The rich get richer (what a surprise)

Maybe the answer to the closing the ever-widening and positively despicable gap between rich and poor — a chasm into which more and more of the middle class are tumbling — lies in the title of a book by P.J. O’Rourke and songs by Aerosmith and Motorhead: EAT THE RICH.

Maybe the answer is for people to truly understand what Henry David Thoreau meant when he said “That man is rich whose pleasures are the cheapest,” which echoed the wisdom of Lao Tze: ” He who is contented is rich.”

Or maybe we should ponder the remarkable wisdom of W.C. Fields — “A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money” — and listen to this stimulating but sobering speech by my favorite socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, on tax breaks for the wealthy (and other outrages):


Forewarned is forearmed?

You decide after you read friend Bathsheba Monk’s essay “My New Gun” in the March 1, 2009 edition of the New York Times Magazine —
yes, indeed, Bathsheba makes her second appearance on the back page with an essay in the “Lives” series in which she talks about deciding to buy a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum — partly in response to a rash of break-ins in her neck of the Pennsylvania woods but also out of  fear that the financial apocalypse, the continuing series of calamities that makes it feel like Ben Bernanke of the Federal Reserve might actually have changed his name from Ben Beelzebub and that any minute now a pale rider on a pale horse will be spotted galloping down Pennsylvania Avenue toward Capitol Hill.

Me, I’d never buy a gun. Ever. I’d run. I’d hide. I’d give them all my money. There’s no way in the world that I could ever shoot someone.

But Bathsheba’s an intelligent, articulate, reasonable person  – -her essay’s not going to send me running to the nearest gun shop but it certainly got me thinking about what kind of world this must be if  B. Monk, who I’d wager subscribes to the theory that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, neverthless feel compelled to choose both the pen and the sword — or, more specifically, both a computer keyboard and  a .357 Magnum.

Here’s a link to Bathsheba’s essay in Sunday’s Times:

Here’s a link to her earlier “Lives” essay, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” —

And here’s a link to her great blog, Bathsheba Monk Explains Everything:

The working world

I should not ever consider, if I consider switching careers, anything that involves even the slightest expertise in science or math. Nor should I even bother applying for any job involving high risk or high adventure.

Good thing I spent a half-hour this morning filling out an apparently well-regarded career counseling questionaire which helps you focus on jobs that match your interests, skills, aptitude — or lack thereof.

The survey’s overall impression of me: My interests “are spread broadly over many different areas, with no intense concentration.”

I’m not sure if this is a compliment or an insult. It may be that the computer program has me pegged — accurately, I believe — as a 21st century Renaissance man. Or it may be that what the comment really means to suggest is that I’m a jack of all trades but a master of none.

Overall, the anonymous career counselor advises me to pursue careers in writing and the culinary arts, to consider developing my skills in farming and forestry, to avoid a military career, to look into honing certain skills that might lend themselves to success in advertising and marketing, and to avoid any job involving religious activities.

That last one is particularly bothersome. It means I can pretty much rule out that the Tibetan monk recruitment team will knock on my front door and announce I’ve been chosen to be the 15th Dalai Lama.

The survey may not have detected my deeply spiritual side — maybe it’s because I’m basically a transcendentalist, which means I keep quiet and listen — but it did notice certain talents or interests that led it to suggest I might have a future as a media executive, a hotel manager or a public relations director. This part of the report again emphasized that I should avoid anything religious, that I should not pursue a career in accounting and that I would not make a good psychologist (which means this particular career guide does not accept the premise that it takes one to know one).

But it’s not all insults and reality checks. The survey actually gave me high marks for creativity. It says I could find success as a writer, editor or liberal arts professor. With a little more training or a slight shift in orientation, the survey says, I could become a chef, a public-relations director or a librarian.

Somehow this computer program apparently learned or sensed that I never earned a grade higher than “C” in any math or science class I ever took — algebra, geometry and statistics and chemistry (in which I somehow managed to get a grade of 42 on the final exam in my senior year of high school) — except for a college biology class in which I somehow, miraculously managed to get an A. Maybe I should become a biologist! No, the online career adviser says careers I should avoid because I lack the necessary analytical skills — in other words, I’m way too stupid — include chemist, engineer, math teacher, science teacher, statistician and systems analyst.

The report tells me, too, that reading between the lines of my answers it detected that I have an interest but no skills needed for the following careers: veterinarian, landscape architect and airline mechanic. I am very attached to my daughter’s pet, Noodle the Poodle, and I’ve done a pretty damned good job on the perennial flower beds all around my house. Where the airline mechanic thing came from I have no idea unless the folks who run the career-counseling computer were having a slow morning and decided to have a little fun with me.

But they got right down to brass tacks (and knuckles) when they warned me, practically urged me, to avoid at all costs any job that involves adventure, danger or risk and then listed specific jobs I should especially avoid: police officer, soldier, ski instructor and test pilot.

How did they know I’d always dreamed of being a test pilot? And how do they feel now, knowing that they’ve sent my dreams into an out-of-control nose-dive?

The survey lists a whole bunch of other jobs I should look into, careers I might find interesting, including actor, ballet dancer, cartoonist, caterer, clothing designer, comedian, dance teacher, fashion model, floral designer, literature teacher, movie director, opera singer, philosopher, agricultural extension agent, air traffic controller, commercial fisherman, fireworks display specialist, massage therapist, prosthetist, rancher,  immigration inspector, postmaster and travel accommodations rater.

Well, if I can’t be a test pilot, all of those  jobs have some appeal, and maybe I could even do more than one of them: sorting the mail while singing the role of Pagliacci, contemplating life’s meaning while shooting  off fireworks, telling  jokes while delivering trays of lasagna to office parties, stretching and limbering at the barre while bringing a big Boeing 767 in for a safe landing.

Or else maybe I should just keep trying to be a writer.