Discretion Please

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-6-12-03-amThe father of someone I’m connected to on Facebook recently passed away. Very recently. Just a few minutes ago, in fact. How do I know this? Because the connection in question said so on his Facebook wall: “My father passed away just moments ago”.

How does this work, exactly? I imagine this fellow sitting vigil by his father’s side, holding his dad’s frail hand, the thumb of his other hand hovering over the “Send” key in a pathetic frenzy to raise the profile of his Facebook page.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but discretion is out – way out. What’s in? Sharing online every thought, emotion, impulse and event as it occurs. In our therapeutic age, grief is out and healing is in. After a mass shooting, the bodies aren’t even cold yet before the self-directed cries for “Let the healing begin” are heard.

And to the extent that we do still grieve it’s not for the departed’s loss but for our loss. In this regard clergy have been of little help. The secular world having infiltrated religion far more than the reverse, clergy insist that when we cry for the dead we’re actually crying for ourselves. With all due respect, not me: I’m crying for the departed’s loss.

When I was a kid I heard someone say “You can learn a lot by keeping your mouth shut.” The truth of it was obvious to me even then. Speak less, listen more, take it all in and you’ll gain in knowledge. After all, you can’t speak and listen at the same time. Perhaps just as important, you can’t reflect and speak at the same time.

Sure, there are times when we reflect on this or that with a friend or spouse, but in general reflection takes place internally. Relating an experience before having a chance to digest its full meaning often invests it with undue import. But I’ve never regretted those occasions when I resisted the temptation to immediately share an experience that only just occurred.

This is true for both positive and negative experiences. Give something days or even just hours to breathe and the increase in clarity is revealing – and often reassuring. Whether it’s losing a job or winning the lottery, reflection and the passage of time often reveal what appear to be pivotal events into something not crucial, not turning points, not make or break.

Oftentimes what seem to be life-changing developments turn out to have a very different meaning from the narrative you’ve been weaving for yourself and others. Why we still envy lottery winners even though the lives of lottery winners invariably spin out of control is beyond me. Conversely, things like losing a job are very often the real beginning of a satisfying and career.

Like the ability to entertain yourself when bored, learning to keep your mouth shut is a valuable tool: you may even find that it enables you to keep up with the truth.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or watch me perform the Flaming Marshmallow Balance of Mystery on the Late Late Show.

 

American Kook: Lyndon LaRouche

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(This post original appeared as a column at Ricochet.com).

The most prolific non-comedian presidential candidate in U.S. history, Lyndon LaRouche first came to my attention during the 1992 election when his campaign took out a tv ad describing him as “the only man (then-President) George Bush feared enough to put in prison”. Manuel Noriega, like so many facts of life anathema to LaRouche’s fevered mind, was also sitting in a federal prison at the time.

More than 30 years and three election cycles later, my German wife and I were visiting San Francisco when we strolled past a couple of political activists standing next to a sandwich board depicting President Obama with a Hitler mustache – a depiction which my wife pointed out would be illegal in her native Germany. Lest her innocence of American politics cause her to confuse these LaRouche followers with fellow Tea Party nutters, I told her what I knew about the American kook named Lyndon LaRouche.

As a politician, Larouche was one-tool player who nonetheless appeared to to be in the big leagues from time to time. His skill set consisted almost entirely of identifying an emotionally charged issue, conducting in-depth research then proposing an oversimplified solution, usually involving a restructuring of the economy or national security apparatus. His pathological certitude found expression in the breadth of policy positions expected of a presidential candidate, from healthcare to fiscal and foreign policy.

A member of the Socialist Workers party from 1949 – 1964 and the U.S. Labor Party from 1973 – 1979, LaRouche finally settling on the Democratic Party in 1979, where he sought the nomination in seven of his eight presidential campaigns. His conspiracy theories, the follower-on-follower violence, his unshakeable faith in the stupidity or evil intentions of those who opposed him – all these and more made LaRouche seem like a politician after L. Ron Hubbard’s heart.

Like the same song but in a different key, LaRouche’s also had the ability to place any world event into a larger context, giving it greater apparent meaning in the facile manner favored by conspiracy theorists and Marxists. A real go-getter, by the early 1970’s he was publishing now-forgotten magazines such as New Solidarity and teaching at never-remembered entities like New York City’s Free School. LaRouche’s up-and-at-‘em initiative was not mitigated in the least by his Marxist beliefs.

By the 1970’s, of course, 1960’s ideology were in full swing. Name a 70’s-era brand of then-vibrant American Marxism and LaRouche either joined it, founded it or oversaw violence against it: the Socialist Workers Party, the Revolutionary Tendency, Students for a Democratic Society and, most importantly for his own career, the National Caucus of Labor Committees, or NCLC.

None of this would be interesting were it not for LaRouche’s uncanny ability to gain access to officials at the highest levels of government. How did he do it? In 1971, LaRouche founded an intelligence network which published information in magazines articles and papers sent to him from his followers in hotbeds of Marxism like Stockholm and West (not a typo) Berlin. This enabled him to gain access to government officials under press cover. These publications had modernist names aimed at setting hard-leftists’ hearts aflutter, such as New Solidarity, Fusion Magazine and 21st Century Science and Technology (note that the titles invoke the more-committed-to-science-than-you of today’s widely-popular I F***ing Love Science‘s Facebook page.

Bobby Ray Inman, the CIA’s deputy director in 1981 and 1982, said LaRouche visited him offering information about the West German Green Party; a CIA spokesman said LaRouche met Deputy Director John McMahon in 1983 to discuss one of Larouche’s trips overseas. An aide to William Clark said when Larouche’s associates discussed technology or economics, they made good sense and seemed to be qualified (thus removing any doubts about the aides qualifications as a government official).

The 2016 presidential candidate who seems most to share LaRouche’s love of ideas over people – though not, of course, his reflexive paranoia and violent tactics – is Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig, who ended his hapless campaign on November 2. Unlike LaRouche, who published policy papers on everything under the sun, Lessig’s campaign raised more than one million dollars promising to protect Americans from engaging in what he deems excessive political speech or, in his words, “fighting systemic corruption in Washington”. (Lessig dislikes the term “campaign finance reform.”)

Lessig would have required much more than one million dollars to conspire with Congress and in an end-around the First Amendment to the Constitution, in which its authors invoked a rare (for them) absolute in writing “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom speech…” Italics mine, not Lessig’s.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or watch me read the Wall Street Journal.

People Who Say “Back In The Day” Can Bite Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First of all, the expression is “Back in my day” not “Back in the day”. I hope this doesn’t shock you but your day was not the day, it was simply your day, you daft, narcissistic prat. And another thing: you’re 30 years old, for crying out loud. When I was a kid – back in the day – this expression was reserved for old-timers who had played trombone in the army band during The Great War (that’s World War I to you), not thirty-something, energy-drink swilling posers. It was for men who bet on horses, travelled on coal trains and whose idea of casual wear was army-beige khakis, not factory-shredded jeans and an Ed Hardy tank top.

 

Having Watched “Les Misérable” I’ve Concluded My Wife Owes Me Much More Than Sex

Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 5.26.13 PMSome films grow on you, and Les Misérable is no exception: with each passing minute I hated it more and more. You know how at an open mic the worst comics seem to have the most material? That’s how I felt watching this movie.

When I agreed to accompany my wife to see it at our local theater, I figured it to be a straightforward exchange: she watches the movie with me, I have sex with her. Little did I know that the winner of the Academy Award for “Longest Picture” would make me feel entitled to much, much more. 

Leave it to “Les Mis” (even the title must be shortened, as if excessive length is the point of the film) to make you root against the underdog. At about halfway through the movie I thought that surely they must begin wrapping things up. A gentleman knows when to leave the room, right? Anyway, 45 minutes later I’m beginning to root for France’s aristocracy to acquire weapons of mass destruction – and to use them.

The problem with “Les Mis”, say its critics, is that it has “one good song”. This is giving it far more credit than it deserves. The “Master Of The House” melody rears its head throughout the movie. Indeed, several of the songs seem to appear multiple times, as if despite the rough-draft feel of the music they still felt compelled to recycle most of them. If each song appeared only once it might run the length of a normal feature film instead of an incredibly self-indulgent two-hours and thirty-eight minutes

Like the lines at Disneyland, the story is structured to give the impression that it is, at all times, almost over. Alas, you enter the dome of Space Mountain in order to turn that “last corner”, or learn that the Anne Hathaway character finally dies, only to learn that you’re in for the most self-indulgent two hours and thirty seven minutes of your life.

At least at Disneyland you know you’re being taken for a ride.

 

How I Grew My YouTube Following

When I’m in Turkey there’s a barber I like to pop into in the coastal town of Kusadasi. He gives me what, in Turkey, I call “the standard”: haircut, shave, arm, hand, neck, ear, temple massage and wraps it all up my setting fire to stray clippings on my face and neck with an open flame.

This time, however, my wife videotaped the affair – I use the word advisedly – and as you can see he couldn’t resist giving me a little extra business. Anyway, I posted it to YouTube and it began spreading quite quickly – several thousand views right off the bat – and as of this writing is at around 40,000 views.

This is not the only humorous clip on my YouTube channel – I am a comedian after all – but the speed with which this clip spread was an order of magnitude faster than any of my others. I checked out Youtube’s handy analytics and quickly discovered the source of its popularity: someone had posted it to a fetish website catering to – I’m going out on a limb here – men who enjoy other men being tickled.

So my advice for success on YouTube is, unlike my Turkish barber, is to forget “playing to the balcony” and seek out a niche audience – kids obsessed with Star Wars, housewives aching for cute cat videos, men who crave to see other men being tickled with varying degrees of permission – and let them spread the good word for you.

When You Run Over A Deer In Germany You’re Supposed To Call A Hunter

A while ago, in Germany, I was driving home late at night as my wife slept in the passenger seat. Quick as lightning, the head of a deer pierced the beam of the driver’s side headlight followed by a weirdly satisfying “thump”. I’m not sure what woke my wife – the thump or my involuntary gasp – but I immediately told her what was obvious to me: that I had just hit a deer. My wife, characteristically, didn’t believe me. “But I saw it” I protested. “I hit it right in the head.” It was after midnight, we were tired, our young son was sleeping in the backseat and we were on the autobahn. These factors, along with my wife’s skepticism about what had occurred, contributed to our decision to continue driving through the night. Also, I didn’t know any better.

When we pulled into our driveway, I turned off the engine instead of making the white-knuckle, thread-the-needle maneuver that is parking your car in a middle-class German garage. I stepped out of the car, approached the driver’s-side headlight and there, sure enough, was a dent about the size of a basketball. It was hard to tell what amazed my wife more: that I had hit a deer or that I was correct in stating that I had hit a deer. Anyway, I pulled into the garage, we carried the kid and our things upstairs and decided we would deal with the details tomorrow.

My wife called her insurance company who sent out an agent. Having inspected our car he decided, to our surprise, that there was no evidence that we had hit a deer: no blood, no fur, etc. My wife took this personally, suggesting that it meant that the insurance company viewed her claim exactly as she had initially viewed mine: as “less than factual”.

Another contributing factor, she explained, was our failure to telephone, immediately after impact, either the correct government agency or an area hunter. With no confirmation that I had killed the deer outright, an injured deer can go a little nuts and pose a danger to others. This  fascinated me no end. How does that work, exactly, at two in the morning?

“Hi,  my name is David Deeble. I’m sorry to wake you but I just hit a deer out here on the A2. Anyway, it all happened so fast that I can’t be sure if I killed it outright and I thought maybe you could come out here and make sure the job gets finished. Can you help me out?”

 

How To Use Social Media To Kill An Entire Afternoon

Maybe you’re one of those people who has only heard of the term “social media”. Or maybe you have already set-up an account (with the help of your teenager) on Facebook, Twitter, or social media platform. But the question remains: “How can I use these sites to waste an entire day?”First of all, don’t be intimidated: it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Once you learn the ropes, you’ll be wasting entire days of otherwise productive time sharing links to cat videos, taking pictures of your cappuccino and compulsively updating your status on everything from Google+ to Linkedin.

The tips below will be limited to the two most popular social media sites, Facebook and Twitter. The same principles applies to Pinterest, Google+ and other sites (the only difference being that on MySpace you’ll want to make sure your computers speakers are turned off).

One thing I like to do what I call “cycling”. Don’t be intimidated by the technical jargon! Cycling is simply moving from one social media platform to another over and over again in a cycle, compulsively posting and responding to the posts of others, then responding to the responses of those responses. Also sending out Farmville requests – people love that. This creates what I call a the “looping effect” and there is literally no end to it.

Let’s go over an example. Let’s say you wake up and take photograph of your navel on your mobile device. You then post the photo on Facebook, taking care to include the photo’s location, date, and a short, humorous text (i.e., “My navel!”). Once posted, login to Twitter (bookmark and remain logged-in to all your social media sites!). Post the same photo to your Twitter account (#mynavel!, @presidentbarackobama). Then return to Facebook and respond to those who have weighed in on your navel. Then repeat.

“But can I really kill an entire working day on just Facebook and Twitter?” you ask? I’m here to tell you the answer is an unqualified “Yes!” Let’s say, for example, that your friends aren’t weighing in sufficiently on your navel or you’re just building a following on Twitter. In that case, I strongly recommend you get into highly partisan, wonkish political debates on arcane public policy. “But who gets the last word?” you ask. Answer: “No one!” Respond to every point made and then make two more of your own. Believe me: you’ll never hear the end of it.

LinkedIn, in the popular imagination, is the true social networking portal for business people who are serious about seeking new professional opportunities. No pussyfooting on LinkedIn, right?! A short time on Linkedin will reveal, however, no shortage of opportunities for time-wasting activities, from making inane posts (“Experienced PhD Seeks Employment Opportunities”) to “updating” your “resumé” to reflect your professional “accomplishments”.

“Will these social media sites enable me to overcome pressure from my family and friends to spend time with them?” This is an understandable concern and let me assure you: once you get the hang of it you’ll find that relegating them to their proper place on your list of priorities practically becomes a habit.

There are money other opportunities to deny your employer the bang for his buck, of course. Between updating your Pinterest wall to submitting your weekly column to “The Economist”, there are enough social media opportunities to ensure that you never actually accomplish anything useful or of lasting value.

David Deeble is a consultant currently on hiatus between jobs. He is the author of “Drinking With Wine”, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Self-Esteem” and “Cough Your Way To Rock-Hard Abs”. Visit his website at www.daviddeeble.com.

 

Bustle: Work, Service And America’s Unambivalent Attitude Toward Doing Business

I live in Germany with my wife. When Germans ask me where I’m from I say “California”. They often respond with “It must be love”.

When people ask me how I enjoy life in Germany, I usually explain that it’s a mixed bag. Achieving escape velocity from stairwell living in Germany is much more difficult than in the U.S. And where I come from, entering someone’s kitchen doesn’t require that the other person vacate in order to make room. On the other hand, lawyers do not have nearly in the influence in Germany as they do in the U.S. so you’re basically treated like an adult: if there are no cars coming the other way you just sail through roundabout rather than sit at the red light. Kids actually learn to avoid injury on real jungle gyms and the doors of public transportation have even been known to open before coming to a complete stop.

Then there is the issue of energy. I’m not talking about windmills, fossil fuels or nuclear power. I’m talking about bustle. I’m talking about the energy one witness at a busy airport.

Last night my wife and I attended a kind-of seminar headed by the maternity ward of a hospital some distance from our home in Germany. It was considerably further than the hospital in which my wife delivered our first child but we  she wanted to weigh our options and see what kind of impression this place would make.

We arrived about 15 minutes early and there were about 50 young couples in attendance. The evening consisted of a wordless, gauzy slide show of happy young couples with their newborn baby with a corresponding soundtrack followed by relatively short talks by three very pleasant women associated with the maternity ward. A few questions were asked and answered, followed by a group tour of the premises: various size birthing rooms, private waiting room replete with espresso machine, etc.

The whole thing ran between an hour and 90 minutes: excited, anxious and expectant couples gathered together over sparkling water to be sold on this particular hospital to give birth to their child.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t see a single couple interact with another the entire evening.

In the United States this would be unheard of: dozens of men in the prime of life attending with their wives a gathering of other pregnant couples and not using the downtime to get to know the other men, exchange pleasantries, even (gasp!) network? Young mothers-to-be surrounded by dozens of other pregnant women and none of them asking about due-dates and genders?

I’ve attended more social gatherings in Germany than I can remember and found them invariably pleasant: more pleasant, in some ways, than social gatherings in the U.S. But that’s the thing: in the U.S. everything is a social gathering. The energy there is palpable. Introducing yourself to a stranger in the setting described above strikes Germans a bit like handing out business cards during church services (note I say during church services: with the exception of the very pious, in the U.S. making contacts within a religious milieu is perfectly natural).

I read a book once by Rabbi Daniel Lapin called “Thou Shall Prosper: The Ten Commandments For Making Money“. The book explores the reasons why Jews and, by extension, the Americans, “get ahead”. The very words “get ahead” give many Europeans pause. It’s the tall-poppy syndrome: no poppy should grow conspicuously higher than the others. Nothing could be more alien to the American mindset.

But what about the person who lives only to get ahead? The man for whom networking substitutes for friendship? What about the man who gets more meaning pursuing his next raise than from raising his children? Is he to be admired? The American says “Of course not.” Most people intuitively understand the difference between someone who’s only trying to get in your pocket and someone who isn’t going to let the fact that you’re standing in the church parking lot prevent him from talking about how the service he provides can make your life better.

And that raises the fundamental difference. Americans have a much more profound sense of the value of one’s work to other people. There may be a way to earn money without making other people’s lives better, but I don’t believe it. Serving others is in no way diminished simply because it is remunerative. Every time you walk out of a department store with a new item of clothing you have played an essential role in a success story: the story of people getting what they want. (you a fleece, Nordstroms your money). It’s true for any economic interaction, whether it’s buying a book on Amazon or hiring the world’s funniest entertainer to perform at your next event.

Understanding that work, service and profit are inextricably interwoven is one of the many examples of American exceptionalism.

The Playboy Bunny Suit – An Appreciation

Male sexuality is so strange. I mean seriously: bunny ears? And yet, it works for me. Maybe it makes her look taller – longer legs, etc. The ears by themselves do nothing little for me – I want to be clear on that – but when you put the ears and the server together, well, that’s when the magic happens.

I like the floppy variety (pictured above). Some servers go with the standing-at-attention, old-fashioned tv antennae look, but the floppy ones suggest to me a certain frazzled dishevelment I associate with a woman who might utter the magic words “Sure, why not?”

The cottontail is more difficult to speak intelligibly about. Functionality and aesthetics require that it be placed higher than it would be on an actual rabbit, yet I can’t shake the sensation that it should be positioned slightly lower. What can I say, I’m a realist.

Last night I performed at the Playboy Club in Cologne, Germany and one of the servers was eating carrots at the bar. I think that’s what actors call “The Method”. Anyway, she looked great and it occurred to me that looking great could, at least in theory, be parlayed into advantages that could make life easier in various ways. Just a thought – perhaps I should explore this further depth.

I don’t pretend to know how the little shirt sleeves stay in place but I’m give them my enthusiastic seal of approval. It’s almost as if she’s wearing a conservative blouse that becomes, through some extremely weird hiccup in the cosmic fabric, invisible beginning just above the wrist. I approve.

Risk Aversion Run Amok

I like to entertain with a machete. Not real a real machete, mind you, but a dulled, stainless steel lookalike with a bevelled edge which gives the illusion of sharpness until inspected, at which point it becomes immediately clear that it would be about as useful  for clearing jungle foliage as those hollow, plastic ones found at Halloween shops. True, the tip could be used to blind someone, but in this regard it is no different than many other objects such as a pencil, butter knife or a shard from a broken bottle of Perrier.

Recently my agent booked me on Royal Caribbean’s “Grandeur Of The Seas” in the Mediterranean. I joined the ship in Kusadasi, Turkey, and was going through the usual security sturm and drang: pass through the shoreside x-ray machine operated by Turkish officials, walk a few meters, than pass through the x-ray machine operated by the ship’s security team. (What one earth would these people do for a living if it weren’t for redundancy?)

Needless to say, a Turkish official spotted the prop machete and asked me to open my bag. I did so and proceeded to remove the prop machete as I always do in this situation: I grabbed it by the handle, casually flipped it 180 degrees so the business end landed firmly in my hand and then extended the handle to the official. Far from allaying any anxiety, this seemed to cause all hell to break loose: not only was I in possession of a machete but apparently I’m some type of Shibumi-like expert with it.

The Turkish port agent who accompanied me explained to the official that I am an entertainer but to no avail: the Turkish officials would give it directly to the ship’s security and I could sort it out with them.

I embarked the Grandeur and hoisted my bag onto the ship’s x-ray machine, designed to protect the safety of passengers from deadly items smuggled into my bag during the 20-meter walk from the previous x-ray machine. My machete-free bag passed through without incident despite the fact that it contained, as did when passing through the previous x-ray machine, a far-deadlier three-pronged garden hoe.

Once settled in I spoke to the chief security officer, a young and obviously ambitious young man from Panama. (Many of the security chiefs on cruise ships are Israeli and I was hoping that he, too, would be from Israel: “In Israel we wish we had such problems” one once told me as he nonchalantly handed the prop-machete back to me.) Anyway, the young Panamanian explained to me that I would be issued the prop during my scheduled rehearsal in the theater and then I must return it immediately after my show.

“But I need it at all times” I lied. “It’s like my violin.”

“Someone” he said, could get drunk and use it as a deadly weapon”. He meant me, of course.

“What if someone gets drunk during the window that I is in my possession and uses it as a deadly weapon? Surely you’re not going to let this item out of your office until it is time for me to disembark?”

Reason and sarcasm were no use. Two days later, the stage manager issued the prop to me during my rehearsal and immediately confiscated it after my second-seating performance and returned it to the security office.

There’s a trend here. The TSA’s front on the “War On Terror” is really a war on unemployment, putting people to work protecting airline passengers from toothpaste, bottled water, hair gel, wrenches and breast milk. It performs the sort of pat-downs on children that grown men normally must pay for in the backstreets of Manilla while permitting this guy to board a plane – as a matter of policy.

Since 9/11, mid- and low-level security personnel have taken on an air of self-importance that is unwarranted and demeaning to the those of us who must submit to their guilty-until-proven-innocent practices of naked imagery, pat-downs and confiscation of easily-defended-against substances such as baby formula.

How many times have you been told to turn off our Kindle during take-off as it can interfere with the planes navigation equipment? Set aside the issue that if true (it’s not) then you shouldn’t be permitted to bring it on in the first place. More to the point is this: if it’s truly capable of what the FAA says then maybe the plane needs an upgrade in its navigation system. How does this work, exactly: you take your family on a hard-earned vacation in Hawaii and you end up in Cleveland because your wife couldn’t stop playing Angry Birds? Please.

Passing through airport security has become the same avoid-at-all-costs experiences of going to the post office of the Department Of Motor Vehicles. There are very rare exceptions: the TSA employee who seems to understand that he or she works for us and not the other way around. The one who greets you with a smile and attempts to offset the increasingly-onerous hoops we must jump through with a demeanor that says “I’m honored to serve you: let’s get you on your plane.”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m acutely aware why we must have security screenings at airports. Every time I pass through security I think “There are people who don’t want the plane to land safely.” Each time I lock the door of my car I think “There are moral primitives who would steal it otherwise.” This is the lock-your-front-door world we take for granted.

Having said that, let’s make it a priority to begin treating travelers with rock-bottom dignity and stop pretending that air marshals must game-plan around a woman armed with 3.5 ounces of breast milk.