My friend Ben Page, married to my old high school friend Mary Robertson Page, was famous during the time I visited them last weekend. He had just returned from New York City, and Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, where he and his co-author of the learned article on the rise of economic inequality and its effects in and on politics, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” (to be published in Perspectives on Politics; he gave me a “final, proofed” printed version)), unaccountably received widespread attention. Attention came during the third week in April, when the Piketty book, “Capital in the 21st Century” also rose like a rocket to public attention. As Ben said to me, over wine, cheese and crackers, prior to the first of our three extended, homecooked evening meal conversations, “This could be the beginning of an intellectual revolution.”
It was at this point that I introduced the two of them to that same week’s astonishing and rare Grand Cross in Cardinal signs, which both his co-authored article and Piketty’s book apparently rode like a rocket, synchronizing with each other’s message like a divinely orchestrated play.
Here’s the segment that actually appeared on air:
The juicier parts did not appear on air, but Ben tells me you can go to Jon Stewart’s archives and find the entire conversation. The most notable Jon Stewart quip only appeared there. It goes something like this: Ben mentioned that it was amazing that an article by two aging academics should go viral — when Stewart reared back, and said, as only he could, “Aging academics? No! What I see is SEXUAL CHARISMA!” Which of course, broke everybody up, and the hundreds of emails to Ben from family and friends (both past and present) over the next two days I was there all seemed to zero in that one remark.
We all agreed that Ben’s open jacket on air seemed to signal relaxation, though of course, we know better. Indeed, all the media attention was making him a sleepless wreck!
So that’s the backstory. Actually, there’s more, but as usual, the most interesting parts of my life, I can’t tell on a blog. Oh wait, Ben seemed to think it was okay that I told this one little tidbit: what he reads to relax before sleep: chick lit! Mary says he has a box of chick-lit books beside the bed, and sometimes reads them over and over! “My excuse, he tells me, “is Dwight Eisenhower read westerns to relax.”
BTW: If you don’t want to plough through the entire 700-page Piketty tome, which is, I could tell at a glance, beautifully written, Ben says to read pp. 199-203, for the essence. At least he said that at first, then, on Saturday evening when Mary and I came back from the long day at the UFO Conference, he told us about another part of the book that he found astonishingly wonderful. So maybe we’ll all have to dip in and out of the book over and over again, to get the flavor of what could become the successor to Marx’s Das Capital.
Oh yeah, and one more piece of interesting news: Back in our early 30s, Ben was a wickedly ruthless Monopoly player — all in jest, of course, but . . . I wonder how he feels about the feelings stirred up in winners and losers by that game now.