Self-congratulation is a universal vice but no one exceeds the Americans in their inflated sense of self.
So claims my good friend Currado Malaspina, a man known for his blunt candor and blanket generalizations. He was visiting the U.S. recently, taking part in a three-day conference called "Clarion Toward the Future." Held on the campus of Jack Feld Christian College in Savannah, Georgia, this broad-brushed symposium of writers, athletes, artists and mental health executives presented panels and forums where leaders in their fields could expostulate on the present and prognosticate on the future.
There is no atmosphere so electric as one where pessimism and hope mingle like dinner guests desperate for a ride home. Insights and ideas circulated like second-hand smoke as the conferees hopscotched from meeting to meeting to redundant meeting.
Currado presented a sound and light Powerpoint presentation on the recurring theme of the Madonna in western culture. From Duccio di Buonisegna to Lady Gaga, Malaspina breathlessly touched on a myriad of unrelated themes and stunned the assembled crowd with an off-key rendering of Material Girl while accompanying himself on a toy accordion.
Strangely enough, the strongest impression he received revolved around diet and nutrition. "Americans," he told me, "love their food dripping in oil. They spend lavishly on sneakers, golf clubs and mobile phones yet skimp on something so simple as oil. They incessantly fry most of their under-seasoned, over-cooked foods in something vaguely resembling huile moteur. They have even audaciously renamed les frites as if to flippantly absolve themselves of their heedless, criminal, culinary irresponsibility."
And Currado ... what about your own melodic malfeasance!??