Curses From an Old Manse

Winston Churchill: a cool man with a quip.
Winston Churchill: a cool man with a quip.
Sophie Pollitt-Cohen writes:
Teddy Roosevelt stated the problem well when he said, “A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues.”  Obama got in trouble for saying that the Cambridge Police acted “stupidly” when they arrested Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  You know what’s stupid?  People thinking that Obama was wrong for using the word stupid.  I’m just happy to finally have a president who knows when to use an adverb.  In days of yore, politicians ripped each other apart leaving a path of verbal destruction as far as the monocled eye could see, and people didn’t care.  (However, TR also said “Every immigrant who comes here should be required within five years to learn English or leave the country.”  So maybe sometimes it’s actually better not to say exactly what you think, especially if your opinions are stupid.) 

Eclipse first, the rest also important to know about

eclipse

 

 Sophie Pollitt-Cohen writes:

Today there was a total eclipse of the sun.  This should never be confused with a total eclipse of the heart.  The latter is categorized by getting a little bit lonely, a little bit tired, a little bit nervous, a little bit terrified, followed by falling apart.  In total eclipses of the heart, forever starts.  In total eclipses of the sun, the moon passes between the sun and the earth, thus covering the sun.  This can only happen during a New Moon, which explains why the entire cast is so pale.   It could also be because they blanche at the thought of being in a non-sucky movie.

 

Today’s eclipse was only visible in Asia.  In some places it lasted over six minutes.  One of the fastest Eclipses was born in 1764, and he ran undefeated his entire career of eighteen races.  He was the maternal grandson of the stallion Regulus, who every nerd knows is the brother of Sirius Black (Harry Potter’s godfather), who was killed by Bellatrix Lestrange (Tim Burton’s girlfriend).

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Support Our Loops

What are these people talking about?
What are these people talking about?

 

Sophie Pollitt-Cohen writes:

Ads for the new movie “In The Loop,” which I am trying to see, preferably on a date of some kind, have got me thinking about that phrase.  My brain helped me realize that usually when people use it, it is to express anxiety about not being in the loop or potentially not being in the loop.  It’s always “keep me in the loop,” or “I am so out of the loop.” You never hear anyone expressing contentment with his state in relation to the loop.  No one ever says “You know what?  I am loving being in the loop right now.  It’s a great place for me, and I plan on staying here.  I know I am in the loop, and I am confident I will stay in the loop.”  This is mysterious.

 

So here’s what we know: today, “the loop” means a place where you know what’s going on, and apparently most people have no clue, since they are always talking about how they’re not there.  But where does this phrase come from?  What is the loop, really?

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Hidden In Plain Sight

A Day At the Beach With Obama
A Day At the Beach With Obama

Sophie Pollitt-Cohen writes:

Today, we know what important people look like.

 

In the Times the other day, there were two (2) articles about government people on the beach.   In the first, “On Facebook, Future Spy Chief is Revealed (Pale Legs, Too),” Sarah Lyall wrote that Sir John Sawyers, who is about to be head of MI6 (where James Bond works) went on vacation, and his wife posted the photos on facebook.  Naturally, the British thought anyone caring was lame.  Foreign Secretary David Miliband is quoted as “snippily” saying, “It is not a state secret that he wears Speedo swimming trunks.”  Damn right.  English people keep it real and tell it like it is.  Also, they wear teeny tiny bathing suits, which is funny.

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Flat Out Like a Lizard Thinking

Ben Franklin, phrase-maker.
Ben Franklin, phrase-maker.
Sophie Pollitt-Cohen writes:

FUN WITH SLANG: READ THE WHOLE THING TO FIND OUT HOW YOU CAN WIN A PRIZE!

 

I just got back from a trip to Greece, where I befriended a lot of Australians.  The best thing about Australians, besides their good looks and superior drinking abilities, is their slang.  I learned a lot of great phrases, such as I’m flat out like a lizard drinking (busy), drink some cement and harden the F up (stop being a baby), brekkie (breakfast), sunnies (sunglasses), mozzies (mosquitoes), jumper (sweater), and Fosters (beer). I am trying to integrate them into my everyday language now that I am back in The States.

 

So much of what we say today can be traced back to an actual person. Shakespeare was probably the best at inventing phrases that people would continue to use for years to come.  He was also a wiz at Connect Four.  According to the internet, B-Shakes invented the phrases a laughing stock, a sorry sight, fair play (Irish people love saying this), eaten out of house and home (sexually active people love saying this), neither here nor there, and vanish into thin air, among many others.  He also invented the phrase in a pickle, after a terrible mishap at Zabar’s.

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Diggin’ Up Bones**

mammoth

Thomas Jefferson liked having these around the house.

Sophie Pollitt-Cohen writes:

This Friday, I was struck by the N.Y. Times article  article “Time Conspires Against the Search for a War’s Fallen.”  This sounded like it would be right in my wheel house, and indeed it was.  “With time running out to crack the case of the missing soldiers,” Dorreen Carvajal wrote, “the United States fields teams of military researchers to search for the remains of World War II troops, but it has limited resources.  So much of the detective work has fallen to amateur sleuths in Belgium, France, and Germany who hunt for makeshift graves and the ghosts of war.”

First of all, this is awesome.  Where I live, I can’t dig up anything, because it is probably illegal.  Also, the only thing I would find if I dug in Riverside Park is the bones of Blueberry and Pecorino, two mice I carried there in a blueberry box and a cheese box, respectively, and then released to freedom, after their parents had about eight gajillion babies and then they all ate each other until only these two survived.

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Hebrides Holiday

johnson_s9

Sam Johnson: A great dictionary-maker and fun on a road-trip.

Sophie Pollitt-Cohen writes:

The History Channel’s new show Expedition: Africa follows a group of travelers recreating Henry Morton Stanley’s 1871 journey through Africa to find Dr. Livingstone.  It (ok, an article in the Times about it) has got me wondering which historical trip I would want to recreate.

I would go on Boswell and Johnson’s tour of the Hebrides.  Scotland seems like the perfect place for me.  It’s not too hot or too cold, and it has so many things I love—Scottish accents, ancient ruins, drinking, rugby players, and ponies.

Of course, the Hebrides I would be visiting would be quite different from the one Boswell and Johnson traveled through in 1773.  But in many ways, they were already seeing this modernization.  For Johnson, it was a complicated trip.  He and Boswell thought the Hebrides were going to be like Colonial Williamsburg, a window into the past.  Many Highlanders had no written language or modern medicine. However, British laws were changing so much of what made the Hebrides different from England—the legal system, the clothes, etc.  Boswell and Johnson went looking for the land of Macbeth, but, Johnson said, “we came thither too late to see what we expected, a people of peculiar appearance, and a system of antiquated life…there remain only their language and their poverty.”

People who spent a semester Junior year abroad have probably noticed something similar.  It was a little disheartening to see my Italian host mom cook with frozen vegetables or the same gelato place in our town that is also in my hometown on 76th street.  Though I love sampling the different McDonald’s around the world, and MTV Roma is hilarious and how I knew about Lady Gaga before my friends back home, I do wish countries could retain more of what makes them different from America.

Really, I want to go to the Hebrides because of the way Johnson described it.  His attention to detail, his ability to find what is interesting and worth thinking about in nearly everything, his friendship with Boswell—these are what make the trip seem so fun.  The Hebrides seem exciting and wonderful because Johnson and Boswell are exciting and wonderful. A good writer can make any place or activity seem thrilling and moving.  And a bad one can suck the fun up like a black hole.