I freely admit that this "Skeptic's Collection" column is shamelessly self-indulgent. I wrote it about a year ago this coming Christmas, and it was one of the 2 or 3 most fun columns I have ever written in the five-plus years I have been Beguine's Skeptic-In-Residence. So, as a Christmas present to myself, I am republishing it here. Enjoy and merry Christmas!
OK! OK! So I am publishing the "stollen" column again, with minor emendations. Why? Because it was fun to write and to read. That's all!
I have good news and I have bad news.
The good news is that the week preceding Christmas Eve, my wife and I took the ferry up to Victoria, BC, where we had high tea at the venerable Empress Hotel.&nbs...
Would someone please answer the following question for me: Why do Americans – actually, I think Westerners generally, but I will stick with Americans – believe art is something that must be approached so … well … seriously? With most art, most Americans seem to believe that, when looking at a painting or a piece of sculpture or seeing a play or listening to a piece of music, they are obligated, on pain of being branded as culture-phobic philistines, to wear a facial expression that announces to the world Pity me! I am dying of terminal hemorrhoids!
Well, before anyone makes any cracks about that remark, I will back up a step or two and say that, yes, to be sure, some works of art are explicitly intended to evoke play, laughter, and light-hearted dalliance. A good example is
Admittedly, this is a seemingly trivial problem, as are all the related problems I discuss subsequently, but it drives me certifiably bat-shit crazy, notwithstanding. In fact, I am beginning to suspect that the following problems, though seemingly unrelated, are in fact constitutive of a profound and irremediable flaw in the deepest foundations, ideologically and psychologically, of knowledge-based late / 21st-century capitalist economies. OK … enough preamble … this is my problem …
o You know those bottles of, e.g., hand soap and skin lotion you buy that have bottle caps that double as pump mechanisms?
Initially, in their right-off-the-shelf condition, those bottles’ pump mechanisms are all locked down to prevent accidental or inadvertent pumping-out of the contents. Quite reasonab