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.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Phoenix Phil and the Speedo

Since it was an unseasonably hot day for October in Wyoming, the cowpokes, including Cowgirl Melinda, decided to take a dip in the crick. No, not like some old movie lady and that singing kid; they went in wearing proper swimwear, Wyoming-style. From the start, let me say that Melinda wore proper cut-offs and a t-shirt; she was not into flaunting her figure with the cowpokes in need of a Saturday night somewhere.

And the others pretty well dressed like they hadn't much truck with the water; cut-offs, jeans, two sported board shorts like west coast surfer dudes!

But Phoenix Phil stepped out of his jeans and revealed that he was wearing a speedo! Needless to say, the rest of them did a double take like the time Melinda wore a bikini too short for Utah!

And the comments started!

"Whoa, bro! Too much information."

"Hey Phil, that one doesn't have much of a back and your lack of tan is showing!"

"No doubt about it, Phil - you had too many beers over times."

"Are you wearing a Solo drinking cup on your gear?"

Well, Phoenix Phil got on his high horse and said, "You guys are just jealous and lack a sense of style!"

Cowgirl Melinda said it pretty proper: "I wish I'd a had a drink or two to prepare for that."

Anyway, amid all that merriment, one of them had an idea: Phil would do a horseback streak while galloping through nearby Big Butte, Montana!

So they did. And to encourage the now-reluctant Phil, several of them rode altogether in the altogether with him.

That evening, a few of the Big Butte citizens were taking their ease in front of a bar, complete with swinging doors, when they saw this surreal sight: bad cowboy moons rising!

"Holy horse droppings; that must have been some bad whiskey we drank this evening. What next, elephants wearing tutus?"

They raised their questions to Sheriff Bartlett while he was apparently eating a pear.

Ol' Sheriff thought to himself, "Well, shoot! Gotta work now."

So he stomped out and soon came across six buck naked cowboys on horses.

Sheriff Bartlett thought he was hallucinating, so he took the pledge.

Friday, January 22, 2016

How to Be Popular With Guys

How to be popular with guys? This is usually an unstated question because most girls and women think they know the answer. Or they come up with the usual suspects: (a) have a large chest and flaunt it; (b) smile a lot; (c) be sociable and outgoing; (d) flip your hair and do attention-provoking actions; (e) make out early and often; (f) adopt interests that guys are likely to have.

Yes, some of these might work. But there's one strategy that is often overlooked:

Be sweet! Don't be snarky!

Yes, the habit of snarkiness is easily learned through reinforcement and modeling. There's the instant gratification that comes through the self-gratification of being clever, or thinking one has been, through a well-timed snarky comment. And, let's face it: television comedy and drama programs almost reflexively fall back on sarcasm or snarkiness to further dialogue along. Years ago, I religiously watched Veronica Mars. But I learned not to unleash my inner snarkiness on family, friends, and boys.

Authority figures? That was another matter. But never, never unleash snarkiness or sarcasm on guys. Your victim will dislike you, and others will fear your sharp tongue.

And you have become an aversive person to them.

So remember this, with apologies to Lewis Carroll:

"Come listen, fair chick,
And I'll tell you a trick
To avoid that unmistakable mark;
Lest people might know
Wherever you go,
You're a warranted genuine snark."

Thursday, January 21, 2016

"Seasons in the Sun" -- BTOB Results

Well, this episode of the Battle of the Bands, based on the covers of the melancholy song, "Seasons in the Sun," results are in. It was a close race between two candidates.


Terry Jacks, with 8 votes.

Interestingly, Terry Jacks adapted a Rod McKuen translation of Jacques Brel's chason "Le Mortain" that he intended originally for The Beach Boys. I wonder what they would have made of it. They certainly did definitive versions of their own songs, and "Sloop John B," also done by the Kingston Trio.

The Kingston Trio -- 7 votes

Jacques Brel got 1 vote. Was this the electoral equivalent of pity sex or weak applause; or a recognition of greater poignancy in the French version.

Thank you all for participating in this Battle of the Bands. Actually, one trio group and two solo singers; but who's counting?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Dealing with a C. T. S.

Being in the dead of winter in the Appalachians, I have concluded that Northerners must be made of sterner stuff, at least butt-wise.

I'm talking about that universal fact of life faced by cold climate dwellers: sitting on a cold toilet seat (C. T. S.) in the dead of night. At least guys have only the number #2 occasions to worry about. We ladies get it both ways! It ain't fair, y'know.

Why a C. T. S.? It all comes down to thermodynamics: the transfer of cold  from a colder object to one that is warmer. Entropy, my Dear Watson. Some materials transfer this type of cold more effectively than others. Basically, there are three kinds of toilet seats: vinyl plastic ones, wooden ones, and padded ones. The vinyl ones transfer heat more effectively to its colder surface than the wooden ones. The padded ones transfer the least amount of heat.

Therefore, your warmer surface (your behind) loses the least amount of heat on a padded one; while if it's on a plastic one, it loses its heat most efficiently.

An awkward, self-serving solution is to stay in bed until your husband or lover goes first; then get up while the seat is sort of warmish. And encourage him to have a seated #1.

But the best solution is to go with a soft padded one. It has the advantage in that it is also more comfortable. This is a boon especially for people who have a magazine rack in the bathroom! For the changes of the season, a fussy person might replace the padded one with a wooden or plastic one for the later spring, summer, and some of the fall.

Here's also another tip: If you have a plastic horseshoe-type (open front)  toilet seat, and want to pad it, try this tip from Buzzfeed:

You may have to knit a cover for your doughnut-type  (closed front) toilet seat; and that would be a killer conversation piece if you do your knitting while flying or during a meeting! Who knows, there may be how-to-do-it instructions somewhere!

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Lumberjack

Once upon a time, a very strong lumberjack asked for a job chopping trees and he got it. The pay was really good and so were the work conditions and benefits. For those reasons, this woodcutter was determined to do his best.

His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he supposed to work.

The first day, the lumberjack brought 18 trees.

“Congratulations,” the boss said. “Go on that way!”

Very motivated by the boss words, the lumberjack tried harder the next day, but he could only bring 15 trees.

The third day he tried even harder, but he could only bring 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing still fewer trees.

“I must be losing my strength”, the lumberjack thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on.

“When was the last time you sharpened your axe?” the boss asked.

“Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees…”

Friday, January 15, 2016

"Seasons in the Sun": Battle of the Bands

This is my first time in BOTB, so I thought I would do an old one that was covered by many singers.

I recently discovered "Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks from a scathing article in Slate. This was a monstrous hit back in 1974. It sold over 10 million singles, and made #1 for several weeks on the Hot 100 list. It is certainly downbeat, both literally and figuratively. Since this lead song for my part in BOTB comes with this less-than stellar intro from Slate, I won't blame you if you don't suffer all the way through. On the other hand, it is compelling in its way.

This maudlin song had a French language predecessor, Le Moribond (The Dying Man), a chason composed by Belgian Jacques Brel, who also did the vocals. This video also has English subtitles:

The Kingston Trio did a version in their smooth style that maintained similar poignancy, irony, and theme as the Brel song:

The song "Seasons in the Sun" has these major versions and others as well. The Jacks one is sentimental, the Brel one is biting and sarcastic, and the Kingston Trio version has some of the bite but with smoothness reflective of their style from the 1960's.*

So, of the three, whose version do you prefer:

_____ Terry Jack's
_____ Jacques Brel's
_____ The Kingston Trio's

Please vote your preference. I'll tally up the results and post them in six days.

*For those with high pain thresholds, there is also a Nirvana version. Awk!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Irony in Miranda v. Arizona

The so-called Miranda warning, judicially required before police may interrogate a suspect, has been around for over fifty years.  Specifically, it reads something as follows:  

"You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say or do can and will be used against you in a court of law.  You have the right to an attorney.  If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.  Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?"  This is to protect the individual against infringements of Fifth Amendment rights.  

Anyway, here's the background of this warning.  Ernesto Miranda was arrested for a rape of a mentally-handicapped 18-year-old girl that had occurred ten days earlier.  Apparently, the police did not inform him that he could remain silent.  As a result of the interrogation, Ernesto Miranda signed a confession; and this confession was used in his conviction. However, his court-appointed attorney appealed this conviction on the grounds that Miranda did not understand he had that right.  

The Supreme Court, in the Miranda v. Arizona decision, overturned that conviction by a 5-4 decision. Because of it, police making arrests have fallen into the practice of using printed Miranda cards that spell out these rights so that any subsequent interrogation and possible confession can be based on a waiver of these rights.  

Now here's the sequel: The diligent prosecutors were able to come up with eyewitnesses to the rape in question. Miranda was subsequently convicted at a retrial, and sentenced to 20 to 30 years in prison.  

However, Miranda was paroled in 1972, after spending a few years in prison. He had a sideline business selling autographed Miranda warning cards at $1.50 each.  Apparently, he was soon charged with small offenses and sent back to prison for parole violations.  

His end came in 1976, when he was stabbed in a bar fight. The prime suspect was read his Miranda rights, kept silent, and he was released because of a lack of other evidence. The suspect knife-wielder did not waive his Miranda rights after they were read, and a possibility of conviction might have been lost!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Brospeak as a Form of Discourse

There's a form of pidgin language that has been recently observed lately: a form of verbal exchange that takes place among alpha-aspirant males in their discourse as a group.

Some call it brospeak. It occurs particularly when males are in a public setting and might be also thought of as an attention-getting ploy. To illustrate, it rarely uses personal names; but refers to people as dudes or chicks. Some words like party convey a variety of meanings, as:

"That dude is going to party with that chick."

What partying entails is alluded to; it can include anything from spending time at a conventional party (drinks, dancing, and conversation) to "doing the dirty deed." (If pressed to elaborate.)

The brospeaker may use certain intensifiers to elevate status, as "cool dude" and
hot chick."  Or for a really beauteous woman, "smokin' hot."

Brospeak invariably is liberally sprinkled with profanities, and not the minor ones. I'm talking F-bombs and M-F-bombs, if things get heated.

And one-upmanship in boasting is common in parlance:

"This ain't my first rodeo, y'know."
"I didn't just fall off a turnip truck."

And there's the frank appraisal of nearby women. I heard this charming dialogue:

"Check out that chick over there. Does she rock you?"
"Naw. She's light on the boobage and probably not likely to play."
"Yesss . . . . she looks like a real self-anointed princess."

Lots of physical interactions, in the form of knuckle-bumping and ass-slapping.*

And lots of posing before mirrors like they were runway models. With suspected strategic stuffing.**

And the familiar greeting, "Hey, Bro. How they swingin'?" Brospeakers find it mandatory to inquire about the state of others' testicles. Including people of the feminine persuasion. They haven't taken anatomy classes yet.

Boasting is not confined to verbal behavior. Sometimes they need to compete by lifting heavier weights or taking risks by skateboards or other things.

All with an air of studied nonchalance.

If these sort of things are annoying, consider this: They feel mighty cool while doing this. And they're mostly harmless.

*Usually, those are the only asses they get to slap, other than in a barnyard.

**Bras are not the only things that might get padded.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Campus and Football Banners

Nothing like a few examples of the ways that university and high school students can be provocative. First, some banners from fraternity houses at ODU. Did any moms take them up on it?

They certainly try to make a girl's mom welcome! The moms must be assured their daughters are in safe hands!

DKE at LSU raised hackles with the one on the left; so much that they were required to apologize. At least someone remembered that event:

Now for some run-through banners. This one is a helpful hint for the opponent team that's not going to make the next level of the playoff:

I'm sure they're looking forward to it:

Are the opponents named the Bobcats or the Tigers?

This one is rather tame, as some go:

Some Texas cheerleaders want to add religion to the curriculum. At least they're not dyslexic:

It's Biblical; but what is the context for this?

This is what happens when cheerleaders choose their own Bible verses:

This one from Mt. Adory High School in Alabama had an historical context along with running up a lot of offense. The removal of the Cherokee and other tribes happened over 180 years ago; and still rankles.

It should be expected, as a rule, to avoid sexual or historical allusions on campus signs. There's always someone going to take offense. Actually, there are a lot of professional offense-takers on campus and with the media.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Meeting Conventioners' Needs

One of the hazards of living in a mid-sized city with a thriving tourism industry is the occasional negative impact that tourists can have on the lives of the locals. Obviously, those who are part of the tourism service industry need them for their jobs. (I had been a swamp boat operator playing "wild swamp girl" for those wanting to see a swamp up close and personal for a while.)  But there's the crowding (New Orleans at Mardi Gras is packed!), the debris. and the misbehavior (Being pawed by drunks has no appeal.) 

However, the Mardi Gras festivities are limited to later winter, and typically localized in the French Quarter, the Central Business District, and a few of the major thoroughfares.

But what would happen if one of the major parties decided to hold its convention?  Well, for starters, the delegates would all bitch about the heat and humidity like it was some conspiracy-kept secret regarding summers in New Orleans.

The hotel rooms would be fully occupied; and the hoteliers would jack up their rates accordingly. The lounges and bars would do a landmark business. They would sell a lot of martinis if the Republicans come; Scotch if the Democrats are convening; and Bourbon for the Blue Dog Democrats. Tea Party Republicans would tend to domestic beers without playing the hipster card. Hipsters don't find it hip to wear hats with tea bags dangling from them.

And there would be an influx of working girls to meet the delegates' needs. Tall ones, short ones, zaftig ones, skinny ones; the sexual service providers are open to a variety of possibilities. And the N.O.P.D. would be on its best "see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil" stance.  Some major Krewe would name the nominee a King for its parade, whether he or she wins, loses, or draws.  Carnival masks would improve the looks on all of them!

And having a political convention in town is a windfall for cabbies!  Those oodles of delegates will need transportation from the Convention site to Bourbon street, to the fine four-star restaurants, to Jackson Square (great for a photo op or some nicely crafted sound bites by reporters) or to some of the gambling hells in the adjourning parishes!  And, who knows, the cabbies might take some fares on a scenery-filled side trip!

The delegates, used to less imaginatively prepared fare, would eye the menus of restaurants and cafés suspiciously  What, did I see alligator tail po-boys? What is andouille, for God's sake?  Is a crawfish like a crayfish?  Can I get some old fashioned American food, for God's sake? New Orleans has been American for over 200 years.Perhaps a responsible political party would give the delegates orientation handbooks written in simple language and directions to the nearest Burger King or Subway.

Whether the Republicans or the Democrats come to town, they're less likely to bring Palm Buzzers along with them than are Shriners!  And they must pick up their mandatory New Orleans souvenirs: hurricane glasses, boxes of pralines, and tacky t-shirts, just like everyone else.  One place they're not likely to be found is St. Louis Basilica.  It's said that the bells will toll if any of them enter.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Dennis Goes to Military School

Dennis Callahan was a really bad kid. He was well-known to the Parish Juvenile Authorities and the nuns thought he was incorrigible. His marks in school were very bad. And things came to a head when he was found with a cache of drug money. So Dennis's parents finally decided to use the nuclear option when it came to parenting.

They decided to send him to military school. Besides, they wanted to take an extended trip to Europe.

Dennis was cowed as his parents drove into this small town in Tennessee, away from the temptations of Nashville or even Knoxville. It looked like everything he feared from the movies: earnest, smartly-dressed boys, the military school located in a rural community, rooms neat as a pin. Classes from 0800 to 1600 daily, then proctored study hall in the evening until 2100. Lights out at 2200. That's how they told time there.

"Well darn!" He chanced a mild oath and was immediately shussed by others.

So Dennis decided that maybe he would play the long game, appear to adjust well to this new, dreadful regimen, and then escape to a life of being on the road.

In the meantime, he had shown promise as a cadet; and was summoned to the office of the Commandant, General Tso.  This was scary, as General Tso was rumored to be a retired warlord who had been known for his ruthlessness. Ruth left him for another warlord.

General Tso was about as inscrutable as they come; a middle-aged man of Asian heritage and a stern demeanor. He made Dennis stand at attention while he appraised him, with his austere gaze.

"Ah, you seem like a clever one; too clever by half. You plan to appear adjusted to cadet life; but you plan to spring back to your former self when scrutiny is relaxed. Your kind is well-known to me. And useful."

Dennis shuddered with fear. This General Tso was wilier than any other adult he had ever known.

"But your type can be useful. You can be my drug courier to nearby cities."

"What sort of drugs?" asked Dennis.

"Opium and pain relievers. Fool! You don't think we move meth, do you?"

"No, Sir!" Dennis shouted forcefully, being totally scared to death.

"Well, good. I will pay you a stipend, allow you one night per month at a strip club, and name you a Cadet Second Lieutenant. Stand at ease!"

"And I'll teach you my secret recipe."

So things improved for Dennis Callahan. He found his school more comfortable, he had lots of money, and he could go to strip joints in Nashville often. And he had a cooking skill which he attributed to the broad cultural experience that came with a military school background.

Later on, Dennis conned his way into law school. He served briefly as a Staff Judge Advocate in the Army. And later joined a prestigious law firm.

Friday, January 1, 2016

A Possible Failure of the Anita Loos Effect

Years ago, author and screenwriter Anita Loos wrote Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which was made into a Marilyn Monroe movie years ago. This effect was later used to  explain why blondes disproportionately appear on magazine covers and on Fox News; and the fear of which may be a contributing factor to some of the anti-blonde sentiment.

Anyway, D. I. Kyle asked 136 college students to rate a job application resumé featuring a picture of a 40-year old blonde woman applying for an accounting position. Some of the applications featured the woman with her natural hair coloring, while others had her hair tinted brunette or red-headed.

In general, subjects who were given pictures of the woman as a brunette tended to rate her as more competent and be inclined to offer a larger salary than if her photograph depicted her as a blonde or redhead. I guess college students playing potential employment assessors tend not to live up to the Anita Loos Effect.

Kyle also found that the woman in the picture tended to be rated higher if she was not wearing make-up. Apparently, this was interpreted as a sign of more seriousness or competence.

Several things I'm considering:

1.   Which cues the women participating as raters used in rating the person; and whether they showed a different pattern from the men? This might impact hiring practices, particularly if women predict employment success better than men.

2.  Would this result be replicated using a younger woman as the possible test stimulus?

3.  Should I tint my hair a chestnut color?