Friday, October 29, 2010

Grit Lit

Grit Lit --  This is a slang expression used in some colleges or universities to refer to Southern Literature.  William Faulkner is most assuredly covered in this type of English course.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The First American Revolution

It didn't happen in the English-speaking colonies; but in New Orleans.

During the eighteenth century, the French established settlements in the Mississippi valley, including present-day New Orleans, Natchez, Biloxi, Mobile, and Natichotches. However, unlike their successful colonies in Canada and Haiti, French Louisiana was undersettled, the focus of some dubious financial ventures, and had problems with the local Indians.  Let's face it: the climate was so unlike what Europeans were used to!  To them, it sucked! The Indian troubles stood out in high relief with the massacre of the settlers at Fort Rosalie, near present-day Natchez.

New Orleans had about 7000 colonists who were a rough and scruffy lot but strangely loyal to France despite consistent neglect.  Some did a lot of smuggling.  Also, a lot of Acadian settlers were dispossessed from Nova Scotia by the British and they settled in Louisiana.  These were the ancestors of the present-day Cajuns (and moi!) 

In the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau of 1762, France ceded the colony of Louisiana to Spain.  In turn, Spain joined France's side in the Seven Years'  (This was called the French and Indian War in U.S. history.)  As part of the Treaty of Paris at the end of the war, France had to give up its holdings in North America, meaning Canada.  That's what happens when you lose.  They had just given New Orleans and Louisiana away to Spain just the year before through that secret treaty.  Things moved slowly, and nobody told the Louisiana colonists anything about this until the Spanish governor Don Antonio de Ulloa arrived in 1766.  Taa-daa!

Ulloa did not hit it off with the colonists very well at all.  He didn't speak French.  He lived outside of the city. After a few months of disagreements, approximately 600 New Orleans citizens mounted the first New World revolution against a European government.  Among those involved were the original French settlers, the Acadians (French-speaking immigrants from Canada), and German immigrants who had settled along the Mississippi River. By November 1, Don Antonio Ulloa had occuped a Spanish ship for safety and later escaped to Cuba. His three aides were taken prisoner by the rebels.

The Louisianans petitioned King Louis XV to reconsider his having ceded Louisiana to Spain, but that worthless twit did nothing. [In my opinion, the French Revolution occurred thirty years too late.]

Ulloa passed from the scene. He was a naval officer and a scientist. He is credited with having discovered the element platinum. He was also an astronomer who had one of the craters of the moon is named after him. He was honored on a postage stamp many years later, and he had a ship named after him.

His Majesty Carlos III of Spain was seriously ticked off by this deed of his new subjects and tried to make an example out of them.  He sent an army of approximately 2,600 hired goons (mercenaries) to New Orleans to re-take the city.  The army was led by Don Alexander O’Reilly, an Irishman in the service of Spain. He later earned the nickname “Bloody O’Reilly” after he sent all of the leaders of the revolutionaries before the firing squad.  The bastard.

Louisiana remained in Spanish hands until it was receded to France in 1802.  France then turned around and sold the works to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.  Tom Jefferson picked up a winner.

In 1815 the Louisianans fought with American troops at the Battle of New Orleans.

This was a paradox, in a way: the most one-sided American victory was won over an entirely English-speaking army by an American army that mostly did not speak English.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mistress Wanda, Dominatrix for the Modern Age

My favorite television news reporter has apparently gone into the seamier side of journalism:

"This is Al Gautreaux, reporter from Action News, offering the dish on some of the latest trends in the underworld.  Tonight's topic is Mistress Wanda, self-styled Dominatrix for the Modern Age.  So, Mistress Wanda, what makes your approach to dominance different that causes yourself to be so billed?"

The camera panned on a formidable woman, dressed in a pink-and-black guepierre,  jodhpurs, mid-thigh length boots and carrying a riding crop.

"Thank you for asking, Mr. Gautreaux.  In my analysis of the marketing I have discovered that some of the old discipline techniques have lost their sting.  This is unfortunate; however, the modern successful businesswoman must adapt to the times.  Let me ask you, have you been a naughty boy?"

"Er, yes, Mistress Wanda.  I have on occasion."


Reporter Al expected a taste of the riding crop.  However, instead he heard,

"Give me your credit card."

Al, thoroughly cowed, complied.  Mistress Wanda promptly cut the card in half.

"Oh, the pain: it is too much."


"Yes, Mistress."


"Oh, please, Mistress Wanda.  Not that!"


Al did and Mistress Wanda smashed it with a hammer; giving him some cuts with the riding crop for good measure.

So poor Reporter Al Gautreaux got more than he bargained for with this interview.  However, he withheld some of the things he had done.  He reckoned that it would have cost him his iPad or laptop.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Fairies as Trainees

Sakura, Shinobu, and Mizuki had been laid off for economic reasons, but were able to get trainee positions as fairies so they would be ready when jobs opened up. 

Although many fairies were rendered unemployed lately, the government, in its wisdom, launched a new program to train new fairies to deal with the anticipated shortage in the sweet bye-end-bye.  Sakura, Shinobu, and Mizuki were chosen.

They underwent a two-week orientation program, in which they viewed movies and heard lectures describing the program and their place in it.  They were both issued 500-page manuals, and were told that they would be tested on it at the end of the course. 

They were taught the Fairies Song, and gave rah-rah cheers.  No rah-rah skirts though: they were thought not suitable for government service. 

They were issued training bras according to governmental regulations.

And informed that the working day begins at 7:00 and ends at 4:00.  No more than a half-hour for lunch; and two short coffee breaks of a half-hour each.  No deviation from government regs permitted.

Finally, they were given their job titles: they were Toilet Paper Fairies Third Class.  Specifically, they were to organize mischief regarding toilet paper; including:

a.  Stealing toilet paper from restrooms;
b.  Re-positioning the toilet paper so that it goes under the top;
c.  "Rolling" houses and trees with T-P.

Our trainees performed their duties with distinction.  Governmental work triumphs.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Etiquette at Canine Altercations

One of the few lapses of modern etiquette books is that they uniformly fail to address the compelling subtleties of attendance at canine altercations, referred to by the brutish as "dogfights." This is reflected in the popular expression, "dressed like he was going to a dogfight." In fact, there are things that the well-bred sophisticate should consider on these festive occasions.

One of those things is proper dress. In the summer months, especially if the occasion is held in warm southern barns, a light-colored sun dress and pumps is very appropriate. A flowered straw hat and white gloves would certainly be in order during the height of the summer season. Wearing stockings always marks a lady of class. Anyone who wears leopard-patterned clothing should be assigned to the nosebleed section of the arena. Darker, more substantial clothing is acceptable during the fall. The winter season is only for tourists and fanatics: the social-conscious are not seen at that time.

Gentlemen, of course, should comport themselves at all times in a gentlemanly manner. While a coat and tie is always in order, modern trends make it permissible for men to attend these functions while wearing a short-sleeved buttoned shirt and a tie if the temperature is warm. Hats should be worn only if the occasion is out of doors, and only the rude fail to tip theirs to the ladies and to the canines. Remember also the dictum first pronounced by Clementine Rousseau, "He who expects to rate as a gentleman should not expectorate on the floor."

Special care to appearance should be given to Opening Night in early March, when evening wear is mandatory. It is good practice to make arrangements with your hairdresser several months in advance so that you will look your best before the press cameras. Understatement in jewelry is preferred. Gentlemen may wear business suits if they choose. Do tip the valet who parks your car, proceed with your escort on the red carpet, and smile at the photographers. You may be interviewed by Joan and Melissa. Plan something sophisticated to say for that eventuality.

Decorum should be observed at all times. If the dog you are wagering on performs particularly well, then you might express your pleasure with polite applause. Dignified audience members should refrain from shouting imprecations at referees or other specators, declaring that poorly-performing canines should go to the pound, or making rude gestures at each other.

Of course, audience members should arrive early for the occasion, out of consideration for the sensibilities of the dogs. Greet people that you know with hugs and air kisses. Shake hands with all in your immediate vicinity.

Every evening of dog fighting should begin with three songs: The National Anthem, "You Are My Sunshine," and "Who Let the Dogs Out." Audience members are to stand politely and sing if they know the words to the song.

It is considered ungenteel to bring in food or drink to these occasions, especially since there is an open bar and hors de ouvres during intermission while the string quartet plays. This is an occasion for 'working the room.' renewing acquaintances, and making polite conversation. Particularly recommended is a dry white wine in a long-stemmed glass.

It's up to all of us to keep up the standards that have served well the sport of canine altercations.

Friday, October 15, 2010

In Which I Go to Confession

The Sacrament of Reconciliation, which the Catholic Church advocates, is a rite in which the miscreant confesses his or her sins to a priest.  It can be done in the confessional (old-style way) or in acReconciliation room (new way).  Suffice to say, most people opt for the old way: to be spared eye-to-eye contact.  I know not what the padres prefer.

Anyway, I remember the occasion in which I, or similies to me, dressed in white blouses, brown pleated skirts, and brown-and-white saddle oxfords would go en masse, as follows:

"Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  It has been three months since my last confession.  I gossiped a lot, and, er, I let Tommy get to second base."

"Three Hail Marys, and play clolser to the bag when there's a runner on first."

See what I mean.

However, somewhat older me was in need of a little cheap therapy, so I went recently.

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.  It has been three years."  I confessed some more dramatic sins or follies, and then dropped the bomb:

"Father, I repeatedly used Wikipedia."

"You.  Used.  Wikipedia.  That is a mortal sin for graduate students.   I am astonished, and saddened.  Absolution from this kind of sin is reserved for the Bishop.  Therefore, you should wear sackcloth and ashes for a month, do the Penitential Psalms six times,and make a pilgrimage to some unfashionable Holy Place.  Maybe he will deign, eventually, to see you.."

I had this image of my kneeling in the snow, much like King Henry at Canossa.  Fortunately, I live in the Mid-Atlantic South.

This is a hazard of going to confession in a university town.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tip Jar or Feminist Statement?

When I worked as a caffeine goddess (barista), Several of us were interested in applying research principles in the workplace setting. This was, of course, just for the desire to increase the total amount of knowledge, there was no pecunitary interest on any of our parts!

Anyway, the counter had a tip jar; but being a coffee shop, much of the clientile did not feel any special immediacy to contribute in the form of tips, although the management clearly expected that part of our earnings would be covered with said tips.
Anyway, we had an experimental idea:  Specifically, would varying the type of container for tips influence the results?  Therefore, we tried a standard glass jar, a coffee cup, a go-cup with the local sports team's logo on it, a go-cup with a rival team's logo, and a tray.

Looking at the results, we compared the alternative types of contaners against the tip jar, considering that to be the base condition upon which comparisons could be made.  The following results were observed:

tip jar -- (Baseline condition)
                                            Percentage above tip jar:

coffee cup                                             +6%

go-cup with local team's logo                +27%
go-cup with rival team's logo                 -16%
tip tray                                                  -9%

Obvilously, using a local team's go-cup helps; and using the opposition's results in fewer tips.

While using the go-cup bearing the local team's logo significantly increased tipping, we decided in all frivolity to use one more condition: a bra as a tip container!  We each contributed the bra de jour on different days (depending on who was the cashier), but did not collect individual data by bra stimulus!

Anyway, when the bra was used as a tip container, tip amounts increased by 52% over the tip jar baseline!  Very clearly, customers were very willing to express their support of our efforts if this was the means to do so.

We did observe, somewhat to our surprise, that several customers would casually attempt to view the size of the bra.  They must be really data-driven!

Moreover, we assumed that our contributers would be mostly men.  However, we concluded that women also increased in their tip tempo as well.  We found out why later: Apparently some female tippers thought it was some sort of feminist statement!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why It Would Be Neat To Be an Anime Girl

In general, it's great to be who we are. Well, mostly . . . . but we all have those days, don't we? I'll admit I have those, and then that's when I go into my fantasy mode and see myself as a anime or manga girl, like Lum, Sailor Moon, Beruche, Utena the Revolutionary Girl, the Goddess Belldandy, or Love Hina, to name a few.

Anime and manga are Japanese cartoon art forms: anime is animated; manga are cartoons in book form. There are different types; and they're intended for either children or adults. Anyway, here's some reasons why it might be a good idea to be an anime girl:

1. Anime and manga girls often have special powers that can be used in some situations, like being to fly, give zaks (shocks), do time travel, read peoples' minds, empathize with others, change the forms of substances, or grant wishes . Consider the ability to administer zaks (shocks) to people. That could serve as an effective customer persuasion tool when someone complains that the raspberry mocha latte is either not hot enough or too strong.

2. Also, you get to wear neat costumes. Fancy a tiger skin bikini? How about a rose-colored jump suit? Or a sailor suit? Or, even better, a blue metallic swim suit with matching boots? Or a goddess costume? Hey, in anime you get to wear cool threads. And:

3. Nobody acts very surprised that you're dressed in such a manner, however socially or thermally it may be inappropriate. Maybe it's because:

4. You look stunning, as you have a knockout figure, even without being hentai.  And no worries about diets, trips to the gym, padding, or other indignities.

5. Anime girls never get zits.  The words "Sailor Moon" and "zits" don't fit comfortably in the same sentence!

6. Anime girls don't retain water, either.

7. You never have a bad hair day.  Sure, your hair might be dark green or rose-colored, but it's always long and bouncy and cute and neatly in place.  Snarling does not happen in the world of anime.  Just as well, with female characters possessing supernatural powers.

8. You surely encounter a better grade of sushi.  I think.  Some of it that I've encountered can be pretty rough.

9. You get to drive neat vehicles: space craft, souped-up cars, motorbikes.  And they don't drip oil, like my car.  Also, you never get parking tickets or have to park far away from where you want to go.

10. The guys you meet are cool.  Well, mostly.  Maybe you should consider a James Bond movie for that type of fantasy.  Some of the anime guys can be kind of clueless (in a cute way, of course).

11. You have great personality traits: loyalty, sweetness, serenity, capacity to empathize.  These get you over most of the bumps in life.  And, for those that you can't, you can use your powers and give the opposition some moments to reconsider the error of their ways.

12. You can wax philosophical.  And people will listen to you.  Nobody gives grief to a chick that can literally shock you.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Toilet Paper as an Indicator of Personality

Sometimes we just give ourselves away without intending to. This is the idea behind the projective techniques; as the psychoanalytically-inclined individuals have suggested, whether it's through responses to inkblots or making up stories to pictures, or performance on drawing tasks. In each case, if there's ambiguity, the personality may be injected into a person's responses. It impressed me lately that how people respond to and use toilet paper (TP) may be one of these projective occasions. Consider: this necessary product is marketed in a number of forms: one-ply, two-ply, colored, patterned, and so forth. Also, some people have definite views of how the paper in roll form is to be displayed. Then, toilet paper (TP) has been pressed into service as a nocturnal decorative item, as a fashion accessory, as a simple wipe, as well as in other ways. If psychologists are to get a complete understanding of homo sapiens, including discovering that in some cases we are sapiens, it is necessary to consider these finer points as well. Very clearly, toilet paper constitutes a type of adaptation: whether based on natural selection or social progress has not been fully delineated.

Undoubtedly, future research will reveal this. However, I think that the cause of the assessment of personality through personal TP use might be furthered by specific hypotheses. Accordingly, I offer the following:

1) Preference for one-ply, institutional stock TP should be associated with a practical, no-nonsense outlook that is somewhat penurious and does not engage in self-indulgence. Therefore, the one-ply users tend to be hurried, insensitive to nuances, and are not likely to indulge in long bubble baths. Those who select the coarsest institutional tissues would have worn hair shirts during lent and are probably very inclined to engage in excessive exercise.

2) Two-ply users are comfort lovers who indulge themselves. Two-ply women should favor spa treatments, pretty lingerie, Sephora, chocolate, and bunny slippers.

3) Users who employ only white TP paper may be cost-conscious; or they might be obsessed with matters of hygiene or even chastity. They are inclined to be introverted.

4) Colored TP users would tend to be narcissistic or artistic. Those who prefer their TP in bold colors should also tend to be extraverted.

5) Patterned TP users are high in openness to experience. Those who enjoy toilet paper with witty sayings are irreverend; while those whose legible TP has adages on it probably tend towards conservatism.

6) Users who stuff their bras with TP either either have anxieties regarding perceptions of their bodies, or they live in third-world countries where often there is a shortage of TP in public facilities.

7) We should address the "over-the-roll" versus "under-the-roll" issue. Those who express a strong preference for "over-the-roll" placement are conformists and are high in conscientiousness. The "under-the-roll" individuals may be feckless, radical, or even psychopathic. The people who have "no preference" may be high in agreeableness; or they are simply wishy-washy. P ersons who express very strong preferences in either direction are probably self-righteous habitués of MSNBC or FoxNews: they are not loath to express their loathsome opinions unbidden and are the primary source of chronic buttocks pain.

8) TP nocturnal decorators are individuals who are high both in extraversion and neuroticism, but low in agreeableness and conscientiousness. Police officers should be advised that this is an age-limited disorder.

Keep these hypotheses in mind: they can lead to a research career in personality research. Furthmore, any significant results are sure be be picked up widely by credulous mainstream print or televised sources, leading one to the exalted status of being a psychological pundit.

Hmmm . . . . I better get a sexy new lab coat to enhance my image before I start this research.