Thursday, May 15, 2008

Parvum Opus 278 ~ Veritas Vincit et Snafut


Number 278


More Snafus

Bill R. sent additional ways to snafu (or maybe what to snafu):

Could f*** up an iron bar.

Couldn’t organize two men in a lifeboat if one was dead. (Or, Couldn’t organize a two-man rush on a one-man outhouse.)

He has twelve degrees of left rudder on at all times.

Screwed up as a soup sandwich.

I love these. Fred thinks it’s harder to screw up a steel ball than an iron bar, notwithstanding the fact that a certain steel ball of recent memory, not waiting for help, went ahead and found a way to f*** up its own self. An unsealed ball bearing in our furnace, as I understand it, began growling because one of the steel balls, ceasing to rotate adequately, ground itself flat on the inner race. Fred is replacing the motor.

I didn’t get “twelve degrees of left rudder on at all times” and Bill explained, “Can’t steer a straight course ~ will end up going in circles. Drifty.” I had sort of guessed at the meaning but the language was unfamiliar to me, and I wondered if the exact number 12 was significant. I overthought it.

Google Alerts

News you can sort of use: Google Alerts allows you to enter a name or topic (including your own name) in order to alert you regularly to news or blog mentions of said entry. Useful for, they suggest: monitoring a developing news story, keeping current on a competitor or industry, getting the latest on a celebrity or event, keeping tabs on your favorite sports teams. I use it to track writers I can’t get an RSS feed for, and that’s useful, but when I tried tracking my own name, all I got were daily reports of a book that came out a couple of years ago to which I contributed one chapter, but no reports of my weekly posts of PO to a couple of blogs (or anything else). So the performance of Google Alerts is sketchy.

Use Latin and Make the Big Bucks (Uti Latina Ac Merere Magni Bucks)

Wouldn’t it be fun to translate stuff to Latin and use it for birthday cards, talks at work, advertising, etc. The translator linked isn’t really accurate, and Fred reworked it according to his high-school Latin. I couldn’t find a decent automated translator online. But even the really bad Latin from the automatic translator (Utor Latin quod Planto Magnus Bucks) will provide big fun, if not big bucks. I just make up my own Latin sometimes.

MLA Style

If you write to, he’ll send you a free copy of The Real MLA Stylebook, published by Accuracy in Academia. OK, maybe you don’t care for the politics, but many of you have used the MLA Stylebook while cranking out those college research papers so you knew how to cite sources and place footnotes. As a former English major, I’ve never attended a meeting of the Modern Language Association, but I used the PMLA for research. They used to cover things like “Finnegan’s Wake: Who? What? Where? When? Why?”, “Weeding the Shakespeare Garden”, and “The English Major’s Syllabus: Toward a Synthesis of All Western Thought.” The current issue features articles about Turkey, which I don’t believe uses English as its official language. Literary translations used to be part of language classes or history classes, etc.

Mal Kline attended the 2005 MLA Convention, and along with Julia A. Seymour wrote summaries of as many of the major meetings as they were able to attend, and published them in this 56-page book. It seems that the curricula and the professors of English are now almost totally about gender/race/class politics, because the current idea is that literature is only about that and has always been only about that, if you know how to read it. A few of the meetings Kline and Seymour did not cover were:

||| The AntiSocial Thesis in Queer Theory

||| What’s the Matter With Whiteness: On seeing the interface

||| Marxism and Globalization

||| Heterosexuality: Queer Perspectives on Visual Culture

||| Queering Faulkner

||| Worldly Women: Imagining Cosmopolitan Feminisms

||| Sex and Music

||| Dykes to Watch Out For (which perhaps was about the cartoon strip of the same name)

Questions: Why do they still call them English (or English Literature) departments? And when did “queer” as a verb change its meaning to “viewing from a queer perspective”? I’m assuming the old meaning (something like snafu: “queering my pitch”) is now unacceptable in some quarters.

Kline noted that the MLA conference is the best place to look for academic jobs, and wrote (pp. 24-25):

The newly-minted Ph.D.s quickly discover that the way to gain that faculty chair is not through a mastery of the masters but by the invention of a new field of study, one for which there is usually little demand outside of the Ivory Tower.... Twenty-three people attended the MLA’s panel on Black Disability Issues.... Of the three panelists, only one was black. The two who were not both agreed that “we need to find an intersection of queer studies, disability studies, gender studies and black studies.”... “Disability is best understood as a social phenomenon, not a biological given,” [said Eden Koren Osucha, who warned against] “the false separating of race and disability”. [Anna] Mollow makes the point that marginalized people feel disabled, adding, ‘Who can be more marginalized than people attending the MLA?” Let’s hope that every English professor in the country does not apply for benefits under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Hmm, what would Barack Obama say about “the false separating of race and disability” (emphasis added)? I’m reminded of Sharyn McCrumb’s amusing mystery novel, If I’d Killed Him When I Met Him, in which a woman English professor gets tenure by pretending to be lesbian. Today maybe she’d have to pretend to be handicapped and black too. (By the way, Sharyn McCrumb has dropped all her earlier mystery novels from her web site, except the ballad novels. She’s aiming for a literary reputation. Perhaps if she advertised as lesbian/black/disabled...?)

Patricia Roberts-Miller on the “English Studies and Political Literacy” sensibly said (p. 49):

...there can be a problem with political Calvinism on both sides, meaning that one’s identity exists only within this political framework and the result is that one stops listening as soon as they [sic] know what the other person “is” (meaning how they would label the other person).

(This was reported by Julia A. Seymour, who does not write as well as Malcolm A. Kline, so perhaps the error was hers, not Patricia Roberts-Millers’.)

The University of Colorado at Boulder (former intellectual home of Ward Churchill) is endowing a chair for a professor of conservative thought and policy. This is necessary in order that there be more than one opinion present, and even permitted, on campus. Note the comments on the linked page announcing the chair in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Coincidentally, after receiving The Real MLA Stylebook this week, I read a review of Saul Bellow’s 1970 novel, Mr. Sammler’s Planet, in City Journal:

He made him, in other words, a representative of the emerging academic culture that was turning against the Western tradition it was entrusted to transmit: ignorant, coarse-minded, anti-intellectual, irrational, hyper-ideological, sex-crazed, substituting sloganeering and invective for argument, obsessed with the marginal and the “oppressed” as evidence of Western society’s fundamental, inexpiable injustice.

Pillars of Participatory Medicine

In his old blog, Dave DaBee wrote,

On the New Life blog I'm starting a beginner's guide to participatory medicine. It's my effort to share what I learned last year, with the intention that others can take a shortcut. In particular I recommend the chapter about 'the five pillars of participatory medicine.'

Note the “pillars” metaphor, alluding to Islam’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Dave must have been reaching for the sturdy pillar image as well as the alliteration, though not the number. But I thought it was interesting that it wasn’t the “five commandments of participatory medicine”.

Since Dave survived a particularly bad form of cancer after a hard year, his experiences and thoughts on medicine are well worth reading.


I’ve added a few new things to my CafePress shop: there are new shirt and hat styles with embroidered patches, and those plus some of the other items now have the Catti figure with “Veritas Vincit”, the Keith clan motto ~ Truth Conquers ~ rather than “Parvum Opus”. Other new items are large and small pet food dishes, saying “I eat dead things”.

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