Welcome back, dear friends,
and a hearty Thanks to those of you who appreciated our little
poetic tribute to Charles Schulz. I think my favorite response
came from a reader who wrote: "I don't even like Peanuts
and you made me cry!" Stuff like that makes it all worth
Unfortunately, I inadvertently
committed the ultimate faux pas while writing the thing. The
last line, you may recall, ran " . . . Mr. Schultz has
left the stage."
Now, as many of you may already
know, there is no "T" in Charles Schulz's last name.
While this may seem a trivial point, it seems that, all his
life, Schulz was constantly seeing his name misspelled (blame
it on "Hogan's Heroes"). It became an increasing irritant
to him, to the point that he would actually take written umbrage
with various publications over the years, on the frequent occasions
when they would again and again add the dreaded "T".
Once, as a matter of fact,
an invitation from an elementary school class arrived at his
home, addressed to "Mr. Schultz", and requesting a
phone interview. Schulz looked at the thing, called the school,
and agreed. The big day arrived, the class had a phone hooked
up to a speaker so they could all talk with the Great Man - who
proceeded to take the class, and especially the teacher, to task
for not bothering to get his name straight. He advised the kids
to learn from the incident, and never send anything off without
making sure it's right.
I am certainly glad I was not
that teacher, publicly humiliated in front of her students, and
certainly facing a future of never being taken seriously during
spelling lessons again.
Yes, I'm glad I was not that
teacher - unfortunately I am the idiot who made the very
same mistake while trying to do some sort of tribute for the
All I can say is: Sorry, Sparky!
Again, thanks for your feedback,
and now I'd like to turn to some feedback of a decidedly different
sort . . .
As you know, I usually devote
the March column to All Things Irish, but, mindful of the fact
that the Academy Awards take place at the end of the month, followed
closely by April Fools Day, I am moved to turn to a topic that
has something in common with both these days.
My apologies to the Wee Folk,
and we'll return to the Emerald Isle next year, I trust.
Anyway, you may recall that
last Halloween's column was what purported to be a "News
Update" concerning the mysterious disappearance of my brother
Mike, long time Book Again manager. It was, I thought, a rather
fun little spooky item, I chuckled, Mom chuckled, Uncle Mike
chuckled, and we ran the column both online and in the October
Well, ever since then Mom's
been getting concerned inquiries regarding that issue. People
have come up to her expressing sympathy over her son's disappearance,
and asking if he's been found yet . . .
Therefore, in honor of the
upcoming April Fool's Day I would like to hereby go on record
It was a hoax, folks. I was
actually astonished that anyone would believe a tale of objects
mysteriously moving from wall to wall, followed by the old cliche
of the Final Letter interrupted in mid sentence, especially in
a Halloween column. Additionally, I had introduced the thing
Some time in August, 1999,
Mike Nolte disappeared without a trace.
One month later, this email was found . . .
Yes, a deliberate invocation
of the then-current ad campaign for "The Blair Witch Project",
a film which pretended to be a documentary, but which was, as
was soon well known, as fictitious as my own little tale.
I even entitled the article
"The Rare Kitsch Object", a horrible play on words
but inserted just to make sure our dear readers got the point.
Well, some didn't, and I do
apologize. (Man, this is turning into my "Joe apologizes
for all his sins" column. How appropriate for Lent!) I
did not intend to alarm anyone, though secretly I suppose I am
delighted that the thing seemed real enough to have that effect.
I hasten to assure one and
all that, not only is Mike alive and well and getting drenched
in Oregon, he was also the first person to see the column, and
quite enjoyed it.
The rumors of his disappearance,
in short, were exaggerated.
Now, the April Fools Day link
may be obvious, but, you ask, what does any of this have to do
with the Academy Awards?
Well, I'll tell you. Back
in the late Summer / early Fall of last year, three horror movies
were released, back to back. You will recall that Mike's imaginary
Final Email to Mom spoke of three rental places he'd looked at.
Well, folks, I just couldn't resist.
Let's look again at house number
"The first place I
looked at seemed great at first. I'd seen a lot of ads for it,
and someone had clearly put a lot of money into it, and I couldn't
wait to have a look.
"The outside was great,
a lot of stonework and greenery, etc. I fell in love immediately!
As a matter of fact, it looked a lot like a house I'd remembered
seeing many years ago, only this one seemed more colorful.
inside of the place just didn't measure up to my expectations,
and oddly enough I found myself laughing at the most inappropriate
moments. I was disappointed, but moved on."
The first movie in the trilogy
was the big full color remake of "The Haunting". Its
status as a remake prompted the line "it looked a lot like
a house I'd remembered seeing many years ago, only this one seemed
more colorful." The original film had been in black and
The film was awash in big budget
special effects, but content-wise just didn't "measure up".
There are many reports of movie goers laughing at inappropriate
moments during the film.
Now let's look at house number
"The next place I actually
found over the internet. I don't think they placed any print
ads at all. I met the owner at the place, and it turned out
he was planning to sell it, and didn't know if the new owner
would want to keep it as a rental or not. He was very proud,
though - I guess he'd built the house for a ridiculously low
amount of money (35 thousand, I think), but by placing clever
ads in cyberspace he had received offers already for more than
ten times that amount! It was a cute place, small, but with
character. (The owner also warned me that there were a lot of
dizzying twists and turns inside, and people with vertigo or
motion sickness would probably not want to rent it.)"
You see where this is going,
and therefore have probably guessed which film this house
refers to. Yep, it's the "Blair Witch Project", a
movie made for about 35 thousand dollars that took in hundreds
of millions in receipts, a movie that owed much of its initial
notoriety to a very clever internet campaign.
The "vertigo or motion
sickness" line refers to the style of hand held camcorder
shooting that indeed made many viewers ill, to the point that
soon most theaters had placed warning notices at the ticket booths!
Finally, house number three:
"The next house I found
quite by accident. They'd just put it on the market without
any advance notice. It looked pretty neat, and I met the landlady
in front of the place. She'd brought along her nutty kid who
kept mumbling things about "seeing dead people", and
his mom told me she could only show me the house if I promised
not to reveal what the inside looked like to anyone."
I had hoped that the kid "seeing
dead people" would have been a dead giveaway. This "house"
is, of course, "The Sixth Sense", a film that just
sort of appeared at the end of Summer with no big ad campaign
to speak of, yet became extraordinarily popular all the same.
It is, you see, a remarkable
little film, arguably the best horror film Disney has ever been
involved with, and has a little twist at the end that you have
to see for yourselves - a twist that practically guarantees
that you'll soon be back to see the film again. As our fictitious
landlady put it in the column:
"Let them see for themselves,"
she smiled, a Disney-like gleam in her eye. "They'll be
back, again . . . and again . . . "
Yep, Mike's fictitious house
hunt was a thinly disguised look at a trilogy of terror films
then in circulation.
And as you must know by now,
"The Sixth Sense", alone among these films, is a major
contender for Oscars this year, its nominations including Best
Picture (which smart money says is going to "American Beauty"),
Best Director and Screenplay (both deserved, and it could very
likely win at least the Screenplay), and Best Supporting Actor
and Actress, both of whom ought to win.
There - a hoax revealed, and
a host of Oscar predictions that are, as usual, probably Dead
Wrong. All in all, I think, relatively good timing for the season.
I'll see you in April.