Saturday, February 25, 2012

Who Said it IX?

Time for another round of America’s least favorite quiz game – Who said it? This is the ninth edition. The usual rules apply. I pick a quote from my library, with which I have the closest relationship since Joanie Loves Chachi (which by the way, I have never seen – if you have, more’s the pity) and you try and guess who wrote/said it. Answers are below, which is a pain in the arse, but makes it harder to cheat (a little, anyway).

1.         Washington understood this art very well, and we say of him, if he was not the greatest President, he was the best actor of presidency we ever had. His address to the states when he left the army, his solemn leave taken of Congress when he reigned his commission, his Farewell Address to the people when he resigned the presidency: these were all in a strain of Shakespearian and Garrickal excellence in dramatical exhibitions.

a. John Adams  b. Thomas Jefferson  c. John Wilkes Booth  d. Abraham Lincoln

2.         Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from any body. Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices.

a. John Adams b. Thomas Jefferson c. Andrew Jackson  d. Abraham Lincoln

3.         Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort of connection with that part of the world, would react upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. He would, I imagine, first of all express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that unhappy people, he would make many melancholy reflections upon the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all the labours of man, which could thus be annihilated in a moment. He would, too, perhaps, if he was a man of speculation, enter into many reasonings concerning the effects which this disaster might produce upon the commerce of Europe, and the trade and business of the world in general. And when all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with the same ease and tranquility as if no such accident had happened. The most frivolous disaster which could befall himself would occasion a more real disturbance. If he was to lose his little finger tomorrow, he would not sleep to-night; but provided he never saw them, he would snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred million of his brethren.

a. Winston Churchill b. Thomas Jefferson c. John Locke  d. Adam Smith

4.         It cannot be repeated too often that nothing is more fertile in prodigies than the art of being free; but there is nothing more arduous than the apprenticeship of liberty. Such is not the case with despotic institutions: despotism often promises to make amends for a thousand previous ills; it supports the right, it protects the oppressed, and it maintains public order. The nation is lulled by the temporary prosperity which accrues to it, until it is roused to a sense of its own misery. Liberty, on the contrary, is generally established in the midst of agitation, it is perfected by civil discord, and its benefits cannot be appreciated until it is already old.

a. Thomas Jefferson b. Alexis de Tocqueville c. Adam Smith d. Friedrich Hayek

5.         And do not suppose that this is the end.
                        This is only the beginning of the reckoning.
            This is only the first sip –
                        the first foretaste of a bitter cup
                                    which will be proffered to us year by year –
            Unless –
                        By a supreme recovery of our moral heath and martial vigour,
                                    we arise again and take our stand for freedom,
                                                as in the olden time.

a. Jeremiah (the prophet, not the bullfrog) b. Winston Churchill c. Teddy Roosevelt d. Gandalf (J. R. R. Tolkien)

6.         Oh, God, my grandfather, my grandmother, god of the hills, god of the valleys, holy God. I make to you my offering with all my soul. Be patient with me in what I am doing, my true God and [blessed] virgin. It is needful that you give me fine, beautiful, all I am going to sow here where I have my work, my cornfield. Watch it for me, guard it for me, let nothing happen to it from the time I sow until I harvest it.

a. Isaiah   b. Revelations  c. Prayer bin Laden was writing when shot by Navy Seals d.  Mayan Indian corn ritual

7.         The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.

a. Words of Tecumseh after victory in what is called The battle of the Thames over the trial of American prisoners including future Vice President, Richard Johnson.
b. Words of Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson as prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trial of Nazi war criminals.
c. Words of Ayatollah Khomenei at international show trial of American hostages before they were summarily released upon Reagan’s inauguration.
d. Words of Woodrow Wilson at the Paris Peace Talks at end of WWI.

8.         Whatever the meaning assigned to the term complete, the following requirement for a complete theory seems to be a necessary one: every element of the physical reality must have a counterpart in the physical theory.

a. Aristotle b. Francis Bacon c. Isaac Newton d. Einstein

9.         The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.

a. Confucius   b. Plato quoting Socrates  c. Bertrand Russell  d. Jack Benny

10.       What is certain is that both of us have given our common enemies-who are legion-a good laugh. Unfortunately, you have so deliberately put me on trial, and in such an ugly tone of voice, that I can no longer remain silent without losing face. Thus, I shall answer you, without anger, but unsparingly (for the first time since I have known you). Your combination of dreary conceit and vulnerability always discouraged people from telling you unvarnished truths. The result is that you have become the victim of a dismal self-importance, which hides your inner problems, and which you, I think, would call Mediterranean moderation. Sooner or later, someone would have told you this. It might just as well be me. But have no fear. . . .

a. Jean-Paul Sartre essay addressing Albert Camus.
b. Winston Churchill letter to Charles DeGaulle.
c. Jennifer Aniston letter to Brad Pitt.
d. Barbara Bush to Hillary Clinton.

1.         Washington understood this art very well. . . .”

a. Of course that is John Adams, who rarely had a good thing to say about Washington or anyone else he felt might compete with him for honors. Of course, most Americans do think that Washington was either the best or second best president. My favorite Adams quote about Washington is: "The history of our Revolution will be one continued lie from one end to the other. The essence of the whole will be that Dr. Franklin's electrical rod smote the earth and out sprang General Washington. That Franklin electrified him with his rod - and thenceforward these two conducted all the policies, negotiations, legislatures, and war." What a baby he could be.

2.         “Society may give us exclusive rights. . . .”
So, this guy was against the whole idea of patents and copyrights, which leads, as he himself admits up front, to people inventing useful things. Lots of things about he believed would surprise you. He is always one of my favorite subjects in these posts – b. Thomas Jefferson. He was against having a navy for a while. He was very much against an independent judiciary and tried to destroy it. He was against people deciding for themselves what products they should get to produce or sell. He was against Haiti being a free country like the United States. But, I will spare you my usual TJ rant here. I actually can't find where I got this quote from in my library, but it is one of the legion of Jefferson books I have.

3.         Let us suppose that the great empire of China. . . .”

It was definitely some stuffy sounding Englishman. In this case, it was - d. Adam Smith, who I learned later in life was a lot more interesting than when presented simplistically and boringly in high school. Of course, he was just one more of the great scientists and philosophers (like, e.g., Einstein and Darwin) who was an intellectual descendent of David Hume. In Smith’s case, it was more direct, as Hume was a mentor to him. Quote taken from The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

4.         It cannot be repeated too often that nothing is more fertile in prodigies than the art of being free. . . .”

In other words, despotism is easy but ultimately not a lot of fun; liberty is hard and worth the effort. I’ll buy that. That was written by – b. the Frenchman de Tocqueville, in his classic Democracy in America, of which I own at least three copies (I can only find two today, but that is situation normal around here), which is so filled with pithy & profound pearls of wisdom that it is impossible to remember even a fraction of them. But, if you want a great quote on liberty, it’s a first rate place to look. Just try not to get overwhelmed by them.

5.         And do not suppose that this is the end."

It does sounds like something Gandalf might say or, really any of the choices, but it was – b. Churchill, who made this statement in a debate in Parliament in 1938 between the disaster of Munich and the worse disaster of Poland, quite a while before being put back in power when he was just a prophet crying in the desert. Reading Winnie is endlessly fulfilling. This quote was found in William Manchester's The Last Lion.

6.         Oh, God, my grandfather, my grandmother, god of the hills, god of the valleys. . . .”

Sounds like some biblical thing going on here, but bin Laden was actually . . . no, just kidding. It is, in fact – d. a Mayan Indian ritual I found in my old copy of Maya, The Riddle and Rediscovery of a Lost Civilization, by Charles Gallencamp, a classic in anthropology/archaeology first published the year of my birth, 1959. Mine is the third revised edition from 1985, but that is the latest one and still being published. You can get a used one for a penny on Amazon.

7.         “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated. . . .”

That would be - b. Jackson at the Nuremburg trial. The others do sound pretty good, but Tecumseh was killed at the battle of Thames, probably by Johnson, who did become VP later on. There was no show trial of the American hostages in Iran, who were released when Reagan took office. Wilson was at the Paris Peace Talks, where he and the other victors basically screwed the pooch, but made no such remarks, of course. Quote found in Justice at Nuremburg.

8.           "Whatever the meaning assigned to the term complete. . . ."

That would be – d. Einstein, in a paper he wrote with others on whether quantum mechanics could be considered complete (the answer is – no, by the way). But, the other three would seem like possibilities to me if I didn’t know the answer. Einstein always struggled with other physicists who were comfortable believing that – god played dice with the universe, as he famously put it, but he could never win his philosophical battle. Quote found in a great little book on physics - The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav.

9.         "The secret of happiness is this. . . ."

No, not Jack Benny, although I bet some guessed that. It was – c. Bertrand Russell, from his 1930 The Conquest of Happiness. I enjoy reading Russell, but he got no closer to the secret than any other philosopher. There is a secret though, and you will never guess it. I will reveal it in a future post.

10.       "What is certain is that both of us have given our common enemies-who are legion-a good laugh. . . ."

It would be more fun if it was Barbara Bush or Jennifer Aniston, but the answer is – a. Sartre to Camus, which essay is found in a wonderful collection of Sartre Essays entitled Situations. It was combative and made for a good quote, but my favorite essay, and the reason I bought and read the book, was the first one in it – The Prisoner of Venice, about the great Venician artist, Tintoretto (not my favorite artist though, but certainly considered great by art critics and historians). Sartre really knew his art and this book might have been the one that first excited me about Rennaisance and similar art, about which, at least for a little while, I surprised myself by getting to know well enough to name an artist simply by looking at paintings in a museum. Too some degree, anyway. Not so much these days, I'd wager. How long does knowledge about things like art last if you don’t use it for something? I don’t know, but I doubt I could tell a Ribera from a Caravaggio anymore.

Th-th-th-th-at’s all, folks.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Political update for February, 2012

Ah, religion. It is back. Back as a divisive force in our presidential election. It’s not all Newt Gingrich’s fault or Barack Obama’s or even Rick Perry’s, but they all tried and contributed. It’s just one of those things that is going to happen in predominantly free countries from time to time. But, there is one reason we handle this better than any other country. We have a first amendment which has possibly more than anything else allowed us to get along with each other despite religious differences which have in so many other countries raged out of hand.

First, my overall perspective on religion presented blessedly briefly. Faith in a deity or afterlife is not for me. Never has been. The most that can be said is that I make no pretense of understanding First Cause (as if anyone can), and that is a puzzler, but one never made simpler for me by the concept of God. I have been surrounded by religious people my whole life, mostly Christians and Jews, but I’ve known a handful of Hindus, Muslims, Christian scientists, atheists, agnostics, Mormons, etc.. What I find (and, some religious leaders too) is that religion does not seem to make someone a better person in terms of what we commonly think of as morality (in terms of lying, cheating, violence, taking advantage, blah, blah, blah), but I have come to learn that as well as being a divisive and even destructive force (both individually and societally), religion can also be a beneficial and unifying force, if come to voluntarily, and not under duress, and is filled with the spirit of toleration.

For the most part, this spirit of toleration imbues our society, whatever some people will tell you. Even very religious people are often extremely open to other views. Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life has found (with a huge 35,000 person sample) that those who claim association with most religious groups, actually have a wide range of religious beliefs, some which are far from the orthodoxy of their own chosen faith.

For example, a large majority of Americans affiliated with some faith or another belong believe that other religions can lead to eternal life. That includes over 80% of Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, but over 66% of Protestants (including 57% of evangelicals), 72% of Greek and Russian Orthodox and 79% of Catholics. Only the relatively small majority of Mormons do not so believe and a large majority of Jehovah’s witnesses. To the contrary, even a majority of American Muslims believe other religions may lead to eternal life. Christians are, of course, by far the largest group, just shy of 80% of the population. Over 1 out of 5 Christians believe in reincarnation and/or astrology, neither of which is acceptable to most of their religious doctrines.

Very similar numbers are reached when asked if there was more than one way to interpret their religion.

Despite the cries of a few, and the muted cries of many more who listen to them, there is no war on religion in America. Here are the real statistics, from Pew. 92% of the population believes in God. Even a higher number (94%) of unaffiliated religious people do. An astonishing 21% of atheists are actually not atheists at all – BECAUSE THEY ACKNOWLEDGE BELIEVING IN GOD. An even higher number (55%) of agnostics say they believe in God. More, 10% of atheists pray WEEKLY and 18% of agnostics do to. Sorry if that seems to make no sense. Since those two groups make up only a tiny percentage of Americans (3-4% total), and so many of them actually believe in God and are in the wrong category – where is this alleged war on religion supposed to be coming from?

And, despite the best efforts of Messrs. Gingrich and Perry (and others), only 14% of Americans believe that religion is the main influence on their politics compared to 13% for education, 19% by what the see/read in the media and 34% by their personal experience.  Of course, many of them may be wrong because other questions show that religion seems to have quite a strong effect on beliefs. For example, 64% of evangelicals, 68% of Mormons and 61% of Mormons believe that homosexuality is a way of life that should be discouraged while only 15% of Jews, 12% of Buddhists and 14% of atheists believe it. Those numbers are not likely random results.

Religious toleration of other people’s beliefs has existed throughout history. But, so has intolerance and butchering or enslaving them. The first amendment of our constitution, derived from enlightenment principles of individual freedom of conscience and propelled by the American idea that government should keep out of religion, is one of the main reasons we have avoided religious wars. I’ve been hearing too much from conservative candidates how they will shred the first amendment (though, of course, they don’t put it that way at all). Herman Cain, for instance, argued that any American-Muslim cabinet member he appointed would be required to take an oath of allegiance. Apparently, he is thinking that instead of picking some well vetted, experienced person for the job, he might choose someone dressed a bit like the late Osama bin Laden and wearing a bomb belt. He also is forgetting that all cabinet members take an oath of office. He’s also forgetting, and this is the biggee, that to single out Muslims to take an oath (presuming others didn’t), would obviously violate the first amendment.

Both Cain and Gingrich argued for a moratorium on mosque building. Do I even need to show why this violates the first amendment? Yet, no doubt it helped both in their campaigns. It would not have helped had either reached a general election. In fact, I believe it would have hurt immensely with the most important group right now – the group without a group – independents.

Most recently, a new issue has reached public awareness. The administration has issued regulations which would require religious organizations doing business (say, as a hospital) which provide insurance coverage for employees, to make certain they provide things like free pre-natal testing and contraceptives. The Catholic Church has protested mightily, as this is against their religious teachings.

Apparently, only two pundits (I’ve appointed myself a pundit – what are the requirements anyway? Dick Morris is a pundit, for crying out loud, and he is wrong about almost everything) have correctly assessed this issue - me and Ann Coulter. There are differences between the two of us, though. She helped fuel this religious dispute nonsense by writing that ideologies she does not agree with are religious in nature. But, here is the insurance problem in a nutshell, and we do agree on that. This insurance issue should not be a religious freedom issue at all. It is just a freedom issue, period - amen.

Let me expand a bit. The Catholic Church, and any religious group, for that matter, is entitled to believe whatever it is that they choose to believe. No one doubts that. Despite the first amendment, there are a smattering of ways that our courts have determined it is okay for government to give religion an advantage. For example, Sunday blue laws, that is, forcing businesses to close on that day, have been upheld (McGowan v. Maryland [1961]). Tax breaks for religious groups has been allowed as well (Walz v. Comm’n of the City of New York). I oppose those decisions, but that is the law.

The government is not allowed to establish religion – the other strand of the first amendment – either. Sometimes the two clauses don’t work smoothly together and there must be some play around the joints, as Justice Kennedy described the interpretation of conflicting clauses in his Senate confirmation hearing. One such problem arises when an otherwise neutral law is passed (that is, it applies not just to a religious group) that conflicts with a religion’s beliefs. The general rule is that – too bad on the religion. It must obey the same rules as everyone else.  But, there have been exceptions, and it is difficult to tell if this will fit in with it. In Employment Division v. Smith (1990), Justice Scalia wrote for the majority that religious belief cannot allow every person to become a law unto themselves and cited laws against polygamy, child labor, Sunday blue laws, registering for selective services or paying social security taxes. I think that should be the decision here, but it is too dense a thicket to chop through at this early date without a lot of research I am not prepared to make right now. But, I can have an opinion, and that is that the Catholic Church’s theology is not a defense. If it is a defense to the law, then the general public and perhaps especially conservatives, will have to take a step back in its criticism of a certain New Jersey judge a few years back, who excused a husband’s violence against his wife, because he had done it in accord with his Islamic beliefs. Now who would want to accept that as a sensible decision? No one, and it was reversed on appeal. Yet, isn't that analogous to what the church is saying in this situation?

Despite all of that, I do believe the Catholic Church should be freed of this requirement (not yet in effect), but I think everyone should. On the most basic level, the federal government (I think not even the state government – but others would reasonably disagree), should not be telling a business what insurance they need to provide for their employees. On a constitutional level, the power that the federal government has afforded to itself on the basis of a now longstanding interpretation of the interstate commerce clause and the necessary and proper clause, allows it to intervene in virtually anything that they can assert is commerce and interstate in nature – and that is not hard to do.

The Supreme Court has intervened to say - too far, a few times in recent memory, but it has to be a really long stretch for it to do it. Obviously, under this interpretation of the constitution, it is easy to reach insurance issues. The Supreme Court will determine later this year whether the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare by its detractors, can mandate the purchase of insurance policies, which may provide a clue as to where it might go in a case brought by the Catholic Church. 
Without any hope on my part that the broad interpretation of the Interstate commerce clause be greatly scaled down, I can suggest an alternative – that it be limited to laws in which it can be shown that federal regulation or intervention is needed to prevent a state from impinging on interstate commerce or discriminating on out of state commerce (and there are many cases like that). Just because an industry is found in more than one state or does business in more than one state should not be a reason either. That does not mean every federal law we have would go away as there are other avenues for the federal government to regulate – e.g., national defense, navigation, monetary issues, due process or equal protection, those liberties now know as fundamental rights, and so on. But, there is no need for federal laws about insurance (as long as it is non-discriminatory) and we should be free to make our own decisions about what insurance coverage we want for employees.

As I write this, Rick Santorum has surged in the polls, and there are those who believe that he will beat Mitt Romney for the nomination. I am not overly confident about Romney's chances, but still believe that he will survive and prevail as he has done against Bachmann, Perry, Cain and Gingrich challenges. However, even if he bests Santorum, he will still likely face one greater challenge. At some point either Gingrich or Santorum might drop out, and the supporters of either of those candidates will gravitate overwhelming to the other - not Romney. No one can be sure if Romney can survive that, but he must to win the nomination.

How has Santorum managed to suddenly corral all this new support? Mostly, it is just by still being around when many Republicans realized that Newt Gingrich would be more divisive than he would be unifying among them. But, he was well suited for the lead at this point, even if temporarily, because of his religious bent, with which he started and is ending his campaign (for a time he claimed his message was mostly economic, but I have trouble seeing that - he is a big government guy - and is aimed at getting the vote of the cultural or religious right. One way he has done it is by jumping on the insurance regulation issue, which he has repeatedly mentioned.

But, yesterday, he seemed to cross another threshold, signaling to an audience about religion in a way that turned me off big time. I think it will have the same effect on other independents too and maybe even some fiscal conservatives. Speaking on the administration’s environmental policies, he said: “It's not about you. It's not about your quality of life. It's not about your jobs. It's about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible -- a different theology.”

This is where Ann Coulter comes in again as she popularized the idea, at least in recent times, that liberal ideology is actually a religion. It is a very popular notion on the right. My own appreciation of it, as I’ve written before, is that both the left and right enjoy certain canards which are not based on fact, but they believe it nevertheless without the necessity of argument. You can compare them to religion, but I cannot go the full analogy, because unlike with the central idea of most religion – the existence of a deity and creation as his/her/its product based on faith – you can combat many if not most of the ideological myths with facts and reason.

Santorum had to spend sometime backpedaling from this – claiming he was speaking about environmental policy and not the president’s faith. He might have been. I am not quick to read code words, but I think that's what it is here, especially after he received cheers for what he said.

If Santorum is successful in winning the nomination, I cannot see him being equally successful in the general election. His beliefs as to contraceptives and gays, for example, are too far outside of the mainstream as to be successful anywhere outside of evangelical or other very religious politics, where it is popular. Our country does not look for or vote for politicians who put religion in the forefront of their campaign. Even the issue of contraceptives has changed in my lifetime. Back in the 60s and 70s, conservatives might have been dead set against contraceptives, and some still are. But, many of them use them themselves and have used them. Many conservatives now say it is no issue at all. Even one of Santorum’s spokesmen the other day was surprised to learn on a television show that Santorum was anti-contraceptive.

I say, not for the first or last time, I would like Obama defeated. But, that does not mean I want just anyone to replace him. I know I don’t want Gingrich, who is up there in John Kerry territory concerning politicians I do not want to see be president. If he was the Republican candidate I would go third-party. Ron Paul is, of course, okay with me as is Romney, the only one I think could win a general election (I’d like to imagine Paul could win if given the chance, but I really doubt it). I do not think Santorum could win and I’m not sure I would want him to either. I actually like the guy personally. There are many people in this world I like who I disagree with politically. Doesn’t mean they are not good people or I will hold it against them. If you listen to his story, it is actually very appealing. But, that doesn’t mean he should be president. And anyone who engages in this war on religion or Christianity or anything of like kind, is not going to be getting my vote either.

And, that also means Mr. Romney, you have to be careful too, as far as I'm concerned. But, whoever is the Republican nominee, they should remember that while candidates must evince a belief in God, no president in the United States has ever won running on a primarily religious platform.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

More embarrassing moments

An ironic thing about this blog - written for fun, definitely for free and without any pressure that is not self created - is that I somehow feel guilty about missing the last two weeks when I was busy traveling, helping out my insignificant other who had surgery and doing other things. I was pleased to hear from a couple of friends that they actually noticed. According to Google, there were 57 page views here last week of which I am not sure how much are spam, but probably up to 40%. But many of the other 60% are people who entered something in a Google or other search engine and I popped up. I've tried it myself after I've written a post and it actually works.

I'm going to start easy on myself by writing something autobiographical, which is really much easier and what I usually do when busy, as I don't have to look anything up or do any research. Some readers prefer the autobiographical posts, maybe because they are usually so humiliating to me, but they are not my favorites.

Nevertheless, here's a slew of yet more embarrassing moments (previously, I’ve written on my past dating life [12/17/11], some of the dumber things I've done - in fact, life threatening things  [6/10/11] and embarrassing childhood moments [10/24/08]). These are all from my adult life:

Me, thief

I've made it a point in my life to try and not to take things that don't belong to me. But, I do own up to stealing some little rubbery animal figures when I was 4 (I turned myself in to my mother), too many pens to count (albeit accidentally) and I still don't understand the internet well enough to know whether, like probably everyone, I goof all the time - arguably that is not theft.

But, one day about 3 of 4 years ago I went to the State law library in a court in Suffolk County New York. I did a bit of research and spent a few minutes getting helped by the reference librarian, who I knew as a very nice and helpful man. At one point, I was using a very well known reference book, of which almost all of the material in it could be found in the internet. I was walking around the library, looking at other books and carrying that one book in my hand together with a notepad. Eventually, I finished up, made my copies, put the books away and left.

As I exited the library, I passed a few people sitting on a bench right outside of it. I made a right turn and headed down a hallway. Now, I had not been to that library in a long time or I would have remembered that this is not the way to get off the floor. You had to walk a little further down the hallway and go down the stairs or use the elevator. But, I headed down this other corridor until I got to the door at the end. When I opened it, the alarm went off. I immediately recognized my mistake and turned around, shutting the door. I walked back down the corridor to the main hallway and made a right, passing the 3 people on the bench, made another right into the stairwell and proceeded down.

When I was almost out the door I heard a voice above me - "Excuse me."  Turning around, I see the reference librarian standing at the top of the stairs. "That's my book." What? I look down and see my legal pad in my left hand. "What book?" "That one," he says, and points to my left hand. I look at the other side of the legal pad, and there is the popular reference book I was using.

I don't know what I said. I stammered. I said it was a mistake. Something like that. He completely dismissed my apology and just demanded the book, then stormed away. I was humiliated. I would never, never steal a book deliberately. I was a book lover. I was a library lover. I was . . . so embarrassed.

Clouseau strikes again

The late Peter Seller's bumbling, accident prone character, Inspector Jacques Clouseau, in Blake Edwards' hysterical Pink Panther movies, was one of the great performances in movie history. I spent much of my childhood with friends mimicking his faux French accent and moronic actions. Later, as an adult, I was able to more than once act it out myself - unintentionally.

In 1994 I was working at a company with a really cute and very young secretary on whom I had a big crush. One day she asked me to come over to her house and give her parents some legal advice, which I was glad to do for them. After we were done, she, dressed in sweats, walked me to the door. We stood there talking. At the time I was on a "break" from my relationship and it occurred to me to try and, you know, kiss her. Over my shoulders appeared the proverbial angel and devil. The devil was saying "Go ahead, and kiss her." The angel was saying "Are you crazy? Her parents are here and she works with you." At one point her mother walked by and said, "David, don't forget that our driveway is all broken up at the bottom." "Okay," I said.

The angel won, and I walked out the door. But, I wasn't unhappy. I was deliriously joyful from spending a few minutes with her alone outside of the office as I walked down the walk and towards the end of the driveway. So happy, in fact, that I did my habitual throwing of my keys into the air with an extra bit of verve and watched them drop back down to me. Unfortunately, with my eyes to the sky, I tripped over the broken concrete that I had actually been warned about, pratfalling right on my face. I rolled over, but lay there, hands covering my eyes, saying to my self. . . Please don't be watching. Please don't be watching.

I peeked. Of course, she was watching. In fact, she couldn't stop laughing.

Not another key story

Long time ago I am walking down the street in a commercial area. I always had this weird habit of throwing my keys up in the air and catching them for no apparent reason, just like in the prior adventure. That day, I threw my keys up in the air and caught them. Threw them up and caught them. Through them . . . .

I was passing a restaurant and suddenly, seemingly randomly to anyone watching, walked into the door.

"May I speak to the manager?"
"I'm the manager. What can I do for you?"
"I have to go on your roof."
"Why in the world?"
"I threw my keys up there."
"Oh, sure."

He was really very nice about it. Nice view from up there too.

The treadmill incident

While I still lived in New York I worked out at a small gym. I was usually the only man in my Pilates classes, one of which was taught by a 22 year old former professional ballerina, who was not only smoking, but had one of those sweet Doris Day type faces and personalities. I had a lot fun in those classes (always good to be the only man) and we were friendly with each other, though she was literally half my age. One day she was sitting next to me talking while we waited for the classroom to empty. She mentioned that she was tired of dating jerky guys her age and wanted to date older men. Not unhappy to hear that, I hopefully, but kind of kidding said "You mean like someone say 44 years old?"

To which she replied "Ewoooooh. I mean like 26."
To which I replied "You could have left off the Ewoooooh part."
"Sorry," she said. "It just slipped out."

But that's not the story here, just the intro. One day I was at the gym on the treadmill doing what passes as running for me when she finished up a class and came out of the exercise room. Seeing me on the higher level she walked over, climbed up onto the treadmill next to me and turned perpendicular to me to talk. I have to add here that I have a little nerve problem in my left leg and when I try to run (rare enough) I really had to pay attention and make sure I plant my leg each step. A few minutes went by and I may have been a wee bit distracted by her attention.  So, put the two together, and . . . whoops. I went flying off the treadmill backwards.

Fortunately, she was a trained athlete and as I traveled backwards past her with my arms flying out to grab anything, she reached out with her own right arm and grabbed my left. I actually did not fall down. I stumbled backwards off the treadmill with her following along supporting me. I came to a rest on my feet on the floor next to her.

You know in a movie where the camera slowly pans out and you are thinking - well, obviously he would see more than that in real life. Well, that's the way it actually happened here - slowly. I looked at my left arm, which she was still holding, and then all the way down to my hand, which, unfortunately, had come to rest . . .

. . . right on her breast, actually cupping it. I couldn't have done that on purpose if I had practiced. I looked at my hand, still in slow motion. I looked up at her eyes slowly look down to my hand too, also in slow motion. Then I looked in her eyes and did what any self respecting adult male would do in that situation. I screamed like a little girl and ripped my hand off of her, covering my mouth.

And then she laughed. Me too. Good thing she had a sense of humor. You know how when you were young you might laugh with a friend forever until you couldn't breathe. That's what happened. It is possible 10 minutes went by before we stopped. 

The Rose

Long time ago I was dating a woman maybe a month and it was her birthday. I went to see her in the city and after I parked I saw a Moonie on the street selling roses. So, I bought her a single rose, thinking it was kind of romantic.

She lived in the penthouse over a six story walk-up. When I got to the bottom floor there was a delivery man there with a bouquet of roses. You see where this is going, right?

She buzzed me in and he came in too. I walked up a flight of stairs. So did he. I did another. So did he. And . . . we got to the penthouse. I was standing in front of the door with my pathetic little one stem flower. She opened the door and exclaimed "Oh!" And then she looked slightly to my left at the smiling delivery guy with the dozen in his hand and said "Oyyyy." Something like that.

She was actually very nice about it. Left the dozen roses outside her door and put my single flower in a vase. I didn't put this in my bad date post a few weeks ago (Cherchez la femme) because it actually was a nice date.

No socks is supposed to be a cool look

I didn't realize how many of these would be about women, but this one isn't.

I was a young lawyer. A friend of mine happened to live in apartments right next to the office building I worked in.  One night, I forget why, I slept over there and walked to work in my suit, tie and Oxford shoes.

There I was working in my office when one of my bosses walked in. We were talking for a while when he happened to look down at the floor. He looked at me puzzled and then actually took my hand. He walked me out of my office and into the lobby area where the secretaries sat.

He stood me in front of them and grabbed both of my pants' legs. Then he raised them.

I had forgotten to put my socks on. And I was wearing Oxfords???? Can't explain it; don't know how it happened. Just did.

Reasons to leave work early

I was working at a law firm which had a meeting every night. I was kind of overweight and I went to pick up something on the floor and I heard a long ripping sound. My pants. There I was in an office of maybe 40 people and I was going to have walk past a lot of them. So, I called the boss in and literally showed him my riiiiip.

Then I tied my jacket around my waist and went home.

At the time, I worked with Don, who comments here sometimes. He went to the evening meeting, which I, of course, missed. Someone said - "Did David go home sick?"

To which my buddy replied - "No, he went home fat."

Nice guy. Embarrassing for me though.

Me, exposer

Last one. I was a law student and had an internship at a local firm. One day they asked me to go to the County Clerk's office and get some papers. So, I dressed nicer than usual with a pair of slacks and a button down shirt.

I walked into the clerk's office and pushed open some double doors. A young woman was passing by and gave me a really nice smile. I felt good about that. I guessed I looked nice for a change.

Then, I walked into another room and another woman gave me a nice smile. Wow. I must have really looked good.

And then I passed a third woman who did not smile. She gasped and looked straight at my crotch. I looked down. Not only was my zipper open, but the flaps on my pants were also spread wide open under my belt.

I ran all the way back to my office, my usual embarrassment defense reaction in full gear, laughing like a madman. I entered my office and in front of the 60 something year old secretary collapsed onto the floor and couldn't speak for minutes.

Ahhh, those were the days.

About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .