Crazy Old Lady in a Small Town Diner, June 8, 2024

There's a little-remembered 1937 film entitled, Sh! The Octopus, in which the little-remembered but solid bit-part player Elspeth Dudgeon undergoes a memorable, mind-bending transformation from kindly old lady to evil hag in the click of a frame.

On our way to Toronto, we stopped for brunch in a familiar small town diner about a half-hour out. It has the expected trimmings: friendly service, humble but home-cooked food, and small town characters. A booth away, a grandmotherly woman was speaking with a young man who was taking his breakfast at the counter. His dog had been sprayed by a skunk, and he was wondering about the best way to remove the scent. The waitress chimed in: it doesn't have to be tomato juice, but a homespun mixture of common products which she rattled off. The old woman narrowed her eyes to repressed schoolmarm stern and said, "I had a dog who was skunked twice. Not once but twice. When I bathed him the second time I looked at him and told him, "If you ever get skunked again, I won't be bathing your pelt. I'll be burying it, and I won't bother to shoot you first."

I was still typing the comment into my phone when my wife returned from the washroom. The old woman left a short time later. I saw no trace on her face that she was inclined to kid. She looked embalmed. I was relieved to see her depart.

Not Like Buddy Holly

The Book Fair went well, and Brain Lag Publishing sold quite a lot as a way to start their tour of such events for the summer, culminating with their appearance at NASFIC in Buffalo, New York July 18-21. They fared far better than the numerous self-published authors who had set up or combined tables: good books, in many cases, but in competition with numerous others, both self-published and from various smaller presses. Only a couple of their sales were of my books, specifically, but a sale is a sale and being there cost me nothing. I talked with a number of local authors from towns and cities in the region, and generally had a good time. The venue was a country club, which worked out quite well for them, since it rained, precluding many golfers from even wanting to be there. They had a bar situated conveniently in the corner with the anticipated overpriced beverages, and the restaurant did deliveries to the dealers.

Not all writers are drinkers, but no one's surprised to find one who does.

I was supposed to pick up Arlene F. Marks and her pilot husband at the airport. They had planned to fly from Georgian Bay in their little private plane. The weather, with storms in some areas between, precluded a safe flight, and they remained grounded.

Pedantic as a Schoolmarm

Science fiction fans often discuss, particularly with reference to the harder stuff, how many handwaves and how much dubious science one will accept before discounting a story. In a similar vein, readers and viewers of historical fiction debate how many anachronisms are tolerable, and in which books or films? Or, at least, how many anachronisms does it take to take you out of a book or a movie? I understand that mistakes will be made; my house has more than enough glass in its construction.

Nor do I talk here about deliberate choices. Obviously, a movie set in the mediaeval England will not have its characters speak the English of the period. The Witch used a script of seventeenth-century dialect. As much as I admire it, the decision excluded a sizeable number of viewers.

Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe famously includes an introductory essay that identifies some of his historical anomalies. The author argues that he is writing a Romance (in its historical sense), not a novel. Robin Hood and his Merry Men play a supporting role in the tale; clearly, Scott approached his story as legend, not accurate history. Only a boob would quibble over his intentional historical lapses.

I'm not a fan of James Cameron's bloated-as-a-floating-corpse Titanic (1997), but I entirely understand the purely aesthetic choice to have the fourth stack smoke. I'm less forgiving of Rose quoting Freud at the dinner table. Apart from the fact that he'd not been translated from German in 1912 and hadn't yet made much of a mark beyond a small circle of medical sorts, no teenage girl would have been discussing sexual matters at an upper-class dinner table in that time and place-- or, if she had, she would have been dismissed immediately to her cabin.

The discussion brings us now to Deep Cuts, the realistic graphic novel of the hour. Published originally as a comic-book series, the multi-authored history recounts jazz from 1917 to 1977, though the eyes of a series of fictional but representative musicians and associates. The art varies from passable to mind-bendingly brilliant, pages worth the price of admission. The stories-- they connect, but they're effectively separate stories, each with its own cast-- hit predictable beats, but they reflect an understanding of jazz history (as far as I can tell; I would never call myself an expert here). I particularly enjoyed the 1940s instalment, which parallels real-world developments with the imaginings of a musician's young daughter.

So this is certainly a good graphic novel.

But the anachronisms started to get to me. They do not appear to result from intention, but insufficient research and editorial oversight.

I might push some aside some reservations. Take the overtly gay character in the 1960s who receives little hostility. Perhaps in the rarefied world of musical criticism, that might have happened, though history and the experience of older queer folk whom I know suggests otherwise.

We still have to deal with:

-A woman using the title "Ms." in the 1940s.
-Someone in 1956 referring to the police as "Five-O."
-Someone using the salutation "Peace out" in the 1960s.

And more.

-Sure-- Ms was used as a short form in the 1700s for "Mistress" and sporadically and very rarely, over the next century, as an inexplicably shorter form for "Mrs." It had virtual no place in the culture again until its emergence in the 1970s, where its proponents largely saw it as a brand-new lexical item.
-Hawaii became the 50th of the allegedly United States in 1959. Almost a decade later, a widely and wildly popular cop show used that fact to name their fictional Honolulu unit, Hawaii Five-O. The original run (1968-1980) created the slang. Five minutes of editorial researcher would turn up this fact if the writers and editors didn't know it.
-My radar was now up. Peace as a salutation? Everywhere in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Less present as a fact of life. "Peace out"? I admit having to look that one up to be sure-- my experiences might not be universal, after all. Nope, no recorded uses until 1989.

Petty, maybe, but this novel presents itself as a fictional representation of jazz history, and they did a fair bit of research, clearly, into the aesthetics of the various periods and the broad strokes of history. They certainly recognize the racism and sexism (and, in an earlier chapter, the oft-violent anti-queer sentiments) of the past, and they've done research into the jazz and bop and hep talk of the musicians. So the lapses in language and attitudes-- and there are more than I have listed-- started to grate.

I kept thinking, this good graphic had the potential to be excellent, and one part of that was uneven editing.

You know you're in a Canadian Chinatown when....

We went to the Art Gallery of Ontario, finding miraculously close and cheap parking (generally Not a Thing in the T-Dot), mostly because my wife wanted to see the touring Making Her Mark exhibit, a history of western art from the 1500s to the 1800s if women's contributions had been valorized. I liked it, but she spend more time there. I'm busy with the last three weeks before I retire, and lacked focus. I also splashed something on my shirt back at that small town.

The AGO abuts Chinatown. I wandered off to see if I could find an inexpensive shirt-- there are deals to be had if one knows where to look. I found a great cotton T for $5.00. I also snapped a picture of the Lucky Charm Moose Village, a market which also contains a Shaolin Temple.

Lucky Charm Moose Village! It rather reminds me of the Japanese place on Bloor that serves platters with names like "Hockey Sushi." See! We may be first-gen from backgrounds your ancestors tried to exclude, but we love this country! Go Oilers! And let's not hear any talk of not celebrating Canada Day!

My Sister's Brilliant Career

Apart from being a hearing specialist who occasionally works in the far north, my sister anticipates the arrival of her second book, likely in autumn. She interviewed and recorded the stories of queer refugees-- probably essential reading, but hardly summer reading. She already has advance requests for interviews, including one with the CBC.

C and B's House of Toys

The real reason for our trip was a party for my niece and her fiancé, who have rented a house in one of Toronto's older neighbourhoods, one of those places that feel like Anytown. They're hardcore nerds, and their sizeable collections of collectibles -- Harry Potter, Star Wars, Superheroes, and Power Rangers-- can be found displayed in cabinets he and his father made.

When discussing the displays with a friend, he'd mentioned that he and my niece would be combining their Power Rangers in one case. His friend had replied with disbelief: "She has her own Power Rangers? Marry her immediately!"

We had a good time-- I caught up with a woman I see about once a decade, a friend of my sister's whose family was at the centre of the hilariously notorious 1985 Patty Wars incident-- and with an uncle who spends most of his time travelling now.

The youngest of my mother's siblings, he still lived at home when his father retired. He recalled asking my grandfather why, when he was still comparatively young (about five years older than I am now), he decided to quit. He provided the expected folksy reply. "Well," he told him, "you can always make more money. You can't make more time."

Three-Hour Tour

I have a panel forthcoming at Forest City Comicon and events in July. One nephew plans to join me for Sunfest. The twins might accompany him, provided they can get time off and are not annoyed by me referring to them as "the twins." We have other events in the summer, and my sister and her wife might come up for the local Pride Parade, a far less chaotic event than the one in Toronto.

Traffic snarled us as we left T.O. Saturday night, stretching a two-hour drive to three. It rained, and we took an early turnoff through the small town where we'd started our day, and then made our way home.

We saw no sign of the creepy old woman.

Congratulations, Tessie!

Not too many words this time, unlike my last daylog. Tessie graduated with a Master's Degree! I made it in time for the ceremony, no thanks to Amtrak's eight-hour delay and having to get on a bus to finish the journey from Portland and my phone not working for the entire trip.

To the main event! Video link to her actual moment inthe spotlight is here, but the opening speeches are also well worth paying attention to. Congratulations to you, Tessie, overcoming obstacles that would have ground lesser folk to mush.

Tess keeps telling me how much I've helped her get here, and to you, my dear I say "I was lacking in your life for so long after you left and you did so much without me, but thank you anyway". I'm as proud as proud can be. Chuffed to bits, in fact. You've come a long way and you'll go a long way further,with your bravery, conviction, humanity and drive. You're truly your mother's daughter, and you can be proud of that. You carry her light out in the world as I told you you would, and i love you so much for that.

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