Thursday, October 26, 2006

And Why Am I Doing This?

A pattern has emerged. Twice this week, in the early hours of the morning, during the weird state between sleep and wakefulness, I have found myself trying to create sentences that don't contain the letter e. I have no idea why this is happening. I'm not perturbed with any of the people I know whose names begin with the letter e (my sister Erin, my nephew Eric). It's such a truly odd event that it really makes me contemplate how our brains work and why they sometimes don't seem to, or seem to have a mind of their own. Really. Of all the things to do before begrudgingly getting out of bed and getting ready for work, why craft sentences that ban one letter? I should point out that I never get very far in these sentences before I hit a point where the only word that will suffice is one that contains the dreaded letter. Then I get frustrated and start again.

There was a writer, George Perec, who wrote an entire novel A Void that does not contain the letter e. Perec believed in art as a sort of game. He would create arbitrary and difficult rules for his work, thinking that the true creative act came from working within the confines of these rules. After completing A Void, Perec did the only thing a true smart ass could: he wrote an entire short story in which the only vowel used is e. That's right: a coherent (thought that word didn't appear) short story without the letters a, i, o, or u.

Is it difficult to do?

To fashion a thought that says what you want to say but not tripping up on your individual ban of an important, if not mandatory, bit of information -- this is not child's play. If it wasn't difficult, I would float through many additional hours in my own land of nod during past mornings. But no. A task that cuts through sloppy thoughts, its origin in play, soon slips into compulsion and the gifts of your night's forty winks quickly vanish as said compulsion is paramount. So I'll stop now, a happy solution that acquits your's truly of this limiting task and may spawn much calm...until my alarm clock rings.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Shopping While Under The Influence

Soooo...I bought a painting last week while drunk.

Not drunk, exactly, but I had a couple of beers with dinner. Because I don't imbibe much anymore, my tolerance is low (something friends have been saying about me for years). In any case, I woke up Saturday morning with a headache and then slowly remembered "Oh yeah. I bought a painting last night."

A friend of a friend used to order from during his benders. A box of books would mysteriously arrive, usually during mid-week. "I don't remember ordering this" he'd think. "I want it, but I didn't order it." Then he would check his history at amazon and discover that an order was placed from his computer in the wee hours of a Saturday or Sunday morning, a time that he had no recollection of.

On my way home after dinner last week, I stopped in a neighborhood art gallery which was having an opening. This was probably a mistake. It wasn't an impulse buy: I recall taking time to decide between two paintings as to which one I liked better. I chatted with the gallery owner, who was carrying her newborn at the time. I asked her if I should negotiate the price with the baby. A dumb joke, but she laughed. She complimented my taste (cause that's what gallery owners do) and introduced me to the artist who I suspect was drunk, too.

Happily, the painting isn't expensive and I can afford it. To the best of my recollection, it's a good painting although I am a little nervous about picking it up the first week of November. I'm afraid my reaction might be "what did I see in this?"

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Stained Man

From the comment section of the previous post:

Number 2 Sister said...
What the hell is with this new subtitle --"Refutation and Overthrow of Falsely So-Called Knowledge" ?! Sounds kind of arrogant. If I didnt' know "The Hanged Man" was you, I'd keep right on surfing after seeing that subtitle.

I was really partial to the former subtitle that referred to spilling things on yourself. It was humorous. It was humble. It was true.
(factoid for anyone not related to us: All of the Hughes progeny spill on themselves. It makes our wedding dinners easy to find in over booked hotels. Just look for the room full of people with stained shirts and you're there.)

Oh believe me, I'm still spilling things on myself. In fact, just last week I was talking to a co-worker about something work-related. When I finished, she nodded her head and then pointed to my chest: I had slopped red marinara sauce on my white shirt. I responded the only sensible way. I yelled "Goddammit!" and got some club soda.

The new subtitle is not my original. I stole it, word for word, from the title of a five-volume book by Irenaeus, the second century Christian philosopher. "Refutation" was his interpretation of the four gospels, and was influential on the council at Nicea when they decided what beliefs would make up the Catholic (ie "universal") Christian Church. In the early years of Christianity, there were many sects, each with varying interpretations of Christ's words and actions. Irenaeus sought to establish an orthodox system of beliefs, and made plain that those who strayed from these beliefs were heretics. So if the title sounds arrogant, well, take it up with Irenaeus.

Personally, I thought it was funny. In these days when language is used to completely confuse and obscure (ie - "The Clean Air Act" which actually increases the number of pollutants allowed in the atmosphere) something about the strength and the directness of the words amused me, not to mention how completely inappropriate they were for this website.

I never intended the subtitles to be permanent, so I'll probably be changing it soon.

Fun with SpellCheck: For "Irenaeus," "ironies" was suggested, and the "Nicean" Council should actually be the "Nice" Council.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Little Life Lessons from Turner Classic Movies

The following descriptions of what's playing on Turner Classic Movies this month actually provide some truisms about life.

"A young doctor tries to keep a neurotic beauty from being committed."

"After marrying a drunken playboy, a young girl tries to capture his heart while he's sober."

"A society woman courts heartache when she falls in lover with her chauffeur."

"A ruthless financier will stop at nothing to control a 100-story office building."

"A father's blind devotion turns his son into a lying cad."

"A failure in the U.S. defense system threatens to start World War III."

"A hat-check girl gets rich quick when she saves a millionaire's life."

"A possessive son's efforts to keep his mother from remarrying threaten to destroy his family."

"A plain young woman's money makes her prey to fortune hunters."

"A scarred veteran and a homely woman are transformed by love."

"A young priest revitalizes a failing parish and brings new life to the elder priest."

"An ambitious duke uses his executioner henchman to kill his way to the crown."

"A detective tries to solve a murder in a house full of suspects."

"When she's branded as a 'bad girl' a troubled teen fights for her parents' approval."

"A good girl raises her popularity when pretends to be bad."

"A young girl dreams of winning acceptance from a gang of surfers."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Here's Gin In Your Eye...

In the comments section of the "Unfortunate Trend" post, Erin said:
I think it's nice that you ran into two exes and neither one of them yelled at you are threw a drink in your face.*

No, no, never had a girl throw a drink in my face -- never dated Bette Davis. I did, however, have a guy throw a drink in my face once. Not coincidentally, he did great impressions of Bette Davis, both pre- and post-stroke.

In my early twenties I had gone to visit college friends who happened to have HBO (a luxury in those lean years, but no, that's not why I went to visit them). While there, we watched several episodes of "Kids In The Hall" and was I surprised to discover how funny the show was. I had previously seen an episode on a "free-HBO" weekend, and thought they kinda blew -- nothing worse than comedy that tries too hard. But I liked what I saw on second exposure.

Shortly after, I was at a party and regaling my friends Ben and Cindy with my badly-remembered renditions of the skits I had seen. I was telling them about "Running Faggot," which featured a catchy song about a folk-hero homosexual who dressed like Davy Crokett and ran from town to town, solving the frontierspeople's problems ("He stopped the carnage / by gettin' folks a talkin' / 'stead just a sqawkin'/ sqawkin' and a gawkin'" and "See the faggot / he feed a puppy"). However, I was singing this song within earshot of my friend Will, who was gay and expressed his displeasure with my cavalier use of the word "faggot" by throwing his Tanqueray and tonic in my face. "Oops," he said. "I guess my hand just slipped."

While wiping the gin from my face, I tried explaining to Will that the song came from a skit I had seen on tv, and that he would probably love the show too, etc etc. He wasn't having any of it. It didn't help my cause that Ben and Cindy found the slapstick of my getting doused funnier than any of the skits they were hearing about second-hand. I was eventually vindicated: Will did become a big fan of "Kids In The Hall" when he saw them.

I could be wrong, but I don't think there's anyone whose first impulse would be to throw a drink in my face -- a fact I would like worked into my eulogy, if possible.

*I recognise the use of "are" in this sentence is a typo, unless my sister has begun speaking like a pirate. Ahhh...and wouldn't that be great?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Recent Readings

Two passages I liked from my recent reading. One short, one long. One sacred, one enjoyably profane.

"During the summer of 1585, [King Henry III of France]'s mother, Catherine de Medicis, a brilliant diplomat despite being in her sixty-seventh year and riddled with syphilis..."
The Pope and The Heretic* by Michael White, pg 83

" of the Buddha's disciples went to him and asked to be shown Heaven. The Buddha said, "If you want to see Heaven, you will have to see Hell first." The disciple agreed. The Buddha took them to Hell, when an enormous banquet table was set up, piled high with fabulously delicious food. Unfortunately, all of the diners had, instead of hands, enormously long forks on the end of their wrists, and they kept trying to get the food into their mouths, but could not reach them. They wailed and gnashed their teeth in misery. The Buddha then took his disciple to Heaven. Heaven was exactly the same situation -- diners at a sumptuous banquet table, with long forks on their wrists instead of hands. The only difference was that, in Heaven, everyone was feeding each other."
2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl by Daniel Pinchbeck, pg 330-1

*No, it's not a romance novel.