Twitteral translations: Does a rose in a tweet smell as sweet?

@OedipusGothplex 2bornt2b? Can one tweet beyond the mental coil?

Tweet based on William Shakespeare’s Hamlet as translated in Twitterature

All that time wasted in high school. Struggling through the purgatory of Milton’s Paradise Lost. And those Shakespeare plays, one after another. All those sexual innuendos eighth graders would love if they were not penned in an obscure archaic tongue.

Top those off with Melville’s Moby Dick. Actually, I was pretty impressed with Melville. In fact, he was such a good writer, he even managed to make whale hunting fascinating. But, he did go on and on. And on and on. Completion would have interfered with my telephone time, of utmost importance at that stage in life. Midway through I was desperate. I finally invoked the every-fifth-chapter approach. Amazingly, employing this arbitrary and brutal form of editing allowed me to follow the plot enough to regurgitate meaty, quasi-intelligent answers to Mrs. Masterson’s dreadfully detail-demanding discussion questions.

Why, oh why, wasn’t Twitterature available then? So concise, condensed to a point no slicing-and-dicing editor at Readers’s Digest could have imagined. Written in language high school students can comprehend.

cards@AliceInTheSkyWithDiamonds This land is terrorized by the Queen of Hearts. She’s a card. Wouldn’t it be funny if I just destroyed her army by shuffling them?

Tweet based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as translated in Twitterature

For the old-fashioned, tweets come across as texts on your cellphones. Each tweet an author chirps – including the identifying “from” name as in @OediupusGothplex – cannot contain more than 140 characters. And that’s counting punctuation and spaces. This extreme brevity means they can be scrolled through rapidly, unlike the unabridged Moby Dick.

@EarlyBloomer69 All his intello friends are coming over all the time. Borrrrrring. All they do is talk about books.

Tweet based on D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover as translated in Twitterature

Imagine, each assigned tome compressed into a mere 20 tweets or less. The book’s editor at Viking/Penguin, Will Hammond wrote:

Say the word Twitter to a book lover and they will probably roll their eyes at you and sigh. Some of the greatest works of literature… are long, sometimes difficult and often challenging. Twitter is the opposite: a free-for-all of voices clamouring for a split-second’s attention with zero quality control. This is what makes Twitterature so funny: huge books made ridiculously small; great stories told in silly voices. Like all good pastiche, Twitterature skewers the original work with pin-point accuracy – mocking its grandiosity, exposing absurd coincidences of plotting, parodying its subject’s ticks, slips and oddities.

twitteratureTwitterature is not new. It was written by two University of Chicago students, @AcimanandRensin, or Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin, in 2009. The book was written so long ago even @AcimanandRensin no longer tweets about it.

But I’m a little slow in discovering it, probably because I didn’t start tweeting for clients until three years ago. A fellow blogger tweeted about the book from London only this morning. And, now, able to comprehend tweet-speak at this late point in my career, I am appreciative of the humor. Coupled with Will Cuppy’s versions of history found in The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody to which Bluebird led me, my academic path and my grade-point average would have been impacted radically.

@TheRealDesperateHousewife My life is awful. I’m going shopping. I want to buy a whole bunch on credit that I can’t afford, and then declare bankruptcy.

Tweet based on Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary as translated in Twitterature

Can’t believe I waded through the whole thing in French. A Twitteral translation would have made it so easy.

You might wonder, if I’m so social-media proficient now, why am I blogging about Twitterature instead of tweeting? Restricting my fingers to 140 characters is work. Blogging allows me the recreational therapy of being loose-finger-tipped. The above paragraphs would add up to way more tweets than Twitterature‘s entire version of Moby Dick.

The authors of Twitterature were considerate enough of those unaccustomed to the tweet language to generally write in complete words and sentences with few of the widely accepted Twitter shortcuts, and they actually grasp the literature they harpoon. According to Hammond:

…what makes this little collection particularly enjoyable, is that the joke falls just as heavily (well, probably more so) on Twitter. In a face-off between Shakespeare’s Macbeth and his Twitter avatar ‘BigMac’, it’s fairly clear who comes off looking worse. So, in a curious way, Twitterature is just as much a celebration of the classics as it is a mockery of them.

Do you think @AcimanandRensin composed the entire volume of Twitterature on their cellphones?

Two Roads to the Alamo* and the Conservation Society Book Awards

book-awards-closeupThere we were, sitting beside each other. Phil and I.

I’m talking about Phil Collins. But I just call him Phil now. Because I sat beside him for about one minute.

As you can tell this is leading to one of celebrities’ worst curses: people who don’t know them writing about them.

But, of course, this is different. Because I know him. Because I sat beside him for about one minute. And he politely introduced himself to me and shook my hand.

That, and we have several things in common.

Davy Crockett, for one.

When Phil Collins was a kid growing up in a London suburb, he would often watch an amazing show on his family television.  There, in black and white, was Fess Parker as Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.  As he matured, Collins not only acted out the exploits of his new hero, but he often refought the Battle of the Alamo with his toy soldiers.

Texas History Store introduction to The Alamo and Beyond

While I’ve never sure been it’s psychologically healthy to adopt Texans’ fascination with the battle they lost, playing Alamo seems a better alternative than the Davy** Crockett chapter that influenced me as a child in Virginia Beach.

I sat alone in my room, playing the record. Over and over and over.

It wasn’t this one, or, if it was, it was part of a much longer recording. I can’t find the version in my mind online.

Perhaps what I remember didn’t exist except as a compilation in my jumbled file cabinet of a mind. But it was Davy Crockett. Or Fess Parker. And it was a life and death struggle with bears and Indians… and the part that haunted me.

I have no idea how many times I listened to that recording, but definitely many times too many.

Even I knew my mother was exasperated.

I would wet my bed. We’re not talking about a three-year old. I was six.

But I had my reasons.

I ran screaming to my parents one night about the bears in the house – my visiting Great Aunt Mary snoring.

There were Indians in my closet. I finally learned keeping the light on in the closet kept them at bay.

But the light filtering through the louvered door did not help with the Crockett family’s other adversaries.

Davy Crockett’s Almanack, 1837. Tenn. 1837 .D38 N3. New York Historical Society Museum and Library.

The women then slacked the rope a little and made it fast round a hickory stump, when my oldest darter took the tongs and jumped on [the alligator’s] back, when she beat up the “devil’s tattoo” on it, and gave his hide a real “rub a dub.”…My wife threw a bucket of scalding suds down his throat, which made him thrash round as though he was sent for. She then cut his throat with a big butcher knife. He measured thirty seven feet in length. (Davy Crockett’s almanack,*** of wild sports in the West, life in the backwoods, & sketches of Texas. 1837, p. 10).

My self-preservation instinct was strong. Who in their right mind would risk getting out of bed with alligators on the prowl? Alligators hungry for a “tongariferous” fight. Bladder be damned if I would.

Not only would I not set foot on the floor when alone in my room at night, I would not let a pinky slip over the edge because…. Snap! Those alligators were fast.

And I had a family to protect – a toucan whose name now escapes me; George the green monkey whose rubbery pink hands and feet were comforting to chew nervously upon when trying to make it through dangers lurking in the night; and Nipper, a huge RCA dog who took up easily half of my single bed. I never once let George’s tail hang over the edge. I would sleep rigidly, never ever tumping one over the edge into the alligator pit.

To dream of an alligator, unless you kill it, is unfavorable to all persons connected with the dream.

“Dream Interpretation,”

The flaw, of course, was no one understood this was why I wet the bed. And, when I finally managed to explain, no one took the danger seriously. Of course, now they have books about this. But that was the late ’50s, and they had not yet been written.

Finally, midway through first grade, a solution was found. A path of folding chairs was set up each night between my bed and the bathroom. Somehow, I was able to summon the courage to imperil myself by crawling across this wobbly bridge to the safety of the bathroom, and, of course, everyone knows alligators would never cross the threshold onto the tile floor.

So, as I was writing, Phil’s interest in perpetually fighting – probably trying to change the outcome – the losing battle at the Alamo seems a preferable Davy chapter in which to be stuck.

And Davy seems to have stuck with both of us, Alamobsessive souls that we are.

I focus on and fret about the Alamo as the city’s front door. I constantly nag, in blog form, the city to enforce its historic ordinance to keep illegal signs from multiplying at night. I have even used some of the historic postcards I have assembled to create protest collages.

Postcards from San Antonio ~ No. 21 ~ “We’ve Lost the Alamo.” 2010 edition of 25. Yes, Numbers 21 and 22 are the ugliest collages ever to reflect the overwhelming commercialization of Alamo Plaza. Even Waldo (Yes, he’s there.) is easier to find than the Alamo. An early 1900s postcard of a parade float, “Save the Alamo,” and “Letter from the Alamo” from a plaque on the grounds are surrounded by some of the plaza’s clutter, including a dinosaur, Stumpy, snow cones, the Odditorium, the t-shirt bearing the unheeded message “Don’t Mess with Texas, San Antonio” and even the Daughters of the Republic of Texas’ own unsightly addition of a pop-up tent pushing their “Live the Drama”‘ guides (Fortunately, this pop-up was removed).
“They’ve Breached the Walls.”
Postcards from San Antonio ~ No. 22 ~ “They’ve Breached the Walls.” 2010 edition of 25. Mary Bonner’s tasteful woodblock print originally made to help raise funds for the San Antonio Conservation Society is paired with an inscription from the Cenotaph, “In Memory of the Heroes…at the Alamo, March 6, 1836.” The images are overwhelmed by surrounding offers to shop at “Liber-T,” view repulsive world records, obtain henna tattoos or consume ice cream cones and hoagies. Sorry to have left out the coonskin cap.

These efforts have had limited effect. And, not surprisingly, these particular collages have not resonated well with art collectors.

Now, legislation has been filed to form a commission to study the state of Alamo Plaza. Good news to some, but the bill would go farther than my Alamobsession wants by giving the commission the mission to “reclaim its original footprint.” I might not love Ripley’s, but I love the Alfred Giles’ Crockett Block.

Plus, if returning Alamo Plaza to its appearance at the time of the battle is taken literally, the Alamo would get a crewcut (Click here for a long-winded post about that particular issue).

"San Antonio: A Descriptive View Book in Colors," 1913
“San Antonio: A Descriptive View Book in Colors,” 1913

I don’t know how Phil feels about this. Because how much ground can you cover in one minute?

But I do know, while I was collecting postcards of chili queens on Alamo Plaza, Phil was collecting everything else Alamo. When Phil does something, he doesn’t fool around. He gets serious. He even collected a building off the plaza. This is from his myspace page:

From Bill Wyman’s metal detecting to Alex James’s cheese-making, every self-respecting musician is obliged to cultivate a hobby to relieve the stresses of the rock star life. Collins is no exception, utilizing the basement of his Swiss home for his twin enthusiasms: building model railways and tending to his vast collection of Alamo memorabilia.

“… it’s an all-consuming thing for me. I spend as much time in San Antonio as I can. I rent a little property out there on the walls of The Alamo itself where I’ll dig for artifacts. I’m always looking for stuff to buy and the collection is growing fast. I’ve got a huge number of cannonballs, muskets and bowie knives that were used there, Lady Crockett’s pouch and many documents that were written by the main protagonists. One of my prized possessions is a receipt signed by Commander William B. Travis for 32 head of cattle used to feed the Alamo defenders.

“My kids are convinced that I was present at The Alamo in a previous life. Just recently I attended a convention out there and met a clairvoyant who is married to a man who’s attempting to restore the Alamo compound. She walked up to me and said, ‘’You’ve been here before. In a previous life you were John W. Smith, one of the major couriers who survived the Alamo and become one of San Antonio’s first mayors.’ Oddly enough one of the first documents I bought for my collection was the receipt for Smith’s saddle. So maybe my kids are on to something.”

philcollinsbook31Phil collected so many Alamo things that photos and information about them now fill a 400-page book, which brings us to another thing we have in common.

We are both authors, which is how we met. Our books – his, The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector’s Journey, and mine, Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill: Voelcker Roots Run Deep in Hardberger Park – both were honored with awards presented by the San Antonio Conservation Society at a luncheon on Friday.

phil-collins-1-closeupYes, there were eight other publications about Texas history recognized, but those authors need to write their own blogs. Because this one is about Phil and me.

Because I sat beside him for about one minute. And, as you can see, we obviously engaged in animated conversation. Probably because we have so much in common. And I didn’t even get a chance to tell him I’m married to a bluesman.

Somehow, KSAT-TV failed to catch this important connection on camera, which is good because I would not have wanted to end up in the pages of some publication, such as The Star, where they zoom in on the superficial shortcomings of someone my age – the preponderance of wrinkles, protruding bellies and falling bustlines.

Another thing Phil and I share is we have changed careers. I have changed career directions several times and feel free to sprint off in any direction I choose. If I choose to write books, that’s fine. No one objects; no one cares.

But, poor Phil. He’s worked hard his whole life – “I enjoyed Genesis when I was 19” – and wants to pursue his hobbies now:

Reporters repetitively bombard him with “why?” Some fans of the Grammy-winning star express anger at him for retiring from concerts. This, even though, according to his myspace page:

His less prolific work rate is partly down to health reasons. Since 2000 he has suffered from loss of hearing in his right ear. More recently he was diagnosed with severe nerve damage to his hands, making drumming extremely challenging. During recording sessions for his new album, he was forced to tape his sticks to his hands.

Owsers. That sounds totally painful. Give this man a well-deserved break.

Keen to accentuate the positive, he explains that his medical concerns have forced him to take stock of his life. “I never used to think of myself as a workaholic,” he says. “I used to work non-stop because I couldn’t believe my luck that I was able to do all these things that I loved. I was everywhere and I can see why that must have been annoying to some people. Then I reached a point where I no longer felt the need to go zooming around the world and attend the opening of every envelope. Basically I stopped.

“I’ve got a nine-year-old and a five-year-old. I take them to football. I like to take them to school and pick them up. That’s my life now. I love doing the things that other people probably find tedious because they’ve been doing them for so long. I never did those things in the past as I was always working flat out. That was my loss. Now I’m able to do all that and also have time to indulge my passions.”

Besides, somehow I feel this man’s Alamobsession will end up helping shape the future of Alamo Plaza. I’m sure it will accomplish more than my haranguing collages and blog posts.

Oh, and, Phil, if you get tired of staying in hotels when you visit San Antonio, the Mister and I might be able to work out a house swap with you. The Alamo’s less than a mile away from our door. Call me next time you are in town and you’ve got a minute. Who knows what else we might have in common?

*With apologies to William C. Davis, author of Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis. Hey, at least I didn’t title the post My Life with Phil Collins. Now that would have been a stretch.

** David would be more historically correct, but does not represent the popular culture upon which we – Phil and I – were weaned.

***Oh, dear. I had to stop in the middle of this post to order a copy of Davy Crockett’s Riproarious Shemales and Sentimental Sisters: Women’s Tall Tales from the Crockett Almanacs, 1835-1856, for which I paid a penny, plus $3.99 shipping – quite a bargain unless the alligators return ‘neath my bed. And, as that is an “our” bed, I’m positive the Mister would not relish the thought.

Update on March 25, 2013: John Spong of Texas Monthly spent considerably longer than a minute with Phil Collins.

Phil Collins at age 5, an image (now blog-altered) originally appearing in the San Antonio Express-News
Phil Collins at age 5, an image (now blog-altered) originally appearing in the San Antonio Express-News

Update on March 27, 2013:

A follower reminded me to look back for this photo of Phil Collins, coonskin-hatted at age five playing Davy, that appeared alongside an article by Steve Bennett in the San Antonio Express-News last May.

Which reminded me of another obvious thing Phil and I have in common – the Battle of San Jacinto. His collection began with a receipt for a saddle purchased by John W. Smith, who was at both the Battle of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto and seems to continue to haunt the collector a bit. My desk currently is haunted by reams of paper pertaining to the families and relatives of John Coker who settled on his land grant on the north side of San Antonio. Jack Coker was a hero of San Jacinto credited with the idea of blowing up Vince’s Bridge, blocking one of the possible escape routes for the Mexican troops.

And, on another note, one of my sisters fessed up that she was the one who told me I’d be safe from dangers lurking in my room if I let no part of me slip over the edge of the mattress. So nice after all these years to finally unload the psychological burden for bedwetting on a sibling.

Update on May 6, 2013: Mary Dearen’s version of the same awards luncheon as published on

Update on June 24, 2014: Phil Collins is donating his entire collection of Alamobsessive artifacts to the Alamo.

Happy birthday, oh fan most loyal…

As I am trying to stay focused on other writing projects, my blog posts are few and far between.

Not that anyone has been complaining.

Not surprisingly, readership has tapered off dramatically.

Except for my fan most loyal.

No matter how stale the posts are, this follower returns again and again. So frequent are those visits, WordPress tries to block them to keep its internet arteries unclogged.

But he is persistent, slipping through the second WordPress lets its guard down.

I knew little about him, so today I decided to learn more.

He turned 75 this year. And he must be well-educated.

Well, not that well-educated. Admittedly, his grammar is poor. In fact, his favorite post appears to be a photo with a spelling error in its title: “sandwish board.” This also means he has poor taste, as the photo is of an illegal, tacky sign plopped in the middle of a sidewalk on Alamo Plaza.

He speaks some Japanese, I think. And he appears fluent in Russian, at least as far as I can tell from trying to read his comments. Even though I rudely never respond to his comments – one of my numerous excuses being my ignorance of the Russian language – he never wavers in his loyalty.

With only a little research, I found out why he speaks Russian:

“Without Spam, we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army.”

Nikita Khrushchev, ‘Khrushchev Remembers’ (1970)

According to, more than 100 million cans of Spam were shipped out to feed the Allied troops during World War II, which, under the lend-lease program, included those of the USSR.

Yes, Spam the man is my number one fan (Sorry, Hormel, I just don’t get the all-caps thing.).

So, here’s Spammy, as Hormel affectionately calls him >

The one-billionth can of Spam was produced in 1959.

I thought Spam disappeared from the shelves as soon as babyboomers entered adolescence.

Until today, I assumed a can of Spam was like the tin of fruitcake described by Johnny Carson:

There is only one fruitcake in the world, and people keep sending it to each other.

But I was so mistaken. I underestimated Spam’s resiliency. According to this frightening statistic on, 3.6 cans of Spam are consumed every second.

I also underestimated his versatility. Spam is oh so much more than something served simply sliced straight out of the can.

According to the official website, Spam has taken on an international flair to suit our changing palates. The combinations are beyond your wildest dreams (or worst nightmares?). Do you like green eggs and Spam?

I will spare you the glossy photos of the outcomes, but a few recipes Hormel proudly shares are polenta topped with Spam and black bean salsa, Spam wontons, Spam musubi and huevos Spamcheros. But come November, you probably just want to rely on that all-American favorite, “Spamsgiving Day Delight.”

Oh, please, spare us, Sam. Put that Spam back in the can.

The most amazing thing I found out about my fan Spam today is why he has a layer of jiggly jelly. I assumed it was for long-term preservation so he could be stored in bomb shelters. But the preservative in Spam is simply sodium nitrate, about which Hormel strives to make you feel good:

Small amounts of sodium nitrate are found in delicious meats like hot dogs…. It helps preserve the pink color of meat. And no one likes gray meat.

No, the real reason is Spam actually is cooked directly in the can. So naturally his fat rises to the top. Cooking and cooling a can of Spam is as time-consuming as cooking a turkey; it takes Hormel three hours.

So, Spam, my fan. It was good to get to know more about you today. I think it’s wise screens out thousands of your clicks on my blog. The sheer numbers might go to my head, encouraging me to post more often.

And happy birthday, you old-75-year-old you. You don’t look a day older than the day you were first canned.

Just please, don’t wear your birthday suit around me. Keep your can about you. I want to have something to pass down to my grandchildren.