It’s been a month since I was last with you, and hasn’t a lot happened since?
Well, no, but fortunately I didn’t get this job by promising high-octane excitement and bacchanalian orgies every two weeks. Only rarely do “Ph.D. student” and “high-octane excitement” appear in the same sentence without the inclusion of “never.”
But I have reviewed the Oscar telecast for the past two years, so I can throw in my thoughts if you can cast your minds back three weeks. I’ve just about picked my jaw up after “Crash” took Best Picture over “Brokeback Mountain”: like most of the population, I was convinced that Brokeback was going to win, although I’m not so upset that I’d want to form a facebook group about it. Host Jon Stewart commended the nominated film “Capote” for reminding us that “not all gay people are virile cowboys …some are effete intellectuals.”
As an effete intellectual in love with a virile cowboy, I laughed immoderately at this.
(Technically the boyfriend is not a cowboy; he’s a rancher. But from an Englishman’s point of view, the differences between men on horses doing things with cattle are nominal.)
It was a slick show that raised some important points. Did the Best Song victory of “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” illustrate a major cultural shift? Did Cinematography winner Dion Beebe really call his son Axel? (I mean, come on, Axel Beebe?) Did Best Actress Reese Witherspoon intend to diss an entire state when she said “I never thought I’d be here in my life, coming from Tennessee”?
Ang Lee’s acceptance speech, praising “the greatness of love itself,” was classy. Aiming and missing was Best Adapted Screenplay winner Diana Ossana, who declared that “the duty of art is to send lightness into men’s hearts,” the sort of statement to which the only response is, “No, it isn’t. Go get some rest.” A much better acceptance was Nick Park for Best Animated Feature, who concluded with the simple but profound “cracking cheese, Gromit!”
Because my parents had come over for spring break in an effort to keep me sane, we all watched the show with some friends, and it is perhaps a reflection of my father’s interest in contemporary cinema that he mistook a Diet Coke commercial for a nominated film.
As the boyfriend of 3,000 miles’ distance has correctly noted, you just have to make the best of what you can’t change. My parents can’t prevent the aging process and, for the most part, have adapted to it with good grace, wisdom and occasional flashes of elegance. That said, they seem to be embracing shrinking appetite with rather more alacrity than I tend to like from my dinner companions, to the extent that I feared my father would toss back menus and cry, “Three courses? At our age? Are you mad? Take this away and bring us a cup of thin gruel. To share!”
Still, my parents’ response to the enthusiasm of service personnel reminded me to enjoy it while I still can. There’s a Starbucks barista who implores me to “have a great day now, y’hear?” with such emotion that I always wonder just how bad I looked when I walked in. Unfortunately, it now works in reverse, ’cause when I have really mediocre days, I feel I’ve let her down.
Also in the past four weeks the Commonwealth Games opened in Melbourne. This is a major athletics meet that may have escaped your notice because America isn’t invited. The Games include all those countries sensible enough to remain under the technical sovereignty of the British Crown, i.e. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and most of the planet’s good guys, relatively speaking (coincidence? I don’t think so).
There’s a lesson to be learned here. If you hadn’t had a major snit, started an “unjustifiable” war and gone off to be independent, you too could have competed alongside Montserrat, Kiribati and Vanuatu. Don’t come whining to us next time you lose all your skiing medals.
But it’s a good thing my parents came over because otherwise, having nobody to talk to, I think I might actually have gone mad. I hadn’t realized the extent to which reading 75 books (and 29 plays) in six months had effectively de-socialized me until I found myself unable to sustain a conversation for more than 10 minutes before lapsing into what must have seemed like a major sulk. A consensus has developed that reckons I’m having my adolescence now: sexual confusion, moods, strange medical conditions, unfortunate reactions to vodka and, possibly not coincidentally, Instant Messenger.
Yes, I know. Twelve years late, but I’ve finally made it, and blow me down (as we say in the old country, even in quite respectable company) if it hasn’t been the highlight of this past week, which should be a warning to anyone considering grad school. Although I must be totally fair — it was a close-run thing between IM and getting my hair cut.
Fortunately, a last-minute highlight trumped them both as Liverpool beat Birmingham, 7-0. It’s a soccer result — no, damn it, I’m English, it’s a football result. And it, along with Nebraskan ranchers and that silver medal for Nauru in the weightlifting, makes me very happy.
Nick Baldock can be found playing games of cricket in the afternoons, while sipping tea and discussing the latest football score — he’s that British!