On Wednesday, 36 governors will deliver a blistering attack on a congressional proposal that "would substantially interfere with state sovereignty." What proposal?
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Tuesday's Question (No. 414)—"Like a Rolling Stone":
The Chinese called them "seven grannies with eight teeth between them," and now they're back in a new form. What do we call them?
"New and Improved Seven Grannies With Eight Teeth Between Them."—Richard Nikonovich-Kahn
"Blue chip stocks."—Charlie Glassenberg
"The Utah Jazz."—Neal Pollack
"The McLaughlin Group Online."—Colleen Werthmann (Mary Anne Townsend had a similar answer.)
"I don't know, but you can bet that somebody paid a hefty bribe for that extra tooth."—Michael Gerber (similarly, Francis Heaney)
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Grannies are not inherently comic; they become comic when they ape the young. It's the contrast between desire and decrepitude—the young woman's lust in the old woman's sup-hose—that makes her a kind of one-woman double-act: She's Laurel and Hardy all by herself. She's Sex and Death, the comedy of contrast, as funny as that other duo, Samuel Beckett. She's a stock character, the foxy grandma—perched on the back of a motorcycle, her miniskirt hoisted to her hips, her arms around some improbable stud. Is she really goin' out with him? (The foxy grandma is often portrayed as a hillbilly, perhaps because this gives her credible, if disturbing, sexual access to some dumb Kentucky hunk, making her erotic life more believable and its proximity to death more unsettling.)
Helen Gurley Brown is not a foxy grandma. She looks too scary, as if she's not so much trying to cheat death as threaten him with legal action. She conveys a desperation so electric it leaves no room for pathos: She's got no sense of her own mortality. Diana Ross—most popular target of quiz participants—same thing. She looks like she's bribed death. Probably with mob money. But she was freakish and off-putting even when she was young. She always made you feel that she regarded pop music, even her own records, as slumming. Even in 1967, she'd rather be playing Vegas. Tina Turner, on the other hand, was hot 40 years ago when she recorded "It's Gonna Work Out Fine," and she's hot now—not ironically hot, not comically hot, just hot. The difference? Tina Turner doesn't convey the desires of someone pretending to be a 20-year-old; she lives those of a 60-year-old with inspiring vitality.
But how many of us can be Tina Turner? For us mortals, life offers a grim dilemma. There is the bleak despair of fading desire, for which dignity is a meager compensation, or the clown act of the foxy grandma, where desire flourishes but everything needed to satisfy desire fails—teeth, hips, breath, life. It is a cruel joke, and it's on us. But it's better than being Diana Ross.
I Spy Answer
The "neighborhood committees" that once kept tabs on small-town life are being reconstituted in China's cities.
Staffed, so it was said, by a town's nosiest neighbors, the committees scrutinized visitors, reported anti-social activities, even monitored pregnancies. Less intrusively, they also mediated disputes and watched out for crime.
The new urban committees aspire to "grass-roots democracy." They include local elected "community administrative committee" leaders who strive to improve neighborhood services—garbage collection, job training, care for the elderly. The committee members are meant to be younger and more professional than in the past, but they are also used as an instrument of social control, keeping an eye on an increasingly mobile population and reporting illicit activity.
Three Boys Extra
ABC newsman Leo DiCaprio and God's Army leaders Johnny and Luther Htoo are much in the news this week. Consider each of the following comments and determine if it was made about Johnny, Luther, or Leo.
- Commands 250,000 invisible heavenly soldiers
- Commands 150,000 invisible heavenly soldiers
- Commands innumerable heavenly preteens
- Long hair, vacant expression, and claim of divinity
- Not a journalist
- Once turned himself into old man then back into a youth
- Another embarrassment for ABC News
- Parents are simple farmers without magical powers
- Followers sometimes wear Donald Duck T-shirts and black headscarves
- Treated by followers with mixture of deference and patient parenting
- Has "LOVE" tattoo on his arm
- Described as "a fidgety child with a little-boy voice"
- Has wrenching smoker's cough
- Likes to clamber into a follower's lap
- Thought to attract a youthful following
- Johnny and Luther, but could include Leo.
- Leo, but could include Johnny, Luther, and Barbara Walters.
- Johnny. But could include Sam Donaldson. At least the first half.
- Leo, but should include paid consultant, war criminal Henry Kissinger.
- Johnny and Luther. DiCaprio's dad may know some card tricks. I'll get my researcher right on that. As soon as he learns to dial with those paws.
- Johnny and Luther. Oh, OK. Me. And if I find out how you got into my closet, and if the cat is in any way involved …
- Johnny and Luther and probably Leo.
- Luther. Peter Jennings said to have happy face tattoo on ass. Said by me. In a mocking French accent.
- Luther. Could apply to Leo. And George Will.
- Luther. Probably Leo. Certainly Sam Donaldson, should he have any followers.
- Leo. Probably Luther and Johnny. Certainly not Sam Donaldson.