The Need for 24-7 Stimulus: Someone please help me with this... I sat down to an absolutely amazing dinner last night. Brielle had gotten me a bone-in rib-eye (my favorite) and she prepared it French style, marinating it in dijon mustard and coating it with herbes de provence... add an artichoke, a green salad, and perfectly cooked new potatoes, and you have one of my favorite all-time "comfort food" meals. The meat was cooked perfectly - slightly charred on the outside and medium rare on the inside - and led me to open a 2006 Chateauneuf-de-Pape to take it over the top. In short, it was heaven. (And this was a Monday night, btw...maybe we need to re-think weekends and weekend eating, because I might looove Mondays if this became the normal routine.) But here's where the needle skips and the record comes to a screeching halt. Get this: sitting by myself (Brielle was feeding the baby in the other room and I had the "ok" to get started alone) with all of this in front of me, I actually stood up and started to walk into the other room to get the recent copy of The Economist that I am halfway through. Thankfully, however, I caught myself. Why is this significant? It boils down to this...given the perfect meal and a quiet setting in which to enjoy it, I once again fell into the trap of "fill every waking moment of my free time with something substantial and meaningful," i.e. finish the magazine, or the paper, or answer an e-mail. So I ask myself, what is so wrong with just "enjoying the moment?" I love Rudyard Kipling's If...it is probably my favorite poem. But do I really need to "fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run" all the time? Really? When did that happen? Am I a product of my environment, wherein there is so much information overflow that I simply need to be keeping up with it all the time? Does this make my life better in any meaningful way? I don't know - maybe the article on gold that I was reading in The Economist is entirely useful and I really should be reading it. Or maybe - like so much in today's world - it's more white noise. In the end, you really never know, so I seek to consume as much as possible. I operate under the assumption that got me through Amherst College: "I am the dumbest guy in the room...everyone else is brilliant...I need to read more and work harder." What I do know, however, is that I miss being a kid...and in particular I miss being a kid in a non-internet, non-information-overload world. I miss playing outside, and then tiring out and just plopping on my back on the grass and looking up at the sky, the clouds, and the birds passing through my line of vision. How long did I do that for? Hours? Minutes? Did I fall asleep sometimes? Did I ever feel the urge to get up or fill that time with a magazine article or by clicking a link I had emailed to myself to read later on? No, I didn't...I would just lay there until I was ready to move on to the next thing...or until I regained my energy and went back to kicking the ball or shooting the jumper or whatever. But my mind was quiet. It was ok to do nothing... And it still should be. So I sat back down last night, dispelled all thoughts of "catching up on reading" and enjoyed the incredible meal my wife had made. The world was ok for a brief time as I savored each and every bite while simply staring at the wall, letting my mind go blank...and I vowed to try to do this much, much more often...
Courageous Authors: I recently read Hari Kunzru's My Revolutions (recommended) and found myself relying on the oft-necessary book-reading side-job: I kept a dictionary on hand as my Dad had always urged me to when I was younger (well, now it's websters.com) and found myself looking up quite a few words. Kunzru is a talented writer and I really enjoyed his novel, which is set in the U.K. and centers around a former Vietnam-era student protester (finding himself swept up into more-and-more violent forms of protest before ultimately going into hiding and taking on a new identity) who is suddenly confronted with his past after 30 years. It offered what I assume to be a very real and authentic glimpse into the world of extremism, and the shades of gray that can take one on a path from peaceful marching to terrorist bombing. But getting back to the dictionary look-ups, I found myself thinking about whether or not authors are truly courageous in their use of language, or whether perhaps they are just that much smarter than us all. Here's what I mean: there's generally a process when I learn a new word...there's a delay before I ever have the guts to use it in writing or in public. First I need to be sure what it means, then I need to probably overhear someone use it in a sentence so I know how it is actually pronounced, then I might see it in writing again, and then - finally - I might find myself needing to sound smarter than I actually am after a few beers and saying something at a dinner event somewhere like "no, no...I don't mean that in the pejorative sense." It's a lengthy process from start to finish. And that makes me wonder if people like Hari Kunzru are similar or entirely different. If he's similar to me, that means he actually mingles with people who use words like "elided" or "prurient" or "oleaginous" (to name three that I remember looking up) at parties, right? Doesn't that blow your mind? Or, maybe he's just different...and he reads dictionaries for fun and stumbles on words that suit his needs and he uses them without ever speaking them. Maybe that ability is in part what makes an author an author... Regardless, it's impressive and intellectually courageous in my opinion. Either guys like Hari Kunzru hear these words within a conversational circle of friends and they are part of his world...or he has the daring-do to use them without prior experience with them. In any event, he kept me busy with the dictionary, and it may be a while before I casually request a more prurient attitude from my wife...but ya never know.
Ethnic Food: Have you ever had this conversation?
Person A: What do you feel like for dinner? I am thinking Thai food.
Person B: Nah, I had Thai for lunch. How about Indian?
A: I had Indian last night. What about Japanese?
B: No, I'm having sushi for lunch tomorrow. Maybe Italian?
And so on... anyway, this got me thinking about how silly that all sounds. I mean, what do you think people in China or Thailand say? Nah, can't have food for dinner, I had food for lunch...?? It's kind of funny how entitled that all sounds, I guess. We really do live in the most affluent and entitled age in the history of the planet as we know it. (Unless, of course, the crazies at the Church of Scientology are right and there were aliens here first or something.) We probably have it better than 99.999999999% of humans who have ever been born. And as a result, we get to decry food choices for fear of...duplication and boredom. Where is it written that you can't have a type of food back-to-back? I am pretty sure something like 4-5 billion people (in other words, everyone other than the US, Canada, and Europe) do this everyday, lol. It's all comedy.
LeBron: It's all good, King James...I am fine with your right to pursue free agency and your choice of the Heat. But just remember that actions have consequences. And as Michael Jordan hinted at yesterday (and as Charles Barkley has outright said), you just no longer belong in the MJ-Larry-Magic-Kobe conversation. Your bar has been re-set at "Pippen." Good luck with that, but know that as a fan, I am disappointed. Meanwhile, this Heat season could go one of two ways...a 10-10 start due to "gelling together" and "getting used to each other" issues, followed by Spoelstra going the way of Stan Van Gundy in 2006 and some media panic before righting the ship...OR...the NBA and in particular the Eastern Conference just bows down to these guys and they go like 72-10 and roll through the regular season. I bet on the latter. Unfortunately today's NBA just doesn't seem to have many...ummm...well...MEN. The Jordans and the Oakleys and the Xavier McDaniels and the Akeem Olajuwons and the Alonzo Mournings and the Anthony Masons and the Rick Mahorns of the past would be saying, "ok Heat...let's see what you got...bring it." But today's NBA? Have you heard a peep from Dwight Howard and Vince Carter? Nope, and don't expect to. Or the Celtics? I mean, Dan Gilbert - despite crossing the line in his open letter to LeBron - seems to be the only person in the NBA actually possessing testicles. The NBA today is like Pedro Cerrano in Major League II. Fat and happy and not interested in hard fouls or serious rivalries. Ah, maybe I am off-base here...but I can make at least one relatively sure prediction: The 2010-2011 Miami Heat will break the all-time NBA record for least flagrant fouls against. No one will touch, or test, these guys...either because today's NBA player is softer than past players, or because the NBA and David Stern's WWF referees won't allow it. Either way, it's a shame. And thank goodness for football...
Economics: Found myself wondering the other day whether Capitalism simply moves into Socialism with age...kind of the same way young liberal thinkers become more conservative with age. Could this be why
Europe is mostly socialist at this point? Because they are just older than us? Didn't - for example - European nations start out as utterly capitalist (Columbus seeking America, the Dutch East Indian Company, Francis Drake bringing back tobacco from North Carolina) and - after wars, famine, crises, aging populations, etc - ultimately went down the road of debt which led to something akin to today's "new normal" of unemployment and government spending as necessary to maintain a functioning society? If so, do all great powers morph into socialism eventually? I feel like there is simply an arc - a lifespan - to modern empires...and that there is
not much that can be done about it. Thus begging the question...is the current reality of our deficit, government spending, and reliance on debt just a step along that inevitable path to socialism and - ultimately - irrelevance? Of course, if we are heading in this direction, there is one side benefit - our soccer team will surely improve...
That's all for now, stay in touch,