Of Presidents and Emperors

Former constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz posited on Fox News on November 25 that the “president’s not the king; the president’s far more powerful than the king. The president has the power that kings have never had.”

This is not an argument the former scholar offered for any previous occupant of the White House in Alan Dershowitz’s long life, so one wonders what renders this an argument worth pursuing on Fox News or anywhere that is not a mere public park with wooden crates available to stand on and bellow from. But he did so anyway.

The United States of America has three coequal branches of government to run its operations; our constitutional arguments usually concern which branch ought to run which operation. Our executive branch is one of those three, and we have not been ruled by a king or an emperor for a very long time. America’s last emperor died in 1880, after all, and we have not had a monarch since (or since 1776). (1880? Needle scratches on record as the music stops.)

When Emperor Norton I died in San Francisco in 1880 he left no offspring and no claimants to his (our) throne. We have been a republic ever since, although Alan Dershowitz seems to think that the current executive in the White House has the most legitimate claim to the American throne since Joshua Norton, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, last occupied it.

Come to think of it, Mr. Dershowitz may be onto something when he asks us to compare the current occupant of the White House and Emperor Norton I.
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Among the many things that are better left to professionals—piloting a jet, performing almost any surgery, copy editing—cutting hair always should be included. I did not know this until the day I did.

It looks so easy. The professionals talk to you and amongst themselves while they are doing it, for crying out loud. How do they do that? If you interrupt me while I am merrily typing away, I will pretty much stop typing and begin to glare at you until you decide to ask someone else whatever it is you came to ask me. And how do you know where I live anyway?
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Where Am I?

This morning, I became a grown-up: I attempted to remove glasses from my face that were already in my fist.

For those of you who are lifelong glasses-wearers (it is almost 40 years for me), you know that there are several distinct methods of removing eyeglasses and several messages that can be communicated in the manner of their removal. Off the top of my head, there’s “Two-handed and Thoughtful,” “One-handed and from the Right and Peeved” (I usually accidentally fling my glasses to the floor or across my desk with that one), and “One-handed and from the Left and Trying to Get to the Heart of Things.” There are others. Putting them on in front of people usually communicates this: “Enough Fun, Everyone. Back to Work.”

It can be like semaphore, but with glasses.
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‘Who Killed the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown?’

In a couple of hours, we will be pumpkin hunting, my girlfriend and I. They call it “pumpkin picking” for some reason, but the only “picking” that will be happening will be me pointing at a nominee and my girlfriend either shaking her head no or collecting it for us.

Like many other activities, I have not gone pumpkin collecting since childhood, a period of my life that I mostly wasted in an 18-year-long wish for it to be over. (Instead, I lingered in it and it ended about five-and-a-half years ago.)

My girlfriend discovered last year that she has a talent for carving the jacks o’lantern. In a remarkable coincidence, I re-established at around the same hour that I possess no such talents, that the pumpkins and I have no rapport. My sole attempt last year, my one try at even producing a traditional (in America, in the 1970s) triangle-eyed and two-toothed smile (three teeth if ambitious; see above), was hindered by my lack of patience. I would have had more of what we like to call success if I’d set out from the beginning to carve the sucker with my two thumbnails and my deep need to weep at panic boredom.
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A Novena for the Completely Distracted

The cat took the phone. That is the only explana-scuse I can come up with. Ángel, el gato de amor (pictured above), wanted me to get an upgrade so I could take better (well, any) photos of her. Like the one above.

One night last week, somewhere between the room in which my girlfriend and I were watching television and the bedroom in which we were going to be sleeping, my phone left my person, never to return. I placed it in my pocket upon standing to walk into the bedroom, but when I arrived in the bedroom three seconds later, it was no longer in my pocket. An inspection tour of both rooms and the hall in between them led to neither phone nor evidence of foul play.

An ancient (five-plus-years old) brick of a phone, which did not do its one job of placing or receiving phone calls very well, it is not missed. What is missed is an important sense of myself. What is missed is my understanding, my long-understood understanding, that I do not lose things, that not losing things was my one talent. Sense of self, we hardly knew ye.
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A Meal Fit for a …

I don’t know how science works.

To the best of my knowledge, electricity can be explained thus: Step 1, flowing water or wind turns a turbine which looks like a giant screw, and Step 2, I walk through my front door, pick up a black rectangle, punch a red button, and “Dah dahdah, dah dahdah,” Sportscenter is on. (I wrote technical documents—white papers—for electrical engineers for five years and instruction manuals that were used in home construction around the nation. You’re welcome. Expertise takes different forms, and mine is in forming sentences. The engineers supplied all the science-y numbers that make buildings happen.)

Cooking is among my top several favorite activities to pursue for when cooking is something to be done. I reminded my girlfriend of this recently:
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The Curse of the Should-Have-Dones

I do not know the attractive couple entering the above photo from the left side of the frame, but that is okay, as I did not take the photo, and this is not about them.

If I had a steadier hand with the photo-editing Clone Stamp tool, the two of them would instead be an oddly tall bush of purple flowers or another stack of blue Peroni umbrellas or two more versions of the bicycle that they are walking towards.

My hand is not that steady with the photo-editing tools, so their brief moment together (are they still together?) was spared awkward editing. May the rest of their lives together or the remainder of their lives apart continue to be free of terrible editing decisions or (yikes!) deletion by a heavy-handed photo perfectionist like me.
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To-Don’t Lists

There are websites for one to use to make to-do lists, apps for shopping lists (I own a not-very-smart phone, so I am an outsider to the world of apps), websites on which you can compile top 10 lists with friends. After one creates an account and logs in, not a single one of these websites offers “get a notepad or a scrap of paper and a pen and start writing your list” as the first item listed, so I guess they are indeed serious.
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