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Archive for July, 2010

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In which I apologize to Astrology fans everywhere…

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

OK, so it all started back in August of 2009, when I saw on one of those “Born on This Day…” sites that Leonard Bernstein and Billy Ray Cyrus share the same birthday. I thought this was somehow ironic, and posted it under the heading “Proof That Astrology Is Nonsense.”

Fast forward to April of this year, when I turned the concept into a (mostly) weekly series, showing photos of pairs of celebrities who shared the same birthday and were somehow “odd couples.” Eight of these posts went by with the usual reaction – an occasional comment or a “Like” from the Facebook crowd.

But then yesterday, I published my ninth post of the series (George M. Cohan & Franz Kafka), and started receiving multiple messages from folks who were upset about how I was over-generalizing, over-simplifying, under-valuing, and speciously criticizing the field of astrology. None of which was the point, of course, as much as it was to highlight weird pairs of celebrities. That said, astrology? Really? Is nothing up for free ridicule anymore? Ah well, live and learn.

In any case, I’ve renamed the series Unlikely Twins, and have removed just about all references to astrology and/or horoscopes. Hopefully, we can all now share a weekly chuckle, and leave the arguing to important matters – like politics. Or whether the World Cup is getting in the way of a perfectly good baseball season.

(And oh, by the way, Happy Birthday to both Ringo Starr and Gustav Mahler, composers of Yellow Submarine and Kindertotenlieder – Songs on the Deaths of Children, respectively…)

Categories: Blogging about Blogs, Unlikely Twins | 9 Comments »

The Best of TED: The paradox of choice

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Here’s another installment of my Best of TED series, in which I share talks from the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference that have struck me over the years as particularly insightful or fascinating.

In today’s installment, author Barry Schwartz discusses what he calls “the official dogma:”

If we are interested in maximizing the welfare of our citizens, the way to do that is to maximize individual freedom. The reason for this is both that freedom is in and of itself good, valuable, worthwhile, essential to being human. And because if people have freedom, then each of us can act on our own to do the things that will maximize our welfare, and no one has to decide on our behalf. The way to maximize freedom is to maximize choice. The more choice people have, the more freedom they have, and the more freedom they have, the more welfare they have.

As you might imagine, he then goes on to offer a very convincing argument that this isn’t true. The more choices we have, Mr. Schwartz tells us, the more paralyzed we become. He gives many examples, but my favorite is this one:

I wear jeans almost all the time. And there was a time when jeans came in one flavor, and you bought them, and they fit like crap, and they were incredibly uncomfortable, and if you wore them long enough and washed them enough times, they started to feel OK. So I went to replace my jeans after years and years of wearing these old ones, and I said, “You know, I want a pair of jeans, here’s my size.” And the shopkeeper said, “Do you want slim fit, easy fit, relaxed fit? You want button fly or zipper fly? You want stonewashed or acid washed? Do you want them distressed? You want boot cut, you want tapered, blah blah blah …” On and on he went. My jaw dropped, and after I recovered, I said, “I want the kind that used to be the only kind.”

He makes similar points about how the presence of smartphones give us the choice to work, even when we’re at our kids’ soccer games, or how people with more mutual funds to choose from tend to participate less in their company’s 401(k) plan.

The talk reminded me of another Mr. Schwartz – Stephen Schwartz – who wrote, among other things, a Broadway musical called Pippin, about the son of Charlemagne, who spends his life searching for total fulfillment. In the end, he winds up married to a simple farm girl with a young son, and he sings:

Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly.

[But] I’m not a river or a giant bird
That soars to the sea
And if I’m never tied to anything
I’ll never be free.

I’ll encourage you to watch the entire video. Unfortunately, as both Mr. Schwartz’s might tell us, it’s your choice…

Categories: The Best of TED | No Comments »

Unlikely Twins, Part IX

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

I thought at least one of these guys was born on the Fourth of July. Turns out, it was July 3rd. In any case, they likely went about their days very differently:

George M. Cohan,
Optimistic American Icon
Franz Kafka,
Freaky Nightmare Inducer

Categories: Unlikely Twins | 3 Comments »

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

One of the things I love about summertime is getting the kids out to a few baseball games, which is why I have a feeling these next few weeks are going to be remembered for quite some time:

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of streamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come…

Categories: Family Matters, Sports Talk | 3 Comments »

Barack Obama – Hogwarts Student?

Thursday, July 1st, 2010


Barack Obama earns 50 points for his house from Professor Flitwick after successfully conjuring golden birds in both hands simultaneously

NOTE: The above picture is not Photoshopped – the birds are actually on the top of flagpoles just behind President Obama. Click here for another, more revealing view.

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | 3 Comments »

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