NRA launches new slogan

The National Rifle Association (NRA), in commemoration of the anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in America’s history one year ago in Las Vegas, has developed a new slogan that it hopes will help soothe the nation’s ill-feeling about guns.

Noting that on Oct. 1, 2017, Stephen Paddock sprayed gunfire on a crowd of 22,000 concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, killing 58 people and injuring almost 500, the NRA has concluded that it’s not the guns that we need to fear…

It has been reported that the NRA’s “Bullet Subcommittee” challenged the main body by putting forth their own proposed slogan, modifying one of its most prominent catchphrases, to reflect their constituents’ interests:

“The only way to stop a bad man with bullets . . . is a good man with bigger bullets.”

“Either way, with guns now off the hook we can turn our attention to the real culprit: irresponsible bullets, which are not even mentioned in the 2nd Amendment,” an NRA spokesperson said.


*The contemporary definition of “mass shootings” has come to be viewed as the act of a lone gunman shooting sometimes randomly into a public space. Thus, individuals leading packs to kill groups of people with guns — as with the 1921 “Tulsa Race Riot” (300 blacks residents killed), the 1919 “Elaine Massacre”  or the 1846 “Sacramento River Massacre” (several hundred Wintu Indian people) — aren’t viewed as mass shootings in the modern sense.

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Ask the Witch-Answer Guy: Part 5

A concerned public servant who desires to remain anonymous wishes to know:

Q: Is it possible to replace a very bad, worst-ever-in-the-history-of-the-world witch hunt with a good old-fashioned American snake hunt? As a very smart, stable man, the smartest, stablest man you’ll ever meet, said “It seems the snakes are everywhere!”

A: No. We need the snakes. Although snakes have been known to eat some wacky things — golf balls, light bulbs, a pregnant sheep — they will normally stick  to a more basic diet of rats or mice . . . assuming there are some rats (or meeces) around. And there usually are. Snake lives matter!

Phoenix Photo Mysteries

Although I love my Nikon, there’s nothing like having a cell phone cam handy when odd things appear.

Take this street vendor, for example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I came across him as I was stopped at a north-central Phoenix traffic light. At first I thought it was one of the “bicycle homeless” folks one sees, but when I circled around to the gas station lot he was working, I could see he had an ice chest on his cart. In return for posing, I bought a frosty water bottle to help me cope with the 110° August heat.

This next series still has me puzzled (and you know how I love a good puzzlement!)

First, a long shot of the scene along the Arizona Canal to give you a sense of the scene. When I pulled my bicycle over I could see a seemingly random array of differently colored Bic lighters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a moment I thought it might be some street artist’s idea of a guerilla/urban art display, but I simply could not discern any rhyme or reason to the layout. (There are actually 6 lighters…one is sort of tucked away.)

A few days later I returned to the scene-of-the-art and could only find this green lighter sort of tamped down into the dirt — not part of the original array, apparently.

I mean, who would simply dump six lighters along the canal? A hobo-code message? A repository for homeless tweakers? I’m open to suggestions.

Next up, a strip mall sign along 7th St. (Disclosure, I actually stopped by to ask him why he was calling his shop Rub Novs.) Was it a massage shop?  Maybe a scent or lotion store? Nope: barber shop, called “Rubinov’s.” Apparently the owner never bothered to check what his sign would look like to drivers humming along at 45mpg. (When you get close enough you can discern a faded barber pole graphic representing the “i”.)

 

Now, I loves me some street art and this installation, on Townley, off Central on my bike route to the bank, fits the bill. It’s along a very shall-we-way modest neighborhood side street and clearly set up for passers-by to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the area of more planned-out art, check this butterfly installation at the Phoenix Art Museum. Of course, I’ve tilted the camera to give an eerier view, but it really does look pretty much like this from the lobby. And trust me, this is all over the hallway walls and ceilings leading into the art museum.

Here’s a closer look:

And finally, in the category of Things You Should Never Do Without an Assistant*, the only thing really odd about this is the fact that I decided to change a track light bulb in my high-ceiling kitchen by balancing my flip-flop-shod feet between the ladder and the refrigerator to get this job done—without a net.

Mission accomplished!


Alternate caption: Things You Really Need a Taller Ladder For…and an Assistant.

 

 

The Rule: When to Shut Up

This is how I happened to find myself at a political meet ‘n greet on a Thursday morning.

The tree cutters had been buzzing all morning, cutting up the remains of the 40-foot fallen pine. It’s a necessary nuisance…and much preferable to neighbors who can’t manage their barking dogs. But makes it hard to work on technical writing projects.

So I decided to bike down the street to see a mid-morning candidate meet ‘n greet, hosted by a neighbor, featuring the local state senator who lives in Phoenix’s Sunnyslope district. I knew I could pop in and out if needed—and they had promised food and refreshments.

Now, I’ve run across this senator a number of times for the neighborhood clean-ups that she organizes and I find her a credible politician, albeit Republican. As expected, the refreshments table was loaded with excellent fruit and pastries of all kinds. There were about 30 people in the big house.

Eventually, the hostess introduced our guest speaker who gave a 20-minute presentation. Granted, she’s running for office, but her preso was very party-neutral and she focused mainly on state education issues. She also brought up the methadone clinic issues that are causing major headaches and conversations on the Next Door discussion boards. It’s really complicated because methadone is related to addiction is related to homelessness is related to neighborhood crime. It’s all one hot mess, but needs to be addressed.

And now to the point.

I brought up my two issues: the massive bicycle theft industry problem in Sunnyslope, and the possibility of reviving the Art Walk to it’s former glory. My questions took about 40 seconds, after which I shut up. As the guest speaker started responding, I could see an elderly lady in red off to the side raising her hand, presumably to comment on one of my points. The candidate gave a 3-5 minute response. The lady in red raised her hand again.

But then, an older guy, sitting comfortably back in a giant TV chair toward the front, asked a question (or rather, gave a talk) for about five minutes on the subject of education. Naturally he didn’t look around to see who else was raising a hand. (One is tempted to call this a man-thing, but I’ve witnessed the same behavior from women.) Now, as I said, the candidate had already addressed education in her opening remarks, ad nauseam, so I wasn’t sure what the guy was getting at, but she went ahead and spent another five minutes on the topic.

At this point, the thing that always happens at these events did happen.

The guy in the comfy chair decided to ask another question! Except it wasn’t a question: it was an 8-10-minute something…I’m not even sure what…about education in Arizona. The guest speaker eventually tried to respond, saying “Well, it sounds like you’ve actually got about 10 questions in there…” and proceeded to address the guest with a 3-point response. As she finished her third point and was seemingly winding down, the man in the chair wanted to follow up again.

I couldn’t take it any more.

I politely interrupted from the back, “I think the young woman in red over there has been trying to ask something…”

And that’s how the nice elderly woman in a bright red dress got to speak.

I started noticing and writing about this phenomenon a few years ago after a Phoenix public library science presentation  and then again at a Tempe historical museum performance* where I noticed that:

(1) people in the front of a group never seem to consider that there may be people behind them;

(2) some people think they can keep asking questions no matter how many other people are in the room.

The Rule: You get one question and the question (or statement) must be less than 1 minute. Then you get to shut up.

 

 


Apparently some folks weren’t paying attention when I authorized this rule last October.

 

My Library Would Like a Word With You

I’ve got a filing problem. Some would say a book problem. But I like my books and I’ve acquired quite a few shall we say . . . “quirky” titles over the years. Now, with my computer if I’m not sure where to file, say, a cartoon, I just dupe it and file it in multiple places. But you can’t do that with a physical object.

Let’s start with this gem…

This is basically a collection of a certain genre of tales from “A Thousand and One Nights” — Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic during the so-called Islamic Golden Age, supposedly narrated by Scheherazade. *

So: Literature? Urban legends, Islamic literature, Eros?

Now: Bertrand Russell’s very short philosophical/political “alphabet”…

 

Politics? Humor? Dictionaries? Each letter gets a word and snarky definition, so it’s kind of like Bierce’s 19th century Devil’s Dictionary, but with just one word per letter.

I particularly like “nincompoop” and this illustrated page for “L” featuring “liberty.”

 

 

 

 

This next one offers tips from Jesus for tackling key moves in a dozen athletic events from surfing to bowling to shot put (with help from Samson and others).

Best of all…it’s holographic!

Of course I could just file it with my copy of Dancing with Jesus: Featuring a Host of Miraculous Moves but that doesn’t really solve the overall filing problem, eh?

I’ve had this next book since my days as the advertising guy for a big steel company in Warren, Oh. and the closest I’ve ever figured out where to file it is in a cardboard box where it unceremoniously revealed itself a month ago.Yes, it’s really a genuine metallurgical guide to alloy steel, as you can see from the first page of the Table of Contents — everything you need to know about electric furnaces, annealing, ingot rolling and quenching and tempering (my fave). Did you know that as early as the 8th century, the process of drawing wire through a die…well, never mind.

 

The 2005 iPod book comes inscribed with a dedication from someone whose name I can’t quite make out, but it’s definitely meant for me, referencing my alleged “iPod addiction.” I have to confess, I’ve never made it all the way through, having blocked my eyes at the chapter on “iBondage.” But: “Computers”? “Technology”? “Biography”?

Gitomer’s “Little Black Book” is actually more helpful than you might think, fascinating even, on the subject of entrepreneurial networking.

In addition to sporting a graphically sophisticated layout** in terms of typography, judicious use of color, subheads, it has some dang clever cartooning on each theme.

From my bookshelves’ point of view though, we don’t really have a “self-help” or “business advice” section.

And now, the highlight of my quirky book collections, before we finish up with weird stuff.

(pssst: Don’t buy this)

Fans of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver will remember the delightful hoopla about this children’s picture book about a “Very Special boy bunny who falls in love with another boy bunny” — a delightful satire, with a message of tolerance and advocacy, replacing the rather inane, noxiously unfunny picture book by Charlotte and Karen Pence about “Marlon Bundo,” a lonely bunny who lives with his Grampa, Mike Pence.

And now on to the weird stuff!

Needless to say, this first one is actually a satire of gun rights activists…

 

…but the others? Well, you decide.

 

So, librarians and book lovers: Where do I file these gems? (And please don’t say “Goodwill.”)


* Speaking of which, one of my favorite Egyptian writers, Naguib Mahfouz, who died in 2006, compiled a set of tales playing on the those themes, called Arabian Nights and Days. I in turn, having pilgramaged to his ancient Cairo district, developed a semi-improvised take on one of his short stories, “Ma’rouf the Cobbler.”  My version, which runs anywhere from an hour to installments over several days, contains elements of Jinn (genies), the Ring of Solomon, civic corruption, hashish, coffee, sex and magic — all originating in Mahfouz’s “Cafe of the Emirs.”
**Typical page layout for the Little Black Book

 

 

 

“Fibology” or, analyzing Trump’s “double negative”

Say you’re a 7-year-old and you’ve been caught in a fib.

Maybe you got a poor grade on a test and you smeared the score on the paper so your parents can’t read it very well. Or you say, “Billy Peters said it would be OK to jump in the pool without our clothes. He got permission! Honest.” And my favorite:

Mom: “Jimmy, who crayoned your bedroom wall?”

Me: “Wall?”

The lie is pretty transparent to everyone involved and we eventually learn to cover our tracks more cleverly. “Darn, I’d love to help at your garages sale but I’ve got this dang work deadline.” Or “Did you think I said I would drive you to the airport? I’m sure I said wouldn’t be able to, yeah, that’s it…wouldn’t.

OK, you see where we’re going here.

Now, let’s talk about double negatives.

The conventional modern rules of English grammar supposedly dictate that the two negative elements cancel each other out, in a sort of algebraic way, to give a positive statement instead, so that the sentence ‘I don’t know nothing’ could literally be interpreted as ‘I do know something’. But in ordinary use, we understand that the double neg used as slang is really a reinforcement.

In this way, two negative words (in bold below) in the same clause may express a single negative idea:

“We didn’t see nothing.” = We saw nothing.

“I can’t get no satisfaction” = I really cannot get satisfaction [in Kentucky* they call this “the Hillbilly Exemption,” aka the “Jagger/Richards Rule”]

I say conventional modern rules because some fussy linguists like John McWhorter or Richard Ingham like to point out that double negs were common in Old English (English before the year 1000), especially the West Saxon dialect, up to and including use by Shakespeare (“I cannot go no further.” As You Like It, c. 1600) I call this “The Appeal to Shakespeare Fallacy” — as though to say, “if it was good enough for old Will, it’s good enough for modern Bill.”

Here’s my own linguistic breakdown:

1.) True “double negative” — where one part apparently negates the other, leading to confusion.

“I don’t have no money.”  (understanding the sentence depends on how you read or hear it; possible candidate for Hillbilly Exemption)

“She won’t be not going.” (clearly unclear)

“I’m not sure some of the English tutors didn’t understand the assignments.” (actual student note)

2.) Slang/dialectal double negative — where we understand the phrase as a dialectal, jazz, “arch” or vernacular use

“It don’t mean nuthin’” = It’s nothing. It doesn’t mean anything: clearly qualifies for a Hillbilly Exemption.

3.) Two negatives yielding a grammatically legitimate milder positive

This is actually a pretty useful way of understating a proposition, but one has to be fairly facile with one’s abilities to pull it off.

“It’s not that I don’t want to go…” (I do want to go but can’t for other reasons)

“These students cannot afford college…not because they aren’t smart enough…” (they are, or may be smart enough but there are other reasons they can’t afford college — actual student comment)

There’s actually a fourth kind of negative, but it requires a certain eye-rolling skill:

4.) Single negative yielding a mild positive

“He’s not terrible at math…”

And now, to Trump

Original statement at Trump/Putin press conference:

“My people came to me, Dan Coates, came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server . . . So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

  • Transcript: Trump And Putin’s Joint Press Conference. July 16, 2018, 1:09 PM ET  NPR

Trump, next day:

“I thought it would be obvious, but I would like to clarify just in case it wasn’t. In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’. The sentence should have been: ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia,’ sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.”

  • “Would or wouldn’t: how Trump’s claim he misspoke unleashed a meme-fest” The Guardian

In other words, it makes sense to him that Russia would be involved (he doesn’t see how Russian was not involved.)

Thus, we seem to have a case of #3 above. “It makes sense that Russia would be involved (but that’s as far as I’m going to go).” But this is not exactly right, since it doesn’t make sense to offer a “mild positive” with “I don’t see any reason.” Like, “I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t be able to leave early. It’s a reasonable thing to do.”

(Aside from the usual Trump blathering, it’s interesting that he faltered, even in his correction, by saying “I wouldn’t” before re-correcting to “it wouldn’t.”)

Of course the real clunking sound of bad fibology is Trump seeming to blame “the sentence,” as though it was some disembodied thing that simply crawled out of his mouth without his knowledge.

Conclusion

Someone needs to re-take their 2nd-grade “Fibology” class.


* Reported to me by an actual Kentuckian
Child coloring wall adapted from “Mom’s Angels: Is your Child Coloring Walls?”
Trump photo modification by the author
“Jury of English Majors” cartoon, Mark Parisi, 2009, off the mark.com
Crying child image from “Child life: a collection of poems” (1871, John Greenleaf Whittier, p 221)

Ask the Witch-Answer Guy (part IV)

A concerned public servant who desires to remain anonymous wishes to know:

Q: Let’s say their was a “swamp” that needed draining. A terrible swamp. Believe me, it’s the Worst! Their’s never been a worse one in the history of the world. Wouldn’t it not help to “undrain the swamp” by sending all the coastal elitists Witches their?

A: Same swamp, different day

<sigh>


Previous Witch-Answer posts:

Part I: Avoiding a Witch Hunt

Part II: The Perjury Trap

Part III: Power Pardons