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When bigger is not better. July 17, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , ,

Silence Dogood here. I’m always astonished by the juxtaposition of horrors that confronts me each day when I open up the Yahoo! home page. First, there’s the news, full of stories of suffering, deprivation, homelessness, and starvation. And then there are the lifestyle features with their conspicuous consumption. Today we were treated to a feature on “The World’s Largest Peach Cobbler!”

But the worst was yet to come: a story of a couple who’d built an enormous mansion in Florida, ostentation for its own sake. They showed the hideous conglomeration in all its vulgarity—if memory serves, it has 40 rooms and nine kitchens—as well as a photo of the happy couple. The husband sat on a gold baroque throne that was worthy of the Sun King, smiling complacently. His trophy wife, settled on one arm of the throne, faced the camera defiantly, as if telling the world, “Hey, I earned this!” 

Yesterday, there was a feature on Gwyneth Paltrow’s $90 tee-shirts and the Olsen twins’ $38,000 backpacks. And the Ecclestone sisters and their mind-boggling, $100-million-plus mansions have been making headlines in The Wall Street Journal. (One is currently adding a nightclub in one of her homes.)

I frankly don’t know how any of us sleep at night, given the state of the world around us. But I really don’t understand how these people are able to sleep! Give me a dollar tee-shirt from the thrift store any day.

              ‘Til next time,



Turning water into whine. April 9, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Today I’d like to talk about water—the kind they’re always telling us to drink, and drink, and drink, and drink, and drink.

It’s aggravating enough to be told that we simply must drink a bathtub’s worth of water each day or we’ll perish, or at least get old and wrinkly. But the doctors and diet gurus who preach this particular gospel always make a point of insisting that only plain water counts towards your multi-gallon goal. Now, I’m willing to drink plain water with my vitamins, and I’m willing to drink it with meals. But I would never choose to drink plain water for pleasure. When I want something to drink, I want something with flavor, not something wimpy, dull, and listless like water. Must we renounce even the tiniest pleasures in the name of almighty hydration?! I don’t think so.

Then there’s the issue of where all this water is supposed to go. Perhaps the doctors and diet gurus think that, as cows have four stomachs, we have four bladders to contain the incoming flood. I almost choke every time I turn on the computer and am presented with an ad showing a miserable-looking woman and words to the effect, “Can’t make it through that meeting?” followed by recommendations that you buy some drug to help your bladder hold it all in. Well, here’s another idea: How about not drinking any water for an hour before the meeting instead? Despite rumors to the contrary, it isn’t going to kill you.

This of course reminds me of people who load up on espressos and French roast all day, then wonder why they suffer from insomnia. Earth to Sherlock! I’ll bet those sleeping-pill manufacturers say their prayers to Starbucks every night.

I’d like to offer a modest proposal. What if, instead of force-feeding ourselves with water until our cells are swimming laps, we only drank when we desired to? What if we drank the beverages of our choice? What if we drank just until we’d had enough? What if we listened to our own bodies for a change instead of to the “experts”? Think of how we’d stop draining the aquifers and springs of our most precious and endangered resource through our oh-so-conspicuous consumption. Think of all the plastic bottles we’d keep out of landfills. Think of how much more comfortable we’d all feel during those meetings, movies, commutes, and phone calls. Think how nice it would be to have something a bit more interesting to think about than meeting our daily water quota!

There. Don’t you feel better already? I know I do! I think I’ll go make myself a nice cup of tea now. Won’t you join me?

                 ‘Til next time,


The death of moderation. March 20, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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Moderation in all things.

Our friend Ben was in a coffee shop yesterday and ran right into a pet peeve. I took my coffee to the serve-yourself counter to add milk and sugar. As is typical of these places, there were infinite types of sugar and sweeteners, and four kinds of milk–skim (nonfat), 1%, 2%, and half-and-half. But as is also typical, there was no whole milk. To our friend Ben, this is akin to putting out every variant of sugar except granulated white sugar, making the assumption that nobody would want that. Well, when it comes to milk in coffee or tea, our friend Ben wants exactly that: not white water, not greasy, artery-clogging syrup, just plain old milk. Is it really too much to ask?

As our friend Ben began proving my lack of aptitude in chemistry once again by pouring in both half-and-half and 2% in a futile attempt to recreate milk, I pondered the disappearance of moderation in general from our daily lives: the growing divide between rich and poor, with the middle class increasingly pushed into one category or the other; the polarization of our political parties, where meeting on a common middle ground has all but disappeared; the appalling racial bickering that has besmirched what should have been a historic Democratic primary; the intolerance, ridicule, and contempt which those on either side of an issue increasingly display towards those who hold opposing views.

Not to mention the seemingly universal feeling that if you don’t have at least one SUV (which you replace annually or biennially with the latest model), bathrooms bigger than older homes’ living rooms, a wall-size flat-screen TV (and, of course, a TV in every room, as well as in your vehicles), a home that could easily house twelve (though just two of you live there), and, of course, a wallet full of credit cards to pay for it all, you might as well be on the street, no matter how much debt you’re carrying as a result of these so-called “lifestyle choices.” What’s wrong with us?!

Perhaps our friend Ben is just crying over spilt milk here. (I really couldn’t resist that.) But I can’t help but feel that the death of moderation will bring the death of happiness in its wake, and the death of kindness and consideration for others, and the death of a wealth of other good things that enable us to enjoy some degree of civilization and civilized behavior. Moderation is fraternal–it brings people together. The death of moderation–the rise of extremism–tears people apart. Dr. Franklin, whose whole public life was spent creating societies and organizations that would bring people together, must be spinning in his grave.

Of course, our friend Ben could not think about the question of moderation without wondering what others had to say about it, so I turned to my good friend Google and unearthed some wonderful quotes. My own feelings are best summed up in a Chinese proverb: “Going too far is as bad as not going far enough.” How true. So bring me my whole milk, dammit!  

“Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.”–St. Augustine

“Our moral theorists never seem content with the normal. Why must it always be a contest between fornication, obesity and laziness, and celibacy, fasting and hard labor?”–Martin H. Fischer

“Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.”–Oscar Wilde

“Moderation is ostentatious proof of our strength of character.”—la Rochefoucauld

“The choicest pleasures in life lie within the ring of moderation.”–Benjamin Disraeli

“They are fools who do not know how much the half exceeds the whole.”—Hesiod

“They are as sick that surfeit with too much as they that starve with nothing.”                    –Shakespeare

“Moderation has been called golden by all the sages.”–Rabelais

And our friend Ben’s favorite:

“Moderation is a virtue only in those who are thought to have an alternative.”           –Henry Kissinger