OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS THE STORY OF A PERSON THAT I DID NOT KNOW OR RECOGNIZE BEGAN TO EMERGE IN THE PRESS AND BLOGS AND THE NARRATIVE OF HER LIFE WAS LARGELY FORGED BY PEOPLE WHO DID NOT KNOW HER OR WHO MADE THEIR NAME WITH A SENSATIONALIST STORY WITH LITTLE REGARD FOR THE TRUTH OR THE CONSEQUENCES TO THERESA'S GRIEVING FAMILY AND FRIENDS, WITH DEVASTATING EFFECT.
FIVE YEARS AFTER HER DEATH I WILL TELL THE STORY OF THERESA AS I KNEW HER, AN INCREDIBLY INTELLIGENT, WITTY, TALENTED, DETERMINED AND COMPLEX PERSON, LARGER THAN LIFE, FLAWED AS WE ALL ARE, WITH UNLIMITED COURAGE AND MOXIE WHO ENRICHED THE LIVES OF MANY WITH HER HUMOUR, INTELLECTUAL INSIGHT AND GENEROUS SPIRIT.
Additional pages can be accessed by clicking on "older" at the bottom of each page.
"It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window."
—-Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely
Image: By Joshua Jordan from an article in PAPERMAG
In the days leading up to Theresa’s funeral in Michigan, Jeremy was active in the preparations from New York via telephone and email. He selected the quote above to be included in the memorial pamphlet and he asked that Theresa be remembered for her “warrior spirit”. He had planned to drive to Michigan with friends but at the time of the service he was missing and wouldn’t be found for several more days.
—-Theresa Duncan Wit of the Staircase
In 1995 Theresa left a job editing reports at the World Bank in Washington D.C. to work at Magnet Interactive in Georgetown. While there she and a coworker, Monica Gesue, pitched a story about two young Midwestern girls and their eccentric Aunt Vera as a video game; their successful collaboration resulted in Chop Suey. Theresa wrote the narrative and Monica created the images. The team also included Ian Svenonius from the D.C. band Nation of Ulysses to do animation, members of the band Fugazi who did the score and David Sedaris as narrator. Chop Suey went on to win the Entertainment Weekly award for best video game and several other honors.
The clip from Chop Suey above was done by Jenn Frank and is one of five that can be found on the Youtube link below.
—-Youtube link to Chop Suey Video Game
The History of Glamour
“In the film, the main character is looking for an identity, and glamour becomes for her a potent form of self-expression. She finds it very liberating, because she’s from a small town. But by the end of the story, glamour becomes limiting, then imprisoning, so she becomes a writer, chooses grammar over glamour.”
—Theresa Duncan on The History of Glamour in Salon,
Alice Underground was not Theresa’s first film. This clip was taken from Theresa’s animated film The History of Glamour. The History of Glamour, is an hour-long, music-based animated film, it aired at The New York Video Festival, The Women Make Waves International Women’s Film Festival, The Rotterdam International Film Festival, The Montreal Film Festival, the Channel Hopping Festival in Austria and was selected for inclusion in The Whitney Biennial 2000. Glamour also aired on Channel 4 in the UK, on Canal + in France, and in Japan.A french fashion company packaged the film and the three video games with a designer t-shirt showing an image of Charles Valentine the protagonist of the film.
Writer and Director Theresa Duncan; Art Director Jeremy Blake; Art work by Jeremy Blake and Karen Kilimnick; animation by Eric Dyer. The film was made through Theresa’s production company Rhinestone Publishing. Theresa grew up on Valentine road in Lapeer, Michigan.
Wit Editor Makes Pedantic History, Theresa Duncan, posted on Wit of the Staircase, August 2nd, 2006
"So it’s a poisoned present, as Derrida might say of writing or of remedy, the gift of someone simultaneously smart and alive, yet dumb and death-haunted enough to be closer to the black haunted spaces where even diamonds hide from daylight."
-Theresa Duncan, Wit of the Staircase, “The Princess and the Pea/Barry Hannah on Writing as Narcolepsy”, November 10, 2006
"I wandered away into our town’s library and its world-encompassing books and urbane fashion magazines and this place served as the map room for the long voyage away I was planning. I still have a great swelling of the heart, a feeling of enormous possibility when I am talking about or in the presence of books. Like bottles of wine stored in the collector’s cellar, or perfumes corked up in some kook’s every cupboard (hello!) every spine in the library’s spectrum was a sort of spell, every tale an enticement, each page a doorway into a possible new world, every letter a clue toward the creation of a new self."
Theresa Duncan, Wit of the Staircase
Image: One of several bookcases in Theresa and Jeremy’s apartment in New York. When the books arrived in Michigan they took up three bookcase walls and are tucked in cupboards and stored under the bed. Notice her surfboard leaning against the bookcase on the left…a remnant of their time in L.A.
“The life I imagined when I was really giving rein to some of my wildest dreams was very much like the happy one I have now—books, stories, art, glamour, invention, music all the time, ideas coming in from everywhere, all these other smart people and their desires for futures that became presents.”
—Theresa Duncan, excerpt from “That Summer Feeling’s Going to Haunt You”, July 3, 2006
—Image: Theresa working while on a trip to the Cyprus Inn, Carmel, December, 2006;
Theresa and Jeremy, Cyprus Inn, December, 2006.
Theresa left Detroit on a train to D.C. with $80.00 in her pocket, wearing black and white polka dot tights, a mini skirt and Eiffel Tower earrings that swung in synchrony with her blonde hair when she moved her head. All of her belongings were stuffed into a mailbag that she dragged behind her. She never looked back through her big hazel eyes, literally or figuratively, to wave goodbye or to waiver in her decision. This was all by design, to leave small town, industrial America for the creative life in the big city where she knew she belonged. Her journey would lead, in a few short years, to three award winning cd roms, a film accepted at the Whitney Biennial, essays published in elite journals, screenplays, tv shows, D.C., N,Y., L.A.; and in 2007 to her death by suicide; a week later her lover, partner and cherished companion of 12 years, artist Jeremy Blake, walked into the water of Rockaway Beach, leaving a note behind.
Theresa was tall, blonde and strikingly beautiful, but more than that, she was a self-taught scholar, intimidating in her wide-ranging intellect, witty, sarcastic, hard working and determined to succeed, a feminist in red lipstick and designer shoes. She loved words, and was an inspired writer and cultural critic. In her innovative blog Wit of the Staircase, written in her living room surrounded by books and art, she ruminated on philosophy, film, art, politics, music, literary works, fashion, perfume, and life; she developed a large and devoted following that she referred to as the “Children of the Staircase”. The entries to Wit, in retrospect, seem increasingly troubled in the weeks before her death, with the final post a quote by Reynolds Price
"A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo sapiens—second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter. Millions survive without love or home, almost none in silence; the opposite of silence leads quickly to narrative, and the sound of story is the dominant sound of our lives, from the small accounts of our day’s events to the vast incommunicable constructs of psychopaths."
To share Theresa’s story I have compiled the best of the essays from Wit of the Staircase, her published works, journal entries, excerpts from her screenplays, and other works in progress. I will also included cartoons that her lover and partner and innovative artist Jeremy Blake sketched to make her laugh, photographs and images from her cds and film. Her life and work were a seamless and colorful collage. No one can speak for Theresa or tell her story as completely as she has already done, and it is her story in words and images that I will post over the next few weeks.
The clip above is from The History of Glamour which was selected for 2000 Whitney Biennial, illustrated by Jeremy Blake and Karen Kilimnik.
Theresa Duncan’s Wit of the Staircase
A special thanks to Theresa’s long time friends Wilbur King for clips from his film Charlotte Goes Swimming and Raymond Doherty for editing the clips into this memorial film. This film was shown at a memorial for Theresa in New York, December 2007.
Theresa Duncan Memorial Film
"Well-behaved women seldom make history"
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Image: Theresa in front of a c-print of Sodium Fox by Jeremy Blake her life partner of 12 years.
Theresa Duncan’s Wit of the Staircase
Theresa’s second award winning video game was titled Smarty…Mimi Smartypants was Theresa’s alter ego. Smarty’s humor, intelligence, insatiable curiosity and the ability to make the “everyday” seem magical are in fact Theresa projected onto the screen.
The clip above was taken from an 16mm film version that Theresa used when promoting her game to distributors.
“…in Smarty Aunt Olive and Smarty go to the dime store-and this is something that I remember specifically from my own life, being seven years old and being given a dollar every Saturday for my allowance and getting to pick out whatever I wanted. That dollar was so empowering, and the dime store was the caves of Ali Baba, because I could buy yarn or goldfish or this Blue Waltz perfume that they used to sell for ninety-nine cents.”
From an interview of Theresa for From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games.
“Ms. Duncan says she bases many characters on herself (Mimi’s voice is hers speeded up electronically) and on her own whimsical grandmother, Margaret Lundgren, an art teacher with an antic sense of humor. Ms. Duncan recalls the day her grandmother spilled coffee on her blouse, then painted flowers on it to disguise the stain.”
From a New York Times review of Smarty, Mimi Smartypants Takes on the Assassins
Theresa Duncan’s Wit of the Staircase
"I left New York and the corner of Broome and Wooster for work with a Hollywood studio in the weeks after September 11th, 2001. I brought all my books and records and a wicked respiratory infection from the "safe" air downtown. Years later sitting on Venice Beach I heard Phil Ochs sing, "New York City has exploded and it crashed upon my head…I guess I’ll have to fly, it’s worth a try. But I’ll send you a tape from California." Can you hear it now?"
—Theresa Duncan from essay below.
"Who’s that coming down the road? He looks a lot like me," the narrator of the song "Tape From California" asks, encountering himself on one of L.A.’s broad daylit thoroughfares. Perhaps this uncanny meeting takes place on the Venice Boardwalk, where I write these words from my boyfriend’s newly relocated art studio, or on the Sunset Strip, notoriously twice as lurid at midday as any urban back alley at three a.m. "He crawled around inside himself, now he’s crawling after me," this singer continues, creeping me out, hooking me with this Brian Wilson-meets-Edgar Allan Poe jive.
The narrator of “Tape From California” greets his own Golden State sidewalk mirage warily, calling his double “a singer from the shadows of my soul, a sailor from the sea.” He tries to move past him, but his copy (or is he the original? It’s hard to tell where he ends and “I” begin) rambles on, right on: “In the corner of the night/ he handed me his waterpipe/ His eyes were searching deep inside my head/ Here’s what he said: ‘Sorry I can’t stop and talk now/I’m in kind of a hurry anyhow /But I’ll send you a tape from California’.’”
This tape from California describes so many flickering selves, so many misguiding lights, it’s like an L.A. ignus fatus—a California fool’s fire. California has many kinds of light, but it has even more tricks of the light—he, him, me, it. How many licks anyway till you get to the center of this shadow self, which is part white light and part sticky black street tar?
The voice laid down on tape and dispatched from California seems a literal manifestation of the diabolical doppelganger that California encourages the rest of the world to release. Teenage runaways, folk singers from New York, Okies and famous alcoholic novelists alike are greeted by the voice from California that lies dormant in the head in Ohio but melts and thaws in our sun and emanates auditory waves like the optical ones that rise from the sidewalk heat. Get off the bus at the Greyhound station, or put your seat tray up in First Class and prepare for landing, and soon this voice in the head will be your voice in the head.
Like Vegas, the rest of the world comes here to do things they would never, ever do at home. But in Las Vegas the bad behavior ends when the chips run out, whereas in Los Angeles, which has a weird sort of time that passes and passes under the same small silver sun that rises and falls like endless round dimes dropped into pay phones (payment for messages left on answering machine tapes back home) the days drop like fruit from the trees, they stay on the ground, ripening or rotting.
All these tapes from California, secondary recordings for loved ones or friends or strangers, all these duplicated voices and images from the entertainment industry, voices long dead or long gone from home, ricochet through airwaves, are elicited from record grooves, emitted from sprocket holes, heard through the occult interference of an old cassette’s staticky hiss. I left New York and the corner of Broome and Wooster for work with a Hollywood studio in the weeks after September 11th, 2001. I brought all my books and records and a wicked respiratory infection from the “safe” air downtown. Years later sitting on Venice Beach I heard Phil Ochs sing, “New York City has exploded and it crashed upon my head…I guess I’ll have to fly, it’s worth a try. But I’ll send you a tape from California.” Can you hear it now?
Theresa Duncan, Wit of the Staircase, March 04, 2006
Image: Theresa on the beach in California.
Phil Ochs, Tape from California
Lyrics to Tape From California
Subject: “Alice Underground” table read Paramount
“…Here are some photos of me working in my house in Venice and at the Paramount lot on Melrose with my teen male lead Brady Corbet from Gregg Araki’s “Mysterious Skin” and my teen female lead Alexis Dziena from Jim Jarmush’s “Broken Flowers” then I’m walking on the Paramount lot with my producers Anthony Bregman and Anne Carey and my casting director Jeannie McCarthy; the two gorgeous teen blondes are Keith Richard’s daughters Theodora and Alexandra. Young people are so much better than us…”
—Email from Theresa
In February 12, 2006, a table read for Alice Underground was hosted at Paramount Studios with the actors, studio executives (Paramount and Nickelodeon), producers (This or That) and investors (Odd Lot). The table read went well and there was a great deal of optimism among those present that the picture would be filmed in New York in the summer with a 15 million dollar budget.
Images: Photos attached to email from Theresa from the table read for Alice Underground, February 2006.
"A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo sapiens—second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter. Millions survive without love or home, almost none in silence; the opposite of silence leads quickly to narrative, and the sound of story is the dominant sound of our lives, from the small accounts of our day’s events to the vast incommunicable constructs of psychopaths."—Reynolds Price
Posted on Wit of the Staircase by Theresa Duncan, July 10, 2007
"…Theresa was best known as a screenwriter, but as the editor of a literary magazine, I encouraged her to write prose. From dipping into this delightfully eclectic well of thought, reviews, and tips I recognized an extraordinary mind, a tremendous talent and a prodigious analyst of culture.
…All I do know, the hard way, is that the artists and writers who come up with extraordinary answers are often deeply and terribly haunted by the questions that prompt them, and you can never second guess what it is to be haunted by ideas, by angels or demons or history or visions, by reality or imagination…”
—Glenn O’Brien, elegy posted on Wit of the Staircase
"We are as forlorn as children lost in the wood. When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the grief that is in me and what do I know of yours? And if I were to cast myself down before you and tell you, what more would you know about me that you know about Hell when someone tells you it is hot and dreadful? For that reason alone we human beings ought to stand before one another as reverently, as reflectively, as lovingly, as we would before the entrance to Hell."
“Happy Birthday Franz Kafka”, from The Wit Of The Staircase, July 5, 2007
"Whatever is unnamed, undepicted in images, whatever is omitted from biography, censored in collections of letters, whatever is misnamed as something else, made difficult-to-come-by, whatever is buried in the memory by the collapse of meaning under an inadequate or lying language-this will become not merely unspoken, but unspeakable."
From a post on Wit of the Staircase, July 6, 2007
In a recent article concerning a New School class titled "Suicide Note Writing Workshop" Simon Critchley is quoted as describing the suicide note as, “a last, desperate attempt at communication…They are failed communication, in a sense.” Theresa, whose blog was titled Wit of the Staircase, meaning the witty response you think of when the moment has passed, as Glenn O’Brien writes, “was not the sort of person one thought of as thinking up the witty answer after the party was over. She wasn’t just sitting there listening”. When Theresa died she left behind a note that began, “I loved life…” and she lived more in her abbreviated time here than most of us will if we survive to an old age. As Glenn O’Brien noted in his moving elegy quoted above, Theresa was “extraordinarily present in the moment; her wit was immediate and incandescent”, but as he went on to write, “you can never second guess what it is to be haunted by ideas, by angels or demons or history or visions, by reality or imagination”.
Theresa was tall with long slender arms and writer’s hands, beautiful and soft with elegant, tapered fingers; she would drape her arm casually over your shoulder and lean down to whisper a joke or a witty observation, smile and then pause and laugh with her infectious childlike laugh; she had an exuberance and joie de vivre that couldn’t be contained. When she spoke she gesticulated freely enlisting her arms and hands to emphasize a point; she was “the life of many parties”. There was something about her that made being in her “aura” magical, always intellectually stimulating and fun. She made you feel a part of a world that you would otherwise not have access to, everything seemed more interesting, glamorous and exciting when you were with her, and she included you with a welcoming and quiet grace that made you feel that you belonged where ideas and champagne and laughter flowed freely. She entertained enthusiastically and often. Her circle of friends reflected the same sensibility as her fashion and design aesthetic and the intellectual curiosity arrayed on Wit, they were diverse and eclectic, creative and smart, fertile ground for interesting ideas and great discussion.
The Wit of the Staircase became Theresa’s outlet for her curiosity and much of what she was thinking and experiencing; the post on the day that she took her life, titled Storytelling on the Staircase, was the Reynolds Price quote above describing the significance of communication to our lives. The ability to “tell and hear stories” is what made Theresa who she was; the richest part of her life involved stories spoken, read and written. When she was young she imagined the life that she wanted to live, a life of excitement, glamour and ideas, and although her success was unlikely, coming from a small town and modest means, she in effect wrote herself into being and achieved her dream. Salon tagged her the “silicon alley dream girl” creating three innovative games for girls, she authored essays for major publications and art journals, she wrote and directed an animated film that was selected for the prestigious Whitney Biennial; she created a visionary blog in a nascent world of social media; and she came very close to writing and directing her film, Alice Underground, in a field that is made difficult for women to find success.
In the days and weeks leading to her death Theresa seems, in retrospect, to have left a number of cryptic clues to her intent although she remained active and creative. She began to end some email correspondence with, “The world as we know it is ending, and I feel fine” a quote from REM lyrics describing an apocryphal and chaotic end to a corrupt and greedy society; the posts on Wit included the Kafka quote above concerning the inability to know the private suffering inside another; a fortune that admonished the reader to “be willing and able to defend those you love”; a quote by Deleuze and Guattari, "A child in the dark, gripped with fear, comforts himself by singing under his breath…But the song itself is already a skip: it jumps from chaos to the beginnings of order in chaos and is in danger of breaking apart at any moment…"; Sylvia Plath’s “I am Vertical” and Sarah Hannah’s poem, The Colors Are Off This Season, with no comment but a link to her obituary.
And the note that began with the words, “I loved life…” was not her last communication, she arranged for two posthumous posts on Wit of the Staircase, the last on New Years Eve, 2007, a T.S. Eliot quote describing the act of writing,
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate,
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion.
In the end Theresa felt that she was being silenced and the “need to tell and hear stories” was indeed essential to her. She could be irreverant and outspoken, bold and audacious; defiant and uncompromising and for some people intimidating; the effervescent wit, intelligence and humor that made her such a delight to be around could turn caustic at times, and toward the end even innocent and unsuspecting family, friends and colleagues were caught up in their fear. As an iconoclast she had enemies who made use of her final silence to disparage her and her work. She never believed that she should be constrained by power, by social norms, rules, or gender roles; she wouldn’t play the game. She was a feminist within her own definition of what constituted a feminist; she had a “warrior spirit”.
That Theresa refused to be silenced even when pragmatic, and that she committed her thoughts and experiences to writing has since left her open to being taken out of context, to conjecture and salacious gossip. Because we are accustomed to “reading” words and not images, she has been the focus of the speculation. The decision to maintain The Wit of the Staircase was made in response to her struggle against being silenced, to affirm her voice, and to honor Jeremy’s wish that Theresa be remembered for her “warrior spirit”. Theresa always lived her life on her own terms and I am determined to respect that…
Theresa and Jeremy were a romantic couple, they were beautiful and talented and committed to each other; their incomprehensible deaths surrounded by uncertainty leave a space to irresponsibly imagine an unlimited number of diverse scenarios; but there is danger in considering their deaths as romantic, not the least of which is that impressionable young people and those who live by sheer force of will every day will emulate their suicides as a viable route rather than seeking help; and, there is nothing romantic about the collateral damage surrounding a suicide. Theirs was simply a tragic loss of gifted lives and a traumatic and life-changing decision for the people who loved them, miss them, and have to go on without them “For that reason alone we human beings ought to stand before one another as reverently, as reflectively, as lovingly, as we would before the entrance to Hell.” Kafka
Image: From the Alice Underground style book
Theresa Duncan’s, Wit of the Staircase
"I remember, almost to the minute, meeting Theresa Duncan. I was at a party in Washington in an Adams Morgan group house of DC’s extended punk circle. It was New Year’s Eve 1988, almost midnight, and in the new year I would be moving to Paris on a painting fellowship. The party was unremarkable and I had debated going at all. I remember standing in the back of the kitchen in bright overhead lights, not particularly engaged or disengaged. All the girls wearing tomboy outfits of black jeans, blue thrift shop sweaters and work boots or dark housecoats. There was tedium, the festivities were formulaic and hierarchical. Then in walked a tall blonde woman in silver sequined hot pants-even though it was below zero outside-it was New Year’s Eve, it was a party, she had lipstick. There was an entourage but it is faceless in my memory against this laughing, bright and electric woman. She had a glass in her hand instantly even though real drinks were rare at these events on the trailing end of straight edge.
Theresa swept into this standard rock scene, one primarily about men and their accomplishments, detached and amused at its rigidity. She mocked the vegan cooking and befriended many misfits.
When I got back from Paris a year later Theresa was living in a fourth floor walkup on 14th Street. A formerly grand boulevard of D.C., 14th Street was full of mysterious turreted townhouses of red brick. Decimated in the King riots of ’68, artists were now trickling into these blocks. Theresa had taken over a top floor and turret, perhaps reconnecting with her love of Detroit’s urban decrepitude. She gave parties in rooms full of velvet couches and dark wood. A vitrine held Victorian memorabilia, amulets, and cigarette cases. I walked up the four floors from the street to one party, a tea light in a paper bag was perched on each wooden step inside this lattice brick townhouse-a sweeping votive jewel box.
Theresa gathered beautiful things around her instinctively and to fabulous excess. A scholar of glamour she masterfully demonstrated that things you didn’t even know were beautiful were quite obviously so. High heel jellies, motor cycle boot sandals, mercury glass, sleigh beds, Emily Eveleth paintings, square saki cups, green candies from the Asian market…and anything from Agnes B. Later working at Magnet she met me for lunch, arriving in a frothy white fur coat. White is so quickly sullied on most but she could wear it like no other, like an owl. When I had a painting opening at GO! in Arlington, Virginia, only about five people came who were not in the band-but Theresa came and she brought people. You could crash on her floor in Adams Morgan at any time and have her books to yourself when you woke up first in the morning.
Later I would have the chance to return to Paris, this time with Theresa and Blake Robin. I was measuring primate teeth in the museum, she was buying books, shopping and going to parties. She called my rundown hotel “Chez Cafard,” and she had a tip from models to shop at Monoprix in the kids department for dresses and bathing suits that were cuter and cheaper. We ate sandwiches in the middle of one of the big boulevards as loud micro trucks screeched by, begging the question why was there even a bench there at all?
By New York all her Victoriania was swept away, in were white shag rugs and inflatable plastic cube tables. The books followed. Her bedroom had a diaphanous curtain of red-orange, and on the table a bowl of matches from all about town. We had hamburgers and cigarettes at the M and R bar. Mike and I later sat at her gorgeous tall Christmas tree in Soho, all white lights and silver decorations, everyone drank champagne and listened to Led Zeppelin and waited for Santa. I told Jeremy how beautiful it was and he said “its all Theresa, I just carried it up the stairs.”
When I bought my cabin and set about replacing the ugly vinyl windows one by one, first with Polish glass by way of Cosmo in Brooklyn, I soon got in the mail from her Martha Stewart’s latest decorating book. When she moved to California it was a shame not to see her, in emails she assured me she planned ‘to be an old lady in Santa Monica one day…’. I had no reason to doubt it.
I ask myself sometimes how will we know what is beautiful now without Theresa to tell us?”
Eulogy for Theresa by her close friend Maureen O’Leary, paraphrased at her memorial December, 2007.
Image: Theresa and Maureen in Paris 1995. Maureen was completing her dissertation at the Museum National d’histoire naturelle and Theresa and their friend Blake Robin were visiting there.
Theresa Duncan’s Wit of the Staircase