Friday, October 26, 2012

Cheap and easy ways to find peace of mind

Inner peace emanates from a higher power. Mine are merely musings from a temporal and flawed point of view. How do I achieve peace of mind? In the most quotidian ways:
1. Avoid arguments with jerks. Some calculate the odds of winning an argument. Better to calculate the level of civility. Jerks know all the answers. They can be interviewed but not enjoyed.
2. Find nature. If you live in New York City, the Catskills are only an hour away. Same with Atlanta and the Blue Ridge. Same with London and the Cotswolds.
3. Locate a mountain creek and immerse yourself, literally if possible but at least figuratively. Listen to the burbling, which is more coherent than one would think. The creek is refuting the assumption that you have to be ruthless to get where you’re going. The little creek gets where it’s going, nurturing everything it encounters.
4. Do one thing at a time and do it well. If you’re in conversation, do not say, “Oops, I have to take this call; it’s important.” To which the appropriate response is, “Oh yeah? Am I not important? Tantrum to follow!” The taxonomy of people into levels of importance is to be avoided.
5. When you have nothing to say, enjoy the luxury of saying nothing. No clever retorts to rehearse. Simply bask in the assumption of your own wisdom which is often beyond expressing.
6. Take yourself as seriously as you want. I’ve always disliked the admonition, “Don’t take yourself so seriously.” Why not? Is my life an endeavor to be taken casually? Learning to laugh at oneself is a pain.
7. Whether you play it safe or take a risk, don’t second-guess yourself. You weighed the evidence and made a decision. Take comfort in your decisiveness. Even when you go wrong, there’s benefit to be had.
8. Embrace spectator sports. It’s recreative to watch adults desport themselves in games of ball. One who observes such contests is a sportsman seeking inner peace, not, as sometimes alleged, a lazy good-for-nothing chore-avoiding lout.
9. Think about things. When you do, someone will inevitably ask, “Are you okay? You seem preoccupied.” Respond by reciting the lyrics to Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. It’ll get ’em off your back for awhile.
10. Know that you possess the means of improving the human condition. Maybe it’s nothing more than a smile and a nod to someone on the street. Try it, if you feel like it. Peace of mind attends those who try, and who experiment with ways peace can be spread around.

Monday, October 22, 2012

America’s least competent Answer Man answers your questions

            Q: How do James Carville and Mary Matalin stay married?
            A: Fear. Mutual and incapacitating.
            Q: If you had a choice between inviting Bill O’Reilly or Jon Stewart to dinner, which would you select?
            A: I’d go to Burger King. Or maybe Wendy’s. They have a salad with avocados.
            Q: I read somewhere that the New York Giants have no mascot. Why is this?
            A: Some of their players approach 400 lbs. How many giants do you need?
            Q: What’s the worst thing a political candidate can do in a debate?
            A: Break into a moonwalk.
            Q: Have you seen the new Clint Eastwood picture Trouble with the Curve?
            A: Yes. Mr. Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino was a more plausible old-Clint, although my hat’s off to any actor in his 80s who can carry a picture. Some of the close-ups are brutal but Clint didn’t beg off.
            Q: What’s the answer to America’s budget crisis?
            A: Numbers in the billions and trillions are incomprehensible to the layman. That calculator that shows the ever-increasing national debt? Get rid of it; it’s irritating.
            Q: Why do credible actors do commercials or voice-overs? Robert Vaughn. Donald Sutherland. Tommy Lee Jones. What can they be thinking?
            A: They are thinking as follows: ‘Proper roles for someone of my stature are scarce. I’ll accept this commercial and make a great deal of money.’ Incidentally, Eleanor Roosevelt in 1960 made a television commercial for Bluebonnet Margarine with fees donated to a particularly worthy charity.
            Q: I dislike political attack ads. Why does no one challenge the assumption that going negative works?
            A: Such a challenge would be akin in stature to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball: difficult; not impossible.
            Q: I’ve read some of your Answer Man observations all of which bring to mind a single question: Are you out of your !!@§ mind?
            A: Thank you for your inquiry. Let me answer your question this way: !!@§!
            Q: Is it true that your Answer Man credentials have been revoked?
            A: No, it is not true. My credentials were briefly suspended in a dispute involving a turtle which has now been resolved. I had nothing to do with it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Why kids don’t care about history, which is too bad because it’s exciting.

            Instead of dates and treaties, we should emphasize drama. Herewith a few sidelights from the big pageant:
            Christopher Columbus had a brother. Bartolomeo Columbus was an accomplished mapmaker who crossed the Atlantic several times and ultimately became Governor of Hispaniola.
            As revolutions go, the American one was relatively benign in its aftermath. This is especially true in comparison to the later bloody aftermath in France. In America, the losing Tories either immigrated to British Canada or simply stayed where they were and became Americans. Recriminations were relatively rare.
            The 1815 Battle of Waterloo, victoriously generaled by the Duke of Wellington, was not exclusively a British victory. It required a combined force of British, Prussians, Austrians and Russians to finally suppress Bonaparte.
            During the Civil War, Irish immigrants just off the board were regularly impressed into the Union Army. Customs Officer One: “Congratulations, you’re a US citizen. Move along.” Customs Officer Two: “Congratulations, you’re a private in the US Army. Go fight for your country.”
            Abe Lincoln was not above political image-making. At the 1860 nominating convention in Chicago, Lincoln operatives handed out rail-splitter lapel pins.
            President Theodore Roosevelt did not get along with Winston Churchill. The two were in many ways alike. Both were described as “imperial, bold and prolific.” They met on several occasions and simply didn’t hit it off. With Franklin (Teddy’s cousin) and Winston, as we know, things were better.
            Charles Lindbergh was not the first man to fly the Atlantic. A pair of Britishers, Alcock and Brown, had done it east to west in 1919. Lindbergh was the first to do it solo, and Lindy’s jaunt, while brave, was something of a stunt.
            In 1941, before Pearl Harbor, 80 percent of Americans did not want to go to war against Germany and Japan. The isolationist movement in America was strong. It took Pearl Harbor to alter American thinking toward the inevitability of war.
            Teddy Roosevelt’s son was a combat general in World War II. Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., 57, a Brigadier General, led troops onto Utah Beach during D-Day. He was a wiry little guy with a fibrillating heart whose presence on the beach, under fire, had a stabilizing influence so profound that when his heart gave out days later he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
            The authors of historical fiction have a point: history is the narrative of courage, the seedbed of romance. I can’t let it go. It would be like ignoring life itself.

Friday, October 5, 2012

How Yankees and southerners can live in harmony

            I grew up in West Virginia, which vantage point allows something like objectivity. Let me posit a few attitude adjustments that could finesse some of the old rifts.
            For example, southerners could forgo the conceit that college football is not played outside the Southeastern Conference. It is, although not as belligerently.
            And southerners could forgo calling The Civil War the War Between the States, an awkward construct that only obfuscates while failing to make the intended point. Let reenactors on both sides conjoin to reenact the Battle of Iwo Jima with Stone Mountain as Mount Suribachi. By the way, not all Civil War buffs are southerners. Mario Cuomo and Richard Dreyfuss are cases in point.
            Northerners could be encouraged to embrace NASCAR with a couple of dirt tracks in, say, Massachusetts. Maybe throw in some Waffle Houses which would render obsolete all the stupid jokes about grits.
            The two regions might agree that southern novelists are no more eccentric or gothic than northern novelists. For every Flannery O’Conner there’s an Edgar Allan Poe.
            And by the way, Pennsylvanians (not southerners) fought a small war for the right to make whiskey at home. President George Washington himself led the army that quashed the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, and forced trans-Allegheny frontierspeople to pay a whopping 25 percent whiskey tax to the new U.S. government.
            And perhaps some northern real estate developer could create a Yankee version of The Villages where southern retirees could play hockey and learn ice fishing. Escapees bent on reaching the Florida Villages would be incarcerated at the Village Prison.
            But seriously, we could all acknowledge that there is no such thing as a southern accent. There is a New Orleans accent, an Atlanta accent, a Charleston accent, all with variations. There are also accents distinctive to Boston, Chicago and New York. Why one is more subject to parody than another is something I’ve never understood. On a recent visit to a north Georgia high school, I noticed that the kids seemed accent-free, unless there’s such a thing as a Disney Channel accent.
            The thing is, we’re learning to like one another. Mason-Dixon is disappearing, except for a few unreconstructed denizens like the elderly lady who still blamed “the Abraham Lincoln administration for The War of Northern Aggression.” Seated with her around the bridge table were natives of Milwaukee, Hartford and rural Vermont, all of whom smiled politely, unwilling to challenge the sensibility of their friend.