Good on You, Mr. Hope
There's nothing bad I can say about Bob Hope that could possibly matter, so I will just suffice it to say that I wish him warm remembrances and all comfort on this, his 100th birthday. I personally don't find Mr. Hope funny. I think his comedy requires the strongest possible admixture of marihuana and hooch to be palatable to someone of my generation. But as a lover of American History and culture, and a strong supporter of our military, I applaud him for the great influence he has always been.
Enjoy your day, sir. Thank you for your love of country.
Close to Relapse
The stress of moving has caused me to very much want to smoke a cigarette. Damn. It's like a cartoon devil standing on my shoulder: "What're ya waitin' fer, Smokey? Go buy your self a pack."
GET THEE BEHIND ME, SATAN!
I dunno. Maybe I'll have a few celebratory puffs this weekend once everything is done.
Be Careful among the English
I just read a Washington Postbook review by Michael Dirda on Andrew Dalby's Language in Danger: The Loss of Linguistic Diversity and the Threat to Our Future in which the homogenizing and dominating English language is once again held out to be an agent of cultural imperialism and variety-destroying wickedness.
What these kinds of arguments never take into account is that English, itself, is a great amalgamation of words and syntactical-grammatical rules learned from dozens of other tongues. Consequently, English is an unprecedentedly large language, with several times the vocabulary of its closest competitors. (Oops. Should've picked a less Darwinian term.) It is a living repository of Latin, Greek, Old and Middle French and German, Native American tongues, Yiddish, and much else besides. We in the Anglosphere do not rely on academies (like Hebrew and French speakers do) to determine what is linguistically kosher; we know that no language is pure and that it is a laughable conceit to even try to protect any of them from corruption. If anything, it is just this "corruption" that makes English so relevant and endearing: it takes on all comers and will absorb the next best term ---wherever its origin--- so long as it's phonotactically got "it."
Dirda writes that Dalby disproves the old idea that a lingua franca serves to inhibit conflict between and among warring cultures. But was that old ideal ever understood to be true in the face of real-world oppression and illiteracy? Dalby refers to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the ongoing conflict between the two Koreas as two instances where a common language exerted no pacifying effect, but these are poor examples since there is no comparable point of ideology. In the former case, a totalitarian regime made a sudden land grab from a non-militarized and cosmopolitan neighbor. There was no real preceding dialogue. In the latter case, there can be no real dialogue between the neighbors since the one is largely isolated from the rest of the world and is, effectively, incommunicado.
Dirda appears to echo and commiserate with Dalby on the great shame it is that English is the language of today's most powerful nation and that the more it is embraced, the less contact people will have with their ancestral languages. We are condemned, they fear, to watching these tongues slip into quaint irrelevance. But that is a conscious choice made by the first acculturated generation of an immigrant family. If Italian or Jewish American families wish to continue speaking Italian or Hebrew or Yiddish, they are free to do so, especially within the family. But there can be no blame assessed against the hegemony of America or its primary language if the descendants of immigrant families grow away from this sort of bilingualism. And, frankly, there are giant metropolitan communities in this country where one can live entirely within a Spanish or Mandarin environment. I wonder if Dalby addresses the political consequences of this enclave-as-indentity issue. Does he know of any white collar jobs in Middle America for Nacho, the Non-English-speaking Bus Boy?
Ultimately, Dalby's and Dirda's concern that we are losing real "knowledge" and real "perspective" with the loss of each language is valid, but only in a romantic and theoretical sense. When the last known speaker of some Eskimo dialect dies in a nursing home at age 95, it can only be hoped that her voice was recorded and that, if she was particularly alive to the significance of her knowledge, she may have helped linguists and sociologists understand the cultural place her native language occupied. What else can we do? If the preservation of these languages is a passion for some (as I'm sure it is), they will make it their life's work to do what can be done.
But, we as English speakers cannot regret for even a moment that our language has succeeded as brilliantly as it has. There was never any guarantee that it would, you know. Four hundred years ago, English was as provincial and insignificant as any tribal language is today. But something happened. History and empire carried it along, and a natural affinity in its structure and acquisitiveness absorbed and synthesized the languages of the places it came in contact with. English is a cosmopolitan language if ever there was one. Darby's self-contradictory notion that we must preserve other languages to help keep our own "flexible and creative" is the simplest kind of gibberish. English does not need the artifice or props of left-leaning apologists and academics to be what it is. Dirda's and Darby's ideas are fertilizer. Here's what Dirda thinks of the language of Shakespeare, Dickinson, and Conrad: "Our world's cultural richness is being diminished by the ongoing success of English, an English supported by international communications technology and the success of the American way of life."
The Road Map
You can forget this "road map" to peace in Israel we've all been hearing about. Just look at a regular political map and you'll know why this scheme won't work. Gaza and the West Bank are not contiguous pieces of land. Autonomize these areas under Palestinian [control] and what comes next? They'll need 24/7/365 free access between these two parts. You know, a land bridge or a partition or some such thing that will cut Israel in half. And that will make it just so much easier to destroy the monkey-like Jews and push them into the sea.
Give the so-called Palestinians their own state and they will fuck it up faster than a drunk slipping on ice. Maybe Sharon knows this and so he's decided to give the Palestinians a chance to demonstrate to the world their particular genius for self-control. The instant they start bombing buses again in Tel Aviv, the Israelis can just declare war on the state of Palestine and not have to worry any more about the civil part of war.
A Few Men in My Code
There are many men and women in my family tree whom I could choose to remember here in honor of Memorial Day, but I will suffice it to recount the names of two men who died in defense of my country: Robert Allison Davis and William M. Chapman.
Robert was an Illinois infantryman (born in Ohio) who was studying to be a Methodist preacher. He went down to Mexico as a 28 year-old volunteer in the U.S. Army, but never came home. He died of some disease (most probably cholera) and was buried in a mass grave in Mexico City. His only surviving child was his infant son Joe. Joe was my great-great-grandfather.
Will was a native of Giles Co., Tennessee and a farmhand on his family's land in Williamson Co., Texas. He wasn't quite 30 when he joined the Confederate Army. His regiment was encamped in Lonoke Co., Arkansas in the fall of 1863 when he died of some disease. He's buried there at Camp Nelson in an unknown grave. I stopped there several years ago and paid my respect. His only child was Mary Frances Chapman. Molly was my great-great-grandmother.
These two men were younger than I am now when they died. But without the lives they lived, I would not exist.
Watching the UT women's softball team at their little world series thing. Not too compelling, but that girl who pitches for us is very cute. Cat Osterman. That's a great face. Hope she wins.
Well, I'm in the middle of trying to get all of my possessions boxed up for a move across town. I can never believe how much crap I've collected over the years, but there's little chance of me weeding out my library by more than a handful of books. I just can't get rid of books. Or, magazines (unless I've cut them up enough for my clip-files). Plus, I keep virtualy everything I've ever written. I'll even mine and redact bits of scratch paper if I think something in them might be useful later. It's a real neurosis trying to keep the chaos of the past from disintegrating into meaninglessness. I could go further out onto this avenue with all my habits, but there's no reason to scare the neighbors, you know. Just keep it light and breezy and never mention that the only heaven is perfect knowledge.
You Can't Always Get What You Want
That's good news about the tax cuts. Seems the President was stopped short of his goal to help the superwealthy feather their nests. And let's be clear about it: that's all this double-taxation of dividends stuff was about. Keep the big-time contributors happy.
The President would have to go out of his way to put his loyal supporters off, but he would do well to remember that the good will that lower-income people like me have for him depends on his character and his strength of resolve against the Muslim. Cuz I'm telling you: his economic ideas leave me cold.
Third Stone from the Sun
I found a link to some of the new pictures of the Earth taken from Mars. It is the manifest destiny of human beings to inhabit the solar system. I hope we don't forget that in the mad dash to cut taxes for the rich.
Saw Some Old High School Friends at Lunch Today
A few old friends from high school and I got together today for lunch at the internationally-famous Chuy's restaurant on Barton Springs Road (it's the same Tex-Mex joint where Barbara and Jenna Bush got busted for underage drinking a while back). Anyhow, we had planned on this lunch for a while via e-mail and finally followed through on it. And well we did, for it was a success all around. I hadn't seen one of them in a dozen years and another in probably five (the third friend and I see each other pretty regularly).
Anyhow, my recommendation to any of you who has fallen out of touch with the people of your youth is that you should make it a point to see them again. Most people come in two types about their high school days: they're either very bitter and dismissive about those memories or they look back on them with a healthy nostalgia. I am decidedly in the latter camp, although my powers of recall are not so great as I would wish. But these are the people who knew you before you settled into your present persona. There's no judgements to be rendered or apologies to be made. The friends of your youth are a blessing of old age: memory-sharers, circle-finishers, reference-getters, context-knowers, etc.
I sometimes hear people say that they don't care to go to class reunions or see old pals again because the only ones they care to keep in touch with are the ones that they still do. But, even though I didn't go to my 10th or 15th class reunions, I just can't agree with that sentiment. Yes, you may have lost track of so-and-so after high school, but what was the biggest thing on your mind when that contact was lost? Getting out of town or away to college to see how the other halves lived or getting into your own thing or whatever. I know that, having spent most of the past four or five years with these people on a daily basis, I figured I'd either see them again with little effort or I'd see them again on my own terms. Well, it turns out that even in a town the size of Austin, Texas, you don't always get to see these people again. It can take years if you're not careful.
So, what's the moral of this story? Uh, it's "Don't be a stranger."
It's nothing at all to say that our country will be attacked again by Muslim terrorists; it's as predictable as the next number in a sequential recitation of multiples. But, every now and then, even the least attuned of us (viz., me) gets the idea that something wicked this way comes. Maybe it was the upgrade in the threat level or some surge in the ether, but I have a feeling that the Muslim is about to commit mass murder against us. Again.
In which case, I hope that this government and society respond with unanimity of rage and resolve. Whatever it takes to command the respect and absolute attention of the Islamofascist world, I hope that we do it ---and with the quickest, most thorough kind of violence. They do not understand any other language, so let us speak to them morning, noon, and night.
Afghanistan and Iraq are great victories, but our men and women in uniform and our leadership in Washington (and, really, we, too) must earn the peace that those victories purchased. We have to do it every day with vigilance and a willingness to respond. We are obligated now to teaching a very old dog a new trick, but one supposes that we will first have to rub his nose in the messes he makes before we can count on his cooperation.
Algerian Earthquake: Yet Another Imperialist American Plot
That 6.7 that rocked Algeria was likened by some of its survivors to their being bombed. Hmm. They're onto us. Obviously, we used some of our NASA-Hollywood-Microsoft-El Diablo technology and choreographed that quake to punish the locals for being Muslim. And, uh, to get their oil. Always trying to get their oil, even if they don't have any.
Posted by Toby Petzold
at 8:19 PM CDT
Post Comment |
Updated: Friday, 23 May 2003 5:26 PM CDT
Wednesday, 21 May 2003
Well, here's another story about the Lynch rescue. What's a poor, dumb blogger to do?
The Unravelling of Private Lynch
A while back, a friend and I exchanged a few e-mails on the subject of Jessica Lynch (the POW rescued from the Iraqi hospital) and how we might not have been told the full story. (Our exchange was precipitated by an observation I had made on the then-recent spate of attractive blonde teenaged girls coming back from the dead: e.g., Elizabeth Smart and Pvt. Lynch.)
Anyhow, my friend has followed up with a story confirming his original suspicions, which I had chastised him for as mere cynicism. Read this story and tell me what you think.
Re-enactments and fudge-factoring is nothing new to the American military: they're as quick to spot a Hollywood moment as anyone up or down Madison or Highland. (Douglas MacArthur directed his famous amphibious landing in the Philippines like Stanley Kubrick.) But we can at least know the truth of the matter and keep these moments in perspective.
Plague as Tool
The Bush Administration has implemented a ban against Canadian beef on acount of a case of mad cow disease in Alberta. It is believed to be an isolated case, but you can never be too careful. Sometimes, mad cow disease is mistaken for foot-in-mouth disease, with which Canadian Prime Minister Jean-Paul Chretien is eminently familiar. Surely he won't hold Bush's caution against him, knowing that a leader's moral superiority (also) depends on a consideration of his people's physical health. We'll still have to see about the financial health of Canadian cattle men. Here in a few months. Maybe.
I see also that the SARS epidemic has been put to equal good use by our Government. By limiting the influx of people from infected countries, a perfect cover is provided, giving us longer arms with which to keep these people at a distance. Gives us more time to weigh our options. Let's have more quarantines, please. Who knows? Maybe we can fill some of the seats in our universities' science and engineering programs with native asses, now that we're working on keeping SARS from spreading to our shores.
Posted by Toby Petzold
at 2:34 AM CDT
Post Comment |
Updated: Wednesday, 21 May 2003 2:54 AM CDT
The Education of a Blogger, Continued....
I will now provide you with this fun link. But, surely there's an easier way to do this!
Posted by Toby Petzold
at 1:41 AM CDT
Post Comment |
Updated: Wednesday, 21 May 2003 2:02 AM CDT
Tuesday, 20 May 2003
Terror Alert Level Orange
Okay, so now we're back to security level Orange (which is high). With everything going on in the lands of That Peaceful But Misunderstood Religion, it seems, indeed, quite likely that something could also be afoot here. But, if you think about it, we've been spared terrorism domestically since September 11th. That's coming up on two years now. Maybe we should thank our police state-like government and all of its Constitution-circumventing right wing Nazi cowboys for doing us a good job.
Cutting off Noses, Spiting Faces
There's a lot to feel sorry for the Iraqis about, but when we hear stories about them stealing crucial monitoring equipment from water treatment plants, there's nothing else to think but that they are dumbasses. What sort of black market for such machines do they imagine? They're good for one thing: monitoring the treatment of water in water treatment plants. It's pathetic.
We're glad you're happy with the outcome of the war, Mo. Now it's time for y'all to grow up and quit fucking around.
I could watch the question sessions from the British House of Commons all day long. It is clearly the most entertaining program on television. Heh, heh. Just listen to all of these "honorable friends." It's really the best.