Photo: A Johnny Lightning Santa Monica Maniacs Haulin’ Hearse listed on EBay with bids starting at $1.30.
Queen of the Dead – dateline March 19, 2012
• The Telegraph has come through with another corking portrait of a colorful scoundrel (really, Telegraph? If you are hiring, please call me!). Raymond Scott, 55, was found dead in his jail cell on March 14, from as-yet unknown causes. Scott had stolen a 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare from Durham University in 1998, then blithely waltzed into the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., in 2008 to sell it, “flipping through the pages like he was handling an airport novel,” according to a horrified historian. Caught red-handed, Scott “simply ignored the waves of reality lapping at his burlesque fantasy world,” writes the Telegraph (gosh I love those people). He arrived at court “in a horse-drawn carriage wearing a kilt of Royal Stewart tartan (claiming that Bonnie Prince Charlie was an ancestor); as the judge began the session, Scott answered each question with: ‘Aye, that I am.’ ” Seriously, I don’t know who I am more taken with: Raymond Scott, or his anonymous chronicler at the Telegraph.
• Another Ugly Dog has joined the choir invisible—Yoda, a Chinese crested and Chihuahua mix (there is always some “Chinese crested” involved) died on March 10 at the age of 15. Yoda had won the not terribly coveted World’s Ugliest Dog contest last year, and was pretty damn hilarious-looking. But she was no Sam: you recall Sam, the 2003-05 winner and self-proclaimed (OK, proclaimed by his owners) Ugliest Dog Ever? I used to have a framed photo of Sam at my desk, till my boss asked me to please take it home. Yoda’s owner says she is “comforted knowing she will be joining my Mom and Dad, who loved her so much.” Which really raises some interesting theological questions.
• I am not as upset as one might think at the end of the Encyclopedia Britannica, which has stopped publishing after 224 years. For one thing, it will still publish online, a fact that the jeering “Wikipedia won!” crowds are overlooking. But even I must sadly admit that the 21st century will have its way with us, and that the few libraries, schools and embassies ordering hard copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica will just not pay enough. “We cannot deal with every single cartoon character, we cannot deal with every love life of every celebrity,” sniffed Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., to the New York Times. “But we need to have an alternative where facts really matter. Britannica won’t be able to be as large, but it will always be factually correct.” Take that, Wikipedia!
• I was more sad to read of the death of James Trager, author and compiler of the fascinating The People’s Chronology: A Year-by-Year Record of Human Events from Prehistory to the Present, which has a place of honor on my shelf. Trager, who died on Feb. 29 at 86, came out with this tombstone-sized volume in 1979 (it was updated in ’93). It is divided up year-by-year, and subject-by-subject, so you can turn to, say, 1743 or 1490 or 1957 and read about the developments in science, the arts, food, exploration, inventions—I dare you to put it down without finding that hours have slipped away. Wikipedia, again, comes up short: there is just something about having a big ol’ browsable book of facts in your lap that cannot be beat.