Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Book Titles and Reading

There's an article making the rounds today that reports twenty-five percent of Americans surveyed never read a book, ever. I think that figure is low. My guess is that most of the people who said they read several books a year lied. Nobody reads. As a steady reader myself I don't blame my fellow Americans. It's not that they're stupid and lazy. It's the book industry that's stupid and lazy. Perhaps it's stupid and lazy because there's no money in it, but still you can't blame people for eschewing reading when most books actually suck. Here are examples of the sorts of books that currently occupy prime placement in Barnes & Noble.

People Who Are Not Like You are Stupid and Unattractive
This book is a humorous and incendiary commentary on those whose ideological values seem to oppose yours. If you are a Republican you will enjoy the book about whack-job commie liberals. If you are a Democrat you will enjoy the book about radical right-wing Republican war mongers.

One Word Title for Mundane Object, Material or Activity that Changed the World
Salt, alcohol, some species of fish that no one ever really liked, cocaine, soccer, are all placed in a global context in which their impact on the world and the universe is raised to the level of import previously held by the wheel, fire and the washing machine. If you like watching the History Channel Tony Soprano-style, you will probably find the paperback version of one of these books in your stocking at x-mas.

Embittered Memoir of My Employment
You know what I want to read? Two-hundred pages of noxious bitching written by a young upper-middle class person. I can cozy right up to that on a drizzly Saturday afternoon.

How the science of economics impacts on every element of your life, from the hotness of your wife to the likelihood that your daughter will one day be a bachelor party stripper.

A two-paragraph self-evident realization that was blown out to a 20,000 word magazine piece is further bulked-up into a 200 page book. Meanwhile, the author's hair grows stranger and stranger. Mysteries abound.

Mr. Tinkles and Me
What my pet rat taught me about life, love and punk rock while we hung around the Harvard Square Pit in 1989.

How to Do Those Things that Humans Have Been Doing Since the Dawn of Time
Can't figure out how to eat well? Get laid? Keep a girlfriend? Husband? Raise a kid? Buy a book that tells you everything you already know. Then you'll be a fantastic (father, girlfriend, boyfriend, mother, sibling or cook) you idiot.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

More Reality Show Ideas

Would someone from the WB get in touch with me? I promised the ratings on these shows will soar.

The White House
A group of caucasians are selected to move into a beautiful brownstone in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn. As they try to integrate themselves into the neighborhood--attending block parties and community meetings--hilarity ensues. In subsequent seasons new home sites will be selected in Gary, Indiana, St. Louis, and Roxbury, Ma. Host: Dave Chappelle

Wheel Men
Each season will follow the antics of real car salesmen at dealerships around the country. Hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi

We The People
Regular folks will compete to be the next top lobbyist. Each week the contestants will be charged with gaining an audience with a Senator, Representative or the President to bend his ear about a new fictional client selected by the show's producers. Typical clients will be Chinese arms dealers, chemical waste disposal companies and terrorist organizations. Neither the contestants nor the government officials will know that the clients are fictional. Host: Ana Marie Cox

Run for the Border
Teams of five American will race from Ecuador, through Mexico and into the United States. The first team that reaches Peoria, Il wins. Contestants will not be able to use their US passports or state identification, or any of the financial resources they have acquired in their lives. Host: Erik Estrada

If I Can Make it There
Contestants arrive at the Port Authority Bus terminal with $240 in their pocket. Over the course of the show they must rise through the ranks of New York society. They cannot tap their existing friend network or their own funds. The contestant who most prospers wins. Host: Chuck D

Friday, August 10, 2007

And Now a Word from the Tiny Little Andy Rooney that Lives in My Sinuses

This is an ad that ran on today. It's a back-to-school ad that touts unheard of bargains on iPods. I like my iPod. I don't have children, but I like them too. But in what freaking world does an iPod have anything to do with education? I'm not against them, or against kids having them, but why use school as a reason to discount them? If you're going to have back-to-school sales on iPods, why stop there? Why not run back-to-school sales on meat? Or drywall. How about a nice back-to-school sale on Geritol?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Plans that You Know Won't Work

296 Mt Hope Street, my childhood home, the nest of all my pre-adolescent happiness and my now-embarrasing adolescent rage has been purchased by a developer. This developer plans to move the structure on the property so that he can build a second house on the property. I call bullshit. The house is impossibly old, haunted (it's true) and like many New England houses it was built in sections over the course of centuries. It is not a modular home that can be jacked off its foundation, loaded onto a truck and carted off to another less valuable locale. The plaster inside is brittle horsehair over lathe. The joists don't all connect with one another. Legions of inept plumbers and electricians have laid hands on the pipes and wires over the years. It's a creaky, sensitive old house and it needs to be left alone.

The developer made this promise because the town fathers like to keep old houses around. In New York and New Jersey it's a common practice to level a 1,500 sq foot house and replace it with a 10,000 sq foot abomination, replete with a frigging Great Room. (I will eat baby's feet before I buy, build or rent a home with a Great Room.) In Massachusetts it's practically a capital offense to flatten an old farm house. So now the developer will try oh so very hard to move it, and when my rickety old homestead collapses in a heap of kindling, at least he can say he tried. Call it the architectural preservation version of due dilligence.

So this makes me a little sad. By the time my parents were preparing to move from the home I was grateful they were leaving. I was sick of the place. Over the preceeding years I had entertained the notion of burning the building to the ground. Its walls were so steeped in bitterness and interfamilial fighting, just crossing the threshold was enough to put my teeth on edge. But I'm an old man now. And as an old man I'm obliged to get a little nostalgic for the back stair case-- which due to the structural ammendments built over the years was basically a stairway to nowhere--and there was an odd little door beneath the front staircase that covered a hollow spot in the core of the house--was it a dumbwaiter? But then where did the shaft go? We never found its terminating point in the basement. It was a pointless mystery and I liked it.

By the end of September it'll all be gone. The building that replaces it will be new and straight. It won't sag and shutter during a blizzard. Squirrels won't live in the attic. There will be 2.5 bathrooms instead of just the one. And some dull little kids will grow up there. Oh well.