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League of Inveterate Poets

The out-of-context contextuality of a foolish sage

LOST Retrospective: “Raised By Another” (Season 1, Episode 10)

By on July 28, 2013

(This post is part of a series. I’m blogging through all the episodes of LOST, taking a new look at them in light of what we know now that the series is over. Click here to read my introduction to the series and my thinking behind it.) Click here to see all my LOST posts.

Warning! If you have not watched LOST all the way through to its finale, this essay contains spoilers!

Charlie: “I will never let anything happen to you.”

Claire Littleton

Claire Littleton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Quick synopsis: Focus: Claire. Claire has a nightmare (or is it?) in which she follows the sound of a baby crying into the jungle, to find a crib, which instead of a baby contains a pool of blood. In flashbacks, we see Claire in Australia finding out she is pregnant, and then visiting a psychic who sees something about her baby, but freaks out and refuses to tell her what it is. Later he agrees to continue the reading, and tells her that danger surrounds her baby, and that it is absolutely imperative that she raise the baby. Claire ignores his pleas and pursues adoption. But at the last minute she agrees to go with the psychic’s plan, which inexplicably has changed from her raising the baby to givingt the baby to a couple in Los Angeles. He gives her a plane ticket and insists she must be on flight 815 the next day. Back on the island, Claire is attacked in her sleep by someone who tries to stick a needle into her pregnant belly. Claire decides to move back to the beach, but along the way she goes into a false labor. Charlie helps Claire realize that the psychic had tricked her into getting on flight 815 so that she and the baby would end up on the island. Meanwhile, Sayid returns with the news that they are not alone on the island, and Hurley discovers that Ethan was never on the plane. The episode ends with Ethan menacingly confronting Claire and Charlie in the jungle.

“Raised By Another” is yet another brilliant double meaning title. Obviously it refers to Claire’s baby, and her intention to give it up for adoption despite the initial warning of the psychic that only she must raise the child. But it also could refer to Charlie, who emerges as Claire’s protector. Thus though alone in her plight, she is “raised [up] by another.” And it’s Charlie, the selfish “rock god,” who after his rebirth in the moth cave is now ready to give himself for another. (more…)

The Dark Lady from Belorusse by Jerome Charyn

By on December 2, 2012


After reading The Dark Lady from Belorusse, it’s difficult to say where the author’s life ends and his novels begin. This is Jerome Charyn’s memoir of growing up with an immigrant mother who takes on the corrupt and cacophonous Bronx of the 1940s and bends it to her indomitable will. As he’s done with fictional treatments of historical characters like Emily Dickinson (The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson [my review]), George Washington (Johnny One-Eye: A Tale of the American Revolution [my Amazon review]), and Joe Dimaggio (Joe Dimaggio: The Long Vigil), when writing about his own life he populates it with larger-than-life characters and delicious dialog we could only hope real people really said.

Charyn’s mother earns her “Dark Lady” nickname when one of her many male admirers compares her to a character called that in a Chekhov story. But unlike the tragic heroine of that story, Charyn’s Faigele (as she is known) does not drown herself in despair. As she says when the borough president tells her her factory job will kill her: “Fat chance, Mr. Lions. I survived the tzar, I’l survive a candy factory in the Bronx.”

English: Jerome Charyn, Black and White

Jerome Charyn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But this isn’t just the story of a strong woman surviving in a man’s world (is his mother one reason Charyn had such an attraction to Emily Dickinson?). It is also the story of a sickly and persecuted child who learns to be the man he will become at his mother’s knee. Young Jerome is in tow as the beautiful Faigele, whom men compare to Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo, navigates wave after wave of con men, mob bosses, and would-be lovers who threaten to drown her, but always end up helpless under her own tidal force. Through his eyes we see her adapt the courage she learned from her beloved brother hiding from cossacks in the swamps of Belorusse to conquering the strange new world of war-time Bronx, NY.

In a memorable scene Faigele removes the portrait of FDR from the wall of her family’s apartment, a sacrilegious act in solidly-Democrat Bronx of that time. She is angry at Roosevelt whose political machinations she blames for the death of a friend and benefactor. Her husband protests that he is the President of the United States. “Not in my house,” responds Faigele. Mrs. Charyn is fiercely loyal to those she loves, but anyone who crosses her will not be pared her scorn, even if he is the President.

Just as in his novels, Jerome Charyn gives us just as much pleasure in his use of language and imagery as in his vivid storytelling. For example, recalling a favorite cafe called “The Bitter Eagles,” Faigele describes her lover and son who have gone into the house painting business together as “bitter eagles…who like to fly near the ceiling.”

The Dark Lady from Belorusse then is a memoir that slides right in amongst Charyn’s novels, a raucous yet moving carnival ride of the human spirit rising above the muck of our communal swamp. In its pages, he reveals to us how an impoverished “bitter eagle” from the Grand Concourse could learn to fly.


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Mobibro IQ SMS Text Message Subscription Scam

By on March 3, 2012

MobiborIQ Mobibro IQ

Die Scammers!

Un freakin’ believable. Mobibro IQ / MobibroIQ – die you scammers!

Just lost two hours of my evening to a text message scam. Got a series of messages from “MobibroIQ” saying I was subscribed for $9.99 a month to a “Fun Facts” service. Needless to say, I never asked for this.

The first message read:

MobibroIQ Fun Facts billed at $9.99/mo. Msg&Data Rates May Apply. Reply HELP for help. Enter UR password on the website to continue: 7263

I did nothing at this point, certainly didn’t “enter UR password on the website” (at the time I didn’t even know they had a web site). Moments later I got another text saying “Welcome to IQ!” and telling me to reply STOP to cancel.

Called AT&T and sure enough, there was a $9.99 charge on my bill. They credited it, but when I asked how this could happen, all they could say is that it is generated from a third party and there is nothing they can do about it, except block my number from being able to make text message purchases.

I discovered the scammers have a web site at www.mobibro.com. Their text messages came from 584-97. I’m trying to find a way to report them to my state’s attorney general office. The IQ Fun Facts text scam has also been run under other names, such as Chalkboard IQ, Mobchance, Brain Cool and GAGACell.

Were you aware that you could be subscribed and billed without any authorization on your part? Check your phone bills!

Pro Tip: From a friend on Facebook: I have seen a huge uptick in spam/junk SMS text messages to my phone. I hope you have not. If you have, forward the offending junk text to 7726. This works on AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint at least. The cell providers can then act to shut down the infected phone. It’s effective and free! Please repost/share this to help everyone fight junk texts!


UPDATE!!: AT&T and Verizon agree to stop “cramming” phone bills. After pressure from an investigation started by NBC’s Today Show and then by the US Sentate, two of the largest telcoms have agreed to end the practice of allowing third parties to “subscribe” text message customers to their services without permission from the customer. The article notes that three major telcoms made over $165 million since 2006 by this practice.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: An alert person on Google+ just informed me that a careful read of the article linked above shows that AT&T and Verizon have agreed to end allowing third party charges on land lines only! In other words, this has no effect on wireless text messaging (SMS) services. Therefore, your only protection at this  point is to either discontinue your text service completely, or have your provider place a purchase block on your account.

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Unexpected Reading List in The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland

By on July 31, 2011

I’m somewhat amused that on pp. 92-93 of Douglas Coupland’s novel The Gum Thief, Coupland has a character who is an extremely boring and self-absorbed novelist rattle off a recommended reading list that is really quite excellent. Just added all of the suggestions to my “to read” list on Goodreads.

Here’s the passage, with links to the recommended novels:

Kyle was saying, “I guess I’d have to say that I have trouble believing in the future, and I think the past is largely an embarrassment. In general, I don’t trust people. There’s very little to believe in, and all I’ve ever been able to believe in are a few cherished books by a few people who I suspect feel life is as fleeting and ghastly and cruel as I do. I think Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers documents this sensibility as it occurred in a variety of long-vanished, almost mythically privileged cliques. I adminre Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album, and pretty much everything by Kurt Vonnegut testifies to the wretchedness of life, with an occasional sunbeam sent along to brighten things up.”

“I guess I like work that examines unexpected crisis points in modernism. Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio examines the collision between rural and industrial life in the early twentieth century. Bret Ellis’s Less Than Zero chronicles the implosion of secular middle-class values in pre-digital California. Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club is a brilliant assault on a consumer culture, while everything J. G. Ballard has written can’t but make us rethink the path  our world is taking–particularly Running Wild, a book that makes me wonder if the only hope for our world is to spawn children who have mutated so far beyond our present selves that anything we have to offer them as a survival tool is pointless and quaint.”

All links are Amazon affiliate links.

A Review: A Twist of the Wit by Dylan Brody

By on July 30, 2011

Click to Purchase (Amazon affiliate link)

Dylan Brody is to storytelling what John Coltrane is to jazz instrumentals. Just as Coltrane never just “played” a song, but made every note his own and shaped them into something new and unique, so Dylan Brody never just “tells” a story. He treats the very words like musical notes, shaping them, bending them, shifting cadence here, pausing deftly there, aptly applying alliteration, and always with a sense of beat (in both the metrical and poetic movement senses of that word).

Dylan Brody stories, while I’m sure they would still be amusing written down, are meant to be heard. Brody’s 2011 live album A Twist of the Wit provides an excellent opportunity to hear the “purveyor of fine words and phrases” sing his word-songs. He is a humorist/storyteller in the Mark Twain/George Ade tradition, but his delivery is what truly sets him apart. And, as he says in his introduction, “I’ve been told I perform with an old-fashioned elegance. I guess that makes me a post-modern throwback.”

Perhaps the best compliment I can pay A Twist of the Wit is that unlike most comedy albums, I can listen to this one again and again. Just like a beloved rock album that still gives you chills when it hits those familiar hooks, there are moments in TotW that I love to hear again and again.

What’s that you say, “I say?!” And well you may. Or you may say, “I don’t say, ‘I say.’ I say, ‘You don’t say!’.” Well, I say you don’t say ‘You don’t say!’. I say you say, “I say!,” so say, “I say!” you must.

“I imagine her liking gray hair, this impossibly young, improbably fresh-faced young grocery clerk. Then I remember I’ve been coloring. I imagine her saying, ‘It’s nice this way, too.'”

Brody’s stories are sometimes extended jokes, sometimes poignant slices of life, and sometimes just shocking. As an example of the latter, in the middle of a tale about having your past unexpectedly come back at you, he tosses off in an email to an old high school acquaintance, “Aren’t you the guy I blew?” This after having already embarrassingly asked the same question to three or four other people who weren’t “that guy.”

But by far the high point of the album is the final track, “True Romance.” Spoken like beat poetry over a jazz bass line, the story is Brody at the heights of his powers. He relates a flirtation with an attractive young checkout girl at the supermarket. It all takes place in his mind within the span of the couple of minutes it takes Brody and his wife to pass through the line. He deliciously plays back and forth between images of the girl and her (in his mind) desire for him, his wife’s playful tossing of the grocery items to him over her shoulder, and a sweet elderly couple in the next aisle. He ends with “true romance,” but without descending to sentimentality.

Here’s a little “twist” of Dylan Brody to give you a taste of his style, a recent video dramatization of one of thet racks on A Twist of the Wit.)

Dylan Brody’s Story Corner – Episode 1 from T R Wilkinson on Vimeo.

Purchase A Twist of the Wit (Amazon affiliate link)
Disclosure: The artist reviewed here provided a free copy of the CD for review purposes.

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