Saturday, August 23, 2008

Literary Interlude: from Walden

All this talk of wealth and houses brings us to Henry David Thoreau's Walden this fine summer eve. Did you know he once spent time on Staten Island as tutor to Emerson's brother's children? Have at it.

However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poor-house. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man's abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace. The town's poor seem to me often to live the most independent lives of any. Maybe they are simply great enough to receive without misgiving. Most think that they are above being supported by the town; but it oftener happens that they are not above supporting themselves by dishonest means, which should be more disreputable. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them. Things do not change; we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts. God will see that you do not want society. If I were confined to a corner of a garret all my days, like a spider, the world would be just as large to me while I had my thoughts about me. The philosopher said: "From an army of three divisions one can take away its general, and put it in disorder; from the man the most abject and vulgar one cannot take away his thought." Do not seek so anxiously to be developed, to subject yourself to many influences to be played on; it is all dissipation. Humility like darkness reveals the heavenly lights. The shadows of poverty and meanness gather around us, "and lo! creation widens to our view." We are often reminded that if there were bestowed on us the wealth of Croesus, our aims must still be the same, and our means essentially the same. Moreover, if you are restricted in your range by poverty, if you cannot buy books and newspapers, for instance, you are but confined to the most significant and vital experiences; you are compelled to deal with the material which yields the most sugar and the most starch. It is life near the bone where it is sweetest. You are defended from being a trifler. No man loses ever on a lower level by magnanimity on a higher. Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Meanderings: How Rich Are You?

The latest hullabaloo on the campaign trail revolves around which candidate lives more opulently or some such. To wit, Mr. McCain couldn't say how many houses he has. I think to myself, there goes a rich man and a wealthy one, too. I learned a long time ago that rich and wealthy are not necessarily synonymous. Obviously, having that much real estate would indicate that someone is wealthy. The notion of rich, however, is something altogether different.

Although I've been more fortunate than many for most of my life, I have never, ever, been wealthy. And as a single mother for a while, I've occasionally strayed into strapped territory. That's the place where every single dollar coming in- none from the government- is allotted to a necessary expense and where replacing a shower curtain requires "saving up" for the Kmart luxe version ($16). It's where you measure increasing success by buying your child an Oriental fan she will never use again for her upcoming role in The Mikado, and she looks at you in wonder, stricken by your easy agreement.

Now, rich is when you could easily replace that same shower curtain at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, although by now bargain hunting is an ingrained habit. It is walking through Walgreens and picking up toiletries without thinking about the cost. There's the crux, not thinking about it.

Rich people don't think about money; wealthy people might. Think Scrooge- wealthy, but not rich. Now, Mr. McCain is obviously rich. Once you cross that "I don't know how many houses I have my name on" line, you are one lucky, rich, sob. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, made 4 million dollars last year, an amount which easily classifies him as wealthy. The question then is "but is he rich?"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Quip of the Day

This week, Barack Obama's challenge is to select a running mate who's young, hip, and whose accomplishments in life don't overshadow Obama's. Allow me to suggest Kevin Federline.
-Anne Coulter in this week's column.

Told You So

I know, I know, nobody likes a know it all. Seems the Washington Post, actually more like the Commodities Futures Trading Commission has discovered the Mediterranean, or at least that (gasp) there has been speculation going on in the oil markets. One of the prime movers: a private Swiss energy conglomerate. Welcome the the world of the global economy. Read it here and weep.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


A must have for those suffering from the early onset of Obama derangement syndrome. For about $35 dollars you, too, can get your very own lawn sign and bumper sticker set, as well as 12 issues of Townhall here.


"I have the ability to do it," Nunez says, "and I think opportunities should come. We have to be patient. I have bet on Cuba and on the future of Cuba, and that's why I'm here. We are simply waiting."
-from this NPR report

Given the upbeat nature of the headline, one would think the waiting was over. However, despite the glowing description of the few substantive changes in agriculture, even the article makes clear there are miles to go.

And while you're reading the article, don't miss the slide show of Cuban political posters. Reality, it ain't.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Paco Noir

For obvious reasons, Michael Moore is perhaps the most universally reviled celebrity in Cuban American circles. He is up there on the anathema scale with politician Charlie Rangel, although not quite. His tenure might be brief, a sort of 15 minutes of shame, while Rangel's long career as apologist renders him a lifetime member. So we'll enjoy An American Carol, whatever the quality of the movie. And today I'll enjoy a bit of humor at his expense over at Paco's. Cute.

Updated: Barometer Falling

Update: Looks like we dodged another one. While we're expecting tropical storm weather, it looks like it will hit further South. The last tropical storm around here was Gabrielle which hit the Friday of the week of the September 11th attacks. I remember because the electricity and subsequently the television went off in the middle of the national remembrance. Gabrielle created a block long pond in the back that almost made it to the house. Some very old trees in the neighborhood were toppled. In short, it was a mess. Mess, however, is something we can deal with.

At least, I think it should be. If you look to the east of about 8:30 PM on Tues in this NOAA graphic, you'll see my hometown of Sarasota. We Sarasotans are, like Miamians, a bit jaded (See George's post) if for a different reason. In Miami, they have seen it all. To them, this is routine. They all have shutters, generators, etc. After all, they went through Andrew. In Sarasota, we are routinely threatened with hurricanes, but they never seem to materialize. So although we go through the motions sometimes and gerryrig some plywood, we are like the villagers who have heard the cries of "wolf" a few too many times. Even Charley, the worst, took that right hook about 15 minutes before it would have hit us.

In those days, we were new at this approaching storm business, sitting in the darkness of our boarded up homes, glued to SNN where David Karnes was doing a yeoman's job and was more accurate than the national channels, when suddenly the angel of death bypassed our door. Such escapes lead to a rather cavalier attitude. There are some who say that this was Indian holy ground or some such, others that we are in some sort of magnetic vortex. I suspect we have been lucky.

A meteorologist on TV likened this storm to Charley, which was unsettling. This one seems to be heading up to Tampa, just as Charley was heading to Sarasota. Who's to say it won't take a quick right turn roundabout Sarasota way? Just in case, we have tin homemade shutters that once graced someone's roof, we can press into quick service. And we bought some clips we can use with plywood for the money pit next door. We're bound to have plywood around the house somewhere. Kerosene lamps? Check. Gallons of water? Check. Transistor radio? Batteries? Check. Candles? Check. Charcoal? Flashlights? Somewhere. Gasoline for the generator we inherited from someone who moved up North and have never started? Ouch. The gas station was out tonight. And you need to have those gas tanks filled avant le deluge. Oh, well, guess I know what I'm doing tomorrow. I'm not gonna kid you, folks, it's still scary.

(Blogger is not cooperating)

Sunday/Monday Double Bill

Did he, or didn't he? Republican congressional candidate Mike Erickson got caught with his metaphorical pants down. He took a little junket cum humanitarian mission down to Cuba during Cigar Week. According to the candidate, he took supplies to a medical center, the existence of which is in doubt. According to others on his tour, they picked up a couple of cases of supplies in Cancun to observe the legalities. Guy looks like a sanaco anyway.

Appearance versus reality. Here's yet another article/interview with Rachel Kushner about her Telex from Cuba. Raised in Haight Ashbury, graduate of Berkley and Columbia, Kushner seems stuck on the possibilities of the Revolution. Interesting, that. What almost all reviewers miss is that the novel may be set in Cuba, but it is not about Cuba.

Poet and prophet. At Townhall, Dinesh D'Souza marks the passing of Solzhenitsyn by highlighting not his opposition to Soviet oppression, a timely topic, but rather the criticism of Western society to be found in a 1978 address at Harvard. Thought provoking. Read it here. Speaking of appearances, there's something of the Tolstoy in that photo.

To be or not to be. Another interesting duo is to be found in Ben Shapiro's column about Obama vs. McCain. His point: Americans like their Presidents tough, ergo McCain's boots trump Obama's suits. From your computer to God's ears?

You say potato; I say potato. The Times (Brit) informs us that octopi do not have eight arms as was the general thought. No, the wily octopods have six arms and two legs.