2000 Notebook: Transition XXXVIII
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11 November 2000
Soap Cube
I love staying with friends when I travel; I always delight in their company. (And more.)

I’m always on my best behavior when I visit. (It’s not that I’m a nice person; I am not. Just ask any of my dear friends.) The motivation for my ostensibly good behavior is purely selfish: ill-behaved guests don’t get invited back.

Having established that I’m a good guest, I must admit that I am also an observant bathroom visitor. I’d never investigate the drawers and private cabinets, for I don’t want to know about my friends’ choice of birth control devices, hemorrhoid medications, depilatory solutions, or worse. I must, however, survey the “public” parts of the bathroom in order to find shampoo, toothpaste, and the like.

And so it was that I discovered Katie’s square soap. I liked the design; you can’t go wrong with a cube. I even enjoyed the translucent, blue color, a shade I’ve only seen before in rotting onions.

Once in the shower, though, I discovered that the cubic soap was a triumph of design over function. I don’t have small hands, but I found it difficult to hang on to the large, slippery cube. Fortunately, I found a pedestrian bar of soap that proved satisfactory.

Later, I told Katie I thought her soap was lovely, but didn’t serve its purpose very well. Katie disagreed.

“I believe you misinterpreted the shape of the soap as a flaw,” she explained. “The purpose of the design is to dissuade visitors from using my soap.”

I’ll never look at a cube of soap in the same light.

12 November 2000
Blue Man Group Revisited
Four and a half years ago I saw a wonderful, memorable performance by the Blue Man Group when I was in Boston. I was reminded of this yesterday when I spotted a huge billboard near the Boston airport promoting their show.

I commented on the apparent financial success of the group to my friends who took me to see the ensemble years ago. They reported that they’d seen the blue men perform twice since, and were disappointed. They said the group repeated the show we saw more or less without variation on each occasion; they’ve evidently been doing the same thing for half a decade.

They’ve also been replicating themselves; there are lots more blue men than there used to be. Although I’m too lazy to verify this report, I’ve heard that the franchise has expanded to Chicago (or was it New York?).

These accounts left me with mixed emotions. On one hand, I’m glad to see artists who do good work make good money. And I certainly don’t have a problem with artists who make unlimited editions or sometimes plagiarize their best work. After all, I do both.

As I’ve said before, though, even I must admit that there can be too much of a bad thing. I wonder what Billie Holiday would say to the blue men? I’m thinking of a quote from one of her biographies:

    “I can’t stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession, let alone two years or ten years. If you can, then it ain’t music, it’s close-order drill or exercise or yodeling or something, not music.”

If the stories I’ve heard are true, though, it does sound like the azure gentlemen are stuck in a rut, albeit a very profitable one. The Blue Man Group anecdotes make me glad my work has never been commercially popular, or else I might still be printing the pretty nature pictures I made a quarter of a century ago.

13 November 2000
Welcome Aboard
I boarded the plane for today’s flight early, and listened to the flight attendant across the aisle from me greet each passenger with a variety of innocuous greetings: “Hi ... Good afternoon ... How ya’ doing ... Hello ... Welcome aboard ... How are you?” The minority of passengers who didn’t ignore her replied, “OK, thanks,” or, “Fine,” as they trudged past her down the narrow aisle to their seats.

Later, I asked the flight attendant to tell me about the most unusual response she’d ever received to her canned greetings.

“I suppose that would have to be a gentleman who mumbled, ‘God told me to skin you alive,’ ” she replied with a professional smile.

“I suppose that’s one of the most unusual things anyone could say to a flight attendant,” I agreed.

“Oh no,” she replied with an even bigger smile, “That’s just the weirdest thing any of them have said as they boarded the plane. You should hear some of the toilet questions and food comments!”

I declined her offer; there are many things I don’t want to know about my fellow passengers.

14 November 2000
An Annoying Referral
Many years ago, before I started this daily notebook, I used to write long letters to my friends. Now I find it difficult to even write a one-page missive.

I have two explanations for my difficulty in writing long letters to friends. First, there’s electronic mail. Almost all of my friends have email, so I can contact them whenever I want at virtually no cost. As a result, I never have very much to say that hasn’t been said.

Similarly, the other reason I don’t have much to say is that I’ve written about everything interesting in my life—and much that’s not very interesting at all—in this notebook. There’s not much to left to say, except for the details of my personal life, which I generally prefer to discuss in person, on a walk and/or over drinks.

As a result, when a friend asks me what’s new, I usually say something like, “nothing much that’s not in my notebook.” This innocent remark usually manages to annoy my friends; they seem to feel I’m too busy to write to them or that I’m passing along their request to my public relations department.

I love everybody, mostly. It’s just that when I talk all the time I don’t have much to say.

15 November 2000
Silencing an Imbecile
I’m on a flight from Detroit (of all places!) to San Francisco, and I’m sitting next to a sales drone for a “total sanitary solutions” company.

The puffy company representative is commenting, rudely, on the fact that the flight attendant serving us appears to be over twenty-two years old, an age that the moron seems to equate with the pinnacle of a woman’s existence.

I ignored him until he said, “She’d be a lot cuter if she had a different face and body.”

“Would it be fair to say that’s like hypothesizing that you’d be a lot smarter if you weren’t an imbecile?”

The idiot scowled, then stopped talking at me.

Good riddance.

16 November 2000
When I asked my piss-poor thesaurus to suggest synonyms for the word “luminous,” it replied, “bright, shining, nitid, fulgent, resplendent, splendent, splendid, brilliant, flamboyant, vivid.”


When I looked up “nitid” in my piss-poor dictionary that’s part of the same piss-poor software package as the thesaurus, the dictionary told me that the word doesn’t exist.

I could, of course, look up “nitid” in one of those huge dictionaries that command an entire library bookshelf, but why bother? Even if it turns out to be a very useful word that replaces an entire commonly-used phrase, such as “the glow of a metal heated to just below its melting point,” why bother learning a word no one else uses or even knows?

I was reminded of this the other day when I read a friend’s article in which she used the word, “subaltern.” Even after I looked up “subaltern” in the dictionary, I didn’t know if it meant “lower in position or rank; secondary” or “in the relation of a particular proposition to a universal with the same subject, predicate, and quality.”

Although I generally believe that nothing succeeds like excess, there are just too many words in the English language to fit in all but the most spacious of brains.

17 November 2000
Modest Progress in the Arts
“I’m kicking myself for not making any art these days,” Buck confided as we drove to Carmel.

“That’s too bad,” I replied.

“No, that’s good,” Buck explained. “I’m making progress. A while ago I wasn’t even kicking myself.”

18 November 2000
Nocturnal Transmissions
I have some of my best ideas at night, or at least I think I do. The problem with my nocturnal muse is that I can never remember my ideas in the morning.

I’ve had this problem for years, and thought I had found a solution some time ago when I bought a new electronic doodad that translates my handwriting into text. Unlike my old doodad, the new, improved model has an illuminated screen, so I can write in the dark. I liked that feature, since it would allow me to take notes during the night.

The first time I woke up in the middle of the night to write down a wonderful idea, though, I decided not to bother because the idea was so brilliant that I would certainly remember it. Of course, I couldn’t remember what it was when I woke up the next morning.

A few nights after that I had a fairly good idea, which I decided not to write down. I concluded that I had enough fairly good ideas already, so I didn’t need to interrupt my sleep to get another. I thought it best if I waited for another great idea. When I finally had another wonderful idea worth writing down, I chose not to, since it seemed unforgettable at the time.

And so on.

That concludes my lengthy explanation of why I have no idea of what to say today.

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©2000 David Glenn Rinehart