.

The last FAQ...........................at long last!

 

You didn't expect an endless series of FAQs, now did you? I mean there are only so many questions about anything, and so many answers. Even the universe will poop out and fizzle-wizzle away some day, just like me...and you, too. Well, enough philosophizing! Let's get to the last of the frequently asked questions from my occasional visitors and regular readership.

Question: Since you have had some experiences with the Martian race, do you have any idea whether or not they are going to invade Earth and annihilate us, and if so, when? I really would like to make some preparations.
Answer: I have stated a number of times that the Martians have regarded the human species as a reliable source of amusement for some time now, but I have reason to suspect that our antics have, of late, become tiresome to their viewing audience. In the telepathic emanations I receive from Mars, I have recently picked up the distinct impression that the "reality show" we are now producing on a global level has become a huge bore for the Martians, and they are about ready to "switch the channel." This is not a good thing, for their version of switching the channel will result in the wholesale elimination of our wretched species. There are no preparations you can make to save yourselves (unless, of course, you were the winner of the last (and best!) Mr. Eha's Place jackpot), so carpe diem, my friends, and pray that the Martian analogue of the Nielsen ratings for our show improves. My guess is that if the stock market rebounds significantly, a cure for stupidity is found, another bloody huge war doesn't break out anytime soon, and test scores improve across the board for U.S. students, we're goners...well, at least you are a goner.

Question: Rodents seem not to be cast in any good light in the Freddy series. Even your typical squirrel, a jolly little fellow if ever there were one, comes across as villainous, as in the case of the extortionist Taffy in Freddy the Cowboy. I can understand why Mr. Brooks would employ filthy and disgusting rats as villains, but why squirrels? I think it's time someone stood up for squirrels!
Answer: I had no idea that so many readers of the Freddy series take offense at Brooks's depiction of squirrels as annoying (as in Camping when they bombard "Mr. Eha" with stones) or treacherous (e.g., Taffy). I have no ready response to this "issue." I suppose I could produce a number of theories as to why Brooks demonizes rodents--perhaps as a child Brooks was frightened by a squirrel, for example--but suppositions like this cannot be substantiated and are not worth the effort it takes to think about them. And I must point out that mice are generally treated kindly in the series. I myself find squirrels to be obnoxious pests, and I enjoy using pepper-doused birdseed in my feeders to deter them. I am going to perform a public service for those of you who are amused by squirrels by providing a link to an important study: Squirrel Fishing: A new approach to rodent performance evaluation by Nikolas Gloy and Yasuhiro Endo, Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University.


Question: I am a collector of Centerboro memorabilia. Would you have anything for sale right now before your next Spring Internet Yard Sale?
Answer: You cannot imagine how many times per week I get this query! Of course, I usually ignore such e-mails and letters, but I just happen to have one last Centerboro item in my possession. If you want any more, you'll have to come to Centerboro and rummage around the antique stores or go to the Tushville flea market (about 11 miles south of Centerboro and open every Saturday and Sunday, 8 A.M. to 5 P.M.). And by the way, I will not be conducting any more Internet yard sales because they are simply too much trouble and I've encountered too many deadbeats and frauds as far as payment is concerned. The other reason why there will be no more Internet sales will be discussed later in this FAQ. Consequently, this spring I will have a regular garage sale right here in Centerboro and that's it! OK, here's the Centerboro item, and it goes to the first person who sends me a bank check for the full amount!

 

Centerboro Souvenir Plate

This spiffy Centerboro souvenir plate belonged to my mother who bought it in 1928. It is 8 inches across, there are no chips, cracks, or crazing, and the picture of downtown Centerboro is in shades of blue. This lovely item is specially priced for my readership at only

$1000.00!

You waited too long again! Sold!


Question: Freddy is described as "brilliant but erratic" in The Clockwork Twin. Is this true of the real Frederick Bean?
Answer: Erratic, yes, but brilliant...emphatically, no. I've been asked many, many times about Brooks's fictional characterizations based on real Centerboro people, and my standard reply was, is, and always will be that almost all of what he says about almost all the characters almost all the time is 100% baloney. For example, Freddy is described as being about a size 44 in Politician which would have been about right when the book was written, although he porked up to what I would estimate to be a size 50 just before he vanished from the Centerboro scene. But this business about his being brilliant, or a poet of some repute, or anything other than a blackguard and vulgarian is quite, quite wrong. One thing that Brooks either consciously or unconsciously got right was portraying the real Frederick as an artiodactyl in his series.

Question:
Are the addresses for the Bean farm given correctly in the series?
Answer: Well, let's see. In Pilot, the address is given as Centerboro 24, New York, and in Pied Piper as RFD #2, Centerboro. There would not have been any such address as "Centerboro 24." The RFD address is correct. Incidentally, I have a couple of the old mail whatchmacallits from way back when in old Oteseraga County. Here they are, and they are not for sale.

R.F.D. #2 Thingies

Question: I've been struggling with Contest #7 for months. I think it's impossible to complete unless you have the whole Freddy series, have way too much time on your hands, and are obsessive. Why don't you have a more reasonable contest? In fact, all your contests are too hard! In fact, I give up!
Answer: I have received numerous such complaints about Contest #7 (and the others, too), and I must point out to the complainers that no one is twisting your arms to participate, and your lives do not depend on getting all the answers or any of them correct. Besides, Contest #7 was declared over on October 25, 2002, by which time the best score was a pathetic 13 out of 42 correct, and the prospects of ever seeing a winner seemed diminishingly small. Because I am a basically benevolent, kindly man, I will publish the correct answers near the bottom of this page. If you wish to continue working on the contest for your own amusement, go ahead and avoid looking at the answers.

Question: Why do so many of the disguises Freddy assumes in the series involve his dressing up as a woman?
Answer: An answer to this question depends on one's whole approach to reading literature, I think. Now, I am but a Centerboro High School Class of '39 graduate (hence at least equivalent, educationally speaking, to today's typical four-year U.S. college or university graduate), but I enjoy reading enough that I've taken the time to look into different ways of interpreting the books I read--fiction, I mean, of course. Here is the short answer based on what I can make of the quite bewildering world of literary criticism. If you want a lengthier, more "intellectual" discussion of the meaning behind Freddy's female disguises, I recommend that you post your query at the Freddy list. You might get some kind of response, but I wouldn't bet on it. The membership is sluggish if not downright apathetic most of the time.
Anyway,

  • if you take a historical or biographical approach to the Freddy books, you'll see everything in them (including the various disguises and costumes Freddy wears) as a reflection of Brooks's own personal life and his times (or of the Freddy characters' lives and times). To understand why Freddy is frequently in drag then, you'd have to know about the circumstances of Brooks's own life and probably the social context of his era. Way too much effort for me!

  • If you think literature is all about teaching morality and probing the perennial philosophical issues, then you'll no doubt view Freddy's disguises and get-ups as some kind of moral or philosophical commentary. Personally, I don't see that in the series, which strikes me as superficial and silly for the most part, even when some moral issue or other does come up. Does the Freddy canon accurately correspond to the real world? Is it a series of moral observations? Does it demonstrate how real people act in real circumstances? Beats me! I think it's just a piddling children's series that falls far short of the best of juvenile literature.

  • Do you believe that you should be able to interpret the Freddy books by what you can find within them without referring to outside information about the history, politics, or society of the times or about Brooks's life. Do you like examining the bits and pieces of literary texts--like figurative language, irony, paradox, symbolism, and structural aspects. Well, then, maybe you should adopt a formalistic approach to the Freddy books and involve yourself in a super-close, nit-picking reading of them. Will this yield an answer to the question of Freddy's transvestitism? I don't know. Maybe Freddy's predilection for feminine attire is symbolic of something or other. Maybe not.

  • Of course, if a formalistic approach doesn't suit you, you could try to construct some kind of Freudian or Jungian interpretation of Freddy's character or of Walter Brooks as an author. What would motivate Freddy to "dress up"? What would motivate Brooks to create a such a character? Don't ask me, because I don't know, and I don't care. Perhaps there is some deep mythological or archetypal thing underlying the image of Freddy in a dress and bonnet. Does an image of Freddy in a gingham dress evoke some kind of universal response? Is it some kind of pattern emerging from the "collective unconscious"? Pretty far-fetched, if you ask me.

  • If you're one of those feminists, you could see Freddy's tendency to wear women's clothes as some kind of criticism of patriarchal culture. Doesn't that sound like a fun approach? Maybe Brooks was representing some kind of deep-seated male fear or anxiety in Freddy's disguises, but maybe that whole idea is just too political or revisionist. Do you really think Brooks was into gender issues? I doubt it, too.

  • Here's another possibility. You could go to the other end of the spectrum from a formalistic approach and take a look at your own role in creating the meaning of anything in the Freddy books. In other words, until you read a Freddy book, it doesn't mean anything at all. You'd get your own meaning out of reading and your personal identity would pretty much determine what the heck a book (or Freddy's get-ups) means to you.

  • Lastly, you could embark on a recondite discourse using the principles and terms of structuralism and deconstruction, but that kind of rubbish is best left to effete French intellectuals, or to college-aged pseudo-intellectual pissants who are wasting their parents' money majoring in art history, English, or communications, or to "academicians" who don't know how to do or produce anything more useful. But, really, who outside those three groups would have the interest or patience enough to wade through all that buncombe?

So, I guess the answer to your question is--it depends. If you want my opinion, why not just read the Freddies for whatever entertainment you can find in them without straining yourself overmuch?

Question: I am sending you this obituary which was published in the September 30, 2002, issue of the Batavia Daily News. Batavia is the upstate New York town where I am unfortunately stuck, and Perry is a little country village in the vicinity. Could this be the end of your search for Freddy?
Answer: I regret not, unless all the official records pertaining to "F. Harlan Bean" have been falsified--highly unlikely! But thank you for thinking of me, and R.I.P., Mr. F. Harlan "Hy" Bean, whoever you were. (By the way, did you know that Batavia is mentioned on page 175 of The Clockwork Twin?)

F. Harlan "Hy" Bean Obituary

Question: We've been waiting and waiting to see your 2002 pumpkin. Why haven't you published a picture of it yet?
Answer: Sorry, but I've been very busy making preparations for the Martian invasion for Mrs. U., myself, and the lucky, lucky winner of the last Mr. Eha's Place jackpot prize. Here is a picture of my most splendid pumpkin yet perched in the old silver maple in my front yard. The old cow who made numerous complaints to anyone who would listen about my previous pumpkin masterpieces has moved from across the street to Tushville with her horde of bratty little pukes, and good riddance to them, the whining spoilsports! Since they've departed from peaceful, tree-lined Clinton Street, I think that my Jack-o'-lantern may survive Hallowe'en this year instead of being smashed in the middle of the street or my driveway again.

The Magnificent Jack-o'-Lantern 2002

The Splendid
Jack-o'-lantern 2002

Answers to Contest #7
(Don't look if you don't want to know!)

1. from the cover of Rides Again, the animals clear a fence
2. from the endpapers of Men from Mars
3. a snippet from an illustration in Politician wherein Mrs. Wiggins says, "I can; leave it to me."
4. a part of Freddy's advertisement in Magician
5. the animals peering in the pigpen window on the cover of Poems
6. Freddy's shirt in Cowboy as he's galloping along on Cy
7. the trees on the Scholastic edition cover of Detective
8. an eagle's tail and flapping basket cover on the cover of Perilous
9. the campfire in the Camping illustration of Freddy looking up at the pancake on the tree limb
10. part of the background in the Cowboy illustration wherein Freddy mounts Cy for the first time
11. Freginald writes as Freddy watches on the cover of Freginald
12. from the endpapers of Baseball Team, the rabbits watch the game
13. the ruined Grimby house in the endpapers of Dictator
14. on the cover of Popinjay, the optician fits J.J. for glasses
15. the wheel on the cart Freddy is on in To & Again
16. Mrs. Underdunk's house in News
17. the circus wagon driver in the endpapers of Freginald
18. a snip of Weedly bearing the teapot in News
19. part of the audience at Freddy's show on the cover of Magician
20. in Perilous, the eagle flying over Freddy who is riding an elephant and towing the balloon
21. Freddy's legs in News--He's in his sailor suit having ice cream with the sheriff.
22. the crowd watching Freddy kick the ball in Football
23. in To & Again (illustrated by Adolpho Best-Maugard), a part of a wheel before which Charles stands
24. Jinx holding a paintbrush on the Clockwork Twin cover
25. an owl frightened by Weedly on the Weedly back cover
26. the pillow-covered lances in the jousting tournament on the endpapers of Popinjay
27. in Ignormus, the flag Freddy bears as the gun goes off
28. Freddy and Jinx get blown over as the rocket takes off in Men from Mars.
29. In Dragon, Freddy sprays Percy with perfume.
30. the shadow of Mrs. Wiggins's horns and crown in Weedly
31. from the cover of Piper, Freddy's coat, fringes, and stomach
32. part of the background on the cover of News
33. the missing face in the portrait in Camphor
34. in North Pole endpapers, a whale's belly and icy waters
35. also from North Pole, Freddy's face at a window
36. the flapjack on the tree limb in Camping
37. Bill Wonks's steed in the endpapers of Piper
38. in Camphor, Freddy's palette
39. the wildcat grabs the ball in Football
40. In Clockwork Twin, a dog watches the mechanical boy walk toward the water.
41. a sign across from the title page in Freginald
42. on the cover of News, a mouse sitting on a fencepost

Now, how hard was that???

Question: I noticed something strange in Freddy and the Space Ship. On pages 62 and 63 Freddy says, "In order to get through the earth's atmosphere and out into space, it is necessary to start with a speed of at least 25,000 miles an hour. Needless to say, until the invention, by Mr. Benjamin Bean, of the Benjamin Bean Atomic Engine, no such speed was possible. But with this engine, now for the first time installed in a space ship, Mr. Benjamin Bean states that he will be able to develop a velocity, not of 50,000, but of 100,000 miles per hour! (Loud cheers.) What does this mean, ladies and gentlemen? It means that instead of taking six months to reach Mars, our ship will reach that planet in about a week." Correct me if I'm wrong, but the math doesn't make sense, does it?
Answer: This is the latest of the "Great Mysteries" of the Freddy books I have received from several readers, and before the rest of you start deluging me once again with your own mysteries, please make sure you read the last question and answer in this FAQ. As far as this query goes, the readers are right. The math is wrong, and a simple application of the distance formula d = rt will yield a sensible result. Now, whether we ought attribute this wrongness to the character of Freddy, who is not good at math, or to a Brooksian blunder is debatable.

Question: In the Freddy books, there are circuses that neighborhood kids put on. Is this based on anything real?
Answer: Yes. Here is a photo from one of my albums of Jimmy Wiggs, a Centerboro lad, who liked to stage just such events. Brooks must have glimpsed one of Jimmy's neighborhood circuses, because he refers to such events and Jimmy's name in the books a couple of times, in Perilous and Dragon. Jimmy held these entertainments well into his late adolescence and consequently was subjected to a great deal of ridicule from his peers. Here you see him with his dachshund Fritz practicing for a "big top" performance. Jimmy become a veterinarian with a large practice in Syracuse. The less said about his brother Jack, also mentioned in the series, the better. He was a complete bounder.

Jimmy Wiggs and Fritz

Question: Did you ever get your Studebaker back from Herb Garble? Did you ever find out who E.T. is? Also, do you have comprehensive statement about the entire Freddy series?
Answer: No, no, and yes. Herb Garble, my former friend and associate, now a dual resident of Florida and Montana, has succeeded in hiding my spiffy Studebaker from the eyes of the police and the private detectives I hired to find it. I suspect it's under a canvas tarp in some old barn somewhere between St. Petersburg and Twin Buttes, but I've given up hope of ever seeing it again. ET, who had been stalking me for a number of years, suddenly vanished from the scene. I have not heard from her in nearly a year now, and it is my fervent hope that she has been confined to an institution from which she will never emerge. As far as some comprehensive statement about the series, I guess I would have to say that it's pretty much the same book times...what is it?...25. The Freddyite community might disagree, but if they are honest, they won't. And then there's The Collected Poems about which I have nothing new to say. It's simply a complete waste of paper unless you've run short in the outhouse.

Question: Do you have a favorite quotation to share with me? I am a collector of whimsical, inspirational, and humorous quotations.
Answer: Since you ask, I do have three favorite quotations. I don't know whether they are particularly inspirational or humorous, and they are certainly not whimsical, but here they are. "In framing an ideal we may assume what we wish, but should avoid impossibilities." I remember that from our study of Aristotle in my classics class way back in eleventh grade, and it stuck with me all these years. I attribute my longevity and all my successes in commerce and entertainment to having paid attention to it, for the most part, for the better part of my life. Another quotation that I like to keep in mind is so well known that it borders on "old chestnut" status. It is attributed to both Sir Arthur Eddington and J. B. S. Haldane: "Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine." It gives one pause to think, doesn't it. The third quotation in my "collection" comes from Jonathan Swift: "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him." Which reminds me to plug a terrific book! Rather than lay out thirty-five dollars for the Freddy Anniversary Collection (I mean, what for?), why not spend that hard-earned money on Harold Bloom's splendid Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds?

The Penultimate Question: Have you changed your mind about attending one of the Friends of Freddy conventions?
The Penultimate Answer: Certainly not. At best I would be a distracting presence at any gathering of Freddyites, and at worst...well, one shudders to imagine, but I could possibly be largely ignored or viewed as some unpleasant substance found where it has no good reason to be--on the bottom of one's shoe, for example. As I have noted elsewhere on this site, the Freddyite community and I bear the same relationship as matter and antimatter. We can and do occupy the same universe, sort of, but we really ought to stay in our own corners. Our presence on different servers on the Internet is close enough for me! However, our mutual assured destruction should we ever come into contact does not preclude--indeed would require--my sending an agent to the convention to gather information which I might report here. Axon Spardoze (for those of you who have asked, it's pronounced "AKS-on spar-DOZE-uh"), my confederate and the editor-in-chief of Mr. Eha's Place, did attend the FOF 2002 convention under an assumed name and has sent me a summary report which I shall further summarize here. For a more complete (though biased) report, you'll have to wait until the next Bean Home Newsletter comes out--if you're a subscriber, that is.

  • First of all and most importantly, Axon was unable to establish any clear link between the FOF, freemasonry, the Illuminati, or the Free Association Church of Centerboro. It seems that the FOF is a stand-alone organization, more whimsical than cultish, comprised of a number of affable sorts from all walks of life and age groups with the exceptions of infants, toddlers, and ancient doddering wrecks, judging from the attendees. Unless Axon was totally taken in, the FOF seems to be mostly harmless. The past and present leadership of the FOF appears to be a well-meaning lot who have as their principal goal the publication by Overlook Press of every single thing written by Mr. Brooks and new material related to the series (such as The Art of Freddy) as well as a biography of Mr. Brooks. I do not see any particular harm in that goal, though I do not see any particular good, either. This statement would certainly be hotly contested by the membership of the FOF, who are rather single-minded about their aims, but then one would naturally expect that, wouldn't one.
  • As for the events of the convention, there were a number of amusing and/or informative talks and happenings that would interest Freddyites, but bewilder non-Freddyites, naturally enough. Of course, the very same could be said of this site or of the proceedings at a convention of massage therapists or screen door manufacturers. Axon was particularly impressed with a presentation entitled "Freddy's Career in Espionage." The "...and you, sir, are no Porky Pig" line was perhaps the best one delivered during the convention. However, knowing of my intense interest in the subject of Freddy and the law, Axon regretted not catching a later presentation by a barrister-to-be entitled "Freddy and the Law." There was also a book auction that Axon attended where he witnessed the urge to collect operating at full strength. He wished, though, that the stepdaughter of Mr. Brooks had won the single thing she bid upon. That would have been nice. At the group's Saturday night banquet, the head honcho from Overlook Press spoke warmly of the Freddy series, but Axon and I both agree that Overlook should be given much more credit for publishing things like Evangeline Walton's Mabinogion Tetraology and David Mamet's Wilson: A Consideration of the Sources (which reminds us of parts of Axon's own sadly out-of-print, nearly-impossible-to-find novel Mostly Water). Axon next attended what he characterized as "a drollish puppet show" which dramatized episodes from Weedly, but having no experience as a drama critic, he declined in good conscience to say much else. Another major event took place right in Axon's room following the show. While attempting to adjust the heat level on the climate control unit, he twice banged his head on a badly placed hanging lamp. He did not suffer any great injury and is not contemplating a lawsuit against the Windham Arms.
  • Axon reports satisfaction with the wine list at the Windham Arms and thought that six bucks for a glass of the Black Forest Girl Pinot Noir was well worth it. The food at the Arms was not bad, he says (at least the blackened catfish wasn't) but pricey for what he was served, and if he were ever again to stay at the Windham Arms, he'd probably eat in town or bring a cooler full of cold cuts and condiments to economize.
  • Finally, and of least importance, Axon was quite disappointed in not being able to find a box of Loostner's Castor Oil Flakes for sale anywhere in the northern Catskills on his drive home. He remembers this tasty breakfast concoction from the days when he and his parents summered in the area.

The Last Question: You've been at it creating this site for a number of years now. I remember first seeing it on the AOL personal web pages maybe in 1996 when it was around three or four pages long. How much longer are you going to keep it up?


The Last Answer:
N.B. You are reading this answer on the final archived or CD version of Mr. Eha's Place. The answer below was intended for an Internet audience when Mr. Eha's Place was a "live" project, and the information contained in it is outdated. Much of the content of the answer below no longer applies. I have included this information for historical reference only. The long and short of it is that I'm not going to keep it up any longer--at least not as regularly as I have been over the past few years. Following the completely non-self-serving commercial messages of the big not-money-driven-at-all pharmaceutical firms to "Ask your doctor about..." and "Talk to your doctor about...," I went ahead and asked my doctor about all kinds of drugs and pills of every shape and color (even purple!), which he was only too glad to talk about and prescribe for me since he has become little more than a front for the drug companies. But--I digress. Despite all my new pills, despite my good eating habits, despite my scrupulous attention to personal hygiene, and despite my robust mental, emotional, and spiritual health, my age (I'm closing in on my late-eighties) has finally caught up with me, and I have been slowing down considerably of late. This is perhaps the last FAQ you'll read here, and I have no plans at this time for any other major additions of any kind or sort to the site. I don't even have the pepper to finish the "All the Marbles" story on the Tales Out of School (and Elsewhere): True Stories from the Golden Age of Centerboro, New York page. My never having been awarded the Friends of Freddy Lifetime Achievement Award (if it exists) has also contributed to my decision to pack it in, as has all the time I must now spend preparing to survive the onslaught of the Martian expeditionary forces, which I expect to arrive on this miserable planet any moment now. So then, if you have questions or comments related to Mr. Brooks's inconsequential scribblings, you should direct them to the scholars, raconteurs, pundits, and lurkers at the Freddy maillist from now on. For example, you might pose a question such as that which follows and see what happens:

In Magician, two dates are mentioned--there are a Tuesday, Aug.2, and a Tuesday, Sept. 2. Also, the tail-end of a hurricane is mentioned as having already passed through Centerboro that year. Is it possible to nail down Magician's place in the chronology of what I call the Freddyverse with this information?

It might be possible, but I'll let the Freddyites work on it, if they're so inclined, which I strongly doubt. And if you think questions like this are way too nitpicky, you really ought to see the material churned out by the annotators and fans of such series as the Wizard of Oz books or the Sherlock Holmes canon!

Well, it's that time to wrap everything up now. You are welcome to revisit Mr. Eha's Place as often as you like--at least until I take it down in order to conserve bandwidth or until the Martians dismantle it for me--whichever comes first. I will continue to read e-mail sent from the site, and I will still collect any surveys and other forms you might wish to submit (including applications for the prestigious Bean Farm Award) as long as I remain on this hapless planet. All the forms are now in working order! But if you have anything like a "Great Mystery" you'd like to see published, well, I'm almost certainly done with all that and all the rest as of today. Time now to read the official farewell messages from me and my dear friend Axon Spardoze, if you wish. Although I have by and large left the building here, I will not vanish altogether. I may emerge from time to time from my semi-retirement as a website creator to add something to Mr. Eha's Place, but don't hold your breath! You may also hear from me occasionally at the Freddy list, and until then, friends and visitors, farewell, and I remain,


Your friend, Mr. Eha



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