Empty head, highlighted.

Whatever happened to the Return of the Daily Entry? Like lots of good ideas, it was trampled beneath the realities of Fellowship life, which today required me to sit in a chair for TWO AND A HALF HOURS.

Having my hair highlighted.

Thanks, it looks fabulous. This is my first go with ‘lights. Yes, I waited this long. I can’t help it — I was scarred by the ’70s, when it was called “frosting” and you did it by putting on a perforated foil bathing cap and pulling strands of hair through with a crochet hook, which you then dyed a hideous dead-grass color.

The bad news: It still involves foil. The good news: The color is now “sort of a warm caramel,” according to my stylist, who really is quite the talent.

Enough about my damn hair. I’m putting off the night’s big chore, a few sentences about the workshop subjects in tomorrow’s creative-writing class. My teacher is an MFA student who turned down a spot in the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in part because one of the questions they asked was, “Do you cry easily?” Her philosophy is: All criticism must be productive, and must begin with, “What’s working in this piece?” I agree with this approach; what’s the point is reducing an undergrad to tears over a 1,200-word dialogue exercise? It’s the Roger Ebert approach to criticism: Ask only, “Does it succeed at what it attempts?” That said, I really wish more high-school level writing teachers would take a ruler to the hands of students who use the passive voice. A few well-placed whacks might drill it home: Don’t write “the subject outside was drawing no interest from Sarah.” I mean, not ever.

P.S. I’m the third workshop subject. I submitted something that I see now, in the cold light of 48 hours later, really doesn’t work. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I really should get this done, so I can enjoy one of the nicest fringes of U of M life — The Donald Hall Collection the Film & Video program’s script and video library. It’s the world’s greatest video store, with Fellows free to roam and borrow at will. The other day Alan said, “I think Kate would like “The Red Balloon,” don’t you?” Why yes I did, and I walked out with it, “Winged Migration” and “Intolerable Cruelty,” for after the kid goes to bed.

What’s going on in the news? I see Marge Schott died. Hmm, what a tragedy. You want to know everything wrong with Cincinnati? Read this:

Margaret Unnewehr Schott was the second of five daughters of Edward Unnewehr, a Cincinnati native of German-American extraction who made a fortune in the lumber business.

“My father was Achtung-German,” Mrs. Schott recalled. “He used to ring a bell when he wanted my mother. When I was 21 and went to vote, he told me who to vote for. I said, `Yes, Daddy.’ “

Cincinnati is lousy with folks like this. Everybody talks about the place like it’s this charming American Bavaria with a historic river running right by it, and it is a lovely place, but hardly anyone mentions the ruling class with the giant logs shoved up their butts. I watched “The People vs. Larry Flynt” with a feeling of simmering irritation; for the purposes of narrative smoothness, they moved the whole setting to Cincinnati, implying Flynt lived in Cincinnati and was prosecuted there. The truth: Flynt was prosecuted in Cincinnati but lived in Columbus, which never laid a glove on him, legally. Cincinnati was the spawning ground of famed S&L looter and anti-porn activist, Charles Keating, who pulled the prosecutor’s strings where Flynt was concerned.

In Columbus, he lived next door to an exclusive girls’ school and while I won’t say there wasn’t nervousness, well, we didn’t go all Cinci on him. Take that, you German tight-asses. Ring that bell for your wives, OK?

I really do like Cincinnati otherwise. Zeno’s pizza. Skyline chili. Mmm.

Posted at 9:41 pm in Uncategorized |

11 responses to “Empty head, highlighted.”

  1. ashley said on March 4, 2004 at 12:00 am

    Skyline chili, The raisins/psychodots, a river, Fountain Square, Bailey Quarters, WEBN, and it’s not as flat as Chicago. Lovable city.

    But what’s up with Ohio and Porn? Larry lived in Columbus, and Reuben Sturman was a Clevelander.

    As for the Red Balloon, I think that if you watch that, you should, for the sake of context, also watch “The Player”, just to see the evolution, and how we don’t need writers anymore.

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  2. Lance Mannion said on March 4, 2004 at 9:55 am

    “Are you crying? There’s no crying in fiction writing!”

    I don’t remember anybody breaking down into tears when I was at Iowa. One guy threatened to punch me after class because he didn’t like something I said, but nobody cried. Story went around, though, about Stanley Elkin coming to visit the year before I arrived and giving a chosen handful of grad students one on one critiques of their work. During one of these meetings the girl who was discussing her story with him burst out of the office, sobbing and wailing, and ran from the building. Elkin popped out of the office with a baffled and apologetic look on his face. He said to the secretary:

    “I don’t think she understood. I *liked* her story.”

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  3. Bob said on March 4, 2004 at 12:33 pm

    Wasn’t Charles Keating the founder/funder of Citizens for Decency through Law, the group that gave “The Perfect Moment,” the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit about 1990, more effective widespread publicity than the presenters could have bought?

    One Saturday morning I was listening to commentary on the uproar, on public radio. I thought, “Hell Fire, Cinci ain’t all that fur away!” Got in my Chevy pickup and went to see what all the fuss was about.

    I found a line extending a block down the street from the exhibit space, and two burly cops backing up the person who was checking IDs. A sixteen-year-old could have gotten into one of the dives across the river in Covington and lost his virginity to a VD-infected hooker more easily than he could have become irredemably corrupted by the Mapplethorpe exhibit.

    I was impressed by the art in Mapplethorpe’s photos. The sexually explicit ones were in a small room off to one side, and most of them were small prints. Had I been looking for sexual arousal, I could have gotten a bigger thrill going to any of the porn shops nearer home and paying $5 or so for a magazine, without having my ID checked while a Greenbay-Packer-sized cop looked on.

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  4. Bob said on March 4, 2004 at 12:55 pm

    Wanna see a massive exercise in passive voice? Check out the Bluffton (Indiana) News-Banner at http://www.news-banner.com

    Editor James Barbieri tortures phrases masterfully and mercilessly, finding a way to impart passivity to every statement. Reporting on a city council meeting, he’d write something like, “It was stated by Councilman Joe Schmoe …”

    He’d report a power outage something like this: “Indicated was that the power line was fallen upon by a tree after the tree was struck by a passing truck, which was lost control of by its driver. Stated by the driver was that he became distracted while trying to retrieve a lit cigarette that was dropped by a passenger. The driver was taken to Bluffton Regional Medical center by Wells County EMS, where it was stated by medical staff that his condition is thought to be serious. Indicated by power company officials was that customers affected were twenty-seven homes in the Poneto area.”

    OMG! I scared myself!

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  5. alex said on March 4, 2004 at 1:29 pm

    I saw Mapplethorpe’s show in Chicago just months before the same show opened to the big brouhaha in Cincy. And couldn’t quite figure out what the fuss was about. So the guy took pictures of himself with bullwhip handles up his ass? So? Nobody here thought twice about it. And when all hell broke loose in Cincinnati people here thought it was funny. At that time, lots of artists were taking pictures of their own dicks, pussies, what-have-you, and every gallery and museum in town was full of it.

    I was working for the naughty professor at the time�Jack Hafferkamp, formerly of Medill, publisher of Libido: The Journal of Sex and Sensibility. Pretty tame stuff next to Mapplethorpe, even, but the Citizens for Decency in Cincy had him in their sites. A guy took his toddler daughter to a Borders and had her hand a copy of Libido to the cashier and pay for it, and then they tried to sue, but the case got thrown out for being such a transparent ploy.

    Sounds like Ashcroft was hell-bent on making obscenity his pet project until he got distracted by 9/11, and now the right’s demanding he get back on track. And here’s a guy who thinks the tits on statuary in courthouses is obscene, so brace yourselves for the possibility of separate beds and euphemisms like “bun in the oven” on TV again if Bush gets another term.

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  6. Nance said on March 4, 2004 at 3:46 pm

    Yes, I’d forgotten that, but it’s true. Cincinnati prosecuted Mapplethorpe — or rather, a museum curator, that threat to society — as well as Larry.

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  7. Marlene said on March 4, 2004 at 7:39 pm

    I live in the other big city in Ohio, Cleveland. It is a fairly wide-spread opinion here that the reason Ohio will never move beyond it’s status today is – Cincinnati. Is it small-mindedness or something else?

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  8. Michael G said on March 5, 2004 at 9:26 am

    The comment by Bob was well written and was much enjoyed by this reader. Bull whip handles? I guess it’s better than having one’s head up.

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  9. deb said on March 5, 2004 at 2:57 pm

    i grew up in the sticks outside cincinnati, and yes, it’s produced its share of loons. anyone remember former city councilman jerry springer? he lost that gig after crossing the river to frolic in the flesh pits of northern kentucky and paying for a hooker…with a check. (and we think his GUESTS are stupid!) and, after that, he was elected mayor!

    but, but, but…there’s also the riverwalk, great german restaurants, locally brewed beer (well, maybe not so many any of those anymore), the delta queen, the big red machine, five-ways, mount adams, the krohn conservatory, the symphony, mount adams, the zoo…and my old childhood pal tyrone yates, rabble-rousing city councilman. you could do worse.

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  10. clockwork said on March 10, 2004 at 10:25 am

    what’s up with pete bronson jumping on phil burress’ bandwaggin all of a sudden? last thing we need is a pig like burress getting his own personal columnist. this town sucks sometimes.

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  11. Dv said on July 1, 2004 at 11:03 am

    I just had to chuckle and agree with the poster who mentioned Bailey Quarters. She was easily one of the best things about the lovely city of Cincinnati!

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