Cheap thrills for book lovers, part ??: Big literary goings-on at the JCC

It looks as though everyone in my teaching syllabus is showing up to my town, and all within the same time frame. Andre Aciman, Richard Rodriguez, Ruth Reichl and Elizabeth Strout are all coming to the JCC soon. Clear your calendars. By the way, I think I spied Mr. Rodriguez in the crowd at a recent ACT play, but I might be wrong.

You and me could rent a Betamax

I was surprised the other day when I turned on the radio and heard Lady Gaga celebrating the virtues of a clunky, outmoded and long-forgotten videocassette recorder that was popular starting in the mid-1970s but soon went out of fashion. “I want your love and all your lover’s revengeyou and me could rent a Betamax!” How refreshing, to hear the electronic/dance superstar extolling the virtues of a long-forgotten technology, a clunky and oft-ridiculed cultural artifact, once featured in an Itchy and Scratchy episode of the Simpsons. But the very next day, I was walking down Masonic, near the Haight intersection, and noticed that a Gaga fan had scratched out the actual lyrics to the song, including the line: “You and me could write a bad romance.” As John Prine once said, “It’s a happy enchilada and you think you’re gonna drown.”

Strange fortune cookie promotes misgiving, confusion

I frequented a New York City restaurant (now out of business) that specialized in fresh-kill chicken specials and incomprehensible fortune cookies. On my last night there, I got a cookie with the following fortune: “YOU MUST GO HOME AND MAKE A CIRCLE OUT OF MINTS. DO NOT HASTE!!” I went home, as directed, and made a circle out of Altoids. I left it out on the kitchen table all night long, and let the circle remain there for the next two days. Absolutely nothing happened as a result of doing this.


I keep trying to wean myself from blogging about weird goings on in and around Golden Gate Park — but I found it hard to resist this one. I was walking down the block just the other day and saw some guy asking people to smoke his thumb. Indeed, when I looked closely, I could see a plume of smoke rising up from beneath his thumb. One person actually stopped and smoked it, and then the guy started smoking his own thumb. Eventually, the (presumably illicit) contents of his thumb burned down and singed the inside of his finger. “Ow,” he said, and the demonstration was over.

Recession dents local bong industry. (Ugly glassware priced for quick sale.)

I can’t help but noticing 20 percent discounts at several cheesy local bong emporiums in my neighborhood. Now you can pay a few bucks less for a hideous and highly breakable five-foot-tall bong shaped like a demon or a grinning skeleton. I guess these places are getting desperate. Alas, the price of alcohol remains in a holding pattern.