Time Travel

Cartoony drawing of a TV with an antenna and a clicker. So old skool.

Time has shifted. Literally.

The idea of a “prime time,” when families sat around a TV to watch the news on one of the three broadcast channels at 6:00 pm, is long gone. Those kinder, gentler Sunday nights when The Wonderful World of Disney came on–and especially that one time they showed Mary Poppins. Mom made jiffy-pop. On the stove. It always got burned. We ate it anyway. I didn’t say she burned it.

Times when the Olympics were broadcast live, and nobody knew the results of the race until we all did. Or we read it in the papers the next morning. We couldn’t endlessly loop an especially spectacular event. It was live that night, maybe an instant replay or two, and maybe on the TV news on one of the three broadcast channels the next night at 6:00 pm. If there was a finals in gymnastics or skating, mom might let us stay up past our bedtime to watch.  If the games were in China, we could only see them during the day.

Quaint.

This changed with advance of VHS and the proliferation of cable channels. You could program your recorder–well some people could–and go to the gym and still catch this week’s episode of  Buffy or X-files.  There was some ear covering at the coffee machines and admonishments to hurry up and get caught up. And there were the cries of misery that echoed in a neighborhood when someone realized they taped over the recording of their nuptials. No one would ever see her say, “I do,” again. And nobody would ever again see Uncle Bobby doing his breakdance version of the electric slide. The 57 channels, then 157 channels meant that there were many options for news and entertainment.

DVRs took away the messiness of tapes, and their rewinding and their clumsiness. People could store many episodes, concurrent shows, and never watch them. There was a study that said that two of five recorded hours were never watched. I bet that it was more like four of five hours recorded were ever watched.

Netflix started making TV seasons available. Admittedly this was external to Netflix, but most of us got the seasons that way. Not too many of us bought the boxed set of Friends. I hope. Netflix’s automatic shipments of discs brought on the binge watch–hungover after a night of Charmed, a lost weekend to the bloody mess of Dexter, whipping through the entire two terms of President Bartlett on West Wing.  Netflix on demand sped up the cycle because you didn’t have to wait for a disc in the mail.

Of course, today, almost all TV is on demand. You can watch last night’s, late night comedy bits as they trend on Twitter in the morning. You don’t have to stay up late. You can watch funny people eviscerate pols on your phone as you brush your teeth before work. You don’t even have to watch the entire program, or skip ahead. The sketches are conveniently broken down. Hell, there are gifs with the best mugging. You share your favorite parts of a scene on social media. If you didn’t see it, your buddy sends you a link right now so you can watch it and laugh together.

So when you think about prime time, that time of cohesion from an ancient past when you have to contemporaneously participate in a broadcast viewing experience, there are very few modern occurrences. There’s the MTV awards, if you think Kanye is going to go off or if Beyoncé is going to do anything. The Super Bowl and World Cup. The final ball drop on Dancing With The Stars. That live production of Peter Pan or whatever ABC Family productions did that I didn’t watch.

That’s it, too. These time-bound events aren’t universal. You might not be a BET fan. You might be all hockey and no NBA. You might just set your phone to ring in the New Year rather than stop a party to all huddle around a TV.

There was a time, I’m told, when families listened to the President peddling patriotic bravery on the radio, “nothing to fear but fear itself.” There was a time when everyone tuned in to see the President take his leave, ” I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow.” There was palpable shared fear when another President addressed a mourning nation on 9/11.

Today there are fewer common addresses, fewer addressed directly to the people. We simply pick and choose what we want as we graze our way, on our own schedules, through the buffet of media.

Enchanté

Medalist in the 100m backstroke, Fu Yuanhui (China) Kylie Masse (CAN), gold medalist Katinka Hosszú (Hungary) and (USA) Kathleen Baker.

You win a gold medal at the Olympics, you feel joy. You stand at the podium with any medal around your neck, there is joy. For many athletes, finishing their event brings joy. They are achieving long-standing goals. They are competing on an elite stage.

There is the inevitable local news coverage after an event. Athletes–especially athletes from big national news markets–are regularly prepped with words of wisdom and platitudes. To say the right things, thank the right people, to be poised and humble, and to certainly hold your hand in the correct position when your country’s national anthem rings out.

The strongest expressions of joy you see is a fist pump or an air box. You see beaming ear to ear grins. You see teammates gripping each other in bear hugs. You see overwhelming tears of gratitude, relief and, perhaps, joy. Once you saw someone take off her jersey and fall to her knees. That was an unusual, unscripted and primal display of joy. It was the exception that proved the rule. Pump, grin, hug or cry. Those are the acceptable norms.

And then you see the pure and unabashed joy of Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui. She is most definitely having a good time. It’s as if she was never given the advice to “act like you’ve been there before.” She’s not acting, she is being.

She was blatantly amazed and pleased by her bronze medal swim. She learned of her time from the interviewer and brought her hand to her wide with surprise mouth. She as much as said, “I swam that fast?!”

She hops up and down like a kid on Christmas morning, all the time. It’s like she’s acting out. Acting out her very huge feelings of glee and the soaring of her heart. At least for this Olympics, she’s not willing to tamp down any of her feelings of wonder and delight.

I could watch her most natural joie de vivre during every Olympic break. She loves being there, and she loves sharing that in the most obvious ways. You don’t need to interpret her. Why hold back, she asks us all? Don’t act like you’ve been there, act like you’ll never be back.

Damn, I love this woman.

B is for Book

Reading a real book. This one is good so far. It's called H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. I'm on page 182.

All good writers are readers. And I have not been doing enough reading.

Oh sure, I read a lot, but find my eyes drawn to too much cotton candy–fluffy and sweet without much substance.

I brought a pile of books to read at the beach. My beach reading is usually geared toward memoir–the beautiful and yet unsatisfying West With the Night; biography–I read Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton on Nantucket a decade before it was a play; and the odd–yes, one summer I read the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks’ 9/11 Commission Report. My preferred fiction runs from Harry Potter, to Roddy Doyle to the aching Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague which had one of the saddest passages I have ever read. I am not a big reader of procedurals,  or romance–just not my style. But I do like me some magical realism.

Yet my reading has been on screen. The day-by-day play-by-play of this whack news year. From “did he really just say that?” to “what will they do next?” to an almost numbing accounting of police killing and killings to attacks on innocents all over the world, I just click and read and click and read. I get distracted occasionally by fights between pop stars and the you-won’t-believe whatevers. And no, I did not get all wound up about nude paddle boarders, but I am sorry to have the “knowledge” that some people did.

So, I am going on a news diet for the rest of my holiday. No more up to the minute feeds. I won’t click on the stories while I am looking at your vacation pics and family time. Seriously, I’m going on a diet, not a hunger strike.

I will now close the browser, lower the laptop lid and open my paper book. And turn the pages until I finish it. And then repeat with another book. And, I hope, another. I want to be a better writer, so I better be a better reader.

Inside The Lines

Harold takes his purple crayon and draws himself a balloon so he doesn't tumble to his death.

I’m not doing it, but I know people who are. They say it’s relaxing. They find it a creative outlet. Some find it mindful. Some are obsessed, as people are when they embrace a new activity.

Adult coloring.

When I first heard the term, I thought it had to do with a type of sex play. I didn’t read those shades of gray “books,” but the popularity of adult coloring and safe S&M porn for the bookclub set were overlapping if not simultaneous.

If it wasn’t sex play, maybe it was adult themed coloring. You know, NSFW stuff. Don’t look at me that way. It’s a reasonable thought. I mean why else would they modify the action of coloring with “adult?”

I was wrong. There really isn’t much difference between adult coloring and just coloring. You get a piece of paper with a line drawing and you take your crayons or special pencils or even paints, I guess, and you color.

Remember all of those affirmations about it being cool to color outside of the lines? That we won’t be constrained by the rules imposed by our mean first grade teachers? That we will push beyond prescribed limits and put our pens wherever the hell we want to? No more. It’s all about playing within the lines. Au revoir, adios and adieu freedom.

It’s about the constraints. The comfort of knowing where you are supposed to be. The certainty of limits. Success via conforming. A new coloring order.

Folks can go online and download coloring sheets to print out and color. For ten bucks, you can go to Target and buy a Crayola™ branded book of “folk art” for your coloring pleasure. “Folk art” is a euphemism for cartoons that are easy for people to color. Big blocks of spaces to fill in with your favorite colors. Here’s how they sell it:

Lose yourself in a complex-but-relaxing coloring art activity with these captivating, bold, and colorful images. Includes 80 detailed art patterns on high-quality paper. Perforated for easy tear out and framing.

My favorite part? “Perforated for easy tear out AND FRAMING.” Emphasis, of course, mine. I would love to see that person’s bill from Michaels. Eighty from one book. All framed! Their hallways are covered in framed coloring pages of primitive cartoon chickens.  Or even worse, imagine being on their Christmas list.

Here’s the thank you card:

Thanks, Friend, for the thoughtful, framed coloring page of that rooster and the pig in the farmyard! You really are making me think about roosters differently. And is that Crayola™ crayon shade Barn Red? Thanks again, but next year, please don’t go through all that trouble for me. Love, Doc

Seriously, I love that people are enjoying simple, mindful or even mindless activity. I bet that people who are coloring see their breathing and heartbeat slow down, their brain waves relax and tension levels drop exponentially.

It’s cool that you color. I mean I write this stupid blog. Go on now. You do you.

Unfashionably Late

General Ambrose Burnside. Better remembered for his facial hair than being a general. Not remembered for a mullet.

You should know something about mullets.

You know what I’m talking about. A mullet. It’s a haircut or a “hairstyle,” when the hair is cut short in the front and on the sides but left long in the back. Long can be anywhere from just brushing your shoulders to maybe a quarter down your back.

Wait. Let me show you.

A mullet. When people thought they looked good. And people watched that stupid show, "Full House."
This is definitely a mullet. He thinks he looks good.
It could be longer than mid-back, I guess, but that might actually be a different hairdo. This style is infamously worn by that county clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses, which is part of her job by the way, because she disagreed with the law on who can marry who. Not to be mean, but her hair made me think that she might be behind the times in more than one way. Even though it’s men who usually sport the mullet.

Anyway, the thing you need to know about mullets?

They used to be considered high fashion. MacGyver, the character who could make a fission bomb with a Doublemint gum wrapper, a paper clip, some volatile salt that he scraped off of a barnacle then using his infamous Swiss Army knife as a flint to spark the nylon string (had to be a petroleum based string) from his windbreaker on fire to launch the bomblette. Yes, him. He wore a mullet and still got the ladies–despite being a notorious science nerd. Actually, he had mad swagger for a science nerd.

The Arnold’s boy wore one. I remember seeing mullet shots when his dad was the Govinator of Cal-ee-forn-eye-yay. I wondered if he chose that look for himself. Maybe his parents did, but I somehow couldn’t imagine Maria giving it the nod. He wore it in the days before the family was caught in the maelstrom of the old man’s tawdry scandal. I wonder if Arnold’s love child had a mullet, too. I didn’t wonder before now.

Back to the style.

In it’s day, it was quite the look. Chuck Norris rocked the short on top, tresses in back. Tennis star Andre Agassi had quite the fetching mullet, his locks tamed by a headband as he returned every serve for eight Grand Slams.

You need more? Google “mullet” and “Mel Gibson” (he was YOUNG!), “mullet” and “Charlie Sheen.” Try Brad Pitt, too. Don’t forget the famous mullets of David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Lionel Richie and Paul McCartney. Patrick Swayze and Kurt Russell had leading men mullets. I almost forgot George Clooney. Yes, Clooney, too.

Then there was this.

Wow. Just wow, bono with your mullet. And that frock coat.
In the name of love, Bono, what are you thinking?
The mullet came under disrepute over the years. To be honest, I don’t think it was in repute for very long. People still wear them occasionally, but it’s become a shorthand for being unfashionable and unsophisticated. In the movie Joe Dirt, the loser title character “is a janitor with a mullet hairdo, acid-washed jeans and a dream…” according to Sony Pictures. The mullet defines the anti-hero.

But here’s my point. You don’t want your wedding pictures to show you in a mullet. Wedding pics don’t go away. When the album gets pulled out, everyone laughs. At you. Your wife insists on hanging the portrait prominently despite your apparent lack of style because over the years she feels she never looked better. Your grandkids may only know you by your mullet from this forever photo from the old days. You’re stuck with that mullet. Forever. Like General Sideburns. Without the naming rights.

And you guys sporting those long, luxurious hipster beards that you treat with oils and a special tool set? Take heed. You’re next.

Who You Gonna Call?

an old Kodak camera kit with magic cube!

People can be very sensitive about their nostalgia.

My Sib refused to see the Starsky and Hutch remake with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. In her tween memories it was a serious drama, not a comedy and it was WRONG to make fun of her memories. Frankly, I might be able to watch an old episode if I thought they were trying to be funny. That’s just me. I think my Sib didn’t think that Huggy Bear should be skinny, either.

People got mad when Cap’n Crunch changed the shape of their crunch berries. Or Coke updated it’s can. More than one person declared the end of rock and roll when Walk this Way was sullied with hip hop. Having Aerosmith participate in this outrage was just shy of Bob Dylan going electric.

Robert Plant’s refusal to sing Stairway to Heaven at a Zeppelin reunion tweaked fans since that’s all they wanted to hear. All eight minutes of it. For the encore, thank you very much. Then there’s the destruction of Star Wars, the three that were the second three, because, well, Jar Jar Binks. I get the disgust. I prefer to pretend it didn’t happen, but I’m not angry.

It’s people going back to their high school and becoming hostile because they added a wing, moved the trophy case and put new bleachers in the gym. It’s the lawsuit over the beach houses that got built on the bluff that you used to play pirate on. Childhood officially ruined!

Did the Lego Movie disturb your memories of blocks? The Pirates of the Caribbean film wreck Disneyworld?

Then there’s remaking a movie with a different cast. Never mind that the first time they got Spider-Man right was last week’s Civil War. I get that it’s jarring. Maybe disappointing. But it makes you mad because your perfect Pleasantville memory is disturbed?

Did a live Mowgli disrupt your baby memories of cartoon Mowgli? Outraged by not your favorite Spock? And seriously, did you really prefer the dull original Ocean’s 11 to the delightful remix?

Which leads me to this. Really, really, really don’t pitch an internet fit, lamenting loudly and rudely, that your childhood is trashed–trashed, ruined, destroyed, extinguished, ravaged and wrecked–because of an upcoming Ghostbusters reboot. You didn’t even see it, yet. And if the awful GB cartoon didn’t ruin your life, why the hysteria?

Because women? Ugh. I didn’t need to know that about you. Some days I hate the Internet.

 

Chop & Pop

tomatoes, avocado, scrunchions, secret cukes and lemon mint dressing.

I rummaged to the bottom of the vegetable bin. There were some of those cute Persian cucumbers. I don’t know why a recipe calls for English versus Persian cukes. They taste the same. They’re cucumbers. Especially from the grocery store.

There are six of seven left in the package. They are pretty skinny. I toss the one that is mushy and discolored in the center. I take three, trim the ends and quarter them before I run the knife up to the top, chopping into fairly even pieces. Kelly Clarkson is singing Since U Been Gone.

I stir the bastardized ropa vieja that I have on the stove.

Next up are the green onions. The recipe wanted red onions. I have them, but the scallions are more fragile, and anyway I like the crunch of the green parts. Same trim drill, but the tops of the onions are different lengths. It would barely waste anything if I cut them straight along the top, but I am in no hurry. I nip the bits of brown at the top. Before I chop, Pharrell and Daft Punk challenge me to Get Lucky. Dance steps ensue.

I’m interrupted by a friend who needs to go out. He really had to go so there was little time elapsed. I came back into the kitchen to a roaring Dave Grohl. He supposedly said Prince’s cover of Best of You at the SuperBowl was better than their original. I can’t help but think of Prince singing in the rain with that head scarf protecting his mane. I readjust my clip to keep my bangs out of my eyes.

The water comes out of the faucet fast. I am not sure why it sometimes comes out in an single stream and other times like a shower head. It’s shower head today. I soap up my hands to get back to my knife and wooden board. This playlist skips all the cursing in Gold Digger. I sing those words anyway.

I piled the onions next to the cucumbers in the white bowl. As I grab the plastic clamshell with the little tomatoes Shakira totally distracts me. I salsa back and forth through my kitchen galley, telling only lies with my hips. I wouldn’t even care if the neighbors saw, but they moved last week, so they can’t.

The first grape tomato gets sliced in half. They are very small, but I think that they look better if they are closer to the size of the other vegetables so I slice the rest in thirds. I pop one in my mouth. I pull out small handfuls, slice them and place them in the bowl. I keep going until it fills the space with enough red to break up the green. I eat two more and then slice two more.

I pulled out the large half-avocado. It was in better shape than I thought it would be. Sexy Back comes on. I cut around the pit. Someone said that it keeps better if you leave the pit in. It may have. I had a small whole-avocado, too. I didn’t think it was necessary.

My knife slid through the fruit. It was like a hot knife in butter yet still produced distinct squares that I piled between the tomatoes and the onions. The bowl was filled as Teenage Dream played. What a dumb song. I know it seems unfair to pick on this song versus the rest, but I don’t get Katy Perry. And, I get less why that cut allowed explicit lyrics. I woulda let Kanye finish.

There is a silly technique where you take a big pinch of kosher salt between your fingers and from a foot above the food “rain” it down. Somehow this distributes it better. I end up stirring the food anyway so it’s really unnecessary. I do it because it’s dramatic, and I feel like a celebrity chef. So I rained some salt and twisted some pepper.

I opened the cabinet literally above my head. I have to stand on the tips of my toes and really stretch to reach the mini-stainless bowl that sits on the top shelf. This prep bowl is well used, but in an inconvenient place because I don’t have anywhere else to put it in this barely functional kitchen. Taylor is whining about how We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. I’m unconvinced. This was on her last country album, even though most of it was pop.

I take the EVOO–it always cracks me up when I see that on a menu. I want to find the pretentious menu author and punch them in their pretentious author neck.

I pour the exact amount, in that it’s exactly the amount I poured, if only measured by my squinted right eye. I don’t have fresh lemon but a fairly fresh bottle of lemon juice. I squeeze about the right proportion to join the oil. I pick up my super cute baby-whisk. I ordered this whisk from either Crate and Barrel or Sur la Table. They came in a pair, which is good because I wore one of them out. Speaking of worn out, that Lumineers joint comes on. Hey! Ho!

The recipe, that I am not really following in any meaningful manner, wanted me to add fresh cilantro. I don’t have that or the dill they suggested to swap. I go through the spice jars twice. I even go to the way back of the cupboard where I have the extra bottles of valencia orange peel and smoked paprika that I bought by mistake. Nope. No dill anywhere. So I go for some dried mint. Seems like a fresh substitute. After I added it I remembered that I have some actually fresh mint on the back porch. Went too fast there.

Here’s my favorite part. The whisking. I get oddly excited by how quickly that little whisk emulsifies the oil and lemon juice. It seemed exceptionally fast tonight–like only three or four turns and it was like melted caramel.

I’m not ready to dress the salad yet, but worry that the avocado will discolor before The Spouse gets home. I shake a few drops of lemon juice over the concoction. I take the cookie sheet lined with discs of polenta out of the oven and flip them. Whoa, that oven is a little hot.

Lil Jon comes on. Seriously. Right then. Turn Down for What? In this case, turnt down to keep dinner from burning.