Archive | June, 2019

Sagebrush Thymology

I recall a long car trip with my mother from Colorado Springs to San Diego when I was seven. (We were moving.) (I mean we were relocating to a different residence, not merely that we were in motion relative to our geographical surroundings.) The only reading material I seem to have had with me was a single comic book (Wacky Witch #4, October 1971 – this was before I’d discovered the greener pastures of superhero, sci-fi, and horror comics, a revelation awaiting me in the stores of Ocean Beach), and so I read its contents, aloud, in the car, over and over and over and over and over and over as we traversed the desert landscape. That my mother did not bludgeon me to death with the tire iron is a mystery that passeth understanding. (Maybe we didn’t have a tire iron?)

(I haven’t seen this issue in many years and have no idea whether I still even have it , but I can still assure you: show me a king who can’t sleep, and I’ll show you a sleepy king!)

Anyway, my audio performance included not only the story but also, as an extra treat for my captive audience, the ads. There was one Hawaiian Punch ad that to this day I can still recite nearly verbatim – but I don’t need to, because I just found it online:

As a tot I found this very droll.

Anyway, back then I didn’t give much thought as to why Fruit Juicy Red was excluded from the promotion. (I remember a slight puzzlement, but no real interest in the question.) But now, knowing some economics, I would guess that Fruit Juicy Red was their best selling flavour, and that this promotion was designed to get readers to buy (or to nag their parents to buy) some of the other flavours as well – not to get them simply to switch from Fruit Juicy Red to another flavour (there’d be no particular point in achieving that), but rather on the hypothesis that if kids got to liking a wider variety of Hawaiian Punch flavours, this would lead to their desiring Hawaiian Punch more often (since if they got temporarily sick of flavour A they might then turn to flavour B of the same brand rather than turning to some entirely different brand), and so a greater total amount of Hawaiian Punch would be sold.

Incidentally, let me assure you, for the sake of my mother’s sanity, that the in-car entertainment on this cross-desert voyage did not consist solely in my repeated dramatic readings of Wacky Witch #4. My mother and I also improvised a long drama about two brothers, Maraschino (an aristocratic fop) and Bing (a crude, vulgar sort), though the details now escape me.

Lies, Deceit, Creating Mistrust Are His Ways Now

What Obi-Wan said:

Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough: … Your father’s lightsaber.

What Obi-Wan meant:

Actually I just grabbed this off the ground from where your father dropped it after I cut off his legs and left him for dead in a lava pit. His final words to me were “I hate you!” But since he wasn’t aware of your existence, he didn’t say anything about NOT giving you this later on. So what I told you was true – from a certain point of view.

There’s a Light Over at the Frank Herbert Place

The Eagles’ song “Hotel California” (henceforth HC) was released in 1976. Three years earlier, Frank Herbert (of Dune fame) published, in his anthology The Book of Frank Herbert, a short story titled “Gambling Device” (henceforth GD). I’ve never seen anyone suggest that the story had an influence on the song, but it seems to me to be a possibility:

In GD, Hal and Ruth Remsen are driving along a highway through the California desert at twilight; the “heavy floral scent of [Ruth’s] corsage wafted up to him.”

In HC, the narrator is driving along “a dark desert highway” (presumably likewise in California, given the song’s title) with the “warm smell of colitas / rising up through the air.”

In GD, the Remsens are lost, and when they come across a hotel by the side of the road, where “the setting sun … gleamed like fire on the windows and their metal frames,” they decide to stop. Later they find that a “silvery glow shimmered” from the hotel’s ceilings.

In HC, the narrator “had to stop for the night,” when “up ahead in the distance” he “saw a shimmering light” – the Hotel California.

In GD, Ruth says she doesn’t “like the looks of that place … It looks like a prison.” But Hal reassures her: “It’s just the way the sunset’s lighting it …. It makes those windows look like big red eyes. … We’d better take this while we can.” An apparent member of the hotel staff leads them down a “hall [that] seemed to stretch out endlessly.”

In HC, the narrator ponders: “This could be Heaven or this could be Hell.” An apparent member of the hotel staff “showed me the way … down the corridor.”

In GD, the Remsens soon find that they are indeed prisoners, and that the entire hotel is actually an alien device designed to prohibit gambling. “You are now residents of the Desert Rest Hotel,” the device itself informs them. “You may decide to leave … but you have no choice of where you will go, in what manner or when,” since this would constitute gambling: “Free choice beyond the immediate decision is a gamble.” A fellow guest elaborates: “You’ll want to know if there’s hope of escape. … Perhaps. Some just disappear. But maybe that’s another … way.”

In HC, the other guests explain that they “are all just prisoners here / of our own device.” The night manager elaborates: “We are programmed to receive; / you can check out any time you like / but you can never leave.”

Are these parallels close enough to make it certain that “Hotel California” was influenced by “Gambling Device”? No. And in other respects the two narratives diverge in their plots and concerns.

But Dune was massively popular in the 1970s, and the 1973 anthology in question featured a cover designed to appeal to readers of Dune (see above); so it’s certainly a possibility.

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