Archive | entertainment RSS feed for this section

104. Elaboration (“Oh, and Another Thing…”)

6 Apr

One of the first things you learn in any creative writing class is not to use five words when one will do. (Actually, they would probably put it thusly: be concise.) This is nearly impossible for any Southerner. We tend to err on the side of Faulkner (who even added an extra letter to his own name), not Hemingway.

This may be why you’ll find countless Southern novels, memoirs, and even short(ish) stories, but hardly any Southern poetry. I’m hard-pressed to name one famous Southern poet, even after Googling “famous southern poet.”

If there’s anything Southerners adore more than fried chicken and sweet tea, it’s the sound of our own voices. We just love to tell a good story. The problem is you can’t tell a good Southern story without going into a whole lot of exposition. I mean, how will the listener ever understand the sordid tale you heard from your hairdresser about your cousin’s trashy ex-wife unless you explain how she came to be his ex-wife in the first place?

This makes for a lot of non-linear storytelling, which can be somewhat confusing to non-Southerners who rarely feel compelled to stop mid-sentence and say something like “Oh, but how he lost his tooth was…” or “Wait! Before that, we stopped at the Bass Pro Shop…”

While I was home at Christmas, my 7-year-old nephew, Jackson, spent the entire 20-minute ride from my sister’s house to my dad’s recounting the plot of Bambi 2. At least four or five times, he paused abruptly and said, “But before that happened…” Yep, folks, he’s a Southerner. As if his name didn’t give it away.

Following this paragraph is a quiz, but first I have to tell y’all how it came about. I was thinking of a popular movie and it occurred to me that the name would be altogether different had a Southerner had been the one to come up with it. So then I thought it would be fun to create alternate Dixie titles for other films and see if y’all could guess what they are. All of the movies (except the aforementioned one) were nominated for Best Picture Oscars, so I’ve provided the year, in case that helps. You’ll find the actual titles at the bottom of this post. Alright, here we go:

What’s the Original Movie Title?
1. 1938: You’ve Got to Leave All That There Right Here
2. 1939: Gone with the Wind
3. 1950: What All Eve’s Ever Done, Not That I’m One to Gossip
4. 1953: From Where We’re at Right Now to Where We’ll be Forever and Ever Amen
5. 1960: The Single-Wide
6. 1975: He Done Went Crazy and Landed Hisself Up in Whitfield (Note: your asylum name may vary)
7. 1980: Regular Folks
8. 1992: Still Holding a Grudge Because of What Happened Way Back When
9. 2002: Atlanta
10. 2010: What All the King Said After He Quit The Stuttering and Learned to Talk Right

Bonus–the one that started it all–2011: The Girl What Done Gone and Got Herself a Dragon Tattoo, Bless Her Mama’s Heart

Ok, now y’all try it. Post your own alternate movie titles in the comments and I’ll announce the Best Dixie-fied Title winner in a not-too-distant-future post. Note: what he/she actually wins is the title “Best Dixie-fied Title Winner.” I haven’t got the budget for a prize, trophy, or tiara.

Answers:
1. You Can’t Take It With You; 2. Gone with the Wind (Yes, it’s a trick question, but if y’all don’t know by now that a Southerner wrote that one, there’s really no hope of figuring out the other titles); 3. All About Eve; 4. From Here to Eternity; 5. The Apartment (Sorry, that might be a tough one for non-Southerners since I haven’t tackled the subject of trailers a.k.a. mobile homes yet); 6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; 7. Ordinary People; 8. Unforgiven; 9. Chicago; 10. The King’s Speech; Bonus–The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Photo Credit: Sit Long Sign from The Craft Cabin’s Etsy store.

I’m Baaaaaaaack, Sort Of.

10 Aug

When I read Julia Child’s memoir “My Life in France,” one of the passages really struck a chord with me. Julia’s referring to cooking, but I think it’s more of general life lesson that might give Oprah an “aha moment.” Although, to be fair, it’s not too difficult to elicit an “aha moment” from Oprah. Probably a gerbil could do it. Or a hampster for sure. But not a Guinea pig. All they do is sit there and stare at you. In a creepy manner.

Anyhoo, here’s the passage wherein Julia discusses serving someone a terribly unappetizing meal:

“We ate the lunch with painful politeness and avoided discussing its taste. I made sure not to apologize for it. This was a rule of mine.

I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one’s hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as, “Oh, I don’t know how to cook…” or “Poor little me…” or “This may taste awful…” it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attentions to one’s shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings), and make the other person think, ‘Yes, you’re right, this really is an awful meal!”

Oh, no, Mabel, your sweet potatoes
look very...well done.

And that’s why I won’t be apologizing for my extended absence from the blogiverse. Also, I just hate it when you start reading a new blog and the writer keeps apologizes profusely for their absence(s). Like I care. I just met you. So what if you missed the last Weight Watchers meeting/church service/whatever? I wasn’t there either!!

So welcome, new subscribers! Please allow me to offer a very brief explanation to my long-time readers. Here goes: Pinched nerve root in neck. Pain radiating down right arm and hand. Typing = Torture. Hence, no entries. On the mend now, but paying work takes up nearly all my limited typing time. Therefore, here are a few funny and/or tasty and/or tasteless distractions for y’all till I’m back for reals.

The HI-larious and insightful scribes over at Real Southern Men are offering “Twanglish Lessons,” my favorite of which, thus far, is “Cussemisms.” That is also my new favorite word, although “twanglish” was definitely a contender.

I am all about the inadvertently amusing advertising one occasionally runs across (or frequently when one lives in the South), so I just lurved Todd Pack’s recent entry “‘Used cows’ and other signs of the times.” I’m still kicking myself that I never bothered to stop and take a picture of my favorite sign right outside Jackson, MS. It was a giant banner that read “Cemetery Now Open!” Yes, folks, an exclamation point! So hurry on in, y’all!!

Ok, I may be getting too far into my English major roots, by mocking the mistakes of most likely good-hearted people, but one of my favorite sites is CakeWrecks. And my favorite types of wrecks are the appallingly misspelled or, most especially, the ones whose instructions are horribly misconstrued. Check out the cake that inspired the blog, but be prepared to spend hours on the site.

Not that I am one or either...

I realize that a Shakespeare link might permanently label me as a nerd, but this is amusing whether or not you’re a fan of the bard. And besides, if I was truly a nerd, I wouldn’t get all the amazing impressions Jim Meskimen does–from Jimmy Stewart to Harvey Keitel, George Clooney to Droopy Dog. What’s most impressive to me is how his Jimpressions so accurately correspond to the words in Clarence’s speech from Richard III. My favorite is his line by Simon Cowell referring to “such howling in my ears.” But now that I’m on the subject of impressions, I must mention my favorite improv impressionist, Kevin Spacey, as seen on Inside the Actors Studio. Even better than his impressions was his answer to one of James Lipton’s recurring series of final questions: “What is your favorite curse word?” Spacey: “Rat bastard.” Let’s all try to incorporate it into our repertoire, shall we? Ok, Baptists, you are excluded. Feel free to use the above-mentioned “cussemisms.”

And to end on a sweet note, I must direct y’all towards my delightful bloggy pal Christina’s Southern Sweet Tea Granita recipe at Dessert for Two. What’s better than sweet tea on a hot summer day? Right, iced sweet tea. But what’s better than that? Sweet tea slushie! Hooray!

Hope these amuse y’all. Stay tuned for more frequent entries in the hopefully not-too-distant future. Next up: Cream-of-Something-Soup, since it was the first runner up on the SSPL Facebook page survey. Thanks for the vote “Kim’s Sister,” or Jenna, as I call her.

What are some of your favorite web finds? (And by all means, feel free to vote for yourself!)

P.S. I am partial to funny cat videos.

Photo Credits: “Hey Y’all” sign available from SlippinSouthern at etsy; Well Done Yams by Walker Cleavelands, Flickr Creative Commons; “Heavens to Betsy” t-shirt available from SweeTee; “Math & Stuff” shot by me (rather poorly with phone); Sweet Tea Granita by Christina at Dessert for Two.

Stuff I, Myself, Like

16 Jun

Two of my favorite people:
My nephew Jackson and his baby brother Eli.

Tomorrow’s the day y’all have been anticipating in the manner of my 13-year-old self waiting for the release of Duran Duran’s “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” album. That’s right: my 100th post. Whee!

Now that all 8 of the votes on the SSPL Facebook page have been tallied, we have a winner…Words Gone Wild: Mispronunciation. So check back in tomorrow to read all about it.

In the meantime, I figured that now that I’m reaching a ripe old age (in blog years), I might better start mixing it up a bit. Don’t worry, I’m not even close to running out of topics, but I thought I’d rest a spell and let other folks do the work.

Pour yourself a tall glass of sweet tea and head over to Saturday Evening Porch to hear about one blogger’s mother who hated all things tacky as much as my mom did.

If you’re feeling a bit peckish, check out Hippie Cahier’s unbelievably cute and yummy-sounding dirt cake. I’m thinking it must have been invented by a Southerner, seeing as it’s neither dirt, nor cake. P.S. Hippie Cahier is not really a hippie. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

If you’ve ever A. been kept awake by monsters or B. been irritated by a sibling, you’ll appreciate Hyperbole and a Half’s scariest story post.

Stephanie at Stuff Christian Culture Likes expounds on the epidemic of PDA via Facebook that may have affected a couple near you. And if you are one of the couple’s she’s described and the post gets your dander up, well…

Tori at The Ramblings has just the solution: PROTEST! Bring your own sign and crabby attitude.

Well, that’s it till tomorrow.

Feel free to share your favorite finds from the interwebs. But keep it PG-13, folks. My dad and other Baptists read this blog. I don’t want to get myself protested.

94. Camping (Not That I’m Happy About It)

14 Apr

Disclaimer: Everything I have to say about camping in the South is based on my personal experience way back in the 1970’s. Here goes:

When I was in fifth grade, I wrote a scathing expose on camping and got to read it in class. Everybody thought it was hilarious. I can’t remember what all I said, but the gist of it was: I hate camping. I really hate camping. Also, camping sucks. Which is why I hate camping. So much.

This was the first time I truly realized the power of a number 2 pencil and Trapper Keeper-compatible loose leaf paper. My highly unscientific hypothesis was: People like to laugh. I can make people laugh. Therefore, people will like me.

I wish I had a copy of my essay on camping, but it has most likely disintegrated by now, considering how many times I read it to a captive audience. (By “captive” I don’t mean “fascinated by” so much as “prevented from fleeing.”)

Here in the Pacific Northwest, people see camping as a way to loosen the shackles of society, commune with nature, catch a rare glimpse of a star-filled sky, and sleep in tents. That all sounds great (apart from the sleeping on the ground aspect), but unlike any camping I’ve ever experienced.

Our campsite looked kind of like this,
only smaller and with plastic fruit lights.

When I was a kid, my dad would hook our pop-up camper to the trailer hitch on the car and away we’d go to the KOA Campgrounds in uber-exotic Wiggins, MS. Once we’d parked in our assigned spot, we’d set up camp. This involved popping up the camper and erecting a tarp cover to shade the picnic table, complete with a snazzy string of plastic fruit lights. (My mother never met a place she couldn’t decorate.)

My first order of business was scoping out the nearest bathroom facilities (some things never change). If we were lucky, there’d be a sketchy looking building with toilets and showers fairly close to “home.” One of the stereotypes of Southern folks is that we don’t have running water. Well, I’m here to tell you we do. In the wilderness, no less.

The ones in Wiggins, MS,
were slightly less grand.

The next item on my agenda was chasing squirrels. Not for supper. Just for fun.

One of the selling points of the Wiggins campsite was that it featured a lake with sandy beaches. Since I’d always associated sandy beaches with oceans, I once tried to teach myself to surf using the lid of a Styrofoam cooler. I made a valiant effort, but, alas, it was not to be. Turns out that surfing requires, well, surf.

Me, Jenna, and her creatively named doll, "Denna."

I can’t remember what all we ate when camping, but I do know that our food was cooked on my dad’s trusty propane Coleman Stove. As it turns out, a propane stove can be quite useful in a crisis. When Katrina knocked out the electricity at my parents’ house, my dad used his to cook up ham and eggs, and more importantly, coffee. “Eggs?” I asked. “Where are you keeping eggs?” My dad: “In the cooler.” Me: “Of course.”

Seeing as I’ve never been a fan of dirt, insects, public showers, and propane-tinged food, the only thing that made camping remotely bearable was when we brought along our portable color TV. My dad claimed that my sister and I were the only people in the entire history of camping who couldn’t stand to leave the TV at home. What? Other folks were content to miss an episode of “Mork and Mindy”? Seriously?

I do understand why people might choose to stay at campsites to economize while traveling on vacation. But, y’all, the campsite WAS our destination. I still can’t fathom how cramming four hot, cranky, occasionally TV-deprived people into a pop-up camper constitutes a vacation. Now that I think about it, maybe my dad was trying to give us an idea of what Hell might be like so we’d do our best not to wind up there.

Somebody ought to
buy me this.

Every once in a while, I’ll hear people in Seattle planning weekend camping trips. They make it sound quaint, enticing, blissful even. Which starts me thinking, “Maybe it would be different without the scorching heat and 1000% humidity. I’ve long-since cured my TV addiction, and it would be nice to see actual stars again.” I might just be persuaded to try again, if it weren’t for this one thing: I hate camping.

Did you go camping as a kid? Would you voluntarily go now? What’s the one item from civilization you’d find it most difficult to part with?

Photo Credits, Flickr Creative Commons: Camping sign by Susan Hunt, Bathhouse by Amy the Nurse, TV by Eric Albee

I Love Not Camping luggage tag by Anne Taintor available here.

90. William Faulkner, King of Yoknapatawpha County

25 Mar

“How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”
— William Faulkner, “As I Lay Dying”

Southern people love William Faulkner…unless they hate him. There’s really no middle ground. You won’t overhear a bookstore patron saying, “Faulkner’s all right, I reckon, but I prefer Stephen King.”

Reading “As I Lay Dying” in high school was my introduction to full-length Faulkner. I see this as both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because starting with, say, “The Sound and the Fury” might’ve caused me to break out in hives and consider myself allergic to his work. (This had happened before with Melville/”Billy Budd.”) A curse because “As I Lay Dying” set the standard by which I judge Southern novels. So far, everything else has come up short.

In “As I Lay Dying,” Faulkner offers a collection of first person narratives, recounting the adventures of a family transporting a dead body across Mississippi in the middle of summer. Why would they attempt this, you might ask. Because the body belongs to their mother (who had previously lain dying), and she insisted on being buried with her people. Also, each family member has an ulterior motive for going to town, ranging from Vardaman, the youngest who wants a toy train to Anse, the father who wants a new set of teeth (and manages to snag himself a new wife in the bargain).

Macabre comedy ensues.

I once made the mistake of taking a graduate-level course on Faulkner, which required reading an assigned novel every couple of weeks. I’ve always had a penchant (and dare I say, talent) for getting things done at the last possible minute. Not so with Faulkner. His work should be savored like a piece of artisan-crafted dark chocolate, not gobbled like a waxy Hershey’s Kiss. Sure, I read “The Unvanquished” in one night, but I can’t recall a single plot point. I’d guess it’s about a dysfunctional Mississippi family who may or may not turn out to be vanquished. Am I close?

The most common complaint I hear about Faulkner is that his work is difficult to read. No argument there: it is. But it’s kind of like exercise: difficult at the time, but satisfying (especially if you reward yourself with ice cream once you’re done).

In an interview for The Paris Review, Faulkner was asked: “Some people say they can’t understand your writing, even after they read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them.” Faulkner replied: “Read it four times.”

If you find yourself near Oxford, MS, looking for a literary excursion, head over to Faulkner’s Greek Revival home, Rowan Oak. On my visit, the docent was knowledgeable and none-too-strict, which was nice, seeing as I had to move the plastic barrier at the door of his study to get a better view of his writing on the walls. This was the outline of his novel “The Fable,” for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. Sadly, my parents painted over all my crayon scribblings decades ago. Who knows what all I could have won by now…

What’s your favorite Faulkner novel, story, or anecdote? And if he’s not your cup of sweet tea, who is?

Photo credits: Rowan Oak sign and Faulkner’s writing on the walls photos courtesy of Nick Russell. Check out a collection of his AH-MAY-ZING photos on his blog Visual Textuality.

89. Dinner on the Ground

24 Mar

The first two things you should know about dinner on the ground are: 1. It’s not dinner and 2. It’s not on the ground. Ok, actually, it IS dinner for Southerners, but I didn’t want to confuse folks who think of dinner as an evening meal. In the South, dinner is served once a week (at noon on Sunday) or possibly twice if there’s a holiday involved. All other midday meals are called “lunch” or occasionally “brunch” (for fancy people). The evening feeding event is called “supper.”

During my time as an expat Southerner, I’ve rarely heard the word “supper,” apart from that short-lived “supper club” trend that swept Los Angeles in the late 90s. But I try not to think of that, seeing as my only supper club experience involved stopping Gary Busey outside the bathroom to tell him, “I loved you in Carny!” and “Stay off the motorcycles!!” Yes, there might have been demon liquor involved. But as my mother always reminded me: I don’t have to tell everything I know.

While dinner on the ground may or may not be considered “dinner,” it is definitely NOT on the ground. Unless you are the type of person who doesn’t mind the occasional speck of dirt in your mashed potatoes or grass stains on your Sunday best.

I’m sure my non-Southern readers can’t wait to find out what this mysterious event actually is, so here goes: It’s a potluck meal after church on Sundays. I know, kind of a letdown – unless you actually GO to one.

I’m not sure how the tradition of dinner on the ground got started or how it evolved off the ground and onto folding tables. I suspect it had something to do with the desire to boost church attendance. Even the worst backsliders (and y’all know who you are) will endure a sermon and some hymn singing for an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of Southern delicacies. For free, no less! (Or at the low, low price of a two-liter Coke or a pack of those crappy dinner rolls parked next to the hot dog buns at Kroger.)

Wrong!

Dinner rolls: Right!

As a general rule – based purely on my personal observations – the farther into the backwoods you go, the better the food’s going to be. I suspect there are some city churches that don’t even do dinner on the ground anymore, which just seems terribly sad.

If you want a true taste of Southern cuisine at its finest, try to finagle an invitation to a dinner on the ground. I’m partial to the Baptists, but I’m sure a Methodist spread might do. You’ll find a funeral food worthy display of casseroles, meat-flavored vegetables, and homemade Dixie sweets – with the added perk that nobody actually died.

In case you ever happen across a dinner on the ground, here are a few helpful pointers:

Whose green bean casserole will reign supreme?

1. Get in line early and often.

2. Do a little reconnaissance: know your options and save room for the best stuff.

3. If you encounter two or more versions of the same casserole, opt for the dish that’s most empty. Don’t hesitate to take the last serving or the person behind you might swoop in and beat you to it.

4. Avoid desserts with tell-tale signs of store boughtness like those dinky tin pie trays or cookies in a plastic tub. I like to make a sampler plate of everything that looks promising. But if there’s something special you want, get it before it’s gone.

5. Aim for the best seating option: a table with chairs. A chair without a table is trickier, but anything beats the last resort – the ground.

6. Don’t start fixing a to-go plate till everybody’s done eating. Wait till folks start retrieving their casserole dishes and then act quickly.

Dessert: YES!!

NO!!

This may sound counterintuitive considering how fond Southern people are of their food, but nothing makes a cook happier than returning home with an empty dish. And you can be sure folks are keeping tabs on which dishes moved the fastest. Leaving with a dish that’s still ¾ full is like being the last team member picked during P.E. class. But worse because who cares about P.E.?

Before you leave dinner on the ground in search of the nearest surface suitable for napping, make sure you find out who made your favorite dishes, praise them lavishly, and ask for the recipe. Don’t be surprised if you’re swept up in a spontaneous hug. Many Southerners equate food with love, so if you love what they cook, they’re sure to love you back.

What’s your favorite dinner on the ground delicacy?

Photos from Flickr Creative Commons: Green Bean Casserole by littlemaiba, Pecan Pie by leah1201l

87. Pigs in a Blanket (aka Piggies)

17 Mar

My greatest accomplishment as a Southern Culture Ambassador has been converting Seattleites into piggie lovers. It was with great trepidation that I first showed up at my book/brunch club with a tray of piping hot piggies. I thought surely my sophisticated, erudite friends would scoff at the prospect of eating lil smokies and American cheese wrapped in store-bought, fresh-from-the-can crescent rolls. Lo and behold, not only did they not scoff; they scarfed. I might’ve even come home with an empty tray (and by “tray” I mean giant faux Tupperware container). I can’t remember, seeing as I was so stunned.

I don’t make piggies all that often due to my aversion to coming in contact with what can only be described as (squeamish folks might want to skip ahead) lil smokies juice. But when I do show up with a container of piggie deliciousness, I step aside quickly lest I be pounced upon like Pepé Le Pew’s long-suffering, would-be lady friend.

(Hmm. I’ve never thought about it, but the folks at Looney Tunes seem to endorse stalker behavior. But then they also encourage playing with TNT and running off the edges of cliffs, so it’s all relative, I suppose.)

So what do piggies taste like? Well, folks, they taste like hugging seldom-seen but always-cherished old friends. Like recalling collective memories that lead to hysterical laughter. Like dancing to “I Will Survive.” Like carefree college days. Like nostalgia. Like home. Also, meat, cheese, and bread – three of my favorite food groups.

My sister is the designated piggie maker at our annual Christmas party. I think she does it partly for the powerful admiration piggie making elicits. Mostly, I think she fears that if she didn’t make them, we might go piggie-less. The horror!!

I must confess that her self-appointed position of Piggie Maker in Chief has led to fights on more than one occasion – almost always in the refrigerated section at Kroger. But then, if you can’t make a scene in public, what’s the point of fighting?

This year, we decided to nip the Annual Angry Kroger Confrontation™ in the bud by orchestrating a fight in the car on the way over – role-playing style. (Of course we’ve never been to therapy. Why ever would you think that?)

It went something like this:

Jenna (playing me): Jenna! WHY are you buying so many crescent rolls? You don’t NEED that many crescent rolls!!

Me (playing Jenna): If I don’t buy eight thousand cans of crescent rolls, people will STARVE TO DEATH!

Jenna (playing me): Just get three cans! You don’t NEED more than three!

Me (playing Jenna): I’m getting four! I ALWAYS get four!

Jenna (playing me): WHAT-EVER! Get what you want. FINE. I don’t care. FINE!! WHAT-EVER!!!

Pause to represent the deafening silence that is our ride home from the grocery store, which will be followed by a private cooling off period/sulking time.

I’m delighted to report that it worked. We managed to go a whole visit without fighting once. We’d almost done that one time before, except that an observation that we hadn’t had a fight led to a heated argument. About what, I cannot recall.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a going-away party for two of my favorite people in Seattle who are now two of my favorite people in Boston (despite the fact that they up and left me for better jobs. The nerve!).

Our host Jenny, who’s always generous with comfort food and hospitality had put out quite a spread, the star of which was a tray of piggies! (And by “tray” I mean cute serving dish.) I quickly popped one into my mouth and two thoughts immediately sprang to mind: 1. That’s one dee-li-ci-ous piggie! And 2. There are five left. How many can I get away with eating? A quick glance into the kitchen assured me that more were on the way. Yippie!

So long, lil smokies. Nice knowing you.

I’ve often toyed with the notion of making a fancy version of piggies, but can’t break from the “don’t fix what ain’t broke” school of thought. When I tasted Jenny’s piggies, I prepared myself for a paradigm shift. There’s no way that was a cresent roll from the plastic-wrapped-cookie-dough-and-canned-items-claiming-to-be-biscuits section of Kroger. But they WERE! However, the lil smokies had been replaced by lil smokie-sized chicken and apple sausages. Yum! Also, they were cheese-less, which is usually a deal breaker for me, but I have to admit I didn’t miss it. I know! Shocker!

One might argue that Jenny’s version weren’t technically “piggies” and ought to be called “chickies” or somesuch. I hate to break it to y’all (and hope I’m not reveling trade secrets), but the Holloway girls’ “piggies” would more accurately be called “cowies” or “beefies,” neither of which sounds terribly appetizing, although not as bad as what Geoff mistakenly calls them: “Puppies.”

%d bloggers like this: