Marshall & Julie: Day 1

28 07 2010

Here we are, ladies and gentlemen.  The main event.  “The Marshall & Julie Project.”

I’ll only give the series a brief introduction before I just let my words speak for themselves.  There are thirteen entries with a fourteenth, a reflective piece, to air at a later date to be determined.  I’ll run one entry per day for the next thirteen days.  Since they are fairly sizable posts, I’ll put all the text after the “see more” jump in the interest of not having a mile-long front page.  The “Marshall & Julie” graphic, which I reserve the right to change very soon, and the title will run before the jump, however.

So sit back, relax, and read.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy, too.

Day 1: “The Road to Hell Is Paved With Leeks and Potatoes” / “The Road to Hell Is Paved With Horror and Romantic Comedies”

Yesterday, my mom and I were returning some shirts that were too small from my birthday at the Galleria, a large shopping mall in Houston. But of course, one-stop shopping is impossible for her at a mall. As soon as we walk in, she decides she needs to go to J. Crew. Being a guy, the last thing I want to do is go and sit awkwardly in a chair for half an hour while the 20-something skinny staffers shoot stares that read, “Poor kid, doesn’t he have something better to do than get dragged around the mall by his mom?” I found my escape in Borders, which was just a few units down.

Junior year has taken a toll on the time I have available for leisure, and with that time, I watch movies to satisfy my readers. Yet I still like to think that if the right book comes along, I would drop everything and read it. So I looked around the store, mainly at paperbacks because I don’t like the feeling of reading a hardback book. (Fun fact: I waited over a year to buy “A Thousand Splendid Suns” because I would only read it in paperback. And large print isn’t an option for me, either.) The selection was scant on the first level, limited to just the best-sellers for the most part. I hiked up the steep staircase to the second floor, and I found the treasure trove. The “Buy 1, Get 1 for 50% Off” Table. At first glance, about half the books on the table were ones that I had bought this past year at full price, something that I hit myself for later. On my second glance, I picked up “Freakonomics,” a book that has piqued my curiosity ever since the sixth-grade genius was quoting obscure passages from it in my Latin class. I circled the table a few times, meriting a few puzzled looks from the other people browsing the titles as well. After a few orbits, a title caught my eye. It was “Julie & Julia” by Julie Powell.

Usually my rule is that if I have seen the movie, I won’t read the book that provides the basis for it. I learned this lesson the hard way when I read the book “Freaky Friday” after the 21st century version hit theaters. Needless to say, I was very disappointed when the book was nothing like the movie and I couldn’t even picture Lindsay Lohan saying half the things her character would say. So I was a little hesitant to drop a fair amount of change for the book, knowing how Hollywood has a slight tendency to distort books (if you can’t catch that sarcasm, I don’t know what to say). I stood there with the book in my hand, all 11.4 ounces of its illustrious splendor pulsating through my body. To buy or not to buy, that was the question. I had just cashed several birthday checks, and the presence of Andrew Jackson in my pocket was swaying me towards biting the bullet and buying it. Still, I deliberated carefully. All this descriptive language might make it seem like this contemplation took place for hours on end. In reality, this took place for about a minute. I left Borders with my pockets a little lighter and a small bag slung around my arm. In the bag were “Freakonomics” and “Julie & Julia.”

For those who do not know anything about Julie Powell or “Julie & Julia,” you wouldn’t be reading this blog if it weren’t for her valor and chutzpa (if she ever reads this, I hope she gets a good belly-laugh out of that last word). Piddling away in a mediocre temp job in the Big Apple, Julie needed something to break the monotony that she feared her life might become if she kept on the current trajectory. At the suggestion of her husband, she decided to start blogging about the one thing that she loved to do: cook. But to give herself a definite purpose, she decided to cook her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” the Bible for housewives back in the day. She found a certain magic just flipping through the pages of Child’s book, partly from an admiration of the chef who redefined what an American cook was but also from the joy that would come from whipping up one of her recipes. In 365 days, Julie managed to cook all 524 recipes, though not without her fair share of pain and anguish. Powell’s adventures made her a star in her own right. Her blog was retooled into a book, “Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously,” which has become a holy text to bloggers in the same vain as Child’s book was for the average American chef. The book was later adapted into a movie by Nora Ephron and starred rising star Amy Adams as Julie, allowing her work to reach an even larger audience.

So what does Julie Powell have to do with me, the 17-year-old movie fanatic who would rather sit at the art house theater than at the football stadium?

If you change “cooking” to “watching movies,” switch genders, subtract 12 years, and change New York to Houston, there is quite a similarity. In the interest of keeping my own head, I must say that I do not consider my job of being a student “droning,” but hopefully no one will take offense if I say that I am somewhat weary from the endless supply of work. We both turn to the things we love for release. Julia Child inspired her, and Julie in turn inspired me to start my own blog and turn my obsession with all things cinematic into something productive.

With Julie Powell’s trials and tribulations ascribed to paper resting on my arm as I strolled through the mall, a new idea popped into my head. Why not use Powell’s book like she used Child’s book to get a sense of purpose? I already started a blog inspired by what Powell did, so why not use it for some “internal improvements?”

My hope is that Julie can teach me something about blogging just like Julia taught her about cooking. Her project definitely showed determination and a desire to see something through to fruition, and I think I could definitely learn some valuable lessons from her on that front. Julie had her whole blog planned out from day one, while I have just been twiddling my thumbs while elaborating on my obsession with movies for three months; perhaps Julie’s focus will rub off on me. Maybe I can even pick up a few things about cooking. I’ll make it a goal to attempt at least one recipe with minimal parental assistance soon.

My idea is to use “Julie & Julia” as the first structured project for my blog, the first of what I hope will be many. Reading a chapter a night with a few of her unadulterated blog posts sprinkled in seems reasonable, or at least as reasonable as anything fun junior year can be. So who knows how far my project will go? It got Julie Powell a book deal and a movie; will I follow the same pattern? I must say that my life would need a whole lot of Hollywood treatment before a sustainable film could be made, but maybe the joy of blogging will just suffuse throughout my body like cooking did to Julie.

Julie’s first post stated:

The Book:
“Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. First edition, 1961. Louisette Berthole. Simone Beck. And, of course, Julia Child. The book that launched a thousand celebrity chefs. Julia Child taught America to cook, and to eat. It’s forty years later. Today we think we live in the world Alice Waters made, but beneath it all is Julia, 90 if she’s a day, and no one can touch her.

The Contender:
Government drone by day, renegade foodie by night. Too old for theatre, too young for children, and too bitter for anything else, Julie Powell was looking for a challenge. And in the Julie/Julia project she found it. Risking her marriage, her job, and her cats’ well-being, she has signed on for a deranged assignment.

365 days. 536 recipes. One girl and a crappy outer borough kitchen.

How far will it go? We can only wait. And wait. And wait…..

The Julie/Julia Project. Coming soon to a computer terminal near you.

So without further ado, here is Marshall’s inspired version based on Julie’s post:

The Book:
“Julie & Julia.” Movie Tie-In Edition. Paperback, the only way I’ll read it. The renowned Meryl Streep and Amy Adams grace the cover, but the real star lies underneath the title. Julie Powell. Her quest to fight a life of tedium raised blogging to new heights, brought the craft a new viability, and taught millions that with an iron will and some time, the most daunting of tasks can be achieved.

The Contender:
Student by day, student by night, student by weekend, and movie fanatic when he can catch a breath. Marshall was in the most unlikely of positions to start a blog – yet he did. It was going well, people were visiting (although seldom did any of them comment), yet he still felt somewhat unfulfilled. There was some missing piece of the puzzle, some step missed in the overall equation for greatness, some absent rhetorical strategy in a long essay. He found it in “Julie & Julia,” the Holy Grail of bloggercizing that was the inspiration for the movie that inspired him. Seeking to fill that void which he felt in his blog, he decided to commit to a project that could do untold damage to him. It could destroy his sanity, his grades, and his vestige of a life.

14 days. 15 chapters and 307 pages. One teenager who doesn’t have the time, yet will have to force himself to make it.

How far can he bend before he breaks his back? Only time will tell.

The Marshall & Julie Project. Read it on a blog on your computer.

So here we go. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy two weeks.


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7 responses

29 07 2010
Fitz

Good luck on your endeavor! This is daunting by any means.

29 07 2010
Marshall

Thank you! Although I may have led you to make the mistaken assumption that this is a live event … all these posts are pre-written from quite some time ago.

29 07 2010
Caz

Brilliant idea Marshall, I look forward to reading 🙂

29 07 2010
Laural

I loved this.
I found your blog because I love Julie Powell … and you came up in my google alert. (i know… pathetic or dedication)
Anyway … I can’t wait to read more!!!

30 07 2010
Harry

I actually got the chance to see Julie Powell at an event here in Houston. She and several other authors were at the annual Book and Author dinner. She was incredibly engaging, funny, and pretty inspiring. Kudos to her, and to you for this project.

30 07 2010
Marshall

I almost went to that event but chose to stay home and do homework. Grrrr junior year.

8 08 2010
Red

Brilliant. This should be fun to read.

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