Thursday, November 13, 2008

Parvum Opus 301 ~ Hell in the Hallway

The Amish Cook at the Bookstore

I went to a book signing for a book I didn’t buy, The Amish Cook at Home: Simple Pleasures of Food, Family, and Faith, edited by Kevin Williams. I’ve been reading Lovina Eicher’s weekly column for a year. She writes simple accounts of her family life by hand and mails it to Kevin Williams via snail mail, whence it goes into syndication. Her husband and two of her children were at the bookstore, with Williams, who spoke to the crowd, but Lovina Eicher just signed books while her family looked on. Besides their clothes, the Eichers’ appearance was different from those of the people who came to buy the book. Their faces showed the simplicity and, yes, I’ll say it, the purity of their lives. But since the Amish do not like to have their photos taken, you won’t see a picture online.

Bits and Pieces

[~] Librivox,org presents free audio books online, read by volunteers. I started to listen to the Memoir of Jane Austen by James Austen-Leigh (Jane’s nephew). The readers (different ones on each of the first two tracks so far) are clearly not professionals, and they make me appreciate the skill of the ordinary professional actor, but still, it’s a good service.

[~] It seems somewhat magical to hear a voice from a century ago, when audio recording and film were new. You can listen to brief clips of G. K. Chesterton on YouTube.

[~] The Telegraph compiles lists of irritating phrases, which are transatlantically irritating too.

Welsh Signs

Mike Sykes wrote on the badly translated Welsh traffic signs:

... only a minority of the Welsh actually speak the language, and secondly it reminds me of the number of times I've reflected while driving in Wales that these bilingual are a potentially dangerous distraction to drivers, since I find that I for one have to scan the whole of the text and discard what I don't understand, before considering whether the bit I do understand is actually relevant to me. It's not as if there is any significant proportion of the population don't understand English.

Hell in the Hallway

Making the e-mail circuit: “Whenever God closes one door He always opens another, even though sometimes it's hell in the hallway.”

Foy Graw

Here’s a slightly edited blog entry from my drummer son Foy, for his former Boston band, the Maintainers.

Do you know what makes a good band, aside from emulating the Maintainers as much as possible? It's how much beer gets thrown at you. I'm on week three of my music information collection expedition to Kansas (funded by a grant from the Maintainers Club) and here's what I've learned: if a band that's just starting out doesn't get verbally abused enough, they become spoiled and do things like noodle with their tuning for five minutes between their three minute songs (no song should be more than two minutes according to The Maintainers' Elements of Style). More than two tunings per 45 minute set is unacceptable and shouldn't last longer than the actual song-playing. Otherwise, the following steps should be taken by the audience members: 1) Buy two beers*. 2) Open both. 3) When band is tuning during the set a) take note if it is the third or more tuning and b) make sure to not confuse tuning with an abstract spacey guitar jam a la Pink Floyd. 4) If it is the third or more tuning, project one beer at the culprit aiming for the guitar itself or, even better, the pedal board and 5) follow with loud heckle (example: "Less noodling and more sauce!" or "That guitar sounds great ~ give it to a guitarplayer!"). *You'll still have a beer as a cover if previous actions are not received well. The band will only improve; it's called tough love and, yes, they will thank you for it later when they learn to put together a streamlined and rollicking set.

-- From Kansas, I'm Foy Graw.

Like Home

I overheard one of my students from Dominican Republic say to another student, “After I graduate I want to go someplace else, a big city, someplace with more Hispanic people. There’s so many white people here.”

I asked her if she’d be offended if I said I’d like to move someplace with more Scottish people or more northern European people, and she said no. Then we talked about the weather.

My visit to Stonehaven, Scotland, where some of my ancestors lived long ago, is still powerfully in my consciousness. A Jewish friend asked me if I felt like I was home, and I said that I did in a way, to my surprise. The faces looked familiar. She said when she lived in Israel for a while, years ago, she had the same feeling, and when visitors asked her for directions, she was so pleased. Foreign (i.e. non-European) visitors asked me and my son for directions in Stonehaven. We looked like we belonged. (Of course, I also used to feel good when tourists asked me for directions in Boston.) It is the unfamiliar (to me) feeling of home. An old Scottish toast is, “Here’s to us! Who’s like us? Dam*ned few, and they’re all dead.” I am, of course, all American, but I can’t help feeling that there’s a similarity of temperament or some undefined sensibility among people of the same blood and country.

I like to look at the webcam in the harbor of Stonehaven, where we stayed, near Dunnottar Castle. Last week it was offline some of the time. I hope Stonehaven isn’t like Brigadoon, the magic Scottish village that appeared only once every hundred years.

The Guid Buik

In Stonehaven I ordered The New Testament in Scots from Bridgefield Books, a new bookstore run by Carol Anderson. It turns out Carol was at the Marine Hotel pub the night we were lucky enough to find the monthly Celtic music jam. She’s a musician, and also has been a sailor on tall ships. It was she who recommended W. L. Lorimer’s translation of the New Testament, and it’s fascinating. I can understand a lot of it, although that’s partly because some of the text is familiar. Some examples:

[~] “Ax, an it s’ be gien ye; seek, an ye s’ finnd; chap, an the door s’ be apent tae ye.”

[~] “Gie us our breid for this incomin day; forgie us the wrangs we hae wrocht, as we hae forgien the wrangs we hae dree’d; an sey-us-na sairlie, but sauf us frae the Ill Ane.”

[~] Jesus in the Temple with the money changers: “He whummelt the tables o the niffers o siller an the cheyrs of the dou-cowpers.”

[~] In Appendix II, Matthew 4.1-11 (when Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights and was tempted by the Devil, or “the Deil” or “the Temper”), all the text, and the words of Jesus, are in Scots, but the Devil speaks in English.

[~] “Luve keeps nae nickstick o the wrangs it drees.” (I Corinthians 13, the verses are not numbered.)

If you’d like to order the book from Carol, let me know and I’ll hook you up. Bridgefield Books doesn’t have a web site now.


Thanx to those of you who said PO 300 was a good issue. I know it was just because it was politics- and pain-free. I just have one political/ecnomic question: Will the real estate bail-outs be retroactive? Because I’d like to get a loan for a house I can’t afford, and then have the gov’t, i.e. you, pick up the mortgage after I default.

New interview with bluesman Sonny Robertson.


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. Editorial input provided by Fred Stephens. 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.

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