My Word's

an occasional column by
Marylaine Block

Archive, Volume 6

January, 2001-

Subject Index


Current Column


Volume 1

(July 1995-June 1996)


Volume 2

(July 1996-June 1997)


Volume 3

(July 1997-June 1998)


Volume 4

(July 1998-June 1999)


Volume 5

(July, 1999-June, 2000)


Who IS Marylaine Block?


See the rest of my online work at


E-mail marylaine at

  1. My Favorite Books for 2000

  2. Hunting Good Will -- on the meanness of our public dialogue

  3. Report Cards for Grownups -- shouldn't there be better ways to measure success than money, toys and power?

  4. Pieces of the Puzzle -- our memories are all pieces of the grand puzzle of history.

  5. The Game of the Name -- to name is to control.

  6. Hole To Fill -- what we all need is to know why the universe needs us.

  7. Longing To Believe -- why do we fall for e-mail scams and telefraud?

  8. Credit Risk -- how a little piece of plastic changed the world.

  9. Moving Target -- information may be true but nonetheless wrong.

  10. Talk To Me -- one of the things we need to survive is conversation.

  11. New Ways To See -- art is a necessity, not a frill.

  12. A Shrinking Menu -- there IS such a thing as a free lunch, but don't count on it lasting much longer.

  13. Hearts and Minds -- it isn't enough for government to do good if it doesn't tell people what it's up to.

  14. The Value of the Public -- the terrorists who hated our government showed us how well government can work in a crisis.

  15. Not Replaceable -- mourning not only the victims but the unique knowledge that died with them.

  16. "Why We Gotta Know This Stuff?" -- How do we get kids to want to learn what we want to teach them?

  17. Down from the Count -- on our misplaced faith in statistics.

  18. The Present Value of One -- on the things a kid can still buy for a measly dollar.

  19. Short Memory -- short memories make bad government.

  20. Winter at the Cardinal Cafe

  21. Learning by Accident -- we know so many things we never set out to learn.

  22. The New College Try -- WHY should every kid go to college?

  23. A Deal Is a Deal -- on writing, and remembering, the promises you make on your wedding day.

  24. What Is NOT on the Net -- why I doubt the net contains more than about 15% of all accumulated human knowledge.

  25. We Don't Need To Be Heroes -- the loss of ordinary lives is quite enough reason to mourn.

  26. We DO Need Cave Paintings -- art is not a frill but a basic human need

  27. No Account -- suppose we had an accounting system that acknowledged our use of public services?

  28. Negative Pleasures -- some of the greatest pleasures can only be understood in their absence.

  29. Telling It Slant -- why does art so often work indirectly?

  30. Growing Like Weeds -- tell kids that they're important and they might just believe you.

  31. The Man Behind the Curtain -- individuals should be accountable for their actions. And so should corporations.

  32. Scriptwriters All-- our life scripts may not play out quite as we wrote them.

  33. Christmas Greetings, 2003 -- some assembly required.

  34. Rites of Spring -- spring returns with the sound of "Play ball."

  35. To a Tee -- a tribute to the t-shirt.

  36. Safe as Houses -- our houses changed along with our ideas about how we want to live our private lives.

  37. Dare To Be Dummies -- the Dummies guidebooks have freed us to admit how much our brave new world confuses us

  38. Vote Back -- a very American reason to vote: the certainty that somebody really doesn't want you to.

  39. No Country for Old Men -- America reflects the virtues and faults of the daring young men who built it.

  40. Over the River and through the Woods -- on Americans' holiday travel habit.

  41. Christmas Greetings, 2004

  42. Broken Circles -- on the need to have someone remember you.

  43. A Perfect Valentine -- on the balance between romance and reality.

  44. Death and Taxes -- why the inheritance tax should not be abolished.

  45. Voices from the Attic -- sometimes our clutter is our history.

  46. The Boredom Machine -- what a boring world we've made for our kids

  47. You Be Me and I'll Be You -- on REALLY understanding someone else's point of view

  48. Beneath Our Costumes -- why are all the grownups dressing up for Halloween?

  49. Christmas Greetings, 2005

  50. Common Cents -- in which I ask what's your dividing line between "mad money" and REAL money?

  51. At Play in the Fields of the Fathers - in which I celebrate fathers teaching their children about baseball and love.

  52. Better than Roses - on the nicest gift of all on Mother's Day

  53. The End - in which I announce that this time, I'm really retiring, and point out some of the pieces I'd like to be remembered by.


This is a book proposal, which I have also posted at Vocabula Review:

The Land of Why Not:
an Appreciation of America

As American correspondent for a British magazine, I explained the oddities and contradictions of American life to the Brits; later, as a columnist for Fox News Online, I explained Americans to Americans instead, telling them why we love self-help books, use our technologies to talk back, and pack up and move more often than any other people on earth.

In this collection, I explain how America has been indelibly shaped by the energies and failings of young men who believe nothing is impossible for them if people and governments will just stay out of their way. I talk about London Bridge plunked down in the middle of an Arizona desert, the Luling Watermelon Thump, and attitude - "Sez Who? Sez ME!" I ruminate on the meaning of icons like Norman Rockwell, Miss America, and the Field of Dreams, and wonder out loud about our contradictions - how we worship individualism, but form organizations whenever we want to accomplish anything, how we encourage our kids to go into safe, boring careers when the people we revere are the impractical dreamers and inventors who gave us Mickey Mouse, music videos, and Windows.

I muse about our secret lives, as told in our personalized license plates, e-mail monikers, and t-shirts (our customizable, wearable philosophies of life). And as a public service, I reveal to men the secret of buying presents for women, and how to understand what women want (it's easy -- just read romance novels).

I have posted an outline and sample columns at