Mrs. Muzzy took the girls over to her sister's house for supper yesterday evening, and since I was out-and-about last night after work, I stopped by Auntie's South Minneapolis Palatial Estate to say hi to the gang. Mrs. Muzzy wished to hang out a little longer at her sister's house, so I suggested I might bring the girls home and put them to bed, an offer which was gladly accepted.
While we were driving home, daughter number one, six year-old AE, told me how much she loves Spring nights, and then muttered something I couldn't quite understand. For some reason I didn't follow up on it then, but when I went to tuck her into bed, I asked her what it was that she had been trying to tell me in the car.
This is, verbatim, what she said:
"I had a vision that I was resting in an ocean of flowers and there was a beautiful silver flashlight, and that was the moon, and there was a very good smell in the air, and the wind was singing its lullaby. The stars were twinkling and I'd never been so happy in my whole life."
Me: Who loves you?
AE: Daddy loves me.
Me: And who loves Daddy?
AE: I do.
Me: Good-night, hunny-bunny.
No, it's not p*rn. It's not even shown on live models. But it is truly bizarre and perhaps even disturbing: Snakecharmer, frilly men's underwear creations, from Japan.
From the website:
Welcome to men's underwear gallery 'Snake Charmer'.
Are you a guy who loves something cute?
I make lacy and fancy underwear. All for boys and cute men.
These handmade underwear and lingerie are decorated with frilled lace and ribbons.
So graceful, pretty and fancy. Not sexy.
My underwear is not for sale.
If you want to make one by yourself, I would help you at DIY page.
A few weeks ago I read an installment of Ben Stein's Diary in the paper version of The American Spectator. It was one of the most touching and eloquent tributes to Veterans of the Armed Services that I've ever seen. I was so moved when I read this piece that I actually found myself on the verge of tears in a crowded McDonalds over a lunch hour. I contacted The American Spectator and was given permission to reproduce the article here. I urge you to read the whole piece, all the way through:
Ben Stein’s Diary
The American Spectator, March 2005
Reproduced with permission from The American Spectator.
NEW YEAR'S DAY
What are you in here for?" I asked the gaunt man with glasses sitting on the far edge of a bed in Building 215, the Convalescent Building, at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Westwood. It is a Spanish-style building obviously of ancient vintage, extremely well kept, and stunningly quiet. The swish of men moving by with walkers and the muted sound of television in the other rooms are the only noises. The freeway is only a few hundred yards away but cannot be heard at all. We are on the moon.
"Me?" the man said in a lethargic but somehow alert voice. "Me? I'm just basically waiting to die." The man looked amazingly familiar. As if I had known him all of my life. His eyes were brown and soulful. His skin was almost green. His muscles in his neck were wildly knotted.
"Why?" I asked. "You don't look that bad." Actually, he did look bad, as if he were truly just waiting to die.
"Glandular carcinoma," he answered. "The cancer is just eating my organs."
He had a drawing of a liver on his bulletin board next to his bed. Otherwise, on his bedside table, there were no pictures, nothing personal, just medicines and bottles of water.
"I am terribly sorry," I said. "Are you in horrible pain?"
"No," he said. "I'm on methadone. I don't feel bad. But where does the pain go? Sometimes at night if I wake up, I feel as if I'm just going to explode. The pain comes up from my liver and then it never reaches my brain so where does it go? I feel a lot of the time as if I'm going to pop."
"I don't know," I said. "I am sorry. I don't think you're going to pop, though. What were you in the Marines?"
"I was in supply," he said. "But that meant supplying units in the jungle in Vietnam. So it was not behind the lines. I got sprayed with Agent Orange, and maybe that did it."
Many of the veterans here believe they were injured or poisoned by Agent Orange. I have always believed it was poison. How can anything be strong enough to take the leaves off giant palm trees and not cause cancer or respiratory disease? What an idiotic idea it was to use Agent Orange anywhere near where our troops were operating.
I read the sign behind the gaunt man's bedstead, "L/Cpl Gregory."
I asked him where he was from and he gave me noncommittal answers. Then he turned to me with a surprising glint of interest in his eyes. "So what's up, Ben?" he asked. "What are you up to these days?"
"A few little bits of acting," I said. "A ton of writing. Lots of speeches. A few commercials, but never enough. Just keeping busy. Paying the bills."
"I remember a picture of you," he said. "Yeah, I remember it really well. It's a picture of you in a Corvette with really long hair, sort of looking backwards behind the Corvette and you. Like you were a hippie. I saw it on a TV show about you."
I was stunned. The methadone had not dulled his recollection of a somewhat precious photo of little me in 1972, taken by my old girlfriend, Pat (who has not spoken to me in roughly 30 years ).
"Yes," I answered. "That was when I was young. I had a great Corvette. I sold it. One of my many mistakes. My whole life is filled with mistakes."
"Mistakes," he said, and he laughed a slender laugh.
I sat on the chair next to his bed and looked at him. He started to fall asleep.
This is my second visit to the VA Hospital in a week. The first was on Christmas Day. It continued a tradition, long interrupted, that began when I was in a Jewish service fraternity in junior high and high school called AZA. We used to go to the VA Hospital on Wisconsin Avenue (where the Russian Embassy is now) and feed meals and clean the halls so the Christians who worked there could go home for the day. I did it again this past Christmas with my tall friend Peggy, who arranged it in the first place, and her even taller daughter, Jessica. We went around the main building, Building 500, where the patients are considerably livelier. But they are still sick people. Methicillin-resistant staph infections. Cancer. Heart bypasses. They are not in great shape at all. But they are not anywhere near as bad off as the people in Building 215. The ones in Building 500 are alert, and one of them, one of only two Jewish patients I met that day, wanted to play Trivial Pursuit or something like that with me. He had been on Jeopardy as a young man and now he was recovering from hip replacement surgery that had gone seriously awry, and he was full of fight.
Next to him was a Norwegian/American from the Midwest talking cheerily about an aortic abdominal aneurysm that had almost killed him. Now he looks hale and hearty. He has a better sense of humor in the hospital than most comedians have on stage.
The hospital, as I said before, is amazingly well run. Just amazingly clean and cheerful. Whoever runs it deserves praise.
But when I came back a week later--today, New Year's Day--it's a different kettle of fish. The first man I saw, a mischievous-looking black man, with twinkling eyes, said that he was there because he had "a fatal disease."
"You look great," I said, "what's the disease?"
"Lou Gehrig's disease," he answered forthrightly.
He had me there. He was waiting for someone to bring him some food. He actually did look great. I wasn't kidding him. But Lou Gehrig's disease is horrifying. And there were no crowds cheering him as he signed off. Gary Cooper will not play him in a movie. He is not saying that right now he feels as if he is the luckiest man in the world. He is all by himself except for me and my pal Lisa Monet, and I'll get to her in a minute.
I asked the Lou Gehrig's disease man about his service in the Army in World War II, ETO, and where he was from, and then I walked into the next room.
There was "Jackie," an African-American paratrooper named Jackson who still looked as if he could parachute anywhere. He had up his uniform with a million medals. He had long hair and sunglasses. He really did look great and he sounded more lucid than I usually do. He looked, if I may say so, like Superfly. He was alive and lively, and I think he'll be out soon. But I was drawn to the man with the gaunt face and the knotted muscles in his neck. I went back to see him.
I'll say it again: L/Cpl Gregory looks as if I have known him forever. I visited with him about his food, about what he liked to watch on TV (CSI: Miami), and then just watched him. If I were a better person, I would say I watched over him.
He fell asleep and I left. I visited with a man who was in because a dog bit him and he got badly infected and might lose his leg. He was talkative and witty.
I have to tell you again I am here with my makeup girl from Fox, Lisa Monet Agustsson, who insisted on accompanying me. She is conducting herself with so much kindness and warmth you can scarcely imagine. One patient complained about his back and Lisa, without being asked, gave him a brief neck massage and fluffed his pillows. Another wanted his mail from Glendale and Lisa offered to go get it.
There are some people with a lot of native warmth. More of them should be at this hospital. There are few Lisa Monets in this world and the people here are lucky to have her here today.
It was stunning how few visitors there were at the convalescent wing. Stunning.
"I'm your celebrity visitor for the day," I told each patient as I went into his room. "I'm not much but I'm all you're getting today."
I felt profoundly sad by the time I left. I told Mr. Wong, the Public Affairs Officer who is my guiding light at the hospital, that I would be back soon.
And here I am back. I could not stay away from Lance Corporal Gregory and Jackie and the man with Lou Gehrig's disease and the others.
I took up with L/Cpl Gregory as I left him.
"So, what's up, Ben?" he asked me. "Whatcha up to?"
"Just talking to you," I said.
He lay on his side. He looked deeply sedated. "What do you think about all day when you're in here?" I asked him.
"I don't know," he said.
"You must think of something," I said.
"I wish I had lived my life differently," he said.
He waited a long time to answer. "Just more regular. On the straight and narrow. I didn't even know I had a 32-year-old daughter with two kids of her own until just recently. I wish I knew her better."
"Do you want me to call her?"
He shook his head. "She calls me every so often," he said. "Maybe every two weeks."
"She should call more often," I said.
He didn't say anything.
I got up to leave. He woke up and looked at me. "Will you be back?" he asked.
"Better make it soon," he said.
I held his hand for a long time. Cold skin and bones, but I know I have seen this man before.
I went out into the hall and ran into the Lou Gehrig man. He had just seen the De Niro remake of Cape Fear and had a long list of things about it that made it unrealistic. He was in a good mood. Even though he's so sick, he reminded me of my father and also of Col. Denman. I like him a lot. I visited Jackie. He looked even better and I guess he'll be out and about soon.
I visited a man who was paralyzed and blames Agent Orange. I visited a man who has acute malaria 60 years after getting it in the Philippines in 1944. I met a man who was a Marine and then became a hairdresser. It had something to do with his pension, but I could not figure it out.
Many of the men in here are black. Many of them are from the South. I really love these men. They came from a cruelly repressive country, fought for it, got wounded or sick for this country that treated them so badly, and they never complain. They are so much better people than I am that I am literally dizzy thinking about it.
So many of my conservative pals hate the 1960s, and with some reason. But the sixties are when we really started righting the scales and treating black men with the dignity they deserve. Lyndon Johnson deserves a whale of a lot of credit. So does Martin Luther King. So do Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner. Finally, men like the Lou Gehrig man got the America they deserved. They fought for this nation because of what it could be, not what it was. And how glorious of America to have repaid their faith.
My pal Al keeps asking me why I do this stuff at the hospital. He thinks I'll get an infection and die. I keep thinking there would be no America, no freedom, no Constitution without these men and what they did. Now they're sick and lonely and sometimes dying. Basically, I owe them my life. It's a pretty small thing to go visit them every so often and tell them I love them.
They're waiting to die. I'm waiting to die. But they were incredibly good to me, even without knowing me. If I were President, I would spend a lot of my day visiting VA hospitals and I would encourage other Americans, especially young ones, to do likewise.
God sends His angels to us in many guises. Sometimes they wear camouflage and jump suits and carry a rifle. Sometimes they carry out bedpans at hospitals. It's an incredibly sweet privilege to spend time with these angels who carried us all on their backs. I can't visit the ones at the Westwood Military Cemetery next door. I can visit these servants of the Almighty now and keep them company for a little while.
In every sense, it is the least I can do. And I'm telling you about it so you can do it, too. We all need to do it for these guys and gals who make every breath possible.
I am reading a book about advertising and it says that if a fish could think, the last thing it would think about is water. For us Americans, freedom and prosperity and comfort are our water. If we start thinking about them, maybe we'll start thinking about how we got our elements that keep us alive, and show some gratitude for the men and women who earned it. Here on earth, God's work is our work. John F. Kennedy said it, and it's true.
As for Lance Corporal Gregory, I know I'll see him again.
Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer in Beverly Hills and Malibu.
Ben Stein’s Diary
The American Spectator, March 2005
Reproduced with permission from The American Spectator.
I've spent several minutes pondering just who should leave American Idol this week and I'm still uncertain, but I'm going to make a pick. The two worst performances were by Carrie and Constantine, who did a surprisingly bad version of This Is How You Remind Me. The other four contestants did fair to good. In spite of their poor showings, though, Contstantine and Carrie will both stay on this week, and Scott is likely to be following Simon's suggestion and packing his bags. He's a good singer and likely to go on to a career in the business, but he's just not Idol material. And then, there were five.
I'm starting something on this blog that I'm calling Music Monday, in which I will try to consolidate random music-related links I've come across during the past week, including links to some free and legal mp3 downloads and streaming audio that you may wish to check out. Enjoy.
With both my daughters diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum (probably Asperger Disorder), I needed a reliable place to go for information. There are lots of good Autism sites online, but OASIS is one of the best. If you or someone you know needs information, I recommend it.
A few days ago Sandy of the M.A.W.B. Squad responded to the interview meme that I was
sucked into delighted to participate in, when invited by Janette.
So, finally - sorry for the delay - here's your questions, Sandy. Post and answer on your own blog, and then pass it on: share the love!
1) Which artistic movement in paintings (secular, impressionist, abstract, etc.) best represents your life right now? Choose 3 pieces from your chosen movement that explain your choice.
2) Do you consider yourself a wise woman? In what way? What are your sources of wisdom? If this was your last chance to impart any wisdom to your children, what are the three most important things would you tell them to prepare them for the world?
3) What CD do you own that most of your friends and family would be very, very surprised, if they knew about it? Why would they be so surprised?
4) How did you know that your husband was the one you wanted to live with for the rest of your life? When you first met him, did you have any inkling that you would find yourself with him at this point in your life and experiencing your life at present, with him?
5) If you ran into your 70 year old self, what do you think she would be like? What 3 things would you like to ask her?
6) Bonus questions: favorite mixed drink and favorite summer fruit?
Janette, of Common Sense Runs Wild, tagged me for this important task, so I am hereby rolling up my sleeves, spitting on my hands, rubbing them together, and going for it:
Immediately following there is a list of 18? 19? 20? different occupations. You must select at least 5 of them (feel free to select more). You may add more if you like to your list before you pass it on (after you select 5 of the items as it was passed to you). Each one begins with "If I could be..." Of the 5 you selected, you are to finish each phrase with what you would do as a member of that profession. For example, if the selected occupation was "pirate" you might take the phrase "If I could be a pirate..." and add to it "I would sail the 7 Seas, dating lasses from around the world." See how easy that is?
Here's the list:
* If I could be a scientist...
* If I could be a farmer...
* If I could be a musician...
* If I could be a doctor...
* If I could be a painter...
* If I could be a gardener...
* If I could be a missionary...
* If I could be a chef...
* If I could be an architect...
* If I could be a linguist...
* If I could be a psychologist...
* If I could be a librarian...
* If I could be an athlete...
* If I could be a lawyer...
* If I could be an innkeeper...
* If I could be a professor...
* If I could be a writer...
* If I could be a llama-rider...
* If I could be a bonnie pirate...
* If I could be an astronaut...
* If I could be a politician . . .
* If I could be a kid again . . .
* If I could be an animal . . .
* If I could be a tree . . .
* If I could be a celebrity . . .
and I'm adding
* If I could be a blogger...
* If I could be a sculptor...
* If I could be a Phd...
* If I could be a supermodel...
* If I could be a Barbie...
And here's my reply:
If I could be a sculptor, but then again, no, or a man selling potions in a traveling show...
If I could be a tree, I'd pee on passing dogs...
If I could be a Phd, I'd have more time for blogging and email - especially email...
If I could be a Missionary, I'd slap the next person who asked me about one of those positions...
If I could be a supermodel, I'd do my little turn on the catwalk...
By H.L. Mencken, from the Smart Set, May 1912:
Wagner - The rape of the Sabines...a kommers in
Beethoven - The glory that was Greece...the grandeur
that was Rome...a laugh
Haydn - A seidel on the table...a girl on your
knee...another and different girl in your heart
Chopin - Two embalmers at work on a minor poet...the
scent of tuberoses...Autumn rain
Richard Struass - Old Home Week in Gomorrah
Johann Strauss - Forty couples dancing...one by one
they slip from the hall...sounds of kisses...the
lights go out
Pucinni - Silver macaroni, exquisitely tangled
Debussy - A pretty girl with one blue eye and one
Bach - Genesis 1,1.
I was stopped at the light on Snelling and Univesity Avenues at around 10:15 pm tonight when I recalled a similar Friday evening, about a year ago, at around the same time, at the same intersection.
Somehow I missed it, but the madcap crew at Nihilist didn't: April 20th, the 26th anniversary of the Killer Rabbit attack on Jimmy Carter. And boy, are they in a mood to celebrate: they write haiku; they compose a song; they poke gentle fun. Stop by and take a look. It's a carnival of fun.
I drove my car to the edge of town on Tuesday AM, as I usually do, parked at the Municipal Ramp, and caught the bus to the other side of downtown, where I work. It had been raining fairly hard earlier but had stopped, and showed signs of clearing. I walked the block to the bus stop and got on the #270.
When I got up to exit the bus, there was only one other person on it, an attractive blonde, who appeared to be in her late 30's. We both got off the bus at my stop, but just as we stepped onto the sidewalk, it starting pouring rain again, like a cow peeing on a flat rock.
I quickly reached into my briefcase and pulled out my smallish umbrella; my bus companion held her satchel over her head, and whimpered something about having left her umbrella at home. My mother raised me right. I know better than to allow an umbrellaless attractive blonde to cross the street in the rain, without offering to share my umbrella - and I'm sure Mrs. Muzzy would expect no less of me. So the offer was made, and was most gratefully accepted.
We must have been a sight: she at around 5'2", and I at 6'7", both struggling mightily against the wind and rain, trying to seek shelter under a 3-foot umbrella. By the time we'd walked a couple of blocks, the rain had let up a little. At the corner she turned left to go into her office building, and I turned right to cross the street towards mine. I bid her a good-day, she gave me a rain-soaked smile. And that's an ok way to start a rainy day, methinks.
I watched the American Idol 70's Dance Music theme show last night on tape an hour or more after the show, but still early enough for me to call in my 15 votes for Constantine. Yeah, he's not the best singer on the show - that would be Bo - but he's far and away the best showman. He needs to dial down the smoulder factor to, say, 8 or 9 (from 11) but he's utterly amazing, and right now, the Big Prize is his to lose.
Most of the others turned in reasonably decent performances, but I actually thought the worst of the night were Anwar and Carrie. They are both competent singers and likeable folks, with decent voices, and are attractive, to boot. But they both lack the 'it' factor that Constantine and Vonzell have, and neither can hold the stage as well as Bo.
The bottom three on tonight's Results Show should be: Carrie, Anwar and Scott, but for some reason the public digs her, so I think Carrie is safe. Instead Anthony will join the other two boys in the center of the stage. As for who should go based on last night's performance? I thought both Anwar and Carrie were utterly uninspired and, at times, cringe-worthy. But, as I said, Carrie is safe. Who will go? I dunno. Anwar? I don't think so. Scott? He's got some kind of mojo with his fan base and I suspect they will pull through for him. So it's probably Anthony. Got a better prediction?
And, as usual, Scott Pepper has all the details and song listing of who sang what, and predictions, to boot.
I'm not a big fan of much modern art, but while the girls and I were on a Walkabout Adventure last Sunday across the Washington Avenue Bridge, I decided it might be nice to duck into the Weisman Art Museum, on the U of M campus. The price was right: free.
The museum is housed in a building designed by Frank Gehry, best known for the Guggenheim structures in New York and Bilbao. I find the museum's exterior to be a revolting thing, looking for all the world like an experiment with a tin can gone somehow hideously wrong. I'm not the only who feels that way, but there are many who find it appealing. (I wonder about them.)
Still, on the inside, the museum is a rather warm and inviting place, and, if much of the displayed pieces are ghastly examples of what is tragically wrong with the modern art world, there are many interesting pieces on display, as well. And, to my surprise, both the girls seemed to enjoy our short tour of the place, and AE pronounced the afternoon 'one of the best Adventures ever.'
Well. Who am I to argue with that?
From the often-elitist, sometimes-bombastic and always-entertaining H.L. Mencken, on the subject of The Music-Lover, from The Allied Arts, Prejudices: Second Series, 1920, originally published in the Smart Set, Dec., 1919, most recently re-published in A Mencken Chrestomathy:
Of all forms of the uplift, perhaps the most futile is that which addresses itself to educating the proletariat in music. The theory behind it is that a taste for music is an elevating passion, and that if the great masses of the plain people could only be inoculated with it they would cease to herd into the moving-picture parlors, or to listen the demagogues, or to beat their wives and children. The defect in this theory lies in the fact that such a taste, granting it to be elavating--which, pointing to professiona musicians, I certainly deny--simply cannot be implanted. Either it is born in a man or it is not born in him. If it is, then he will get gratification for it at whatever cost--he will hear music if Hell freezes over. But if it isn't, then no amount of education will ever change him--he will remain indifferent until the last sad scene at the gallows.
No child who has this congenital taste ever has to be urged or tempted or taught to love music. It takes to tone inevitably and irresistibly; nothing can restrain it. What is more, it always tries to make music, for the delight in sounds is invariably accompanied by a great desire to produce them. I have never encountered an exception to this rule. All genuine music-lovers try to make music. They may do it badly, and even absurdly, but nevertheless they do it. Any man who pretends to cherish the tone-art and yet has never learned the scale of C major--any and every such man is a fraud. The opera-houses of the world are crowded with such liars. You will even find hundreds of them in the concert-halls, though here the suffering they have to undergo to keep up their pretense is almost too much for them to bear. Many of them, true anough, deceive themselves. They are honest in the sense that they credit their own buncombe. But it is buncombe none the less.
In the United States the number of genuine music-lovers is probably very low. There are whole states, e.g., Alabama, Arkansas, and Idaho, in which it would difficult to muster a hundred. In New York, I venture, not more than one person in every thousand of the population deserves to be counted. The rest are, to all intents and purposes, tone deaf. They can not only sit through the infernal din made by the current jazz-bands; they actually like it. This is precisely as if they preferred the works of the Duchess to those of Thomas Hardy, or the paintings of the men who make covers for the magazines to those of El Greco. Such persons inhabit the sewers of the bozart. No conceivable education could rid them of their native infirmity. They are born incurable.
I didn't see Lost In Translation in the theaters, but that should surprise no one who knows me: I don't often go to see movies in theatrical release. There are few theaters worth going to these days. Most movies are shown at the local mall, in a Multiplex-From-Hell, which I avoid like the plague. I figure if it's worth seeing, I'll rent or buy the DVD, and watch it at home. Of course, with two little ones in the house, anything over a G rating can't be watched until the wee hours of the AM, and these days those hours are reserved for sleeping and the internet - not necessarily in that order. But after many months of avoiding the inevitable, I succumbed to the recent gentle proddings of someone whose impeccable taste I trust without reservation, and bought the DVD of LIT, which I finally watched it last night.
In a nutshell, I thought the story and the movie were both marvelous. As a former film school student - I have about half a degree in film-making under my belt - I loved the characters, the story, the cinematography and the whole mise en scene. I found it every bit as good as so many reviewers said it was, with Bill Murray as perfect in his role as Scarlett Johansson was in hers.
But not everyone liked it. And, in fact, a good friend told me last year that she left half-way through, not because she found it offensive in any way, but because she thought it boring and ridiculous. She said she didn't like the meandering nature of the story. But that's precisely what appealed to me, even already knowing the gist of it. I think she objected to the fact that the film didn't fit into a formula, that it didn't have action, that various scenes seemed to collide with each other, that not all the details were penciled in for the audience, that the ending was somewhat ambiguous, and left loose ends hanging.
But life is entirely like that, isn't it: serendipitous and unexpected? We make plans, only to see them fail miserably, and then we turn a corner, ride an elevator, say hello to a stranger, and a whole new scenario plays itself out in ways we couldn't have scripted if we'd tried. But perhaps that's why most Hollywood movies are so successful: many people want to escape the monotony of their lives, they want action and adventure. And maybe that's what some disliked about LIT, that it made them wait, that it made them think, that it didn't answer questions as much as merely pose them.
Many of the reviews I read of LIT made reference to an 'unrequited' love affair between Bob and Charlotte. But there was nothing unrequited about it. Dictionary.com defines the term as "Not reciprocated or returned in kind," but in fact, to all appearances, the two were very much in the same place. They both shared a connection that neither seemed willing to make explicitly sexual - at least during the short time they were to have together. But their connection was no less romantic or less deep for not having been consummated.
Both seemed to understand intuitively that the relationship they shared during their few short jet-lagged days together was going to affect them deeply and for the rest of their lives, and that adding a sexual liaison to the mix would have changed it, probably to its detriment. They had much more between them than just a mere friendship, and it seemed they were tapping into something far deeper than any casual sexual affair could have offered them.
It was telling that Bob ended up in bed with the lounge singer after little more than Hello-and-a-Drink, somewhat to his own chagrin, and that Charlotte seemed more than a little upset by it. He was not beyond cheating sexually on his wife, and yet seemed unwilling to pursue Charlotte that way. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that she had initiated the first contact between them. Perhaps it was because he sensed that she was young and vulnerable, and didn't wish to take undue advantage. Perhaps he just savored the sweet way things were developing between them. No answers are offered, or even hinted at.
Yet for all that, their relationship wasn't entirely non-physical, either. At one point, Charlotte lays her head on Bob's shoulder; at another, they lie in bed watching tv and talking - he places his hand on her ankle; they walk arm-in-arm and hand-in-hand through the hotel; and, at the end, they kiss goodbye. It's clear that both have made a deep connection that wanted to be expressed. While I suspect that if their story had been played out over a month (or six), they would have ended up making love. Instead they made a sort of love connection that didn't end up horizontal.
I particularly liked the juxtaposition and superimposition of images and metaphors: the age difference between Bob and Charlotte, the culture differences of Americans adrift in Japan, the unrewarding marriages, the sense of both he and she feeling lost and unsure of their destinies, albeit at different stages of life.
The story could have been set in Paris or London or New York, but the same sense of wonder and bewilderment wouldn't have been possible as was in Tokyo, with its customs so similar and yet so different from the West. Likewise, I think it would have possible to tell the story with a younger Bob or older Charlotte, but it wouldn't have had the same punch. And it could have worked with Bob being, perhaps, a businessman of the same age, but would not have been as believable. Being a movie star gave him the cache' it would take attract a much younger woman.
A large part of the power of the story was precisely the unlikeliness of the encounter, only made possible by circumstance, resulting in a deep connection between them that was powerful and undeniable. And, in like manner, the ending was especially poignant and bittersweet, with Bob initially saying goodbye to Charlotte without so much as a hug, only to go after her in a crowd, to hug and kiss her goodbye after all, slightly awkward but so very tender.
In short, if you haven't seen it, don't worry, I haven't spoiled a thing. Watch it anyway. If you are disappointed, it won't be because you know the story. I will watch it again and I have no doubt I will enjoy it the next time as much as I enjoyed it the first.
It's odd, after the draining days of the Terri Schiavo conflagration, I have felt less enthusiastic about blogging as agressively as I have in the past. It isn't that I don't have things to say, and I've still posted often. But I haven't had much interest in matters political in the past couple of weeks or so. I'm vaguely aware of the stories in the headlines, but I haven't watched a newscast since early last week, and I haven't read a news magazine or newspaper in the same period of time. It isn't that I find such things distasteful, only that I think I lack the energy or focus to pay attention. On a number of levels, I have focused on more personal matters and have blogged accordingly. I have no idea if that appeals to those who read this blog regularly, but all I can do is to write what interests me. I'm just grateful to those who chose to continue to read. Thanks.
Daughter number one, AE, got a gold star for the Kindergarten assignment she handed in this past week: "Create a yummy recipe for a new flavor of yogurt."
And so, with her blessing, I share her creation with you:
You will need:
A Yogurt Pot
Sprinkle a layer of toast into the Yogurt Pot. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together. Pour that in. Add the jam, then the juice.
Now eat it!
Well, I finally broke down and registered the venerable Blogizdat.com name through GoDaddy.com this past week.
It seems that when you register a domain name your CV - or at least your name, address and phone number - are stored in the WHOIS database for the world to see. I don't like that. But GoDaddy also offers Private Domain Registration for a modest fee, in which the user supplies all the information for the registration, but a proxy service's name and address are used in the WHOIS database, which shields the domain name-holder from prying eyes. Obviously, law enforcement can still get at the info, but telemarkers and angry blog readers cannot. The whole business, with the private registration, cost me $12 and change for one year's registration.
I also chose to buy one month of webhosting through GoDaddy, for no great reason, but I wanted to try it out. They charge $3.99 a month for their basic service. There is no time commitment, but it ends being significantly cheaper per month if you buy for a whole year at a time.
The basic web hosting package at GoDaddy costs about $37 per year, with no set-up fee, and gets you 500 megs of storage, with 25 gigs of bandwidth transfer per month. While it is PHP-enabled, there is no CGI available unless one pays for the next plan up, and there's only one MySQL database available with the account. So, it's not necessarily the best deal out there, but still it's good enough to get a taste for web-hosting.
Please enjoy responsibly, and know when to say when. Remember: friends don't let friends blog drunk.
Six years ago today, a little after 4:30 pm, on April 13th, 1999, AE was born, and I became Daddy. From the start, she was my Hunny Bunny. She weighed in at a little over eight and a half pounds, not too heavy for me to catch, but I was too woozy from the whole experience to do so, and let my mother-in-law (a Certified Nurse Midwife) do the honors, and cut the cord. Some husbands might have resented the presence of the MIL, but I was oh-so-grateful that she could be there to offer her experience and support.
AE was a beautiful child from birth. Parents and relatives and friends always say such things, but everyone knows it isn't always true. With AE it was true. And, although she had her baby moments, she seemed like a perfect child: she went to sleep early, napped during the day, didn't fuss excessively, was almost never colicky.
One hitch: she didn't take a bottle until at least her third month, which made the first weekend that Mrs. Muzzy went back to work a little hellish. And for the next year, until she was weaned, I would take AE down to see Mommy at work to nurse, as often as twice each shift. It was a bit of a trial, but it was also a labor of love, and I did it (mostly) uncomplainingly.
By AE's second birthday we noticed small things that didn't worry us, but were disconcerting: she didn't respond to her name, she didn't use speech in a normal way, she seemed excessively fearful of even moderately loud noises. After a period of assessments with the local school district and other medical practitioners, she was pronounced to be somewhere on the Autistic Spectrum, and was authorized for services.
Although the system has never pinned down her diagnosis - they try not to do so with young children - based on my research, I believe she has Aspergers, a high functioning form of Autism. She was placed in speech therapy, occupational/play therapy and in a special preschool program, all designed to build skills through early childhood intervention that would give her a better chance at being successfully main-streamed in school. It appears to have made a big difference.
One thing that has made things easier for AE has been her extremely high intelligence. She taught herself to read when she was three, and was learning math concepts by age four. She started Kindergarten last fall and, with assistance from the school district, has been doing extremely well. She has made friends and seems to enjoy herself. Although the school has no gifted child program, she is in a special reading group that meets regularly. She is currently able to read at about a sixth grade level, and regularly reads World Book Encyclopedias for fun; she is doing math work at home that is far beyond her age group. Interestingly, she does not appear bored at school, at least at this point, with the work that the rest of the class is doing, and regularly comments about how much fun the assignments are.
I recall the first day I was told of AE's diagnosis, how my heart sank. I wallowed in self-pity for about a day, but quickly realized this was silly. I promptly spent hours on the Internet, researching her condition, and the various therapies that are currently recommended. It was not always easy to determine what had value and what did not. Autism has many manifestations, and what works for some kids won't work for others, depending on the type and degree and intensity of the impairment.
But, in the end, AE has done marvelously well. Like most parents, regarding their kids, I am continually amazed by her. She is pretty, witty, smart and funny. She is very talented in so many ways, and she so often makes me so very proud. Sure, she frustrates me too, and I have to punish and reprimand her. But I praise her often and she returns the affection and admiration.
The other day, in church, she was sitting in my lap. She leaned up to my ear and whispered, "Dad, are you proud and happy to have a daughter like me?" And, of course, I answered that, yes, absolutely - yes, I am. She then responded: "Well, I am proud and happy to have a Dad like you." It doesn't get much better in life that that.
Happy Birthday, Hunny Bunny.
Janette, of Common Sense Runs Wild, has an Interview Meme running on her blog, and I (praps foolishly) submitted my name to her for my shot at glory. What follows are her questions and my answers, with the rules included at the bottom, for any others who might wish to play. So, on with it, then:
1) What do you have to feed a child on a regular basis for her to think that cat food is a treat?
Puppy Chow. (Please don't call Protective Custody. It's a joke.)
2) If you could design your own game piece for Blogopoly what would it be?
Well, I'm no good with Photoshop, but I wouldn't mind using a piece that let me pretend to be a Higher Being.
3) Do you have a living will? Why or why not? (You didn't expect all of these to be gimme's did you?)
I don't, and I'm not certain why. Ever since the Terri Schiavo horror-show. I've seriously been considering setting one up. It isn't that I don't trust my wife to carry out my wishes, but if she should die, my decisions could end up resting with those who do not have my best interests at heart. I probably will do it.
4) You can go into the past and change one thing, it can be as personal or as global as you like, what would it be?
I'd get in the Way Back Machine and set it to one minute before the Communist Party Central Committee In Charge Of Vile Kiddie Shows For Public TV comes up with the idea for Barney. I'd pull the fire alarm and send the lot of the Godless Marxists scurrying for the parking lot, then I'd bop each of them in the head with a hambone, to make sure they slept right through their Evil Barney Moment. Geez, I hate Barney.
5) Exactly what does the name "Muzzy" mean and how did you come by it?
All About Muzzy. (My kids love him.)
I put out two bird feeders in the back yark this past weekend, filled them with seed, and placed some old bird seed on the ground for the squirrels to feast on. I had told daughter number one, AE - the almost six year-old kindergartner - that I had done so to keep the squirrels from the disturbing the bird feeder.
When I came home last night from work, I found the following note, written in my lovely daughter's irregular but fully legible block-printing style, posted face-outwards, in the family room window that overlooks said bird feeders:
Please keep out of the bird feeder. Remember this note before you climb up the tree. You have your own food. Thank you. You may come in my back yard as long as you don't get into the bird feeder.
PS. Make sure you can read.
If you should ever wonder about the part of world the MOB (Minnesota Organization of Bloggers) calls home, read the well-written Wikipedia entry on Minnesota.
Also, for photos of the Twin Cities, check out the large selection at CGStock. (Most of the pics carry the agency imprint, so they won't be useful for printing, but they still give a good idea of what the area looks like.)
The just-turned two year-old second daughter LK has only recently started putting words into sentences. She's also prone to getting into all sorts of things she shouldn't, like any typical two year-old. And when things are too quiet in the next room, I assume she's into some kind of mischief. Just now was one of those times.
I'm typing this on my laptop, at the dining-room table. The child had gone off into the kitchen but was no longer there, and I couldn't hear any sounds from the family-room, beyond. I went into the kitchen to look for her, and noticed the gate to the basement was open. And, if the gate is left open, that means likely one thing: LK has slipped the surly bonds of parental supervision and has scooted down the stairs to the basement to visit one of her favorite places in the house.
Sure enough, when I got to the bottom of the stairs and rounded the corner into the laundry room, there she was: on all fours, face-down in a dish of dry cat food. She loves the stuff. The poor kitty was sitting off to the side, looking a bit miffed that he'd been muscled from his lunch, and LK was crunching a mouthful of the stuff.
I picked her up and scolded her gently but firmly as I carried her back up the stairs: "That's a no-no. Do not eat the kitty food." But how is a Dad supposed to stay angry when this beautiful child looks up, smiles a weak smile and says in a sweet, soft voice, muffled by her mouthful of Science Diet: "I'm sorry, Dahd-dee. I'm sorry."
Yeah, I gotta laugh.
And now this message:
activist? leftist? take action, get action! ActForLove.org: the dating site for activists, leftists, news junkies -- people with brains who actually care about the world. This is the place to take action AND get action.
If you didn't get enough of his wit and wisdom on the campaign trail last year, you can download an mp3 of John Edward's new podcast. It's never too early to start Campaign 2008, I say.
("Hillary! is in the secret square, and John just picked Wally Cox to block." Eh, go ask your gramps.)
I recall reading a news story online last summer about a Catholic School in Florida that was banning the use of cell phones with built-in cameras on school property. Apparently the concern came to the fore after, as the report stated, "some students in south Palm Beach County supposedly slipped their camera cellphones under girls' skirts for a digital peepshow."
Of course, as the father of two young daughters, I'm incensed at the notion that someone might ever try some stunt like that. But I am here to sheepishly admit that I distinctly recall being on a long inter-state bus ride at 14 years of age and trying an analogue version of the same thing: my best friend and I - who were travelling together - tried taping small mirrors to the toes of our shoes, strategically positioning those mirrors to try for a peep and a thrill.
To be sure, the payoff was hollow: there was no peep - the whole contraption didn't work - and no thrill. And, if caught, we could have been severely throttled by our targets, the authorities and our parents. But that did little to dampen our enthusiasm for trying, like the bear-who-went-over-the-mountain, "to see what we could see."
In retrospect, all I can say is that I was both young and stupid. But please don't think I will cut the miscreant who tries any variation of that stunt on my daughters the slightest slack. Anyone, young and stupid (or not), who tries a cell-phone up-skirt move on one of my daughters will be met with the full fury of an indignant Dad, who will roundly reject the defense that boys-will-be-boys.
Hypocritical? Absolutely. But that's what happens when boys grow up into men and have daughers. And that's what happens when an Adolescent Idjit grows up to be a Great Dad like me.
Over the past week I've mentioned Carla Bruni's wonderful Quelqu'un m'a dit more than once. But since I don't read but the most rudimentary French, and since the Babelfish does lousy translations, I searched the net and found this rather decent translation of the title track at the multi-disciplinary and intelligent A Flickering Light.
I went to Roadrunner Records in south Minneapolis, and found a copy of a
The thesis of the speech recorded here is one with which I almost agree - from the Amazon.com review - to wit that: "...most pacifist movements in the American left are delusional, and relatively useless." How true, how true. It seems Churchill has contempt for those who will refuse to engage the centers of power, in so as to destroy them. And blah, blah, blah.
I gotta say, after hearing him speak, I will grant that Churchill is an engaging speaker, and it's easy to see how silly people could have been snookered into taking him seriously. But his ideas are dangerous, and he is a seriously dangerous man. I'll defend his right to speak, but I'll also repudiate and mock him, and recommend you mock him, too.
(In case you've been hiding in the caves of Tora Bora over the past few months, know this: Churchill has been widely discredited, and has been exposed as a charlatan, liar and fraud. And, if you wish to know what kind of company he keeps, check out Zombietime's photos of three appearances of Ward Churchill in San Francisco. It's a hoot.)
I don't go in much for Quiz Thingies, but what the hey, it's the weekend, the weather's nice, it's time for a moment of whimsy. I found this one last year on Hippercritical, and saved it to my hard drive, just in case the mood should ever stike. It struck today:
1) WHAT COLOR ARE YOUR BEDROOM WALLS?
Very, very light blue.
2) WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
I'm always reading several, but right now: I Am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe, The Quest For God, by Paul Johnson, and The Soul of Battle, by Victor Davis Hanson.
3) WHAT’S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
At work, nothing. At home, I have several, including one with a photo of my two lovely daughters.
4) FAVORITE BOARD GAME?
I like Monopoly and Backgammon.
5) FAVORITE MAGAZINE?
Geez, I read a number of them and I like them all. I buy or subscribe or sponge off others: Time, Newsweek, The Economist, National Review, First Things, Wired, Create, Uncut, Blender, MacAddict, MacFormat, MacWorld, Atlantic, National Enquirer, and an occasional copy of Maxim. But my favorite? Probably Uncut, or Wired.
6) FAVORITE SMELL?
Love that new car smell.
7) FAVORITE COLOR?
8) LEAST FAVORITE COLOR?
9) HOW MANY RINGS BEFORE YOUR ANSWERING MACHINE PICKS UP?
Three. Or is it four? I dunno. I usually answer when I'm home.
10) MOST IMPORTANT MATERIAL THING IN MY LIFE?
Can't pick just one: my iBook, my Palm Pilot, my digital video and still cameras, my cellphone and my mp3 player. Well, those and my car.
11) FAVORITE FLAVOR OF ICE CREAM?
Vanilla chocolate chip HagenDaz.
12) DO YOU BREAK THE SPEED LIMIT DAILY?
Yeah, but not by alot, five or ten mph, tops. I usually drive pretty much the limit.
13) DO YOU HAVE A STUFFED ANIMAL IN YOUR ROOM SOMEWHERE?
Yup. A teddy bear.
14) STORMS - COOL OR SCARY?
Cool, but tornado warnings scare me, and send me to the basement.
15) FAVORITE DRINK?
I rarely drink alcohol, but I like a White Zin from time to time. Non alcholic beverages I drink every day, but they must have caffeine: Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Iced Tea and Guarana'.
16) WHEN IS YOUR BIRTHDAY?
June. That's all I'm sayin'.
17) FAVORITE VEGETABLES?
Corn-on-the-cob. But I also like carrots and peas (with butter).
18) IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY JOB, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Radio talk show host would be a good fit for me, probably. Definitely not a ballet dancer.
19) IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY COLOR HAIR, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I've had auborn hair that was almost a fiery red when I was a kid. What hair I have left today is almost brown. I'd prefer if it were a little more auborn. But even more, I'd prefer more hair.
20) HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN LOVE?
Yeah, several times.
21) TOP THREE FAVORITE MOVIES (IN ORDER)?
3) Apocalypse Now, 2) The Usual Suspects, 1) Casablanca
22) DO YOU TYPE WITH YOUR FINGERS ON THE RIGHT KEYS?
Yeah, I took typing in 9th and 10th grades. But I'm not a great typist.
23) WHAT’S UNDER YOUR BED?
What's NOT under my bed? I'm afraid to find out.
24) WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE NUMBER?
Twenty-one. It's when you're old enough to drink in my state, and it wins in blackjack.
25) FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH ON TV & IN PERSON?
I grew up on soccer, but I kind of dig a well-played volleball match.
26) WHAT IS YOUR SINGLE BIGGEST FEAR?
Well, pain, really. But I am more paralyzed by social phobias than anything else, like being mocked or dismissed. I still suffer tremendous separation anxiety, probably stemming from the death of my younger sister, when I was nine.
27) FAVORITE CD OF ALL TIME - & RIGHT NOW?
A nearly impossible pick, but I'll say of All Time, "Abbey Road" by the Beatles, and right now, this week, "Quelqu’un m’a dit," by Carla Bruni.
28) FAVORITE TV SHOW OF ALL TIME & RIGHT NOW?
All time? Seinfeld. Right now? American Idol.
29) HAMBURGERS OR HOT DOGS?
Burgers, particularly California Cheeseburgers. Yum.
30) THE COOLEST PLACES YOU’VE EVER BEEN?
The mountains of Eastern Tennessee; the Rocky Mountains in New Mexico; a beach in Pernambuco, Brazil; a hillside outside San Jose, Costa Rica; Monserrat in Columbia; the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California; the Huntington Museum and Gardens in Pasedena California; the Shannendoah Valey, in Virginia; the North Shore of Lake Superior, Minnesota; the entire Smithsonian Museum system in Washington, DC; two yards in front of the Van Gogh Olive Grove painting at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
31) WHAT WALLPAPER AND/OR SCREENSAVER IS ON YOUR COMPUTER RIGHT NOW?
Well, it's usually turned off, but I cycle through a folder of photos of my two lovely daughters. (And not anything from Sports Illustrated. I deleted all those files years ago, ok?)
32) DOES MCDONALD’S SKIMP ON YOUR FRIES & DO YOU CARE?
They seem to supersize everthing, even when I don't want them to. They're pretty good-tasting, too. And I don't care.
33) FAVORITE CHAIN RESTAURANT?
I like Appleby's, but Red Lobster is pretty good, too.
34) IF YOU HAVE A BOY (OR HAVE ANOTHER BOY) WHAT WOULD YOU NAME HIM?
I gotta say, I never really wanted to have a boy all that much. I was tickled to have girls. But if I had I might have named him Robert, after my dad.
35) IF YOU COULD LEARN TO PLAY ONE INSTRUMENT OVERNIGHT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I play guitar passably, and piano a little, but I would like to be a virtuoso on guitar, classical AND rock.
The United States Post Office maintains a list of countries, and the restrictions on what is prohibited from being posted to those countries. A random selection of Prohibited items - from a random selection of countries - follows:
To Albania: Extravagant clothes and other articles contrary to Albanians' taste; Items sent by political emigres; Literature, publications, and other articles prejudicial to the State public order; Used articles.
To Australia: Fruit cartons (used or new); Goods bearing the name "Anzac;" Registered philatelic articles with fictitious addresses; Seditious literature; Silencers for firearms; Used bedding.
To Bangladesh: American cotton; Coffee plants, coffee seeds and coffee beans; Hemp; Obscene books, pamphlets, papers, drawings, paintings, figures, or articles; Piece goods ordinarily sold by the yard or by the piece manufactured outside of Bangladesh and not stamped to indicate the length in meters, yards, or fractions thereof; Quinine, colored pink.
To China: Chinese currency; Manuscripts, printed matter, photographic negatives, gramophone records, films, magnetic tapes, video tapes, etc., which could do political, economical, cultural, or moral harm to the People's Republic of China; Radio receivers, transmitters or receivers of all kinds, walkie-talkies and parts thereof; valves, antennae, etc; Wrist-watches, cameras, television sets, radio sets, tape records, bicycles, sewing machines, and ventilators.
To Cyprus: Books or other publications giving instructions regarding the construction, operation, maintenance, or care of any prohibited firearm, other than a harpoon gun used for fishing purposes, and excluding books and publications imported by the Cyprus Police Force or any Cyprus Department of Government; Daggers; Leeches and silkworms; Postcards of private manufacture having illustrated designs not previously approved by the Cyprus Post Office; Seditious publications.
To Dominican Republic: Books addressed to bookshops in care of banking institutions; Poniards, daggers, stilettos, sticks, or fans with concealed blades or firearms; Roulette games and other gambling devices.
To France: Cigarette lighters using butane gas; Feeding bottles; Funeral urns; Goods bearing false marks of French manufacture or origin; Human remains; Imitation pearls containing lead salts and any articles of jewelry made with pearls of this type; Measuring instruments marked in units not complying with French law; Saccharine in tablets or packets.
To Germany: Absinthe; Arms and weapons; Articles bearing political or religious notations on the address side; Human remains; Melatonin; Playing cards, except in complete decks properly wrapped; Pulverized coca beans.
To Israel: Blank invoices with headings; Cigarettes exceeding 600; Dairy products, except for canned powdered milk; Fish and fish products, except for canned items; Fresh fruits and vegetables; Games of chance; Indecent or obscene marks, paintings, photographs, books, cards, lithographs, or engravings; Lottery tickets and advertisements; Soil and sand; Spices exceeding 1 kg; Tobacco, in various forms, exceeding 600 grams.
To Italy: Albums of any kind (of photographs, postcards, postage stamps, etc; Artificial flowers and fruits and accessories for them; Bells and other musical instruments and parts thereof; Cartridge caps; cartridges; Clocks and supplies for clocks; Compound medicaments and medicines; Coral mounted in any way; Ether and chloroform; Exposed photographic and cinematographic films; Footwear of any kind; Haberdashery and sewn articles of any kind, including trimmings and lace; handkerchiefs; scarves; shawls, needlework including stockings and gloves; bonnets, caps, and hats of any kind; Hair and articles made of hair; Human remains; Leather goods; Lighters and their parts, including lighter flints; Live bees, leeches, and silkworms; Nutmeg, vanilla; sea salt, rock salt; saffron; Parasites and predators of harmful insects; Perfumery goods of all kinds (except soap); Playing cards of any kind; Postage stamps in sealed or unsealed letter-post shipments; Ribbons for typewriters; Roasted or ground coffee and its substitutes; roasted chicory; Saccharine and all products containing saccharine; Salted, smoked or otherwise prepared meats; fats; and lard; Toys not made wholly of wood.
To Nepal: Bearings of all kinds; Cameras; Cardamon; Cinnamon; Cloves; paper; Synthetic fibres (75 denier or less); Watches and spare parts.
To North Korea: All merchandise is prohibited.
To Uganda: Japanese shaving brushes; Lottery tickets and advertisements concerning lotteries.
The United Kingdom: Any postal item containing enclosures addressed to different persons at different addresses; Citizens Band Radios, walkie-talkies, microbugs, and radio microphones that are capable of transmitting on any frequency between 26.1 and 29.7 megacycles per second and 88 to 108 Mhz per second; Goods made in foreign prisons, except those imported for a non-commercial purpose or of a kind not manufactured in the UK; Horror comics and matrices; Obscene articles, prints, paintings, cards, films, videotapes, etc; Seal skins except those from an accepted source.
It's Friday AM in these parts and, with the weekend Sabbath just over the horizon, what better time for an abridged selection by H.L. Mencken, on men and women and their differing perceptions of actors, from A Mencken Chrestomathy, originally published in Prejudices: Fourth Series, and in The Smart Set, April 1919.
Men of all other trades always contemplate the actor with lifted eyebrow and superior snort; I myself, casting about for chances to prove my own lofty quality, have had at him many a time, hissing at him and mocking him. But on blue days it often occurs to me that nine-tenths of the unanimous masculine scorn may be buncombe - that other men dislike actors, not because they are intrinsically disgusting, but because women like them - in brief, because of jealousy. For women do like them; it would be silly to deny it; not even aviators are such heroes at tea-parties; a women's club favored with a lecture on Shakespeare by Lionel Balderdash turns out to the last flapper and grandma.
Well, what is the attraction? An actor is empty of ideas; he is bombastic; he is ignorant; he is lazy; he is got up absurdly; he has the manners of a head waiter or a fashionable gynecologist. And yet the gals indubitably incline toward him. No doubt the answer, like most answers to human riddles, is very complex; one cannot hope to put it into a sentence. Part of it, I fancy, is to be found in this fact: that the actor is free from the smell of commerce and yet shows none of the social detachment that goes with the authentic professions. The average American woman is tired of business men and their ways. Her husband is typically a business man; his friends are business men; most of the men she meets are business men. She knows, by long experience, what oafs they are; she knows that they are as hollow as so many jugs; she revolts against their naive stupidity and sentimentality. But when she turns to superior classes of men she immediately misses something. These men are quite as intelligent as she is, and hence do not take her seriously. Her whole technique thus goes to pieces. Here the actor, like the clergyman, comes to the bat. Putatively a professional man and showing some of the outward signs of a professional man, he is yet as simple-minded at bottom as a cheesemonger. Thus, when he turns his blather upon a woman, he gives her the illusion that she is beset by a man who is at once intellectual and idiotic, her full equal and her abject slave - in brief, by the ideal of her dreams. And to help out this benign hallucination there is the actor's elaborately urgent, creamy, unctuous and flattering manner - a thing as much a part of his stock in trade as his shaven upper lip, his broad 'a' or the perfect hang of his pantaloons.
Nevertheless, I still seem to detect the faint glare of something else on the horizon. Men may dislike actors because women like them, but they also dislike them on their own account. Perhaps the really fundamental objection to them, stripping the business of all mere sophistry and snobbery, is that they give away the idiotic vanity of the whole male sex. An actor is simply a man who, by word and strut, says aloud of himself what all normal men think of themselves. Thus he exposes, in a highly indiscreet and disconcerting manner, the full force of masculine vanity. But I doubt he exaggerates it. No healthy male is ever actually modest. No healthy male ever really thinks or talks of anything save himself. His conversation is one endless boast - often covert, but always undiluted. Even his theology is seldom more than a stealthy comparison of himself and God, to the disadvantage of God... The youngest flapper knows all this. Feminine strategy, in the duel of sex, consists almost wholly of an adroit feeding of this vanity. Man makes love by braggadocio. Woman makes love by pretending to believe.
I copped this letter from John Cleese addressed to The Colonies, from Janette of Common Sense Runs Wild. Janette insists it's bogus, which I believe, since I've seen it around the net for years. But it's no less funny for being a hoax. Read on:
To the citizens of the United States of America, In the light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy.
Your new prime minister (The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a minister for America without the need for further elections.
Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:
1. You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up "aluminium". Check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour', skipping the letter 'U' is nothing more than laziness on your part. Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters. You will end your love affair with the letter 'Z' (pronounced 'zed' not 'zee') and the suffix "ize" will be replaced by the suffix "ise". You will learn that the suffix 'burgh is pronounced 'burra' e.g. Edinburgh. You are welcome to respell Pittsburgh as 'Pittsberg' if you can't cope with correct pronunciation. Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up "vocabulary". Using the same twenty seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. Look up "interspersed". There will be no more 'bleeps' in the Jerry Springer show. If you're not old enough to cope with bad language then you shouldn't have chat shows. When you learn to develop your vocabulary then you won't have to use bad language as often.
2. There is no such thing as "US English". We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of "-ize".
3. You should learn to distinguish the English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard. English accents are not limited to cockney, upper-class twit or Mancunian (Daphne in Frasier). You will also have to learn how to understand regional accents - Scottish dramas such as "Taggart" will no longer be broadcast with subtitles. While we're talking about regions, you must learn that there is no such place as Devonshire in England. The name of the county is "Devon". If you persist in calling it Devonshire, all American States will become "shires" e.g. Texasshire, Floridashire, Louisianashire.
4. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as the good guys. Hollywood will be required to cast English actors to play English characters. British sit-coms such as "Men Behaving Badly" or "Red Dwarf" will not be re-cast and watered down for a wishy-washy American audience who can't cope with the humour of occasional political incorrectness.
5. You should relearn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen", but only after fully carrying out task 1. We would not want you to get confused and give up half way through.
6. You should stop playing American "football". There is only one kind of football. What you refer to as American "football" is not a very good game. The 2.15% of you who are aware that there is a world outside your borders may have noticed that no one else plays "American" football. You will no longer be allowed to play it, and should instead play proper football. Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls. It is a difficult game. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which is similar to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like nancies). We are hoping to get together at least a US Rugby sevens side by 2005. You should stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the 'World Series' for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.15% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. Instead of baseball, you will be allowed to play a girls' game called "rounders" which is baseball without fancy team strip, oversized gloves, collector cards or hotdogs.
7. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry guns. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous in public than a vegetable peeler. Because we don't believe you are sensible enough to handle potentially dangerous items, you will require a permit if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
8. July 4th is no longer a public holiday. November 2nd will be a new national holiday, but only in England. It will be called "Indecisive Day".
9. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and it is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean. All road intersections will be replaced with roundabouts. You will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.
10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips. Fries aren't even French, they are Belgian though 97.85% of you (including the guy who discovered fries while in Europe) are not aware of a country called Belgium. Those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called "crisps". Real chips are thick cut and fried in animal fat. The traditional accompaniment to chips is beer which should be served warm and flat. Waitresses will be trained to be more aggressive with customers.
11. As a sign of penance 5 grams of sea salt per cup will be added to all tea made within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, this quantity to be doubled for tea made within the city of Boston itself.
12. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all, it is lager. From November 1st only proper British Bitter will be referred to as "beer", and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as "Lager". The substances formerly known as "American Beer" will henceforth be referred to as "Near-Frozen Knat's Urine", with the exception of the product of the American Budweiser company whose product will be referred to as "Weak Near-Frozen Knat's Urine". This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in Pilsen, Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.
13. From November 10th the UK will harmonise petrol (or "Gasoline" as you will be permitted to keep calling it until April 1st 2005) prices with the former USA. The UK will harmonise its prices to those of the former USA and the Former USA will, in return, adopt UK petrol prices roughly $6/US gallon - get used to it).
14. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.
15. Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us crazy. Tax collectors from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all revenues due (backdated to 1776).
16. Last but not the least, and for heaven's sake.....it's Nuclear as in "clear" NOT Nucular.
Thank you for your co-operation and have a great day.