10.28.2005

Elizabeth McCracken interview

Elizabeth McCracken, author of Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry, The Giant's House (National Book Award Finalist), and Niagara Falls All Over Again (winner of the PEN/WINSHIP award), took time out from her busy schedule nibbling French cheese to answer a few Goatish inquiries.

EG: People in general miss you terribly. Where are you and Edward living now, and is there the equivalent of George's there?

EM: Until two weeks ago, we were living in an actual garret in Paris, around the corner from the Pompidou Centre. Eventually we decided that we'd exhausted that particular expat writer cliche, and moved into a mouse-infested farmhouse in the southwest of France. (We'll probably end up in Morocco, surrounded by drugs and young boys.) This house used to be a home for unwed mothers. Basically we moved because it's cheaper to rent an enormous house in the middle of nowhere than a 2 room apartment in the middle of Paris, plus we're hoping that we'll actually write something if there's nothing else to do.

We have not really explored the fleshpots of Duras (the nearest town). There is, however, a bar called Le Daquiri. I plan to go in next week and demand a PBR.

EG: You're often described as the greatest living writer of Elizabeth McCracken novels. What are you working on now?

EM: Well, I'm delighted that some people still think I hold the title--though I note, Corbin, that you steer clear of committing yourself on the issue. There actually is a dead writer named Elizabeth McCracken, who wrote some short stories and a few books but I think no novels. Once I appeared on a panel at a conference, and on the handout where they listed the participants' bibliographies, they listed her books under my name. This wouldn't have been so strange had they not also included the dates of publication after each one: 1912, 1921, etc.

Anyhow, I'm working on an Elizabeth McCracken novel.

EG: The last time I talked to Edward, he mentioned something about constructing a large puppet that wore a wig made out of your hair. Do you find that to be normal behavior? What was the deal in general with the puppet, and has Edward created anything else disturbing lately?

EM: It's not nearly as abnormal as you make it sound: it's only sort of a half wig, and I got a haircut for it--it isn't like he gathered the hair piece-by-piece off my pillow to weave it together. I got the haircut in Ireland, by the way, and explained to the woman who did it why I wanted to save the hair; when she finished, she said, "Himself will be t'rilled." Anyhow, it's more a mannequin than a puppet. She has glass eyes, which Edward bought in Prague: we were in an antique store, and I overheard him saying to the proprietor, "Do you have any glass eyes?" and I was just starting to think, "That is the most RIDICULOUS question I have EVER heard! You don't just waltz into a store and ask if they have glass eyes!" when I heard the man answer, "Yes. I have three in the back." This taught me a valuable lesson about judging the normality of Edward's behavior.

Since then he has made a wooden head named Harriet Halfhead, who is currently languishing in the backyard in the hopes she'll get some really good mold going. (Since it's Edward's project, I suppose I should say "mould.") And also he carved a death mask out of clay, and then had it cast, 2 copies in plaster and one in wax. For a while they were lined up on a table in our house in Iowa City, looking sort of like Martha and the Vandellas.

EG: What have you read lately that knocked your socks off? I was wondering if you'd read Tristan Egolf's Lord of the Barnyard yet. I thought of you as I excitedly started that book amid gales of laughter, but not when I quietly put it down halfway through.

EM: I am halfway through The Half Brother, a Norwegian novel, which was recommended to me by either Chris Merrill or Paul Ingram, I can't remember which. It's fantastic. Also I recently had the following humiliating conversation with my friend Paul.

Paul: What are you reading?
Me: Well, I'm nearly finished rereading my favorite Oz book.
Paul: Is it good? Should I read it?
Me: I hadn't realized how influential it was on my work. It's very strange. Did you know that the Tin Woodman's real name was Nick Chopper?
Paul [after a pause]: I thought you were talking about the Israeli novelist.

I would have sneeringly said, "That's pronounced *OZE" but I felt my ability to sneer had been seriously undermined.

EG: Any plans to come back to Iowa City for a visit or a semester of teaching?

EM: No immediate plans, anyhow, which is very odd. We were in Iowa three falls in a row--but the farmland in these parts looks sufficiently Grant-Woody. I'm not entirely sure what my plans are after May 26, after we get bounced from the unwed mother's home for summer guests. I'll always come back to Iowa City to visit, if not to teach.

EG: Did you happen to read the Ben Marcus article slamming Jonathan Franzen in Harper's last month? If so, what did you think? Should workshop grads be writing weirder stuff? In class you once said, "Write something STRANGE," and I've taken that to heart probably more than anything else.

EM: Not yet, dammit. I live off my friends' subscriptions to American magazines--they bundle them up, several at a time--so I'm several months behind.

EG: Do you still think about Frank when you're going over a manuscript? What was the best advice he ever gave you?

EM: When I was in Frank's class, people were always pointing out that if Kundera had written the story that was up that week, he would have done a much better job. (Lord, most of my classmates in that particular workshop were a real drag.) One day someone submitted a story that was largely about someone having sex in a patch of poison ivy. I swear to God, every single critic cited a different piece of literature about poison ivy, and how it was better than this particular story. They were probably right. When the discussion got to me, I said, "Well, the only people I know who wrote about poison ivy are Leiber and Stoller."

Frank looked at me with great affection, nay, admiration. He'd been silent the entire discussion. "Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber," he said to me. I nodded. Nothing more was said. It was as though we were alone in the room, and it remains of the great moments of my life.

(Note for people less hip than Frank 'n' me: Leiber & Stoll wrote "Hound Dog," as well as "Poison Ivy"--you know, "Late at night while you're sleepin'/Poison Ivy comes a-creepin'/A-roun-hou-hou-hound.")

I think I probably think about Frank more when I teach than when I write. He was so passionate about his students, so proud of them, believed so deeply in the workshop process and in The Workshop. If I bumped into him in the halls on a Tuesday when I was teaching there, he'd say something about the stories up in his class--"A real interesting story this week. I wonder if they'll get it." He was as interested in how things were going to go over as anyone else. He saw teaching absolutely as a calling, separate from the calling of writing. His belief that bad stories can get better, that young writers will write terribly before they write something interesting, that the whole ridiculous process of sitting around a table and discussing a piece of fiction as though the writer weren't there--well, because Frank believed in it, I can believe in it, too. And so I do.

The Onion doesn't cease, doesn't desist

In an email, occasional commenter "Chummy" points us to this delightful magazine cover, courtesy of The Onion, which was recently asked by White House lawyers (Harriet Miers?) to stop using the presidential seal.

10.26.2005

Cracker Unplugged

David Lowry (of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker) and Johnny Hickman (of Cracker) will be acoustically playing The Mill next Thursday, November 3, at 8 p.m. The last time I was at The Mill was for either Vampiro's or Segall's TalkArt. This show will certainly pale in comparison, but folks of a certain age will probably find it highly enjoyable -- the last time I saw Camper they were incredibly energetic, breaking as many strings as eardrums and hearts. Advance tickets are $15 at the Record Collector.

10.25.2005

Poets Against the War -- Nov. 5

Sam Hamill's Poets Against War has called for an international day of poetry and consciousness-raising on November 5. The Iowa City event will be 3-5pm in Shambaugh Auditorium. Free, of course. For the current lineup, please check out this post on babies. Come on out if you're in town.

"Summer Crossing" by Truman Capote

New Yorker fiction -- October 24, 2005 issue

green light
For once, I'm sure this is a novel excerpt and not a short story, and for once, I couldn't care less. The writing here is striking, scrumptious, seductive -- all the more incredibly so when you think that he wrote this in 1943, at nineteen years old. The piece is proof that his talent was solid early on, and if the whole novel is this good, it is likely a good novel, Ms. Kakutani's review notwithstanding. She -- or Holly -- calls it "a smidge contrived" among other things. As if fiction by definition isn't. If Breakfast was his Gatsby, Crossing may be his This Side of Paradise -- not as brilliant, certainly, but enjoyable and admirable in its own right. The piece is worth reading for the sentence structure alone, or the mood alone, or the characterization alone.

The 17-column snippet here tells a simple story of an eighteen year-old girl named Grady's two love affairs, beginning with one in the present (with an inattentive parking lot attendant), flashing back to one from a previous summer (with a husband whose wife is pregnant), and returning to the present with the former events still fresh in mind. Grady is a darned advanced and independent young girl for the early Forties, and her tragic, almost masochistic taste in men forms the basis of her story. Yes, like Holly Golightly. So what?

The atmosphere of mid-century New York -- often combining seamlessly with Grady's interior monologue -- is as vivid and broad-stroked as a Hopper painting:
Since she had turned seventeen, however, she had liked only to walk around or stand on street corners with crowds moving about her. She would stay all afternoon and sometimes until it was dark. But it was never dark there: the lights that had been running all day grew yellow at dusk, white at night, and the faces, those dream-trapped faces, revealed the most to her then. Anonymity was part of the pleasure, but while she was no longer Grady McNeil, she did not know who it was that replaced her, and the tallest fires of her excitement burned with a fuel she could not name.
That last line could probably only be seriously written by such a young writer, but such occasional, mild purpleness for whatever reason just makes the piece more charming for me.

Grady's perceptions of people are both precise and dreamlike -- here she is on the topic of her ex-lover's pregnant wife:
She was a trifle of a person, like a seashell that might be picked up and, because of its pink frilled perfection, kept to admire but never put among a collector's serious treasures; unimportance was both her charm and her protection, for it was impossible to feel, as Grady certainly didn't, threatened by or jealous of her.
Using long sentences like that, Capote drums up a fairly funky rhythm, a slightly odd sytax, that sustains an unusual loping sound in the writing. Try this one, about her new interest:
Clyde Manzer's voice, grouchy with sleep but always fairly hoarse and furry, had some singular quality: it was easy to get an impression of whatever he said, for there was a mumbling power, subdued as a throttle left running, that dragged the slow fuse of maleness through every syllable; nevertheless, he stumbled over words, his pauses occasionally separating sentences so much that all sense evaporated.
Then a dash of dialogue, and then Clyde is rendered even more vividly with another, single, virtuoso sentence:
The four-lettered scholarship that carries a diploma in know-how -- how to run, where to hide, how to ride the subway and see a movie and use a payphone, all without paying, the knowledge that comes with a city childhood of block warfare and desperate afternoons when only the cruel and the clever, the swift, the brave survive -- was the training that gave his eyes their intensity.
Grady is pulled, anxiously but not reluctantly, into this man's control. She is willing to suffer through and forgive humiliation, indifference, lewdness -- pretty much anything -- in order to just be with him. She's young. It's simple. We've all been there, and we've all written about it, but the young Capote is writing in a fever dream here, the momentum carrying him into subtle, lyrical areas most writers either get bogged down in or skate over. No wonder Normal Mailer called him the most perfect writer of his generation.

Toward the end we start to get fairly cliche and simplistic metaphors as the story reaches a kind of New York afternoon in the park crescendo: a balloon for her love, a ship for their relationship, the big cats at the Central Park Zoo for her mysterious urges and longings, a 3-way mirror for her conflicted emotions. Somehow the sheer power of the writing slaps a fresh coat of paint on all of them, which still looks new after 62 years. I don't know how he does it, but I do know that he does do it. Maybe we have forgotten the beauty of clear-eyed sincerity. They don't make writing like this anymore.

10.24.2005

Alter-ego reviewing

Michiko Kakutani reviews Truman Capote's new novel as Holly Golightly. Is this a new tack for Miss K? Will she review Philip Roth's new book as Nathan Zuckerman?

The War on Tourism

We're back Empire-side. The overall impression I am taking from the trip is that Europe is strengthening and moving forward with putting people first, while America is weakening and moving backward with putting criminal politicians and corporations first. Some sort of new breaking point surely lies ahead. Our paths are diverging.

First, Holland, where when you start a job you get six weeks vacation. If you get pregnant, you get three months paid leave. No one argues about these things. In fact, the issue in the news (here and in Britain) is how much to extend such benefits as self-evident contributors to actual family values (in Britain you currenty get six months maternity leave -- now going up to nine). Numerous political parties represent such citizen initiatives, and the government responds accordingly -- instead of having its hands tied by massively funded corporate lobbyists who, naturally enough I suppose, in their self-interest, don't want to give up a red cent in benefits, and who base their political power on fanning the flames among the most ignorant, fearful constituencies. It's just bracing to be in a place, however briefly, where the main things the people are concerned with are improving and expanding public benefits, transport, and rights -- instead of bogging down in the intricacies of incessant right-wing politics. America by comparison is terribly disfunctional.

The Netherlands remains among those at the forefront of tolerance and progress. It is hard to be a criminal in Holland. The police don't have to spend time and (macho) energy on "soft" drug users or prostitution. This opens up vast opportunities to focus on actual crimes with actual victims. Marijuana and magic mushrooms are grown, sold, taxed, and distributed within a well-organized and established system of coffeeshops and smartshops. Prostitutes have unions, safe, monitored areas to operate, and the same free health care as anyone. The dangers of such vices remain, of course, as they have everywhere since the beginning of time. The difference is that the society is not obsessed with spending huge sums of scarce money to hunt down, harass, arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate those who engage in them. Instead, they "fence off" such activities and easily monitor them because they're now above ground. The police in the red light district patrol, watch over, and isolate trouble when it happens instead of simply treat it all as illegal. We strolled around these places for five nights and never once felt unsafe. Unsavory, perhaps, but never in danger. More to the point -- if you don't like it, don't go there. Holland is the actual land of the free and home of the brave. They should be able to sue us for usurping those terms.

As for Ireland, we were in Galway and Dublin, and the impression is a booming economy bent on continuing to transform the country from an impoverished traditional culture into a modern, wealthy one. Construction is everywhere, roads are being built and widened (with proud signs: "Paid for by the EU and the Irish taxpayer"), and stores are bigger, more varied, and open later. Progress is in the air. (Smoke is not, by the way. Unlike the situation in Holland, where you may as well smoke, you cannot smoke in pubs in Ireland.) We stayed with family in Dublin, where they have a bright, clean new rail link from the particular neighborhood to the city centre. Extending rail service into the suburbs cuts down on traffic, pollution, and fossil fuel use. Duh! It is a very strange feeling to be struck about the head so much by common sense. In Holland, too, they are beginning to restrict "big cars" from city centres. Because why in the world do you need to drive an SUV into the middle of a city? There are cars in these countries that are barely bigger than a riding lawn mower -- that can park in the bicycle areas. But mostly, of course, you don't need a car at all. Gas is taxed to the hilt, both reflecting the true cost of fossil fuels and acting as a disincentive to pollution and energy waste. Duh! Duh duh duh. The people we were with in both countries bestowed on us kind, sympathetic smiles (was there a hint of told-you-so pride? Hard to tell). I was patted good-naturedly on the back more than once when the topic of my country came up, when what I (and all of us) really deserve is a scowl and a swift kick to the bum.

So while Europe is moving aggressively forward into an era of sustainable, people-centered policies, their economies are booming, and the receipts are channeled back into furthering the progress. It's astonishing how strong the Euro has become. It's been less than four years since its introduction in Holland and Ireland. Remember how it was mocked in the beginning? Maybe even that wasn't newsworthy here. Well, in that short span of time the Euro has increased in value by 25% against the dollar -- roughly 6% a year. So it wasn't just from a social progress standpoint that it seemed I was a visitor from some backwater, dictatorial nation -- from an economic standpoint, I felt like a Guatemalan coming to America. "If we could only make Euros!" we kept saying.

And it all feels of a piece with the Bush era. The Furners are to be kept out, the Murcans kept in. Mordechai, the Israeli who owned the shoarma shop underneath us when we lived in Holland in 2001, has always wanted to move to Miami, because his sister is there and he thinks he could make shoarma popular there. "Is difficult now," he just told us. "You can be coming to the U.S., but only for short time, and is difficult to make shop there, and if you stay even one day more, you can never return again. Is too difficult." Difficult! A lifetime ban for overstaying a visa by one day. The harshness of merely visiting the US from Europe is legendary there -- photos, fingerprinting and so forth. The indignity alone of rough treatment has turned many a tourist Euro elsewhere. Meanwhile the newspapers here are not reporting how far behind we are falling compared to Europe with regard to standard of living, and the monetary policies are making it harder and harder to go experience the bloody thing for yourself. Stay here and read and swallow the lies that say we are okay in the good old USA. Buy a car, eat a cheeseburger, vote for Coke or Pepsi, watch TV -- but whatever you do, don't go to Europe.

Care for a final, mind-blowing stab in the eye? In Holland and Ireland, writers pay no taxes. That's so liberal, even I can't really agree with it. I mean, gimme all that stuff, but shouldn't I pay like anyone else? (Not that I would, heh heh, um, currently qualify...)

10.18.2005

Amsterdamnation

I'm blogging from the sanity/insanity capital of the world. We're here till Friday, then off to Ireland for two days, back to Iowa next Sunday.

All expectations for Amsterdam smashed. Had heard of crackdowns on coffeeshops, that you couldn't smoke weed in them anymore, that since the attack on Van Gogh's great-great-grandson, the whole nation is becoming less tolerant, etc. It's all a bunch of ballocks and rubbish. Everything is the same here and feels like it always will be and should be: Disneyland for Adults. The maturity of immaturity.

We heart the houseboat we're renting, just outside the red light district. Would post pictures but forgot digital camera. Kicking it old school with 35mm film. Today heading to Utrecht, our old stomping grounds. If anyone (bR!) sees Luka or the Real Grendel, tell them we miss them and drink to them several times a day. We hope the housesitter is doing a great job.

Getting rid of the Hurricane Housing link somehow took with it the Contributors list, will have to fix upon return to Evil Empire.

Quote of the day: "Oh, that's terrible." Irish fella on hearing our reply to his "Where you from?"

10.13.2005

More on dogs

Jim, the guy retiling our kitchen floor, on the subject of dogs, as we watched The Real Grendel chase Luka around and around and around the yard:

"Now, these dogs are friendly, I don't have a problem in the world with them. But I had a job a while back at this house where the woman had just took in two pups from a litter of beagles. When I showed up next morning, the one had killed the other one. Just bit it till it died. She was crying, and she has a little boy with Down's syndrome, you know, and it was too much of a risk, so I went home and got my shotgun and ... well, killed it. Another time on a different job, I let myself in the gate and wasn't halfway to the house when something hit my ankle. I looked down and there's this growling mutt clamped onto my boot. I kicked it off and told the woman, look I'm not coming back here until that dog is put up somewhere, because if it's me against the dog, I'll give you one guess who's going to win. That very afternoon the dog got out and went down to the neighbor's and went after that guy in his own yard. Now that guy blew him away, just blew away that dog, so that didn't turn out to be a problem for me anymore. My neighbor has three huge St. Bernards, huge, huge dogs, and this tiny little girl, and they made a kind of saddle for the dogs, and that girl just rides one around like a horse till it gets tired, then they saddle up the next one, and so on. I love dogs."

Harold Pinter Wins Nobel

Thought I'd post this over here since this is where the Nobel discussions have been a-brewing.

10.12.2005

NBA finalists

The John Roberts look-alike of American letters, one Mr. Grisham, announced the National Book Awards finalists this afternoon. Leading the pack in fiction is E.L. Doctorow's "The March," and the poetry front-runner appears to be the estimable W.S. Merwin, for "Migration."

But Doctorow Probably Won't Win the Cy Young

Awards. Awards. Everywhere. The Booker yesterday. The Nobel is tomorrow in the a.m. And here are the National Book Award nominees. I've had The March on the shelf for a while now and have been putting it off for reasons that baffle even me. Kim's copy of Veronica just arrived in the mail today.

I just hope somebody accepting one of these pulls out a cellphone they've stashed in the podium and calls their mom. Or whips out a Sharpie and autographs the trophy.

New York sends in the Egans

In the ongoing efforts to rebuild New Orleans, the City of New York has decided to send in my mother-in-law and brother-in-law, Daniel. Mom Egan will be doing public health nursing, while Dan is driving some kind of emergency relief vehicle.

Apparently, driving an emergency relief vehicle is quite high on the "cool" totem of jobs to have -- mainly because you get to decide how and where to deliver food and supplies. Dan drives around blasting Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson to lift up the spirits of the locals (although, if I was in their position, I think "911 is a Joke" is a litle more appropriate). But, by all reports, people seem to like it. I see Dan as driving some kind of crazy ice cream truck.

In fact, he was on the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour the other day -- driving along shouting "Free Food! Get Your Free Good Food!" in his most hilarious New York accent.

He says it's still a war zone, and the smell is incredible. But he seems to be in good spirits. Mom Egan arrives in the next few weeks.

"I'd call a cab because a cab would come quicker." -- Flavor Flav

10.11.2005

Irish Eyes Are Winning Giant Prizes

John Banville won the Booker last night. Anyone read the book? Any good?

A frosty morning in hell

Pigs are flying, and lions are sharing hammocks with lambs. I know these things because Bono and U2 are playing a fundraiser for Senator Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum (R-PA). What in the bloody hell is going on with this? It's not April first... I can't figure it out.

10.10.2005

Grace Paley out, Engle memorial in

According to the UI Arts Calendar, Grace Paley's reading for tonight is cancelled. Anyone know why? In its place, it seems, there will be a Paul Engle memorial reading. 8pm, Shambaugh, main library.

Nobel Drama?

Following up on last week's posts: Interesting scuttlebutt surrounding the (apparently) delayed awarding of this year's Nobel Prize for Literature.

Wear your love

Many of you might already know about this, but on the site for George Saunders' newest book - reignofphil.com - you can buy Reign of Phil t-shirts (you also get a handful of temporary tattoos with your purchase). T-shirts! I bought one of course, because I'm a GS dork, and I keep getting compliments when I wear it. It's so great to be able to say, oh, it's for a book. Bands have t-shirts, why shouldn't books? Check it out.

10.09.2005

camroc

Since this was the place we had our big discussion about "No Country for Old Men," I thought it was the best place to recommend Percival Everett's new book "Wounded," which seems to take the same raw material and apply to it the exact opposite impulse. It's just as brutal but infinitely more human.

10.07.2005

New Yorker College Tour

For those of you who are interested, the Iowa City schedule of events for the New Yorker College tour.

10.06.2005

George Bush--master poet?

One of my students cited a quote from GB:

"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda--"

in response to a discussion we're having about repetition and the villanelle form. Never have I been more pleased to hear from our illustrious leader. Now, it'd be interesting if he did adhere to more closely to the constraints of form (villanelle, sestina, pantoum.....) rather than just mocking them.

A History of Violence

I was very excited to discover that David Cronenberg has a new movie out. In college, I earned a tremendously valuable "Certificate in Film Studies," and the capstone was a long paper I wrote analyzing the films of David Cronenberg. Videodrome is one of my all-time faves. Loved The Fly, Naked Lunch, Dead Ringers, eXistenZ ... appreciated Scanners, The Dead Zone ... wasn't crazy about Crash (1996, not the one last year that rocked), but everyone is entitled to stumble.

I was horribly disappointed in A History of Violence. What happened to David Cronenberg? It's one thing to stumble, and quite another to dive off a roof. History is the most tedious film I've seen since Signs. The first scene is the slowest and most boring I have ever seen in a film. The story unfolds about as fast as a fern frond, revealing itself to be a string of dismaying mobster cliches. Has he never even seen The Sopranos? There are no surprises -- the viewer has guessed everything up front -- except for the one in which such an established director could think this dreck was good enough to distribute. The acting is stiff. The ending is a groaner -- obvious, premature, perfuctory. The whole movie managed to even look boring. And there is an irritating Howard Shore score that doesn't fit the action -- I can't remember the last time I was actually angry at the music in a film.

Granted, David Cronenberg is not the most stylish or deft director around -- in fact, he's often downright clumsy -- but at least his films have always been interesting. But this dog ... I simply can't explain. It lacks any of the bizarre, gruesome, and radical ideas that are his hallmark. Why? Moreover, it was based on a graphic novel -- which means it came into his hands already storyboarded -- and he still either missed that the graphic novel sucked or screwed up in the relatively simple transfer. Where is Frankenstein, his long-rumored magnum opus? He could sink his teeth into that. He was born to direct that. My boy is seriously off his game. Avoid.

10.05.2005

Nobelity

Any early bets on the Nobel Prize? Anyone care to create silly analogies to picking Supreme Court justices? Any takers on whom you would choose given the opportunity? I'd love to give it to Old Alice or P Roth, not because they need the attention, or because they need the cash, but because they both can throw down and have been throwing down well for some time. I'm sure some of you have more original picks than those two.

10.03.2005

Rezoning Iowa City?

I know very little about this, but there will be a public meeting Wednesday at 7 at City Hall to discuss proposed changes to Iowa City's zoning ordinance. I know, I know, I hear the word "zoning," and it sounds like somebody snoring in a gently swaying hammock, and it makes me very... must keep eyes open... as does the very notion of sitting through a public meeting at City Hall.

However, the issue was presented to me by Todd at Artifacts as having the potential to reshape the face of the town. For example, he said that the block along Market Street, starting with Artifacts and including Motley Cow, the suspiciously cheap pizza place, and across the street to encompass -- GASP!!! -- George's... a moment of silence please... could all be affected. Some developer supposedly "is drooling over that huge parking lot" between George's and the paint store, and this rezoning effort is the stealth method of replacing this lovely, historic, useful part of town with soulless, hulking apartment complexes that have kegs flying from balconies. Or something. And that nobody but the developer has been talking to the city council about this. Now, maybe that is all rumor. Or maybe They want me to think it's all rumor.

Anyway, if you're curious what might be in the works, you might check out that meeting... I'd love to hear (or shout) things like, "Sit down, sir! Sit down!" or "No, you're out of order!" or "Has the culture of cronyism trickled down this far, ladies and gentlemen?"