This week sort of began last Friday, whilst looking for ideas with which to entertain my print readers (all nine of them!). While poking through Boing Boing, I encountered this headline from Cory Doctrow:
Story written using only Cat in the Hat words
Well, that got me thinking, and thinking led to searching, and searching led to... confusion. Because depending on where one looks, one can find articles that state that the book contains 223 different words and articles that say it contains 236 words, and no matter what I did, I couldn't find an alphabetized list of the words themselves.
So I thought to myself, "Self, this is a good place to put your attention."And then I did what enterprising reporters used to do: I counted the words. Only I did it using an OpenOffice spreadsheet...
So in Friday's paper, you'll see that I've encouraged people to write stories, poems, whatever, using only the words found in Dr. Seuss' classic.
Why do this? Well, why not?
The result? A single-page PDF that lists all the words from the book. Wanna get geekier? I've got the entire book, entered as a spreadsheet: Option No. 1 is an OpenOffice Calc file and Option No. 2 is a standard Microsoft Excel file. Wanna just see them alone on a web page? Knock yourselves out.
And the punchline? After doing all this myself, I found a link to an April 1 WaPo Style Invitational piece that listed all the words. Oh dear, said the cat...
But what can one make with such ephemera? Well, how about haiku?
Something shook the shine
out of the high house of sun
cold, wet fear sank deep
And so on...
But that is not all, no, that is not all...
Because on Tuesday when I sat down to draw my weekly cartoon, my first drawing was just vague and poorly made. I worked on it for quite a while, and it never gotbetter. Which is when I thought, "Well, stop sketching and just draw something," and so I drew the first idea that came into my mind, working rapidly in ink without pencil layout sketches:
But there's something I need to say about that idea, that wonderful idea of a Bowdlerized fig leaf on an abstract sculpture: I wasn't the first person to think of it.
In fact, that joke has been bouncing around in my head for more than 30 years. The trick? Finding the original cartoon so I could give credit to the first artist.
Well, I found it today. The artist was Englishman Norman Thelwell, a god among cartoonists and illustrators, and I probably first noticed it when my mother returned from studying in England in 1973(ish) with copies of Thelwell cartoon collections for me.
Anyway, here's the original cartoon:
It's just kind of fun for me to go back after the fact to look at the way I interpreted that great idea in a 21st century American context, as opposed to Thelwell's mid-20th century British world.
I love the humor here. It's been cracking me up for decades. And now I get to share it, because it's a joke you can't tell.
So you know what? It's a good week.