Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Story

A man came home from work one evening to find his children playing in the yard in their pajamas. The flower beds he'd put in the week before were ripped out and most of the dirt was all over the kids' pjs. The rest of it was tracked into the house.

In the living room the dog was chewing the last of what he recognized as his best pair of shoes. The drapes had been ripped down and the cat was using one for its new litter box.

The kitchen was almost unrecognizable under all the dirty dishes, half-empty cereal cartons, and spilled juice boxes. The refrigerator door was open, the freezer was open, and thawing ice cream dripped onto the floor.

In the master bedroom her found his wife, lounging on the bed, reading a novel.

"What happened here?" he demanded.

She smiled at him. "You know how every day you come home from the office and ask me what in the world I did all day? Well, today, I didn't do it."

Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27 and Still No Vince

Well, here it is, two days after Christmas and still no card from Vince Flynn. And I think I know why.

Vince Flynn, as all haunters of Barnes and Nobel, Costco, Walmart and airport book kiosks know, is an author of VBD (Very Big Deal) standing. His thrillers- and I must say, they are indeed thrilling- are megasellers. He has fans all over the globe. And he lives here in the Twin Cities.

Which is how, I am certain, he found out about Sugar Plum Days.

Every year a couple of weeks before Christmas, the Altar and Rosary Society of the Church of the Holy Family- my hangout- hosts a Christmas bazaar and bake sale. You know the deal- crafts for sale, a visit from Santa, kids sugared out of their minds. This year, the lovely ladies of the AaRS asked if they could offer copies of my book, "Breakfast with the Pope," for sale as a fundraiser.

Which was fine. Except for the fact that the never asked Vince Flynn if they could sell his books. And I mean, never.

"We'd love to display your books," the head AaRS lady said. "But please, don't tell Vince Flynn, okay? We're not selling his and we don't want to hurt his feelings."

Well, I don't know how he found out, but it's clear to me Vince got wind of it. And I'm pretty sure he's still mad.

I tried. I wrote a letter to him on my other blog, which you can find by going to I tried to explain that it wasn't my fault. I mean, face it, Vince! Not everyone is up to the Altar and Rosary Society's standards. That's just the way it is.

Anyway, in the letter on the blog I tried to tell him I felt bad about the whole thing and I hoped he could overlook it. But I think he's still mad. Otherwise why wouldn't he send me a Christmas card?

Now I, of course, am far too lazy to send out Christmas cards. I mean, the card shopping, the address lists, the post office- it just never ends, so I don't get involved. But since obviously Vince is a lot more energetic than me- anyone who publishes a dozen books in a dozen years has got to be energetic- he must send out Christmas cards to half the world.

But not to me.

Vince? Look, I said I was sorry. You just gotta let this one go, buddy. I'd hate for things to be awkward at the next meeting of the Twin Cities Chapter of Famous Author Types.

Who, by the way, also haven't sent me any cards this year.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Steve Landesberg, RIP

"Barney Miller's" Dietrich has died at age 65. The spouse and I loved that show.

Early Christmas Gift

Shopping at the mall yesterday. In one of those girly-girly stores that sell cool clothes for tweeners.

Young mom with toddler in stroller approaches. "Ma'am? I've finished my shopping. Do you need a coupon? I won't be using it again."

Hands me a computer coupon worth 40% off all purchases!

"Wow!" I beamed. "Gee, thanks!"

"You're welcome! Merry Christmas!" She smiles and starts wheeling stroller out of store. Tosses back over her shoulder, "Now you can buy even more gifts for your grandkids!"

Note to self: touch up roots today.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Getting the Bird for Christmas

At the supermarket today I stopped by the Community Bulletin Board. This time every year they post photographs of local kids and the Santa who visited the store last weekend. Holiday memories, don'cha know.

Only this year I think Santa joined the ranks of memories. Because he wasn't in the pictures.

The kids looked cute, as usual, but I have to say many of them looked, well, uncomfortable. Puzzled. Baffled, even.

Actually they looked kind of freaked out.

Which is probably how I'd look, too, if a giant ptarmigan were trying to put his stubby little wing around my shoulders.

I read last week that a YMCA in New York canceled Santa's visit to the children this year in favor of a drop-in by Frosty the Snowman. The powers that be at the Y had decided that Frosty was a more "inclusive" figure than Jolly Old St. Nick--

OMG!! Did I just say "Saint"? Well, thank God the Young Men's Christian Association tossed him out on his fat white glutes. Obviously they had to get rid of him. You can't have saints around at Christmastime--

OMG!! Did I just say "Christmas?" Oh, jeez. Sorry, everybody.

Some professional Santas were asked what they thought of this move by the Y. A Jewish man who has played Santa in Central Park for twenty years was disgusted. "They're not thinking of the kids," he fumed. Because, as we all know, Frosty the Snowman DOES NOT GIVE OUT PRESENTS. You're bad, you're good, Frosty doesn't give a damn. He just watches the thermometer, that's it. Really gives the average American child a thrill, wondering if Frosty will turn into a puddle anytime soon.

I thought substituting Frosty for Santa was bad enough. But a giant ptarmigan? What is this world coming to? What's he going to do, hand out frozen fish?

There are those who would nitpick. "It's not a ptarmigan, it's a penguin." My eye, it's a penguin. Penguins have some dignity. Not this giant beaked creature. It looked like it just lost a bet and had to take the last available Christmas-ish costume. It looked stumpy, even though it was probably six feet tall.

Well, the ptarmigan did it for me. I'm going to say "Merry Christmas" to absolutely everyone I meet until the 6th of January. I'm going to don a furry red stocking cap and stuff my pockets with jingle bells.

And if I see any signs of "Meet Sammie the Christmas Seal," I'm going to start carrying a club.

Two Days In Texas

I spent the weekend in Texas. The spouse and I were attending a wedding in Dallas-- a beautiful wedding, one of the loveliest I've ever seen. And OMG, the food was fantastic.

Now I'm back in Minnesota, where it's 18 degrees. That sounds harsh if you compare it to Dallas' 60-something temps yesterday, but trust me, for Minneapolis it's positively balmy. The forecast is for a few inches of snow later today.

Strolling around Dallas, seeing the fall leaves still on the trees, the pansies still blooming in the borders, the grass still emerald green, I asked myself: Arent' you glad you live in a place where there's real winter? Where they don't have to spray paint the snow or shroud their shrubbery in burlap? Where Santa doesn't look, well, a little overdressed?

And I answered myself: What are you, nuts? I'd take a 60-degree Christmas any day.

I realize my views are not shared by everyone. My daughter thinks snow is the greatest thing in the world, and I have friends who actually enjoy things like skating on frozen lakes or cross-country skiing their way to work in the morning. Some of my neighbors even jog all through the winter.

When I first came to Minnesota I would look at those joggers and think, They have a lot more character than I do. Why aren't I out there jogging along with them?

Answer: Because I'd rather not be found frozen stiff by the side of the road, thank you very much.

I can't help it. I'm just not a winter person. Even with all its lovely creature comforts- fireplaces, hot toddies, the beautiful silence of new-fallen snow, I just was not cut out for this climate.

At the post-wedding brunch people were trying to tell themselves how not-so-bad winter back in Minnesota was. "At least it snows. It doesn't rain, like in Chicago, or New York. They have sloppy winters. Ours is nice and tidy, provided your snowblower doesn't break down." All the while they're looking out the window at the spring-like Texas weather and thinking, I wonder if there's any way I could move here....

But no. Not gonna happen. So back to the not-for-the-faint-of-heart winter of the Upper Midwest. And tell yourself, I am one tough Minnesotan.

Either that or I'm out of my mind.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Up Early

Well here it is, 5 am and yours truly is up and about. I have fed the dogs, put them out, chased the chihuahua into the yard (we're still working on the housebreaking thing), assured the labrador that nothing was her fault, and rewarded the chihuahua for going outside with popcorn. I have switched on the fireplace and brewed the tea.

Yep. I'm ready.

Ready for my "Morning Air" interview, which according to my calendar is at 6 am.

I love doing radio interviews. You don't have to blow dry your hair or put in your contacts, you don't even have to change out of your pajamas. All you need is your phone and your voice.

As to how long my voice will hold up, that is an open question. My daughter is down with something that looks a lot like the flu. I figure any minute now I'll come down with it too and be even more miserable than she is. Or at least I'll show it more.

In the meantime I'll bone up on my "Breakfast with the Pope" knowledge. There could be a pop quiz this morning.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snow Day

We got around seventeen inches of snow last yesterday. The dome of the Metrodome collapsed under the weight of the snow and the Vikings had to postpone their game. This was probably a relief to a lot of Vikings fans.

Anticipating the blizzard I stocked up on essentials such as "Foamies" craft kits and old Bob Hope movies. Our sideboard is now a veritable gallery of Foamy art, and we have watched "The Road to Morocco" three times. If anybody is up to doing the "pattycake" gag, I'm your girl.

Native Minnesotans soldier on in weather like this. It's really amazing. They go about their business, taking kids to school and going to the grocery store as if nothing was wrong. I've been here seven years now and I still can't get over it.

People of Minnnesota, let me point something out;

And there is no break in the weather forecast for days. I'll be holed up here with Bing Crosby if anyone wants me.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

My First Book Signing!

Yesterday I had my first ever book signing event. It was at the Barnes and Noble Bookstore at the Har Mar Mall in Roseville, Minnesota. The B&N folks said if we sold 20 books that would be a huge success. We sold 77. We were delighted and so was Barnes and Noble.

The event was a blast. Like I said it was my first, and I wasn't quite sure how you do these things. We started out chatting, then someone said I should hold a Q&A, in which I think I did all right-- at least, no one who had a "Q" listened to my "A" and then said "What the hell are you talking about? That wasn't what I asked you!"

I don't know about you but I call a lack of blank stares one heck of a success.

There was only one dark cloud on my book- signing sunshine. There's no other way to say it so I'll just come right out and say it:

Vince Flynn didn't come.

Now, I know a couple of things about Vince Flynn. I know he's a best-selling author. I know he writes military thrillers. I know you can buy his books in Costco. I know he lives here in the Twin Cities.

And I know he knows exactly where the Har Mar Mall is.

How do I know this, you ask? Because he's held signing events there too. In fact that's one of the reasons I was so thrilled to be going there. I mean, maybe I'd be signing books at the very same table Vince used. I might even get to hold the same pen. Does life get any better than that?

But Vince didnt' come to the Har Mar Mall yesterday. He skipped my signing. And I think I know why.

So, an open letter to Vince Flynn.

Dear Vince:

You skipped my signing. Not only did you not buy a book; you didn't even come to hang around the edges of the crowd and snicker. "I sold a thousand books at this mall, Vigilante. You think you got what it takes? Haw haw haw."

And I know why, Vince. I know why.

You're still mad about Sugar Plum Days, aren't you?

Look. The ladies of the Altar and Rosary Society of Holy Family Catholic Church asked if they could sell my book at Sugar Plum Days last weekend. I said fine. But they added, "But don't tell Vince Flynn, okay? We're not selling his latest, and we don't want to hurt his feelings."

Well, I never wanted to hurt your feelings, Vince. But what can I say? Not every author has what it takes to crack the Sugar Plum Days market. Come on, you know that as well as I do.

I know, I know. Show me the writer who does not look to Sugar Plum Days as the Holy Grail of book marketing. I'm sorry, Vince. There was nothing I could do. Honest.

Look, I'll put in a good word for you next year. But for now. could you please just let this one go? I'd hate to run into you at the next meeting of the Twin Cities Chapter of Famous Writer Types and have you glaring at me. Bad enough you glare at me from the back of all your books.

So there it is, Vince. What do you say you show a little holiday spirit here and let bygones be bygones? And yes, I promise I'll let you know the very next time I have a signing. I'll even save you a special copy.

Yours sincerely,


Monday, November 29, 2010

Leslie Nielsen

The great Leslie Nielsen has died. I will remember him best as Frank Drebbin of "Police Squad." He made us all laugh.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Morning After

I imagine by now you've read lots of "what I have to be thankful for" posts. I am sure they've been inspiring, moving, touching.

But I have the best reason to be thankful. Ready?

a) I did not cook.


b) I still got leftovers!

Come on, does that rule or what? Is it not every mother's dream? No cooking. Not a finger lifted. No dislocating my shoulder lugging a frozen turkey home from the store, no splashing brine all over myself trying to tenderize the thing, no going cross-eyed trying to evaluate a million different recipes for stuffing.

Yes, dear reader, we were guests at someone else's table this year. Now. Ready for the best part?


She ordered dinner from Byerley's. I realize she did this entirely on her own, but I like to think I was the inspiration for this. A few years ago I discovered the secret to holiday peace was to order the food pre-cooked from the grocery store. You might not get Grandma's recipe for apple pie or your cousin's fabulous stuffing, but do you really need perfection at the holidays?

You do not. You need sanity. You need peace. You need your shoulder blades to stay where they're supposed to be.

The first time I ordered a dinner I think it was Easter. Imagine my joy when I found out I could order it for Christmas. And imagine my disappointment when I found out the store only offered this incredible deal at major holidays. I then contemplated ordering six Easter dinners at once and freezing them to eat over the next few months, but I ran out of freezer room.

I'm not sure when my aversion to cooking set in, but it was fairly recently. I used to love the cookbook aisle at the Barnes and Noble. I loved browsing food magazines, especially when I was feeling a little hungry. But somewhere along the way I just ran out of enthusiasm. It got so I had to drag myself into the kitchen. Then half the time all I could do was pull a couple of takeout menus out of the drawer.

Maybe cooking was more fun before we had to start watching our calories. There's a joy in butter, and don't get me started on sugar and shortening.

But now. Health, fat, the threat of the scale. Food is just not fun any more.

And if food has lost its fun, well, cooking doesn't have a prayer.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Another One of Those Lists

I found this at Happy Catholic. You're supposed to note the ones you've read and (separately) the ones you've read parts of.

So let's see. I've read 1,3,5,7,8,10,11, 12 (I think), 13,16,18,20,22,,25,29,32-38,41,45,46,48,49,54,57,59,61.62,66,68, 70-73,75, 76,80,81, 87,92,95 and 98.

I am currently reading #79.

I"ve read parts of:

2,4,6,9,14,15,21,24,27,39,,31,40,42,43,47, 63,83,85,89,91,and 94.

Taking this quiz I realize I don't have a lot of patience for Russians or Frenchmen.
Hey, it passes the time.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (but I"m working on it)

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson (This is NOT a classic and is mean spirited enough to make it never become one in my book ... stick to his history-ish books, not the travel guides)

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Inferno - Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Sunday, November 21, 2010

First Fall!

I just fell on the ice. Right outside my back door. I was going to step outside with the dogs-- they like a little company when I put them out in the morning- and the next thing I knew I was flat on my back with a worried labrador in my face.

And so it begins, another Minnesota winter. Back in New York the fall leaves are still on the trees. We have already had our first snowstorm, two weeks ago. The snow is still on the ground, in that unattractive rocky gray ice form it gets after a few days. Lovely.

I try to get enthusiastic about winter, I really do. I check out the price of high-tech snowshoes in Costco. I read up on the latest in cold weather gear. I even flip through all the L.L. Bean Winter catalogs. Anybody want to buy some scented firewood? I know where you can get some, cheap.

But no. I look at the snow and the ice and the outdoor thermometer and I want to move to the tropics. or just stay inside.

Which, given how my day started, would probably have been the best course of action.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Now Here's Good News

LONDON - Druids have been worshipping the sun and earth for thousands of years in Europe, but now they can say they're practicing an officially recognized religion.

The ancient pagan tradition best known for gatherings at Stonehenge every summer solstice has been formally classed as a religion under charity law for the first time in Britain, the national charity regulator said Saturday. That means Druids can receive exemptions from taxes on donations — and now have the same status as such mainstream religions as the Church of England. (AP)

And now for some real Druids:

Monday, September 27, 2010

BWP Update

Well I finally got my box of books. My publisher brought me a carton of copies of "Breakfast With The Pope" last week. DIH has been spending all her time admiring her work. (The fact that there is no author photograph makes this task all the easier.)

It's an interesting experience, holding your "first" book in your hands. I suppose I have to call it that; it is the first one that ever got published. The only problem is when people ask "Is this your first book?" Then they look you over like, "Um- if you don't mind my asking, what took you so long?"

So I explain, "Well, it's my first published book." I figure if they read BWP they'll read all about the unpublished ones, so why put myself through all that again.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why We Admire Bill Maher

Is it because he dug up Christine O'Donnell's "I dabbled in witchcraft" clip.


It's because he can do this. Come one, have you ever seen such talent?

Monday, September 20, 2010

"I Love That Lady!"

That was my fifth-grader's reaction.

It's mine, too.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Benedict in Scotland

Pope Benedict began his visit to the United Kingdom with a day in Edinburgh. He visited Holyroodhouse with Queen Elizabeth and accepted a gift of a tartan scarf, which he wore while riding in the Popemobile.

It's sad for DIH to think that the great Scottish writer Dame Muriel Spark did not live to see this. I can only imagine the novel this would have sparked in her mind.

Spark published 22 novels in her lifetime, in addition to a lot of other books of poetry, essays and short stories. Today in America, she is probably best remembered for her 1961 novel, "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie."

"The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" is the story of a charismatic, controlling teacher and her effect on the lives of her students. When it isn't making you laugh, it's stabbing you in the heart. For a lot of Americans, DIH included, "Brodie" is the only picture of Edinburgh we ever got, and it is a powerful one. DIH does not envy popes often, but she envies Pope Benedict his day in Edinburgh for this very reason.

This is my favorite passage from "Brodie." I quoted it here four years ago when Dame Muriel died, but it's so good I have to do it again. Here is Miss Brodie preparing herself for yet another confrontation with the school administration:

"I am a descendant, do not forget, of Willie Brodie, a man of substance, a cabinet maker and designer of gibbets, a member of the Town Council of Edinburgh and a keeper of two mistresses who bore him five children between them. Blood tells. He died cheerfully on a gibbet of his own devising in seventeen-eighty-eight. This is the stuff I am made of."

That "Blood tells" kills me every time.

Muriel Spark entered the Catholic Church at the age of 36. If you look her up in Wikipedia, you'll find the following:

"In 1954 she decided to join the Roman Catholic Church, which she considered crucial in her development toward becoming a novelist. Penelope Fitzgerald, a fellow novelist and contemporary of Spark, wrote that Spark "'had pointed out that it wasn't until she became a Roman Catholic... that she was able to see human existence as a whole, as a novelist needs to do.'"

Pretty cool stuff. Keeps us struggling Catholic writers going.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stupid Question/Answer of the Day

The Hollywood Reporter has an interview with Bill Maher who, you may or may not know, has never won an Emmy Award. Maher believes that the reason for this is his atheism alienates some voters, and this is why they've turned him down. Twenty-six times.

DIH is reasonably certain other atheists have won Emmys, so Mr. Maher is whistling in the dark here. But that's not the reason for this post.

The reason for this post is, in the course of the interview, writer Randee Dawn made one of the biggest verbal gaffes of all time, and, really, what is DIH all about if not appreciating such moments?

And the question of the day is, Which is dumber: Dawn's gaffe or Maher's response?

Here's the exchange:

THR: Author Christopher Hitchens, who has esophageal cancer, is a vocal atheist like you.

[DIH: Uhh.. well, maybe not quite as "vocal" as he used to be, Dawn. Hello, Hollywood Reporter: don't you guys have editors any more?]

THR: What do you think of people who believe he'll make a deathbed conversion?

Maher: People who are waiting for that are going to be disappointed -- because I don't think he's going to die.

[DIH:OMG, it's really true: Hitchens IS the first immortal! I knew it!]

One again, HR: spend a buck and hire a copy editor, for Pete's sake. Looking stupid is in no one's interest.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Just When I Thought It Couldn't Get Worse

I admit it: for the past nine years, every since we adopted our daughter, DIH has been patting herself on the back for missing the worst of the Barney craze. No sickening purple dinosaurs in our house, no sir. We were just under the wire. And proud of it.

Pride goeth before a fall once again: little did I suspect that fate was just waiting for its chance to smack me in the kisser with Justin Bieber.

I'm not sure if JB is male or female, twelve or sixteen, artfully coiffed or the victim of a unique birth-defect of a hairdo. Al I know for sure is he's Canadian.

Still, I couldn't resist sharing this PSA. Take it to heart, Democrats. This is your symbol they're talking about. Thanks to Hot Air.

It All Comes Back To Me Now...

Ever hear the expression "like a kid at Christmastime?"

You know how children can get around Christmas. I mean, besides maddening. They're excited,they're impatient, they can't wait another day. The Big Event has to happen now now NOW.

Well that's the way DIH has been feeling lately. The Big Event she is waiting for is the arrival of a box of books.

Her books. The actual hardback copies of "Breakfast With The Pope."

It's the first thing she thinks about, the last thing she thinks about, and in between she keeps checking e-mail and the front porch for any signs of their arrival.

Childish? Oh yes. Absolutely. Also unproductive, time-wasting, self-indulgent, the list goes on. Yet she can't help herself, she really can't.

I think this must be the best time in the life of any writer, the space between "your book has gone to press" and anyone actually reading it. Because now you are free to fantasize. I mean, think about it: so far no one has had a chance to say "I hated your book." So far everything is positive and perfect and full of hope. Sure, you're a little antsy. But for once it's a fun antsy. It isn't "O dear God when will I ever finish this thing" or "if one more person asks 'how' the book coming along' I'm going to burst into tears."

Nope, it's none of those. It's "I can't wait to see how it looks! I can't wait to hold it in my hands! I can't wait another minute!"

This is fun. It's really, really fun.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Anniversary

Nine years ago today.

DIH will leave the sermons to others.

All she can say is, pray for America, people.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

On Koran-Burning

From "The Little Flowers of St. Francis"

"...Now when [Francis] arrived in a certain country of the Saracens,where such cruel men guarded the roads that no Christian passing through them could escape being killed, by the grace of God they were not killed, but were taken prisoners, beaten in various ways and very roughly bound and then led before the Sultan.

"In his presence St Francis preached under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in such a way about the holy Catholic faith that he offered to enter the fire for it. As a result, the Sultan began to feel great devotion for him, both because of the unshakable conviction of his faith and because of his contempt for the world-- for though he was utterly poor he would not accept any gifts--and also because of his fervent longing for martyrdom. And thereafter the Sultan willingly listened to him and asked him to come back to see him many times. Moreover, he generously granted permission to him and to his companions to go anywhere and freely preach wherever they wished in all his empire. And he gave them a certain little token so that no one who saw it should harm them."

Did everyone catch that?

Just in case, let me make it clear: please note the LACK OF ANY KORAN-BURNING.

Right Network Takes Off

Yesterday marked the launch of Right Network. Kelsey Grammer's online lineup includes programs like "Running," a documentary that follows rookie candidates for office as they try to upset the congressional apple cart. Another offering is "Right2Laugh," which will showcase conservative comedians doing their standup acts.

ABC News reports:

"Jeff Cohen, an Ithaca College journalism professor and liberal activist, questioned whether the kind of audience that likes conservative talk shows want something similar in entertainment, and whether it can be pulled off.

"Comedy requires irony," Cohen said. "It can't be frothing with hate or fear. Drama requires complexity. It can't be all black and white."

Well, gosh, Jeff. We'll try to keep our hate and fear under wraps. In the meantime enjoy the promo. And check it out at

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Happy New Year!

Rosh Hashanah starts at sundown. Shana tova, y'all!

The Verdict

After several days of feeling crummy,DIH has concluded she is suffering from a bout of food poisoning.

I ought to know, too-- food poisoning and I go way back. For some reason I seem to have a talent for picking up FP. I've had it all over the world. I've had it in Paris; I've had it in Beijing.

But the winner is definitely the time I had it in Rome. I ate a slice of pizza or something from a street cart. Some hours later I collapsed in the Raphael Stanze in the Vatican Museum. I remember thinking as I sank to the floor, Gee, art lovers from all over the world are going to step on me.

Luckily a security guard found me before I was trampled to death. I'll tell you one thing: you haven't lived until you've been wheeled out of the Vatican with a security guard yelling "Attenzione! Attenzione!" to everyone in his way. The "attenzione" you get is truly impressive.

Anyway, at least this time around I'm home and can feel sorry for myself in relative peace. Maybe I'll finally start that diet I've been talking about for, I don't know, five years.

Yep. There's always a silver lining.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Country Life Is Out To Get You

From Breitbart:

The Associated Press LONDON - Police in southwestern England say a former member of the Electric Light Orchestra was killed in a freak collision with a huge hay bale that rolled down a steep hill.

The victim was identified on Monday as 62-year-old Mike Edwards, who played cello in the British rock band between 1972 and 1975.

Sgt. Steve Walker of the Devon and Cornwall Police said Edwards was driving a van Friday when he collided with a 600-kilogram hay bale that had rolled down a hill to the road.

Monday, September 06, 2010

On Why It Doesnt' Pay To Get Too Picky About One's Authortiy

Yesterday DIH got lucky. That's right, she and daughter won the "Wicked" tickets lottery.

So we got two orchestra seats for last night's performance for 2 buck each. A pretty good deal, no?

When it was time to take our sets the head usher took one look at 5'2" DIH and shorter child and said, "And if you think you might need a cushion, just tell those people over there."
I was puzzled, but they seemed to know what they were doing, so I said, "Sure, let's get cushions." And a nice young man gave us a pair of extra seat cushions.

When we got to our seats we found out why.

Now you have to understand, this is Minnesota. They grow 'em big in Minnesota. We were seated directly behind a pair of 6 foot=plus types.

I sighed. "Here, sweetie, you better take both of these. " I piled the cushions on my daughter's seat so she could at least occasionally peek at the stage.

This action provoked two things: a sniff from the woman behind us and a rush-to-duty by the nearest usher.

"No no no!" snapped the usher, at my kid, mind you, while I'm sitting right there. "You can't do that! You have to make sure the people behind you can see!"

"Really?" piped up DIH, interested. I pointed at the six-footers. "So, what are you going to do about them?"

At this the usher, no doubt suddenly realizing what she'd started, froze. "Uhh... um..."

"I mean," DIH went on helpfully, "are you going to tell them they need to make sure we can see over them?" And how, DIH wondered, precisely are you going to do that?

Now the usher was stuck. She turned to the sighing woman behind us. "Um- um- I can get you a cushion, too," she declared.

Now sighing woman spoke. "Oh, I wouldn't want to create a ripple effect."

Now I felt sorry for the usher, Almost.

Luckily, the six-footers turned around and offered to swap places with us. We gratefully accepted the offer.

Now comes the weird part: "This must happen to you all the time at the theater," I said to the tall pair.

And they looked puzzled. "No. No. actually, it's never happened before."

Another one of those reminders that you just ain't in Kansas- I mean, Long Island- any more.

Friday, September 03, 2010


OK, by now we all know that Chris Matthews described the President as "pluperfect" the other day, but for those of you who missed it, here it is again:

Now, quick quiz for all you Catholic school graduates: what does "pluperfect" mean to you?

Answer: Of or being a verb tense used to express action completed before a specified or implied past time.

As in, I had arrived before the other guy arrived.

"I had arrived" is the pluperfect there.

According to the online dictionary DIH consulted "pluperfect" can also mean "supremely accomplished," but come on, has anyone ever used it that way before?

Chris, we're all real proud you passed Latin I. Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres forever, dude!

But whatever you do, don't describe anyone as "genitive" or "dative." Otherwise you might come off as "accusative," and you wouldn't want that.

Blog Shopping

I've been looking at a lot of authors' blogs lately. I'm going to be starting a blog for my book, "Breakfast With the Pope," in a few weeks, and I wanted to see how the pros do it.

There are some beautiful blogs out there. I especially liked the vampire ones.

Every so often I ask myself, Why oh why wasn't I born a super cool vampire author? Having perused some vampire blogs my envy is only intensified. Vampire writers get to wear fangs. Vampire authors get to use an amazing amount of lingerie in their blogs. And how can you go wrong with a simple theme of red and black?

It's an enviable life the vampire writers lead. The adulation of teenagers, the shopping for crumbling Victorian mansions, the creepy emails from felons-- all this is stuff DIH can only dream about.

Ah well. Reality check, Desperate. You're not a vampire author, period. The closest you've ever been to a vampire is those people who take blood samples at the doctor's office. And that left a lot to be desired as a literary experience.

Since "BWP" is set in Italy (largely), I also took a gander at the Italy author blogs. You know, the "Under The Tuscan Sun" set.

Now there were some beautiful blogs. Gorgeous pictures of charming medieval streets, overflowing vegetable stands, gaping fresh-caught fish. I don't remember reading much, I was too busy drooling over the food photos.

And therein lies the problem with writing about Italy: you cannot separate the place from the food. If there is one "Italy book" blog out there that does not include a ton of food writing, I haven't found it.

Now ask yourself: can I read about Italian food without wanting to stuff myself with some?

The answer in DIH's case is a resounding "no way." I can't even watch "The Godfather" without needing something to eat. Preferably something with red sauce. Maybe some eggplant. Definitely cannolis.

So naturally after browsing the Italy author blogs I pulled out all my Italian cookbooks. And oh, oh, baby. I see the calories coming now. I see Italian feasts laid out all over the kitchen.

And since I'm such a generous soul, maybe I'll share some.

But not the cannolis.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Fair Games

It's been nearly a week now,, and so far DIH has successfully avoided the Minnesota State Fair.

I know, lots of people love the Fair. 4-H-ers, for instance. And vendors. Vendors love the state fair.
And why shouldn't they? When you can charge seven bucks for a piece of cheese on a stick, what's not to love?"

Still I have been following it in the papers. And I admit, it looks like I'm missing out on a few interesting items this year.

The one that first got my attention is a new food item: Camel-On-A-Stick. The ads for this new gourmet treat insist that the camels that are gutted and roasted for this are "farmed" camels." Appparently somewhere in Australia somebody got the bright idea that since no one can stand then nasty spitting beasts as pets, why not just eat 'em? The State Fair promises Camel-On-A-Stick is fresh from a farm in Australia. Given DIH's experience with Australia's other major export- I refer, of course, to the Wiggles- I think I'll give the camel a pass.

Today's paper has a fascinating article on testing animals for illegal substances. (You gotta watch those 4-H'ers like a hawk.)

In case you ever need to test a largish farm animal's urine, the paper provides instructions:

"We take pigs to the wash rack and run water over the ears and snout," [a vet explains.] "With sheep, you cover the nostrils and mouth. They get panicky and they they urinate." With bigger beasts like bulls, you just kind of wait around for a few hours. Sooner or later you get your prize, if you're still paying attention.

So far the Fair authorities' vigilance has paid off and there are no reported dopers this year. But then there are the "legal" enhancements that can help animals take the prize.

"A lot of these guys raise cattle in air conditioning all summer," [a judge] said. "The animal's hair gets all heavy ad thick. So it looks nicer."

This vanity play, however, comes at a cost. "The problem is, we don't allow the animals in air conditioning. So they're panting quite a bit because they can't hande the heat." One year some poor (but good-looking) cow had a heart attack and died at the wash rack. Vanity, thy name is bovine.

Intriguing as all this sounds, DIH will stick to her resolve and continue to avoid the State Fair. The thought of seeing some poor sheep lose a blue ribbon due to illegal doping is more than she can bear.

So is the thought of spending seven bucks for a wad of cheese.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


OMG! has my book up already!!! WOW!!!

Unfortunately it lists the author of "Breakfast With The Pope" as "Susan Tunney." This, of course, is DIH's maiden name. For a while I thought I'd publish under my old name. The first version of the book cover was done up using "Susan Tunney," and I guess this is the version Borders put up.

But when it came time to finalize the cover I decided to go with my married name, Susan Vigilante. At least in part because it's easier to remember, if just as tricky to spell.

Still, it's pretty thrilling to see "BWP" at the site. And I love my book's cover.

Go and see it. It's very pretty.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Big Day

Yes yes of course. Wednesday is the first day of school. On with my daughter's education and all that. But tomorrow is the Really Big Day.

Why, you ask?

I'm so glad you asked.

The reason tomorrow is the Really Big Day is that tomorrow is the day my book, "Breakfast With The Pope," goes to press.

The typos have been fixed. Well, as far as I know. I's have been dotted, t's crossed. Tomorrow "Breakfast With The Pope," which has been a MS for longer than I care to think about, becomes a Real Book.

And DIH is happy. She is, in fact, ecstatic.

And the second the BWP blog is up I will direct everyone to it and you can share the excitement.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Party's Over

Our parish hosted its Fall Festival this past weekend. For those of you who think August might be a tad early for a Fall Festival, let me point out that this is Minnesota. We're expecting the first frost any day now.

Usually after the Fall Festival DIH is left facing many questions. Questions like, What the hell was I thinking charging into a bidding war for "An Afternoon of Ice Fishing" at the charity auction? Luckily this year, I forgot my checkbook. So no regrets on the auction front.

But this early start to the parish social season has me looking ahead. To the school's Marathon fundraiser, when cute kids in uniform hit you up after Mass to "sponsor" them. "Gimme ten bucks and I'll go away" is the best pitch I've heard so far. [Note to self: skip the after-Mass donuts until after Marathon. Save a bundle that way.]

To the start-of-school Ice Cream Social. Why does everything our parish does involve a major intake of carbohydrates? [Another note to self: for god's sake bring a couple of cans of Diet Coke this year. Not only good for self but can probably make a few bucks selling them to other moms.]

To all the scattered and usually (by me anyway) unanticipated school breaks. How many times have I been faced with the realization that instead of a peaceful day with the girl in school I am instead faced with the pleasure of her company.

Don't get me wrong, my daughter is wonderful. But she's an only child. You know who only children talk to all day? THEIR MOMS. I am nuts about my daughter, but once she talked so much I broke out in hives. So today I am scanning the school calendar, plotting escape hatches. If that fails then it's time to stock up on steroids.

Getting ready for fall....

Friday, August 20, 2010

This Is A Disa-ster

Should have left my phone at home!

Man Killed Midconversation When Cell Phone Exploded

There were no witnesses to the incident, but it is believed that Gopal Gujjar, a 23-year-old man from from India's Banda village, was killed when his cell phone exploded midconversation, causing serious injuries to his ear. Gujjar's body was found near his farm along with the charred remains of his cell phone and battery Tuesday morning. Gujjar suffered burns on his left ear as well as on parts of his neck and shoulders, according to the police who recovered his body earlier this week. Gujjar was using a Nokia 1209, a model that came out in 2008, according to the New York Daily News. "It is probably the first incident in the country in which a mobile phone exploded while it was not being charged," the Times of India reported. "However, there have been cases when users sustained injuries as phones exploded." Earlier this year, a woman was killed when talking to her husband on a Chinese-made cell phone while it was plugged into the wall. And deaths from mobile phones have been reported in a handful of other countries, including Korea and Nepal.

(from today's Slate)

Of course, these guys would have known how to handle an exploding cell phone.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Anne Rice, and The Undead

Gosh, was it only two weeks ago that vampire novelist Anne Rice announced she was leaving Christianity? How time flies.

Today weighed in on the matter. And there's good news, people: "undead" has a whole new meaning.

Townhall Columnist Bob Burney writes, "I’m with you, Anne! I have through the years developed a deep distaste for “religion.”

What makes this statement a little odd is the fact that Mr. Burney is an evangelical pastor who broadcasts for Salem Communications.

So odd, in fact, that DIH put aside her morning Cheerios and read on.

Burney goes on to tell about his recent trip to a youth camp in Moldova, in Eastern Europe. It was fantastic! "Kids hooked on drugs and sex are wonderfully delivered. Young people lost in a poverty-stricken culture find meaning and hope. Over the course of 17 years, over 22,000 young people have come to Christ!"

I'll let Mr Burney tell the next part:

"On the return trip to America, I had an overnight layover in Vienna. Although I had seen it before, I had to make a visit to St. Stephens Cathedral in the heart of the city. Standing for over 800 years, its architecture is truly breathtaking. There are priceless works of art everywhere. You cannot help but stand in awe realizing that this structure was built without any modern technology or machinery. There are so many adjectives and superlatives that I could use to describe the visual spectacle that confronts you. It is beautiful, magnificent and opulent—but it is also dead. It is more museum than church—a relic of ritual and tradition, filled with tourists, empty of worshippers."

Now that's odd, I said to myself. Austrian Catholics are a pretty serious lot. Trust me, the pastor of my childhood parish was Austrian, and in addition to having an unpronounceable name- Pfundstein- he was one serious guy. (Naturally all the kids called him "Funsy" behind his back.)

So I decided to see just how "dead" St Stephen's in Vienna is. I started poking around the internet.

Well. All I can say is, for a "dead" church, St Stephen's is one happenin' place.

If "Messe" means what I think it means, St Stephen's has eight Masses every Sunday. Plus the Rosary and Vespers, and whatever "Hauptgottesdienst" mean.

As for weekdays, there are six Masses, and the Rosary, and "Andacht." Which, according to my internet translator, means "devotion." And given how many devotions Catholics are into that could mean a lot of different things. (Divine Mercy, anyone?)

Now, I don't have any attendance figures. But it strikes me as odd that any church would bother to hold half a dozen masses every weekday if no one was showing up. In fact, it strikes me as Almost Certainly Not The Case.

I guess I could ask what time of day Mr. Burney dropped by St Stephens. Maybe he hit a between-the-masses lull. But jeez, Bob. You couldn't have picked up a bulletin or something? You couldn't look up what was actually going on at St Stephens' when you weren't around? "Dead" seems a little extreme for a church that has "Haupgottesdienst."

I tell you what, Bob. You get around, right? Maybe you should check out a few other Catholic churches and we can straighten out this "dead" bit once and for all. I know some awesome ones.

But if you're not into that, here's the St Stephen's website:

Let me know if you find out what "hauptgottesdienst" means.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Happy Birthday

Happy 90th birthday to the great Maureen O'Hara. Everyone loves an Irish girl!

And can she wear a corset, or what?

Monday, August 16, 2010

She's Ba-aaack...

I know I haven't posted in months. But if any of you are still reading this here blog, I am back in business.

It's hard to refuse the hundreds-- okay, dozens-- well, actually, both fans who urged me to pick up the old keyboard again. So here I am, ready for another round.

So keep coming back. I promise more to come.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Liveblogging the USA-England Soccer Match

..on my Facebook page. Well the first half, anyway.

Quote of the Day

From the NY Post's review of the remake of the "Karate Kid," starring Jackie Chan:

"The kid, Dre, flirts up a taller cute girl (Wenwen Han) in his new school and the two spend much of the movie scampering around Beijing Tourist Board locations like the Forbidden City, as if the average 12-year-old will care. I’ve been to China, and trust me: Smoke six packs of unfiltered Luckys while strolling down Mott Street, and you’ll get the gist."

You can read the whole review at:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Another Phrase Ruined

There has been much talk lately about the President's statement that his new mission in life is to find out "whose ass to kick" re: the BP oil spill. Jon Stewart has declared the opening of "AssQuest 2010." Bloggers are now referring to "President Kick-Ass." And everyone is trying to figure out exactly how Barack will kick his own.

This kind of language used to be described as "salty." Remember when George Bush said in a Navy officer's ear the morning after a debate (off-mike, he assumed) that "we really kicked ass last night." The media were in an uproar. Such language! From a Navy man! The shock, the horror!

Nowadays it's no big deal. In fact my local newspaper, and many others, admire the president for "talking tough." (This is not the same as being tough. But it's as close as he's gotten so far, so I guess the paper wants to be encouraging. "Good boy, Barry! Now let's try to apply that to our actions, OK? Here's a cookie.".)

The real problem, for yours truly, with the President's statement is this:

The man has gone and ruined a perfectly good phrase.

Who will be able to describe anything as "kick-ass" again without everyone assuming you're being ironic? "Kick-ass" will come to mean "in as wimpy a fashion as possible." Or "pointlessly noisy." Or "I'll sit here with my hands folded."

I used to like to say I belonged to a kick-ass parish. And I do. But now I'll have to find a whole new phrase. "K-a" has lost its meaning. And I for one mourn its passing.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Poetry Corner

I'm wondering what readers think of this poem. It is by Richard Brautigan and was published some forty years ago. Four short lines. Comments welcome.

The Pill vs. The Springhill Mine Disaster

When you take your pill
it's like a mine disaster.
I think of all the people
lost inside you.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Wouldn't It Be Wonderful...

... if this was all Congress ever did?

Friday, June 04, 2010

New Game

I have a new game I play when I'm waiting on line at the supermarket. I call it "The Blame Game."

Catchy, huh? I should copyright that.

The object of the game is to come up with as many things as possible for which George W. Bush is to blame.

The game is easy when you're standing right next to the tabloids. For example, George W. Bush is obviously culpable for the Gore split, the BP oil crisis, and the excessive tattooing of Ms. Angelina Jolie. (Note to Ms. Jolie: tattooing yourself in Khmer is not proof you are dedicated to ending the sex trafficking of young Cambodian girls. It just means you like tattoos.) All of these things are clearly the result of the selfishness and ineptitude of our previous President.

But once you start putting your items on the conveyor belt and can no longer keep a close eye on the headlines, it gets more challenging.

Is GWB to blame for the suddenly, and sneakily, smaller containers of Edy's ice cream. And they thought we wouldn't notice! The nerve of those Republicans.

And what about the fact that stores no longer automatically mark down the dented cans of diced tomatoes? Republican greed! It's hardly worth the trouble of denting the cans myself any more.

The wilted lettuce, the shrunken citrus. GWB must have swept them with his devastating Destructo-Vision.

But at least we know Bush cannot be the cause of the ubiquitous and uncivilized practice of Bag Your Own Groceries. That one is clearly a result of Democratic support for the poor and oppressed supermarket cashiers.

Plus it ensures a result of such devastating incompetence- squashed bread, crushed potato chips, cracked eggs and celery leaping out of the bag int he parking lot-- that this could only have been a Democrat's idea.

Thank you, Mr. Obama!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Headline of the Day

"Stinker flick stiffs writers"


The geniuses trying to market the abysmal "Sex and the City 2" messed up on at least two continents. A dozen prominent authors -- including Alexander Lo brano ("Hungry for Paris"), Dana Thomas ("Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster"), Jamie Cat Callen ("French Women Don't Sleep Alone") and Mireille Guiliano ("French Women Don't Get Fat") -- were invited to speak at Café Etienne Marcel in Paris as part of a promotion for the menopausal chick flick. But New York Agency, the Paris-based p.r. team hired by Warner Bros. to handle the event, didn't mention the authors in media alerts, stuck them in a small, dark, back room, and didn't provide a micro phone or turn down the music during the talk. An agency rep gabbed throughout, and, worse, said nothing when the café made the writers pay for drinks. "A complete nightmare," one of the authors told us. "But we got the sense that Warners couldn't care less."

Okay, I understand stiffing the writers. It's practically a tradition. Where would Hollywood be if they never stiffed the writers? Ask William Faulkner, ask Arthur Miller.

But refusing to pay for their drinks? What were they thinking? Writers practically live for free booze. I ought to know, I've been stuck with the bill enough times. You deny a writer his God-given right to a free cocktail, you're messing with Art! And Truth! And Truth in Art, or something. Anyway you're screwing around with the order of the universe.

Not a good idea.

I Think I'm In Love

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day, 2010

My father-in-law was a World War II vet. He was a bicycle messenger in London during the Blitz. One day in an antique shop my husband and I found (but alas did not purchase) a complete set of World War II lead soldiers in full battle array. Among the hundred or so tiny lead soldiers was one rather frightened-looking guy who looked like he was riding his bicycle for all he was worth. "That was my dad's job," My husband said. (He also said his father told him he was terrified in his life.)

My husband's dad was also in the second wave at D-Day.

This morning we are all going to the Memorial Day Service at a big city cemetery, in honor of the brave Americans who have died defending the rest of us. Sometimes I look at some of my fellow Americans and wonder why. But I am determined to live with the benefit of the doubt.

This scene is not about American soldiers but British ones. I love how when Alec Guinness turns to face his ragged, defeated remnant he stops hearing mere whistling and instead hears a full military band in all its glory, and his eyes fill with pride at the sight of his men.

Think of our soldiers today, and hear the music. They deserve it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

Another Dem Gets Out of Dodge!

Michell Malkin reports, quoting

"A Democratic official says Rep. Patrick Kennedy has decided not to seek re-election for his seat representing Rhode Island in the U.S. Congress.

The official spoke to The Associated Press only on the condition that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak ahead of the official announcement.

The decision by the eight-term congressman comes less than a month after a stunning Republican upset in the race for the Massachusetts Senate seat his late father, Edward Kennedy, held for almost half a century."

Ans why? To spend more time with his family, no doubt. Oh, and this (via AOSHQ):

"Poll had only 35% saying they would vote to reelect P. Kennedy. He faced primary challenge from Jon Brien and GOP fight with John Laughlin."

It's official: Rhode Island is no longer the dumbest state in the Union.
Way to go, Rhodies! Better late than never!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I Probably Need Someone To Check My Theology

I have a pretty cool coffee mug I use nearly every day. It has the entire text of 1 Corinthians: 13 printed on it in tiny white letters. If you want to read the whole thing you have to look close and keep spinning the mug in your hand. Not such a great idea when the coffee is hot, but the more it cools the easier it is to read, and I have been known to read it through of a morning.

The other morning I was pondering certain attributes of love as described by St Paul. Love, among other things, is never jealous, not easily provoked; it is not self- seeking; it keeps no record of wrongs.

Hm, I said to myself. I tried to think how to apply this in m own humble existence, and I came up with a simple formula: basically, love doesn't give a c--p.

Now seriously. Is that not a fair interpretation of someone who never gets angry (or even), doesn't care what toys the other guy has, and has no personal ambition?

It's actually a relaxing thought. Hey, I want to love the way I'm supposed to. And the only way I see towards that goal is to stop caring what happens to me, stop striving after self-aggrandizing goals (be honest, how many other kids of goals are there), stop comparing my '95 Subaru to your '09 Lexus and heaving a long, slow sigh... it makes Love sound like a freakin' vacation, doesn't it?

"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." Except for that "hope" part, does this not come down to "love puts up with any pains in the butt the world cares to hand out"?

And now that I think of it, that kind of love sounds pretty attainable. I bet anyone could do it.

Maybe I'm onto something here. Maybe I could start selling "inspirational" coffee mugs, too: "Love. It Doesn't Give A C--p."

I gotta check out Cafe Press.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Groundhog Day!

So I went looking for great clips from "Groundhog Day," one of my faves. Didn't see one that grabbed me.

But this clip did. Greatest line evah!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Oh Yeah, Green Is Smart

Especially here in Minnesota. And by the way, :in a few months" it will be summer.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Memory Aids

We understand, Chris. We're all getting older. THose little memory slips seem to crop up all the time, don't they?

Fortunately there are lots of little things you can do to keep the old memory bank in the pink. Allow DIH to make a few suggestions.

1. Make lists. I know it sounds like a no-brainer (ha! little brain-death humor there), but good old-fashioned lists really do work. Like a "To-Do" list for today:

Take meds
Dentist appointment
"Harball" tonight!
Remember the President is black.

See? Simple, but effective.

2. Tie a string around your finger. Or try some variation of this: switch your wristwatch to your left writs, turn your wedding ring around, shave your head and don a 'do rag. That way every time you look in the mirror you can remind ourself: the President is black.

3. Mnemonic devices are also very handy. Try one like this:
Bailouts, lying, Alito nailed it, cap and trade, kill babies.
See? Covers The One's first year in office, and the first letters spell out b-l-a-c-k. Really you can have a lot of fun with these.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


State of the Union speech is tonight. Which is just as well, as last night's string of min-disasters prevented DIH from hitting the tube anyway.

It was one of those good thing/bad thing strings.

Good thing: went to gym.
Bad thing: over did it.

Good thing: daughter got to go swimming.
Bad thing: Daughter up late finishing homework ("Well I tried to do it at the gym, but...")

Good thing: went to Costco and bought eggs, cheap.
Bad thing: Dropped most of eggs in ice on driveway.

Good thing: squirrels got nutritious breakfast of organic eggs.
Bad thing: squirrels live.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Embedded (NOT!)

DIH is having problems with posting videos. Blogger keeps telling her the embed codes are "broken" at one tag or the other. Thus her silence recently, as she feels quite at sea without AV aids.

If I can't fix this problem I don't know how I'll cover the State of the Union tonight. For once I can't wait to watch it. I want to see every forced smile, every repressed shudder, every twitch in Chris Matthew's eyebrow.

Since I cannot post it here, pleas give yourselves a treat and find Jon Stewart's bit on the President's teleprompter-aided speech in the sixth grade classroom. Word of advice to Dem strategists: losing Jon Stewart is like losing Massachusetts, only funnier.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

That's the address of the Holy Father's new website. Check it out.

h/t ace of spades

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Meanwhile, Back In The Bunker

Lifted this from The Anchoress, who knows a good joke when she sees one.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Martha Coakley School for Charm and Deportment

Lesson One: How to answer the door.
Note especially the concern for the woodwork, e.g. "Leave my door alone!"

Lesson Two: Proper Dress.
Always wear your Union insignia when attempting to shove women around.

Lesson Three, Corollary to Lesson Two:
Never wear a flat cap to a thugfest. Done, done, done to death, darling!

[h/t Noisy Room ]

And It's Only Wednesday!

Whew! What a week it's been! Aftershocks in Haiti and revolution in Massachusetts, and we're only in the middle of the week. DIH doesn't know whether to worry or rejoice.

She's gonna go with rejoice. And send help to Haiti.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Best Political Wisdom Of The Day

In yesterday's Democratic policy meeting President Obama issued a message on Health care reform: "If Republicans want to campaign against [Obamacare], that is a fight I want to have!"
I would have put the video up but there's no embed code. See link to get the full effect of our petulant Prez throwing a hissy fit.

Watching the video I had to chuckle. My daughter then asked, What's so funny, Mom?

I sighed. "This is. Because... because the President just can't believe that anyone would dare to disagree with him."

Daughter looked thoughtful. Then she said, "Even though he's a father?"

Friday, January 15, 2010


Via Drudge:

"Weight Watchers clinic floor collapses under dieters
The floor of a Weight Watchers clinic in Sweden collapsed beneath a group of 20 members of the weight loss programme who were gathered for a meeting.
As the dieters queued to see how many pounds they had shed, the floor beneath them in the clinic in Växjö, in south-central Sweden, began to rumble, according to a report in The Local, Sweden's English-language newspaper.

"We suddenly heard a huge thud; we almost thought it was an earthquake and everything flew up in the air.

"The floor collapsed in one corner of the room and along the walls," one Weight Watchers participant told the Smålandsposten newspaper.

Soon, the fault lines spread around the room, and other sections of the floor gave way.

Luckily, all of the dieters escaped uninjured and managed to move the scales to the corridor, which was not damaged in the accident, and were able to complete their weekly weigh in.

The cause of the floor's collapse remains under investigation.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti's Pact With The Devil. And Mine.

December 2009. DIH commando raid on Costco.
"Oh no. Oh no, no, no, it can't be. Where are they? They can't all be gone! They can't be! WHERE ARE THE FREAKIN' BELGIAN CHOCOLATES?!
"What, Mr. Front End Manager? You say they're all gone? Sold out? But it can't be too late! It can't be!
"What am I going to do? What am I going to do?
"Dear God, forgive me, but we both know who is the Lord of Belgian Chocolates at Costco Prices. The Prince of Dark Chocolates, and Also Milk.
"Forgive me, Lord. But I am desperate....."

And ever since then DIH has been carrying a good five more pounds on her erstwhile svelte figure. I made the deal and I'm paying the price. Take warning, good reader, and stay away from the Dark Side, even if it means no chocolate, and/or continued presence of the French.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Does This Mean My Father Gets His Money Back?

A strange little ad popped up on my Facebook page today. The ad was for something called "eCornell." So I clicked on the ad and found this:

"Cornell Alumni: You Now Have a Second Chance to Choose the Right Major

"Are you aware that as a Cornell Alumnus, you are eligible for a 25% discount on any of eCornell's certificate programs? There has never been a better time to further your professional education with a certificate from Cornell University. eCornell has the most comprehensive online programs offered by any top-20 university in the United States."

It continues,

"Our Programs

• Leadership and Strategic Management: Develop a solid understanding of leadership and strategic management concepts to ensure contribution to the bottom line.

• Systems Design: Learn the right way to design products and services from Cornell's Engineering School

• Project Leadership: Learn how to master the leadership and interpersonal skills necessary to promote optimal collaboration and performance from team members in today's climate of globalization, increased integration and shifting corporate policies.

• Financial Management: Interpret financial information, assess the costs and benefits of business decisions, and effectively communicate operational and financial strategies to maximize economic value for your organization

• Management Essentials: Learn to become a more effective manager by learning to hire and motivate employees, manage through conflicts, communicate effectively, and manage your team's overall productivity

• Human Resource Management: Learn the essentials of Human Resources including selection and staffing, employee relations, benefits management, performance management and appraisal

• Hospitality and Foodservice Management: Learn how to enhance your productivity and effectiveness leading or managing service teams in the hospitality industry

• And more..."

Uh-oh, I says to myself. I don't see my major here. Is dear old Alma Ma trying to tell me something?

Something like, "Hey, remember those years you spent sweating for your humanities degree? By now you've probably figured out what a total waste of time that was. Not to mention money! Seriously, since you left Cornell, has that bachelor's in medieval history been worth the paper it's printed on?

"We didn't think so! We know we offer a lot of useless majors, but face it, yours was one of the worst.

"But now that you're an adult, with a mortgage to pay and children to educate, we're going to give you another chance. Another chance to do what your parents told you to do all along: Get a degree that's worth something, godammit! Hellooo! Real world calling here! Wake up and smell the coffee before it's too late!"

I think I will forward this to my dad. If he still has those canceled checks, it may be time to send Cornell a bill.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Found This

The Great Man doesn't start until four minutes in, but worth the wait.

I love the way he says "university."

Here's Good News

A documentary about Walker Percy is in the works!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, January 11, 2010


Like I said, this is how we learned the great claymation anthem, "Davey and Goliath."

Art Clokey

Art Clokey, the animator who created "Gumby," died last week. I didn't see much of "Gumby" as a kid but I saw plenty of "Davey and Goliath," the Lutheran claymation Saturday morning show. Watching "D&G" was the only way Catholic kids of my generation got to learn how "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" goes. It was the show's opening song. When we were finally taught the hymn in 8th grade everybody thought it was called "Davey and Goliath."

Here's a bit of Gumby's pal Pokey, having a dream about cookies. I can relate.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Genuine Item

Radio Call

I was on my way back from the paint store with another handful of swatches, trying not to crash the car as I inched over the glacial streets of South Minneapolis, when all of a sudden I heard it. I heard the unthinkable. And I almost did crash.

Dr. Bill Bennett, host of "Morning in America" and author of -- Lord, how many books?-- was chatting with Mike Gallagher about his latest coup: Houghton Mifflin has agreed to publish

Dr. Bennett's "America: The Last, Best Hope" as a textbook.

Let me repeat that: AS A TEXTBOOK.

You know what they do with textbooks, don't you? They send them in to SCHOOLS.

Where they are read in CLASSROOMS.

By TEACHERS. And, if the teachers are lucky, by STUDENTS as well.

Obviously this is shocking news on a number of levels. For one thing Bill Bennett is smart. More than smart- intelligent. And get this: his book is about America.

An intelligent book about America? In the public schools? Maybe even required?
I must be dreaming, I said to myself.

Then Dr. Bennett said something that slapped me wide awake: he said he guessed this meant "'the times they are a changin',' as Peter, Paul and Mary said!"

Now, I listen to "Morning in America" every morning, on my way home after dropping my fourth-grader at school. I'd like to listen to it on the way to school as well, but usually I'm either drilling my kid on spelling words or going over the basketball schedule with her. (This is mostly to avoid having to listen to anything from "High School Musical

And if there's one thing you learn from listening to "Morning in America," it's that Bill Bennett knows his music. He can tell a Dion from a Belmont, a Freddy from a Pacemaker, a Shangri from a La. Have a question on the Ronettes? Ask Dr. B. Care to debate the relative merits of the Mersey Beat? Dr. B. is your man.

So when I heard him attribute "The Times They Are a Changin'" to Peter, Paul, and/or Mary, naturally I was astonished. Excuse me, but did Bob Dylan write a more iconic song? If you grab a stranger on the street and demand a Bob Dylan recital, do you not immediately get a nasal rendition that begins "Come gather 'round people, wherever you roam"? I'll tell you one thing, you sure as heck won't get "Puff the Magic Dragon."

I live in Minnesota. We are the state that gave America Senator Al Franken. Not to mention Walter Mondale. We have much to atone for. But by gum, at least we gave America Bob Dylan, who gave America "The Times They Are A Changin'" (Okay, so he also gave America one of the loopiest Christmas albums of all time-- see link-- but that's beside the point.)

Too Good Not To Share

When I was taking screenwriting classes they told us over and over again: don't re-invent the wheel. Steal plots, steal characters from the classics. It will make your career.
To wit, this analysis of "Avatar," the latest from filmmaker James Cameron. Whom blogger "Happy Catholic" called "a filmmaker so green, he recycles old plots!"

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Surfing The Roads

There's a special thrill you get driving the Minneapolis side streets these days. For DIH it all boils down to, "Is everything I'm doing right now-- manipulating the steering wheel, managing the brakes, checking my mirrors and dutifully signaling every turn- an exercise in futility?"

I mean, think about it. You're driving on a solid sheet of ice. What chance do your driving skills have? Face it, the ice is in charge, not you. You are completely at its mercy. Somewhere some gloomy Nordic god is laughing behind your back.

I haven't had a skid or a spin-out, yet. A year ago I was driving my daughter home from school-- at, I am not exagerrating, about 20 mph- when I skidded down a small hill into a tree. Luckily damage to car and tree was minimal. Damage to DIH's ego was rather more extensive, especially since now every time we pass that particular tree my daughter points it out to anyone who might be listening.

But I've seen plenty. Perfectly innocent SUVs, spinning their wheels in the middle of an intersection. Luxurious Lexuses trying hard but going nowhere. Beautiful Benzes sliding into parked cars. DIH, of course, drives a tough little Subaru. Winter in Minnesota is the one thing that puts the kibosh on her Jaguar fantasies.

My advice is stay home if you possibly can. Supplies may dwindle but at least you won't need a new front end.

See the link for the real horror.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Your Tax Dollars At Work, NPR Style!

Not to mention your hard-earned donation dollars. I wonder how many tote bags and coffee mugs the cartoonist got with this?

Incidentally, people, "tea bag" is an obscene insult. Which is apparently NPR's idea of "in-depth reporting" and "smart humor."

Oh dear- I'm afraid you'll have to click on the link below to see the dazzlingly witty bit NPR is offering. They don't provide an embed code.

DIH would love to hear what everyone thinks of this bit.

Brit Hume Is My Guy!

Of course he's getting sneered at all over the blogosphere for this. But honestly, what else can you tell a man who has hit rock bottom? "Join a health club"? "Take a vacation"? "Get out more"? Hey, that's what got Tiger into trouble in the first place!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Lying Low

We are hiding inside our house. Because outside it's minus something degrees, and we fear the cold.

Ah, January in Minnesota. When the pipes freeze and the roads ice over, and all bodies of water turn into vast blocks of ice. When DIH watches the happy, hardy souls cross-country skiing on the frozen lake and the happy children skating on the ponds and asks herself, "Are they mad? It's seventeen below out there!"

DIH is usually pretty well prepared for a cold spell. Although last night she was dismayed to find we were out of rum. Hard to make a hot rum toddy without rum.

Still there is much to be thankful for. The wind hasn't picked up yet, for instance. If it does, well, that will make everything much worse. And my gas fireplace is working nicely, thank you. I know because I haven't ventured more than ten feel away from it all day.

And until the mercury goes up an inch or two, I don't plan to be anywhere else.