the minor premise

the minor premise

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lynne Truss Made Me Do It, Your Honor

Two vigilante defenders of the English language paid a legal price for their crusade against improper punctuation. Jeff Deck, of Somerville, Mass., and Benjamin Herson, of Virginia Beach, were sentenced to probation for "correcting" the punctuation on a sign in Grand Canyon National Park. Unfortunately the sign was itself historic, having been hand-painted in the 1930s by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, who designed the park's Desert View Watchtower. Deck's own website on behalf of the Typo Eradication Advancement League, which chronicled the crusade, tipped off the Park Rangers to the "damage," but the site currently lies empty, save for a promise of a statement on the incident.

C's take on the matter: "It is better to die on your feet than to punctuate on your knees!"


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sense and Suitability

D recently related to me details of a non-work-related conversation with a colleague. It seems the young lady was planning her wedding to another colleague, but had run across a hitch in the proceedings.

"We're both atheists," she explained, but I've always liked 1 Corinthians 13 and I thought it would be a nice reading for the ceremony. [The Groom] wouldn't have it. He said he'd rather have Jane Austen--and he doesn't even like Jane Austen. So I'll just pick out something from Jane Austen for a reading."

"Gee," I said to D. "Are you sure a little Ayn Rand wouldn't be more their speed? Y'know Austen was a clergyman's daughter, and devout. Might find something implicitly religious in that reading. Anyway, what's not to love about the Love Chapter? We know it's about God, but He's not mentioned in so many words there. You don't have to be religious to recognize the truths in that passage."

"Maybe not, but it came from That Book." D replied.

Theologically-minded Hon. Daughter #1 suggested that the Groom might have been more amenable if his intended had neglected to mention the origin of the passage: "Look what I wrote up for our wedding vows, honey!" A for creativity, F for bearing false witness. Anyway, unless he was brought up in complete Biblical ignorance, there's a good chance he'd recognize that oft-quoted, cross-stitched, calligraphed, woodburned, decoupaged, and tole-painted passage.

The discussion set me to thinking about possible Austenian passages suitable for a wedding ceremony. I'm a fan of England's Jane myself, but I'm hard pressed to think of any passages from her novels I'd have wanted read at my wedding. This notwithstanding the fact that marriage was one of her favorite topics. I understand she kept a prayer book which might be a better place to start--oh, never mind.

At any rate I did eventually come up with a short list of passages from the Books of Jane that might do, being on critical marital issues and all. Some possibilities:

The Book of Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 1, Verses 1-2:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering the neighborhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

Perhaps not. Let us proceed a bit further along to Chapter 18, in which Mr. Collins declares his affections to Lizzy:
My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman... (Oops--maybe we can edit that out) set the example of matrimony...secondly, that I am convinced it will add very greatly to my happiness; and thirdly...that it is the particular advice...of the very noble lady whom I have the honor of calling patroness...

On the other hand, Darcy's first proposal (Chapter 34) at least has some passion:
In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

Passable, provided you don't read on to the next paragraph in which he proceeds to insult her parentage. Chapter 61 goes on to tie everything up and throws in some moral analysis to boot:
Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennett got rid of her two most deserving daughters...As for Wickham and Lydia...His affection for her soon sunk into indifference; hers lasted a little longer, and in spite of her youth and her manners, she retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her.

Maybe a little financial wisdom would be a safer way to go. The Book of Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 17:
"Strange if it would!" cried Marianne. "What have wealth or grandeur to do with happiness?"
"Grandeur has but little, said Elinor, "but wealth has much to do with it."
"Elinor, for shame! said Marianne; "money can only give happiness where there is nothing else to give it. Beyond a competence, it can afford no real satisfaction..."
"Perhaps, said Elinor, smiling, "we may come to the same point. Your competence and my wealth are very much alike, I dare say...Come, what is your competence?"
"About eighteen hundred or two thousand a-year; not more than that."
Elinor laughed. "Two thousand a-year! One is my wealth! I guessed how it would end."
"And yet two thousand a-year is a very moderate income," said Marianne...A proper establishment of servants, a carriage, perhaps two, and hunters, cannot be supported on less..."

Some advice on compatibility from The Book of Emma, Chapter 7:
A woman is not to marry a man merely because she is asked, or because he is attached to her, and can write a tolerable letter.

Or this on marital readiness from the Book of Persuasion, Chapter 12, Verses 1ff:
...When any two young people take it into their heads to marry, they are pretty sure by perseverance to carry their point, be they ever so poor, or ever so imprudent, or ever so little likely to be necessary to each other's ultimate comfort. This may be bad morality to conclude with, but I believe it to be truth; and if such parties succeed, how should [insert names of the bridal couple here,] with the advantage of maturity of mind, consciousness of right, and [insert number here] independent fortune[s] between them, fail of bearing down every opposition?.

Well, there are a few ideas to start with. No doubt those crazy kids'll find something in Miss Jane's canon that speaks to their sentiments; we'll be anxious to hear what they eventually choose. Just the same, it might be prudent to thumb through Atlas Shrugged.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Stopping by the bowling alley to pick up a kid this afternoon, I glanced up at one of the alley's television screens and this Fox news banner caught my eye:


Note to self: Avoid, at all costs, re-viewing that Paris Hilton presidential campaign ad. One can't be too careful. Also, alert the offspring, lest they someday saunter into the house and find me flat on my back, chuckling.

(Okay, okay, I did look up the real story at The Daily Mail. Laughter actually only rarely causes paralysis in certain women with narcolepsy. Whew.)


As research assistant to the parody department (and occasionally just to find guitar enthusiast D some new tunes,) I often hunt up guitar tabs online. Sometimes an old song I haven't heard in a while comes to mind and I try to track it down. Several days ago, for some reason, I thought of Kate Bush's wonderful, weeeird lit hit Wuthering Heights. Googling title and author ended me up at YouTube, where I encountered Bush's videos. I'd never seen them before--not sure how much play they got in the U.S., but as they (like myself) are pre-MTV I'd guess not much.

Here is the "white version"
And here, the "red"
There are a few more Bush versions on there, plus some send-ups that appear to be the work of high school students who had to read the book in class. Women should exercise caution while watching those.

All things considered, I think I prefer the "white version." Thirty years after release, they both seem pretty campy. (Not to mention vaguely Pre-Raphaelite. I reflected with not a little horror that if D. G. Rossetti had been around in the late 20th century, he probably would have been producing music vids like this one. Between affairs with female vocalists, no doubt.) I called over the Hon. Daughters to see them, which only served to galvanize their conviction that Mom is the Biggest Dork Alive. (Of course, the denim sofas I just installed in the living room probably don't help matters in that regard.)

The videos do give some context to Bush's unusual singing style (although D allowed that he liked her version of the song better before he saw it.) She is (in the white version in particular,) thoroughly into her ghost role and the dancing has a really performance-artsy feel. I found some of the choreography distracting, though--what's with the lassoo twirls at the phrase, "Wuthering, Wuthering, Wuthering Heights?" And the Bonnie-Blair-in-the-homestretch moves at the end of the second verse? I think they're supposed to convey a sense of Catherine running toward the house as she's being pulled back to the Other Side, but they just made me think of speed skating. I'm also not sure what that bubble-print "rage" in the bottom left corner of the red version is about. She doesn't seem angry.

I like Bush's rendition of the song, strange as it is, but I've always really, really liked Pat Benatar's cover (which I've heard far more often.) While Bush did a good job of the creepy ghost act, Benatar (I think) brought more tangible passion to her version. It's on YouTube as well, as an audio track to a slideshow of fantasy art. [SCANTY CLOTHING ALERT. Consider yourself warned.]

I think it's time to resurrect this lost classic. I could see Amy Lee, erstwhile of Evanescence, or perhaps the gal who sings lead for Nightwish covering it.

Not to worry, by the way. It's extremely unlikely that there will ever be a Minor Premise Wuthering Heights-based parody. Even at gunpoint, neither of us could pull off that melody line.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Speak for Yourself, John

In an election cycle where Republicans are reviled and the GOP candidate, John McCain, seems to inspire less excitement than a Droopy marathon on the Cartoon Network, it's hard for some people to understand how the race is still close.
--John Hawkins, Right Wing News

It may say something about my political inclinations that I would happily turn out with microwave bag of Trail's End Butter Light for a Droopy marathon. Especially if Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf opened for it.

But seriously:
I've mentioned before that we has difficulty viewing YouTube without crashing our computer. A change in internet provider earlier this summer has eliminated that problem, so I can now fritter away all sorts of time goggling at YouTube vids. In the interest of giving this practice some redeeming social value, I have been making a point of watching speech clips and ads related to the Presidential race.

Last week I ended up at a cluster of McCain campaign ads, several of which have lately triggered some outcry because of their negativity. I don't see this negativity as necessarily a bad thing. If a candidate's actions and choices make his fitness for office questionable, it's only fair that voters be made aware of that fact.

While the ads are not exactly drawing-room conversation, I think the points they make are basically fair. Obama is about as far to the left as they come in the Federal government, and his governing resume is awfully thin. He has a demonstrated tendency to shift positions when it's politically expedient. He lacks humility. He seems, as I have said before, to have little compunction about turning on people close to him when it suits his purpose. Moreover, his obvious charisma, coupled with the apparent ease with which he exploits it, frankly scares the bejeezes out of me. (The last time any of my people saw somebody whip up crowds the way Obama does, my Grandma booked seats on the Havana-to-Miami and got her husband and daughter out of town one step ahead of la Revolucion.)

That said, I am annoyed by the ads--not only because they are a bit harsh, but because I think the campaign ought to be doing a better job. There is a fine line between airing unpleasant truths and embittered whining: some of these ads walk awfully close to that line. They also fail entirely to do something else that ought to be priority number one for the campaign: persuade the average voter that he or she really does want to see John McCain elected into office.

It has been said--and I think it's a valid observation--that the contest is a referendum on Obama--that the presidency is Obama's to lose. Given that, I don't think it's smart for the McCain campaign to shoot off its arsenal in swipe after feckless swipe at the opponent. Continuing this trend will ensure that the race remains all about Obama; consequently it won't be about McCain at all. Should Obama sometime in the next three months say or do something so abysmally stupid or inflammatory as to ruin his chances for election, McCain might get the persidency by default. But that's hardly a prudent strategy.

McCain is by no means in the catbird seat, and he needs to start acting as if he understood that. He is, by reputation at least, too liberal to be really enthusiastically endorsed by some conservatives; merely pointing out that Obama isn't much of an alternative isn't likely to turn them into fans now. Far-leftists are entrenched behind Obama or have defected to third parties. Moderate leftists may have loved McCain when he was a maverick senator, but that is no guarantee of their support. Undecided voters aren't likely to turn out for somebody who brawls with the opposition but fails to sell himself.

Many in the media favor Obama as it is, and McCain might as well resign himself to that. He should expect that Obama's record will continue to be viewed uncritically while his own is picked apart. He should not be surprised that negativity from the left is presented as legitimate criticism while negativity from the right and his campaign in particular is presented as evidence of his mean spirit and cynicism. But while the media will do what they will, they don't control the content of McCain's campaign ads. He can fulminate at them for apotheosizing Obama, thus giving them more than enough rope with which to hang him, or he can project his better qualities through positive messages that focus on his experience and his history of sticking to his guns and give voters a reason to support him.

It's not enough for the McCain campaign to persuade us all that we don't want to vote for Obama. Judging from the polls, there are still plenty of people who feel that way; it cannot be assumed, however, that they will all turn out for McCain. What the campaign needs to do is convince the undecideds on the right and in the center that they really do prefer him as president. Unless the campaign alters its direction to focus on what McCain has to offer as opposed to why we should all hate Obama and the fawning MSM, they might as well throw in the towel now. If they persist with the present course, Obama may not "win," outright, but McCain will certainly lose.

Just for fun-- this circulating item arrived today via our brother-in-law. You'll have to imagine the Irish brogue for yourself.
Subject: An open letter from Ireland

An open letter from Ireland to all of their brethren in the States...a point to ponder despite your political affiliation:

"We, in Ireland, can't figure out why you people are even bothering to hold an election in the United States.

On one side, you had a pants-wearing female lawyer, married to another lawyer who can't seem to keep his pants on, who just lost a long and heated primary against a lawyer, who goes to the wrong church, who is married to yet another lawyer, who doesn't even like the country her husband wants to run !

Now...On the other side, you have a nice old war hero whose name starts with the appropriate 'Mc' terminology, married to a good looking younger woman who owns a beer distributorship !!
What in God's name are ya lads thinkin' over in the States??!"

Anybody know where I can find a rim shot sound file?