Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant  

Discussions on politics, foreign affairs, religion, and the state of American culture...oh, heck with it. It's an electronic soapbox where I get to spout off about all the idiocy that manifests itself in this day and age.

WHO IS THIS GUY?

Benjamin Kepple is a journalist in New Hampshire. He is a former reporter/writer for Investor's Business Daily, Heterodoxy, and FrontPage Magazine. He has also been published in the Daily News of Los Angeles, the Ottawa Citizen, AlbertaViews, and other publications. He was also a contributing editor for the 2nd edition of "Choosing the Right College," published by ISI Books.

Throughout his reporting career, Kepple has thrown questions at everyone from former presidential candidates and major Washington lobbyists to ex-leftist militants and defenders of domestic terror groups. First as a magazine writer and then as a hard-news reporter, Kepple has written on education, economics, cultural affairs, and politics -- as well as car accidents, police shootings, and school board meetings.

As a student at the University of Michigan, Kepple was prominently mentioned in a 1998 Detroit Free Press article on race relations at the school's Ann Arbor campus. Also that year, Kepple briefly appeared as a student panelist on "NewsHour" with Jim Lehrer. In 1999, he was a guest on The Mike Rosen Show (KOA, 850-AM, Denver) regarding Boston College's Mary Daly controversy.

PROUDLY SERVING THE BLOGOSPHERE
SINCE SEPT. 2001

Patior ut potiar

REACTION

A Quasi-Schimpflexicon

"It's people like you who I would not hesitate to hit with my car if I saw crossing the street, thinking I would benefit society."
-- J. Artz, Mar. 11, '98

"Right now, your problems are the last thing on my mind."
-- Dr. Progressive, Mar. 26, '01

"It's like a blog on steroids."
-- Matt Rubush, Nov. '01

"Benjamin Kepple runs a fine Web log. . ."
-- Ken Layne, Dec. 2, '01

"Ben, you remind me of my mother in law."
-- Jason Hirschman, Dec. 26, '01

"Give him five years and we'll be able to find him eating Thai cuisine as he hosts his very own Tuesday night TBS movie show."
-- Jesse Kepple, Jan. 10, '02

"You're going to be the Steve Jobs of blogs!"
-- Matt Rubush, Jan. 24, '02

"Truth be told, I see very little that's French in Ben, save for the fact that he works 35 hours and smokes 16 packs of cigarettes a week."
. -- Chris Weinkopf, Mar. 22, '02

"Ben Kepple is so witty. Thank God somebody is."
-- Allison Barnes, Mar. 28, '02

"We all know you're witty, Ben. That's why we talk to you."
-- Matthew S. Schwartz, Mar. 30, '02

"The most convincing anti-smoking editorial I've ever read."
-- Clay Waters, June 1, '02

"As usual, Brother Kepple, I disagree with almost every word you type. But damn! I sure am glad you're there."
-- Brian Linse, Jul. 31, '02

"Not as succinct as Phil, but side-splittingly funny."
-- Sasha Castel, Oct. 23, '02

"Actually, you're WRONG!"
-- Oliver Willis, Dec. 5, '02

"Permanently aghast and agog."
-- Oliver Willis, Feb. 25, '03

"Ben Kepple is a festering sore on my buttocks."
-- Dean Esmay, May 15, '03

THE ARCHIVES:

NOTICE:

All work published on this site, excluding external links and citations, as well as some imagery, is (C) 2001, 2002, by Benjamin Kepple. All rights are reserved. Said work may not be republished in any medium or form without the prior consent of Mr. Kepple. However, favourable quotes praising my work are welcomed and appreciated, especially if you are a working journalist.

Poster images from The War are from Stanford University.

LINKS OF INTEREST

BOS-WASH CORRIDOR

Allison Barnes (Maryland)
Sasha Castel (New York)
Ben Domenech (Washington, DC)
Paul Frankenstein (New York)
Andrew Hofer (New York)
Nick Marsala (New York)
Megan McArdle (New York)
Phil Murphy (New York)
Richard Poe (New York)
Scott Rubush (Wilmington, Del.)
Patrick Ruffini (Washington, DC)
Oliver Willis (Boston)
Doctor Weevil (New York)
Jay Zilber (New York)

CAL-NEVA

Richard Bennett (N. Calif.)
Sgt. Stryker & Co. (N. Calif.)
Ken Layne (Reno, Nev.)
Brian Linse (Los Angeles)
Madison Slade (Los Angeles)
D.C. Thornton (Las Vegas, Nev.)
C. Weinkopf (Vent. Cty., Calif.)
Matt Welch (Los Angeles)

NORTHERN NEW ENGLAND

Orrin Judd (Hanover, N.H.)

THE MIDWEST

Dean Esmay (Westland, Mich.)
Micah Holmquist
(Cadillac, Mich.)

Jesse Kepple (Akron, Ohio)
James Lileks (Minneapolis)
The Michigan Review
(Ann Arbor, Mich.)

THE SOUTH

Mark Byron (Winter Haven, Fla.)
Juan Gato (St. Louis, Mo.)
Bryan Preston (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
Charles Oliver (Georgia)
Matt Rubush (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
David Yeagley (Oklahoma City)

FROM THE COMMONWEALTH

Tim Blair (Australia)
Suman Palit (Calcutta)
Damian Penny (Newfoundland)
Libertarian Samizdata (London)
Natalie Solent (London)

SO MUCH FOR
THE GLASS CEILING

Asparagirl (New York)
Dangergirl (New York)
Hawkgirl (Los Angeles)
Illinigirl (Illinois)
Ravenwolf (New York)
Sheila Astray (New York)

FACELESS 'n' STATELESS

Raving Atheist
Tom Paine & Co.
Arguing With Signposts

OTHER NEAT SITES

Bob Brinker

See Where You Can Listen
to Bob Brinker's Moneytalk

The Chosun Journal

The World's Tallest
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If you can't read the post below ... ... GO HERE.

  thus spake Benjamin on 6.6.03


6.6.03  

 


What? You’re still here?

It’s over. The site’s over.

Over here, that is, at the new benkepple.com. So go. Go there.

Yes, we here at The Rant have finally made the crucial decision to switch publishing systems. Thanks to the good, fine people at Dean Esmay’s site – did we mention they’re good, fine people? -- we now use Movable Type 2.6.4, an excellent program which has a lot of noteworthy features. These features include archives that don’t disappear; a type-setting that’s easier to read; disturbingly-high levels of reliability; and a posting system that makes a point of not swallowing our posts into the ether, and then subsequently throwing them up as a foul-smelling, noxious rush of half-digested computer code.

As such, we here at The Rant will be able to post more medium-high to high-quality content than ever before. No longer will we have to subcontract with our veritable army of cheap foreign laborers to have each entry lovingly type-set. No longer will we incur great expense having each entry telexed to our satellite offices in the Caribbean before publishing, just so our professional staff can “give it a once-over” before they “throw it out on the stoop.” Yes, thanks to Movable Type and Dean Esmay, Benjamin Kepple’s Daily Rant now has state-of-the-art technology—a move which we think means great changes in the weeks and months to come.

But it will also mean changes for you, the loyal Rant reader. They include:

“ON-DEMAND ARCHIVES” – Want to read a back post on The Rant? Now you can -- with just a click of the mouse. That means no searching for lost files; no trying to remember the old site’s weird file-naming system; and no unpleasant hassles when trying to figure out why the old site suddenly swapped The Rant’s archives with those of a blog written by an embittered lumber-yard manager in Vancouver, Wash.

“READABILITY” – Want to read The Rant at any time of the day or night, when it’s convenient and easy for you to do so? Now you can – just type in the address or click from your favorites, and the site loads almost instantaneously. That means no more frustration when the site doesn’t load; no more wondering if Blogspot hit its supposed bandwidth quota for that day; and no more wondering whether the sheer volume of hideous faux- English from teenagers’ text messages has again clogged the Internet.

“COMMENTS” – Want to give instant feedback about an entry at The Rant? Now you can! No more … oh, never mind. Look. We brought ‘em back, they’re working, they’ll let everyone rant back, yada yada. And lo! The Lord saw the Comments Section, and saw that it was Good. Because, the Lord said, it was about damn time that Kepple got them up and running again.

“BRANDABILITY” – When we here at The Rant first came up with the idea of a “personal Web journal to express our views, meet interesting people and make use of the precious down time we have left in life” (or “blog,” for short), we had no idea that people whom we didn’t even know would begin visiting it. As such, we gave the site a name that meant a lot to us. BJKINNH stood for Benjamin Kepple in New Hampshire. Sadly, we soon found this was about as memory-friendly as a random ham radio call sign. Now that we’ve switched, we have the much easier to remember “benkepple.com” address.

“COMPATIBILITY” – Now that we here at The Rant are “far out” and “with it,” as the kids say today, we can take advantage of all the neat MT “doo-dads” that let us connect with other users. For example, we can automatically let other sites know that we’ve linked to them, for instance. Also, we can get notify folks about updates, and all that jazz.

So – to recap. You’re still here? This site’s over. Go to the new one – at benkepple.com. As the saying goes, we’ll leave the light on for you. Or something.

Sincerely,



Top Management
Benjamin Kepple’s Daily Rant Inc.
Manchester, New Hampshire
“Your Hometown Nostalgia Source”


  thus spake Benjamin on 6.6.03



 
It's An Offer You Can't Refuse
Say, everybody! Blogger-extraordinaire Dean Esmay, a gentleman and a scholar, has offered to help folks whose blogs are subject to the tender mercies of a Certain Unreliable Service move their blogs to Movable Type, the blog-publishing system whose archives don't disappear!

As one of the three bloggers who have greatly appreciated Mr Esmay's free assistance -- the only cost to you is $15/year for a domain name and a mere $5 -- $5! -- per month for a hosting service -- I can vouch that Mr Esmay is not kidding. Not only is Mr Esmay not kidding, he will provide you the Rotarian Ideal of Service as you go about moving your blog to this new setup. How easy is it, you ask? Well, let's just look at this dramatization:

DEAN: OK, it's easy. I have this blue pill and this red pill. If you take the blue pill, you forget all about this and you wake up, believing whatever you want to believe. But if you take the red pill ...
ME: I'll have the blue pill.
DEAN: What!
ME: I'll have the blue pill. I'm serious. If I switch, I'll be cast adrift into some sort of technological nightmare, and ...
DEAN: No, no, you don't understand. It's easy. Really easy. And look at all the benefits you'll get -- your own domain, a new e-mail address if you want it, the ease of the MT system with its undisappearing archives, quick and fast publishing, cooler layouts, cooler graphics, and ...
ME: Gimme the blue pill.
DEAN: Dammit! Will you let me finish!
ME: Now look, I'm set, really I am, and ...
DEAN: Your archives won't disappear. It's easy to post. The service is really reliable. There really isn't any downside to this.
ME: That's what they told me at college!
DEAN: What has that got to do with it?!
ME: Nothing, but you see where I'm going with this.
DEAN: You don't even know where you're going with this.
ME: No, but I have plans!
DEAN: Wretched little ... !
ME: Bring it on! BRING -- IT -- ON!
DEAN: Yeah?! Well, you just ...

(a scuffle ensues)

ME: All right, all right! Criminy. I'll do it!
DEAN: Honestly, you're the only person I know who would put up such a fuss.
ME: Well, it's not my fault I'm a technofeeb. Now, anyway, let's try this MT thingy ... publishing easy ... fast ... quick ... dear God ... I'm having chest pains ...
DEAN: Oh, God. He's going into cardiac arrest.

Ha, ha! I am actually kidding. Dean will provide you with helpful and friendly and courteous service all through the process, which is actually less painful than having to read the above dramatization. Furthermore, if you're somewhat computer literate, it will probably be really simple for you -- and only take a short amount of time. So I would encourage anyone laboring under the tyranny of ... you know ... to go consult Mr Esmay today. Hey, he freed me, and he can free you too. And in all seriousness, I do say this is probably one of the best choices I have ever made during my 18 months as a blogger.

DEAN: Yes, but what is choice? And did you ...
ME: Grrrrrr.

---------------------
NOTICE:

DUE TO A SURPRISING AMOUNT OF PROGRESS on The *Mostly New* Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant, I am pleased to announce the New Site Will Go On-Line on SATURDAY, JUNE 7. That's Saturday, JUNE 7.

  thus spake Benjamin on 4.6.03


4.6.03  

 
Proposed U.S. Expansion Horrifies Guardian Man
Rod Liddle, writing in today's editions of The Guardian, is concerned that a select group of people in the United States have designs on Mars. Yes, that Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun.

As Mr Liddle tells it, there are hundreds upon hundreds of influential groups in America which want to terraform Mars and make it a human-friendly habitat. Such a proposition horrifies Mr Liddle, who warns that these patriotic Americans want to seize Mars from the microbes which currently inhabit it, and claim the planet for their own. He further argues that we humans ought not focus on space exploration when we have so many problems on Earth with which to deal, but this quasi-conclusion is secondary to his main claim: that the Americans want to conquer Mars, and they're going to ruin the place.

Now, I take great umbrage at this sensational and silly claim, especially considering that it comes from a skinny-toothed, round-shouldered, wretched Englishman.

This is not to say that I do not care for the English; I do very much. In many ways, that great and proud nation has much we as Americans ought to respect, just as Greek civilization rightfully received great respect from the Romans. But let's make no bones about this. When it comes to lording it over foreign territory, the British have few equals in history. As such, to have to suffer through a lecture about colonisation from this embittered scribe is nauseating. Perfectly nauseating.

But this got me to thinking. Why shouldn't we Americans take over Mars? No, really. I mean, Mr Liddle notes that we Yankees "have all the science," and it's not as if any sentient intelligence is doing any good with the place now. If we could ever make it economically feasible, I would say we ought to give it the old college try -- because so many non-economic factors and even some economic factors are in our favour.

For one thing, I don't doubt that we could find plenty of colonists willing to escape the wretched corners of the Earth where they now live, such as Sheffield. For another, if we provided that the American system of Government -- the best form of Government ever designed -- was imported to far-off Mars, we could ensure that the place would not turn into a wretched despotism in space. If we provided the proper tax incentives for people who moved to Mars -- let's start with no federal income tax, for instance -- we could jumpstart investment into the new realm. Finally, such a system would likely have great benefits for the people back home -- after all, it'd paralyze the bureaucrats from doing anything too rash if the common people could hitch a permanent ride off-planet.

Sadly, there are complications to this plan. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 forbids any national polity from laying claim to space itself or any non-Terran celestial bodies therein. As an American citizen and alumnus of the University of Michigan -- the only two institutions whose flags have been placed by Man on lunar soil -- I find this treaty useless and dumb.

After all, just think what we could do if we made the perfectly reasonable claim that the Moon belonged to the United States. Not only could we do something important with the Moon -- such as store lots of really powerful weapons there -- we could easily ignore the carping of other nations and start developing it. I mean, surely there have to be precious metals and minerals someplace on the worthless rock. No one would care about nuclear power plants damaging the environment. The low-gravity environment would have all sorts of neat advantages. It would, for lack of a better term, rule.

Besides, as an American, I think I should note that the world's problems exist largely because most non-American Governments are corrupt and despotic. If the rulers of these said nations would clean up their act and grant their long-suffering inhabitants some measure of freedom, and develop a system of law which respected private property, they'd probably be much better off. So don't blame us, Mr Liddle, for the fact that most Governments on Earth still take great joy in looting the public fisc and sending irregular combat forces into their neighbors' territory to loot and pillage. It's not our fault, pure and simple.

So, I say we press forward with an agressive and far-reaching plan to seize the Moon and other celestial bodies in the Solar System, and claim them for our own. With so many positives on our side, combined with America's long-standing respect for the rule of law and private-property rights, we could make a really good go of things. And it might even have positives for folks like Mr Liddle. After all, if we Yanks are all working on colonizing Mars, we're probably going to care quite a bit less about the problems elsewhere on Earth. For someone of Mr Liddle's views, I suggest that could just be a win-win situation.

  thus spake Benjamin on 4.6.03



 
Whoops!
Because we here at The Rant value honesty and transparency, we present the following letter from our dear friend, Christopher Weinkopf:

"Um, Ben, you do know that Peyton Manning plays and
always has played for the Indianapolis Colts, right --
not the Patriots?

See you in next year's pool!"

-- Chris, the MMPF (Mighty Mighty Pats Fan -- Ed.)

--------

(seeth)

See? I know nothing about football! I meant to say Akili Smith was the Patriots quarterback!

Ha, ha! No, really. The answer is Tim Brady. Or was it Tom Brady? Wait. Is this Brady person even with the Patriots anymore? Anyway, I don't care who the quarterback of the New England Patriots is -- I will find out when they next play the Steelers. So let me rephrase my earlier statement. I want the Pittsburgh Steelers to come crashing down on (insert current Patriots quarterback at the time of next year's AFC playoffs) at least nineteen times in that game, and I do not really care how it happens.

Or, for that matter, who on the defense makes it happen.

  thus spake Benjamin on 4.6.03



 
New Site Under Construction
You know, I wasn't kidding when I said I would have a new site soon. No, really. It's well on its way.

I am far too tired to write much more about the new site just now, but I have to say it's really cool. I also have to thank Dean Esmay for doing the yeoman's work of getting it all set-up. At this point, about all I have to do is the fine-tuning.

Because I am a technofeeb, I have given myself an extended time-frame in which to do this. As one might imagine, I will spend much of this weekend and certain parts of next week doing all these little things, as well as make brave attempts to move portions of my archives, and work on other projects related to it. However, I am pleased to announce that I can tell everyone that the new site will debut on Thursday, June 12. On this date, I will post a really cool entry announcing it and properly thanking Dean. I will also set up links to it, and then get down to other nitty-gritty tasks such as telling everyone I know about the changes. I do hope folks will like them.

I plan to use this site as a backup, as well as for some other things that could come up. I also plan to keep posting to this site in the interim, even as I work on the other -- although blogging may be light sometimes. But I am excited about this new endeavour, and confident that it will mean a better product for all concerned.

That, and it has a kick-ass top banner.

  thus spake Benjamin on 4.6.03



 
Sports, and the Single Journalist
ESPN Page 2 columnist Stacey Pressman, in one of her recent essays on the athletic life, argues that men do not care for women who have an in-depth knowledge of sports.

In reality, Miss Pressman writes, we men believe that women with such in-depth knowledge somehow encroach on our masculinity. She also writes that despite our claims to the contrary, we men actually do not care for women who are knowledgeable about sports, but rather women who will tolerate our own sports-watching. Furthermore, she argues that when we men realize that the object of our affection can "actually tell the difference between a flea-flicker and a reverse, differentiate between a blitz and a dog, or identify the soft spot in a zone defense," it "scares the crap" out of us.

But she is not finished there. Miss Pressman also writes that men do not take women seriously when they expound on the subject of America's Greatest Sport, by which I mean Football, and that we can get annoyed when they do venture their opinions on subjects unrelated to basic fundamentals. The end result of all this, as Miss Pressman writes, is that she and other women who like sports then make excuses for this knowledge when around prospective dates, because said fellows would otherwise act shocked or blitz them with trivia questions.

That is a long summary of Miss Pressman's excellent column, which I encourage you to read in full. But that was necessary, since her column is also quite long. And after reading it, and doing some serious thinking, I have come to the only reasonable conclusion a man in my position can: that either I or Miss Pressman exist in some sort of strange parallel universe.

Don't get me wrong -- that's not intended as criticism at all. It's just, because of my own particular set of circumstances, that I know no men like that. I mean, none. Zero, zilch, nada. Few of my friends have given me indication that they have any interest about sports. Further, when one includes those friends of mine with serious loyalties to a sporting franchise, I would venture to guess that only one or two of them have such intricate knowledge as Miss Pressman describes; and even then, only one when the issue at hand is American football. And because this last friend is a true gentleman, he would not comment on such things.

Furthermore, I personally have little knowledge about the inner workings of the game. Even though I consider myself a ravenous football fan, and have some idea what a "blitz" is, I haven't any idea what a "dog" is at all. I mean, none. Zero, zilch, nada. Miss Pressman also writes about something called a "4-3 defensive scheme" -- again, I have absolutely no idea what that means. Indeed, I am so unknowledgeable about the intricacies of football that I would not even venture to embark on conversations about the game that went beyond which-team-is-what.

On the other hand, Miss Pressman is extremely knowledgeable about football. I know this not only because she writes on the subject for a major sports television network, but also because she has dealt your humble correspondent some serious ass-kicking in a mutual friend's seasonal football pool.

Because we here at The Rant believe in honesty, I must say that this ass-kicking is on the scale of that opening scene in "The Matrix" when Trinity goes into action against some hapless policeman. You know, the scene where the camera zooms around 360 degrees as Trinity prepares her swift-kick-of-death-'n-destruction, and the cop flies through the flimsy wall of some roach motel. Indeed, the ass-kicking that I received from her and other players in Christopher Weinkopf's football pool was so intense that I was routinely taunted for it (by Mr Weinkopf, usually).

Then, because I work like a dog, I would occasionally miss a week and compound the error. As the cycle continued, I became so anguished and depressed that I gave up entirely. This then caused Mr Weinkopf much distress. But that is another story altogether. The point is that I am not nearly as knowledgeable about football as some other people, and I quite frankly don't care all that much. All I really care about is that the glorious and valiant Pittsburgh Steelers, the greatest football franchise in the history of the game, crush and destroy the New England Patriots in the AFC playoffs. I want the Steel Curtain to come crashing down on Peyton Manning at least nineteen times in such a game, and I do not really care how it happens. I want one for the thumb.

But this brings us to an important question -- if I do not know anything about football's intricacies, and few of my guy friends do, where are these other men who can talk shop about the game? I mean, really, are they people I just don't hang out with? Did I somehow not get the memo issued to men everywhere that I was to study football for at least an hour a day, and watch all that old footage on ESPN Classic? Am I missing out because I don't often go to sports bars?

I don't doubt they're out there -- but really, what am I missing? Gee, I mean, the way Miss Pressman talks, you'd think nobody but me and a couple of other people I know really care about things like the implications of the strong-dollar policy or variations in how the stock market moves during the last hour of trading. And I don't think that's the case, because I have conversations about this all the time.

However, a sneaking suspicion tells me that I may be in the minority here.

---------
UPDATE 12:31 AM: OK. Went and had a glass of milk before bed, came back and re-read this essay. I don't think I wrote it well at all, which annoys me, so I'm appending this point. First, you should go read the whole thing, and second, I think she's right.

This "self-editing" feature is kind of nice, eh?

  thus spake Benjamin on 3.6.03


3.6.03  

 
Manufactured Beauty
There's a fascinating if short post over at Ken Layne's site about how high-definition television sets reveal the physical imperfections of actors and actresses which prior technology had successfully masked. Specifically, Mr Layne links to a post from Jeff Jarvis on the subject, in which Mr Jarvis notes how the actress Cameron Diaz appears on a high-definition set. We learn that Ms Diaz has suffered from the occasional outbreak of acne, the scars of which become visible on the ultra-clear picture which the new format provides viewers.

It's a fascinating story in many respects. First, it shows the entertainment industry's amazing ability to package and promote certain of its actors and actresses in ways that highlight and exaggerate their natural beauty, and to a degree which those who have no connection to the industry would not realize. Second, it says a lot about our own society, which unfortunately prizes physical beauty over intellectual and spiritual matters. Thirdly, such technology could help liberate us from this genetic bondage we have imposed upon ourselves. And last, but not least, it lets me tell my story about how I met Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Yes, really, but let me be clear. As readers of The Rant know, as a younger man I spent three years living in Los Angeles. For the first two of these three years, I worked in a capacity that gave me a peripheral connection to the entertainment industry. By this, I mean I would occasionally see or meet famous if not A-list actors in my professional capacity, had the opportunity to have drinks once in a while with capable if not-yet famous actors, and learn a small bit about an industry which seems glamorous and amazing to many folks unfamiliar with it. Also I began to suspect that pop musicians were manufactured in secret at some hidden warehouse-factory complex in Van Nuys, but that is neither here nor there.

Anyway, I met them. Or to be more precise, I once shared an elevator with them in the building in which I used to work.

You should know that this building, a badly-designed and modest mid-rise structure on W. Pico Blvd., was where I worked for the first two years of my employ in the City of Angels. On the top floor of this structure, there was a management firm which handled the affairs of screen actors and actresses. So I suppose it was only a matter of time before such an incident took place. To fully understand how this came about, you should also know that this building had but four elevators, all notoriously inefficient and slow (I was stuck in one once, with all my coworkers, in another weird story), and this building further had a confusing layout. The end result is that these elevators would become packed, and visitors would have no idea which floor they needed to exit upon to get to the attached parking garage, so on and so forth.

Now sometime during the day I had reason to take the elevator down -- I think I was going to the pharmacy next door -- and I got on to find myself with one anonymous suit, Mr Broderick and Ms Parker. It was an uneventful experience, to say the least. Mr Broderick and Ms Parker -- who are both awfully short people, at least compared to my six-foot-four frame --were not exactly in movie-star form. They seemed like regular, normal folks, except Mr Broderick seemed dressed a bit, um, casual. But you can get away with that when you're a creative type, though.

We'll leave it at that -- I can give you more details in private, if you'd like -- but the point was they acted like regular, normal folks. And no, neither I or the suit said anything out of the ordinary or asked for their autograph or anything like that. Dammit, we were Angelenos -- we didn't do that type of thing, because we were "with it." Besides, what was I supposed to say? "First floor. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?" No! And it wasn't as if I could say, apropos of nothing, "Boy. Godzilla -- did that suck. What in the hell were you thinking?" The only thing I did say was to the suit, after the two had left the elevator:

"Was that who I thought --- ?"
"Yeah."

I will note that I was given much grief when I returned to the office from the women therein, who demanded to know why I had not brought Mr Broderick up for a round of introductions.

But it is incredible how Hollywood is able to package up its actors and actresses. I have always found it about as amazing as the medical miracles which have artificially prolonged my own life in these past 27 years. One of the commenters -- that's not a word, but it's late -- over at Ken's site put it very well when he described being at a party with the actress Natalie Portman, and not being impressed (!!!) with her looks: "We all agreed: Wow...is film makeup a wonderful thing, or what? I could look like Tom Cruise with that kind of magical makeup." Now, this commenter must look better than I do, because no amount of makeup could make me look like Tom Cruise. But really, even in the high school plays I attended as a teenager, I was always amazed to see just how much makeup was caked on to the faces of those performing in them.

Still, speaking as a former Angeleno, I think one's constant exposure to the entertainment industry sours one on it. That's because you see it for what it really is -- a service industry like any other. Aye, it's a different and specialized and meaningful service, to be sure. But when you strip all the glitz and glamour away from it, and you see movie stars not at premieres but at the frozen-yogurt place at Olympic and Westwood, it goes from the new and exciting to the mundane. That's not to say that I don't have respect for actors: I do, because I know I couldn't do what they do and it takes a lot of hard work to succeed in that jackal-infested business. But I don't worship them or even really revere them like so many Americans seem to do.

Which brings us to the next point -- why is it that we value physical beauty over intellectual pursuits as a society?

I can't say I have the answer to that. I've often joked about my Patented Inverted Sense of Celebrity (e.g. "Oh my God! It's Laurence Tribe!") that makes me jumpy and act nervous around intellectual heavyweights as opposed to famous people who also happen to be beautiful and appear on the silver screen. Perhaps it is merely the market at work -- everyone, I think, wants to be seen as beautiful or attractive, and beauty is a more sought-after and rarer commodity than intellectual production. There are plenty of smart people out there, and there's a glut of work for them to do, and a glut in terms of their production.

What I do know is that beauty without intelligence does nothing for me, personally. I mean, really -- nothing. Oh, sure, I can appreciate that beauty on an intellectual level, judge whether a woman is beautiful or a man handsome on first glance. But if said beautiful person is not all that bright, the novelty wears off quite quickly, and it usually means I end up politely excusing myself from the conversation three minutes later. I am too old to waste my time frantically racking my brain for trivial bits of information about the latest fads I likely know little about. Conversely, though, I am young enough so that beauty combined with intelligence will do quite a bit for me, and if I happen to meet an extremely smart woman who also happens to be quite pretty or even beautiful, it will generally leave me a bit weak in the knees. On rare occasions, if the stars are right and all the ingredients combine together, I can be a wreck for a good week -- or until reason reasserts itself.

But I digress. Even though Mr Layne sounds a discouraging note about the effects of high-definition television (to wit: "Nobody needs to see anybody that goddamned close up in such perfect detail."), I actually think this could be a great boon for our society. It could prove to be a great equalizer which we could really use: one that brings the self-appointed yet horribly vapid beautiful people down a good peg, and which subsequently scraps or diminishes the foolish and irrational value system which certain elements in our society have trumpeted for so long. As that diminishes, we can hope that it will mean more opportunity for others engaged in creative professions, as well as for those involved in the intellectual pursuits at which so many in our society labor.

  thus spake Benjamin on 3.6.03



 
Employees Made Redundant Via Text Message
We're not just talking a few employees, either -- we're talking two thousand, four hundred employees of an insurance-firm in the United Kingdom.

  thus spake Benjamin on 2.6.03


2.6.03  
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