When I was a kid, every morning upon entering the schoolyard I shook hands with all my friends.
We also pressed the flesh in the evening, when saying goodbye.
This is an immemorial European ritual that I still miss in informal America.
In the US, after the initial squeeze, don’t expect any more skin games from anybody.
Hi, how are you doing?
This is all you are going to get from now on. A pity.

IMG_7912 - Version 2

A handshake generally gives you an idea of the nature of the person you are meeting. The handshake can be pleasant or awkward.
To be frank, I will immediately like or dislike a person based on their handshake. It’s as simple as that.

I like a firm, palm-to-palm squeeze. Not too firm, not too soft… Just in between. I don’t want to feel intimidated by a steely grip… nor do I want to experience the awkwardness of a limp shake.
I want to feel, when shaking hand with somebody, that we are establishing a feeling of mutual trust. This is a person I can do business with…
A handshake therefore will generate positive energy or a feeling of uneasiness.

I highly dislike the handshake that briefly imprisons the tip of your fingers and releases them before you can squeeze back. The message here is clear: on my terms only. We will play this game by my rules. Period.
As far as I am concerned, I cannot play any game by unilateral rules. I need to be consulted first.

There is also the “keep at bay” handshake, mainly practiced by women meeting men.
The woman fully extends her arm to prevent the man from coming too near. That’s close enough bucko! This is a strictly a business meeting.
Besides, I want you to know right away that I will wash my hair tonight.

There is the “so sorry to see you go” handshake. Your interlocutor refuses to relinquish your digits. Always annoying and embarrassing… what is he (or she) thinking?

There is the “pumping handshake”. The man (generally it’s a man) shakes and pumps your hand for a few minutes. Here is a man who is not reading you properly and hopes to compensate the weakness of his arguments by a forceful physical demonstration.
Shake, shake. Pump, pump. Shake, shake.
Let go my hand you fool!

The initial handshake is important because it will determine how the rest of the ensuing meeting or relationship will go.
Depending on your squeezing skills, the evening will end with a bang or a whimper.

So, when shaking hands with somebody for the first time, keep in mind that this is a make or break deal and don’t mess it up.



Second Amendment

When somebody in America has the temerity to allude to “gun control”, gun fanatics immediately rise and brandish (like a crucifix) the sacrosanct Second Amendment. Vade Retro Satana they shriek.

They quote the Second Amendment (mainly the part “the right to bear arms”), but I bet that few among the gun-toting crowds know its origins or would be able to quote it verbatim.

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution says:

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

This amendment was adopted by Congress (along with the Bill of Rights) on December 15, 1791, a few years after the American War of Independence.

The American Bill of Rights has its roots in the English Civil War of 1642-1651.
It was a time of turmoil when Catholics and Protestants were at each other’s throat.
To summarize this complicated conflict, Catholic King James II (who reigned from 1685 to 1688) attempted to disarm his enemies, the Protestants.
James II was eventually overthrown and Protestant monarchs William III and Mary II decided to abide by the conditions specified in the English Bill of Rights.

Among other things, the Bill read:

“That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law.”

“In its full context it is clear that the bill was asserting the right of Protestant citizens not to be disarmed by the King without the consent of Parliament and was merely restoring rights to Protestants that King James II briefly and unlawfully had removed.”

So originally, the “right to bear arms” was basically a way to allow Protestants to defend themselves against Catholics.

Eventually, in the context of the American Constitution, it meant to be that citizens had the right to arm and defend themselves against an eventual return of the vengeful Red Coats. And they did return in 1812, when America declared war on Great Britain. And militias were needed.

Today, I wander why we would need militias? Is anybody ready to pounce on us?

In the 18th century, most militias were armed with muzzle loading muskets.
A trained militiaman could fire about 3 shots per minute, so even if he went rogue his killing potential was rather low.
Today it is quite different. A single man armed with automatic weapons could inflict a heavy human toll in a matter of seconds.

Gun control doesn’t mean disarming the entire country, but having a say about what guns could be legally purchased, and who would be allowed to possess such weapons.

Most buyers acquire weapons for hunting or defensive purposes.
But nobody needs assault weapons with high capacity magazines to defend themselves against intruders or to shoot rabbits.

The Second Amendment is not carved in stone. It could and should be amended.
In view of recent carnages, limiting and restricting access to guns to certain people is nothing more than common sense.



The curse of beauty

Last night I watched a recording of the Golden Globes. On this television show, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association bestows ugly looking trophies on Hollywood’s fame-hungry fauna.

Like many people, I prefer to watch recordings rather than live shows.
When watching a recording, I use the Fast Forward feature to bypass all the commercial crap and keep my blood pressure in check.
That’s my small personal stand against crass commercialism.

Anyway, Sunday night was a gathering of Hollywood’s Who is Who, and Who is that Broad?
It is a good occasion for producers to parade their trophy wives or newly discovered nymphets.

Among that illustrious gallery I couldn’t help to notice some aging stars. Despite artful makeup, slick hairdos and beautiful outfits they could not conceal the ravages of time.
And that’s the hidden curse of beauty.

Beautiful women and handsome men who were once blessed (?) with good looks are suddenly engaged in a deadly battle against time and gravity. And everybody notices.

Beauty is the result of a pact made with the Devil a long time ago.
– Mister Devil, I want to be beautiful…
– Of course sweet child, I think that I can arrange that. Where did you hear my name by the way?
– On the Internet.
– Ah yes, they now me quite well out there. I will grant you your wish and I promise you that you will be noticed, forever.
– Thank you very much Mister Devil.
– De nada Chiquita.
The Devils speaks many languages.

Lucifer will grant you Beauty and the wish to be noticed, but this wish will cling to you eternally, even when you don’t want to be singled out anymore.

Average looking people (like me) don’t have this problem.
Nobody ever noticed me and nobody will ever notice the way I age.
I am not saying that in my heydays some women didn’t throw their panties at me, but I was never a “looker”.
When I started to mellow, nobody paid attention and nobody wrote about it.

But the press will note and blab about it when they see a puffy Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rambo and the Terminator are not what they used to be, they will say snidely.
And what about Elisabeth Taylor or Brigitte Bardot? Were they not gorgeous? Poor things…

Me? I don’t have to worry about the Beauty Curse.
My rugged look made me attractive without interfering with my life.
When you see me today, you never think of what I looked like when I was the toast of Club Med.
I can have my regular cup of coffee, unshaved and looking scruffy without fearing snoopy paparazzi.
My picture is not worth much and nobody will bother to plaster it on the Internet or on the front page of the local paper.
And that’s the way I like it.

You can have Beauty. I’ll take anonymity.