Friday, November 30, 2012

My Favorite Posts

A few weeks ago, both Bilbo and Heidi posted a link to their favorite posts, well-worth revisiting!  I thought I'd do the same.  Here are some of mine.  I hope you find them amusing.

The Girls of NPR:

The Prophetess Discourses on Undies:

Erin Go Braless:

[For some reason that I cannot fathom, this post got over 6000 viewings.  Is there that much interest in spoofs of old Irish legends?]

The Muses as Underachievers:

PETA Tries to Rescue Schrodinger's Cat:

Polygamy As an Economic Option:

Good-bye for a few days!  I hope you have a nice week or so!  Angel.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Helicopter Parents

A perjorative terms has crept into colloquial English: helicopter parents

'Helicopter parents' is a term recently used by college administrators to refer to parents of teen or college-age adults or young adults being overly involved in the minute details of their children's everyday lives.  It's like they're consistently hovering around, rather than letting or requiring their child to deal with the college or other experiences  on her own.

The 'helicopter parents' are, most of the time, more accurately 'helicopter moms.'  As a T.A., I've had to deal with them now and then.  More in the role of entertain-the-mom-while-her-daughter-sees-the-prof-or-advisor, but sometimes to explain why I cannot provide her her kid's grade or even raise it.  (They might try the "just between us girls" approach, or pleading, or even trying to summarily order me to.)  My impression is that they are very enmeshed in their daughters' lives (less often their son's), and see themselves as omniscent.  They live their children's lives vicariously.  They might even attend classes together for the first few weeks!  

To be sure, these parents see the world as considerably more complex and competitive than it was supposed to be at one time; and they feel that they need to give their children an edge over the competition (other children) for grades, scholarships, athletic letters, and even jobs. 

This this term really achieved currency because the existence of these helicopter parents tended to impact on the working lives of college administrators.  In general, unlike the days of yore when in loco parentis was the rule and panty raids were the typical annoyance they had to deal with, the college administrators cultivated an ostrich-like ability to overlook problems unless it bites them on the behind!

College life changed somewhat too.  In the case of some selective admissions universities, they base admissions on things like grades, extracurricular activities, diversity, and even having other family members as alums.  Therefore, it is not surprising that a certain amount of manipulation of these goes on.

There's grade inflation.  Particularly with extra credit given for Advanced Placement courses.

And extracurricular activity inflation.  It's no secret that several schools have faux extracurricular activities that serve to get those who are "members" something appear in the yearbook picture for, or to list as an extracurricular activity for college admissions.

I suppose it's possible to play the ethnic card in a few cases; but listing oneself as a WASP gains no diversity points, even though they are a minority.

And middle-class parents see themselves as more active in other areas.  Remember, these were the soccer moms and dads.  These were the ones that were encouraged, even pressured into involvement with P.T.A.s, coaching, church Bible study classes, and other things.  For some, they don't have clear guideposts as to when to let go.

Actually, there's an historical antecedent for helicopter parents.  When Douglas McArthur entered West Point in 1899, his mother moved into a suite at Craney's Hotel, overlooking the Academy.  Presumably, Douglas could not party like it was 1899!  

The most extreme case of helicopter mothering I ever heard about* was a divorced one who took an off-campus apartment with her daughter as a roommate when she went off to college.  And they were known to double date on one occasion!  I did not have the nerve to inquire into more details about their inhibitions or lack thereof!

*And, thank God,did not observe!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Putting a New Look on Belly Dance

Madame Lynette had a problem:  Despite her many efforts to advertise her studio, Madame Lynette's School of Belly Dance, it showed a downward trend in enrollments.  Let's face it: popular recreation and self-improvement classes undergo periodic waxings and wanings.  Remember découpage?  It's been only a rumor for a long time.  Likewise jazzercise classes.  Same for aerobic golf and free-form hopscotch aerobics-- all passé!

Clearly Lynette saw a problem was getting worse, so she consulted Dr. Snoodley from the Marketing Department at the nearby university which shall be unmentioned to preserve whatever shards of a reputation it had. Dr. Snoodley, lit up a forbidden pipe of tobacco or some other mind-altering forbidden substance, and listened to poor Lynette's plaintive account.

Finally, Professor Snoodley, after several drawn-out Midwestern sighs, declared, "It's clear that you must repackage your product.  Let's face it: dancing sexily is just so 1990!  We're now in the second decade of the 21st Century, the Post-sexual Era!  And, while wearing an exotic costume consisting of harem pants or veils and a rhinestone-studded bra with a beaded fringe may be fun and appeal to your narcissist students, your classes needs more than that.  Your approach is not old enough to be retro, but it's clearly on the way out!  You need some effective adjective grafting in your ads to provide your belly dancing approach with a new look!" 

Lynette mentioned that belly dance can serve as a non-impact, weight-bearing exercise and is therefore suitable for all ages  Perhaps, she suggested, her ads could stress belly dancing for fitness.  After all, it's a good exercise for developing firm, well-toned abs and can prevent osteoporosis in older people.  Belly dance moves are beneficial to the spine, as the shimmy and the full-body undulation moves lengthens through decompression and strengthens the entire column of spinal and abdominal muscles in a gentle way.

However, Snoodley indicated that there is a wide range of competing activities that claim, sometimes rightly, to have health benefits.  And, unfortunately, by emphasizing the health aspects, this subliminally signals to the audience that it is very demanding and not much fun, like calesthenics.

Professor Snoodley said, "No, you need some effective buzzwords.  Let's see now, what rings peoples' chimes nowadays?  New and improved?  An oldie from the 1970's, but your prime demographic might be unaware of that.  Feminist?  This is a really a stretch; but most people pay little attention to the meaning of buzzwords.  Holistic?  A very positive karma concept.  Now there's a word that is vague enough to promise outcomes that fit into whatever self-improvement goals they may be vaguely forming."

Professor Snoodley was on a roll now.  He began to channel the spirits of long-departed marketers.  "Let's see . . . . How about tantric as an adjective . . . . To harmonize the student's chakras?  That sounds so exotic and New Agey!"

[Actually, it is a Hindu concept, but neither comparative religion nor Mid-Eastern dances are extensively studied by marketing majors.]

"Your personal name . . . .It sounds so uncomprisingly Western . . . . Why not use a foreign-sounding nom de danse instead?  How about Madame Naomi or Ouida?  It sounds so mysterious, seductive, yet accessible and friendly?  I think these ideas might work."

So Lynette renamed her studio Madame Naomi's New and Improved  School of Holistic Feminist Tantric Belly Dance and Chakra Harmonizing.  It became instantly a hit among the trend-seekers in the discriminating market of Southern California. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Smug Parent Alert

For some, parenthood is a competitive sport, especially between siblings or neighbors.  It used to be sufficient to rear a child who was not seriously delinquent and who made good enough grades in school; but now the goal is to produce a paragon!  Even better: a paragon that displays their parenting style as being so superior and enviable to the inferior competition!

I'm afraid that this is true with regard to people who claim some French ancestry, however remote.  Louisiana is a far piece from the hexagone and Louisiana children will not be admitted to un grand école in Paris, (especially the ENA, thank God, where they learn to be officious administrators!) but still there is this desire for them to excel, even if it means the child majoring in pre-med or pre-law at L.S.U.  Heaven forbid that Junior has a room-temp I.Q. and the ambition of a cable T.V. employee or sociologist; they must squeeze, cajole, prod, and generally whip him into line and checking off all of those Super Parent Criteria!

But the University is a far distance away in the future.  How can you put some gloss on your little moppet?  One way is to cultivate exemplary television viewing habits for him or her.  And let your snotty cousin hang her head with shame because she allowed her little Hortense to watch Animalmaniacs or Pokémon instead of PBS. 

But let's face it:  It's not enough for your child to do well: the process is just as important as the product.  You must out-parent the others.  Have some remarkable claim to parental fame.

Breast feeding, which became de rigeur for with-it parents back in the 1980's, is now considered so mainstream that only those who continue until the child is about six or seven warrant any kind of fame.  And you're expected to have your child take music lessons, and learn a second language, and play soccer and t-ball, and learn to meditate.  Good golly, you all, it's hard to be a competitive parent nowadays!  Some refuse to play, and homeschool their children.  Or is that the nuclear option in competitive parenting?  This is generally not advised, as parents who try this may tend to procrastinate lessons with time and often have nutters in their support systems.

Some parents use the ultimate Luddite extreme: no TV and internet for their children.  Some even refuse to use those amusements themselves.  Richard von Krafft-Ebing named that kind of tendency masochism after a little-known Galacian writer of soft-core porn.  After all,  keeping up with the Kardashians is addictive!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Zeitgeist Surfboarding

The Germans have a word for it, and it's not surprising that it sounds as profound as can be: Zeitgeist, which literally means "spirit of the times." It refers to the intellectual climate, the sum total of ideas, including prejudices, that influence individuals' thoughts in the era in question.

Politics and academe have several things in common: both areas are inhabited by individuals who are extraordinary bloviators, who dress outlandishly, who wish to shape opinions, and who have the remarkable gift for making minor ideas sound like profound insights. (Like J-P Sartre). 
But, hey, it's all in the packaging! These are merely like the people who can put so-so or even crappy beer or perfume in cute, eye-catching containers and make those bottles sell!

I use the term Zeitgeist surfboarding to refer to the immediate tendency of people who want to be opinion-shapers to latch on to an idea, present themselves as one of its important proponents, and ride this developing wave for their own advantage. Part of the problem is that we put a premium on innovativeness: if it's new, it must be good. Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.

This somewhat like my putting on a brief sequined cheerleader costume, strutting to music while twirling a baton, and positioning myself in front of a parade -- "Gee, Angel really looks swell leading the band and parade! She must be -- ta da! -- a leader!"  People do the equivalent all the time.  And most cannot separate the trend surfers from the real innovators.

In short, this Zeitgeist surfboarding is the act of trying to look current and fashionable as a career move, even to the extent of using the language of administrationspeak or mellowspeak. "Let's see now, we should deal with the formidable challenges imposed by events through empowering all shareholders in a multiparadigmatic and multidisciplinary approach that will allow us to embrace change."

Remember the parachute pants? Or the Jellies? Maybe not. That's the nature of fashion: here today, gone tomorrow. Or that can be hair today, gone tomorrow.  Maybe there's hope that we'll see the last of the mullet?

Here's a few ideas that are bruited about by the Butthole Surfboarders . . . . . oops, that's a former minor band.*  I mean the Zeitgeist Surfboarders.

1. Cultural relativism. Yeah, we should be sensitive to cultural differences, and not be disposed to judge other cultures harshly in light of our own values. But, does that mean that we also have to buy the whole package of uncritical cultural acceptance, such as female genital surgery, polygamy, infant abandonment, or even soccer hooliganism? 

2. Postmodernism. Truth is made rather than found. But these postmodernist puppies are either woefully unskilled at making truth or looking for truth in all the wrong places! Yes, all political and social discourses are saturated with cultural and ideological biases that seek legitimacy and have an equal right to it. Yes, and maybe the Boob Fairy will visit me sometime. So, let's celebrate our differences even though some ideas are generated by the likes of Suzanne Somers, Rush Limbaugh, or L. Ron Hubbard; not to mention that distinctively unpleasant minister from the Westover Baptist Church!.

Celebrate! Celebrate!. Dance to the muuuusic!
-- K. C. and the Sunshine Band

3.  Feminist criticism. "It's all the men's fault that things are the way they are and we womyn can do it better!" Look at how proficient we are in conducting our lives!

4. Criticisms of science.  Scientific reasoning is based on a Western view of the world and is stridently left-brained in its preference for logic and cause-and-effect. But there are alternative paradigms, and some argue that we should think of these as well. For examples, think holistically, go in for homeopathy, crystal-gazing, aromatherapy and feng shui. Oh well, at least with aromatherapy I can mask possible athletic or canine odors.

5. Big Band music. This was okay for gramp's time, and I will admit that some numbers are catchy, but much of it is really tedious.

6. Wearing ribbons to promote various causes. Okay, you can wear a pink ribbon to indicate support of breast cancer research, or a yellow ribbon for our troops, but there's a proliferations of ribbon-wearing and no seeming clarity as to what they signify. It's possible to wear a ribbon from a box of chocolates and no one inquired as to why she feels so strongly about Godiva's!  It's an opportunity to appear to be so sincere while being their usual shallow self.  Or maybe they were just being polite regarding a lapse in taste?

7. Signing petitions just to be signing. There was a girl's school in New Jersey that got an incredible shaming a few years ago because many of its students signed a petition to "end women's suffrage," not knowing what the word "suffrage" meant?   People really need to think more and react less.   And maybe enlarge their vocabularies.  By the way, I am for women's suffrage or women holding public office because I really believe that women can equally royally screw things up as men seem to do so effortlessly.

8. Special mention should be made for the lemmings who signed any of the secession petitions on "We the People."  W.T.F., Alfie?  Why did you sign a petition for Vermont or Mississippi to secede when you live in California or Florida?  You need a hobby.  Or a sex life.  Or read a good book, for a change. 

*For true. 

Happy thanksgiving, Everyone!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Stripper Names

People can sometimes form or possess very specific concepts or schemas despite a very small amount of input into forming them.  I use as my example the apparent fact that a lot of people have a definite idea of what kind of name a strip teaser or lap dancer would probably have, despite an absence of direct, personal experience with those settings.

It may be surprising to some, but apparently people do form schemas with regard to personal names.  Naomi, Sakura, and Kirsten are exotic.    Bernadette and Marie are Catholic.  Jennifer, Heather, and Karen are girls next door.  Tammy and Peggy Sue are Southern or maybe Texan, and so forth. 

The same applies to what people think of "strippers' names.  To find examples of these, I found two lists purporting to be of the top ten stripper names:

‘Top Ten Stripper Names'

1.  Candy
2.  Destiny
3.  Star
4.  Amber
5.  Tiffany
6.  Sabrina
7.  Coco
8.  Raven
9.  Jade
10. After a city in The United States (e.g. Houston, Dallas)

1.  Destiny
2.  Candy
3.  Angel
4.  Cherry
5.  Raven
6.  Anastasia
7.  Roxy
8.  Houston
9.  Porsche
10.  Crystal

I'm not sure what sort of rigor was used in arriving at them, but it seems apparent that there are some schemas for this category of name.  The idea of a stripper named Catherine or Elizabeth seems rather far-fetched, I suppose.

Destiny, Candy, and Raven made both lists.  I humbly suggest that conscientious mothers refrain from naming their daughters those names or, alternatively, signing them up for stripping classes at the Rec Department.  (I hope there are no cities that offer this tacky type of course, but I am not confident.  Maybe in Las Vegas.)

I noticed something.  The name Angel made one of the lists.  Since my name is Angel, maybe I have an alternative career path instead of being a psychology professor or superheroine?

Stripper superheroines


Sunday, November 18, 2012


One of the more amazing of social phenomena that defies explanation is the persistence of the lower back tattoo on women, despite the fact that they are universally referred to as "tramp stamps." Even by some so tattooed.  Now no one to my knowledge has done any social psychological research linking this form of tattoo with any specific moral turpitude, but I expect any day some desperate graduate student will present a paper at Western Psychological Association or Southeastern Psychological Association reporting whether a significant correlation between the two exists. It's my private view that there's a modest correlation, say about .40 or so; but I hesitate to collect the data although some of it is easily accessible on southern or west coast beaches, and the rest is self-report.  Some things you just don't ask. 

But my point is not about the relationship between the two, but the persistence of the term "tramp stamp" despite the obvious implication of the term commonly used to refer to them. Does this represent a cultural shift, in which it's okay to be a tramp; or is it based on social class differences?  After all, tattooing is more normative in certain populations.  It is still considered déclassé in some.

The phenomenon of the lower back decorative tattoo is, if anything, more prevalent in Germany. There they are referred to as "arschgeweih" (ass antlers). Now that's a neutral term that I offer as a substitute to allow the female enjoyers of the lower back tattoo to wear one without experiencing shame or anyone casting aspersions.

I probably will not be posting anything on my blog in the early part of December.  A friend and I are going on a holiday together and we will be occupied!!!!  In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy the holiday season!

Friday, November 16, 2012

From Derp to Eternity

Now seems to be the Winter of so many peoples' discontent, and they have anticipated real winter by several weeks -- but never mind the technicalities!  The inexorable movement toward Derfdom proceeds!

Well, we have the media story that never quits now.  The recent election?  Old news!  No, the current favorite is a story that just seems to get curiouser and curiouser with time:  Four-star generals that were messing around, the C.I..A., the F.B.I., and God knows who else will be aboard before it's all over!  Will somehow the Knights Templar be behind the Total Picture, or will it be the Trilateral Commission?  Well, we find out that sometimes the F.B.I. does favors, and agents may pose topless!  (It's a guy agent . . . . peace!)  Or maybe we can just blame it on  the New York Yankees or the Bossa Nova, maybe . . . .

And, suddenly we have Secession Fever upon us!  As last seen, there are at least 40 petitions to the White House calling for their state to secede from the Union!  Texas, not surprisingly, leads the pack; bad ideas come from there like they were generated by a Problem-Solving Task Force!  Uh, I don't think that's how to do it.

I can imagine this scenario:

White House:  "We're sorry that you're disappointed with our marriage; but let's do this break up peaceably for sake of the children . . . ."

State of _______:  "W. T. F.?"

The whole thing sounds like some kind of fad generated by a radio talk show host.  Anyway, are the signatures  real?  How many times has the usual faux names appeared on the lists?  Anyway, might people from some other state sign a petition to have New Jersey or some other state secede?  I didn't know people would feel that strongly about Snooki!  At least two governors, Bill Halsam of Tennessee and Rick Perry of Texas, have denounced secession as a bad idea.*

A pregnant woman, disappointed with last week's election of President Obama, tried to run down her husband (literally) decause he didn't vote!  And to make it totally derp, her state (Arizona) went for Romney!  Isn't that overkill?  All Tom Hanks wanted to do was to spank nonvoters.  Presumably with a hairbrush, I hope.

I'll hold out for Johnny Depp!

As for more strangeness, actress, model, authority on autism and immunology Jenny McCarthy reported in one of her books that she discovered the joys of having sex with a tree while on ecstasy!!  No information as to whether the tree was consensual or not.  Maybe we should be simply stunned by the preposterousness of it all.  Or maybe she is an environmentalist who simply misconstrued what is meant by tree-hugger?

But don't lose heart!  Here's Judge Judy in a bikini for her 70th birthday!

And Pete Wells, NY Times food critic, did an over the top review of Guy Fieri's restaurant in Times Square.  More bitchery than factual, it went viral.

My dear friend's take on it:

"Using the New York Times food critic for advice when going out to eat is like going to war with an accordion."

But maybe the Apocalypse is upon us!  The seals have been broken, and I hear hoofbeats in the background!  Naw, it's just the Great American Derp slouching toward Bethlehem, PA.  As further evidence for this, apparently PeTA was successfully able to get an injunction against the Great North Carolina Possum Drop.  Boo!  I'd like to drop a PeTA member!

What the United States needs is a cabinet-level Department of Derp, because apparently this is becoming an important national issue and is too large to be left to the individual states.  And getting the Federal Government involved in derpdom seems appropriate, given Congress and the Executive Branch.

*You can find this and other petitions at the "We the People" White House site.  There's even one in which Austin wishes to secede from Texas and remain in the U.S.  You can check this and other petitions at this site:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Injecting Glamor in the Walk of Shame

The Walk of Shame is that quintessinal moment in every dorm-dwelling girl when she is reminded most forcefully about what a goldfish bowl living in a dormitory is.  For the uninitiated, this is the appearance around breakfast time of yourself wearing clothing more appropriate for partying or pub crawling in the evening than for class, often with make-up in dirarray and perhaps not all underwear accounted for in their proper places!  In  short, you are not looking like your best!  Dorm mates measure you for a scarlet "F" or "A," overlooking the dorm refrain of the previous night:
"A little coitus
 Would never hoit us."

Now there are several ways of dealing with this situation.  One is to be utterly brazen about it, a strategy that can serve well as the surprise of the unexpected is gone.  [Ho-hum, it's Friday night and Sarah got laid again.]  Another is to go on the straight and narrow, and return chastely at a reasonable hour and wake up the next morning and properly be neat and appropriately dress to start the day.  Either will work, but they represent a limited degree of imagination.

Still another possibility is to go clandestine.  Pack a gym bag when you go off, and have shorts, a tee, and running shoes.  Pretend that you've just returned from an early-morning jog.  It doesn't help if you're wearing make-up and earrings, though. It also pays to be fit and have a reputation for being an exercise fiend.

Finally, just go over the top.  Now this is really the American way!  Do it with such panache and flamboyance so as to redefine tastes.  Be driven back after an all-night tryst; but get driven back in a Corvette, Rolls, or even a limo!  Actually, you get triple points if you affect the emo or Elegant Gothic Lolita style, and are driven back in a hearse!

As a result of these innovative ways of dealing with it, the Walk of Shame has definitely lost its sting!  As a matter of fact, some West Coast entrepreners have come out with a Walk of Shame souvenir t-shirt, the image of it to be seen below: 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Going Out in Style

Funerals are sad occasions, as the circle of family, friends, and acquaintances becomes broken with the loss of someone dear to them.  And there's the chill draft of mortality that we mostly successfully ignore on an everyday basis but now must be confronted!  In dealing with this final passage, different cultures have evolved different coping rituals or activities.

In New Orleans, for example, we have the Jazz Funeral, the wake or visitaton, above-ground graves, and the decoration of the cemeteries for All Souls' Day (Nov. 2).  And some families do have the Irish wake, with its sometimes comical eulogies and imbibing of alcohol. 

However, in Taiwan there is a custom of having strip teasers provide entertainment at funerals.  It is considered respectful there to have this kind of entertainment.  Some elderly persons have expressed their wish that they have strippers to provide entertainment; they take it as a sign of respect for the deceased for a large number of people to show up and apparently they try to sweeten the occasion with stripping and pole dancing.

I have no idea how this would play here: surely the ministers and priests would object to strippers comingling with a religious ceremony; and our would-be-orators might find making a eulogy after the bumps and grinds to be a tough act to follow!  On the other hand, strippers go provide a true indication that life must go on!  Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Still, it's something to think about.  I wonder if they could get some Chippendales guys to dance when I meet my demise?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Writing Grabbers

A grabber or hook is an initial sentence of a novel or short story designed to draw the reader immediately into the story by being surprising, intriguing, or complacency-shattering.

Some famous examples of these are:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  -- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

"It is a well-known fact that a man in possession of a fortune must be in search of a wife."    Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.

"But it's the truth; even if it didn't happen." -- Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

"Elmer Gantry was drunk."  -- Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry.

"One hot August Thursday afternoon, Maddie Faraday reached under the seat of her husband's Cadillac and pulled out a pair of black lace underpants.  They weren't hers." -- Jennifer Cruisie, Tell Me Lies.

Grabbers are important partly because of the short attention span of many readers; but also because when people decide to purchase a book, they often do so by reading the book's beginning to see if it's a go or a no-go.

Here are some grabbers from Grabbers R Us: a site for novelists-to-be who can't think if le mot juste to get things going:

"My God, said the Princess, get your hand off my thigh!"
[Offered in response to the suggestion that you are sure to get your reader's attention if you mention the Deity, royalty, or sex.]

"Somehow Kim K. and a kangaroo came in a chrome Volkswagen."

"Elvis is dead, and I don't feel so good, myself."

"Because Millie was tired of sleeping with her pet cat, it meant that she was either going to get a man, or banish kitty to the laundry room."

"Because Mordred knew that the only time he could be on the throne is when he answered nature's call in the morning, he decided to conspire against King Arthur."

"It is an established truth that all politicians wear hats and underwear too large for them."

"Zoltan found himself strangely indifferent to the fact that he metamorphized into a chicken; think of the low cost of feed."

"Karen was relieved that the guy she woke up in bed with was only Thomas."

"Heather saw her mismatched sock draw as a metaphor for her life."

"Cicero blamed his fight with Millicent on the tuna casserole."

"Heather finally lost it after Portia said 'I told you so' for the 143rd time."

"Just what the Archbishop needed as a souvenir for his Rome pilgrimage: A Pope on a Rope to wear in the shower."

"I'm not really completely naked," hinted Françoise coyly on the telephone.

"Roger woke up with a splitting headache and a trophy labeled ' Panama City's Ugliest Butt Contest, Second Place."  This caused him to wonder who won."

"An unmistakable sign of shipboard decapitation: A head in the head."

"Ivan Pavlov drooled at the prospect of some further research in this area."

"The Seventeenth Avenue levee broke; but all remained slumbering."

"Billy Bob was blasé after having sex with a cheerleader and he had left his hound dog sleeping under the porch."

"Giacomo, having received news that he was elected Governor, said 'Oh, shit!'"

"He was well-versed in the perversion peculiar to the Cleveland area."

I wish I had stories to follow each of those!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Passing for Non-Southern or Not

The Late Unpleasantness has been long over; nearly 150 years now.  And while there are a few die-hards who still play Civil War Reenactments, pretty much all is over but the shouting (and still too much, if I may venture an opinion). 

[For those who get overwrought about Civil War reenactors, think of it as a form of cosplay for older guys and rest easy.]

But, back to the subject, some of us Southerners have been moving into the North or Midwest, and a few rash, intrepid ones even have gone West!

However, there are little matters of culture shock to deal with.  This, strangely enough, was brought home to me when I got a copy of Culture Shock: USA - The South.  It seems that, in the desire to set the record straight, the authors resurrected a number of the good old stereotypes about the South and Southerners.

Anyway, some of us ex-pats find it advantageous to play down our Southernness.  The most obvious marker to lose is the accent.  Now I had little problem here, as mine is New Orleans Yat.  But some people elsewhere, if you have a Southern accent, will even parody it!  Now, that's enough to have the timid develop a speech impediment!  Anyway, those with Southern accents are not likely to get jobs as television announcers or have fruitful grad school careers other than at Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, or Alabama.  It's a little subtle discrimination that liberals tend to practice.

And some questions you might ask are no-nos:  What church do you go to?  How's your Momma?  Do you want some grits with that?

As a matter of fact, the proclivity for grits is a reliable marker of Southern, as John Shelton Reed noted.

And watch the idioms.  Don't ask for a Coke; request a 'soda' or (God forbid) a 'pop.'   Don't put things in a sack.  Or especially a poke.  And things are at a great distance, not a far piece from here.  You visit Grandma for Sunday dinner, not Big Mama or Maw-Maw!

But passing for Northern (or Midwestern) has its costs as well as being strategically useful.  How do you minimize those?

One way is through the occasional visit back home.

Another way is to occasionally cook or eat out Southern food.  Larger stores do carry grits, and you can anonymously purchase a container.  Use quick grits, not instant.  Barbecue is a tougher proposition.  Cornbread is rarely found in restaurants; but it's so easy that even an evil pop tart can do it!  And any fool can make banana pudding!  But that makes sense: only a fool turns up his nose at banana pudding!

And maybe you should modulate your college football enthusiasm.  Somehow, a gaudy purple-and-gold LSU sweatshirt doesn't go over at work on the Friday before the game if you're not in the South!  And don't expect your mum corsage to wear at the game, either!

Or, you can simply wear your Southernness sub rosa.  How about a Southern top?  Obviously, the wearer should determine that her blouse or tee is suitably opaque before enjoying this safety valve!

But some Southerners may, when venturing out of the Deep South, play their Southernness for all it's worth.  Take literary figures:  Ever since Grit Lit practically swallowed all of Twentieth Century American lit, some Southern writers really play up their Southernness, especially the more theatrical ones, like Tom Wolfe or Truman Capote.  But authors are to be regarded as a special case; some make a career out of being provocative.  But, it is a short step from being provocative to being a horse's behind!

While the typical male with a Southern-accent does often draw suspicion when venturing into the North or Midwest, the same cannot be said for women with Southern accents.  In my opinion, it's analogous to the reservations Americans have for the French: they're not sold on French guys at all, but French women are another matter.  As a matter of fact, I will suggest that, with women, there is a Southern accent shift:  It becomes stronger when the user goes above the Mason-Dixon line and happens to be speaking to a male.

"You are just the sweetest thing!"  The speaker must have been channeling Scarlett O'Hara or Melanie Wilkes.

"Well, bless my soul; I have not heard of such a thing!"

When I was selling textbooks, I once actually said, "I'm sure you want this  little ole lab manual with the textbook!"  Bookselling for the university market could be cutthroat, and I played Southernness for all it's worth when I was doing that.

I got rid of the Captcha code requirement for this blog.  I figure that if someone is nice enough to comment, then they don't need that annoying barrier of screwed-up letters and numbers in the way. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Caveman Courtship

Currently, there is only one species in the genus Homo; however, at different times there were more than one.  Homo sapiens (our team!) co-existed for a while with the Neanderthals and Denisovans.  Apparently some members of our species millenia ago may have mated with these other humans; about 2% - 4% of us have Neanderthal genes.  This percentage may be higher in some states and in the case of the defensive line of the Dallas Cowboys.

However, in much of our popular culture, the dwellers of caves are depicted as brutal, insensitive boobs.  Whether these are sapiens or neanderthals is not differentiated.  Or, their image is deliberately brutalized to distance them from us: they tend to be depicted as coarse, hairy brutes.  It doesn't take too imagination, plus viewing of The Flintstones or Cavemen to conclude that they got a bad press: much like how the NY Times tends to depict conservatives.

Specifically, caveperson courtship is commonly rendered in cartoons as involving a hairy, animal-skinned, club-carrying lout dragging a woman off somewhere for mating purposes.  Essentially, this is an odious rape fantasy; the idea of chasing a woman with a club and raping her while she was unconscious is sick and shameful.  Where did this idea come from?  While I'm sure that rape did occasionally occur in prehistoric days, it seems to be jumping to conclusions that this was the normal state of affairs.  In fact, prehistoric humans typically lived in small clans of less than a hundred members; and everyone came to know each other quite well.  Each member of the clan had to get along with others; their survival depended on it.  Simply put, there is no physical evidence as to how prehistoric humans paired off at all, much less that it was violent. 

We cannot draw too much evidence from our closest primate natives:  Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) tend to be brutal in their sex lives, while bonobos (Pan paniculus) are peace-loving and inclined to make love, not war.

There is some evidence that prehistoric humans of different species had some appreciation for adornment, art, religion, and other aspects of culture.  It would be too rash to surmise that they would be insensitive to each other's feelings as well.   It's likely that prehistoric courtship might have including the bestowing of token gifts, mutual grooming, and other primate-like rituals.  Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller hypothesized that paleolithic courtship might have involved singing and music-making, among other things.

Maybe this is a clue to why very attractive women seem to be attracted to exceedingly homely rockers.  It's in our genes!

But, let us consider a more pleasing scenario: Paleolithic guy makes an effort to be charming and woo paleolithic woman, perhaps with flowers and singing.  Although, on the second date, perhaps a nice dinner would do too.  Maybe that is what really took place; even in those pairings between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals.  At least, that's what I would like to think!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cowgirl Melinda Goes to a Poetry Slam

It was a dismal little town; but Cowgirl Melinda was in need of some excitement.  Unfortunately, it was Sunday, and the local option forbade any drinks being sold.  The movie was a kiddie movie, and the only liquid refreshment was from a 7-11 store selling Slurpees. 

Not one of her better nights.

However, she noticed some people going to an unprepossessing building, where advertised was an open mike night of poetry reading.  It was, to her untutored eyes, much like a karaoke session.  Individuals, largely of the college crowd, would stand up singly, and recite some verse.  Melinda was content to simply watch and listen, but some people her age passed her a joint of that Arkansas wild weed.  She took at toke, though she was usually law-abiding.

Apparently, several of the persons who were going up to recite had used a little weed or even alcohol for a little herbal or liquid courage.  It certainly did not improve the versification, but it seemed to relax her critical standards.

Finally, Melinda stood up, strode over to the mike, with her spurs jingling.

A she started off a little fuzzily:

Er, I've been ridden hard . . . .
I mean, I've been riding hard
And in need of liquid refreshment. 
For days I have been only with my horse
And, you know, he doesn't say much.

A horse of few words.
But the life of the cowgirl
Is the life for me.

So that, when I die,
Make my make my hide into a soft saddle,
And let me be on a horse afterwards.

A nice sorrel one, perhaps.

And take this little dogie
To a place where music and whiskey
Are always present.

One college student shouted, "I'll drink to that!"

Friday, November 2, 2012

Another Shameful Form of Prejudice and Discrimination

While things are by no means perfect, there is a collective sense that openly expressed racial or ethnic prejudices are socially unacceptable, and the expressor confers upon himself or herself some modicum of social pariahdom.  Still, there seems to be some forms of linguistic preferences that at times devolve into prejudices: consider certain regional accents or dialects such as the Southern or New York urban accents!  In fact, there is a type of speech most often seen in television newscasters: it's as if they all had come from Iowa or Upstate Illinois (but not Chicago).  Some accents or dialects are exaggerated for mirth purposes, like the Southern accent or Valspeak, the dialect of the Valley Girls!

I guess some accents are dialects are of lower status than others.

But it has become increasingly obvious that a dialect that has not been previously identified as being a target of prejudice is Administrativespeak, the dialect that is indigenous to academe and to the managerial class in corporations.

Oddly enough politicians, another discriminated against group, often tries to use Administrativespeak, but their attempts are routinely dismissed as p.c. because their's is a pallid version of the original, lively real deal.

It is truly time for all good Americans to recognize the existence of, and fight the scourge that is bias against Administrativespeak.  After all, speaking plainly might not be such a virtue after all.  Look at Shelton on The Big Bang Theory!

I call on all Americans to open up their hearts and minds to the native speakers of Administrativespeak, to cherish their speech as a variant on American English, and to not grin or roll your eyes whenever a speaker uses words or phrases such as these:

incorporate a new dialectic
celebrate our similarities and differences
embrace (when implying agreement and not involving bodily contact)
task force
mission statement
percussive maintenance
game plan
challenges (what the unlightened refer to as problems)
oblique problem-solving strategies

Who knows, perhaps some of this dialect's terms may be incorporated into Standard English someday as our intrinsic prejudices against the theory class abate.