Gene's next monthly chat is next Tuesday, November 26 at noon. You may submit questions here.
- Want to find out what you're missing? Check out Gene's October live chat to get an idea of how the monthly chat works.
On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.
Greetings update readers!
Sometimes, rarely, my life becomes a Burns and Allen routine of small, surreal domestic moments. (This one is worth watching, but my favorite Gracie Allen moment was when she explains how to make a roast beef: Put a big one and a small one in the oven. When the small one burns, the big one is done."
Anyway our kitchen garbage pail looks like this. It has a lid that is a semi-sphere, and pivots on a central axis. When I got up this morning, I noticed that as the top pivoted, it seemed to ... slosh. This seemed very odd to me: There was no liquid in the can.
Clearly there was a great deal of water trapped inside the lid. I sort of filed this away, and mentioned it to The Rib when she came down.
"Oh, that's probably because I washed it."
"But it seems to be full of..."
"That's probably because I put it in the dishwasher."
"Okay, well, I'm trying to figure out how to get the water out.... "
My son piped in.
"Obviously, Dad, you just have to put it in the clothes dryer."
Okay, so. For today's update, we're going to be talking about writing, in particular a speech Rachel Manteuffel hit out of the park. Rachel, you may recall, won this year's prestigious Livingston Award for a piece she wrote for Washingtonian about things left at the Vietnam Wall.
The Livingston People asked her to speak on Veteran's Day at a ceremony held at the Vietnam Women's Memorial. Rachel faced a problem: She didn't really know anything about the women who served in Vietnam, a war that ended ten years before she was born.
Her expertise, such as it is, was limited to her research for her story on The Wall, which is essentially a memorial to men who died.
So, like so often happens in journalism, she had a number of imperfect options in front of her. She could do some quick research into the women's memorial, and kind of wing it on a subject she wasn't entirely qualified to tackle, or she could go off point a bit, talk more generally about the war, but risk seeming to diss the ceremony at hand. She chose the hard one, Option Three: Staying true to herself: Taking what she knows, adding what she feels, marshaling some universal truths, and shaping it all into a concise, seamless, perfect little allegory. She was supposed to speak for 10 minutes, but brought this home in three, and had the wisdom to stop before she ruined it. (You know, like Lincoln at Gettysburg.) It brought tears. I've never given a speech this good. Here it is.
Next, you need to see this spectacular video about a magpie and a puppy, brought to my attention by Caitlin Gibson, Softie. We were initially worried this was not, in fact, play, but something darker. But in the end we agreed: That bird is there because it wants to be.
And lastly, regarding writing, this is a charming little piece by Calvin Trillin, from Sunday's Times Magazine. The Times magazine is not always edited the way I would edit it, and an this case, I would have counseled Trillin to change the end a little, to make it better. Can you guess what I would have asked? We'll talk about it next chat, so send in your thoughts.