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Who said it:"Dutiful attendance at the knee of privilege presupposes the capacity to endure long bouts of stupefying boredom. . . . Practice with inanimate objects. Look at a balloon for 90 minutes with an expression of close attention and profound respect; talk to a box of Cheerios about Martha's Vineyard and Monica Lewinsky; ask a fern for its view of the Mexican debt. The exercises will prepare you for an evening at the Council of Foreign Relations or an afternoon around the pool with Norman Mailer."

-- From Lewis Lapham's "Lapham's Rules of Influence, a Careerist's Guide to Success, Status and Self-Congratulation" (Random House; $19.95).