Here's a perfect sentence that I wish I could claim as my own (and honestly, if I had flat out plagiarized it, you probably wouldn't have known better, and the guy who said it-- film producer Samuel Goldwyn-- is dead, so I very well likely could have gotten away with, but I've decided to do the right thing and give credit where credit is due) and so here it is: "Anybody who goes to see a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined."
Tom McCarthy's novel Remainder is only worth reading if you like movies like Adaptation: on the surface the book is a compelling read, and it's hard to predict the twists and turns produced by the narrator's damaged mind, and it's got a great droll British sense of humor about it . . . but as you read it, you will start to wonder if the book is not actually about the events it delineates, but instead about fiction itself, and reading specifically, and this might ruin any enjoyment you get from the very strange story that the narrator tells about his mysterious incident and the large "settlement" that he receives because of it; I'll give it seven and a half million pounds out of a total of eight and a half million.
Your body works in mysterious ways: just before break I wished that I could lose a few pounds because I knew of the holiday gluttony ahead, but of course, I didn't act on this wish-- I just hoped it would come true, and, in a way, it did, because I got several horrifically painful canker sores under my tongue and was unable to eat anything but yogurt and noodles (you should have seen the spread of cookies, cake, cupcakes with bright red hyper-sugared icing, and candy that I ate NONE of, despite being within arm's reach of these goodies for several periods-- normally I would have DESTROYED a table full of food like that) and so I lost five pounds (which I'm sure I've gained back by now, but still, at least I'm breaking even).
We were discussing the death of Brittany Murphy in the English office the other day-- she was raised in Edison, New Jersey-- and the impact a celebrity's death has on people, and I decided that there is no particular celebrity, no matter how much I appreciate their art, that would make me sincerely grieve if they kicked it . . . I might pre-emptively miss the future films, music, paintings, cartoons, and/or books they were going to produce, but usually, if I already like a celebrity, their best years are behind them (and, as I wrote earlier, it might actually pique my interest in them: David Foster Wallace's suicide didn't make me sad, but it did make me read 680 pages of Infinite Jest).
In the spirit of the Copenhagen Climate Summit, I promise to reduce my cynicism by 80% by the year 2050, but until then: Merry Christmas and may the New Year bring even greater tidings of energy use and materialism . . . perhaps this will be the year when our economy gets humming again and we start consuming an even greater amount of the earth's resources.
So here's what happens when you fish for compliments: the other day when I went to the doctor's office for a physical and some vaccinations, he noticed the gross skin flap growing above my eye, and before I knew it, I had agreed to let him stick a Novocaine needle in my eyelid and then snip off the flap, and the minor surgery went quite well-- minimal bleeding and hardly a bruise-- so the next morning, when I walked into the English office, I asked the teachers in there if they noticed anything different about my appearance (forgetting that I hadn't shaved for a few days and hadn't had time to wet my hair that morning and hadn't showered since the morning before) and my friend Stacy said, "Catherine kicked you out of the house and you slept in the car!" and someone else said, "You're growing a beard" and someone else said, "You're not combing your hair ever again" and after everyone had a good laugh at my expense, I had to point out that the skin flap was gone . . . and Stacy told me she felt bad for a moment after she said it, but then she remembered that one Friday when she was dressed a bit casually, I told her it looked like she was getting ready to do some work in a shed (or maybe I told her she looked like a mechanic, I can't remember) but once she remembered that, she didn't feel bad any longer.
While I was shooting baskets at the gym, I decided on a radical plan of action: I would become a LEFTY, gradually, I would start doing EVERYTHING left handed and I would research handedness and keep an account of my journey from right-handedness to left-handedness and the effect it had on my personality and brain and coordination (and perhaps it would even lead to me reverse aging, it might have a "fountain of youth" effect) and then I would write a fascinating non-fiction book about handedness in general and my own quest to reverse my brain's predilection, but after a few minutes of shooting baskets left-handed the ambition went away, which is probably why I only write one sentence a day and no more.
I got into a debate with a student about vaccines the other day in class (because I mentioned I was getting my swine flu and tetanus shot) and I became a bit passionate about the topic, which is always embarrassing-- I try to remain as neutral as possible about most things-- but I ended up asking the class to raise their hands if they were for polio and the death of millions of children, and then I asked the class who was against polio and the death of millions of children-- but I got my just desserts, as my arm really hurts where I got my tetanus shot (but at least I have no chance of getting lock-jaw).
I finished my first Slavoj Zizek book the other day, First as Tragedy, then as Farce, and now I need to read seven other books to figure out what he was talking about (I guess, like most other humans, I need to brush up on my Lacanian and Kantian semiotics) but though his ideas are radical, he's also pretty fun to read in the brief moments you understand him (he's been called "the Elvis of cultural theory") and his main point is that the world global system is not actually capitalism, because every time it melts down, tons of state money is poured into it, and the title indicates how unified we are in this-- he illustrates that the language of post 9/11 (the tragedy) when the nation was unified against terrorism is similar to the language used when the nation bailed out the banks (the farce)-- George Bush, Obama, and corporate America were all on-board-- and we are quicker to galvanize in order to save Wall Street than we are to confront dire environmental and poverty problems . . . and that to combat this attitude there needs to be a radical and violent shift left, because the left is not the left, and the "dictatorship of the proletariat" is not even a threat, and he sees this as true democracy, but realizes that no democracy allows power to the people until they are divided into the liberal and hedonistic intellectuals, the fundamentalist populists, and the outcasts (who resort to religion and gangs and such) and once these people are at odds with one another and have no common space to meet and cooperate, then the government and corporations and rulers-- the hegemony, he calls it-- can get down to business without much conflict from the populous . . . or that's what I got from it.
Just when I'm about to kill my son Alex (he had a note sent home from his teacher because he mooned some kids in the hallway . . . he thought it would be funny . . . and he's a had abad attitude and been fighting with his brother non-stop) he figures out the commutative property of addition, all on his own-- it's like he knows when he needs to do something really cute or clever to avoid being thrown into the wilderness.
I was really the woman of the house Monday night: I cooked dinner for both my wife and the kids (Catherine was at physical therapy) and I dealt with Alex's bathroom issues and, worst of all, I killed a giant hairy wolf spider which appeared in the middle of the playroom . . . when Catherine got home she was so pleased to have missed it all.
The unemployment numbers created by this recession are scary, but I feel better when I remind myself that as long as people keep having unprotected sex, my fellow teachers and I will always have work (and when you're out of a job, what else is as cheap and fun as unprotected sex?)
One of those magic moments with my son that makes all the fecal accidents , loss of sleep, stubbed toes on stray toys, time, money, and struggles with car seats worth it: I was playing that old song "End of the World" (why does the sun go on shining . . . why does the sea rush to shore . . . don't they know, it's the end of the world because you don't love me anymore-- bonus points if you can name who originally sang it) and the song is slow enough and the lyrics are simple enough that Alex started singing along while he was playing with his Legos and after two repetitions he had them memorized (remember when your brain actually worked?) and so he came over next to me (I was reading the lyrics and chords on the computer in the kitchen) and started singing along, so I turned on the i Mac's microphone on the and captured an impromptu duet with with him . . . but I hope he doesn't start singing the song at school because it is really, really a bleak tune.
I should not be the one to point this out, but no one else has: there is an ironic paradox inherent in this economic meltdown because the very thing our government has encouraged and subsidized-- home ownership (how is it subsidized? tax write-offs for property taxes and mortgage payments, tax breaks for capital gains on primary real estate . . . how is it encouraged? the Bush and Clinton administrations pushed banks to offer loans to higher risk applicants and allowed them to offer complex mortgage products and then allowed mortgages to be bundled into tranched funds so everyone could get in on the mortgage funds) has now collapsed, but this was the thing that the was supposed to be the safest way to achieve the American Dream, buy a house and pay for it, and so now that it has collapsed and the foreclosure rate is high and the demand for housing is low because the market is flooded because so many people need to unload mortgages they can't afford because of high unemployment which was caused by the subprime loans to begin with, and we won't pull out of the recession quickly because we are a nation of homeowners, and in comparative studies, nations with lower home ownership weather recessions better because their workforce is more dynamic and liquid, and not locked into areas without work because they can't sell their houses, but since so many of us are home owners who can't afford our homes but can't move to find work because we can't sell our homes, the crisis is feeding itself but I'm not sure why an English teacher is pointing this out, although maybe it is because I can think about the crisis in a more detached manner because my job is relatively safe.
On the way in to Highland Park, we drive past the VFW and there are two old Howitzer cannons in front of the building and we pass these things often enough that it was no surprise that my four year old son Ian took notice of them, but I had no idea what he was imagining until the other day, when he asked me, "Daddy, are those guns there to protect the planet?'
Although I'm an English teacher, I'm pretty slow on the uptake when it comes to puns and symbolism (it took me years to figure out that the Geico lizard was a gecko . . . get it? Geico . . . gecko . . . they sound similar) and so I just realized the ironic pun in the title of my blog: I have effectively sentenced myself to writing exactly one sentence per day for the rest of my life.
I knew our two day respite from the kids was officially over once we started loading them into the car-- I had to turn off the Howard Stern Show before the boys heard something they might repeat, and, once again, found myself struggling with my fucking nemesis . . . Ian's car seat, the belt never threads through cleanly and constantly has to be pulled back in to release the mechanism that allows it to stretch long enough to reach the seat belt socket, which is difficult to reach because you're leaning over a child and the car seat, so even though I turned the Howard Stern off, the kids still heard things they shouldn't have, but instead of coming from the satellite radio, they came from my mouth (and then to really cement our return to reality, Ian peed in his bed).
Things we saw on our weekend trip to Tuckerton (without the kids): three bald eagles, the Saturday bluegrass jam at Albert Hall (highly recommended-- for five dollars you get to watch hours of bluegrass music, mainly played by really old Piney dudes who have been gathering for decades . . . lots of banjo and fiddle and mandolin and songs about old times and adultery-- you'd never know you were in New Jersey) Batsto Village-- a restored village in the middle of the Pine Barrens that once produced bog iron and glass-- Allen's Clam bar which has the best clams casino I've ever had, the Pine Barrens themselves, which are huge, the largest tract of forest on the East Coast from Boston to Richmond, again, you'd never know you were in New Jersey; things we didn't see: a Pine Barrens tree frog (too cold) and the Jersey Devil (too fictional).
So if you are anything like me (clueless) then you probably didn't know this, but I occasionally learn things from my students, and so I will pass on my new, hip, knowledge: Jamba Juice has a "secret menu" containing items with salacious, unhealthy names such as "Dirty Orgasm" and "Thank You Jesus" and "Fruity Pebbles" and "Penis Shooter" and "Pineapple Anus" (actually I made the last one up, but the rest are real) and while the employees have the recipes for all of these, they will not mention them or answer any questions about them-- but they will make them for you if you ask . . . I'm not sure if you have to whisper and I'll probably never be brave enough to order one of these, but it's still a great marketing campaign .
This morning I observed how the apple doesn't fall far from the tree: my son Alex came out of our bathroom and he said proudly, "I got all the pee in the toilet" but then he couldn't leave his story at that, and so he elaborated . . . "well, actually, I was getting some on the side so then I pulled it over a little so it was hitting the water but then it was going too low, so I had to move it up a little higher, and THEN I got it all in," and, just when I thought the tale was complete, he said, "and guess what?"-- which has become his his signature phrase-- "I didn't flush!"
My wife called me "her hero" because I figured out that our wireless featureless Apple Magic Mouse (which looks like a space alien's slipper) can be configured to "right click" even though there's no "right click" button-- it just knows when you click on it over to the right (just as it knows to move the cursor when you twitch your finger, it's pretty amazing) but even though the mouse is quite cool, the deflation that feats of heroism have suffered in these modern times is pretty sad . . . imagine her reaction if I slew a fire-breathing dragon that was trying to incinerate our new kitchen (I'm thinking she would still call me "her hero" but there would also be sexual favors and back rubs awarded for the deed).
For the past six years I have saved every piece of photo-copied paper possible in my classroom; the students give me back every article, poem, story, and question sheet that they haven't destroyed and then I file them so I can use them the next year, and I use a LOT of outside sources (because I teach several electives that really don't have a text plus I bring in anything new that I've read) so I've got several file drawers full of stuff that I recycle year to year, and I have done this without praise or thanks, and I have saved the high school money on paper and ink and saved the taxpayers of East Brunswick money and I do this without being asked and without telling anyone (except my readers) because I am the Lorax and I speak for the trees.
During my Sunday morning soccer game, tempers ran a little high and two players started bickering over a foul, but a cooler head prevailed: a local youth coach told the two men who were arguing, who were both pushing forty, "Hey guys, the dream is over," and since then, these words have proved inspirational to me: whenever I get frustrated because Greasetruck isn't producing any music, or my kids are acting extra-annoying, or I've taught a lousy lesson, or I've written a cruddy sentence, or I've gone for a particularly slow run, or I'm angry because I haven't invented anything remotely cool or useful . . . I just remember, "the dream is over," and that I'm not going to be rich and famous or a rock star or a four minute miler or father brilliant prodigal geniuses or invent anything like Stretch Armstrong or illustrate my own long running syndicated cartoon strip, because those dreams are over BUT I do own a house (sort of, or I own a mortgage!) and I have fathered two kids (and their dreams-- which seem to be centered around professional wrestling and RC car racing-- are still alive) and I have held a job and paid taxes for many years, so I have helped innumerable poor and unemployed people, contributed to the maintenance of National and State Parks, and even helped build loads of weapons for military misadventures in the Middle East . . . which I never, in my wildest imagination, dreamed of doing at all.
Almost lost my five year old son Alex in a Darwin Award-esque accident: he said, "Look Dad!" and with a lollipop in his mouth, tried to stand on two soccer balls, one foot on each ball, and did a face plant, nearly impaling himself with the pop . . . and so, like any rational parent, I have banned all lollipops from my house until the children are old enough to drive to the store and by them on their own.
Apparently people think I am causing my wife hypothermia because I keep our heat on 65 degrees; yesterday was her birthday and TWO people gave her a "Snuggie," which is pretty much a blanket with sleeves (but luckily one is leopard skin, so now she has one for upstairs . . . we don't even turn the heat on in the bedroom, it's on a different zone . . . and one for downstairs.)