I realize that I haven’t really posted in quite a while (well, to be honest, I’ve posted more recently than between other posts in the past). So, I’ve been hunting around for something to talk about. I recently completed Lynne Truss’s book, Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door. It was exactly what was to be expected. I find her writing engaging, inspiring, and refreshing. She writes (generally) how I strive to write: in a carefree, laid back, yet sometimes pedantic manner, but never losing sight of the fact that pop culture references are OK. Sadly, while I found myself at times laughing out loud and at others nodding my head emphatically in agreement, I found the book to be rather disappointing. Where Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation was educational and fun, Talk to the Hand was more of general ranting with little scholarship behind it (not that her intention was to be scholarly in any way—in fact she says in the beginning that it won’t be). In general, I find that comediennes tend to focus their humor on a) men/relationships, 2) being fat, and III) periods. While she didn’t really talk about any of these, there was still, at times, that feel of the safe fallback routines for women, if that makes any kind of sense.
Or, if I didn’t want to talk about that, I could discuss either or both of the other books I’m reading, Spunk & Bite, a book that I hope will help me to write in the aforementioned style, and Cursing in America: A Psycholinguistic Study of Dirty Language in the Courts, in the Movies, in the Schoolyards and on the Streets, which the title pretty much says it all. The former is really little more than bathroom reading at this point, and the latter is actually more engaging than I expected. The author’s not much of a writer, but the topic is interesting. I’m sure he picked it for no other reason than to be able to say such words as fuck, motherfucker, cocksucker, and cunt at academic conferences…but that’s just my guess. In case you are wondering, I just finished Bill Bryson’s book, Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States, and in there he mentioned Cursing in America as one of the only books on the history of cursing, so I thought I’d pick it up. (Also, in case you’re wondering, I really didn’t like Made in America. I found the title misleading; it was more a brief history of America than anything to do with language. True, he did mention at the end of each section or chapter that words came out of whatever specific moment in time he was discussing, but it really wasn’t about the words as much as it was about the history of the United States.)
Then I thought about the book I’ve been neglecting. I started reading Gabriel García Márquez’ semi-fictional Love in the Time of Cholera, but I have to be honest, it’s not terribly exciting, and I’ve been reading other stuff in between pages. The Little Sabra bought me One Hundred Years of Solitude for my birthday, but I haven’t started it yet. I will, though, I promise.
Speaking of the Little Sabra, I could talk about her, but we haven’t done anything too terribly exciting since we got back from Boston. I think the most interesting thing we've done recently was go to Baltimore to meet my folks for snow balls.
There’s stuff going on in the news, but it who really cares that Paris Hilton got out of jail?
LtL and I are embarking on a new website, so that’s sort of got me jazzed, but as neither of us know anything about Drupal, the site is rather slow going. I don’t think I want to talk about it here, though.
What else? I joined the Smithsonian Institution a few weeks ago and just got my first issue of thier magazine. I started reading that, and there are some very interesting articles about very interesting people.
Finally, I should wrap this up with a general bitch about how there are so many people out there doing amazing and interesting things, and here I am sitting on my ass fantasizing about doing amazing things. How do they do it? Some kid (well, 23—gee, I’m feeling old calling a 23-year old a kid) just flew around the world in a plane he built, someone else is feeding the hungry, and still another citizen of the world is building mud huts in the middle of Africa, and here I sit on the 9th floor of NASA HQ, cooled by the A/C, typing away at my computer with little actual work to do, fantasizing about articles I could write, TV shows I could produce, non-profits I could start, websites I could develop, and still I sit while others do.
I just finished reading Rich Smith’s You Can Get Arrested for That: 2 Guys, 25 Dumb Laws, 1 Absurd American Crime Spree. I was at Borders in Silver Spring a few weeks back, and I saw this book lying on the table. I picked it up on a whim and bought it. The premise on the back reminded me of a crazy little adventure I’d like to partake it one day.
There is much to say about this book. Mostly, it’s one of those books that forces the reader to utter one of two possible things:
1) “How come I can’t get published?”
2) “I could have done it better!”
Now, I have to say that usually this is just Monday-Morning-Quarterback talk, and most of the people who utter such comments couldn’t get published if the publisher begged them to write something, and no, most likely they couldn’t do it better. Admittedly, I have yet to get a book published, but believe you me, I definitely could have done it better.
Technically, Smith is a fine writer (in fact, he is [as of publication] majoring in journalism, and I’m sure has already written his share of short stores). The book flows from event to event, and he crafts some fine analogies and metaphors. Ne’ertheless, where he falters is in the story, not the storytelling.
Basically, the premise of the book is that Smith decides that he is going to come the US (he’s British—Cornish to be exact) and break 25 laws in this great country of ours. The catch is (and there is always a catch, isn’t there?) that he is going to break ridiculous laws that there is little reason they are still on the books (apparently, in one town it’s illegal to kiss for longer than 5 minutes while in another it’s illegal to drink alcohol out of bucket while sitting on the curb). He succeeds at some and not at others. Still others he decides to avoid (e.g., somewhere it is illegal to tie your giraffe to a streetlamp). He and his mate, Bateman, travel from California to New York, stopping in rural America to attempt to break the law. Along the way, they meet some interesting folks, and we get to hear a brief snippet about them.
As I said, I think I could have done it better. Apparently, there are a shit-ton of laws still on the books. Why did he pick the ones he did and not others? Why not attempt to break them all? Or at least try to break some that are more interesting than the one in Boston, where it’s illegal to wear a goatee. I would have liked to have seen him give a little more background on the laws he was breaking. Why were they created? What happened to force the powers that be to write such absurd legislation? Likewise, he could have spent a bit more time telling us about the preparation that he needed for some laws instead of recounting each drinking bout he and Bateman partook in (I think that Hooters or WalMart sponsored the spree). Likewise, some of the details leave you wondering if he in fact did make this trip. They are in Georgia or the Carolinas at one point, and they decided to go to Baltimore because they don’t want to travel through West Virginia to get to DC. I was a little confused. This wasn’t the only time this happened. The whole leg on the Eastern Seaboard seemed to go rather oddly. Now, it’s possible that he just didn’t have the days right and was writing after the fact, but a simple look at a map will tell you that
1) they jumped over states just to backtrack,
2) they took way out-of-the way routes (maybe the were relying on Mapquest), and
3) they wasted a lot of time.
He also says things that just didn’t really make a lot of sense. He says that while they were in Ocean City, Maryland, they traveled back over the bridge a few minutes away. If he’s talking about the Bay Bridge or even the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, they are more than a few minutes away. Perhaps he’s talking about the Route 50 bridge over the Assawoman (yea, that’s really the name of it) Bay. Later, they are in DC, and he’s looking for a kite. He heads down to the Golden Triangle to look for a store that sells a kite. There are folks who walk around the area and help tourists find things. Interestingly, they are unable to help him find a kite shop. It isn’t too surprising that there isn’t a kite shop in that area, but what is surprising is
1) that he was in the Golden Triangle when he was trying to break a law on the National Mall. True, the White House is a borderline for the Triangle, but the White House is pretty far off the center of the Mall.
2) None of the people he spoke with (people who are trained to help tourists, keep in mind) thought to send him the to the National Air and Space Museum, where the shop does indeed sell kites (at least as of this publication).
About 3 years ago, I had thought about writing a book on all the dumb laws still on the books, but I must admit that it never occurred to me to actually try to break them. Kudos to Smith for thinking that one up. I think it would be fun to try and do this, but I fear that now everyone would see me as nothing but a copycat (which, I guess, I would be). But my story wouldn’t be the same as his, so it doesn’t really matter, does it? Who’s up for a road trip? We could try to beat him at his own game. He never succeeded in breaking all 25. Of course, who knows if he really broke any of them. Supposedly, Bateman was taking pics of his law-breaking buddy, but none of them appear in the book.
Anyway, I would love to go out and try this and see if I could get my version of the spree published. Would a publisher be willing to publish a book like that if someone else already did it?
What is my crazy little adventure? I’m not telling. But I will let you know when it hits the bookshelves.
So, I'm trying really hard to write a business plan. Anyone out there have any tips, helpful hints, or maybe even have one they could give me so I don't have to waste my time coming up with one?
This shit's hard. My sister and brother-in-law make it look really easy.