Wednesday, May 27, 2009

And Germany Goes Down in Flames

No, this post is not about World War II. It is about how completely absurd competitions between countries can be. And no, I am not talking about Germany's embarrassing entry in this year's Eurovision Song Contest, which involved a stripping Dita Von Tiese.

It was the World's Beard Competition that caught my eye. Watch in wonder and shake your head at the stupidity.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Inside My Studio

Around the time the Dude was Born, the German and I started to get a few new channels via the satellite subscription service. We initially got the service so that I could watch Notre Dame get pummeled in football on ESPN America (then NASN). But I was happily surprised when I discovered West Wing reruns on FOX.

At first I thought, "How good could FOX be?" But The Practice was there, as well as Lost. Unfortunately when I watch Lost, I feel, well lost. Watching West Wing on Monday nights has become a ritual for me. The German hates it. Not because it is bad, but the English is VERY fast. After a few episodes during which the German would repeatedly ask, "What did he say? What did he say?" and I would get angry and tell him to shut up, we decided it was best that the West Wing be a solo ritual.

RTL Living has also been a nice discovery. There a lot of great cooking shows, although they are dubbed. A few months ago they started showing Inside the Actor's Studio, which has also become a favorite. Sure they are a few years old and have subtitles, but I love hearing English and people talking about one of my favorite subjects: the movies.

Tonight I watched Salma Hayek talk to James Lipton. Boy, she is fantastic . . . and hot.

One of my favorite parts of the show is the end, when Mr. Lipton asks the actors a series of questions. The questionnaire concept was originated by Bernard Pivot, which he adapted from Proust. These simple questions reveal a lot about a person. I am sharing mine with you. Feel free to chime in with your own answers.

1. What is your favorite word?

2. What is your least favorite word?
C*** I hate the word so much that I can not even spell it.

3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Conversation and laughter

4. What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

5. What sound or noise do you love?
My son's laughter

6. What sound or noise do you hate?
A child in pain

7. What is your favorite curse word?
Scheisse. The German equivalent is so much better. It is longer and you can say it with more feeling.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A professional chef or pastry baker

9. What profession would you not like to do?
A tax accountant

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Not too shabby.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Much Ado about a Speech

When President Obama was announced as this year’s commencement speaker at the University of Notre Dame . . . well I am sure you have heard by now. It was a betrayal of monumental proportions to invite the pro-choice Obama to speak at a Catholic university. Never mind that he is the President of the United States; the first African-American president at that.

As a Notre Dame alum, I felt . . . jealous. I will be honest. Jealousy was my strongest emotion. “Why on earth didn’t the President speak at my commencement?!” After 6 years of hard graduate work and writing a 358 page book, the speaker at my graduation was Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation. Granted, Mr. Gregorian did a fine job, however at the time, I only wanted a big, sexy name.

I can honestly tell you that I cannot remember what he said. I also cannot remember what Tim Russert said when I got my MA, and he was a big name. For the record, the former head of the US National Park Service, who gave the commencement address at my undergrad is also a blur. However, I do remember him saying that there are 391 national parks, and I swear to God, he started naming them! He stopped after 10.

My point is this, commencement speakers have two important roles to fill. First, they are the name that you will brag (or not) about later (“Yeah, well so and so spoke at my graduation.”). Second, their speeches should dole out a few words of wisdom and perhaps a few jokes. And they should be short. I do not believe that Obama’s speech will in anyway be “lasting,” “monumental,” or a “deal breaker.”

I do not think that the University of Notre Dame was making any kind of statement when it asked President Obama to give a commencement address. Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, Reagan, Bush all spoke at Notre Dame graduations. And if you can get the President of the United States to speak at your graduation, you get him. The President only gives 2 commencement speeches a year. 2. Wouldn’t you want your university to be one of them?

Certainly the abortion debate resonates on a Catholic campus. But Obama’s stance on war and poverty are totally in line with Catholic social teaching. Father Theodore Hesburgh, former President of the University of Notre Dame and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was a strident member of the civil rights movement. I am certain that he will be happy to see President Obama, even though the two may differ on this issue. Notre Dame may be a Catholic University, but it is a university. Debate should be encouraged and not squelched.

When it comes to Presidential speeches, SOMEONE is going to protest. In fact, when Bush spoke at Notre Dame, there was also a protest; an anti-war protest. Come to think of it several of my friends went to that protest.

So, yeah, I am going to watch the speech and be jealous. Those kids have no idea how good they have it. Try to impress your friends with the number of national parks in the US. Does not really work.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

It's funny because its true. Even if you are not a mom, you have one. Happy Mother's Day to all of them.