Monday, February 8, 2016

Literary Barbs

Authors have a way with words; and sometimes they are outspoken about other authors or literature in general.

The British have long had a taste for bad books; but they like them well-written.
                    --Malcolm Bradbury

[On Henry James] One of the nicest old ladies I have ever met.
                    --William Faulkner

Most new books are forgotten within a year, especially by those who borrow them.
                    --Evan Esar

Robert Benchley has a style that is weak and frequently lies down to rest.
                     --Max Eastman

A good book tells us the truth about its hero, but a bad book tells the truth about its author.
                     --G. K. Chesterton              

[On Ben Jonson] Reading him is like wading through glue.
                     --Alfred Lord Tennyson

A sequel is an admission that you've been reduced to repeating yourself.
                     -- Don Marquis

[On Norman Mailer] He is now what he wanted to be: the patron saint of bad journalism.
                     -- Gore Vidal

[On Charlotte Bronte] I wish her characters would talk less like the heroes and heroines of police reports.
                      -- George Eliot

[Joseph] Conrad spent the whole day finding the mot juste, then killed it.
                      -- Ford Madox Ford

A classic is something that everyone wants to have read and nobody wants to read.
                     -- Mark Twain

[On P. G. Wodehouse] English literature's performing flea.
                     -- Sean O'Casey

The big advantage of a book is that it's easy to rewind. Close it and you're right back at the beginning.
                     -- Jerry Steinfeld

[Evelyn] Waugh is an antique in search of a period, a snob in search of a class.
                     -- Malcolm Muggeridge

A literary movement consists of five or six people who live in the same town and hate each other cordially.
                     -- George Moore

To cay that Agatha [Christie]'s characters are like cardboard cut-outs is an insult to cardboard.
                     -- Ruth Rendell

I always wanted to write a book that ended with the word 'mayonnaise.'
                     -- Richard Brautigan

My  father [Kingsley] always had doubts about the Booker Prize although they evaporated on the announcement that he had won it.
                     -- Martin Amis

[On E. M. Forster] He is limp and damp and mild as the breath of a cow.
                     -- Virginia Woolf.

[On Aldous Huxley] The stupid person's idea of a clever person.
                     -- Elizabeth Bowen

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Line-up in New Orleans

Around Carnival happenings can take on surreal forms. Here are a few crashers to a carnival ball. For some reason, the captain of the Krewe in question wondered if they were not members of the Krewe or guests. Maybe the fact that wearing of costumes is allowed only on Mardi Gras Day could be a reason. Still, the person on the extreme left might be a debutante!

The one in the chicken costume might have lost an election bet; and the topless one in the center is a State Senator from Mississippi.

The dapper one next to him may run for President in 2020. After this year's Presidential perp walk, anyone will look good.

The last one? I don't really know. But he might be Megyn Kelly's familiar. Is that a shaggy dog story?

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Jersey of a Different Color

Often high school students are subjected to rules regarding conduct and dress by the Powers that Be of the school. There may be rules forbidding the chewing of gum, leaving the school grounds at lunchtime for Happy Meals (including freely translating burritos in that category as they also induce culinary happiness), wearing certain clothes as low-cut jeans, legible t-shirts, short shorts, and bizarre accessories. Of course, some schools require uniforms. Those that do don't have to worry about bare midriffs!

It seems to be an occasional fantasy of the naughty private school girl wearing a too-short school uniform, as this music video illustrates.

But lately there has been a some heat regarding the wearing of Confederate flag images on t-shirts. Often banning these is motivated by a desire to avoid possible occasions for provocation. And I can't find much fault with this thinking. On the other hand, is there a First Amendment issue at stake also? Free speech is not limited to speech that others approve of.

But what about pro team athletic jerseys?  I can imagine the desire of boys in Colorado to show their Denver Bronco partisanship by wearing a Broncho jersey; preferably #18 (Payton Manning's). And likewise Carolina guys would patriotically sport a #1 Panther jersey (Cam Newton's). But what about the Colorado nonconformist who sports a Panther jersey or the Carolina provocateur who dares to wear a Bronco jersey? Will the impact of this be a mild tweaking against social conformity; or a true social provocation? The school district in Everett, WA decided it could be the latter: it banned non-Seattle area professional sports teams from being worn on school premises. The reason: they thought it could be used as gang identifiers. After all, big, aggressive guys sport those colors most Sundays in the Fall!

Since these jerseys can be pricy (some $100 apiece or more), this can be a real factor if they are excluded from some wardrobes. 

Let's look at it a bit further: what if some odd duck in those places showed up wearing a Tennessee Titans jersey in either Denver or Charlotte? Or (horrors!) a Dallas Cowboys one! Those are not conforming clothes; but other possibilities that may rise to the occasion. One reason why this might occur is because some teens like to jerk the chains of adult authority figures.

On the other hand, some might just like to wear a football jersey along with some cool accessories:

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Bird With the Sexy Dance

Different species of birds are characterized by sexual dimorphism in which males are larger, more colorful, or more brightly plumed than the females. Typically, females in those species choose whom to mate with, based on characteristics which presumably are associated with better genes. Thus, the peahen is biologically disposed to choose the peacock with more iridescent colors and larger tail displays; and this story goes on in other species.

With the splendid bird of paradise, a species found in New Guinea, the male has brighter plumage than the female; but he also knows how to use dancing to win a gal's heart. Here's the courtship dance of the splendid bird of paradise:

Isn't he a splendid mate? Apparently she thought not. Maybe there was something wrong with his colors, or moves, or impetuousness. Anyway, he looks crestfallen! Sorry, Big Dude.

Maybe he needs to follow the advice of the Contours and really learn to dance:

Monday, February 1, 2016

How Mermaids Are Represented

Mermaids are not real. This is unfortunate because so many tales of encountering these fantastic creatures make it into a cryptozoological category by itself. And typically, how these are represented has fallen into specific fashions.

First of all, mermaids are usually represented as young females. Where do old mermaids go? Do they retire at 30; or do they hang around less favored settings, unlike some Hollywood actresses or singers who constantly make the news.

Their hair is usually long and flowing. No bobs, braids, or buzz cuts. Have you ever seen a buzz cut mermaid? And mermaids are mostly brunettes but with some blondes too. A few redheads, like Ariel in the Disney movie, may appear.  

Almost always are they depicted as wearing a top of some kind; often a pair of seashells. Like party girls wearing faux seashells for modesty's sake. Suffice it to say, topfree has not penetrated the ranks of mermaids, except possibly at South Beach.

And mermaids are usually depicted as ethereally thin; but a zaftig mermaid sometimes appears.

And there's teratology depictions of mermaids. Sometimes they're depicted with two tails, like on the old Starbucks' logo. We must assume that two-tailed mermaids are some kind of genetic mutation. It would certainly cause them to swim differently.

But my point is that maybe it's time for some mermaid diversity. Why not zaftig mermaids? Or mermaids with buns or even 1960's style bouffant 'dos? Not to mention racial diversity? And give some mermaids a Southern accent. Or, even a Jersey one!

At least there are no Republican or Democrat mermaids!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Turning Back the Grammar Nazis

Among people, there are the linguistic sticklers; and there are those who are more relaxed about it. I can't help but sense that those who correct others' grammar or speech relish an opportunity to demonstrate their English bonafides by correcting others' usage unbidden. Goodness, I got that kind of crap when I used Cajun French or Louisiana Creole in Paris! Yes, that guy in My Fair Lady was right: the way an Englishman speaks absolutely classifies him. And some come out sounding like snobs or jerks.

The two biggest issues are the splitting of infinitives and whether it's okay to end a sentence with a preposition.

Language purists have long taken umbrage with the Star Trek opening lines: "To boldly go where no man has gone before." They choke, harrumph, and whine over the daringness of breaking the cool lines of the infinitive "To go" by placing 'boldly' between those two words. Hey, you all: it's okay. Split all those infinitives you wish. As a bonus, feel gleefully sinful when you do it.

The other faux grammatical mistake is that you can't end a sentence with a preposition. Therefore, this charming poem submitted in a discussion on the rule is invalid:

One day it was on.
The next day it was off.
What happened to happily ever after?
To have her near.
To have her around.
Feelings of remorse and regret came up.
Maybe one day, one day this would all pass by.

Actually, this "rule" came from the notion that English should use similar grammatical rules as Latin. That's a language that is as dead as a doornail. And attempting to follow this rule can lead to awkward sentences.

"Shall I take my clothes off?" sounds better than "Shall off I take my clothes?"

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Fabulous Fainting Goats of Tennessee

There's a curious breed of goats that's found on some farms in central Tennessee that have a condition called myotonia congenita which causes their muscles when they are startled to freeze and get stiff legs for about ten seconds. This is followed by them falling over but without losing consciousness or having any ill effects. They do not actually faint; but show these motor symptoms. They are smaller and friendlier than other breeds of goats, and have protrubing eyes.

They are kind of cute.

Lewisburg, Tennessee in Marshall County has a goat festival each year honoring "fainting or nervous goats."

Here are some myotonic goats with their characteristic response to a startle.