Picture Page #41
Another half dozen

A young Mrs. Underdunk

This photograph of Mrs. Underdunk was taken many years ago just after she and Humphrey got married. (The story of their meeting can be found here.) In my opinion, she is still quite the looker (though in her eighties), and as she and I thumbed through her photo albums recently, I was mindful not only of her evolution from babe, to "babe," to octogenarian, but also of how standards of beauty have changed over time... especially my standards. I dug out my 1939 Centerboro High School yearbook to confirm a growing suspicion on my part that I may have been a high school fool when it came to the appreciation of feminine beauty. Of course, my suspicion was confirmed. As I flipped through the pages of senior pictures, I saw nascent beauty in the faces of so many girls whom I did not think to give a second glance back then. Indeed, I had been a dope, or, as my part-Irish mother was given to proclaim now and then about yours truly, a greeeat eejit.

But my erstwhile stupidity is incidental to my reason for publishing this picture of evanescent beauty. It's here as a reminder of how quickly time passes and the lessons we really ought to learn in the rush of years. And I present now a brief distillation of what I've discovered about relationships, and if you're so inclined, you can think about what I have to say at your leisure. (If you want me to elaborate, you'd have to visit me here in Centerboro, and since I no longer put anyone up on the cot in my toolshed after that most unfortunate incident with the brown recluse spider, you'll have to sort out your lodgings yourself.)

Anyway, here's most of what I can tell you about a good relationship. First off, all that gushy romantic hokum lasts for about six months max. Then it's work, hard at times, but always work, for a relationship is always about disparate lives trying to mesh, and believe me, the gears will clash. Next, it's not all about either one of you, and if you think it is, you're going to be pretty lonely. And don't even bother trying to transform your partner into a perfect vision. That never works. Finally, you might stumble across some practical advice for keeping a relationship on the rails in a counselor's office or in a book, but it's a lot better if you can figure it out for yourself. Is that too brief? Is it too simple? Maybe if I had known this simple stuff back when I was married to Harriet...well, no point in dwelling on that.

The dissection of Uncle Ben's brain

Grandfather Bezaliel

Here's a pair of photographs that illustrate in part the triumph of nature over nurture, a circumstance you can almost always safely bet your life on.

I was surprised to find this first, rather macabre photo in a Bean family album, and I can't account for its having come into their possession, but if it is what the notation on the back says, then what you see is a lab-coated fellow dissecting Uncle Ben's brain following the detonation which caused his demise in the Oteseraga County Custodial Asylum. On the back it says, "B. Bean brain. Abnormal." What a surprise! Considering the degree of Uncle Ben's manifest lunacy, one wonders why anyone would have thought it necessary to go poking around in a manner so crude to reach a conclusion so obvious. (I've pixelated the face of the doctor because he's still with us and may not want folks around here to know how he spent his time at work. Astute readers of the Freddy series may be able to figure out who he is, though.)

Next, we have an old cabinet photograph from the Bean household in which you see William's grandfather (Uncle Ben's father and Freddy's great-grandfather), Bezaliel Bean, of whom you have no doubt heard mention in Freddy Goes Camping. There's good reason for Mr. Brooks's having raised up old Bezaliel for the purpose of his narrative, for despite his mild appearance, he could be quite a scary fellow. In fact, some of his escapades are the stuff of legend in these parts.

Bezaliel's misadventures began with the seemingly harmless boyish prank of stealing laundry off clotheslines and strewing it among the branches of trees up in the Big Woods. However, certain delicate articles of women's clothing were never recovered. Bezaliel then advanced to tipping over outhouses, turning loose cattle from their pens, and stealing chickens. At the same time, he became a terror in school, bullying younger pupils, dipping braids in inkwells, and once even throwing an arithmetic book at his teacher's head, the offense for which he was thrown out of school for good. As he grew older, his misbehavior became increasingly serious. Being intelligent and cunning, he was able to weasel his way out of many accusations, but the sheer volume of his crimes, petty and serious, worked against him, and eventually after attempting to burn down his neighbor's barn with the neighbor in it, he was finally put away for keeps in the same institution in which his son Benjamin eventually was confined.

Well, then, is it any coincidence that Freddy turned out so badly? No, it is not. That old chestnut about acorns and trees certainly obtains in Freddy's case, though its truth is no justification for his poor record which includes, in alphabetical order, numerous counts of aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon, attempting to defraud the U.S. government, breaking and entering, burglary, conspiracy, criminal trespassing, cruelty to animals, extortion, fraud, harassment, impersonation, looting, malicious mischief, practicing medicine without a license, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest, shoplifting, theft, treason, unlawful detention, and vandalism. Phew! Of Freddy it may be fairly said that like his great-uncle Bezaliel, he could look, act, and talk like an ordinary human being if it suited him to do so, However, despite the best efforts of his parents, his apparent normalcy was nothing more than a practiced act. Beneath the window dressing there lurked quite a different creature altogether.

Not For Sale! A grand old Freddy book
Do Not Inquire!

What a perfect example of a highly-desirable ex-lib Freddy! And it's not for sale, so don't bother to ask. I have recently added this marred and musty beauty to my collection of library discard Freddies, of which I am much more fond than my non-library Knopfs. (Why? See "Four Quatrains for the Ex-Library Copy.") I happened across this bonny book at the Tushville Public Library's annual October book sale. This branch of the county library system was not too long ago in danger of being closed down owing to a decrease in patronage and a flagging regard for literacy among the Epsilon Minuses who control purse strings in Oteseraga County. But, our current lousy economy saved the day! Believe it or not, as people have begun to economize at home to offset the pain of becoming more and more poor, they also have begun to look for ways to entertain themselves more cheaply. Astonishingly, it has occurred to those around here who can read that the library offers a grand service which may be had for the time it takes to apply for a library card! Of course, it's not just the books that have attracted new library patrons. There are the public-access computers which they use to cruise the Internet for free instead of paying, in some cases, lotsa money per month to an ISP. Also, instead of subscribing to some movie rental service, patrons find that there are yards of shelves of splendid fictions, documentaries, etc. for free! Always a silver lining somewhere, isn't there?


Local hotels

Interesting, n'est-ce pas? Old advertising, this, from a time when ad copy had not yet become a form of "entertainment." It's simple, factual stuff, to the point, with a minimum of intelligence-insulting weasel-wording. This clipping comes from one of my mother's scrapbooks, the one in which she collected pictures of Oteseraga County buildings. I think you'll find this picture elsewhere on my site, but I reproduce it here because it ties in so well with something that has been on my mind since the last time I watched television before switching it off until November 5.

I think any randomly chosen commercial advertisement is likely to be execrable, but, in my opinion, the most loathsome, the most intelligence-insulting of all are, in no particular order, commercials featuring
  • the sentence, "I'm <candidate's name>, and I approve this message."
  • cute kiddies, puppies, or kitties fronting large corporations
  • the inverse of cute kiddies; i.e., snotty, wise-ass minors
  • anything other than an actual human engaged in speaking or singing; e.g., a puppy, kitty. hymenopteran, reptile, container, car, mop, cartoon bear, etc.
  • bewildered, stupid, pudden-headed, or likewise incompetent "adults"
  • rock music, loud, and especially that which was on the charts years ago
  • pompous, vacuous music; e.g., the Olympics theme or the themes of most national or local "news" programs
  • deliberate (and repulsive) misspellings or neologisms; e.g., the abomination "sale-a-bration" and the more recent, but every bit as hideous "staycation"
  • any variation of the wording "Ask/talk to your doctor/prescriber about..."
  • the words or words similar to "Actual client," "No credit, no problem," "No payments until...," or "Call now!"
  • the weasels (and their variations) "virtually," "acts like," "works to," "can be," "may," "up to," "helps," etc., etc., etc.
  • the words "luxury," "deluxe," "exclusive," "elegant," "exquisite," "tasteful," "lavish," or anything else of that sort
  • actors playing doctors or patients or lawyers or clients of lawyers
  • attractive visual and audio content which diverts viewers' attention away from a recitation of horrifying side effects
  • fine print, especially fine print flashed briefly so that some corporation at some future time can claim "We warned you."
  • smarmy and disingenuous personal injury attorneys
  • any reference to any part or parts of the human excretory or reproductive systems
  • any reference or allusion to flatulence
  • people in profile, talking at some imaginary client or audience off the edge of the television screen
  • the words "Las Vegas," "Caribbean," or "cruise"
  • promotions for the local <ahem!> "news" show
  • car peddlers who walk around and wave their arms during their obnoxious spiels
  • cheap furniture, a whole room of which may be had for, say, $499.00 or so
  • "celebrities" of any sort, but particularly those of the sports or entertainment ilk and most particularly those whose <ahem!> "celebrity" extends no more than twenty-five miles in all directions
  • any apparatus, book, pill, drug, cosmetic, regimen, treatment, procedure, system, plan, or program promising to turn you into that all-new, awesome, nearly perfect person you deep-down-inside just know you have always been destined to be
I'll bet you could add a few to the list.

The Great Crustaceanoid

You guessed it right off, didn't you! Yes, it is an image of the Martians' Great Crustaceanoid, hereafter known as the GC. Unlovely creature, is it not, by any standard of beauty? Though I have mentioned the GC before, I have not discussed the nature of what the Martians consider to be their "supreme being" or the central tenets of the Martian religion to any great extent because up until recently I didn't know enough to do so with any authority. However, the last time I communed telepathically with Two Clicks I expressed an interest in the GC and within one day I discovered this image in the Eha's Place Pending Publication folder on my hard drive! I don't know how the old boy does it, if indeed Two Clicks should be considered a "boy" of any kind. I also found that information regarding the Martian religion, of which there is but one, had been deposited directly in my mind in the form of a lucid dream, the rapidly fading details of which I jotted down as best I could in my bedside notebook between 3:32 AM amd 3:36 AM on Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008. Here's what I've been able to reconstitute from my scribblings.

The GC is described by the Martians as an aeriform, immaterial essence represented in some exotic metaphorical way by the physical embodiment seen to the left. The GC itself, though, is so elusive as to have never left one single shred of palpable evidence of its actual existence anywhere to be found. Martians say of the GC something to the effect, "Its center is nowhere and its mandibles everywhere," whatever that means. The GC is distinguished by its utter capriciousness, remorseless destructiveness, and almost complete lack of goodwill. Nonetheless and inexplicably, the Martians find these qualities worthy of veneration.

There are no sacred texts per se in the Martian religion nor are there anything remotely resembling "religious leaders" or "clergy." Their beliefs are expressed in a handful of aphoristic, zen-like sayings which are passed down without variation or commentary from one generation to the next. But what is a sensible human being to make of a saying such as, "The decapods of the sand oceans care not for the hurtling moons"? The remainder of the canonical sayings are similarly incomprehensible and so omitted here. After all, we humans have enough to mull over these days without worrying about cracking Martian koans. Two Clicks has informed me that each Martian is free to discover what meanings it can in the sayings, but any religious exegesis or expressed interpretation is punishable by immediate, horrific public execution.

Some may consider the Martians' beliefs merely odd. Others may find them offensively heathenish. Still others may not give one fig about what a Martian believes or doesn't believe. I myself have learned all I wish to learn about the matter and will limit future conversations with my old friend Two Clicks to more ordinary issues...politics, for instance.

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