“It’s a portable roof. The logical extension is a portable roof, walls and floor. And then you’ve got people going around in hamster balls.”
Landis and I are fond of things that most people would describe as boring. We’ve talked into the night about light switches, pencil sharpeners, train stations, telephone boxes, and typefaces. We find them interesting. So what?
As an experiment, we’ve recorded some of these chats as if they were podcasts. The challenge for us is to talk about an everyday object for one hour without pause or deviation. The challenge for you, madam, is to listen to it without falling asleep.
Our first recording was about notebooks.
This time, we discuss the humble umbrella. If you want to, you can listen to us here.
The song I sing (like a prat) at the beginning is called “Umbrella Man”. We didn’t know the origins at the time but it’s apparently a Flanagan and Allen song.
Roald Dahl’s story “Umbrella Man,” can be read in More Tales of the Unexpected or online here.
Landis mentions “The Sopping Thursday” by Edward Gorey. You can see some pics from this book here.
The Sherlock Holmes passage I struggle to quote is not from the canon at all, but from the marginal notes of Leslie S. Klinger’s New Annotated Sherlock Holmes. Klinger quotes from a book called What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool: “No gentleman was ever without [a cane] or its doppelganger, the tightly furled umbrella.”
The Muji umbrella I own and believe to be the best umbrella ever is this one.
The Melrose Umbrella Company, the bar mentioned by Landis, is on Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles.
Here is the dictionary truth of the unlikely word “bumbershoot”.
At the time of recording, we were unaware of the pending publication of Brolliology: A History of the Umbrella in Life and Literature by Marion Rankine, but it looks completely fab.
“[A bad umbrella] is like a clattered tangle of coat hangers. Or a panicked crow.”