Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ain't Words Wonderful!

Once when I told someone I was a cop, she looked at me incredulously and without blinking an eye said, “Really? You don’t talk like a cop.”

I believe she meant it as a left-handed compliment, in that I didn’t use the language that was so prevalent at the time in on-screen portrayals of policemen. That is, I used words that cops just didn’t use on TV.

Now why should that be? I worked with all manner of guys in the job, since it was at a time before women were in police department uniform. So why shouldn’t I have sounded like a cop, since I spent eight hours out of every working day communicating with them?

It didn’t take long to come up with an answer. You see, I was the only male in a home with five females. So, although my on-duty hours were peppered with phraseology like, “Who made the pinch?” “Where’s your nightstick?” “Call for a wagon.” “Break it up, guys.” And the ever-popular, “Give me your license and registration,” my off-duty hours—spent primarily around my wife and four daughters—involved a decidedly different vocabulary.

So let me give you a quick quiz. Give me an informal definition of any of the following five words: Bobeche…Finial…Duvet…Flounce… Peau de soie (Po des swa).

Don’t look ahead, because the answers are at the bottom.

Now I don’t want anyone to think that these words were heard in my home as often as dishtowel, screwdriver, or calculator… but they were heard. Whereas I can never recall a time when I turned to my partner in a squad car and asked, “Are the flounces on your curtains gathered or pleated?” I have a feeling he’d be asking for a different partner tomorrow night.

Of course, if I asked my wife where we kept our finials, she simply say, “On top of our lamps; where else?”

I’m kind of proud of my vocabulary. It’s not on a par with that of someone like William F. Buckley, or Newt Gingrich, but I can hold my own with members of the law enforcement community—whether they use bobeches or finials.

However, I wouldn’t want to have run into a guy who had a Peau de soie duvet with flounces circumventing the edges. I think that would have been the day I asked for another partner.

Here are the answers:
Bobeche: a collar at the bottom of a candle to catch wax.
Finial: decorative knob that holds a lampshade on a lamp.
Duvet: stuffed quilt atop a bed.
Flounce: gathered or pleated material atop a curtain.
Peau de soie (Po des swa): reversible soft fabric.

Ain’t words wonderful!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Christ on the Political Stump

Two acquaintances of mine were arguing online recently about which political party Jesus would belong to today.

“Republican,” one said, “because he essentially instructed people that they are ultimately responsible for their actions.” Well, he did tell people to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt 4:17)

“Democrat,” the other replied, “because he told people they should take care of the poor.” Jesus did tell the rich man that to enter heaven, he should give all he owns to the poor. (Matt 19:21)

They are both correct in their paraphrasing of Christ’s words, but they miss the point of Christ’s teaching.

Jesus did not preach a ‘group’ mentality. He was speaking to each of us as an individual. These are choices we must make on our own—not by a governmental decree. After all, he told the rich man to make his own decision about his possessions.

He didn’t advocate that the government—in Jesus’ case, the Romans—should ensure that all the rich would give what they owned to the poor. What good would that do, as far as eternal salvation is concerned? Is a good deed still a good deed if we are forced to do it?

No, I don’t think Christ wanted any social structure to declare by fiat, that self-sacrifice was the preferred way of life. He wanted that to be an individual decision. Of course, I believe he wanted every individual to decide that charity was paramount in their lives.

What kind of a place would you win in heaven if the only reason you gave to the poor was because you were forced to? I think compulsory charity violates the Divine gameplan. Whatever we decide to do, we have to each make that decision individually. I somehow don’t think that God can be fooled into seeing philanthropy as anything that is mandatory.

When Christ suggested that we “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” he was sort of indicating straightforwardly that such an action would take care of only our administrative responsibilities. I guess that’s why he included the second half of that admonition—that we must “Render unto God the things that are God’s.” That’s where he gets to the meat of his message.

Altruism isn’t altruism if it’s legally binding. How much do you think most people would give to charity if it wasn’t deductible on their income tax?

No, I don’t think Jesus would have been either Democrat or Republican. I think he would have been a registered Independent. Over here in Jersey, we call that Unaffiliated, which sounds like a word that would be used to describe somebody that doesn’t want to get involved.

But we all know that Jesus wanted everybody to get involved in their neighbor’s well-being. He just didn’t want us to be forced to do so. He wanted it to be our choice.

Just like it’s your choice whether or not you want to visit my Web site:

And like Jesus, I want it to be your choice. I would never force you to do anything against your better nature.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I Can't Hear Through All the Noise

There’s a somewhat modern cliché that reads this way: There are two kinds of people in today’s world—those who, upon entering a room turn the TV on, and those others who, upon entering a room, turn the TV off!

Until the last several years, I was one of those who, upon entering a room, turned the radio on. Back in the 60s, my station of choice was WIP 610 AM. That was before it evolved into a sports talk station.

They had a great lineup of characters: everything from Chicken Man to the old seashore codger from Sea-nile City.

And in-between was the music: Motown to Big Band. You could listen to it, sing along, reminisce, or dance (even if you were alone in the room—or at least I’ve heard tell that some people did that!)

I no longer turn the radio on as a matter of habit when I walk through the door. Why would I? There’s not much for me to listen to.

Oh, of course there’s a whole gaggle of songs on the air at any given time (Do songs come in a gaggle? Oh no—that’s geese. Well, some of what’s played today could pass for a flock of geese flying overhead. Actually, it would have to improve to achieve that sound.)

I guess I long for those days when I walked through the door, flipped on the radio, grabbed a cold ale from the frig, picked up the afternoon paper and relaxed with the sports page while the strains of, oh, I don’t know…Buddy Holly, Glenn Miller, the Platters, Dinah Washington… would just seep through my subconscious while I unwound.

Try unwinding to “Young, Wild, and Free,” by Snoop Dog. I think that listed at number eight last month. I know legendary WIP DJ Tom Moran would be whirling the ridges off that disk if he were still spinning vinyl over the airwaves. (Note: This is sarcasm!)

I don’t want to say that the music was better in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s than it is today. What I want to say is that the music of anytime was better than the cacophony they’re throwing at us today.

I remember some of the songs that my daughters danced to at their weddings. And they’re really too young to remember back to the 60s. One danced to “Have I Told You Lately That I love You” by Van Morrison. Another danced to “At Last,” by Etta James. Two pretty classy kids dancing to two pretty classy songs.

What are today’s kids going to recall as “Our Song,” when they celebrate their 20th anniversary? “Rack City” by Tyga?

If you’re going to be one of those people who turns a radio on as soon as you enter a room, best to wait for an entertaining, intelligent, interesting talk show.

You may even hear a palpable song once in a while.