in the wrong order, had to wash his hands again and went to bed. He read for fifteen minutes, spending the first ten minutes of that trying to work out where in the book he had got to the previous night, then he turned out the light and within a minute or so more was asleep.

‘It was dark. He lay on his left side for a good hour.

‘After that he moved restlessly in his sleep for a moment and then turned over to sleep on his right side. Another hour after this his eyes flickered briefly and he slightly scratched his nose, though there was still a good twenty minutes to go before he turned back on to his left side. And so he whiled the night away, sleeping.

‘At four he got up and went to the lavatory again. He opened the door to the lavatory…’ and so on.

It’s guff. It doesn’t advance the action. It makes for nice fat books such as the American market thrives on, but it doesn’t actually get you anywhere. You don’t, in short, want to know.

—Douglas Adams, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Coming attractions

I am happy to report that my health is taking a mild turn for the better, and I am once again able to work with some semblance of regularity.

Tonight I returned to my series of essais on M*A*S*H, and finished the draft of a post analysing the eighth-season episode, ‘April Fools’. (It seemed like a good time of year for it.) I shall put it up as soon as I go back and insert all the fiddly formatting code for the screenplay bits.

In other news, I have almost completed the final edit on Style is the Rocket. What remains now, chiefly, is the tedious job of collating my sources and writing up the bibliography and endnotes. I shall spread this work over the next week or two, because it is time-consuming and desperately dull. But deo volente, I shall have a new book out in April.

The antidote to arrogance

The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover just how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false.

—Paul Johnson