31 August 2009


31 August 2009

First day of high school for older daughter

First day of fifth grade for younger daughter

First day of the last year as English Department chairman for me

70th anniversary of Sinatra's recording of "All or Nothing at All" with the Harry James Orchestra

30 August 2009

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

And when I wasn't watching golf these last three days I was asking these questions:

1) At what point was Teddy Kennedy elected "Lion of the Senate"?

2) Does the U.S. Senate have other "animal" positions too? "Penguin of the Senate" (my younger daughter would LOVE that!), "Viper of the Senate," "Gecko of the Senate," "Marsupial of the Senate," "Bull of the Senate," "Gadfly of the Senate"...

3) Given how often the "Lion of the Senate" title was uttered during the festivities, couldn't one of the networks or news channels have played "Hakuna Matata" or "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" at least once?

4) Can he really claim 47 years' service when a) his brother Jack's Senate seat was held exclusively for him by friends and family until he was old enough to be elected and b) he was elected to it about a decade before really being anything close to qualified for the Senate?

5) Over/under: 217 -- the number of times, with straight faces, pundits and announcers alike said: "He was intensely human, for he had, to be sure, his share of failings." (Yes, and Albert Pujols has his share of home runs....)

Let's face it, if we had to list the top 5 lions, Ted wouldn't be anywhere close:

King Leonardo and His Short Subjects
The MGM Lion
Drooper from the Banana Splits
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill (nota bene the adjective!)
The Cowardly Lion (as brought to life by Bert Lahr)

some runners-up:

The lions in John Wesley Harding's song "Darwin"
The lions in Born Free
Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia
The Lion in Androcles and the Lion

At least this couch potato is also talking about couches...

I've been sick since Friday morning and, as a result, watched a lot of The Barclays, the first round of the PGA Playoffs for the Fed Ex Cup.

The golf was fine --- it got a bit crowded at the top of the leaderboard in the final round today which made things interesting. Tiger Woods came in tied for second again. If he had birdied the final hole, as he had a real chance at doing, he'd have forced a playoff, but he missed that putt. (While not what he wanted, he just needs to remember that his idol, Jack Nicklaus, holds the record for most runners-up in tournaments.) And that's what is so remarkable about his play: no matter how poorly he's doing something (driving or putting or chipping or...) his game is so great that he almost always manages to remain in serious contention. So, yes, he didn't win a Major this year (although he won 5 other tournaments), but in the three Majors he did finish (having missed the cut barely in the Open Championship), he was still finished in the top 10 in each. For anyone else that'd be a heckuva year; for Tiger watchers it's an unsuccessful one....

But that's not what I wanted to write about. I wanted to write about Jim Nantz's taste in furniture! Jim Nantz, the main CBS anchor for golf, football, the Final Four, and whatever else the brass can find for him, is the spokesman for Furnitureland South. If, in fact, the shots of him in various rooms in the commercials are, in fact, from his actual "dream home" and not some showroom display, he has godawful taste, overdone in every way.

Now, I realize de gustibus non disputandum, and, who knows, maybe he got all of it for free, but, man, if your voiceover script reads "When I built my dream home"... you should make damn sure you surround yourself with better chandeliers, dining room sets, and overstuffed chairs than the stuff shown in the ad. I'll bet you Jimmy's good buddy, the former president and father figure, "41," George H.W. Bush, wouldn't be caught dead kicking back in any of those rooms.

The Cubists must've been visionaries...

...because the effect so remarkably depicted in Duchamp's 1912 "Nude Descending a Staircase" perfectly captures the television picture I'm still getting on every channel above 19 on my Comcast cable system.

Now, instead of a nude, imagine watching Sergio Garcia missing a putt on the Golf Channel!

26 August 2009

One of my proudest (or perhaps most shameful) moments...

I met Julia, the daughter of my friend and colleague Mary, probably about two years ago. While her mother did some things in her office, Julia and I talked in mine about a number of topics like theatre and the rowing class on the Connecticut River that her mother had her take.

"Rowing?", I asked. "You Mom makes you row? That's what the Romans had their slaves do. The most you should ever have to do in a boat that needs oars is to bang the drum that sets the beat with which the rowers keep time!"

Mary, I should add, is the author of the forthcoming American Idle: A Journey Through Our Sedentary Culture, and very very active. (I offered to be the poster boy for the book, but she and her publisher chose an overstuffed recliner instead. I say, "Six of one, half-a-dozen...") I also should note that the track coach at my high school was Fr. Jim Ryan ("NOT Jim Ryun," he would always make clear), whose motto was "Motion is exhausting."

All of this is just a prelude to an email I received recently from Mary about a trip she and Julia took to California. It read:


So Julia and I are standing in the John Muir woods outside of San Francisco at the head of an 'Ocean View" Trail. I am bouncing with excitement about this great, steep climb and Julia is sitting on a wooden step thinking, sort of like Pooh-bear with his honey pot.

She says, "Mom, I can't help but think, 'What would Gil do?' and I know that Gil would say, "Let's look at a few trees and go get a muffin."

So that's what we did.....


With tears of pride welling up, I could only respond that 1) I was sorry indeed for corrupting her daughter but 2) think WWGD bracelets could make it very big!

PS: And Julia had it just slightly wrong: I'd never go for a muffin, if there's a doughnut to be had.

23 August 2009

What are you? Def?!!!

Getting home from the Delaware shore, we were greeted by a box containing two "Digital Transfer Adaptors" for our two peripheral televisions (bedroom and basement).

If you're anything like me, you ask "Why?"

From the Comcast website:

Comcast is upgrading its Expanded Basic Cable* channel lineup to digital-quality signals on all TVs connected to Comcast. These new changes will allow Comcast to offer over 1000 HD choices and access to over 10,000 On Demand titles. In addition, these upgrades allow us to complete additional changes that will deliver much faster Internet access speeds and smarter phone service.

My younger daughter and and I opened the package, read the instructions, and started the easy installations. One worked (bedroom), one didn't (basement), and the main cable box wasn't giving us any channels above 19 (The Weather Channel). (No Mad Men tonight?!!) Three calls to Comcast later, no real improvement, and the diagnosis is that, at least in the two problematic televisions, we're suffering from a "low signal," so we set up an appointment for a service call (12 days from now).

Not to protest my masculinity too much, but please note that the "low signal" problem wasn't in the bedroom. Whew. ;)

As I cursed this High Definition world in which we have been forced to live (what exactly was the problem with analog broadcasting again?), I determined that I'm simply a Low Def guy...content to be not the sharpest nail in the toolbox, a little vague around the edges, and colorful if a wee bit dim.

Remember three networks (and public television and some uhf channels)? That collapse may be a bigger blunder than breaking up Ma Bell (and replacing those cool princess phones or others with heft enough for Russell Crowe to do some damage with for devices you can keep in your pocket, receive and send email, find a restaurant -- there's an app for that! --, take photos, tweet, and...)

I'd trade all that for a phone you can feel satisfied about when hanging up angrily.


Postscript: a few hours later the signal must have gotten stronger because we're getting the channels now. Gotta cancel the service call, but the good thing is I have some time!

18 August 2009

Snippets from the Delaware Shore

"A sandwich bag isn't a garbage bag. A sandwich bag IS garbage."

"A mango is just a peach with an agent."

"Corn without butter is pig food."

14 August 2009

Terms/phrases I never want to hear again

"That's a team that's been under the radar all season."

This is especially bothersome when uttered by anyone employed by ESPN, which, as you know, IS the bloody radar. If a team has gone unnoticed it's almost certainly because ESPN isn't doing its job very well. I can't learn what a great team the Colorado Rockies are if they are always relegated behind frivolous discussions of the ubiquitous Yankees ("Is that A-Rod with...?"), Red Sox ("Wow, look at how well Kevin Youkilis threw his helmet at that pitcher!"), and Dodgers ("On the next episode of Mannywood 90210...").

"Our mission is to develop life-long learners..."

No, I think every school should just request that its students "give us ____ good years."

Elementary/Middle Schools: 8 good years.

High Schools and Colleges: 4 good years.

Do that, we can say, and you will, in the vast majority of cases, succeed quite well in whatever you choose to do. Will you be a life-long learner? Maybe or maybe not, but you will have accomplished what schools need you to do: work hard and, as a result in most cases, learn a good deal.

Anything else (for the student, the family, the school, and even the society) is gravy!

11 August 2009

Top Four Highlights in My Dance Career

Highlight #4

Mary Ellen M. and I make make it from beginning to end in an all-night dance marathon at Xavier University. During one of the few bathroom breaks, I'm approached by some guy who remarked snidely, "You dance like a fag," to which I responded, "Some of the best dancers in the world are homosexual." I'm not exactly sure to which of my "moves" (and I use that term real loosely) he was referring, but I'm fairly certain that my response wasn't what he had hoped for, but, hey, I still had hours of dancing ahead of me and had no time to address concerns regarding my masculinity...and, in any case, maybe the men's room ain't the best place for such a discussion.

To quote an Ira Gershwin lyric: "I'm dancing and I can't be bothered now."

Highlight #3

My future wife and I win a dance contest at a fundraiser in Cincinnati. While that may sound impressive, I'm fairly certain that, since we knew one of the organizers and she knew I very soon would be heading off alone to begin my doctoral program at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, we were, shall we say, the "sentimental pick." The dinner we won, however, was fine, even if it had not been squarely won.

Highlight #2

After a Sinatra talk that I gave to the Lions Club of New Britain at the YMCA, one of the lions stopped me and, due to how smoothly I glided around the Y's upper dining room during my presentation, asked if I were a dancer!?!

Highlight #1

At tap class at the Hartt School Community Division, while we were practicing some step (nota bene, one of my many weaknesses as a dancer is that I can't remember steps), and while our instructor, Darlene Zoller, roamed the room offering individualized advice, she stopped to watch me, told me to relax my arms, started doing the same step next to me, and said, "Look, you're dancing."

It can't get any better than that, can it?

Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah (Part II)

Thanks, Otis!

Ask (or at least mention in an earlier posting) and ye shall receive...

Look, I'm on the Dinah Shore Show!

...my picture courtesy of my cousin Elaine!

09 August 2009

If I were a photoshop guy...

...I'd find a way to place myself in this picture!

Forget the Tonight Show, Dick Cavett, or Merv Griffin, give me a shot on The Dinah Shore Show -- especially when David Steinberg is a guest!!!!

I don't understand how the mind works, but in my early waking moments today these career plans popped into my head

If I ever head a culinary institute/tourism and hospitality program:

the school song will be henceforth known as the alma maitre d'


the career services program will be entitled the Capra-esque Maitre d' Goes to Town.

And those were the good ideas! I won't elaborate on either the new grading scale (maitre a', etc) or hiring Sandra Dee as our spokeswoman.

Maybe I was just hungry.

07 August 2009

Why I REALLY liked "Odysseus: A Life" by Charles Rowan Beye

...because in what other book by a bonafide classicist would you find this simile (in describing Menelaus' indifference to Helen as anything but "an adornment, a prop to his ego):

"...He probably saw her as no more than a mindless cat that gets out, goes up a tree, and can't get down. Helen had been retrieved to sit once again there in Sparta purring on a plump pillow next to her proud, contented owner. Or like those blondes in the photographs from the 1930s and '40s taken at the Mocambo or El Morocco that show a table of partygoers, fat older men, with big pinky rings, cigars, shrewd, hard eyes, satisfied, sensual devouring lips, seated next to one of those blondes, smiling shining-eyed, twenty-year-old chorus girls, invited to 'liven things up'" (74).

Another book I wish I'd written...especially because that passage reminds me of Frank Sinatra's 9/21/50 recording "Meet Me the Copa":

On 52nd Street they now have burlesque
(Nota bene: pronounced "burle-que" here for the rhyme)
or you can climb the Empire State to see the view
but all that stuff's for squares is my advice to you
Meet me at the Copa tonight.

Now some of you may like to go to movie shows
or walk along 5th Avenue to view the clothes,
but here's the place that's famous for Durante's nose,
Meet me at the Copa tonight!

06 August 2009

Call me Nathan Detroit!

In today's Inside Higher Ed, Dean Dad writes about the recent grad of Monroe College who's suing her alma mater because she can't find a job.

To help curb just this sort of "I'm here to get a job" mentality, I always present to the parents of incoming students, during my summer registration talk, a 1914 quotation by Oxford don John Alexander Smith that I had to translate into Latin for the final exam in Fr. Felton's Latin Prose Composition class during my sophomore year at Xavier University. I don't remember how I translated it (although I'm sure it wasn't very good, much less Ciceronian, Latin), but it has stuck with me all these years:

… you are now about to embark on a course of studies which will … form a noble adventure. But I would like to remind you of an important point. Nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life, save only this, that if you work hard and intelligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education.

So, sue me!