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small yellow square Today's musical themes: "Hard Work and Horseplay" from Richard Rogers' "Victory At Sea", the first side of the Stones' "Tatoo You" <1>, and (as ever) Phillip Glass' "Anthem" from "Powaqqatsi" and "The Truman Show".

small violet square While running on the treadmill this morning I was thinking about the way a lot of people seem to be able to live life only in the moment. They're like the cursor on a slide rule, in that events in the recent past are all they retain. Music, films, and events experienced, even friends from ages older than a certain period disappear as their personal hairline slides along the index of their days. Myself, I feel more like a graduated cylinder, getting taller all the time as my memories accumulate.

small green square Today I checked this new Modern Library 100 Best list of books that's getting discussion in the more cerebral media. Slate's Summary Judgement column says "it celebrates impenetrable highbrow books, such as Joyce's Ulysses, which critics admit to never having read." Naturally I must tally my own familiarity with the list - my score is 26. U read Ulysses, which is number 1 - he also liked Finnegan's Wake - but everyone else I know who's tried has also found James Joyce to be "impenetrable". The Modern Library's page has a "Readers' 100 Best" list side-by-side with their board's list; Atlas Shrugged is ichiban there, but I think that list's dynamic since you can vote for your favorite on the spot. An indicator of ballot-box stuffing in the latter list, to me, is William Shatner's Tek Lords coming in at #63. (My tally in the Readers' list, as of this morning, was 36.) A curious inclusion to both lists is Walker Percy's The Moviegoer, a book I found quite dull except for "This I Believe":

Being a creature of habit, as regular as a monk, and taking pleasure in the homeliest repetitions, I listen every night at ten to a program called This I Believe. Monks have their compline, I have This I Believe. On the program the highest-minded people in our country, thoughtful and intelligent people, people with mature inquiring minds, state their personal credos. The two or three hundred I have heard so far were without exception admirable people. I doubt if any other country or any other time in history has produced such thoughtful and high-minded people, especially the women. And especially the South. I do believe the South has produced more high-minded women, women of universal sentiments, than any other section of the country except possibly New England in the last century. Of my six living aunts, five are women of the loftiest theosophical panBrahman sentiments. The sixth is still a Presbyterian.

If I had to name a single trait that all these people shared, it is their niceness. They like everyone with the warmest and most generous feelings. And as for themselves: it would be impossible for even a dour person not to like them.

Tonight's subject is a playwright who transmits this very quality of niceness in his plays. He begins:

I believe in people. I believe in tolerance and understanding between people. I believe in the uniqueness and the dignity of the individual -

Everyone on This I Believe believes in the uniqueness and the dignity of the individual. I have noticed, however, that the believers are far from unique themselves, are in fact as alike as peas in a pod.

I believe in music. I believe in a child's smile. I believe in love. I also believe in hate.

This is true. I have known a couple of these believers, humanists and lady psychologists who come to my aunt's house. On This I Believe they like everyone. But when it comes down to this or that particular person, I have noticed they usually hate his guts.

I did not always enjoy This I Believe. While I was living at my aunt's house, I was overtaken by a fit of perversity. But instead of writing a letter to the editor, as was my custom, I recorded a tape which I submitted to Mr. Edward R. Murrow. "Here are the beliefs of John Bickerson Bolling, a moviegoer living in New Orleans," it began, and ended, "I believe in a good kick in the ass. This - I believe." I soon regretted it, however, as what my grandfather would have called a "smart-alecky stunt" and I was relieved when the tape was returned. I have listened faithfully to This I Believe ever since.

I believe in freedom, the sacredness of the individual and the brotherhood of man -

concludes the playwright.

I believe in believing. This - I believe.
After finishing the novel I tore out this page to save, and discarded the book. Why Percy's fascinating The Second Coming was ignored in the lists is beyond me. (Thanks to O for making me read that.)

ichiban - number one
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<1>Although I replaced my vinyl with a CD way back, the old nomenclature persists. This was a their last great record, in my opinion, produced after a long fallow period for the band, and followed since by nothing worthwhile (except their last good hit single, "She Was Hot", in 1984). Back