Truths of Life:
Barry Corbet
(1935 - 2004)
Part I
I was forever and a day trying to get Barry to write a review for RALPH.

Our telephone conversations would go like this.

"Barry ... my friend."

"No," he'd respond.

"No? No what? I haven't even said anything."

"No," he'd say: "I'm not going to write a review for you."

"Did I ask you to write a review?"

"I know you. No."

"Hey. We're friends, right?"


"Listen, it's really no big deal. They just published a new five volume edition of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 1,868 pages, more or less: large type, fine binding. You can keep it after you've..."


§     §     §

He would, however, and on occasion, consent to be editor-for-free on subjects that interested him. When we did a review of Firefly's new book on volcanoes, I wrote him, asking if he would look at it.

"I downloaded your volcano piece," he wrote, "and promptly forgot about it. But here's a very quick critique:"

    The word is "tectonic," not "tetonic." "Tetonic" means of or pertaining to tits. Tectonic plates, at least when I was a geology major (new concept back then), are usually thought of as very large, like the two grinding plates (oceanic and continental, forgot their real names) that will soon push the Pacific coast into New Jersey.

    You write "Sometimes volcanoes overflow with what geologists call 'spastic pyroclastics' which cooks animals, plants, trees, cars, houses, buildings and peoples left in the path." Subject verb agreement of "volcanoes" and "cooks"? Or does the verb agree with "overflow"? I dunno, you're the grammarian.

    And: they really use the word "spastic" to modify "pyroclastics?" It's not nice to lie about volcanoes. They have long memories.

    Pyroclastics are better compared to bombs, which is what they really are.

    Are you sure they have penguins in Iceland? The humor works best when it's underlain by fact.

    And why is there no reference to the original lava lamps?

    Yours in vulcanology.

§     §     §

The historian Hugh Gallagher --- also disabled --- once said that Barry was "a real cowboy." It wasn't a cynical comment. Gallagher loved cowboys and the old west.

I, on the other hand, told Barry that the pictures of him in Spinal Network and New Mobility put me in mind of a Presbyterian banker. That shows where my head was at.

He was hardly a banker. A master editor and filmmaker and writer. Even, perhaps, a master in the Eastern sense. (He had spent several years with one of the most famed teachers of Tibetan Buddhism in America, Chogyam Trungpa).

As a Buddhist, Barry didn't parade his faith around for others to see. I may have been interested, but he wasn't interested in talking about it. Although once he said, as an aside, that if I meditated long enough and with enough faith, one day I'd "be able to fly."

To fly? Me?

"Like a bird. You could do it. If you practiced. But you can't want to fly."

Go on to
Part II

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