It's a sad day when you're sitting in front of an empty Blogger screen, unable to even match the intellectual level of an entry about eating a giant hot dog. Up until the last week or so, I was at least doing a considerable amount of writing off the site, but even that ran aground this past weekend. Once again, I'm looking to Colorado (Friday!) to solve all my problems, inspire me to write, get me fit and healthy, and so forth.
I have a vague idea for a music-related post but it ain't happening now, a vague idea for a presidential campaign post but it probably won't happen ever -- there's not a lot of new ground to be tilled on that subject.
Once upon a time, jobless just-out-of-college, at the same time that I was daydreaming about going off to be a war correspondent in the Balkans, I got on a real Hunter S. Thompson kick. I lucked out in that I got into him through "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail" and "The Great Shark Hunt," which I'd still consider to be his best work -- "Hell's Angels" isn't bad, "Las Vegas" is overhyped, everything after about 1980 is poop and a lesson in what happens when you let a created persona take over. Anyway, imagine unemployed me reading and re-reading "Campaign Trail" while languishing unemployed in my grandmother's suburban Tucson house, and it's easy to see how I convinced myself that I should follow in HST's footsteps (minus the liberal use of drugs), go off on my own, be a maverick journalist, cover politics my own way, etc etc.
Thank god I didn't. Thanks to the internet, there's now innumerable bad writers doing the exact same thing, and I can't imagine much more soul-crushing than following this campaign (except going back in time and covering the 2004 campaign. Or 2000).
There's some things the U.S. does a lot better than the Brits -- food, weather. There's some things the Brits do a lot better. Regardless of your feelings for the sports in question, compare the coverage of American sports to the Guardian's coverage of soccer (alternately, compare Page 2 or Deadspin to the Fiver) and the folks across the Atlantic win handily. Likewise, they win in politics. American politics are a shouting match -- British politics are subtle and fascinating. I was in London and Albania during the 2005 UK elections, and I couldn't stop paying attention. I didn't really have a clue what was at stake, but the battles for seats in places I'd never heard of, the role of the Liberal Democrats, all that crap -- I just couldn't stop reading. Likewise, last week there was some by-election in some little out-of-the-way place that for reasons I haven't quite gathered was really really important, and I just loved reading about it.
So there's one cure for writer's block: ramble on aimlessly about nothing. Hey, that's more than I've written in a while!
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#18 -- "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" by Bill Bryson (re-read)
I needed something quick and this is the only Bryson book I haven't read 72 times in the past decade. It's a collection of columns he wrote for a British paper upon moving back to the U.S. after living in the UK for decades. All entertaining stuff, though his longer-form writing is more satisfying.
#19 -- "Death of a Hawker" by Janwillem van de Wetering (re-read)
I'm hoping to finally read Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon" while on vacation, so I need something fun and easy to occupy me now. Another Amsterdam cops novel, and as always,the characters' ruminations are a lot more interesting than the plot. Has the usual impact of making me want to move to Amsterdam, sit on a houseboat, and contemplate. I imagine if I ever do so I'll be disappointed since I've convinced myself that everyone in the Netherlands is a dry-witted, multi-talented, introspective intellectual. All because of these books.