Saturday, December 18, 2004

Truth in Advertising
Have you seen those IBM commmercials where the guys are in Paris and look around and see things like "wireless internet" and "deals being closed?" Those always make me laugh. Having worked for IBM, I can say that behavior is exactly what IBM would like their ideal employee to do. Even if they weren't in Paris on business, the ideal IBM-er would sit in a sidewalk cafe and see, not history, art, beauty, or romance, but commerce, technology, and non-stop business. At last, truth in advertising. They're not kidding when they use the slogan "on-deman business," because when IBM demands it, you do business, dammit!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Fa la la la la
Here's my new favorite Christmas song!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Protect Us From Dangerous Chess Players

Have you heard about this? Bobby Fischer, former US Chess Champion is in limbo in Japan because he's wanted in the US for violating international sanctions by visiting Yugoslavia in 1992 to play chess. His passport's been cancelled by the US, he's applied for citizenship in Germany (due to his German father) and has just been given asylum in Iceland. Don't we have bigger problems that trying to jail some guy who played chess over 10 years ago?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Plot Thickens...
Recently my beloved husband was, justifiably so, incredibly pleased with himself to have discovered the murderer early in the course of a murder mysery he was reading. Similarly, I was taken aback when watching a mystery movie to discover my prime suspect had, in fact, become victim number two.

What is it about mysteries that are so compelling? Is it as simple as the comfort derived from knowing that the bad guy will get caught and there will be justice? Certainly that's part of it. In today's world when everything seems overly complicated and justice often dictated by public opinion, there is a level of satisfaction in knowing that Hercule Poirot or Lord Peter Whimsey or whoever will solve the crime and the perpetrator will be punished.

And speaking of punishment, I am truly glad the Scott Peterson trial is over. I am, however, apalled at the people who aplauded when the death penalty was announced. Even more so when I saw a woman being interviewed by the local news about how glad she was he was going to die, and then driving off in her SUV with a pro-life sticker. Does anyone else see this as contradictory? If life is sacred to you, then all life should be sacred -- even the life of a conviced killer. And nobody's death, even someone who may have done evil things, should ever be a cause of rejoicing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Man, Philadelphia is one tough town

Recently police in Philadelphia arrested and handcuffed a 10-year old girl for bringing a pair of scissors to school in her backpack. They have since apologized. Personally, I think they were right. How proud I am to live in a country where I am protected from children armed with arts-and-crafts supplies. Do you have any idea how dangerous glitter can be in the hands of someone determined to do harm?

Somewhere along the line, America has lost all common sense. OK, scary as it is, I understand that a few troubled kids may try to bring guns and knives to school with them. But a little girl with scissors? Please. What lack of judgement decides that this is an offense deserving of handcuffing and arrest? Take the scissors away, fine. Send her to the principal's office, not jail. Good lord, people, where are your brains? Laws against bringing weapons to school were meant to cover automatic rifles, not some poor kid innocently bringing in scissors with no intent to harm.

Perhaps it's just Philadelphia, a town so tough that they once infamously booed Santa Claus at a sporting event. A town where the previous football stadium had its own holding cell and courtroom. But I know it's not limited to the "city of brotherly love." All across the US people are overreacting. Grandmothers who can't bring knitting needles onto airplanes because they may decide to purl a flight attendant. (Personally, if you're so terrified of knitting needles that you'd rather give up control of the plane rather than be poked by one should pretty much prevent you from being a flight attendant in my book.)

It would all be hilarious if it weren't so terrifying. That hated class of people known as "spokespersons" are notorious for comments like "well, those are the rule and we can't make exceptions." To which I can only ask "why not?" Why not use a little common sense. Why not understand that there's a huge difference between trying to bring a stick of dynamite onto an airplane and someone trying to come on with a manicure set that includes cuticle scissors? And, above all, why not realize that we're more in danger by continuing to foster this climate of fear in which individual rights are trampled on than we ever can be by a 10-year old with office supplies?

Monday, December 13, 2004

It hurt me...but then I got better

What is it with publishers? Why is it the review quotes that they choose to put on the covers of books always make me want to throw the book across the room rather than part with $15 to buy the damned thing?

Today I went to the library (god bless libraries!) to get this month's book group selection (For Kings and Planets by Ethan Canin) and found this quote on the cover: "Shimmering...luminous...For Kings and Planets leaves you wounded and healed." This comment (from the NY Times) does not fill me with confidence.

I do not wish my books to wound me. I mean if they are going to wound me, it's very considerate of them to heal me as well, but I really don't want to be wounded, thanks all the same. I want my books to entertain me, make me laugh, make the think, take me away from my world and show me another world. But I do not want them to wound me.

I am, however, comforted by the fact that this book is hardly likely to wound me. I seem to be invulnerable to book reviews. I have yet to have my life affirmed by any book described as "life-affirming." Novels practically guaranteed to change me have yet to do more than make me nauseous. And anything that has the word "moving" in any of the chosen review quotes usually means, as far as I'm concerned, pretentious and dull.

For Kings and Planets has another quote that describes it as: "Masterful...a classic parable of the human condition."

Um...what exactly is the human condition? I've never been able to figure that out. Perhaps after reading this book and deciphering the parable I'll be able to understand what the human condition is, but truly I'm mystified. Various other novels have been touted as "touching on," "commenting on," "explaining," "challenging" and otherwise denting the ever-present human condition, and yet here I am, thousands of books later and still none the wiser about what this damned condition is. You'd think, as a human, that I should know this. In fact you'd think, as a human, it would be a requirement for membership in the homo sapien club. And yet here I sit, clueless about the human condition.

I think that's why I like animals so much. Animals rarely, if ever, have enough pretention to refer to an exploration of the "canine condition," or the "avian condition."

Plots, dammit, I want plots, not "a breathtaking commentary" on anything.

Why can't people write anymore?