Friday, March 28, 2008

Read all about it.

There is hardly a more pleasurable activity to be undertaken than reading. A good book has a unique way of removing one's brain from its current set of perturbations and dropping it gently on the lush, soft grass of knowledge. I don't even have to learn anything or be stunned by genius, though I have. What I do require is something that holds my attention and does so in an eloquent, witty or provoking manner. To that end, I recommend the works of the esteemed chef, television host, writer, rabblerouser, former drug addict and globetrotter prophet Anthony Bourdain.

I've only read two of his books, but now plan on reading the rest, which include a couple of novels. The man has a gift with words. Being a fan of his Travel Channel show, "No Reservations," and knowing well his cigarette-addled, sarcasm-laced, NYC-bred, kitchen-heat patina'd voice, I can hear him read to me as my eyes move over the page. It's a rare advantage to have while reading a funny, engaging and moving book - when else in our reading lives (you all have reading lives, I hope...) are we able to immediately conjure the text before us in so singular a voice? It's not like old scratchy tape of Shakespeare reading sonnets exists out there in the ether. If it did, it would be expensive and utterly underwhelming. Of that fact I am sure.

If ever you get the chance to listen to, purchase or memorize the oral music of your favorite writers reading from their works, please indulge yourself. I have had the opportunity to listen to recordings of one of my writerly idols, the poet Adrienne Rich, read what may be my favorite poem, "Diving Into the Wreck." Until I heard her read it, it was as if I had never heard it at all. Her cadence is forever seared into my cortex, and I am glad. Next month, I will have the second and hopefully more personal opportunity to hear her read. Or at least talk. She's coming to Milwaukee, and I couldn't be more excited.

How excited? Let me put it this way. I was in Rome and could have stood under Pope Benedict's window in Vatican City to hear him give noon Mass in 15 languages. Not an experience many people can say they had a shot at having. What did I do instead? Got on a double-decker tour bus with a nice couple from Washington and saw a hell of a lot more of Rome than can be seen from Benedict's window. But Adrienne Rich coming to your city? I would sell my left arm, leg, kidney and most of my soul just to be in the same room as her.

You get my point: Read. Listen. Enjoy. Repeat.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lo, these 15 days.

Hello there. It has been some time since my last post, and some water has passed under the bridge, as they say.

I don't have a whole ton of new information for you, expect to say that my house is still for sale and the democratic nomination still isn't sewn up. Alas. May the winds of change blow through Milwaukee and Washington, D.C.

Today is St. Patrick's Day, which in this country is merely an excuse to wear green, drink heavily and leer at others for the purpose of either fisticuffs or intercourse. Sometimes it's hard to determine which leer is which. I will drink today, but I have to be in class tonight to give a presentation with my group on a project we haven't really begun yet.

I have to share a random observation with you, because it's the kind of thing that is truly ripe for dissection. There is a new commercial on television for the Toyota Sienna minivan. If you've seen it already, the mere mention of it should have you in hysterics.

The commercial is done in black and white. It features the not-remotely alluring Sienna parked on what could only be a California beach (rocky coastline, crashing surf), a stunning bikini-clad model circling it and caressing its shapely curves while a voice-over announcer says platitudes in a bedroom voice. Enter a buff, shirtless man, who promptly sidles up to the woman and... am I watching a commercial for personal lubricant or a swanky hotel chain? NO - IT'S A FRIGGIN' MINIVAN! What on earth would a minivan be doing on a beach? Why would these people with lust in their eyes be anywhere near a minivan? The kicker is what happens next - the woman pulls the van's key fob from the pocket of the man's shorts and opens the rear passenger doors while the voice-over guy closes with Toyota's line about moving forward.

I would love to have been a fly on the wall at the meeting where some agency hacks were dreaming this one up - "see, we're just going to rely on the natural and stratospheric sex appeal of the all-new Toyota Sienna. It will practically sell itself..." But hey, I'm all for satire, and if this is merely satirizing Calvin Klein like others are saying it does, then more power to them. Personal lubricant not included. Watch the ad here.

No wonder everyone wants to work in advertising.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Random question.

Hey readers. What are the Ides of March?