I’m not known for my expertise on popular culture (unlike editor Marcy Ross, whose knowledge is breathtaking), and what I do know is completely random (and bicultural, because I lived in England from my late teens to early thirties). At an American Library Association conference a couple years ago, David and I were walking up to one of the mega-booths. I saw a middle-aged man with glasses standing in front of a bookcase. “Who’s that,” I whispered, “don’t we know him?” I thought he must be some executive VP we’d met somewhere and was wondering if we would have to say hullo and make small talk about the traffic on the floor.
David looked at me in disbelief. “That’s Ben Stein. And he’s cardboard.”
At least I knew I had seen Ben Stein’s face before, but I knew absolutely nothing about him until someone sent me an article he wrote about China, China: Friend or Foe?: How Not to Ruin Your Life – Yahoo! Finance. It’s terrific to have a well-known TV person writing about China and I have since learned that it makes sense that Ben Stein would be writing on a serious political and economic subject. I’ve learned that he graduated from Yale Law School, worked as a trial lawyer at the Federal Trade Commission, was a speech writer for Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and is a hugely successful game show host on Comedy Central. Not to mention his movies (none of which I have seen, naturally). I wonder if they are popular in China?