November 9, 2008

Sir Archy, archy, and blogging cockroach.

In the early morning hours yesterday, this blog received a visit from our ghost commenter Sir Archy -- dead these 260 Years and more. As a ghost, he had something to say about Barack Obama's first press conference, in which the prez-elect claimed to have spoken to all the living Presidents and quipped "I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about doing any séances." (That quip -- for which Obama's had to apologize -- would surely have inspired warm chuckles in a law faculty room.)

In the comments, Amba said about Sir Archy: "I get him mixed up with the cockroach." By "the cockroach, she means our delightful insect commenter blogging cockroach. (Click the "blogging cockroach" tag below to see old posts with writings by the industrious arthropod.)

Amba adds: "I wonder if they aren't the same person, though, and 'Archy' is a clue." She's thinking -- I happen to know -- of archy of archy and mehitabel, the literary creations of Don Marquis:
Archy is a cockroach with the soul of a poet, and Mehitabel is an alley cat with a celebrated past -- she claims she was Cleopatra in a previous life....

"expression is the need of my soul," declares Archy, who labored as a free-verse poet in an earlier incarnation. At night, alone, he dives furiously on the keys of Don Marquis' typewriter to describe a cockroach's view of the world, rich with cynicism and humor. It's difficult enough to operate the typewriter's return bar to get a fresh line of paper; all of Archy's dispatches are written lowercase, and without punctuation, because he is unable to hit both shift and letter keys to produce a capital letter.

"boss i am disappointed in some of your readers," he writes, weary of having to explain the mechanics of his literary output. " ... they are always interested in technical details when the main question is whether the stuff is literature or not."
Marquis' George Herriman's ink drawings are sublime. See, here is archy putting in the immense athletic effort needed to type a short column:
Now, blogging cockroach is surely a tribute to Marquis' archy, and we appreciate his explanation of the the mechanics of his literary output by computer even as we contemplate whether the stuff is literature or not. (Perhaps someone can make a drawing in the Marquis style of blogging cockroach at the computer or photoshop this drawing somehow.)

But Amba's question is whether Sir Archy is named to connect him to the cockroach. (Bonus points if you you do that drawing/photoshop and replace mehitabel with Sir Archy.) Are these writers one and the same (and, if so, are they also anybody else that we see around here)?

Well, the cockroach saw Amba's musings and dropped by the comments thread. Here is what he wrote:
well all i can say is that there are some
advantages to being a cockroach
one of them is i don t have to worry
about my hair or clothes anymore

having the transmigrated soul of a composer
i can look back at all the troubles i had
when i was a music professor
to buy the right suits and keep my shirts ironed etc
in those days they paid us a pittance
and so i drove a 56 studebaker
but had to wear a suit on campus every day
which cost me as much as the damn studebaker
i hated clothes
not to mention haircuts
i was actually kinda glad to go bald
except maybe for the combover
which frightened away my female students
but now i don t worry about any of that
and other than molting now and then
life is simple
and i sure don t want to mess it up
with a powdered wig

but having spent a little time
on the astral plane myself
i can tell you archy s right about seances etc
you just settle in and some idiot
comes and bothers you
about something really stupid
reminded me of office hours
anyway one day my ex wife showed up
wondering where the key to the
safe deposit box was
now some exes hire private detectives
but mine hired a medium
tells you a lot
anyway i screamed let me out of here
let me slouch somewhere to be born
and presto the next ticket said

cambridge mass

so here i am
maybe i ll tell you about the safe
deposit box next time

So here's another clue for you all:

Plus, cambridge mass... Harvard/MIT? Some bald professor with a penchant for nudism?

ADDED: And at last night's Crossroads Café, Chip Ahoy said:
What I know about the Kennedy administration was learned by reading.

Smithsonian used to be so interesting. My favorite part was letters from the readers remarking on articles. What an erudite bunch. It ran a couple of pages. Then they got another new editor who cut that section back to just a few letters and to about half a page. That told me all I needed to know about the new editors attitude toward his readers.

Then they ran an article in relation to the John Kennedy assassination anniversary. Readers were asked where they were when the event occurred. That series of letters then ran for several pages. All the remarks were about how glorious the age of Camelot was, how idealistic, youthful, energetic, positive, and optimistic everyone was. How amazing incredibly beautiful the time was. Every single one glowed with praise and rued a lost past.

Except for one. A response from Tom Clancy. He had a wee on their little party. He remarked the administration wasn't all that remarkable. He reminded readers of several notable failures and obvious shortcomings. He suggested had the administration lasted, it would not be remembered so fondly. This caused me adore Tom Clancy, even though he's a schmuck.

I was so put off by the whole thing, the rebuff to the readers, the hard leftist turn, the ceaseless pontificating, the whole desktop publishing look, I ended the subscription I held since junior high school.

It occurred to me though, reading through all those responses, those writers, were recalling an idealized, sanitized youthful optimism -- their own youths. Their optimism was entirely of their own making and had little to do with facts on the ground. As is their present pessimism.

And now, I'm seeing that phenomenon occurring again right before my eyes. I'm going to enjoy this. As an observer. But this will not affect my own naturally occurring cheerful optimism nor my own self-indulgent satanic pessimism. I'm just going to watch my wonderful country, the less wonderful world, willfully create their own optimism. Myth making. That's what is happening. Observe a new myth. This is how it's created. Begin by overlooking faults, dismissing them, excusing them. Next exaggerate any gain, whatever actual good there is, suddenly is really REALLY, REALLY everlastingly good. Yay! Dance! Glee! Canonize! Deify. Mythologize. Expect comparisons to Camelot, and know then you're in the arena of myth. But know also, this is all occurring within the minds of the mythologists.

But know also, optimism is very real. Just as real an uplifter as pessimism interprets into very real and actual drag. Therefore, I choose to enjoy the optimism in my fellow Americans, no matter how ridiculous it is. I could go for another Camelot myself, even though I know it's all occurring entirely within the minds of all you silly dumkopfs, present company excepted, of course. I vastly prefer my fellow citizens as silly little shits, than as obnoxious unbearable cnuts. <--- See what I did there? Letter transposition. Disguises a word unacceptable in polite mixed company, one worse even than the s word before it. This completes my remarks about ridiculously delusional self-constructed optimistic mythos. And now for something entirely different. Here's what I made for lunch.

Sorry you couldn't be here, I'm sure you'd have been wonderful lunch dates.
Go to Chip's lunch link for all the steps, but here's his last pic:

That brought the cockroach over:
yes chip ahoy that was a beautiful lunch
i adore hummus
if you don t eat those lettuce leaves completely
and leave the remains on the plate
or better yet drop one on the floor
well i ll have a beautiful lunch too

now about the beautiful
kennedy administration
i was a young grad student
when camelot happened
the main thing i remember
is seeing kennedy getting off
an airplane looking really snappy
or hot as they say today
and thinking man that guy
must get some action
then i thought naw
he s the president of the u s
that s really sick to think those thoughts
hoo boy was i wrong
And here's what Tom Clancy wrote:
I never voted for the guy. I was only 13 when he got elected. I was a junior in high school when Kennedy got whacked. I was in the Waverly Theater on Green Mount Avenue in Baltimore watching Shirley MacLame and Jack Lemmon. I had a half-day of school. It was a Friday. I heard it on the way coming out of the movie. The ticket-taker said the president got shot. Then followed four days of nothing but a dead president. They didn't even show the Colts play. He was the president of the United States, so I didn't want him murdered. I wanted him to lose the next election. I mean, what did he accomplish? He has been canonized by the media, which I think is a bit unseemly. He was a handsome guy. He had great style. He meant well. It was Lyndon Johnson who got the civil rights movement rolling. He was a patriot and he put his life at risk in World War II, and that's something to be admired, but I don't see anything historically significant that he did other than the space program. For the space program, I'd buy him a beer.

ADDED: Thanks to Jeff with one "f" for correcting me about the ink drawings. I love George Herriman -- and even blogged about him back here. Mehitabel's resemblance to Krazy Kat is clear... clearer than Sir Archy's resemblance to blogging cockroach.

AND: Dear, sweet Palladian has sent me the illustration I wanted!


chickenlittle said...

So here's another clue for you all:

The walrus was Paul!

Ron said...

Sorry roach, I forgot the powdered wig is only for your official capacity...

Also sorry if I'm not current on bald, Harvard/MIT nudist profs.

I do like the Golden Hawk though! Raymond Loewy rules!

Palladian said...

"Labels: amba, bald, blogging cockroach, Chip Ahoy, food, JFK, naked, Nancy Reagan, Obama, Sir Archy, séances, Tom Clancy, urine, wigs"

Bald... Nancy Reagan... urine... wigs... naked... food... cockroach...


Lem said...

If Michele Obama was trying to channel Jackie O to help her pick that dress the other night, she needs to hire another spiritual adviser ;)

Ann Althouse said...

Is there a better tag collection?

(I was just following my normal rules of tagging.)

Jeff with one 'f' said...

"Marquis' ink drawings are sublime"

They are indeed sublime, but they are not the work of Marquis. The illustrations of archy and mehitabel are by George Herriman, creator of the sublime Krazy Kat.

For the uninitiated and for art lovers of all stripes I highly recommend Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman, as well as Krazy & Ignatz.

Ron said...

Kennedy pumped up the Green Berets and created the Peace Corps, OK, Tom?

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Jeff. I knew that but forgot.

William said...

I read with interest and approval the Chip Ahoy post. It is comforting to find that there are kindred souls out there. I still subscribe to the Smithsonian, but I find that I have to read around some of their articles. The recent one about Iran/Persia, for example, annoyed me. Not so much has gone right for the women and common people of Iran during the past 4000 years of recorded history. Had we not aided in a coup back in the early 50's, the country would be some kind of utopia by now according to the Smithsonian. The pictures are fun to look at though....Buying Smithsonian for the reading is like buying Playboy for the reading.

ricpic said...

Creating the Peace Corps was a plus?

Jeff with one 'f' said...

I thought so- you blogged the comic art show a few years ago- but I love any excuse to publicize my favorite artists!

Ron said...

Creating the Peace Corps was a plus?

Ok, arguable! I'm trying to give the benefit of the doubt here...

Ralph said...

Smithsonian is the only magazine I get, but no one has fessed up to sending it to me. I've seen some gratuituous AGW swipes occasionally, but at least they don't have BDS like VanityF, Time, Newsweak, etc.

Aurora said...

Hello to all! No longer lurking thanks to you and Don Marquis. Thanks for brightening up Sunday after the election:

i know that i am bound
for a journey down the sound
in the midst of a refuse mound
wotthehell wotthehell
there s a dance in the old dame yet
toujours gai toujour gai
(the song of mehitabel)

Henry said...

I have a dusty biography of Don Marquis titled O Rare Don Marquis. It is written by Edward Anthony.

Marquis was a great human being. As was Herriman, for that matter.

dick said...

I was lucky enough to score some old Don Marquis archy and mehitabel books at a yard sale a couple of weeks ago. love them. What a great sense of humor.

Maxine Weiss said...


And, look way over to the left...her knife set, with one of the knives missing !

I can only imagine what happened to that one knife.


Maxine Weiss said...

"This is amazing. I am being asked to go out into the neighborhoods of people who think I am subhuman to knock on their doors and talk to them about how I'm gay but I'm nice, and here's why they should support me. Hello? That is dangerous stuff you're talking about there, and I'm not going to risk my life so that people can tell me to my face what an evil pervert I am but "Oh, we love you because Jesus is love." You're white. Have you ever had an African-American come to your door to do this? And you live in California, right? Hardly the scariest place in America. Why don't you recommend to African-Americans that they do some "outreach" in your town?"---- LA TIMES

(Then why not take the message to upper-class white Republican towns like Palos Verdes and Orange i've been saying.....)

peter hoh said...

Yes, this post has a lovely collection of tags.

Blogging Cockroach's musings on the Kennedy administration reminded me of
John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, in which the narrator's youthful adoration of JFK is shattered when he learns that JFK had been screwing Marilyn Monroe.

amba said...

Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman -- work of great genius and sophistication!

I'm so proud to say that my late aunt, Darlene Stern Geis, made that book happen when she was an editor at Abrams, in her late 60s.