This week my camera, video camera, and laptop all went haywire and torpedoed my plans to post about a Halloween prank. Boo. Hiss. And to make matters worse, by openly sharing my technology woes, I just broke a cardinal rule of blogging. Which is this. Never make excuses to your readers. Don't apologize. Just shut up and write good stuff.
Because no one cares if your hard drive is shattered or B&H didn't deliver your light meter. It is boring. Unprofessional. Annoying too.
On a walk yesterday to ease my equipment frustrations, I listened to a podcast featuring a young woman, Sarah, and her mother who taught her that certain topics of conversation are absolutely off limits. The mother, Maria Matthiessen, makes Dame Maggie Smith sound like a fishmonger and she recites precisely seven conversational topics which must be avoided: your last night's sleep, your last night's dreams, your aches and pains, your period, your money, your diet, and most tiresome of all, your travel route. These topics are dull and uninteresting to all. (Apparently Robert Redford once came to visit Mrs. Matthiessen which sent her household into a tizzy. It took him two hours to drive from New York to Long Island and when he arrived, he spent two hours describing the interstate he drove, the gas station he patronized, the towns he passed through. He blew his status as the Sundance Kid, and revealed himself to be boring old Bob.)
The podcast develops into a contest to see if the daughter can dig up stories on these banal topics that will entertain her mother, thus proving that Mrs. Matthiessen's rules are passé and that perhaps dear Mrs. Matthiessen herself is old-fashioned and tiresome.
I don't want to give away who wins but I rooted for the upper crust mother. As is often the tendency with mothers passing out advice, Mrs. Matthiessen initially sounds unnecessarily rigid. Gradually, the listener can't help but see the wisdom of her stance. Keep in mind that Mrs. Matthiessen is up against a daughter who is a producer for This American Life and who brings to the game all the scouting resources and storytelling finesse that Ira Glass and his minions employ. For example, the story offered up to Mrs. Matthiessen under the category 'your period' should be a Tina Fey film project and it made me scare some crows I laughed so hard. Mrs. Matthiessen laughed too and her daughter won that point.
I decided to google Mrs. Matthiessen. She is the widow of the recently deceased Peter Matthiessen who was a prolific author, co-founder of The Paris Review, former CIA agent, buddies with John Irving and George Plimpton. At her dinner table, she would be crazy not to ban those seven topics.
For the rest of us though, Mrs. Matthiessen's rules are hard to live by. I wish I could dream up an interesting way to end this post but my head hurts, I've got cramps, and no one is paying me for my work, so really it's time to pack away the computer and climb the stairs, thirteen of them, the third one is creaky, which lead to my bedroom and my bed.
P.S. The cookie cutters I used for BOO HISS are available here.