Sunday, July 8, 2007

Tiki Talk


Number 233

July 5, 2007



My son Jude had a Tiki barbecue on the 4th. Tikis are the wood or stone carvings of Polynesian gods, but Tiki is also a current installment in nostalgia. When I was quite young, I remember fads in recalling the Roaring 20s, and then a revival of World War II jitterbug. If you look at movies from the 40s, though, you’ll find a number of nostalgic period pieces set in the turn of the century. The ‘50s is hot among those who didn’t live during that period, and Tiki culture is one aspect of the ‘50s retro scene. According to Wikipedia, in the early 20th century a couple of men opened bars in California with Polynesian themes, and soldiers returning from the South Pacific after WWII brought their own souvenirs. Hawaiian or Polynesian style was popular in food (pineapple kebabs) and cocktails (with pineapple juice) and music. And of course we have Tiki culture to thank for Hawaiian shirts. I’m wearing one right now as I type, my favorite shirt.

My dad was in the South Pacific during the war, but I don’t remember my parents’ having much Tiki stuff, although living in Florida, how could you tell? It was a tiki world. They did have an exotic pair of bedroom lamps, male and female ceramic figures, but they were wearing harem pants. They also had some gorgeous bark cloth living drapes, black with a tropical frond print, which would qualify as tiki.

My mother also had a wonderful recording of “Quiet Village”; check out this old live performance filmed in Hawaii on YouTube. (For some reason it reminds me of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” performed by the Tokens, who sound as good on YouTube as in the original recording.) Sit back, have an umbrella drink, and listen.

Bonus word: “Tiki” also means the tip end of a piece of salami.


It’s been years since I read The Friendly Persuasion (Jessamyn West, 1940), about Civil War-era Quaker farmers, but I seem to remember a passage where Jess Birdwell installs newly invented gas lights in his house. All his neighbors came to witness the amazing illumination, but one of them grumbled about “the wasting away of the world” because of the fuel used up. I don’t know if gas light uses more fuel than candle light or oil light or wood fire light. Jessamyn West was on to something, either a 1940s proto-environmental panic or a 19th century mood of fear; perhaps it was a story she heard growing up in Indiana. I always remembered that phrase, in any case, and this is the first time I’ve pulled it out of the hat: the wasting away of the world.


The other day at the health food store a little woman was waiting in line for her B-12 shot wearing a T-shirt with what looked like a movie poster of something called Decapitated: Too Hot for Code Red, with a photo of a line-up of masked terrorists in black and a kneeling captive in front of them, not yet decapitated. It seemed incongruous with the neatly dressed, middle-ageish woman, although her well pedicured feet had different shades of red polish on each toe, symmetrically arrayed on each foot, so that could have been a tip-off. But even if it had been a teenage boy wearing the shirt, I wouldn't be sure of its political import ~ pro-war? anti-war? media satire? or what?

I've never been one to put bumper stickers on my car or wear T-shirts with meaningful text in public, though at least you can change them, unlike a tattoo, for instance. I don't like the idea of one phrase or slogan identifying me or my opinions. I don't want people to think that because they might know one opinion I have, they therefore know the entire corpus of my political, philosophical, emotional, experiential, intellectual, educational, or literary baggage. The Decapitated shirt lady has retained her mystery.

Nevertheless, now I've produced my own political T-shirts. Christopher Hitchens, among others, has noticed that a certain face keeps showing up in photos of various demonstrations in Kashmir. When I saw the photos of this man, who may or may not be a paid demonstrator, I was immediately reminded of another face, and shortly dredged it up from the silty floor of my brain: Bat Boy of Weekly World News fame. I was so excited that I made a T-shirt comparing the photos. (Can you spot the difference?) There's probably some copyright violation involved but until I get caught, this fabulous T-shirt (sure to be a collector's item!) is available in my CafePress store. Got another new T-shirt there too: If you build it, they won't come. And (non-politically), If you’re so smart why aren’t you me? T-shirts are good for small bad-girl ideas.

HAPPY 2nd, 4th, AND 5th OF JULY

The Continental Congress actually approved a resolution on independence on July 2, 1776, but the final wording as written by Thomas Jefferson was signed July 4th. John Adams wrote this to his wife Abigail:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha [sic] in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.

You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means. And that posterity will triumph in that day's transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not...

It may be the will of Heaven that America will suffer calamities still more wasting, and distress yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case, it will have this good effect at least. It will inspire us with many virtues which we have not, and correct many errors, follies and vices which threaten to disturb, dishonor and destroy us. The furnace of afflication [sic] produces refinement, in States as well as individuals... But I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.

I read the opening and the end of the Declaration of Independence to my students as a listening and comprehension practice (got to have pedagogical rationale!), as history, and as explanation. I hadn’t read it for a long time. Now I’m less cynical than I used to be and appreciate it more.

And here are a few lighter items for your post-4th contemplation:

>>> Good news in time for Independence Day: The bald eagle is now off the endangered species list. The name comes from “piebald” meaning marked with white.

>>> Jan sent a link to this cheery presidential version of the Star Spangled Banner.

>>> A couple of weeks ago I was channel surfing and paused for a moment on Jerry Springer because everyone in the studio was singing the National Anthem with hands on heart. A few people obviously didn't know any of the lyrics, but they put their hands over their hearts anyway. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed to have a transformative effect on everyone. Their faces didn't look like the usual Springer tribe. The value of thinking about something greater than yourself is inestimable.


Link here to look for books on!

NEW STUFF AT Parvum Opus CafePress shop: "If you're so smart why aren't you me?"; "If you build it they won't come"; Rage Boy/Bat Boy: Can you spot the difference?; Akron U. Alma Mater: The Lost Verse; PWE (Protestant Work Ethic) tote bag; "I am here" T-shirt; "Someone went to Heaven and all I got was this lousy T-shirt"; "I eat dead things" doggy shirt and BBQ apron; new kids’ things, mouse pad, teddy bear, stein, and more!


Parvum Opus now appears as a Townhall blog:

and is also carried by the Hur Herald, a web newspaper from Calhoun County, West Virginia. See Editor Bob Weaver's interview with me (February 10, 2007 entry), and the PO every week in Columns.


Short Order is a new series of my short stories in 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" booklet format. The first two are available now for $5 each (includes mailing).

/// In Carl Kriegbaum Sleeps with the Corn, a young computer guy who dreams of becoming a big-time gambler sets up web sites for his role model, a real big-time gambler, Stockyard Stan of Kansas City. But when Carl comes up short on his gambling debts, he finds himself wearing concrete boots in the middle of a Kansas cornfield. 26 pages.

/// Still Ridge is about what happens when the old-time moonshine business meets up with a predatory modern bottled water corporation. How far will Kate, a newcomer to the mountains, go to protect the water supply? 22 pages.

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WHEN SONNY GETS BLUE! Check out the video clips of Sonny Robertson and the Howard Street Blues Band at and, with his new original song, "A Different Shade of Blue".

SEARCH IT OUT ON AMAZON : "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter." Proverbs 25:2; "Get wisdom! Even if it costs you everything, get understanding!" Proverbs 4:7:

The poet Muriel Rukeyser said the universe is not composed of atoms, but stories. The physicist Werner Heisenberg said the universe is not made of matter, but music.


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Parvum Opus is a publication of KeithOps / Opus Publishing Services. Back issues may be found at Feel free to e-mail me with comments or queries. The PO mailing list is private, never given or sold to anyone else. If you don't want to receive Parvum Opus, please reply with "unsubscribe," "quit," "enough," or something like that in the subject line, and I'll take you off the mailing list. Copyright Rhonda Keith 2007. Parvum Opus or part of it may be reproduced only with permission, but you may forward the entire newsletter as long as the copyright remains.

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