Snarfing Coffee With Erma Bombeck

Would we have coffee with…Erma Bombeck?

Cammy:  A resounding YES.  Bombeck was held out as the benchmark for humorous newspaper writing by my journalism teacher (who didn’t generally encourage us to write humor in her class, but had no problem with us reading and appreciating it).  Reading her column was the first time I really realized that people wrote funny shit for adults, too.  Before there were “Mommy Bloggers” venting about the housewife life, there was Bombeck.  Not only did she write about the absurdities of suburban moms and their families, she wrote it in a way that anyone could snarf their Dr. Pepper over.  It’s been more than 10 years since I first read one of her books (When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time To Go Home), but I still recall clutching at my sides laughing.  For that alone, I owe her a thank you cup of joe. I’d like her take on the Mom blog phenomenon mentioned above–I have to imagine she’d have something humorous to say about that one.  I think it would be interesting to get her take on women and humor in general (more than once I’ve heard that women can’t be as funny as men–something that women like Bombeck render totally untrue).  And if nothing else, I once read she was twice as funny in person as she was on paper, so as long as I’m careful when I take a sip, this should be a riot.

Kristy: Sure. I’ll shamefully confess that although I’d heard her name for years, I didn’t really know who she was until tonight. But you know I like people that bring the funny, and a quick google search for quotes reveals that this woman could indeed bring the funny. So while I lack Cammy’s passion for journalism, I share her passion for spending time with smart funny people. Like Cammy, I’d also like to hear her thoughts on the “Mommy Blogger” phenomenon. I’d also like to ask her about her forays into television, even though they were largely unsuccessful. Perhaps even more to the point, I’d be interested to know what she thinks about the dearth of female writers in television, particularly on comedy shows. Is this just social prejudice or something else? Does she think there’s any thing that can be done to help? I will also be careful when I sip my coffee.

Coffee On The Mississippi

Would we have Coffee With Mark Twain?

Cammy: I had to ponder this one for a moment.  For some people it would be an obvious yes, but, much as I like reading Twain’s work, I had reason to question whether or not we’d get along.  After all, the man has gone on record slamming Jane Austen and he wanted to extend copyright–neither of which I can support.  But, on the other side, he had glowing comments about Anne of Green Gables, had a sense of humor and was an abolitionist, so, it’s not like he’s a completely hopeless jackass.  So, I decided to let the good count more than the bad and the coffee is a go.  While I’ve got him on the hook, he is definitely going to have to answer to the Jane Austen and copyright stuff (does remix culture change his mind, or reinforce his opinion?).  How does he feel about the direction American literature has take since he was churning out stories (or does he care)?Kristy: Yeah, that’s a toughie.  He seems to have been a cantankerous SOB which could result in the funny or could result in an unpleasant coffee date.  Hard to say.  Adding to Cammy’s concerns about his hatred of Jane Austen and his thoughts on copyright I add another: he was very vocal in his hatred of medievalism.  So much so that he wrote a whole book making fun of it.  And while I concede there are a lot of bad medievalist novels/movies out there… I also enjoy a bit of it.  Add to that, I really don’t enjoy his writing that much.  But on the other hand, last year I had this conversation with a Chinese colleague.  Her face lit up when I told her I spent childhood summers in Mississippi.  She asked me if I’d seen the Mississippi River and what it was like.  Turns out her excitement was all because she had read Huckleberry Finn as a child and loved it so much.  You have to give props to a writer than can create those kind of magical memories about a place she’s never even been.  So… if Cammy’s in, I guess I’m in.  Sounds like we should have some interesting conversations.

Coffee with Molly Ivins

Would we drink coffee with Molly Ivins?

Kristy:  Um… I feel like I should have a cute, colloquial way of saying “Hell yeah” but Cammy’s the one who’s good at that.  So I’ll just say Hell yeah.  I have to give Cammy the credit of introducing me to Molly, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.  For one thing, it’s another case of owing her a cup of something (coffee or something stronger if she prefers) for the hours of amusement she’s given me.  Not to mention a couple of readings I assigned to my composition classes.  Also, there’s a lot I’d like to talk with her about and commiserate on.  Being the liberal daughter of a Texas conservative, every time Molly talks about her father it sounds… very familiar.  But what I’ve always loved about Molly went way beyond political orientation–it was a lot more about her willingness to critique everyone and her ability to point out the humor in everything.  So you can’t tell me it wouldn’t be delightful to people watch with her.

Cammy:  By cute colloquialism, I’m assuming Kristy means something along the lines of “Does a wild bear shit in the woods?”  So to this, I’ll say,”Did Han shoot first?”  YES.   Even though I’m most definitely not a liberal, I still love Molly.  She would lampoon anyone on either side of the aisle with sharp insight and the kind of humor that would literally leave my sides aching–and I love equal opportunity mockery.  Granted, she didn’t have to work hard, at least not when she was covering her native Texas politics.  The utter madhouse of the Lone Star State was (and still is) comedy gold.  She bucked trends, pissed some people off (a lot of people) and even when I totally disagreed with her politics, I had to give her credit for her style.  She painted some of the most accurate pictures of Texas I’ve ever read, and shared them with the world*.  For all that, I owe her several rounds of the beverages of her choice.  I’d love to hear her tell stories–because Lord knows she has them–of the insanity of Austin with the Lege in session that didn’t quite make the article/book cut.   And how pissed is she that she’s not around to address the wonder of Governor Good-Hair trying to go national on us?  I want to know if she truly has the same kind of misguided, twisted pride that our state gave the world people as nutty as H. Ross Perot.  I also want to talk about our mutual love of Texas.  As she once said, “ I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.”  I’m always ready to talk about how we can love a state that manages to thrive in a state of total fucked-up insanity, especially with someone, who like me, left the state, got educated on the East Coast….and still managed to love that misfit of a state.

Kristy:  For the record “Does a wild bear shit in the woods?” and “Did Han shoot first?” are what we folklory types call “sarcastic interrogatives.” Totally counts as a cut colloquialism.

*See this article in The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/article/texas-america

Driving Into My Secret Heresy

I have a recently developed secret heresy.  The relatively new onset of this heresy does not diminish the overall problem: I have found myself suddenly, and inexplicably, a  major Top Gear Addict (the good, British version, not the crappy American version).

Now, for some of you, Top Gear may not seem even remotely heretical.  Definitely not something to be ashamed of.  The difference is, you probably haven’t spent large amounts of time scoffing at and dismissing cars valued for their speed.  I have.

My entire judgement of  cars up until now has been based on the following points:

-4 wheels

-good gase mileage (too cheap to pay for gas)

-ability to go well over 100K miles without major repair (cheap again)

-A/C operates (hot climate background necessitates this)

-Radio operates (tornado alley requires the ability to tune into local radio while driving across Kansas)

I am all but turned on by excellent gas mileage and high reliability.  I don’t mind driving, but I don’t enjoy it so much that I can ignore the costs of car ownership (my enjoyment of frugality is greater than my enjoyment of driving).  I am small Japanese car material, and I’ve always been okay with this.  I am interested in alternative fuel vehicles and don’t mind if they will be less peppy and have top speeds of 60mph.  I don’t even mind if they are tiny (as long as I can get in my own suitcases, hell, I drive alone 99% of the time anyhow, so small is fine).

And then came Top Gear.

WTF.

For those of you not familiar with Top Gear, it’s a British programme (note the -e there;  it’s been ported to America, Australia and other places, but the original is the best) about speed and cars out of any reasonable person’s pay grade.  Three guys test drive these over-priced speed machines, and comment in a very British-humor way.  But this is no episode of Motor Week on PBS.  In between reviewing stylish new rides, these three not-ugly-but-not-overly-attractive British men perform meaningless and insane challenges in various and sundry types of cars (turning regular cars into amphibious vehicles, staging races across parts of the world between fast cars and public transport, etc.).

It’s humorous, meant to be funny.  But at the heart of the show, there’s car talk.  What’s cool and fast and awesome.  Oh, and there’s also stars who drive reasonably price cars around a race track (imagine Cameron Diaz driving the British equivalent of a Chevy Cobalt hell-for-leather around a formula 1-esque track).

Um, yeah.  Evaluations of Prius gas mileage this ain’t.

How is it that I find myself glued to watching a show about speed and luxury cars?  A show that mocks the little Hondas I find appealing?  That dismisses gas mileage with derisive snorts?  This is not right.  This is not me.  And yet, this show runs a back-to-back marathon set on a Saturday and I’m glued to the boob tube like it’s a loop of gratuitous rewind moments interspersed with footage of Colin Firth, Zachary Levi and Matthew McConaughey.

I repeat:  WTF?

Sure, Jeremy, Hammond and Captain Slow are all hilariously funny with their banter, insults and commentary.  And yes, I do find it side-splitting to watch a VW beetle dropped from 1 mile up.  But it doesn’t make up for the fact that I’m not a car person.  I should NOT be this sucked in.  It’s embarrassing.  I actually found myself wanting a Mercedes McLaren SLR the other day.

Shame?  Right here.

I Still Love the Muppets

Nothing dispels the evil of a rough week at work like reverting to childhood.  My kiddie drug of choice takes me back to some of my very earliest memories:

The Muppets.

I’m on the truly devoted side of the Muppet Gap (there’s a bizarre cultural gap between people born about the same year I was and those born just a year or two after–those damn youngsters do NOT have the same appreciation and regard for The Muppets that their elders do–I think it has to do with lack of proper exposure).  You play “Rainbow Connection” and I will stop what I’m doing.  I hear the theme song to The Muppet Show and I work hard to refrain from getting up and dancing around the room like I did when I was about 4 and watching the show in syndication on a station out of Houston.  And even with refraining from dancing, I have never successfully managed not to sway back and forth for the last few bars “This is what we call the Mup-pet Shoooooooooow!”  Everything I know about anger management I learned from Miss Piggy (“Hiiiiiiii-yah!”).  And if you want to see me tear up like a baby, you play Tom Smith’s “A Boy and His Frog”.

But vegging out with an evening of assorted episodes of the show and a few of the movies is good for more than just the nostalgic flashbacks:  it’s still quality stuff all on its own.  When I initially bought the first season of the show, I was a little worried that my fond memories of the show were the stuff of childhood and that it wouldn’t really stand up under its own power now that I was older and more discerning.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I found the show highly entertaining even without the whole misty-watercolored-memories.

The humor is clever and covers so many types, from the sarcasm of Statler and Waldorf, to the pure absurdity of Gonzo, to the musical humor of Rolf.  The musical numbers cover just as broad a spectrum of styles from classical to musical theater to country.  And all that is just the Muppets themselves.  You add in the caliber of the various guest performances (as I type this I’m getting to rock out to old school Elton John) and, damn, I’m grateful that I had this kind of cornucopia of culture influencing my formative years.  I can’t think of anything equivalent for the poor youth of today(outside of those lucky enough to have parents who are passing down the Muppet-y goodness).

If you haven’t gone back and bonded with the Muppets in a while, or if you were one of the unfortunate ones on the wrong side of the gap who missed out on the wonders of “Veterinarian Hospital” and “Pigs in Space”, spare a little room in your Netflix queue for a Pig, a Frog, a Bear, a Dog, A Weirdo & Friends.