The Spaghetti Harvest

“Welcome to Hell. Here’s your accordion.”
― Gary Larson, The Complete Far Side, 1980–1994

Eric Mancini Mural Dallas, Texas

One of the odd, but very clear, memories of my early childhood was seeing a short documentary on television (black and white, of course) about the spaghetti harvest. I remember seeing the European women gathering the strands and stacking them in baskets for packaging and shipment.

Today I came across it again online. It was produced in Great Britain in 1957, the year I was born – so obviously I saw a re-run. There were some other satires… (I seem to remember a family at a beach consisting of large rocks – they were uncomfortable trying to sit on them, though the narrator waxed poetic about the beauty and comfort of the beach) but who knows why I saw it.

At any rate, enough horror in the real world, so enjoy the bucolic splendor of the Spaghetti Harvest, and thank God those Spaghetti Weevils are under control.

Short Story of the Day – Chili’s Menu, by Cormac McCarthy by Justin Tapp

“They were watching, out there past men’s knowing, where stars are drowning and whales ferry their vast souls through the black and seamless sea.”
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

Transcendence, on the first night.

Today’s “short story” isn’t really a short story… it’s a satirical Chili’s Menu, written in the style of my (right now – though he has competition) favorite author, Cormac McCarthy.

From McSweeney’s

So, not really fiction… I’m not sure what the literary term for “literature written in the form of a fast-casual chain restaurant menu” is… whatever it is, this is it. And I enjoyed reading it.

If you don’t get where it is coming from, you haven’t read enough Cormac McCarthy. And you need to rectify that.


A-Hole in One

“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an ever smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose”
― Winston S. Churchill

Oblique Strategy: Always give yourself credit for having more than personality

On our bicycle tour of The Cedars Open Studios we stopped at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, The MAC. The gallery is undergoing extensive construction after its move from McKinney Avenue to The Cedars. But outside, there was a very interesting, fun, and cool installation, an interactive performance – A-Hole in One. The artist, Angel Cabrales, had set up a number of large carpeted outlines of various strategic countries across a vacant lot. The participant/observer would then take a wooden sculpture of a gun, equipped with a battery powered fan, and shoot golf balls out at the targets/countries.

From the artist:

A-Hole in One examines current political events and perceived societal norms through a consumable and familiar format: golf.

In a time when executive decisions regarding the fate of global politics appear to be determined on the golf course, Cabrales invites the viewer to hold this very power in their own hands. The MAC’s outdoor space will be staged as Cabrales’ ‘global’ golfing green, complete with golf greens and golf holes, where viewers can ‘play a round’ and inform the world of important decisions by way of random tweets. Golf equipment is provided, but participants are encouraged to bring their mobile phones and download the Twitter app.

A-Hole in One, The MAC

A-Hole in One, The MAC, if you look closely, you can see the blue golf ball travelling dowrange

A-Hole in One, The MAC

Short Story day 7 – Sea Oak

7. – Sea Oak
George Saunders

This is day seven of my Month of Short Stories – a story a day for June.

George Saunders is a writer that I’ve heard a lot of good things about, but have never been able to sit down and read yet. Mary Karr, in Time Magazine (in its 2013 list of the 100 most influential people) says, “For more than a decade, George Saunders has been the best short-story writer in English — not “one of,” not “arguably,” but the Best.”

Well, that certainly sounds like a recommendation.

In particular, I had wanted to read his collection, Pastoralia, and am not sure why I hadn’t. Therefore, I was happy to find today’s short story, Sea Oak, – one of the selections from Pastoralia – online, served up on a glowing, rectangular platter courtesy of the Barcelona Review.


I’m going to have to read more by George Saunders – I am not yet convinced – though I feel there is some greatness here.

I should like this more than I did. It’s amazingly well written, extremely imaginative, and exquisitely crude. The problem is that he has set himself up as a satirist of our modern world – and to satire reality television, rampant consumerism, spreading idiocracy, and the general breakdown of society into a foam of ridiculousness… well, welcome to my life. That stuff is sort of self-satirizing.

To make something like this worth your while, even as funny, sad, and well-written as it is – you have to care about the characters. At least one of them. Sea Oak… well, I almost cared, but every time I began to think about these as real people, the author would throw in another witty flourish, push the freakiness up one notch, turn everything up to eleven. I don’t mean that in a bad way, really… but it left me a little cold.

Maybe I was too tired when I was reading. After a day fighting futilely, desperately, and hopelessly against the very subjects of his fiction – it was wearing to have it thrown right back in my face.

So maybe I’ll rest up and read some more George Saunders… I know I will and I’ll almost certainly enjoy it more. I’ll let you know.

At Sea Oak there’s no sea and no oak, just a hundred subsidized apartments and a rear view of FedEx. Min and Jade are feeding their babies while watching How My Child Died Violently. Min’s my sister. Jade’s our cousin. How My Child Died Violently is hosted by Matt Merton, a six-foot-five blond who’s always giving the parents shoulder rubs and telling them they’ve been sainted by pain. Today’s show features a ten-year-old who killed a five-year-old for refusing to join his gang. The ten-year-old strangled the five-year-old with a jump rope, filled his mouth with baseball cards, then locked himself in the bathroom and wouldn’t come out until his parents agreed to take him to FunTimeZone, where he confessed, then dove screaming into a mesh cage full of plastic balls. The audience is shrieking threats at the parents of the killer while the parents of the victim urge restraint and forgiveness to such an extent that finally the audience starts shrieking threats at them too. Then it’s a commercial.
—-Sea Oak, George Saunders