Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Thursday

It's that time of year again: That time when television and radio hosts and various commentators and bloggers throughout the land can begin their submissions with the tired old phrase, It's that time of year again.
Shopping is a skill not evenly distributed among us. While in Paris we wondered if they might sell little tin reproductions of some significant local landmark like, say, the Eiffel Tower. Using our uncanny acquisitive instincts we soon discovered that such things are available approximately every fifty feet (15.24 meters). We found two dandy ones and the boys were delighted. They make terrific blunt instruments for the sibling squabbles and I have another instinct there is an emergency room visit in store for the holidays.
Speaking of stores -- as good and awkward a transition as any -- today is known as Black Friday. Having grown up Catholic I can't hear that without thinking it is the day my mom would burn the salmon patties. It is in fact the biggest shopping day of the year, the day that retailers go into the red or black for the year, and the day we burn the faces off of our credit cards.
I'm torn. Do I do my part for global resource management and refrain from over-spending this holiday season? Or, do I contribute to the success of our economy and protect those at the bottom of the wage ladder -- the first to be hurt in times of recession -- through impulse buying and material gluttony? The first option is cheaper and more responsible, the second more fun.
Carpe Diem. It's on sale.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tourist Points Out the Obvious

Rita and I are in Paris for the week. I came over for Accor, the French lodging conglomerate which owns Motel 6, and we decided to take a few days to ourselves. Our two boys are at home with Nana and Papa so we decided the best way to take full-advantage of being alone in Paris is to sleep. It's a great place to sleep, but if we're going to do that we might as well be in Des Moines.

Yesterday we happened by a little cafe down near the Trocadero we had been to before. We remembered it because it remains the singularly worst restaurant experience of our 11 year relationship. Given the sheer volume of crappy places at which we've eaten in the course of our marriage this is really saying something. The waiter was a cartoon of a rude French waiter. We were about the only ones in the place and he wouldn't approach us to offer a table until I insisted. It was a beautiful warm day. We asked for a table outside but he put us in a dark back corner where he abandoned us to our thirst and hunger. Our feet were tired and we were beyond hungry and for some reason we sat still for it all, hoping beyond hope that someone would eventually bring us food. Someone eventually did, although I'm sure we had a little French expectorant with our bernaise that day. Yesterday, when we saw it again, we talked about going in and congratulating them for leaving such an indelible impression with us and giving us many laughs over the years, but we decided to let it go. Our feet hurt and we were hungry, and believe me, there are better places and finer people to meet in Paris.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Blogrolling Contest

Blogging about your blog is the lowest form of blogging and like water to a puddle that's where I settle. Looking back at my archive I see a lot of it. It's like painters talking about their brushes, furniture makers showing off their tools, or musicians debating guitar strings: Common and necessary discussions among craftsmen, but seldom very interesting to anyone but themselves. That's where we are in the World of Blog right now. It's a new tool with no well-established techniques and Neo-Bloggers like myself who dabble in it are talking more about guitar strings than we are about music.

That said, I've decided at the request of my fellow bloggers to add a Blogroll to this space. We used to call these links because they are in fact links, but in the interests of further complicating our technical vocabularies, a list of links on your blog to other blogs is forevermore to be known as a Blogroll. (Now that I've used the word twice it will no longer appear in italics and we can pretend we've known about it all along.)

My webmaster -- who happens to be a woman but there is no way my wife will sit still for my having a webmistress, matrix? -- also recommends I add RSS to my blog. I don't know what this is. It sounds a little like a fuel additive, most of which will gunk up your engine, but she insists I want this. So, faithful readers, you will very soon be enjoying all the benefits of RSS as well as the thrills you already experience here. Not to mention the Blogroll. Be still my heart.

By way of introduction here are four of my favorite blogs from four of my favorite people, which I hope will be the foundation of a grand and long-lived Blogroll. Peter Sagal, host of NPR's WWDTM is the neoist of my neo-blogger friends and the smartest, funniest guy I know. My saying that has nothing to do with his reference to me on his blog as the nicest guy alive. He could have referred to me as the dullest and most average intelligence he's ever met and I would still have given him the same praise. However I might have also mentioned he is shorter than me and balding. Check out Peter's blog and other enterprises at

Paula Poundstone has a terrific website and diary here, and probably the two most accomplished bloggers among the crew are Mo Rocca and Adam Felber. These guys add entries nearly every day (an unimaginable feat by my reckoning) and they are amazingly and consistently funny.

When you use this RSS thing, somebody tell me what it does. I have a feeling there is a new and even more incomprehensible invoice from my webmaster in my near future.

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