Archive for the 'The blank page' Category

Late-night channel surfing

January 12, 2011

Andrew Hicks

Late one night, you’ll realize your wife is asleep, Child #1 is asleep, and Child #2 has finally settled into a restful slumber. You’ll go pee, you’ll clean up the kitchen a little, and you’ll realize you’ve got a moment that can be just about you. The things you enjoy. The things you treasure.

Like eating. You haven’t eaten in many hours, you finally realize. But it’s one in the morning, so you eat some of that Special K with the yogurt clusters, then you eat a cold chicken breast and piece of pasteurized, processed American.

And you realize you’re still not that tired, and you still have time to yourself. You think about how it’s late in the day and you haven’t written your blog yet, so you start writing a blog post. It’s serious, vague and full of platitudes. You hit the “enter” button about 30 times and banish it to the next page down the computer screen.

You turn on the TV. This is your primetime in the viewing day. When others are awake and talking and requiring attention, you don’t generally watch a lot of television, though it’s turned on for most of the waking hours. You see way more late-night talk shows than scripted, dramatized evening programming.

You want to find something interesting to watch, something entertaining, something light you can watch a few minutes of and head off to sleep. So you channel surf, and this is what you find at 1:16 am:

Channel 2 (ABC affiliate): An older, larger fellow is sitting next to his wife giving an infomercial testimonial about a vaccuum penis pump. Time spent watching: 38 seconds.

Channel 3 (CBS affiliate): Commercial for local nursing home gives way to Mario Lopez interviewing Randy Jackson on Extra. Randy says a nice word about new judge Steven Tyler. Time spent: 23 seconds.

Channel 4 (public access): Local woman preaches about Satan wanting to mess with your life because he knows his own days are numbered. Time spent: 19 seconds.

Channel 5 (local advertising): Infomercial for Joan Rivers beauty products. Yes, now people can spend good money to look beautiful like Joan Rivers. Time spent: 3.5 seconds.

Channel 6 (CW affiliate): Rerun of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” You pause long enough to ponder what it would’ve been like if the guy who played Worf had gotten the “Reading Rainbow” hosting gig instead of Lavar Burton. Of course, Worf would have done the popular kids show with that full, crazy triceratops head makeup. Time spent: 11 seconds.

Channel 7 (Fox affiliate): Commercial during syndicated rerun of “Entourage.” Time spent: 2 seconds.

Channel 8 (PBS affiliate): You just missed an “American Masters” episode devoted to Jeff Bridges. The channel surfing would likely have ended here had you arrived in time. Time spent: 2 seconds.

Channel 9 (WGN): Another syndicated rerun of “Entourage.” You haven’t had Showtime for four years now, so you’re only just now getting to see edited episodes of this show. It’s not bad, but it’s almost over. Time spent: 13 seconds.

Channel 10 (NBC affiliate): “Poker After Dark,” which always makes you wonder, Do we really need a “Previously, on Poker After Dark” recap montage in order to understand the current episode? Time spent: 9 seconds.

Channel 11 (HSN): You’re interrupted by a text from an unknown 618 number asking, “You at work man?” Spend the next two minutes texting this person explanations of why you are not at work and why you are not Jess. Because of this, you leave the TV on Home Shopping Network’s $300 offer for coin collectors. You see a 50-cent piece in the package and, yep, that’s a quarter. Shiny, too. Act now. Only 73 left. Time spent: 3 minutes.

Channel 12 (PBS affiliate): Another “American Masters” show, this one about The Doors. The Jim Morrison in their reenactments looks like a Geico caveman. Time spent: 28 seconds.

Channel 13 (QVC): OMG. Flannel sheets for sale from Liz Claiborne. Time spent: 1.5 seconds.

Channel 15 (CSPAN): Gov. Jan Brewer is speaking at the memorial service for shooting victims in Tucson, Ariz. You realize it’s too soon to crack a joke. Surf on. Time spent: 7 seconds.

Channel 16 (TV Guide): You quickly review the shows you’ve surfed by so far. Yup, they all sucked. Time spent: 39 seconds.

Channel 17 (Weather): 6 degrees outside right now but clear. Time spent: 4 seconds.

Channel 18 (Government Access): Also tells you it’s 6 degrees outside, but to the tune of a rollicking horn section. Time spent: 3 seconds.

Channel 19 (My49): Spike Lee favorite Bill Nunn is playing a karate master on “Everybody Hates Chris.” Wait, never mind. That guy doesn’t look a thing like Bill Nunn. You like Bill Nunn, though. He was the seventh lead in the first Sister Act. Time spent: 14 seconds.

Channel 22 (local educational): Cheaply produced tourist bait video touting the academic merits of the Cahokia Mounds. Time spent: 17 seconds.

Channel 24 (VH1): Mark McGrath hosting “Don’t Forget the Lyrics.” Time spent: 1 second.

Channel 25 (Nick at Nite): Every time you see the Nick at Nite logo, you mourn the channel that heaped genuine classic TV on adolescent Andrew. “Dick Van Dyke,” “Mary Tyler Moore,” “Bob Newhart,” “Get Smart,” “Bewitched,” not a 2004 Damon Wayans sitcom about his wife and kids. Time spent: 1 second.

You look at the clock. It’s 1:45. Someone will be waking you up for some reason sometime in the next 4 hours, guaranteed. You decide to go to sleep. Just as soon you edit and post the blog you just wrote about aimless channel surfing.


Our cat was a baby once, too.

A muse named Art

January 11, 2011

Andrew Hicks

The blank page is the writer’s worst enemy, they say. I don’t know who “they” happen to be, because I’ve never actually heard anyone say that. I think the writer’s worst enemy is probably fire. Fire destroys paper, it destroys computers, it makes the temperature in the room too uncomfortable for the writer to think of anything creative, and forget trying to get yourself readership when the building’s on fire.

But the blank page is a bastard. Starting to write — to really productively, thoughtfully write — is sometimes a process that can take days or even years. The fallacy is making yourself think that, when inspiration strikes, that’s when you’ll blaze a trail of words. Roger Ebert had a great quote along these lines: “The Muse visits during, not before, the act of composition.”

Many times, I’ve sat down to write this blog and, after finishing the post, ended up deleting the entire introductory paragraph or two. Because the true writing starts when the Muse arrives, and the Muse doesn’t usually feel at home until the words are already pouring out.

I do realize how stupid I sound writing about the Muse and even capitalizing the word. I’m mainly referencing Roger on that one. I’m the guy who got a good gut laugh from learning that Carlos Santana is visited by a muse named Art. That’s not short for Arthur. It’s short for All The Great ART That Ever There Was, Featuring Rob Thomas.

The reason I broach this topic, though, is that prior to my commitment on January 1st to produce a blog a day in 2011, I wouldn’t have even cracked the laptop lid to write a post on a day like today. It was an easy, routine, pleasant, somewhat dull day, and nothing leapt out at me as being worth capturing.

I’ve got a few cute kid stories stacked up, I’ve got some interesting backstory I haven’t touched yet, and I could always just write about baby poop and Beefaroni for 350 words, but muse or no muse, I can’t bring myself to go down that path today.

So this is what stream of consciousness writing looks like for me, I guess. This is the writing you get to read when I have to write and either don’t feel like I have anything to say or don’t want to say the few things I do have to say.

A muse named Art. A blank page. Poop. Beefaroni. “Real” words to follow tomorrow. Maybe.


Silas in the hand-me-down bouncer.