Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Monday, June 24, 2013

The 23 Skidoo Project

     Today we would use a ruder expression for "Get away!" or "Let's get away!"  In our grandparents' day we might shout "23 Skidoo" instead.  Next year will be the golden anniversary of the famous 8 minute, 12 second 1964 silent movie featuring empty, metropolitan avenues, "23 Skidoo" by Julian Biggs.  Fans of cinema regard this as one of only two flawless films (along with "Bambi Meets Godzilla", of course) ever made.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #24
      It being a silent film, we understand that the cameras didn't have microphones.  Unfortunately, we cannot determine how the director cleared the streets for the filming.  Yes, it was shot in the early hours but, even then, there are always police officers, delivery personnel and overdue revelers mulling about.  Our best guess is that they blared contemporary poetry to clear the streets, thus beating out Elizabeth Alexander by 48 years.  In any case, let me suggest a "23 Skidoo" undertaking that has almost nothing to do with the movie or the expression.  First, though, we need to take another short detour:

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #1
     My admiration for the Poetry Out Loud project innovators and organizers is no secret.  POL is, flat out, the most constructive thing in poetry today.

     Can we encourage roughly analogous contests for adults?  These would be local, as opposed to primarily national, in scope.  To comply with Rule #1 of Poetry, I suppose they should be held in bars.  Failing that, restaurants.  Anywhere, really. 

     Here are the regulations:  Competitors sign up and perform two poems, one "Classic" written before January 1st, 1923¹ and, in a second set after a break, one "Contemporary" piece written on or after that date.  Prizes and judges are determined by the organizers.  Competitors understand that their presentations will be videotaped, with winning performances posted on the Internet². 

     That's it.  That's the whole initiative.  Well, except for a whole lot of camaraderie, drinking, fun and poetry.

Bombardier's "skidoo" was the "skidog"
 before a typo at the patent office.

     In addition to the reference to 1923, the "23" also describes the first 23 pioneers to organize such a regular event in their area.  The word "skidoo" alludes to the recreational aspect and the fact that, like 911 numbers and Occupy Wall Street, this was originally a Canadian initiative. 

     These are not difficult to set up, as long as you know a few local poets and a tavern owner who needs more business on one of the weeknights.  Hey, a corrupt janitor might suffice!³    

     If you have questions or would like to register your group or contribute your time and skills to this effort please let us know (below).


¹ - The date, January 1st, 1923, is significant in U.S. copyright law in that a piece written before then has passed into the public domain.

² - Assuming there are no problems obtaining copyright permission for the "Contemporary" performances, at least.

³ - Paraphrasing Lenny Bruce.

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