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Metranil dreams of becoming a neon.

I solved an Esoteric Mystery today, so please allow me to tell you about that.

There's a Julian Cope song called "Metranil Vavin." It is a great song. In his book Head-On, Mr. Cope says that the song (which was first recorded by The Teardrop Explodes and appears on their posthumous record Everybody Wants To Shag The Teardrop Explodes) was inspired by his love for Russian dwarf poet Metranil Vavin. The only problem with this is that no one has ever been able to find any poems by Metranil Vavin. And it wouldn't be the first time Julian Cope sort of, um, said something a bit odd.

Anyway, before I go any further, here's the song...

†  Julian Cope — World Shut Your MouthMetranil Vavin  †

And while we're talking about Julian Cope, here's my favorite...

†  Julian Cope — FriedSunspots  †

So back to Metranil, I knew that bird was really on a mission to find out the truth regarding him, so I did a bit of research yesterday evening. Googling was no help whatsoever, of course, so I turned to the subscription biographical and author databases. Nothing on Metranil, but I did find a reference to a "Metro Vavin" (ungoogleable because the Paris subway station takes over). So this morning I followed up on that at the library and discovered the truth!

Metranil Vavin is not the invention of Julian Cope. He is the invention of American poet Clayton Eshleman, who in 1975 published a book called The Gull Wall, which contained "The 9 Poems of Metro Vavin." In a page-long intro to these nine poems, Eshleman claims that a hastily-written note from a friend led to his confusing the name of a Paris Metro stop — Metro Vavin — with a person he was supposed to look up. In so doing, he stumbled across a 64-year-old Russian dwarf named Metranil Vavin, who had only been called "Metro" as a small child, by his parents. Upon meeting, though, Eshleman tells the dwarf that he is a poet, and Vavin then reveals these nine poems — the only poems he has ever written! — which he has translated from their original Russian into crude French. Eshleman then claims that he has translated these naive works into English.

Looking at books about Clayton Eshleman was no help in ascertaining that this was a hoax, until I consulted an annotated bibliography, which noted:
Notes: "The 9 Poems of Metro Vavin" were written by Clayton Eshleman.
The persona of Metro Vavin was conceived by Eshleman, (see appendix A).

I was so excited to be able to figure this out! I really love solving mysteries, so this is right up there with learning the true botanical identity of the "grass olieribos" (childhood obsession) in the Necronomicon straight from the lips of "Simon" himself.

So to tie this all up, here's a pdf of the Metro Vavin poems, along with the Eshleman introduction and the annotated bibliographical description, plus appendix. The question now is whether or not Julian Cope knew about the hoax.

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My own notes.

I may not be the first person to connect Mr. Cope's Metranil with Mr. Eshleman's, but there's certainly nothing online about it, so I'm going to leave this a public post; maybe it'll show up in Google. Who knows. If anyone reading this is really, truly obsessed, here's where I'd go next:

  • "Clayton Eshleman's Metro Vavin scam." Second Aeon, Issue 19-21 [a single volume, and the final one] (1975). (Second Aeon was a contemporary poetry journal published in Wales.)

  • Clayton Eshleman Papers (MSS 0021). Mandeville Special Collections Library, Geisel Library, University of California, San Diego. Box 39, Folder 6 — Writings : Original Poetry : Gull Wall : Individual Poems : "The 9 Poems of Metro Vavin."

  • UCSD also has a copy of Grotesca, the mimeographed, limited-edition work of Eshleman's from 1977 that features another Metro Vavin poem, "The Red Snow."

These books were consulted:

  • Christensen, Paul. Minding the Underworld: Clayton Eshleman & Late Postmodernism. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1991.

  • Sattler, Martha J. Clayton Eshleman: A Descriptive Bibliography. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., c1988.

Thank you and good night.

This country! I despair!

Simon has very definite views on food.

We live in a country where supermodels are more important than fennel. Think about that.

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Supper is dinner with its shirt undone. It's relaxed, languid, louche. It's Sunday-ish. It's Sundayissimo. If 'dinner' is a middle manager from Leicester sucking up to Japanese clients, 'supper' is an Italian language student, sunning himself on a June Sunday evening in Hyde Park, stretched out on one of those picnic rugs, tossing his floppy mane like a Tuscan Hugh Grant.

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Point your 'mouse' at our recipes, or whatever it is you do. Feast on our knowledge. Source what we source, flay what we flay. But please. Shave first.

† † † † †

Whatever it takes to get Posh Nosh to BBC America, I will do.


I like how NO ONE said a damn thing about the similarities in the two melodies, but the tacked-on apostrophe mechanics poll generated plenty of comments.

OK. Let me say right away that despite what I am about to say, IF YOU PICKED THE FIRST ANSWER (Vaughan Williams') I DO NOT NECESSARILY THINK YOU ARE WRONG. Or a bad person. Or scorn-worthy. In fact, it was the choice of professional writers and editors as well most of the non-pro people on my friends list whose writing I respect. I certainly do not hold myself up as an exemplar of the English language, and I'm obviously not a professional writer or editor ... just a nit-picker.

Now then. When I was making the entry, I initially wrote "Ralph Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on Greensleeves," which I do personally believe to be more correct, as do a few of the more linguistically-minded of you. However, it is becoming clearer and clearer that the alternative is, if not the dominant usage, at least appreciably common. And I knew that my choice would look awkward to some people, so I avoided it altogether and made a poll to confirm my suspicions.

A little research pointed me to what I now believe is the source of the shifting tide: the Associated Press stylebook. After consulting a dozen reference manuals, it became apparent that there is a great deal of confusion — and in fact outright dissent — among "authorities" when it comes to forming possessives of singular nouns ending in s. This, from the Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style, is fairly representative of the official prescription, and singles out the AP as a rogue.

Singular Possessives.

To form a singular possessive, add -'s to most singular nouns—even those ending in -s and -x (hence witness's, Vitex's, Jones's, Nichols's). E.g.: “Noting Congress's move to regulate maternity hospitalization, managedcare advocates predict that politicians would legislate health care” (U.S. News & World Rep.). Although the AP Stylebook (6th ed. 1996) calls for nothing more than an apostrophe if the word already ends in -s (p. 163), most authorities who aren't journalists demand the final -s as well (i.e., Bill Forbis's farm, not Bill Forbis' farm). See William Strunk, Jr. & E. B. White, The Elements of Style 1 (3d ed. 1979).

There are three exceptions to this rule. The first is the standard one: Biblical and Classical names ending in -s take only an apostrophe, hence Jesus' suffering, Moses' discovery, Aristophanes' plays, Grotius' writings. (No extra syllable is added in sounding the possessive form.) The second exception is for words formed from a plural. Thus General Motors should make General Motors', not General Motors's—e.g.: “A merger by General Motors will excite great interest in an enforcement agency simply because of General Motors's [read General Motors'] size” (E. W. Kintner, An Antitrust Primer, 1973). The third exception (a minor point) is discussed at (J).

Plural Possessives.

For most plural possessives, use the ordinary plural form and add an apostrophe to the final -s: Smiths', Joneses', bosses', octopuses'. The one exception is for plurals not ending in -s, for which -'s is added as in the singular possessive: brethren's, children's, men's, women's.

Writers sometimes confound the singular and plural possessives, most commonly by misusing the singular for the plural—e.g.: “I don't much admire the Wales's [read Waleses'] taste in expensive schools” (Guardian). (The reference was to the Prince and Princess of Wales.)/ “According to the lawsuit, on the day before he died, a classmate walked into the boy's bathroom [read boys' bathroom (because it's a school bathroom)] and interrupted Shawn before he could hang himself with a shirt” (Austin American-Statesman).

— "possessives" The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style. Bryan A. Garner. Oxford University Press, 2000. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Accessed 13 January 2006. http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t26.e1727&category=

Of course, the "Vaughan Williamses" question was plural, not possessive, so since we never use apostrophes to form plurals, "Vaughan Williamses" is the only acceptable answer. Sorry, that was kind of a trick question. I don't even remember who said what for that one, so don't worry if you got it wrong.

I actually found a grammar forum online that deals specifically with the surname Williams, but the answer, while good, only adds to the confusion.

The vast majority of the reference works I consulted agree with my Vaughan Williams's, but I think it ultimately will come down to pronunciation and a subjective call on what "sounds awkward."

CHW, J'y, H_R, PoP, FMF ... we are fighting a losing battle, I'm afraid.

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J.  Attributive Nouns Ending in -ed. Words ending in -ed become awkward as possessives. This happens primarily in law. With such phrases as the insured's death or the deceased's residence, it's better to use an of-phrase—hence the death of the insured and the residence of the deceased. (Or you might try the decedent's residence).

Heirs & Rebels.

In news slightly related to my earlier entry, I was shocked to come to the realization recently that a certain Mr. Nik Kershaw appears to have lifted one of his most recognizable mid-'80s melodies from a certain Mr. Ralph Vaughan Williams (co-editor of The English Hymnal with liturgist/hottie P.D.), specifically his Fantasia on Greensleeves. Please have a listen to both of these excellent pieces and tell me if I am reading hearing too much into the matter.

☞  Nik Kershaw – The Riddle  ☜
(The main melody, as in 0:05 – 0:28.)

☞  Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields/Marriner – Fantasia on Greensleeves  ☜
(The middle third, which joins the two more traditional instances of "Greensleeves," esp. 02:09 – 02:30.)

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And finally, a punctuation question. I will not judge you based on your answers, or subcategorize people or any of that nonsense. I just want to get a sense of what people think is correct or most acceptable. So please, answer truthfully and without fear...

Which would you use?

Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Greensleeves
Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on Greensleeves
Vaughan Williamses Fantasia on Greensleeves
Vaughan William's Fantasia on Greensleeves

How would you pronounce it?

vahn williamz
vahn williamziz

Which would you use?

the Vaughan Williamses' weren't really Yellow Book types
the Vaughan Williams' weren't really Yellow Book types
the Vaughan Williams's weren't really Yellow Book types
the Vaughan Williamses weren't really Yellow Book types

no more wash day blues.

Monday's wash day down South — hard work with lye soap and blueing, scrubbing and line-drying. Well, maybe not so much hard work these days, but my grandmother still has her old washboard hanging up on the back porch as a reminder. There are other reminders, especially down in the delta, where Blue Monday persists in the traditions of red beans & rice (takes all day to soak & simmer, but not much fussin') and hoodoo "blue water" uncrossings.

So please join us this Monday for some uncrossing ... and just maybe some simmerin' and fussin'.

On the menu are authentic sazeracs, red beans & rice, crawfish étoufée, and café brulot, served in real café brulot cups & saucers just like Brennan's used to use.

Don't miss out on your chance to make the society column of these very pages next Tuesday morning!

Suggested donation (bring cash or your checkbook) is $25.

All proceeds will be promptly forwarded to Habitat for Humanity Hurricane Recovery Effort and American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina Fund.

R.S.V.P. right here.

the nascent mind of scythrop.


Yes, I raided my mother's photo albums when we were home. These are snapshots of snapshots – so sorry.

I can't remember why my brother and I used to give out ribbons at horse shows, but we did. I think it had something to do with my father's job, but for the life of me I cannot imagine what. I never really rode or took lessons until later, but I've always loved horses. That jacket I have on is shiny, shiny silver, and I wore it constantly until I outgrew it. In the mid-'90s I bought an even shinier liquid-silver looking replacement from Freddie Rojas's old line F8, but I couldn't have loved it as much as I loved this one here. (At least I didn't wear the F8 jacket with khakis.) I have no idea who that David Hasselhoff looking dude is, but he scares me.

As you can probably guess, the vampire photos are from Halloween. That's my brother as a devil child and our neighbor Ben as a clown. Both of their costumes are very appropriate, but unlike me they did not attempt to incorporate elements of them into their daily wardrobes. I was not allowed to leave for school wearing the cape, but I did at least reuse it when I played Oberon in a 6th grade production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

juju mojo.

From last night. WHAT SINISTER MAGICKS DOES THIS WOMAN EMPLOY? She gets hotter every single day. It's insane.

Oh, and please ignore the slapdash photoshopping, but I had to get rid of that gettyimages nonsense. More where that came from.

Mar. 28th, 2005

Oh! So Lent is over, and I am free to drink again. Hooray! And I did so with great gusto yesterday, when S____ & I hosted an Easter Cocktails Bash, which was supposed to be from two to four in the afternoon, as it featured brunchy drinks, but of course it lasted much, much longer. I made Ramos Gin Fizzes (good, but not quite ropy enough in texture), Absinthe Suissesses (successes!), and French 75's (seven bottles of champagne worth). I had never made Absinthe Suissesses before & to be honest, I thought they might be terrible, but they were such a hit I really need to record the recipe that I used for future reference.

sweet suissesse.Collapse )