Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Lingo

America is an awfully big country, and language just isn't the same from one place to the next. I have lived in a couple of different places and I should be used to this by now. I was in Mississippi once and it was days before I understood a word anyone was saying. In Massachusetts I thought a neighbor was complaining that his cow was stolen, but when he said they caught it on the Turnpike going 75mph I figured he had to mean "car."

But I have been genuinely shocked by MInnesotans. Twice.

The second time was last Saturday , when a lady giving me a facial said she liked to -- wait, I better start at the beginning.

A couple of years ago the pastor at our church decided to offer a course in basic Catholicism. Since no one's Catholicism is more basic than mine, I figured I'd take the class. I hadn't read the new Catechism yet, and there were a few things I wanted to nail down once and for all, like how to pronounce "schism." Also "chasm," should he decide to throw that in.

The usual crowd showed up for the course- timid lifers, know-it-all converts, the pastor's mother. One evening we were talking about the Ten Commandments. An elderly lady had a question about the commandment to keep the Sabbath. (I think that's number three, but don't quote me.) She said she was sometimes unsure where to draw the line between a hobby and work.

"Yeah, that's a tough one," said our amiable pastor. "Think of it this way. Suppose you have a garden,and your garden needs some work. Now, if by 'work' you mean hauling boulders and laying bricks, well, that would be real work. But if you just feel like putzing around out there..."

I dropped my pen. But no one else seemed to have noticed anything. Slip of the tongue, I said to myself. I picked up my pen and went back to my notes.

"Well, sure, Father, I can see that," said another old lady. "I like to putz around my garden too, and...."

Now I had to look around. No one was batting an eye! Next thing you knew they were all going on about their favorite plces to putz. I was in a church basement, and I was at a putz fest.

The next day when I took my daughter to her preschool at Temple Israel I nabbed one of the teachers. "OK, set me straight on this," I said, and I told them the whole story. After their initial shock -- "He said that in CHURCH?"-- they explained that the p-word does not possess the literal meaning in these parts that it has back in NY. "You hear it here, they don't know what it means. They think it means 'putter' or something like that."

I still can't believe it, though. I tried to imagine somebody like Father Rutler casually mentioning the need to "putz," and I couldn't do it. Not that I'm going to ask him, either-- he'd be shocked. And rightly so. I mean, look how appalled he was when I told him I belong to a "kick-ass parish" out here.

But he let it slide.

Anyway. on Saturday I was getting a facial from a lovely Hungarian lady and she starts talking about "putzing," too. I winced. Of all the habits I'm likely to pick up out here I hope that isn't one of them. I certainly wouldnt' letmy daughter the term.

Of course I don't let her say "you betcha" either.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving

I ripped this off from Sailorette. Thank you, Sailorette, for your service to our country, and for offering this.

Americans will die for liberty
By Andrew Gimson (from [UK]The Telegraph, November 8, 2006)

As we took off from London for New York a few days ago, our three over-excited children asked if there was any chance of the plane being blown up. I explained that the likelihood of that happening was virtually zero, and wondered how we were going to maintain some semblance of order during the flight. One did not wish the sedate American passengers by whom we were surrounded to form the impression that British parents are unable or unwilling to impart the rudiments of good manners.

Luckily, American Airlines had provided a screen on the back of the seat in front of one's own, on which one could watch old movies. There was also a map showing how far we had gone, on which places of interest were marked. It began by showing only two places: London and Chartwell.

The Americans are more old-fashioned than us, and what is equally admirable, they are not ashamed of being old-fashioned. They know Churchill was a great man, so they put his house on the map. There is a kind of Englishman to whom this sort of behaviour seems painfully unsophisticated.

We are inclined, in our snobbish way, to dismiss the Americans as a new and vulgar people, whose civilisation has hardly risen above the level of cowboys and Indians. Yet the United States of America is actually the oldest republic in the world, with a constitution that is one of the noblest works of man. When one strips away the distracting symbols of modernity - motor cars, skyscrapers, space rockets, microchips, junk food - one finds an essentially 18th-century country. While Europe has engaged in the headlong and frankly rather immature pursuit of novelty - how many constitutions have the nations of Europe been through in this time? - the Americans have held to the ideals enunciated more than 200 years ago by their founding fathers.

The sense of entering an older country, and one with a sterner sense of purpose than is found among the flippant and inconstant Europeans, can be enjoyed even before one gets off the plane. On the immigration forms that one has to fill in, one is asked: "Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offence or crime involving moral turpitude?" Who now would dare to pose such a question in Europe? The very word "turpitude" brings a smile, almost a sneer, to our lips.

The quiet solicitude that Americans show for the comfort of their visitors, and the tact with which they make one feel at home, can only be described as gentlemanly. These graceful manners, so often overlooked by brash European tourists, whisper the last enchantments of an earlier and more dignified age, when liberty was not confused with licence.

But lest these impressions of the United States seem unduly favourable, it should be added that the Americans have not remained in happy possession of their free constitution without cost. Thomas Jefferson warned that the tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots. To the Americans, the idea that freedom and democracy exact a cost in blood is second nature.

We went to the fine new museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, devoted to the American Civil War. It was the bloodiest war in American history. Americans slaughtered Americans in terrible numbers before the North prevailed. You can look up the names of soldiers on a computer, and I found to my slight surprise that a man called Joseph Gimson served on the Union side as a private in the 37th Regiment of Coloured Infantry, and was "severely and dangerously wounded" in the battle of Northeast Station on February 22, 1865.

We stood at Gettysburg, scene of the bloodiest battle of all, on a field covered with memorials to the fallen. Here Abraham Lincoln gave his great and sublimely brief address, ending with the hope "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth".

Again some Europeans will give an unkind smile. All this sounds so Puritan, so naïve and so self-righteous. We cannot help feeling that the Americans ought to have been able to settle their quarrel without killing each other, and, while we cannot defend the institution of slavery, we wonder whether the North had the right to impose its will by force.

These are vain quibbles. The North went to war and was victorious.

The Americans are prepared to use force in pursuit of what they regard as noble aims. It is yet another respect in which they are rather old-fashioned. They are patriots who venerate their nation and their flag.

The idea has somehow gained currency in Britain that America is an essentially peaceful nation. Quite how this notion took root, I do not know. Perhaps we were unduly impressed by the protesters against the Vietnam war.

It is an idea that cannot survive a visit to the National Museum of American History in Washington, where one is informed that the "price of freedom" is over and over again paid in blood.

The Americans' tactics in Iraq, and their sanction for Israel's tactics in Lebanon, have given rise to astonishment and anger in Europe. It may well be that those tactics are counter-productive, and that the Americans and Israelis need to take a different approach to these ventures if they are ever to have any hope of winning hearts and minds.

But when the Americans speak of freedom, we should not imagine, in our cynical and worldly-wise way, that they are merely using that word as a cloak for realpolitik. They are not above realpolitik, but they also mean what they say.

These formidable people think freedom is so valuable that it is worth dying for.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Happy Halloween

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The gorgeous cowgirl on the left is my daughter Sophia. The young gentleman is her buddy Seven, who really wanted to be a Ninja for Halloween, but was convinced by Sophia to be a "ninja cowboy" instead.

Just had to post this.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Season's Greetings

The catalogs are arriving thick and fast, and it isn't even Advent yet. By Gaudete Sunday I should be able to build a cabin out of rolled-up LL Beans and all the others that get stuffed into my mailbox this time of year.

Still it allows for some early holiday shopping. And as always DIH likes to deal with her favorite gift-giving questions first: what to give when a really mixed message is called for?

One solution presented itself the other day, in a gardening catalog. Jackson and Perkins is having a sale on roses. Who do you know who really deserves the "Social Climber" rosebush? 43% off!

Or how about a "Pooping Moose?" Hand-carved in Alaska! Lift the wooden moose's head, his tail goes up, and out come M&Ms all over the kitchen counter. If that's what you filled it with, of course.

Actually the Pooping Moose is kind of cool, I'm thinking about getting one myself. But I will definitely give a pass to the life-size collapsible plywood moosehead you can mount above your fireplace. The trick here is who deserves to be known as the dolt who shelled out three hundred bucks for that work of art. Not yours truly, please God.

Oh- here's a good one. "The 'Now" Watch." "A watch for those who live in the moment. Wheels, pins and jewels have been replaced with sand and a stone etched 'NOW.' The battery never needs replacing because there isn't one." DIH is not making this up. This is the actual catalog description. The "NOW" Watch goes for $46.95. I am told it takes $23. to buy an outhouse for a poor family India. For the same amount of money you could buy two, and chuck "The 'NOW' Watch" down one of them. You'd still have almost a buck left over. Two birds with one stone, not a bad deal.

I have a few more favorites but as I plan to give them as gifts to the family I'd better not blow the surprise by blogging about them here.

I love the holidays!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Milton Friedman

Somewhere I have a photograph of me and Milton Friedman. The plan was we were going to count to three and then just as the photographer snapped the picture we were going to put our heads together and make the funniest faces we knew how. Milton made it through; he looks a little like Bugs Bunny . I cracked up, and I look pretty ridiculous.

We were working on a documentary on free market economics. I knew absolutely nothing about the subject. But I knew genius when I heard it. Genius, I had realized way back in college, was not the ability to give long, complicated speeches, or to drop lots of long words, or hold forth on any given subject until the cows came home. Genius was the ability to take the very complicated and make it very clear and simple, in ten words or less. MiltonFriedman could do that. He could sit down with an ignoramus like me and in less time than it takes to order dinner make the truth about what money really is and what it really does plain as the dawn.

Milton Friedman was a genius, a Nobel Prize winner, an intellectual who knew how to make a girl laugh at a silly joke and go home feeling like maybe she wasn't such a dope after all. He was a nice man. He died today at the age of 94. Another person the world will miss.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

If It Ain't Broke...

We all know about the digital revolution in Hollywood. We all know they can do amazing things with computer graphics, etc. And we also know that for some years now they have been sprucing up old movies with new technology.

This is a terrible idea and DIH wishes it would stop.

Ever watch one of the re-released classics? They're awesome, man! I mean, they've just done the most amazing stuff! They're so much clearer now! Check out the new "Wizard of Oz"- you can sooo see the strings holding up the Cowardly Lion's tail! And "Singing In The Rain"? That scene where Gene Kelly's dancing int he rain and we film buffs all know the sound was just out of sync? Well now you can REALLY tell! He's "tapping" at the wrong times, man! This is so awesome!

I know there are some stupid people in Hollywood, but you'd think even they could figure this one out.

Stop ruining the great movies, dudes. Generations will thank you.

Monday, November 13, 2006

You Blend, Con't.

TUESDAY. Cocktails with the neighborhood ladies. I mention the new blender.

A short silence ensues.

"Your husband bought it, right?" says an Armani-suited graphic designer.

Well-- uh, yeah...

"Two words," says the designer. "Protective headgear. My husband bought one, too. That thing sounds like a jet engine taking off."

"But is sounded OK at Costco..."

"Costco is a freakin' airplane hangar, of course it sounded fine there! I am telling you. Get yourself a pair of industrial-strength hear protectors. You'll thank me."


WEDNESDAY. Realize I am afraid of new blender.

THURSDAY. It sits on the kitchen counter, silent,still, unused. Its virginity mocks me.

SATURDAY. Spouse offers to make dinner. Takes some of my eggplant parmesan- that eggplant parm from the farmer's market cheapo eggplants, that labor of love- and purees it in new blender. Pours it over pasta. It is not bad.

SUNDAY. Page through blender cookbook. If I follow all its instructions in a month I will be slim, gorgeous, death-proof in my non-trans-fattedness.

"Oh yeah. You blend."

SUNDAY. Go to Costco. Bring husband along. All goes well until we step into the fateful aisle where a woman is demonstrating a blender. "This is not like any blender you've seen before! It's more powerful than Osterizer or Cuisinart . This blender comes equipped with a two-horsepower motor!"

All over Costco the male of the species stop dead in their tracks. Did she say--horsepower?

"That's right, two horsepower! With this blender you can make a fresh batch of peanut butter in seconds. Watch! I'm using only organic peanuts- I pour in the nuts and I flip this switch--" RRRMMMMMM-"and voila, fresh organic peanut butter!"

Male of species move closer. "Mmm-- peanut buttter....."
Female of species (doubtful): "Well- no trans fats is good..."

"Make fresh soup in less than five minutes! Hot tomato tortilla soup- try some!"

"So it cooks?" I ask.

"Yes it does!" beams the demo lady.

"Where does the heat come from?"

"The friction of the motor provides all the heat you need!"

Male of species: "Just the friction?"

Demo lady: "Of course. It's a two-horespower motor!"

You can now actually watch the men's thought processes in action. "Horsepower. Me like horsepower. Horsepower good for guys. Horsepower not for girls!"

"I"LL TAKE IT!" yells the spouse.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

New Link

If you look to the right you will notice a blog has been added to my list. "A Christian Democracy" is a new addition to the blogosphere. It is written by my husband Richard, and like him, it's a little on the brainy side. But DIH rejoices the spouse has discovered the joys of blogging. Lecturing the worid will mean less time for lecturing me.

Anyway check it out. Onward, soldiers.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nut Jobs Of The World Unite!

The local rag ran this letter today. The headline reads, "Play is a taste of Catholics' own medicine."

"I am proud that the University of Minnesota plans to present "The Pope and the Witch."

"Sensitive Catholics should sit in my shoes for a day and hear how their antigay rhetoric, homophobic behind-the-scenes manipulation of public opinion and out-and-out lobbying to keep me from marrying sound to me.
"Bigotry? Yes. Pure hatred for me? Absolutely. Yet any portrayal of the pope other than saintly is "Catholic bashing."
As a former Catholic, I think if they dish it, they should shut up and take it, too.
STEPHEN M. DENT, MINNEAPOLIS"

No offense, Steve, but the idea of "sitting in your shoes" is just plain disgusting. Note to Star Tribune editors: don't you have anyone on staff to catch that kind of thing?

Our New Overlords

Nancy Pelosi will be Speaker of the House. I guess I kind of envy her. It must be nice to have Chris Matthews slobbering over you like he did over her last night. "And there she'll be up on the podium at the State of the Union address, next to that sourpuss Cheney- a gorgeously dressed, knockout woman! Hubba hubba! Ooh, baby, could I ever go for a piece of..."

Ok, I added that last sentence. But it was totally in keeping with the spirit of CM's comments.

Ms. Pelosi will go down in history as the first woman Speaker. Man, that "First woman" bit must scorch Hillary's cookies something fierce. I hope the girls can work something out.

And how about that Ted Kennedy? "We are the best hope of mankind!" Heads up, mankind- your best hope is a family of unrepentant drugheads who can't even ski without crashing into something, let alone drive.

Mankind-- we have a problem.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Questions For Today

What time you figure CBS will announce the winners? Five, six p.m.?

Which TV pundit will use the phrase "take their ball and go home" first?

(Two-parter.) a. How many times will CNN viewers be reminded of that disgraced evangelical preacher tonight?
b. Will that be before, after or during the speeches about the virtues of same sex marriage?

Do exit pollsters offer kids candy? What do they offer adults?

Will they ever let Lynne Cheney anywhere near Wolf Blitzer again? How about tonight? Things could get a little dull...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Showbiz

There's an article in today's NYT , "Hollywood Puts The Squeeze on Talent."

The average cost of making amd marketing a major motion picture these days is a whopping $96.2 mil, up from a mere $54.1 ten years ago. Since ticket sales have been dropping off and video sales have flattened, studio execs are looking for a few corners to cut. So they're offering the talent less pay.

Obviously the actors, directors and writers are not happy about this. Russell Crowe has pitched a couple of public tantrums already, and who knows what those fabulous directors are saying. Except that they're still fabulous, of course.

I can understand the prima donnas throwing a few fits- the actors, the genius directors without whom obviously the world would stop turning. But writers? Where do they get off?

Writers have been getting screwed by the powers that be since time began. "Did you hear about the Polish starlet? She slept with all the writers." Oops, that one came out a little more literally than DIH in tended. But you get the idea.

Writers get copied from, stolen from, plagiarized. Years ago I was watching a Bill Moyers special on PBS about race relations. After a couple of minutes his voiceover started to sound awfully familiar. I went to my bookshelf and took down a brilliant but woefully undersold book by a not-yet-famous friend and turned to the introduction. Yep. There it was. Paragraph by paragraph. Well, at least he could say he had admirers in TV land.

I had a couple of TV land friends, too. One writer I knew won an Emmy for her work on a soap opera. A month later a new show-runner fired all the writers. Our friend had an Emmy on her nightstand but had to take a job answering phone calls for the Clairol help line. "No, madam, our product is not intended for dogs. I'm sorry your poodle turned purple, but...."


That is the writing life. Writers write because they have to. If they could do anything more useful they probably would have done it. But the ranks of writers are full of people who really and truly could not do anything else, because if they did, a) they' be really lousy at it and b) they'd go off the deep end because they're not writing.

DIH included.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Great Idea

This was posted on Powerline:

"Lt. Col. Jan Horvath is the officer at the Counterinsurgency Center at Camp Taji who has agreed to receive books sent by readers to stock the center's library. Today Col. Horvath writes:

"Thank you for all you do for us. We appreciated the Jon Carry coverage - kudos to the 1st BCT of the 34th Division for their creative and honorable humor.
"Last and certainly not least, thank you and all your readers for the tremendous outpouring of books. The gracious and patriotic sentiments expressed by so many contributors touched many of our leaders - they appreciate the support of our citizens. After all, we are your Army. Thank you again.

I remain VR,
JSH"

Powerline adds,

"Once again, the address for readers wanting to contribute books to the Counterinsurgency Center at Camp Taji is:
Lt. Col. Jan Horvath
Headquarters COIN CFE
Camp Taji, Iraq
APO AE 0937"

What a fantastic opportunity. My husband is a serial paperback-buyer. Now's my chance to clear some room on the bookshelves.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Vote Democrat. Vote Terrorist.

"Of course Americans should vote Democrat," Jihad Jaara, a senior member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group and the infamous leader of the 2002 siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, told WND.

Jaara was the chief in Bethlehem of the Brigades, the declared "military wing" of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party.

Together with the Islamic Jihad terror group, the Brigades has taken responsibility for every suicide bombing inside Israel the past two years, including an attack in Tel Aviv in April that killed American teenager Daniel Wultz and nine Israelis.

Abu Ayman, an Islamic Jihad leader in Jenin, said he is "emboldened" by those in America who compare the war in Iraq to Vietnam.

"[The mujahedeen fighters] brought the Americans to speak for the first time seriously and sincerely that Iraq is becoming a new Vietnam and that they should fix a schedule for their withdrawal from Iraq," boasted Abu Ayman.

_ World Net Daily (h/t Powerline)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What Churchill Really Said

... as Sen. Kerry recalls it:

"You ask, what is our policy? I say it is... um... give me a minute... oh yeah, to wage war. By land, see and air. War with all our might and with all all the, you know, like, strength God has given us. And to wage war against a really nasty- wait, make that monstrous- tyranny never surpassed in the dark and really bummed out- I mean, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That's our policy, dude.

"You ask what is our- uh- you know, that thing you do with a gun or an arrow or something- oh yeah, aim. So, you ask, what is our aim. I can answer in one word: it is victury. Victury at all coats. Sorry, at all costs. Victury in spite of all scaries- um, I mean terrors. Victury, however gnarly- uh, I mean long and hard the road may be. For without victury there is no sirvival."

Kerrymouth Spreads

I don't watch a lot of late night TV but I caught a snippet of Richard Belzer on Bill Maher's show the other night. Belzer was snapping at a congresswoman. who said her stepson is in Iraq. Belzer's response, and I have to paraphrase but I'm sure I'm pretty close: "So he's your son! That doesn't make him some brilliant intellectual!"

From Wikipedia:

"[Belzer] attended Dean Junior College in Franklin, MA for a year and a part of a semester before being asked to leave for leading too many student demonstrations. According to one interview, he was majoring in Physical Education. After leaving college, Belzer was encouraged by his father to enlist in the Army. He soon realized he was unsuitable for the military and tried to get out, and eventually he was successful at terminating his enlistment early."

Now that's the kind of guy I want rating who's brilliant.