Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere.
Shakespeare and Che
This summer in PO 334 I wrote about a production of Romeo and Juliet that used political posters in its minimal set design, a sort of communist/capitalist theme that had nothing to do with the play. In a 2000 movie production of Hamlet set in contemporary New York City, Hamlet had a Che Guevara poster on the wall of his very expensive apartment. Even had Che been the sort of hero that so many imagine, this radical icon in the prince’s apartment makes Hamlet out to be a deluded juvenile rather than a young man wrestling with truth and shadows. These kinds of stage settings show more about today’s designers and producers than about Shakespeare’s intentions. Shakespeare didn’t write about econo-political systems. Modern stage settings work OK but the producers sometimes want to ignore the real themes of morality and spiritual struggle. Everyone seems to have been infected by the deconstructionist interpretation of everything in the world in class/race/gender political terms.
Thus Ammon Shea wrote on old dictionaries:
Judges should be learned in history as well, of course, to understand how people thought 200+ years ago and what they meant by their words, which may not be exactly what, say, David Letterman means, for instance.
Ammonia and Mutual Funds
Agnes, my alter ego, tells her friend she’s starting a syndicated column:
I have risen (or sunk) to Agnes’ challenge. Here’s my entry:
There once was a gal named Begonia
Who cleaned Wall Street out with ammonia.
She’d lost by the tons
In mutual funds
But said, “Rather clean ya than stone ya.”
Visual Thesaurus is an entertaining web site on words with features such as word lists and word mapping. They also publish a magazine for subscribers, but you can get a free 14-day trial.
The Full Socratian Monty
Now more than ever we need a good argument clinic. Here’s a web site on Socratian dialogue based on Monty Python’s argument clinic, where you can learn to discuss truth, justice, courage, and beauty.
While you’re at it, check out this blog in Latin that Tom Simon sent. You don’t think I really understand it, do you?
You technical people probably know that “kludge” is a mechanical fix lacking in elegance. The OED lists 1962 as earliest appearance of kludge, though the German word “kluge” goes back further, at least to WWII. It’s like mechanical sludge. I learned the word from a fabulous web site called There, I fixed it. I’ve contributed my own photo to this site though I don’t know if or when they’ll use it. Since I don’t send attachments with Parvum Opus, I’ll explain: This week I took a photo of a house with the siding missing and the windows covered with plywood painted white that had sort of portholes badly cut out of them.
This Week’s Intellectual Dipstick Gauge
In a friend’s Facebook thread about Margaret Mead, I commented that her research or her theories had been discredited to some degree, and someone else quoted Derek Freeman, who described incongruities between Mead's published research and his observations of Samoans:
Truth is the “so what” trigger. This is what makes discussion so difficult. It doesn’t matter what’s true or false, it’s what you like to believe or are used to believing, or what or who is “important”.
This slightly edited conversation appeared on Overheard in New York:
The woman used “multitask” to mean knowing how to do several things, rather than doing several things at the same time. After all, you can’t roll, braid, and perm hair simultaneously. I wonder if this is a harbinger of the way this word is going to go in the future?
Not Quite Right
“…the most legendary creature of all time.” Are there degrees of legendariness? A creature is either a legend or it’s not. However, “legendary” is used sloppily to mean famous or impressive, which isn’t quite the same thing.
“the judge commands authority.” A judge may have authority, but he may command respect. Authority comes with the position. Respect or admiration may be commanded by behavior.
TV decorator: “Those are foundry parts native to this region.” Factory equipment is made, not born.
On TV a man from south of London pronounced it to rhyme with Don John rather than Fund’n. The vowels and the syllable stress were different, including the very slight pause between syllables. Is this pronunciation common in that part of England?
Did you know that the root of the word “monster” is the same as of demonstrate, admonish, and monitor? They come from the Latin monstrum, divine portent of misfortune. Hmm. The outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual something or other? Halloween is coming, watch out.
Over the years I have quoted from Bryan Garner’s Modern American Usage from time to time. Garner is a lawyer and his tips on language are well thought out. Here’s his e-mail about the newest version of his book:
The bookstores should not make “usage” a defunct category. Usage guides are not dictionaries, thesauri, or grammar books, and they serve a valuable purpose for those who enjoy language.
My Gritty Bits in This Week’s Examiner.Com
Thursday, October 22nd, 2009
Standing in front of the pictures by Norman Rockwell depicting our four freedoms, Mike Carey, President of the Ohio...
Prisoners of war committed hate crimes against non-protected groups
Wednesday, October 21st, 2009
If Guantanamo prisoners are tried in American courts, will they be accused of hate crimes? They hate Westerners,...
The Freedom Center's "us/them" message
Wednesday, October 21st, 2009
The Freedom Center is mounting an exhibit about lynchings of blacks in the United States between 1882 and 1968, to...
The "So What?" approach to truth is the path to demagoguery
Tuesday, October 20th, 2009
Scrutiny of sociologist Margaret Mead's research in Samoa cast doubt on her conclusions as to the freewheeling sex...
Fewer people are useful today
Sunday, October 18th, 2009
Helen Keller was a supporter of the eugenics movement, and said, “Our puny sentimentalism has caused us to...
I’m publishing for the Kindle digital reader with Amazon and now also on Lulu.com for download to computer and for printing. Most of these titles are available in both locations. Search for Rhonda Keith on Amazon.com Kindle store and Lulu.com.
A Walk Around Stonehaven is a travel article on my trip to Scotland. Short article with photos. (Lulu.com 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.
Parvum Opus Volume I. The first year (December 2002 through 2003). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get PO’ed. Collection of columns.
10% discount on my Lulu publications:
Click "Buy" and enter 'BESTSELLER10' at checkout.
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Scot Tartans: T-shirts and more (custom orders available).
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 http://www.geocities.com/