Thursday, May 29, 2008
It wasn't because I was somehow drawn to Juneau or Bismarck. At age five, I acquired a bit of a cartographic fetish that, to this day, I've never been able to shake. During the day I used to play with a map-puzzle of the USA, and each state was its own piece (except for New England which, broken into individual pieces, would have posed a choking hazard). Under each piece was a star, and the name of a city. My parents took an inordinate amount of joy from seeing if I could tell what was under the piece without actually picking it up.
My mom snitched on me during a parent-teacher conference. A few days later, Mrs. Summers trotted me up to the first grade class. She wanted to see if they could stump me. They couldn't. I rattled off capitals with the confidence of a person who's just defended his Master's thesis. I even wowed Mrs. Summers with the obscure ones. Augusta. Pierre. Carson City. I was unstoppable.
Over the span of ten minutes, I taught American geography to an entire class of first graders. I also gave them justification to hate me.
After all, there's nothing worse than some kindergartner being smarter than you, especially if you're an upperclassboy. Those kids take naps and have breaks every ten minutes for juice. First graders, with their spelling tests and addition flash cards and Book-It! stamps, are much more refined.
So they resented me. And so did my fellow classmates, especially after Mrs. Summers announced that I knew all of the state capitals and many of the first graders did not. This was not seen as a successful attack on the kids upstairs. It was mutiny. My classmates thought I was trying to show them up. The other kindergartners made me do their equivalent of walking the plank; I was banned from playing hopscotch at recess.
My family moved after I finished first grade, and I started at a new school where I used my clean slate to alienate a whole new crop of classmates. I won a spelling bee trophy at the Trumbull County Fair. I got straight A's. I took home an award for writing in Middle School. I played in the high school band in eighth grade. I competed on my junior and senior high prep bowl teams. I went to Buckeye Boys' State my junior year. All of this increased my nerd quotient exponentially.
I invented a bell curve theory of popularity as related to intelligence; where the truly bright and the truly stupid were exiles and those with moderate smarts languished in the relative ease of social butterflydom. These were the kids that played football and went on dates and got invited to parties were people drank. I resented myself for knowing what a bell curve was.
So, I tried to play dumb. I used my brain when it counted: on tests, at prep bowl, in the grocery checkout line. But when I was around a group of people who were stumped about something, I didn't say what I knew to be the right answer. I stayed quiet. I wanted to be blissfully ignorant like everybody else around me. I wanted to move toward the middle on my bell curve and get the girls, invitations and football scholarships.
Somewhere, I lost it. I lost track of what it was like to have the desire to know more than I had to. I did fine in class and all but I stopped learning a foreign language. I quit taking flight lessons. I stopped reading books on my own. I finally made it to the middle.
And then I became boring. I could have been able to speak Spanish, land a Cessna or quote Vonnegut. Interesting people do that. I can't.
Our parents wanted to have interesting kids. So they made us take piano lessons and go to the museum and learn about electronics. They made us sing in the choir. They made us take calculus instead of an extra study hall. They hoped we'd see through the petty conformity of school to a future of enlightenment later.
Some of us did. But I wonder what all of those first graders are doing now, as I kick myself for not remembering the capital of New Hampshire.
From June 18, 2006
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
It all has something in common. It's old. But I figure it's worth it to try and put it all in one place. At least for archival purposes.
Basically I just want to clean out my computer. Please bear with me.
Monday, May 19, 2008
I don’t know what One Tree Hill is about. It seems to be very dramatic. Tonight’s episode ended with some guy getting hit by a car.
I’m assuming the show is shot, like every other CW drama, in Wilmington. I’m also assuming that on some day, Tom must have driven down there from Charlotte to play a sports anchor on the show.
Thirdly, I’m assuming that you know who Tom Werme is. If you don’t, he’s a sportscaster who fills in on WCNC from time to time. He’s always been very nice to me. I’ve had a beer or two with him at some point. I think he drove me to a Bobcats game when they played the Lakers.
On this episode, Tom is doing sports and the TelePrompTer goes out. Right out. Just shuts off. Tom freezes. Just like every sports guy I’ve ever met, Tom doesn’t have his scripts. He is also incapable of ad-libbing.
Before you yell at me, I’m being sarcastic here.
One more thing: he cannot toss back to the main anchor when all of this is happening, because the main anchor is standing in front of the set with no pants on. I do not know why this is.
So some kid, who I am assuming is a regular on the show, heroically picks up a headset and tells Tom what to say. The kid fails to announce “Ok now, repeat after me…” but Tom, ever the pro, gets it. You’d never even know that there was a problem if you were a fictional viewer of this fictional TV station (although it is a bit suspicious that the top story on that fictional newscast was about some kid's chances on national signing day).
The only giveaway is this:
KID: “With sports, I’m… say your name.”
TOM: “With sports, I’m say your name.”
It is a bit strange that I am able to keep up with the happenings of people I know by simply watching television at the right time. I found out that two of my friends from Charleston, West Virginia had moved here by watching another station’s midday newscast. One was doing weather. The other was doing a live shot.
I've also been starstruck before as well. The sports anchor at my old TV station was actually a character in We Are Marshall. Some guy I went to college with was the Sprint Guy in those Alltel commercials. For a while, anyway.
I suppose it works both ways. I’ve had friends of mine tell me they’ve seen me on TV. I’m always confused until they tell me they saw me walking behind a reporter who was live in the newsroom. I constantly forget that a by-product of working at a television station is the constant presence of cameras. Gets me every time.
Tomorrow, I’ll have to call Tom and see just how in the hell he landed a part on One Tree Hill. And then I’ll ask him why he went out on to the set without any scripts.
At least he kept his pants on.
It’s not that you’re a bad worker. We all think you’re great. That concept you had last week for a paper-mache gremlin? Fantastic. It’s just that, and I don’t want to come off harsh, but, you just don’t fit in here. Yeah, it’s your cable. Or, shall I say, lack of it.
Seriously, I know you can’t afford it. I know we don’t pay you enough to afford basic, let alone the 171 channel package that includes Showtime and Starz 1 through Starz 7. But seriously, how are you supposed to make small talk with your co-workers if you don’t have VH1?
What, you thought you could get away with conversing about Judge Joe Brown? Nobody watches that, Pete. Nobody except for losers.
Ok, American Idol. I’ll grant you that. But that show’s over until next season now. Bitching about So You Think You Can Dance will get you nowhere.
Yeah, Laguna Beach was great. I saw last night’s episode. You didn’t? Oh. Oh, ok. Well then, maybe you can tell me about how you curled up under an afghan with your 15 cats and caught another exciting episode of Antiques Roadshow. I heard this really kick-ass stemware set got a $150 appraisal. That’s awesome, Pete. Real awesome.
Honestly, how can you survive without ESPN? I watch SportsCenter three times before I go to work. I know it’s the same show over and over again, but I use it to sharpen my sports knowledge. You never know when somebody’s going to ask. When’s the last time anybody went 3-for-5 on a Tuesday with 2 RBI and a passed ball? How could you even possibly know that Pete? Tell me how.
You’re pathetic, you know that? Joe down in IT told me you tried to look up an episode guide to Pimp my Ride online. It’s not the same, Pete. You can’t fake it. Reading a synopsis about putting a Rube Goldberg machine in the back seat of a Chevy Vega is not the same as watching Xzibit do it. Trust me. I’ve been there.
What? Yeah, I’ll bet that episode of the King of Queens was really funny last night. But that was on CBS. I don’t get that on the dish, dude.
So, what’s the problem? Penny over in accounts payable says you’re really making her feel uncomfortable. She said you came up to her the other day at the coffee machine and told her about "To Catch a Predator 12" on Dateline. She said you went off about the ethical ramifications of a news program using entrapment to manufacture a story and therefore, create intrigue and boost ratings. Sure, she said, you weren’t for letting those pederasts go either, but I think she was more creeped out by the fact that you watch NBC.
Come on, can’t you just watch E! News Live like the rest of us? Giuliana Dependi could be the next Barbara Walters.
Seriously, we’re going to have to let you go. I’m sure you’ll fit in somewhere. I hear they watch a lot of Wheel of Fortune down at the retirement home. Maybe you’ll find your calling there.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Thursday, May 8, 2008
I thought I'd had a pretty good day, intellectually.
At work, I interviewed a man from the relief organization Samaritan's Purse. It turns out that three of its relief workers are in Myanmar, trying to figure out how to get relief to hundreds of thousands of victims of a cyclone there. The government won't let most aid in right now. It's a huge crisis.
How smart I am, I thought. Not once did my subject say, "I'm sorry, I didn't understand the question." I get that a lot. But not today.
Then I went home and found that I'd left my George Foreman grill plugged in and red-hot for about 24 hours.
I made some chicken for dinner around 7:00 last night. I sometimes find that the grill is easier to clean when I leave it hot. Or maybe that's my excuse for just plum forgetting that I left my cheap plastic grill a'blazin'. Either way, it doesn't do much for my reputation as a clear thinker.
Tonight, I just decided to make myself a quick dinner that's nearly accident-proof: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Now that's brain food.