First Names

Quite literally.  FIRST names.  Not just your name that comes first on a traffic ticket, or what you call yourself online.

No, this is about your very first name.

I dreamt I was zoning out at this Beverly Hills party when a popular actress came up and asked what I was doing.  She was worried I was either a bit too “happy” to drive, although she thought I might be meditating.

I was in baddha konasana, and I had my mind and breath exactly where I wanted them, so she was mostly right.

Anyway, she wasn’t bothering me.  She’d seen me someplace and knew my name.  I didn’t know hers and asked.  She gave me her famous name, and I asked her for her REAL first name, the one that she was born with.

Why? she asked.

Give me your hand, I said, holding my own out palm up.  She rested her hand on top of mine.  I didn’t move a muscle, but looked into her eyes.

This is your hand, but it’s not yours.  It was given to you by your parents, their parents, and unknown numbers of other living things long forgotten.  You have had this ever since the universe created you, and it will remain in your possession for a short time.  This is a gift, and you take care of it precisely because it is a great gift.  A gift of love from all those before you.  When you are done with it, it returns to the universe to become a gift to someone else.

I put my hand in my lap and she took hers back, looking at it, then looking back at me.

Your name, your first name, the one that was given to you by your parents, tells me something about you that can’t be told any other way.  That name was created by your parents and bestowed upon you as a brand new life within the universe.  That name holds their hopes, and their fears.  It tells a story about them, as individuals, and a couple.  It may also hold clues to your own history, ancestors who struggled so that you would be here, now.  That name is important not because you were born with it, but because it contains your history.  When you are done, that name remains as part of your family’s memory.

Your Hollywood name, like my stage name, is for publicity.  They want something to remember us by, but you well know that what they know of you is artificial, created on the screen.  The real you is inside, just the same as your real name still resides, here.  I pointed to her heart.

Her friends came up to us at that point and wanted to know what we were talking about.  I smiled and told them I was going back to sleep.  Being an old man lets me get away with stuff like that.



Just Desserts

There are some French shows where dessert is the only thing on the menu.  These shows are at a higher level than what we’re used to seeing from other countries, because, well, IT’S FRANCE!

More to the point, little morsels of gastronomic delight can teach us more than making our saliva glands go into overdrive.

Here’s the short form:

  • Quality ingredients,
  • High standards in all areas,
  • Mastery of technique in everything,
  • Pride in one’s profession, knowing how to work as a team member, knowing how to be a leader, knowing how to handle stress, and always being supportive of others whether they are your competitor or teammate,
  • Either having the best tool for the job, or knowing how to compensate
  • Paying attention to all the senses, in visual aesthetics, variety of textures, the impact of flavors upon the tongue and the nose, and perhaps the most important,
  • Knowing how to savor all this work in small amounts.


How can all of this come about from one small tasty morsel?

Strangely enough, it does.  It’s all a matter of looking deep into the eyes of your culinary delight, understanding everything that goes into it, closing your eyes, and…

… letting your palate do the rest.

Bon Appétit


Harvey Women

A friend of ours showed us a 1945 movie from her collection called “The Harvey Girls.”  It reminded me of the strategy some modern restaurant chains use to get customers.  The difference is that then, the young ladies were far more “proper” and, with marriage as their only career path, may have done more to win the west than anything else.

As I watched one of the big dance numbers with many dozens of lovely young ladies.  I wondered if they had known any Harvey Weinsteins (#MeToo) back then.

I knew the answer.  Probably all of them.

The title of the movie took on a whole new, dark, theme.

As a student of behavior, I wondered if I could objectively estimate how many of those young women had successfully passed the casting couch exam.

  • I knew that some would have the strength to say no.
  • I knew that some would be lucky enough to skip the exam.
  • And I knew that there may have been some honorable men in the industry hiring a young women based on talent and looks rather than other features.

How do we measure the number?

We look at all the films for that studio, for all the studios.  We figure out how many of those young women made it from film to film.  The more movies in which a young woman appears, the better the chance she’d seen at least one casting couch.

Now, here’s the hard part for those who idolize actors like Judy Garland and Angela Lansbury.  These were young women who became legendary.  But they started out exactly like the other young women.

What are the chances they also passed the couch test?  What are the chances that their experiences led them to having a difficult life later?  Consider what happened to Judy Garland.  Perhaps the demons she was fighting weren’t all personal issues, but more like “personnel” issues.

Sometimes watching an old movie isn’t as much fun as it should be.  That’s the downside of studying behavior, we have to take the light with the dark.

Thanks for reading.


Size Matters, Not

There’s a groundswell of voices telling us that women have been abused far too long.

There’s also a spark of light forcing writers to improve the standards of writing.

Hooray.  The more people who tell their stories to #MeToo, the more super-actors who demand better scripts, the better for all of us.  EVERYONE.

In this case, the size of the movement matters.

But there is something else.  Our fascination with size in a different sense.

A standard joke among men is that the size of certain “parts” directly relate to how attractive they are to women.

Any comments, ladies?

Probably not, because it’s a “touchy” subject.  Truth is, they are being polite.  Size doesn’t matter.  If you’re married long enough, they’d be happy if it just fell off.

But unless you ladies speak up, the joke and the behaviors that are TOO aggressive will continue.

Ladies, don’t get smug.  Now it’s your turn.

Did you know that the greatest number of DD breast implants are done in Texas?  Did you know it’s one of THE most popular unnecessary surgeries?  Why do women do this?

Because they think (know) that their chest size has an impact on how many men they attract.

What they don’t know, or want to acknowledge, is that the TYPE of men they attract this way are not necessarily the type of men they want to be with.

Ladies, a guy who is going to love you is NOT going to list chest size in your top ten features.  Unless he can only count as high as ten.  In that case there’s a whole new problem.

So, the challenge to all of you who #MeToo and want better writing: Remind yourself, and others, that size does NOT matter.

Quality.  Not quantity.

That goes for your holiday feast, by the way.

Eat well, everyone.



Harvey Girls

A friend of ours specializes in the old days, and showed us a 1945 movie from her collection called “The Harvey Girls.”  The title takes on a whole new meaning today, but I’ll talk about that next time.

Judy Garland and Angela Lansbury are fantastic.  Performances by everyone else are equally fun to watch, despite the fact that these actors must all have been working at least a dozen films a year.

The fun thing about this movie is that it’s based on some truth.  As the railroads pressed westward, rough and tumble railroad towns would grow up around them, becoming regular stops.  Some even became cities that we know of today.

A restaurant chain started moving west along with the train.  Their secret ingredient?  Hiring only eligible young women to work the restaurant.  Each town that got a restaurant also got a dose of pretty young women.

The result?  Not so much rough and tumble anymore, but more of the birds and bees, if you know what I mean.  Instead of gunshots at night, they got church bells at noon.  Instead of bar fights they had domestic fights.

The real impact was that these towns became “civilized” as the number of young women came to balance out the young men.

Here’s the fun part.  Know of any other recent restaurant chains who have used young women as a part of their secret recipe for gaining customers?

I wonder what the coming of those young women did for their towns.  And I wonder if they ever saw themselves in comparison to the young women who truly did …

… Win the West.