Since neither labor nor Providence has brought me – yet, anyway – wealth, on Saturdays I buy a scratch ticket. Along with it I get copy of the Financial Times, just so I’m prepared.

Granted, the real estate pages give me the devil’s own time deciding where I’d move, but otherwise I like the weekend edition because it always has stuff like this: a profile of the only scissors maker left in the UK. (See what they did there with the title? -ed.)

I try not to talk too much shop here, but among the many things teaching has taught me is to appreciate good scissors. Inferior scissors, man.



In fact, I looked it up and the very word scissors was, in the mid-19th century, “an expression of disgust or impatience.”


March of Folly


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Some years ago I spent three happy weeks in a town outside Paris. There was a tourism office, and as it was July, I stopped in to ask if there were festivities for Bastille Day.

Now, in French the word for parade is défilé. So it is possible that, what with my accent, the lady at the desk was maintaining admirable sang-froid in the face of a shockingly indecent request. Still, though, it seemed like I’d asked when the next school committee meeting was.

“Well,” she replied. “There is something in the town square…”

So on July 14th I showed up and there were bleacher-style benches erected. I did not have trouble finding a seat. What followed was, by gum, solemn. Military units marched by, and the mayor or whoever gave a speech, and that was that. No one ate cotton candy.




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My friend Will served a decade in the estimable What Cheer? Brigade. He’s probably marched in more parades than you, Gentle Reader, have had hot dinners.

“You know the thing about parades?” he once told me. “Most people watching look miserable.”


Continue reading “March of Folly”




Aristippus going to dinner passed Diogenes washing garlic in a gutter. He said to him, “Poor Diogenes, if you knew how to get on with people you wouldn’t have to live like that.”

“Poor Aristippus,” said Diogenes, “if you knew how to live like this you wouldn’t have to get on with people.”

– The Ancient Greeks, Morton Smith


PS I’m moving to London:

There are many men in London, you know, who, some from shyness, some from misanthropy, have no wish for the company of their fellows. Yet they are not averse to comfortable chairs and the latest periodicals. It is for the convenience of these that the Diogenes Club was started, and it now contains the most unsociable and unclubbable men in town. No member is permitted to take the least notice of any other one. Save in the Stranger’s Room, no talking is, under any circumstances, allowed, and three offences, if brought to the notice of the committee, render the talker liable to expulsion.

– “The Greek Interpreter,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle





First, a heads up that things are going to change around here. I read in a book that because of Earth’s wobbling Polaris will cease to be the North Star in a few thousand years.


Saying hyperbole so that it rhymed with wiper-bowl. Not realizing – until fairly recently – that it’s exorbitant, not exorbinant. I now add to My List of Lexical Embarrassments assuming bodacious was a made-up Bill & Ted word.

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It was startling to come across it in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. Apparently bodacious is most non-non-legit.


You know the Bechdel Test? This doesn’t really have anything to do with that, but I’ve come up with the Barry Gibb Test.

In 1970 he wrote and recorded an album that was never released. I listened to it and it’s not bad at all. I thereby propose to all bands in the studio: if your album isn’t better than the one Barry Gibb did not release, back to work, amateurs.



Our Ford

1. Henry Ford Is the Village Industry Preservation Society

Henry Ford will necessarily be remembered in the United States for centuries, and often, when he was talking to me, a little inquiry arose in the back of my head as to the thing for which he would be best remembered. After much consideration, I reached the conclusion that future generations would honor Ford most, not because he acquired a billion dollars by paying better wages and selling good automobiles for less than anybody else; nor because of his marvelous ability as an industrial organizer; nor because he took the first great steps to stop the waste of water power; but because he revolutionized agriculture.

I came across The New Henry Ford in the stacks of the Boston Athenaeum. It was published in 1923.

Ford had it figured out so that farmers would work for 25 days on their farms, “and have the other 340 days, except Sundays, to earn money in village industries.”

When it comes to agriculture this city boy doesn’t know his adze from his elbow, but he’s pretty sure that’s not how it is.


2. Anyone for Tolerance?


I saw this in a school a few years ago. It stopped me for a couple of reasons.

Given that Ford’s empathy for the Abrahamic faiths was, er, selective, his success seems due perhaps to some other secret:

During the months that I was in Ford’s office obtaining the material for this book, Ford often talked to me about the Jews. He gave me two leather-bound books composed of articles printed in the Independent and asked me to read them. He quickly learned that I did not share his views… “Well, read them right away,” he continued, “and then if you do not agree with me, don’t ever come to see me again.”


Continue reading “Our Ford”

Flag Salute


Per (the Rt Hon.) Lord Steerforth, I was prompted to contemplate why Americans love their flag.

Personally, I love it because it’s one of the better looking flags out there.



Yeah, this one swings so cool and sways so gentle:


And respect to Nepal for thinking outside the box:



But global standards are generally pretty lame.

A good first step – indeed, perhaps the first of my planetary reign – would be to forbid tricolors. They look like coding for office folders.

Plus, quick: Ireland or Ivory Coast?


And don’t even get me started on those two-stripers.


Vexillographers of the world, improve! You have nothing to lose, most of you.