Monday, June 29, 2009

Gratitude Journal #3

Today, I am grateful for this cabin.

And this view.

And for my aunt and uncle who have made their cabin in the North Carolina mountains a wonderful refuge of peace and relaxation and comfort.

What are you grateful for today?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fiction over Fact

While visiting my sister and her family a few years ago, I had a very interesting conversation with my brother-in-law, Tom, a history professor at the US Naval Academy. Tom’s research focuses on economic and environmental approaches to history. Check out his book on cars and the environment here.

We discussed approaches to teaching history (well, I asked questions and Tom gave very thorough, interesting answers). In academic studies, as in the fashion industry, various trends come and go, and I wanted to know what was currently in vogue.

This wasn’t idle curiosity on my part. My thesis entertained a somewhat
New Historical approach to Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, and I own scores of medieval history books. I adore history—at least as far as it is useful for illuminating literature. I know, for instance, a surprising amount about battle tactics of knights and the invention of the long bow, and I therefore know why the English kicked French butt at the battle of Crécy in 1346, but only because I wrote a paper on Chaucer’s “Squire’s Tale” and needed that information to support my argument about the pointlessness of the knightly class in late 14th century literature.

Hello? Tap. Tap. Are you still with me? I’m sorry. I know most people don’t really care about the pointlessness of the knightly class in late 14th century literature. Please accept my apologies for bringing it up.

My talk with Tom reminded me of an NPR report about how men generally read more nonfiction and women generally read more fiction and poetry. No definitive answer has been found to explain this difference so I started a little research of my own and asked Tom why he generally prefers nonfiction. He answered, stroking his chin professorially, “Fiction is an inefficient means of communicating information, and I decided it was a waste of my time reading it.” Hmmm. Data point number one.

I then asked my husband, George, the same question. He answered, “You know, when I read, I want information, and it’s just easier for me to get what I want reading nonfiction.” Data point number two.

Two test subjects may not constitute a valid study, but I’m certain most women will agree with the immediate conclusion I drew from my data, which is this: men are infinitely weird.

Let’s examine the weirdness, shall we? The charge that “fiction is an inefficient means of communicating information,” as Tom states, requires very narrow definitions of “information” and “efficient.” The images, symbols, allusions, metaphors, and general rhetorical richness of fiction and poetry communicate rather a lot of information in very few words, don’t you think? For example, let us consider the following short poem by William Carlos Williams:

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

What a great little poem. Despite its brevity, there is A LOT going on in it. I gave a five-minute oral presentation on it in 1982. By the end of college in December, 1987, I could have written a 20-page paper on it, easily. By the end of graduate school in 1994, I could have written a book-length dissertation on just these four lines.

How is this possible?

Williams efficiently crams an enormous amount of information (only we literary scholars call it “meaning”) into the image he creates with these 16 simple, ordinary words. The poem speaks to all sorts of universal concepts, including one that drives our Word of the Year project to start anew, fresh and clean. It speaks to the sacrificial properties of blood; of baptismal waters that renew and purify; of the redeeming power of the simplest, most ordinary things (like wheel barrows and chickens); of the value of honest manual labor; and of my favorite subject, perspective.

Okay, I may have lost you at “sacrificial properties of blood” but my point here is that just a few words can convey huge amounts of information if you know what information to look for. Reading literature well requires two things: knowing the specialized vocabulary of literary study and reading lots of literature. The more you study and read, the bigger your frame of reference and the more efficiently you can extract the information encoded in it.

The fact that this sort of information bears no relevance to the economic rise and environmental impact of automobiles is hardly the fault of the poem, but it does explain why such material is a waste of time for an economic/environmental historian like Tom. It also explains George’s statement that it’s easier to get information out of nonfiction: nonfiction doesn’t employ dense literary language but tends to lay out an argument or story in clearly logical fashion.

But does this make much difference in the process of reading nonfiction well? I don’t think so.

Let’s take a book off George’s shelf to illustrate my point. You don’t have to read a bunch of books about the atomic bomb to follow the argument in The Making of the Atomic Bomb. You can easily extract a lot of information about the bomb in the process. But what can you DO with that information? You would still have to read a bunch of other books about the atomic bomb to evaluate The Making of the Atomic Bomb critically for its meaning and to find the holes in its argument and the weak spots in its evidence.

So there’s not a big difference between reading fiction or nonfiction well…both require reading a lot to understand nuances and the deeper significance of the subject matter. The biggest difference is content. In fiction, the content is created to explore philosophical questions about life for which there are no easy answers: why are we here, how do we find ourselves in particular situations, what makes us who we are, what is love? Fiction gives us lots of information to explore these sorts of questions. It’s also written to entertain, which makes it more fun than nonfiction about the atomic bomb, don’t you think?

If, however, you’re interested in questions like how was the atomic bomb built, what were the motives behind its construction, who was involved, how did they feel about it, and what happened as a result, then nonfiction is definitely more helpful—and if it’s well written, it can be entertaining, too.

Ultimately, “information” is really just whatever interests the reader. Most women I know are content with just a little information on the atomic bomb and automobiles but are endlessly fascinated by relationships and love and human behavior.

Whenever I was forced to read “information” on economic history (John Stuart Mill comes immediately—and painfully—to mind), my brain would get all slippery and distractible. The buzz of my tinnitus, which was easy enough to ignore when I read Shakespeare or the Brontë sisters or James Joyce, would amplify annoyingly under the influence of Mill, and I’d start formulating grocery lists in my head or daydreaming about eating a Ruby Tuesday’s Chocolate Tall Cake all by myself. Yummy.

After a while, I would realize my brain wasn’t taking in a single bit of information from the page. I would tell myself, “Focus, Susan! FOCUS! You’re going to be tested on this crap!” To this day, I can’t tell you what Mill’s argument was. My brain never could adequately absorb it.

Is this what it’s like for guys when they have to read A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Wuthering Heights?

My bookshelves contain nonfiction on subjects other than medieval history, such as paper crafts, science, the human brain, autism, and special education. I don’t read fiction for information on those subjects (although there is a fun mystery series about scrapbooking), so I can understand Tom and George’s reasons for preferring nonfiction for their own areas of interest. I cannot, however, understand Tom’s view of fiction as a waste of his time in general or George’s inability to finish the second
Thursday Next novel by Jasper Fforde because it’s totally brilliant satire at its postmodern silliest.

Men and women are different. (Am I not the Master of the Obvious?) I’m convinced that testosterone and estrogen have a greater impact on our brains than anyone outside the specialized field of endocrinology has yet realized. No matter how many federal dollars are spent researching the psychology of gender-based reading preferences, women are generally going to buy more fiction and poetry, and men are generally going to buy more nonfiction. We are chemically motivated to be interested in different things, and really, what’s wrong with that?

I’ll end this far too meandering essay with a quick confession…every time I read the wheel barrow poem by Williams aloud, I have to work really hard not to laugh when I get to the white chickens. Chickens have that effect on me. Read Chaucer’s
“Nun’s Priest’s Tale” and you’ll have all the information you need to understand why.

Note: I will not have connectivity until Monday, June 29, and will be unable to reply to your emails or comments until then. But, as always, your comments and responses are very much appreciated!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Gratitude Journal #2

The following responsive reading was printed in my church’s bulletin yesterday*:

One Voice: On this Father’s Day, we cherish the love of our fathers.
Many Voices: We thank you, God, for fathers who comfort and encourage.
One Voice: We thank you, God, for fathers who build character and inspire us to greatness.
Many Voices: We thank you, God, for fathers who teach morality and model decency.
One Voice: We thank you, God, for fathers who lovingly convince boys to become men.
Many Voices: We thank you, God, for brave fathers who have the courage to be fathers even when the going gets rough.
One Voice: We thank you, God, for fathers who are no longer with us but will always be in our hearts.
Many Voices: Most of all we thank you, God, for being our heavenly Father, for loving us so perfectly, and for setting the high standard of love, justice, and compassion that we aspire to.
One Voice: Lord, on this Father’s Day, we ask your blessing on all fathers.
All: May we be a church that encourages, challenges, and supports all fathers with your love.

Father’s Day is awkward for those of us whose fathers are not part of our lives, but yesterday in church, Pastor Suzanne indirectly reminded me that my Heavenly Father provided well for me through the years with surrogate fathers who met this high standard of love and compassion. Today, I am especially grateful for them. Here they are, listed in the order I met them.

My grandfather D.L. Willis
My uncle Darius Hinnant
Family friend Jim Thompson
English teacher John Lentz
My father-in-law Roger Raihala

I am also grateful for the father of my children, George, who makes sure our sons feel comforted, encouraged, built up, inspired, safe, and—most of all—loved.

What are you grateful for today?

*Source unknown. If you know it, please let me know so I can give proper credit.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Growing Up Too Fast

My son Nick is nine going on nineteen. He wants rights to which he isn’t entitled and for which he isn’t ready—just like every other nine year old on the planet. Unlike every other nine year old, however, Nick is what the parenting literature calls a strong-willed aggressive negotiator. These rare specimens of homo sapiens offspring have amazing powers of persuasion. They dazzle their parents with logic and double-speak and persistent questioning. When Nick wants something—information, permission, a toy—he keeps talking about it, like a pit bull that won’t let go of its prey, gnawing at the hapless victim until he gets what he wants.

We hope Nick uses his powers for good and not evil when he grows up. If he goes over to the dark side, he’ll make Darth Vader look like H.R. Pufnstuff.

You think I'm joking, don't you?

Take movies and television, for instance. Nick is constantly pushing the limits, trying to negotiate watching movies and shows that are not appropriate for his age or sensitive nature. Nick saw the box for Child’s Play at Best Buy. He asked George about it, and when George briefly explained that it was a horror movie and not appropriate for children, despite the title, Nick relentlessly pestered him to describe the movie.

Mind you, George went through military survival training and mastered all sorts of techniques to resist enemy interrogation, but under the relentless barrage of questions from his nine-year-old son, George finally caved and told him about the psychopathic, knife-wielding doll.

Later that day, Nick and I had the following conversation:

Nick: I know the difference between pretend and reality. I think I could watch Child’s Play.

Me: Nick, I won’t watch Child’s Play. Movies like that are gross and teach people that violence is funny or for entertainment. They teach people not to care about other people’s suffering.

Nick: What do you mean?

Me: Kids who see lots of violence on TV and in movies and games don’t care about real-life violence. One kid who watched movies like that drove past a terrible car accident with his mother. A woman was dead, and when he saw her body, he smiled and said, “Cool!” It was not cool. It was sad and horrible.

Nick: Well, Dad watches Saving Private Ryan.

Me: Saving Private Ryan is violent in a different way. It doesn’t glorify violence or death. It shows how horrible war is. No one would laugh or feel entertained at the violence in that movie. We won’t let you watch it until you are grown up and make the choice for yourself.

Nick: Well, I want to watch Child’s Play.

Me: When you grow up, you can make a choice about that, too.

Nick: I can’t wait to grow up. Really, Mom, I know I could handle that movie. Really.

Me: This discussion is over.

Nick: But, Mom….

Me: Let it go.

If I had let him, Nick would have kept this conversation going all afternoon. “Let it go” is a useful—and oft-repeated—phrase in our parenting repertoire.

That night, a few minutes after George and I put the boys to bed, Nick called for me to come upstairs.

Nick: You know, Mom, how Dad told me about the movie Child’s Play with the doll that kills people? Well, I keep thinking about that, and it’s scaring me. I can’t sleep. What do I do?

Me: Nick, it’s totally impossible for a doll to kill people. You need to think happy thoughts instead. Think about Pokemon or our trip to the zoo.

Nick: I can’t. The doll keeps coming into my mind. I don’t want it there!

Me: Would it help if we left the hall light on?

Nick [relieved]: Yes!

Isn’t it amazing how light scares away imaginary psychotic toys?

Sexual content is another sensitive subject. Nick still views girls as either platonic chums or cootie colonies, for which I am grateful. Sexual innuendo floats over Nick’s head for the time being, and he’s never asked anything about sex, other than questions about anatomical differences between boys and girls.

While walking with Nick and Jack to the pool recently, however, Nick sprang at me with this alarming topic:

Nick: Mom, guess what.

Me: What?

Nick: You know Wanda Sykes, the one in Over the Hedge? She’s in a commercial and, she says, “When you say, ‘That’s so gay,’ do you realize what you say? Knock it off.” In a commercial. What does “gay” mean, Mom?

Me [wondering where he saw this commercial and how he remembered the wording so perfectly when he cannot remember the sum of 8 plus 9]: Well, gay used to mean "
happy." But these days it means something inappropriate for nine-year-olds.

Nick: At school, people use it to mean weird or strange or something, but I don’t think that can be right. I think they just mean geeky.

Me: You’re right; it doesn’t mean weird or strange.

Nick [sighing]: I wish I knew what it DOES mean.

Me: We’ll have this discussion another time.

Nick: When I’m ten?

Me: Let it go.

I know we need to have this conversation—and soon—but he sprang it on me so unexpectedly. My procedure for these ambushes is to play for time so I don’t say too much or the wrong thing.

Generally speaking, birds-and-bees talk doesn’t disturb me at all. I believe a matter-of-fact, sensible, and minimalist approach is best. When Nick was three and potty-training, I walked into the family room to find him exploring his privates.

Nick [in complete panic]: Mom, I have rocks in me!

Me: They are not rocks; they are t*sticles.

Nick: But I don’t want them! Take them out!

Me: No, you need them. Daddy has them, too. They make you a boy.

Nick: Really?

Me: Yes.

Nick: Are you sure?

Me: Positive.

Nick [still not entirely convinced]: Okay.

I deserve an award for not laughing through this exchange, don’t you think? The beauty of my response is how few words I used. Despite being loquacious by nature, I keep this stuff simple. But for some reason, when Nick threw the gay question at me, all I could think of were too many words. I have had a few days to edit myself, and next time the subject comes up, I’ll be prepared.

I just hope I can be as cool when he’s emitting body odor and sprouting hair in places currently bare and we have the conversation about keeping his manhood in his pants.

Where the hell is that instruction manual?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Gratitude Journal

Gratitude is our most direct line to God and the angels. If we take the time, no matter how crazy and troubled we feel, we can find something to be thankful for. --Terry Lynn Taylor

Welcome to a new regular feature of Questioning my Intelligence: Gratitude Journal. Real Simple magazine ran an article a few months back about keeping a gratitude journal as a way of maintaining a healthy perspective in tough times. These are crazy and troubled times, and negativity seems to be infecting the world.

One antidote to negativity is gratitude, so I’m going to write a weekly dose of gratitude. These "attitude of gratitude" posts may take the form of a list of things I’m grateful for, a poem, a picture, a quotation, an image…whatever feels right to me in the moment. Gratitude Journal entries will go up each Monday simply because Mondays are so maligned. Let’s turn Manic Mondays into Marvelous Mondays.

Lord above, could I sound more Pollyanna-ish? Please don't answer that.

I cordially invite you to join me. Post your own weekly Gratitude Journal in the comments here, or if you prefer a more private approach, keep a journal on your nightstand...whatever feels right to you.

Gratitude Journal #1

I’m grateful that twenty-three years ago yesterday, George and I were married in St. Paul United Methodist Church. We were young and stupid and naïve. But we were also in love and stubborn and determined, and we made it work.

What are you grateful for today?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Vinous Taliban? I Think Not.

Oh, my. I think I’m in love. Last week’s blog essay sparked a response from Mr. Lou Amdur, the owner of a wine bar in Los Angeles. I wrote that he carried the “wine lifestyle” to a pretentious extreme when he stated for Saveur magazine, “I only pour wines I enjoy. I might have a customer who would like a buttery chardonnay, but I would feel cynical pouring it for him.”

Mr. Amdur googled his wine bar and ended up on my blog. Before I posted last week, it did occur to me that the owner of a wine bar might feel the need to do vanity searches. He needs to know what people are saying about his bar in the vast network of cyberspace, after all, and googling makes this easy. But let’s face it; my blog has a modest readership (and I adore each and every one of you; you know that, don’t you?). I honestly did not think my post would show up on the first few pages of such a search. It did, and Mr. Amdur read it and commented.

While I’m flattered that he bothered to offer up any sort of reply to my bit of nonsense, I experienced spasms of rhetoric-induced bliss when I read what he wrote. Consider this absolutely delightful passage:

“Am I some sort of vinous Taliban, shoving my odious opinion down your throat, forcing you to come to Lou and drink a crisp, fresh, 12.5 percent alcohol JP Brun chardonnay? Am I protesting outside of BevMo, chanting, ‘Hey ho, oaked chardonnay has got to go’? Am I trying to convince vignerons or anyone else that my taste in wine is superior to theirs? Am I lobbying the California state legislature to ban oaky chardonnay? Do I think you’re a bad person because you like oaky chardonnay, an infidel who deserves derision, ridicule, and perhaps even censure? The answer to all of these rhetorical questions is ‘no.’”

This is WONDERFUL! Read it out loud to yourself. A very satisfying defense, don’t you think? Mr. Amdur could not possibly know I am a sucker for flights of rhetorical exaggeration and extended series of parallel grammatical units. If he did know this about me, I would swear he was flirting.

All I can say is I truly hope he had as much fun writing that passage as I had reading it. My favorite line, after the “vinous Taliban” reference, is “Am I protesting outside of BevMo, chanting ‘Hey ho, oaked chardonnay has got to go’?” I really, really want to see oenophiles carrying their protest of oak that far. It would be highly entertaining. But alas, Mr. Amdur appears to have some sense of perspective.


For the record, I did not accuse Mr. Amdur of any of these things. My essay poked fun at those who take “wine and the lifestyle that goes with it” too seriously. I quoted his comment from Saveur magazine and responded thus:

“As an infidel who adores buttery chardonnay, I would like to tell Mr. Amdur to stuff a corkscrew in his … cynicism. I bet he would have an aneurysm if he saw my friend Linda put ice cubes in her merlot. He may own a trendy wine bar and live the ‘lifestyle’ of wine, but he doesn’t have the right to tell me what sort of wine I should or should not be drinking. That job resides with my taste buds alone.”

I appreciate that Mr. Amdur’s comment on Questioning politely ignores both my method for selecting wine and the reference to Linda’s putting ice cubes in her merlot. The restraint he shows leads me to think he’s generally very tactful as these points should be easy targets for oenophilic scorn.

Though not as rhetorically flourished as the above passage, the following goes a long way toward explaining his Saveur comment:

“If a customer asks for a buttery chardonnay I will use my limited hermeneutic powers to interpret what they’re in the mood for, and I will pour them a taste of an alternative that I hope they will enjoy—and, mostly they do. To me, that’s the fun part of owning a wine bar. It’s gratifying for me when I’m able to turn people on to new wines; I like the spark in their eyes when they try a roter veltliner or fresia for the first time. There are plenty of venues in Los Angeles that offer oaky chardonnay but not too many offering a fumin from the Valle d’Aosta, or a poulsard from France’s Jura region.”

"Spark in their eyes," indeed. Thus speaks a man who loves wine and has made a career of it. As an added bonus, he used “hermeneutic” in a sentence. Correctly. I respect that, as only a literary critic can.

Mr. Amdur ends his comment by asking, “How does marching to a different drummer make me pretentious?” Well, marching to one’s own drum does not make one pretentious. In fact, I generally applaud individuals who are true to themselves rather than lemmings walking off the cliff with the rest of the rodents. This is why I drink oaky chardonnay even if it is so yesterday. People should drink what they enjoy, and Mr. Amdur appears to understand that.

He also has the right to serve whatever he would like in his wine bar, and he isn’t forcing that fumin from the Valle d’Aosta down anyone’s throat. In the statement to Saveur, however, he does imply that oaky chardonnay is undesireable. If it were okay to drink oaky wine, why would he feel “cynical” pouring it? Why not just say, as he does in his comment here, that he serves wine he likes?

No, it was Mr. Amdur’s unfortunate use of the word “cynical” that made him sound pretentious. I may not know much about wine, but as a highly educated literary critic with a fine sense of both the denotation and connotation of words, I stand by my judgment that his use of the word “cynical” makes him sound as though he looks down an extremely long and sophisticated nose at those of us who like a whiff and a sip of buttery chardonnay. His comment on my blog, however, shortens his nose quite a bit, don’t you think?

Besides, everyone is entitled to little pretension about something. The next time I find myself in Los Angeles, I think I’ll stop by Lou’s (if he’ll let me in the door) and try that poulsard from France’s Jura region. It sounds intriguing, and I’ll bet it has a really cool label.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Check it out!

My very talented spouse has started a blog titled George Raihala Photography. If you feel like checking out some impressive photos, please click on over.

Go, George!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pretention and the Lifestyle that Goes with It

George and I recently spent a thoroughly lovely day with our friends the Clarks. They invited us to join them at the Kinkead Ridge Winery in Ripley, Ohio, for a tasting and lunch. Ripley seems an unlikely place for a quality winery, but we enjoyed the tasting very much. In addition to purchasing a selection of their wines, we picked up a free wine magazine with the following title: The Wine Buzz: A complimentary guide to wine and the lifestyle that goes with it.

Huh? You need a lifestyle to drink wine? I thought you just needed a corkscrew.

George and I like wine. In 1988, when we first started experimenting with wine, we toured wineries in Napa and learned some wine lingo. Did you know, for instance, that when you swirl the wine in your glass, you’re “volatilizing the esters,” which intensifies the bouquet of the wine? Feel free to use that little bit of trivia to impress people at a pretentious dinner party sometime.

Our tastes back then were really limited to sweeter, lighter wines like white zinfandel and pinot grigio. The bold reds and oak-matured chardonnays tasted icky to us. Over the years, our tastes broadened to include a wide variety of wines, just as they have broadened to include a wide variety of foods. But picking out a good wine remained a mystery to me. I just bought randomly, influenced by the occasional Wine Spectator score posted on the shelf at the grocery store. Some bottles were good, others not so much. With experience, however, I finally developed the sophisticated process by which I now select wines for our table.

First I start by scanning the shelves for prices in our range. No sense picking up a $30 bottle if you’re not going to buy it. Once I find our price point (usually $9-$15 a bottle), I focus on the labels. That’s right. I pull a wine off the shelf because I like the label. Depending on my mood, I’ll go for cute, cool, snarky, artsy, off-beat, colorful, or elegant. I then read the back of the bottle. If it describes the wine with certain key bits of information that strike my fancy, I’ll put it in my cart.

What key information do I look for? This also depends on my mood. If I’m fixing my famous oven-fried catfish that night, and a bottle with a fun label has the sentence “Enjoy with fish” on the back, I’ll likely buy it because I’m practical that way.

On the other hand, I have written lots of marketing copy over the years, so I’m a sucker for evocative word choice. I enjoy drinking complex red wines, so descriptive phrases like “richly textured notes of blackberry and cherry, with a peppery finish” grab my attention. I may not taste blackberry or cherry or pepper when I drink the wine, but from experience, I know I’ll probably like it.

I’m also a bit silly sometimes, so a bottle labeled 7 Deadly Zins or one that pokes fun at snooty wine drinkers will almost certainly jump into my cart. Just because.

This isn’t the process a pretentious sommelier with a degree from some wine institute will follow to select a wine. (Do wine institutes offer degrees?) My method is random, serendipitous, and fun, and anyone can do it. George and I are rarely disappointed in our random wine purchases these days, and friends who’ve adopted our method are also satisfied with the results.

You see, you can judge the wine by its label and have fun drinking it. Or you can pursue the wine lifestyle, which apparently involves spending hours of your life pouring over wine magazines and blogs, studying what to buy and not buy, taking classes, and so forth. If that pops your cork, I say go for it and have fun. Everyone needs a hobby.

Some people, however, pursue a wine lifestyle that is ridiculously pretentious. George came across an article in Saveur magazine which illustrates this perfectly. Oenophile Lou Amdur owns a trendy wine bar in Los Angeles and has his finger on the pulse of the wine lifestyle. He said, “I only pour wines I enjoy. I might have a customer who would like a buttery chardonnay, but I would feel cynical pouring it for him.”

As an infidel who adores buttery chardonnay, I would like to tell Mr. Amdur to stuff a corkscrew in his … cynicism. I bet he would have an aneurysm if he saw my friend Linda put ice cubes in her merlot. He may own a trendy wine bar and live the “lifestyle” of wine, but he doesn’t have the right to tell me what sort of wine I should or should not be drinking. That job resides with my taste buds alone.

Besides, researchers at Cornell and elsewhere have demonstrated that whether you like a wine or not depends largely on the power of suggestion. If you’re told a wine is from North Dakota, for instance, you’re more likely to think it tastes icky because North Dakota’s state tree is the telephone pole and its growing season is about eight days long. You simply don’t expect wine from North Dakota to be good. If, however, you are told the same wine is a lovely and expensive bottle from California, you’ll likely think it is quite tasty, even if it’s really just a $3 bottle of Charles Shaw wine from Trader Joe’s.

Science has proven me right. Wine really is all about the labels. No pretentious lifestyle necessary.

And now I’m going to have a glass of buttery chardonnay poured from a bottle with a totally adorable label. I expect I’ll enjoy it enormously. Care to join me?

I Scooped the New York Times!

Last Sunday's New York Times ran an article on Sid and Marty Krofft's old television programs and the new Land of the Lost movie--three days after I posted my essay Peace, Love, Hope, and Joy. Just thought you would like to know that reading my blog keeps you "in the know" because I'm on the cutting edge of pop culture.

Also, my essay is more entertaining than the Times article, which noticeably lacks sarcasm, laughs, and flute-blowing jokes.

I bet the author even got paid for writing that unfunny piece, which makes him a whore, don't you think?

Or am I being too harsh?