The Breakfast Table

Speaking of Old Men and Inappropriate Sex …

Good morning.

Did you see any of Barbara Kopple’s documentary The Hamptons on ABC last night and the night before? Uncharacteristically, I watched the whole four hours—principally, I guess, to reaffirm my basic horror of the place. Mission accomplished. I know the beaches and light are exquisite; I know there are civilized people leading quiet lives; I know you have a house out there. But, my gosh, eastern Long Island in the summer really does seem to have a disproportionate concentration of awful people and anxious hubbub and bad values. Or am I (like Kopple) just indulging in easy caricature here? Or is easy caricature what the place deserves?

I was already thinking about pathetic rich fools yesterday, because in the afternoon I interviewed a delightful, quirky guy for my radio show whose business is building and shaping the private libraries of your neighbors in the 10021 ZIP code. Most of the people who hire him, he says, are thoughtful and passionate readers. But a very few are, inevitably, pathetic rich fools—like the Fifth Avenue woman who invited him over to consult on the reorganization of her library, which turned out to consist of nothing but Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.

Speaking of 10021, how about Woody Allen vs. Jean Doumanian? How astonishing that it went to trial! The rich irony is that both director and producer were so contemptuous of and/or oblivious to any and all business considerations—until they decided they weren’t oblivious anymore. The account of him on the witness stand rambling and the judge telling him to shut up and just answer yes or no sound like a scene from a (good) Woody Allen movie.

Speaking of old men and inappropriate sex with young people, I heard on television this morning that the Catholic Church may officially declare that two (or more) abused children in the past are equal to one abused child in the present and future. Single historical acts of molestation by priests are to be, so to speak, grandfathered in.

Does the church approve of the search for extraterrestrial life? I mean, I know they lifted the fatwa against Galileo 10 years ago, but when beings are finally discovered on other planets won’t that be a little … inconvenient? I mean, why does the Bible mention nothing about the creation and peopling of those planets? This line was prompted by the big Times story today about NASA’s ramped-up astrobiology effort, which involves, among other things, looking for nearby stars that twinkle in a certain way. I love every news story about astronomy and cosmology and theoretical physics, even when I don’t really understand them, which is about half the time. They give me something like a religious thrill.

I also love the fact that Slate stamps these postings with Seattle time—it’s barely 6 a.m. and I’m finished with my first chore of the day!