Yeah, right! - Writings by Brian Murdock

Archive for December, 2011

Travel

December 27, 2011

I’ll Be Home Xmas 4

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You kind of find insight about the nature of your country from the most unsuspecting sources.

       Consider scotch tape and wrapping paper for example.

       Here are two objects I used the other day and found to be highly indicative of just the way Americans do things…for the better this time…I guess.   You see I was wrapping my Santy stuff and was doing my best to make it look professional with that pristine North Pole look we all expect from a gift beneath the tree, but it has never been an easy task for me, so I tend to struggle.  And to think I teach art to elementary students this year.

       To some, sticky plastic and shiny paper may be just two mere tools with which a person could escond a holiday surprise, but I noticed that there was more to them than just basic utility.  They said  something.  At least the ones I had in my hand.  First of all the tape was the classic plastic dispenser which has been a part of American life for as far as I could remember.  In Spain they exist, but for some reason the Spanish don’t go for them very much.  They still prefer the basic roll which, while plentiful in adhesiveness, makes wrapping a chore since you have to work outright miracles just to get the paper around the present without it looking like it was prepared by a penguin.  So it was a nice change to work with an object that was user-friendly.  But that was not what really caught my eye.  It was the paper which had an entire grid of one inch-by-one inch squares on the back which I soon realized had been put there to help dunces like me cut out the paper with the right dimensions.  There I was counting six blocks on each side of the 1000 Things You Should Eat Before You Die. This was just the kind of innovation that Americans are particularly good at.  Someone came up with that idea and I am eternally grateful to them.  And for this reason I would like to wish the good people ate Hallmark a very Merry Christmas!

Travel

December 26, 2011

I’ll Be Home for Xmas 3 –

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Nearby Stamford, CT, is one of those places that Greenwich has a love-hate relationship with.  Why? First of all, it’s a city and people from Greenwich don’t like cities very much, except for maybe New York.  So strong is their aversion that even though the number of inhabitants could officially constitute considering Greenwich itself to be a city, the locals refuse to accept that denomination.

      But I must admit there is a solid argument in favor of the city theory.  There are 61,000 residents in Greenwich.  Some people set the town/city barrier at 50,000, so there is something to be said for that.  I can also attest to the fact that, in Spain, for example, places like Segovia have fewer inhabitants and yet have a distinct urban feel to them.  One city, Teruel, has only about 35,000 people living in it and yet a walk through its center makes no doubt that you are in provincial capital.

      But Spain is different.  People tend to clump together there and their cities tend to abruptly end.  Towns aren’t spread out the way they are here.  Greenwich has very large territorial dimensions, allowing for thousands of its residents to literally fade away in the forested back country.  Even the center doesn’t feel city-ish.

        Regardless, the official name of this community is “The Town of Greenwich”, and its residents would not have it any other way.

        All the same, Greenwich still relies on Stamford because it provides it with just the right dose of urban advantages to suit it needs.  One of the most notable bonuses is the Stamford Town Center, more commonly known as the mall.  Built back in the early 1980s, the mall was one of the first attempts to turn Stamford from a sleepy Fairfield County bedroom community into a city which could attract international corporations.   The mall was an addition to the Landmarks Square project featuring a towering 21-story building in the heart of the downtown, which had suffered economic woes in the 1960s and 1970s.  The plan represented an effort to renew life there.  The change has been slow in coming but it has come.  The mall is still there, and judging from my visit, still has a bright future.  Grant it, it was December 23, but I have to admit that life was bustling.

        The Stamford mall served as the backdrop for the Woody Allen and Bette Midler film Scenes from a Mall.  It also served as the prime location for Brian, Tucker, Stephan and David to set off a firecracker back in the 1980s.  We were on the top floor and had chosen that place strategically because it would allow us quick and easy access to our cars and a rapid exit from the parking lot.

        We lit it, let it drop down the gap in the center towards the center pavilion at the bottom and bolted out the door while we listened for the ensuing explosion.  It came.  Firecrackers make a helluvah lot of noise inside shopping malls.

             On Friday I just limited myself to buying a few gift cards, some last-minute Santa purchases and then flee before the place got too crowded.  Mission complete.

Travel

December 24, 2011

I’ll Be Home for Xmas 2 – Dec. 23

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If there is one advantage to jetlag when you go back to the States, it sure makes for long days.  This year I arose around six on the first day, which is pretty late.  Most years I am up and about by 4 a.m.  America is rises early too so that worked well with the household.   As it got lighter the woods beyond the backyard began to appear.  You can look as far as you can and not see another house, at least in that direction.  It’s all protected by the Town’s wetlands department.  Many Spanish have a colorful amalgam of New York, Iowa and Las Vegas in their heads when they think of America, and this can lead to a a great deal of confusion and disappointment when they see lower New England and find themselves engulfed in endless wooded terrain.  It didn’t used to be that way.  Well, actually it did.

            When the first settlers arrived, the must have encountered a fairly similar landscape, barring the million-dollar homes scattered throughout, but as more people came, so were the trees felled to make room for pastures and fields for agriculture.  Back in the 19th Century, the immense majority of this area was farmland, which partly explains why there are miles and miles of knee-high stone walls carving out acres of forest.  As the town’s economy transferred from farming to residential living, the woodlands returned.  You Greenwich, wasn’t always the preppy rich town many know it to be.

The Desperate Artist,Travel

December 23, 2011

I’ll Be Home For Xmas 1

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So, I just keep saying this but it’s totally true.  I’ve been in this kind of new dimension that deconstructs your molecular makeup and sends it in a universe of directions without any assurance that it would every return to its original state again…and yet it has.  It has emerged in Greenwich, Connecticut, of all places, the land of my childhood and youth. Defining this town can be done in a number of ways, but it all depends on where you come from and what you think of the town to begin with.  I came up with one a couple of years ago:

Newsworthy

One Sunday evening in mid-October of 2009 I went to my Yahoo! home page to get a quick rundown of what is going on in the world, the way I usually do several times a day. I was feeling bored and unenthused about life in general and listlessly perused the screen.  I don・t know what it is about those moments, but they tend to get me in trouble of some kind. Anyway, after scanning the list of news headlines, I noticed something that puzzled me.  I turned away and looked up at the wall at the other end of the table, staring at it until my eyesight got fuzzy. Something I had just read wasn・t quite right. Then I went back to the screen again and reread it in search of whatever it was that was making it seem a little askew, the way I do when I read a poorly written sentence, come face to face with most modern art or watch certain French comedies.  I・t immediately put my finger on it, so I gave it another chance. And this time, bingo!  There it was!  There was no mistaking.  I sat back in my chair and chuckled. Yeap. That was it.

I decided to copy and paste the list for keep・s sake on a file, and now I have copied it for you. So, allow me to put you to the test and see how you do. Here goes:

Iran threatens U.S. and Britain after Guard bombing

Nearly a third of Afghan president・s votes thrown out

Obama offers Sudan incentives to end genocide

Autopsies expected after 3 die during Detroit marathon

Heene・s lawyer weighs in on the charges facing family

Analysis: Is life tougher for biracial children?

Rain cuts Greenwich dog show short ・ Greenwich Time

Coach says 2 teammates with victim during stabbing ・ New York Post

Queens neighborhood flooded after weekend of rain and high winds ・ New York Post

       Did you see it?  Did you pick it up?  Something make you shudder?  Was it the tragic deaths?  The godawful violence in Teheran?  The unending terrorism? The fate of biracial kids?  Please.  Not that electoral fraud and stabbings aren’t newsworthy, or that three fatalities in a road race don’t stand out as extraordinary and deserving of suspicion; and yes I did wonder about what kind of incentives the Obama administration was making to the Sudanese to reduce total annihilation of a specific ethnic group.   Yet, as eyebrow-raising as they were, they didn’t quite match up to the bombshell somewhere in the middle of the pack.  That’s right.  You got it now.  Rain cuts Greenwich dog show short.  There you had it my friends.  Looked at globally, a lot of pretty serious stuff was affecting the rest of the world at that very moment, I mean a lot, and yet in the southwest corner of Connecticut, there was a town, my hometown, a town drenched in personal wealth to a degree most people find unfathomable, a town which owes much of its national fame to its unmatchable excusivieness, which lamented the premature suspension of a canine festival due to the untimely arrival of excessive precipitation: Rain cuts Greenwich dog show short.  I repeat.

        Brilliant.  That pretty much said it all.  There is something pithy about that headline, don’t you think? Almost artistic, if you know what I mean.  A haiku of sorts.  A handful of words from a headline can tell us a lot about certain realities, I’ll have you know. Almost like a Warhol painting of a can of Campbell・s Soup. In fact, there was so much embodied in one single title that I decided to keep it. I printed it out and for a moment considered framing it as a statement about the world. A statement that screamed: This is Greenwich, Connecticut, Prepville, U.S.A. A world where nothing ever happens. A world apart. An existence oblivious to the harsh truths beyond its borders. These accusations may irk a large number of residents there, and I don・t blame them. Who wants to hear that? And yet whenever something like ・Rain cuts Greenwich dog show short・ pops up on the list of headlines aside homicide and ethnic cleansing, there is a tendency to want to say, ・See? I told you so.・

      Which is why I paused and gave some thought to this all.  Could that have been all that the town had to face that weekend?  The only tragedy inflicted there?  If that was its only problem then maybe it truly was a blessed land after all.  Such was the despair that it stood out above any other piece of news the local paper had to post that day on my homepage.  So, looked at this way, folks, it was newsworthy indeed.  Newsworthy beyond all that is imaginable.

         On a personal level, what was even more distressing is that Yahoo!, which monitors my reading and clicking habits, apparently felt that this was just the kind of news about my hometown that might interest me, me of all people!  As if I had nothing better to do with my life than fret over the fate of some soggy poodle. It just might come up, you never know.  It seems that the Greenwich Time placed this recent development high enough on the scale for it reach me 3,000 miles away, lest I should return in a few months and be unable to comment on it at my next dinner party.  And sadly enough, I guess they were right.  So, they hit it right on the nail.  But maybe not for the reasons they suspected.


In Spanish

December 5, 2011

Actualizándome 2

Bueno…pido mil disculpas a unas cuantas personas que están a la espera de que siga escribiendo con el fervor de siempre, pero es que no sé qué pasa con estas fechas, estas fechas que tanto me gustan que no soy capaz de hacerme con todo lo que tengo.  Encima tengo una tos que va y viene como le da la gana.  Es de lo más curioso.  Dejó de molestarme el viernes por la tarde, se fue por ahí todo el fin de semana, dándome la sensación de que no iba a volver jamás, y llegan las nueve y vuelve.  No me lo explico macho.

     En fin, ya el otro día conseguí cambiarme de móvil después de varios días deliberando sobre el tema.  Más o menos lo tenía decidido porque el tipo en la tienda me recomendó una marca que no conocía, resulta que es ampliamente famoso en todo el mundo, y tenía mis dudas.  Iba a ser mi primer táctil y no quería meter la pata.  Siendo un consumidor sabio, no acepté y me fui a casa a estudiar mis opciones.  En general le daban una nota más que aceptable sobre todo para “first-timers” como yo.  Aun así, no estaba del todo convencido, nunca lo estoy, y fui a la tienda de todas formas con la clara idea de informarme más.  La dependienta, esta vez era una mujer, me habló de otras opciones que me iban a ayudar a parecer un hombre internacional y formal.  Uno moderno, macho y con clase.  Pero desafortunadamente, no le quedaba ninguno de las opciones que elegí.  Tenía ganas de chapar ya que eran las ocho y media, no quise insistir.  El mundo de la actualización se había atascado.