Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Thursday, February 12, 2021

Today is the 200th birthday of our 16th President. But the day he was assassinated conjures up more wonderment these days, especially regarding what he was watching onstage at Ford’s Theater during his last hours on earth.

In fact, here’s the pinpoint moment of dialogue from that night’s play, “Our American Cousin”, that likely was the final coherent thing that the Great Emancipator ever heard (not counting John Wilkes Booth’s gunshot):

“Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal — you sockdologizing old man-trap.”

Sockdologizing? Yes, sockdologizing:

Verbal humor does not age well. I suspect people will still be watching Buster Keaton movies long after they’ve stopped viewing “Seinfeld” reruns.

“Sockdologizing” means, according to [the Ford's Theater park service], “manipulative.” That knowledge does not make the line any funnier.

And Booth targeted that line deliberately, as it was considered to be the most sure-fire laugh in the whole play, and thus the reaction to it would provide appropriate cover for his deed. Perhaps that’s the greatest tragedy, that Lincoln departed this mortal coil with such a convoluted word still ringing in his ears…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/12/2021 05:07pm
Category: History, Wordsmithing
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to the letter
Lots of huff-and-puff today over Joaquin Phoenix and his appearance on last night’s “The Late Show With David Letterman”, with some ranking it along with the most unhinged Letterman interviews ever, ala Crispin Glover and Farrah Fawcett.

I watched it. And I don’t buy it at all.

Oh sure, Phoenix shuffled out looking like a Sunday-best Unabomber, and he played the mumbling maladroit to the hilt. It all certainly happened, and made for funny TV.

But I don’t think it was unintended. Not only do I agree that Phoenix was hoaxing the whole scenario, I’ll go a step further and allege that David Letterman was in on the whole thing as well. I’ve got no solid proof, but just from watching the whole interview, I could tell there was no real tension between the two, and Letterman’s reactions to similar guest antics in the past always betrayed his extreme unease at any such “unplanned” situations. This time out, I got the strong feeling he was simply going through the motions, setting up Phoenix with rather softball jabs; if he were really ill at ease with what was happening, he would have cut loose on him far more severely. My guess is that Letterman and Phoenix coordinated the whole thing beforehand and simply played it out before the cameras.

Why? To manufacture buzz for both. I’m sure Letterman will get some mileage out of this in his next few monologues, and beyond. As for Phoenix, he’s known to be up to something, with his forsaking the actor’s life for an alleged career in hip-hop. And — surprise! — he’s even making a documentary of this whole process with his pal Casey Affleck.

In short, this whole thing is a nice big bag of phony. Cynicism strikes again!

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/12/2021 03:26pm
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, TV
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While leafing through my hard copy of “Saga of the Swamp Thing” trade paperback for use in yesterday’s post about Alan Moore’s super-persona themes, I reacquainted myself with the following back-cover blurb. It’s attributed to Moore himself, from the very pages of the Swamp Thing comic book, and I’d have guessed that that were the case just from the intricate diction, if not the skillful build-up toward dread.

It’s entitled “This Is The Place”, and here it is:

This is the place.

It breathes. It eats. And, at night, beneath a crawling ground fog with the luster of vaporized pearl, it dreams; dreams while tiny predators stage a nightmare ballet in sharp black grass. It is a living thing. It has a soul. It has a face.

At night you can almost see it.

At night you can almost imagine what it might look like if the Swamp were boiled down to its essence, and distilled into corporeal form; if all the muck, all the forgotten muskrat bones, and all the luscious decay would rise up and wade on two legs through the shallows; if the Swamp had a spirit and that spirit walked like a man…

At night, you can almost imagine.

You can stare into those places where the evening has pooled beneath the distant trees, and glimpse an ambiguous shifting of the darkness: something large, large and slow, its movements solemn and inevitable, heavy with the clotted, sodden weed that forms its flesh. Its skeleton of tortured root creaks with each funereal pace, protesting at the damp and sullen weight. Within their sockets its eyes float like blood-poppies in puddles of ink.

You can inhale through flared nostrils, drinking in its musk, green and pungent. There is the delicate scent of mosses and lichens adorning its flanks. There is the dry and acrid aftertaste of the pinmold that spreads across its shoulders, fanning out in a dull gray rash.

You can stand alone in the blind darkness and know that were you to raise your arm, reaching out to its fullest extremity, your fingertips would brush with something wet, something supple and resilient.

Something moving.

You shouldn’t have come here.

This is the place.

This is the story.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/12/2021 01:58pm
Category: Creative, Publishing
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