September 21, 2004
Since Will is in the business of dispensing sound etiquette advice and Miss Manners is unfortunately unable to address my query in a timely fashion, I pose my dilemma to those more proper than myself who may be able to assist me:
How does one write a thank you note for a gift when one isn't quite sure what the gift is? I watered a friend's plants while he was in Japan for a few weeks visiting his family. He brought back quite a nice gift for me. I believe it's a vase but I'm not sure as there are several components to it other than the hollow compartment presumably for flowers. I've done a little internet research to try to ascertain the identity of the gift so that I can thank appropriately, but I am still unsure. How do I phrase the thank you note in this case? Should I ask my friend what it is or how to use it or would that be rude? Because he is Japanese, should my approach to the situation be any different than if he were American?
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I've been hiding. Will was kind enough to let me berth here for a bit, and I'm blowing it big-time. And why is that? High anxiety of the middle school variety. I have this terrible fear that I'll walk into the room pantless. Which is not to say I haven't walked into many a room pantless, but the consequences were ugly to say the least: passersby blinded, some turned to stone, "dogs and catsóliving togetherómass hysteria."
There's another reason. I'm in flux. (Seriously.) Picture me in the buttery embrace of a mental cocoon. Chrysalis! Dig it:
I'm in a cocoon,
Check my Pat Boone
Hat, you'll rue my runes
and sand dunes,
Diminutive, like oompa-loompas
I ask, "Who stole my craypas?"
You ill style ape-ahs,
livin' large in the Seychelles
I roll with elderly Agathas, Pearls and Ma-bels
I'm runnin' pell-mell
Furious like Zell-Mill
Where to begin?
I find the news surrounding the presidential election dispiriting in the extreme. I have nothing intelligent or thoughtful or insightful to say on the subject, or on any subject, with the possible exception of questions surrounding my rightful role in human affairs on a world-historical, which is to say galactic-epochal, scale: to rule mercilessly, with an iron fist swaddled in a velvet glove.
With that in mind, ďanalysisĒ of the conventional sort seems like so much twaddle. Iíve been thinking big. Iím told that the utopian strain is deadly, and that the authoritarian high modernism of a Le Corbusier, an aesthetic triumph and an evil at the same time, dovetails with that of a Mao. Iím sold. So yes, the rest of humanity ought to shy away from Deep Thinking the planet into bloodshed and turmoil with utopian designs. No argument from me. The rest of humanity (ROH) can safely leave utopian schemes to me. Iíve got dozens.
Iíve been preoccupied with a few thingsóThe Replacements, the global South, the war on terrorism, property-owning democracy, social stratification, zoning, etc.óon and off for many years now, and I just read a couple of books, ďThe Politics of the GovernedĒ by Partha Chatterjee and ďMind the GapĒ by Ferdinand Mount, that sparked a lot of new thoughts. New for me, that is. Iím guessing that the thoughts in question are old hat for many of you, but bear with me.
(I mean, The Replacements have nothing to do with this. Iím obsessed with the song ďOn the Bus,Ē which has a gritty, soulful working-class anthem feel, so this couldíve led me to channel the Wobblies. I canít say for sure. I do know that Iíve always liked stovepipe hats and riding public transportation. Wait. Let me sing it for you:
Oooon the bus ... that's where we're riding. Oooooon the bus ... okay, don't say hi then ... I love that song. It reminds me of ... of ... being on the bus. With your momma's house. Shnapssss.)
Back to my thoughts. Wait. Yeah, I'll write about them tomorrow. I'm really hungry.
I will say this: I had this idea for a routine in which two generals or similarly well-placed military officials would challenge each other by creating increasingly elaborate names for a task force:
"Battle Force One."
"Alpha Force Squadron."
"Beta Delta Alpha Force Squadron Force."
"Battle Tank Brigade Force Tank Alpha."
"Battle Tank Brigade Force Tank Alpha Squad Force Force."
"Flying Hellions Rocket Corps Beta Force Squadron Tank-Killer Hellforce."
"Task Force Alpha Squad."
It goes on. This always leaves me in peals of laughter.
P.S.- I'd just like to add the following: Crescat rules. Will Baude is a scholar and a gentleman. I've just added a Crescat iron-on patch to my denim jacket, and I'm about to get kicked in the head by rival anarchist punks. That's how much I love this blog.
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Let us suppose that a certain rabid Cubs fan--never mind said Cubs fan's identity (all that matters is that he is supremely intelligent, monumentally good-looking, and astonishingly egotistical)--is coerced and bamboozled by (friendly and fun-to-be-with) coworkers into going to a White Sox game tonight.
Does said Cubs fan have to adopt a "When In Rome, Do As The Romans Do" attitude and root for the hated and despicable Sox? Or may he betray his true feelings?
Luckily for all, Miss Manners has handled an issue very close to this (8/14/02):
Dear Miss Manners:
My fiance and I are quarreling over a point of sports etiquette.
Suppose that you support the away team at a sporting event. Is it polite to vocalize your support?
He claims that it is rude to cheer for your own team. I claim that it is perfectly acceptable to cheer for your own team but not to boo the home team.
I have never known him to stay quiet at a sporting event when he supports the away team, but he says that he realizes that he is being rude and expects the home fans to be rude in return if he is too loud in his support. ...
Participation of a robust, informed and opinionated audience is part of the event.
They are not supposed to sit there frozen, withholding their critical judgment and then issue polite applause in order to thank the professionals for allowing them to observe them doing their job. Everyone should be allowed to express the acceptable level of approval or disapproval, regardless of whether other members of the audience concur in that judgment.
But although there is no etiquette violation involved here, Miss Manners fears there may be a safety issue.
These events tend to attract rough crowds, and what is not improper may, unfortunately, still be imprudent.
Now, Pejman's case differs slightly-- here his favored team is not involved in the game. Thus, one might argue, he can cheer the Sox without showing disloyalty to his beloved Cubs. But this is flat-wrong.
As Holly Swyers (who is writing about the anthropology of Cubs fans) has pointed out, there are few acts more taboo among Cubs fans than being seen at a Sox game falsely acting the part of a loyal fan. If he were spotted cheering a Sox play along with his friends, he might well be excommunicated from the circles of bleachers-fans.
So: Etiquette does not mandate that a Cubs fan pledge allegiance to the enemy. Indeed, etiquette, combined with the culture of the Wrigley bleachers, comes close to forbidding this kind of loyalty. Pejman need not boo good play by the Sox (though he is permitted to), but he certainly need not display enthusiasm. And if there is any chance of his being spotted there, he should be conspicuously less enthusiastic than those he is with.
But if he must clap just a little bit, to avoid mob justice, the Cubs may forgive him.
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A friend's relative is currently standing trial, and the ensuing response by his family reminded me of a quote I saved from the New York Times long ago, in my pre-pre-blogging days:
A man who would not give his name but identified himself as the father of (the accused killer) trembled during a brief interview yesterday in front of his house. ĎI really donít know have any words to describe how I feel right now,í he said.
Asked if he planned to attend his sonís arraignment, he replied: ĎIím not going to go, no. For me to go and show support for something I donít support would be hypocritical.í
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At the behest of Will, I am publicly weighing in on the make-up issue. From his post, it is obvious to me that he has never put the wretched goop called mascara on his eyelashes. I asked him to think about all those little quotidian actions a person takes for granted - rubbing allergy afflicted eyes, tossing water on your face when you're tired, enjoying a walk in the rain. Now imagine them with mascara and your daydream is ruined by raccoon eyes. And concealer in limbo?? Concealer is in fact worse on a face with no makeup at all - much more noticeable than the blemish it purports to conceal. Not to mention unhygienic when you're fighting a miniature infection on your face. Claustrophobia, ickiness, and better things to do with one's time should steer women away from all incarnations of face paint.
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Belle Waring pushes back in defense of makeup:
I'd be willing to bet that Will thinks some women look good without make-up when they are in fact wearing skilfully applied makeup. Is he really going to notice that someone has curled her eyelashes and put on one coat of non-clumping mascara? Or is he just going to think she has big eyes? How about someone who has put a small amount of foundation around the base of her nose and the outer corners of her eyes? Matte white pencil on the lower, inner rim of the eyelid? A dab of Rosebud Salve? A quick once-over on an otherwise bare face with the NARS The Multiple stick in Palm Beach? Guerlain bronzer in the cleavage? Is Will going to think, hey, nice job with the Shu Uemura foam make-up base, concealer, and translucent lavender powder (to counteract sallowness), or is he just going to think the girl's got nice, even-toned skin? Are those flushed cheeks and just-bitten lips natural, or did they come out of the Philosophy The Supernatural bottle (you should really buy this, by the way. It's amazing)? Is Will aware that some women comb their eyebrows? Perhaps even with the eyelash comb they used to remove the excess mascara, thus setting their brows and slightly darkening them in one easy step?
To be sure, I can hardly complain about the presence of lipstick that I don't notice. But that said, my experience is that many times when women claim to be wearing "skilfully applied makeup" it is still quite noticeable, and a move for the worse. That's further corroborated by a series of semi-controlled experiments; if you see the same person at various points throughout the day, sometimes with makeup, sometimes without, you can tell the difference.
But Belle makes the very key point that all makeup is not created equal. Foundation and lipstick occupy the ninth circle. Eyeshadow and many powders linger someplace in the seventh or so, mascara is comparatively harmless in small quantities-- second circle. Concealer is currently in limbo.
UPDATE: It's worth noting this "comment" to Belle's post:
My theory on why men say they prefer women to not wear makeup is that the only place they've seen them without makeup on is in bed.
UPDATE TWO: I add this testimony in my defense, as well:
Will has a keen eye - there's no tricking him.
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