Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sandra Bullock Licks Her Lips - Report From Austin No. 2

As I was saying last time...I was at a statewide meeting of creative writing teachers in Austin, Texas over the weekend.

On Saturday morning I sat on a panel that discussed using research in creative writing. I shared how I was drawn to research because over the course of more than 140 posts on this blog I faced the prospect of having very little to write about of significance.

In a sense this has always been a blog, as they used to say on Seinfeld, " with the potential to be about nothing."

That's because for one year The Van Winkle Project required that I subtract from my life all information about anything happening beyond the great horizon.

What did that leave a "sleeping" man with that he might comment on that might be of interest to others?

A) He could talk about his memories and mire everyone in the muck of  his nostalgia.

B) He could focus on mundane daily activities and minutae and turn the blog into a quasi-journal slash diary no one cared about.


What I finally decided to do was try to strike a balance by writing on some days about significant moments in my past and on other days about interesting observations from my present life. But, I told the panel, I still needed more.

Take a bow research. The starring role, played by my best 21st century friend...

Most of the time before posting I found myself digging around and satisfying my curiosity about  various matters. I then included that information in my posts.

Example: I wanted to write about the concept of "brevity" and how we value it in this era in which are days are already packed with too much to attend to. So there are shorter songs (you can count jam bands on one hand), shorter sermons, faster advertising pitches, and texts and tweets instead of emails.

This led me to remember the word "brevity" as it's used in the cult classic film The Big Lebowski. Hmm. Let's read a bit and refresh our memory about that movie as well as see what others say. And while I'm at it, what did the Spartans think about the idea of paring things down to a minimum, especially in their speech?

Voila. I had my post, The Whole Brevity Thing.

I call this kind of posting sensibility "value added." I figure only the person writing a strictly humorous blog should get a free pass from having to offer readers value added. (That's because making us laugh is an unimpeachable public service on par with helping little old ladies cross the street, i.e., already valuable enough.)

The rest of us bloggers, right up to Roger Ebert with his million viewers, owe our readers something useful, if for no other reason than as non-monetary compensation for taking up their valuable time.

What might constitute value added on a blog post?
  • A recipe.
  • A practical tip.
  • A factoid, piece of quotable trivia.
  • An interesting story from history.
  • A great quote
  • A ponderable insight.
  • A link to something cool.
  • A great photo.

So in the midst of my utterly subjective thoughts about how to blog, here's my value-added for today.

If you ever visit Austin, Texas and are looking for some excellent dining in the medium price range, try Bess Bistro on Pecan.

The restaurant is in the basement of a former bank where the vault used to be.

Friday night found us dining for the first time at Bess where we met Telmond and Jackie, a wonderful Austin couple in their eighties. They fell in love 60 years ago as UT students a few blocks away on the campus. Jackie was an Austin gal. She told us she used to live just a little ways down Sixth Street from the former bank now Bess Bistro. She remembered what Sixth was like before became the street for clubs and live music, a veritable Bealle Street of the Southwest.

Not that it matters (but quotable trivia) Bess Bistro is owned by actress Sandra  Bullock.

No  blind side here.
Sandy knows good food!
What's the dining experience like?

The most expensive dishes are in the low thirty-dollar range. There's plenty of items one can order for under $20. The cuisine is comfort food or food you've heard of, all of it coming with a twist. Like how my ribeye steak was served with braised brussel sprouts. Or the quail that arrives on a bed of grilled greens.

We found everything to  be delicious, all the way to the finale. You've got to have the beignets with chocolate sauce for dessert. Killer! - A.H.

COMING: A Walk on the Grave Side, Report From Austin No. 3


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