Sunday, May 31, 2015


Sometimes one thing or idea leads to another. It’s the saving of someone trying to post a blog every week, I can tell you.

I cited the word “Zounds!” in an article bemoaning the lack of imagination of much of the obscenity you see on line these days and looking to the past for colorful expressions.

It’s defined in the dictionary as a contraction of “God’s wounds,” and yet, somewhat surprisingly, it’s called a mild oath. Reputedly it was first coined in 1592, an era when religion lent color to speech, especially impassioned speech.

(Oliver Cromwell was one of the best, and maybe the best at it. You probably couldn’t get away with it today, but his “bowels of Christ” number would have been hard to ignore, whatever your politics. I don’t know that it’s ever been topped. Winston Churchill had some great lines, though.)

There seems to be some question about proper  pronunciation of the word. The impulse is to rhyme it with “bounds,” but there’s a suggestion that the derivation from  “wounds” should govern. The first works better as an interjection, I think.

Unless you’re quoting someone with a really forceful delivery, this is possibly the one excuse for using an exclamation point in your writing.(not that “Zounds” in itself isn’t an attention-getter, but why not go all the way?). I’m an advocate of interjections (and parentheses) and dashes and semicolons and ellipses. Why not? Some thoughts are just asides. Some call for a pause, but not a full stop; ideas that might stand on their own can be closely linked -- and you might want to show that. There are shades of meaning… 

The blog is pretty much a conversation with myself anyway,      so I should be able to get away with pushing the grammatical envelope a little. But along with the liberties, being my own audience dictates some restrictions. Since I sometimes find the use of expletives jarring in other people’s writings, I don't want to see them in my own, and you won't. If you read much online commentary you probably know how bad it gets out there.  "God's Wounds!" doesn’t come close.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Intrusion Marketing

The next development in marketing is barreling toward us, and it’s going to be an experience.

Until now, the mantra has been, “Content is King,” but from now on it’s “We Know Where You Live.” “Content” is still getting lip service, but what’s going to be moving things from here on is DATA: all the information they’ve been accumulating about you, eavesdropping on your Internet inquiries, conversations, comments, and purchases, cross-linked to your gender, age, Zip Code, family status, and the location of your tattoos.  
Marketing through mass media has been declared dead. By the data people. Literally. The head of a marketing automation company is quoted as saying exactly that, and that we're entering the age of automated data-driven marketing (see a possible agenda there?) He calls it "engagement" and "personalization. Marketers must now “personalize” their marketing messages. But if you think you know what that means, think again. Here’s how that industry insider sees it.

"This hyper-connected world could even see marketers putting personalized messages on a pill bottle for a particular consumer just as easily as sending an email today."

Won’t Ms Consumer be thrilled to find that some marketer knows she’s taking erythromycin for her chlamydia trachomatis? What would the marketer offer her, with what message, in this terrific new medium? An Internet dating service, maybe? And this is the industry that likes to call traditional advertising intrusive.

Like many other technologies, this one is going to be pushed beyond its reasonable boundaries, because we can do it!  Forget the NSA; this is where your privacy is really being trashed. Those pitches for vegetable choppers and grout cleaner that kept interrupting your late-night TV movie? You’re gonna look back at them nostalgically when this hits. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Seniors 3, Coyotes 1

I’m big on animal rights; it’s the subject and background of my one-and-only novel. But a while back we had a situation here where I live that posed the question much more ambiguously.

Coyotes had decided they liked it here, too. Not senior or retired coyotes, but physically fit individuals, capable of taking small dogs and large cats. In response, the city wanted to start trapping and killing them. There was a raucous town hall meeting at which animal righters squared off verbally against anti-coyote partisans. I wasn’t at the meeting, but the result was a clear win for the trapping/killing policy.

In some ways it recalls the earlier eradication campaigns aimed at the rabbits in our neighborhood.  Probably the same people decided that one, and soon the rabbits were gone (for a while, anyway; they’re back now). The reasoning had to be different, of course, since rabbits are prey, not predators, so you heard about them eating the flowers and dropping pellets on the walkways. These were judged to be capital offenses, deserving of  CIA-style sanction with extreme prejudice. Usually some un-named organization, not unlike the CIA in its own way, is contacted in these cases to quietly dispose of the offenders, under cover of darkness.

I’ve always objected to the rabbit genocide, but I’m still of two minds about the coyotes. In matters like this you have to pick your fights judiciously. Part of the anti-coyote group was undoubtedly pet owners who might in other instances be counted among the animal rights cohort but who, in this case, could lose their pets and in some cases already had. One confirmed kill involved a coyote slipping through a momentarily open apartment door and snatching a cat from inside. All the arguments about our crowding them out of their habitat don’t stand up well against that.   
Some time after the meeting our little local newspaper reported that three coyotes had been trapped and killed. That’s not many, but predation seemed to drop noticeably. I think it’s because coyotes are smart. I don’t know that they read the newspaper, but I do think they can see handwriting on the wall, and they passed the word that the pickin's ain’t easy any more in this part of the forest.

They can outrun and probably even outsmart a lot of us seniors individually, but if we ever come together, you don’t want to mess with us. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

News Story

News reporting as it’s currently practiced is being criticized in many quarters, and not without reason. Both quantity and quality are suffering; newsroom budgets are being cut, news bureaus are being closed, and now reporters and editors are being asked to insert commercial messages into previously sacrosanct editorial matter. Reporters are abandoning newspapers for PR agency jobs, probably with the idea that if they’ll be doing that kind of work anyway they might a well do it for better pay.

It’s refreshing, then, that you can still run across a well-written, well-researched news article that both conveys the personality and examines the motivations of the individuals reported on.        I give you the following. 


Portsmouth - Less than three weeks after putting to sea in a pea-green boat with Arthur Owl, George Pussycat returned alone today to this port from which the two had embarked on their unprecedented voyage.

Questioned about his missing traveling companion, Pussycat read from a prepared statement, saying he did not know what had happened to Owl, but that he "must have gone for a walk and lost his bearings."

The journey of the two in the washtub-like vessel was launched amid much fanfare, but was controversial from the start. Critics questioned the pair's compatibility and noted that while Owl carried provisions for two months, Pussycat stocked only salt, pepper, and breadcrumbs. 

A police source requesting anonymity because he or she was not authorized to comment said that what had appeared to be a promising lead proved a dead end when no positive identification could be made of feathers found in the vessel. Responding to the implied accusation, Pussycat cited the irony of being suspect "just because I dust vigorously." 

Consensus of legal opinion surveyed locally is that no action will be taken against Pussycat since -- wait for it -- there is no evidence of fowl play.

                                                       #             #             #

Wotthehell; it’s my blog. Thought I should lighten up after the May 3 post, anyway. 


Sunday, May 3, 2015


Genealogy has become sort of a craze, being hyped as something everyone should want to pursue. There’s a TV commercial showing Modern Day Jane tracing her lineage back to someone standing near someone who looks like Abraham Lincoln. Is this important?  I don’t understand. Suppose you trace your family back several centuries and discover that your great-great-great-great whatever was court secretary to the Margrave of Zuttgenstein. What then? 

Besides, if you go back far enough and cast your net widely enough, the odds are pretty good you’re going to come up with someone you’d just as soon not claim as a relative. Conditions were rough back in the early days and people did what they had to do. If that necessitated obliterating the neighbors, a massacre by one of your ancestors might just be the seminal event that established your line as a respectable family. Want to chance that? Once you’re in, you don’t get to pick and choose.

I suppose there might be the occasional pleasant surprise where you find you’re related, however distantly, to someone admirable. Whether that gives you bragging rights several generations later  is a question, though, or should be. 

All I know on the subject  is what I heard in casual family conversation. My mother’s family landed at Ellis Island from the old country in the first few year of the 20th century. Whether it was fortuitous or they knew something in their bones, it turned out a good move. From what I’ve read about WWII, even the Nazis were impressed by the enthusiasm with which Romanians went after their Jewish neighbors.  Had the Leibas hesitated 40 years, I and others wouldn’t be around to write or read this.

One more reason for not bothering about genealogy: for a lot of people it would only dissolve into the “nacht und nebel” of 1940s Europe.