the Pakistanis laughed

The Pakistanis laughed. So did “The Bangladeshis. The women with head scarves. The blondes. The Indians. The Palestinians. The Jews.”

It was that kind of night, actually, when for a moment you can believe that all the world’s problems could be solved if everyone would just lighten up a little bit (or a lot) and laugh together, at themselves and at each other. The lineup was packed. It was like there’d been an uprising at The Daily Show and Jon Stewart was stashed in a closet somewhere backstage bound in duct tape.

Go to Meera Subramanian‘s piece at Killing the Buddha and read about the night

Comedian Aasif Mandvi, correspondent for Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, began ….. “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” at Comix on W. 14th Street in New York …… reflecting on things he missed as a kid growing up Muslim. “Santa Claus. Bacon Bits.” (Pause, the critical tool of the comic.) “Seeing my mother’s face.”

Laughter. The best medicine.

Is this how the moral Germans felt?

While Hitler was spewing his hateful lies and masterminding the most horrific manipulations of all times, the good and powerless German people who understood and feared what he was trying to do must have felt the way that some of us do these days. Nothing we say or write or do seems to deter the crooks and liars who are so fiercely opposing the kind of Universal Health Care system that would save lives and ultimately save money as well. The right-wing conservatives are railroading to its certain death the ability of this country to keep its citizens healthy.

How viciously ironic that the Right/eous portray President Obama as a Hitler figure, when it is they, his opponents, who are copying Hitler’s tactics of spreading distortions and disinformation, manipulating and inventing language that totally misrepresents the truth and stirs up the most primal fears of those who adhere to the right-wing’s philosophy and values

This from an article in The Nation: Reverse Reverse Nazism and the War on Universal Healthcare

The spinmeisters of the right have done quite a job with what used to be straightforward English etymology. Thanks to Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, “integration” was inverted to mean “takeover” and “colorblindness” is code for abandoning the advances of the civil rights movement, which itself is synonymous with an “industry” of exclusion. It’s no surprise, then, that whenever a piece of progressive legislation comes to the table, the same manipulations come into play from right-wing pundits who shamelessly profess their desire to see the Obama presidency fail. Thus it is that America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 is being turned upside down as the neat equivalent of Germany’s Bankrupting Forced Death Act of 1939.

Like the Nazis, the Right/eous are playing to the fears of people are afraid that change will somehow mean that they will get less because someone else will get more. They are the same people who were afraid of integration and feminism, and they follow the leaders who validate their fears and keep them riled up and misinformed.

From the article cited above (read the entire piece here):

But if you listen as though deciphering pig Latin and realize that this demographic is speaking from a well-managed, near-hypnotic looking-glass world where every word from the mouth of a Democrat (or a liberal, or a Latina, or a Canadian) is a lie, a betrayal… then it all makes sense. Their world truly has been turned inside out, by the election, by the economy, by the precarious conditions that threaten us all. But for those whose sense of identity has been premised on a raced, masculinist, conservative Christian hierarchy of American power, the world must seem even more emotionally terrifying than any actual facts would indicate.

I am afraid. They are afraid. If the Health Care legislation doesn’t pass, I think ALL of our fears will be realized. They will get less of what they already have. I will be OK because I have health benefits from a government job, but my adult son and the millions (yes, I said MILLIONS) like him will still go without.

This is the time for strong moral leadership to step up and take some risks and vehemently press for a Universal Health Care System that, when enacted, will alleviate all of our fears.

I am inclined to ask here, “What Would Jesus Do?” Certainly not support the profiteers of the for-profit health care industry.

C’mon President Obama. Rise to the position of leadership that we put you on and press for the changes we so desperately need.

“I can’t not buy those Ferragamos

I’m reading Origins of the Specious and remembering the grammar wars (well, skirmishes, really) that I used to have with (son) b!X back in the old days. I was as adamant about the rules as he was about accepting common usage.

When I taught 8th grade English in the late ’60s, our grammar text book was my bible, and I carried it with me all through graduate school and beyond so make sure that my writing and editing were grammatically “correct.” Now I find out that b!X’s points were the ones I should have been paying attention to.

Like ending a sentence with a preposition (see previous sentence). Or beginning a sentence with a conjunction (note current sentence). And then there’s the split infinitive, as in “to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

I rarely read non-fiction, but this book is as entertaining as any Stephanie Plum adventure, chock full of ear-opening anecdotes that explain where those old grammar rules came from and who were responsible.

Here’s a little sample of Patricia O’Connor’s clever chapter headings and her catchy writing style:

Isn’t it Pedantic?

Quick, what’s the plural of “octopus”? If you think “octopi” is classier than “octopuses,” go stand in the corner…..

We live in a postmodern world, but the Latinists are still among us, especially in academia. They insist on using plurals like “gymnasia,” “syllabi,” and symposia,” even though dictionaries now recognize a preference for Anglicized plurals (“gymnasiums,” “syllabuses,” “symposiums”). There’s pedantry off campus too, of course,. I’ve seen real-estate ads offering “condominia” for sale — to ignormani, no doubt.

As Garrison Keillor notes on the book’s back cover:

It’s right there on page 54: ‘It’s better to be understood than to be correct’ — pull that out the next time somene corrects your grandma. This tour de force of our beautifully corrupted language is both. And dull it ain’t….

And yes, as the title of this posts indicates, sometimes double negatives are what make the point. Never say never.

Origins of the Specious

The title of this post is the title of a book (that I have just ordered from Amazon), one of the authors of which I heard interviewed on NPR on my way back home today.

The authors’ website has a page on grammar myths that begins thusly and that is worth taking a look at:

The Living Dead

The house of grammar has many rooms, and some of them are haunted. Despite the best efforts of grammatical exorcists, the ghosts of dead rules and the spirits of imaginary taboos are still rattling and thumping about the old place.

It’s no longer considered a crime to split an infinitive or end a sentence with a preposition, for example, but the specters of worn-out rules have a way of coming back to haunt us. In the interest of laying a few to rest, let’s dedicate to each a tombstone, complete with burial service. May they rest in peace

According to the authors, many of those complicated rules of “proper” grammar that I expended so much energy on learning and then teaching my 8th grade classes back in the 70s are no longer worth worrying about.

Well, “makes me no nevermind,” as someone somewhere used to say. I’ve always known that language evolves. But is appears to be evolving faster than I.

I can’t wait to read the book.

Patricia O’Conner, one of the authors, appears on the Leonard Lopate Show around 1:20 P.M. Eastern time. Click here on the third Wednesday of each month to hear Pat live. She appears on the Leonard Lopate Show around 1:20 P.M. Eastern time. If you miss a program, click here to listen to a recorded broadcast..

a good day for a poem

While I was moving, I sorted through some of the stacks of poetry that I had written over the years and pulled out a batch of short ones. Perhaps Thursday will be the day of each week that I will post one of them.

I live in Pioneer Valley these days, but I wrote this one back in the 70s when I lived in another valley. I think one of the reasons I call this blog Kalilily Time is because of my memories of that past valley time.

Valley Time

the winds tease the the sun
toward morning,
brushing aside the easy showers
of early summer clouds.

Time follows the way of the wind
through this dawn-misted valley,
filters through the blue unfoldings
of fragile morning chicory,
flows through the slow, green seekings
of those low growing vines,
breathes honeysuckle and wildrose rain
into the season’s drifting light.

the sun leaves the high horizon,
draping a dry autumn night
over the tired faces
of September sunflowers.

I am thinking today of my late once-husband, who loved the power of words more than anything in his life, except his children. We shared both of those loves, but not in the same ways or same volume.

I am, once again, searching for the voice that I misplaced somewhere during this last decade.

what’s that broom?

“What’s that broom for?” my six year old grandson asks, referring to the “witch’s broom” that hangs on my wall to the left of my computer table, alongside some quilted wall-hangings created by a close friend, an icon of Akuaba (a gift long ago from b!X), and a old photo of 19th century “Witches at Tea” upon which I superimposed the faces of my five close friends and myself.

“It’s a witches broom,” I tell him.

“There are no such things as witches,” he asserts.

“Well,” I say, “it’s a magic broom.”

“There’s no such thing as magic,” he again asserts.

I take the broom down from the wall and wave it around, singing Salagadoola, mitchakaboola, bibideebobbedee boo.

“Well, maybe there is, and maybe there isn’t,” I say. “How about if I try to do some magic with you.”

He hesitates. “I don’t know. What will you do?”

I stop and think a minute. What would Granny Weatherwax do?

“OK,” I say. “How’s this: I think it would be really nice if you weren’t so fidgety at the dinner table, if you could sit and relax and join in the dinner conversation instead of getting up and and walking around and then sitting down again. How about if I do some broom magic so that you could relax and we all could enjoy a quiet dinner.”

As he looks at me from his perch on the carpet-covered expensive cat-litter enclosure that sits behind my chair in the corner, I look him in the eye, wave the broom around in circles, and tell him that today he will be more relaxed at the dinner table. And I tell him that he will also have a peaceful night’s sleep.

I twirl the broom like a baton and respond to his skeptical look with a “Let’s wait and see.”

At dinner that evening, except for getting up once to go to the bathroom, he sits and converses and eats all of his dinner.

“See, I say, “my magic worked.”

“I was hungry,” he replies.

The next morning I ask him how he slept.

“I only woke up once,” he tells me.

“See,” I say. “My magic works.”

Granny Weatherwax calls it “Headology.”

Despite her power, Granny Weatherwax rarely uses magic in any immediately recognizable form. Instead, she prefers to use headology, a sort of folk-psychology which can be summed up as “if people think you’re a witch, you might as well be one”. For instance, Granny could, if she wished, curse people. However it is simpler for her to say she has cursed them, and let them assume that she is responsible for the next bit of bad luck that happens to befall them; given her reputation this tends to cause such people to flee the country entirely.

Headology bears some similarities to psychology in that it requires the user to hold a deep seated understanding of the workings of the human mind in order to be used successfully. However, headology tends to differ from psychology in that it usually involves approaching a problem from an entirely different angle.

It has been said that the difference between headology and psychiatry is that, were you to approach either with a belief that you were being chased by a monster, a psychiatrist will convince you that there are no monsters coming after you, whereas a headologist will hand you a bat and a chair to stand on.

Hey, I figure. Whatever works.

I should be doing laundry….

… but, instead I’ve turned my back on the chaos of clothes surrounding me and lose myself in the only space of mine in which I have any control.
My email includes one of Jim Culleny’s daily poems.
I get to the last line and my heart leaps into my throat.

Personal Helicon
Seamus Heany
As a child, they could not keep me from wells
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.
One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
I savoured the rich crash when a bucket
Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.
A shallow one under a dry stone ditch
Fructified like any aquarium.
When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch
A white face hovered over the bottom.
Others had echoes, gave back your own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.
Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.

I blog to see myself, to set the darkness echoing.