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 I figure if they read BWP they'll read all about the unpublished ones, so why put myself through all that again.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.