I write a weekly column for the English-language daily paper in Abu Dhabi, The National. It's mostly about show business, but I try to connect it -- as much as possible -- to what's going on in the world right now.
Which means, in the US anyway, politics. From this week's column:
A friend of mine, the scion of a legendary entertainment industry family, once used a great piece of old-timey show business jargon to describe a recent Broadway production.
"It was too 'centre door fancy' for me," he said with a shrug.
Centre door fancy? I'd never heard that expression before, and I pride myself on collecting - and using - odd and anachronistic show business slang. I drop it into conversations to appear worldly and experienced. That's the trick of getting old gracefully - you can't really fight it, so you have to do it in a cool way.
It's an affectation, I know, but when I talk to young people just starting out in the entertainment business, I salt my conversation with hard-bitten, Rat-Pack-tinged jargon. Phrases like "hang a lantern on it" - which means, essentially, calling obvious attention to an unbelievable plot coincidence in an effort to make it seem less cheap and flawed. Then there's "too much sunny Spain", which means too much exposition, as in a Shakespeare play when two characters walk onstage and announce, "Here we are in sunny Spain!" to let the audience know where they are. And I'm partial to the phrase "too Mousetrap" to describe anything overly complicated and hard to explain in a story.
And then, of course, the pivot to politics:
Every other business just seems too consequential and concrete, too sturdy and fact-based, to need a silly language of its own. Investment banking has its "workouts" and its "short squeezes". The energy business has "fracking" and "wildcatting". Dentistry has its "canals" and its "temporary crowns". All of these seem more purposeful and adult than "centre door fancy". They all seem more, well, businesslike.
Every business, that is, except for the only business more frivolous and spendthrift than the entertainment industry - the capricious mess called "American politics."