Location: Iowa, United States

61 years old (pretty old for a blogger) proud to be a grandpa

Friday, February 25, 2005

Why I Just Made a Dental Appointment

One of the great things about my job is that I get to purchase and take care of old medical books. It's fascinating to read the prose of 17th and 18th century writers no matter the subject. I recently ordered "A treatise on the disorders and deformities of the teeth and gums..." by Thomas Berdmore, London, 1770. Here's what he says at the beginning about taking care of your teeth:

"The oratory of the pulpit and bar, and above all the art of pleasing in conversation and social life, are matters of the highest concern to individuals. But in these no one can excel whose loss of teeth, or rotten livid stumps, and fallen lips and hollow cheeks, destroy articulation, and the happy expression of the countenance; whose voice has lost its native tone, and whose laugh, instead of painting joy and merriment, expresses only defect and disease.
“A foulness of the teeth is by some people as little regarded as it is easily removed; but with the fair sex, with polite and elegant part of the world, it is looked on as a certain mark of nastiness and sloth; not only because it disfigures one the greatest ornaments of the countenance, but also because the smell imparted to the breath by dirty rotting teeth, is generally disagreeable to the patients themselves, and sometimes extremely offensive to others in close conversation.”

So that’s why I just made a dental appointment.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Quote of the Day

Until you've walked a mile in another man's moccasins, you can't imagine the smell.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Crouching Librarian, Hidden Meaning?

I suppose I’m treading on cultural toes here but I don’t understand martial arts movies; at least I don’t THINK I understand martial arts movies. I’ve never been able to watch one through to the end. The movies I’ve started to watch seem to consist of unlikely “action” sequences of people posing, grunting, and fighting with each combatant taking his or her turn at whacking and getting whacked. Often there are several fighters ganging up on one guy who by whirling around and performing various other gyrations manages to dispatch all of his attackers who never really seem to go at him all at once but kind of wait their turn as it were (maybe this is martial arts etiquette, I don’t know). In the more recent films, there are even scenes of people flying (yes flying) in and out of trees and jumping several stories high, possessed, I guess, of some special kind of force or power. The first time I saw this I started laughing thinking it was a spoof but such was not the case. I’ve seen more realistic fighting in old Gene Autry movies. Anyway, it seems to me that this kind of thing might appeal to boys from perhaps 11 through 15 and at best is harmless fun. Now I find that many grown-up people take these films pretty seriously as being great cinematic works of art on the same level with, say, “Lawrence of Arabia” or “On the Waterfront.” Now I understand that many of these fighting flicks have great “production value” and have been scored by wonderful composers. The actors must also have grace and skill to do some of these things (albeit aided by special effects). But that’s not enough to get me past the fact that each of the films is essentially people beating each other up with fists, swords, and bamboo sticks in an unconvincing and often commical manner. What am I missing here?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Some thoughts on heros

My daughter sent me this article and I thought is was worth posting and pondering. I think most of us have thought about this from time to time but it's worth seeing it in print and expressed so well.

For many years Ben Stein has written a biweekly column for the online website called "Monday Night At Morton's." (Morton's is a famous chain of Steakhouses known to be frequented by movie stars and famous people from around the globe.) Now, Ben is terminating the column to move on to other things in his life. Reading his final column is worth a few minutes of your time.Ben Stein's Last Column... (read all of this or you will have missed the best).

How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today's World?

As I begin to write this, I "slug" it, as we writers say, which means I put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is "eonlineFINAL," and it gives me a shiver to write it. I have been doing this column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started. I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end.It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world's change have overtaken it. On a small scale, Morton's, while better than ever, no longer attracts as many stars as it used to. It still brings in the rich people in droves and definitely some stars. I saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago, and we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw and had a splendid talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed that Splendor in the Grass was a super movie. But Morton's is not the star galaxy it once was, though it probably will be again.Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a "star" we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails.They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer. A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world.A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad.The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists.We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a big subject.There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament...the policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive; the orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery; the teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children; the kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards.Think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center as the towers began to collapse. Now you have my idea of a real hero.We are not responsible for the operation of the universe, and what happens to us is not terribly important. God is real, not a fiction; and when we turn over our lives to Him, He takes far better care of us than we could ever do for ourselves. In a word, we make ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as the directors of the movie of our lives and turn the power over to Him.I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin...or Martin Mull or Fred Willard--or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will.

By Ben Stein

Monday, February 14, 2005

Husbands and Wives

One of my favorite novelists was Peter DeVries who poked fun at modern suburban living and modernity in general. Often, I'd run across a snipit that I thought worth recording. Here's one of them from his novel, "Reuben, Reuben. "

The conclusion Mopworth now drew about it was based on a sizable span of daily experience, now for the first time recognized in terms of a general principle. it was that the woman determined the weather in the house. From her came permission to laugh, instruction to brood, the cue for fun or woe. As he stepped in the door Mopworth realized that the first things he did was, not greet Geneva, but read her face to determine how she should be greeted. He consulted her face like this many times a day, as one consults a barometer, to see what kind of day or evening it will be. He had done this now, he remarked to himslef for the first time, for well over a year. Was it true of all marriages, or only mariages like his, in which the man is the acquiescent; the type wanting only peace in the house? Was it more true now that it had once been? Or more true in American than elsewhere? That woman calls the ever-changing emotional tunes to which once dances--was that universal fact accepted abroad without fuss and only exaggerated in a country where emancipation was bearing its first disillusioning fuits, like early returns in a doubtful election?

Friday, February 11, 2005

Quote of the Day

If other people are going to talk, conversation becomes impossible.
--James Whistler

Friday, February 04, 2005


"Part of the contemporary predicament of Americans...is an old one; it is that we cannot have everything: we cannot live in a society that is materially rich, individualistic, open to all currents of ideas, one that allows and encourages free expression and mobility of every kind, where we can shop around for our favorite religion, experiment with new identities, and sample available options and life styles and at the same time also enjoy the benefits of stable communal ties, sustaining beliefs, taken-for-granted values, and a solid sense of purpose."
...Paul Hollander

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Did dogs with these names really exist?

This is pretty important so I hope you'll all read it and think on't. The archtypical names for dogs are Rover and Fido--this is what we see all the times in cartoons and these are the names of make-believe dogs in jokes and stories. My question is: have you ever had or do you know anyone who ever had or do you know anyone who knows anyone who ever actually had a dog named either Rover or Fido? Is there even a verifiable instance in dog history of dogs having these names? What is to be done?