|Fri., Nov. 5, 1999
Today I'm going to try something a little different. Today's entry
is going to be entirely improvised. No notes, no revisions.
Just me and a chair in the harsh light of a blank screen.
That sound you hear is the sound of my script for the day being torn in
pieces and thrown into the never-used orchestra pit of my life....
I'd like to thank the usual crowd for being here this morning: My stuffed
animal collection, my hundreds of books, and of course that furball on
four paws, Jester.
I think I'll start by asking if anyone here knows exactly what improvisation
"It's the act of inventing, composing, or reciting without preparation."
Thank you, Webster's Dictionary. I knew I could count on you.
"In the 20th century, a number of groups using improvisation worked usually
in intimate cabaret theatres, sometimes performing impromptu scenes based
on ideas from the audience."
Thank you, Britannica.
With that in mind, I'll now ask for a few ideas from the audience.
Please state your name, then your idea. Oooo - so many eager participants!
Just choosing at random - you there. Yes, you with Fatty Arbuckle
on the cover. Please state your name and then your idea.
"Umm, This Fabulous Century: 1910-1920. I was just sitting
here before the show, flipping through my pages, fingering my paragraphs,
when this really weird passage popped up. Can I share it?"
Sure. Weird passages is what this journal is all about.
"In 1916, when Pancho Villa and his revolutionaries were rampaging through
the Southwest, Henry Ford vigorously opposed sending U.S. troops to the
Mexican border. The Chicago Tribune called him an 'ignorant idealist'
and an 'anarchist' in response. He, in turn, sued them for libel.
The Tribune's lawyers got him on the stand and tried to prove that he really
was an ignorant idealist and an anarchist in the broad sense of naive,
stupid, and unpatriotic. Ford's lawyers sweated bullets as they heard
exchanges like the following:
Question: Have there been any revolutions in this country?
Ford: In 1812.
Question: One in 1812, eh? Any other time?
Ford: I don't know of any others.
Question: Do you know of any great traitors?
Question: Who was Benedict Arnold?
Ford: He was a writer, I guess.
Question: You really don't know anything about history, do you?
Ford: No, but I could find a man in five minutes who could tell me
all about it.
"With such answers, Ford earned the sympathy of a like-minded jury and
won his suit. Can you top that?"
Don't think I can. But Fortune magazine has given it a shot.
It just named Ford "Businessman of the Century" - presumably for his work
clogging the roadways with cars and not for the Dearborn Publishing Company
he set up to churn out anti-Semitic pamphlets which became best-sellers
in - of all places - Germany.
Who's next? Yes, you with the pebbly white cover.
"Hi, I'm Jane & Michael Stern's Encyclopedia of Pop Culture
from Harper Collins in New York and I thought I'd just share the fact that
when Du Pont first put nylons on sale on May 15, 1940, riots broke out
as women fought to get their hands on them. Thank you."
Ooo, you've touched on a big fear of mine: Rioting woman! The rampage
that 30,000 of them went on when New York's Paramount Theater couldn't
accommodate them all when Frank Sinatra sang there in 1944 still haunts
my nightmares. Those scenes of hand-to-hand combat over Cabbage
Patch Dolls that flowed across our TV screens night after night on the
evening newscasts of the '80s continue to shadow my days. I live
each moment in dread that I may someday inadvertently write something that
will spark another uncontrollable outburst from this desperately appreciative
gender. How could I ever live with myself if I did? Especially
after being torn limb from limb by females high off something like my great
Someone hurry and toss me another, less frightening idea while I mop my
brow. I promise not to be too irresistible in my response, just for
the good of humanity.
"Hi, I'm the recorded voice of Laurie Anderson, and I'd like to speak up
on behalf of your CD collection. Although you've been listening to
and enjoying my The Ugly One With The Jewels CD, you've completely
failed to mention the fact. Just as you failed to include CDs as
a class when listing your audience at the start of this entry. So,
I was just wondering: Can I rip you from limb to limb?"
I'm sorry, that's simply not a less frightening idea than the one that
came before. In fact, it sounds suspiciously like the very same idea.
Do you have any others?
"What did you think of my 'The Geographic North Pole' track?"
Oh, very nice. It really got me to thinking. For one thing,
your saying that you headed out for the geographic North Pole but settled
for reaching the magnetic North Pole made me wonder exactly how many
different North Poles there may be. Images of wild herds of North
Poles roaming the earth in prehistoric times played across my mind.
Re-enactments of the domestication of these poles by tribes of nomadic
geographers unfolded on the private Discovery Channel in my head.
Countless ethical issues were raised and debated as I imagined modern geneticists
successfully crossing modern domesticated North Poles with fishing poles,
just so Santa need never go hungry again. And I wondered: What happens
when they start selling cellular North Poles that we can take with us wherever
we go? Won't it be a drag when, wherever we are, night or day, our
boss's compass needle is always pointing right at us?
"Please don't play my CD again."
Can't right now, anyway. Seems there's a distinguished guest in my
audience today that I should have introduced long before this. Stand
up, please. Yes, you in the red cover with gold leaf. What's
your name again?
"The Holy Bible."
Hey, I knew that! Just had a little senior moment there, that's all.
Do you have an idea to throw out today?
"Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words?
Hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat
their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?"
Whoa! Sorry there, Buddy - I'm trying to work clean today!
Do you have something a bit less offensive that I might be able to build
"Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath
known man by lying with him! But all the women children, that have
not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves!"
Security! Oh my God, he's got a loaded attitude! And a wireless
mike! Quick! Get the mike! Get -
"I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall be widows, and your
Jester! Wrestle that verse out of that page! Hurry!!
"Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the
Now into solitary confinement on a back shelf! Good boy!
Whew. You just never know what goes on in the innermost pages of
books these days....
"Yo Quiero Taco Bell!"
What now - a heckler?!
"No, a suggestion that we break for lunch."
Ahhh, best idea yet - even if it does come from a stuffed chihuahua with
a severely limited vocabulary.
Fending off crazed publications seems to have built up quite an appetite
in me for something truly nutritious.
And who knows? Maybe - just maybe - I'll be able to tape together
the pieces of today's script while I'm there at the table so I'll have
a shot at posting something decent tomorrow.
Depends if I can keep from dropping a chalupa on the scraps or not....