Saturday, June 30, 2007

Pet Peeve

It's been said that a man's true nature is revealed by how he treats animals. This charming little anecdote helps explain why Mitt Romney gives me the creeps:

Romney placed his family dog, an Irish setter named Seamus, into a kennel lashed to the top of his station wagon for a 12-hour family trip from Boston to Ontario in 1983. Despite being shielded by a wind screen the former Massachusetts governor erected, Seamus expressed his discomfort with a diarrhea attack.

Now the story, recounted this week in a Boston Globe profile of Romney, has touched off protests from bloggers and animal rights activists even though it was presented in the story as an example of Romney's coolness under trying circumstances.

When Romney's eldest son, Tagg, and his four brothers complained about the brown runoff down the back windshield, their father quietly pulled the car over, borrowed a gas station hose and sprayed down both the dog and the kennel before returning to the road.

Dumb (and Not So Dumb) Dogs and Crafty Cats

A friend sent me this (nonscientific) list of the 10 stupidest dog breeds -- after making sure it didn't include whippets or Italian greyhounds. He needn't have worried; we harbor no illusions about their intellectual prowess. I was therefore not surprised to find them among the 10 smartest.

As for cats, research published this week shows what we knew all along -- that they're calling the shots:

Friday, June 29, 2007

At Your Service

Silly middle-class me, I thought butlers went out with the Depression.

According to The Wall Street Journal, which would certainly know, butlers are back -- in a big way:

The butler boom is part of the story of how wealth has changed in America. Today's rich, with their high-tech estates, globe-trotting schedules and complicated lives, don't want traditional butlers. They want a hands-on manager, a kind of chief operating officer for My Life Inc. So Jeeves, with his white gloves, British accent and impeccable manners, has been replaced by Jeeves 2.0 -- now known as the household manager.
Hence boot camp for butlers. There are worse jobs, certainly, but I think I'd rather have a butler than be one.

Good Times

I have the best friends. They're scattered all over the place, modern life being what it is, but one of the good things about living here is that people are always passing through.

Some of my favorites were in town this week for various work-related reasons, and all made a point of coming by. Hilarity ensued -- just what I needed. Thanks, ladies.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Never keep up with the Joneses.
Drag them down to your level."

Quentin Crisp

Ugly Americans

If you heard a sad little whoosh on Tuesday, it was the sound of my last shred of innocence slipping into the humid night.

Until the day before, I'd lived blissfully unaware of MTV's "My Super Sweet 16." But a couple of friends were over, and somehow the topic came up. "You have got to watch it!" said one, though the other warned: "It'll make you despair for humanity." Foolishly intrigued, I had Dan record it that very night, and we watched it the following evening.

My god!

The episode followed Mary, a Mississippi girl, as she prepared for her 16th birthday party, an event worthy of Paris Hilton. The theme was Las Vegas, and Mary, who professed a fondness for entering beauty pageants despite being distinctly homely and none too slender, was determined to look like Barbie. We knew this because she reminded us every few minutes. She even hired a Ken for the occasion.

Mary's parents were in no way responsible for the monster that was their daughter. They only wanted the best for their little girl, which to this point had included several dumpsters' worth of flashy clothes, a $200,000 horse and a new Cadillac for the then-15-year-old, which she promptly wrecked. I'm not sure what was wrong with the first horse, but her birthday presents included another one ($125K), which was presented at the party -- dressed in shiny pink, just like its new mistress, and dusted with glitter. I was dying for it to take a big glittery dump on camera, but no luck.

If you want to witness the splendor for yourself, you can catch it on the show's Web site. You could also replicate the feeling by washing down a carton of Little Debbies with a two-liter jug of Mountain Dew. Same throbbing head and churning stomach.

Sticky Rice and the Imbecile

Let's be honest: Mitt is a silly name in English too. When I learned that Romney has a son called Tagg, I thought: What's next? Batt? Lobb? Kneepadd? Touchdownn?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Precious Pearl

She's back for a farewell performance.

Altruism and Maltruism

A recent study by the National Institutes of Health suggests that altruism is hard-wired into the brain, that acts of generosity stimulate the parts that usually respond to food and sex.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"... [I]f by a liberal they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, their civil liberties, if that is what they mean by a "liberal" then I am proud to be a liberal. "

John F. Kennedy

"Neither Fish nor Fowl"

Dana Milbank returned from vacation just in time to weigh in -- with typical sardonicism -- on Dick Cheney's latest delusional claim.

Eugene Robinson's op-ed is also a good read:
I'm often asked why, given my lower-than-low opinion of this administration, I don't at least raise the subject of whether George W. Bush should be impeached. I answer with three scary words that tend to end the discussion: President Dick Cheney.
And finally there's Tom Toles's cartoon:

Monday, June 25, 2007

Note to Self

Stop talking to strangers. Not for your own protection, but for theirs.

It's bad enough that you throw decorum to the winds, parading around in your wheelchair, bumming out able-bodied people wherever you go. No one needs to be reminded that good health is a matter of fate.

You never could keep your piehole shut, but when ALS began to affect your voice, one did entertain a small hope. Alas, your motormouth may prove too great a force even for this onerous foe.

An appeal to your sense of decency, then: Your speech is hard to follow even for those who see you often. You know that, despite your occasional attempts to pin the blame on them. Your own dogs ignore your "commands" whenever possible. So why, oh why, must you throw down the gauntlet at the feet of unwitting strangers?

It's true, they're often the ones who start it, asking innocent questions, naively ignorant of the sticky mire they're stepping into. You, however, know better. You could save the poor souls from agonizing awkwardness by simply shrugging or raising your palms in a gesture of helplessness. In a pinch you could even drool a bit (God knows you're capable); that would send them on their way.

But you never do, do you? So ingrained is the urge to gab that you just keep on doing it, seemingly oblivious to the pained expressions of your captive audience and the inappropriate responses that betray their confusion at just what the hell you're trying to say. It's a spectacle, and not the fun kind.

Have a heart, man, and give it a rest! You aren't nearly as witty and insightful as you think -- nor does it matter if no one can understand. Do the world a favor and save it for the blog.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

"When the facts change, I change
my mind. What do you do, sir?"

John Maynard Keynes

Angry White Male

Dick Cheney is even more Machiavellian than you thought. In a four-part series beginning today, The Post examines how he got that way.

Noteworthy Names

The latest installment from the ever-growing list of names that have caught my attention:

(Mr.) Piecey Saunders
(Miss) B. Gay Paris
Celestia Nye Amberstone
Gladys Hiscock
Olive Morcock
Louie L. Liptrap
Lacy V. Dillow
Alta Mae Boggs
Duddie Mae Dewitt
Levolia Haizlip Goolsby
Merwin C. Blust
Crystal Gray Brown
Mamie Gummer
(Mrs.) Normal Grace Manokey
(Mrs.) Hamaline Peltz (grandson: Hunter Peltz)
Deanne Soaper Swab
(Mr.) Lemon Turner
Sandy Shore
Sandy Stone
Frank Terwilliger
(Miss) Ikea Hicks
Alfred Ham Jew
Faith Rector
Rev. Ivan Ives
Hobson Johnson, Jr.
Jimmy Carter
Floyd Hutzenbiler
Prof. Robert D. Cooter
Contessa Brewer
Benoni Dawson Allnutt, Jr.
Babetta Bigbee
Velma Coombs Coates
Will Hide
Gary Cooper
(Mrs.) Zetherene "Zipper" Harfst
Stephanie Mudd Couch
Lois Lewis
Thelma Hook Smee
(Mrs.) Cockie Hoogterp (quite possibly my all-time favorite)
Marvin P. Shoulders
(Ms.) Alice Cooper
Cloyce, Toss, and Floyd Bachus (brothers)
Amour Grace and Angelic Gallop Carroll (sisters)
Jerline Smoot
Thad McClammy
Tomorrow Green
Peaches Camphor
Ethel Cluster McNutt
Doston and Pearly Mingo

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bright Spot on the Horizon

I was glumly contemplating the vast, barren expanse of summer programming when a friend alerted me to Jeff Corwin's new show, "Into Alaska," starting July 10 on the Travel Channel.

If only he were as quick to disrobe as Bear Grylls ...

A Different Kind of Fat Farm

This is so wrong on so many levels, I don't know where to begin.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Thursday, June 21, 2007

"I am no Einstein."
Albert Einstein

Stupid Human Trick

Sometimes I like to attempt simple tasks while pretending to be blind, a pastime acquired in childhood. I guess ALS just isn't enough of a handicap by itself.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Those Colorful Scots

Every family has its black sheep, but thanks to Cousin Andy, we have red ones:

What can I say? We've always been a little different.

You should see what he does with the cows.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Word Rage

Further evidence that I'm not alone: An op-ed in today's Washington Post led me to the results of this contest in Britain's Telegraph.

I sometimes marvel that I survived two years at a PR agency -- which is where I first heard, at the age of 30, such irritating terms as 24/7 and thinking outside the box, among many others.

One Big Happy

You know the rule: It's not kosher to tell ethnic jokes -- unless you're a member of the group in question, in which case anything goes.

This hilarious video (posted on a German site for some reason) gives a remarkably accurate picture of Italian customs compared to the rest of Europe. No doubt because it was made by an Italian.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bear With Me

My latest fantasy man is English adventurer Bear Grylls, host of the Discovery Channel's "Man vs. Wild." He'd be great company on a desert isle for all kinds of reasons, not least that he could keep you alive and fed.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Culture Schlock

The list of things that disturb me is long and complex, but figurines are way up there, and near the very top are Lladros.

You know what Lladros are: those cloyingly sentimental ceramic pieces displayed proudly in glass-shelved etageres in overcrowded homes around the world. They depict dreamy brides, precocious tots, mournful clowns. (I might be making up the last example, but then again, I might not be.) They almost make Hummels look understated. Oh, and they're shockingly expensive.

People who collect Lladros do so with a singleminded devotion. They tend to be neither young nor male.* So I was fascinated to read in murketing that Lladro has launched a product line aimed at attracting younger customers.

Will it work? Who knows. Stranger things have happened.

As a wise person once said: You can gild a turd, but it still stinks.

* I'm actually just guessing about this. Can't think of anyone I know who collects them.

Waxing Nostalgic

I found this surprisingly engaging.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Today's theme is profanity. I tried to come up with a clever title but got nowhere, and eventually I gave up. Screw it, I thought. Fuck this motherfucking shit.

Last fall Britain's Channel 4 asked some TV celebrities their favorite cusswords. The results make for a colorful collage.

And in Wednesday's column, Mark Morford pondered the power of the F-word.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Out There

"Brokeback Hill": a two-part drama.

Rome Reborn

Armchair travel goes 3-D. Story here. Main site here.

Don't Mess With Sophie

A word to any man reading this newspaper: Do not write an e-mail to French artist Sophie Calle. Do not, especially, write her a "Dear Jane" e-mail.

That's what one fool did, and the revenge Calle visited on him is now filling the French pavilion at the Venice Biennale, wall to wall and floor to ceiling.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"I always wanted to be somebody, but I guess
I should've been more specific."

Lily Tomlin

Love Ewe

I'm not sure this particular novelty item has met with much success, but someone was thoughtful enough to send me the link, so I'm sharing the love. Or whatever it represents -- I can't quite tell, to be honest.

Sick Minds

The latest list from McSweeney's made me laugh and cry. Copiously.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why Houses Are Better Than Condos

Reason No. 86: Because if your potbellied, chain-smoking, NRA-member, Republican-lobbyist next-door neighbor decides to stroll among the cheap, mismatched furniture strewn randomly about his ugly, oversized patio, having loud conversations on his cordless phone between gut-wrenching, emphysemic, death-is-near-at-hand coughing jags, at least he isn't right outside your bedroom window.

Today's Top Story

Last Friday's, actually:

I could've made this up, but I didn't have to.

Words to Live By

capernoited: slightly intoxicated or tipsy

krukolibidinous: the act of staring at someone's crotch

lalochezia: the use of foul or abusive language to relieve stress or ease pain

vesthibitionism: the flirtatious display of undergarments by a woman

More at the Grandiloquent Dictionary.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Building Britain

A 16-image slide show of British architectural history.

Hermit? Or Crab?

Yet another definition of irony: a Web site for hermits.

I see the appeal -- really -- but either you renounce society or you don't. No cheating.

Looks Tasty

A friend was reminiscing the other day about an eatery near our office whose awning exhorted passersby to stop in for "Dinner, Lunch, or Breakfarts." Can't imagine why it went out of business.

A few blocks away was a place called Bon Apetit, which I enjoyed pronouncing as (mis)spelled. When you're truly ravenous, nothing satisfies like a succulent gorilla breast.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Guilty Pleasures

In an excerpt from his new book, God Is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens makes a case for atheism. As always, he's both provocative and evocative:

And now behold what this pious old trout hath wrought. I liked Mrs Watts: she was an affectionate and childless widow who had a friendly old sheepdog that really was named Rover, and she would invite us for sweets and treats after hours to her slightly ramshackle old house near the railway line. If Satan chose her to tempt me into error he was much more inventive than the subtle serpent in the Garden of Eden.

Sometimes a review can be as entertaining as the book itself. Like this write-up of Tina Brown's The Diana Chronicles:

A great glory of this book is the behind-the-scenes close-ups of life at the various castles, palaces and Stately Homes. Picture Diana on her first two-month boot-camp in Balmoral, the sovereign's Scottish retreat: The long days slaughtering wildlife, picnics in the freezing rain, dinners seated between two elderly courtly stiffs ("heavy furniture" in Di-speak); Prince Philip booming on for hours about the evils of trade unions; Princess Anne barking about her day's kill; the Queen's bagpipers at last wheezing traditional Scottish airs around the table to signal time for the women to leave, perhaps for tiddlywinks and jigsaws. As nobody ever goes to bed before the Queen, Di could be stuck listening to Princess Margaret tinkling old show tunes on the piano until 2 a.m.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Putting the Cross in Cross Stitch

For a crafty person, I've always been leery of crafts. In fact, my stomach clenches a little whenever I hear crafting used as a verb.

But things like cross stitch belong in a separate category -- far above, say, macrame or any of the schlock they push on HGTV's daytime shows. If someone made me a cushion with one of these patterns, I'd be proud to display it in my living room.

With thanks to Kristine.

"I'm a Believer"

I'm not proselytizing; that's the name of the No. 1 song the day I was born. Find yours here.

Friday, June 08, 2007


Whereas a witticism is a clever remark or phrase — indeed, the height of expression — a "dimwitticism" is the converse; it is a commonplace remark or phrase. Dimwitticisms are worn-out words and phrases; they are expressions that dull our reason and dim our insight, formulas that we rely on when we are too lazy to express what we think or even to discover how we feel. The more we use them, the more we conform — in thought and feeling — to everyone else who uses them.

Robert Hartwell Fiske, The Dimwit's Dictionary


Big news: I found my sentimental home on the Internet. Bigger news: It isn't a porn site.

That a U.S. presidential candidate can cry Is our children learning, an admired basketball star can use the word conversate, a well-known college professor can say vociferous when he means voracious, and another can scold a student for using the word juggernaut because she believes it means jigaboo is disturbing. The Vocabula Review strives to combat the degradation of our language.

It's clear from the tagline ("A society is generally as lax as its language") that they take their mission seriously. Departments include Elegant English, Grumbling About Grammar, and the deliciously named Top Twenty Dimwitticisms.

Now, if only someone could tell me the difference between proved and proven ...

Close to You

I was so mesmerized by her sleeves, I almost forgot my grief.

Irony Is ...

"What's the definition of irony?" a boy asked his mother.

After thinking for a moment, she replied: "Irony is when you're killed by an airbag."

The sage was my beloved Nurse Leslie, who'd been rather seriously wounded by an airbag not long before.

I was hobbled the day she told me that story, and when I repeated it to Dan, he observed that a wheelchair with a flat tire was pretty ironic too.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Pretty in Pink

I know what I'll be asking for next Christmas.

Good Times

Sitting on the deck last week, Dan pointed at a large white building directly across the lake and asked, "What's that?"

"That's the Red Fez Club," his mother said. "It's a Shriners retreat."

"Do they ride around in little boats?" he wanted to know.

(Alas, they do not.)

Bad Rap

"You'll just be blazed."

I might be able to feel his pain if my own weren't so overwhelming.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Monday, June 04, 2007

It's Official

I'm not the only one taking note.

A subscriber and diligent contributor just alerted me to the efforts of the Cornwall (England) Record Office, whose employees have compiled an extensive Silly Names List. With entries like Admonition Danger and Lovedevina Margaretta Couch, it's a fascinating browse.

Noteworthy Names

The latest installment from the ever-growing list of names that have caught my attention:

Hettie Hicks
Elizabeth Taylor
Freda Fluxgold Better
Howard Gasaway
(Mr.) Syrlyrvian H. Jeffries
Stephen King
Bonnie Valentine Lockett
Octavia Turkvan
Fletcher Harkless
Bolitha J. "Bosy" Laws Jr.
Huge Lyttle
Troyt Button York
Bob Bean
Summer Sanders
Grace Goodenough
John Whynot
Alpine "Dougie" Bird
Euphemia Boykins
Flegnar and Delois Rose
Mable Etta Packer
Craydeen "Dino" Townsend
Alvester and Corinthia Deans
Detmar and Isabella Blow
(Mr.) Lakota Kornfeld
Otis V. Bobo
Delbert and Pearl Flowers
Rodney B. Dowdle
Penina Frager
Wyomia Arnold
Mackintosh Muggleton
Imogen Poots
Dr. Diego Golumbek
Janet Winpigler
Rose Housewright Greathouse
Royal Buyer
Freda B. Friedlander
(Mr.) Valorous Hougen
Antonio Funderburk
Lysonia Hightower
Velvet Mickens
Bishop Kwabena Rainey Cheeks
Finn Peartree
Dudley, Beulah, Inez, and Esperanza Tuggle
Col. Elbert Sleeker
(Mr.) Bonnett Brown (siblings: Teadie and Uless)
Chyna Cork
Faith S. Luck
Kara, Karla, Karey, and Karen McKenzie (siblings)
Deboorne "Buzz" Piggot
Taylor Button
Cherie Berry
Crystal Outerbridge
Ona Jo Cavey
Oscar Baggish
Hazel Smock Percebaker
Laura Fry Crumbacker
Mose J. Moses
Bufonda Payton

Sunday, June 03, 2007


In case you doubted me*:

We're back in the Holler after a one-day stop in Winston-Salem to visit my friend Caroline and her family.

I met Caroline back in college. She used to be a lot of fun, but now she's a veritable Stepford wife, obsessed with fitting in and having the perfect home and family. She runs her household with the crisp, humorless efficiency of the Swiss railway system. Woe unto the child who tracks mud indoors. Her three sons seem a little more rabbity every time I see them; they're obviously beginning to crack under the pressure.

Are you reading this, Caroline? I hid the end of that tuna salad somewhere in your house. If you don't find it soon, it'll come find you.

When I finally reached my breaking point, we escaped to the less formal setting of Reynolda, the House That Cancer Built. Originally the seat of the R.J. Reynolds clan, it is surely the largest structure ever to be described as a bungalow. I have to admit, though, it is remarkably livable and cozy for its size.

* You really should know better.