25 May 2012

Zanesville Attractions, #3 in a series

Big! Muskie!

This is what turned much of the
landscape around Zanesville, OH, 
into what you see in the picture.

It's a fish!  It's a... digging machine kind of thing... maybe? Ha, no. Now it's just a bucket that goes on a digging machine kind of thing that rips the tops off mountains.

This bucket o' tetanus is the part that Zanesville wants to "preserve." 
I look into the future... and see... lawsuits on Zanesville's horizon.

"Remember the Walking Giant"®

That's the official name of the group that supports the preservation of this admittedly
large, rusted metal, dirt bucket. Recently "She" was moved to a "permanent memorial site"
closer to town.  The thing weighs 230 tons. 

It destroyed an ecosystem, a dark-green ancient forest, and the
economic underpinnings of a century-old culture. Yet they "honor" it in a county
where families are living in abandoned houses, stores, and post offices.

Zanesville Attractions, #2 in a series

The World-Famous Y-Bridge

When you come to the fork in the bridge, take it!

24 May 2012

Zanesville Attractions, #1 in a series

Can't sit at the hospital all day, so we're looking for things to do in Zanesville. . . .


Corporate headquarters of the Longaberger Basket Company. Seven stories, 500 employees.

22 May 2012

Party On, Old Man. Hell Ain't Half Full.

My dad is convalescing from surgery in a hospital in Zanesville, OH.

You may have heard of Zanesville in the media. Try googling national news articles with dateline Zanesville and search terms such as, "rare and exotic animals," "running loose down the highway," and "the other baboon was presumed eaten by one of the big cats."

Back to Dad, whom I like to call "Hail Fellow, Well Met." Yeah, Dad "never met a stranger." Which can suck if you're with him.

In the hospital now, he would like attention and sympathy all 'round. He says to me, "No, I don't want you to feel like you have to fly here. I just can't swallow or eat or drink. And I can't lift my left arm. Wait, I think my vision's going. But only come if you want to. It would be okay."

He sounds like this:

But in the background, it sounds like this:

The upshot? I struggled with The Negotiator for a good 40 minutes, and my flight is tomorrow at 5 a.m. Yes, 5. The Negotiator always gets the last laugh....

Count on a few posts from
Zanesville in the next week—
and of course watch for news articles!

21 May 2012

When an all-snack diet and living on the Internet fail...

Not long ago I saw a magazine cover at the pharmacy that said, Lose That Baby Bulge in 6 Weeks!  I went to reach for it but then I realized that they meant the 6 weeks right after the birth, and not now, 13 years later.


It was good that I became a little softer after I had a baby.

Reclining Mother and Child  (Paula Modersohn-Becker)

20 May 2012

an argument for generic singular "they"

Some artist's conception of the battle over
gender-neutral pronominal reference.

(That's my interpretation anyway.)

Daily, certain mental struggles rage that are rarely acknowledged or addressed at the time they take place. These struggles are around English speakers' personal and painful internal consternation over gender-neutral pronominal reference.

Though split-second in duration, these human quandries are detectable in real time: Attend to the speech of the educated as they deliberately consider, ignore, modify, substitute, circumlocute, and stumble over what pronoun to use that is singular, sufficiently gender-neutral, and not so hokey that it will cause their faces to turn red upon uttering it. And that won't make someone yell at them or write them off as an insensitive boob.

We all know the options:

Everyone should bring his own mat....  The masculine singular is the path of least resistance but a growing pitfall, especially in writing. Depending on audience, it's right out there for someone to jump you over it. And then you're a sexist. Yes you are.

Everyone should bring her own mat....  Are you, like, gay?? Unless everyone this is about is actually female or is attending a really fab gay male party, then you should fall on your sword rather than fall into this hole. Seriously. You'll be socially marginalized forever.

Everyone should bring his or her own mat....  This is okay if you're Canadian. Even then, Canadian, gay, whatever, you've marked yourself as kind of prissy. As for switching to her or his own... DO NOT go there. What's a word that's prissier than prissy? Like, by ten times. That's what your label will say.

Everyone should bring their own mat.... You're probably home-free with this in speech. Many will still hesitate to write it, however. I never hear anyone suggest this as an alternative to the other possibilities either, and I'm not sure why. That is, when someone says he/his/her in the context, and another stakeholder wants to go gender-neutral, the latter doesn't say, Don't you mean they! Also, this particular convention stops many when it's in writing.

From my perspective, the latter—generic singular they/them/their—is the way to go. After all, the crux of the matter is solely gender-political, and not really about number agreement. No "singletons" feel discriminated against when someone says, If a student wishes, they can bring their own yoga mat.

Yes, singular-plural agreement across English structures is a strong conformation. Witness the looks I get if I lapse into my home dialect with something like, We was down there earlier. But it's not like we can't break a linguistic trend in some circumstances. Especially if, by doing so, we're fixing another—and subjectively far more politically egregious—agreement problem.

So then, consider:

A doctor is to remain on call for his scheduled shift. Sexist. Yet note that it's clear as a bell semantically, through extended usage—do you really get the sense that we mean only male doctors?—but that's the point of it all. Of course the other point is that you have to make a point of it, but let's stop there.

A doctor is to remain on call for her scheduled shift. Stupid. Confusing, even—are all the doctors women? Also, anything that stands out as unnatural is not likely to get adopted in usage. Generally it goes the way of Esperanto.

A doctor is to remain on call for his or her scheduled shift. Cumbersome. And there's still the gender-ordering problem:  for her or his scheduled shift is NOT a solution.

But what about. . . .

A doctor is to remain on call for their scheduled shift. Honestly, can you say the lack of number-agreement rankles you? If you were to read it in context, and away from this context, wouldn't it be perfectly fine? A key argument for this convention is that it really is natural for most speakers. So people would use it if other considerations weren't stopping them. Like memories of their grade school grammar classes.

I think it comes down to our all being very, very brave and boldly using they for the generic singular in our own speech and writing. And then everyone needs to agree that when someone uses they as the generic singular, we won't think they just don't get singular-plural agreement—that they're some semblance of hillbilly like I am.

Agreed?  (Ha, ha, get it? "Agreed?" Little linguistics joke there....)


As an aside, did I ever bring this book to your attention? Maybe when I was reviewing nonfiction? If you liked this post, then you will really love... Syntactic Argumentation and the Structure of English. Bonus: Great book for reading in public if you don't want anyone to talk to you.

18 May 2012

Such a little thing...

You're in a nice hotel. A luxury hotel. It's evening, perhaps after a long day of meetings followed by "dinner with colleagues" (shoot me now), and all you want to do is jump into that clean, beautiful, luxurious queen bed, kick the covers loose, and lie splayed across and diagonal.

You're finishing up in the bathroom. You're washed and moisturized and perhaps wearing something light to sleep in. Your teeth are brushed—the final step. Ahh! Smack, smack.

You trip lightheartedly out to your bed and... on the pillow... there's a... mint. Noooooo, not a miiiiiinnnt.... Ohhhhhh.... An Andes mint. (Are these manufactured solely to be put on pillows in hotels?)

Of course you want the mint. It's minty, chocolatey. It's lying on your pillow, beckoning. Hoping to get intimate with your freshly brushed teeth. The amount of calories in it couldn't possibly hurt you.

I've never been able to resist the mint. Then later I give in to the internal pressures and brush my teeth again. I'm complex like that.

Ay, ¡puta!

Okay, Tapu returns. Done with that. I thought I was too down to write anymore, but shallow creature that I am, it didn't last long.

See, it was just that... I lost my girlfriend recently. We had been having a lot of discord over her drinking. I don't drink and I just can't enjoy myself around someone who is drunk half the time.

Anyway, we were at a party together. She got really drunk and was screaming at me, and then she ran out of the house. I caught up to her at the car. I swear, I begged her not to drive.

I tried to get the keys away but she fought me tooth and nail. She got in the car and got it started and there wasn't anything I could do to make her stop. So I shot her.

She was really a sweetheart and I still miss her, but I think I'm ready to start posting again.

17 May 2012



No Current Plans for Re-Opening

12 May 2012

Historic, courageous, bold, defining...

You know what I'm talking about. Those are the words resounding in the media, at software companies, in coffee shops (high and low) and on the streets to describe President Barack Obama's declaration of support for gay marriage. My son, Asa, gave the 13-year-old's spin on it:  "Sweet."

Sure, sure, there are positive and negative aspects to all this. There are hopes and fears, stunned admiration and stunned outrage. Join in anywhere—it rules the Zeitgeist.

My particular take on it is that Obama has positioned himself right where he was four years ago—as the symbol of hope and the prospect of positive change. He became the first black U.S. president, and if you want to talk about negatives associated with focusing on that go right ahead, but I can still well up with the feelings of pride and hope and possibilities that I had as I watched the Inauguration. And I think I always will.

Now Obama is the first sitting president to proclaim that gay people deserve all the rights and protections as straight people. They deserve to have their place in society recognized and honored. President Obama has joined the ranks of Lincoln and Kennedy—US presidents who, historically and courageously, did the right thing although it was the risky thing. Obama has brought us to "Hope," once again; and once again, that's going to get the vote out.

07 May 2012

Real and Unreal

I just came across this headline and photo on CNN's feature page:


I have two reactions, one socio-political and the other, personal memoir.

First, social commentary:  C'mon, really? Life in Appalachia Today? More Like Wild Sh-t You Can Still Find in America Today. There are an estimated 3000–5000 Klan members throughout the US as of 2012. How many of these events could they possibly get together in a year?

I'm not saying the Klan is not a threat to society, or that this is not outrageous regardless of how few occur. But this is not Life in Appalachia Today. (Another photo CNN showed was of a snake-handler. I'm here to tell you that that's not too common either.)

How about we have a few pictures of more common aspects of Life in Appalachia, if that's what you say you're going to show? You could get some provocative shots of a church BINGO game. And if you're still craving that negative spin, focus on the obesity rate: You will see men and women at BINGO using two, even three, folding chairs together to sit comfortably. Now that, though negative, at least shows something relevant about Life in Appalachia Today.

Second, personal memoir:  Sure, Klan events happen still; there are scattered occurrences all over. I'm not sure how often it happens today in Upper Appalachia, where I'm from. What I do know, empirically, is that it used to happen. I had a brush with it when I was five or six years old.

A loving,  patient, soft and huggable woman in town had become my "Nana" by the time I was a few months old. She cared for me like a grandmother for the first decade of my life. 

Nana Perkin's husband, Ernie Perkins, was driving us in his truck when we saw the remains of a burnt field right off 209, the main route to town. I don't remember a cross, but there was a large area of blackened ground with bleachers set up around it.

Ernie teased us, "You'ins want we head over to the Ku Klux Klan for a cross burnin'? Haw! You kin tell your daddy we joined up with the Klan!"

I didn't know what he was talking about but apparently Nana did. She told him to "shush in front of her" (me). Nana was always telling him that. Ernie was a good man—tender with me—but he was typical for a man of that time and that place, a hillbilly, plain and rough.

They didn't go into it further. I felt something sinister connected to that burnt ground and empty bleachers. What got burnt? Who burnt it? Who sat in the bleachers and watched? People I knew? I remember I shivered. I thought it maybe had to do with witches.

06 May 2012

People I'd Like to Meet


1.  Barack Obama
He's drop-dead gorgeous and he's the freakin' President.

                                     2.  Cameron Díaz
She's drop-dead gorgeous and she's drop-dead gorgeous.
I particularly like the new cut. Guess you could say I'm a bob man.

3.  Noam Chomsky
Sure, less gorgeous, but intensely interesting because of his seminal (hee hee, I said "seminal") work in generative grammar and political theory.

I actually met Chomsky once already. He was a guest lecturer in my graduate syntax class. I was up all night, so excited about meeting him, and as soon as he started lecturing I could hardly keep myself awake. I would hope to do better this time.

4.  David Sedaris
I want him to be my little gay boyfriend and we'll scream with laughter and dissolve in tears whenever we're together.  "Too funny!"  Oh, no, you're too funny." "No, you!"

I've met David Sedaris, too. I went to a book reading of his in Boston. When it came time for questions, people asked the usual lame ones, e.g., "What's your favorite piece you ever wrote?" So I asked, "Have you ever thought about writing a children's book?" People tutted and gave little wry smiles but David Sedaris really came alive on that one. (That's a lot to say if you've ever seen David Sedaris in person. He looks and acts like someone just beat him up.) Afterwards, he and I chatted... we've since lost track of each other....

5. One of My Own Ancestors
Not from too far back, not a caveman or a peasant in the Middle Ages; say, at the great-great level or nearer. This person has to be—and this is the important part—the one that is most like me. I want to see what they did with it, you know? It would be neat to see what it was like to feel like me in another time. Doesn't that sound interesting? I mean, for you with your ancestor?

My Great-Aunt Hattie Noble
There's another post below
about Aunt Hattie. I think she
may have been a lot like me.


Stop. In the name of love.

The Encumbence

I've always preferred to lead.                  So have I.

I've always preferred to lead.                                                                        So have I.

I've always preferred to lead.     Oh, don't make me laugh!

02 May 2012

Do you have any cousins?

(sometimes Devil Anse is tapu's screen name)

Tapu is asked this because of having no siblings.

The answer is that Tapu has 61 known first cousins and first-cousins-once-removed, along with a huge number of unknown first-cousins-once-removed, born to 29 other first cousins.

That could easily add up to, like, 60 more cousins.... Is that even possible?? To have over 100 first-order cousins??

Well, regardless, you couldn't call us close....

Aunts/Uncles                  1st Cousins                  1st Cousins Once Removed

wilson (agnes)--------------| sandra----------------------------------1

helen (alva)
                                          | terry------------------------------------2
                                          | marsha---------------------------------1
tommy (martha)------------| tommy greg---------------------------2
                                          | jill---------------------------------------1
                                          | john howard---------------------------3

                                          | kathy------------------------------------3
jeanette (donald)-----------| durinda----------------------------------2
                                          | jan---------------------------------------2

dave (nancy)----------------| judy--------------------------------------2
                                          | ken---------------------------------------2

    |---------------------------- tapu (eme)---------------------------- asa
mary belle

bill (maisey)----------------|   2 known---------------------|   # unknown

donald (various)------------|   # unknown -----------------|   # unknown

bobby (sue)-----------------|   4 known---------------------|   # unknown

ethel (husband)-------------|  5 known---------------------|   # unknown

lucy (husband)--------------|  3 known---------------------|   # unknown

eileen (homer)--------------|  5 known---------------------|   # unknown
(I know the 5 cousins' names: Ronnie, Donnie, Lonnie, Punkin, Valerie.
I don't know if Punkin has another name.... He's always been Punkin.)

nellie (lee)-------------------|  1 known---------------------|   # unknown

millie (charles)--------------|  1 known---------------------|   # unknown

margaret (lew)---------------|  3 known---------------------|   # unknown

erma (gene)------------------|  3 known---------------------|   # unknown

carol sue (jim)---------------|  2 known---------------------|   # unknown

01 May 2012

Face It

All my friends
are online


Can I get you anything?

Generally, I prefer water to soda, juice, milk, scotch, root beer floats, whatever else might be offered. But in a restaurant, here's the scenario:

I order water.

The waiter looks up, "Are you sure?"

Am I sure? Does he ask that when someone orders a Blue Margarita?
Accommodating him, I reconsider—Do I really want water? 

"Yes, I am sure," I say decisively. "Just water." 

"Did you want bottled water?" 

"No," I say.

i don't want a lemon in it either, thanks