Pulling Out the Savoy Truffle

Reflections on music, literature, politics, and pop culture from retired rock musician, writer, and college professor Jim Booth. Email comments to Jim at jim@jimbooth.org.

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Location: Advance, North Carolina, United States

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Name Calling

"You know my name/Look up the number..."
John Lennon/Paul McCartney

Like everyone else I get spam all the time. One of the things spam mail programs do is generate phony sender names.

My buddy Sam, who's a poet, has begun making lists of the more interesting spam names he's received. You can see some of his at The Lullaby Pit.

For some reason, the most interesting names come from the spammers who send out ads for stuff like Viagra and push up bras. (probably something profound there, but I'm not sure I want to know what it is.)

Here are the latest I've received:

Dishwasher Friedrich Osiris
Incoherent Mrs. Finance
Ashore Brainwash Luftwaffe

Draw your own conclusions.

JB

All I Want

"Problems, problems, problems all day long..."
Felice and Boudleaux Bryant
(for the Everly Brothers)

I'm currently in a place I don't want to be.

Right now, I'm a teacher who writes.

I want to be a writer who teaches.

JB

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Social Distortion and the TV Generation

"I am the slime in your video...."

Frank Zappa

Check out this Brian Fairrington cartoon a friend sent me. (Click on the Fairrington cartoon for 4/7.)



True enough cartoon in its simplistic Republican way, but I think far too many parents are ill equipped to cope these days. The information/consumer/demagogue culture we live in is beyond the navigating capabilities of too many of its painfully ill-educated and poorly informed voyagers.

A media saturated culture overwhelms everything in its path. We're experiencing the Johnstown flood of information - and like with that disaster, with this one there's little time to do anything other than try to keep from drowning in trivia. When one has to struggle to discern news from entertainment or political scheming, passing along the best information to one's offspring becomes an exercise in frustration....

Makes explaining/modeling/fomenting societal change almost impossible....

Perhaps this explains the lack of a coherent protest movement against Dubya and the Iraq debacle or, as I and many others with the Hollywood lingo like to call it, "Vietnam II: The Sequel.... "

Or maybe if we as a society spent less time worrying about when kids should be allowed to become pro athletes (affecting less than .5% of the population) and more time worrying about the competency of our citizenry to handle basic social responsibilities such as parenting (affecting about 80% of the population), we wouldn't be faced with any more baleful celebrations like that 5th anniversary of Columbine we had yesterday....

To return you to consideration of the cartoon for a few moments, anybody out there who doesn't think TV rots the mind?

If you do find redeeming value in television, let me persuade you otherwise - American Idol comes on tonight, I think. Try 10 minutes of that, then tell me TV isn't the opium of the masses....

Haven't you noticed that Discovery, TLC, and the other "learning channels" have all gone to programming that consists of interior "decorating," true crime "reporting," and celebrations of war of one kind or another?

It says a good deal about us as a society, a culture, and a country when some of the most socially responsive and insightful programming we can access in our 200 channel TV universe is on Comedy Central....

We are a nation of sheep being tended by wolves and jackals, and if we get slaughtered it's our own damned fault....

JB

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Trout Fishing in America I

"Is that a real poncho, or a Sears poncho...?"
Frank Zappa

Been really busy lately doing the professor thing. It has its moments, but overall, Dylan was right: "Twenty years of schoolin'/And they put you on the day shift...."

I'm currently reading my pal Bob's novel in manuscript,. It's named House Calls. I'm taking a long time to get through it, but I'm putting a lot of time into feedback. Bob's the kind of guy who appreciates that sort of stuff.

I'm also reading poetry my friend Sam is sending me. He's going through a creative period right now, and I'm doing what I can to offer him sensible, useful feedback. You should read his Lullaby Pit blog if you don't already do.

There's a lot I could write about today - I have some strong words about President Bush and his administration's refusal to accept responsibility for the Iraq debacle, but too many pundits, would be pundits, and blowhards from the left and right are blathering about that already, so let's let it lie.

Let's talk fishing.

I had a really good day fly fishing on a trout stream in NW North Carolina a couple of weeks ago. It was one of those days where everything comes together.

One of the reasons I like fly fishing is because it's metaphorical. It's philosophical. It's artistic. It encourages thinking without requiring it. Not much in life does all that satisfactorily.

When a trout takes your fly, it's the beginning of a relationship. As the guy said, there's a line with a life at either end.

I'd driven two hours to get there from my home in the suburbs of an NC city. The stream was fairly crowded, but I knew it well and decided to fish "in between" water - on stretches of water that most anglers would ignore because they seem less promising (and less obvious) than many others along that creek.

I put on the waders, strung up the rod and made a couple of casts to get the kinks out.

On the third I hooked a nice Brookie, about ten inches long. A few more casts, a few more trout, a mix of Rainbows, Brooks, and Browns, ranging in size from 5-15 inches. All from a section of the stream that 90% of the folks fishing would pass by because it's a little inconvenient to approach, a little difficult to cast along.

I caught 8 along that little appreciated stretch of the creek in all.

I moved up stream to another spot I know about. Again, this was a stretch of water a little inconvenient to get to with fishing a little harder than average.

I caught 9 more, this time with a couple of Browns well over 15 inches mixed into a lot of Brookies and Rainbows ranging from 7-11 inches.

Of course, I released all the trout I caught unharmed. You should, too.

I thought about fishing some more but the fishing I'd done had been a bit difficult and I was kind of tired and very satisfied, so I quit, packed up the gear and made my way back down the mountain.

All this in less than 3 hours. From two stretches of a stream most anglers would go right by.

There's a lesson here about the way we should live, I think.

It's like knowing the difference between a real poncho and a Sears poncho.

JB





Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Reading, Not Writing

"I have my books/And my poetry to protect me...."
Paul Simon


I've been quiet lately. I'm not sure why. Maybe all writers do this. I know this one does.

Instead of writing (I find the term blogging too silly/sad/supernal for my comfort) I've been doing a lot of reading . I've been reading stories out of Richard Ford's edition of The Granta Book of the American Short Story, a novel by the Canadian author Alistair MacLeod, and my pal Bob Greene's new novel in manuscript.

I've also given my friend Sam Smith some feedback on a couple of poems and have been reading and answering emails from friends and colleagues.

This isn't counting the student papers I've read and commented upon.

Last night I read a bunch of anecdotes about the great American musician Frank Zappa. Here's a great quote from him:

"There is no hell. There is only France."

I don't believe FZ's assertion. I've been to France a couple of times and the food's great, the wine's better, and the women are ooh la la , especially in Paris.

This happens to me a lot. Maybe it happens to you, too. You read or hear something that at heart you don't believe, but you see the humor and truth in what's said, too. Almost all of us have had this experience.

Here's an example: "I love you."

See what I mean? You might not believe at heart what the person's saying, but you see the humor and truth in it....

I've wandered from my topic. I can hear Holden Caulfield's speech class yelling "Digression!" even now....

So I've been reading a lot lately and not writing (except for that necessary stuff to get through the professional day of a college professor).

That's not writing, folks. That's more akin to a quarterback calling signals....

Something else.

I haven't been entirely happy with this blog. It hasn't met my needs as a person or my urges as a writer.

So I'm changing it.

Sorry if you were hoping I'd stop. No such luck.

I'm feeling ready to write again. So I'm going to write and write somewhat differently than I've written here before.

It's going to be less distaff publc commenting and more writerly sharing.

I think we'll all like that better.