November 3, 2011 - October 27, 2011
Thursday, November 03, 2011
Modest. And GREAT.
GIVE IT A CHANCE. I've
always hated American
Idol. A bunch of Whitney Houston impersonators adding endless
notes to pedestrian songs. But I decided to look in on X-Factor because I suspected Simon
Cowell wasn't wholly a monster based on his discoveries of middle-aged
diamonds in the rough like Paul Potts and Susan Boyle. I
know it's been a slow starter in the ratings race, but there are
several ways it's significantly better than Idol. There is no age limit, the
format of the show is designed to provide maximum exposure for a
handful of acts that are truly talented, whether they win the grand
prize or not, and the judges are not there to scorn the pretenders but
to mentor and promote talents they have invested their own time and
production skills in. On this show the judges are advocates, not assassins. It makes
you feel good.
I convinced my extremely reluctant wife to watch and she was blown
away. The contestants aren't all superstars, but they're far superior
to the drek of American Idol.
Just a kid. And he dominated that audience.
Each judge has a category of performers. And they'll be responsible for
sending somebody home on a regular basis. It doesn't please them
because they like what they're seeing.
fourteen. Like country or not, she's a force to be reckoned with.
That's all I have to say. I wouldn't have said this much except that my
wife suggested it. That's the real miracle here.
What you can do
GUILT. People don't understand the riches of web resources
like YouTube and Google. The amount of available stuff is nearly
infinite. I've tried in the past to show you what YouTube contains.
Today it's Google's turn.
I executed a search for "the most beautiful." Here's the result.
Assemblage A gathering.
Beleaguer To exhaust with attacks.
Brood To think alone.
Bucolic In a lovely rural setting.
Bungalow A small, cozy cottage.
Chatoyant Like a cat's eye.
Conflate To blend together.
Cynosure A focal point of admiration.
Dalliance A brief love affair.
Demesne Dominion, territory.
Demure Shy and reserved.
Denouement The resolution of a mystery.
Desultory Slow, sluggish.
Dulcet Sweet, sugary.
Ebullience Bubbling enthusiasm.
Efflorescence Flowering, blooming.
Elision Dropping a sound or syllable in a word.
Elixir A good potion.
Eloquence Beauty and persuasion in speech.
Embrocation Rubbing on a lotion.
Emollient A softener.
Epiphany A sudden revelation.
Erstwhile At one time, for a time.
Ethereal Gaseous, invisible but detectable.
Evanescent Vanishing quickly, lasting a very short
Forbearance Withholding response to provocation.
Furtive Shifty, sneaky.
Gambol To skip or leap about joyfully.
Gossamer The finest piece of thread, a spider's silk
Halcyon Happy, sunny, care-free.
Harbinger Messenger with news of the future.
Imbrication Overlapping and forming a regular
Imbroglio An altercation or complicated situation.
Imbue To infuse, instill.
Incipient Beginning, in an early stage.
Ineffable Unutterable, inexpressible.
Ingénue A naïve young woman.
Inglenook A cozy nook by the hearth.
Insouciance Blithe nonchalance.
Inure To become jaded.
Labyrinthine Twisting and turning.
Lagniappe A special kind of gift.
Lagoon A small gulf or inlet.
Languor Listlessness, inactivity.
Lassitude Weariness, listlessness.
Leisure Free time.
Lilt To move musically or lively.
Lissome Slender and graceful.
Lithe Slender and flexible.
Love Deep affection.
Mellifluous Sweet sounding.
Moiety One of two equal parts.
Mondegreen A slip of the ear.
Nemesis An unconquerable archenemy.
Offing The sea between the horizon and the offshore.
Onomatopoeia A word that sounds like its meaning.
Opulent Lush, luxuriant.
Palimpsest A manuscript written over earlier ones.
Panacea A solution for all problems
Panoply A complete set.
Pastiche An art work combining materials from
Penumbra A half-shadow.
Petrichor The smell of earth after rain.
Plethora A large quantity.
Propinquity An inclination.
Pyrrhic Successful with heavy losses.
Quintessential Most essential.
Ratatouille A spicy French stew.
Ravel To knit or unknit.
Riparian By the bank of a stream.
Ripple A very small wave.
Scintilla A spark or very small thing.
Seraglio Rich, luxurious oriental palace or harem.
Serendipity Finding something nice while looking for
Summery Light, delicate or warm and sunny.
Sumptuous Lush, luxurious.
Surreptitious Secretive, sneaky.
Susquehanna A river in Pennsylvania.
Susurrous Whispering, hissing.
Talisman A good luck charm.
Umbrella Protection from sun or rain.
Untoward Unseemly, inappropriate.
Vestigial In trace amounts.
Wherewithal The means.
Woebegone Sorrowful, downcast.
Sure I can disagree. But truthfully, there are a lot of beautiful words
on the list.
So it's all supremely subjective. Why I'm inviting you all to nominate
your own "most beautiful" places, music, architecture, women, words,
poems, paintings, cars, whatever.
Let's have a huge fight about it. (Unless you'd rather stew about Cain
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
WANTED TO LIKE HER. What it is to be old and soft. I had thought
that maybe Michelle was the silver lining of this abominable
administration, that her duties as First Lady were exposing her to a
real America that refuted her Princeton fantasy of an evil slave state.
I guess I was wrong
about that. Read the whole thing.
angry first lady
Michelle’s back, and she’s madder than ever. She was already pretty
angry, seemingly unhappy with just about everything. As her husband
wrapped up the Democratic nomination in 2008, she let fly her real
feelings: “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of
my country.” A few months into her job as first lady, her French
counterpart asked how she liked the gig: “Don’t ask!” she reportedly
spat. “It’s hell. I can’t stand it!”
She even seems to be mad at her silver-tongued husband. When the two
were to set off on a luxurious 10-day vacation to Martha’s Vineyard,
she left early - four hours early - and flew up alone. And those
private vacations. She’s traveled to some of the world’s most plush
resorts, taking 42 days off in the past year - that’d be eight weeks of
vacay time if she held down a normal job.
Now, she is ready to spew her bilious disgust with America on the
campaign trail. A dignified, transcendent first lady? No chance.
Michelle is going to break with a hundred years of tradition and play
the role of attack dog, heaping derision on her husband’s political
opponents like no other first lady before her.
And it’s already begun. Mad Michelle this week popped down to Davis
Island, Fla., to hobnob with the very people her husband despises - the
1 percent. At a massive mansion on the bay, filled with the wealthiest
of the wealthy, America’s first lady launched into a tirade about
“them” - the Republicans.
“Let’s not forget about what it meant when my husband appointed two
brilliant Supreme Court justices, and for the first time in history,
our daughters - and our sons - watched three women take their seats on
our nation’s highest court. But more importantly, let’s not forget the
impact their decisions will have on our lives for decades to come - on
our privacy and our security, on whether we can speak freely, worship
openly and love whomever we choose. That is what’s at stake here,” she
said to applause.
Yes, Republicans hope to regain the White House so they can install
Supreme Court justices who will trample Americans’ privacy, ignore the
nation’s security, crush free speech and persecute the religious...
This is the person Barack Obama goes home to. It makes me more worried
. I've been away from the site for more than a few days,
which doesn't normally occur, and I feel obliged to offer an
explanation to assure you it's not going to be a trend.
Lady Laird and I have been to Pittsburgh for a long weekend. We were on
a mission. Our granddaughter Pippa attends college there and it became
necessary for us to say "Hi, Andy" to a portrait of Andrew Mellon
so his ghost wouldn't trip her when she passed through the lobby of the
administration building on her way to class. All the underclassmen
swear this is a constant threat.
We were happy to assist. My helpmeet made the hotel reservations,
arranged for the rental vehicle, scoped out the route via the GPS
function on her iPhone, and conducted the intense negotiations required
to get a veterinary clinic to house all three of our dogs for nigh on
72 hours. (People think Hillary is a tough bargainer. At the end they
weren't even surly when they agreed to the king's ransom times two she
had kept as her diplomatic ace in the hole.)
I did my part as well. I fell ill with a severe respiratory complaint
that should have made it impossible to leave my computer for any reason
whatsoever, barring the noble altruism of a man who also prefers not to
live in total spousal silence for the next three months, and when
tears, tantrums, special pleadings, and brilliantly ingenious excuses
by the dozen availed nought, I went out to the TrueValue and purchased
two timers to fool the burglars prepared to pounce on our house when
the sighthounds and I were no longer sleeping on our sentinel couches.
Then I somehow managed to extract the high tech timer devices from
their senior-proof packaging and, with the aid of my immense intellect
and a magnifying glass, deciphered the instructions on their
installation and activation. Several false starts later, they actually
worked. You know. Man stuff.
It's easy for you youngsters to say, "So what? You got in a car, drove
there and back, and now you want a medal?" Of course I want a medal.
This one will do:
With an "Escape"
and a "Hi, Andy" chevron.
You have no idea what it's like for a civilized homebody to burst
suddenly out of his small world into the wild west that exists slightly
left of the Main Line. There be horses and buggies out yonder,
starting as early as the Lancaster exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Amishers. At every mile marker
afterward you wonder, will the roads be paved? Will we fall headfirst
into a godawful Kevin Costner movie involving deerskins and subliminal
Thus, Friday morning found me piloting a bright red Ford Escape stuffed
with dogs and luggage to the first checkpoint, where Lady Laird began
the intricate process of canine-ransom exchange by leading a 13-pound
pug into the office of the commissar, who like all communist
apparatchiks everywhere, had no record of the intended transaction and
needed all new paperwork. When she returned, hours later, to give me
the okay to bring the other two, I was filled with admiration -- until
I beheld the face of the functionary in charge when she saw a greyhound
and a deerhound.
"I thought you meant three pugs," she said. "This changes everything."
To this day, people -- generally younger, dumber people -- ask me why I
hang onto my grandfather's WWI .45 sidearm and why I added the 16-bullet clip. What can you say to such
people? The dogs got their due digs.
Then the great odyssey got truly underway. I drove all 12,000 miles of
it, because the alternative would have been to surrender the steering
wheel to women who were fighting over which channel of eighties music
was going to prevail on the radio until we fell off the western edge of
the earth. No thank you. And, yes, there was more than one woman on
board. Do you begin to understand my medal claim?
I know I've tested your narrative patience past its limit. Permit me to
share the observations of a couch potato dynamited out of his happy
zone into the realities of life on the 21st century road. The following
are non sequiturs, but I'm convinced that epigrammatists like Pascal
and La Rochefoucauld would approve, perhaps even with some envy:
Why do they call it the Ford "Escape"?
You can't get away from a bleak and barren landscape. Somebody said,
during the 6,000 miles of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, "I love it. This
looks just like Canada." All I could think was, "Exactly. Why I never
go there. Eighty billion square miles of barren nothingness. And no way
I'd like to (want to) buy a Ford. But I don't. I grew up in the days
when we fell in love with cars. Nobody falls in love with a thing that
aims for passing grades and achieves exactly that. The kindest thing I
can say is that I didn't get a back-ache. Probably not what Romeo said
There's nothing like an old, small, women-only college. Too bad the
[redacted] academics have to [redacted] it up with [redacted] [redacted]
like [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], and especially [redacted],
which actually makes me [redacted]. But the campus, the buildings, and
the trees and gardens were astonishingly beautiful. These alone make me
hopeful. The warm light of the past may yet outshine the politically
correct haz-mat lightbulbs of the present.
If you're a couple who loves the Olive Garden, like Lady Laird and me, you don't have to wait in line for a great
meal. You can wait for two seats to open up at the bar and eat
there. The menu is the same, the service is swift, and you feel like
you've won the lottery. Kewl.
In the hands of a master (er, missus), the iPhone can do anything. Find
the way to the hotel, find the weather back home, remind you not to
call the pet gulag to check on Eloise, and tell you where the nearest
restaurant is that's serving food in a snowstorm when your own hotel
keeps boutique hours for continental breakfast and early supper.
Granddaughters are lovely, touching beings. You want to protect them
from all the things that would enable them to have adult human
conversations with you. And when they've finally suffered enough to have adult human conversations
with, you wish -- like a maiden aunt fixated on Tinkerbelle -- that
they might remember all the way back to who they were then and unravel
some of its mystery for you.
McDonald's does a pretty good job with its Bacon, Egg & Cheese
Bagel. I'm old enough to have some authority on this point. But it's
pernicious the way they put the loose change on top of the bills and
the slippery receipt. And evil the way they say "Sorry" when it cascades to
the pavement after your one-handed balancing act fails.
Starbucks has entirely ruined the coffee industry. Even on the Turnpike
you can't get a plain cup of coffee that isn't overpriced, overcooked,
syrupy with yuppie pretension, and not (no way) drinkable to the end of
a good cigarette.
Pittsburgh is a fine fine city. Like so many American cities are.
Unique in history, architecture, cultural riches (Pippa has already
studied Faberge treaures at the Frick), neighborhoods, and ethnic
identity. I love this country. Wherever you go, there is beauty, stores
of knowledge and art, and the people make you welcome and proud to be
American. Even in the appalling moral cesspool that is the headquarters
of Stiller (Steeler) fans.
The ghost of Andy can be placated with a certain firmness. I did so,
protecting Pippa in her hour of need and narrowly averting a tripping
incident with my lefthanded wife as she was taking his photograph, she
who sometimes trips even in the absence of a starchy autocrat wraith.
The secret? I didn't say, "Hi, Andy." I said, "How do you do, Andrew.
You look exactly like my own holier-than-thou great-grandfather. Be a
gentlemen to the women of of my family or I'll horsewhip you on the
steps of your club." He didn't say a word. The carpet edge reaching for
my wife's shoe summarily retreated. Breeding will tell.
If you ever do suddenly leave home, you won't get away with it
scot-free. For example, you could take a nice fall trip to see the
pretty leaves and learn on the news channels that your home has been
instantaneously inundated with a monstrous snowstorm that has plunged
your friends and neighbors into darkness. When this happens to you,
remember not to panic while you're panicking and putting cold cloths on
your head and texting all the people who don't have electricity anyway.
It's pretty much the way life is. Get used to it.
Even seniors can survive road trips. We're home. The house is fine,
thanks to my timers. The cats survived their three day Cat Party. The
dogs are home. (Molly has stopped shaking.) The Ford has escaped
back to Hertz. And all is right with the world.
No way I'm not feeling proud of myself. This morning, just one day
after the 18,000 mile round-trip, I superintended the return of
electrical power to our
manse (well, I woke up when the lights came back on), then I organized and managed the return of the Escape, the
rescue of the dogs, and the replacement of a flat tire on Lady Laird's
chariot of fire.
I confidently await the awarding of my medal. Because I'm an old-fashioned hero, nothing if not a legend in his own mind. And after a weekend of higher learning, I'm sold on the self-esteem
thing. Bring it on. Back on my couch, I'm entirely comfortable with the
idea of being celebrated just for showing up. Maybe it's the progessive
Or maybe I already have my medal. Pippa hugged me when we left and Lady Laird
laughed when I read her this post. She's already planning a repeat
trip next year. I'm not afraid. I'll drive the whole 24,000 miles. Man
. Deja deja
vue. Haven't we been here before? Now it's the Democrats who are
concerned about politicians who hit on women. Excuse me, the media.
Excuse me again, same thing.
Wouldn't bother with this at all, except to point out that we dealt
with it nearly a decade ago at Shuteye
Nation. Point? The question is old as the hills and interesting
only in its salacious details. Even women are bored by the so-called
news that prominent men are inclined to hit on attractive younger
women. Does the name Bill Clinton ring a bell? Aren't we past the whole
"lying about sex" wheeze?
Of course we are. Unless he's a Republican. Or one of those negroes who
can't keep his thing in his pants. Or he says something exciting and
then keeps his thing in his pants. Which upsets liberal women in
particular, sometimes all the way to the Supreme Court. Unless he's
pro-choice. In which case, you know. Regardless, with the copletely
singular exception of Bill Clinton, no man who aspires to be president
can be a sexual rogue. Explanation? We'll get back to you on that by
In the interim, a flashback to Shuteye
Nation, Year 2000:
Presdent Woody Willson never removed his pince-nez,
relished the company of a young lady named Ebony Flame, who started
her Wishington career as a stenographer but soon graduated to taxi
When the Presdent caught sight of her ankle as she was trying to hail a
bus near the Capitol Building, he was instantly smitten. The Society
many 'propinquities' between Woody and Ebony during his two terms,
the Presdent's illness and general decline at the end of his second
called a halt to pleasure. As required under Society by-laws, Ebony
details of their meetings in the OOPS journal, which may be published
by Smithtonian at a later date, provided that necessary funding
be procured (preferably through the National Archives, but if need be,
via executive order). One racy
tidbit may serve to tantalize: Willson's pet name for Ebony was "my
FDR liked them young, according to Society
Destiny LaTour. He also liked them short-haired, boyish in figure, and
"dressed to the nines in a birthday suit." There are four portraits of
Ameria's longest serving Presdent in the OOPS Gallery, one for each of
his terms, although Ms. LaTour makes it plain there were many more than
four women involved in Franklin
Rosevelt's "propinquities." Even at the end of his life, when he
barely utter a coherent sentence, he was still calling on the Society
a week or more for company. The young
shown above is Amber Borgia, an Ittalian by birth, who visited the Oval
Office on many occasions during the first term, but returned to her
land for political reasons when relations became strained between the
and Benito Mussoloni, Ittaly's fascist
dictator. Her entries in the Society Journal are in Ittalian, but
to Ms. LaTour, that's not all that's exotic about them.
James K. Poke was Presdent of the United
the drive to fulfill Manifest Destiny, a time of unprecedented western
migration and national enthusiasm. Poke was an appropriate choice for
country's highest office. He was energetic, flamboyant, and a bit
When he first delivered his propinquity specifications to the Society,
he minced no words in telling them he was "fond of flank steak—the
bigger the rump the better." The young lady shown in the Poke portrait
was his favorite of dozens who made visits to him in the Oval Office.
name was Fanny deBoeuf (a nom de guerre obviously,
translated as hind end of the beef), but not much else is known of her.
Ms. LaTour asserts that she used to sneak into the White House dressed
in the merest scrap of a shift: Presdent Poke didn't like to waste time
Presdent William Howard Tafft was a big man,
330 pounds, and it should be no surprise that he also liked his women
During the interregnum between Theodore
Rosevelt and Tafft, the Society had to replace virtually all of its
"propinquitors," since Teddy always preferred women to be slim and
The sheer amplitude of the Society's women during the Tafft term is
Some of them weighed nearly as much as the Presdent and had to be
into the Oval Office in huge wardrobes, which gave Tafft the reputation
of being a spendthrift on suits. One might suppose that the
were therefore sedate and sedentary occasions, but Ms. LaTour claims
Society annals record the replacement of four broken desks in the Oval
Office during the Tafft term. The details, alas, must await the
of the Society's closely guarded journal.
As the successor to Thomas Jeffersen, whose preferences
are well known, James Madison Munroe set many of the precedents
that became Society traditions. As a Vagina
gentleman, he was punctilious about conducting all his Society business
with politesse and grace. Indeed, on many occasions he spoke French,
it the language of courtly love, and reverted to his native tongue only
when it became clear he was not being understood. Always adaptable, the
Society began acquiring its propinquitors from Franch,
including the young lady shown in this official portrait, who resigned
the Parish ballet to dance for Presdent
Munroe—and sometimes on Presdent Munroe—in
the Oval Office. Her name was Ophelie de Pieds, and her entries in the
Society Journal will make fascinating reading for the general public
day. Apparently, Ameria's fourth Presdent liked feet.
*The Oval Office Propinquity
As anyone can see, Herman Cain needs to get a great deal naughtier.
More importantly, it seems unlikely Mitt Romney can even get to the
starting gate. Maybe Newt knows what he's doing after all.