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Aaaah…..vintage Mr. Cranky-Pants:

Wonder why you have already broken all your New Year’s resolutions? Do not blame yourself – heaven forbid. Enlist modern sophistication and blame your brain’s frontal cortex, affluence, the Internet (the “collapse of delay between impulse and action”) and “the democratization of temptation.”

Those phrases are from Daniel Akst, a novelist and essayist whose book “We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess” notes that the problems of freedom and affluence – of “managing desire in a landscape rich with temptation” – are desirable problems. But they are problems and have fascinating philosophic entanglements.

American life resembles “a giant all-you-can-eat buffet” offering “calories, credit, sex, intoxicants” and other invitations to excess. Americans accept these invitations so promiscuously that bad decisions about smoking, eating, drinking and other behaviors account for almost half of U.S. deaths in “our losing war with ourselves.”


As Akst recognizes, arguments about the reality of personal autonomy have political resonances: “If you believe your life is largely the result of your own discipline and decisions, you’re going to feel very differently about taxes, regulations and redistribution than if you believe your life is largely the sum of your genes and your environment – factors irretrievably beyond your control.”

Amen, brother.  It just so happens that I was beating this particular drum for the benefit of the eldest gel last evening, hopefully to the good.  (She has developed the teenage art of agreeing enthusiastically with all I say and then promptly forgetting it.)

As it happens, I’ve been reading Will more or less since I came of political age in the late 70’s.  He’s come off the rails somewhat in recent years, but every now and again I see something like this to remind me why I started reading him to begin with.  (In retrospect, I suppose a high school kid spouting these sentiments would seem a bit odd.  Less so a family man in his mid 40’s, I think.)

I repost this YouTube from Jonah’s odd links post today because by a singular co-incidence I’ve seen this guy perform live.  He was at Hadlock Field in Portland for a Sea Dogs game we went to a year or two ago.   Somewhere in the middle of his routine, one of the dummies started shedding limbs, giving the whole thing a rayther macabre turn.

The gels still talk about that day with relish.


(BTW, I can’t remember whether that was teh game where I met up with long time friend of the decanter the Irish Elk for a brew, but it might have been.)


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January 2011