Archive for the ‘Books in The Home Office’ Category

Academic Writing Put to the Sword

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…the sword of Damocles? No. The sword of Helen.  No – not that Helen. The Sword of Helen: Helen Sword. You ‘member! ‘Member?

I’ve come to realize that whether I like a book or not often depends on timing.  Is my book du jour a good fit for my current state of mind or not?  If it is, I may be more open to its positive qualities.  If it’s alien to my mood o’the day, it’s probably going to be extra critical and snarky.

Stylish Academic Writing is the perfect book for me to be reading right now.  I’m working on my graduate thesis and I need affirmation that I’m doing it right.  This book gives me just the affirmation that I need.  In addition to being a style guide, it’s also a book about research. 

I know:  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

But the thing is, Sword takes her own advice – writing clearly about complex things, and she managed to make her research sound interesting – to a person who is currently doing a lot of research.  I wonder how much I would have enjoyed reading Ch. 2 if I had just finished one of my umpteen papers that I’ve worked on these last two years.  Or if I didn’t have to do any at all!  Would I have shkipped it or admired the detail and moved on?


I’ll tell you this for free – romance novels where the couples are always at odds?  Tiresome and tedious.  But if you are going through the same thing?  You are SO buying it.  Buying into the catharsis of it all.  Maybe that’s why I’m enjoying Sword’s book so much.  She did way more research than I have, but I really feel the drudgery of  it — both hers and mine.  Catharsis makes the difference. 

A book doesn’t have to be a work of fiction for catharsis to be possible.  There’s a little discovery I’ve made for myself.  So timing seems to affect the quality of catharsis when you read something.  If you’re lucky enough to read something that meshes with your mindset perfectly, that’s beautiful!  If you read something that is so alien to your mindset, it might be worth considering reading it some other time.

Another example:  the novel Freedom and Death by Nikos Kazantzakiswas recommended to me by someone whom I thought was a kindred spirit, but who was really a vain, pretentious asshole.  So I was in a humbuggy mood when I read it.  Right off the bat – fault-finding.  Clumsy translation, dead-end scenes, trite male/female dynamics, etc.  Well, now it’s been a few years.  The asshole is history.  In light of what’s been going on in Egypt, I’m curious to give the novel another shot.  I think I may be able to find something in common with an ex-soldier whose life is an ill-fit and subsequently finds himself at odds with his environment.



Button 3

Read Less–Learn More, Visually

CLICK TO LIKE THIS POST ON FACEBOOKTeach Yourself VISUALLY Access 2010 (Teach Yourself VISUALLY (Tech))

There are so many things wrong with this slogan that  I don’t even know where to start.  I’m so tempted to use the word that starts with the syllable “ret”.  This is the genius slogan for a series of books called TEACH YOURSELF VISUALLY.  Nice books.  Detestable slogan.

I tried to send the book back, but missed the mailing deadline.   I wanted to send it back because I already know most of the stuff in the book.  What I need is a more advanced book.  This book is good for beginners.  Most of the chapters will take you from beginner to intermediate – without reading so much:

  • Chapter 4 – “Working with Fields”;

  • Chapter 5 – “Working with Relationships and Lookups”;

  • Chapter 8 – “Creating More Complex Queries”;

  • Chapter 12 – “Grouping and Summarizing Data”;

  • Chapter 14 – “Creating Charts”;

  • Chapter 15 – “Working with External Data”;

  • Chapter 16 – “Performing a Mail Merge with Microsoft Word® .


    Good stuff. It really is.  Beautifully wrought screen caps and illustrations.  But I just can’t get past the slogan.  It’s not even true!  Every illustration has a bullet list labeling the parts of the illustration.  The illustration itself has parts labeled with arrowed numbers – that you HAVE TO READ!  Hellooooo!  There’s “crockshits” of stuff to read.  And it’s useful, interesting stuff. The slogan is useless. Part slacker.  Part media junkie.  All bastard!Each skill that is described comes with a brief, very brief, description of what it is. It leaves you hungry for more. But there is no more.  It goes straight to the illustrations and the how-to bullet list.  There’s no explanation of how the skill relates to the rest of the section.  Overall, the skills, though divided into logical chapters, are demonstrated in relative isolation.If you just want to be told what to do without a lot of analysis or synthesis, this is the book for you.  You sad sod.I myself have used this book ruthlessly to hone a few dull edges on my repertoire.  Some of my favorite bits are

    Red rose

    p. 228 (Sort Report Results)

    Red rose

    p. 264 (Create an Embedded Chart Object)

    Red rose

    Ch. 16  MAIL MERGE!!!!!The funniest chapter is Chapter 5, “Working with Relationships and Lookups”.  I say funny because every section heading is a farcical

    double-entendre.  It’s like Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan teaching us about “Understanding Relationships”.  One must “Create a Relationship between Two Tables” before one can “Edit  a Relationship” or “Remove a Relationship”.  And you absolutely must understand lookups before you “Create a Field Lookup”.  Then, arranging a relationships window is de rigeur because, eventually, you might want to “Create a Field Lookup with Values That You Specify.”  Or, if you are not picky, you can “Set Up a Multivalued Field.”  Lessons for life – and love, I think you will agree.

    Left hugRight hug

    So, at the end of the day, this is a quite good book for acquiring a healthy practicing knowledge of MS Access 2010.  If you are so inclined, there’s plenty to read, most of it helpful.  Just not deep.  But who reads for depth anymore, anyway.  Ciao!


    Before Rosetta Stone–Languages Made Simple

    • Russian Made Simple
    • German Made Simple
    • Latin Made Simple

    Wow! These books are awesome! I was reading short Russian words in just five pages. Wow!  How does it sound? Hmmm…well…dunno, but it’s fun anyway.  These books are such an old- school way to learn a language, but so what.  I’m learning to read them.  The rest will come soon enough.  They were free (except for the German one) so no harm, no foul. 

    I don’t remember where I got the Latin one.  It’s been with me for a few years.  I think I took it from my parent’s house.  Or, given all the time I spent in used book stores when I lived in San Antonio, maybe I got it there.  The Russian book I found in a table of throw-aways  at the local uni. It’s ancient, which is part of its charm, actually.  The pages are so yellow, they are russian made simple0001ready to disintegrate if I even breathe on them.

    How do they make the languages simple?  Well, they feed you little bits at a time.  The Russian book starts with sight words – three and four letter words for basic things like “classroom”, “home”, “hall”, “vase”.  Then the sight words build into short phrases, then long phrases. I’m reading Russian phrases (with translation) by page five!

    The German and Latin are easier to sound out.  I speak Spanish, so I just pronounce Latin like Spanish.  I know it’s not how it really sounds, but who among us is old enough to prove me wrong.  Just listen to Eddie Izzard:

    Product DetailsI don’t know what it is about German, but when I’m pronouncing it, my voice gets deeper.  And the book contains diagrams showing how certain sounds should be shaped in the mouth.  Ummm…fine.  I can’t wait to lay it on my students that EVERY noun is capitalized, not just the proper ones and the ones at the beginning of sentences.  Hahahee!  And I solved the mystery of “DIE”, “DER” and “DAS”, as well as what the heck “Flemish” is.  Having never been to Flemland, it was confusing.

    I’ve listened to Eddie Izzard’s DEFINITE ARTICLE for several years now.  So when I came latin made simple0001across the Latin book, I now had a tangible reason for reading it instead of just leaving it in a box.  While I read the book, I would picture “Mr. Dog” talking to his centurions with a poncy intonation while they swish the toothbrushes on their heads.    No doubt if there was a “Greek Made Simple” book, I’d be thinking about his bit from SEXIE where Medusa goes to the hairdressers – or the bit where the sirens lure sailors with songs about very good parking spaces.  I wish I WAS exaggerating!  The real treat: the Latin book goes great with my Loeb Latin Classics. 

    The Latin book still has the bookstore label on it.  Amazingly, the book was originally purchased in 1985 at a bookstore that I actually used to frequent when I lived in San Antonio in the 90s.  Hang on – I guess that means I got it at a used bookstore and not from my mum’s house.  Okay. Just figured that out.  Writing things out is so clarifying!

    back of latin0001

    So anyway, purchased from Bookstop at Sunset Ridge, which was in Alamo Heights, a shabby genteel part of town.  I shopped there in the 90s, but the store closed around the time that Barnes & Noble came to town and started building book supermarkets.  Yep, B&N, for all their charms, pretty much killed the neighborhood book store in San Antonio.  Mega-marts of any kind are a sign of social and commercial  progress – apparently.

    Back to Russian, I watched Boris Gudonov on public television’s live Met series last weekend.  I was trying to catch words, but I think I need to get further along in the book.  Nothing in the music sounded familiar.  Die Walkure is coming up in May so I should brush up on my Deutsch.  Opera is actually a good way to learn the lingo if the subtitles are in the original language.  Everyone seems to think they are singing about quantum mechanics and epistemology.  What they are really singing about is more like stuff you would hear on the O.C. or OTH with a bit of Smallville mixed in for pathos.

    So anyway, these books are an old-fashioned way to learn a language.  But ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.  There’s plenty of dictionaries on the ‘net where they will pronounce the word for you.



    A New Ring for The Met

    P. Craig Russell Library of Opera Adaptations

    National Public Radio

    Join the Campaign to Save Public BroadcastingAG00021_

    170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting

    Save Public Broadcasting — Tax Big Business Instead!



    eBay search:

    plots and chars0001 This is an ingenious wee tome I stumbled across back in 1996 or ‘97 at Our Lady of The Lake University in San Antonio.  Well, not so much stumbled, as knelt down by a book shelf and there it was.  But my knees are not the issue here.  I was enthralled with PRIDE AND PREJUDICE at the time.  The Colin Firth/Elizabeth Ehle version had come out in 1995 on A&E, which lead me to read the novel three times between 95 and 96.  Don’t even ask me how much money I spent renting the VHS tapes from Blockbuster!  Oy vey!  I also had a crush on Jeremy Northam/Gwyneth Paltrow’s movie EMMA.  The 1990s were a golden decade for, amazingly, those specific authors.  ADAM BEDE, THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL, MIDDLEMARCH, MILL ON THE FLOSS all ran on Masterpiece Theatre.  SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, with its incessant bowing and a screenwriting Oscar for Emma Thompson, PERSUASION with the dashing Cieran Hinds, Ah, them were grand days, they were.  Now? Ugh.

    So when I saw this book, it was better than finding money on the sidewalk.  It was better than discovering a gem.  This book was – IS – the answer to a prayer.  It’s PLOTS! To Austen!  Eliot! THE BRONTES!  O Glorious day! O frabjous day!  My copy, however, is NOT the one from the OLLU library.  But man, was I ever tempted!!!  I went straight to it every time I went to the library for two years.  Then one day…NOOOOOOOOOO!  Yeah, it was gone.  Like an obsessed fool, I looked for it up and down the shelves.  Nothing.  When I asked questions, all I got was blank looks.  F@#$!  I should have taken it when I had the chance.

    Then one day, at Half-Price Books on Broadway, the clouds parted, rays of pure white sunlight shone through and lit on this book on the shelf.  The books on either side had no topical relation to this one.  It seemed to have just been stuck there randomly.  And yet, out of all the books on all the shelves, there it was – for me.  It wanted me to find it.  It wanted to be mine.  Of this, I have no doubt.

    The beauty of this book is that it is exactly what it says it is.  Plot abstracts.  But just because they are abstracts does not mean they are brief.  No way. These are full-on, f#$%-off narrative summaries of the stories.  Better than Cliff’s Notes because they don’t tell you what to think or what’s supposed to be important.  They just give you a run-down of the particulars and you decide for yourself.  So simple.  So needed.  There are several other books of this series, but the selection of authors doesn’t have the particular cache of this group.  This is and old book – published in 1976.  I think it needs to be revived.  They should do a volume for Hemingway, for Faulkner, for Garcia-Marquez, maybe even for R. F. Delderfield.  I think only me and four people in England might buy the Delderfield volume. heehee.

    If you are a fan of Austen, the Bronte sisters, and/or George Eliot, beg, borrow, or steal a copy of this book. 


    I haven’t put links for the books because they are easily available from any online bookseller.




    ► In addition to getting some books for my class, I also got some for myself.  At this rate, I’m going to have to put a bookshelf in the kitchen or the closets.  In the BBC show COUPLING, Steve tells his girlfriend Susan that he used to store books in the oven — until that unfortunate "fire" incident.  Yeah, I’m thinking of going there.

    Have you ever noticed that in movies, the actors don’t know how to get physical with a book.  They don’t hold it correctly — that is, they don’t hold it as if they know what to do with it. They tend to treat it like a paper plate that they don’t know whether to hang on to it and get seconds or throw it away. In their hands, it doesn’t look natural.  If they are supposed to be reading, they have it open to the very beginning, which throws off the timing of the scene.  Or, they have it open halfway, but it’s obvious they’ve been staring into space for about a hour.  They don’t look at it.  They don’t interact with it.  Any other prop works out: a table, a chair, a pen.  Books? They don’t have a clue what to do with it. 

    Watch people with books some time.  You can tell the naturals from the unfortunates.  The Naturals hold it and manipulate it like an extension of themselves.  The Unfortunates treat it like a runny ice cream cone they can’t wait to divest themselves of.◄

    So…yeah…I bought some for myself.  Here’s the damage:

    Speaking of Chaucer (E. Talbot Donaldson)

    → Published in 1970; a collection of Donaldson’s lectures and essays; not the first printing of several of the entries; published by The Norton Library.  This edition used to belong to a local professor. His name is written on the first page. I liked this one because I took a Chaucer course at uni and I loved it! I don’t know how many top authorities on Chaucer there are who write in English, but Donaldson and F. N. Robinson seem to be IT as far as Chaucer scholarship.  I’m sure there are many more, certainly in other languages, but in referencing research, everyone seems to gravitate back to Donaldson and Robinson. Plus, it’s a great companion to Approaches to Teaching Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

    Our Town (Thornton Wilder)

    → A play in three acts.  Winner of the 1938 Pulitzer Prize.  A staple of legitimate theatre.  A lot of actors learning their craft cut their teeth on this play, either in school or off-Broadway.  This slim, purse-friendly copy used to belong to a girl/lady C. M. And — it looks like it was never opened. There’s the merest hint of spine-wear. And! And! It’s perfectly FLAT!  Yup, this was never used.  But, now it’s going to be my new purse book.

    Mont Saint Michel and Chartres (Henry Adams)

    → This is what the blurb says (and you’ll see why I have an attitude about blurbs):

    Mont Saint Michel and Chartres is a record not of a literal journey but of a meditative journey across time and space into the medieval imagination.

    Sounds a bit like Mighty Boosh, doesn’t it. I’m a half-decent reader, and I don’t have a freakin’ clue what that means.  Sounds great, though. hahaa.  This Penguin Classics edition has an annoyingly long and supercilious wank-fest of an introduction by Raymond Carney of Middlebury College.  What I’ve been able to glean so far is that it’s a rapturous history of Mont St. Michel — the architecture, the construction, its place in history and politics — the whole enchiladagenda.  I like architecture. I think I’m going to skip the intro and just go straight to ch. 1.  Btw, another book that just sat on a shelf. No signs of wear, only age. A pristine spine. So sad.

    Epochs of Italian Literature (Cesare Foligno)

    → Considering the title, it’s awfully slim.  It’s an old library cast-off. Excellent condition.  Originally published in 1920. It contains five essays:

    1. The Dawn (mostly verse; the Vulgar Italian of merchants and bureaucrats, Latin "on high")
    2. The Renaissance — Foligno does a great job of setting up the attitude at the beginning of this section

    …cultured Italians during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries came into direct contact with the greatest works of ancient Rome.  They were able to appreciate them correctly, though with the enthusiasm of neophytes, they were inclined to overrate them.

    That struck a chord with me because it speaks to my mindset about teaching literature.  Hype, merchandising, marketing, adaptations — all the mechanisms that detour a student from the original text and whirl them into mindless consumers.

    3.  The Transition to Modern Times ( the intellectual challenge of following the Renaissance )

    4.  The Rise of The Nation (Italy’s modern identity and the maturity of political writing — scritti politti — if you will )

    5.  Modern Italy (wealth from industry and trade; its place in Europe; politics; the influence of The Romantics)

    At the end of the book is an index of authors and their cited works by chapter, then an alphabetical index of authors.

    The Devil’s Dictionary (Ambrose Bierce)  The zenith of piss-taking.

    I am so going to love this book.  It cost a quarter. One of those Dover Thrift Editions. Good purse size.  Easy to read in short bursts because it really is a dictionary.  But the definitions!  Ha! 

    It’s quite the caustic cutting edge. Cut to the quick.  Cut the crap.  Cut the clutter. Cut to the chase. Cut things down to size. It’s super sarcastic, bitter even.  Viciously honest. Blunt as a baseball bat to your toilet bits. Mark Twain, S. J. Perelman, or John O’Hara so WISH they could have written this. 

    I already love that this dictionary contains lots of examples that are verses and quotes from various authors.  However, I don’t recognize a lot of the names and I’m wondering if they aren’t maybe fictional.  Bierce was a journalist, and by the looks of these references, a great reader and a great mind.  And if he wrote those verses and quotes in the guise of characters — WOW!!! 

    I would compare this to Hemingway or Pound, Eliot or Harold Bloom, for breadth of information and depth of associations.  It’s going to be a serious treat. (I’m going to need a bigger purse.)

    Here’s the "definition" of "language":

    The music with which we charm the serpents guarding another’s treasure.

    For "material":

    adj. Having an actual existence, as distinguished from an imaginary one.  Important.

    It sounds sensible, prosaic.  Common sense itself — then that little jab at the end. Perfect comic timing — that single word set apart to draw your attention to it.

    Howard’s End (E. M. Forster)

    Back in the 80s when everyone was trying to gentrify their lives, I was utterly absorbed by Forster.  It was the first time I had been so obsessive about an author.  I read this novel, A Room With A View, Maurice, A Passage to India, and Where Angels Fear to Tread between 1986 and 1988.  ARWAV — 3 times.  HE — 3 times.  M — 2 times, WAFTT — 1 time.  It was because of the movies.  But unlike most people, I kept coming back to the stories.  I didn’t fixate on the movies.  There was no DVD back then.  My friend L. and I waited until ARWAV came on HBO or Showtime and then we watched it and recorded it on VHS.  We would read bits of it in her room and quote from it constantly.  Poor, poor Charlotte."  Since then, the only ones I re-read are this one and ARWAV.

    I was glad to find another Bantam Classic edition.  My first one is coming undone at the seams.  This one, strangely, is also unused. Unopened. Unmarked.  Unbent. Pristine.  Hmmm…I see a pattern developing.  Oh well.  Lucky me. Perfect purse size, btw.

    My fav scenes are the ones between Margaret and Helen.  Their banter is cool.  Forster, when he puts his mind to it, writes quite good banter.  And I love how they speak in complete sentences, sometimes even labyrinthine.  The first Mrs. Wilcox is a character that absolutely breaks my heart.  Mr. Wilcox and his son inspire a helpless loathing in me that makes me want to ruin them once and for all.  The coincidence that Bast’s wife is the woman whom Mr. Wilcox deflowered as a girl is a bit of a stretch.  And it just makes me hate him all the more.

    I comprehended more about English social mores and  after reading this story than any textbook I ever read.  Textbooks set out many lucid facts.  But after reading this story, after reading "who will inherit England" did it become clear in my head, my heart and my spirit all at once.



    E. Talbot Donaldson is a writer of scholarly texts, articles, monographs, etc.  He contributes introductions, forewords and such to other people’s books, so he’s kinda all over the place.  Amazon isn’t the best place to find his stuff.  You’re probably better off with alibris or eBay or online transcriptions of his work available through many university sites.




    "Hell in a handbasket."  Who uses handbaskets anymore?  Hell if I know…

    Matt Groening knows hell.  He shows us hell.  He gives us hell — from the POV a long-eared white rabbit (Contest: how many philosphical/psychological wisecracks can you make from the image of "long-eared white rabbit") suffering from weltschmertz.  From the sturm of school to the drang of love, Groening’s message seems to be "vae victis" — woe to the vanquished.  And even when it goes right, it’s freaky and wrong! Two words: Akabar, Jeff.  In their little Freudian bubble.  Ick!  LOVE IS HELL is brilliant. The section titles are disarmingly blunt. Funny — yet not.  True — in a "trying to make it sound like a joke, but it’s actually real" kind of way.


    There are more, but those are the ones I have.

    LIH and SIH pretty much remind you of stuff you already know: what types of boy/girl-friends to avoid, which types have "been hunted to extinction".  H2G2H is a conspiracy-theorists dream.  Simply stated — distilled, concentrated anti-establishment rhetoric.  This book, in Mexico/Central/South America, Eastern Europe, or the Middle East would get your testicles electrocuted.  If you were a woman, they would sew some on you just to rip them off.

    LIH is super hilarious. It has a lot of cool charts such as "9 Secret Love Techniques That Could Possibly Turn Men Into Putty in Your Hands" (some potential for feasibility but you wouldn’t even want the type of man who would fall for these) and "9 Secret Love Techniques Women Find Well-Nigh Irresistible"  (Which they don’t!).  The truth about fine art.  And my favorite: "Your Guide to Modern Creative Artistic Types — The Writer". 


    • Dominant Personality Trait — self-absorption (what are blogs for, after all?)
    • Secondary Personality Traits — pomposity, irritability, whining (just the tip of the iceberg, really.)
    • Distinguishing Features — nervous twitching, bad posture (Please, you’re too kind…)
    • Haunting Question — "Am I just a hack?" (2 true 2 B funny)
    • How to Annoy Them — "But how do you make a living?" (Also works for English majors, dance majors, philosophy majors, poets, artists)

    If you like jugular humor, this is great stuff.  If you like THE SIMPSONS, this guy is why.  If you like to be cynical, bitter, and/or supercilious, these are your textbooks.  If you want a career in politics, read ANIMAL FARM, read H2G2H AND WIH — then choose a career that will enable you to keep your soul.



     View my book collection at SHELFARI



    Back in the 80s, there was a wonderful magazine called EUROPEAN TRAVEL & LIFE.  I still have about 5 years worth. I can’t bear to throw them away. It was a real reader’s magazine — long, beautifully written, interesting articles, useful information about local life in the "A" list and "B" list cities, recipes, fashion. Wonderful!  I miss it.  It was in one of those issues that a writer referred to England as "Israel for white people".  Completely, unashamedly, brazenly elitist. Those were the years of obsession with Princess Diana and the "Treasure Houses of Britain".  However, I’m sure if you asked the average East Londoner about England being for white people, he would have pissed himself laughing.  For better or worse, England belongs to its immigrants — just like the U.S. 

    Yet…for all that modern England belongs to its Caribbeans, East Indians, North Africans, Central Africans — and maybe even some Americans, the origins of English belong to its tribes.  Before English was "english", there were the territorial languages of the Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Picts, Frisians, Celts, Scandinavians, Romans from Rome, and Romans who had assimilated into the local population.  Over the generations, they battled, traded, moved, and married.  And as the different tribes began to blend as a drop of water picks up other drops on the way down the glass to form a puddle at the base, legends were born.  Legends of high kings, forest warriors, and conquests.  To tell those stories, a language was needed — a language to reach as many people as possible.  As stories were passed from generation to generation, a fragile nationalism was born.  English became the language of the people, the bottom of the pyramid that made the top possible.

    Therefore, it’s no surprise that I have a lot of books about England and the history of English. History of The English Language was a required course for me in college, but that’s okay.  It was one of my favorite classes. History and literature make a fantastic combination, just like history and art, or history and music.  One is not possible without the other.  Life is full of those kinds of dualities.  So here’s my collection. I’m sure I have more, but this is a good chunk. I still even have the college book I used, but it’s in exile in a box somewhere. 

    1. ORIGINS OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE: A Social & Linguistic History 1986; Joseph M. Williams
    2. THE EARLY YEARS OF ENGLISH LITERATURE 1964; Barrows, Bletter, & Sullivan
    3. WORDS FROM HISTORY 1968; Isaac Asimov
    5. THE KINGDOM BY THE SEA 1983; Paul Theroux
    6. ENGLISH PLACE NAMES 1997; Kenneth Cameron
    7. THE FAMILIES OF WORDS 1972; Mario Pei

    2 and 4 are textbooks.  The rest are popular releases.  5 is a wonderful travel book about how Theroux traveled around England — literally.  He circumnavigated England’s coast, observing and interacting with coastal communities, hence the title.  1 was used as the preferred text for the PBS series Origins of The English Language — a wonderful program that I desperately wish they would pull out of the vault, remaster and transfer to DVD.  Oh, the things I could teach my young’uns with a program like that.  They wouldn’t have to suffer my off-key accents and no-key impressions. 6 I have blogged before.  7 reads like a dissertation — all research and documentation; no personality.

    4 has way cool end papers that show linguistic symbols. The language of linguistics, to my ears, kinda funny. Alveolo-palatal fricatives.  hih hih hih hih.  Voiceless epiglottal fricative.  Voiceless?  C’mon, you’re pulling my leg.  Bilabial click.  Not as much fun as it sounds. Voiced labial-velar approximant.  What is that? A pick-up line?  Advanced tongue root.  Again — not fun.  Palatoalveolar click.  Stop!  You’re killing me! Some of these words sound more like dentistry than language. 

    Asimov’s book (3) is wonderful.  He tells stories about the origins of expressions like "Dutch treat", "gentleman", "rigamarole", and Iron Curtain.  I was lucky to find this book in a random box of books being withdrawn from the San Antonio Library.  I used to love their book sales.  It was like grocery shopping — except with better prices.  I lived for those sales.  A lot of what I have came from those sales. That was the B.A. period.  (Before

    2 is a standard college reader. No illustrations. Every page groans with the weight of text.  The discussion questions at the end of each chapter are more like oral exam questions.  I don’t have a problem with any of that.  A good professor knows how to use the information from a book like this, not just regurgitate the information contained within.

    A book I want to add to my collection (like I don’t have enough??) is Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, a.k.a. Ecclesiastical History of The English People by the Venerable Bede.  An interesting twist in the Latin title, I think, is the word "ecclesiastica" — a Greek word. 

    The Ecclesiastical History of the English People; The Greater Chronicle; Bede's Letter to Egbert (Oxford World's Classics)

    My collection at SHELFARI


    I had this completely brilliant idea — as I often do — to write about books using haiku.  I was inspired by some printouts I found when I was cleaning out my closet.  They were Blackadder Haiku.  And they were so so so hilarious!  Here’s the link to Blackadder Haiku:   Caveat: it hasn’t been updated since 2002. 

    Blackadder is the amazing, and amazingly clever tv show about the family line of Blackadders: Prince Edmund, one of the nephews of Richard III (not having been snuffed out in the tower or else there would be no show), Edmund the Elizabethan, and pet courtier of ER1, Edmund the butler of the sockless Prince Regent (Hugh Laurie), and Edmund, an officer in HM’s Army during WW1.  (DVDs available from the usual retailers.)

    I haven’t done a lot of haiku in my time.  But I’ve grasped the basics.




    The Pleasure Dome/Sup’s Blackadder Page (last update 2002)

    Mr. Bean’s Greatest Poems

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    by Marianne Dixon

    Thoth is the name given by the Greeks to the Egyptian god Djeheuty. Thoth was the god of wisdom, inventor of writing, patron of scribes and the divine mediator. He is most often represented as a man with the head of an ibis, holding a scribal palette and reed pen. He could also be shown completely as an ibis or a baboon.

    As with most Egyptian deities there were many different stories regarding the parentage of Thoth. Many sources call him the son of Re, but one tradition has him springing forth from the head of Seth. This latter story is reminiscent of the birth of the Greek goddess Athena, who like Thoth was the patron divinity of wisdom.

    Myths concerning Thoth show him as a divinity whose counsel is always sought. His most significant role is during the battles of Horus and Seth. Thoth is a staunch supporter of Horus and his mother Isis, maintaining that Horus’ claim to the throne is just and the murderous Seth has no right to the kingship of Egypt.

    Elsewhere Thoth is a reliable mediator and peacemaker. When the goddess Tefnut had a dispute with her father Re and absconded to Nubia, it was Thoth that the sun-god sent to reason with her and bring her home. Thoth was also present at the judgement of the dead. He would question the deceased before recording the result of the weighing of the deceased’s heart. If the result was favorable Thoth would declare the deceased as a righteous individual who was worthy of a blessed afterlife.

    Thoth was also a lunar deity, and whatever form he took he wore a lunar crescent on his head. Some Egyptologists think that the Egyptians identified the crescent moon with the curved beak of the ibis. It is also suggested that the Egyptians observed that baboon was a nocturnal (i.e. lunar) animal who would greet the sun with chattering noises each morning.

    As he was messenger of the gods Thoth was identified by the Greeks with their own god Hermes. For this reason Thoth’s center of worship is still known to us today as Hermopolis.

    The name of Thoth in hieroglyphs.


    ROOTING OUT BLOOM 3: Where Shall Wisdom be Found?


    Rooting Out Bloom 2: The Western Canon

    Rooting Out Bloom’s Writing Roots


    There’s a German expression, "Die Mutter", which is fermented dough that is used as sourdough bread starter.  You take a bit of Die Mutter, add it to your regular dough and with time and treatment, you have yummy sourdough bread.   But, you must store DM carefully, adding dough to it to keep it going. And so you always have some with which to enrich future bread loaves.  Biblical writing is sort of like Die Mutter. The Bible, in full respect, is like the "Die Mutter" of Western literature. Pervading, inspiring, enriching, immortalizing. 

    And that’s just the first chapter!

    Think about the classics of literature you’ve had to read in college and high school and what not. Threads of Biblical wisdom, especially OT references, thread finely and intricately through the works of European authors, yet draw attention to themselves by majestic King James syntax, or appearing in their original language (the italics immediately drawing the eye and signaling that this is important), or invoking the Bible as a sort of muse, or, more simply, extolling Biblical virtues. (Notice I did not say Christian — for the simple reason that The Bible is a compendium of both Christian and Hebrew wisdom. And where literature is concerned, it’s not unusual for them to overlap.)

    I especially enjoyed the chapter on Cervantes and Shakespeare. Firstly, what a great combination to compare/contrast. It was a delight to feel someone as accomplished as Bloom in awe of Cervantes and his two most famous characters.  As a writing teacher, I can tell when my students genuinely like their topic. Their writing style shows more care, more detail, and they are willing to take more chances with style.  Writing about something you love vs something you don’t give a tinker’s toss about is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. (I think Mark Twain said that. If he didn’t, he should have.)

    I’ve never been one of those tiresome, pointlessly anarchic fools who think Shakespeare didn’t write his plays. He wrote them. Live with it already.  This bit in particular resonated in my mind — like when you are searching for the last word in the crossword puzzle, and it hits you just as you’re ready to give up: You cannot locate Shakespeare in his own works, not even in the Sonnets.  It is this near-invisibility that encourages the zealots who believe that almost anyone wrote Shakespeare except Shakespeare himself.  I wonder if that’s a skill that ever comes up in Shakespeare courses.

    Also in the book is the de rigeur inclusion of Greeks — Plato and Homer.  The uber-Euros Montaigne, Francis Bacon, Johnson, Goethe, Nietzsche (being paired with Ralph Waldo. How piquant. Bloom calls him "our American Goethe. So why not put him in the Goethe chapter? I’ll have to re-read those sections.), Freud (there’s that tingly feeling in the naughty bits again), the Gospel of Thomas, and St. Augustine (excellent choice; should have been given a more prominent place in the book)

    Oddly enough, there’s no Romans. No Cicero, no Seneca, no Marcus Aurelius, no Ovid. Some explanation on that gap would have been nice.




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