Saturday, May 2, 2009

Parvum Opus 323 ~ Screeching: Halt

Screeching: Halt

As you may know, a California woman lost a beauty contest very probably because she said she believes marriage is between a man and a woman, which is now a radical opinion and hate speech (although our sainted president has voiced the same opinion). A gay man who calls himself Perez Hilton was a judge of the Miss USA pageant, and called the contestant some very bad names because of her views. His real name is Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr. and he changed it because he’s a Paris Hilton wannabe. Of all the females he could aspire to be, why didn’t he pick someone more impressive, like Michael Jackson?

In case you missed it, his question in the speaking-and-breathing part of the competition was: “Vermont just became the 4th state to legalize gay marriage. Do you think all states should follow suit?” Does this mean, exactly:

Do you think all states should take a vote?


Do you think all states should legalize gay marriage?

In effect, though, the real meaning of his question was, what do you think about gay marriage, and there was only one right answer.

In the movie, Miss Congeniality, the radiant Sandra Bullock plays a cop who goes undercover as a beauty contestant. She too has a firm grasp of her principles and, in addition to world peace, says the most important thing to society is harsher punishment for parole violators. Check the trailer at 2:21.

I watched beauty pageants as a child with feelings of enchantment (why didn’t the press ask me about enchantment instead of asking Prez O what he found most enchanting about being president?) and envy. As a young feminist I watched them with disapproval. Now I just check into them once in a while as a sort of a cultural canary-in-the-mine test: Perez Hilton was the latest whiff of gas, with Miss California being the canary.

My all-time favorite pageant was about 15 years ago, a combined Miss-Mrs.-Miss Teen Louisiana, when a profoundly wonderful black church gospel choir, in robes, sang live background music for the bathing suit parade. Something about going down to Jordan and crossing over. I’m not sure if that was the same pageant where the girls dressed in cowgirl style miniskirts with Stetsons and pistols and pranced around to the haunting “Ghost Riders in the Sky”.

Now I’ve added to my viewing repertoire the children’s pageants. Recently I mentioned that a man who seems to be gay — not that I would stereotype — runs Little Miss Perfect beauty pageants for children, of which he said some of the girls look like they just stepped out of the show “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”. I don’t think he meant it as a criticism.

On the whole, I don’t think gay men are the best judges of female desirability. For one thing, it stands to reason that a woman who enters a beauty contest is likely to be relatively traditional in her views. For another thing, gay men of the Perez Hilton ilk are just too envious and mean without being witty; as someone pointed out, Perez Hilton is no Oscar Wilde nor Noel Coward. And no one should be judging little girls’ sex appeal.

Gran Torino

I liked the movie Gran Torino pretty well though there were some weak spots. The movie was popular but “controversial” because the protagonist used a lot of racial epithets, which in a lot of people of an older generation do not necessarily and always denote racism and an evil heart. Life is more complicated than that, as this movie demonstrates when people other than white people do the same thing and worse, if in a different language. The TV show All in the Family depicted a man who used rude racial epithets, but he was played as a bonehead, so the show was considered to be a breakthrough, sophisticated and superior. We were supposed to look down on Archie Bunker. We can’t look down on Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino.

The movie isn’t really about racism anyway. It’s about the despoliation of the American vista, and it’s about how to confront real evil. I don’t want to give away the ending, but Kowalski’s sacrifice at the end was unsatisfactory because it was based on the expectation that clearly guilty criminals will do substantial jail time for murder, and we know that’s not true anymore, partly because so many people, including judges and lawyers, do not believe in evil. They believe in “mistakes” (regarding which, see Daily Writing Tips).

Sheesh and Heesh

I mostly agree with Chuck Hustmyre’s rant about genderless nomenclature. He started out on “Flagger” signs but that one doesn’t bother me. If I were a flagger I wouldn’t care if I were called a flagger, flagman, or flagwoman, though “flagger” hints that one may be flagging in more than one sense.

But why not change signs to verbs instead of nouns? Flagging ahead. Working on the railroad. Chairing going on. And why not just slaughter, rather than manslaughter, which Hustmyre notes has not been changed to personslaughter? (And did you ever notice that manslaughter looks like mans-laughter?)

I didn’t know that “lady” is ever replaced with “gentlewoman” as a less sexist counterpart to gentleman. This would be a peculiar echo of the British class system which could only be perpetrated by someone ignorant of the history of English. Also, whoever replaced fishermen with fisher has a tin ear and is ignorant of the traditional Christian expression, “fishers of men”.

Hustmyre errs about the word “prostitute”, however. The noun never referred only to females; the substitution of “sex worker” sought to eliminate not gender but any residual tinge of immorality or unseemliness.

By the way, though you can’t call suicide bombers et al terrorists, according to Janet Napolitano you can now call U.S. veterans (except the American Muslim soldier who fragged his fellow soldiers), anti-abortionists, conservative religious people (except Muslims), and most of your parents and grandparents, potential terrorist threats.


I ran across a university page that has something to do with writing but I couldn’t read the whole thing. (When I read the name Foucault I knew I was in deep authorship.) But someone (a professor?) wrote this about new technology and authorship:

New media is the equivalent of the treatise from the 18th century. The writing of a treatise would establish an ‘autonomous discourse’ (Olson 1980a) that could not be directly questioned or contested. Ideas in oral tradition were able to be immediately questioned. However written texts cannot be directly questioned because the text has been detached from its author. With the advent of the Guttenberg press, individuals could craft a treatise, and inexpensively print and distribute their ideas to any who were willing to read….

He needed a comma after “however”, and Gutenberg, which is spelled with one T, worked considerably before the 18th century. Anyway the idea is that the medium (or technology) makes the author disappear (did this not apply to hand-written books?), but when people had to speak their ideas face-to-face(s), the author then — existed? I think that’s part of what he means anyway but he’s just being silly. The difference is in the time between writing, reading, and response, not in the existence of an author. And actually, “ideas in oral tradition” were more likely to be lost if they couldn’t be remembered exactly; writing preserves ideas.

It is, however, a bit difficult to determine who wrote this article. Perhaps if money were changing hands, he’d be more literal about authorship.


I get to make up a new word because Egypt’s government is calling for the eradication of all the pigs in Egypt, and this time they mean the delicious bacon, pork chop, and BBQ ribs-producing kind, not the infidels who eat pork. Muslims don’t eat pork. Egyptian Christians do. Maybe they’re just worried about swine flu. But Hindus don’t eat cows and they worship the cows, or at least protect them. Egypt could just sell its pigs to other countries.

Theological question: why would the Creator make a bad animal? There are creatures I don’t like and that are dangerous to me, from viruses to crocodiles, but this scapepigging is as bizarre in reverse as the deification of the preying mantis by the Kalahari Bush people of southern Africa. Fred said that the preying mantis was at least a supreme example of the “other”.


I’m publishing for the Kindle digital reader with Amazon and now also on for download to computer and for printing. Most of these titles are available in both locations. Search for Rhonda Keith on Kindle store and

* A Walk Around Stonehaven is a travel article on my trip to Scotland. Short article with photos. ( only.)

* The Wish Book is fantasy-suspense-romance featuring the old Sears Roebuck catalogues. Novella.

* Carl Kriegbaum Sleeps with the Corn is about a young gambler who finds himself upright in a cornfield in Kansas with his feet encased in a tub of concrete; how would you get out of a spot like that? Short story.

* Still Ridge is about a young woman who moves from Boston to Appalachia and finds there are two kinds of moonshine, the good kind and the kind that can kill you. Short story.

* Whither Spooning? asks whether synchronized spooning can be admitted to the 2010 Winter Olympics. Humorous sports article.

* Blood, Sweat, Tears, and Cats: One woman's tale of menopause, in which I learn that the body is predictive; I perceive that I am like my cat; and I find love. Autobiographical essay.


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; 2009 issues are 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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