The second try at the taxes was better, but not in a good way. A small payment to the feds became a small refund, but a large payment to the Hoosiers became a large refund, which means only one thing — I made a big mistake either the first or the second time, and now I get to spend at least part of tomorrow going over two 25-page tax returns, looking for discrepancies.
Maybe in the afternoon, I can have hemorrhoid surgery, too.
Fortunately, however, you can share in the day’s bloggage.
As my little girl gets older, a lot of parenting decisions that looked easy early on are becoming more…complicated. Take profanity, for instance. I’ve always followed a don’t-freak-out policy: Don’t swear in front of her (with rare exceptions, as when I break a nail below the quick), restrict her exposure to potty-mouth media, but when the occasional mortar shell penetrates the perimeter, I try not to panic. I’m a writer, and I figure one thing I can teach her is the power of language along its full range. And you can’t do that if you’re wetting your pants every time her ears are sullied.
My old neighbor Chuck swore like the Leatherneck he was, but always creatively, and always amusingly. His favorite all-purpose slur was “flatdick,” and I have to say, it’s an unappreciated gem. I wish I heard it more often on “Deadwood,” instead of the incessant f-bombs and the like. It’s one thing to frankly acknowledge that the 19th century was a nasty place to be; it’s quite another to litter your dialogue with so many potholes of profanity it’s nearly incomprehensible. (Poor Mr. Wu, a Chinese character who has to wear a pillbox hat and a pigtail and whose only English word is “cocksuckah” — no wonder he’s so crabby.)
So I was interested to read this WashPost story about the losing campaign against profanity on the playground, if only because I agree with the educator who observed, “There are words virtually disappearing from our English language,” O’Connor said. “When people are mad, what do they say? They say they are pissed off or [expletive] pissed off. No range. There is a big difference between being upset or livid. There is a big difference between irritated and infuriated.”
Or being f—ing infurated at some flatdick, I always say.
I have hopes for the future, though. Kate had dinner at the neighbors’, where roast chicken was served. In our home, roast chicken is known as Chicken With a Lemon Up Its Butt. I asked if she’d mentioned this at table, and was heartened to hear that she hadn’t, since she’d picked up on the fact that next door, it would be Chicken With a Lemon Up Its Bottom.
When I named my daughter Katharine, I knew I was choosing one of humanity’s oldest female names. I thought anything that has lasted since ancient Greece ought to have legs for her lifetime. (Unlike Nancy, which is the Gertrude of the 21st century.) I didn’t think of it as a “white” name, but that’s probably the luxury of being in the ethnic majority. What about “black” names? Read A Roshonda by any Other Name to get an economist’s take on it.
I didn’t know Andrea Dworkin died over the weekend, but I’m glad I know Susie Bright had something to say about it.
Finally, I knew my old pal Mark Brunswick was in Iraq writing about the Minnesota National Guard units there, but I didn’t know he was keeping a blog about it until he returned. I liked the entry on Easter Sunday in lovely Baghdad: Surreal moment of the day: Saddam’s Presidential Palace in the Green Zone in Baghdad. Easter Sunday. Poolside. Plastic bunnies and eggs and ‘Happy Easter’ signs tacked up all over the place. Muscular soldiers with tattoos lounging. Rick James’ ‘Super Freak’ blasting through the stereo speakers.
Saddam’s Presidential Palace now serves as home base for the U.S. ambassador, various generals and others. Its grandeur remains a testament to Saddam’s ego. The main mess hall is in the ballroom, as ornate and intricate a marbled room as you will find anywhere. It is said that sculptures of Saddam were everywhere inside the ballroom before the invasion, but there is not an image of him anywhere now.
‘Where did they all go?’ one soldier was asked recently.
‘Ebay,’ was his reply.
mary said on April 12, 2005 at 11:09 am
I read the Roshonda story yesterday, and it reminded me of something that has always baffled me. I have heard from at least a half dozen people in my lifetime, all of whom heard it from their cousin/neighbor/friend/sister in law/ about some black woman who gave birth and named her child Latrina, Vagina, or Female (pronounced Fe mah lay). It’s one of those stories like the Richard Gere with the gerbil story, but has an ugly racist overtone. Anyone else heard this or am I just attracting nasty people?
Nance said on April 12, 2005 at 11:14 am
I’ve heard it, too, but the one I keep turning up is the black woman who names her son “Nosmo King” because she loves the sound of it, and because it was revealed to her by God as she was being wheeled into the delivery room. Of course she saw the “No Smoking” sign, which if anyone bothered to think about is not posted over delivery rooms, it’s posted on the front door of the hospital.
Yep, urban legend. With many ugly racist overtones.
juan said on April 12, 2005 at 11:37 am
Regardless of what liberals would have you believe, racism is NOT an entirely learned phenomenon. You can fan the flames of hatred, and make it worse, certainly, but there is an innate component to bigotry.
The first time that a Neanderthal man ventured a little further beyond the territory of his camp and came upon another Neanderthal man from another camp and saw that Neanderthal B wore chicken bones in his ear, not his hair where they belong…
Did Neanderthal A say, “Wow. What an enlightening breath of fresh, creative air is this stranger! I shall now wear bones in my ear!”???
No. Neanderthal A said, “Your culture is not my culture, your values are not my values. Stand still while I hit you with this rock.” Culture and values follow their own evolutionary path.
There is nothing about the melanin count in peoples dermis that engenders prejudice. But when that melanin pretty distinctly represents a culture and values that are not the mainstream’s culture and values, it’s tough for Mr. Mainstream Power Broker to keep an open mind.
So, yes, I admit that people with “unique” names set my eyes to rolling. I’m about as white a Whitey as you can get, and it just represents another middle-finger to my bid for a shared cultural assimilation. It splits us up further into separate camps instead of everybody bringing the best of their culture and values to the same table of compromise.
Remember: In fifty thousand years of recorded human history, there has never been a successful long-term society based on “Diversity.” Never. Diversity divides. Screw your liberal arts education. It’d be nice but the shit simply doesn’t work that way. The most successful long-term cultures are based on assimilation.
Try to immigrate to Japan. Try it. They don’t want you, and they don’t want you because they don’t want you trying to bend their successful culture to your American “me me me” sensibilities.
Bring your cultural best to the mainstream table; ONE table, and the mainstream culture will always meet you half way. Go into your silo and you are going to be unhappy with the mainstream, and the mainstream is going to misunderstand you. You don’t have to turn your back on your heritage identity, but all of us… ALL OF US have to come to terms with the fact that we are not the demographic center of the universe. Life is the hokey pokey, and you gotta put at least one foot in the same circle that everybody else does, or go sit in the corner and cry by yourself.
Dick Walker said on April 12, 2005 at 1:50 pm
Well, in the south I grew up in, cultural diversity was rigidly enforced by law and custom. Black names were often odd and different-sounding to white ears, and it didn’t much matter to life outcomes. I knew a child. when I was a child, named Toolapane. Her mother made it up and most folks liked it.
But more recently, in 1981, when my daughter – Elizabeth, btw – spent two months in neonatal intensive care, we met many babies with odd names. Did I say this was north-central Florida?
One child, named by its 14-year-old mother, was Tarantula Iguana. Mom said she’d always wanted a baby she could call “Spidey.”
mary said on April 12, 2005 at 2:32 pm
I went to college with a woman named Condoleezza. Must have been an affirmative action student. Can’t imagine what she’s up to now.
blue girl said on April 13, 2005 at 12:22 pm
Thanks to Lance Mannion, I’ve been reading your site. He’s a very generous soul, isn’t he? Wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your writing. You are a talented writer and an inspiration!
But enough of that touchy-feely stuff. Let’s talk about f-bombs and flatdicks.
I have a 13 year old son and our conversation about cursing is now going into its 10th year. Like you, I’ve tried to focus on the power of language. From the ‘laziness’ angle. From the ‘respect for yourself and those around you’ angle. And when all else fails, from the ‘because I said so’ angle. Which of course his immediate reply is: “That’s not a reason.” He understands the power of language very well!
He’s learning about William I ‘The Conqueror’ right now in school. But his teacher has been calling him William ‘The Bastard.’ So, he’s been walking around saying, ‘Mom, did you know William The Bastard did this? William The Bastard did that?
Guess who my son’s favorite teacher is right now? ‘I love Mr. L because he knows we’re mature enough to hear the word bastard.’ Too cute.
Little story. I volunteered at my son’s track meet yesterday. Worked the high jump for 7th grade boys. The opposing team’s coach was a lady in her mid 50’s. 4′ 11′ — a little firecracker. And I told her about your piece from yesterday and The Washington Post article. I asked her if she corrects her student’s bad language.
No hesitation. ‘Oh yes. Absolutely. I believe that if you take care of the ‘small things’ then you are more than likely not going to have to worry about bigger things. You will have laid a strong foundation.’
Oooh! Good one. I’ll use that one, too. She was a tough little coach, inspiring her boys to jump higher and higher. And then one missed. He was hard on himself muttering intensely, ‘I’ll do better next jump’ as he ran to the back of the line. But on the next attempt he missed again. Which meant he out out of the competition.
He then slammed his fist into the mat and yelled ‘Jesus Christ!’
I quickly looked at the coach. Who never looked up. She just marked his stat down on her clipboard.
Oh well. So much for the ‘small things.’
I wonder what his mom would have said?
Nance said on April 13, 2005 at 1:20 pm
Thoughtful post there. And interesting, to see cursing as the character equivalent of the broken-window theory of crime prevention. That’s kind of the line I try to toe, with many personal slips, although I’m getting good at saying “oh my gosh,” “judas priest” and “for cryin’ out loud.” If it comes to that, I may make the smoking argument: Don’t start, and you don’t have to worry about quitting later. Although, like a cigarette, a well-chosen expletive at the right moment is deeply, deeply satisfying.
blue girl said on April 13, 2005 at 2:30 pm
I really like the broken window theory.
But gosh darn that flippin’ Guilianni for ruining my seedy Times Square fun.
Don’t forget “Holy Moly!” and “For Pete’s Sake!”