Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I'd like to buy a Vowell

My friend Jen is going to love this blog. Not only does it have a clip of her doppelganger Caroline Dhavernas, but it's also all about Sarah Vowell!

I finished my The Partly Cloudy Patriot this afternoon and I was sad to hear it end. Sarah Vowell is wonderful. I love her voice, in both senses of the word. Her stylistic voice is a really entertaining combination of idealism and blistering sarcasm. She was the voice of Violet in the Incredibles and reads her own works for the audio versions and she has a funny voice.

I use words to describe her that I wouldn't use to describe anyone else. The one that springs to mind is "firecracker" and the other one is "saucebox". The only time I've heard that one used is on the Worm with Flippers scene in Wonderfalls.

I uploaded a video I made of the scene, but that might not show up for the people reading this on the Facebook feed, so here's a transcript (or you can always read my stuff directly on my blog)

Where is she?

Mind your own business, saucebox.

Did you eat all those muffins?

Sure did. (eyes her with disdain) I said I wasn’t ready. I said I needed to lose 12 more pounds. But you wouldn’t listen.

Where’s Mrs. Beattle?

(Fat Pat nods toward a closed partition.) She’s back there.

Mrs. Beattle?

(No response. Jaye eyes Fat Pat.)

Know what happens when you rip a caterpillar from its cocoon before it becomes a butterfly?

Isn’t it like a worm with flippers?

Yeah, smartass. I’m like a worm with flippers. Thanks a lot. You are just so vile.

Also, I'm going to answer any question I get at work like that from now on. "Josh, do you have those figures ready for me yet?" "You should mind your own business, saucebox."

Okay, that part didn't really have anything to do with Sarah Vowell, except that it's pretty awesome and so is she.

She's unapologetic about who she is and what she is. She's a geek, and she talks about the topic in Patriot.

Geeks tend to be focused on very narrow fields of endeavor. The modern geek has been generally dismissed by society because their passions are viewed as trivial by those people who ‘see the big picture.’ Geeks understand that the big picture is pixilated and their high level of contribution in small areas grows the picture. They don’t need to see what everyone else is doing to make their part better. Being a nerd, which is to say going to far and caring too much about a subject, is the best way to make friends I know. For me, the spark that turns an acquaintance into a friend has usually been kindled by some shared enthusiasm like detective novels or Ulysses S. Grant.

If something is ridiculous, she ridicules it. If she thinks something is awesome, she'll gush about it so enthusiastically and articulately that I understand what she sees and become enthusiastic myself!

I agree with almost everything she says in the book except where she takes privileged white people to task for comparing their personal inconveniences to epic struggles in history. Specifically she was criticizing Michael Moore for exhorting a stadium full of well fed well meaning white kids to stand up to power by being like Rosa Parks, by which he meant voting for Ralph Nader. But then she redeemed herself by quoting Robert Guillaume on Sports Night saying to a young Newscaster "No rich young white guy has ever gotten anywhere comparing himself to Rosa Parks." (I'm sure Sarah will be overjoyed to know we're reconciled)

But where I disagree with her is that I think that many people can make small sacrifices, and perform small acts of kindness and decency into the name of a person without diminishing the great deeds of that person. I think someone can be inspired by a great person and perform small acts that of which he or she would have approved without besmirching the legacy.

That was on my mind, because though I lack Vowell's eye or ear or wit, I try to emulate her style. I like to think that I can sometimes write engagingly enough about topics that interest me to entertain or inform people who would not otherwise care, and that I aim my sarcasm and reserve my praise for the right targets.

Anyway Tim also had some requests for my usual shticks, so "Karen loves giraffes!" "House is stupid!" "Firefly was a crummy show!"

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