Saturday, June 12, 2010

Parvum Opus 371: Well 'Nough Enown

Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere


Heard on Radio

· “Media win thanks for papal coverage”

How many media? The word media is, of course, plural in Latin, but also has turned into a sort of singular/plural hybrid in English, like data. It’s also possible to think of media as a collective noun, like faculty or company, which in the U.S. would be singular and in the U.K. plural. So take your pick. It’s nice to have one word with which you cannot make a mistake in grammatical number. (Medium and mediums turned into something quite different in English, but you might like to think of your favorite newscaster as a medium.)

· “Letters will largely go unreplied to.”

You can say “Letters will largely go unanswered” but I can’t think of any syntactical circumstance that would justify “unreplied to” and it’s not because of that training preposition.

· “He’s well known but not well ‘nough enown.”

I just like this one. Even though it was just a slip of the tongue, it has an oddly familiar Old English sound.

My Card

I have a box of out-of-date business cards (my URL is no more), but I found a place to get some cheap cards: Not just cheap, free plus a moderate handling and shipping charge for up to 250 cards. I designed my own; haven’t received them yet. One nice thing is that with every order, they say they plant a tree. I don’t know what or where. I planted an oak twig last year that actually has leaves now. I’ll plant an acorn or a twig for you if you send me money.


I picked up a remaindered mystery for $1, The Fractal Murders by Mark Cohen. Fractal theorists are murdered, but it’s really because of money, not fractals, which as you know are repeated patterns in nature or otherwise generated, for instance fractal screen savers.

At one point in the story, our detective, Pepper Keane (who’s a man despite the name) asks a linguist to help identify the author of a scholarly paper. One of the things that distinguishes this paper from another is the use of e-prime, which is writing without any form of the verb to be. The great advantage to this is not being able to use the passive form, but otherwise the arguments for it by its creator are more philosophical, e.g. “The apple is red” doesn’t make sense; it should be “The apples looks red” or something like that. However, language doesn’t operate on such strict points. “The apple is red” does mean that the apple appears to the eye to have that color, that’s how it strike the rods and cones and brain, etc.

I once worked for an editor who insisted on changing sentences that started “There is” or “there are”, a sort of sub-category of the e-prime rule. These can be weak starts, but sometimes are unavoidable and actually are even somewhat invisible, in the same way “he said” becomes invisible in a book. The editor would replace these structures with the verb exist/s: “Places exist that I remember …” (Beatles: There are places I remember”; here, a knockout version of “In My Life” by Johnny Cash). Word choice hangs on sound and rhythm and the evocativeness of words too.

Sometimes it’s worthwhile (or worthwhileness exists) to state something more precisely than is possible with to be verbs (or than verbs make possible).But colloquial and even more formal standard English would quickly become ridiculous if they followed this rule strictly. Example:

To be or not to be,

That is the question.

To exist or not to exist,

I ask this question.

Contested Will

I finished Contested Will by James Shapiro, about the history of, or reasons for, the arguments against Shakespeare of Stratford’s authorship: why did people start down this path? He covers the Bacon and Oxford schools of thought, and ends with a section on his own preference for Shakespeare of Stratford.

It seems the main arguments against Shakespeare as Shakespeare are his comparatively humble origins, plus the idea that literature must be largely autobiographical. For instance, he didn’t really travel to Italy, and didn’t know enough about the nobility, and wasn’t educated enough, and so on. I never thought highly of those arguments, especially the autobiographical one. Shakespeare wrote quite a bit about murder. What experience did he or the Earl of Oxford or Bacon have of the murder of kings?

When I began writing fiction, I started to look at other people’s fiction a little differently. Some things from actual experience do go into fiction, maybe a lot, but a lot comes from imagination too, and the real and the imagined get intermixed and become something new. The work of art represents some aspect of the writer’s mind, but just like actors, we can’t experience everything first hand. However, we share in the common experience of all human beings. We all might feel like doing murder from time to time, at least verbally. (Ever hear of character assassination?)

It’s an interesting book, if that’s the kind of thing you’re interested in.

When Sonny Gets Blue

My production of the first installment of Sonny Robertson’s autobiography had lots of technical glitches along the way. I finally got an adequate CD together and I’m pretty happy about it, though it’s still just the first step in this biographic project, which I hope to see in print eventually.

Sonny Robertson is a great blues singer and guitarist, originally from Saint Louis, who worked with many famous musicians throughout his career. His life story is fascinating, he’s a great story teller, and he has a lot to say about the life of a musician and the problems of passing down the blues heritage to young black musicians.

The 55-minute CD is available at One of the technical glitches that I cannot control is that the sample clips listed on the web site don’t actually work and CafePress isn’t fixing this feature. However, the CD tracks are OK.

I lifted the audio from some old tapes Sonny gave me, so the sound quality isn’t perfect. But my Venezuelan Spanish-speaking student understood most of it, so you can too. (I had to explain to him what the blues is.)

Fred came up with the perfect title, by the way, When Sonny Gets Blue. Remember that old jazz standard? (I don’t know that Sonny Robertson has ever performed that song, but you’ll like this Johnny Mathis version.)

I’ve worked in publishing for years, but producing an audio book is quite different because I didn’t handle the words themselves. Not even punctuation. In case you ever contemplate a similar project (interviewing your grandma, for instance), here’s a partial list of what I did and what happened when I tried to do it:

  • My first plan was to transcribe the audio tapes to written text, but since transcription machines are expensive, I bought two used ones, both of which broke. It is possible to transcribe text by stopping and starting a tape machine manually rather than with a foot or knee pedal, but it’s painfully slow. I decided finally to produce audio.
  • I had to figure out how to convert tape to digital. I learned how online, of course, and bought a cord to connect the tape player to the computer, and downloaded a free program called Audacity for the conversion.
  • I extracted the selections I wanted by cutting and pasting with Audacity (something like cutting and pasting in Word). Each selection had a different quality of sound. I tried to get rid of some of the extraneous tape hiss, but I’m no sound technician.
  • I had to go through a lot to identify the three selections as three tracks on CD. It took me five tries to do it. Following the directions from Audacity didn’t work.
  • Our computers already had programs to burn digital sound files to CDs for testing, and for a sound master because...
  • Uploading the digital file to CafePress didn’t work so I had to mail them a master CD. (I already had problems uploading a digital file to
  • When I ordered a test copy, only 12 minutes had made it to the CafePress CD. Start over.
  • I designed and wrote the CD case packaging material, using Photoshop Elements for the graphics. The WYSIWYG function in CafePress design production isn’t right. It’s OK in the consumer store online.

The great thing is that as an amateur, I was able to get pretty good free software to work on this project, and CafePress POD services are free. Finally I’ve got something to use for various promotional purposes, and to preserve this material for history.

All this fiddly work is for that end, and the real point is Sonny Robertson’s music, those moments in time.

The Weekly Gizzard: Moi on

Locals paint over Shepard Fairey weapon murals

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Shepard Fairey is the artist who painted the iconic "Hope" poster of Obama seen everywhere during his...



I’m publishing for the Kindle digital reader with Amazon and on for download to computer and for printing. Amazon now has a downloadable Kindle reader so you don’t have to spend hundreds on the little handheld device. Most of these titles are available in both locations. Search for Rhonda Keith on Kindle store and

The Man from Scratch is about cloning, escort services, murder, and restaurants in Akron, Ohio, featuring Roxy Barbarino, writer for Adventuress Magazine. Novel.

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.

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.

NEW PRODUCTS in CafePress:

Scot Tartans: T-shirts and more (custom orders available).

T-Shirts & mug: FRESH PICT, with two ancient Pictish designs

BUMPER STICKER: FRESH PICT, white on blue, with 10th Century Pict-Scot Merman Cross (blue on white also available)

SIGG WATER BOTTLE, ORGANIC T-SHIRTS IN GREAT COLORS, MINI-CAMERAS, DENIM SHIRTS, MUGS, TOTE BAGS, MOUSE PAD, TEDDY BEAR, AND MUCH MORE AT Parvum Opus CafePress shop: (NOTE: There are problems viewing this site with Firefox but Earthlink seems OK.)

NEW: Click to Embiggen boxer shorts

Eschew Obfuscation bumper sticker


Graphic covers of my books

Dulce, Utile, et Decorum (Sweet, Useful, and Proper), title of new collection of Parvum Opus, Volume I

BUMPER STICKER: Dulce, Utile, et Decorum

No Pain, No Pain

Star o’ the Bar

Veritas Vincit (Truth Conquers) with Keith clan Catti insignia

Flash in the Pants

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

PWE (Protestant Work Ethic)

I am here maternity tops

I eat dead things (doggy shirt, pet dishes, and BBQ apron)

If you don’t see exactly what you want — a particular design or text on a particular item — let me know and I’ll customize products for you.


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. 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 2010. 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.

Translate into 12 languages, including two forms of Chinese, using Babelfish.