Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I've Got A Few Proposals (As Usual), But Still The Government Refuses To Let Me Make Americans' Lives Better.

Wow. This has not been The Summer of Nance as I had planned and hoped and wished it would be. After last summer being tres crappy due a frustrating litany of pain-therapy-pseudo-rotator cuff surgery-that wasn't, and having to put EmilyCat down, I vowed that the Summer of 2009 would be a self-indulgent Seasonal Romp Of Nanceness. Forget it. The lousy economy has hit the dept. as it has many other NE Ohio households, let's just put it that way.

I spend an inordinate time puttering around the yard, and when that's done, I plop in front of the television.

Are all of you aware that there is, literally, nothing on television during the summer?

Clearly, this is the next problem that the dept. of nance is needed to tackle. Despite changing my blog's tagline, I am still ready and willing to become a nonpartisan government department that will take on Any Urgent Issue and solve it with all alacrity, civility, and common sense. I firmly believe that American Television has become just such an Issue.

I already have a very simple plan that has been motivated, in part, by recent events. (And by "events," I mean, of course, "celebrity deaths.") Certainly I am sympathetic to the delicate nature of these passings. It would seem, however, that I am in the minority, judging by the barrage of news reports, "in memoriam specials," re-airing of past interviews, and constant on-the-spot reporter segments from hospitals, mansions, impound lots, you-name-its since Thursday, 25 June. It has clogged the airwaves and pre-empted what little programming there is. And, not to be crass, but celebrities just keep dying. That phenomenon, plus some other television proclivities I've noticed, have led me to make the following Proposals.

PROPOSAL I. The All Tribute Channel. (I was going to call it "The All Death Channel", but that was a bit much, I realized, even for me.) This channel could be reserved for all the celebrity memorial documentaries, interviews, autopsy report tracking, custody battle information, funeral red carpets, etcetera. That way, it doesn't dominate the rest of the channels, and the morbid amongst us can get their fill.

PROPOSAL II. The All Law and Order Channel. Okay. You all know how I feel about Mariska Hargitay. And I fell in love with Sam Waterston back when he played Nick Carraway in the film version of The Great Gatsby, and I love him still. But there are now approximately, by my last count, eleventy hundred spinoffs of Law and Order. And they are on thirty-five cable channels at virtually any hour of every day. Let's get organized, people! Put them on one channel, period. Sheesh! Not. That. Hard!

PROPOSAL III. Stick To A Schedule. How hard is this? There is absolutely no rhyme nor reason to what is going on, ever, on any given night on television. Last Tuesday, there may have been one show on; this Tuesday, there may be a feature-length film in that very same time slot. Perhaps the newspaper's television grid is correct; more often, it is not even close to being accurate. In despair, I flip to the Cleveland Indians baseball game to watch this last-place team lose yet another game. Or, to the Chicago affiliate to watch the Cubs destroy my life.

Are there any GLIMMERS OF HOPE? Yes. We here at the dept. love to indulge in what we term The Smartest Shows On Television. In no particular order they are:
1. Wipeout
2. I Survived A Japanese Game Show
3. The Big Bang Theory

(Sadly, watching Meet the Press makes me sad now. David Gregory is just terrible. Terrible. And have you noticed his awful, awful tie and shirt combinations? What happened, David Gregory? Why did you do this to me after I championed your cause so fervently? )
Anyway, present your Proposals in comments, and I'll see what I can do. Oh, and if you've got any good new nonfiction titles to pass along, do. I'm completely without reading material as well. There's just nothing to read out there! (When will Doris Kearns Goodwin write the definitive Mary Lincoln biography for me? When?)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ladies And Gentlemen, Have I Got A Deal For You! The Dept. Tries To Jog Its Memory And Be A Little Reasonable

Scene opens in a brightly lit television studio. Audience is seated, and the stage is decorated to look like a living room with dark carpeting, dark floor-length draperies. Adjoining the "living room" is a counter area.

Applause sign lights; audience applauds and cheers wildly. TV product pitchman Billy Mays bounds in energetically, waves at audience. Cheers and applause intensify.

Billy: (incredibly loudly) Hi, everyone!
Audience: Hi, Billy!
Billy: (with the volume of an onrushing freight train) Do you want a box of shit in your house?
Audience: Yeah!
Billy: (with the decibel level of a U2 concert in your basement) Do you want to be self-conscious every single time you wear navy or black?
Audience: Yes! Yes!
Billy: (as if a tornado set off a gas main explosion in your utility room) Do you want to step in piles of regurgitated kibble and hair in your bare feet because you are the only one who can see them in the entire world?
Billy: Do you want to add hundreds of dollars to your budget for medical bills not covered by your health insurance just now when you can't really afford it?
Audience: WHAT A DEAL!
Billy: Then have I got the deal for you! Get a kitten! Right now, for a limited time offer, you can get a kitten--and all of the great features I just outlined can be yours, with these added bonuses. Stay tuned.

Audience writhes in their seats as Mays takes a break. While he is hosed down and shot with tranquilizers, the living room set is prepared. Several fluffy, cute kittens are released onto the couch.

Mays leaps into living room set. Audience releases one long, sustained "awwww" as he grabs up one adorable kitty.

Billy: These kittens have been on set for only three minutes, and look at the hair they've already left behind!

(Camera pans at swaths of cat hair on couch, carpeting, and along hem of draperies.)

Audience: (ad libs) Wow! Awesome! Incredible! Amazing! Never seen anything like it, etc.
Billy: (chuckling volubly) You'll be vacuuming two, three, maybe four times a day! And good luck on those draperies! Once those little cuties start walking along the back of the couch, they can leave a path of hair so thick that even an industrial Dyson can't suck it off.
Audience Member: (pointing) Ooops!
Billy: Yikes! Little Fluffy there isn't quite litterbox trained yet, is he? That's gonna go right down to the pad and maybe leave a stain. Well, just move a table or get a big plant to put over it!
Audience Member: (pointing) Ick!
Billy: What? I don't see anything. Let's move on.
Audience: Screech!
Billy: Ha ha! Yes, aren't they cute, folks? Look at the little sherpas, hooking onto those draperies with those talons and climbing all the way up! Wow! You've just gotta watch 'em every minute! And it's not like you can just put up a barrier, is it? Those guys can jump! Okay, moving on!

Billy moves over to counter area and takes a kitten with him. He puts it up onto the counter and wads up a paper ball, playing with the kitten as he chats with the audience. The kitten plays and looks vastly adorable the entire time.

Billy: Now, folks, (loud enough to be heard in Uzbekistan) HOW MUCH WOULD YOU PAY TO BE ABLE TO HAVE THIS KIND OF EXPERIENCE IN YOUR VERY OWN HOME?
Audience: (ad libs) Seven hundred! A million! Ten thousand! My whole fucking life! My kids!
Female Audience Member With Two College Degrees And Really, Plenty Of Common Sense, Honest: But they're so cute and furry! And cuddly. And I miss having a pet. Sometimes. Crap. Sigh. Oh, I know. Shit.
Female Audience Member's Husband: (takes out bottle of Captain Morgan, drinks entire contents then proceeds to stand up, take folding chair and hit self in head until unconscious)
Audience: WE WANT ONE!!
End scene.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Either Houseplants Are Like A Relationship, Or My Deck Is Like A Marriage Counselor...Maybe

Let me see if I can work through something here with all of you. Bear with me.

I've got these three houseplants: a Christmas cactus, a spiky Sago palm, and a newly acquired "lucky bamboo." Of the three, the cactus is the oldest; it's probably around seven or eight years old. Now let me be perfectly frank here, my track record with houseplants is consistent.

Consistently poor, that is. Oh, I mean well. Early in my life I tried to cultivate the Green Thumb and bought fertilizer, a plant mister...all that crap. People gave me plants with the assurance "Oh, trust me. No one can kill this plant!"

And I killed them all. Spider plants, asparagus ferns, African violets, you name it. Dead, deader, deadest.

But I digress. Back to my three plants.

All three of these plants, the cactus, the palm, the bamboo...well, you guessed it. All three were at Death's Door. The palm was a crown of brown fronds, the cactus was withered and red, and the lucky bamboo? Yellow-leafed and not so fortunate-looking. "Just junk 'em," said Rick.

"I'm going to repot the cactus," I said, "and give it one last try. See how it does outside for another summer. The palm, I'm just going to cut off all the dead fronds and sit it outside in the sun. If it sends up new shoots, then okay. If not, then it's over. The bamboo, same deal. I'll cut off the dead stuff and sit it on the patio table. If it dies, it dies. That's it. They're all on their own. I kind of hope they all give up because I don't want to have to bring them in over the winter and go through all this again. I don't have the space for them from October through May."

"Then just junk 'em and say the hell with it!" repeated Rick, the old softie. "I don't get it."

"Boy, oh boy," I said. "You'd better hope I never have to make a decision about putting you in a Home."

Fast Forward. Today I went out on the deck for a little sun and visited my thriving Sago palm which has four new uncurling fronds. A few steps away is my succulent Christmas cactus, greening up at the center and chubby with life. On the patio table is the Luckiest little Bamboo plant, already grown about a half inch. I made sure not to say a word to any of them, nor to let them see me look at them. My plan of Completely Ignoring Them seems to be working wonderfully.

Which makes me wonder.

Is this the Key To A Successful Relationship?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The School Year Ends With A Finale, Of Sorts, As We At The Rock Put It All Into Perspective...Sort Of

Scene. Interior of Teachers' Lounge. Three teachers are sitting and chatting aimlessly with not much to do because it is the last full day of classes before final exam week.
Nance: (surveying supply of coffee) Wow. We have a lot of coffee left. I'm going to put it in the freezer for the start of next year.

Sue: Well, I don't drink coffee here. I stop at Convenient and get coffee every morning.

Dawn: And I don't drink much because of being pregnant.

Nance: Have you noticed the people at our Convenient lately? I absolutely hate going in there anymore. It's just depressing and terrible. I mean, if those people are in our neighborhood...ugh.

Sue: You mean the new employees? I know! I am about ready to speak to Sam, the owner. I hate the one cashier in there.

Nance: No, I'm talking about the clientele. I walk in there, and it's like walking into the *DMV. Who are these people? They're like the dregs of society! One time I saw a guy fish in the garbage outside and pull out a box of someone's chicken dinner refuse. And cigarette butts. I don't recognize anyone there anymore. (*Department of Motor Vehicles)

Sue: Well, I'm talking about the one cashier. I almost said something the other day. Every time I go in there for my extra large coffee, she hands me my change and says, "There ya go, darlin'."

Dawn: Oh, I hate that! I hate waitresses and cashiers and anyone who calls me "honey" or "sweetie" or "darlin'!" It's terribly demeaning. And now that I'm pregnant, it happens all the time!

Sue: I'm really this close to speaking to Sam about her. I mean it. After all, I'm 57 years old. She...is not. There is no earthly reason for her to call me "darlin'." Don't call me darlin' when you give me my change!

Dawn: "Don't call me darlin' when you give me my change!" That sounds like the title of a really bad country song!

Sue: (begins to improvise) Don't ca-all me darlin' when you gi-ive me mah cha-ange. Ah'm--

Nance: You're right. It is bad.

End scene.
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