A little flotsam, a little jetsam.

Sorry I’m late today. Tuesdays are nearly as crazed as Mondays, but today wasn’t so bad, as I got to edit an intern’s story about the school board meeting last night, one of the last he’ll do for GrossePointeToday.com, and damn if he didn’t show noticeable improvement over the course of the summer. I can’t work with my interns in a traditional newsroom, where they could watch me work on their stories, observe staff interactions and generally learn the ways of the tribe. I have to handle them via email, phone calls and text messages, only occasionally face-to-face, and that’s a hard way to teach. But check it, the kid hit this one out of the park:

The bad blood continued to boil Monday night (July 25) as the Grosse Pointe school board’s schism widened in the wake of the superintendent search, this time over staffing cuts and the controversial Head Start program for Poupard Elementary.

No chairs were kicked this time, but there was name-calling and accusations. Board member Fred Minturn called president John Steininger a “bully,” while Steininger called out Minturn on missing more votes than any other board member. Steininger turned red in the face while talking about Head Start, as did Minturn. A meeting with a routine agenda ran past 11 p.m., with a full house watching every thrust and parry.

OK, I added “thrust and parry.” He said they watched with “shock and awe.” The fencing term is twee, but meh, it’s better than the other, if only marginally.

Who knows what a parry is? I took a few fencing classes, so I do: It’s the deflection of a blow, particularly in sword fighting. (I always scored the first point in my matches, because I came out after en garde with a quick poke to the chest. My parrying skills lagged, however.) Here’s another term I looked up recently: flotsam and jetsam. I know what it means — trash, basically — but why do they always go together like that? It has to do with maritime law. Flotsam is floating debris of a shipwreck, and is distinguished from jetsam, which describes that which was intentionally thrown overboard, or jettisoned, frequently in times of distress. I guess the distinction comes in when a court is sorting out claims on wreckage of value. But when it’s all afloat around the site of a sunken ship, it’s pretty hard to tell apart, so the words go together.

And that has been your dose of Arcane English Usage with Nance, for this Tuesday. I should have a show on public radio.

OK, Oslo. Let’s talk Oslo. Or rather, let’s talk after-Oslo. I’m going to refrain from piling on Jennifer Rubin, as richly as she deserves it. If you write a column, or a blog, sooner or later this will happen to you, unless you are an extraordinarily careful person, and if you are, you likely don’t have a column or blog (at least not one supported by someone else, that you get paid to write). It’s happened to me, and it’ll probably happen again. The internet wants immediate reaction and analysis, and if you provide it, sooner or later reality will bollix up your hastily jumped-to conclusions. Besides, Stephen Colbert took care of her last night, and that’s a place — at the end of Colbert’s sword — I wouldn’t wish on anyone. So I’ll give her a pass out of sisterhood, and instead make a few random observations:

Some are calling this guy a Norwegian Tim McVeigh, and that sounds about right. Also, he seems to be quite the autodidact, and named several American writers and websites that he found to be really on the beam, including Pamela Geller’s batty belfry, Atlas Shrugged, among others. It reminds me of the time, many years ago, when the talk-radio station I dabbled at (can’t really call it “work”) used to run an overnight show by some lunatic who raved about the Bilderbergers, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Rothschilds, the Federal Reserve — you know the type. I didn’t hear this call I’m about to describe, but my partner Mark did: One night a guy called and, with chilling certainty, told the host he was on his way to Washington to get things done on that front. He said he was carrying the right tools for the job, if you catch his drift, etc. The host, suddenly confronted with apparent evidence that someone out there was taking his carnival act seriously, started buh-buh-buhing, stammering and trying to keep two far-apart plates spinning — the one that contended every word out of his mouth, about stopping these bastards before they take the country down, was God’s honest truth; and the one that said this isn’t the way to do it, which ran counter to his fiery rhetoric about watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants, etc. Mark, who keeps a sardonic twinkle in his eye most of the time, thought this was quite the entertainment. I don’t know how the call ended, but no one was assassinated in Washington that week, so I guess the caller changed his mind.

Anyway, when that happens — when a crazy person has taken your rhetoric and run with it — it seems that responding is a delicate matter. How not to do it: Sarah Palin’s poor-me act after Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting in April, Geller’s shrieking. How to do it: Bruce Bawer in the Wall Street Journal, who writes:

It is chilling to think that blog entries that I composed in my home in west Oslo over the past couple of years were being read and copied out by this future mass-murderer in his home in west Oslo. …In Norway, to speak negatively about any aspect of the Muslim faith has always been a touchy matter, inviting charges of “Islamophobia” and racism. It will, I fear, be a great deal more difficult to broach these issues now that this murderous madman has become the poster boy for the criticism of Islam.

Good to know.

I said yesterday I was hoarding links. Many have already been posted in comments, but lots of you don’t read those, so apologies if some of them are old to you. In no particular order:

Via Moe and Cooz, Charles Pierce in Esquire on the bomb that didn’t go off. A great, worrisome read.

Another great read, from Michael Kruse at the St. Petersburg Times, one of the last papers that does this sort of thing: How a woman can disappear in plain sight. Not news for anyone with mental illness in their family, but worth your time.

Neil Steinberg posted this on his Facebook yesterday, an oldie from 1997, but still fresh, as a case study in corporate cluelessness, the tale of how Quaker Oats wrecked Snapple. (Remember the Snapple lady, who read customer letters in commercials? She was fired by Quaker. Their “beverage consultant” told the company, “Not everyone in the country starts the morning with a bagel.” Gee, I wonder what that meant.)

A truly spectacular newspaper-correction story.

One of the best Tom & Lorenzo posts ever, on Cathy Cambridge’s wedding gown.

Finally, worth a complete click-through: The insides of refrigerators, a photo essay. Includes one from Fort Wayne, but no clue who it might be.

And that is it, and that is all, and this is me, getting back to real work.

Posted at 12:24 pm in Media, Same ol' same ol' |

35 responses to “A little flotsam, a little jetsam.”

  1. coozledad said on July 26, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Re Tom & Lorenzo:
    Elizabeth: Have we had another intruder I didn’t hear about? It looks like that damned thing we keep seeing on the big staircase at Balmoral. Philip promised me he would keep mum about it.

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  2. jcburns said on July 26, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Now searching iTunes podcasts for “Arcane English Usage with Nance”…sounds like it would be one of my favorites.

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  3. beb said on July 26, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    I’ve not read what it was that Jennifer Rubin wrote on that day of the Norwegian massacre. But from what I’ve heard she committed two errors. One was an attempt to be the first to claim that Muslims did it, and the other was to write with certainty about events for which there was no certainty. Both of these are class A failures. In short, it looks like she put both feet in it and can’t blame anyone but herself.

    The headless wedding dress was kind of ghastly. You wonder why no one stepped for a second and said as much. There are faceless, ovoid mannequin heads they could have used. Would have been less ghastly. But I was drawn to the link at the bottom to Emma Watson’s Happy Potter premiere dress. The dress was nice but in not one picture was Watson smiling. I get the feeling that someone is glad the whole thing is done.

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  4. Deborah said on July 26, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    The piece about the woman who disappeared in her own home was really sad. I have a niece who has a thyroid condition she is supposed to take medication for everyday. She didn’t take the medication for a couple of years and started to become strange. My sister (her mother) thought she was schizophrenic but I did some research about it on line and found out that it could be her thyroid condition and then found out she hadn’t been taking her medication. She was hearing voices and got extremely paranoid. She takes her medication regularly now (I hope) and seems to be OK although I haven’t seen her in person for a couple of years now. She’s one of my Facebook friends and she seems normal online. Reading that story you linked to Nancy, made me think how bad it could have possibly gotten.

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  5. Dorothy said on July 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    A SNAKE in the freezer of a short order cook?! E-gad! Also found it amazing how some of the one-person household contents resembled the one with 17 members of the household.

    Another interesting photo project would be a peek inside the top drawers of people’s bedroom nightstands. Or medicine cabinets.

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  6. LAMary said on July 26, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    I think the odd headless mannequin is the standard way Alexander McQueen dresses are displayed by the Alexander McQueen company.

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  7. nancy said on July 26, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    If it were just a headless mannequin, it wouldn’t be so bad. But adding the floating-in-air veil tips it over into creepy.

    Also, I loved their comment about Grandma Betty wearing a more interesting dress. Cathy is looking terribly thin, to my eye. I hope she can conceive with zero body fat. I think these girls land like a cannonball in a world like this and start listening to the fashion-house queens who tell them how fabulous they look in the clothes, and they start believing that’s job no. 1 — looking fabulous in the clothes. No. Not.

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  8. Rana said on July 26, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    That’s generally how I’ve seen dresses and other garments displayed in textile museums, too. It looks a bit odd because of the veil, but I think it’s not uncommon.

    ETA: Or what Nancy just said.

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  9. James said on July 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm


    I had no idea that missing your thyroid medicine could cause effects like that. I’m one of those folks who take thyroid meds, and I always joked about what would happen if I stopped, usually something about sprouting hair spontaneously. But schizophrenia?

    If I hear voices now, I’ll know there’s a reason..

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  10. A. Riley said on July 26, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Yes. Cathy’s looking fashionably skeletal, but that’s not her job right now. Her job is to give birth to at least two healthy sons, both of whom look exactly like Wills and are as healthy and adorable as little English boys can possibly be. Then she can hand them off to the nanny and retire to be as thin and stylish as she wants.

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  11. prospero said on July 26, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    No. 7/35 of those refrigerator shots: That sure as hell looks like a frozen coiled rattler on top shelf right. No. 3/35, sure looks like Ted Nugent’s fridge with the Tequila and the slaughtered Bambi. I know he claims never to have done drugs or imbibed alcohol, but I can personally attest that the claim is a bald-faced lie.

    First think I thought of reading the Oslo and Spokane bomb stories was how Erik Rudolph evaded an intensive manhunt for 5 years, well-fed, groomed in perfect health, with good ol’ North Carolinian boys aiding and abetting a mass murderer in the culture wars. Second was how Republicans went self-righteously nuclear on Janet Napolitano, DHS and DoJ for suggesting that indigenous right-wing terror is a tremendous threat to Americans’ security. I check the SPLC website occasionally to keep track


    These nutjobs are more ubiquitous than Phil Collins in the 90s. Since 2001 in Manhattan, more terror has been waged in the USA against Muslims and progressive to liberal politicians than against any other Americans.

    And who the hell is Jennifer Rubin. And Cathy Cambridge just dawned on me.

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  12. alex said on July 26, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Some botanist that Fort Wayner is. Sheesh. I’ve seen fridges with much greater flora than that one.

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  13. prospero said on July 26, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Observing Pamela Geller try to get out from under Breivik’s atrocities is a study in racial psychopathy. And massive self-delusion. It is pitiful to hear people like this proclaiming they aren’t the racists and bigots, everybody else is.

    Didn’t they actually make it out of mud, like the Rabbi of Warsaw the Golem? Here’s what Geller said about the shootings by Maj. Hasan at Ft. Hood. What a mendacious and self-serving harridan hypocrite, but, you know, at least she’s consistent.

    I was in a high school band called Flotsm & Jetsam. I preferred just Flotsam, but was overruled.

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  14. Judybusy said on July 26, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    The refrigerator pictures reminded me of the book, Hungry Planet, in which families are photographed with the food they eat in a week. Here is a slide show of some of the book.

    It may have been missed yesterday, but I posted a NYT article which stated a Deparment of Homeland Security report about the dangers of right-wing American terrorism was squashed after Republican congressmen hollered about it. So, if the threat comes from so-called Christians, we should ignore it, apparently.

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  15. Mindy said on July 26, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Gadfrey, I’ve got more food in my fridge than a household of seventeen people preparing for a family reunion. Not to mention my stuffed upright freezer and basement shelves groaning under the weight of canned goods. Perhaps that explains the horrifying number on my bathroom scale.

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  16. Deborah said on July 26, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Nancy, I finally had time to read your link to your days dabbling in talk radio. Good stuff.

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  17. prospero said on July 26, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Any copy desk editorial positions available at WaPo? This is mangled. And such a cool story, too.

    Who was this guy who came to the troopers rescue, and what a pair of cojones?

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  18. LAMary said on July 26, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Off topic: a summertime perfume recommendation.
    DKNY Pure Verbena. It’s got lemon verbena and basil and it smell very fresh and wonderful.

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  19. prospero said on July 26, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Nancy, the talk radio story is side-splitting, nose-trick funny.

    Bachmann on school bullying :

    “I think for all of us, our experience in public schools is there have always been bullies,” “Always have been, always will be. I just don’t know how we’re ever going to get to the point of zero tolerance… What does it mean?… Will we be expecting boys to be girls?”

    There is something wrong with this woman, like mental illness. Or she’s intellectually challenged. She thinks it’s normal that nine kids in her Congressional district have killed themselves in two years. What sort of moral vacuity do her public statements on this situation represent? Her response is monstrous. Why doesn’t she talk to the little hubby? He’s probably got a different perspective.

    Some astonishingly emotive images, from a guy called pkuczy (Pawel Kuczynski, from Poland). Some are hilarious, some spooky, some ineffably sad, some razor-sharply satirical. Reminiscent of Magritte surrealism, but maybe more anarchic.

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  20. coozledad said on July 26, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    LA Mary: I don’t know if we have any lemon verbena this year, but the lemon balm is going crazy. We’ve got a lot of basil, too.
    I always liked the smell of vetiver. I’m going to look into getting some seeds, because it’s a good livestock feed and grows well on overtilled land.
    In India they add the roots (the source of the essential oil) to drinking water to flavor it.

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  21. brian stouder said on July 26, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Let me just say that our fine young son and I attended Fort Wayne’s school board meeting last night. Unlike the Grosse Pointe school board meeting, there were no thrusts and no parries; in fact – the meeting was more thoughtful celebration than anything, including (literally) balloon bouquets for the principals of the two largest Fort Wayne high schools, which have successfully emerged from Academic Probation and are now out from under the threat of state takeover. I cannot tell you how satisfying it was, to attend that particular schoolboard meeting on that particular evening, and watch the power-point statistical breakdowns of all the standardized test results from the last round of ECAs; and friend-of-NN.c Mark the Shark presided over the whole thing with aplomb, too.

    The Journal Gazette has been consistently reporting this continually unfolding story, while other media, including TV and local talk radio, have been notably quiet.

    If you’ll permit me a little further digression: inescapably, our local public schools will always shoulder a heavy social (as well as educational) burden. The “melting pot” analogy that is (and always has been) applied to America is largely powered by our public schools, I believe, wherein kids from “both sides of the tracks”, and with all sorts of backgrounds go shoulder-to-shoulder in common classes, and grow toward maturity with common reference points.

    I think this is the most important argument against vouchers. If people want to send their kids to private schools, God bless ’em; but public funding for such places (aside from apparently violating Indiana’s state constitution) makes absolutely NO social sense, at all, in my opinion.

    The other day, this article appeared on WANE-tv’s website –


    which contained a passage that troubled me then, and still troubles me (with emphasis added):

    Linda Pearson, a Blackhawk Christian School principal, has been meeting with families since Memorial Day, families who are interested in the school and not sure if they qualify. She said first the family needs to be a good fit for the school, then a good match for the state’s income guidelines before she can even have them apply to the school.

    “First the family has to be a good fit for the school”?


    What public interest is served, in directing public funds to private schools that will pick and choose which families will fit THEM? This sounds, to me, like we are funding division, social detachment, and ultimately disunion.

    Consider: what will the chuckleheads amongst us say, if a principal of a school called Blackhawk Islamic School said she wanted to select only students that come from families that would be a good fit for their madrasa? And anyway – how well will a student who is an English Language Learner (whether their native tongue is Spanish or Burmese or Russian) “fit” into any of these private schools?

    To be clear, I think public funding for education is vitally important to our whole society, and that it should all go into publicly owned, publicly operated, and publicly governed institutions, which are open to ALL; and that LOCAL public governing is always the preferred level of control. To that end, I think all of Fort Wayne should be exceedingly proud of our own locally governed and increasingly successful public school district…..and here’s wishing Grosse Pointe well, too! (Maybe, for starters, they can find a board member or two of the calibre of Mark the Shark)

    edit: or is it “caliber”?

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  22. Dorothy said on July 26, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Just had the chance to read the Brevard missing woman story. So sad & bleak & I can’t help but wonder how many people are similarly lost in our own communities.

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  23. crinoidgirl said on July 26, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Children’s author Michael Morpurgo reads his essay for the Norwegian people:


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  24. LAMary said on July 26, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    In the past six months I’ve hired two young nurses who left Iran as children and grew up in Norway. Until then I wasn’t aware of the large number of Iranians who had migrated to Norway. I’ve run into a few more Iranian/Norwegians since then. Seeing a resume that lists languages spoken as Farsi, Norwegian and English hits you as odd the first time you read it, but by the about the fifth time you know the story. Norway was willing to accept Iranian refugees when other countries were not, according to the two nurses I know. For neither of them was it the first stop after leaving Iran, but it was the place that educated them and took care of them the longest.

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  25. moe99 said on July 26, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Looks like my earlier post is hung up somewhere in the ether. Some much needed humor today:


    If anyone can translate the label on the third cake, please do. Or don’t as necessary!

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  26. coozledad said on July 26, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Are the napkins free with those cupcakes?

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  27. alex said on July 26, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    No, but a tube of KY is.

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  28. Judybusy said on July 26, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    moe, that was great. cooz and alex, never grow up, okay?

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  29. Kirk said on July 26, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    You think maybe that’s supposed to be “minstrel duo,” as in some kind of decoration?

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  30. Jolene said on July 26, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Thanks for the link to the Mopurgo essay at #23, crinooidgirl. It’s a lovely piece, beautifully read. If you missed it, give it a listen.

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  31. Little Bird said on July 26, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    Moe, it should read “Minstrel” cake, or so it says in the comments. Still, as it stands, I wouldn’t take that cake if it were free. Not even if they paid me!

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  32. Dexter said on July 27, 2011 at 12:46 am

    Thanks for the clarification regarding flotsam and jetsam.
    I always wondered about Jasper and Newton, linked all over the map. If there’s a Jasper, there’s a Newton. Counties, towns, cities, ya can’t have one without the other. Finally I get an explanation.

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  33. beb said on July 27, 2011 at 7:46 am

    An early morning laugh.

    Atrois republished a series of quotes from bigoted pastor Rick Warren this morning that begins: “Every church is flawed.Still,you’d better learn to love it, since its the only group Jesus said he’s taking to heaven.”


    And goes on from there about how it’s the ‘CHURCH” that leads to salvation. For a minister he seems ignorant that Jesus never had a church, and is known to have visited a church once, when he drove the moneychangers from the Temple. (I’m sure he went to temple regularly but his sermons were given out of doors.)

    RThere’s something sad and pathetic about a minister who knows less about his religion than the local atheist.

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  34. coozledad said on July 27, 2011 at 10:21 am

    In the “searches” section on my blog today, there appeared “Herbal Coitus”.
    Sounds like the name of a Confederate general out of Mississippi.

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  35. prospero said on July 27, 2011 at 10:23 am


    Sgt. William Jasper is particularly renowned in Savannah GA, where he is celebrated with an annual public ceremony complete with pipers and Irish bands around St. Patrick’s day. Madison Square in Savannah has an impressive monument dedicated to Sgt. Jasper, and this is the site of the party. This is a part of the Paddy’s Day celebrations sparsely attended by tourists, but a pretty strong local tradition. Jasper was also a confederate of Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, in brazen guerilla attacks on Brit supply lines, but his true partner in freedom fighting was John Newton. It’s interesting that the flag saved by Sgt. Jasper at the battle of Moultrie, in Georgia, was nothing whatever like the Stars and Stripes.

    If one takes Pastor Warren literally, he would seem to be including Muslims, Jews, Zoroastrians, Baha’i, Hindus, Sikhs, Confucians, Shinto etc. in the saved. I’ll bet he’s got some explanation of why Catholics are left out in particular, though. That syntax would seem to require translation by the master of that particular excuse for English, W Bush.

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