Thursday, May 31, 2012
More will be revealed, they say. So far the title of my last blog posting hasn’t elicited any particular response. Other than those who visit the blog regularly to read whatever happens to be here, there’s been not a single person who has been lured to it by Googling the words “i am bored” or any variant thereof. I went all the way to page 12 on the Google display and didn’t see a reference to my blog. I could have gone further, but, well, I got bored. Obviously if it’s not on page one it’s not worth the trouble for anyone.
My Franco-American cousine Anonymous S [may I use the term Franco-American?—here in the US, for some obscure reason, it’s a brand of canned spaghetti owned by the Campbell soup company, most famous these days for Spaghetti-Os, that staple of all young American children], a loyal reader and frequently helpful commenter, suggested I might use the title “free downloads.” She also suggested I might use something very immediately topical, such as a reference to the recent eclipse. The latter idea occurred to me, but I’m looking for something with more staying power—something that might cause internet surfers to stumble on the blog for months or years to come, like I thought the Naked Book Guy title would.
Having contemplated all that, I just discovered, way at the bottom of a list on my “stats” feature on Blogger.com (which I confess I’m still getting to know after all this time), a list of the top keywords used to access the blog. Mostly it’s been my name, or my name plus the word “blog,” or the name of the blog itself. In other words, people have been looking for my blog specifically, because they know it already exists or they know I already exist. The only other thing that got people’s attention enough to make it onto the all-time top ten key words list was my use of the Facebook symbol at the beginning of the posting called “A Thousand Of My Closest Friends.” The use of that symbol probably constitutes some sort of trademark infringement—so sue me, you greedy tax-avoiding billionaire dweebs.
“The Naked Book Guy” isn’t even on the list of all-time most-used key words, although it does show up as having been used three times during the past week or two, perhaps in response to the most recent blog. And just a few days ago the key words “Paul Winer full frontal nude” were used by someone to find the blog. (Was that you, Billie Bob, you savage?)
So I’m confused, and confess that I know little about the workings of the internet, only that I’m probably looking in vain for an easy way to broaden my base. But hope springs eternal. Here’s something interesting, though. On the all-time most-used key words list, appearing at number 8, with 9 hits, is the phrase “Trini and Carmen’s botulism.” This came not as part of what I’d written in any particular blog, but as a result of a small colloquy in the comments after a posting written as I walked through
I mentioned that I’d eaten at a Mexican restaurant in town there and made a general reference to the place in Yazoo City, Mississippi Pontiac where there had
been a botulism outbreak due to some improperly home-made salsa, or hot sauce. A reader—Jim Willing’s sister Mary Lou, I
think—invoked the name of Trini and Carmen’s Restaurant, which was where the aforementioned food poisoning event took place, back in 1977. For that it gets a spot in my blog
archives. Elsewhere on Google under the
words “trini and carmen’s,” a bit above the reference to my blog, the
restaurant makes it onto a list of the all-time worst food-borne illness
outbreaks in recent US history. According
to the web site, 59 people were poisoned with botulism, which was the worst
single case of that illness in this country up to that date.
It was reportedly due to some peppers that had been canned at home by “a
former employee.” To think that it
took place in the city of my birth! And
believe it or not, Trini and Carmen’s is still around, advertising “Over 40 Years
of Metro-Detroit’s Finest Mexican Cuisine.”
More or less. At least no one who
ate at Trini and Carmen’s died, which is more than you can say for Jack In The
Box, another survivor.
Equally mystifying, from my perspective, is the fact that the next item down on the all-time list of phrases used to hit my blog is “mother mary was pro-life,” specifically in quotation marks, which produces a link to a posting I made when I was walking through Houma, Louisiana. I saw it on a billboard. I checked that out on Google, too, and was happy to see that I’m not the only one who made fun of the slogan, which tends to show up on signs in front of Catholic churches. Just imagine the trouble the world would have been spared these past two millennia if the Virgin Mary had utilized the Judean equivalent of Planned Parenthood. Of course my dad, uncle, and grandfather would have been in different lines of work, but that’s okay. Cigar making was good enough for Grandpa when he first got to this country. Then again, would the Europeans even have come here and discovered tobacco if there had been no Christianity to help precipitate the long list of events that culminated in their earliest sorties across the
Atlantic? Well, probably so. The Goths and
Visigoths and Huns moved inexorably west from somewhere, and there’s no reason
to think people wouldn’t have continued their migration even without the cross of Jesus going on before. When the Vikings came over to North America five
hundred years before Columbus,
they may already have been Christianized, but I doubt if they cared much about
spreading the word. But it was certainly religion, inextricably bound up with exploration and conquest, which
gave their Catholic Majesties Ferdinand and Isabella the incentive to finance Columbus’s trip. Somebody out there should get busy and write a
story, or a screen play, along the lines of Ricky Gervais’s “The Invention of
Lying,” about the history of Europe during the past two thousand years minus
the insidious worship of Jesus Christ.
That’s the kind of imaginative fiction and entertainment we need today,
rather than all the drab demonic possession and vampire crap that never seems
to end. (By the way, did you ever wonder
why only Roman Catholics seem to have the ability to combat the devil? You never see a Presbyterian
minister shouting “The Power Of Christ Compels You!” at a little girl tied to
her bed with her head spinning around and spewing green projectile emesis. And seldom, if ever, does a
Baptist preacher lead a group of trembling folks into a crypt to drive a
stake through someone’s heart. Could it
be because only the Roman Catholic Church really knows what evil is?)
Don’t get me wrong about the vampire stuff. I rather liked the original Dracula, by Bram Stoker. Reading the novel, with its epistolary narrative through the letters and diary entries of the principals, it was pretty gripping to watch the reality of the utter unreality of the situation slowly dawn on a handful of prim, hitherto secure and well-off Brits. Stoker simply took a few of Anthony Trollope’s characters and put them in the middle of something unbelievably craven and unholy, and that is the power of the story. That was in 1897, and things have been going downhill ever since. Following the 1922 German silent movie Nosferatu, which tried to convey the horror of the subject matter, most of the subsequent cinematic versions of the Dracula story were increasingly corny, verging on campy, gradually turning the Count into a kind of Fred Astaire with large canines, instead of what he was in Stoker’s book--the personification of alien and untrustworthy Continental evil. To the late Victorian reader it seems to have been meant as a cautionary tale, not so much about flirting with the devil (after all, what self-respecting Englishman really believes in all that piffle?), but about the danger of letting foreigners into the country.
Where things went terribly wrong and permanently around the bend in the world of Dracula stories was when the likes of Ann Rice and Stephenie Meyer started telling the story from the point of view of the vampires themselves. “Poor us, we’re the undead, condemned to the endless boredom of bloodsucking—loveless, forlorn, set upon.” These revisionists morphed the villain into the romantic victim, which I admit is not a new idea in literature, particularly not in the increasingly sociopathic worldview of popular fiction. But it's becoming more strained and laughable with each repackaging. The evil is practically gone now, and the vampires have become louche teenagers or twenty-somethings who, like Cyndi Lauper’s girls, just wanna have fu-un. This (along with the recent spate of Marvel comic book-based movies) teaches us one thing above all else, namely, that modern American cinema panders to a more immature demographic than at any time in its history. Maybe that's what Dracula really was referring to when he said, "Listen to them. Children of the night."
Nothing new or profound there, if you've been paying attention. So here’s a thought. Maybe if I call today’s blog something evocative of vampirism I’ll snag a few more readers. It’s worth a shot, anyway. Use a sucker to catch a sucker. We'll see.