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Archive for the month “May, 2015”

CELERY AND OTHER USELESS FOODS

I like food.

You like food.

Lots of us like food. Some more that others.

Some, like my kids, have sort of an adversarial relationship with food. They’re always wary, always suspicious that the tortilla might be hiding a red pepper; that the sauce might have mushrooms in it. Other days, their relationship with their food is like some f-ed up soap opera relationship; one day they love chicken, the next day it’s garbage, the day after that it’s the best creation ever – after the iPad.

Some, it is safe to say, like food a little too much. They shop for only the finest cheese in can; the crustiest bread; the snootiest wine. They build shrines to food: boutique restaurants and TV networks.

So food is important to us for many reasons that, nutritional and otherwise. And there’s a lot of great stuff out there, even for common folk like me. Nice cuts of meat. Fresh veggies. Decadent deserts.

And yet…

For all the great food out there, there are the other things in the fridge. The foodstuffs we don’t talk about. The ones we look at and think, “Who the hell would eat that?” The food we don’t quite understand how it crawled up on our plates and claimed a place on our food pyramid.

Take mushrooms, for example. For the record, I love mushrooms; on steak, in sauces, on pizza. Good stuff. Thing is, I don’t have a clue what good they are, nutritionally. My sense is they are good for you, but I don’t know why. Also, I feel a little guilty whenever I eat a mushroom and thereby leave yet another Smurf homeless.

Celery. It’s a lovely shade of green. It’s crunchy so you can pretend you’re snapping twigs or bones or whatever trips your trigger when you eat it. It warns the fifth Doctor by turning purple when certain gases he’s allergic to are present. (Ding. Obligatory Doctor Who reference.) But still, as a food (well, let’s not kid ourselves – as something food-like), it’s nothing but a place holder. It’s something you put on the plate for garnish, but that’s about it.

Speaking of garnish…

Parsley. Once in a while, a restaurant will put a parsley sprig on your entrée. You throw it off the plate and get on with eating the actually food. When I was a kid, Mom would roast potatoes in the oven and sprinkle parsley flakes over them. In college, I had a rabbit who loved the shit out a mound of parsley for breakfast. That’s the extent of my parsley knowledge. What is this stuff around for?

Water chestnuts. What are these? Veggie? Fruit? Garnish? None of the above? I have no idea. All I do know is they get in the way of my Chinese food. The only upside is playing table-top hockey with the egg rolls as sticks. I’ve been banned from four restaurants so far. But my goal percentage is really improving.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find a grocery store that stocks only foods I developed a taste for as a ten-year-old.

IS ALL WRITING THE SAME?

Years ago, I attended a novel-writing workshop. The presenter, a prolific novelist, opened the session by putting a DVD in the player and playing the opening scene from the movie My Cousin Vinny, the Joe Pesci comedy where Joe is a street-wise, New Yorker who just recently passed the bar ex.He is called down to a small town down south to defend his cousin and his cousin’s buddy who are charged with murdering someone while passing through town on their way to start college.

But you probably knew that.

The opening scene of the movie has no dialogue. it’s just a music montage following the boys’ car as they travel from New York, down south, headed to college. We know all this just by looking at the details; road signs, what they have in the backseat of their green convertible, the license plates. That, in fact, was the point of the exercise: to see how much information we could glean about these characters just by what was given to us on screen with no narration and no dialogue.

It was a very effective exercise. But it strikes me now as a weird choice for a novel writing class. We were learning about writing prose, not screenplays. One is all about the written word; conveying ideas on the page through reading. The other is about telling a story visually.

So why, when writers teach other writers,do they always go to movies and TV shows for examples? My Cousin Vinny. Mad Men. Lost. These all get trotted out for examples. A novelist and blogger I really like, Chuck Wendig, frequently cites the Die Hard movies when he talks about plotting. (By the way, check out his site, terribleminds. It’s fully of awesome, profane wisdom)

Why not try to prove a writing point about setting by citing a passage from a Michael Chabon novel; or vivid characters in a Stephen King novel? Do writers just assume other people don’t actually read books? These seminars are often writers talking to other writers. Surely other writers have read books?

Of course they have. So why not use some of those books as reference points? Is it because we watch more TV than we read? Do we assume a greater percentage of the attendees have seen the same shows than have read the same books? Is there something inherent in the visual nature of TV that emphasizes the SHOW in “show, don’t tell” better than passages from the books we’re supposed to be learning how to write?

Writing books should just be different than writing TV right?

Well, maybe not. All story telling is fundamentally the same. Make up characters, build a world, progress the character from A to B, screw with them a lot along the way. Maybe you could have a bunch of writers read from photocopies of some novel to get a point across, but watching a film clip makes more of an impact, fits more with the showmanship aspect of any presentation. And it’s simple.

Confused? Well, here’s let’s just watch this clip from …

Hey, that is easier.

GOOD NIGHT, DAVE

david-letterman-retirement

We’re running out of famous Daves

David Brenner. David Brinkley. Super Dave Osborne. Dave Thomas (the fast food one AND the comedian). Even the Famous Dave cookie guy is gone. I think. I could google it, but, you know, lazy.

And now Dave Letterman is retiring. May 20 will be the last “Late Show”. After he’s gone, who’s left for the Dave contingent? Duchovny? Tennant? Grohl?

All good Daves, but none as cool as Dave Letterman.

Honestly, I haven’t watched much “Late Show” the last few years. I kind of got bored with the late night talk show format. But back in the day, I thought these shows were awesome, especially Carson and Letterman. Of course, when I was a kid, they WERE the only late night talk shows. No Jimmys. No John Stewarts. Just those two. And they were plenty.

I loved to watch Carson long before I understood the jokes. And when, in my teens, Letterman came along with his “stupid pet tricks”, Velcro suits, and throwing things off tall buildings just ’cause it was cool, I was all in on the late night format. Plus, Letterman had no fucks to give long before it was fashionable. He said whatever he thought was funny, even if it was only funny to himself. I admired that.

On summer vacations from school, my friend Bob and I would stay up late to watch Letterman’s show (no DVRs back in the day), then critique the show’s comedy bits next day over games of pool. Bob went into broadcasting and I’m a writer now. Coincidence?

But eventually, in the later years of the NBC show, not giving f’s gave way to just being cranky. His heart maybe wasn’t into it so much for a while there, but I stuck with Dave.

He moved to CBS, a host reborn. He was energized, having a great time, trying to put on a great show, even while he refused to kiss ass, like some other late night hosts.

And then….the cranky, bored Dave came back. The show wasn’t as fun anymore. Other shows and interests came along and I stopped watching. Dave, meanwhile, left for a while and had bypass surgery. He came back, had a son and weathered a sex scandal.

I started watching again, sometimes. And something happened. We got post-modern Dave. He’s older and grayer and doesn’t suit up in Velcro or alka-seltzer anymore. But he’s been having fun again. Especially since the announcement of his retirement, Dave is loose and funny and frequently…kind?

I’d like to keep watching this iteration of Letterman, but it’s over. I’m excited to see what Colbert does with the show, but he probably won’t throw any pencils through fake glass windows, won’t do any top ten lists. Carson, Stewart, Ferguson. Everyone’s going. Or already gone.

But I think Dave is the one I’ll miss the most.

A CARNIVAL OF GLEE IN 2016!

So, the past couple weeks have been big for national politics. And not just because of deflated footballs.

No less than forty-eight candidates have declared their intent to run for president so far. And it’s only May. 2015.

It was bound to happen, I suppose. We’ve had the current guy for a while now. And there’s no shortage of narcissists  power-mongers concerned Americans who want to step up and lead this country out of the stuff you think is shitty and into a brighter whatever you desire to be brighter.

So running for president is all the rage. Come on, everyone’s doin’ it!

So, here I come…

I am officially announcing my candidacy for president of the United States.

[Pause and look inspiringly at the assembled throng of supporters, basking in their adoration and randomly tossed flowers and assorted undergarments.]

Now, there are a few ground rules for my candidacy:

1. If I win, I can’t move to the White House. Had to promise the wife that one.

2. No going on the campaign trail. I’m not much of a traveler because hotel beds always suck and unusual food throws off my digestion. You want to know what I think about stuff, you gotta come to me.

3.  I am not actually going to register as a candidate. I think there’s a fee or something? And maybe a petition? Getting signatures on a petition requires talking to people. Eww.

4.  I will not be choosing a running mate. Who needs the competition? Same reason you don’t hang out with people hotter and smarter than you. And it’s just awkward. You fight over who gets the good bunk on the campaign bus. Who gets the last drumstick at the rubber chicken fundraising dinners?Which brings me to the next point:

5.  No fundraising. Don’t send me any money. I don’t want it. Well, I do, but I’m totally gonna spend it on Doctor Who DVD’s, bourbon and cookie dough ice cream. Not a single dime of your dollars in my pocket will go toward my campaign. Let that be my first campaign promises. Oh, by the way…

6.  No campaign promises. Who needs the pressure? Everyone knows candidates don’t keep their promises. “No new taxes”, anyone?  How’d that work out? “We’ll close Guantanamo within a year.” Right. “I did not have sex with…”

*ahem*

Anyway…

Well, okay, here’s one promise: The United States will still exist in some capacity when I leave office.

7. In the run up to the election, will not be debating the other candidates. I’m right. They’re wrong. What is there to debate? Likewise, no “town hall meetings” because of that whole interacting with the public thing.

If you follow my simple rules and vote for me, here’s what you get in return: a president beholden to no one. I don’t like anybody so special interest groups aren’t going to be a problem. I’ll do what I want to do when I want to do it. If you don’t like it, fine. I’ll be in the Oval Office binge watching “House of Cards” if you change your mind.

You also get a president who believes in limited government. Limited in the sense that I don’t actually want to do any work. The rest of the government can do what it wants. Fight that war. Don’t fight that war. Health care for all. Health care for none. Whatever you want. You can make the border as secure as you want too, just so long as I can get to Tijuana for Mardi Gras (that’s where it is, right?) and Quebec for some poutine.

So get on the train, America! Follow me on Twitter @carnivalofglee and spread the word about my campaign – #COGIN2016. If every one of my followers brings along ten of their followers, why, together, there will be enough of us to take back this country. Or at least enough to put a dent in one of those Subway party subs.

A win either way. (Someone who cares about campaigning should totally put that on a bumper sticker.)

THE THRILLING ADVENTURE (LUNCH) HOUR

So. Friday was a day.

Pretty much a day like any other. I’ve written in this space before about how different days have a “feel”. But this past Friday just felt…meh. Got up. Went to work. Waited for the day to pass.

But when lunchtime rolled around, I thought, “Time for something different.” So, I got in the car, but it was more than a car today. Today, it was a vessel that would transport me to sixty minutes of epic excitement.

I drove down the usual road. But I didn’t stop at any of the usual haunts, despite the persistent siren call of mediocre meals. I was a hungry man; hungry for something better than the typical fare. I may only have an hour of freedom, but, by god, it was going to be one bitchin’ hour.

So I drove. There’s a place! Nah. There’s another one! Oh, the lot’s full. Hey, how about this place? I go there all the time…

I drove on. Farther than I usually drive. The drive part was starting to cut into the eating time I’d allotted. Gotta stop soon. Time to grab a vine and leap over the alligator fire-pit (boy, those alligators are pissed) to reach my caloric zenith.

So, I made a decision. And rolled to a stop in front of…

This place.

Subway photo

*Sigh*

Well, the sandwich was pretty good. I guess.

Then I went back to work.

Maybe I can have an adventure next Friday…

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