Day 217: VIP day.

This is a day on which I can do nothing.

The page contains a list of “Very Important Persons” that the authors of the Book would like an endorsement from. Everyone else can fuck off.

So, well, I don’t know?

I’m not an important person—not in the sense the Book means, anyway, and probably not in any other sense—I’m fine being unimportant, really, stop asking——anyway: not important, but I am going to endorse the Book. I’m going to make my students in the fall buy a copy, and use it the way I’ve used it: writing prompts. I’m going to make them “blog the Book,” although I’m not going to require them to go in chronological order, or blog every day: four days a week, I think.

This is on my mind, because I have to come up with my fall booklist to turn in to the bookstore—yes, already—and, yes, I could turn it in in July, but only if I want the bookstore staff to hate me. I don’t care if they hate me, actually, but I’m working on my syllabus anyway—productive procrastination! I should be grading papers or reading Middlemarch, but instead I’m working on my syllabus, which also has to get done.

Except, well, I’m procrastinating working on my syllabus by blogging. Which does actually have to get done: blogging is, for me, like going to the gym. The writing gym. It’s a way to keep my writing muscles in shape: the important thing is putting words together into things that resemble sentences, and sentences into things that resemble paragraphs—so that, theoretically, when I sit down to write actual things (seminar papers, conference papers, et ceteras) the writing is easier.

I guess it works. It will at least excuse how shitty this post is, at least in my own mind.

I’m not important anyway, so it doesn’t matter. Fucking Book.


Day 166: Get a famous person to autograph this page.

I am not the sort of person who runs in to famous people: for one thing, I don’t live in a place with a high concentration of famous people — I live in a place with no famous people — and for another, I avoid large crowds and busy areas as much as I can, and one doesn’t usually run across a famous person in the middle of nowhere. I never have, anyway.

So: since a famous person wasn’t going to come to me, and I wasn’t going to go hunt down a famous person, I decided instead to send the page to a famous person, using the magic of the United States Postal Service. Which famous person, though?

I could go into a long disquisition on what fame is, and what it means to be famous, and what sort of person “counts” as a “famous person” — but my heart isn’t in it. Suffice it to say, the person I chose isn’t famous in the way that Matt Damon or Jeff Bridges or the Coen brothers (I watched True Grit last night, can you tell?) are famous, but he’s a damn sight more famous than I am, and he’s been called out by Glenn Beck, which has to count for something.

I chose the famous-in-certain-circles Mr. David Malki ! — and the exclamation point is supposed to be there, in the manner of ?uestlove and Dr. Robert Smith? — proprietor of Wondermark and one of the editors of Machine of Death, among other things. He has a beard, which is important to me, and seems like the sort of dude who would actually honor this sort of odd request from a stranger (and by seems like I mean seems like as far as one can tell about someone you’ve never met in person and based solely on that person’s online existence, which was the subject of a recent Wondermark).

I wrote him a letter, I sent him the page torn out of the Book, I included a self-addressed stamped enveloped (as an aside: the abbreviation SASE has always seemed to me like it should refer to something else) — and I’m hoping for the best.

I’ll keep you posted.

Day 145: Start an urban legend.

Despite the title of this post, this actually happened to a guy I used to work with.

So this dude – David – left the store one night – we worked at a Starbucks, in San Antonio, at Bandera and 1604 – here, approximately —— anyway, he left work one Saturday night about 11:30, headed to a party at some dude’s house out toward Bandera (the town for which the road was named). It was late, he’d had a long day, he didn’t really know where he was going, and he got lost.

He’d been driving along for a while, passing no lights, going through no intersections, before he realized how lost he was. This was back in the days before everyone and their gerbil had a smartphone with a GPS, so he was really and truly lost. He kept going, looking for a place to turn around, found a driveway – and saw a big house, set pretty far back from the road, with a bunch of lights on.

He decided to go knock on the door – surely they would know where their house was, right, and could give him directions back in to town?

Of course, they might also rape, murder, and eat him – shit like that happens, you know.

Well, he took the chance. A gorgeous “farmer’s daughter” type answered the door – she gets prettier with every telling – and invited him in, to maybe have a drink?, she said – and David thought he’d found his way into one of those stories. So he went in, he sat on the couch she pointed him to, he said yes when she asked him if bourbon was alright, and then…

…he shat a brick when someone else brought him his bourbon. Not only because it was an old man, but also because it was Bill-motherfucking-Ghostbusting-Murray.

They ended up drinking and talking all night. Turned out that the dude who owned the house – the farmer – and Bill had gone to college together – at Regis, in Denver – and had done that one thing, together, that one time, but only Bill managed not to get arrested for it. Sometime around dawn, Bill made them all waffles. “Best waffles I’d ever eaten,” David said. After a few rounds of mimosas, he got directions back in to town, went home, changed, and came in to work for another closing shift.

He told me the story. He told it several times that night, to coworkers and customers. Finally I said to him: “You know that no one believes you, right?”

“Yeah,” he answered: “That’s what he said.”

Day 112: Trace your roots.

Shit, this is going to be easy.

I have two parents, a mother and a father. My parents have siblings; these are my aunts and uncles. Some of them have children; these are my first cousins. There are other degrees of cousin, but I don’t understand how they work.

My parents also each have parents of their own; these are my grandparents. There are four of them. My grandparents all had parents as well; these are my great-grandparents. There are eight of them. They had parents as well – my great-great-grandparents, of which there are sixteen – the pattern is fairly regular.

Some of these grandparents and great-grandparents and whatnots had other children; I’m not sure what to call those. The same goes for any siblings any of these people might have had. Somehow I’m related to them, I guess, but it all gets tangled and messy very quickly, and I never see any of these people anyway, so I’m not going to bother figuring it out.

The tree is not a good metaphor for thinking about family relationships: it only works, really, if you ruthlessly ignore everyone who isn’t parent or child. No siblings, anywhere, because then the tree gets really out of hand – it ceases to be a tree, and becomes a great big tangled web of how-the-fuck-are-we-supposed-to-read-this-thing?, and nobody wants that.

Even focusing on direct descent, things get out of hand pretty quickly: two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16 great-greats, 32 3-greats, 64 4-greats, 128 5-greats, 256 6-greats – and pretty soon you’re related to everyone.

For my part, I can count Oliver Goldsmith, Francis Bacon (the really dead one, not the recently-dead one), Queen Elizabeth I, Voltaire, and King Æthelred the Unready among my ancestors. Also the dude who posed as Jesus in this painting – and the dude who painted it. And Jesus.

Seriously, the famous dead people? I’m related to all of them. All the good ones, anyway – if somebody did something questionable, I’m not related to that person. You can figure out on your own which are which.

Day 75: GINO’S !!!

“Today every Book owner is to reserve a table at Gino’s for eight o’clock on the 4th of July next year.”

Apparently this Gino’s place is sort of a big deal – maybe because there’s not much other good Italian food in Baton Rouge? I don’t know. The Book reproduces parts of Gino’s website – which doesn’t look like it’s been updated since it went live back in 2001 – yes, really, 2001, and it must have looked like an oddity from the distant past even then – I mean, seriously, the graphics are all ridiculously low-resolution, none of them are clickable, the layout is clumsy – it just feels like the internet of the mid-1990s, when everything was ugly and amateurish, which was fine then, but this is 2011, for fuck’s sake, you can’t get away with this sort of thing anymore, but I guess they are, and nobody cares what the website looks like if the food’s good…

Shit, where was I? Oh, right: the food is, apparently, actually good. Paul Newman and Placido Domingo each ate there, at least once, before they both died – though the two things are, I’m sure, totally unrelated, especially because Mr Domingo isn’t dead yet. YET.

Even though the food is good, I don’t know that driving eight hours to eat Italian food sounds that appealing – especially if it’s something I have to plan in advance. That sort of ridiculous undertaking is best when it’s done impulsively, or on short notice. That’s how I ended up in Alaska that one time. If the Book had told me to “eat at Gino’s before your next haircut” or something, I might have considered doing it. I’ve already had to put a future event on my calendar for the Book, though, and I don’t really want to do it again.

So I didn’t call to make a reservation. I prefer to keep my fourths of July open, though I usually end up with my Dad’s side of the family: drinking more bourbons-and-seven than is good for me, smoking a cigar, blowing shit up, and posting snarky comments to twitter. Good times – certainly better times than 16-hours-in-the-car-with-a-belly-full-of-pasta times, because those times aren’t really that fun.

Day 50: Make people notice you today!

To accomplish today’s task, I committed an act of vandalism.

Nothing like this, though. No, I vandalized (the) Wikipedia.

One of the criticisms that comes up when (the) Wikipedia is being discussed is the fact that “anyone can edit” it – which means that anyone can vandalize it. And vandalism on (the) Wikipedia isn’t always ridiculous and obvious – sometimes it’s a subtler spread of misinformation (through lies, damn lies, and statistics). How much the latter happens, I don’t know, but I still use (the) Wikipedia, and I tell my students to use it – it’s an excellent place to begin learning about something, though it’s by no means the place to stop learning about that thing. It is, I’ve found, largely reliable and informative (and it’s often obvious when a particular article is neither).

My own vandalism was pretty blatant, albeit tucked into a few obscure articles. It involved werewolves.

If you click those links, though, you won’t see anything about werewolves, because my account was suspended (for vandalism, of course) and my edits were reverted almost immediately. It really was shockingly fast. There were several other Wulfstans I had intended to werewolfize, but by the time I got to the fourth one (less than a minute after I’d werewolfized the first Wulfstan), the ban-hammer had been dropped.

I felt mixed emotions. I was stunned at the celerity with which my attempt at cyber-vandalism had been thwarted. This also made me sad. I was impressed, though, at how well (the) Wikipedia responds to this sort of bullshit – and then I realized I’d been banned not by an automated process or vandalism-bot, but by a particular user, a person who spends a not-insignificant part of his/her day watching the “recent changes” page for this sort of shenanigan. I’m not sure how that makes me feel, to be honest.

But: at least someone noticed me today.

Day 41: Apply for a knighthood.

Apparently, becoming a knight is as easy as sending a letter to the British Prime Minister detailing the “exceptional achievement or service you feel merits the award of a knighthood.” The hard part, I guess, is actually achieving the “exceptional achievements” – but just making them up is probably fine, right?

Before I started making stuff up, though, I needed to know what kinds of “achievements” would get me my knighthood. After a bit of digging, I realized I had to ask a different question first: What sort of knighthood should I apply for? Because there are so fucking many it’s ridiculous.

Ian McKellan, for instance, is a Knight Bachelor, a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), and a Companion of Honour (CH). Tolkien was also a CBE, Patrick Stewart is an OBE (O=officer), and T.S. Eliot (an American) was an OM. They’re all pretty cool dudes, but a bit intimidating. Are there any knights (or dames) that would be easier to emulate? I somehow doubt it – even the list of people who have declined honours of one sort or another is full of badasses (Yeats, Aldous Huxley, C.S. Lewis, David Bowie, Keith fucking Richards).

Maybe, instead of going through the process of trying bluff my way into some sort of knighthood – and actually trying to earn one is totally out of the question – I mean, J.K. Rowling is an OBE, and Alan Rickman’s got nothing? WTF is up with that? — maybe, I say, I should just start putting letters after my name and call it done.

His Lordship Sir Dr. Harley Christopher Goldsmith, CH, CBE, OM, KT, KG, KCMG, LVO has a nice ring to it, right?