In 1990, the brains at the Workman Publishing Company published a book entitled, “14,000 things to be happy about.” For some un-Godly reason, there was a copy of the book in my house, belonging (I believe) to my sister. Even at age nine I couldn”t quite conceive of why anybody would buy such a disgusting example of pop self-help. The book is literally a list of mmm, there”s really no nice way to say it sentimental bullshit. One review of the book by a Swiss gentleman on Amazon.com reads, “Don”t know why I bought this book must have been depressed or something and I definitely was after I discovered what I”d spent my money on. Save your money and make up your own list. Think you need to be American to understand it.”

Paul Wong
University Music Prof. Bright Sheng, recipient of the prestigious MacArthur fellowship, practices the piano yesterday afternoon<br><br>DAVID ROCHKIND/Daily

American indeed. Another book followed in reaction to “14,000 things to be happy about,” entitled, “1,401 Things That P*ss Me Off.”

So the newspaper pages over the past month have been full of items that might be included in the latter book. Terrorism pisses me off. Anthrax pisses me off. John Ashcroft pisses me off. And this editorial page has been pretty disheartening too. Certainly I haven”t (yet) used this column to make anybody feel better. So I am going to (not without irony) submit to writing my own version of things to be happy about. Maybe it will be published and I can be deemed a “self-help guru.” That would be sweet.

So without wasting any more precious newspaper space, my list of things to be happy about, in the midst of all that is going on in the world.

n Colin Powell In a room full of men in dark suits who you don”t quite trust, the Secretary gives us the assurance that someone is thinking and acting responsibly.

n 24-hour cable news coverage Some say they get sick of watching. Turn it off, genius. For my own part, I can”t help but be attracted to the soothing voices of Bernard Shaw, Brian Williams and the rest of the cable news crew. Back in the day, you heard about wars via messengers on horseback. Andrew Jackson didn”t know the War of 1812 was over when he fought the famous Battle of New Orleans. He should have turned on MSNBC in his hotel room on Bourbon Street.

n The New York Yankees As much as I hate to admit it, the Bronx Bombers are going to win the World Series as a healthy f-you to the cave-dwelling, woman-hating terrorists, Most Wonderful City in the World-attacking terrorists who don”t know quite what to make of our odd little “American way of life.” I”m buying into all the romanticism surrounding the team and its city. There”s something very cool about them winning.

n Bill Maher, Susan Sontag, et al. They make it onto the list not because they publicly say what they believe, but because they draw media attention for it, exposing the real un-Americans in those who would restrict free speech.

n Tony Blair I don”t know if it”s the accent or what, but it”s nice to at least think that the British P.M. is whispering sweet somethings into Dubya”s ear.

n Rock stars Oh, give them a break. Yeah they take themselves too seriously. Yeah their benefits are ultimately as self-serving as they are altruistic. Yeah they couldn”t locate New York on the map for all the leather pants in the world. But at least their hearts are (sort of) in the right place.

n The Christian Right Ha ha ha ha ha! You morons! If you don”t have anything nice to say, don”t say anything at all. Blaming lesbians and doctors who perform abortions for the Sept. 11 attack is nothing short of idiocy. They make the list for exposing themselves as the lunatics they are.

n Hornography A beacon of light in a world of confused darkness.

n Self-promotion As American as the blues.

This was fun to write follow Swiss Mister”s advice and write your own list. Make self-help a self-contained activity, and enjoy the American circus.

David Horn can be reached via e-mail at hornd@umich.edu.

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