Wither honour.

From Bill Simmons’ December 14th column on, among other things, the Mitchell Report on illicit substance use in Major League Baseball:

The greatest hitter and pitcher of the past 50 years both cheated to get where they were … and if that’s not enough, our all-time hits leader was a convicted felon who bet against his own team. Ladies and gentleman [sic], America’s pastime! Is it time to remake “Field of Dreams” and include a scene where Shoeless Joe sells $3,000 of HGH to Moonlight Graham?

These revelations come in the same week that a former Prime Minister of Canada testifies under oath that, while still sitting as a member of Parliament, he received $225,000 -in the form of a series of envelopes stuffed with cash – from a man now accused of bribery and fraud in Germany. He swears that this money was paid to him as a retainer for legitimate services to be rendered, yet he issued neither a receipt for the cash nor any invoice detailing the work done. He tells a parliamentary committee that he put this cash in safe deposit boxes, strangely eschewing the more conventional (but alas, less invisible) choice that an experienced man of business might make – depositing the funds in an interest-bearing account at a financial institution. He further admits that he neglected to declare these monies as income and to pay tax on them for something like six years, an oversight that was not remedied until such time as his generous benefactor was arrested and charged with various crimes. This man then looks with all the apparent sincerity he can summon into the virtual eyes of his former constituents and claims that there was nothing improper about this transaction. He seems almost indignant that anyone could be suspicious.

I suspect there is something of the same malaise in evidence from these two storylines as is detailed in Lewis Lapham’s excellent lament (in the January issue of Harper’s ) for the demise of the virtuous public servant. Comparing the presidential hopefuls advancing upon Iowa to merchandise of expensive, if not quality, manufacture, Lapham says:

The media showroom salesmen rummage through the season’s political piece goods as if through an unsatisfactory shipment of summer hats – this one the wrong color, that one too wide across the forehead, these other ones lacking the moral fiber of genuine Panama straw. The candidates on tour with the balloons and the gospel choirs compare their rivals to defective Christmas toys – Senator Hillary Clinton wobbles; Senator Barack Obama comes with no directions in the box; Rudy Giuliani makes strange clanking noises.

It seems that the more we commoditize our pubic figures, whether southpaws or senators, the more we get mass-market merchandise instead of a nicely knit sweater.

On Conferring.

As advertised on TV, I was away from the ol’ homestead for a few days earlier this week while – cue the high pitched scream offstage – at a conference for work.    There were a series of odd little incidents and observations that I’m pretty sure Larry David could quickly turn into a half-decent episode of Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm.   Since the hotel room in which I was staying did not have operational high-speed Internet access, I have been virtually bursting at the seams to share them all week long.

When I arrived at the hotel, I noticed that it was apparently still being constructed, or allegedly improved or something.  This was not difficult to notice because there were all kinds of gigantic bulldozers, erratically placed orange fences and massive piles of dirt sitting next to giant holes (correlation?  hmmm…).  The first significant consequence of this construction was that the hotel had “valet parking only”.  This means that the hotel does not have enough on-site spaces in which to place all of its guests’ vehicles;  accordingly, your friendly innkeeper is prepared to offer you the “option” of  paying a complete stranger $11.95 for the privilege of having him go hide your car somewhere in the surrounding neighbourhood.  I was helpfully informed of this attractive service by a sign near the front entrance of the hotel.  I had plenty of time to read the sign, because there was a ten-minute lineup in the parking lot to simply get near the area where you could actually talk to one of the valets.   When my time in parking limbo was expired and I approached one of the exalted valets, I rolled down my window and asked him what I should do;  he pointed to a spot of open concrete about fifteen feet away and just on the other side of a barrier (which he moved) and said, “Park it here.”  I did, gave him my keys – and paid the hotel $11.95.

Ready, Set, Go.

I was sitting in front of the computer this morning earnestly typing an email.    Spouse came in to the room and asked what I was “tippy-tapping” away at.

Me:   I’m writing an email to Todd about how much of a person’s best creative work is typically done in his or her youth.  In music, science and film it seems almost axiomatic that…

Her:  You have peanut butter on your face, you know.

I think I’ve proved my point.