Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sleigh Beds Ring

I've been on a rollercoaster of emotion lately, because I've been looking for a bed and have visited a dozen furniture stores. Whenever I walk into a furniture store, I am briefly depressed by the funereal atmosphere. Then I feel good because at least I haven't sunk so low as to be employed in furniture retail.

There is nothing sadder in the world in furniture salespeople -- well, maybe car salespeople during a scorching summer when they have to run around the baking car lot. But I've heard of some car salesmen being successful (hey, Jim Pattison started out as one) whereas I've never heard of successful furniture salespeople. They are a sorry lot. They are sadder than shoe salesmen, because those guys at least have something to do other than yak at indifferent customers, e.g. cart shoeboxes around, straighten out the shelves, etc. Furniture guys just stand around, waiting to leap at the occasional lookyloo and to start babbling desperately.

The furniture scene has gone mad.  At the low end, the "designers" seem to want their furniture to resemble leathery elephant dung. With cup holders. (What is with these cup holders installed in the seat?! Are we now incapable of putting cups on coffee tables?) At the high end...well, let's forget the high end, because I refuse to fork over six months' salary just to get a sofa.

From Ethan Allen's Guano collection. Cups not included.
And the middle? Horrible pastiches of the real thing. The middle class cannot afford real mahogany, so let's give them dark-coloured particle board. (Everything today is dark, dark, dark. The colour options are "espresso", or black.) The middle class cannot afford real sleigh beds, so let's give them cheap imitations that look more like a misplaced skating ramp. (What is with this sleigh bed fetish? Why is sleeping in a sleigh desirable? Are we anticipating a need for the bed to be dragged somewhere quickly?)

The most amusing thing is the height of beds these days.  With the popular of pillow-tops and extra thick mattresses, the top of the mattress (when placed on a bed) comes up to my armpit.  How do you climb into a bed so high?  You would have to take a running leap from the kitchen.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Long Overdue Obligation

I have finally finished a long overdue obligation: read To Kill a Mockingbird.  Somehow I managed to be a lawyer without ever reading this book.  I'm like that hapless English academic in David Lodge's book who confessed during a party game, to the horror of the other professors, that he hadn't read Hamlet.  Now, it is impossible to live in the Western world and not have some inkling of what To Kill a Mockingbird is all about.  I know there is a revered lawyer named Atticus Finch (and that Gregory Peck plays him), his tomboy daughter is called Scout, and the book revolves around the wrongful prosecution of a black man. But for years I had no idea what exactly Atticus Finch did that led to such hero worship.

Well, imagine my surprise when I discovered Harper Lee didn't even get to the trial until Chapter 16, and that the trial scenes were rather brief.  Much of the book centred around Scout's childhood escapades and the Southern way of life, and those first fifteen chapters were rather long. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but that I am rather surprised at how "non-legal" the book is, given that it is the foremost symbol of legal advocacy.

Anyways, now I understand the adulation of Atticus Finch, though as a litigator, he's not fodder for me during job interviews and such. I mean, I can't credibly claimed that I was inspired by Atticus Finch to be a lawyer. (Few lawyers are. It's just the drivel that we spew forth to justify our vocation.) It's always an awkward moment for me when I get asked that question: why do you want to be a lawyer? Why indeed would you want to be a solicitor?  It's tough to come up with an answer that doesn't make you sound like an avaricious lapdog.

Another surprise of the book is that the character Dill was based on Truman Capote. What are the chances that two next door neighbours from a small town in Alabama would become famous authors?  And how is it that the more talented writer wrote only one book, while the lesser one kept churning out high-society pablum?