Friday, October 18, 2013

"Bill's Fifth Blog" [originally published January 13, 2007]

The New Year is here.  The Washington Post Style section has printed its In and Out lists, an accounting of faddish and passe items of popular culture, all of which are invariably current and trendy enough to be legitimately considered In.  The holidays which cheer us through the dark solstice days are over.

The vacations, celebrations, and decorations that accompany Christmas and New Year's Eve detach us, to some extent, from the world's larger concerns.  We don't fully return to these concerns until  the ornamented trees start coming down and the offices start filling up again in early January.  This year we returned to a world that is subtly changed, missing some of the people who influenced it, for good and for ill.

Or, to put it less solemnly, Gerald Ford went to heaven, Saddam Hussein went to hell, and James Brown is getting funky in purgatory.

"A Christmas Memory" [originally published December 31, 2006]

Christmas is a time for many things.  It is, for example, a time to ponder the strange congruence between the song "Sleigh Ride" and the theme to Three's Company.


Come on it's lovely weather 
For a sleigh ride together with you


Where the kisses are hers and hers and his
Three's company too

But, more than that, Christmas is a time for tradition.  Some might say that tradition is nothing other than compulsion with a better public relations firm.  To me, though, tradition has always been important, and it was hugely important when I was younger.   One of my favorite traditions consisted of the twin holiday meals of Thanksgiving and Christmas—the golden-skinned turkey, the stuffing that wasn't really stuffed into anything, the cranberry sauce that retained the cylindrical shape of its can when sitting in a bowl on the dining room table.  (I never ate the cranberry sauce, but its tubularity impressed me nonetheless.)

Feeling as I did, I was shocked when, many years ago, my mother declared that she wanted the family to eat Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at a restaurant.  Years of preparing the holiday feast had left her sick of doing all the necessary work. 

I understood her complaint.  In fact, I suggested that we could go out to eat on every day of the weeks before and after Thanksgiving, and before and after Christmas, but not on the holidays themselves.  She insisted, though, and my father was inclined to agree with her.  After much arguing, we reached a compromise.  We would eat Thanksgiving dinner at home, and Christmas dinner in a restaurant.  

The search for such a restaurant was harder than expected.  The only place that my mother could locate was a hotel serving dinner at 4:30, two hours before we usually ate.  

Christmas came, and we set out, at mid-afternoon, on one of those dispiriting December days when the world is cold and gray, but not cold or grey enough to signal the coming of snow.  The hotel served an extensive buffet, with multiple side dishes and entrees, and a prime rib, and perhaps even a special guy with a special knife and sharpening rod to cut the prime rib.  Despite the quality of the repast, it had a desultory feel . . . and still I wonder, who eats Christmas dinner in a hotel dining roomstranded business travelers, or maybe people whose stoves exploded?

And so the meal went on, unremarkably enough, until Santa Claus entered the room, and approached our table.  He drew me close, and asked, "Was Santa good to you this year?  Did he give you a lot of presents, or just whips and switches?"

Given that I was seventeen at the time, I wasn't too happy with this development.

"Bill's Third Blog" [originally published November 21, 2006]

Friday saw the release of the PlayStation 3 video game system, demand for which was so great that violence erupted at retail outlets across the country.  All this excitement is foreign to me.  I don't play many video games, and when I do, I prefer games of the archaic arcade style.  Modern video games are too complicated and time-consuming.  With arcade-style games, I can spend a half-hour or so blowing up alien spaceships for relaxation, then forget the whole thing for the next two weeks.  Modern video games might be good if I had nothing—absolutely nothing—else to do, and I could play for ten hours straight, but I do have something else to do, which is to write a blog entry about how I have something else to do.

The kingdom of the Eighties video arcade was ruled by the Pac-Man dynasty.  First there was the ground-breaking Pac-Man.  Then there came the bold follow-up, Ms. Pac-Man, which was exactly the same game, except that Ms. Pac-Man had a red bow on top of her head.  Well, that's not quite true—in Ms. Pac-Man, the fourth ghost was named Sue instead of Clyde.  ("Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Sue" does sound like a good name for a law firm.)  And there may have been other differences as well, differences in things that I don't understand, things with names like the "graphic interface".  Further, weirder Pac-Man variants appeared later, but I lost track of them as the dynasty went into decline.

And where is Pac-Man now?  I would guess that Pac-Man has retired to Florida, where he engages in many of the same recreational activities that other senior citizens there enjoy.  But he has to stay off the golf course, because every time that he sees the ball, he tries to eat it.

"Bill's Second Blog" [originally published November 16, 2006]

[Marc's introduction: This entry was intended for publication on October 30, but was delayed due to editorial difficulties.  Now cast your mind back to the pumpkin days of October . . . ]

Several years ago I put together a mix tape of songs that would be good for Halloween, but that is another story, or part of another story.  Along the same lines, I have been thinking of albums that would be good for Halloween.  The list so far is as follows:

*anything by the Doors

*the Cars Heartbeat City

*Genesis A Trick of the Tail

*Pink Floyd Meddle

*King Crimson In the Court of the Crimson King

One can see that  the list leans heavily on the art rock end of things.  This is partially explained by the fact that my musical tastes lean heavily on the art rock end of things.  But, more importantly, art rock bands are among the few bands who make music that is weird and spooky, music where things are a little bit off.  Some people would prefer chainsaw-massacre heavy metal for their Halloween listening.  Even more people would probably prefer dance music.  These are the people who view Halloween as a time to get dressed up like a pimp, with those big furry pink hats that pimps almost certainly don't wear but that we've convinced ourselves that they do, and go out to party.  I view Halloween as a night when one is sitting alone, reading some H. P. Lovecraft, when suddenly, without explanation, the lights go out.  And then, from deep in the distance, comes the chilling sound of an unearthly scream . . . 

"Bill's First Blog" [originally published November 1, 2006]

[Marc's introduction: By way of brief introduction, let us say this: We've known Bill since preschool. He is extremely wise in the ways of dinosaurs and reptiles and birds.  He is our first guest blogger, and for that we are thankful. Now, without further ado, the world according to William DeWitt Robertson . . . ]

Several weeks ago I went to Subway.  Whenever I go to Subway, I get the same thing—a twelve-inch turkey sub on white bread with lettuce, tomatoes, and olives.  The Subway olives are never any good, and I always end up replacing them with olives that I have purchased elsewhere.  Maybe I should stop ordering the olives, but hope springs eternal.  The simplicity of my order is usually confusing and even distressing for the Sandwich Artist, who can't understand why I shirk the wide array of condiments and strange vegetables. 

On this particular occasion, the man behind the counter prepared my sub, and as he was ringing it up he asked, "Where are you from?"

"Alexandria, " I said.  

"Where are you from originally?" he asked.

"Alexandria," I said again.  

The man told me that I soon as I had walked in the door he had  identified me as someone who likely came from "somewhere else",  as he put it.  He said, specifically, that I looked like his cousin, who is an engineer in Bangladesh.  I said that it was interesting that I should look like his cousin in Bangladesh, but that I had no connection with any other country.  

If I had had my wits more about me during the conversation, I could have further cleared things up by explaining that three hundred years ago my ancestors came here from Scotland and the Netherlands and places like that. 

I was glad to hear a few days later that a man from my new homeland had won the Nobel Peace Prize.


Bangladeshi microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their work in advancing economic and social opportunities for the poor, particularly women.

[An Introduction to the Wandering Archives]

An Introduction to the Wandering Archives

The Wandering Archives is a collection of my blog posts from the old Wandering Army site.  Wandering Army was an online literary journal run by Marc Brush, which was was in operation from 2002 to 2008.  It posted submissions from quite a few writers, but unfortunately the site no longer exists, having been removed from the internet in early 2009.  I wrote numerous posts for the site's blog from 2006 to 2008.  I also held a title as some kind of editor, though I never actually did any editing.

Items will be posted here in the order in which they were originally posted on Wandering Army, with the dates of posting and the titles which Marc gave to the posts.  (For some of the later posts I don't have a record of the titles or the exact posting dates.)  For the most part, everything will be the same as it was on Wandering Army.  Links that Marc added to the text will not be present, nor will the random photos that he put in as headers.  Any links that I put in which have since died will not be present (though they may be replaced by other, similar links). And in some cases where Marc did some slight editing of the text I may restore it to the original version.

Wandering Army was my first experience in blogging.  It inspired me to start my own blog, Scaly Distractions, which has been active since 2010.