I have read Emily Post. What I mean by that: I have read most of the Post. I have the 17th Edition Emily Post’s Etiquette, ©2004 by Peggy Post. Here in the 21st century, many people may not know the finer points of etiquette, sure. But what about the basics?

One of the most valuable tidbits of wisdom I ever received from Post was something I remember reading decades ago: When you invite someone to an event, be direct and ask him if he would be available on the day and time of the event. For instance, you might say. “would you be available for dinner Friday night?” What we sometimes find ourselves saying is, “what are you doing Friday night?” The immediate problem with this is that you might be putting the person on the spot. He might be on the defensive and try to come up with an excuse. Worse, he is likely to blurt out, “nothing.” Oops. Now you know he’s available to join you in Laser Tag. What, you don’t like Laser Tag?

It’s easier on everyone to just come out with it. “Can you help me move? Oh, you have to clean you oven? Oh well, I understand?”

Now, to my point. Yes, I have one.

Every other month I make a trip to another city to visit someone who is unable to travel or leave her home. She cherishes these visits. I invited someone else to come with me, and he said he would be happy to go, since he is also a friend of hers. Weeks went by, and I gently reminded him that we would have to leave at 9:30 sharp, since it takes several hours to drive.

As the day approached, I called my friend to remind him to arrive at my house the night before so he could get up early (for him). He acknowledged the invitation, replied to my email, and he verbally responded.

So today, as I was expecting him to arrive, I called his house. Nobody knew where he was. Apparently, he had agreed to paint someone’s house or some shit. So, now I have to tell my friend that this person couldn’t be bothered to visit her, in kinder terms, if I can manage it.

What irks me about this is that this guy knew about this visit more than a month earlier. And he told me and my friend that he would be there. She was so excited at the prospect of seeing us both. And I know she will be disappointed. I have half a mind to tell her that he doesn’t really think it’s important to spend time with her. Actions speak louder than words, and in this case, the signals are very clear: he doesn’t care.

Actually, the problem is that he is not organized with time, and he doesn’t plan well. But I can’t help thinking that it’s just plain and simple a lack of consideration. If you say you will be somewhere on a certain day, please be there. Understandably, things happen, a flat tire, whatever. But have you ever noticed that there are some people who are just more reliable than others?

The rules of etiquette are not arbitrary rules made up by snobbish old ladies at tea parties. These rules help to set a benchmark for society, in particular, American society, enabling each of us to make everyone more comfortable in every situation, as much as possible. Common courtesy, as it was once called, is not so common, it would seem. Yeah, maybe I’m old-fashioned, if that’s even a thing anymore. But if your behavior pisses off most everyone you know, it might be time to take a look at this book. Please.



Who Are the Americans?

Immigration debates bubble to the surface from time to time. And it makes me think about the concepts of nationality and geography. For instance, if you are a resident of Cayman Islands in the Caribbean region, you are, geographically-speaking, American. But you might be a British subject, depending on your national allegiance and immigration status.
Interestingly, a resident of Hawai’i might be a US citizen, but he is not American; rather, he is a Pacific Islander.

In West Side Story, there is a number, “America”, featuring Anita and a few other characters praising their home in the US, while Rosalia sings of her love of Puerto Rico, as if the two were not “America”. The irony here is that Columbus visited Puerto Rico more than one hundred years before English settlements were first established in the US (see Jamestown, VA). So, Puerto Ricans were Americans before the US even a glint in the Englishman’s eye.

Personally, I was born in Texas, which makes me a US citizen and a resident of the Americas, thus, American. Also, my great-grandmother was Native American, so my ancestors have lived in this part of the world for at least 12,000 years, if you trust prevailing theories. I’ve served as a host for a number of foreign exchange students, some from South America. People from places like Argentina and Brazil complain that the US does not have a monopoly on the title “American”. They are correct, but try to convince the average American of that. And I frequently refer to this country as “The States”, which I hear regularly from ex-pats and more worldly types.

It’s worth pointing out that USA stands for United States of America. So, I am an American, a US Citizen, partially-Native American, and a Yank.

Yeah, Well.

Okay. Now I know I have a problem. It started when I participated in a film and video class I took with Tommy Mack back in the 80’s. Later, I realized I couldn’t watch “reality” shows without knowing every camera placement and set direction that must have taken place to get the shot of the Bachelor and his date walking along the beach (nice job covering up the footprints, guys).
Now, I have begun visualizing the “offcuts”, unused bits of video footage. I count the number of cuts, and I watch for hand-held vs Steadycam® camera work. I notice tiny nuances in editing and cinematography. And now little things are very noticeable, like the breaks in a live-audience sitcom when the crew had to reset, needing to reshoot the scene. TV is forever ruined for me. I can’t even watch anymore. Except for live shows like Carol Burnet. When they made a mistake, it was funny, and the imperfection was part of the show’s character.
Dick Van Dyke was basically a stage play with cameras. Each scene was part of a larger act, and the set was the stage. Actors moved from one side of the stage to another, but not to other sets. Modern shows, like The Big bang Theory, continue with this approach.
Good directors make viewers believe we are part of the show. And good editing is part of that equation. Shows like The Bachelor and certain travel and home improvement shows are pretty obvious. For instance, in one travel documentary-style show, the narrator and host was supposed to meet some people living in an old building. He walked in and introduced himself, but the camera was behind the couple when he walked up. Therefore, the camera operator and sound engineer had to have already been introduced and made their way inside.
I’m sorry to spoil it for you. But television is mostly pretty shitty. Of course, I wasn’t the first person to make this observation.
Now, I’m going to watch some crappy show and count the cuts and look for boom mics.
Good night.