Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Escaping conventional wisdom

You know those opinions you hold but no one else shares? The ones at which people gasp and say, ‘You can’t possibly believe that!’ Well it is - precisely those - opinions that help define you. Covet them, for they are you.
            Herewith a dozen of my opinions with which most people disagree:

            • The best-ever host of The Tonight Show was Jack Paar. Carson had longevity but Paar was electric.

            • Today’s America is as polarized as it’s been at any time since the Civil War.

            • We should still have tented circuses. The indoor kind just aren’t the same.

            • In baseball, 3 balls should be a walk. Watching pitcher and catcher toss the ball back and forth is tedious.

            • Two gentlemen who would man well the office of U.S. President: Jeb Bush, Evan Bayh.

            • Jonathan Winters was the funniest man ever.

            • Want to rebel against something? How about the necktie. What earthly good do they do? They’re not even decorative since most are absurdly mismatched.

            • People should have more arguments. Used as a cordial learning tool, arguing is how ideas get examined. Granted arguments can turn toxic, but they needn’t, given civilized ground rules.

            • The best American movie ever was 1953s From Here to Eternity based on James Jones’ novel. Ironically, it was made by a minor league studio – Columbia – but rarely does a picture so honestly capture a story’s ethos.

            • The all-time silliest American fad was the Twist. It was grotesquely awkward and unappealing to watch or perform.

            • Whatever happened to music? You know – pleasant songs with lyrics like I’m in the Mood for Love.’

            Sean Connery is the definitive James Bond. Connery’s secret: Have fun with the character who is, at essence, comedic.

            So, when that moment comes in which you deliver a thoughtful opinion that’s greeted with derision, you may be taken as a naysayer or an eccentric. Maybe so. But you also have intellectual courage.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Some Christmas traditions you may never have heard of – and for good reason

Here they are, just for the sheer enjoyment. At least I hope so:
1. Send a card to someone with whom you’re on the outs. (If you’re on the outs with more than, say, 30 people, just ignore this.)
2. Arrange an equine cultural exchange. Send the Lipizzaner Stallions to St. Louis to pull a beer wagon, while the Budweiser Clydesdales clomp around Vienna. This will work; no room for neigh-sayers (please note pun).
3. Forgive yourself for one egregiously dumb mistake you’ve made earlier in life. Never think of it again. In fact, make it two mistakes. A Christmas special.
4. You know those guys who jump into an icy lake to show how hardy they are? Let them not do it this year. For one Christmas let sanity trump vanity.
5. The country is politically polarized this Christmas. Let’s do something about it. Maybe hoist a toast to George Washington who didn’t want political parties at all.
6. Keep in mind that those Christmas movies and TV specials are mostly filmed in mid-summer – a testimony to the enduring spirit.
7. If I’m on your gift list, please don’t give me a scarf. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the scarves of Christmas past. In fact, I’ll give you a scarf. A really nice one, only slightly used.
8. Have a contest to see who can do the best impression of Bing Crosby singing White Christmas. Incidentally, the Irving Berlin classic is actually an Angeleno’s lament. The rarely sung prelude: “The sun is shining, the grass is green, the orange and palm trees sway. There’s never been such a day in Beverly Hills, L.A. But it’s December the 24th and I am longing to be up north.” And we all know how it goes from there.
9. When it’s time to have someone play Santa, pick the biggest grump in the group. The role is transformative. By feigning jollity, Santa may actually acquire it. I’ve seen it happen.
10. If for some reason you can’t get into the holiday mood this year, go ahead and fake it. You won’t be sorry. I’m not sure how that works but it does. Seriously.