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 Near the Hole of Britain

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1 January 1997
The Hole of Britain
The British Broadcasting Corporation reported on the radio that "the hole of Britain is in the grip of Arctic cold." I don't know where the hole of Britain is, but judging from the weather outside it must not be very far from here.

2 January 1997
Whose Mouth?
"There's always something waiting to exist."

I liked that idea when read that sentence for the first time today. And then I decided I disliked it. And now I don't know what I think. The problem isn't with the thought but with the source: it's from a Sony advertisement.

It's funny that I'm reluctant to consider the possibility that "there's always something waiting to exist" because the person who wrote it was trying to sell me a new electronic gizmo. Had it been attributed to, say, Marcel Duchamp, I would have thought it profound and insightful. Even though it's not entirely relevant, this whole episode reminds me of Dennis Potter's observation: "The trouble with words is that you never know whose mouth they've been in."

One thing is certain: I can't go around quoting one of Sony's copywriters. If I later decide that "there's always something waiting to exist" is a good idea, I'll say I came up with it.

3 January 1997
Beauty Out of Whack
I read that our attractions to beauty and sugar may be part of evolutionary natural selection. We like sugar because the best time to eat fruit is when it's full of sugar; we like attractive partners because they're likely to be the healthiest. Or so some scientists maintain.

As with most things at the end of the twentieth century, though, our appetites for sugar and beauty have gone to ridiculous extremes. We eat so much sugar that our teeth are falling out of our puffy faces, and we have developed such a narrow rigid definition of beauty that almost no one is beautiful. (I'm exaggerating, of course; it's simpler than being fair and accurate.)

I wonder if artists are doing their part to correct this evolutionary imbalance by making work that's not beautiful in the traditional sense. Although it sounds like an almost rational argument, I doubt that it's true: artists almost never do their part of anything. On the other hand, the long-term effects of ugly art are incalculable.

(When I asked Al Weber for his opinion on the best way to make photographs archival, he advised me that there was only one reliable process. "Make ugly prints; they last forever.")

4 January 1997
Dr. Bonk at Forty
Today is Dr. Bonk's fortieth birthday, which, like most birthdays, is a source of both libational jubilation and somber introspection. It's a party and another milestone reached; it's also another step closer to the grave, the crematorium, the bottom of the deep crevasse, whatever.

Dr. Bonk's fortieth birthday is a particularly critical event, since this is the day he has vowed to stop worrying about his Philosophiæ Doctor thesis. This endeavor has been something of an albatross around his neck for some time, so I've decided to support him by addressing him as Doctor Bonk. This is a well-established practice among my circle of friends ever since the legendary Dr. Hayes began the practice of granting honorary doctorate degrees over a decade ago.

I find my honorary doctorate extremely useful, especially when making telephone calls. When I'm asked "Who may I say is calling?" my "Dr. Rinehart" usually gets me through. If it doesn't and I'm asked to leave a message, I reply "It's about her lab tests, so I'd rather not." That almost always gets me past the receptionist/deceptionist.

Dr. Bonk is somewhat uncomfortable about turning forty, as I once was. I discovered to my relief, however, that leaving my thirties didn't make me feel old. (I've always used my father's working definition of old: "someone who's over 15 years older than me.") What does make me feel a bit older is when all my friends turn forty, even fifty. Nevertheless, happy birthday Thomas.

5 January 1997
Two Down, Five to Go
I listened to a radio interview with John Cleese in which he said he'd heard that the way to find out what really motivates a person is to find out who s/he envies.

A decade or two ago I would have been able to easily list a hundred people I'd rather have been than me. There are still thousands of people I admire, but I really can't think of anyone I envy. (About the closest I can come is coveting Graham Nash's digital studio, but coveting his toys is fundamentally different than envying him.)

Why the change? The charitable answer is that I'm pleasantly married and am much more secure in my art work than I used to be. Max Beerbohm provides the uncharitable explanation:

    "The dullard's envy of brilliant men is always assuaged by the suspicion that they will come to a bad end."

I won't deny that I'm a dullard or that some of the people I once envied have in fact come to bad ends. I suppose the real reason I stopped envying other people is that in the past I envied others' public personae (façades?) instead of who they "really" were. As I grow older, I'm less susceptible to the advertisers' ploy of encouraging envy to boost sales. I'm also less impressed by people who work hard to be impressive. That can't be underrated, for as Mark Twain observed:

    "Man will do many things to get himself loved, he will do all things to get himself envied."

I'm far from sanguine, though. Even though I've more or less overcome envy, that still leaves pride, covetousness, lust, anger, and gluttony--five of the other seven deadly sins--to make me miserable. (As for the seventh sin, sloth: what's the problem with sloth?)

6 January 1997
Not a Good Story
There used to be a good story here about a friend's good fortune. Unfortunately, what started out as a good story ended up as a sad one, so I've replaced the original entry with this one. Since my friend no doubt wants to erase the story from her memory, the least I can do is erase it from my computers.

There are no amusing anecdotes about this unfortunate incident, so I'm afraid this day will be one of no entertainment value. Some days are like that.

7 January 1997
Happy Déjà Vu to You
Today is my fifty-first birthday. Birthdays used to be a catalyst for celebration and thoughtful reassessment, but this birthday is different. Actually, that's not true at all: this one is exactly the same as the last two, for I have turned fifty-one for the third year in a row.

This curious state of affairs, like most of my other curious states, has been achieved by design. When I was in my late thirties I decided I disliked the decade-by-decade aging process and decided to remain fifty-one for two decades. I quite like the stability of staying fifty-one; by remaining the same age I'm free to concentrate on more interesting things.

We had a large party that resulted in the death of at least one salmon, and my friends sang a new birthday song ...

Happy déjà vu to you,
Happy déjà vu to you,
Happy déjà vu dear David,
Happy déjà vu to you!

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©1997 David Glenn Rinehart