Saturday, September 26, 2009

What I Just Read: Coming Up For Air

This was the book I was supposed to finish on our last trip to New York, that was about a month ago. I have no excuse except that that bed was so damn comfy looking.

One can never go home again, that's what I took away Coming Up For Air by George Orwell. The first half of the books is the recounting of the dull life that was and still is George Bowling, his parents, his first sexual experience, his love for fishing, serving and not serving in WW I, and about how fat he is. This mostly boring first half of the book is almost made up by the fact that the second half is devoted to him realizing that everything he remembered and held in such high regard has either vanished, changed into something he despises or may never have existed in the first place.

Yet underneath the mundane and nostalgic life of George Bowling is a classic Orwell undertone; the haves abuse the have nots and that is never going to change.

My favorite scene in the book is when George goes with his wife to listen to a famous Anti-Fascist give a lecture. George is not that interested in the lecture because he knows Hitler is a bad man and he does not need to be told so by a man spewing hatred. The thing is George does not care what type of system is in charge be it fascists, democracy, communism or whatever, he is still going to be making a few pounds a week and have to listen to his wife complain about the price of butter. He sees the arguments between the Communists and Trotsky supporter in front of him as nothing but rearranging chairs on the Titanic. Nothing matters.

Through George, Mr. Orwell is taking note of the pre WW II political landscape and saying he really does not care for it. There is going to be a war, people are going to die, England may end up under fascist rule but in the end will anything really change? Politically of course, because if Coming Up For Air tries to prove anything it's that though many things change, most things stay the same.

Though this book was fairly boring and at times difficult to get through there are very good parts to the book. In addition to the scene at the lecture, there is an almost prophetic sequence in which George describes the London Blitz with houses reduced to rubble and for the most part all out destruction. The thing is Coming Up For Air was written in June 1939 a full year before the Battle of Britain began, a truly amazing imagination.

I have always enjoyed Orwell, but then again who does not like Animal Farm and 1984. If it was not for the fact that I read Down and Out In Paris and London and loved it I do not think I would have bothered reading Coming Up for Air. I like Orwell's bleak outlook on mankind, his pessimistic view that power undoubtedly corrupts and the greedy always vanquish those who are not. It may be bleak and glass half empty , but I enjoy it.

The book design is fairly modest, a white background with gold trimming and a neat black and white picture of a man vaulting a large puddle which Katy says looks a lot like a photo that Henri Cartier-Bresson would have taken, neat none the less. I like it despite the misleading title and the hopeful picture.

I have one other Orwell book in my possession that I have yet to read, Homage to Catalonia, which is a work of non-fiction about the Spanish Civil War, I plan on giving it a try in the near future.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Jon • Kate + 8 = Why Procreation Isn't For Everyone

I really should be doing wedding things for Katy right now but I just had to tell you; Jon and Kate have a dysfunctional relationship. I know this might come as a surprise but if you throw a couple with 8 small children on TV things are not going to end well.

Enough of the trying to be funny and saying something new, I could not care less about Jon and Kate or the Angelina/Brad/Jen love triangle that occasionally turns into a rhombus when Jen finds a man (or in John Meyer's case a boy). My question is why do I need to know about Jon's hot and steamy second affair with the nanny and how they have sex when the kids are in the other room? Why do I need to know that this time Jen is over Brad for real now that she has Gerard Butler in her life (and really going for King Leonidas? So cliche.)

The answer is I don't know, and there will always be room for useless gossip in American culture, you can not get rid of it. The truth is I am fascinated by this in a way, Brad and Jen split up in 2005, or so my research says and yet we are still talking about them. They are either incredibly weak when it comes to their emotions or their is a vast conspiracy in the entertainment industry to keep this story going to make us forget about the fact that Jennifer Aniston's career ended when Friends ended. Regardless the 4 years of Star magazine covers is not ending any time soon.

As for Jon and Kate who thinks having 8 kids is a good idea? OK, and who thinks having camera crews and producers follow your every movement is a good idea? Now let's combine those two ideas. If you came anywhere near the word "moronic" then you are correct. These people are egotistical maniacs! They had 8 children for Christ's sake, talk about narcissistic (and do not blame the fertility drugs, they already had two kids, they knew the chances of having too many kids and they could have helped the world out and adopted). Then they went on TV? When has reality TV ever led to good things? The first winner of Survivor went to jail, and have you seen Flavor of Love?

I don't know where this is going so I'm just going to stop here, but before I go I just want to say do not have 8 children, do not lay your relationship out for all of America to see, and do not under any circumstances date Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, or Jennifer Aniston.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Not Every Kitchen is Hell, Just the Two I've Worked In

Working in a busy kitchen is one of the most stressful environments anyone can work in. The only way one can have more stress is if they have someones life in their hands, have millions of dollars at risk, or they are getting shot at. I know what your saying, "But I have a deadline for a report for Friday", yeah well in a kitchen you have a deadline every 5 seconds and if you miss it the boss is hollering at you, which tends to add to the stress of the next order and it's all down hill from there.

A few summers ago I worked at Woodman's of Essex, the place where the fried clam was invented by a man who was not so ironically called "Chubby". Woodman's is a family run business so as a result there are something like 25 people you have to listen to. Though I may not have liked the way they treated their employees or how they seem to think you should pay for the honor of eating at a hot and sticky clam shack where you have to pick your food up at a window, I still count it as a large and fairly positive experiment in my life. For if it wasn't for Woodman's I wouldn't have learned how to fry, to mop, to wake up at 5 AM, what it's like to smell like fried food for days, or the amount of time and effort that goes into preparing a restaurant each day. Nor would I be working for Bartley's where the only reason I was hired was because "I've never worked with someone who worked at Woodman's before, so I guess I'll have to give you a try."

Bartley's is a whole different animal then Woodman's. First off I actually like the food we cook (Burgers), second, all I do is put the toppings on the food and place it in the window, no burning myself required. The biggest thing of all to me is that the guy who does all the hollering and demanding actually works in the kitchen and the kitchen would not be able to run without him. I admit it sucks getting yelled at, but when it's coming from someone who is doing something much harder than you and not just standing around dictating then there is nothing you can do but shut up and do it right.

Yeah I stand on my feet all day and yeah I get paid far less than I would if I was sitting in an office at a computer with a fraction of the stress and physical labor but in a small way it's rewarding and eye opening. Yes I will keep telling myself that.