Feb 28, 2010

"Ahem"...clearing my voice..."ahem"...

OK, let's get serious.  On a regular basis, P. Krugman observes an event sequence that already must have brought Socrates to desperation. Here is Krugman's description:

"It goes like this: Person A says 'Black is white' — perhaps out of ignorance, although more often out of a deliberate effort to obfuscate. Person B says, 'No, black isn’t white — here are the facts.'
 And Person B is considered to have lost the exchange — you see, he came across as arrogant and condescending."

Krugman has tons of these examples on his blog. Here is another example, closer to home: On this blog, in the post "German for beginners (3)", we associate three lines from the washed-up scriptwriter "Am Brunnen vor dem Tore"...where was I...I meant "Vom Eise befreit..." with a picture of two deer stalking through a thick cover of snow. Then we translate these lines with Google, and the result is gibberish. Subsequently, we first blame the poor scriptwriter for his poor poetry and then blame him for the mismatch between his lines and the winter-deer-picture.

And it happens all the time. And the poor scriptwriter always loses.

-"You are doing this to me all the time!"
-"No, it's YOU, you are doing this to me all the time!"
-"That's what I said."

Feb 25, 2010

Vom Eise befreit

Dirk Sch. sent us this charming picture, and it brings to mind the mysterious scriptwriter that we met the other day on the Croisette. You may recall that he handed us a stack of manuscripts before his unfortunate disappearance in the Bay of Cannes.


Hidden in this heap was a single sheet of paper, not attached to any of his hopeless feature scripts ("Lethal Weapon meets Dr. Strangelove"). The sheet was covered with three handwritten lines, and nothing else. Here they are:

It's hardly legible, and it's in German, but here is the Google translation:

"Are freed from ice streams and creeks,
Spring holder, invigorating look,
Springeth in the valley hope luck."

Yes, I know. Perhaps I should not have brought this up. Perhaps it isn't German after all. Plus, it's unfortunate that his "poetic" lines do not really match the beautiful winter theme of Dirk's picture. One starts to understand why the washed-up scriptwriter had to end the way he did.

Feb 21, 2010

Alexander Haig (1924 - 2010)

Lyn Nofziger, a White House aid to Ronald Reagan, once said that “the third paragraph of his obituary” would detail Alexander Haig's conduct in the hours after President Reagan was shot, on March 30, 1981.

And here it is:

"That day, Secretary of State Haig wrongly declared himself the acting president. “The helm is right here,” he told members of the Reagan cabinet in the White House Situation Room, “and that means right in this chair for now, constitutionally, until the vice president gets here.” His words were taped by Richard V. Allen, then the national security adviser."

Reagan was shot, but not killed, kids, and I was there. Sort of. Reagan was shot in March '81 ("Please tell me you're all Republicans" he told the doctors in the hospital---that's the spirit, President Obama), and I arrived on the scene in May '96, for a workshop at the Hilton Hotel. It was the night of the White House Press Corps dinner, and Wolf Blitzer and this woman, she who always sits in the first row in a red dress and gets the first question during a WH presser (Dr. Alzheimer will remember her name), were standing in animated conversation outside our conference room. I could have touched them. I could have asked for an autograph.
We left for dinner downtown. Outside, hunks with sunglasses and big earpieces(white, thick spiraling cables) had descended upon the scene, and were directing towing trucks with spiraling gestures. The trucks were hoisting  vehicles still parked around the hotel. Crowds had gathered. Somebody helpfully explained to me the implications of roadside bombs and the President's plan to attend the dinner. There must have been hundreds of secret service agents, all listening ostentatiously to their earpieces, all gearing up for the big event, the President's Arrival. 
We waited for the president. We waited more. Clinton was always late. Finally the motorcade arrives, hunks on bikes, ambulances, limousines, more hunks on bikes, cars, trucks, more ambulances, larger limousines, ever larger limousines. Suddenly, the motorcade stops, with the largest limousine right in front of the entrance. We would see the President!
Then, without prior warning, the president's limousine backs up into a concrete cubicle next to the entrance. A steel shutter comes down.
And that was that.
They had built a special access garage for the president right where Reagan had been shot in '81.

Learning from history.

Feb 19, 2010

Sex clinic

...So, he was not wearing his wedding ring, and he would return to the sex clinic immediately after the end of the press conference...What does he do in a sex clinic? What does one do in a sex clinic? What do you do in a sex clinic?


Sex clinic. Sex clinic. Sex clinic.
Sex clinic. Sex clinic. Sex clinic.

Sex clinicSounds much prettier than "cellar door".

Somehow, it brings to mind a line from Goldfinger:

Sean Connery: "What do you want me to do?"
Gerd Fröbe: "I want you to die, Mr. Bond!"

Feb 16, 2010

Cellar door

Yesterday's language column in the NYT mentions "cellar door" as an expression of special beauty. Tolkien loves it. H.L. Mencken loves it, finds it "intrinsically musical". Shakespeare scholar C.L. Hooper includes it in the list of words he loves most, next to "dubloon", "squadron", "Sphinx" and "Jungfrau". And so on and so forth.

Cellar door. Cellar door. Cellar door.

Cellar door. Cellar door. Cellar door.


I don't get it.

I like "dubloon", though.