trying to catch up with the reading…

Who knew that it would be so tough to keep up with a little reading? But a book here and a book there and before I knew it, there were about six or seven books that I hadn’t written a thing about. It doesn’t really seem fair. I mean, I read so much more quickly than these people write. How can they possibly keep up with me? How can I possibly keep up with me…?

Anyway, here’s me trying to get back in the swing of things: this fellow’s argument, the basics are that the United States’ tax code has been becoming less and less fair and progressive as time goes on, with the tax burden shifting away from those MOST able to afford to pay them (the old, the married, the white, etc.) to those LEAST able to afford them (the young, the single, the non-white, etc.) by shifting from taxation on WEALTH (stuff like inheritances, property, bonds and a lot of things that I didn’t even really understand what they were) to taxation on INCOME. Even an econ dullard like me was able to piece together what THAT means: that top 1% has been gathering even more of that WEALTH pie, which is significant, even though the share of INCOME is more evenly distributed.

It seems to me that the focus on taxation on INCOME is sort of like the way a pretidigitator glances upward to turn your gaze away right when he grabs that rabbit from his coat and shoves it into this hat. Calling the inheritance tax a DEATH tax (it would be funny if it weren’t so successful) is another example of this.

The good Professor De Long has a much more useful way of putting it… that might actually make sense.

You know, I even gamely read all of the endnotes too, but those were like trying to parse an electronics manual. (I know, if you’re good at that, it’s a bad simile.) I would recommend this book, because it SEEMS correct, though I don’t have the wit to tell or not. If it’s correct, I think that Wolff is writing a very important book here.


notes from the L.A. trip, or, an incredible thing that happened to me while traveling on business

Some background for the story:
On my job, I sometimes travel around with my sales representative, E, in her territory of California, Arizona and Hawaii. (I also travel around in the Deep South as well.) My company sells books to academic libraries all around the world and assists in collection development, among other things. E is the people person and I do the “techinical” presentation and answer any of the questions that she doesn’t know the answer to. Last week, I was traveling with her in the greater L.A. area (traffic! traffic! traffic!).

Now, E lived in L.A. for about ten years with her husband, C, who is a television and movie (?) producer who still works there; also a founding member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA, for short). As such, he’s part of the nominating process for the Academy Awards and can get into all kinds of screenings, which he generously invited me to go along to.

A couple of weeks before the trip, E sent me an email to let me know that C would be attending a screening of THE RETURN OF THE KING and would I be interested in going? I–being a longtime, huge fan of those books and (now) movies–said Yes! (E had never read the books and hadn’t seen the first two movies; hence her lack of interest in it herself.)

So, Tuesday (this is December 2):
I have a long day of driving all around L.A. visiting two colleges (which I won’t name, for obvious reasons). The second library was across town from where THE RETURN OF THE KING was playing at the Crest Theatre. So, I’m giving this presentation while trying not to be too aware of the tickticking clock. It was a frustrating presentation, because the technology that I was using for the presentation was gumming up in exasperating ways. Basically, I am, at times, resorting to describing the computer effects that these librarians would see if it were, in fact, working properly. The whole thing wrapped up a bit later than we were planning on it doing, about ten minutes past 5. At this point, I began to resign myself on not being able to see this movie. I mean, we had to get across town during L.A. rush hour!??! It didn’t help that we got lost and had to backtrack about 2 miles before getting on the freeway.

E went above and beyond (I think she realized how important it was to me) and attempted to get me to the theatre in time. E has me call C and find out what we need to do to get there. He tells us not to kill ourselves trying to get there and says that he will try to work his Irish silver-tongue to get me in the door. Throughout the drive, we chat multiple times, and he gives me increasingly detailed instructions. He tells me exactly where he’s sitting (six rows down, first seat on the right off of the left-hand aisle) and the person that I need to talk to when I arrive (Toni: Bless you! Bless you!). As it gets closer and closer to 6:30, and we get closer and closer to the theatre, and the traffic gets more and more jammed up, I get more and more tense, telling myself continually to calm down. It was quite quite stressful. But, through a miracle of traffic and driving, I ended up arriving at the theatre just as the movie was starting.

Now, I don’t know if you, dear reader, even like THE LORD OF THE RINGS or if you liked the movies at all. Indeed, there are many reasons not to like them, if you go looking. That being said: When *I* read them as a small child, they blew the top off my head. They are the first books that I ever read that caused me to weep aloud while reading. They have a very special place in my heart. When I first heard about Peter Jackson and his LORD OF THE RINGS movies, I was hopeful, but not tremendously so. But I wanted the movies to be amazing. I wanted them to be amazing in a similar way that the books are amazing. I was not disappointed by THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING nor THE TWO TOWERS.

THE RETURN OF THE KING far exceeded my expectations of it, based on the first two movies. There were scenes of such beauty and magnitude and terror. I was awestruck by this movie. An example: I arrived still in my suit, wearing my coat, which I then left on throughout the entire movie. I did not think to take it off. It wasn’t until the credits started rolling that I realized how hot I was. Otherwise, I don’t really know how else to describe this movie: I have never before seen a movie quite like it.

I had heard from C that Peter Jackson was going to be there (flown straight from the New Zealand premier) for a Q and A after the movie. I was quite looking forward to it. After the movie, I realized that my bladder was making screeching noises and so I strolled off to the restroom, where I had to wait in line. I walked back only to find the entrance to my aisle jammed up with people just standing there and I strolled up behind them to wait for the entrance to clear. I was just about to push through them, when I realized that the entrance was jammed up with Peter Jackson and about six members of the cast! In point of fact, I was standing just behind Sir Ian McKellen! I could have reached out and tapped him on the shoulder if I’d wanted to. They were sort of muttering to each other about the right time to go into the theatre and I watched them file past down the aisle. What an amazing trip, seeing these people so closely that I had just watched on this giant movie screen.

I walked into the theatre right behind them, as the whole place burst into a standing ovation. I hastily snuck into my seat and whispered to C what had happened. The Q and A was fantastic; everyone was witty and clever and probably delirious from jet-lag. (I think I’ll write more about what I remember from this later.)

I don’t tend to get very excited about things like this, but it was an amazing experience that I will probably remember forever. Thinking back on it now, the only thing that really sums it up is: WOW!

I am indeed a lucky fellow.