Do you remember the movie Bedazzled, the 1967 satire with Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, or the more recent remake with Brendon Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley?
The movies are retellings of the Faust story, with a little bit of “The Monkey’s Paw” thrown in. A depressed loser (Stanley, played by Moore in original, then Elliot, played Fraser in the remark) sells his soul to the Devil (Cook, Hurley) in return for seven wishes. The Damned, as he is known in the agreement, intends to use the wishes to attract the love the woman he is in love with. The Devil deliberately misinterprets each wish, granting it literally but frustrating its intent.
“A woman alone in Indochina” – that would make a good title for a novel, but the idea scares actual women.
I have talked to several women who said they were considered traveling in Southeast Asia, but were afraid to go alone. Literally afraid, for their safety. I spoke with a Brazilian woman who expressed a great deal of concern over visiting Vietnam. Exasperated, I finally had to point out that Brazil has 20 times the murder rate of Vietnam, and that an armed policeman on a busy corner in São Paulo was in more danger than a woman walking down a dark alley in Hanoi.
Pan Am put the first 747 into service in January of 1970, inaugurating more-or-less officially the modern travel era. Unless you’re, well, old, you’ve lived your whole life in a world where flying overseas is routine. So packing to go overseas should also be routine.
But no, whenever I get on the plane to Jakarta or Rome or Hong Kong, there are always hundreds of other people aboard who haven’t a clue how to pack the right way. Or at least, they don’t how to pack my way, but that’s a very minor distinction. Continue reading
There was an economist named Henry George who pointed out that all government taxes really “ought” to be paid for by taxes on real estate. That plan has a lot of advantages. Continue reading
I try to take comfort Winston Churchill’s claim that “democracy is the worst form of government… except all the others that have been tried,” but sometimes it’s difficult.
Every election year, I start seeing signs, “Vote for Prop C”, “No on Prop 68”, whatever. No argument, certainly no explanation of what the proposition actually is. At best, you would get some wholly generic slogan – “It’s important”, “For your children”, “What San Francisco needs” – that could apply to anything from vaccination to nuclear war. Continue reading
The humorist John Hodgman had a bit called “You’re Welcome”, where he proposed elaborate and implausible solutions to fanciful problems, and pompously concluded with “You’re welcome.”
I actually am the kind of pompous tool that Hodges is only pretending to be, so I am going to point out some easy ways to solve various knotty problems currently confounding this republic. We start with the jury system. Continue reading
You have probably heard the expression “papal infallibility”. Roman Catholics believe, or claim to believe or are encouraged to believe, that when the Pope speaks ex cathedra (literally, “from the throne”) on matters of faith and morals, he is “preserved from the possibility of error.”
Wisely, popes don’t like to push their luck and history’s 266 popes have together issued a grand total of only seven statements ex cathedra, most recently in 1950.
Whenever he isn’t speaking ex cathedra, which is most of the time, the Pope has the same privilege of being wrong as the rest of us.
Pope Francis, however, is abusing the privilege. Continue reading