Have you ever felt unappreciated for the lengths you’ve gone to when it comes feting a friend or business associate? Instead of going to the Stop and Shop or the Food Emporium, you’ve spent the extra bucks at Citarella’s to get those porterhouse steaks, which while he or she's wolfing them down, you want to say, you know those came to over a bill. Does he or she even fathom the expense you’ve gone out to? Or say you let it fly at one of the local trendy bistros and tell the crowd of friends you’ve invited for your birthday, it’s on me. Sure everyone is smiling and especially the waiter? Who doesn’t like being given carte blanche? But after everyone has ordered all the things they wouldn't normally want to foot the bill for and are moaning how they couldn’t eat another morsel, don’t you feel a certain let down? They're not thinking about you and how much you’ve spent, but only about how full their tummies feel. Imagine a world where it becomes fashionable to let everyone know how much you're paying, a world where you actually put little cards in front of people’s plates, like the seating tags that are sometimes provided at dinner parties, indicating how much their meals cost? Everyone knows that you serve expensive food to people you want to impress and more modest fare to those you could easily do without. So in order to make it worthwhile to spend a lot on someone, you want monetize how much people meant to you. If you've forked out for a two pound lobster, you want your guests to know that the $75-100 you've spent is a recognition of the depth of the friendship. After all, there are those for whom you would only buy the 1and ¼ pounder for $49.
Monday, July 25, 2016
Friday, July 22, 2016
|master bedroom of The White House in 1963 (Kennedy Library)|
Thursday, July 21, 2016
|"Campbell's Soup Cans" by Andy Warhol (1962)|
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Heard in a Manhattan elevator, one dental technician talking about a difficult patient, “you know when you put a cross that someone doesn’t exist?” This may be easier said than done. There are all kinds of societies in which shunning is the punishment of choice for those who have broken social codes. Today with the ubiquitous beheadings by ISIS in Syria and elsewhere ostracizing seems a relatively mild form of vengeance--even when we consider what happened to Hester Prynne in The Scarlett Letter. But if Dante was to create circles just related to vengeance then things like banishment and ostracizing might occupy the first circle of this hell. To take someone’s life, particularly in a painful manner such as beheading or live burial or stoning would obviously fall into the 9th circle category. But what about eradicating an individual's existence without necessarily terminating their life. This would probably fall under the category of what the psychoanalyst Leonard Shengold terms Soul Murder. There’s something particularly invidious about this method of torture. It’s not waterboarding or sleep deprivation, but it attacks the deepest level of humanity, to the extent that it denies one's being and identity. The victim of such reprisal suddenly finds him or herself forcibly estranged from some person or persons he once knew. He or she no longer sees him or herself reflected in their eyes and a little bit of him dies. Maybe you don’t care if the person cleaning your teeth refuses to acknowledge your existence, but these things can become viral and you soon may find yourself faced with such a degree of assumed indifference to your presence that you begin to wonder if you really do exist.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
What would Donald Trump think about the idea of outsourcing volunteer work to China? Let’s say I really wanted to help Hillary Clinton get elected. I didn’t like her, but I feared and hated Trump. On the other hand I hated politics, which seemed alternately futile and boring, especially when it came to knocking on doors in swing states like Pennsylvania where these contests tend to be particularly hard fought. What would Donald Trump think about my hiring one of those phone banks in New Delhi, the ones you pick up when you’re have a technical problem with the OS of your computer? What would he think about acquiring visas for a small town in China, who you'd pay to fly over to Philadelphia and then send out on the campaign trail to make sure that Democrats who might have been indecisive would finally pull the lever for HC? There's supposed to be nothing more satisfying than selflessly helping others, like the Syrian refugees. The Times recently ran a story about Canadian families who have adopted some of these unfortunates ("Refugees Encounter a Foreign Word: Welcome," NYT, 6/30/16). But let’s say you don’t feel like it. How about hiring some Canadians of your own to do the job? Is that as magnanimous or charitable as doing it yourself? What would Donald Trump think about this? Would he think it would be taking valuable voter registration work out of the hands of qualified Americans, who would be deprived of an outlet for their eelymosynary instincts?