Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bliss List

Bliss List: I stole this idea from Charlotte

My dog, thirty yards out catching a frisbee with all four feet off the ground.

Walking away from class knowing I sent the discussion in a new and important direction.

Staring up at the sky because of something I've read and not even knowing I'm doing it.

Making people double-over with laughter.

Sitting on the deck of my parents house having my father talk about history.

Sitting on the deck of my parents house having my mother talk about anything.

Tasting a dish I've prepared and knowing that it is $%&**!@*^ perfect.

Harmonizing with three friends.

Bantering at my cats as they smile up at me.

A really good interview by Charlie Rose.

A blog post that makes me giggle uncontrollably.

Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream.

Restaurant Concepts

I though it would be fun to come up with imaginary names for restaurants. I’ll try to supply a brief description of the theme for each.

La BooBoo: This is a theme restaurant where the menu is made up entirely from past mistakes in the kitchen. Try the miniature charred duck or the flaming chef flambé.

Al’s House of Zucchini: Nestled in the heart of America’s zucchini belt, Al’s offers home-cooked recipes using everybody’s favorite squash. Try the Zucchini Pie a la mode or the Jumbo Zucchini stuffed with miniature zucchini.

La Maison de Flatulance: A restaurant dedicated to the legume. Try the “Them That Smelt it Dealt it” special.

Wisp—a postmodern dining experience: in keeping with the postmodern view of the arbitrary nature of truth this may or may not be a restaurant. Food, as an object, may or may not exist so don’t be surprised if the waiter brings you a plate with nothing on it. Try the nothingness bread pudding or the cheese soufflĂ© which is so light that you’ll swear it doesn’t exist, probably because it doesn’t. The bill exists though, and it will be fun to record the reader-response to the $90 plate of imported French void.

The Cheeto Barn: Off every bypass in this great land of ours is a Cheeto Barn. You just can’t beat this sodium packed treat on a cold rainy day washed down with a fortified Mountain Dew. But why take the trouble of getting off your couch and going to the cupboard and fridge. Let one of the Cheeto Barn’s Cheeto-fed waitpersons bring you a bowl of Cheetos!

The Break-Up—a restaurant concept: Ever get tired of those cute little romantic Bistros where couples hold hand and fall in love over rubbery escargot? Here’s a restaurant dedicated to the couple who is breaking up. The Break-Up supplies plenty of dishes to hurl at your estranged-other. The restaurant also offers a screaming deck and a liquor bar that is ready to help you make things worse by getting snockered. Make your break-up an event to remember. Try the You Never Loved Me Stew.

Ribs N Jell-O: Why no one thought of this one before we’ll never know. What could go better with a nice messy stack of ribs than a jiggly bowl of chilled Jell-O? This place is great for the kids, and the converted car-wash out back is perfect for hosing off and coming back for more. Try the buffalo ribs marinated in lime Jell-O, a house specialty.

Three Loud Guys and a Griddle: They’ve got a smokin’ hot griddle and an attitude to match. Former Steeler tail-gaters who decided to cash-in, these guys will griddle up a sausage and give you a belly-full plus an ear-full. Just don’t mention the Packers. You don’t want Hugo angry when he’s got a spatula in his hand. Try the Loud-Mouth Kielbasa.

Japanese Blowfish Surprise: Everybody knows that blowfish is a delicacy in Japan. Everybody also knows that unless it is prepared correctly, blowfish can kill you faster than Keith Richard’s morning breath. At Japanese Blowfish Surprise they put a little mystery into the dining experience. Styled after a Japanese steakhouse, only the chef knows for sure who is going home with a full belly and who is embarrassingly keeling over and croaking. More fun than Karaoke, just pray that the surprised-one wasn’t going to pick up the check.

Chef Ramsay’s Ass-Chew: Ever get jealous of those peons getting humiliated on national TV by pit-bull chef Gordon Ramsay? Now you can have the experience of being chewed-out by one of the top chefs in the world. For an appetizer chef will prepare hurled crude-epithets followed by a main course of sexual innuendoes about your mother. For the fish course, Chef Ramsay will just hit you over the head with a fish and for dessert, be prepared to be dazzled as Chef sends his sous chef at you with a cleaver. A dining experience not to be missed.

Dumpster-Diver House of Seafood: Okay, this has gone way too far. I better stop now, while I have a chance.

Note: I was a chef and I want to make sure that whoever stumbles on his realizes that it is just a joke. I don’t really think these are good ideas.

Big R

I had a teacher when I was in the eleventh grade who made a deep impression on me and who I still think of frequently. Occasionally I’ve written about the boarding school I attended in the North Carolina Mountains, when my parents had to perform emergency triage because in my adolescence I was hemorrhaging good sense and flunking out of high school. They sent me sulking and moping to a prep school with a student body made up of about 150 hormonal southern boys (mostly) and left me to stew, and cope, and find something about myself to salvage.

Reed Finlay taught English. In the eleventh grade, at this school, this meant that the authors we read were American and male. I remember reading The Spoon River Anthology, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (where the discussions on Maggie the Cat were spirited and borderline-crude—the student with the least desire to hold back his raging adolescence would blurt out what we all were thinking), The Great Gatsby, Death of a Salesman, and The Sun also Rises where we thought we were pretty clever for coming up with the saying, “the sun may rise, but Jake don’t,” based on the main character, Jake Barnes’, notorious war injury.

Big R let us get away with this kind of thing. We called him Big R because he had a son in the grade below ours who, sensibly, everyone called Little R or just Reed. Big R was a tall, thin, bespectacled character, and it would be stretch, but I might suggest Hugh Laurie to play his part in a movie. He was Southern, I believe he went to Sewanee, and his lectures on Faulkner and Tennessee Williams were draped with kudzu and whippoorwills. He forced us out of ourselves and made us read tracts of writing which we, at that time, did not even realize held meaning for us.

The first positive thing anyone said to me at this school was from Big R. I was skulking from one class to the next one morning and he and another teacher were coming out of the main building where classes were held. He bounced a little when he walked, and I could never understand how someone could actually be happy at this place—the confidence and vigor that our English teacher showed both amazed and offended me. He stopped me and made a point of telling the teacher with him that the school now had a bonefied creative writer in its midst. He had read one of my assignments and liked it. It was a short story completely lifted from Pat Conroy about father and son tension with a gimmicky ending involving a sand-dollar. I had read The Lords of Discipline the year before and by osmosis had adopted the language of the smart-assed southern boy that Conroy liked to use in his dialogue. Between this and the back and forth between Brick Pollitt and Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Big R seemed to think I had hit on a recurring theme and read some of my story in class as I melted into a thick pool of embarrassment. The reading elicited a few grunts and a snicker, and life went on.

I had spent part of the summer, prior to enrollment at the school, in Normandy. With such a brief time in France, I had little time to get to know much about the country, but I was proud of the fact that I had spent time there and wanted to get the word out that I wasn’t just some bumpkin from Clemmons, North Carolina, that I had actually seen parts of the world. Big R would assign journal entries where we were free to write on any subject we wished and I decided I would try my hand at art critic. I had found some paintings by Jacque Louis David in a library book and figured that since he was French, this would be a good way to get in the fact that I had spent time in France. I wrote a long homage to the paintings of David, embellishing on how powerful it was to actually view them in person and remarking that they were the high point of Renaissance art. I remember Big R’s large red hand-writing on the paper when I got it back. It just said, “Neo-Classical,” with an exclamation point.

Big R saved me that spring by employing me as the editor of the literary magazine. It was mandatory for all students to participate in an organized sport and I had ducked and dodged to avoid being placed in an activity where I would be the scrawniest and slowest participant. One afternoon after biology class, the teacher, who doubled as the school’s vice-principle, announced that he was fully aware that I was not signed up for a sport and that if in the next day I did not sign up for one he would sign me up for one. I told him that I would see what I could do. He told me I had better.

I went to Big R, and as I stuttered out my explanation as to why I had not signed up for a sport he stopped me and succinctly paraphrased what I was trying to say. “So you’ve gotten yourself into a fix and you need ole Big R to bail you out, is that it?” All I could say was “Yea.”

The deal was that I would double as trainer for the track team and editor of The Struan, the literary magazine. Between raking the long-jump pit and operating the stop-watch I would take a folder of student work to the bleachers and try not to let the pages blow away in the wind. Here I would organize, to the best of my ability, the work of introverted students like myself, who along with being talented wrestlers or aspiring chemists, were also able to tack two sentences together and squeeze some deeper meaning out of them. The Struan was illustrated as well, and the talents of artistic boys who might be chastised for their work away from the magazine, now, for some reason, held weight with the other boys, as if the staples and rough cover of the magazine was proof of their worth.

The magazine came out and Big R congratulated us on our work. I had three illustrations in it plus the derivative story with the sand-dollar. I used to have a copy around, but moves and other upheavals have caused me to misplace my copy, although there might be a way to get it through the school.

Another instance that comes to mind about Big R is just about a car ride into town. On Saturday afternoons we were free to do what we wanted around campus and usually there were bus-rides into town. For some reason we had either missed the bus-ride or the bus wasn’t going that day and a friend and I managed to catch a ride into town with Big R and his wife. Big R was in the passenger seat, his wife was driving, and as we drove Big R turned the dial of the radio. He found a country music station and stopped. He listened for a moment and nodding long appreciative nods he turned to his wife and said, “Listen, this is a song about a man whose heart is so broken he doesn’t know what to do. Can you hear it in his voice? It’s just killing him.” His wife watched the road and clicked on her turn signal. “I mean, can you just hear it?” Big R continued, “Do you appreciate the heart-felt emotion that this man is trying to convey?” His wife absently said, “Um-hmmm.” Big R just turned his head and looked out the window continuing to nod in time to the music.

My friend had ignored the entire exchange. But I thought it was funny, and I got what he was saying. What I know now is that Big R, out of the classroom, was the same as in, taking meaning from human voices and constantly relating it to those around him. The country singer was an author of sorts to Big R and he practiced his interpretation and conveyance with his wife who, undoubtedly, had been there before. But for a seventeen-year-old kid sitting in the back of a car it demonstrated what we can do with the world around us if we listen closely.

I got a call from Big R some years ago at a very unlikely place, the country club where I worked for all those years. He was calling to ask me if he could use some of my drawings in a book he was doing about the school. I said of course he could. He had relocated to another town, and I just can’t imagine my old school without his presence, but I imagine he added just as much to the new school where he was working. It was fascinating to hear his voice over the telephone in that loud bustling kitchen, and it brought home how far removed from the school I had become. Something about the far-off nature of his voice made me realize that while I was experiencing the pangs of adolescence I was unknowingly being formed by teachers like Big R, who could draw on the sexuality of Maggie or the dilemma of Jake Barnes and tell us something that would resound within us as we moved through our later-lives. That memory, of Big R’s classroom, occupies my mental space like my first guitar, where I learned how to assert my voice in unsure tones, and practice the first movements of being an adult.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Memorial Day Pre-ramble

I’m going to try to write a full post while I am at work. I work at the reference desk at my college’s library and the mornings, lately, have been woefully slow. I may help a student add a printer to his profile or something, but there is plenty of time to navel-gaze (I finally get to use that term, probably because I finally understand what it means).

Today is the Friday before Memorial Day weekend which should make today even less hectic, and I want to add a post to my blog if nothing else comes up. I’m not quite used to having a job where the responsibility lies in waiting for things to happen, and I feel that maybe I should be taking the initiative somewhere. But my main duty is to be present in case someone has a question, so I will fulfill my role and try to be of service until larger responsibilities develop.

Its interesting watching people come and go from this library. Some people hurry in with looks of determined purpose on their faces, and rarely do these people walk up to my desk. I’m quite surprised at how much traffic we are getting today already, so maybe my theory is wrong. Sometimes someone will meander in and look at the art work—the library doubles as the school’s art gallery—and then saunter up to the desk and ask a question. These are usually question about how to get somewhere and are easily answered. Another type of question-asker is the frantic, “I’ve got a paper due in half-an- hour and I’m having trouble with Word and I need to find a research topic and I’ve never used the library computers before” type.

I have become a little sidetracked from Out of Africa because I am taking an independent study about Europe between the wars, and it requires a great deal of reading. I managed to read about 200 pages of a European survey focusing on the topic. I found it interesting but dense, although for a scholarly survey it was very well written. I’ve been in classes where the professor made an unfortunate choice for the main survey reading, and it was brutally tedious to read these works. But this book, The End of the European Era by Gilbert and Large, while meticulously leaving no stone unturned, compelled my interest in this complicated, reeling period of history.

In the reference department we keep a collection called Dictionary of Literary Biography. One of the volumes is completely dedicated to A Farewell to Arms which I just read for the first time. The volume is filled with reproductions of original drafts and letters by Hemingway (many which are housed in the Kennedy Library in Boston) and rare photographs of the author around the time of publication in addition to photos from his time as an ambulance driver in Italy during the First World War. We rely so much on the internet these days that finding such an interesting source, not only for a paper but because it is interesting in and of itself, makes me wonder what will become of these vital tomes. It is hard to imagine a richer source than this online. The shame is that as I opened it, the binding cracked, which told me that it had been opened rarely—if ever.

But more than anything, Out of Africa has really drawn me in. It has made me think hard about colonialism in Africa, and colonialism in general, and how I should approach a work that seems to justify Europe’s claim on Africa during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Blixen refers to her African neighbors as “squatters”, but it can be viewed, now, that it was Blixen who might be regarded as a squatter. Her coffee plantation in Kenya was expansive, resting on the grazing lands of a number of indigenous peoples, but she arbitrated during local squabbles carefully and with much compassion for the Africans. It is very difficult to judge the language she uses in context with the times, but occasionally she uses animal analogies a bit too frequently, describing Africans as ants or badgers which to her, I suppose, seemed innocent but to this modern reader seems slightly degrading.

Of course who am I to judge? Did I own a farm in Africa? No. And two things are certain, Blixen was an astonishingly vivid and descriptive narrativist (I made that word up), and she loved her African neighbors deeply. Her involvement and interest in the cultures of the people in which she dealt with daily is written about with spiritual grace and can be very transformative to the reader. A more European account of life in Africa may have focused on the officer’s club in Nairobi, but Blixen draws on the element of the real Africa by knowing her African friends with the compassion of a mother and the curiosity of an attentive student.

As for the 1985 movie, I am over half way through the book and I have yet, thankfully, to run into a character even half resembling Robert Redford wearing Abercrombie and Fitch. This is certainly a case of being happy to have seen the movie before reading the book, and if the character that Redford played ever shows up I will try to draw a better image of the character in my mind than the film gives. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the film, but I don’t remember there being even an ounce of the amount of regard for Africans than in Blixen’s book. A melodrama in soft filters about Africa, to me, is more patronizing than Blixen’s occasional use of antiquated language to describe her life in Africa.

I would like to add more on the subject, and I hope there will be a part two to this post because I have yet to finish the book. There are so many breathtaking quotes that it is all I can do not to grab a pencil and start marking up the library book I am reading her work from. (I also have my own copy, which was my grandmother’s, but it is old and fallin apart—it has to be held together with a rubber band.) A few more quotes from her might show up in the next couple of days on this sight. Enjoy the weekend!

Saturday, May 19, 2007


The past, that had been so difficult to bring to memory, and that had probably seemed to be changing every time it was thought of, had here been caught, conquered and pinned down before his eyes. It had become History; with it there was now no variableness neither shadow of turning.

Karen Blixen

Friday, May 18, 2007

Misery Loves Company

So I'm not going through the easiest time right now, I won't go into why, just know that it is one of those things where your emotions are on a rickety roller-coaster ride all day. Self-pity, loathing, fear and resentment are interrupted with unexpected moments of buoyancy and hope. Distrust of my fellow man can be extinguished in a moment by a chat with a total stranger. My Karma is doing a drunken version of the Virginia Reel.

So what did I go and do to help this condition? I went out and rented the movie that everyone told me was the saddest movie they had ever seen, Pan's Labyrinth. Well, it just might have been the right thing to do, because whatever hell I'm going through now is a walk in the seven gardens of the palace compared to what these folks dealt with. I kept saying to myself " I might have it bad, but at least I'm not getting my face stabbed off with an icepick," or, "things seem rough, but it's better than being chased down a hall by a strange demon with eyeballs in his hands," or, " hmmm, today wasn't so hot but at least I don't have to stitch my face together or watch a giant frog turn inside out."

If I'm giving too much away I apologise. But I could also be writing this as a warning, to those who don't particularly like watching the most gruesome situations that a movie-maker can get away with. I don't know if I'm qualified to judge whether violence is gratuitous or not but this film, to me, pushed it a bit. I was drawn in by its spectacle, and it is a haunting experience--possibly the closest someone has come to capturing the true fantasy of a real nightmare. (please excuse the confusing double oxymoron).

This movie is a contradiction in terms, fantasy-realism, and the horror lies much more in the realism aspects than in the fantasy. The movie produced in me a feeling I haven't had in a long time, true hatred for the antagonist. I was verbally calling for a long slow death for this villain, and my dog, Booker, cocked his head at my blood lust. I used to get this way when I watched evil Nazis, especially the one In Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the scriptwriter, director and actor created a snivelling sadist who's demise is like watching your team make a eighty-yard run to win the game as the clock runs out. Same emotion.

Oh yea, and they were right, it is sad. Sad, sad, sad, sad, sad. I seemed to manage the sad parts pretty well, like I said, this misery trumped mine by a mile. Another emotion this sadness brought was a need to believe in redemption, and the film delivers this in a way. A movie often is, after all, a portal to the human condition. What strikes me though is that after this fantasy was over I realized that these terrible things actually happened to people and are still happening. The realist bits, not the fantasy. Well, maybe that too.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Check out this hilarious post at archiesarchive.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Good Quote

I've started summer school and a job all in the same week so I'm just going to post a quote that I read today and hopefully I will return with a long thought provoking dissertation in the next couple of days. Actually I would like to write a long post about this author, or at least the work by her that I am reading, Out of Africa.

People who dream when they sleep at night, know of a special kind of
happiness which the world of the day holds not, a placid ecstacy, and ease of
heart, that are like honey on the tongue. They also know that the real glory of
dreams lies in their atmosphere of unlimited freedom. It is not the freedom of
the dictator, who enforces his own will on the world, but the freedom of the
artist, who has no will, who is free of will.

Karen Blixen

This quote struck me, among other beautifully written passages from the book, because the idea of being free of will as a positive emotion had never occured to me. Free will, we learned in eighteenth-century literature, was touted by many writers to be the goal of the self-determined human. But will, as in "will-power" or "by the force of his own will" does seem to have a relationship with dictatorship, as Blixen suggests. After all, haven't some of the world's greatest man-made disasters been a result of unbreakable will? Hitler, for example, or that idiot we have in office now? A dream then, if it is a good one, does feel like freedom in a pure sense and is, possibly, the closest we might get to breaking the limits of mortality.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Okay, so this won't be a very long post. I just want to say a little about what's going on in the left hand column with all the features and stuff. A list format might be appropriate.

Backgammon: I used to play this game obsessively and on a rare occasion would hurl the board if I rolled a three and a one too many times. I'm more mature now, plus it wouldn't do to hurl my laptop. To play, roll the dice and click on your piece and click the place where you want to put it.

Sitemeter: This is a new tool that aids me in obsessing about my popularity.

Book List: These are the books I've read so far this year. I've become stuck on A Farewell to Arms, but I'm planning to push on through the last one hundred pages in the next few days.

Music: I found out how to post music tracks onto the website. Some are me (gasp!) and some are just tracks by other artists that I like.

Links and Sites: These are blogs and websites that I visit. If you do anything when you visit my blog make sure you read Andy Borowitz. The debate can end now, this is the funniest man alive.

Featured Youtube: I'll be changing these periodically. Right now I'm featuring my cousin Dar Williams.

News Stories: I'll try to keep an ongoing news story as the topic for this feature. Right now it's the Alberto Gonzales hearings.

My Profile: Just click on this so I can rack up some profile view numbers.

If you are a visitor I invite you to play some backgammon, listen to some music or read some interesting posts by other bloggers, catch up on the news or write a comment, critical or otherwise. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Cloonster

Lindsay came to visit last Sunday. She had driven friends of ours from South Africa down to North Carolina. Every year or so the couple, a doctor and his wife, come to the states to visit some of their children who live here, and speak at churches about their organization, the African Medical Mission. Chris, the husband, did his residency in our little burgh many years ago and they used to baby-sit us when I was very young. We grew up with their children, and when I graduated from high-school I went to South Africa with their help. My mother still claims that they “rescued me.” I suppose she’s right.

We had lunch at the house of some more old friends whose daughter worked as a teacher at the same school as me in South Africa. She came the year after I left, and resided in the apartment that I had lived in. I declined to ask her how many empty beer bottles she found in strange places around the flat, but we did get some good reminiscing in about the characters at the school. It brought back a great deal of good memories.

After lunch we went to see the movie Fracture, which was a good whodunit—or how-he-dunit really—with Anthony Hopkins (he’s Sir Anthony Hopkins isn’t he) being brilliantly diabolical. We both like Ryan Gosling who played an ambitious assistant DA. We were accumulating reasons to believe that this was a good day.

Lindsay had suggested she buy me dinner, anything I wanted, and I decided that a good steak cooked by one of those by-the-numbers chain restaurants would be pretty good. We headed toward the sprawling part of town. On the way we decided that it would be good to be close by to the Border’s bookstore, they having rich baked goods and literature and all. Lindsay suggested the sushi place a few doors down from Border’s and I agreed. It isn’t the best sushi I’ve had but it beats the stuff you get at the all you can eat Chinese buffets—although I eat my fair share of that and enjoy it. Part of my apprehension comes from not being knowledgeable enough to comprehend the menu. And I was a chef! But I kind of figured it out. I got the definition of sashimi wrong when Lindsay asked me, but I did manage to order a very good roll with crunchy tempura eel at the center.

We had just been brought miso soup and I looked toward the back of the restaurant. There is a bar at the back of this place where the experts congenially suggest to the chefs what they want next. The bar was empty except for two men who weren’t talking very much but just eating calmly. I looked at the one closest to me and he looked familiar. He turned his head a bit, and I couldn’t see his face for a moment, but when he turned back I looked harder and thought, “could it be?” I looked for a moment longer until I was sure and then stopped Lindsay, who was asking another question about sushi that I didn’t know the answer to, and said, “Lindsay, I want you to listen to me very closely. I’m dead serious and you have to believe me. I know I’m your little brother and have played a lot of tricks on you but if you ever believe anything I say believe this, George Clooney is sitting right behind you.”

I think she said “No,”
“Yes,” I said, “He’s been making a movie here and I thought that they had all gone home but I guess he is still in town. It’s him, he’s sitting right behind you.”

“Should I turn around?” she said
“No, don’t turn around, please don’t turn around.”
“Are you going to talk to him?”
“No way, absolutely not, I’m too chicken.”
“Should I go talk to him?”
“Yes, you should, you have to, you’re the brave one in the family. You have to go talk to him.”

By this time some local bubbas had recognized him and were getting his autograph. When they left, Lindsay decided that she would nonchalantly go to the ladies room and then pass by him and say how she liked his political stand. I thought this was a good idea, if not a little rushed, but we had no way of knowing how long he was going to stay in the restaurant so we had to act fast. Well, I have to be honest, Lindsay had to act fast, all I had to do is manage large pieces of sushi with chopsticks and try not to gawk.

I was doing just that when all of a sudden I looked up and realized that my sister was chatting with an A-list actor. I saw Clooney extend his hand and she took it and after another brief exchange she turned and came back to our table.

When she sat down she was shaking too badly to finish her miso soup.

We finished our meal and I continued to steal glances at the actor as he sipped saki and ordered something that looked a bit like an ice cream cone made out of sea-weed and fish. I’m almost ashamed at how star-struck I was, but it was incredible fun, and I like this group of A-listers who may not be bringing the golden-age of Bogart, Peck and Grant back, but are more vocal about global issues and effecting change. But really, besides all that goody-goody stuff, I just like to have the bragging rights and the story.

Lindsay and I had a great time talking about it after the fact. We told the young-woman at the cash-register about it and she immediately started trying to get a break so she could rush over to see him. Lindsay worried that we might cause a stampede.

We got so involved in telling the young-woman at the pastry-counter that we forgot our pastries. Lindsay went back to get them the next morning.

I told her that I could have kicked myself for not telling her that he liked to be called “the Cloonster” by his fans. I thought this would have been a good trick to play on her. She said that she wouldn’t have done it even if she had believed me. We started picturing what it would be like to be chased out of the restaurant by cleaver-wielding sushi-chefs, distraught over the disturbance of their VIP.

So I guess it turned out to be a pretty good day. I wasn’t even disappointed that I didn’t get to eat my double-chocolate mini-bundt cake

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Thursday, May 3, 2007

FOX Mockery

I think the official first post of my new blog should just be a rambling exercise in catching up. I’m still distraught over inadvertently ending my old blog, and not being able to post there anymore. There may be a solution to this, but I’m just going to take this tack for now, and keep on writing. I want to make a comparison with Hemingway’s first wife Hadley losing his manuscripts on a train, and this helps because it definitely is not that bad—plus I’m no Hemingway.

I should be writing a post for my joint blog with my sister Emily about going to see a Dead show in 1990, but I’m procrastinating for some reason. I was thinking the other day, always a dangerous thing, and I realized that because of blogging, I’ve been able to keep in touch with my three sisters more than any other time since our childhood. The World Wide Web has made it so I can let everyone know what’s going on and they can fill me in as well, a little like visiting each other’s rooms long ago. Emily’s blog is a bit like Emily’s room was when we were kids. There a green motif, and much to think about from Emily. And a lot of laughter. My sister Forsyth’s blog is much the same way. She was at college for the latter part of my childhood, and her blog is full of great posts, but she posts with less frequency. So a post from Forsyth is like when she would come home from college with the coolest music anyone had ever heard. Lindsay has a web-site, which fits as well, as Lindsay was often a doer, not a sayer. Her art attests to the fact that what she does, she does very well. Has cyberspace allowed us to tap into that Proustian response without having to eat a forgotten morsel from our childhood? All I know is: I do have a subtle sense of us, as children in our airy farm-house in the South, when I associate our web logs in my mind.

I spent a good portion of the day yesterday working on the front porch. I’m going through a slight blue period right now, it’s complicated to explain, but soon I will tell myself to get a grip, be grateful, and cheer up! But it isn’t time for that, and I’ll just allow myself to feel this way for a day or two more. One thing that helps is trying to keep busy, and I did that yesterday by cleaning off the porch rails, hosing down all the porch furniture, painting a bench and staining the very Adirondack chair where I am now sitting. Most of the day I listened to music coming out of my front window. I listened to the new Beck, Acoustic Syndicate, The Shins, Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, Sting’s Dream of the Blue Turtles and was into Thelonious Monk’s Monk’s Music when Margaret came home during a particularly raucous drum solo and made me turn it down. I can’t enjoy music if it is annoying someone else, a trait I wish everyone had, so I finished painting the bench to the sounds of barking dogs and chirping birds.

Last night I watched a show that is very popular right now called House. Hugh Laurie plays a Sherlock Holmesesque neurologist, named House, who is addicted to vicodin and is prickly and pompous. His character I could do without, but I like Laurie, who played either Wooster or Jeeves, Lindsay will let me know which in her comment. In this particular episode, a kid was dying of leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant from his brother. For this to happen, the donor had to be infection free, and the first scene ends with the donor-brother pointedly sneezing. House decides that the only way to isolate the virus in the donor is to make the kid sicker by soaking him in freezing cold water. Then, in the pathology lab, two other doctors discover that the kid has an infection in his heart. They rush into the room where the kid is soaking wet, shivering and sneezing while someone ladles icy water over him. They tell him and his parents that they have to perform open-heart surgery right away. When they get him on the operating-table with his heart exposed for all of TV land to see, they discover that the infection is non-life threatening and that the surgery wasn’t really necessary after all. All of this occurs while another doctor does something extremely unorthodox, at least for FOX network script writers, he looks for an alternate donor.

Now I’m out on a limb here because I didn’t see the end of the episode—a friend who was returning to Nantucket the next day came by and we sat on the porch—but I just know that if I ever end up in an imaginary hospital where a vicodin addict is playing guess the treatment on me, I’d run to where the medical care is better, say the Urals or somewhere. I don’t know the outcome, but I wonder if the moral (American TV still has to have morals, although it’s lamely hidden by quirky character flaws) ended up being that Dr. House was reckless and pushed the envelope too much (this is usually the moral for the show anyway). Still, I couldn’t help making the comparison between House’s medical team and program developers at the FOX network. I supposed that this is how FOX brainstorming goes as well.

“Well ratings have dropped overall by half a point.”
“Don’t worry; we still have the adolescent male moron demographic in the bag.”
“Yea, we’ll never lose that, but we need a new push, we don’t want Murdoch to start asking questions.”
“Ooohh, no way, did you hear what he did to that guy over at the New York Post.”
“Yea, I heard he spent nine hours in surgery getting the didgeridoo removed.”
“We better think of something new.”
One team member walks over to a dry erase board and starts writing.
“Let’s start with the basics: Paris Hilton, Donald Trump, A dessert island, superficial spoiled upper-middle class Americans, Jerry Springer, gross things that we can make people eat for money, easily exploitable working-class people who will show their breasts for cash, and a goat.”
“Since when did a goat become a basic.”
“A goat is always a basic, ever since Nicole Ritchie tried to milk one.”
“Oh yea.”
“Besides, a goat is the universal symbol of perversity.”
“Yup, I forgot.”
“How about we take gross things that we can make people eat for money and we add Donald Trump.”
“Yes, I like it. We can get Donald to say You’re Fired! to the ones who regurgitate.”
“How much is Donald’s going rate for saying You’re Fired! now.”
“He’s upped it to a cool million, per word”
“Per word?”
“Yep, a million for You’re, and another for Fired!”
“That seems like a lot.”
“Something’s got to pay for all that office space he can’t fill. Besides he throws the exclamation point in for free.”
A young guy down the table starts to gesture wildly. “I’ve got it, I’ve got the perfect thing that we can get people to eat—Donald Trump’s actual hair-piece!”
“Oh my God! Now that’s just gross Higgins, besides The Donald would never go for it.”
“What if we offered him cash.”
“Hmmm, could work, we’ll come back to that. Now, let’s think of another combination. How about mixing Jerry Springer and superficial spoiled upper-middle-class Americans?”
“That’s a good one. Like I can see the first episode: My boyfriend took my cell-phone and put his ecstasy dealer on speed-dial. Well, that one needs some work. How about: I met someone on My Space and fell in love, only to find out that it was my Uncle Lougi posing as a hot Valley Girl. Or: My girlfriend put the entire Coldplay catalogue in my car’s CD changer and welded the trunk shut and super-glued the volume knob on ten. That actually happened me.”
“We need to keep going on this.”
“How about Goat Island?”
“Ross, we’ve been through this before, it would never work.”
“Yes it would, we just need to convince Nicole Ritchie to do it.”
“It’s too extreme, even for FOX.”
“Nothing is too extreme for FOX.”
“You’ve got a point there.”
“Just picture it, thirty contestants, a heard of goats, Nicole Ritchie, all on a desert island with nothing but a will to survive and….”
“Don’t go there Ross.”
“Well you have to give them a way of getting off the island.”
“Ross, we’re not ready for this, maybe next season, We’re going with, “I Ate The Donald’s Hairpiece.”
“Sounds good.”
“I like it.”
“Now, let’s have lunch.”