Thursday, March 25, 2010

It has been too long...

I am currently on my spring break, but instead of flying down to Miami to scream at the top-of-my-lungs while having a douche-bag muscled-neck bartender pouring the ingredients of a pomegranate cosmo directly into my mouth, only later to vomit and pass out, I am reading and relaxing on the home-front.

This has been very nice. But I haven't really been in too much of a mood to write lately. Earlier in the term I found time to write (not on the blog obviously), but as the term progressed I found myself drawn to the variety of brainless activities: watching sitcoms on Netflix, watching old VHS tapes of Seinfeld and Howard Stern when his show was on the E Channel, and general internet bullshit. Only now, about a week into my break, am I breaking through that weird dead zone and starting to actually read the words on the page of a book rather than following the sentences while thinking: Is that Bruno interview with the "terrorist" real or staged? As if the quotes couldn't lead you, the post-interview with the Ayman Abu Aita by a TIME journalist suggests otherwise, as well as the fact that Aita is "going to pursue him [Sacha Baron Cohen] legally, in the courts." Yeah, I know -- who cares?

Unfortunately, I'm still trying to rein-in my attention span. I believe I am thinking and acting like a chipmunk because this particular break is very short and my ambitious mind tries to set goals for it. I wanted to catch up on reading, but instead of taking my time on one book I had to simultaneously have four other books on my nightstand so that I could interchange them at will. I wanted to study German language for about ten minutes, then I wanted to read a Non-Fiction essay, then I wanted to read half of a chapter of a Fiction book, etc... But it's slowly getting better. Yesterday I put them away and now I am focusing on two books, albeit one at a time.

The first of these books is called Inventing a Nation by Gore Vidal. It seems an appropriate supplement since I have just finished a college course on the earliest part of U.S. History. This is but one of the many Gore Vidal books, whether historical fiction or non-fiction narrative, of American historical figures or American politics in general (Burr, Lincoln, Washington D.C., Empire, and probably a few others I am forgetting) . This book in particular deals with Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. As has been said before of Gore Vidal, (maybe even by Vidal himself, I can't exactly remember...), he treats the founding fathers as if they had dicks (surely this was phrased differently if Gore Vidal had said it himself). In other words, he doesn't canonize the Founding Fathers, rather he writes about them as if they were humans who had contradictions and faults, and even sex drives. And he dispels the notion that the colonies, and the political leaders of said colonies, were one big united front against the evils of British monarchy and aristocracy. Okay, that might be simplistic; point is, he looks at U.S. history with a most discerning eye, and judging by his literary/journalistic/political career, has for quite some time. Most responsible historians today, I feel, are able to objectively look at the standard story of the late eighteenth-century David and Goliath, but it's probably because of people like Gore Vidal that they are able to do this now. And fortunately, my U.S. history textbook, Give Me Liberty, by Eric Foner, does a good job in its treatment of the founders, too.

In comparison, I have a 1909 U.S. history book, simply titled American History by James Alton James and Albert Hart Sanford, that seems to have been written by two fawning historians. To its credit, it's not poorly written, but the chapter on the Revolutionary War is kinda funny (Even the preceding chapter "Causes of the American Revolution," mysteriously has no mention of Thomas Paine or his influential tract "Common Sense." As a matter of fact, Thomas Paine is not included in the book whatsoever). After reading the chapter I concluded that the authors seemed to have a George Washington fetish. Lafayette seems to be a passing character, and in general France's military aid (as well as their financial aid) is understated. Washington never retreats from a battle ungracefully; no, he "was obliged to retreat," and "this he did most skillfully." And the recently successful army of General Howe, whose army was following Washington and his retreating army, "did not dare make a serious effort to dislodge him [Washington]" at their position at White Plains. Of course he didn't, defeated and fleeing armies are so impressive and intimidating, who would dare? Again, "Washington's only policy was that of retreat," in reference to a decisive battle in which the British were anticipating the arrival of Washington's dwindling army. The authors' tone almost seems defensive, as if to say "he had to run, alright! what are you implying? he's the bravest, smartest, and most wonderful human being that ever was, alright!" And when one opens up the book, the first page one encounters is a portrait of George Washington. It made me laugh out loud.

The second book that I'm going to attempt to read during my spring break is a collection of short stories from James Joyce titled Dubliners. I believe it is his first book, though I might be wrong. Since I haven't even cracked that one open, I don't have much to say about it. I found the only cheap copy of it at Powell's bookstore that hadn't been scribbled in or highlighted. I was sort of amazed at how many used copies there were of both Dubliners and of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. But then I started to leaf through them, and found almost all of the books had scribbles in the margins. They were funny scribbles too: a passage would be circled and in the margin the word "clever," or "metaphor about childhood" was inserted. The highlighted book that I looked through (can't remember which one) was equally funny, but because the highlights were of single words. I might be wrong on this one, but the highlights seemed to be of semi-unusual words that the reader didn't understand the meanings of. And they were on practically every page. Anyhow, I thought that Dubliners might be a good entry into the James Joyce style, before tackling the big ones like Finnegan's Wake or Ulysses.

Well, that's about it for now. I just had to write something since it's almost been three months of silence. I had contemplated writing about a rather antagonistic and shrill Craigslist ad for a breakfast cook that I found titled "I really meant I need a Great Breakfast Cook (Dowtown Portland)," but I decided that it would take up more time than I was willing to spend deconstructing the damn thing. It sort of speaks for itself, anyhow. And on that note, here's the ad:


Earlier today I ran the following ad: Kenny and Zuke's needs a terrific breakfast cook. Fast, dependable, meticulous, quality oriented person needed immediately. Experience working a busy breakfast line (not catering work) required - this is not a trainee position. Full-time, four day week. Must be able to start training this coming weekend, and be able to work mornings through lunch, including at least one weekend day, maybe both. Cool place to work - Fun and family-like. Please respond with resume, references and letter telling us something revealing about yourself we won't get from the standard resume. Points for humor and offbeat personality. Absolutely no phone calls or drop-ins!


What I got back was 80 (so far) responses, about 75 of which were notable for how unqualified they were for the position. Let me clarify - When I said Breakfast Line Cook, I meant someone who can stare down a rail with 20 dupes and 60 plates of eggs and hash and French toast and clear it in 20 minutes as 20 more dupes take their place, and do this on Saturday or Sunday for 5 or 6 straight hours. I don't need someone who has been Head Chef at Fifi's for 9 years making bordelaise sauce, or someone slinging burgers at the Rose Garden for Aramark, or someone who got laid off their construction job, cook's eggs for their little brother and thinks it might be fun to, I don't know, turn pro. I wish you all luck, but I need a breakfast line cook right now. Any out there? 

Wow. Who wouldn't want to work at this "fun and family-like" restaurant?