Friday, December 30, 2005

Sine die

Who uses it: Legislators
What it means: In Latin, "without a day." The adjournment of a legislature at the end of its term, with no date set to reconvene. Although the Latin pronunciation is "SIN-eh DEE-ay," on Capitol Hill, they say, "sigh-nee DIE."
How you can use it: When you're going away for a while.

This would have been a good term to save for my next vacation, but it popped into my head yesterday, so I'm using it now. Yesterday was a long, long driving day, but Chris, Dizzy and I made it back to Maine... where it's raining and generally gross out. So much for winter wonderland.

On the way out of D.C. yesterday, I sat behind a bus with a placard on the back: "The alcohol beverage licensees of Washington, D.C. urge you to DRINK & DRIVE RESPONSIBLY this holiday season." I was so flabbergasted, I took a picture (not digital, so I can't post it). Drink and drive responsibly? It sounds like an episode of "Jackass."

What I Read This Week

Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down. On New Year's Eve, four unhappy people meet on the roof of Toppers' House, a North London apartment tower notorious for attracting suicide jumpers. One is a disgraced former talk show host; one is the borderline-personality daughter of a junior minister; one is a failed rock-star wannabe; and one is the middle-aged mother of a profoundly disabled son. It's risky subject matter for a comic novel, but Hornby pulls it off, and answers the eternal question, "Why go on?" with a very satisfying, "Because."

Paul Hemphill, Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams. And then again... once upon a time, a troubled young man changed the face of popular music. The child of a broken home, he married a confrontational, ambitious woman who pushed and tormented him. In constant physical pain, he turned to a lethal combination of alcohol and pills, and his friends knew he was a walking dead man for months before he died. Forty years before it happened to Kurt Cobain, Hank Williams died in the back seat of a powder-blue Cadillac, somewhere in West Virginia. His recording career spanned only four years, but his songs are eternal: "Your Cheating Heart," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Jambalaya," and my own favorite, "I Saw the Light." This short, spare book is a fitting tribute to Williams and must-reading for any serious music fan.

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explains the Hidden Side of Everything. Why do drug dealers live with their mothers? What's the real reason for the drop in the crime rate? Do "Baby Einstein" tapes have any effect on children's success in school? Economist Steven D. Levitt answers these questions and more in a tremendously entertaining book.

Vendela Vida, ed., The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers. I was going to parcel out this collection of 23 interviews over a stretch of weeks -- read one, put the book down, read the next later -- but I kept reading, and before I knew it, I was finished. Conversations here include Jamaica Kincaid's memories of her first years at The New Yorker, Susan Straight's inside view of Riverside, and John Banville's existential despair over never writing as well as he wants to. The writers here talk less about how they write than about how they see and how they think, and it's as good as a seminar.

1 comment:

KaneCitizen said...

FYI, here is the Freakonomics blog.