Monday, March 26, 2012

Of Food, The Facebook, Fantasy Sports, and Former Students--Life Is Good, You Know?

It's back to Real Life for me, I promise.  And with a vengeance.  Temps here have levelled off and although it's sunshiny and green outdoors, a quick step beyond the warm confines of the Dept. interior and I'm smacked in the yap with 44 degrees of More Sensibly March In NEO Weather.  And that's okay.  This is still the first winter in which I haven't had to wear my heavy coat more than twice.

A whole bunch of doodads have been bustling around in my brain this week.  I'm turning them loose for your consideration.

^)(^ Station KCRA of California, in an apparently slow news cycle, polled its listeners? viewers? fans regarding their most hated foods.  Of the list of 25, astonishingly, several are actually my favorite foods.  And of those remaining, I can honestly say that I would refuse to eat only two (okra and oysters).  Three of the most hated were actually on the menu of my childhood pretty much every Monday night during the school year--liver and onions, and lima beans.  I am not overly fond of:  raisins, tofu, and buttermilk (to drink), but I wouldn't say I hate them. I cook with raisins and buttermilk.  Not a fan.  I almost wept to see avocados on the list, and who could hate mushrooms?  And, really, peas?  Dear little peas?  Do NOT get me started on broccoli.  Or sour cream. What is wrong with America?

^)(^ Of course, you all know how I feel about The Facebook.  Apparently, however, I am on The Facebook completely against my will and on The Twitter as well.  This is thanks to my children, Sam and Jared, who have been so helpfully and kindly posting some of my text message conversations with them on their TwitFace accounts.  As you may recall, I am the owner of a Fantasy Basketball Team (and I made the playoffs, too, beating Jared out of a spot).  Many times, we discuss trades and do a little "trash talking" via text.  You may also recall that I can be rather profane colorful in my speech when I am...impassioned.  The boys think it is "funny" to post these on their TwitFace accounts where many of my former students see them and then make comments like, "I love your mom" and "The next time I see your mom, Imma gonna ask her to marry me" and "Ask your mom if she wants to be an owner in the NFL fantasy league" and "I love me some Ms D" and "I wish I could talk to my mom like that, that shit be crazy."  Again--and some of you want me to be on The Facebook! 

^)(^ Speaking of former students, I had an experience with one last week that reaffirmed for me just how privileged I was to have worked with my creative writers.  I had Eric in the 80s when I first started the creative writing program at my high school.  He swore he wouldn't write any stupid poetry, that all he wanted to do was write Stephen King-type stuff.  Long story short, I begged and got him to take my class.  He was brilliant, and we went on to continue a writer/editor relationship that developed into a deep friendship.  His work has appeared in a myriad of magazines; he has had a novella published as well as a couple of collections of poetry.  For years he made time to teach my class, many times for free, for a week.  Last week, he invited me to teach his.  I presented for a couple of hours on the topic of creative nonfiction using my blogs as examples.  Eric also presented me with an artist's copy of his latest book.  As usual, I burst into tears.  "You didn't even see the best part," he admonished me.  Turning to a flyleaf, he held it open, and showed me.  It was dedicated to me.

It's become fashionable to have a Life List, an inventory of places to visit or things to experience before Time Is Up.  I'm not a fan. I know myself too well.  Driven by Crossing Things Off, like so many To Dos or Chores, I'd lose sight of the Spontaneous Wonderfuls, like Having A Book Dedicated To Me, or Not Wearing A Coat In The Winter, or Owning A Fantasy Team, or even Trying Okra One More Time.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Lot Can Happen In Two Weeks, Let Me Tell You

Wow.  So I'm pretty much meandering through my orbit as usual, you know:  doing my Retirement Thing, embracing the early spring, scooping up the unexpected pleasures of recently cheap avocados when my cellphone rings a week or so ago and it's my contact in New York whose charity I promo here and at The Report.  I answer it immediately, and she says instead of hello, "Nance!  Don't you ever check email?"  Once I assure her that, yes, of course I do, she tells me that she is calling to inform me that an associate of hers has been trying to reach me via email for nearly a week now.  "You'll want to talk to him; trust me," she promises.  "I'm giving you his number.  Call him now.  He's expecting your call."

First thought?  Check that spam folder.  I trust this woman implicitly, but there is no way I'm making a blind phone call.  St. Patsy didn't raise no fool.  My Dept. mail account gets a ton of spam, and it took forever to go through it.  Several looked like they could be legit offers for advertising at both my sites, and several were from NYC addresses with vague business ventures.  None mentioned my contact's name.  One was for a marketing venture, but didn't deal with specifics.  None of the phone numbers matched the one I was given.  I sighed, tapped the number into my phone, and waited.

"Hello, this is Mark."  Confused that I had not reached a business, I simply said hello, gave him my name, and said that I had been given his number and a message to call him from our mutual associate since he had been unable to reach me via email.  And things happened like lightning from there.

Briefly, he had been a fan of The Report and involved with the charity.  He was at another event where he spent a good part of the time chatting up an American designer (you'd definitely know the name if I told you) who is going to start up a sort of quirky menswear line which skews edgy and fashion-forward.  It will be primarily sold online.  As they were chatting, Mark said that he said, "You should get the woman who writes The Brian Williams Tie Report to do the ties.  Not only could she design them, but she could write the descriptions for them. Like J. Peterman, but better." 

Yada yada yada yada, fast forward, and The Designer knows The ReportAnd loves the idea!  So I'm making arrangements to go to NYC to take a meeting (!!!), packing all my cool clothes in mostly black (of course), and reminding myself to breathe.  I get there, take the meeting, things look wonderful, sound even better, I breathe every now and then, my shoes look terrific, and we start hammering it out.  The Designer does not do The Details.  That is what The People are for.

The People:  Okay, Nance.  Great.  This looks great.
Nance:  I think so.
The People:  Before we get into any of the business particulars, can you think, off the top of your head, of any dealbreakers?  Anything that might keep this venture from going forward?  Anything, for example, that you don't want to see happen?
Nance:  Yes.  I don't want any republicans to wear the ties. (smiles)
The People(exchange somewhat bemused glances; forced chuckles) Ha ha.  Anything else?
Nance:  Actually, yes.  There is one thing.  And I feel very strongly about this.  Will the ties, at least, at the very least, be made in America?  I don't want my name associated with some sad, sweatshop scandal in Honduras.  I don't want to be Kathie Lee Gifford.  And I don't want people to say I sold out and abandoned my principles when there was fame or cash in front of me.
The People:  Well, certainly The Designer looks to encourge growth in the American labor markets.  But because The Designer is an international name, it would be shortsighted to outright eliminate foreign suppliers, be they goods or labor.  We look to all outlets to bring the highest possible quality product to the consumer for the best value.
Nance:  So, no, then? No, you cannot promise me that the ties I design and describe will be made in America?
The People:  What we're saying is that--
Nance(interrupting gently but firmly) I'm sorry.  Can you promise me that one thing or can't you?
The People:  No.
Nance:  That is my dealbreaker.  I'm sorrier than you can possibly ever imagine.  But I just cannot do it under that one single circumstance.  The ties at the very least have to be made in America.  Period.  I appreciate everything you just said, and I appreciate this opportunity more than you can know.  I do.  And if it's possible, I'd like to tell The Designer personally--how much I appreciate this, again.  But that is my line in the sand.  I'm so sorry.

So, that's how we left it.  Or, at least, that's how I would have left it had this whole thing actually happened.  None of it did.  I have no real excuse for the ridiculously long time between posts.  I was lying fallow, bereft of ideas, and enjoying early spring in NEO.  I beg your indulgence and hope for your forgiveness.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

These People Are The Plastic Silverware Of The News Business

Probably it is A Good Thing that I have not lost my ability to be astonished at the age of almost fifty-three.  It would be mitigated considerably did I not watch quite so much News Programming.

I swear to you that I do far more talking to the people on television who irritate me than I do to those actually in my presence.  Can just anyone get an On-Air Gig these days?  It sure seems like it because some of these "on-air personalities" say such goofy stuff that, once I hear it, I sit there open-mouthed, blinking and furrow-browed, wondering if it is Bring A Bystander To Work Day.

For example:

~*~Was I the only one who heard the blurb for (I think) Inside Edition in which the personality breathlessly directed viewers to join them for their report about the Costa Concordia disaster, "a real-life Titanic!"?  Oh, help me now.  I like to call this The Disney Effect.  Just like the vast majority of America's children have no idea that there ever was a story/fairytale of Snow White or Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast first, (or that Pocahontas was a real person), some yahoo at Inside Edition honestly believes that the Titanic is simply a boat in a movie. Or just a movie. Period.

~*~A couple weekends ago, when the film The Vow went wide, some reviewer was on a morning show.  She was asked, "Who is this movie for?"  This woman went on to say this (and this is not a direct quote, but I am damn close. Seriously.): "Oh, females will definitely want to see this.  This is a film for women.  And girls will definitely want to see this, definitely.  And men.  This is a film for them as well."  Why does this female/girl/woman have this job? I definitely don't know.

~*~This week, there was a string of horrible storms in the South.  Alabama got hit with tornadoes that did terrible damage.  CNN cut live to a location where a local reporter was ready to talk to a host named Robin and give her an idea of the extent of that damage.  Here is how it went:

Robin:  Now we'll go live to H---, Alabama where a local affiliate has a reporter standing by.
Reporter:  Hi, Robin.  As you can see, residents here are coming back to little more than rubble here in H---.  The tornado destroyed homes, uprooted trees, and left massive piles of debris behind.
Robin:  Wow.  Quite a scene there.
Reporter:  It's amazing.  And here, just to show you the mighty power of that incredible storm...look up in that tree.  (camera pans up into a nearby tree) a pillow.  A pillow up in that tree.

Okay...what?  Listen, I am five-four and have had a shoulder surgery and I can throw a freaking pillow up into a tree.  I can also make a regulation three-point shot with a basketball and haul a 42-pound box of cat litter to and from my car, yet no one has ever described me as a "mighty power."  At least not for any of that.  My point is, that tornado levelled the entire town and you are impressed with a pillow in a tree?  If it was a tractor, then we have something to talk about.  If it was a pillow sticking through a tree, then, yeah, we can be amazed.  But come on

In the Age Of The 24-Hour News Cycle, it would seem "professional journalism" is on its way to becoming an oxymoron. 
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