Sunday, June 21, 2009

Empowered by the internet, shares his thoughts on reading Infinite Jest.

I once heard a story about Eric Clapton from a friend of mine who prided himself on knowing/fabricating obscure trivia about musicians. Slow Hands saw Jimi Hendrix play a show for the first time and became so depressed he put down his own guitar for a year and moped. Convinced he would never achieve the level of comprehension and agility Jimi applied to his frets, Clapton failed to see a point in trying anymore. Like you (probably), I’m skeptical of the story, but it communicates the very feeling I had after reading Infinite Jest for the first time. This is the only thing beyond basic anatomical characteristics that I share with Clapton, or at least the fictional Clapton my high school friend also claimed inspired George Harrison’s song “Savory Truffle” with his chocolate addiction (could I verify these stories on the wild and wiki web? Sure, but knowing the answers might separate me that much more from Mr. Clapton, and then I would have to buy a guitar and learn to play just to get back within Kevin Bacon Degrees of fame): after removing my bookmarks and returning IJ to the bookshelf space that seemed too small, I swore off creative writing all together. Why read anything else? Why try to write anything else?

I don’t consider myself a Writer. I’m just a guy who uses significant chunks of his free time to skate pen tips across notebook paper (I find writing on my computer rather difficult given the infinite number of ways to distract myself from Peggle on down.) because it feels good. But the book I own two copies of (and probably need a third) left me feeling inadequate in ways that do not make very good punch lines to self-deprecating jokes. I stopped leaving my stories out in places where they might be found and read by family and friends, stopped trying to be witty or some semblance of engaging in my prose, and just stopped dreaming about a day when I could call myself “Writer” and not feel that nervousness that comes with maintaining flimsy frauds like the time I told my 4th grade classmates I could pick locks and then found myself surrounded by fifteen ten year-olds semicircled around me and a locked door with two paper clips in my hands. At least the broken segment of paper clip stuck in the tumbler delayed class for a few hours.
Like the archetypal dispirited but undeniably talented artist in that genre of film that tells us to never give up, I eventually worked up the madly desperate energy to pry IJ, keystone of my bookshelf, from its place between Oscar Wao and ZAMM and put my eyes to the pages again. When I found the thick side of the book to my right again and a stack of note cards to my left and my margins filled with notes and page references and two reader’s guides stacked next to my unnecessarily large mug of Vanilla Rooibos Tea and a laptop with several windows open, each to a different IJ website, I feared with all the force that warrants a phrase like ‘howling fantods’ that IJ the book had become what IJ is to the characters in the book (You know what I mean if you’ve read it already. If not, I really haven’t spoiled much for you.). And I wondered if what I was embarking on- a second, slower reading- was really the best thing for my now cracked-eggshell psyche’s remaining integrity.

Rereading IJ revealed a lot more about the book and about the world. I learned about Sierpinski Gaskets and Burl Ives. I watched movies directed by Michael Powell that made the guy at our rental place raise an eyebrow when I also rented Short Circuit 2 and When Harry Met Sally for my parents ( parents...). I had a lot of moments my little sister refers to as “OMG” along with whatever ridiculous punctuation combination would be used to express Eureka-grade satisfaction. And at the end I was left with the question “What the hell happened?!” Perhaps on this third reading…

Many people have already claimed IJ is their favorite book of all time and have imagined all genre of isolation scenarios in which they’d like to find themselves clutching a sky blue covered copy and I’m not much different from them except that I actually lived one such chunk of time (my last job) and found myself so deeply in Writer’s Funk that I ripped open the bag of M&Ms and let my mouth start melting ‘em (I couldn’t afford the truffles at the time). Eventually Catharsis won out. IJ is my JH, but we all have to strap our instruments of choice back on or risk losing all that will be missed.

I suppose I should offer you something along the lines of advice for reading this book given my two trips down the stack of plies. Read every page with full attention, there is nothing in this book that is not intentional or necessary. As the book rainbows slowly from the “to read” to the “already read” side, you’ll start to lose more sleep trying to tie things together; it’s a vicious battle with a text that simultaneously wants to entertain you, wants to reach you. I’m excited to join you.

Oh, and pg 223 is nice, but really it's not like a magic key or anything near the level of power suggested.

“You are loved.” -DFW

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You (This one)

I almost forgot, there will be some big renovations to my Bloggle in the near future. He's in need of some cosmetic enhancements (poor guy is pretty embarrassed by the term "Plastic Surgery"...Sorry Bloggy.). As you can see, he's already has some coloring done; thanks Bayfield Elementary 4th grade art class! (NOTE: There is no such elementary school to my knowledge and if there were, I wouldn't trust them with my bloggle until I had an opportunity to sit down with each student individually and assess his or her artistic abilities.) Among the up and coming procedures: Websites PaulStorm frequents, a poll perhaps?, and photos! Be on the lookout!

This One Goes Out to the One I Love (That's, not you. Her, the Girl with the Dancing Laugh.)

Customary Introduction
It’s hard to believe, but my blog will be three years old soon. It’s an exciting time in the life of a blog. Now that it’s potty trained and the braces are finally off, little Bloggy is getting ready to take those first big steps out of the internet and into the world of grown up media. He’s got his diagonal striped tie, vintage G.I. Joe lunch pail with drink tumbler, and a very polished 15 second Elevator Speech for why he should be hired. Newspaper editorial pages. Dear Rolling Stone Letters. Junk Mail. There’s so many things my little bloggle might grow up to be.

The two of us were sitting around the house Saturday, looking through our photo albums and reminiscing about all the great times we’ve had together. The House Mouse. Several wombat references. Reginald my Muse. My father and his many jellies. We laughed, we cried, we even cuddled a bit (which is totally acceptable since bloggles are really comfortable with their personal space and not at all emasculated by being Little-Spooned). When we got to a page of photos of me with the Griswold family (NOTE: The name “Griswold” is being used here in place of the real name of the family I’ve found myself surrounded by on more than 7 occasions. Griswolds, you know who you are.), Bloggy’s pointy little pixilated ears pricked up. Somehow, he had never heard about the weekend depicted in the pictures. I think what made him the most upset was the photo of the Gingerbread House Habitat for (Gingerbread) Humanity Renovation Project (More on that later). Bloggy loves frosting.

Realizing that I’d deprived an innocent bloggle of great material, I proceeded to tell him everything. And now, here it is, reproduced, digitally remastered in all its 2.1 stereo sound grandeur! There will be thrills, chills, spills, gills, frills, very few pills, and one sliced baby dill. That’s par for the course when you're with the Griswolds.

The Griswolds are an adventure seeking bunch. No clumping around the TV for them. Not when there’s nature to be conquered! Okay, Okay so SOME clumping occurs between the hours and 7 and 10AM as well as between 7 and 10PM, BUT from 10AM to 7PM they are all action. Clark Griswold, for example, is an accomplished snowshoe stomper and an amateur tobogganer. On a crisp MLK jr. weekend day, he persuaded the other Griswolds and one Me to strap on the deluxe rental snow shoes provided by the base camp of Lars Mountain and follow him deep into its forbidding forests; a terrifying terrain filled with snow-concealed abysses, crags, yetis, and the remains of the camps of failed expeditions to the tippy top of Lars Mountain (a staggering 215 feet above sea level!). Our caravan of explorers shuffled and stomped up and down, around, under and over, through, and all other directions. We came upon the tracks of either ourselves or monsters chasing us several times but fortunately encountered no Abominables, Snow Monsters, Sasquatches (Sasquatchi? Sasqueetches? Sasquapods?), or snow leopards.

One among our party, however, was almost lost to the vicious predatory Cockleburs. These are not Grandma’s Garden Variety, the wild Cocklebur of Lars Mountain has stickers that make Acacia Trees look like Chia Pets. Not only that, they’re carnivores. Like Rabid-and-Lyme-Diseased Wood Ticks carrying tiny steak knifes and just done observing their religious fasting type carnivores. AAAHH! She was able to escape, but only because Cockleburs, being plants, are not particularly bright (No brains. It’s science.) and mistook her scarf for a very long French Bread.

Surviving the Cocklebur attack, our company of adventurers came upon an old and abandoned trapper’s cabin. Legend has it that the trapper was lured to the icy depths of Lake Superior by the haunting call of Gordon Lightfoot’s masterpiece, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. According to legend, one that lives on from the Chippewa on down/Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee/The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead/When the skies of November turn gloomy. The Griswolds and I surmise that the trapper- alone and most likely a bit eccentric given his preference to live alone trapping Cockleburs rather than, say, work in retail at one of the trendy outdoor gear outlet stores, tried to beat Gitche Gumee and find the lost members of the E. Fitz using a Cockle-skin canoe. NOT a reliable nautical vehicle.

Mrs. Griswold challenged me and one of her very fine daughters to race one another in our bathing suits to the hot tub over an obstacle course of black ice, snow tufts, and ogling oglers. Stripped to as bare as we can be without causing parents to cover the eyes of their children and the elderly to shake their canes gingerly and make hoodlum remarks, my Griswold opponent and I charged out into the negative-Celsius weather toward the now capitalized HOT TUB because Holy Hungarian Goulash! It was COLD! Not “oh, I think I’ll put a sweater on, cold” More like So Cold My Innie Belly Buttons Sucked Even Further In To Conserve Body Heat Cold. Yeah, mull over THAT mental image for a bit, a puckering belly button. Eesh, I think I grossed out myself.

You probably know that Lars Mountain has one of the most frighteningly steep luge courses in the world. If not, I recommend going to see it. Don’t ride it, however; survival rates are pretty low and I am not into endangering my readers (unless you’re my enemy, in which case, depending on your level of evil, I may short sheet your bed). The Griswolds, who truly do laugh in the face of death (good naturedly, of course), fear no luge. Not one. So when I found myself standing atop Lars Mountain’s summit with a flimsy plastic toboggan in hand, I knew there was no backing out.

If it were possible for a mountain to have a grade steeper than vertical, Lars Mountain has it. At one point on my descent, I think I was upside down. Once I reached terminal velocity, I crashed into a young sapling tree. Medics were called, one of those big fluffy dogs with the tiny medical keg around its neck came bounding up and used its warm and saliva-spewing tongue to lick me out of the snow drift I was stuck in like a tent peg. A rescue helicopter was dispatched and people’s regularly scheduled television programs were interrupted to bring them the courageous rescue. I injured my Prideous Maximus and Selfus Respectoid, but otherwise came out of the mishap unscathed.

I had a delish (Sorry beautiful Griswold daughter) fish dish. I repeat, it was delish (not sorry this time).

After my near-fatal crash, I found myself reflecting on my life. How will I be remembered? Have I made the world better? Should I stop photocopying coupons for fun and profit? Do I really know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? Does tongue surface area matter? Do owls even like candy? Eventually, the string of ponderables brought me to the issue of Gingerbread people. Shrek was playing on TNT at the time; I took that as a divine sign that I was called to shelter the molasses-based Ginger-folk.

Elise…I mean, Griswold Daughter 1 and I knew that we could not build enough homes for the Gingers alone, we would need help. Short money for hiring, we chose instead to challenge the other Griswold daughter and her significant other to a good ol’ fashion Gingerbread House Raising. First prize; the love and affection of Momma and Poppa Griswold as well as rights to the front seats of automobiles for any trips taken into town for victuals and supplies.

I neglected to inform the younger Griswold of my previous career as a Lego-Architect. Truly the I.M. Pei of elementary school-aged builders, I have a real knack for assembling pre-fabricated parts. Elise and I quickly raised the walls of our home and shingled the roof, giving us plenty of time (and frosting) for landscaping and d├ęcor. Our little cottage shocked the brown sugar right out of the Ginger Family who won the bid to live there. That was pretty gross, but we understood. They were just really excited to move in. So, after cleaning up after Mr. and Mrs. Bread, we showed them around their new home. We chose to go with a NeoVictorian “Stick Style” home; the Breads were very impressed and really appreciated our decision to move away from contemporary GingerBread Trimming, opting instead for exposed trusses and soffits. I’ll pause here while you go on a Google-spree trying to figure out what all that mumbo was about.

If there’s one thing the Griswolds love (and wonder how I’ve neglected to mention until now), it’s Canasta-based card games. In particular, they are Hand and Foot Fanatics (HaFoFans). And when I say HaFoFans, I’m not exaggerating. Every Griswold has a set position at the HaFoTa (Hand and Foot Table) which is determined by a no-holds-barred, full contact, bull rushing of the HaFoTa by all HaFoFans. Failure to yield the right of way to charging HaFoFans can result in immediate incapacitation and the importance of HaFo to HaFoFans means you will be without medical attention for 4-8 hours so unless you happen to keep a Swiss-Rescue-Dog-with-Tiny-Medical-Keg Dog Whistle around your neck, you might as well dash a bit of salt and pepper on your head and wait for the Cockleburs.

After the weekend’s HaFo, Elise and I became suspicious that HaFoPerEns (Hand and Foot Performance Enhancers) might have “accidentally slipped” into some someone’s Cocoa Coffees. A few too many conveniently timed and executed plays of both the Hand and the Foot of a to-remain-nameless duo led to an enormous upset…Okay, okay, it was a totally legitimate win and I just really really really prefer winning to losing (I’d say almost 4:1) BUT, next time there will be mandatory HaFoPerEnTes (Hand and Foot Performance Enhancer Testings).

The Baby Dill
Advice: Do not order double cheeseburgers late at night from DQs in tiny towns where the pickles seem not only lacking in the Kosher-ness, but also in the whole “vegetable” quality. I’m rather certain I ate a gelatin molded to resemble a pickle in shape, but not at all in the two Ts: texture and taste.

Overall, it’s a fabulous time, staying with the WalGriswolds. I’m truly lucky and special; how else do you explain their not having relocated and continuing to answer my calls. Thanks Grisgrens, you’re wonderful people. Bloggy wishes he could come along next time.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Another Blog so soon?!

Another Blog?!?!

Ladies and gentlemen, your author is feeling particularly inspired today. The chef cap and “kiss the cook” apron are on and I’m cooking up an especially scrumptious batch of bloggings. So get out the stretch pants, folks, and saunter on up to the buffet. If you finish three heaping plates of blog, I’ll make you a T-shirt. Provided you pay for the shirt, permanent marker and postage, of course. As anyone who has played Monopoly with me knows, I’m not exactly Uncle Moneybags…The Community Chest was rigged!

The goals
As we all pretend to do, I’ve made a list of goals I will accomplish for the New Year. Yes, it’s mid January. Yes, said goals are traditionally a January 1 “thing.” BUT, my goal list will convince you all of the OK-ness inherent to my not-exactly-right-after-old-father-time-croaked-at-the-sight-of-a-new-year-baby-in-a-top-hat-and-partial-gratuitous-nudity goals. Besides, by starting a bit ‘late,’ I look that much more committed to people who aren’t in on my little secret. Said people with then feel a renewed gumption to stick to their goals. So really, I do this for you.

GOAL #1: Resist the herd mentality
That’s right all you conformists, by not giving in to the corporate climate of Jan. 1 New Year’s Resolutions, I’m actually resisting the herd mentality while simultaneously attacking life like a hungry wombat in a field of snow tussocks…mmmm indigenous grasses! From now until I lapse back into my old ways, I will not buy what the magazines tell me to buy or watch what’s hip on the TV. No. Nothing but what I find in the bargain bin or unattended in various lobbies or advertized in the Christian Science Monitor for me. And if the TV is on, it’s all Frasier reruns and poorly special-effected science fiction movies from the 70s for me.

Have a taste and tell me it’s not classic
Martin (Frasier’s dad): Remember when we turned off the highway? Well, right down from there is the Bed and Bass Motel! Frasier: Bed and Bass–ah yes, one of the finer fish-themed motels!

Niles: You'll see who feels foolish when I'm sitting on a mechanical bull sipping champagne.

Frasier: Don't stare at me, Eddie (Frasier’s dad’s dog). I'm a humane man, but right now I could kick a kitten through an electric fan.

Yep, who needs Rock of Love with classic material like this?

GOAL #2: Run a Half Marathon with the conditional goal of running a Full Marathon later
Now while my athletic accomplishments border on legendary (I hold the Babe Ruth League Unofficial record for most beans in a season- 27 of 29 at bats AND I am the only student in the history of my high school to hyperventilate every single time we had to run the mile AND I once threw a dart into the back of another dart Robin Hood-style), I have yet to put a notch in my marathon belt (yes, I have a notchless marathon belt. I own many belts with various notch numbers, some less humiliating to admit owning than others… Oh strip solitaire belt, why did I ever bring you to show-and-tell?). And how, I ask you, can I wear a notchless belt? Not possible, not at all. SO training has begun for the Grandma’s Half Marathon. I bought a crate of 5-hour energy shooters, some top-of-the-line (by which I mean clearance rack) New Balance shoes, and got myself on a run-until-the-world-has-a-blue-hue-to-it-and-then-seek-out-the-nearest-oxygen-tank-towing-senior-citizen-and-suck-on-the-aforementioned-tank regimen sure to whip me into a shape other than the soggy pear one that I currently sport. IF I do not die or otherwise incapacitate myself beyond recovery, bring on the other 13 miles of huff-puff-huff!

GOAL #3: Stop comparing myself to soggy produce

Along with the running “thing,” I’m a weight lifter again. There’s even one of those strangely huge plastic tubs of flavored protein in my cupboard. Soon, if I compare myself to anything soggy, it will be a soggy predator which no one would dare laugh at because even soaking wet, a tiger can pounce. In fact, the pounce will be rendered more deadly by the added weight of sogginess. So all you gigglers out there…beware my fearful symmetry!

GOAL #4: Use Sir William Blake references more often in my daily life.
I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

Check. And check.

Whhhhy? Because some people are bad.
For Christmas, my roommate, A., bought Minnesota Wild Tickets for myself and my other roommates P., J., and…um…other J. (herein, “Jay”). Yesterday was the big game. I could tell you all about it, but no one reads this blog for sports updates (6-3 Wild. GO CLUTTERBUCK!!!!!). What YOU want to hear about is the 5 year old in the bathroom learning how to use the urinal for the very first time.

So there I was, minding my business, reading the over-the-urinal periodicals (Yes, ladies, we have over-the-urinal periodicals. Jealous?) when a man came in with his son who, for the sake of the blog, was 5 (He very well might have been 6 or 4, depending on genetics and diet). Below is a 100% factual and not-at-all-embellished transcription of their conversation (Scout’s honor):

Man: Ok, you can go there. I’ll use this one. No, go over there, this one is mine.
Boy: WhhHHhhy?
Man: Because men don’t share.
Boy: Oh. (Boy reaches out and grabs lip of urinal next to his as if steadying himself the way old men sometimes use the wall to steady themselves (yes, ladies, old men steady themselves at the facilities)).
Man: What are you doing?! Don’t touch that!
Boy: WhhhHHHhhhy?
Man: Because some people are bad.
Boy: Oh.
Man: Jeez, now you have to wash your hands.

…NOW you have to wash your hands?! Isn’t it standard protocol that before you leave the bathroom you soap and scrub, scrub and soap?! Have the theories of parenting changed that much since I was a wee urinal user?

Coming Soon. Go find something else to do now! Tom, get off the internet!