I am sitting here reading double full page ads for firecrackers and an eight page fireworks ad insert. I am reading labels like "Master Blaster," "Five Inch Super Shells," "Dakota Dynamite," "Dakota Nightmare," "Dominator," "Cruze Missiles," and "Memory Surprise," and while I am reading and gritting my teeth, I have a memory surprise. My memory shows me a stupid 10-year-old kid (me) standing there screaming in pain because a firecracker, thought to be fizzled out, blew up in my hand.
Pamela Lewis, who lived in New York City and has taught high school and middle school French for 30 years, has just been named America's Greatest Thinker. You may have read about this. The Cultural Center of New York Mills, Minnesota has sponsored the Great American Think-Off for 25 years. The Cultural Center considers itself a rural center for creativity, community vitality and lifelong learning of the arts.
There are many wonders in this great land ─ including the Grand Canyon of Arizona (averages 10 miles across and one mile deep) and Mount Denali (McKinley), 20,308 feet high in Alaska ─ but sometimes the most awesome wonders are the simplest.
There is an expression that originated in Italy several centuries ago that goes "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Having been fooled a time or two, or three, I couldn't pass up the little book I saw in a bookstore lately with the catchy title, You Can Read Anyone and promised, "Never be fooled, lied to or taken advantage of again." I couldn't resist at the bargain price of $7.98. I wasn't preparing for any upcoming dramatic event, but I thought I'd learn some clever trick I could report in an article to you. Here is my report.
(Note: The article below was first published for the graduating class of 2004. One mother wrote and told me she had it blown up to poster size and put it on the wall where her graduate and his friends couldn't miss it. Others have suggested I repeat the article. Here it is.)
My mother told me many times that I wasn't as smart as I thought I was ("the smartest people do the dumbest things") but I never paid attention. As the years passed, her message has often proved to be true — including last week. Last Friday, I was on my computer digging out some information about Johnny Appleseed or something else and suddenly a message started flashing on the screen and a voice started speaking warning me that I had a virus and to immediately call a phone number for help. I was warned to not turn off the computer or all programs would be shut down.
The United Nations has just issued a report naming Norway the happiest country in the world — for now. A year ago, Denmark was in first place. The United States dropped from 13th place to 14th. First, we'll review the facts, then a bit of analysis is in order.
I just learned there is a school in London called the School of Life. It was founded in 2008 by a philosopher named Alain de Botton as an educational company focused on how to live wisely and well. It has branches in Antwerp, Amsterdam, Berlin, Istanbul, Melbourne, Paris, Sao Paulo, Sidney, Seoul and Tel Aviv. None, apparently in the United States. Is that because we already live wisely and well here or that we just don't care? The programs and services of the company cover fulfilling work, mastering relationships, achieving calm, and understanding the changing world.
We'll call him Ali though that's not his real name. Makes no difference for this true story. The young man's parents were born in one middle east country, and Ali was born in another middle east country, (both Muslim-majority countries) after his parents moved there. Today he lives alone in Fargo.
The day America stopped drinking coffee was one of the biggest national disasters since The Day the World Ran Out of Denim which I told you about in this column and in a book by that name years ago. The denim panic accelerated when denim was faded, denim outfits had to have little patches and dresses and suits of denim hit the markets. Suddenly, denim disappeared except what the hoarders had hidden away and what little could be found on the what was called the "blue market." It was ugly and I won't repeat it now. Obviously, we survived and came out of it.