The most interesting woman in the world

I was fixin’ my hair this morning, musing about Jeopardy.

I like to watch Jeopardy; it makes me feel smart. There I loaf, upon the sofa, yelling out the answers with no pressure. I have no “signaling device” to contend with and don’t have to ring in. If I read ahead, I can gleefully answer before the contestants do, and therefore I am smarter then all three put together.

As if.

It is a testament to my pathetic obsession with my own superiority that I recall fondly times I’ve watched Jeopardy in public, answering easy-peasy questions left and right, to the admiration of the gathered throng. Actually, a couple of times people have said, “Ooo you should try to get on,” and that’s about it, but hey. You take your compliments where you can find them.

Tras enjoys watching the program with me. He knows all about my vanities and I’m sure it amuses him that I get such pleasure out of thinking I’m the smartest person in the room. (Besides him of course. Tras way smarter than me. I know this because he can remember things like what an amp and voltage are. I never can, no matter how many times it’s explained to me.)

Smug

So anyway, back to this morning. I was thinking how occasionally a contestant will admit that the part that scares them the most is having to talk to Alex. Though I have no problem chatting with anybody — even Alex Trebek, should he emerge in Kentucky — but it’s the pressure of having something interesting to tell him that worries me most about my fictitious Jeopardy contestanthood.

What have I achieved in my 50 years on this planet? What are the accomplishments which set me apart from other, ordinary, humans? Failing that, what memorable events have I participated in? Witnessed? Documented?

Sure, there’s all that stuff about eating squirrels and meeting Cheryl Ladd, Tommy Smothers, and Richard Dreyfuss — but celebrity-spotting is fairly ho-hum for the L.A. and New York crowds. The fact that Dreyfuss grasped my hand like a courtier and bowed before me is mildly amusing, but I get the idea I’m not the only tall woman he’s looked up to.

I have birthed three wonderful children, it’s also true, but we all know that any fool can reproduce.

I have an plan to create tasteful and funky jewelry made with antique and vintage Catholic medals — but craftiness is hardly a news flash. Anybody with a Pinterest account can tell their world about their mad artistic skillz.

What would make me a good story? I have no idea. I love to tell others’ stories and I know a good story when I hear one. Hard-pressed, I could even make up a story … but my sad forays into fiction-writing tell a far truer tale of a puny imagination.

I guess it will be up to history to decide if my presence has left a lasting enough mark. When early 21th century writers are recounted, will my name be among them as one who fearlessly elucidated upon the picayune?

Charles Kuralt made it his life’s work to illuminate unseen corners of the human experience. So did Studs Terkel, Ira Glass, and here in Kentucky, Byron Crawford and Bob Hill.

I have no illusions my name would ever be included in a Jeopardy category featuring the most interesting people in the world. Or even in a category about people who wrote the stories of interesting people for others to read.

In truth, it’s my lack of depth in subjects such as state capitals, vice-presidential history, and the British monarchy that ultimately will keep me off Jeopardy.

But truly, I’d never have the nerve to become a contestant. I’d have to admit that the only thing that sets me apart is my ability to correctly answer Jeopardy questions from the safety of my living room.

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I’ve eaten squirrel

Way back in the 1980s, when Madonna was new and Lady Gaga was only a noise you made in the privacy of your own bathroom, I was the editor of a weekly newspaper.

It was a turbulent time in my life; at 23 I had aspirations of big-time journalism but was hampered by things like having to write on an electric typewriter and supervising an editorial staff of two, which included myself. The job was enlivened by the fact that I was presiding over the sole publication of the town where I was reared, and by spending much of a summer covering a grisly murder trial, the defendant in which was a member of my high-school graduating class.

Mmmmmmm

None of that has anything to do, however, with the fact that during this year, 1986, I consumed fried squirrel.

One of the things I miss desperately about being a reporter is all the interesting and unexpected things you get to do. In no particular order, among other duties both savory and unsavory, I’ve —

• Interviewed and photographed Cheryl Ladd

• Toured a dairy farm

• Covered a wedding between two carnival workers, on a Tilt-a-Whirl

• Profiled an all-senior citizen jazz band

• Interviewed a World War I veteran

• Written about a pet cemetery

Any one of these items would make an interesting blog post, and of course each made an interesting story published in an actual newspaper. Since my foray into television, I’ve also profiled a llama farm, the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, and ostrich burgers, as well as written scripts on subjects ranging from Melungeons to a Kentucky Derby winner.

Of course, along the way, you attend a lot of meetings of planning and zoning commissions, city councils, school boards, and just plain boreds. You wait outside in the hall during a lot of executive sessions, and you go to bed after four-hour meetings that end at midnight, and then get to work by 7 a.m. to write three stories based on that meeting for publication that afternoon.

But you also get to eat fried squirrel.

Rodents aren’t the only thing I consumed in the name of rural journalism; I once was the delighted recipient of a pound of home-churned butter. The lady who churned it had served as a “correspondent” for a neighboring town’s weekly for — oh, I don’t remember now — maybe 50 years, and I was profiling her and her little homey column. For those of you not raised in rural areas, local papers often published news from little communities about who’s visiting who, births and deaths, and other ordinary occurrences. It’s a throwback to a simpler time, when such goings-on were actually news.

The reason the butter was memorable (in addition to it was incredibly delicious on toasted homemade wheat bread) was that I was able to gaze upon the actual cow who produced the milk that made the butter, as I sat on the front porch interviewing the gracious correspondent. Her husband also plowed using draft horses, an incredible sight to see.

As was the plate of squirrel.

The squirrel actually was tied, metaphorically speaking, to the World War I veteran, whom I heard about from a representative of the local VFW (or Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post. The local post provided a watering hole for veterans, and did good works, too, like getting a WWI vet a hearing aid he couldn’t afford. They thought I might want to “write up” the donation, which I did — but I was much more interested in meeting him. This event is now more than 20 years ago, but even in the 1980s it was still far, far removed from a conflict that ended when women didn’t even have the vote. Hells yes, I wanted to interview him!

Which I did, and duly published the story of our meeting, which mainly was conducted via writing the questions on my pad, since he was stone deaf and hadn’t yet received the hearing aid. Yet he recited, from memory, in German, a poem he learned after the war, where he spent a few years doing something with German industry.

And then, I was invited to the VFW Post to dine on squirrel.

It was, as I have mentioned, fried, so I can report it was delicious — inasmuch as anything batter-dipped and deep-fried is. It also, as I always report when relaying this tale, tasted like nuts. I absolutely am not making that up. Nuts. Yes, indeed, fried squirrel tastes like nuts.

That’s just the sort of education rural journalism will provide, along with murder trials, meeting movie stars, politicians — and other celebrities, like butter-producing cows grazing in the pasture off the front porch, and Great War vets who will recite poetry for a rapt audience of one, in a tiny town in rural Kentucky.

What’s your point?

I know I’ll never be a poet. For one thing, I rarely have any deep insights that would benefit from a pithy exploration of inner psychological details, historical events, or trees.

I am, however, particularly drawn to writing headlines, coming up with puns to make even the strongest editor cry, and cracking jokes. Which makes me the perfect writer for crafting misleading descriptions of popular works of literature which intentionally miss the point.

And so today, I offer you my list inspired by the supposedly true story of a description of The Wizard of Oz which once appeared in TV Guide. It is said to have read A young girl travels to a magical land where she kills the first person that she meets, then joins with others to kill again.

To Kill a Mockingbird — Recluse reluctantly drawn into community affairs.

Jurassic Park — Entrepreneur surprised when genetic experiments go awry.

The Bonfire of the Vanities — Arrogant bond salesman arrested for murder.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil — New Yorker documents Southern bachelor’s protracted legal battle.

The Princess Bride — Improbable romance diverts recovering boy.

Of Mice and Men — Social interactions perplex mentally challenged farm worker.

Roots — Black author’s genealogy quest proves successful.

Lonesome Dove — Accidental shooting impacts Old West events. Lonesome Gus

Raising Arizona — Man finds ingenious solution to wife’s fertility problems.

The Crying Game — Romance blossoms between kindhearted IRA foot soldier and English free spirit.

A Simple Plan — Downed plane provides Minnesota couple with windfall.

My Left Foot — Handicap limits boy’s interactions with others.

The Stand — Altered virus proves remarkably efficient.

Amadeus — Institutionalized musician reflects upon colleague’s career.

The World According to Garp — Fatherless writer settles into domestic life, with mixed results.

Dangerous Liaisons — Complex coiffures, raiment provide little hindrance to promiscuity.

Cold Mountain — Walking home can take a really long time.

The Bridges of Madison CountyNational Geographic foots bill for randy photographer’s conquests.

O Brother Where Art Thou? — Latent musical ability discovered in trio of escaped convicts.

Girl With a Pearl Earring — Servant girl’s domestic duties interrupted by master’s whims.

I see blog people

The Sixth Sense — Hallucinations worrisome for Philadelphia youth.

Vanilla Sky — Man grapples with issues surrounding reconstructive surgery.

The Executioner’s Song — Ex-con struggles to re-enter society.

Mulan — Young Chinese girl discovers father’s armor fits her comfortably.

The Sound of Music — Austrian postulant revises career choice.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn — Arboreal nuisance achieves rapid growth in urban setting.

Back to the Future — Son seeks origin of parents’ romance.

Boogie Nights — Aspiring actor makes logical career choice.

Catch Me If You Can — Ambitious student explores several career options.

Coal Miner’s Daughter — Mountain lass marries young, moves far from home.

Escape from New York — Experimental penal colony established despite risk.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events — Orphans persevere despite custody issues.

Saturday Night Fever — Spare-time pursuits of paint-store employee documented.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians — Societal consequences of lack of spay/neuter policy explored.

Rear Window — Shut-in occupies time between girlfriend’s visits.

The Da Vinci Code — Man offers surprising interpretation of Biblical events.

An American Werewolf in London — Injured during a trip abroad, a college student finds romance with nurse.

A werewolf and his nurse

Back to the Future — Son seeks origin of parents’ romance.

Splash — Woman from overseas adjusts to American life.

A Few Good Men — Naval official surprised by consequences of his actions.

Alien — Space voyage diverted by unexpected event.

Apollo 13 — Astronauts struggle with home, work issues.

Beetlejuice — Young couple surprised by accident’s outcome.

Total Recall — Man struggles with realization of marital betrayal.

An utter twit

I’ve had a Twitter account for a year or so, and I can unequivocally say it’s never once crossed my mind to use it for anything but writing headline-length bites of marginally interesting information about my life.

Sadly this appears to the apex of Tweeting.

For today, thanks to the disgraceful tweeting habits of former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner — the worst of them, apparently were photographic rather than verbal in nature — we now can say that completely useless information is spectacularly transmitted in this way. And it has set me to ruminating on the appropriateness of the name itself: Twitter. I therefore propose that those who habitually misuse Twitter be universally referred to as Twits.

I'm a bird. I tweet.

Now, I’m a  blogger. I use some of the latest technology to communicate. Hey, I’m doing it right now, and it’s no great revelation.

But the Twitter love, I admit, does escape me — even though I was initially happy it had a bird theme. Usually if something has a bird theme, I’m  all over it. Sports teams like the Cardinals? I’m a fan.

The actual mechanics of tweeting remind me of writing headlines. When I was a newspaper reporter I had an irrational love of headline-writing. Most reporters hated it. Me, I liked the economy of words it forced upon a writer. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to being a poet, though believe me, very few of the headlines I ever wrote were particularly poetic.

All right, none of them were.

I also enjoy writing titles for the blog posts I write; unlike headlines, which are written after an article’s done, I write my blog titles first, in hopes that it’ll give the post a tone. Generally I’m going for a low tone — possibly a B-flat. (Insert rimshot.) Not much of an aspiration I’ll admit. But juvenile humor has got to be someone’s specialty, right?

Today I discovered, via Wikipedia, that San Antonio-based market-research firm Pear Analytics analyzed 2,000 tweets (originating from the US and in English) over a two-week period in August 2009 and separated them into six categories. What was the top tweet category?

Pointless babble. A full 40 percent. Pointless.

New York Times photo

Yes, Twitter today seems the proper medium for millennial communicators, who want instant delivery of pointless information. Damn the reflection, full speed ahead.

It’s undoubtedly the medium of choice for celebrities, who can instantly communicate their inanities to their followers. It’s also useful for bloggers, she said, calling up the Twitter website, who wish to alert their readers to new posts. (Like how I can so effortlessly lump myself into celebrity category?)

I do have  testify to its effectiveness in promotion and marketing work. If you want to get the word out about something your followers are presumably interested in, it’s a quick to say, “hey, look at this.” The information can be seen, digested and squirreled away for later use. Or ignored.

As a writer, I’m dismayed by the prevalence of tweeting; as a reader, I’m grateful that my array of reading choices are longer than twit-length. Out there in the blogosphere, there are insightful, thoughtful posts on a stunning array of absorbing topics. Like shoes. Or punctuation. (Someone needs to tackle these important topics, you know.)

But if current events are any indication, twit-length is the dominant force out here in Internetland.

Sigh. I think I’ll go outside and do some bird-watching until the whole phenomenon passes by.

Be sure and watch for my tweets about it.