Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, Sorta

It’s 11:30 on New Year’s Eve as I write this. My loud next door neighbors are having an exceptionally loud party in their backyard. Well and good, it’s the sort of holiday that calls for celebration and a certain degree of noise.

What amazes me is how fiercely banal they are. Mild hip-hop blasts about ten feet from my desk, not quite loud enough to rattle the windows. Someone just screamed giddily for everyone to go inside to play Pictionary. (They’re not.) Another yelled that she isn’t going to drink as much soda in the New Year. They’re all in their 20s or 30s, but they’re shouting conversation like they’re 90 and lost their hearing aids. I keep expecting to hear complaints about AARP and the proposed changes to the Readers Digest. Children wander in and out, plaintive cries of “Mom!” a dissonant counterpoint to the urban elevator music.

It’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, given their volume I cannot choose but hear. The size of the packaging at Costco is the current topic and everyone is surprised by it. Go figure.

They’re having fun. I could be annoyed, that would be easy, it’s annoying. I’ve done my time at those kinds of parties. Now I’m enjoying not having to be somewhere I don’t want to be. If the dogs aren’t bothered, then neither am I, even though they’re all singing “Party like a Rock Star” off-beat.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Poor Mr. Warhol

Andy Warhol was right about the 15 minutes of fame. It’s a pity our highly evolved short-attention-spanned society replays it all in endless montages at the end of the year, thus obviating the original concept. “15 minutes plus reruns” doesn’t have the same ring.

Still, Warhol’s point was a good one. Once upon a time you had to do something significant to be known. Art, science, literature – don’t forget, mathematicians were rock stars back in the day. But even then not everyone was a Leibniz. Most of them were like most of us. All hail the ordinary! Forget the biggies, let’s look at the little people who made it all possible.

Imagine how different the past was to live through, rather than to read about. One of my beloved etiquette books points out that the genteel-est Victorian aristocracy had hygiene we would now find repellent. That’s the upper class. Think what normal people were like. Think about what they did, what they wore, where they pooped before plumbing. Garderobes and chamberpots, anyone? At least they couldn’t tweet about it.

History will know us by our TV, our tabloids, our video games and our eternal gonzobytes of Facebook updates. It’s not Caravaggio or Bronte, but that’s who we are and that’s what we do. Look at any of the “Top 100 of 2009” lists and know in your heart that this is as good as our culture gets and fame doesn’t always last a full 15 minutes.

It makes me want to tweet a haiku for posterity.

Friday, December 25, 2009


My darlings, I beg your indulgence. This Christmas was so perfect that I can’t just let it disappear with the last of the dishes, I must record it for posterity.

There was food (which I made, and which was kindly received) and gifts and most of all, there were people. Our table was full, with people we love, and under it Jonah had his buddy Big Dog. Okay, technically the Big Dog doesn’t fit under the table, but you get the idea.

I’ve said many times that I enjoy Christmas, but I never expected all this. I sit here in happily amazed contentment, grateful for the good fortune that brought such wonderful individuals to my life.

Don’t worry, I’ll return to our regularly scheduled gripes and rants soon enough. Right now I have that oft-maligned word “bliss”, and I had to tell you about it. I hope and trust that Santa was good to you, too.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Humbug!

There’s cranky and then there’s grouchy. Go farther along that spectrum, down down down the rabbit hole of a bad mood and when you hear a sickening plop, that’s where I was.

Aside from all the mishigas of Christmas (and one salesperson has already been amused today by my using Yiddish terms when referring to Christmas) my headlight has been burned out for a few days. The last time I tried replacing it on my own turned disastrous, so I knew I’d be dropping off the car, temporarily severing the umbilicus, in the immediate future.

I just didn’t realize how immediate that future would be.

When I passed the garage on my way home, I poked my head in to make the appointment. Just that, I neither expected nor wanted attention. My lovely, beautiful guys dropped everything to take care of me. They changed the oil, too, and wouldn’t take payment for any of it, just wished me a Happy Holiday. Thus, when I got home shortly thereafter, I dropped everything to make scarycookies™ for them. Paltry thanks for a gesture more magical than anything that happened to Charlie Brown’s little tree, but I brought them hot from the oven, and they were pleased.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Figgy Redux

Christmas is great. I love the lights and the nutmeg and the fact that people pretend to be nice to each other for most of December.

Enough sentimentality. I’m going back to a discussion of epistemology, rationalism and dog pee on Twitter. Hugs all around, bye for now.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Just Checking In

It’s about 10:30 on Sunday night. I’m supposed to be hitting my daily joke list but I’m not, I’m writing to you. The good news is that although I started with 20, now I’m writing 35 jokes a day on the most obscure topics imaginable. My favorite has got to be “There is a stick lying on the sidewalk.” I did 35 on that, and I think four were genuinely funny. There were 35 on “Rain.” You get the idea.

There was a time when a drunk guy could make people laugh by putting a lampshade on his head. I never got that one. If I told you the topic that has me stymied at the moment, you wouldn’t believe me.

Wax on, wax off. Do anything often enough and you build up a rhythm. That’s the whole point of the exercise. I can knock out the cadence of a joke without thinking about it now. Big whup. Funny is still the gold ring, and no matter how much we’ve been conditioned by Life’s laugh track, funny is still a random spark that only occasionally brings Frankenstein to life. When it does, it’s more often Boris Karloff than Peter Boyle.

Okay, back to it. Time to channel my inner Shecky and kill.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Age Before Beauty

Robert offered some excellent music for background, which I set aside because it just sounded, well, too young. I can’t really explain it any other way.

Throughout my lifetime there have been complaints about how our culture is too youth-oriented. When I was young, those complaints sounded whiny and envious. Now I look at all the Hollywood-pretty faces around me and wonder if they’ll ever develop distinctive personalities. Physical perfection is no longer sufficient for beauty, I require substance with the style.

The trade-offs of age are palpable and almost measurable. Where I used to have wild creativity, now I have perspective. You might say I can’t follow more than one thought at a time, but I call that “better focus”. Despite having blown off my daily workout this morning, discipline is a norm, not an effort.

Maybe it’s evolution. It’s convenient to prefer where I am to where I was, and certainly more comfortable than the alternative. Just as writing this was more comfortable than hitting today’s list of 20 jokes, but I am hoisted on my petard of discipline and have to get back to it now.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Saturday Night's Alright

It was a busy night in a nice Italian restaurant in our neighborhood. At the next table were two people in their 20s or 30s, and a woman who was older than them but not that old. Say 60s, maybe. The older woman had brought her meal with her, a sandwich on rye bread so fresh it smelled delicious from where we sat, and some things in Tupperware.

That’s the whole story, a person bringing a complete meal into Bella Vista. There’s no punch line. It was just so strange that I had to tell you about it.

In other news, I’m continuing my “20 Jokes A Day” regime. I lost a day when my computer died, but picked up immediately with an even worse topic than lawns, also contributed by my gym partner (to whom I will no longer refer as “snarky” lest he find me something even more dire) – dimples. Yes, I came up with twenty jokes about dimples. Today I selected my own topic: “Robert is so sarcastic, that…” Okay, it’s a gimme, but it’s Saturday night and I wanted to be done quickly.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Even Garbo Was Funny

It all started when I decided that I’m just not funny anymore. It goes in phases, sometimes I can see punch-lines happening around me, and sometimes I can’t. Twitter makes it obvious when I can’t, because I have nothing snappy to tweet. I’ve had a few gems lately, but I had to work for them.

Drastic action was called for, so I took the plunge. Many of Robert’s comedy writing books recommend writing between 20 -50 jokes on a single topic, every day for a month.

Now, I’ve never taken a writing class, let alone read a book on how to write. I’ve never done a writing exercise of any kind. That said, I write professionally. So I thought, how hard can this be?

You may laugh now. Really. The voices in my head won’t stop cackling at my expense. You might as well join them.

I’m on the third day, and I’m already stuck. Just finding topics is a nightmare. Day One was ten jokes about deviled eggs. Day two was twenty on bagels. Today, my snarky gym partner suggested “lawns” as a topic. I’m on #11 and so stuck I stopped to write this.

Don’t worry, I won’t post any of my efforts here. Why should we both suffer?