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Saturday, March 23, 2002


My wife came out of the health food store with a few bags of this new low-fat chip I wanted to try:

Me: "So what flavors did you get?"

Honey: "Barbeque and Urban Garlic."

Me: "Mm, edgy. I like that."

Honey takes on that look she gets when I don't make sense and she's not in the mood to plumb the depths of my senselessness. We drive for a while in silence.

Me: "Oh, Herb and Garlic."

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)


My two year-old son has lately taken to playing with a mint tin that we keep in the car. Yesterday I noticed that he had opened it, and that he was alternately taking out mints, gripping them in the same grubby hand he was using to pick his nose, and then putting them back. And all this time I just thought the mints were going stale.

Sometimes ignorance is a good thing. Especially when you just had a mint.

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)


Unhelpful mental images from my dental hygienist during a discussion about her kids:

Her: "My fifteen year son is finally starting to notice girls."

Me (with her finger and that suction thingy in my mouth): "Mfmhhm."

Her: "Yeah, I keep finding my Victoria's Secret catalog in his bathroom."

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)

Friday, March 22, 2002

Mirror Mirror In My Car

A woman cut me off in traffic yesterday. She had her rear-view mirror turned to see herself as she repeatedly flipped her bangs off her forehead with an index finger. Apparently when she first purchased her vehicle she looked at what many of us recognize as a driving aid and thought: "Neat. A hands-free compact."

I cannot understand the handful of women (and men of the same gender) who do this. Is their make-up comprised of some unstable isotope, requiring constant monitoring lest it melt right off their faces? Or are they so stricken with themselves that they cannot bear the existential angst of mind-body separation during the long drive to that job at the department store perfume counter?

And the funny thing is, the people who do this tend not to be very good looking. You'd think they would prefer a mirror-free environment.

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)

We vs. They

Seems I touched a nerve with my little rant about our tendency to use the word "we" when talking about "taking out" Saddam Hussein. The talented Megan McArdle had something nice to say, as did Alleywriter, who doesn't like to have his real name used. Alleywriter disagreed with me, however, arguing:

I'm way guilty on the "We" thing, too. I do it with sports, I do it with American politics. I'll keep being guilty on this one. I'm a part of the United States, as is our military (which I've done my time in). "We" is simple and inclusive. Dropping "we" sets "us" apart from "them".

Good point, and I think you're probably right, though I have a question which I'll pose as soon as I quote a warm and endearing attorney whose threatening legalese at the bottom of his email prevents me from identifying him (I think I'm also precluded from quoting him here, but if he doesn't call me on that, I won't call him on sending personal emails from work):

By your logic, your brother-in-law the Navy Seal shouldn't say "we" should take out Saddam either -- because he couldn't do it, not unless the US government provided him with a ride over to the Middle East, infiltrated him into Iraq, hooked him up with local partisans, provided him with all kinds of intelligence and some nifty toys to boot. So until he gets a strong indicator from the Feds that he's going to be assigned to an assasination (sic) squad, I suppose he'll just have to keep his mouth shut--at least when he's around you.

As for me, I don't go around saying that we should take out Saddam, but I do think WE should take out his bioweapons, nukes, etc. No, I don't own a B-2 bomber--sue me.

Funny, I've never heard a lawyer ask to be sued before. Isn't that bad luck in your profession? Anyway, last I checked, "we" is the first-person plural, indicating that it refers to a collection of individuals, all of whom take on a role as the collective subject or object of the sentence. My brother-in-law shouldn't say "I'm going to take out Saddam," but given that he is on the "team," writ broadly, who may well do the taking out, I think he's entitled to say "We're going to take out Saddam." Actually, he can say whatever he likes, because he knows how to fillet people with a #2 pencil.

Now I have a question for Alleywriter and my new best friend the attorney. I think you're probably right about the use of "we" being okay in this context, based on the fact that we are all fellow citizens, seeking to eliminate a threat to our common security. And I'm just as guilty as anyone else of referring to my favorite teams using "we." But what I've noticed is this -- none of us look out the window when the municipal garbage crew drives up, and says, "oh, looks like we're a little late picking up the trash today." We don't pass the janitor where we work and think, "hmm, we sure need to clean those toilets."

In other words, we only tend to use the word "we" when it refers to something glamorous, which, ironically, tends to place it in the category of things that most of us in fact can't do. We can all scrub a toilet or empty a trash can, but we stick to the third person to describe those tasks. When it comes time to talk about the home team winning last night's game, however, suddenly we're all communitarians.

But now I'm getting crabby, so I'll stop. I hereby release all of you to use the first or third person as you see fit, so long as you agree not to use "dialogue" as a verb.

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)

Thursday, March 21, 2002

Hip Hop Wisdom

Students at a handful of U.S. universities have established chapters of something called the "Hip Hop Congress". The Congressional Hipsters proclaim on their website: "We are a new generation of people rising in the world. We are strong people with powerful ideas. The Hip Hop Congress gives you a place to do something with your ideas." (Note: If you visit their website, be sure to check out the "Prophets and Revolutionaries" section, where you can read all about Nostradamus and Mr. Miyagi from "The Karate Kid.")

Just for kicks, let's look at some of the "powerful ideas" floating around the Hip Hop Congress:

"Across our nation and our world there are various levels of inequality. The reason that these inequalities continue to exist is because not enough people stand up against it."

So that's why the Third World is impoverished. It's not because totalitarian dictators wage wars that devastate agriculture and markets. No, the problem is that not enough of us have exclaimed: "BOO POVERTY!"

"We believe that you will find that people everywhere want the same thing, to be treated with love, to be treated with respect, and to be given the courtesy to choose for themselves."

That's right, those Palestinian suicide bombers really just want some love, their props, and the universal franchise.

"Through our passage we will find aspects of life that neglect these simple desires. It is our responsibility to change these aspects. The Hip Hop Congress will be a vehicle for instituting that change."

Translation: my college career is ending, and the parents are expecting me to get a job. The Hip Hop Congress will be a vehicle for me to avoid the consequences of my useless Sociology degree indefinitely.

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)

Beauty Is Only Pocket Deep

CNN reports that a Spanish journalist posing as a contestant bribed her way to victory in a regional beauty pageant. The winner of the pageant competes in the Miss Spain contest.

This calls into question the integrity of beauty pageants everywhere. It could do grave harm to the respectability of televising desperate girls as they compete in winner-take-all validation contests.

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Tongue Tied

I caught an NPR segment on the "Miss Barstow" contest, an annual beauty pageant in not-so-beautiful Barstow, California. Here's an excerpt:

Master of Ceremonies (to a contestant, as the audience listens): "Jessica, if you could sit down and talk with one famous person who is no longer with us, who would that person be?"

Jessica: "Um, Tom, uh Thomas Edison, because he, like, invented the telephone, and the telephone is um, like, my life. I mean, I'm sorry, but it is, and like I don't know what I'd do without the telephone."

Please understand that in rendering dear Jessica's comments in English, I am not capturing the full flavor of her speech, which seemed to bury the last consonant of every other syllable in that gravel-mouthed manner that has come to characterize teenage lingual patterns. Here is a closer, phonetic transcript of what actually came out of her mouth:

Jessica: "Um, Tom, uh Tomas Edisu, becus he, li, invened thu teluphone, and thu teluphone is um, li, ma la-ife. I me, 'm sorry, but i is, and like I don no wa I'd do withou thu teluphone."

I have no idea why this girl needs a phone. Or a tongue.

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)

Tough Talk

I've heard a lot of talk about "taking out" Saddam Hussein. Just this morning some Congressman was yammering on NPR, talking about plans that will "allow us to take him out." I've even heard a lady at my church say "we should take out Saddam."

I don't think you should use the first person to talk about "taking someone out" unless you are actually capable of doing the taking out. I'm thinking about when I taught karate in college. Not that sissy Tae Kwon Do, mind you -- this involved gloving up and hitting people, versus dancing around them like a drunken gypsy. I remember an obnoxious student who would bully the less experienced students he sparred. One day I could tell that he was really bugging my instructor.

"Do you want me to drop him?" I asked quietly.

My instructor thought about it for a second. "Yep."

Hello floor, goodbye attitude. See, it was acceptable for me to use the first person, because I knew I could do it myself. I would never talk about dropping, say, Chuck Norris, because I can't. And I certainly wouldn't say "we" should take out Saddam Hussein. Now my brother-in-law the Navy SEAL, he can say "we" all he wants, because he knows how to kill people. The lady at my church? Not so much.

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Soviet Schlock

Sometimes it takes some work to find blogworthy items. Other times the material just falls in my lap, or in this case, in my inbox. Somehow I've gotten myself on the list of Sovietski Collection (website: Sovietski.com), a company that sells "Unique Russian and Eastern European Gear." Some of my favorite items, with actual quotes from the catalog (accompanied by my suggested alternative commentary):

Genuine Persian lamb wool cap (p. 20), "Just like the one worn by Russian President Putin." (That's right, whether you are shutting down opposition newspapers or revisiting the good old days when KGB torture chambers were more amply funded, this hat has "Burdgeoning Fascist" written all over it. Comes in Nazi green or Comintern Red.)

Josef Stalin coffee mug (p. 24), "highlighting historic political moments." (It's always hard to execute the children of your political enemies, but a good cup of joe sure makes these tough political moments worth bearing.)

An "intricately enameled brass" KGB badge (p. 31). (Those frumpy historians have ruined the fun in dressing like a Gestapo stormtrooper, but have you considered the KGB? Their reign of terror lasted longer, and darn it, they just looked spiffier.)

Lead figures of "Movers and Shakers of the Russian state" (p. 35), featuring Ivan the Terrible, who, "though ruthless, is also credited with unifying the Russian state." (For a limited time only, buy Ivan and we'll throw in Mao Tse-Tung, who though bloodthirsty, is also credited with reintroducing many Chinese citizens to a fat-free diet of roots and tree bark.)

But the best item, oh, the one that takes the borscht, is a "precision German wristwatch" that "evokes the skin of the classic Junkers JU-52." You remember those classic Junkers JU-52, the ones that bombed Belgium.

I'll bet Sovietski.com provides a really pleasant work environment.

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)

Monday, March 18, 2002

Send Them Packing

If you're like me, you find it unbearable to watch movies with Susan Sarandon or Alec Baldwin that don't end in the early, fiery deaths of their characters. The reason is not because they are untalented, it is in addition to the fact that they are untalented. Quite simply, their uninformed and frequently expressed political opinions have forever ensconced them in my mind as the human analogs of the sheep in Orwell's Animal Farm. My brain interprets three-quarters of the dialogue of "Thelma and Louise," for example as:

Thelma: "Baa."

Louise: "Baa."

Both (as they careen over the cliff): "Baaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

I understand from people who have watched this movie without such a handicap that I didn't miss much.

Now people like me have a recourse, in the form of Send Them Packing, a website that allows you to vote for and contribute money towards the purchase of a one-way ticket to Cuba for a host of Hollywood Trotskyites. The site's top three vote-getters so far are (in reverse order): Martin Sheen (58 votes), Rosie O'Donnell (79 votes), and Alec Baldwin (1e+19 votes).

I'm going to talk to the wife tonight about getting a second mortgage.

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)

Le Ouch

Great quote from the March 11th National Review in reference to the recent tepid reactions of many French elites to anti-semitism in their own ranks: "From Dreyfus to the Holocaust and beyond, how to account for the willing blindness of France's chattering classes to one of the most obvious of history's lessons? Did they not pay attention during the 20th century, or were they just too busy surrendering?"

Not as biting as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys," but scathing nonetheless.

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)

Sunday, March 17, 2002

A Trip to the Park

I took my son to the park today, and I have a couple of observations that might help explain my misanthropy. First, anyone who grows a rat tail down the back of his child's neck should be beaten. In fact, if you are reading this and your kid has a rat tail, kindly email your address so I can come to your house and slap you in front of your family and neighbors. Think about the famous people who have had rat tails: Brian Bosworth and Billy Ray Cyrus. Even people with mullets look down on the rat tail. Its persistence in the shallow ends of some gene pools is a testament to the limits of Lamarckian evolution.

Second, I saw today one of the most moronic social spectacles I've ever witnessed. A woman showed up at the park with her two dogs on leashes, a big golden retriever and some shivering little rat-like creature. After letting the big one off the leash and then chasing him down no less than three times (here's a hint: if everyone at the park knows the name of your kid or your dog by the time you leave, you've got a discipline problem), she took him up onto the wooden play structure with her. She proceeded to drag her big and unwilling dog to the slide at one end of the structure, wrestled him onto her lap, and said "Whee!" as they slid down. When they got to the bottom she asked him, "Wasn't that fun?"

No, it was pathetic, even worse than rat tail boy. She did it one more time, and then, seeing that the little dog felt left out, she tethered the big one and took the little one for a slide. Even my two year-old son watched her with a look of astonishment and pity. By the last slide I had recovered the presence of mind to snap a picture. Look for it in a future edition.

Sand in the Gears: Your chronicle for the downfall of western civilization.

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)