Richard Powers on Happiness

Sometimes I can’t believe I get paid to read, write, and think.  I’ve been reviewing Richard Powers’ new novel, Generosity: An Enhancement, which just brims with innovative life. You can pause on almost every page and  ponder some of what he’s saying through his characters, unwrapping these little bundles of insight.

More on the book itself later, but here’s a tantalizing quote:

Stone strikes me as the kind of guy who might not know what his pleasures are. He’s not alone. No one does. The happiness books are adamant on this. We’re  shaped to think the things we want will make us happy. But shaped to take only the briefest thrill in getting. Wanting is what having wants to recover.

Isn’t that intriguing–especially the last sentence? That’s my new bumper sticker:

Wanting is what having wants to recover.

I want that. I really do.


Two Views of Teddy

Senator Kennedy was a fighting liberal; a passionate and exuberant lion to the very end — often among timid cubs. He will be remembered as the best and most effective Senator of the last century. Kennedy helped shape every major piece of legislation, with his powerful commitment to civil rights, labor rights, and women’s rights — always fighting for equality, always standing with the underdog, the poor, the most vulnerable, who he believed deserved lives of dignity.

The Nation, August 26

Unhappily, he mistook power for wisdom, and he very often left things worse than he had found them. He meddled in Northern Ireland to no good end, contributed mightily to the politicization of the federal courts, sought to regulate and restrict political speech, appeased the Soviets, contributed to the American defeat in Vietnam, and attempted to apply the Vietnam template to Iraq. A child of privilege, he worked energetically to deny school-choice scholarships to poor black children in Washington, D.C. His ideas on taxes, immigration, and social welfare were reliably counterproductive.

–National Review, August 27

Twitter Biz: The Rest of the Story

Q: For those just joining us, what are you all about at Muse Machine?

A: We’re all about fairness, appealing modesty, good humor  and that old-fashioned objectivity that now seems so quaint as cable- news screamers dominate. So, having  twitted made fun of Twitter yesterday and a few other times, we now balance the scales by noting that at least some businesses are finding gold in them thar Tweets. Key quote:

For many mom-and-pop shops with no ad budget, Twitter has become their sole means of marketing. It is far easier to set up and update a Twitter account than to maintain a Web page. And because small-business owners tend to work at the cash register, not in a cubicle in the marketing department, Twitter’s intimacy suits them well.

Can Twitter build your brand and expand your audience? Pick up some tips here.

OMG! Twitter TMI? Or NEI?*

*Not Enough Information

Those of us still slightly skeptical of the Twitterverse Revolution can take comfort from the words of a textmaniac teen quoted in today’s NY Times. This gal sends 500 texts a day, but she’s just not that into Twitter:

“I just think it’s weird and I don’t feel like everyone needs to know what I’m doing every second of my life,” she said.

The full report is here , and makes me feel somewhat vindicated.  A few months ago, as Twitter was getting too buzzworthy to ignore, I  picked three interesting people who were Tweeting–the NPR host Scott Simon, the author David Allen, and the ex-baseball star Curt Schilling. Just in the interests of research, I signed up with Twitter and proceeded to “follow” these three for a few days.   I found their Tweets to be mostly dull and trivial–“in hotel room waiting for dinner,” “getting in cab at JFK,” etc.

Yes, brevity is the soul of wit, but it’s a rare person who can say anything worth reading in just 140 characters.

The Golfer-in-Chief

This Slate piece  about President Obama’s vacation plans, including his reading list (note to Obama: Lush Life should have been cut by half) got me to wondering: Has every president we ever had played golf?

Four minutes of exhaustive Googling led me to this answer: Just about.

When one source claimed that “14 of the last 17”  Presidents have played, I tried to guess who were the three rebels. First guess: LBJ, the hardest one to imagine doing whatever one does with a nine-iron. But no, it turns out he played.

Then, of course, Carter, right? Right. No golf for Jimmuh.

And the third?  According to one source, Reagan. I would have thought him a natural, especially in California’s perpetual summer, but we’re told that RR played a bit while younger, then dropped out long before the White House.

But another source I found counts Reagan as a golfer and asserts  that only Carter, Hoover, and Truman shunned the links.  So these three represent the millions of us persecuted non-golfers.

Best golf quote by a defeated presidential candidate: Adlai Stevenson, beaten twice by Eisenhower,  complained that America had chosen to follow Ike “down the green fairways of indifference.”  They sure  don’t talk like that at town meetings these days.