Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Harry Potter and the Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

I don't remember what year it was when I first heard Dave Eggers talk about his little brother, Toph. I remember where I was--I was cleaning a ceiling fan in my apartment on Irvine Street in Florence, AL--and I remember that Eggers was discussing Toph in a segment for 'This American Life.'

I remember standing on a very shaky chair that was set on a very fluffy mattress, and chunks of dust were falling in my face while I used a dry cloth to clean the ceiling fan's blades. My balance was important. I wished I had an audience to appreciate the masterful technique on display as I shifted from one foot to the other, standing on the chair standing on the mattress. No one saw it. No one appreciated it. I was home alone.

Back then, I often did housework while listening to 'This American Life' because the rhythm of the show matched the rhythm of cleaning house. Kinda erratic, but inevitable, with pauses perfect for the wringing out of a washcloth, with quick, loud passages perfect for the frenetic rush of a broom. Back then, I had thirty or so 120-minute cassette tapes filled with two episodes each of 'This American Life,' so I'd pop a tape in and clean. What's remarkable is that I listened to the tapes often and cleaned often and still lived in a messy, dusty, lonely apartment. What's even more remarkable is that I survived all the cleanings, since I was constantly balancing on chairs or teetering from cabinets or stooping beneath sinks and concentrating more on the stories of TAL than on my safety.

Sarah Vowell's story about shooting her father's ashes out of a cannon nearly killed me--literally. I became so engrossed in what she was saying I forgot to turn the gas off in the oven I was scrubbing down, nearly Sylvia Plath'd myself as I shoved my body into the gaping, gaseous maw of the oven.

So.

Thank god for this current push to strip NPR, home of 'This American Life,' of federal funding. NPR is a menace.

One of the advantages of free enterprise is that the majority drives demand. If NPR were allowed to drive the market, we'd be robbed of Uggs, Crocs, Hanes Socks, and all sorts of footwear except Birks. Sure, we'd still have the Harry Potter books, since NPR is/was obsessed with Harry Potter, but we'd also think Alfonso Cuaron is better than the Ugg-worthy Chris Columbus as director of the film adaptations. Everyone in America knows Columbus is better at direction than Cuaron. 'Home Alone' is much better than 'Y Tu Mama Tambien.'

When I was a younger man, balancing on a chair set on a mattress, listening to Dave Eggers discuss his younger brother Toph, rather than be distracted by the story, I should've been distracted by the ability to hear the story. I should've been angry. How dare this radio station in Alabama assault me with alternative tales.

And how dare the Catholic Church give Michelangelo money to paint the Sistine Chapel. Dude could've fallen off that scaffold just as easily as I could've fallen off the chair.

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