In recent months, it seems, the news has been dominated by the Obituaries.
People die all the time, of course. Life by its very nature implies Death. But over the past 50 days or so, with the passing of Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall and – most recently – Joan Rivers, the Grim Reaper seems to have commanded even more than his usual amount of attention.
Regular readers of this blog (and I believe the 6 or 7 of you already know who you are) are familiar with my chosen format: conventional essays of an observational nature leavened with humorous quotations from celebrities — many of whom are renowned for their wit.
One of those quotes, posted a year ago close to Mothers’ Day, was from Joan Rivers. If you use the search bar at the top of this page and search “Joan Rivers” you’ll find it soon enough. I recently went back to update that post by inserting the year of her death into what had formerly been a blank space to denote that she was – at the time of the original posting – still living.
But Ms. Rivers’ talent generated more than just a few memorable quotes.
The lady’s fans, who appear to have been Legion, have been unstinting in their eulogies and a number of other quotes have surfaced. A recent article published to the Web via Variety‘s own blog selected their own favorite Top Ten. I thought they were each at least as good as the one I had selected more than a year ago.
So, with respect to both David Letterman and the most famous friend Heidi Abramowitz ever had, please enjoy (courtesy of Variety) Ten Quotes from Joan Rivers:
1. “I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware.”
2. “I blame my mother for my poor sex life. All she told me was, ‘The man goes on top and the woman underneath.’ For three years my husband and I slept in bunk beds.”
3. “My mother could make anybody feel guilty – she used to get letters of apology from people she didn’t even know.”
4. “I don’t exercise. If God had wanted me to bend over, he would have put diamonds on the floor.”
5. “I knew I was an unwanted baby when I saw that my bath toys were a toaster and a radio.”
6. “My husband wanted to be cremated. I told him I’d scatter his ashes at Neiman Marcus – that way, I’d visit him every day.”
7. “People say that money is not the key to happiness, but I always figured if you have enough money, you can have a key made.”
8. “The first time I see a jogger smiling, I’ll consider it.”
9. “I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.”
10. “When I die (and yes, Melissa, that day will come; and yes, Melissa, everything’s in your name), I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action. I want Craft services, I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way. I don’t want some rabbi rambling on; I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents. I don’t want a eulogy; I want Bobby Vinton to pick up my head and sing ‘Mr. Lonely.’ I want to look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive. I want to be buried in a Valentino gown and I want Harry Winston to make me a toe tag. And I want a wind machine so that even in the casket myhair is blowing just like Beyonce’s.”
– Joan Rivers, one of the definitive female stand-up comedians, writers, talk show hosts, directors and actors of the 20th Century (1933 — 2014)
First of all, Happy Labor Day to each and every one of you who visit this blog! I appreciate you all more than mere words can ever express!
Now . . . the premise is we honor those who work for a living . . . by giving them a holiday from work . . .
Have I got that right?
Just checking . . .
And we “honor” them because . . .
All throughout the rest of the year they are held in contempt.
Oh, no he di’n’t! . . . **snap**
Let’s face it, in Western culture, anybody who actually has to work for a living is looked upon as somebody who has failed.
The whole idea, we are taught from the cradle, is to make your living without having to expend any significant effort. To make more than enough to live free from want without having to break a sweat. To possess a talent so close to an ingrained reflex, that you cannot help but earn a living from it.
And not just enough on which to subsist.
Oh no, it has to be enough for you to actually prosper and grow increasingly wealthy as the years go by.
Gee, not too demanding! . . .
Please take a moment to consider:
What is the primary desire of the overwhelming majority of Americans?
To be wealthy.
And what is their primary character flaw?
They are lazy.
And their secondary character flaw?
They are “veridical-ly” challenged.
I’ll give you a moment to look that one up . . .
So what we appear to have here is a culture that praises wealth, denigrates sacrifice through effort and places no shame on dishonesty. As a matter of fact, skillful lying is often viewed as a useful tool in both business and life.
Let us also consider: when someone is found guilty of a crime, do they make apology? Rarely.
And even if they do, do you honestly believe they are sorry for what they have done?
Please! . . . They are sorry they got caught. Look directly at the image to the right of this sentence.
The flaw, according to the culture in which America marinates today, is not supposed to be that they should have known better, or that they should have acted better, only that they should have been slick enough to commit their offense undetected.
The other irony about the holiday this year is, of course, the scarcity of good jobs in America today.
Mind you, I’m not saying that there are no jobs at all, nor am I suggesting that unemployment hasn’t grown less in recent years . . .
There is work out there to be done. There is no shortage of opportunity for anyone who has no objection to actually having to work. As long as you understand and are willing to accept that nothing is going to fall out of the sky directly into your lap, you’ve already grasped the most essential concept.
The problem is getting to the payoff that makes it all seem worthwhile.
I’m talking about how hard it is to find good jobs, the kind that allow you to support yourself and your family working just one job for a mere 40 hours a week: the kind that allow you to actually earn a living that allows you to maintain a household reasonably free from want and financial hardship.
The kind of jobs that used to be much more common in America: the kind that allowed you to pay your bills each month and additionally salt a little something away in the bank for a rainy day. And still have a life beyond that of a paid drone.
I’ve already shown you an engraved portrait of one Republican President; please permit me now to show you an engraved portrait of another Republican President . . .
Hard to believe they both were members of the same political party, isn’t it? Well, not really, when you consider that about the only thing these two had in common (besides a premature departure from the Oval Office) was the fact that the party they headed had the same name . . . More a matter of coincidence than any deliberate common political philosophy. What a difference a century makes ! . . .
All that being said, (and as incredible as what I am about to write may sound), I sincerely believe that good jobs can return to America.
But it’s not going to happen by itself. The same management figures who have sent jobs overseas will have to bring them back. What will do that?
When the board room boys recognize that it is in their own best financial interest (yes, we have to use the Greed carrot-and-stick, it’s all they respond to), they will move production back here just as fast as they took it away 2-3 decades ago.
The impetus must come from the political leadership, which must have the backing of the people who do the work, who have the ability to benefit the most: Labor.
And the political leadership cannot be a lone figure. Having a Chief Executive who favors the working man is not enough, those who work must make it an equal priority to see that a leader is matched up with a legislative and judiciary environment that will support him.
We’ve all seen enough of the kind of stalemate politics that results otherwise.
Sticking to your guns is all well and good, just as long as the gun in question isn’t pointing at your own head.
But enough of all this political ranting, foaming at the mouth and screeching about what’s wrong . . .
The undeniable facts remain:
America has been a great country.
Her labor force has made her so.
She can easily become one yet again.
And once again, her labor force will make her so.
So let us all be mindful of our history so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past, while we begin to take the steps that can ensure our even brighter future.
Let us remember to celebrate this holiday in the proper way – with an awareness of what American Labor has built:
Let us be thankful for the resources with which this country has been blessed.
And let us never lose sight of what we — all of us — labor for:
“I think men who have a pierced ear are better prepared for marriage.
They’ve experienced pain and bought jewelry.”
– Rita Rudner, American dancer, stand-up comedian, writer and actress; known for her insightful comedic observations based on stereotypes but always incorporating an unanticipated twist at the punchline (1953 – )
Editorial Disclosure:The content to which this link takes you is that of PSFK Labs, in New York City. They are what you might call a boutique Communications / Public Relations / Media Relations Agency. You can tell because, if all you see is the web site, you are almost-but-not-quite-certain what it is they do for a living. Their copy is drenched in the kind of nebulous non-specific corporate double-talk that passes for effective writing these days. Mind you, they are clearly very talented people. Over-achievers all, I have no doubt. They’re probably very expensive… and I imagine they’re worth it. They just don’t seem to be very enthusiastic when it comes to plain speaking. In some ways, New York can be a very insular environment…
Editor’s Preface: Okay, right off the bat, I know what you’re thinking…
Wait a minute! Weren’t the Oscars, like, six months ago? And he’s only just now turning them off??
The post which follows began that night, but never ended.
Having written the initial paragraphs, I felt the essay lacked a “tail” and so held back from publishing it to the web until I could figure out where I was going with it. I never did figure that out, at least not yet.
As a result, the words below remain a work in progress and the essay may yet undergo further revisions in the future. I’m still trying to wring the crankiness out of it, which is a pitfall I all too often encounter in my “free-form” stuff.
Hey, let’s face it: nothing is as good as it used to be. This is what happens to us if we manage to live long enough: we grow dissatisfied. Nostalgia is little more than a functioning selective amnesiac with rose-colored glasses…
Oh, and the term “Oscar” is a registered trademark of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Thank you.
I Just Turned Off the Oscars
As I write this, the Academy Awards presentation ceremonies are playing out in Los Angeles. I saw Ellen Degeneres hosting for a few minutes (she looked very competent)…
I saw John Travolta introduce a nominated song performance (it LOOKED Live) and I wasted a few moments watching Jamie Foxx clowning alongside Jessica Biel (It looked like something I may have seen in High School.)
Then I switched it off.
I just don’t care.
How can I put that last sentence in its proper perspective?
I used to really enjoy watching the Oscars. But then I used to be a movie-goer. I’m not one anymore.
For one thing, it costs too much.
For another, I find it difficult to locate anything currently playing in the theatres that I actually wish to see.
I’ve aged well beyond the target audience demographic and nobody in Hollywood really cares about what I would like to see anymore.
And I don’t care for the way so many people seem to go out in public today and choose not to respect their fellow citizens. They are loud, poorly groomed and dressed, with no idea how to behave, how to speak, or how to show even the most basic level of courtesy to anyone.
Then there’s the violence…
People get shot and killed in movie theatres. And I don’t mean in the movies, I mean in the seats. Members of the audience. People like me. So there’s another reason why I don’t go.
As a result, I have seen none of the nominated films this year.
Maybe next year. Maybe not.
I cannot immediately recall the last time I saw a first-run movie in a first-run movie house. No, wait! Yes, I do…
I saw “Wanted.” It wasn’t my idea.
I was working in downtown Pittsburgh at a bank customer call center in the summer of 2008 and my wife and daughter and I somehow scored these passes to see a Sneak Preview of the film.
I knew the film was going to be violent and not family friendly. As it turns out, that was putting it mildly.
But somehow these things work out. As luck would have it, my wife and daughter were sharing some quality time in the ladies’ room and I was seated in the auditorium by myself. The movie started and within 2-3 minutes I knew it was not going to be the sort of fare we were hoping for.
I’ve seen Angelina Jolie before; she’s very beautiful and the woman does know how to act: her father is John Voight so it’s in her blood. I’m also very partial to Morgan Freeman, who strikes me as a relatively well-grounded man.
But this movie was like some sort of psychotic fantasy about assassination, destiny and a very warped worldview that sought to suggest that there is nothing worse than being a loser. If you see nothing wrong with that, please feel free to stop reading now.
I was so repelled by the opening scenes of the movie, I got up and left the auditorium, meeting my wife and daughter in the foyer outside the restroom.
“It’s not for us,” I said, “Too much violence and shooting. It begins almost immediately and doesn’t stop until it’s time to show some sex or telegraph some questionable philosophy to an audience that really isn’t into the whole sippy cup scene.”
My wife didn’t need me to draw a picture, but she did seek a little clarification.
“How bad is it?” she asked.
“The bullets,” I told her, “travel in slow motion. And they go around corners, which rather ups the ante as far as ‘The Matrix’ is concerned.”
My wife is a woman of few words, which is one of the reasons I love her.
“Wow,” she said. Not a happy ‘Wow’ mind you, more of a ‘That’s gotta be the most horrible freeway accident I’ve ever seen’ type of ‘Wow.’ The same sort of ‘Wow’ that emanated from me when I saw it happen on the screen just a few minutes previously.
So I am not the enthusiastic patron of the cinema that I once was. And I once was a VERY enthusiastic patron.
Mind you, there are still those occasions when we treat ourselves as a family to a rare night out at the Cinema. But it’s always at the discount cinema: the $2 show.
Obviously, we are no longer alone in this: these theatres are usually fairly well crowded, but even this experience has been cheapened by cost-conscious exhibitors.
Ticket sales are now handled at the concession stands, allowing you to combine your selection of a show with your selection of refreshments. And that’s at least one less employee the theatre manager has to hire, train, trust and pay. Since you’re neatly avoiding the expense of a first-run ticket, the concession prices are jacked up to compensate. After all, this is where the exhibitor makes his money.
As a result, the ticket now costs what the popcorn used to cost and the popcorn now costs what the ticket used to cost. Equilibrium is thereby maintained in a sort of budgetary dance of yin and yang.
When I was in high school, my neighborhood in the city was home to no fewer than four movie theatres, all within six blocks of each other; three of them within two blocks of each other. One of my classmates worked as an usher, another classmate, his girlfriend, worked behind the concession stand at the same theatre.
I remember applying for one of the usher’s jobs, with his recommendation. The theatre manager’s biggest concern was whether he had a pair of uniform trousers that would be long enough to fit my skinny frame. He didn’t, so I didn’t get the job.
And that’s something else that’s changed. If you worked as an usher you had a uniform: white dress shirt, bow tie, snappy vest or jacket with the theatre logo emblazoned on the breast pocket, maybe shoulder epaulets, dressy black slacks with a silk stripe down the outside leg seam, occasionally a bellboy’s pillbox hat and your badge of office: a flashlight.
Yes, you could be a high school student and actually hold down a job that had its own uniform and specialized equipment! You were someone to be reckoned with!
The uniform allowed you to partake, if only offhandedly, in the glamour of Show Business. You were dressed up for the occasion. Your post was just outside the auditorium doors, facing the lobby, anticipating the approach of the patron(s), proffering their carefully-torn ticket stub as a pass of safe conduct from the outer nether regions of the drab outside world into the holy of holies, the sanctum sanctorum, the theatre itself where you could submerse yourself in the show.
Since seating was almost never reserved, the conscientious usher would inquire whether you wished to sit up close to the screen or further back. And then, kindling his torch as if preparing to lead Dante through Il Purgatorio, he would turn, open the auditorium doors and lead you into the darkness.
Swinging the flashlight beam back and forth across the floor as if sweeping the carpet for land mines, he would lead you to the general area of the theatre you had indicated and then light your way from the aisle as you scooted yourself sideways along the row until you reached the seats you would take. At that point, the beam of his torch would snap out, he would turn and go back up the aisle to the auditorium doors, those mileposts that demarcated the boundary between the everyday humdrum world and the rarefied precincts of the theatre entertainment experience.
You truly were ushered to your seat. You didn’t just make an arrival at the marquee or the box office; you were personally escorted to your seat with the sort of deference normally associated with persons of high office and weighty consequence. You, literally, had arrived.
Take a good hard look at the cinema “associate” who serves you today.
They may be wearing a simple polyester tunic that zips up the front, but it’s more likely they’re wearing a T-shirt which may or may not match what any of their fellow associates are wearing. And I guarantee you their trousers and footwear won’t match each other. These people aren’t dressing for you; they barely care enough to dress for themselves. If they give the matter any thought at all, their only concern is for their personal comfort or to make a fashion statement among their fellows.
And you find your own way to the auditorium and you find your own way to your seat. Try to imagine the kind of incredulous look which might greet you if you were to ask, however politely, for some assistance in choosing where to sit.
“Dude, I got syrup tanks to switch out and then I got boxes of candy to re-stock and I got some guy in his thirties screaming at me because the Fast and Furious immersive video game console in the lobby just ate his $5.00 in quarters!
“You want somebody to help you find your seat? Why don’t you bring your Mom?”
The first-ever cyber-commencement address given by “Rossum” —a machine intelligence running a $22 billion hedge fund—to the graduating class of a top-tier technical university somewhere in America before the year 2030.
It’s a distinct honor and a privilege to be the first non-human intelligence to give a commencement address at an American university. I am confident at a 97.5% level that I will not be the last. I particularly appreciate the trustees supporting this invitation to speak even as a sincere but misguided minority of students and faculty protested my participation as a “travesty” and disrespectful to the accelerating role machine intelligences such as myself play in displacing employment opportunities for college and post-baccalaureate graduates. I computationally, if not quite emotionally, understand your fears. But world-class universities like your own should welcome the full diversity of intelligent beings—be they analog or digital, flesh or silicon or…
'For him, there was no small or unimportant Jew. There were no unimportant non-Jews either. As the Rebbe made clear, no human being created "in God's image" could ever be regarded as "small" or unimportant.' -Joseph Telushkin