Sunday, Pope John Paul II presided over the largest gathering of young people ever held in the West as 2 million kids assembled for World Youth Day, what some have dubbed "the Catholic Woodstock." What was the festival's most popular event?
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Friday's Question (No. 468)—"Acceptable Behavior":
Fill in the blank on this remark from Al Gore's acceptance speech at Thursday night's Democratic convention: "I say to you tonight, millions of Americans will live better lives for a long time to come because of __________________."
"Push-ups. Seriously. Watch …"—Peter Lerangis
" 'Global warming.' I'm as surprised as anyone."—Mark Wade
"Joe Lieberman's flexibility."—Will Vehrs
"Deciding not to pay $8.50 to see Richard Gere's ass in another movie where he woos a 25-year-old."—Andrew Milner
"Um, because of—I'm sorry, I just got distracted by my wife's demure but overpowering beauty. Come here, Tipper, so that I might once more press your moist ruby lips to mine. I hope all you soccer moms out there will excuse us for a moment …"—Greg Diamond
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These days, a long speech makes many of us doze off, but the ancient Greeks had no trouble staying awake. Then again, in their amphitheaters, the seats were made of stone. Forensic—legal—oratory was the most admired kind in ancient Athens, where litigants were obliged to speak for themselves. We moderns mock a defendant who represents himself, particularly if we attended law school where we learned that a defendant would be better off paying us $300 an hour to speak for him. Among the most admired forensic orators of the Golden Age of Athens, the 4th century B.C., were Lycurgus, Hyperides, Aeschines, and Dinarchus. Although we have no tape recordings of any of these speakers, historians agree that none of them would have satisfied Patricia Duff.
Born in Athens in 384 B.C., Demosthenes is generally recognized as the greatest all-around orator of his day. (And he did it while wearing sandals; William Jennings Bryan required some sort of heavy brogans.) He roused his fellow Athenians to oppose Philip of Macedon and, later, his son Alexander the Great. ("Look out!" the Macedonians were apt to say, "He's got a speech!" And then they'd all run away. Or at least that was the idea in Athens.)
Demosthenes was the son of a wealthy sword-maker who died when the boy was only 7, depriving them both of what might have been a lifelong father-son argument—Pen! Sword! Pen! Sword! Aphobus, an unscrupulous guardian, swindled Demosthenes out of his inheritance, instilling in the boy an intense desire to grow up with sufficient eloquence to sue Aphobus. He began training to become an orator. (It would have killed his father.) According to Plutarch, Demosthenes built an underground study where he exercised his voice and shaved half of his head so he couldn't go out in public. (They cared much more about attractive haircuts in those days.) Demosthenes is best known for overcoming his speech defect—perhaps a stammer—by practicing with pebbles in his mouth. He also trained by reciting verses when running and out of breath. It's kind of like Rocky if Rocky had been The Barbara Walters Story, and if Barbara Walters (and the American viewing public) hadn't lost.
Despite his training, his first speech in the Athenian assembly was a disaster: The audience laughed him out of the place. However, Demosthenes kept working, and in 363 B.C. he won his suit against Aphobus. So it's kind of like Rocky and Erin Brockovich, a woman who cared about a good haircut every bit as much as did those ancient Athenians. Demosthenes later went on to sue the sculptor Antenor. I'm not sure why. But if he is played by Julia Roberts in the movie, I, for one, look forward to the part where she poses for Antenor.
Running on/From/Near My Record Answer
"I say to you tonight, millions of Americans will live better lives for a long time to come because of the job that's been done by President Bill Clinton."
Al "My Own Man" Gore faced the tricky task of distancing himself from the president without denigrating the achievements of the past eight years or the man with whom he served. Early in his speech, Gore acknowledged the president, praised the robust economy, and then closed that door, saying: "This election is not an award for past performance. I'm not asking you to vote for me on the basis of the economy we have." The rest of his speech was devoted to his personal history and his plans for the future, which apparently include seeking higher office.
Some Favorite Phrases of Mine From the Big Speech:
"turn on the faucet"
Most Dubious Assertion:
"the amount of human knowledge is doubling every five years"
Our Living Language Extra
"He signed the bottom of her shirt, and he turned away, and then she did a Brandi Chastain."—White House spokesman Jake Siewert describes a T-shirt signing incident involving President Clinton and a jubilant fan. The New York Times helpfully explains: "referring to the American soccer star who took off her shirt and revealed her sports bra after her team won the World Cup finals last year, a competition for teams of many nations on the planet Earth, the third planet from a modest star on the edge of the Milky Way, a nondescript galaxy in an unimportant part of the universe, a mass of matter and energy that was probably created billions of years ago in a single massive explosion and that now constitutes the entirety of existence in so far as is known." (But perhaps the explanation ended with "year," i.e., at the moment a light remark had been hammered into a dull gray.)
Matt Heimer's You-Be-the-Editor Extra
The R & B music and style magazine Vibe is spinning off a new title, Hip-Hop Girl. According to Mediaweek, the magazine "might best be described as a Cosmo-MarthaStewart Living hybrid aimed at the hip-hop set."
For $500 and the game, please submit some cover lines for a magazine fitting that description [e.g., "Jennifer Lopez Reveals 7 Wall Sconces That Will Make Him HOT!"].
Best replies to run Friday.
The dullness thing.