The thing about Twitter is that I can’t truly express how I feel about Twitter in 140 characters, though this item clocks in at a mere 139. . . . → Read More: More Matter With Less Art
The thing about Twitter is that I can’t truly express how I feel about Twitter in 140 characters, though this item clocks in at a mere 139. . . . → Read More: More Matter With Less Art
I had a boss who, upon inspecting an inferior piece of work, would always say the same thing: “Pit-i-ful.” He would positively spit out the first syllable, would pronounce the “i” long, and put a grave emphasis on “ful.”
If he read my blog, he’d say “pit-i-ful” with such vehemence that it might crack the earth. My best excuse for not blogging is that Wife and I are having our place painted, and the floors sanded and stained, all because of the bed bug woes of earlier. This requires an inordinate amount of cleaning, planning, and trying to find places to stick Baby without access to a choking hazard.
I am returning from a week away with the in-laws while the contractor does his magic, which, upon inspection, I will utter, “pit-i-ful.” For now, here’s another entry in this forlorn “series” of entries. And before you mutter, “Welcome back!”, this will be, in all likelihood, my last post for a while.
Remember that I am about to go home, alone, to an apartment half finished, sleeping in brain-eating varnish fumes. Then again, it will probably help my writing.
I am cursed with a wealth of ideas. This might not seem like a plague — it’s hardly frogs raining from the sky — but it’s less of a blessing than it would appear upon first inspection.
When I was in college, I started writing my ideas down in a notebook, since lost to time (though you can probably find it if you’re willing to wade through a garbage mountain outside of Chicago). I kept a purple-ink pen latched to the notebook, which was a leather-bound datebook pilfered from the offices of a job I had showing apartments in Ann Arbor, Mich. (I spent more time thinking of ideas than actually working, but never mind.)
There was no orderly progression of these ideas, or real reason for them, other than they were persistent, odd, and occasionally disturbing. If I were to be held hostage, I could probably recall some of the contents of the notebook, which were ideas for stories, characters, band names, and other assorted ephemera that has been largely lost to the mists of time.
I numbered each successive entry, and I know that it passed 100 rather quickly. The best of the ideas were eventually transferred to electronic form, where they reside upon the hard drive of the very computer upon which I write these very words, a very ironic thing indeed since it’s been a very, very, very long time since I’ve actually looked at them. The file is collecting the electronic version of dust, you might say.
Despite the eventual displacement of paper for electronics, and its ultimate demise in landfill, there was a time that I would have guarded The Notebook with the same ferocity as a Mama Bear on amphetamines protects its young. And if you’ve ever had to do battle with a Mama Bear on speed, you’ll know what I mean.
The problem I’ve had with this curse is that I’ve always had great ideas, and burdened by a dearth of ways to express them. If I had the cajones, I would have tried standup comedy, acting, or screenwriting. And if I courted faith in the unburdening powers of mind-altering substances, I would have tried expressing . . . → Read More: Why I Really Write, Part 6: The Notebook
I just did something really, really stupid. (And it’s not even publishing this stupid post.) . . . → Read More: Feelin’ the Hate
Phone rings, at about 7 p.m. It’s one of Wife’s friends.
“Hey Bookfraud, just checking in to see how Wife is doing,” the friend says. “See how she’s feeling.”
I say that Wife is feeling as well as can be expected, given she’s going to give birth in a week or two. She’s in the bathroom, can’t talk.
“Great! Just have her give me a call.”
Phone rings again, at about 7:30. We’re eating dinner and let the voicemail pick up. “Hi! It’s Wife’s Friend Number 2! How are you guys? You must be so excited now! I just wanted to check in and see how Wife is doing? Is there anything I can do to help? Anyway, give me a call! Bye!”
Phone rings again, at about 7:45. Fully knowing what is coming, I hand the receiver to Wife. “Oh, hi!” she says to Friend Number 3. “Things are fine! We’re getting pretty excited. Me? I’m feeling fine.”
And so it goes as we hurdle towards our final day as a married, childless couple. The phone rings (and rings and rings), and it inevitably will be someone asking about Wife. Her friends, her family; my friends, my family. They don’t ask, “Hey, Bookfraud, how are you doing?” They don’t ask, “Hey Bookfraud, are you feeling OK?” And they don’t say, “Bookfraud, are you sick of everybody ignoring you? Just wait. It’s going to get a hell of a lot worse.”
I know what they are saying. For though I am capable of great acts of self-delusion — it’s what keeps me writing — I am not blind to the fact that from now until the baby is born and several weeks afterwards, I am just an appendage, a barrier to be overcome. Everyone cares about the woman carrying the baby, for it is she who ultimately holds the hopes and desires of everyone around her; i.e. grandparents to be.
Lewis: doesn’t look like a carrot
Nobody really cares about the baby seeder. My job is essentially done and the worthiness for the rest of my life depends upon my performance as a provider, father, and fellow who just doesn’t get in the way.
My cousin, who has two children of his own, put it well when he said that my mother and my in-laws will suddenly have a Whole Lotta Love for this infant, who, as he put it, is substitute for the infant stolen from them when I grew up.
Michael Lewis, the author of Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, and several other amazing tomes of non-fiction, wrote how once his wife (Tabitha Soren, the former MTV talking head) entered the hospital in labor, his job was, essentially, to get the hell out of the way. No matter how many times he told dear Tabs that she could do this, the pain was going away, or that she could make it through this, the world of nurses and doctors and relatives treated him like an elevator operator.
He was there, helping people get on their way, but he really wasn’t necessary:
[U]p until the moment the child is born, the husband in the delivery room is in an odd predicament. He’s been admitted to the scene of the crisis but given no serious purpose. He’s the Frenchman after the war resolution has passed.
Or, . . . → Read More: Mr. Irrelevant
I promised that I would post something every day until Baby Raoul is born. This could be any day now, but it could be two or three weeks.
The post below got sidelined for reasons as picayune as they are dull.
What to say? I’m reading banal baby books, and my brain has turned to mush.
My eyes waver when open up something substantial.
Wife is reading “Special Topics in Calamity Physics,” which makes me want to throw up. (The author’s success, that is).
I still despise George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Republicans in general.
Some things never change.
Anybody who knows me will say, “That Bookfraud despises pretentious people, writing, and art. That’s probably why he can’t sit through a ballet, video installations, and ‘Jackass 2.’”
Those people would be right. I hate pretense, for the simple reason that most of the time, I don’t get what the bugger is trying to say, making me look stupid. I’d rather be hit with a sharply hit line drive in the face than look stupid. So I’ll just ignore the whole thing altogether.
Hand-in-hand with pretense goes snobbery. If you don’t understand a work of art, thinks the snob, you must be uncivilized or just plain dumb.
I’ve been cogitating on this ever since I started seeing raves for Joanna Newsom’s “Ys,” a 2006 CD full of long, digressive tracks filled with heavy orchestration, harps and oblique but poetic verse.
Wondering what the fuss was about — “Ys” seemed to be on every “Best of 2006” list out there — I downloaded a couple of tracks.
To say this was difficult to listen to is like saying it’s hard to listen to the screams in a psych ward. Newsom is undeniably talented with the harp, but her compositions head towards atonal, her lyrics are digressive, and she has a voice that sounds as if it was born from the unholy union of Kate Bush and a hillbilly. It’s like listening to Schoenberg while a train screeches to a stop.
It’s pretense personified. Only snobs (i.e. critics) could get into this crap.
Ah, but you’ve probably spotted my hypocrisy. Only someone who is a snob would even mention Schoenberg (see extremely constipated-looking man, below), and only a person with amazing pretense would even compare Newsom to a classically trained composer. That’s my weakness. When it comes to music, I’m a snob. And I hate myself for it.
Twelve tones and 1,000 broken eardrums
I was one of those insufferable teenage boys who defined his friends by what graced their turntables. If you hated The Beatles, the Stones, Dylan, or the Clash, I probably would not have been your friend. You just didn’t have taste.
This snobbery got worse through college, as I learned more about music, proving that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I went so far as to write embarrassing letters to friends why they had to listen to the DKs and surrounding oneself with bad music was a living death.
As I expanded my horizons, my sense of superiority grew with it. You don’t like Coltrane? You don’t even own any Coltrane? Or even any Charlie Parker, Lionel Hampton, or Dizzy Gillespie? You troglodyte!
But it wasn’t until started going to the symphony in my mid-20s that my snootiness grew completely out of control. I signed up for a concert subscription, bought CD after CD, and really listened to them.
Today, classical music is the only kind I ever attend in concert — about five to ten times a year, on average. I’ve probably been to the symphony or recitals about 50 or 60 times.
Of course, I would never mention such a number gratuitously in order to show how cultured and intellectually superior I am over knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who wouldn’t know a concerto from a symphony from a Paris Hilton album.
This is pretty strong stuff from a . . . → Read More: Whence Thou Art a Snob
I thought about calling this post “Illness as Metaphor.” However, that would represent a kind of intellectual plagiarism, as well as skirting the matter, and I have read about as much Susan Sontag as I have Vladimir Polensk Isneninov (out of print).
There’s no gentle or cerebral way to put it: I suffer from frequent illnesses of the bacterial variety, and I will probably not be relieved of this condition for the rest of my years.
These colds— attacks of sinusitis, to be precise — have plagued me for most of my adulthood. Though one can take preventive steps to avoid contracting them, once I get sick, it’s Mucous City, Exhaustionville, City of Slug.
When I get sick, it’s also a great excuse not to write, not to blog, not to visit other’s blogs. And I they can help me ignore world poverty, the war in Iraq, global warming or any other inconvenient truths that my mess up my fragile psyche.
As Wife heads down the road to delivery and I down the road to impending happiness and responsibility, I realize how much this tendency to become ill makes me rather melancholy. I’ve been able to attend work, and been managing to post to the blog, but the rest of blogworld has been a void — no visits, no comments, nothing.
I catch sinus infections at predictable times: changes in the weather, lack of sleep, time spent in arid places (after four days in Las Vegas without a humidifier, I came back ill. So much for what happens there staying there. Does that slogan also mean VD?).
Sinusitis will turn you into this man
The latest such incident comes after a trip to visit my wife’s family over the holidays. I awaited at a gate full of screaming children and rode in an airplane with recirculated air. I slept in dry apartment and would wake up feeling as if someone had an extremely large finger up my nose. I ate a lot of food saturated in fat and drank at least one too many beers each night.
By the time we returned, I couldn’t breathe out of my nose. Each night I slept with open mouth, and I often I awoke with the sensation that somebody had been dumping sand down my throat.
For those uninitiated with sinus infections, they are a beast of a particular nature. Not really a “cold,” but not the flu, either, they are marked by heavy congestion, exhaustion, and massive amounts of mucous (of such a particular green-brown-yellow tint that trying to describe it would do it no justice).
The thing that sucks about getting a sinus infection is that it lays you low for a couple of weeks, but not badly enough to miss work. It makes you unproductive, listless, and stupid, which makes for a great imitation of the incompetent managerial class. One is essentially transformed into a life-support system for a snot factory.
About a dozen years ago, things had gotten so bad that I was getting sick every month. I had been to doctors – many doctors, each who had his own, incorrect theory about the source of my misery. I had allergies. Asthma. Chronic fatigue syndrome. I probably would have been diagnosed with mad cow had it been in vogue.
Finally, it . . . → Read More: It Makes Me Sick
I was fully prepared to devote an entry to a topic utterly revolting, infantile, and repulsive, but I thought, ah, what the hell, let’s try something different.
It has been a well-repeated (if not proven) factoid that the longer a couple is together, the more they look alike. This is probably why Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock are now Splitsville, though I not know if Pam dumped him because she worried about morphing into her husband one day, or if Kid Rock had nightmares that enormous mountains of silicone would one day form on his chest.
Also, if one does tend to look like their partner over time, I imagine that all the 22-yearold Russian supermodels with 80-year-old millionaire boyfriends are headed for a bad ending, though Viagra has already made their pretty lives pretty miserable.
If Wife started looking like me, but I would not leave her, although our sex life would be kaput, for I might start thinking I was making love to myself, and you shouldn’t make love to someone you hate.
Although our physical appearances are in no threat of converging, of late our creative states are similar, and sadly for the worst. I’m uninspired, she’s uninspired, and this makes for a lot of bad writing. Wife is in the desperate race to finish her novel before she gives birth in a few months, and I am in the desperate race to figure out what to do with my novel before I die, which may happen any day between now and 2060.
It’s not just that we’re unhappy with our respective output; it’s that we’re just not feeling the urge to create. Nothing I read is inspiring me, ditto for Wife, and about the only thing that moves either of us is music. Which we don’t compose.
(Wife can write circles around yours truly. For her, a slump means her writing is merely excellent; for me, merely excrement.)
This lack of creativity can come across in other unpleasant manifestations. Wife is angry at me for some supposed household infractions, including (but not limited to) lack of initiative in cleaning, cooking, conducting “research” for forthcoming baby, and other imagined and real offenses that all have to do with domesticity.
I can get rather pissy at Wife for her getting pissy at me, and the cycle of love-anger-love begins anew. Much of this anguish concerns the onset of Wife’s pregnancy, and the natural fears that motherhood will extinguish her career — if I don’t help out, she’ll be swamped and depressed, unable to ever write again.*
By all accounts of friends who have experienced the miracle of birth, writing fiction does not exactly take precedence when Junior is projectile vomiting while soiling through several thousand diapers a day. A parent’s free time is when baby is napping, and if you are lucky, you’ll be napping as well. When it comes to writing, the first six months — well, fuggitaboutit.
It is this certainty that should make both Wife and I writing fiends instead of neurotic masses of indecisive chum. Of course, we’ll get back into the swing of things, perhaps before retirement age.
Already, well before my child is born, I am envisioning a fatherly talk I’ll have with my son (ultrasound confirmed it’s a wiener). Such a talk often entails . . . → Read More: Altered States
Over Thankgiving at the family home, I was exposed to a major problem that threatens households across our nation. It has nothing to do with breast feeding, reasonable day care, or the price of Huggies. Nor is it about affordable health care or killing several innocent adults to get your hands on a PlayStation 3. It is something more sinister.
The rot to which I refer is called “Thomas the Tank Engine.” And we have literature to blame.
For the uninitiated—that is, for those without children—this Thomas plague looks like just another innocent juvenile obsession. “Thomas” is a series of children’s books featuring a steam train engine with round eyes and moon face. He and his train “friends” reside on the island of Sodor (insert joke here), and have adventures about hauling freight, people, and farm animals (another joke here).
Humans and other anthropomorphized vehicles also reside on Sodor, which, upon close inspection, is quite like the island known as Great Britain, from where Thomas originated.
You can pee out of his face
This British Invasion is as bad as the War of 1812, and not nearly as entertaining as the Beatles. It has taken over the hearts and minds of children across the United States, infiltrating their souls with annoying songs and consumer lust to make Imelda Marcos blush. Specifically, it has taken over the life of my young nephew, who has been thick in the Heart of Darkness known as Sodor Island for at least half of his 42 months on earth. He plays with the trains, he watches the show, he hides in his Thomas the Tank Engine tent—it’s all Thomas, all the time.
You see, the books spawned a television show, first in England, and now in the U.S., along with Thomas train sets, which involve hundreds of miniature trains. Thousands of trains. Not to mention tracks, buildings, and other model-train-esque apparitions, both in wood and metal versions (Twice the Cost! Twice the Fun!). This ignores Thomas kiddie wear, bed sets, clocks, temporary tattoos, toenail clippers, and enema kits.
Google “Thomas the Tank Engine” and you are confronted with 1.36 million hits, many for buying Thomas the Tank Engines and Friends Craptastic Crap. (Personally, in the name of verisimilitude, I think they should have Thomas-brand anthracite coal, a three-fingered, one-eyed engineer action figure, and a soot-covered boiler doll that sings, “I’ve been working on the fucking railroad, all my fucking days.”)
“I transform into a wallet-sucking monster”
This didn’t happen in a vacuum. An Englishman by the name of Rev. W. Awdry started the book series in 1945. Since then, “a generation of children have grown to love the cheeky engine and friends on the Island of Sodor,” proclaims the Random House Web site. Apparently, the books just weren’t enough. Somebody named Britt Allcroft turned “Thomas the Tank Engine” into a television show in the 1980s, which, Random House says without a shred of irony, “can now be seen in over 120 countries and inspired a multimillion dollar ancillary entertainment empire.”
That’s it. It’s not about literature, it’s about maintaining the multimillion dollar ancillary entertainment empire! Rule Britannia!
This rant probably stems from the fact that I will soon be a father, and I am already making plans to keep this smoke-blowing monstrosity as far away from my child as . . . → Read More: Thomas the Money-Making Engine
Like most any man crashing into middle age, yours truly could afford to shed a few pounds, especially considering that my knees and back are slowly disintegrating into a fine powder-like substance one associates with ground chalk.
Of course, I want to be in good health when Wife gives birth next year, so it would pay for me to lose weight. As an exacting, thorough researcher, I have discovered the following fool-proof, scientifically proven, guaranteed-not-to-fail weight-loss techniques: the Palm Beach Diet, the Akins Diet, the Ultra Lipo Lean diet, the Laze Diet System, the Phat Predator diet, the Loose the Bums Diet, and, my favorite, something called “Zumba by Beto,” which has the distinction of sounding like the name of an Orc in the Slavic-language version of “The Lord of the Rings.”
I imagine that in this pantheon of diets is the idea that if one expends more calories than one consumes, weight will indeed be lost. The simple plan for me would be to lay off the nightly six-packs of Schlitz Special Reserve.
Research apparently posits that low-calorie diets will help prolong life, with some adherents to this philosophy eating 1,500 calories a day, though most people on such limited nourishment are so weak that they can’t think of anything except their next meal, have stopped paying attention to the world at large, and will be hit by a bus.
(And if it turns out tomorrow morning that the bad guys keep control of Congress, I’ll put on 10 pounds this week, cashing in my Dunkin’ Donuts gift certificates.)
She never went to Taco Taco Taco Bell
Diet plans generally do not inspire great literature—Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” aside—but food and drink does, all the way back to Eve pulling that damn apple off the tree, continuing through that first Roman who said “in vino veritas,” through Rabelais, that fine master of excess, and so on.
But “food writing”—non-fiction about the “art of eating” and other such swill—that’s another rodeo altogether. I’ve always thought that food and wine reviewing must be one of the hardest of all critical pursuits. You can only describe how something tastes in so many ways until fresh adjectives become scarcer than truffles; I would get stuck after “hot and spicy,” “spicy like,” and “spicy spice.”
I imagine there are great sentences in describing the joys of food, but while I love to eat and drink, I am no connoisseur of food and wine writing. If something tastes good, I like it, if it tastes bad, I hate it, and no amount of verbal bullying is going to make me enjoy olive paste or curried tomato chutney.
There was a time when I met in succession several comely women who said they wanted to quit their professional job and become a food writer, “like M.F.K. Fisher,” who wrote several memorable tomes on food. I hadn’t read the estimable Ms. Fisher, but this “I wanna write like M.F.K.” mania, which seemed to have peaked in the early 1990s, was replaced with “I wanna write a screenplay” craze, then “I wanna write children’s books,” and finally “I wanna write a blog (and get a book deal),” all of which were elaborate ways of saying “I wanna do anything but spend one more fucking day as a lawyer.”
One detects the faintest whiff . . . → Read More: Up With Food, Down With Foodies