JAFO

Just Another Effin' Observer

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Location: Huntsville, Texas, United States

Sunday, November 13, 2005

I Have A Little List....

A friend of mine read my most recent entry to this blog, and he made what I'm sure he considers a rather astute and pointed observation, to wit: that every book I listed, indeed every book on my currently-in-play bookshelf, is a “conservative” book. I’m not entirely sure how my friend makes the connection between a conservative point of view and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, or Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, both of which titles are on said bookshelf, awaiting their own turn in the bathroom (which is where I do most of my reading, now that my globe-trotting, itinerant rent-a-geek days are in hiatus), but I suppose he does have a point. Simply because, in a larger sense, my friend is entirely correct: the overwhelming majority of the books I read are written from what one might correctly regard as a conservative perspective. But you know what? I’m okay with that. In fact, it doesn't bother me in the least that I read “conservative” books, because I am - true confession time - a conservative.

Whoa! What a load off my conscience! I guess confession really is good for the soul.

In Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, Polonius advised his son Laertes, “To thine own self be true,” and I have always believed that that was pretty good advice, especially considering that his advice to “neither a borrower nor a lender be” proved to be spot-on in my own circumstances. “For surely it will follow, as night follows the day, thou canst not be false to any man.” I assume that that observation would also include women, but since Shakespeare never had to contend with Eleanor Smeal and NOW picketing the Globe Theatre, we can only speculate. In any event, it’s a pretty good rule to play by, so I try. Do I invariably succeed? Of course not; who, in this imperfect world, does? But holding a standard of behavior and occasionally falling short of it is not the same as the attitude that, since we cannot expect to live up to a lofty standard 24/7, we should not even bother to try. “Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good,” is the maxim we frequently hear in this context.

But, in a cynical effort to be “fair” (cynical because I frankly don’t give a fat, furry gerbil’s butt whether I’m “fair” or not, and ‘fair’ in irony quotes because the very concept of ‘fairness’ is, in my mind – if you’ll pardon the expression – horseshit; and you will please note the conspicuous absence of irony quotes around that last word), I will hereby acknowledge that there are several “liberal” books on my reading list, if not yet physically on the shelf. The fact that those titles are not yet on my bookshelf, and the reasons for their absence, is not entirely irrelevant. So I will herewith explain my appalling insensitivity to left-wing authors and the size of their royalty checks.

The reason I tend not to read “liberal” books is a deceptively simple one. It isn’t because I generally don’t care about what liberals have to say on a particular subject (although in the “to-thine-own-self-and-for-surely-it-will-follow” theme I’m embarking on…, I don’t). No, it’s even more basic than that.

You see, I don’t like to get angry. And reading liberal talking points tends to make me angry. Sure, anger is useful when you’re in a kick-ass-and-take-names mood, but I’m just not an ass-kicking kind of guy. On the other hand, I don’t subscribe to the “Make Love, Not War” mindset, mainly because I recognize the fact, driven home over the course of over four decades now, that I couldn’t get laid if my name was Stainmaster. (It’s an obscure reference, I’ll admit, but come on; you’re a clever bunch.) I have always believed that anger is a largely useless, and frequently counterproductive, expenditure of emotional energy. It raises one's blood pressure (widely regarded by the medical profession as a Bad Thing), clouds one’s judgment, and rarely actually accomplishes much. “Don’t get mad, get even,” is one adage that perfectly describes the essential uselessness of anger, and Ivana Trump’s “Don’t get mad, get everything,” is even better. Instead of sitting around fuming, how much better to be relaxing with a cold Rum Collins on the verandah of the beach house in Barbados!

Dorothy Parker (an almost incandescent Leftist herself, but whom I have always enjoyed reading) wrote in one of her more infamous book reviews, “This is not a book to be set aside lightly; it should be hurled with great force.” I know the feeling all too well. It is the almost uniform reaction I have (go ahead, Leftists, say ‘Pavlovian’; I know you want to, and frankly, you wouldn’t be far off-base), whenever I read something like What’s the Matter With Kansas?. So, in order to maintain my much-sought-after equanimity, I tend not to read books from the Left.

But sometimes, you gotta make exceptions. So yes, I do have a list of books from the left side of the political and cultural divide that I fully intend to read, no matter how much I expect them to piss me off.

First on that list is the new book by Bill Press, How the Republicans Stole Christmas. The main reason I have that title on my list is, quite simply, the utter absurdity of the title itself, and the apparent premise behind it. The Republicans didn’t “steal” Christmas, they rescued it from Democrats who are trying diligently to abolish it. What the hell was this guy smoking, and where can I get some? Let’s face it, the world of letters lost a refreshingly twisted point of view when Lewis Carroll died; for someone to offer us another, more contemporary glimpse through the looking glass is most welcome. Even more intriguing is the book’s subtitle: “The Republican Party’s Declared Monopoly on Religion and What Democrats Can Do To Take It Back”. Do you think there’s a chance that ‘Ending their overt hostility to religion’ might be on his list of recommendations? Me neither. But I'm curious to find out, so it's on the list.

Another title on my list is Are Men Necessary?, by Maureen Dowd. I’m going to assume that the question presented in the title is a rhetorical one; I’ve always felt that there was something vaguely dikey about her (“not that there’s anything wrong with that” – Seinfeld, ad nauseum). I’ve seen a lot of pictures of Maureen Dowd floating around the Web in recent weeks, evidently plugging her book. The all seem to be asking, “Wouldn’t you date this woman?” Short answer: uh, no. For my money, Maureen Dowd has been on the wrong end of a camera entirely too much lately. Anyone who has seen both Casablanca and Murder on the Orient Express cannot help but notice that the intervening years were exceedingly unkind to Ingrid Bergman – from ethereal beauty to horse-faced harridan in the space of less than thirty years. Perhaps Ms. Dowd’s hostility toward men is a case of casting them as proxies for Father Time. A rather lengthy profile of her in the Washington Post (complete with photograph that I think pretty much makes my point – and what’s up with those shoes!?) covers a broad range of topics, up to and including her dating history. I closed the browser window when I got to that part; if I wanted that kind of images leaping out of my subconscious in the middle of the night, I’d read Steven King.

If nothing else, buying these books and reading them might give me an opportunity to test something that I’ve been curious about for a long time: Can you really flush a Koran down a toilet? Of course, I would never use an actual Koran; I’d need to find a stand-in. And scientific research is a much better use of my time that just sitting on the throne being angry.

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