Friday, February 13, 2009

Parvum Opus 312 ~ Kindling

Our Four Bears

Amused reader Shai Hasse wrote about Herb Hickman’s “four bears”:

I hope this was intentional punning and slight of word intended to see if we were paying attention....

Yep, it was intentional. How about “slight of word”? Could this be a clever play on “sleight of hand” (a trick)? The words sound the same but have different origins. You might say a typo slights (insults) the language.

Thank you for your fourbearance.


I haven’t yet bought a Kindle, Amazon’s electronic book reader, but already they have a new version to be released February 24 that can also read to you, wonderful for people with failing vision but also good for driving. However, until the price drops or someone in South Korea comes up with a good knock-off, I’ll still be hitting the library.

Let’s hope the advent of electronic books will save millions from destruction. It seems there is an ongoing conflagration of children’s books published before 1985 because of microscopic traces of lead used in inks, now outlawed since last year by our ever-protective Congress. Even though no one has been literally poisoned by books, theoretically you could get in trouble for selling yours at a yard sale. Or, I’m thinking, child abuse. This is really bad for libraries, too. Do we need that much protection?

Tim Bazzett mentioned a favorite children’s writer, Roald Dahl, who wrote

Boy and Going Solo (both excellent) ~ and in the first one, about his childhood, gob-stoppers were mentioned as treats the kids loved back then in the 20s and 30s. … I recognized it immediately as what we called jaw-breakers when I was a kid. You had to suck on 'em for quite a long time before you got down to the gum center, and I think they did change colors as they got smaller. … Dahl was, of course, most famous for his many children's books, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but his memoirs are just really great. The second one deals with his time as a flier with the RAF during WWII. He was, like me, a very tall man, who had to cramp himself into the cockpit of his plane with his knees up around his chin. He survived a horrific crash in North Africa. Great book!

Scottish-American History Month

I’ve set up a petition to ask for the establishment of a Scottish-American History Month. My text reads:

We ask that the United States establish a Scottish-American History Month in light of the many inestimable contributions made to the building, defense, and culture of this nation by Scottish immigrants and their descendants. Nine of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Scottish origin, as was Betsy Ross. Eighteen prominent members of the Scottish colony of Darien, Georgia, settled in 1736, signed the first petition against the introduction of slavery into Georgia, which deferred slavery there for a decade. Half of our presidents have some Scottish ancestry, including Barack Obama. The history of Scottish-Americans is the history of the United States of America, and one month out of the year in celebration will allow that history to be better known and appreciated.

If you care to sign it ~ and why not? ~ go to PetitionOnline.

Media Mode

Years ago I noticed that many ads and illustrations for magazines articles, etc., were illustrated by this Trifecta of Inclusiveness: one white male and two other people who would be some combination of female and male and some other ethnicity. Could be a black woman and Asian man or vice versa, maybe someone who looks vaguely Latino though that could just be Black Irish, or some other combination, but never two white men in the same picture. In fact, some years ago I saw a magazine with two such drawings in the same issue, by different artists, illustrating two different articles. Nowadays, the white male makes fewer appearances, and sometimes disappears altogether, whether two or three people or even a larger group are supposed to be illustrating “Us”.

Unfairness Doctrine

Watch out for the Fairness Doctrine, which if re-enacted could curtail what you’re allowed to listen to. It applies only to radio, for historical reasons explained in PO 34. That means conservative talk radio. Don’t knock it if you haven’t listened to it. It’s not what you think and it’s not all the same. NPR ~ public radio ~ is, I believe, the only radio funded by government and private money, and how would you categorize its editorial stance? Totally neutral and non-partisan? Do you suppose NPR will be required to air opposing views if the FD passes? And who will define what’s neutral and what’s not?

My best Marxist friend once said to me, “I don’t read books. I don’t have to.” I don’t think she reads or hears anything but arguments she already agrees with, but she knows what she doesn’t like. I was much impressed and influenced by the simplicity and strength of her opinions when I was young. But as Mark Twain said, the man who does not read has no advantage over the man who can’t read, and I’ve gone ahead and read non-approved books. So read and listen while you’re allowed to.

You may know of Geert Wilders, who’s been banned in Britain (he’s a Dutch politician) for his anti-Muslim speech. Daniel Hannan of the UK Telegraph says Wilders may be a jerk but it’s dangerous business to stifle free speech.

Speaking of political speech, Charles Krauthammer reminded us that in the last two decades, the U.S. has spent considerable time and blood defending Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia.

Native Speaker

I recently read this phrase: “the below information”. You know that sounds wrong. You can say “the information below” because “below” is functioning as an adverb (where is the information), not an adjective (what information). Why would a native speaker of English say or write “the below information”?

Oh, My Dear

Did you know that Nether Wallop is a village in Hampshire, England, where BBC’s Miss Marple series with the late Joan Hickson (the only Miss Marple) was filmed? It’s actually one of a pair of Wallops, the other being Over Wallop. It looks like a lovely place.

Edward Gorey had a real ear for inventing British village names. Unfortunately I don’t have any of his books to hand right now, but you can make a game of inventing them yourself: Little Feeling, The Drains, Numbles, North Draughts, Saint Druthers. I could go on indefinitely.

A Caste of Thousands

Food for thought from Dennis Miller: Could the FBI show about Elliot Ness, The Untouchables, have ever been filmed in India?

Honey, Would You Go My Bailout

Part of the proposed pork, or bailout, or highway robbery package, depending on your POV: Florida would like $4.5 million to construct an “eco park”. Is there something not quite right about spending a fortune to build an eco park? Couldn’t you just leave a piece of land alone for a lot cheaper? Florida could just keep everyone out of the Everglades.

Tom Henry has a pretty good song called “I’m Looking for a Bailout” and if you buy it for $1 from iTunes, he’ll give half of it to help people who need it now.

You know, if the Pilgrims and Spaniards and French had had bailouts at home, we wouldn’t be here now. We’d be taking a vacation to Manhattan and buying acorn necklaces from the natives. Excuse me, indigenous peoples. You wouldn’t call them First Nations as they do in Canada because there would have been no subsequent nations. Perhaps you’re thinking, well, Columbus got a bailout from Queen Isabella. No, she wasn’t financing a sinking enterprise, she was investing.

Gotta bail now.

Sign my petition to establish a Scottish-American History Month.



Read The Wish Book, a novella by Rhonda Keith, free to read online or download as a Word file.

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 2009. 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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