How The Boob Tube Turned Muse

 

Alright settle down there, Retros. Yes, let us talk about the television, the telly, the boob tube. Now, before you all start clutching your pearls and wailing about the “vast wasteland” that is television, à la Newton Minow, hear me out. Because amongst the endless parade of reality trash and brain-rotting sitcoms, there were gems. Glittering diamonds in the rough, that somehow managed to inspire this cynical lump of protoplasm you are now reading from.

First up, there was this little show called “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” Now, I know, I know. Groundbreaking. Hilarious. Influential. Blah blah blah. But here’s the thing: Monty Python wasn’t afraid to be absurd. They took the holiness out of absolutely everything, from stuffy institutions to social norms to walking funny. It was like a comedy explosion that detonated right in the middle of my teenage angst. Suddenly, questioning everything, ripping the sacrosanctness out of all authority, and reveling in the nonsensical – it all seemed not just permissible, but encouraged. It was a rebellion I could get behind while sprawled on the sofa, stuffing my face with chips and salsa.

And then there was “The X-Files.” Now, this wasn’t your typical FBI cop show. Sure, there were shootouts and spooky thrills, but there was also this undercurrent of questioning authority, of searching for the truth that was just out of reach. It planted a seed in my grumpy little adolescent head – a seed of curiosity, a yearning to dig deeper, to challenge the status quo. Plus, it had Scully and Mulder, the ultimate will-they-won’t-they tension that kept me glued to the screen even during their commercials for hemorrhoid cream. (Though, let’s face it, those were unintentionally hilarious too.)

Look, I’m not gonna pretend these shows turned me into Mother Teresa or Albert Einstein. But they did spark something. Monty Python showed me the power of humor, of questioning the status quo, and of not taking life too seriously. The X-Files instilled a sense of curiosity, a desire to explore the unexplained. And hey, maybe that’s not a bad takeaway from a few nights parked in front of the Dopamine Box, scoffing down microwaved burritos.

Now, before you all get too misty-eyed, let’s not forget the sheer amount of rubbish that television spews out. But amidst the trash heap, there are these occasional nuggets of inspiration. So next time you find yourself flicking through the channels, bored out of your gourd, don’t despair. You never know when you might stumble upon a show that’ll make you laugh, think, or maybe even question the very fabric of reality. Just remember to mute the commercials. Unless, of course, they’re selling hemorrhoid cream. Because frankly, those commercials are a comedic goldmine.

 

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Ulysses

Please don’t think I’m an insufferable literary snob if I tell you I’ve read Ulysses several times.   But in fact I have,  and I think it’s indeed a masterpiece,  and not at all as hard to read and understand as you may have been led to believe.  (See My Love Affair with James Joyce)

Now I must I confess I first read James Joyce’s celebrated novel in a college course with  a wonderful professor guiding us through it – and I became addicted.  I went on to read all his works –  although I couldn’t get through his experimental novel  Finnegan’s Wake – that one IS near impossible to read!

Ulysses,  as you may know,  follows one man – a Jewish Dubliner named Leopold Bloom – through one June day in 1904 as he makes breakfast for his wife Molly; attends a funeral;  works as an advertising canvasser;  buys a bar of lemon soap;  eats lunch in a crowded pub;  visits a maternity hospital,  a church,  and a museum;  watches a fireworks display;  almost meets his wife’s lover;  does meet a young history teacher named Stephen Dedalus,  the son of an acquaintance,  and invites him home;  and finally gets into bed with a sleepy Molly.

But Joyce does more than walk us through the plot of the novel  – he brings us inside the hearts and heads of Bloom and the other characters he meets in his Dublin wanderings.   And Joyce constantly astounds us with his wit and his encyclopedic knowledge of languages,  and philosophy,  and science,  and history,  and so well understands the complexities of human nature.

Ulysses inspired me to read more great literature and to write more stories myself.  Called  the best book of the 20th century,  it‘s been in print since its publication in 1922,  and has been translated into over 20 languages including Icelandic,  Chinese,  and Arabic – a testament to Joyce’s skill and vision,  and to the universality of the story he tells.

If you haven’t read Ulysses,  I urge you to get a copy and be inspired!

St Stephen’s Green,  Dublin

Dana Susan Lehrman 

Acquired Tastes: A Conspiracy by the Bland & Nasty Tasting Food Lobby

 

 

Right, acquired tastes, my ar*e. You know what they’re really saying, don’t you? “This stuff is grim, but we can’t afford to throw it away.” So here’s three stories about how you, a literal child, was just too simple to appreciate.

Olives. Tiny, wrinkled balls of sadness swimming in brine. Apparently, these were meant to be a delicacy. I once saw a grown man pick one out of a martini like he’d just fished a spider out of his bath. Acquired taste? More like something you have that has to be surgically implanted to enjoy.

Then there’s Brussels sprouts. These little green landmines disguised as vegetables. My mom used to boil them to the point they were basically plant-based marbles. “Just one bite, Kevin,” she’d plead. “They’re good for you!” Good for who? The trash, that’s who.

Years later, I’m at a fancy restaurant with a date. She orders roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta. Now, pancetta – that’s an acquired taste I can get behind. But the sprouts? I braced myself for the inevitable visit to flavor hell. Except… it wasn’t hell. It was…alright? They were crispy, not soggy. The pancetta added a salty kick. Maybe, just maybe, there was a sliver of truth to that whole “acquired taste” malarkey?

But here’s the thing: it wasn’t some magical transformation. It was simply a matter of preparation. Olives marinated with garlic and herbs? Now we’re talking. Roasted Brussels sprouts with a decent drizzle of balsamic glaze? Sign me up.

Then there was Escargot which always seemed like the Mount Everest of acquired tastes. Tiny little land snails swimming in garlic butter? No thanks, I’ll stick to the gummy worms, please. But then I saw an episode of that travel show where the host slurped one out of its shell with a look of pure bliss on their face. ‘An explosion of savory goodness!’ they declared. Yeah, right. But hey, maybe someday I’ll find myself on a mountaintop in France, gazing out at the rolling vineyards, and suddenly crave a plate of those slimy suckers. Stranger things have happened. Although, knowing me, that mountaintop craving will probably be for a nice, big basket of their world famous Pommes Frites.

So, the next time someone tries to flog off some dubious food with the “acquired taste” line, tell them this: “Listen, if it needs an instruction manual to be enjoyed, it probably shouldn’t be on the menu.”

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Spice of Life

My father was always a bit of a food adventurist.  He liked vinegar on broccoli, Brussels sprouts and spinach, and potato salad with vinegar and onions instead of mayonnaise.
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City Vs Suburbs

 

Right, let’s dissect this whole “city lover” nonsense, shall we? Apparently, some people find the constant assault on the senses invigorating. They crave the feeling of being sardines in a can, jostled by tourists with selfie sticks and businessmen talking loudly into Bluetooth earpieces the size of their brains.

Me? I like a bit of breathing room. I do not need the soundtrack of my life to be a symphony of car horns and jackhammers. Don’t get me wrong, I was born in Boston. I know the city life. Dodging pigeons the size of terriers, navigating a minefield of discarded pizza boxes and overflowing trash cans – that was my childhood.

But then, thank the Lord, my folks moved us to the suburbs. Now, some comedians like to take potshots at suburbia. They paint a picture of Stepford Wives with perfect lawns and identical SUVs. Listen, here’s the thing: I’ll take a neatly mowed lawn over a puddle of questionable origin any day. And as for the SUVs? Well, at least they can fit all the groceries you need without playing Tetris with your shopping bags.

Now, the “anonymity” of city life? More like a recipe for social awkwardness. You want to avoid eye contact with people? Fine, be my guest. But in the suburbs, there’s a sense of community. You know your neighbors, you wave hello, you might even borrow a cup of sugar in a pinch. Sure, you might hear Mrs. Henderson’s yappy poodle serenade the neighborhood at dawn, but at least you know who to blame.

And let us not forget the “hustle and bustle.” Hustle? More like a frantic scramble for the last overpriced parking spot or latte. Bustle? Try dodging a rogue double stroller while wielding a latte. Give me the peace and quiet of my suburban street any day. I can hear myself think. I can grill and eat without dodging pigeons (although the neighborhood squirrels can be a bit of a nuisance).

Look, the city might be your cup of tea. Maybe you thrive on chaos? But for me, the suburbs are a slice of sanity in a world gone…well, let’s just say a world that could use a bigger dose of weed whackers and friendly barbecues. So, the next time you hear someone wax poetic about the “urban experience,” just remember, there’s a whole world of perfectly manicured lawns and friendly (if slightly nosy) neighbors waiting for those who prefer a life less stressful and a touch more…beige.

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