Friday, May 30, 2008

Parvum Opus 280 ~ Speak Softly and Carry a Big Axe Stick


Number 280


Nature Trip

Drawing lessons, similes, metaphors, and analogies from nature seems to be a built-in brain function, leading to poetry if you have the talent, and prosy musings if you haven’t. After only a 5-minute turn in the yard, I came up with three prosy musings.

||| The experimental hanging upside-down tomato plant had all its leaves nipped off, probably by deer. But new leaves are growing, which leads me to muse on the doggedness of life.

||| Dead is conspicuously different, as in the dry snap of the dead grapevine. The vines die in interesting shapes, and those shapes are fixed. I’m thinking of this as a metaphor for our mental and maybe even emotional lives, not our bodies.

||| Masses of Virginia creeper came up wild after Fred built an enclosed deck. The creeper covers the screens every year, and would cover the door if we didn’t clip it almost daily, but this year it’s spread further and higher. One patch is mixed with the (live) grapevine, honeysuckle, and an aspiring oak. The Virginia creeper likes to attach itself to surfaces, but in this spot the vines away from the wall have nothing to touch, so some long tendrils are reaching out horizontally over the grass. I don’t know how long they can reach before drooping toward the ground. The oak probably won’t mature, at least not easily, being crowded like that (besides which, Fred is going to prune it back). I’ve never seen these grapevines produce edible fruit before and they won’t now because they get little sun. The Virginia creeper could have the entire wall to itself without the others. Honeysuckle grows wild everywhere around here and is also very strong. The Virginia creeper and the honeysuckle met coming from two different directions, and it’s a toss-up as to which will prevail. I think if plants have any sense of life, they’re enjoying being tangled up in this sunny spot, even if none will be as big as it would be alone.

Soon to appear in our yard will be a plague of 17-year cicadas (cicadas doesn’t sound as ominous as locusts). I thought the big one was in 2004, but those were what they call a different brood. The local cicada sage and College of Mount St. Joseph biology professor, Gene Kritsky, predicted a May 13 emergence using a computer model, but they’re barely getting started. I haven’t seen one yet. Kritsky said,

But then, we had the two cool weeks in April. That slowed things down. Otherwise, owing to global warming, they would have emerged two weeks earlier than the historical average.

(I guess he didn’t get the memo about “climate change”.) The cicadas are later than usual because it’s still cold for May, but they would have been earlier than usual because of global warming. His computer model is obviously updated for global warming, not for actual weather.


Disappear is an intransitive, not a transitive, verb. This means that the action does not affect an object: He threw the ball out of the park; he did not disappear the ball. I first heard the transitive usage during Chile’s Pinochet regime, when people “were disappeared”. This transitive usage also seemed always to be passive, not active: the disappeared people, he was disappeared, but not the government disappeared them.

I heard it recently from one of my Chinese students, who told me that if he was caught e-mailing something the government didn’t like, or bringing the wrong media into the country, he could be disappeared (not, he could disappear).

Obviously volition makes the difference, and perhaps that specific coinage was needed.

Recent editorials about the Bodies Exhibition, which has been in a Cincinnati museum for months, reminded me of my student. Some of those bodies might have been disappeared people. They don’t look like they died of old age, and a 20/20 program says the source of the bodies is suspect. (See part 1 and part 2.) Locally, a man named Harry Wu spoke out against the exhibition.

I don’t want to see the show. I know too many Chinese people. What if it were someone you knew and loved, skin removed, organs and muscles plasticized, skeletons playing baseball?


||| In her entertaining Boston crime novel, The Big Dig, Linda Barnes had her private investigator say, “I’d tucked [a gun] secretively in my boot.” It should have been secretly. Secretive describes a tendency of a personality; to do something secretively is to do it in a secret manner, whether or not someone else sees. Secret means hidden; to do something secretly means the action is concealed.

||| Not sure where I found this: Swarmy sense of self-satisfaction. Should have been “smarmy” although “swarmy” has a similarly creepy sound.

||| In a Found shopping list: big axe stick. What is it? Hardware? An axe handle? Anyway, I think “big axe” could be a genteel substitution for the common “big a*s” anything.


David R. sent some classic insults, which must be passed on for posterity. It would be a honor to be insulted so skillfully. I’ll feed them to you a little at a time.

||| "He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others." ~ Samuel Johnson

||| "He had delusions of adequacy." ~ Walter Kerr

Deserve Victory

Dave DaBee posted an interesting reflection on Memorial Day on his blog, and I replied referring to a World War II poster of Winston Churchill pointing his finger to us like the famous Uncle Sam picture, and ordering us to "Deserve Victory!" We can and ought to prevail, as long as we try, not to live down our worst moments eternally, but to live up to our highest ideals. This is Dave’s medical blog, so note the photo of the old family burial plot and how young everyone was at death. We are fortunate to have expectations of longer life today.

My son Jude and virtual daughter-in-law Kate posted a fine Memorial Day tribute; Kate filmed, Jude introduced the story.

Finally, I want to remember Tony Zollo, who was on the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier (my father’s ship) in WWII in the South Pacific. On board, Tony Zollo was in a position to save all the ship’s communiques and logs, though he wasn’t supposed to, and he used to publish them in a newsletter, “The Mighty I”. He also wrote a book on the Intrepid for its 50th anniversary, which you can find in the New York harbor museum shop. Mr. Zollo died this year.

The Love That Dares to Speak Its Name and Yours Too

You probably know that the U.S. government and other entities sometimes would not acknowledge Indians’ names, personal or tribal. Sometimes it was merely because Europeans had difficulties pronouncing the foreign names, and we still use their invented names, such as Nez Perce. In the case of individuals, particularly children forced into boarding schools, the intent was to eradicate Indian culture and autonomy, so names, religion, and language were discarded. A Cherokee by any other name may smell as sweet, but he may not be completely a Cherokee anymore.

If you understand the significance of that, then you understand the California ruling legalizing gay marriage, and why civil unions, which provided the same legal rights to couples, didn’t satisfy the activists, including the judges of California who overrode the majority vote in the state and forced instant cultural change on the population. It’s important to control the language if you want to control people, or demolish tradition.

Beatification by Photoshop

I’m not the only one who’s noticed the magazine covers showing Obama with a halo. Some of them are collected on the obamamessiah blog. Why the messiafication? To give him the power to forgive. He’s peddling the hope, if you have faith in him, and charity is part of the economic package.


You can get an RSS feed to your home page from William Safire’s column in the New York Times Magazine, “On Language”. Some old ones are online; “Blargon” (2006) is a good one. The newest one is “Emoticons”. Go to the bottom of the page to find the RSS link.


Trivium pursuit ~ rhetoric, grammar, and logic, or reading, writing, and reckoning ~ Parvum Opus discusses language, education, journalism, culture, and more. Parvum Opus by Rhonda Keith is a publication of KeithOps / Opus Publishing Services. Rhonda Keith is a long-time writer, editor, and English teacher. Back issues from December 2002 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 e-mail, and I'll take you off the mailing list. Copyright Rhonda Keith 2008. 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.

Link here to look for books on!

Or click on underlined book links.

T-SHIRTS AND OTHER STUFF AT Parvum Opus CafePress shop:

"Flash in the Pants"

"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

Plus kids’ things, mouse pad, teddy bear, coffee mugs, beer stein, and more!

PLUS Scot Tartans T-shirts and more (custom orders available).


Parvum Opus now appears at It 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.

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

PEACE MISSION INDIA blogs the progress of Pastor Roy Jacob’s mission to build churches in India. Now 79, Pastor Roy (who is an Indian) has built 10 churches, and has a girls’ school to rescue girls from the mountains and jungles who otherwise might be married off as children or perhaps sold.

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.

Go to Babelfish to translate this page into Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, or Spanish!

1 comment:

College Research Paper said...

I appreciate the work of all people who share information with others.