Friday, August 21, 2009

Parvum Opus 335 ~ Around Town

Around Town

||| Penquin Cleaners: In case you’re reading fast, the sign has a Q instead of a G in penguin. There’s a picture of a penguin with a top hat and cane, so the bird is not in question. Was the spelling intentional? Probably not. Incidentally, when I searched “penquin” on the Web, I found someone’s comment on the gay penguins in a German zoo, asking, “Are we not as smart as a penquin?” Well, we can almost spell as well as they would if they could (or could if they would). Since you can find all kinds of behavior in the animal world, from adorable to zoologically unspeakable, comparing human behavior to penquins, penguins, black widow spiders, seahorses, or lions is a bad practice.

||| Hair Weeving: Also an unintentional spelling, that is, it’s not designed to attract attention, and it calls to mind weevils.

||| Bean Counters: An aide in a Congressional representative’s office was much impressed with the Congresswoman’s wit when she used the phrase “bean counter”. The young (let me stress young) fellow didn’t know it was a very old phrase, no doubt going back to the time of the pharaohs if not earlier. They’ve found hieroglyphics meaning “accountant” that resemble this: o+o+o+o. Well, I too run across words I’ve never heard before. Sometimes they’re brand new and sometimes they’re very old.

||| Repurpose a Chair: In a newspaper article on house decorating in what’s left of the newspaper, the writer said a woman who bought a new house “repurposed” a chair from her old house by … moving it to the new house. Even if she’d reupholstered it, it would still have the same purpose.

||| Corner of Park and Don’t Park: The city painted PARK in big letters on a street that you can’t park on. In all fairness, I have to say that it was painted right next to a park entrance.

||| Advertising a radio trivia show: “We ask queries.” You can’t say that. You can say “We ask questions” but even though queries means the same as questions, you just can’t say that. You can say “We answer queries” though. It just is that way.

||| Cheese ad:

Under the skilled hands of Master Cheesemakers in Wisconsin, fresh pasteurized cow's milk is stirred, drained, salted and drained again before being pressed into forms, cut and then OVEN BAKED until the outside is toasted to a golden brown. Yes, this cheese is BAKED ... but because of the freshness of the milk and the nature of natural proteins, it retains a supple texture that is remarkable — really, once it squeaks against your teeth, you can't resist remarking on it. You'll see ... AND THE FLAVOR — it expresses a mellow toastiness with a buttery subtlety that's purported to make the world's strongest wrestlers fall to the floor for nary a nibble.

If only I could channel S. J. Perelman to really do something with this ad. Anyway, I’ve included most of the ad because of the lush, almost cheesy writing, but the highlight is “nary a nibble”. What might happen to the world’s strongest wrestlers if at least one nibble were forthcoming? Have today’s young copywriters lost the understanding of “nary”?

I heard a modifier dangling on State Street yesterday

Overheard in New York:

Woman #1: Kate and I saw a snake walking down State Street yesterday!

Man: What?

Woman #2: Wait... walking?

--Central Park

Getting Caught Is a Crime

One of those Facebook polls:

Do you believe that getting caught dog fighting should be a felony?

For those of you who don’t follow American sports criminals, this question is about football player Michael Vick, who was arrested and imprisoned for being vicious with dogs. He’s back in football now, has a good job making big bucks, and presumably is really sorry that he got caught.

The poll question might have been written by him or someone else into dog fighting. If getting caught were a felony, would the catcher or the caught be at fault? Perhaps the felon would still be at fault since he was stupid enough to get caught.

The form of the question, of course, reveals the mind set of someone who evaluates crime or morality in terms of getting caught or not, rather than in terms of what is intrinsically right or wrong, even if said writer didn’t understand his own sentence.

TMI Yet?

The nonprofit Internet Archive is building a free digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. So far they’ve archived about half of all Yiddish texts plus moving images, software, and much more.

I wonder if this archive is holding all the files or just links to the files. Since web sites disappear, it’s useless unless the actual files are saved. Which means when it’s fully archived, the Web will more than double in size and keep increasing.

Not TMI Over There

AP Reports further tightening of controls on Web access in China, while on the other hand a TV station in California supported by a large population of Iranian immigrants distributed thousands of camera pens with flash drives in Iran.

Required Reading

I’ve been reading a bit of Saul Alinsky, who was a big influence on community organizer Barack Obama’s thinking. (Hillary Clinton wrote her thesis at Wellesley about Alinsky.) Can’t find much in the library here but I’ve got The Professional Radical, Conversations with Saul Alinsky by Marion K. Sanders. It’s a short book and I’ve only read a few pages so far. Alinsky graduated — “cum laude I guess” he wrote modestly — in 1930 with a degree in archaeology and quite naturally had trouble making a living in that field during the Depression, but he figured out how to pull a scam on chain restaurants to eat practically for free. His first “stirrings of social conscience” led him to organize meetings to teach other kids to do the same thing, and all went swimmingly until the restaurants figured it out. Note that his stirrings of social conscience did not extend to the restaurant owners. Then his acolytes kept after him to tell them what to do next. He found that they resented him when he didn’t have anything else to tell them, and wrote: “There’s an old saying about favors extended becoming defined as rights. I found out it’s true.” This did not turn him away from scamming. He was just getting his feet wet.

I may have to actually purchase "Rules for Radicals" as the library doesn’t have it, though online I find that the means justifies the ends is a big part of his thinking. I’ve read that it’s got a smokin’ dedication, or at least had this one in an early edition:

From all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.


Latest items:

News stories go in pairs

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Like shoes, news stories should always travel in pairs, one right and one left....

Report kidnapping by domestic airlines

Friday, August 14th, 2009

When I first heard a story about airplane passengers being trapped on a grounded plane for hours with no food or toilets, I thought it was a fluke. …



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No Pain, No Pain

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If you're so smart why aren't you me?

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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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