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Friday, February 25, 2011

The Godfather of Soul

James Brown was one of the three greatest dancers among pop performers I've ever seen. He was also, at one point, known as "the hardest working man in show business." This is an early video of him singing I Feel Good, one of his trademark songs. I've never seen footwork quite like this:

This one is called James Brown gives you dancing lessons:

What's evident from these videos is that Brown could have been a world class sprinter, boxer, or running back. His power, speed, control, and balance are all impressive.

He probably led a better life for having been a world class singer and dancer though.

C'mon baby light my fire

The NY Post ran the following article today:

Deadly five alarm Brooklyn fire caused by candles that were knocked over during voodoo sex ritual

A windswept, five-alarm fire that killed an elderly Brooklyn woman was started by candles placed on the floor near a bed while a man and woman were having sex after a voodoo ritual, sources said today.

Fire marshals determined that the Feb. 20 blaze at 346 East 29th St. in Flatbush escalated to a fifth alarm because of an open door and delays, but that it was all started by black magic.

"Time and time again we respond to tragedies that could have been so easily prevented," said FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano. "This fire had so many of those elements -- candles left on the floor near combustible material, one of the occupants trying to douse the flames before calling 911 and an open door, which allowed fire to spread into the hallway. Hopefully others will learn from this tragedy."
The five-alarm fire left one person dead.

The five-alarm fire left one person dead. Retired guidance counselor Mary Feagin, 62, who lived on the sixth floor, died in the fire.

Fire Marshals said the blaze began around at 6:40 p.m., when a Brooklyn woman visited a fourth-floor apartment in the building, where she paid one of the male occupants $300 to perform a voodoo ceremony aimed at bringing her good luck.

After the ceremony, sources told The Post that the couple decided to have sex.

What strikes me about this is what a great gig that guy has. He gets paid $300 by some woman to light some candles and pretend to chase away evil spirits? It seems a fairly safe bet he wasn't planning to report that money to the IRS as taxable income, either. And then, afterward, he gets to have sex with some of these women? 

I'm guessing the entire ritual probably didn't take more than an hour or so. When you think about it, there are very few professionals who make $300 an hour. Wall Streeters, and some lawyers, do. But they only get to screw their clients metaphorically.

If you're a young student who's undecided about his major, I strongly suggest you get your degree in voodoo-ology. You don't even have to be that smart to get into the field, if this man's behavior when the fire started is any indication.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kristina Wayborn

While doing the post on the Bond girls, I noticed that most of the women featured had both good pictures and bad. Generally I didn't have a hard time choosing their best picture. But with Wayborn, I had a hard time since there were several that just made me ache.

In keeping with the recent superficial theme of this blog, I would like to share those pictures with my readership -- who generally prefer, or so I've been told, to be my viewership anyway:

I have no idea what heaven is like. But I would imagine when you first get there, your guide -- if you're a guy -- must look something like Wayborn. The two of you are walking along a mountainside in a place that resembles Hana, Maui, except that it's more lush and less humid. The ambient temperature is around 75 degrees, and though the sun is shining you are on a shaded path. She seems to know everything about you; but there is no disapproval in the way she looks at you, merely gentle bemusement. She is explaining what is in store for you in heaven, but hasn't mentioned sex with her as one of the possibilities. Nonetheless, you can tell from her expression and general demeanor that should you so desire, she'd be willing. In the meantime you're so awestruck at the beauty of your surroundings, and of your guide, that it actually robs you of any physical desire.

Yep. I'm gonna be good.

Well, maybe not. But if I really believed in that version of heaven, I wouldn't even jaywalk.

(Trying to remember: when was it exactly that this blog became soft core porn?)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Ed Zigo, the NYPD detective who cracked open the Son of Sam case back in 1977, died yesterday. The NY Post ran the following article this morning:

Detective Ed Zigo -- the NYPD legend who cracked the "Son of Sam" case and slapped the handcuffs on serial killer David Berkowitz -- has died, The Post has learned. He was 84.

Zigo solved the confounding 1977 case by checking out a parking ticket issued to Berkowitz at the scene of his last murder.

"My father's deductive reasoning was: 'What is a Jewish guy from Yonkers doing parked in an Italian neighborhood at two in the morning?' " recalled Ed Zigo III, whose dad died of cancer Saturday at his Lynbrook, LI, home.

On August 10, 1977, Detective Zigo went to Berkowitz's home. The suspect had already killed six people and wounded seven others. 

This was blatant racial profiling. The courts should do the right thing here, and reverse Berkowitz's conviction on those grounds.

I for one will have much more faith in our legal system knowing that Mr. Berkowitz can once again walk the streets a free man, protected from such unjust racial/ethnic harassment.

The Mamas and the Papas

The Mamas and the Papas represented the sappiest of the Flower Power ethos. But John Phillips, their songwriter, came up with some beautiful tunes before he got totally washed out on drugs. To this day their plaintive music evokes all sorts of emotions for me. Some of their work:

Boys and girls together. Somehow they make the Latin brass mix well with the rest of ballad. One of my favorites; I'm surprised the Youtube video has only had 176 viewings:

I Saw Her Again Last Night. Usually a good piece of music can make you feel either euphoric or plaintive. This song manages to do both:

California Dreamin', one of their biggest hits. It made me feel homesick for California even though I wasn't from there:

Dream a Little Dream of Me, not an original Mamas and Papas song, but a tour de force by Cass Eliot:

To make this song work for you, it helps to imagine the words coming out of Michelle Phillips' mouth. Cass and Michelle are living proof of the rule that a female pop star's singing ability is almost always in inverse proportion to her looks. (Think of Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, and Ella Fitzgerald. Then think of Olivia Newton John and The Spice Girls.)

Michelle Phillips had a voice that would put you in mind of a passable high school glee club member. Cass Elliott had a voice that could make you dream of....Michelle Phillips.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Not Tunisia

Saturday's NY Times featured the following headline and (excerpted) article:

Wisconsin leads way as workers fight state cuts.

The unrest in Wisconsin this week over Gov. Scott Walker's plan to cut the bargaining rights and benefits of public workers is spreading to other states....The images from Wisconsin -- with its protests, shutdown of some public services, and missing Democratic senators, who fled the state to block a vote -- evoked the Middle East more than the Midwest. The parallels raise the inevitable question: is Wisconsin the Tunisia of collective bargaining rights?

This is typical Times, trying to put the unions on the side of righteousness. But that comparison is simply silly. Governor Scott Walker is not another Ben Ali. He did not come to power in a coup d'etat. He did not get elected by being the only candidate running. He does not jail opposition journalists. Interpol has not issued a warrant for his arrest. And if Walker flees Wisconsin because of this "popular" uprising, it is a safe bet that he will not take 1.5 tons of gold from Wisconsin's treasury and settle in Saudi Arabia.

The far better parallel to the Wisconsin protest would be the May 2010 protests in Greece, where public sector employees rioted for several days when it became apparent that their cushy jobs and benefits might be on the table because of the Greek debt crisis.

Governor Scott Walker -- perhaps we should just call him Ali for short -- had the temerity to suggest that public sector employees in Wisconsin contribute 5% toward their pensions and that they double the share of their health premiums they pay, to 12%, which is still only half of what the average private sector employee pays. So the unions, outraged at the thought that any of their benefits might be cut, have organized a mass sit-in at the Statehouse.

The unions certainly have the right to protest. But overall voter sympathy for public sector employees has dried up. Walker was elected this past November with a mandate to get the Wisconsin deficit down from its current $3.6 billion. And much of that deficit is due to the benefits that the unions have arranged for their members. It's understandable that their members want to preserve those benefits, which are far better than workers in the private sector get. But in a democracy the majority gets its way, and the majority voted for Walker.

It couldn't be clearer that this is Greece II, rather than Son of Tunisia. But since the Times is Tass II, they will spin whatever misleading analogies they can.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Bonds

The various actors who have played James Bond are a perfect illustration of the fact that it is not enough for a man to have good features -- to be really good-looking, he must look tough as well. A couple of the Bonds have been abysmal failures on this score. Roger Moore had all the machismo of a clothing store mannequin -- and a fussy one at that. Moore, like all the actors who portrayed Bond, came from a working class background; his portrayal of Bond as an upper class twit never sat right. Had the series originated with him, it probably wouldn't have continued.

Somehow it seems only fitting that Moore's body was as soft as his face. And that he seemed to think his moobs quite the thing.

Timothy Dalton was masculine enough, but not really tough. His background as a Shakespearian actor kept showing through: he played Bond as if he had a license to equivocate rather than kill. A real Bond would have known that he was to be, and his enemies not to be -- no deliberation needed.

Producer Cubby Broccoli first offered Dalton the role of Bond in 1968, when Dalton was only 22. But Dalton turned it down in favor of playing Philip II of France in The Lion in Winter.

Pierce Brosnan's Bond always came across like an aging preppy. Brosnan's own background was much more hardscrabble: he grew up Catholic in Ireland, never knew his father, and was raised mostly by his grandparents while his mother worked as a nurse in England. Yet he still managed to come across as if he were extremely pleased with himself for having landed the title role in his prep school production of a James Bond play.

Maybe Brosnan, like Moore, was trying so hard to come across like someone who'd been educated at Eton and Oxford that he forgot he was supposed to act macho as well. Or maybe it just wasn't in him. Is it possible that working class Brits will overdo a plummy accent in the same way that in the US most Northerners will overdo a Southern accent? Personally, I'd prefer a good-looking Cockney Bond who knew how to be a hard case. (Vinnie Jones?)

Daniel Craig plays Bond with a gritty intensity that makes you believe that he is actually engaged in a life and death business. Feature by feature, he's not classically good-looking; but because he's tough-looking, he's more appealing to watch.

I keep hearing rumors that Craig is a homosexual. But at least he comes across like the kind of guy you'd want on your side in a gay bar fight. And even if he's obviously on steroids, he manages not to seem overly pleased with his store-bought muscles. Verdict: second best Bond ever.

This brings us to the foregone conclusion of this post. Sean Connery is not only the template for James Bond, but for manliness in general, the perfect amalgam of male beauty and toughness.

Perhaps the reason Connery was able to play tough onscreen is that he was that way offscreen as well. My two favorite Connery stories:

In 1957, the 27 year old Connery was cast in Another Time, Another Place along with Lana Turner. Rumors quickly reached Turner's boyfriend back in the US, Johnny Stompanato, that the two were having an affair in London. Stompanato, a small time hood with Mafia connections, flew to London to break up the romance.

Stompanato arrived on the set and waved a gun in Connery's face. Connery knocked the gun aside and then knocked Stompanato out with a right cross.

Many years later, Connery was at a comedy club in Los Angeles with his friend Michael Caine. According to Caine, they were listening to a comedian who wasn't very funny, and there was a group of guys sitting behind Connery and Caine who kept heckling him. Finally Connery lost his patience. He turned around, lifted their ringleader up by his lapels, and snarled, "Give the bloke a chance or I'll knock the lot of you through the wall."

They shut up.

In 1953 -- the pre-steroid era -- Connery placed third in the Mr. Universe competition in the tall division.

Somehow that, too, seems only fitting. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Message boards

There was an illuminative exchange in the comments after this post from a week ago:

The point of the post about Guy de Chimay was to show how sociopaths can actually enjoy their ill gotten gains even when they know their whole scheme is about to unravel.

I had never heard of xG Technologies before, but a couple of people involved with the company evidently had internet feeds set up to alert them whenever anybody related to the company -- such as Guy de Chimay, who was slated to buy stock in the company -- appeared on the net. They saw the post.

The first commenter, who is probably short the stock, pointed out that xG Technologies itself was "stuffed full of sociopaths." Then someone else commented, "Anon sounds like you are some kind of wannabe shrink on line...I wonder if you would identify yourself and mention your theory to Col. Coleman [who works for xG]. He probably would blow your stinkin head off!"

At this point I wasn't sure whom to believe. These types of battles between longs and shorts play out all the time on the Yahoo stock message boards. It's often hard to tell who is telling the truth and who isn't. Sometimes the company being discussed has a good product and is well run and is unjustly attacked by shorts who lie in order to push the price down. And sometimes the company is essentially a scam, and it's the shorts telling the truth.

Oftentimes by reading between the lines you can tell who the good guys and who the bad guys are. The good guys tend to stick to factual debate, and generally sound more intelligent. The bad guys tend to engage in personal invective and pseudo macho posturing. They often type in all caps, boast about their personal wealth, contradict themselves, and show their hypocrisy. They also attack other commenters on specious personal grounds.

Neither of the commenters here did all of those things. But one of them did a few of them. Check out the exchange in the comments after the post linked above and decide for yourself which side you would put your trust in.

I made that judgment for myself, based purely on the comments after that post, and woke up last Friday intending to short XGT.L. But when I looked it up, I saw that it was trading at fourteen cents, down from a high of roughly $17.50 back in 2007.

The market had already rendered its verdict.

Look for more nasty comments after this post.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Heroes and villains

My son is now incommunicado for two weeks in the middle of the Mojave Desert, training at that ersatz Afghan village the Army has set up there. Before he left Alaska, the last time we Skyped him, he offered to show us the body armor and helmet he had been issued. We said we'd like to see it, and he put it on.

It was a little disconcerting to see him in the armor; he looked like those soldiers you see on the news reports from the war front.

I said, "Johnny, when you were a little boy and watched Star Wars, you probably identified with Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Little did you know you were actually going to grow up to be one of the Imperial Storm Troopers."

I can only hope when he deploys to Afghanistan that The Force is with him. 


Certain actors seem to be ubiquitous. A while back Tommy Lee Jones seemed to appear in a lot of movies (five in 1994 alone), and managed to diminish his appeal that way. He was a ruggedly handsome guy, but seemed to have about as much dramatic range as his former college roommate Al Gore. So theatergoers tired of his gruff-but-good-hearted coot act, and he now appears in fewer movies. 

More recently, Ben Stiller has been Zelig-like. From 2004 to 2010 he appeared in 22 movies. He's actually underrated as an actor, utterly fearless and without vanity. But despite those two admirable traits, he, too, has suffered from overexposure. Look for his output to diminish.

Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in 132 movies (including voice only roles). This is overexposure by any standard. Filmmakers seem to rely on him for all their strident black man roles, and he always obliges. (Al Pacino takes the rest of those roles.) As a result it's hard to repress an "oh him again" feeling whenever Jackson marches onscreen and starts talking/yelling in that stentorian voice.

Most recently, it has been Jennifer Aniston. Most of her movies have been critically panned. But she keeps managing to snag roles by trading off her popularity from Friends and, perhaps, off the public's sympathy for her as the "wronged woman" in the Aniston-Pitt-Jolie love triangle. She is unwilling to take risks as an actress, and appears in one unfunny romantic "comedy" after another.

The other day it hit me who she is: the new Doris Day.

A few decades from now moviegoers will laugh at us for ever having been able to stomach a bland actress of such modest talent and beauty.

Is this the face of a man who would have stolen $50 billion?

For some reason it's always gratifying when someone looks the part he is playing.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The royals

One thing I've never quite understood is the fascination with the British royals. I guess they are supposed to represent the most elite group of human beings on earth; I guess you don't get any fancier than the Queen of England, or Duke of York.

It's just that the human beings who happen to have those titles seem so.....common.

King Arthur, if we are to believe the legends, was anything but common. But historians debate his existence; if he lived, it would have been around 500 AD.

The descendants of his knights in shining armor now work on Fleet Street. And the round tables they sit around are the ones in their conference rooms, where the only thing they joust about is which royal tidbit to put on the front page. (Hardly a noble undertaking.)

There have been interesting royals to follow in the past. If Henry VIII were on the throne now, though, he might find it a bit harder to rid himself of his exes -- which would make him far less colorful. And Richard III might find that fingerprints and DNA testing and surveillance cameras would cramp his style. But they'd still probably make for more entertaining copy than the current crop.

If Scotland attempted independence again, and it were up to Queen Elizabeth to crush the rebellion, then things might get interesting again. But, alas, power -- and charisma -- have long since passed the monarchy by.

I've never once read about a current royal and thought, wow, what a tough guy! Or, what a wit! (I have, however, thought, what a twit -- which is not a combination of the other two.)

I'd love to see a list of their IQ's published. Queen Elizabeth, 106. Prince Charles, 104. Prince Andrew, 101. Princess Di, 94.

Okay, I just made those scores up. But I don't think they're too far off -- and they're not exactly, uh, regal. 

As for the younger generation, Princess Di's sons? Perfect examples of why you don't subscribe to frat house newsletters. And now that Prince William is settling down, all those pictures of him and his fiance are like a summer vacation slide show of your blandest acquaintances. (Perhaps when he acquires his first mistress he will get a tad more interesting.)

Princess Di herself was one of the most overrated "beauties" ever. That's probably what a title -- and the world's best makeup artists and couturiers -- do for you: they turn you from a 6.5 into a 9. For a picture of the 6.5 (and that's being generous), scroll to the top of this post. Put that face behind the cash register at your local Stop & Shop and you wouldn't look twice. But dress it up in $4000 worth of clothes, crown it with a tiara, slaver it with makeup, sit it on a throne, and -- oh, she's so beautiful!

I read enough fairy tales when I was young so as to believe that a princess was supposed to look like, say, Grace Kelly, not all those jug-eared, gap-toothed, overly inbred Yorks. (Though, now that I think of it, I've only not been disappointed in that expectation once.)

The whole family is a bit reminiscent of the Baby Boomer Kennedy's. Even if by chance one of them had inherited the right genes for an IQ of 150 -- which none of them did -- he would probably have ended up a substance-abusing wastrel like all his cousins. The Baby Boomer Kennedy's were so caught up in being Kennedy's that they didn't have time to be anything else.

The British royals are even more so. When you're always being observed yourself, you cannot really observe others. And when you're a royal, you can never observe others acting like themselves; you can only observe them fawning in your presence. Thus you can never really develop a sense of self, let alone a sense of humor. And as a result, you're not really fun to be around. Or to read about.

I prefer to follow people of more intellectual heft and accomplishment.

Like Lindsay Lohan.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New season of Justified

Just a brief plug for Justified, the show I raved about back in May. Along with The Shield, it's one of the two best TV shows I've seen in the last two decades.

The season premiere was on last night, and the hero was as wry and laconic, the dialogue as witty, and the villains as colorfully charming as ever.

The premiere will probably be shown again on Sunday evening, if last year's scheduling can be used as a guide. This season will probably run for roughly three months. It's on Wednesdays at 10PM on FX.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The business of big money marriages

Left, casino billionaire Phillip Ruffin, 72, with bride Oleksandra Nikolayenko, 26, a former Miss Ukraine; below, pop star Billy Joel with third wife Katie Lee

An earlier post about Hugh Hefner mentioned his engagement to Crystal Harris. This is a classic May-December romance, (in this case, perhaps May -- December 28th): a rich older man and an attractive younger woman. But anyone with an even passing familiarity with human nature knows that beautiful women rarely marry poor men. (Are there no idealistic beauties?) And billionaires almost never marry plain women either.

It would take an awfully crass person to actually assign monetary values to different traits. Well, here goes:

The first general rule governing the marriage market seems to be that each million a man owns takes roughly one year off of his age. Thus, a forty-five year old with twenty million is effectively twenty-five. A famous man also commands a certain premium. (Strangely, this is even true of infamous men, as the inevitable groupies attracted to well-known serial killers demonstrate.)

At some point, added years become a plus. For 27-year-old Anna Nicole Smith, it was probably preferable that J. Howard Marshall, the oilman worth 500 million dollars whom she married in 1994, was 89, as opposed to, say, 79.

Enough money can even compensate for obvious personality defects. Twenty million can make a guy seem suddenly better-looking. A man may have a bad temper, but forty million pays for a lot of tantrums. Sixty million will even cure Aspergers.

As far as intelligence goes, the rough equation is that every million raises your IQ by about three points. So whether you're a dumb-and-sleazy Wall Street broker who got his money dishonestly or a professional athlete who barely graduated high school, enough cash is better than a Rhodes Scholarship.

Love doesn't make the world go round; money does.

For any but the richest woman, her biggest bargaining chip is her looks, which along with her age accounts for roughly 90% of her bargaining value. A girl can study hard in high school, keep her nose clean, get into a great college, make Phi Beta Kappa, join Amnesty, and become an All-American lacrosse player, and it all matters little. If she's plain, she won't snag a rich man.

The girls who get the centimillionaires tend to look like models. They may have dropped out of high school, slutted around, and developed a substance abuse problem along the way. But as long as they can hide their pasts, they are hot tickets. Even if they have baggage like embarrassing families, it's okay. (Men who know how to make money generally know how to avoid their in-laws anyway.)

Diamonds are not a girl's best friend; plastic surgery is.

One possible drawback to a woman, no matter how beautiful, is children from previous relationships. Unlike male lions coming into a new pride, men cannot just kill existing offspring (much as they'd like to); there are legal consequences to that. So women with existing children, no matter how cute, are at a disadvantage.

Age, of course, is a factor. Hollywood, that great bastion of liberalism and equal rights, is the cruelest place to women past child-bearing. Once an actress, no matter how big a star, hits forty-five, she simply disappears. What was the last big movie Michelle Pfeiffer starred in? Or Sharon Stone? Or any of the other great beauties of the 80's? The big money marriage market is slightly more forgiving, but evolutionary instincts still rule.

There are, of course, exceptions to all these rules, but they are just that.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Hell, if it works the way it ought, is where all sociopaths should go when they die. You have undoubtedly known some of these in your life, even if you haven't known them well enough to recognize their sociopathy. If you're not familiar with the syndrome, just think of the most dishonest, hypocritical, disloyal, destructive person you've ever known. That person was undoubtedly a sociopath. (Now doesn't the idea of the existence of an actual hell suddenly seem more appealing?)

It would be tempting to also send the 20% or so of the population which is narcissistic, but they probably don't quite deserve it.

In any case, a sociopath's hell should consist of reliving all of his victims' experiences of him, and feeling all the  negative emotions he has engendered. Then, he should relieve his own life, but with a conscience installed, feeling the shame and embarrassment that he never felt during his lifetime.

After ten rounds of this, then maybe he can go to heaven.

Or maybe not.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I don't believe in heaven. But if it exists, I would want it to consist of the opportunity to occupy the mind and body of every creature who ever lived. You would retain a sliver of consciousness that you were not that creature, but you could experience all of the thoughts and emotions and sensations that creature did, at any point in its life. 

You could be Genghis Khan sacking a recalcitrant Chinese city. Or Usain Bolt winning the 100 meter dash at the Beijing Olympics. Or Beethoven composing the Ninth. You could be John F. Kennedy having sex with Marilyn Monroe. Or Monroe with Kennedy. You could be anybody having sex with anybody. You could, through the process of gradual exploration, find out which was the greatest orgasm of all time. And if you were so inclined, you could experience it as many times as you pleased, in an endless loop.

(That last is not so far in spirit from the Muslim version of heaven with 72 virgins.)

But heaven wouldn't have to be just about triumphs, and pleasure. It could be about having your curiosity satisfied as well. 

You could be your mother giving birth to you. Or you could relive your own birth. You could be your worst enemy at the moment he hated you the most. You could find out what it was like to be Ted Bundy. Or Stephen Hawking.

And you wouldn't be limited to human beings. You could see what it was like to be a whale. Or a tiger. Or a pig. Or a hawk. Or a cobra. Or an amoeba. Or a tyrannosaurus rex.

The possibilities are near limitless.

And that's just on this planet. 

Just think what you could learn. And how much fun you would have.

I don't really believe any of this. But I'm going to try to be good, just in case.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Can you imagine yourself doing this?

The NY Post ran the following article about a sociopath yesterday:  

Bogus Belgian blue-blood is headed behind bars

A bogus Belgian blue-blood who swindled friends and acquaintances out of $7 million is heading to prison for at least three years after pleaded guilty to his big-money Ponzi scheme today.

Guy De Chimay, 47 -- whose good suits and good looks give him the appearance of having just stepped out of a board meeting instead of a Riker's cell -- admitted he lied to victims about his assets, his connections to the Belgian royal family, and an imaginary investment fund he promised sky-high returns on.

"I did not have the intention or ability to return the investors' money," he told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Gregory Carro, in pleading guilty to first degree grand larceny and related crimes.

Guy de Chimay.

The dashing swindler told victims he was a member of the Chimay royal family of Belgium, with access to "family money" totaling more than $200 million.

And though he wasn't royalty -- De Chimay was actually born in Canada -- he lived royally while the scheme lasted, catching up on his credit cards, footing the bill on his divorce settlement, renting a summer home in the Hamptons, and paying off previous investors to keep his massive Ponzi scheme afloat, prosecutors said.

There was nothing particularly new or noteworthy about this story, but it illustrates one crucial point about recognizing sociopaths. If you're ever wondering whether someone is a sociopath, ask yourself the question, can you imagine yourself doing that? If not, the odds are much greater that the person in question is a sociopath. 

I can imagine myself doing all sorts of bad things. I could imagine lying about my background. I could see myself doing insider trading. I think that under the right circumstances, I'd even be capable of murder.

But one thing I could never, never imagine doing is living high off the proceeds from ripping my friends off and then actually enjoying that high life, even while knowing that I was soon to earn their undying enmity.

That's the crucial difference between us and sociopaths: they can actually enjoy themselves in those circumstances. That's what it means to have absolutely no conscience.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ragin' rhino

The reference in the previous post to getting a shot of testosterone reminded me of something I saw on a nature show recently.

A lion was getting ready to defend his pride against another male. Before doing so, he stopped to run his tongue around some rhinoceros dung. The announcer explained that the testosterone in the rhinoceros dung made the lion more aggressive and gave him courage.

I remember feeling slightly awed after hearing that. How manly are you when another male -- and a lion at that -- has only to lick your excrement in order to become more manly himself?

Some species have all the luck.

Rhinos are certainly ungainly looking beasts. It's as if someone decided to take a large pig, put it on steroids, and then graft on the head of a triceratops.

But I'd still be willing to look like that if only....