For a brief shining moment in 2005 or so, Kate and I had a shared TV ritual — “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy,” 7 to 8 p.m. in my market and probably yours, too. It was fun, and it was educational. Then she discovered “America’s Funniest Home Videos” was on opposite, and that was the end of winning $400 on Civil War trivia. Although I’ve tried to make the best of it.
“You know whenever you see a kid, a father and a baseball bat, something’s going to happen, and it’s going to be a shot to the junk,” I say, figuring it’s best to introduce film-analysis skills early. (You can say the same about trampolines positioned near basketball hoops.) Some parents teach their children what Chekhov said about guns and first acts. We work with the material we have.
It’s amusing, isn’t it, how AFV, as it’s called, predicted YouTube? (And how YouTube predicted “Ow! My Balls!”) Did you know there are more than 19,000 YouTube videos tagged “treadmill?” The treadmill, any fan of viral video can tell you, is even more predictive of wacky hijinks than baseball bats and fathers. Sometimes video makers don’t play fair. This one, for instance. There’s no reason for that treadmill to be on. This is like Chekhov writing a character who says, “May I leave my loaded gun here on this table? Make sure no one touches it. It’s loaded. And it’s a gun.”
Lately, it’s babies. Babies and Beyoncé.
I blame YouTube for ruining my attention span. It boggles my mind when I see people posting webcam videos of themselves talking about one thing or another, specimens that regularly clock in at eight or nine minutes. If I know one thing in this world, it’s that no one wants to watch you yak for eight minutes. Even “leave Britney alone” came in at under three.
Of course, when it comes to viral video, this is the only one you need to watch today:
HT: Sweet Juniper.
Not much for you today. Fortunately, Roger Ebert’s on the job, presenting his long-awaited recollection of O’Rourke’s, his old Chicago watering hole:
O’Rourke’s was our stage, and we displayed our personas there nightly. It was a shabby street-corner tavern on a dicey stretch of North Avenue, a block after Chicago’s Old Town stopped being a tourist haven. In its early days it was heated by a wood-burning pot-bellied stove, and ice formed on the insides of the windows. One night a kid from the street barged in, whacked a customer in the front booth with a baseball bat, and ran out again. When a roomer who lived upstairs died, his body was discovered when maggots started to drop through the ceiling. A man nobody knew was shot dead one night out in back. From the day it opened on Dec, 30, 1966 until the day I stopped drinking in 1979, I drank there more or less every night when I was in town. So did a lot of people.
Our place in Columbus wasn’t so colorful, but it was pretty fun — the Galleria. It was on the ground floor of an office building, and you entered through an indoor, well, galleria. I won’t try to match Ebert, but when I sift through my misty watercolored memories of the place, I remember Tim May, one of the sportswriters, looking through the window to see a homeless man shuffling by to use the bathroom. This was in the very early ’80s, when the public mental hospitals all closed justlikethat, and suddenly we were seeing homeless people everywhere.
“Someday I’m gonna write a book about those guys,” he said in his Texas drawl. “I’m gonna call it ‘Wrong Turn,’ ’cause somewhere along the line, those guys took a wrong turn.” He never wrote the book, but I still think that’s a tremendous title, and if I ever have occasion to use it myself, I’m going to credit Tim.
Off to the gym. I did Pilates yesterday, and am still waiting for the ab soreness to settle in. Sit-ups aren’t called sit-ups in Pilates, they’re called roll-ups. That’s because you do them very slowly, one vertebra at a time, and if you think that’s easy, try it sometime. Ouch.