Some years ago, I recommended that the Economics Department at UWO set up an Amazon.ca referral account, and put links to Amazon on all the course websites for students to order their texts directly. The students would be able to get books cheaper than at the University Bookstore, and the department would be able to raise some cash through referral commissions. I even volunteered to set everything up.
Alas, the recommendation was rejected, but not for the reason I expected. I figured that in an attempt to extract monopoly rents from the students, the university had/has some policy that doesn't allow such a circumventing of University Bookstore sales .
But no. The reason given was that doing so smacked of commercializing education, something perceived as a "no no" I guess.
I let it go. I was near retirement age and was tired of picky battles. And to be honest, I have no idea whether such a thing is even possible with Amazon (though I strongly suspect it is).
I was reminded of this event from my past when I read Don Boudreaux's wonderful post at Cafe Hayek yesterday on "Crass Commercialism". It is a terrific piece. Here are a few snippets:
Those activities that regularly get labeled as “crass” are those that appeal to the masses. Hollywood blockbusters are “crass”; indie movies are cool. Pop music is “crass”; John Cage’s music is cool. McDonald’s is “crass”; artisan cheesemakers are cool. Wal-Mart is “crass”; a boutique merchant selling hand-knitted sweaters is cool. Supermarkets are “crass”; farmers’ markets are cool. Shopping malls are “crass”; small stores tucked into basements along Bleecker Street are cool. Barnes & Noble and Amazon are “crass”; independent bookstores each specializing in only one genre of literature are cool. Home Depot is “crass”; a mom’n’pop hardware store is cool. DisneyWorld is “crass”; Iceland’s fjords are cool. American football is “crass”; soccer (in America) is cool. The suburbs are “crass”; Georgetown is cool. Budweiser is “crass”; Sierra Nevada brews are cool. White zinfandel from California is “crass”; rosés from Bandol are cool.
This list can be greatly extended, but you get the picture: whenever and wherever entrepreneurs and businesses adopt business models that appeal to large numbers of people, they are called “crass.” Far more appealing, apparently, are entrepreneurs and businesses that refuse to seek larger profits by catering to large numbers of people. Cool are the entrepreneurs and businesses that ignore the desires of the masses and concentrate their attentions on serving only a select handful of customers – as it happens, customers typically with above-average incomes. (Quite the opposite holds for politicians: when a politician adopts a populist political position, he or she is often hailed as a pioneering “Progressive.” Catering the masses politically is widely regarded to be commendable; catering to the masses commercially is widely regarded to be contemptible. Strange that.)
For this, Professor Boudreaux deserves honourary membership in the Philistine Liberation Organization.
I made plans to see "The Library" at the London Fringe Festival last night because two of my friends were in the cast. It turned out they had both withdrawn from the cast "because of schedule conflicts". Good move on their part.
The play was performed in the basement of a vintage clothing shop. No fooling. Basement. Rafters, cement floor, posts, stairs in the middle, bare lightbulbs, zero sightlines, hard chairs or seating on the floor. It was a basement.
Before we went down the stairs, we were warned that there was incense and turmeric being burned during the play. I joked to my friend, "Yeah, sure. It's dope." I wish it had been. I might have enjoyed the show if I had been under the influence of second-hand dope smoke.
After the announcements, we were allowed to go down the stairs to the venue in the basement. The stairs were none-too-great for older people with trifocals, that's for sure. And no handrail on the upper half of the stairs. Nevertheless, I made it down ok, and grabbed a chair in a place where I hoped to be able to see most of what was going on.
The play opened with some young woman, dressed in a tight white one-piece thing (a teddy?) wearing a massive cod piece.
Okay, more weirdness, I'm thinking. Then she started conversing with a guitar player who was at the other end of the basement, and some guys dressed in yellow came down the stairs.
After about 2-3 minutes I noticed people across from me rolling their eyes. Despite the fact that the actors were using the stairs all the time, those folks left after 20 minutes. I would have, too, if it wouldn't have been so frickn obvious from where I was sitting.
What the heck was the play about? My best guess is that it was about people wanting to explore different sexual pleasures but constantly being thwarted by some morality cops who got theirs in the end.
So we got to watch all sorts of simulated sexual acts. Sorry folks, but it didn't work for me. What I saw only vaguely showed what the programme promised: Bollywood drag queen, executioners, musical passion. Huh?
But the acting was spotty (at best), the dialogue (if you can call it that) was often inaudible, the music was egregiously too loud about half the time, and the script was horrible. It seemed like self-indulgent nonsense.
I will grant that I am from a demographic cohort that probably is not the target audience for this type of play. But the folks who walked out (oh, why couldn't there have been an intermission after 10 minutes so I could have left somewhat discreetly?) were all young adults likely in their 20s. I later heard that people walked out on other performances as well. I don't blame them.
If you want to support daring, sloppy, and self-indulgent, you may want to see this. But for me it was the worst theatre experience of my entire life.
I'll give it 1.2/5 as a rating. The .2 is for the positive things I listed above, but I wish I'd stayed home to watch the Jays on television.
And that reminds me. I think Ian Klymchuk got off easy with the show he saw but didn't like.
The Dulwich Picture Gallery made it known that they had replaced one of their Masters' paintings with a replica ordered from China for $120US. The result:
For nearly three months, visitors to London's Dulwich Picture Gallery have pored over 270 paintings in its permanent collection, including works by Rembrandt, Rubens and Gainsborough, knowing that there was one $120 (109-euro) fake in their midst.
Around 3,000 people voted for their pick of the replica, but only 300 correctly identified it as French artist Jean-Honore Fragonard's 18th century portrait "Young Woman". ...
The experiment was the brainchild of American artist Doug Fishbone, who wanted to "throw down the gauntlet" to museum-goers and make them look more closely at the great works.
This marketing technique is wonderful. It tells people up front what is going on. It doesn't involve having someone surreptitiously hang a fake and then proudly announce that nobody noticed it. That kind of power-play, I-know-something-you-don't-know would really irritate people. This strategy, however, says "We've done something; it will be difficult to spot and not even all the experts will correctly identify it. Can you?"
I also like the idea that we can get superb reproductions of masters' works so inexpensively.
Over a decade ago, my older son (aka David Ricardo Palmer) and I constructed this arch. It was displayed that spring at both the Bright's Grove and the Blyth art galleries.
Our artists' statement is a reflection of the existentialism inherent in the Myth of Sisyphus.
L' Arc des Perdants Anonymes
(The Arch of the Anonymous Losers):
A Celebration of the Existential Quest
Like many triumphal arches, this sculpture is a celebration. In this work, we celebrate the process of continued search and quest despite not reaching a specific goal or prize.
Constructed entirely of losing cups from the 2004 Tim Hortons "Roll Up the Rim to Win" contest, our work is rooted in the ontological search for meaning. People who search for meaning in life are often frustrated, feeling lost when they are unable to arrive at some clear and definitive sense of purpose. The existential answer lies in the joy and value of the search activity itself.
We see the experience of playing the Tim Horton lottery as a reflection of this search. People buy cups of coffee hoping to win a big prize. They lose. They go back for more. And the process makes people smile. This simple, day-to-day process is a symbolic representation of the joie de vivre that is evinced in the human experiential quest for meaning.
L' Arc des Perdants Anonymes is constructed with nearly 3000 used, losing cups from the Tim Hortons 2004 contest. The artists used approximately 10 pounds of glue sticks to construct the sections of the structure. These sections are held together in places with 3M hook and loop material. The artists gratefully acknowledge the assistance of their families and persons at their respective workplaces for their assistance.
For more photos and information, see this.
For over 40 years I have enjoyed going to Stratford to watch plays, including many by Shakespeare. Before that I saw Hamlet at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, and King Lear at Carleton College. I've read many/most(?) of Shakespeare's plays, and I even played a Shakespeare scholar in one of my first mystery dinner theatre shows.
I remember quite enjoying reading Julius Caesar in 10th grade and Macbeth in 12th grade in high school.
But never have I acted in a play by Shakespeare.... until now. I will be playing Theseus, Duke of Athens, in a production of Midsummer Night's Dream (The Arts Project, April 7-11).
Here, slightly edited, is my take on this endeavour, as I wrote it to Jack and JR:
Not that you need this advice, but never NEVER agree to do a Shakespeare role. You may disagree with this, but that guy cannot write for crap: his words and word orders are so messed up that it is nearly impossible to learn the frickn lines.
For example, "and as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown.... blah blah blah. "
I know what it means, but trying to learn those words in that order is quite a challenge (at least for me).
As I said to Jack and JR, "Never again, unless it's a really small role."
I know I have many friends who are likely to disagree with my assessment of Shakespeare's plays; and I know I will likely still enjoy watching performances of them; I might even enjoy (re)reading some of them, but I really do not enjoy trying to learn the lines.
I realize the word order is driven, at least in part, by the "need" for iambic pentameter; but lines like,
"I wonder if the lion be to speak,"
just don't roll off the tongue. And metre cannot possibly be the explanation for this line:
Now is the mural down between the two neighbours.
unless you really want to mess with the emphasis on the syllables:
now IS the MUral DOWN beTWEEN the TWO neighBOURS? HUH?
Maybe it's just the Philistine in me, re-emerging. After all, I am the self-declared chair of the Philistine Liberation Organization.
Ian Klymchuk no longer has access to a place to publish his reviews, so I have agreed to post his reviews here on this blog. It's nice to see him reviewing things and places again after all these years.
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Persephone – A lot of skin and muscle
A review by Ian Klymchuk
So Heather and me was sitting on a patio enjoying a cool beverage when who should stroll by but our good friends Ben and Dottie. So we asked ‘em to come on in and enjoy a brew or two with us.
They came into the patio, but Bennie has all them heart and stomach problems, so he had a “fizzy water” – club soda. Dot had a white wine, and we settled into enjoying the weather and the atmosphere.
Then Dottie, bless her blessed soul, says, “We’re going to see at dance show at the Convention Centre. Why don’t you two come along? “
Me: What??? You want ME to go see some dance nonsense??? You gotta be kidding me.
Finally, Heather makes it clear that she wants to go with Ben and Dot to see this show (it’s part of the London Fringe, 2014). It’s called Persephone. I kept calling it PER-seh-phone, but I guess the right way to say it is Per-SEH-fo-knee. What do they know, hunh? So to maintain marital harmony, I go along.
On the way there, I says to Benny, “What are you doing? I can’t stand this stuff, and I know you can’t either!”
Benny says, “Yah, I know. But the Jays played this afternoon, so I didn’t have an excuse. What’s worse, they was shut out.”
So we get to the place where the dance is gonna be. … they call it a “venue”. We can’t go in when we get there. HUH?
We can’t buy a beer. We can’t even buy a friggn white wine, like them artsy types drink. We gotta wait until five minutes before the show starts. Then we can go in. Man, this is gonna be torture.
So we go in, and we make sure our cellphones are turned off. And we’re chattin’ away like we always do before a show.
And then suddenly it hits me that HEY! Those are bodies laying around all over the stage! And they ain’t got much on.! Wow, is that ever cool! I’m sort of excited and I nudge Benny, thinking maybe this will be pretty something, if you know what I mean.
The lights go down and the music starts. The bodies start moving. When there are lots of bodies on stage doing stuff, they actually impress me. There’s something that looks like them famous art prints the way they moved [EE: Ian had seen my book of M.C.Escher prints; I think he was referring to some of those], and even when they wasn’t quite together, I figured they planned that cause they moved together right after that.
I liked the group stuff better than the solo stuff. Maybe that’s because sometimes it reminded me of the CFL cheerleaders, who look real good with all them moves and throwing their hair around. Or maybe it’s because it reminded me of synchronized swimming. I don’t know what it was, but it was pretty nice. And I liked how they used the stage and the front row space for a bunch of the dancing.
And, I gotta admit, the concluding formations was really something. And another good thing? It lasted only about 40 minutes.
Me, I don’t much like watching dancing. But I did like watching all them young dancers who was so fit. And I did like watching all the coordinated moves they made.
But I got two questions.
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Ian Klymchuk is president of the Lucan Chapter of the Philistine Liberation Organization. After a nearly two – decade hiatus, he has decided to start writing reviews again. His early reviews can be seen here: http://home.cabletv.on.ca/~econoclast/plo/Klymchuk/klymchuk.html
Unfortunately, neither he nor I have access to that site any longer, so I’ll probably just post his future reviews here on EclectEcon.
I have never been bothered my lack of ability to discern fine wines from table wines (aka plonk). They're all pretty equally drinkable for me, so most of the time I don't see the point of spending the extra cash on expensive wines. So I was thrilled to be reminded of this by Steve Levitt [ht Jack], describing a taste-test he organized for colleagues at Harvard:
These results are consistent with the long-held views of the Philistine Liberation Organization [PLO], of which I am the self-proclaimed chair. From our manifesto,
We have been subjected to the biases and special pleadings of the artsy culture vultures long enough. They sneer at anything which isn't in their own mold (mould?) of avant-gardishness. They perpetuate stupid jokes by laughing at people who quite seriously say, "I may not know much about..______... but I know what I like."
It is time for the rest of us to revolt against this claptrap of self-indulgent behaviour which passes itself off as "the actualization of one's self potential," and which somehow has, unfortunately, [in Canuckland, at least] bedeviled enough politicians that fully 65.7% of our tax dollars go to supporting these alleged artistes through direct grants and purchases of junk [Voice of Fire - - need I say more?] that any sensible person would pay someone else to haul off to the municipal landfill site. It is time for a new organization to be formed to aid this revolution. To that end, I hereby announce the formation of the PLO....
The purpose of our organization, it must be made clear, is to promote tolerance and open-mindedness -- to lampoon arrogance and self-indulgent pomposity. We don't really care if you like Shostakovich, escargot, and Birkenstocks.
We also don't really care if you like Neil Diamond, pizza, and Kodiak Grebs. We do, however, become disturbed if you try to tell us we should like; and we have apoplexy if you try to get us to pay for what you think we should like.
Yesterday I was talking with a woman who works at our bank. She showed me a receipt from the previous day and said this mistake occurred because she hadn't been wearing her glasses when using the debit card machine.
She said it was because she had forgotten her glasses. And indeed she probably had forgotten to wear her glasses. But also, the mistake occurred at a popular downtown pub. Not something I'd flash around if I were a banker, and certainly not something I'd grant a customer permission to take a picture of.
At any rate, she was delighted the transaction was not approved.
When we moved into our condo unit two and a half years ago, we knew we would want to replace the carpets that were probably more than 20 years old.
I suggested, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that we just buy a bunch of "anti-fatigue" squares, the kind that fit together and come in bright colours. My younger son, Adam Smith Palmer, has some that they put out in the playroom for their daughters, which is what gave me the idea.
Seriously. They're cushioned, they're bright, and if you wreck a spot, they're easy and inexpensive to replace.
So last week, when we discovered that one of our custom-made hallway carpet runners was defective and wearing prematurely, rather than order something new, we did this:
I love the brightness. I also love that they are cushioned and easy on the feet. We have found, however that they slip easily [as we discovered when using grey fatigue mats on the set of Equus last year]. So we put some sticky things under them to hold them in place, and that seems to work.
I'm not so keen on the way the teeth show along some edges or that some of the edge pieces don't fit without cutting. However, we have another pack of these mats, and so if we decide we like these, we can get out the second pack and fill in the edges or cut other squares to fit in the hallway.
Next up: rubber walls?
Did anything good happen in 2013? Yes! There was one shining ray of hope in the person of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford , who admitted that, while in office, he smoked crack cocaine, but noted, by way of explanation, that this happened “probably in one of my drunken stupors.” This was probably the most honest statement emitted by any elected official this year, and we can only hope that more of our leaders follow Mayor Ford’s lead in 2014. (We mean being honest, not smoking crack in a drunken stupor.) (Although really, how much worse would that be?)
As many of you know, I am the self-proclaimed chair of the Philistine Liberation Organization. There is more about the PLO here.
In a recent taste test, shoppers were asked to choose between two different Christmas cakes. One, from Fortnam and Mason, was priced at about $60 Cdn. The other from Iceland (a low-price discount grocery store) was priced at about $11 Cdn.
Sure enough, more of the shoppers preferred the lower-priced alternative [ht MA].
We asked 25 members of the public out shopping near the Telegraph offices in central London which cake they prefered, without telling them the identity of the stores from which they came, nor their prices.
One of the passersby was Ben McCormack, a restaurant critic and editor of Square Meal magazine. He said of the Fortnum cake: “It’s a bit one-note, a bit synthetic”. After it was revealed that was his preferred choice the Iceland one, he said it was “well worth £7”.
Lorraine Kelly, the ITV presenter who happened to be shopping, said she prefered the Fortnum’s.
Many tasters said they could barely tell the difference between the two, but some pointed out that the Iceland cake was a bit more moist than its expensive rival. But at the end of the tasting session, Iceland were the winners, with 14 votes compared with Fortnum’s 11.
It wasn't terribly scientific [small sample, non-random sample, should have been double-blind, etc.] but it indicates once again the joy and power and sheer enjoyment of being a Philistine.
For other items about the PLO, see the posts linked here.
My general experience has been that no matter what the meal is, I have a slight preference for flavourless white wines (e.g. pinot grigio usually fills the bill, but some sauvignon blancs are okay, too). I'll drink reds if they are being served and, to tell the truth, in the end I don't really care all that much.
Recently Jack persuaded me to try some $40 bottles of chardonnay. I don't much like chardonnay, so I have no idea why I succumbed. And despite the big build-up, I didn't like either one of them.
What I have learned, through trial and error, is that I don't care for most wines that are less than $10 a bottle (in Canada , that is. In the US they'd probably sell for about $7 in most states). Put bluntly, flavour matters a bit to me; I'm not just looking for the biggest drunk for the buck. Yet I don't notice much, if any, improvement in the wines once we end up paying more than about $17 - $18 a bottle. So I buy what others might call "table wines" or "plonk", which is just fine with me. I prefer the taste and I don't spend a whole lot of money on wine that doesn't matter to me.
In economics jargon the extra utility from the more expensive wines is not much and is certainly not enough to justify spending the extra money. As one friend says, "Once you've had a glass or two, who can tell the difference anyway?"
I just finished reading The Cuckoo's Calling, written by J.K. Rowling under the nom de plume, Robert Galbraith. It was an okay read. It could have been better. I'd give it a three or four star rating out of five.
The plot of the novel was complex, which I considered a plus. It was also almost believable, which was also good. A super-model plunges to her death from a balcony and Cormoran Strike, the novel's hero, is hired by her brother to find the killer. The characters of the novel are all extreme in one way or another, and the plot requires many, many quirks of luck and timing to work, but it does work. It works well enough to have held my interest despite the turgid writing in far too many passages.
In my personal taxonomy, there are two types of crime novels: (1) mysteries and (2) detective stories. The first category comprises the works of such authors as Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr, and Ellery Queen; the second category includes Mickey Spillane, Lew Archer, Travis McGee, et al. Rex Stout's Nero Wolf novels fall more into category (1) than category (2).
The Cuckoo's Calling is mostly in category (2). The reader follows Cormoran Strike but doesn't quite know why the detective is doing what he is doing; we are left without some information, much of which he only guesses at until he can acquire some confirmation. But it is a good detective story.
I nearly didn't read past the first 50 pages or so, though. The reading is a hard slog, especially early in the novel. The writing reminds me of all those prissy assignments we had in high school English classes where we had to fluff things up by adding tonnes of description. Maybe Rowling was trying to describe the scene for whomever does the screenplay, but it was boooorrrrrriiinnngg. With a good edit to chop out all the drivel and meaningless, useless verbiage, The Cuckoo's Calling would be a solid 4 or 4.5 star airport novel.
If you read it, don't be afraid to skip the verbiage. It adds nothing.
Disclaimer of sorts? Believe it or not, this is the first and only thing I have read by Rowling.
Yesterday, Carlos Delgado was inducted into the Toronto Blue Jays Level of Excellence. As part of this ceremony, he was presented with a painting I think he should return, sell on eBay, or maybe even burn. It is truly awful.
It reminded me of this ad (below) featuring Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, in which he tells a guy "that painting is really ugly." I thought the Bautista ad for MLB's "The Show" was really funny, but let's face it: the Delgado painting is worse than the one of Bautista in the ad. It is AWFUL!!
Addendum: here is the Bautista painting. You decide.
If I have ever read The Great Gatsby, I do not remember it. Contrary to the general stats in this article, I was not ever required to read it for any course in high school or university. I may have seen the movie with Redford and Farrow at some point, but I do not remember much of it if I did. Obviously it was all pretty forgettable for me.
But having read this review, it is pretty clear to me that I had no idea what was going on in the book/movie.
This is just more evidence for me that I need to read reviews and summaries before I watch movies and before reading many of the books that are "significant" or "meaningful". Wikipaedia entries are great for this sort of thing.
Another option, of course, is to ignore them all.
Jack sent this around, with a note that it goes around every year. Nevertheless here it is, along with my comments.
1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately.. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls. [EE: I'm delighted to see veggie trays when I go to holiday parties, and I especially like carrot sticks. Last weekend, when I was in Edmonton for the Grey Cup festivities, I bought a veggie tray with carrots and celery to keep on hand.]
2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare.. You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat.. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas! [EE: I love eggnog, but generally it is too thick and too sweet for my tastes. I mix it half-and-half, not with rum, but with 1% milk].
3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat. [EE: I'm not a big gravy fanatic, but I like it when the meat might otherwise be pretty dry.]
4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission. [EE: This seems like a poor analogy to me. If I ever bought a sports car, I'd want it to have automatic transmission. Also, I like slightly lumpy mashed potatoes.]
5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello? [EE: I agree with this advice but for a different reason. I don't want to insult the host/hostess by not eating and loving whatever they serve].
6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog. [EE: this is just plain dumb. You should exercise more so you have less guilt (and more capacity) when loading up on all those calories. Better to do it contemporaneously than after you outgrow your clothes in January.]
7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again. [EE: someone must have been watching me hover over the cookie plate.]
8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day? [EE: ditto here. And let me add that it is okay to take one of each dessert, sample it, and leave it unfinished if you would rather double up on others].
9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards. [EE: I completely agree. I have never had fruitcake that was even tolerable.]
10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. [EE: this point is just plain stupid. I see no reason to continue eating if the expected marginal utility (I hope you saw THAT coming) is negative. And we've had enough eating experience that surely our expectations should be reasonably realistic. Also, eating too much at one party can seriously affect your ability to enjoy the next one, so the goal is to maximize the net present value of expected future utility --- i.e. don't be a short-term maximizer!]
There is a survey going around on Facebook, purportedly from the BBC.
Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.
As I scanned through the list, I thought, "Well, I probably brought the average down." It turns out I've read ten, maybe eleven, of them, more than I expected (some were such non-standouts, I can't even remember for sure whether I've read them). I had to read two of the books in high school for book reports, but the rest were all recreational (or "personal growth") reading.
Most of my Facebook friends have read LOTS more books from the list than I have. I find that when I start many of these books, my mind drifts and I'd rather be watching television. For others, I've seen the movies or made-for-tv movies and have no interest in reading the books. In fact, I've seen performance versions of fifteen of the books.
One anomaly: am I the only person among my Facebook friends to have read the Wind in the Willows? I read that just for the heck of it one summer when I was in grad school.
Recent studies indicate that drinking even non-alcoholic beverages and driving is an important cause of auto accidents [h/t Jack]. I'm not surprised. You tip a coffee cup and you can no longer see where you are going very well.
... a nice cup of coffee is more dangerous than an iPhone or BlackBerry while driving.
The article and column in the link suggest that spills are the cause of the accidents; they do not mention visibility. But I suspect the loss of visibility as one tips a coffee cup or a pop can up in front of one's eyes plays a role, too.
Drinking with a straw would likely reduce both the spilling and the visibility problems. As I have posted before,
I drink coffee with a straw. I realize that most take-out coffee comes with a lid that has a tear-up section or pre-punched hole to drink through, and that these lids help prevent spills. But I'm still perfectly capable of spilling coffee when I drink it from the cup. So I stick a straw through the hole.
Some years ago, Ms. Eclectic and I discovered that if we drink coffee through a straw, it is much less likely to spill, especially when we are in the car, driving down the road.
And a real bonus of drinking anything through a straw while driving is that your vision of the road is never obstructed. You don't tip the cup or can or bottle up in front of your face when you drink through a straw — you can always keep your eyes on the road and the traffic when you drink coffee (or anything else, for that matter) through a straw in the car (and to head off the likely questions, no I do not and I do not advocate drinking beer [or other alcoholic beverages] while driving, nor have I tried drinking beer through a straw).
And, no, at home I do not drink Lagavulin or Caol Ila (or any other scotch) with a straw.
Rondi Adamson sent me a link, recently, to a questionnaire, "Are you a Plebe?" My answers are in bold below.
1. Can you talk about "Mad Men?" Who are they?.
2. Can you talk about the "The Sopranos?" Only in a couple of choirs.
3. Do you know who replaced Bob Barker on "The Price Is Right?" Yes.
4. Have you watched an Oprah show from beginning to end? Yes (Donald D'Haene, Nov 5).
5. Can you hold forth animatedly about yoga? No.
6. How about pilates? No.
7. How about skiing? No.
8. Mountain biking? No.
9. Do you know who Jimmie Johnson is? Yes, Helmet Head.
10. Does the acronym MMA mean anything to you? No.
11. Can you talk about books endlessly? Probably not; not many, anyway.
12. Have you ever read a "Left Behind" novel? Yes.
13. How about a Harlequin romance? No.
14. Do you take interesting vacations? As much as possible.
15. Do you know a great backpacking spot in the Sierra Nevada? No.
16. What about an exquisite B&B overlooking Boothbay Harbor? Where's that???.
17. Would you be caught dead in an RV? Maybe not; I've never been in one.
18. Would you be caught dead on a cruise ship? I have, and I wouldn't mind going on one again, depending on the destination(s) and amenities.
19. Have you ever heard of of Branson, Mo? Yes.
20. Have you ever attended a meeting of a Kiwanis Club? Yes.
21. How about the Rotary Club? No.
22. Have you lived for at least a year in a small town? Yes; I think Clinton, ON qualifies.
23. Have you lived for a year in an urban neighborhood in which most of your neighbors did not have college degrees? How urban? Maybe... Probably.
24. Have you spent at least a year with a family income less than twice the poverty line? No, unless we qualified for that status while I was growing up, but I doubt it.
25. Do you have a close friend who is an evangelical Christian? Yes.
26. Have you ever visited a factory floor? Yes.
27. Have you worked on one? Yes, in a cannery for 2 and 1/2 summers.
I think I scored 15/27. I'm not much of a Plebe, I guess. But being a Plebe is not the same thing as being a Philistine. If you would like to learn more about the Philistine Liberation Organization, click here. For the full statement of the PLO, along with links to reviews and it's first annual conference, click here.
Every spring, Tim Hortons runs a "roll up the rim to win" contest, which many of us refer to as the TH Lottery. Several years ago, my older son (David Ricardo Palmer) and I spent three months working on a three-dimensional art piece commemorating playing and losing in this lottery. To see photos of the work and to read more about it, click here. The piece was exhibited in two different art galleries (at different times, of course) in Ontario that summer.
From the artists' statement:
L’ Arc des Perdants Anonymes
(The Arch of the Anonymous Losers):
A Celebration of the Existential Quest
by John Palmer and [David Ricardo] Palmer
Like many triumphal arches, this sculpture is a celebration.
In this work, we celebrate the process of continued search and quest despite not reaching a specific goal or prize. Constructed entirely of losing cups from the 2004 Tim Horton’s “Roll Up the Rim to Win” contest, our work is rooted in the ontological search for meaning.
People who search for meaning in life are often frustrated, feeling lost when they are unable to arrive at some clear and definitive sense of purpose. The existential answer lies in the joy and value of the search activity itself.
We see the experience of playing the Tim Horton lottery as a reflection of this search. People buy cups of coffee hoping to win a big prize. They lose. They go back for more. And the process makes people smile. This simple, day-to-day process is a symbolic representation of the joie de vivre that is evinced in the human experiential quest for meaning.
L’ Arc des Perdants Anonymes is constructed with nearly 3000 used, losing cups from the Tim Horton’s 2004 contest. The artists used approximately 10 pounds of glue sticks to construct the sections of the structure. These sections are held together in places with 3M hook and loop material. The artists gratefully acknowledge the assistance of their families and persons at their respective workplaces.
Crocs, the empire behind the candy-coloured microbial foam clogs worn by toddlers, granny gardeners and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler is gasping for life, the Washington Post reports. ...The global growth of the company founded in 2002 based in made-in-Canada technology “mirrors the country’s tale of economic expansion and contraction,” the paper reports. Part of its downfall was the shoes’ durability: “Who needs a second pair of Crocs in a recession, particularly when the first pair is holding up just fine?” Crocs executives are hoping for a rebound in sales but industry watchers are doubtful: “The company’s toast,” said one investment fund manager. “They’re zombie-ish. They’re dead and they don’t know it.”
While in Quebec City, Ms. Eclectic and I had lunch at Panache, a restaurant that is highly rated by most reviewers. One person told us after our experience that Panache is a five-star restaurant. Nevertheless, we were unimpressed.
The salmon tartar we had as an appetizer was okay, I guess, but I'm not all that keen on it. More disappointing, though, were the entrees. Ms. Eclectic's chicken something tasted more like something than like chicken. It was just plain weird; I don't mind unusual sauces, but to completely distort the flavours seemed unnecessary and ridiculous. And my rolled pork was way too dry for pork. It was clearly over-cooked.
Two other points: the wine is tremendously over-priced, and the chocolate-pastry desserts, while tasty, were hard and dry. Quite frankly, I wonder whether for entrees and dessert we were served leftovers from the previous day or two.
Not only were we unimpressed with the meal, but we were so put off by the experience that we decided we would probably not enjoy staying at the Hotel St. Antoine, which we had been considering for our next visit to Quebec City.
Even though I am the self-proclaimed chair of the PLO, I certainly expected different and better than what we experienced.
Others may rate this restaurant highly but in my view, the emperor had no clothes.
One big plus about riding on the train, as we did last week to Quebec City, is that they serve wine in convenient juice-box sized tetra packs. It is French table wine, and it tastes just fine to me.
For my second box, I asked the server for a small coffee stirrer, which is really a small, thin straw. I wanted to sip my wine using a straw so it wouldn't spill. Shear ecstasy!
A cemetary in the UK has banned the use of plastic flowers:
The use of artificial flowers has been banned from a crematorium on grounds of health and safety.
A council has prohibited the laying of artificial wreaths or flowers and also barred pottery, glass items and wire mesh fences.
The rules have outraged mourners who claim people should be allowed to grieve in their own way and point out many cannot afford to place fresh flowers on a plot every week.
Relatives of deceased loved ones are furious at North East Lincolnshire Council which last November threatened to remove keepsakes from children's graves.
The council says any items or mementos left at the crematorium in Grimsby, except fresh plants and flowers, will be confiscated as they clutter up the grounds and leave the place untidy.
Glenn Greetham, head of neighbourhood services at North East Lincolnshire Council said: 'I hope residents and visitors with loved ones buried or cremated within the site see the difficulty in providing a dignified and sensitive service while maintaining an acceptable standard.
'Unfortunately some items that have been placed at the crematorium including CD holders, cards pinned in trees, wine glasses, empty cans of beer, candles, cuddly toys, wind chimes and balloons are not appropriate.
'The majority of people want the crematorium and memorial gardens to be a quiet and appropriate place to remember their loved ones. Fresh plants and flowers are acceptable on the crematorium grounds.
'All other items will be removed as they can often pose a health and safety risk and conflict with the majority of the crematorium users.'
And just how are artificial flowers like empty beer cans or wine glasses? The analogy escapes me.
When I first started writing this blog nearly four years ago, I made two things very clear:
Last month when Ms. Eclectic and I were dining out, we passed the restaurant's display of wines available, and this one caught my eye:
I love the name of the wine, Screw Kappa Napa, which seems to be sort of an in-your-face reaction to wine snobbery. Since I took the photo on the fly, it isn't particularly crisp. Here's the winery's website.
The other day, I went to one of the outlets for the Ontario wine retailing monopoly to see about buying some of this wine.
The first person I spoke with said they didn't have any in stock, but she thought it was produced in Australia as something of a put-down of Napa valley wines. That would have been pretty funny, but as you can see from the photo and the website, it is produced in California.
Maybe I'll see if I can find some the next time I'm visiting the US.
When I saw on the front page of The Times on Thursday that we only had “four months to save £300m masterpieces” I was put briefly in mind of Dale Arden's desperate cry in Flash Gordon: “Flash, I love you, but we only have 14 hours to save the Earth!”
I assumed, you see, that something terrible was about to happen. I thought maybe there had been a fire in some gallery somewhere and that if the damaged pictures were not restored immediately then they might in some way cease to be restorable in 16 weeks (I do not know much about art restoration).
Or maybe it was to do with Venice. The big picture on the front page looked vaguely foreign (I do not know much about art either), and I thought perhaps we had only four months to move the church on whose wall it was painted before it was engulfed by the flood waters. Or something.
But it turned out to be nothing more than the old moneybags who inherited them being a bit short of the green and folding just now (join the club, old bean), and deciding to give us, the nation, four months to come up with £100 million to buy them off him.
Or what? He's going to burn them? Now that would be a tragedy. Something would have to be done. I can just see the Duke of Sutherland standing there, ringed by police, holding a flame-thrower to the painting's ear: “Throw the money down over there. Nice and slow. One false move and the Titian gets it!”
But that's not it. What is going to happen if the Government does not come up with the hundred mill for Diana & Actaeon and Diana & Callisto is that his grace is going to sell them for £300 million to some other mug, and they'll go abroad.
Who the hell cares? Art is not about ownership or geography. It is about values greater than time and space. I don't give a damn where a work of art is. I just care that it is. The Taj Mahal is in India (presumably) and the Mona Lisa in Paris, but I don't have to go and see them to enjoy the benefit of their cultural impact.
These two paintings are in no sense more artistically valid by being located in the National Gallery of Scotland than if they were sold to furnish the lobby walls of some hotel in Abu Dhabi. Indeed, I am personally more likely to bump into them there than where they are now.
It's not about the money: the Government could easily raise the cash by selling a big London hospital. It's about getting over the outdated habit of imperial rapine - the “Elginian fallacy”, if I may - that imparts meaning to the mere ownership of art.
If you want to see Diana & Actaeon, there was a perfectly good copy of it on the front page a couple of days ago. Just dig it out of the recycling bin and glue it to the fridge.
But I wouldn't bother - it's no more than a wan snapshot, caught leadenly on canvas as if by some teenage happy slapper with an iPhone, of what appears to be a poacher in very bad sandals coming upon an outdoor brothel for tubby-fanciers, and expressing his horror at the sight of a load of hefty girls with massive bums but no boobs at all - the nightmare combo.
I say we hold on to our hard-earned cash and let the Duke flog it to some crooked Russki so he can wallpaper his sauna.
*PLO = the Philistine Liberation Organization. For more, see this.