Thursday, November 08, 2007

Something I hate...

You know what I hate? The Good Old Days. I really, really hate them. Not just them, no, more than that. I hate the concept of the Good Old Days. It idea that the old days, by virtue of being old, perhaps, are of necessity good. I get so annoyed when people wax nostalgic about how simple, how clean, how hearty, just how goshdarned right the old days really were. "When men were real men and women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri ...".

Let me give an example. People are always complaining about how society is losing sight of its basic family values, how we've lost this or that principle, this or that right, this or that whatever. It used to be we had Communities! It Used to Be we had Respect! It Used to Be we had Family Values! Family Values are a big favorite of mine, let me tell you.

So why do I hate the Old Days? Well, because I think they're mostly a sham. What else did we Used to Have? Let's set the Wayback Machine for the 1940's! Good Family Values then, right? World basically a better place, one assumes? Oh wait! There was that World War thingie. Lots and lots of people died, didn't they? I seem to recall reading about it. And then there was this, what was it called? Oh yeah! The Holocaust! Lots of people died, but I bet more of them had family values!

Well, maybe we need some less Old Days then that. Let's look at the 60's. *Gasp* No, shut the window, let's not look there. Just too freaky. How about the 70s? Lots of good stuff then! Vietnam was a real highpoint. Thank god we had those values. And let's not forget about the clothes! If nothing else, plaid does scream Respect. I have to give you that.

So maybe we should set the Wayback machine further back, then. How about just a few years ... oops, hit the Great Depression .... back a bit more .... there's World War I, lovely time .... bit more ... oh here we are wiping out the Native Americans, well done indeed .... going back a bit more .... and so forth. Right back to the Inquisition, the Black Death, and so on. After a while maybe it's time we just take the Wayback machine out back and shoot it.

Sometimes when a person starts reminiscing about family values, I think about all of the patriarchy, cruelty, abuse, and shame that have been hidden behind those values for generations. And other times I think of the Brady Bunch. I'm not sure which ones frighten me more. I mean, there are great things in family values, there really are. It's just that there is also all of this crap hidden behind them as well. In some ways it's the same crap that people are decrying as they're calling for the Return of Family Values.

Now my point is not that the Old Days were just the worst things ever. And it's not that today is the best day yet. It's just that reflecting on the past with dewy eyed nostalgia has got to be one of the easiest and most blatant forms of selective attention, and consequent self-delusion, that I can think of. It's so easy to pick out those few things we think were there and we think we liked, and ignore all the things that were also there and that were just godawful. We've got godawful things today too. No doubt about it. And it is beyond disappointing. We have a monkey as the leader of the free world. We're fast-baking the environment. But that doesn't make the past any less horrible than the present. Or the present any less fantastic than the past.

Just remember, 40 years from now our children are going to be whining about the first decade of 2000, the Good Old Days.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Amines Are My Enemy

At least, I think they must be. The only times I've ever had anything like a hangover were once when I had an absolutely terrible reaction to a Rioja (never, ever again) and once when I drank sake.

Well, God bless NASA. Not only do they constantly espouse sound project management tools, they've now come up with a device that measures chemicals called amines, which they think cause red wine headaches. Guess what alcoholic beverages are highest in amines? Red wine and sake.

Of course, at the moment the device is the size of a briefcase and probably costs almost as much as the space shuttle. But one of these days, I'll be able to order wines from Spain again. One of these days maybe I'll even be able to face a turbulent reunion with unflitered sake. Then again, maybe not.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Can I get an "Amen"?

Belinda Luscombe pleads with Warren Buffet to pony up for a worthy cause. It is hysterical.

I often wish that structural engineers would make themselves useful. I mean, if they can build a suspension bridge or the Sydney Opera House, surely they should be able to advance us beyond the Jane Russell era. (And would it kill them to make it pretty? I know that form follows function, but I don't think that's supposed to actively preclude a little lace.) The pain and suffering of bra shopping have eased slightly in recent years. I have learned to pay more than $50 for a good bra. I cry a little when I pay my credit card bill, but it's better than crying in the fitting room. And still I say that when a corset feels like a vacation, something is wrong. (You know what the British say. A change is as good as a holiday.)

I suppose that at the moment, the structural engineers are legitimately occupied making sure our bridges don't fall down. And as a person who is scared to drive over a long bridge, I'm all for that. Good for them, I say. I just hope they take notes while they're doing it so that their knowledge can eventually benefit the lingerie industry. I'd like some support while I can still walk upright.