The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Friday, July 29, 2011

COLLECTIVE NOUNS: You may not have noticed this, but the English collective noun is a wonderful, often beautiful thing. For example, Anglophone crows travel in murders, whereas larks travel in exaltations, while below them float rabbles of butterflies flitting over clowders of cats as they hunt mews of capons, said capons no doubt mewing over their lost gonads, for which collective, I am sorry to say, I am unable to find a collective noun. Perhaps a scrota of gonads might work; I should propose the idea to the good folks at the Oxford English Dictionary and see how they like it.

There is another group that, unlike a capon’s gonads, are all too familiar to anyone who drives the highways and byways of this our Great Republic and, like the collective of missing gonads, do not have a collective noun of their very own. I am referring here to the slowpoke, the person who invariably in front of you when you are already late for work and insists on treating his need to lollygag and check out the barely descript scenery as somehow equal to your right to not have the boss cut you a new one for being late for the third day straight. You may not think so, but it is very important for slowpokes to have their own collective noun, given that slowpokes, like Japanese tourists, find it more congenial to travel in groups than to travel alone, thereby amplifying their power to make your morning commute nothing short of a living hell.

We’ve all had that experience, I think: no sooner have you gotten away from the senior citizen toddling along to the nearest drugstore to refill their prescriptions for damn near everything than you are stuck behind those good folks from Minnesota who’ve decided to slow down and take a good hard look at our happy little burg and see if there’s anything here that we don’t have back home in God’s country [we don’t; take my word for it and get moving. The only difference between Minnesota and the Vampire State is that we have uglier license plates.] , who will then leave you stuck behind someone trying to discipline a child, comb her hair in the rear view mirror, and hold a cell phone conversation simultaneously and doing none of the above very well. If you do not believe that this is important then clearly you have not been on the roads recently. Having their own collective noun makes it possible for the rest of the motoring public to know which profane, blasphemous, and/or scatological adjective to attach to this collective noun as we grind our molars into dust waiting for these people to make up their minds as to whether or not they are making the right or the left, going straight, or do 25 miles an hour in a 40 mph zone.

I thought at first that I would simply borrow a collective noun from an appropriate animal; it seemed a good idea at the time; and the number of appropriate animals seemed to promise a good return on the psychic investment. For example, I enjoyed learning that asses congregate in paces and droves, but in the end both nouns did not really work for me. While fully conceding the moral assitude of slowpokes, both nouns suggest actions at odds with those normally associated with the species. Slowpokes do not keep pace with the rest of traffic; the vile dolts do their best to disrupt the pace of traffic to the nth degree, thereby rendering the very meaning of the words pace and traffic moot; and slowpokes are, almost by definition, incapable of being drove anywhere, at least not without someone sticking a rocket up their backsides and lighting the fuse. No, clearly the asses will not work in this situation.

One may follow an ass with a run of salmon, but here to the adventurous lexicographer again runs into trouble, since running to and from any place is not high on the slowpoke’s list of priorities. I prefer the tortoise mildly, which gathers together in creeps; this works for me and creeps binds well with any number of expletives, but it does suggest that slowpokes are trying to advance a low, vile, and possibly contemptible agenda involving whips, chains, and the ingestion of large amounts of natural peanut butter, among other things. This would be unfair to them, because to my observation most slowpokes appear harmless in and of themselves; they are largely obtuse creatures and not at all creepy in the classic sense of that word, although they do come with a large amount of cranial sawdust, and for those of you keeping track of such things, yes, I am paraphrasing George Ade there.

Other nouns failed the test as well. Slowpokes cannot, like foxes, travel in skulks, since slowpokes do not really skulk as they slowly poke around the roads driving their fellow motorists up the wall; they commit their asininities out where everyone can see them, a trait the rest of us hate them for. Nor can there be a clattering of slowpokes, as there are of jackdaws, as clattering implies movement, and the one thing no slowpoke will actually do is move at a reasonable speed. And so I sat, stunned by the utter slowpokiness of my own imagination, when a word blazed across my mind with comet-like intensity, blazing with a white-hot heat, a word filled with subtlety and power, a word that might revolutionize the very meaning of collective nouns should I choose to unleash it on an unsuspecting world. Unfortunately, the word was coxcomb, a word that has nothing to do with speed, motion, traffic, or anything else relevant to the subject at hand, and so I instantly rejected it.

And then the word came to me in a blaze of glory…well, maybe not glory, but something like it, I think, unless that was my meatball sandwich repeating on me. Slowpokes, you will happy to know, travel in dumbasses. Dumbass works well with any expletive you care to mention, it is short and easy to remember, and it plays well with others. Having come forth with this miracle, I am thinking of copyrighting it and make a fortune off all the people who will use the word dumbass in a fit of road rage. I can’t imagine why I didn’t think of this before; it’s a lot easier than winning the lottery.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

A BIT OF EVERYTHING HERE: We are having scattered showers and thunderstorms here in our happy little burg today, which makes me wonder whether or not the lexicographical skills of the meteorological staff at radio station WTF [CLASSIC ROCK N’ROLL FOR THE VALLEY AND OUR HAPPY LITTLE BURG, ALL DAY ALL NIGHT ROCK WITH WTF!!!] are entirely up to snuff. As I understand the concept, scattered showers are patches of light to moderate rain that may occur here and there in a more or less random pattern throughout a certain geographic region. My understanding of this concept comes from the meaning of the word scattered, which meant, the last time I looked in a dictionary, to occur at usually random intervals rather than all together, and that of the word showers, meaning a light fall of rain, sleet, or other precipitation. So it was this understanding of the term that I went forward with my plans today, only to find that my understanding of the term and the meteorologists’ understanding of the term were not the same. First, the scattered showers involved seemed to be damn near everywhere, which would seem to contradict the meaning of scattered, and second, the showers themselves, while not of Noachic intensity, came down with enough alacrity to wash the pigeon crap off my car in no time flat. While I appreciate the free car wash; getting a free anything in today’s economy is a good thing, no two ways about it; I could have skipped the drenching I took getting into the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for my daily bread. I wore light colored trousers today, so by the time I got into the building they looked like I’d spent the day peeing on my leg and telling me it was raining, as opposed to the other way around, which is what happened.

My apologies, but since I wrote the above about two weeks ago the weather has improved tremendously in this neck of the woods; it is sunny and warm outside, with very little humidity; but as the weather has gotten better over the past two weeks the state of my health, an always dubious proposition to begin with, has gotten worse. At the moment, I am waiting for my doctor to come back from vacation in whatever Third World hellhole he originally came from so as to find out whether my current state of more or less permanent discomfort is the result of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, or Lyme disease. The last of these is the current favorite here in our happy little burg, especially with me, as it is a disease treatable with antibiotics. After Lyme comes gout, which is a disease one can treat with changes in diet and some medication, albeit said treatment will no doubt come with a visit from my grandmother from heaven, her dwelling place. My grandmother was an intensely devout Roman Catholic, but her social views were a product of her time and upbringing as the daughter of a stevedore in Liverpool, and could verge on the positively Red in certain matters. One of these matters was the gout, a disease she held to be a rich man’s disease and one no child [or grandchild] of hers could ever contract. I learned all of this one summer when my father came down with the gout while Grandma was vacationing with us. That the news upset her would be one of the greater understatements of the family’s history; I am still trying to figure out how my father managed to survive those two months [or was it three? I forget now] without Grandma killing him or him killing her.

The two least desired alternatives, of course, are the ones that friends and neighbors insist on telling me are controllable these days. Permit me to say that as a diabetic I’ve already had my fill of incurable but controllable diseases and that I would prefer to have a disease that I can get rid of entirely in one fell intravenous swoop. The clap comes immediately to mind, the clap being a disease you can enjoy contracting and then enjoy getting rid of, although the morning after you acquire the problem can be a bit of a drip. Since my life does not work in this manner, the most desirable of the bad options is probably not going to happen and I will be stuck with the least desirable of these none too desirable options, rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that not only runs in the family, it has its own racetrack. In any case, please forgive the dearth of posts hereabout; it has not been for lack of ideas, laziness, writer’s block, or all the other usual excuses for not buckling down and getting on with the work that I usually inflict on the readership. This time around it’s because I have had other things on my mind recently. As soon as the dust settles down around here, I will continue onwards and upwards, and I thank you all for your patience.

UPDATE: The tests are back, boys and girls, and it's definitely rheumatoid arthritis...shit.

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Monday, July 04, 2011


(Adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776)

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton