that's awfully personal
ere are my belated answers to the last few weeks’ That’s Awfully Personal questions:


Q: A genie appears before you and says: “I am merely an apprentice genie, so I can’t grant three wishes, but I have the power to change the personality of humankind. If you want me to do so, you must complete each of the following two statements with a one-word adjective that describes a human quality or character trait. The word you choose for the second question can’t be the opposite of the word you chose for the first. Are you ready?
(1) I wish every human on Earth was __________.
(2) I wish no human on Earth was __________.”

The genie then waves her hand and makes it so. The question is: What are the two adjectives you would choose? How much would you, yourself, be transformed by the genie’s changes? Describe a situation when you exhibited the trait you chose to abolish in statement (2), or wish you had exhibited the trait you chose to give everyone in statement (1).

A: (1) conciliatory and (2) greedy. I believe we’re all born fair and generous, but for most of us something happens to our egos and psyches as we grow. We get damaged, wounded, and we end up, as a defensive mechanism, unreasonable, selfish and acquisitive. If the genie could set us all right again, I think we would immediately see the answers to Earth’s, and our own, problems, and be able and willing to work with others to solve them. How much would I be changed? Probably more than I’d like to admit. I try to be fair and generous, but I have far more than my fair share, I give up far too little of my time to help others, and I am very intolerant of meanness, conservatism, untruthful and unfair behaviour, to the point I can’t stand to be near such people, let alone try to work with them. I regret every ungenerous act (and failure to act) and every unreasonable act of my life, of which there have been many (though fewer as I get older), and regret most of all the many times I have lost my temper, since it has accomplished nothing.

Declaring War

rapper pants

Q: You’ve heard about the war on crime, terrorism, drugs, high prices etc. Steve Raker thinks that this is inevitably going to lead to war on: clogged drains, rude behaviour, undercooked fish, tall vehicles in front of you, inadequate kitchen counter space, uneven tire wear, dust, computer batteries that run low too fast, and, my favourite, “War on Waiting for Someone to Get Off the Phone When All You Need is Like Two Seconds of Their Time and if They Would Just Look Your Way You Could Probably Even Do it With Hand Signals”.

What pet peeves do you think we should ‘declare war’ on? Extra points if you can provide a picture of one of them.


  • War on telemarketers who start their call with “Hello, Mr/Ms (mispronounce your name), how are you this evening?”
  • War on people who drive exactly the speed limit in the left lane.
  • War on people who never have anything positive to say about anything, and anyone who has ever said “That’s a dumb idea” or “We tried that and it didn’t work”.
  • War on grudges: “If X is coming to your party I’m not coming because in 1997 his dog barked at my dog and he didn’t apologize.”
  • War on fashion slavery, especially pants that are too loose, tops that are too tight, brand names on sweatshop clothes and interminably boring colours for menswear.
  • War on ridiculously overpriced incredibly bland Italian food served in tiny portions on gigantic plates.
  • War on inflexible design: Houses and offices and cars should be built so you can move, add or remove walls and doors and windows, Lego-style, when your needs or family size or workteam size changes and you need less, more, or differently-configured space.
  • War on anyone who has ever been mean or cruel to an animal or a child.
  • War on people who cancel at the last minute.
  • War on fences, entrance gates, and “no trespassing” signs.
  • War on Orwellian language: Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind Act etc.
  • War on chainsaws before noon on weekends.
  • War on stuff that breaks before it’s worn out.
  • War on conformity.

Celebrating Bad Taste


Q: One of the phenomena of the 1970s was the Kitsch Party. Participants were required to wear an item or ensemble that exhibited incredibly bad taste, and to bring a household or artistic item of similarly abominable taste. You were not allowed to purchase or make tasteless items just for the occasion — they had to be in your house, or borrowed. Everyone voted on the most tasteless items. At one such party, the ‘winning’ outfit consisted of a lime green and olive spandex miniskirt with ruffles, topped with a bizarre orange designer-made crop-top with a single shoulder strap. The winning household/art object was a ceramic ashtray featuring a 6″ tall Jesus on the cross.

If you were invited, along with a significant other, to such a Kitsch Party, what borrowed or closeted outfit would you wear, and what would you get your significant other to wear? What owned or borrowed work of art or decor would you bring? And what’s the most tasteless item of clothing or art you have ever seen anywhere? Extra points if you provide pictures, and double points if you’re wearing the items in question.

A: My neighbours have never forgotten when I used to walk Chelsea, and often stop off and visit, wearing a pair of badly faded, very short, incredibly comfortable salmon-colour running shorts. “Don’t you have any shorts of your own, that you have to wear your kids’ castoffs?” I was told on more than one occasion. Clearly people do not think these are attractive on a 50-year-old man with pale, out of shape legs. So if I could find them, I would wear those wonderful shorts, along with a cutoff white frayed muscle shirt that has splotches of beige paint all over it. I wouldn’t presume to suggest to my wife what she should wear to a Kitsch party. And although my wife thinks it’s funny, my household/art item of choice for a Kitsch party would be one of those old “accordion” prints that look different when you look at them from opposite sides. Hers is illustrated above from both sides.

If you’re interested in playing That’s Awfully Personal each week, the questions, and a complete explanation, can be found here.

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  1. Av says:

    I like when telemarketers mispronouce my name. If someone can properly say Avram Polinsky, it is most likely someone I want to talk to. A mispronouciation and I just tell them that Mr Polinsky is not available.

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