April 29, 2008

What I Love About Summer

It's not the sun ... it pretty much burns me on contact. So swimming or going to the beach was never a tremendous pleasure for me. I've never had occasion to walk on the beach at sunset, but I have done so at sunrise, and that's okay, once in a while. Add to that the fact that I wear glasses, so if I'm swimming, I can't see a damned thing ... even people watching is out.

And it's not baseball either. I tried, I swear I tried, to care about baseball on at least a couple of occasions, but to no avail. I enjoy going to a minor league game upon occasion, but it's not something I particularly look forward to or miss when I'm not doing it.

And it's not the bugs, or the time off when I had it, or the reruns. Mostly what I like is Sam Adams Summer Ale.

(I know some of you are disappointed that I've stooped to a product endorsement, but I assure you that I have no affiliation with the Sam Adams organization other than as a satisfied consumer.) Speaking of which, it's quitting time!

April 28, 2008

I laughed aloud

Timing is everything. The part about the spice routes is quite good ... shortly before and after the minute mark.

I was wrong

I know, I know, it doesn't happen very often ... but in retrospect, I was wrong about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It's taken me a while to admit it, but on my last trip through the movie, I came to realize that yes, it's a pretty good film.

Of course, it has its terrible moments. A few too many pathetic screams from Kate Capshaw, too many shots of her dumping perfume on the elephant, etc. I'm tempted to call them Lucas moments, but let's be honest: Spielberg wrote the Goonies, which came out a year later, and it's just as juvenile as the stupider moments in Temple of Doom.

So what's good about it? For one thing, the aforementioned Ms. Capshaw. She's not just hot ... she's eighties hot. Don't know what I'm talking about? Here's the classic example. Was Willie Scott a letdown from Marion Ravenwood? Sure, but since the second film was set before the first one, it makes sense.

Secondly, not chronologically of course, is the opening sequence, which is a lot of fun ... the "Anything Goes" song, the pre-Dennis Quaid in DOA poison stagger, the tuxedos. What a great scene! From A to Z, from "Anything ... " through zeppelin if you will, it's pretty great.

Thirdly and most importantly is that even more than in the third movie with its fairly clumsy "origin of" backstory, it's in the second film that we see some actual character development. Jones begins by trading an artifact for a big diamond and talking only of "fortune and glory," but he ends up saving a bunch of kids and leaving emptyhanded. See ... he learns and grows.

Never mind that in the third movie we see that he was already altruistic about artifacts even as a lad.

Another note about DOA: it's the film that made me want to be an English professor (okay, one of the films) ... and Meg Ryan might have been eighties cute, but never quite eighties hot. You might think I'm working my way around to a vicious comment about her current appearance, but honestly, I'm not going to stoop ... as the duke says, I choose never to stoop.


April 25, 2008

I ask you

I generally hate ads for prescription drugs, since they're so hampered by what they can and can't say that it's pointless to listen unless you already know what they're talking about.

And the list of possible side effects that seem much worse than the condition being medicated is usually pretty horrifying.

But I love the ad for the anti-reflux medication AsipHex. Not because it avoids these pitfalls, which it actually does, but because apparently AT NO POINT in the marketing process did it occur to these people that the cool name they came up with could only be pronounced "Ass Effects."

April 24, 2008

Hidden Fortress

In a burst of what I can only call masochistic egomania (masochism is always egomania, but I don't think it's true the other way around), I've tried repeatedly to find an quick and easy way to upload an mp3--20th anniversary edition of an Ivory Tower song. I was trying to use some free hosting place that still gives me some control over the damned thing. I remain at a loss, so you're just going to have to do without for now.

I've been wanting to do this ever since I read about those damned fake Elmers. I suspect they're probably dupes of my nemesis, whom I shall not name. Damned fake Elmers.

So last night I watched Hidden Fortress, which was inexplicably next up in my Netflix queueueueueue. I have too many movies listed there, all because I don't want to forget any of the movies I might like to see. This means that I have several years worth of movies in line, especially since I don't watch films as often as I used to.

Please quit distracting me and I'll talk briefly about this film. I don't know why it was in my queue ... could I really have put it there because I read that its clownish protagonists were Lucas's inspiration for C-3PO and R2D2? I don't think so. Is it because I'm a Kurosawa fanatic? Nope. Or that I like black and white movies with subtitles? This is true, but it's not the reason. I'll never know. Maybe it was a mis-click, or maybe I added it back when I thought I could still trust the Netflix recommenderbot.

Anyhow, I'm glad I did. It was a great movie. Honor, humor, suspense, and the weirdest-voiced princess you'll meet all day. Super-accessible and beautifully filmed, and very fast-paced considering its length.

Hey, what do you want, thoughtful and detailed movie reviews? If so, get Mike to watch it next time it's on TCM. And while you're at it, see if you can get him to post the movies he might review in advance so we can watch them too.

It's like going to an English class to listen to the lecture without having read the assignment. Oh, you don't know what that's like? Be honest now ...

April 22, 2008

My problem in a nutshell:

I think I internalized a lot of irony at a very impressionable age, having spent most of my adolescence listening to stuff like this over and over:

I believe in democracy and the earth

Here is evidence that I'm One Of The Good Guys. Yep, that's me, carrying the banner of democracy! At Earth Day! I may be a realist about the prospect of everybody deciding that they'll quit eating cows and pigs so that everybody else can eat too, or deciding to build more expensive buildings that will be cheaper in the long run rather than the short run, or generally deciding that the future is more important than the present and its petty gratifications, but that's only because I've lived among people my whole life. Most of them prefer comfort when they can get it.

Granted, most of the people I know who might be reading this (I can't comment about the thousands of others who for all I know are hanging on my every word!) are superior people. And they're not superior because I know them ... that would be a little like Shaw's definition of patriotism: "Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it." But I like to be around people I respect, and these are generally not the greener than thou types.

I know the good guys are sincere, but I also know they're outnumbered. The earth is going to win in the long run though, even if we don't like the way a win looks.

April 21, 2008

Earth Day ... Woo hoo!

I've taken a little heat from some loyal readers about some of my remarks about well-meaning green folks. Sure and I'm not talking about the little people ...

I just know too many people who live to root through other people's trash to shame them into recycling the way some mildly literate people live to correct other people's grammar.

So tomorrow is Earth Day, and I'll be outside all day working on some more freckles. The program looks like this: alumni will come to talk to students about their environmental jobs, and then we'll have a folk singer, and then we'll unveil the new biodiesel bus. It will be fun, and we'll give out pizza, and we'll give reusable water bottles to those who bring in recyclables.

Still, I can't get past the idea that we're pissing in the ocean here. Even if it isn't too late, and I hope it isn't, I don't think highly enough of human nature or of the educability (yow) of our leaders to believe things are going to change quickly enough, deeply enough. We're too married to our way of life.

I take the most comfort in the thought that while we've probably screwed over the Earth for intelligent life as we know it, life itself will probably carry on. The dinosaurs were around a lot longer than we have been--a much more successful experiment--and they're gone now. Someday a few hundred million years from now the intelligent cockroaches will dig through our landfills and run their buggy eyes across what's left of our Victoria's Secret catalogs and their invisible buggy ears through our discarded last-year's Ipods, and hopefully they'll have learned something.

Ah, I'm just messing with you. Maybe everything will be okay. Lots of good people are working hard to get people to wise up, and maybe their wisdom will overcome all of the nest-fouling stupidity.

But you might enjoy this Robinson Jeffers poem nonetheless:

"Shine, Perishing Republic"

Seven years???

Happy anniversary, John & Anne!

And no, I didn't remember that on my own. I said I wasn't too good with dates.

April 20, 2008

Bam a Lam

I won't bore you with the chain of links I followed that led me to this video ... suffice to say that the mild pleasure (at best) that I might have taken in the music of Black Oak Arkansas will heretofore be qualified by the memory of what they look like on Youtube. But then I found this video of a cover of a song by Ram Jam which is, I have just learned, a cover of a Leadbelly song.

I think you'll agree that it's the electronic processing that makes the Spiderbait version. The video actually has a pretty great concept, though if I were anybody but the drummer, I think I might have been a little irritated.

April 18, 2008

Why, oh why?

The other day I told a waitress that she should tell her boss that Applebys should start calling their appetizers "Appletizers." And she just rolled her eyes at me.

That was gold, baby ... and you spat on it like probably spat on my bleu cheeseburger.

Appletizing, no?

Assorted "holy f---" moments

Joyce would call them epiphanies, maybe, or maybe that's not quite what I'm talking about. I don't know. But right now I'm listening to Peter Case on an archived radio show (it's show number 473), and I remember the first time I heard his song "Spell of Wheels," and it was one of those moments. Why not listen to that show while you read the rest of this. Or just listen and read whatever you want, for that matter! I'll never know.

For me a lot of those big moments have been about music. My tastes are more visceral than refined I guess. I remember pulling over the first time I heard "Mary Jane's Last Dance," for instance, as if I wasn't ever going to hear it again. Ha! I still love it though. Some of my gut reactions are even triter. I wouldn't trade them for more refined taste either... I'm a philistine at heart, I guess.

I've never seen a painting that took my breath away, almost never, or a ballet that did. But I've read novels that burned me badly enough I never want to read them again. I've read poems that make me choke every time I read them aloud, even though I've read them aloud dozens of times in front of hundreds of people.

When I was back there in seminary school--uh, graduate school, sorry for the gratuitous Jim Morrison quotation--it seemed like we were supposed to learn not to think about literature that way. Am I wrong about that? Did I misunderstand? Maybe I got it wrong, because I wasn't all that bright, but I felt like we spent a lot of time eviscerating golden geese. Good thing those geese are tougher than we thought.

April 17, 2008

My folks

I can remember my folks pretty well when they were the age I am now. It's hard for me to believe that I'm as old now as they were then. I feel like I'm 19. I also feel like a complete idiot most of the time.

The weird thing is, I don't worry about it so much anymore. I'm pretty comfortable with the idea that I don't know what the hell I'm doing. What blows my mind is that my parents might have been winging it too.

April 16, 2008

Forsythia Fascism

I'm not a plant person, and certainly not a flower person, but I do have an opinion about forsythias, which are beautiful here in the springtime. My opinion is this:


My neighbor has these neatly grouped forsythias that are perfectly spherical. They're PLANTS. Beautiful, blooming PLANTS. You don't have to impose your will on them to make them better. All you're doing is showing what a control freak you are.

April 15, 2008


I guess I have my share of hangups. I know some people who have devised personal rules for nearly every aspect of their lives and begin many sentences with "I always" or "I never."

I seldom do that.

But I do have one rule that has served me well when it comes to hanging on to some shred of dignity and self-respect: If somebody hangs up on me, I don't call back. If someone chooses to terminate a conversation rudely, I respect that choice. Permanently.

What's more tragic than the guy who's hung up on and phones back, only to be hung up on again? No thanks. And if you call back after that, you're basically a stalker. My advice to all of you young men who are reading this looking for relationship advice is, don't be that guy.

Once a woman hung up on me. It was Valentine's Day. I might--might, mind you--have been being clingy, or an asshole. I don't remember. I do remember that I picked up the phone and dialed about six of her numbers on pure adrenaline. Then I put the receiver down and left it down. Let her call me. If she doesn't, okay.

A couple of weeks later, I gathered up her stuff--a garment or two, some CDs, toothbrush, whatever--and left it on her porch. A few days after that, my stuff--books and a shirt, I think--arrived on my porch. And that was that. I didn't see her for another couple of years. She had my number; all she had to do was pick up the phone.

But it was her call to make, not mine.

Later on I'll tell you about running into her on High Street years later.

April 14, 2008

Notes from a Bitter Pennsylvanian

Okay, so I don't fit the profile for Senator Obama's "bitter" Pennsylvanian. I have not turned to religion for solace. True, I am a gun owner, but that doesn't provide me with a lot of satisfaction either. I don't sit around polishing it or anything like that. I don't practice quick-drawing in the mirror. I shot a squirrel with it once. Correction: I shot at a squirrel. Does that make me hostile? Well, I got a right to be hostile.

Probably the real solace and satisfaction of religion and guns comes from using them on others, which I've never been particularly eager to do.

So yeah, I'm not particularly bitter. Maybe it's because I have a job. And even though I'd much rather have stayed in TV Land this morning, I sure don't mind bringing home a regular paycheck.

But I do live in that vast, beautiful expanse between greater Ohio and greater New Jersey, where the downturns have hit hard and lasted long, and the upturns haven't quite made it. And even when they come, they don't help the people the downturns hurt, unless it's to help them sell their houses to gentrifying DIY-ning yuppies or their farms to mcMansioneers.

From where I'm sitting here in the middle of Commonwealth of Spleen, the message of "damn right they're bitter, and here's why" sounds better than "don't be mean to the small, bible-thumping, gun-toting woodland creatures."

Okay, I paraphrase ... but Senator Obama's comments seem both more complicated and more honest than Senator Clinton's criticism of them. And less patronizing to us bitter Pennsylvanians.

April 12, 2008

Musta got lost ...

That's the only way to explain going from this:

to this:

I wake up nights that this will happen to me. I wonder if you know it when it happens, or do you think you're still the same?

Or ... or ... crap.

April 11, 2008

On Being Stupid

I know you read this blog less for entertainment than for enlightenment, and maybe you're disappointed that there hasn't been a lot of the latter. But I'm of the opinion that listening to "Thirty Days in the Hole" in the right frame of mind might provide more enlightenment than mere words could; and I'll bet you didn't click on the link to that song at all, or if you did, once you figured out what song it was, you said, "oh yeah, I've heard that song" and then stopped it.

Have I taught you nothing?

If that's the case, though, it dovetails nicely with today's meditation. Consider this stanza from Yeats's "Easter 1916." Yes, I'm ripping it out of its context, but stay with me for a minute if you don't mind.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.

In my professional life, I frequently interact with intelligent people, both "peers" and "clients" (since I'm trying to keep things generic here), whose intelligence, let's say, is not manifesting itself with regard to the situation at hand.

It frustrates me to see people nail something down in their mind, to come to a conclusion about other people or situations, and then refuse to think further about it. After all, a conclusion is an ending, right? As in, I'm done thinking about this forever. How does this approach have anything to do with, say, academics? Or scientific inquiry? Or effective leadership?

Being an effective leader hinges, I guess, on being able to make judgments. But all good judgments, to me, are provisional. When people quit seeing their judgments as provisional and start seeing them as absolute, then they're in trouble. Because while you can gather enough information to make a judgment, you really can't gather all the information. Resolve may be necessary for action, but it also leads to ignorance.

I think this is the heart of being wrong, this conscious decision to quit thinking about a situation. In the Yeats stanza, you have the stone in the stream, with the stream, the trees, the birds, and the whole rest of the universe wheeling around it while the stone remains immobile. To act, I guess, you sometimes need to have that heart of stone. Suicide bombers, surgeons, and statesmen must be able to decide to quit thinking critically about a situation long enough to act. A Yeats line from another poem also comes to mind: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." If I seem biased against suicide bombers, surgeons, and statesmen, so be it.

If you're going to impose your will on others, it's probably necessary to quit thinking critically about your will.

A while back there were some ad slogans that validated this: "Why ask why? Drink Bud Dry." And of course, "Just Do It." Yeah, okay.

Yesterday I talked to someone to whom I had loaned the film Casablanca. She said, "It took me three tries to get into it because it was in black and white."

It's just that kind of black and white thinking that I'm complaining about here.

Thing is, we all do this, this "I'm done thinking about it" thing, but we do it about different things. Some of us do it about the environment, worrying about some animal species while ignoring the fact that human livelihoods are affected by new regulations, or proclaiming the price of gas to be a good thing because it will force people to use less of it, but not thinking about the people who are currently just getting by (and who can't afford that fancy new hybrid that runs on farts and french fry grease).

And I do it too. What about? I honestly don't know. That's kind of how this thing works. If I come to the conclusion that colleague X is an asshole, that's a kind of shorthand that makes it easier to me to interact with him in the future. Is colleague X indeed an asshole? Maybe not, but I've decided to quit asking the question and get on with things.

If Keanu Reeves becomes a great actor at some point, I probably won't notice it even if I see the film, because I have it in my mind that he's fairly limited. There are certainly categories of art, music and thought that I have dismissed out of hand, probably to my detriment. Some people are aghast when I announce that I don't like ballet. How can you not like a whole category of art? Ah, it's not that hard. There's no talking, and it's full of crotchy men and skinny women with gnarly feet.

But I digress.

April 10, 2008

They just don't write 'em like that anymore

Turn those speakers up a little bit and enjoy. Used to be you could occasionally hear a song like this on the radio. You can ignore the video; if I knew of a way to piggyback on somebody else's copyright violation using pure audio, I'd do it.

April 09, 2008

Green Grass and High Tides

I've been away on a little road trip through the land of my ancestry: the part of PA south and east of Pittsburgh. I wanted to see how green the grass was, and I'm not sure it's any greener there than it is here. That's a metaphor, folks. I understand the grass is blue in Kentucky. That's not a metaphor, though--it's a damned lie, from what I've seen.

It was a good drive--no cops, no deer. I had the strange experience of driving past two ball parks whilst listening on the radio to the games being played therein: the Pirates in PNC Park and the Altoona team. I want to say the Altoona Swerve?

I just looked it up. It's the Altoona Curve. I'm not sure I like the sound of that name. Isn't the curve something to be ahead of? Their website says this:

The combination railroad/baseball moniker beat out several choices like "Lake Monsters", "Ridge Runners", and believe it or not, "Fish"!

Apparently Jerome Bettis threw out the first pitch for the opener. If he had been there last night, I would have stopped.

Hmm. Anyhow, driving past towns named Armagh and Tyrone, along with Latrobe and Blairsville and Johnstown where my grandparents came from, I had the opportunity to reflect on the Scotch-Irish influence on the region, not to mention the aforementioned ancestors. It's not something I know a lot about, and it's not even something I feel like I should, particularly. I've always suspected I hail from fairly generic stock.

Ever notice how people who trace their ancestry always find out they're descended from somebody interesting or famous? What are the odds?

I do know that I'm descended from a long line of people who, against all odds, at least lived long enough to reproduce. What are the odds? Especially if they had eyesight like mine?

If I'd had more light, I could have seen some sights, since unlike the Scotch-Irish who tamed the western PA wilderness a few hundred years ago, I enjoy the benefit of corrective lenses. I'll bet it's a pretty drive during the day. There's so much Pennsylvania between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and between I-80 and the Turnpike. I wonder if senators Clinton and Obama are seeing any of it?

April 05, 2008

Tandoori Chicken: A Cautionary Tale

Last night I went to a banquet where the cuisine consisted of institutional versions of foods from various other countries. They did a pretty good job, I have to say, but the problem with institutional food isn't so much that it's bad (unless, of course, it is!) but that's never going to be all that good. It's going to be a lowest common denominator kind of affair.

This was the case with last night's tandoori chicken. I was under the impression that tandoori chicken was spicy and covered with some kind of blood-red powder. Last night's tandoori chicken was chicken-colored, and not particularly tasty.

Now, if you've known me since the bad old days, you're reading those words, "tandoori chicken," out loud in a high-pitched West Virginia accent, because you've heard this one before, and maybe because you know Charlie.

Charlie and I were 2 of about 10 people crammed into an office with maybe 6 desks, back in the early 90s. Charlie was a little bit older than most of us, and he was married to Mary, whom he usually called Mare. I think she was a little older than he was. Charlie was from West Virginia, and he liked to party. He was not a particularly good role model. He had a cartoonish drawl, but Mare, although also from West Virginia, did not.

As a truly pathetic recently divorced guy, I used to get a lot of dinner invitations, because my friends' wives felt bad for me, even though many of them thought I was a bad influence on their husbands. But there was no way I could have been a bad influence on Charlie. Getting invited to Charlie's usually meant an excellent meal, preceded and proceeded by a lot of drinking, smoking, etc. Some of the things I remember happening at Charlie's that might have been that night, but might have been another night also, are as follows:

1. Dan and I were over there celebrating a dissertation defense (not mine--Charlie's?), listening to Kind of Blue and drinking a bottle of Glenfiddich out of little tiny glasses with one little tiny ice cube in each glass. I've never been very cool, but I was cool that night. Except that I might have quoted Anthony Michael Hall talking about "Chicks can't hold their smoke," but I don't remember. Rumor has it that Dan stopped at Taco Bell on the way home and ordered something like 17 tacos. Didn't he know that's what White Castle was for?

2. Mare going to sleep early, or trying to, because she had a real job to get up to the next day. Charlie kept turning up the music, and she hit the roof! That night, when it was time to leave, we couldn't wake Charlie up. We thought he might be dead, but we were afraid to wake up Mare to tell her. So we just left him lying there. We figured if he was alive, we'd feel stupid, and if he was dead, he'd be dead in the morning. He wasn't dead, as it turns out. Whew!

3. A raccoon that had been terrorizing Charlie's balcony (3rd floor!) manifested itself in the dumpster. Charlie was intent upon shooting it with a rifle, and we barely talked him out of it.

4. My nemesis G Comma Lord B vomited dramatically and publicly. (To be honest, I wasn't even there that night, but I heard about it and feel like it belongs here somehow.)

ANYHOW. Quit distracting me. I do remember that on night, or a similar one, Mare made some kickass tandoori chicken. And it was red. I had a raging appetite that night for some reason, so I ate like it was my first meal in a week. It was almost certainly the first meat I'd had in a while. And it was spicy. Throw that in with whatever else got ingested that night, and by morning, I felt bad. Bad like I was going to die. I usually didn't get hangovers, so this was something definitely out of the ordinary. Whatever could be wrong?

How do I tell this without getting really gross? It's probably not possible ... okay, let's just say that in the morning I discovered that the meal was not sitting well with me, and it (more accurately I) had to go. Follow me? So in the process of taking care of business, I discovered that I must have been fed broken glass and razor blades the night before, because I WAS F---ING BLEEDING OUT. I mean, the toilet was full of blood. I was afraid to even leave the bathroom, but I needed to call 911. I wasn't even sure I'd make it to the phone without passing out. I'd never seen that much blood before--well, at least not mine.

As I tried to collect my thoughts, I started to realize something. I actually didn't feel that bad. In fact, all things considered, I was feeling pretty good. Better than I had ten minutes ago. I certainly didn't feel like someone with profuse internal bleeding. And then it dawned on me ... I had eaten about 9 pieces of tandoori chicken the night before, each one covered in some kind of red dye. What I was seeing was the unfortunate aftermath. It was the digestive version of Hollywood special effects. I was so relieved I laughed out loud, and I might have cried a little.

I don't know anybody who enjoys a self-deprecating anecdote more than I do (hence this story). So I went in Monday morning to work and told Charlie the story, and all he could do was hoot "TanDOORI CHICken!" in his excessive hillbilly accent, about two octaves higher than his usual speaking voice. And when I read those words, I can hear that drawl.

Hmm. I kind of feel like there should be a moral to this story ... but the only one I can come up with is, if I say a story is going to be gross ... Yes, it's going to be gross. I warned you.

And those of you who found this blog by searching the internet for tandoori chicken recipes, I am truly sorry.

April 04, 2008


Sorry gang, it's been a busy and exhausting week. I've been "temporarily reassigned" to another division at work, and while I am resolved not to complain about work here (that's just good sense, it seems to me), I will say I don't know whether the doubling of my workload is a matter of punishing competence or assuming that I don't have enough to do. I have one of those jobs where if I'm doing it right, not too many other people hear about it or even know I'm there. Kind of like a spy, but not really. Not really at all. Sigh. I think I'd be a great spy, because a) I'm ingenuous and b) I compartmentalize.

But that's not what I came here to talk about. I came to talk about the election. So yesterday I briefly--very briefly--I got to meet--as in shake hands and exchange 1.5 sentences with--Chelsea Clinton. She told me to quit using so many dashes when I write. I was impressed by her subsequent presentation. I wish she were running for president; I'd vote for her.

I predict that my wish will be granted in my lifetime, even though it might not be my wish by that time.

I do think that Chelsea Clinton might be a better advocate for Senator Clinton's positions than the senator herself. She answered questions in detail, with poise and occasional humor.

Yesterday was the second time I've been in the room with royalty. The first time was in Monaco, back in 1991 or so, where I attended an event hosted by the Princess Grace Irish Library. The kickoff event was attended by Princess Caroline. I think it was Princess Caroline. It might have been Princess Stephanie, but I don't think so. Whoever it was, she was a princess, and she fell asleep on the stage while the academics droned on. That won me over immediately. She dozed, it must be said, with poise.

As a fairly classless populist, I don't think much of the idea of royalty, whether actual (e.g. Princess of Monaco) or de facto (Ms. Clinton), but I have to say that one hundred percent of those whom I've encountered are definitely unusually charismatic. The buzz in the US over the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana disgusted and embarrassed me and struck me as utterly unamerican and ludicrous, not to imply that those are synonyms. But I can see why people are impressed ... these people exude poise the way I exude apt similes.

I respect greatness, but greatness that is earned, not inherited. It's probably true, though, that as with money, the people who inherit it are a lot more comfortable with it than those who earn it. And I guess the question is, once you've got it, what are you going to do with it?

April 01, 2008

Judging Others

Once upon a time, I would judge you by the books you choose to display on your shelves. If I came into your office or domicile, I'd peruse your shelves ... not to ensure that your tastes match mine, but just to see if there was any weight on them.

The same was true of albums (kind of like CDs, kiddos ... remember CDs?), of course. I know some people who would arrange their albums or CDs very strategically, or hide their embarrassments. "Yes, I was just listening to Elvis Costello, whom nobody really likes, because I'm. That. Cool." And ... "Styx? Pieces of Eight? I don't know how that got there ... that's my brother's album. Kate Bush? Yeah, I know ... my old girlfriend left that here."

I say, embrace your embarrassments. If somebody finds Styx in your music collection, admit you love them. Sing it out. Be a "Renegade"!

So in this post-ownership era, I guess we can judge people by the blogs they read. Here are two I read pretty regularly. I'm eliminating any blog where I knew the creator before I knew the blog, so don't be offended if you're not in the list. I'm trying to maintain scientific objectivity.

The first is "Comics Curmudgeon," which makes fun of the daily comics, a genre(!) for which I continue to have great fondness. The second is "What Would Tyler Durden Do?" The narrative voice (with its inappropriate self-disclosures, if you will) cracks me up, and I have a soft spot for its penchant for wallowing in the failures of the rich and famous. You will undoubtedly be offended by it.