Monday, December 23, 2013

Good help is hard to find

Here's the problem with supermodels



Sure, they're easy on the eyes. But give them a little praise, a little notoriety, and they start believing their own press. They fall in with a bad crowd,



a crowd that drives too fast and parties all night.



Before you know it, what you've got on your hands is a sack full of attitude --



And a model who shows up three hours late,



in no shape for the morning photo shoot.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

History: A lie agreed upon



My grasp of history might be different from yours. We all approach these things from, I think, a unique and not totally pragmatic perspective. Our take on human history will be colored by what we discover, coupled with the stories we've heard since infancy.

Much depends on our cultural experience.

Many of my cultural experiences took place in a car, when the parents would drive us wee kids and our sleeping bags, transport us in the back of a green '65 Rambler station wagon to the local drive-in.

As these were events of an educational nature, there was nothing fun nor remotely salacious promised. I.e, no James Bond; no popcorn. We were not on a pleasure trip.

We arrived at the Thunderbird Drive-In, all work, no play; to learn, history and literature. But mostly history, because Dad liked epic cinematic sweeps. And if we weren't prepared to learn, then we could just pipe down, stop cackling, or he'd turn this car around, and is that what we wanted, is that what we really wanted, because if we kept on this way, well, don't ask him twice, because he'd do it in a heartbeat, just try him. Go on, just one more word.

We decided to learn.

And some lessons have stayed with me all through life. The 60's cinematic epics taught me:

That during any significant period in human history -- the 20th C Arab uprising, WWI, WWII, or the Russian revolution -- Alec Guinness would be there, every step of the way, to bear witness. In some strange accent that one can only describe as Guinness-stan.

That everyone, from the beginning of time, all civilizations, spoke a common language, and that language was English, though with various results. Like, someone could live next door to a Russian, and the Russian would sound German and the neighbor, Italian; and the Polish brother would be Irish and the Irish brother from Cleveland. And the Arabs, don't get me started.

Plus, if Omar Sharif starred as the hero in and as anything -- a Mongol, Russian, German, or Swede -- don't get your hopes up, he's toast.

So, my grasp of international history is, well, wanting. Wanting for something other than David Lean.

In middle school, I had a history teacher, who was actually the boys' gym coach. I mean, he doubled as our history teacher; the real one was on sick leave. The school must have been desperate, because Mr. Burleigh seemed rather out of his element, talking about Sow-Doo Arabia, and such.

But I liked Mr. Burleigh, and he liked me. He knew me, through the gymnastics team. He never called me Karin, but Miss BOO-gay. And I rather liked that.

In history class, one day he unfurled a map of eastern Europe and touched the map with one of those pointy sticks, "This is the Soviet Union. Who is prepared to talk about it?" Because he obviously wasn't.

And Mr. Burleigh was sweating some, and had pushed his shirt sleeves up, exposing his muscular forearms.

Some in the class giggled.

I couldn't let them humiliate Mr. Burleigh. So I stood up and said, "Well, actually, Mr. Burleigh, I have a good story to share, and it starts before the Russian Revolution..." I talked for 40 minutes, about the Reds and the Whites, through a filter of Julie Christie, Tom Courtenay, Ralph Richardson, and whatever I could remember through a second filter, the Rambler, a few years back.

It went over well. And the bell rang.

"Thank you, Miss BOO-gay," said Mr. Burleigh. "Today, we learned something,"

I could only think we hadn't, much; except, maybe, how to be a friend.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lion in Summer



Friday, December 13, 2013

Happy Holidays, But Keep the Cross




I may be an atheist, but I'm not a pain in the ass atheist. In my book, a pain in the ass atheist is every bit as bad if not worse than a pain in the ass Christian. Because why the hell be a non-believer if you're just going to get all evangelical about it, go around quoting from your own jaw-droppingly boring catechism.

So there's this cross in a San Diego graveyard that's been honoring dead war veterans for 60 years, and a bunch of PainITA atheists sued the state to take it down. Apparently, the cross rests on government property. And looks like they've won.

"'This is a victory for religious liberty,' said Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's program on freedom of religion and belief who argued the matter for the plaintiffs in a hearing on Thursday." (LA Times)

Shut the fuck up, you self-righteous old windbag, sez I. The only victory here is that you destroyed a piece of history and got your name in the paper.

I'm perfectly comfortable with crosses, Stars of David, Buddhas, and the like. When something bad comes my way and a Catholic or a Muslim says, "I'll pray for you," I don't drone on about why I think the prayer won't work; no, I'm just grateful someone cares.

Let me make an ineffectual gesture of my own, ie, sign someone's petition to keep the cross. A cross in a graveyard can mean something lovely, even to a heathen like me -- I consider it a symbol of respect, hope, and comfort.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Words



Have you ever been in the middle of a debate -- or say, a friendly verbal exchange -- and suddenly a word pops out of your mouth; a word you've never used in your whole life?

"Verisimilitude," for example. And then the rest of the conversation is lost on you, because you're so intrigued with how this word got purchase in your brain, why it took this particular moment to make its appearance. "Verisimilitude," you think, "Verisimilitude? What the hell is that?"

But if, in the background, the chatter continues, you think, "Yes, score! I got it right."

It takes you back to when you first learned a language, something beyond nouns and verbs. The first time language touched concepts -- and you knew words could embrace something greater than an's or is's or even a does.

I used "confluence" for the first time, recently. Oh, my friends have been conflueing this and that for ages, but I couldn't. So I sort of pledged, sub-consciously, that sometime this year, I would find the perfect moment (it's like waiting for the double-dutch jump ropes to invite you in), to enter "confluence" somewhere during a conversation.

Nailed it.

What can I say? For me, language is both a religious experience and a competitive sport.

Next on the list: Diaspora and marginalia. Both very popular among my set. And even though ephemera seems to be huge this year, I'll pass and stick with stuff.