March 29th, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dumb Bunny!

Er, I mean Elizabeth Hand!

Yes, today readers the world over celebrate the birthday of inferior4 member Elizabeth Hand! 

I first met Liz way back in 1980.  I owe this meeting to MY MOTHER -- one of many wonderful things I owe my mother.  Thanks, Mom!

Liz and I became fast friends, bonding over Dhalgren and other high-concept scifi of the time.  I was just about to head off to the Clarion Writing Workshop, at MSU, where I would meet another inferior member:  Lucius Shepard.  Some years later, after I had moved to New York, Lucius was in town, and so was Liz, and I introduced the two of them over lunch somewhere in the East Village, if I remember correctly. 

Being friends with Liz has been one of the highlights of my life . . . or should I say lives?  Back in the '80s, when Liz and I both lived in the DC area, she met a self-proclaimed psychic who stated that the two of us have been integral parts of each others' destinies across a multitude of reincarnations -- seriously!!  We have always been here before!  It was that circumstance which led me to the dedication of my first novel, Waking Beauty: "To Liz Hand, Who gave me a lift in her balloon."  Truthfully, all of my fiction is really dedicated to Liz Hand, whom I think of as my ideal reader, and whose talents as a writer continue to awe and inspire me, and fill me with pride.

I wish I could be there today, Liz, to crack open the first of many bottles of champagne!  

Liz happens to share a birthday with Lucy Lawless, she of Xena fame. It's true!  So I thought I would post a picture of Xena suitable for this auspicious occasion . . . 

Oops . . .

                HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CUZ! 

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Nominative Determinism

It was NEW SCIENTIST magazine that popularized the concept of "nominative determinism," the comical notion that sometimes one's surname from birth could inexorably steer one into a line of work or hobby that correlated perfectly with the meaning of that name.

Lately NEW SCIENTIST has stopped running examples of the phenomenon, having deemed the hypothesis proved sufficiently.

But because I am essentially more juvenile than that esteemed publication and continue to delight in such instances, I present the latest for your snickering enjoyment:

Dr. Kevin De Cock, circumcision expert.

Read all about him here:
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Martin Gardner, HUMPTY DUMPTY'S and me

Magazines have been an important part of my life almost since I first began to read, right down to the current day. Heck, they even contribute to a good part of my income now. But once I had a less-than-professional interest in them.

Among the first zines I actually received a subscription to, HUMPTY DUMPTY'S stood out. Memory as to exact dates begins to fail, but I must have been reading it circa 1962-1965. The magazine then was a wild-eyed mix of construction projects, poetry, fiction, puzzles and just about any other gimmick that its desperate editors could devise to entertain the little brats. I loved it.

The miscellaneous table of contents included a comic strip featuring one of the most bizarre characters ever: "Twinkle, the star that came down from heaven." Twinkle sported an oversized head in the shape of the iconic five-pointed star--facial features pasted in the middle--atop a human body wearing a kind of harlequin suit. His adventures were more milquetoast than those of Casper the Friendly Ghost.

You should be able to see Twinkle here, in one of his comicbook appearances:

And come to think of it, the visual representations of Humpty Dumpty himself and his son, Humpty Jr., were pretty odd and frightening.

But I'm digressing from my topic.

Long after my HUMPTY DUMPTY'S days, around about 1976, I began to read SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, where one of my favorite columnists was the legendary Martin Gardner, with his "Mathematical Games." You can read all about Gardner--a fellow with many ties to the SF community--here:

Little did I know until a few years ago, that two of my favorite magazines--HUMPTY DUMPTY'S and SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN--were linked by this man. Gardner was an editor and writer for HD from its inception in 1952 and for the next eight years. I came to the zine just a tad too late to read him there.

But yesterday I picked up a few old issues of HD from Gardner's reign, and got a chance to read some of his contributions. His poems and stories stand out as lively and whimsical and non-condescending, foreshadowing his later essays.

Gardner is still with us at age 92, though in failing health. In his honor, here's a poem of his from the October 1956 issue of HUMPTY DUMPTY, containing some good advice. I can't imagine it's been reprinted in over 50 years. I certainly can't google up any traces of it.

You've learned to laugh
Like Joe Giraffe
And hop like Freddy Frog.
You chew your chow
Like Clara Cow,
You grunt like Hazel Hog!

You bought a pair
Of boots to wear
Like Billy Buffalo,
And black and white
Pajamas like
A zebra that you know!

It may be fun
To copy, Son,
Another person's style,
But I suggest
You take a rest
And be YOURSELF a while!