I’VE GOT THIS IDEA FOR HUMAN CHEESE. Rest assured, this isn’t like the other near-great ideas I’ve had: The heated umbrella. The waffle sandwich. The modern day bed pan—for those insufferable early mornings when you can’t seem to muster yourself to the bathroom and can’t fully fall back asleep either. (Despite how it sounds, it was all going to be very hygienic, even pleasant: A chemical reaction triggered by the uric acid would conjure the soothing aroma of flowers . . . lilacs maybe. See? Not disgusting at all! Great for mom!)

Granted, these flashes of genius also have their weak spots. How do you put away a self-heating umbrella without hurting anyone? Or, in the case of the Sweet Dream Pee Machine,™ where does the tube go?

But human cheese has none of these shortcomings of technology or logistics. No, human cheese is perfect in its simplicity.

The idea goes like this: Rich people are weird. They like weird things. Take caviar. Fish eggs. The unborn spawn of another living creature. Rich people gobble it up like cheese doodles. In China, monkey brains. An honest-to-goodness delicacy, no kidding. You’re privileged if you get to eat it.

The weirder the better. Because weird means exclusive. Not just the “where am I going to find a monkey to bludgeon on the way back from work” exclusive or the “tasty monkeys are so expensive these days” exclusive. More like the shocking, alienating, snivelling kind of exclusive, i.e., “Of course, you don’t have a hankering for sweet-and-sour grey matter and simian stir-fry. Your palette is totally unrefined.”

Which brings us back to the cheese. Sparing you the tiresome production details (milking, fermenting, etc.), this is guaranteed to be the height of exclusivity. Because not only is it human cheese (way more weird than goat or yak), but it will also be available in a celebrity variety. That’s right: Celebrity Human Cheese. How much would you pay for Julia Roberts-and-crackers? I’m betting quite a lot.

THIS ISN’T THE GOOD PART, or the best part. This is the sentimental part. There are much better, much funnier, much more inventive examples of his writing than this. No, this is the part that made me dog ear the page like a schoolboy who looks for life’s answers in a comic book (and who quickly learns to believe more in the solitude and alienation of the alter ego than in the grandeur of the super hero). It’s also the part that makes me question why I picked up the book in the first place. It had been on my Amazon wish list for more than year, but just the other day while I was wandering around Union Square, a strange compulsion got me to go into Barnes & Noble and buy it. Then I come across these words, and they seem to perfectly echo some thought I’ve had just under the skin these last few months. I don’t know if I would have even recognized their meaning if I had read them at some other time in my life. Not like I do right now, anyway. Is there some strange coincidence that governs when we read the things we read? It’s either very good writing that makes the words seem as if they were written just for you just at that moment. Or it is simply our own weakness for sentimentality, which I willingly display here as evidence of my own:

RUTH: You know, the sad thing . . . The sad thing isn’t that love comes to an end. Or that people go out of your life, or die. The really sad thing about the world is that you get over it.

– From “Ancient History” by David Ives

SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAQ have an interesting cultural effect I never considered. Some guy on NPR the other day interviewed a CD shop owner in Iraq who complained about how difficult it is to get all the latest rap and hip-hop music. Apparently, he has to rely on trade through Sudan and Jordan for block-busting beats and slim-shady-ness. I’m sure, however, that Saddam gets all the rap, hip-hop, and techno he wants. Yet another example of how the sanctions only hurt the little people.

IRRATIONAL STANDARDS, from “The Art of Literature and Commonsense” by Vladimir Nabokov:

. . .[I]t is one thing to beam at one’s private universe in the snuggest nook of an unshelled and well-fed country and quite another to try and keep sane among crashing buildings in the roaring and whining night. But within the emphatically and unshakably illogical world which I am advertising as a home for the spirit, war gods are unreal not because they are conveniently remote in physical space from the reality of a reading lamp and the solidity of a fountain pen, but because I cannot imagine (and that is saying a good deal) such circumstances as might impinge upon the lovely and lovable world which quietly persists, whereas I can very well imagine that my fellow dreamers, thousands of whom roam the earth, keep to these same irrational and divine standards during the darkest and most dazzling hours of physical danger, pain, dust, death.

What exactly do these irrational standards mean? They mean the supremacy of the detail over the general, of the part that is more alive than the whole, of the little thing which a man observes and greets with a friendly nod of the spirit while the crowd around him is being driven by some common impulse to some common goal. I take my hat off to the hero who dashes into a burning house and saves his neighbor’s child; but I shake his hand if he has risked squandering a precious five seconds to find and save, together with the child, its favorite toy. I remember a cartoon depicting a chimney sweep falling from the roof of a tall building and noticing on the way that a sign-board had one word spelled wrong, and wondering in his headlong flight why nobody had thought of correcting it. In a sense, we all are crashing to our death from the top story of our birth to the flat stones of the churchyard and wondering with an amoral Alice in Wonderland at the patterns of the passing wall. This capacity to wonder at trifles – no matter the imminent peril – these asides of the spirit, these footnotes in the volume of life are the highest forms of consciousness, and it is in this childishly speculative state of mind, so different from commonsense and its logic, that we know the world to be good.

LOVE’S PROMISE, from The Zig-Zag Woman by Steve Martin:

THE ZIG-ZAG WOMAN: You must miss her.


THE ZIG-ZAG WOMAN: How long has she been gone?

OLDER MAN: Twenty-three years. (Pause.) Divorced me, married an actor. In the beginning of something, its ending is foretold, and we met in an elevator going down. After she left, in my travels I would sit in hotel lobbies expecting her to appear, telling me what a mistake she’d made. I would land at airports, thinking that she got my flight number and would be waiting for me. When I went to a show, I would buy two tickets in case she had found out where I was and quietly joined me, nothing having to be said. I never figured out why she went away, but I did figure out this: love is a promise delivered already broken.

THE ZIG-ZAG WOMAN: I should go back in the box.

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN BLAH? You really should try it sometime. It makes every other moment seem like a day at an amusement park with hot dogs and cotton candy and lines that move surprisingly fast for how long they are. (They must really have a system down.) Blah is like smog in your chest, an ice cube on your eyeball, a small poodle barking in the back of your brain. All. Day. Long. Blah is more fun than going to the dentist. But not by much. Blah is when you roll over and stare at the back of that other person’s head and think, “You? I’m still with you?” Blah is waking up in the morning and forgetting why. How did I get here? Is this as good as it gets? What’s that weird smell? Ah, blah. The best thing about it is that at the end of it all maybe someone will show up with ice cream. Just regular ol’ ice cream. Maybe not vanilla — something better than that. Maybe chocolate. Or pistacchio. Or pumpkin pie. And it will taste like the creamiest, tastiest, most scrumptious ice cream you’ve ever had in your entire life. That’s the good thing about blah. Ice cream tastes better. For no good reason at all, after the blah.

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN LOVE? You really should try it sometime. It’s lots of fun. Much more fun than spinning around in circles until dizziness develops into nausea. More fun than jumping up and down on a bed like a maniac until you hit your head on the ceiling. More fun than seeing people trip on the sidewalk for no apparent reason and then watching as they turn back to inspect defects in the payment — as if it wasn’t just their own momentary absence of grace that caused them to nearly bite it in the first place. And much, much more fun than being sensible. When a person’s smile or frown can make you question the universe, well, you can’t beat that, can you? Go. Be in love. Believe. Be a fool. Thumb your nose at the world for being such a complicated, desperate place. Make strangers in the street think, “Oh god, have they no shame?” Be happy for no good reason at all. It will probably be worth it. (But, of course, I’m only guessing here.)

WE’RE ONLY GUESSING HERE. If I had to measure everything I knew about the universe, god, and cheeseburgers as a percentage of everything there is to know about the universe, god, and cheeseburgers, I’d end up as close to 0% as mathematically possible. The only good part is, Einstein would end up with about the same percentage. After all, he was probably only guessing most of the time, too. (Though, perhaps, he was a better guesser than most.)

‘Jesus’ Inscription on Stone May Be Earliest Ever Found

But Dr. Meyers questioned whether the discovery, if it does refer to Jesus Christ, will “tell us anything we didn’t already know.” He and other scholars agreed that Jesus as a historical figure had long been well established.

Dr. Joseph Fitzmyer , professor emeritus of New Testament studies at Catholic University in Washington, hailed it as a significant discovery if it does indeed refer to Jesus of Nazareth. “That would be a new extrabiblical attestation of his existence, and there are so few extrabiblical things that do,” he said.

Still, Dr. Fitzmyer said he had serious doubts that the third name on the inscription actually referred to Jesus of Nazareth. “My reaction is, it’s possible, but I hesitate to say probable,” he said. “I don’t see how anybody can say any more.”

MY MOM, who’s making my travel arrangements for the holidays, asked to make sure I wasn’t scared of flying on American Airlines. It’s not like the suicidal terrorists are trying to rack up frequent flyer miles, mom.