Later this afternoon I’ll be heading out of town. It’s not a big trip, just a couple of days to spend Thanksgiving with some friends, but there’s still a bit of stuff I need to finish up before I leave. My prioritized To Do list looks like this:
- Finish Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth [completed]
- Finish solving that logic problem that was giving me fits [completed]
- Leave offering of homemade apple butter in the fridge for the catsitter [completed]
- Update blog [in progress]
- Brush this tangly bit of Bubby’s fur so the catsitter doesn’t think I neglect my animals [ongoing]
- Scrub the floors, clean the toilet, clean the bathroom and kitchen sinks so the catsitter doesn’t think I’m a sloven [not yet started]
- Scoop out the litter boxes [though it’s tempting to leave this for the catsitter]
- Dye hair so that I don’t look all washed-out and pathetic at Thanksgiving dinner [can’t do this till I clean the damn tub, which is all yucky right now because I used it to rinse out the filter on the vacuum cleaner]
- Decide which books to pack [impossible. I mean it’s only for two days, but I really want to take along all thirty-four library books I have checked out. Well: thirty-one library books, now that I’ve finished Wimpy Kid.]
Thanksgiving is traditionally spent with one’s family. Dad’s side of the family had invited me up for the holiday, but it’s a long, long drive to Indiana. Dad and Mom would have invited me, but for the past few years we’ve done Christmas together rather than Thanksgiving. Ideally I would spend both holidays with my parents, but it’s seven hours by car each way, longer if you obey the speed limits. This is but one of the many reasons I’d like to move back closer to home.
The prospect of feasting tomorrow is overwhelming. For about three months now, I’ve been almost entirely vegetarian. I could count the times I’ve eaten meat on one hand, with maybe a finger left over, and except for my daily yogurt and occasional milk consumption, I’ve weaned myself of animal products. Even my several-times-daily coffee is being taken with coconut-based cream, rather than cow-based cream.
The other striking change is that, for the past year, I’ve been making my food at home—and on top of that, I’ve been making my food from scratch, by and large. Foods that come in boxes or cans are finding their way into my grocery cart with less and less frequency.
In completely unrelated news, I’m about fifteen pounds skinnier than I was this time last year.
So anyway, tomorrow’s repast will involve a bunch of people heading out to a buffet. I’m dazzled at the thought of it. Restaurant food! Animal flesh! Tasty processed calories in breathtaking abundance!
Which, you know, is the whole point of a feast day. Back before the mass-production and over-consumption of food became the Western norm, holiday gorging used to be a special occasion, a rare break from the modest (and often insufficient) diet of the daily grind. It’s not like I’m enduring the hardscrabble privation of pre-Industrial agrarians, but I can sincerely say that I’m looking forward to the food in a way I never have before.
And now that I’ve offered my annoyingly pious social commentary on food consumption, I will now regale readers with annoying pious social commentary on Kids These Days. This past week, when I’d been trying, and failing, to generate ideas to write about for this blog, I had hesitantly weighed the benefits of railing against Facebook. My hesitance stemmed from several sources:
- I’ve written about this topic before. It’s kind of lame to recycle material.
- Other people have written about this topic with more clarity and insight than I could muster. It’s kind of lame to immitate them.
- I risked revealing that I am hopelessly stuck in the mid-1990s, when chat rooms were exciting (that’s where I learned HTML, so that I could turn my posts different colors) and when email was the big thing (email@example.com was my first email address).
As I was debating the dubious merits of rehashing this topic to death, the New York Times came along and did it for me: Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction. The article discusses the impact of contemporary technologies (texting, social networking, YouTube) on students and their study habits. The entire article is worth a read—it’s stuff you probably already know, but presented in a way that really hits home—but for me, the jaw-dropping part came near the very beginning, when a high school student explains why he can’t seem to finish Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle:
On YouTube, “you can get a whole story in six minutes,” he explains. “A book takes so long. I prefer the immediate gratification.”
You little twerp.
Okay, first: Kurt Vonnegut was a god among men. Show some respect.
Second: this kid’s interpretation of visual media compared to the printed word is thoroughly, absolutely, incontrovertibly anathema to my own interpretation. I dislike visual media because it takes so fucking long to get the story. I have to sit there passively while the actors on the screen go through their motions. I do not have time for that shit. I want my information and my entertainment to come in the form of the printed word because I can digest it so much faster that way.
I bravely purchased my first whole pineapple the other week. It was not in a package! Not in a can! (Not local, either, but cut me some slack.) I googled up some results for “how to slice a pineapple.” I completely ignored the video tutorials, because I did not have the patience to sit through a visual demonstration. I skipped straight to the text-based tutorials, skimmed through the info I needed, and proceeded directly to the kitchen.
Same goes for my entertainment needs. Since I stopped watching television and movies a decade ago, people have 1.) thought I was bat-shit crazy and 2.) incorrectly assumed that I abstained due to snobbery. Not so: every medium has its good, bad, and ugly. It’s just that I prefer to experience narratives intimately, where the only participants are me and the author. This is a more active engagement that moves as fast as my eyes can scan the page. (For this reason, I also eschew audiobooks.)
Don’t misunderstand. I know I’m missing out on a great wealth of superb entertainment. Some stories work better on stage or on screen—and, okay, yes, I admit that I have a weakness for YouTube videos of animals being cute. “Maru climbs in a box,” as a text description, does not cut it. With that in mind, I bid you a Maru Thanksgiving: