Wednesday, November 22, 2006

BOOKS: Use Your Grey Matter

From time to time, I get the nicest letters from people offering to send me books to read and review. Yesterday, though, was a first. I got an email from a "digital marketing agency" offering me the exclusive opportunity to promote one of their client's books on my site WITHOUT ME EVEN HAVING TO READ IT. How I managed to pass up on this chance to blindly give dozens of dollars in free publicity to a book about a bunch of gazillionaire rock stars who certainly couldn't afford to spare an actual COPY OF THEIR BOOK -- well, I don't know where I get my strength sometimes.

On the other hand, sometimes people just send me books out of the blue, with no strings attached. When these people go to heaven, not only will they sit at the right hand of God, it'll be on a really comfy leather recliner with a built-in massager. One such person is Maggie Mason, owner and proprietor of two of my daily internet stops, Mighty Girl and Mighty Goods.

I ordered one of
these t-shirts (scroll down -- it's worth it) from Mighty Girl for a friend's birthday, and Maggie kindly threw in a copy of her new book, No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog. It's chockablock (that's right -- I said "chockablock") with nifty little idea-generators for those days when you have nothing to say, but you still desperately want to say something. Not that that's ever happened to me.

Still, in the spirit of... well, I don't know what... I decided to give one of the book's tips a whirl. In Idea #2, Maggie writes:
All readers need an occasional dose of schadenfreude, so fess up. How do you fail? Do you consistently kill plants? Keep getting fired? Always take the last cookie? That's the stuff, friends. To err is human, but to share? Divine.
So that's what you people want, huh? It's not enough that I tell you I've peed my pants or that I've read, and enjoyed, many pages of Nicole Richie's first novel?

You want schadenfreude, I'll give you schadenfreude. But first, maybe I'll just write schadenfreude a few more times, till it totally loses all meaning.


Er, anyway. If you asked me to tell you the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to me, I'd be hard-pressed to choose just one story. My life has been nothing if not a cornucopia of small humiliations. But one episode does leap to mind in front of the myriad others:

I used to read covertly in class all the time, and I was always catching shit for it. Which didn't make me stop, of course, but it did make me try harder not to get caught. Once, during my grade five science class, I was reading away -- Anne of Green Gables, if you're wondering -- when I heard the teacher ask the class a question: "Something-something-something green matter?" Now, two things you need to know:
  1. We'd been studying photosynthesis, and our textbook description for chlorophyll was "something-something green matter something-something."
  2. I was a terrible keener. I'm not proud of it, but there you go.
So, despite the fact that I'd only heard the tail end of the question, I thrust my hand into the air, thinking I could kill two birds with one stone: demonstrate to the teacher that I was ever so smart, and reinforce the fact that, NO MA'AM, I certainly wasn't surreptitiously reading. So the teacher calls on me, and I proudly chime out, "Chlorophyll."

Well, it turns out that the teacher had asked everyone if they knew what the term "GREY matter" meant. As you know -- and as I now also know -- grey matter does not have any role in the process by which plants convert sunlight into food. So you can imagine my consternation and humiliation when everyone, including the teacher, burst into uncontrollable laughter for about seven hours. They were right to do so, but it BURNED, I tell you.

Your turn, o wise children of the internet.


Anonymous said...

First: I proof-read menus when I go out. And I point out mistakes. Second: I am VERY competitive. As such: I misspelled the word "carpenter" in a school-wide spelling bee when I was in 8th grade.

The winner? A third-grader.


Em said...

Grade five was that God-forsaken year when nothing went right.
Show and Tell is what always managed to bite me in the ass, though, for being a nerd.
In one case I brought in the Les Miserables disc set and played a song or two for my class and it took a full minute of stunned silence afterwards for me to realize that it was the song about prostitutes.
...But it was just so dance-able!
Another time I found a copy of Romeo and Juliet that was as old as the hills (or at least my parent's high school days,) and brought it in. Creepy-ass teacher began trying to get me to read the balcony scene aloud with him, but rather than die of the pedo-squickiness, I crawled behind an armchair in a corner and refused to come out until recess or I stopped breaking out in hives, whichever came first.

Anonymous said...

I too, have many small humiliations in my past. One of the most horrific was when a classmate reached into the hole in the knee of my jeans and extracted a pair of underwear that had been stuck in the leg. He then, of course, flung them across the room. But at least I wear underpants (...Lindsey).

PB said...

Only because I was just talking to him and he did not know what the word cumbersome meant, my embarrassing story relates to my brother - Joshua.

I forget how old he was, but I know he was in high school and so I could not have been more than a couple years into college. The parents, myself and a couple of other siblings were having a debate on political parties. Democrat, Republican, Independant, moderate-Republican. My brother Joshua announces proudly and loudly that he is a THESPIAN!!!!

Poor thing, it took us about 2 hours to stop laughing and tell him what a thespian was and that Thespians were in fact NOT a recognized political part.

Anonymous said...

I'll give you a school-humiliation moment! 5th grade English, creative writing assignment. I wrote an alternate scene from a 21 Jump Street episode and got totally busted for plagerizing. I had NO IDEA that was plagerizing, NOR did I know that I had accidentally written fanfic. I didn't even know what the hell fanfic WAS until the damn internet was invented. I wanted to die, it was so embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

"I misspelled the word 'carpenter' in a school-wide spelling bee when I was in 8th grade."

I won the local spelling bee in 5th grade, so when I came back in 6th grade, everyone knew I was the one to beat. Until I misspelled "piano" in the first round.

Chanie said...

Oh man, this all just reminded me of my most embarrassing moment in junior high (I guess that's what you'd call it, school years aren't the same in French). In French class, I was sitting by a window. That day, the window was open and the curtain was flying all over the place, but mostly on me and I was in a constant battle against it. At one point, the teacher said: "something something, Chanie?" I don't know why I didn't just ask her to repeat the question. I answered: "I don't know." The teacher and the whole class stared at me for like five minutes. I repeated, insisting: "I don't know!" The teacher turned and asked the person behind me : "Okay, then Maud, can you read the next question for us please?" Yeah. Needless to say, I felt like an idiot.

Anonymous said...

Cheesesteak, that Ben Hur reference made me so happy! I didn't think of that while reading Doppelganger's entry, but of course!

Most embarrassing moment: when I was a C.I.T. (counselor-in-training at summer camp), we all did the Time Warp from Rocky Horror at the talent show. I had no appropriate clothes, so somehow I decided that my plastic transparent purple rain jacket (I know, it was the 80's) would work as pants if I jerry-rigged them. They did look kind of punk, but then while dancing the Time Warp, they started to fall down.

And I saw my group of six-year-olds, near the front row of the audience, pointing at me and yelling "Her pants are falling down!" and laughing about it.

Anonymous said...

7th grade, middle of making a point in English class, pompously leaning back in my chair. I fell over mid-sentence.