Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Baby: Photos Trickle In

There has been unprecedented demand for photographs of Stillman Burnett, and he has asked me to communicate to his public that his people are experiencing some technical difficulties. Until these issues are resolved, he asks that you content yourselves with this image of him doing what he does best.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Globe: A Stroll for Madmen

Brother North pointed me toward this crazy video of a reeling hike along a treacherous, crumbling pathway built into high cliffs in Spain.

Watch it first, then let me know if you'll be joining us for the excursion.

Baby: My Child Sucks!

Young Stillman has only a few passions in life, and foremost among them is sucking. He can suck anything, and will. Human nipple? Loves it. His own fist? Please -- he was sucking that before he was even born. Rubber nipple? Bring it on, any brand you like. 50 times a day. A hundred. The lad could draw milk out of a sparkplug.

He has a similar zeal for burping. We're all, "Maybe we should burp him now that he's eaten," and he immediately lets one rip. On Sunday we took to whispering the word "burp," but he quickly got wise to that and so yesterday we began spelling it, but he's already figured that out, too. In fact, I've just noticed that each time I type the word "burp," an airy, gurgly sound comes from the next room.

Yes, I'm proud of my boy. He only does a few things, but he does them well.

Don't even get me started on the pooping. Oh, yes, I'm sure your child was an excellent pooper, yadda yadda whatever whatever. But I also know a champ when I see one.

Photos of all this to come in a day or so, once work catch-up slows to manageable.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Baby: Stillman Meets his Family

Grandpa and Grandma and Aunt Chrissy Burnett were here today, so Stillman got the chance to meet some family members. Unfortunately, certain of the photos still won't upload, so I can't show Stillman's close-up or his portrait with Aunt Chrissy.

But here he is with Grandpa . . . 

. . . with Grandma . . . 

. . . and with immediate family:

Baby: Baby!

So maybe there is something to this nesting idea after all.

Sophia went into labor on her due date, at around 10:00 p.m. After a grueling, complicated 15-hour labor, the doctors performed a C-section and lifted out our new son, Stillman Joseph Burnett, 8 lbs 4.5 ounces, 20 inches in length, full head of black hair. Sophia is doing just fine, and absolutely amazed me with her strength and endurance during all those hours of pain.

I'm writing this from the hospital, and the wireless signal is too weak to allow me to upload photos. We're headed home tomorrow morning, and I'll put some up. I'll also collect my thoughts so that I have something to say besides, "It was really something." Right now I'm still pretty overwhelmed by the power of the experience.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Baby: No Baby

So much for nesting.

What Were They Thinking: God-Awful Sign

Apparently one of our local churches hired an ad agency whose motto is, "Anything to sell a product; bad taste is our specialty!"

You know it's bad when even I'm offended:

Politics: Clinton takes PA

If only, if only, if only.

If only Obama could have pulled off PA, then this once-historic, now historically grueling, primary season would be over. Instead, despite a serious cash problem, Clinton will slog ahead to the May 6 contests in North Carolina and Indiana. North Carolina is the last remaining big prize in the race -- and both camps are predicting Obama will win it. He's outspending her there already, by wide margins. She's out of money, and there just aren't enough delegates left up for grabs for her to seize victory.

Weeks ago I supported Clinton's decision to keep fighting; it ain't over till it's over, and I figured she was well within her rights to battle it out to the finish. Of course she still has the right to go on, but by every analysis I've read, she simply can't win, barring some miracle. And as the Democrats have continued duking it out, we've watched in the polls as McCain has gained ground. Whether he would have made the same progress if there had been a clear Democratic nominee is a question that's beyond my sophistication to answer, but my intuition is that this primary has moved out of the healthy range and into destructive territory.

Of course I have no expertise as a social scientist or as an expert on Pennsylvania voters. However, I am a newly minted Pennsylvanian, so I will offer a word or two, based on my experiences and observations here, on possible reasons for Obama's loss.

First, let's not underestimate the role of race. People out here are quite friendly and accepting, for the most part. We've never had a problem. Been welcomed everywhere we go. There is no overt racism to speak of. Yet our little local newspaper saw no problem with running a column that quoted, at length and in support of, Pat Buchanan's deeply offensive thoughts on race (brazenly titled "A Brief for Whitey"), part of which read:

Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America. Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to. This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard. And among them are these: First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known. Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American. Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the '60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.

I plan to devote another post to refuting this nonsense, but for now my only point is that a community might still have a tiny problem with race if this kind of thing passes muster in its local paper without any kind of outcry. Perhaps we live in the kind of place where people are ready enough to be friendly toward a black person in a supermarket, but not quite ready enough to have one as their president.

That kind of racism -- let's call it Stage Two Racism -- is subtle. It's not KKK-style racism. It's almost a vestigial form of the illness, a faint, lingering distrust of the other, a last pyschological clinging to the status quo despite one's better angels. The danger is that people in that mindset are vulnerable to exploitation by the forces that have been out to destroy Obama's candidacy.

Two days after Obama delivered his "More Perfect Union" speech (text here, video here) to overwhelmingly positive reviews, I ran into a fellow father-to-be who had been in our childbirthing class. He brought up the subject of politics and told me he was deeply troubled by Obama's pastor. I asked him if he had heard Obama's speech on race, whose purpose had been to distance himself from his pastor's stance as well as to explain some of the anger of Wright's generation. "No," the guy told me. "But I heard that it was just awful."

Where he heard that, I can only imagine.

I've also heard people around me who are troubled by the "bitter" comments. To quote one local: "I wouldn't vote for him, not after what he said about us Pennsylvanians."

So the unfortunate truth is that this sort of thing works. You get people focused on nonsense (what somebody's preacher said, how well they bowl, how they tried to explain away people's voting tendencies) instead of on substantive issues like getting out of Iraq, achieving energy independence, improving healthcare, salvaging the economy. Just keep repeating the most fatuous, least substantive drivel, making your appeal to the darkest part of the soul or the most childish, superficial part of the mind, and you can get people to believe that those are the "issues" that count.

And of course then the media will feel free to keep pushing that stuff (the stuff the Beltway scribes really get excited about), because, after all, their hands are tied; you see, they'd love to write about the issues, but this petty stuff is all the people care about.

The good news: May 6 is only two weeks away, and that will be a perfect time for Hillary to leave the field with honor.

The bad news: The elevation of the petty over the significant will only continue once it's McCain versus Obama -- and the Washington press corps is addicted to its pro-McCain script, so we can expect the balance of the trivial crap to settle onto Obama's side of the ledger.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Baby: Nest Fever

She's everywhere, she's everywhere!

Suddenly, like Goosey-Goosey Gander, The Lovely Sophia is upstairs and downstairs, in the laundry room, at the kitchen sink, dusting off the furniture, scrubbing toilets, and generally going overboard with the cleaning-up and the readying.

Some say humans have the same nesting instinct as other organisms when they're about to give birth. Others say that's hogwash, perhaps even poppycock. Molly says it's just what you do to stave off insanity when you've been pregnant forever and are just sick of it. I've been teasing TLS about it all day. She says it ain't nesting; the place just needs a good cleaning.

What do you all think? What has been your experience with the so-called nesting instinct?

Politics: Election Day!

Can't remember when I've been more excited about casting my ballot. The only thing that will top this one is pulling the lever in November.

We flossed our teeth, I waxed my ample moustaches, and we ambled down to the firehouse to do our civic duty. I in my Uncle Sam top hat, The Lovely Sophia bedecked in her Lady Liberty get-up, which she typically wears of a Tuesday anyway. Her voting card still has that new-citizenship smell, so it was a particularly special morning.

We got there and . . . Diebold! Electronic balloting. No paper trail. No receipt. Just touch the screen, hope to God it takes, and walk away (From the Source Code Review commissioned by the California Secretary of State: "Our analysis shows that the technological controls in the Diebold software do not provide sufficient security to guarantee a trustworthy election.")'s top article this morning leads off this way:

"Pennsylvania's Presidential primary on April 22 will be essentially unrecountable, unverifiable, and unauditable -- an irony, because state law requires manual audits of a statistical sample of ballots cast in elections."

Heartening, isn't it? It rather sullied my otherwise capital experience.

Although I suppose that instead of waiting until today to complain, I might have done something to support an activist group like this one or this one to attempt to actually do something about it. 

For now, gonna go hang up the top hat till November and get back into my normal Tuesday wear:

Sad But True: Priestly Party Balloon Mishap

For the record, I really, really hope this priest is found unscathed and reinvigorated after his bracing adventure. That way I won't feel like such a bad person for delighting the way I did in the sentence, "the priest wanted to break a 19-hour record for the most hours flying with balloons to raise money for a spiritual rest-stop for truckers."

From the Associated Press 4:48 PM PDT, April 21, 2008

SAO PAULO, Brazil -- A Roman Catholic priest who floated off under hundreds of helium party balloons was missing today off the southern coast of Brazil. Rescuers in helicopters and small fishing boats were searching off the coast of Santa Catarina state, where pieces of balloons were found.

Rev. Adelir Antonio de Carli lifted off from the port city of Paranagua on Sunday afternoon, wearing a helmet, thermal suit and a parachute. He was reported missing about eight hours later after losing contact with port authority officials, according to the treasurer of his Sao Cristovao parish, Denise Gallas. Gallas said by telephone that the priest wanted to break a 19-hour record for the most hours flying with balloons to raise money for a spiritual rest-stop for truckers in Paranagua, Brazil's second-largest port for agricultural products. Some American adventurers have used helium balloons to emulate Larry Walters -- who in 1982 rose three miles above Los Angeles in a lawn chair lifted by balloons. A video of Carli posted on the G1 Web site of Globo TV showed the smiling 41-year-old priest slipping into a flight suit, being strapped to a seat attached to a huge column green, red, white and yellow balloons, and soaring into the air to the cheers of a crowd.According to Gallas, the priest soared to an altitude of 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) then descended to about 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) for his planned flight to the city of Dourados, 465 miles (750 kilometers) northwest of his parish.But winds pushed him in another direction, and Carli was some 30 miles (50 kilometers) off the coast when he last contacted Paranagua's port authority, Gallas said.Carli had a GPS device, a satellite phone, a buoyant chair and is an experienced skydiver, Gallas said."We are absolutely confident he will be found alive and well, floating somewhere in the ocean," she said."He knew what he was doing and was fully prepared for any kind of mishap."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Music: Old Crow Medicine Show

I tend to be late to the musical party, so you all might already know about an alt-country band called Old Crow Medicine Show. If you don't, check out the video for "I Hear Them All." I just discovered them over the weekend, and love that song in particular. Old-timey, catchy, sweet, Dylanesque, and even fairly groovy despite an absence of drumming. Not sure how I feel about the black-folks-as-props in the video, but at least it's a nod toward the inclusiveness that's completely lacking in most of what passes for country music these days.

And they're mostly upstate New York boys, too -- grape pickers and buskers.

Baby: A Brief Pregnancy FAQ

Cousin Jenn has quite rightly suggested that I post Childbaby's expected arrival date, since I've been less than reliable in keeping everyone properly informed of such matters (one of the reasons this blog is now up and running). So here is a brief FAQ:

Q: When's Childbaby supposed to come?

A: Due date is 23 April, which is -- good Lord -- day after tomorrow.

Q: Think it'll happen on that day?

A: Nah.

Q: If not then, when?

A: Well, we have an appointment on Friday. If nothing's happening by then, the plan is to induce labor on Tuesday, 29 April.

Q: Didn't you expect this baby to come early? What was with all the mid-pregnancy hype about colossal fetuses and so on?

A: Well, see, the Asperger's-afflicted doctor who conducted the first ultrasound told us that the baby was in the 90th percentile for weight, that Sophia was eating way too much sugar (even though she doesn't eat sweets) and that the fact that I weighed 11 pounds at birth could only be attributed to the fact that my mother was diabetic (untrue). It didn't help that the doctor who did the second ultrasound told us that the baby was in the 97th percentile for weight. So we spent those two weeks thinking that the world's largest child was growing inside poor Sophia -- until we saw this doc again and he told us he had meant to say 79th percentile, not 97th. Even so, it seemed we were in for a whopper, but every measurement since then has been closer to normal. We're still expecting it to weigh around 9 pounds, but it probably won't be the monster we thought it would be earlier on.

Q: Do you know whether you're having a boy or a girl?

A: No. Do you?

Economy: Following up on Tim's Excellent Comments

Just wanted to provide my responses to a couple of comments Tim made to my "Epidemic of Entitlement" post with its kill-your-TV subtext.

First, I highly recommend the Scientific American article he references, which can still be read in PDF format here. It's a pretty intriguing look at what's happening at the cognitive level when we watch TV, and why, as the title indicates, it's not just a metaphor to speak of being "addicted" to the habit. (For a bit more on television and cognitive development in babies, I recommend this article, which cites recent studies that resulted in the American Academy of Pediatrics issuing the recommendation that babies watch no television -- even educational videos -- until age two.)

Tim also poses a question: "Do you think that our greater society would be so civilized after the loss of our lifestyle? What happens when the televisions go dark?"

Obviously the question is only philosophical, since the screens won't be fading to black anytime soon. But before I go on to answer the question, I first want to make clear what my own stance on TV is. Many of you know that it's an uneasy relationship the two of us have, the boob tube and I. I had no TV for most of my upbringing, and again lived without it when I was a single young buck in Mt. Vernon. There, my home life was all about reading, writing, and music. Now that I live with TV, I of course find myself enjoying it often enough. I don't judge people who watch a lot of TV -- or at least I try not to, until they judge me for not watching enough (True story: Once when I had to make a TV appearance to talk about an article I'd written, I was sitting in the hot seat with the earpiece in, waiting for the program host to come on and begin the interview, and I happened to mention to the PR guy who had accompanied me to the studio that I had no television. He was deeply offended, and set about haranguing me for not having a television, as the seconds ticked down to airtime. When the host came on, I was still in heated debate, defending my lifestyle choice to this guy. Touched a nerve in him, I guess).

But I digress.

It's impossible to imagine what would happen if all the screens went blank, but I daresay we'd quickly become less civilized, not more. Given the fact that, as I mentioned in my original post, our economy pretty much now hinges on mindless consumption, to pull the rug abruptly out from under one of the main vehicles for encouraging this consumption, i.e., television, would be pretty disastrous for the economy -- and thus would do our level of "civilization" no favors, either.

But to restate the point I made in my original post, as an individual act of financial self-defense, cutting back on television makes a lot of sense. The financial advisors I've been speaking with are pretty much unanimous on the idea that we have a huge, huge problem in this country with sorting out needs from luxuries. By nature, each of us has a pretty accurate compass for arriving at this distinction, but the needle gets thrown way off by the cultural forces that swirl around us -- and television is probably foremost among them as a driver.

So my main point in all of this is not that no one should watch any TV at all anymore. Instead, I would simply reiterate the two main points I may have flubbed in my first post:

1. Holy crap. Even the finance gurus are recognizing how influential TV has been in creating both the personal and national debt problem.

2. For those of us who are having difficulty controlling mindless spending, one step might be to monitor our TV habits and consider to what extent the medium's messages are corrupting our ability to make wise financial choices.

And finally, just one note on the larger, civilizational issues related to television, followed by a question to you the reader:

As I've traveled to remote places around the world where television and consumer culture have not yet taken root with the same force as in the U.S., I've struggled with a kind of ethical question about what's "best" for people who live in these places. It is a balm to the world-weary soul to walk a starlit country road in rural Jamaica and hear children playing tag out in the dark, or to sit in the cool of an African evening and visit with families who have finished their workdays and are now relaxing by lantern light -- people interacting, not shut into their homes staring at a flickering screen. Yet most of those people want, rather desperately, what we in the U.S. have. Arrogance, indeed, to tell people who have nothing, "Oh, no, you don't want all these nice computers and big TVs and flashy cell phones and everything. Your life here in poverty and darkness is far preferable to our trashy consumer culture." Yet it's clear that we give something up when we opt for shiny new things. And clearly that something is what a reasonable person might define as "civilization" (acceptable levels of violence, knowing our neighbors, spending time with our families, having meaningful conversations, etc.).

Now my question to you the reader: Where is this all heading? The TV/infotainment/consumption lifestyle has amazing momentum, and it's hard to imagine our culture not going ever deeper into that place; were we to pull the plug on it, we would cripple our economy such as it is; and the rest of the world is hot on our heels in terms of achieving our rather dubious lifestyle. Where we goin' with all this, and is there a palatable way forward?

Sad but True: WWJWWAPF?

That stands for "Who Would Jesus Whack With a Palm Frond?" Of course.

Christians clash at Jesus' tomb on Orthodox Palm Sunday
By SARAH EL DEEB Associated Press Writer
2:49 PM EDT, April 20, 2008
Article tools

JERUSALEM - Dozens of Greek and Armenian priests and worshippers exchanged blows at one of Christianity's holiest shrines on Orthodox Palm Sunday, and used palm fronds to pummel police who tried to break up the brawl.The fight came amid growing rivalry over religious rights at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built over the site in Jerusalem where tradition says Jesus was buried and resurrected.It erupted when Armenian clergy kicked out a Greek priest from their midst, pushed him to the ground and kicked him, according to witnesses.When police intervened, some worshippers hit them with the palm fronds they were holding for the religious holiday. The Eastern Orthodox churches, including the Armenians and Greek Orthodox, follow a different calendar from Western Christians and celebrate Easter next Sunday.

Two Armenian worshippers who attacked the Greek Orthodox clergy were briefly detained by Israeli police. Scores of Armenian supporters then protested outside the police station during the questioning of the two, beating drums and chanting.The Holy Sepulcher is shared by several Christian denominations according to a centuries-old arrangement known as the "status quo."Each denomination jealously guards its share of the basilica, and fights over rights at the church have intensified in recent years, particularly between the Armenians and Greeks.

Father Pakrad, an Armenian priest, said the presence of the Greek priest during the Armenian observances violated the status quo. "Our priests entered the tomb. They kicked the Greek monk out of the Edicule," he said, referring to the tomb area.Pakrad accused the Greek Orthodox Christians of trying to step on the Armenians' rights. "We are the weak ones, persecuted by them for many centuries."The Greek Orthodox Patriarch in the Holy Land, Theofilos III, told The Associated Press that the Armenians are pushing to change the rules, challenging what he said was the dominance of the Greek church in the Holy Land."This behavior is criminal and unacceptable by all means," he said. "They wanted to trespass on the status quo concerning the order that regulates the services between the various communities."

The Church of the Nativity in nearby Bethlehem -- where Jesus is said to have been born -- also falls under the status quo arrangement. Last year, pre-Christmas cleaning in that church turned ugly when robed Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests went at each other with brooms and stones.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Baby: Cheers for the Lady!

To all of those women in my life who have given birth -- some of you up to six times -- let me just say, hey, wow. Really great work.

It impresses me to no end. 

And we haven't even got to the part where the baby leaves the body. Or kicks over the shopping display. Or steals the family car. Etc.

As you see in the photo, the egg we're sittin' on just gets bigger and bigger as the days roll on. Yet The Lovely Sophia remains cheerful. I would not be cheerful. Let me tell you that right now. But she is cheerful. 

Two evenings ago, Childbaby got up to some kind of construction work in there, and I watched as the top of The Lovely Sophia's belly began to rise no differently at all than if someone had begun inflating it with a bicycle pump. It stopped before it got to her throat, but not so very much before then. 

To all you young fellers out there who have all this to look forward to: It's better than TV!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Politics: Report from Ground Zero (PA)

With just a few days left till the big Democratic primary here in Pennsylvania, we're being subjected to more targeted campaign rhetoric than I've ever experienced before. The phone rings and it's Hillary or Obama, asking for our votes (in fact, the writing of this post was interrupted by a call from Senator Bob Casey, who "knows Barack Obama well" and thinks I would do well to cast my ballot for him). Former POTUS Bill was in town last Sunday; made an appearance at the local high school, and I had every intention of going and hearing him out. But then evening came and I realized, "Oh, yeah! That's what I was planning on doing today." I knew there was something.

Sorry, Bill. Just got to doing other things.

Most of you know (or might guess) that I'm an Obama man, but I'm not a hater of the Clintons. Still, as a direct target of the phone/TV/direct-mail onslaught, I think I can fairly objectively say that the Clinton campaign is decidedly more negative in tone than Obama's. Case in point: During Wednesday night's debate, Obama actually went to bat for Clinton (and himself) in calling ABC's Charles Gibson on the petty, divisive, side-show pap that "distracts" from the real issues (paraphrase). Obama's high-minded defense of substance over gossip was good enough for Clinton Wednesday night but apparently not today, to judge by the mailing we received:

At a Fundraiser in San Francisco, Barack Obama Told Wealthy Campaign Donors What He Really Thinks of Pennsylvania Families.
"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them . . . And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." -- Barack Obama, San Francisco, 4/6/2008
Pennsylvania Needs a President Who Will Stand Up for Us -- Not Someone Who Looks Down on Us. (Paid for by Hillary Clinton for President.)

It's evident from the style of this mailing what its Author's Opinion of Pennsylvania Voters Really Is -- but let's leave that aside for the moment. The whole flap over this Obama quote is nicely encapsulated by what one blogger has called "the cult of the offhand comment." Irrespective of whether or not you agree with Obama or feel that his words were well chosen (If anyone cares, my opinion happens to be that his words were neither particularly well chosen nor intended in the sense in which people have been gleefully bruiting them about), you will surely agree that there are rather more pressing issues in this election than the fact that one of the candidates said something behind closed doors that could, if you squint hard enough, be taken as an insult to some voters in Pennsylvania. Yet instead of focusing on those very real and important issues (war, economy), this is the sort of thing that Gibbons and Stephanopoulos spent the first 50 minutes of Wednesday's debate rehashing.

And now this mailing.

Barack, I'm still waiting for your postcard lambasting Hillary for her phantom memories of sniper fire. Better hurry. Only four days left till election day.

Economy: An Epidemic of Entitlement

Because my work takes me in and out of lots of different universes, I'm often treated to happy coincidences and overlaps in subject matter. Lately my work on two separate projects has served to underscore what many of us have long sensed about the hollowness of our consumer culture. I'm simultaneously interviewing employees for a large investment bank and working on a magazine article about people's spending habits. So that has meant talking to more members of the financial industry than most free-spirited yokels like myself would typically enjoy. But through these conversations, it kind of feels like I've been taking the temperature of our enonomy -- or, if you like, our economic soul.

One might expect these denizens of Wall Street, these grubbers-after-luchre, to defend the status quo. Yet I've been rather startled by much of what they tell me. Four points stand out in particular:

1. Our economy is really circling the drain. Expect things to get worse, and soon.

2. What's happened (subprime, credit crunch) is attributable, basically, to irrational exuberance, unchecked greed, and a belief in limitless growth with no consequences.

3. At the very root of our economic woes lies . . . television! Yes, several financial professionals have confessed to me a conviction that television has rotted out our ability to be realistic about what we want and need. Many of you will, of course, have felt this way all along -- but to hear the folks in the belly of the beast come to embrace this rather old-fashioned notion must be indicative of something . . . and I wish I could say that that something were progress (methinks it's the opposite). An interesting sub-point here, as pointed out by one of my financial advisors: We're used to acknowledging that TV advertising creates "needs" that we didn't know we had, but the boob tube has moved into more insidious terrain in recent years. Now the programming is just as troublesome. "We see intimately into the lives of people who have much more than we do, and that gets normalized in our minds," she said. "We think we should have everything that the people on TV do -- not just that it would be nice to have, but that we actually deserve it."

4. This leads to what more than one of these experts has called "an epidemic of entitlement." Maybe we're awakening to the fact that we're hooked on stuff, addicted to consumerism, but you know what? The entitlement germ has settled in. And as Daniel Lanois sings, it's "hard to have and then have not." Once your thinking has been changed in these subtle but effective ways, and you've come to believe in needs that are really just desires, a radical shift of thought and behavior is required in order to try to undo the damage. Step One: Kill your television? This advice was given to me not by some hippy-dippy granola out in Sedona, but by a New Yorker with "CFP" after his name, who goes to work every day in a suit and tie.

Of course the largest point here is this: individual behaviors (and neuroses and attitudes) affect the bigger picture. If our economy stands now on wobbly legs, it's not necessarily just because of enormous geopolitical events, Wall Street shenanigans or even massive trade deals; of course these factors have their place, but let's not misunderestimate the role of individual decisions which, in aggregate, can conspire to weaken a whole economy, especially one whose very foundation is no longer built on manufacturing anything but rather on the pathological consumption behavior of its people and on the moving-around of money. Flimsy foundations, indeed.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The First Outstanding Post (They'll get better.)

Here's what happens when a writer with way too little time on his hands decides to start a blog -- just days before he becomes a father. Who knows? If you check in occasionally, you might even find some content here.

Definitely some baby pictures, if that's a motivator.

The plan is to have a few corners of the Globe, for personal and family stuff, politics, culture, entertainment, etc.

And as your host I will strive for unboringness. That there's a promise.