Podcast Episode 12: Favorite Things. This is the return of the little podcast that could (or would, but usually doesn’t). Lots of Olympics riffing, and funny voices included to describe the voyage of the Curiosity Mars Rover. Have fun, enjoy some of your own favorite things and try not to fall off the couch watching the end of the London Olympic games this week!
(Due to recent bouts of human sensitivity and empathy for the plight of mankind, Mostly Teachable was temporarily postponed. We now return you to our previously scheduled obnoxious, immature blog. Thanks.)
There are two places in the United States that I enjoy driving through for no reason other than the fact that I suffer from stunted brain development. The first is Emlenton, Pennsylvania. The Emelenton Truck Plaza boasts serving the world’s worst apple pie. Pretty much true, but I appreciate the fact that they’ve turned crappiness into a long running tourist gimmick. I plan to change the Mostly Teachable slogan to “World’s Worst Blog.” That would somehow imply that I care, though. My other favorite destination is Effingham, Illinois. No reason. I just really like spending the thirty miles of nothingness before and after the town shouting about effinham. Which brings me to the completely irrelevant, and yet satisfyingly…irrelevant subject of Spam.
I read an article yesterday by some esteemed culinary schmuck about the rebirth of Spam canned meat products as a result of the ongoing economic downturn. The author provided recipes by renowned chefs who’ve created solid entrée offerings using venerable old Spam products. My memories of Spam are vivid, but not entirely sepia-toned and fuzzy with warm feelings. There were no culinary offerings that came from Spam that made it a worthwhile product to continue consuming as an adult. Spam was best fried. It came with its own weird, gelatinous meat sauce and invariably curled up in the skillet, as if to die from meat shame. I enjoyed eating Spam, especially on winter nights when it was accompanied by pancakes. I put Spam into the same category as Patrick Swayze movies and Foreigner albums. Hot at the time, yet best enjoyed on the sly as years pass.
Spam will never be the economic savior rising from grocery shelves to put money back into our pockets. For starters, it’s not a reasonably priced product. A 12 oz. can currently retails for $2.48. My cursory glance at local grocery advertisements revealed chicken breast fillets at $1.87 a pound. Even after trimming as purchased fat/waste, the consumer still saves money on fresh meat. The other, less telling reason is that the calories in Spam are nearly all from fat (a 2 oz. portion is 180 calories, 140 of which are from fat.). Mmm…Crisco. I still live by the old Police line that
When the world is running down/make the best of what’s still around.
Why Spam is still around is beyond me. The economics of fear, or the misty, water colored memories America shares of childhoods spent eating effin ham, I suppose.
This morning, I got up at four a.m. in an effort to get to work by five. “Early bird gets the worm,” I suppose, or some similar cliché. What a stupid thing to say.
Man! I got up at 4:00 a.m. just to get all the worms! Yeah! Worms!
I shuffled to the living room window and even in the dark felt like Ralphie from A Christmas Story as I looked at all the new, freshly fallen snow piled up to the lug nuts on my old Honda CR-V. My plans suddenly changed. I’d have to shovel snow, or else come home in the afternoon and dig my wife and daughter out of the snow drift they’d inevitably wander into. That isn’t a sexist statement, they just don’t have any kind of Laura Ingalls Wilder sense of how to get from the barn to the outhouse (or the front door to the Chevy, as it were). I put on 18 layers of clothes, including bath robes, old suit vests, burlap sacks, horse blankets, and made the long journey to the shed for a shovel. The family shovel of choice is a walk behind model with a no speed motor. The thing is so big that, if needed, I can use it for an Ark and float animals around during a 40 day rainstorm. After waking the neighbors by stubbornly trying to wrestle the beast out of the shed, I started the process of pushing snow around in the dark. The process turned out to be an oddly cathartic one.
Most days, I like to be at my job early. In the quiet, I can get massive amounts of work done. Early morning finds the world asleep, which is a reasonable expectation for most humans. Having the world to one’s self for a few hours isn’t a bad thing. The roads are clear and you can think your own thoughts without the overstimulation of noise pollution. This morning, in the pre-dawn darkness I silently pushed snow around and thought about the day. I shoveled so much that I found myself in the middle of the unplowed street. From behind the heavy clouds, the silvery sliver of the moon poked out and cast a grey shaft of light that illuminated the neighborhood. So, there I stood, leaning on my enormous shovel in the middle of a drift in the road. I just enjoyed the glow and thought out loud about how beautiful everything looked. Until the man who lives across the street opened his bedroom window and yelled “Sheddup!” So much for the quiet of early morning.
Yesterday I posted (yet another) knee jerk reaction to a genuinely soul sucking tragedy. Most of the time I wear my heart not so much on my sleeve, but definitely in plain sight. I love people and have felt an outpouring of empathy toward strangers this past year as horror after horror has unfolded. That said, I also love being an American. I’m a patriotic, loyal homer. The country that gave me a chance to be something (or other) still has a lot to be proud of. Here are some of the people, places and genuinely unique blessings of living in the good old U.S. of A:
I don’t put much stock in my horoscope. Using the alignment of the stars and planets to predict my future is pretty hit-or-miss. I may as well just base my future on good luck brought about by the Kim Kardashian/Kanye West pregnancy (he’s pregnant, according to the announcement. She’s just bootylicious and confused). I also am betting that I’ll have a great day if no more than one of the kids on Buck Wild ends up with alcohol poisoning or head trauma on tonight’s episode. My horoscope for Leo read as follows this morning:
When someone reaches out to you today, stifle your shy, introverted side and reach back at them. Smile, flirt, and try to be open about how you feel. Even if you are caught off guard by all the friendliness, just try to relax and go with it. It’s fun! People find you very approachable, and you should get used to the unexpected. Start making small efforts to react more warmly and receptively … these tiny moves will be recognized and appreciated.
I am doomed if this horoscope is a representation of my day. First of all, if it weren’t for my shy and introverted side I wouldn’t be anything more than a cloud of noxious gas. As an introverted, stifled gas cloud, it’s hard for me to smile and flirt with people. I just look pained. Then there is the idea of relaxing and not being so caught off guard by friendliness. Many times I misunderstand friendliness and end up drooling on people. There are ways to compensate for the drooling such as wearing absorbent clothing. Needless to say, I don’t get a lot of second invitations to people’s houses even with my squeegee clothing. I do try to live out some of the horoscopes recommendations already. For instance, I make tiny moves to act warm and receptive to friendliness. Tiny, cat-like moves. I like to spring out from behind chairs at parties in an effort to be flirty. This is done, warmly, of course. I pay for a lot of dry cleaning and carpet shampooing, but my tiny, catty moves are always recognized. Oh, well. Horoscopes are fickle and inaccurate. Tomorrow’s will probably tell me to take on all the personality traits that would make a Kanye/Kardashian baby likable.
I’ve had writer’s block for several days. When this happens I return to the basics, things that make sense to me. Lots of “science food” is consumed during these literary droughts. Science food is the kind of culinary delight that consumers can’t screw up during preparation, because it’s too perfectly designed. I ate quite a bit of Cool-Whip, which really is a perfectly engineered edible product. The marriage of hydrogenated oil, corn syrup and flavoring agents. Frankly, I’d smoke the stuff (and I probably could, it’s so well designed). Cool Whip even stays whipped at room temperature for a disturbingly long time.
Over the years I’ve made sickening amounts of real whipped cream out of nothing more than cream, a bit of sugar and some vanilla. Every once in a while, I’ll throw in a packet of Dr. Oetker’s stabilizer in if the whipped cream has to hold up for a lengthy period of time. There is something to be said for Cool Whip, though, even if you are firm believer in truth, justice and real whipped cream. In no way does Cool Whip resemble the original model. It’s the Christina Hendricks of dessert products. Sorry, but I was sick last weekend and ended up watching old episodes of Mad Men. Real whipped cream has curves and peaks and a hint of sweetness. Cool Whip is sexy in an exaggerated way. The stuff just hits you over the head. After eating Cool Whip I can walk into a room and have people ask “Good grief, have you been into the whipped topping, man?” Yeah, it’s because I don’t drink much, although several times I did work out something called Booze Whip. There was a great combination: fermented grain beverages and hydrogenated vegetable oil. It just ain’t a party ’till somebody gets a bowl of Cool Whip tipsy. Makes you forget all about writer’s block.
I live in a house full of women. To start with such a statement can only mean that this post is probably headed south in a hurry. Hmmm…let me start over. I dwell in a house filled with women I love. For the most part, I’ve loved the women that it has been my great fortune to share the world with. My house is made up of my wife, our ten-year old daughter and our dog. Each of them is going through various stages of the female experience. I can’t even imagine the experiences each of them is dealing with. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was mind-blowing enough for my absurdly male brain. Grace, the foul-mouthed beagle is probably the easiest to understand. She sleeps 18 hours a day and then wakes up for petting and to share her reverse doggy hiccups. I never thought it would be possible, but Grace the menopausal, stinky, hiccupping dog and myself have bonded. A man’s got to keep his friends close, even the narcoleptic, fuzzy ones. My daughter is becoming an adolescent. She’ll be a woman someday, but at the moment she’s living through one of the many difficult portions of emotional development. Oh, and the fact that she has my timing and pitched sarcasm doesn’t help.
I have a corner. A bank of electronic devices to hide behind with a comfy chair in between. If I sneak away from the land of giant, roaming emotions for too long and hide in the humming world of warm electronics, the women in my life start to seek me out.
What has happened to the man who used to live in our house? We have nobody to argue with but each other!
Eventually, I come out of the cave of solitary man and realize that the women in my life truly love and care for me when life gets twisted and spins in directions that don’t make sense. Not just the dog, either. They draw me out not just to get in the middle of biological turmoil, but to remind me that I have a great family. That I did all the right things at various times in life and have been blessed enough to live with two really awesome human beings. The dog is…sleeping. On second thought, that might be the relationship that needs work.
I’ve been a WordPress blog user since early 2009, both on the .com and self-hosted .org platforms. Through the many iterations of my writing life, notably Mostly Teachable and Spatula In The Wilderness, I’ve always tried to maintain a sense clean design and purposefully used space. Over the blogs, there have been numerous charity banners for causes that I care deeply about. I’d rather that people were respected, cared for and uplifted by everything that appears here. Commercial advertising wasn’t considered because it’s never proven in the past to be anything more than cheesy and obnoxious. There wasn’t anything in the spirit of fun and giving back value to friends and readers (and if you read this blog, trust me, you’re a friend). WordPress recently rolled out WordAds, which change the game. WordAds places advertising on the blog, which is another way for the blog to make friends and get into the hands of people who might like to read 320 daily words of silliness and good cheer. The Mostly Teachable Plan for partnering with WordAds is simple. Whatever proceeds come about because of the appearance of advertising, and from other revenue sources, my small portion goes to the following:
Tithing and local support for the Do Something program in Berrien County, Michigan ( see *Do* Something, Posted 6/10/12).
Support for charities that I have cared for and talked about on WordPress previously including To Write Love On Her Arms, The Trevor Project, It Gets Better, and The American Red Cross.
Right Back into the blog, in order to keep things fresh and provide a fun experience for Friends of Mostly Teachable.
Although I consider myself a reasonably educated man, having attended some of the finest elementary schools that the public school system ever funded, there are certain subjects that have eluded me. One in particular is the Women’s Movement. On this subject, I grabbed whatever self-education was available. My daughter’s American Girl books have a short historical background appendix in each, and I got some useful information from those. I had nightmares about the dolls marching for equal rights out on the front lawn, though, so I quit reading that material. In truth, I’ve always been a daring, ever curious reader. I can remember staying with a host family while on trip when I was 17 years old. The family had an attic library tucked away full of books that were educational, but not meant for me. I spent rainy days reading Pauline Réage and Erica Jong. The trip I was on happened to be church sponsored and the family wasn’t thrilled that my free time had been so eye-opening. There was suddenly a new flow of consciousness within my addled, previously under-stimulated brain.
Aha! So women think differently than men! This changes everything…
Okay, I didn’t get anything out of the rainy afternoon reading club other than a smile and some confusing physiology lessons. As I grew, there was a growing awareness of women that I admired. Eleanore Roosevelt, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Maya Angelou, Hilary Clinton, Grete Waitz. The list goes on, but I stopped with the list itself. I knew that they broke through the glass ceiling, but never stopped to consider how they did it. Worse were the women I objectified. I can’t picture Kate Upton, for instance, one day curing cancer unless she’s doing so in a painted on bikini. My thinking is slowly changing, though. Two nights ago I was watching Makers on PBS. I don’t know why I was watching a show about the Women’s Movement. Maybe it was because Everybody Loves Raymond has been in reruns since 2003. The show was great and I got hooked on the stories of Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. What an amazing time it was to be a woman in the early 1970’s, when there were suddenly options beyond throwing away one’s education and taking care of a house. I sat and watched the program with a sort of boggle-eyed wonder, as if I’d lived my life on a deserted island and never met any women. Well, until technical difficulties interrupted the show and it was replaced by Antiques Roadshow after ten minutes of blue screen. I wanted to call the station and protest, or threaten to burn my undergarments if they didn’t bring back the second half of Makers. Women may not dig me, but I realize now how far they’ve had to travel. Call it the education of a middle aged swine.
One of the little bonding moments between my daughter and I took place this week while watching the Olympic Beach Volleyball gold medal match. At the end of the final set, after Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings had defeated fellow Americans April Ross and Jen Kessy, Treanor began to stomp around the sand as LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem played. My little girl, being all of ten and still struggling to develop good judgement, was really enthused about this. Despite the fact that the song is so old and played-out that it qualifies for Social Security, little kids seem to still enjoy it. Not that I let her listen to the tired piece of song, but I know she’s heard the track a lot. As she bopped along with Misty, I pointed out that Party Rock is just re-heated Wang Chung. “What? Dad,what’s Wang Chung?” I started to explain to her some nugget of wisdom about how music existed long before she was born, but then an actual 80’s song began to play, and I was reminded that we didn’t have it much better.
The song that followed our LAME-O LMFAO moment was by Spandau Ballet. True was featured in a car commercial depicting a bunch of adults my age driving around in a shiny, new automobile, happily singing along with the tune. Poor True. The song is one of those tracks locked in our collective memories, better enhanced by storage in brain cells than in actuality. Party Rock Anthem will be one of those songs for my kid. As a guy, it was downright embarrassing to be riding around in some guy’s car when Spandau Ballet came on. In my case, my car only had an AM radio and the ability to pick up one station. If True began to play, all the guys rolled down their windows and hocked loogies out until the radio was hastily shut off. Spandau Ballet was always a deejay closer at dances, but I was too dumb to understand the signal. I liked to pretend I knew how do swooping, romantic dances, and would end up dropping some girl on the floor. ‘Lot of head injured women in my home town. I can only happily think that my child will one day grow up and turn off the radio when Party Rock starts. In the meantime, I’ll just spit out the window.