Book Review: Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks (2000)

I have been a bad dog. I actually finished this book several weeks ago, and I planned to write a longer piece summing up insights I had into it. However, the book got buried on my desk, and I’m not in the mood to write a longer piece on it, so allow me to sum up:

  • Book deals with the rise of an educated upper class (and upper middle class) and how these new members of society alter the culture. It seeks to explain why so many people wear Birkenstocks and shop at Whole Foods and REI.
  • The Bobos (Bourgeoius Bohemians) of which Brooks speaks tends to conmingle the baby boomers with geek culture. It’s an interesting mix, and maybe he’s onto something, but I think his generalization might be too hasty.
  • The bit about intellectual life, wherein he describes how a person can become a public intellectual, was quite amusing.
  • Book seems dated, particularly in political area, especially when one thinks of foreign policy questions that none of us really speculated in 2000.

I understand that it’s chic to savage David Brooks in some literary circles these days, but I found this book accessible and thought provoking in a good way. It encourages musing about social trends, with all the anthropological and philosophical currents that go with it. I want to compare this book to Make Room For TV, but that sells this book short. Both deal with a sweeping orchestra of human experience above the more personal accounts I usually read. So it’s a good book, and a good change.

Oh, yeah, I paid $12.50 for it, but I wanted to read it when it came out, so I waited four years and got it for half price. It’s good that it’s remained relevant enough to be worth the price.

Drink of the Day

The drink of the day at the Lonestar Steakhouse where I and some of my coworkers dined today featured as its drink of the day:

The Oil Baron Rita

Perhaps I look back too romantically to that time of laissez-faire, but I really don’t picture J. Paul sucking or any of the Texas wildcatters who made it big sitting around the pool, sucking down margaritas that were an unholy and unnatural neon or DayGlo color. Not unless the main ingredient was whiskey, and it got its color from more whiskey.

No, sir, I think a real Oil Baron Rita would be a spicy Mexicana who the baron kept on the side, and if you had her, the oil baron would have his boys convince you of the error of your ways.

Neil Steinberg’s Friend: Someone You Should Know

From Neil Steinberg’s Wednesday column:

“Fourteen days without alcohol,” said my racquetball buddy proudly as we toweled off in the gym.

“Wow,” I said, genuinely impressed, trying to imagine a fortnight unlubricated, “that’s impressive.”

“Well,” he said, a little abashed, “not consecutively.”

The only salvageable part of the column, but one must seek the whiskey in the Amaretto sour sometimes.

Book Review: Love and Marriage by Bill Cosby (1989)

As some of you remember, I reviewed Bill Cosby’s Time Flies in February. I liked it, so I have invested in other books by Bill Cosby, including this one, for which I paid $2.95 at Downtown Books in Milwaukee.

I’ll give the customary ding to the pop-psych introduction by Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D. Again, this is like throwing a Dr. Phil introduction onto a collection of Andy Rooney pieces, or perhaps Dr. Laura in front of a Chris Rock book. Come on, the difference between the styles jars the reader, and to be honest, if I wanted to read a self-helpish treatise on love and marriage, I would buy a book with pictures, diagrams, and innovations I could not even imagine when I was a fevered twenty-year-old. I mean, it’s like getting served a bowl of brussel sprouts in Baskin Robbins before you can have any ice cream. Sure, I wolfed it down, spitting some into my napkin to conceal it, and then I rushed into the main course of dessert.

This book contains two parts. Part one deals with Cos’s youthful forays into love, which entails everything you expect: Lust, pounding hearts, sweet agony, heartbreak, loss, and all of the above by age twelve. Cosby captures the adolescent and early adult experiences of the opposite sex and the attempts to find a mate–which they did in the old days; now, I think kids just attempt to mate. So this first section really represents the strength of the book, and the stories are told with Cosby’s easy style. Good reading.

Unfortunately, the second part, Marriage, deals differently with his relationship with the woman who finally bagged the struggling stand-up comic who would only decades later evolve into the biggest sitcom star in the business. Perhaps he’s mining his marriage with a sitcom eye for humor, but the second half of the book really focuses on the nitpicking, and the little recurrent tense spots, and the stupid fights that occur in many marriages. As a sitcom veteran, Cosby also recognizes that the husband must be made into the often inept and impotent victim, and that’s how he paints himself. Henpecked. It’s hardly a flattering or inspiring vision of a marriage that’s lasted twenty-five years (as his did by 1989), and Cosby longs for an evolution to a state like his parents’ marriage of fifty years. Ye gods, he’s projecting another 25 years of hard belittlement.

Granted, Cosby hits on the benefits of marriage and at the end alludes to the joys of shared memories, but he disservices the day-to-day, which includes as many (or more, preferably) bright spots as nitterings.

Still, it’s an okay read if you’re a fan of light comic essays in Cos’s style, worthy of a library checkout or a cheap purchase.

Do You Feel Lucky, Victim?

A 911 transcript between dispatch and the caller:

The following is a partial transcript of that call. Items in bold appear to be the voice of the 911 dispatcher.

911 Office, Tammy.

Tammy, my ex-husband’s here with a gun. He’s in here. He’s got a gun.

He’s going to kill them, hurry.

He’s got my kids, quick.

What’s his name?

Parker Elliott.

(Quick, shallow breathing)

2005 Forrest Ridge Trail, Culleoka. We’ve got a male subject in the house with a weapon.

He just told my kids he’s going to kill them if I’m on the phone. He’s going to kill me.

I don’t need you to hang up. Has he been drinking?

He’s going to kill me. They’re in the hallway with him, and I’m hiding in the closet.

(First shot is heard)

I’m hiding in the closet. I’m coming out ’cause he’d not going to hurt my kids. The kids are with him.

Can they get out?

I want to make sure he doesn’t shoot my kids. The kids are with him.

They’re deterring him. Please, please, he’s going to kill them.

Has he been drinking?

He’s got to be.

How long has he been out of the residence?

(Labored, quick breathing)

The kids are telling him I’m not here. He said if I’m here, he’ll kill them.

He just shot the gun.

He hasn’t seen you yet?

He’s coming. He just shot the gun again. Please! Please!

What kind of a gun is it?

A handgun. He’s going to the front door.

(Dispatcher to other emergency personnel) He’s inside the house, shooting. He had two children and an ex-wife.

Oh, he hit one of them!

Stay in the closet. He doesn’t know you’re in the closet?

He can see the phone cord coming in. Oh! He hit one of them.

(Gunshots. Sound of girl screaming in the background)

They’ve got the gun. I think my kids have got my gun. I can’t believe I forgot to get it.

I think one of my children has the weapon. He’s shot five times. I’m hiding in the closet, and my kids are out there with him.

How old are the kids?

15 and 18.

(Gunshots and screaming)

He shot five more. Is that all of them?

Ma’am, I don’t know what kind of gun he has.

He hasn’t shot them yet. My kids are still OK.

(Labored breathing)

(Kids screaming)

He’s going to kill me.

(Screaming)

He’s coming to the closet! He’s coming to the closet! He’s coming to the closet!

(Kids screaming, shrieking)

He’s at the closet. He’s going to shoot me. Help me! He’s here. He’s gonna hit me with the gun.

(Children screaming in the background)

Calm down.

He’s still shooting at the kids! Help me!

(Whimpering)

Be calm! They’re getting there. They’re coming.

He’s beating on the doors.

(Loud banging)

He’s still shooting.

Parker, don’t!

Parker, no! Please, no!

He’s going to beat a hole in the door.

Ma’am, calm down. What’s your name?

Please! Freda! Freda!

(Yell heard from man in background)

Please, don’t hurt my kids! Don’t hurt my babies! Parker, no!

Where are they?

I don’t know.

(Screaming)

Parker, please! Don’t!

(Screams, screams, screams)

(Gunshots)

Don’t hurt my babies!!

(Shrieks)

(Screams)

Freda, what’s going on? Freda?

(Gunshots, gunshots)

Hello?

This is E-Com 720. We just heard two gunshots inside the residence. We heard a woman screaming. Now we’ve got dead silence.

10-4.

Sleep tight, and don’t worry; the almighty proper authorities will protect you. Or at least will fill out the paperwork after you’re gone.

(Link seen on Hobbs Online.)