Tag Archives: Dr. Seuss

(Re)Writing Challenge #1: Green Eggs and Ham

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Tired of your own voice?  Try writing as someone else!  When one is blocked, feeling intimidated by the overwhelming talent of others or otherwise discouraged about the state of one’s literary pursuits, one potential solution is to come at things from a different angle.  If your ego is tripping you up, just set it aside.  Become a different person.  Shapeshift (or as my malaprop-prone son sometimes says, ship-shafe’t).  It’s incredibly liberating.  You feel so much less pressure to live up to the standards that you’ve placed upon yourself, because what you’re producing isn’t really you.  It’s pastiche, it’s fun, and I’ve done it before, here and here.  So you can probably guess where I’m heading with this.  I’ve decided to take one of the simplest, most enduring stories, Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, and speculate what it might have sounded like had Aaron Sorkin banged it out.  Enjoy it.  Or don’t, it’s entirely up to you.

FADE IN:

INT. LEO’S OFFICE – DAY

LEO MCGARRY is at his desk.  On the phone.

LEO:  Yeah.  Okay.  Thanks.

He hangs up.

LEO:  Margaret!!!

MARGARET pokes her head in, notepad and pen at the ready.

MARGARET:  You really don’t need to yell.

LEO:  Yeah, this time I do.  Send in Josh and Toby.  Tell the Secretary of Agriculture he needs to be up on the Hill smooth-talking the committee chair on 404.  And I need the next five minutes the President’s got.

MARGARET steps out.  JOSH LYMAN and TOBY ZIEGLER enter.

JOSH:  Leo, settle something for us.  You’re on a desert island and you have a choice between Iolanthe and the Mikado.

LEO:  Yeah, I don’t really care.  Listen…

JOSH:  This is about the Ag Bill, isn’t it.

TOBY:  It’s not the Ag Bill.

JOSH:  I bet it’s the Ag Bill.

TOBY:  It’s not gonna be the Ag Bill, the one that we just spent seven weeks negotiating, to the detriment of our physical and psychological health, not to mention every social relationship we ever pretended to care about.

LEO:  It’s the Ag Bill.

TOBY (resigned):  This is why I continue to hate the world.

JOSH:  What happened?

LEO:  I just got off a call with the Minority Whip.  Republican leadership is attaching an amendment.

TOBY:  To the Ag Bill.

LEO:  Yeah.

TOBY:  To the bill that cost us the support of the entire progressive wing of the Democratic caucus.

JOSH:  I’m telling you, we coulda used those three votes.

TOBY:  To the bill that is basically a laundry list of every Republican priority on agriculture in this country.  A bill that could not be more Republican-friendly if we called it the “Ronald Reagan Second Amendment Let’s Blow Up an Abortion Clinic and Drill in Yellowstone Bill.”

LEO:  Yeah.

TOBY (smirks, looks down):  Why?

LEO:  They’re not happy with the subsidies for organic hen farming and pork production.  They want them taken out or they won’t move the bill out of Committee.

JOSH:  The Republicans are threatening to block the bill because they don’t like green eggs and ham?

LEO:  They do not like green eggs and ham.

TOBY:  I do not like them.

LEO:  Sam!

SAM SEABORN is walking by the open door.  He stops and pokes his head in.

SAM:  I am!

LEO:  Siddown.  Republicans are attaching an amendment to 404.  We need to see if we can unlock some Democratic votes for it.

SAM:  If they didn’t like the bill before, they’re not going to go for it with another Republican amendment.  What is it this time?

TOBY:  Green eggs and ham.

SAM:  The organic farming section?

LEO:  Who do we have on our side that’s movable if that part’s gone?

SAM:  You might get Jankowitz, Stephens… Geller’ll vote for it just to stick it to Martindale and his three.

JOSH:  I can probably wrangle three more from the Blue Dogs.

TOBY:  Nothing like fighting for a watered-down joke of a bill we never wanted in the first place.

LEO:  Okay.  Time to make some calls.  We need this win, I don’t gotta tell you twice.  The latest Gallup says our poll numbers are softening and the country is crying out for a solid agricultural policy.

TOBY:  Which we’ll get by getting rid of green eggs and ham.

JOSH:  It’s okay, nobody likes green eggs and ham.

PRESIDENT BARTLET enters from the side door.

BARTLET:  What’s this about green eggs and ham?

LEO:  Republican amendment to 404.  Deleting the organic farming section.

BARTLET:  Well, if there’s one thing we can count on Republicans for, it’s screwing Mother Earth with her pants on.

LEO:  Sir…

BARTLET:  Did you know that organic farm subsidies account for a tenth of one percent of all federal spending on agriculture?  We’re happy to fork out the cash, so long as you’re spraying your fields with toxic sludge you wouldn’t dare use to wax your own car.  You know what the problem is?  No one’s ever been forced to try green eggs and ham.  We’ve become a country so accustomed to the comfort of familiarity that the thought of change has become a terrifying prospect.  Even if that change is for the better.  The problem with that is, it’s not what the Framers had in mind.  America was meant to be an experiment in constant change.  Forming a more perfect union is about forever trying new things with the understanding that some of them will be scary, and some of them won’t work.  Some will be spectacular failures.  But we have to try them anyway, because we’ll never know if we don’t.  It’s like Voltaire said:  we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the necessary.  Who knows – in the midst of all the noise, all the partisan bickering, maybe we’ll find out in the end that we do like green eggs and ham.

Determination settles upon the faces of his staff.

LEO:  About 404, sir?

BARTLET:  Let’s have a debate.  A real debate.  We the People can decide if they like green eggs and ham.

SAM:  Not for nothing, but I’ve always liked them.

LEO:  Sam…

SAM:  I am.

FADE OUT.

What’d ya think?  Anyone else want to give it a go?  Pick a different writer – novelist, screenwriter, whoever, and retell your version of Green Eggs and Ham in their voice.  Put the link to your story in the comments.  Anxious to see what you come up with!

Every hour should be Earth Hour

My daily commute takes me past a small farm with a field where sheep graze every afternoon. Lambs walk with their mothers beneath the sunshine and play at the edge of a small pond where geese paddle lazily and shake droplets from their feathers. No matter how rotten a mood I’m in, how intense the tribulations of the day’s labours past, the innocence of this little place is unfailingly soothing, like visual yoga for the soul. Tonight we are asked beginning at 8:30 pm to turn off our electronics and live in that same silence and simplicity for an hour. Communities around the globe have thrown down the gauntlet to see who can outdo the other in terms of the biggest percentage drop in power demand. The ostensible goal of Earth Hour is to raise awareness of what the consumptive attitude of humanity is doing to its only home. But it behooves us as a species to be aware of the earth every hour of every day; of the treasures it holds and of the unparalleled, impossible-to-duplicate magnificence in something as small as a blade of grass waving in the breeze. Just pause, for one cleansing breath, before we climb back in the SUV and crank up the thousand-megawatt subwoofers.

This is a tough time for our planet. The human population has surged past 7 billion, and shortsightedness and greed on the part of a wealthy few has led to extreme poverty for the majority. And when the economy slows down, it is left to the earth to make up the difference. Dirty industry flourishes in the interest of quick growth; environmental review processes are gutted to get factories moving fast. Moneyed interests push misinformation about climate change into mainstream accepted thought. Anyone who suggests we slow down and give less destructive alternatives their due consideration is pilloried as a job-killing, tree-hugging, pinko Communist (Stalin’s and Mao’s lasting legacies being their keen environmental stewardship, naturally). The Lorax, the recent movie based on the fable by Dr. Seuss, was trashed in certain segments of the press for pushing an undesirable agenda onto kids, because it dared to suggest that levelling all the trees in sight wasn’t necessarily a good idea. We are in an era of reverse ecology – it has somehow become “cool” to hate the earth, and morally sound to sacrifice it on the altar of the GDP at every opportunity. As a result, turning one’s lights off for an hour one Saturday night a year feels like shouting into the winds of a rising storm.

The ad hominem counter-arguments will no doubt come fast and furious. “Oh yeah, well, why don’t you give up your car and your computer and go live in a cave somewhere, you stupid eco-fasci-socialist.” I’m not suggesting that the world shut itself off and return to a purely agrarian existence; that’s fantasy. Surely human beings are clever enough to figure out a way to have our toys and clean air too. As Al Gore said in An Inconvenient Truth, what is lacking is the will. How do we change our collective attitude from hungry consumer to responsible warden of a suffering world?

Maybe it begins with taking that moment to watch the lambs in the field, to reconnect with the innocent. To recognize that whatever you believe put us here – God, evolution or random chance – also gave us the capacity to appreciate and cherish beauty in all its forms, and an abiding wish to not see beauty destroyed for selfish, temporary gain. If it is indeed our duty to leave to our children better than we ourselves have inherited, then we owe each of them the chance to experience the forest, the ocean and the snow-capped mountain peak as we have. This can be the nobler purpose to which we aspire. We can start making the hard choices that reflect both our individual and societal commitment to achieving that purpose – saying no to the cheap and easy solutions and the leaders who peddle them, and embracing our human responsibility to tend the garden of our unique home. For all the beauty present in the world is of the earth, and as the earth dies, so does beauty. No matter our political stripe, we can agree that beauty is worth saving. And it is a solemn obligation that extends far beyond the dying seconds of Earth Hour.