An Interview with Michael Baughman

Michael Baugman, with his grandson Billy and a zombie friend

Michael Baughman, a freelance writer, has contributed to Evergreen Review, Sports Illustrated, National Wildlife, Honolulu Magazine, and many other publications. He is an emeritus professor of English at southern Oregon University and the author of Boat: A Memoir of Friendship (Arcade Publishing, 2012), A River Seen Right: A Fly Fisherman’s North Umpqua (Lyons Press, 1995), Mohawk Blood (Lyons Press, 1995), and (with Charlotte Hadella) Warm Springs Millennium: Voices from the Reservation (University of Texas Press, 2000). His latest book is Money Sucks: A Memoir on Why Too Much or Too Little Can Ruin You (Skyhorse Publishing 2014).

EB: Why did you write this book? Did you have a particular goal or audience in mind?

MB: Unless I have an assignment from a magazine or newspaper, I never have an audience in mind, so I suppose that makes most of my writing largely self-indulgent. For me writing books is a way to force myself to deal with an idea, an issue, a problem, a place. The goal is to produce something that seems to make sense, to clarify something, to work as writing. The typical American obsession with money – making it, spending it, wasting it – has fascinated me since I was a child.

EB: You also wrote Money Sucks for your grandson. What was his response when he read it?

MB: My grandson Billy called me from Denver late one night to tell me he’d read the book straight through and liked it very much. We’re close, so of course he wouldn’t have admitted he didn’t like it, but I believed him.

EB: What do you suppose shaped your attitudes toward money the most—having enough or not having enough?

MB: Three things come to mind:

I think a frantic quest for money ruined my father’s life. He was a successful businessman who, despite his success, was never satisfied. He could never stay in the same job, or town, or house, or apartment very long. When I was a schoolboy between the ages of ten and seventeen we moved from Pennsylvania to Texas to California to Hawaii and back to California again. But he never found happiness, or even satisfaction, and smoked and drank himself to death at age sixty-one.

At Punahou, an expensive private prep school in Honolulu, I established friendships with many boys and girls who were either born rich or became rich, and these friendships have lasted more than sixty years. Some of these men and women are fine people, but I’ve seen nothing in any of them that suggests they’re more satisfied with their lives than most middle-class people I’ve known. In fact, the miseries of the rich are often phenomenal.

After dropping out of college I bummed around the country: forty-eight states in a year-and-a-half, working odd jobs and sometimes homeless. True poverty is horrible, but I found that so-called working class people often seemed like more substantial human beings than the very rich.

EB: One lesson of the book is that there is more to a good life than money. How would you characterize a good life?

MB: As I tried to suggest in the book to Billy: live in a place you want to be, and do work you truly want to do. The Hawaiian beachboys I knew growing up were the happiest group of people I’ve ever seen.

EB: What should we be teaching about money in the schools? If you were designing a personal finance curriculum, what would it be?

MB: I’m not sure exactly what we should be teaching. What I am sure of is that what Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America remains true today: “As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?”
So I suppose schools should expose students to such sentiments, and the exposure should lead to serious discussion and thought.

EB: I once heard someone characterize having too much concern for money as hoarding. Would you agree?

MB: I’ve known money hoarders, such as the couple I call “The Texans” in the book. They hate to spend it, but they love having it. That strikes me as a form of mental illness. Also in the book, I quote a retired CEO who surprisingly admits that the pay received by CEOs is obscene, and that competition is at the heart of the grotesque ratio between CEO compensation and average worker pay. If the boss at Corporation A gets twenty million a year, the boss at Corporation B wants twenty-five. That’s a form of mental illness too.

EB: Have you heard from any of the folks you profiled? Rich and not so rich? What did they think?

MB: I’ve heard from some of the not-so-rich. They were all right with the book. I sent the retired CEO a copy, but, even though I quoted him accurately, I never heard back from him. That doesn’t surprise me.

EB: It was interesting for me to learn about your work as a professional writer for Sports Illustrated and other publications. How is that writing different than the academic writing that we teach students?

MB: I was a Special Contributor at Sports Illustrated for several years, and wrote mostly on outdoor and environmental subjects. I think I was covering significant material that SI readers wouldn’t normally have been exposed to. Nowadays the magazine is pretty much for hard sports only. I don’t like to distinguish between different kinds of writing. All writing should be clear, economical and well organized, and it should deal with a significant and/or interesting subject.

EB: You also spend some time in the book discussing sports and athletics. What is their role in education?

MB: I played major college football, and I don’t have anything good to say about big-time college sports in general. Just as there are fine people among the rich, there are fine young men and women among college athletes – but the sports programs at the big schools are ridiculously overemphasized. I don’t see how anybody could deny it. And here we are back with money. Look what happened at Penn State. The sexual abuse of children was tolerated for years because of the money earned for the school by the football program.

EB: You are officially retired from academe, yet you continue to write. Does one ever retire from being a writer?

MB: I can’t not write, and I’ve been writing more than ever since I retired. It’s a necessary part of the day for me, as necessary as anything I do.

EB: What’s your next writing project?

MB: I have a novel coming out next spring, tentatively titled Growers Market. It’s about combat veterans growing illegal marijuana, with many subplots included. I’m working on another novel now, and also on an Afterword for a new edition of A River Seen Right.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

MB: Trying to answer questions about my own work gives me a better understanding of what I’ve done. Thank you.

Posted in Ideas and Opinions, Interviews, What People Are Reading | Leave a comment

An Interview with Diana Maltz

Dr. Diana Maltz is a specialist in late-Victorian literature and culture. She has been a professor at SOU since 1999 and served as Chair of the Language, Literature, and Philosophy Department. Dr. Maltz received her BA in Literature and History from Bennington College, and both her MA and PhD in English from Stanford University. In addition to about twenty published essays and articles, she is the author of British Aestheticism and the Urban Working Classes: Beauty for the People, 1870-1914, published in 2006 by Palgrave Macmillan. She is recently back from a UK-US Fulbright Fellowship in England and we sat down to talk about her new book, a critical edition of Arthur Morrison’s A Child of the Jago, published by Broadview Press this past fall.

EB: What is A Child of the Jago about?

DM: This Victorian novel tells the story of Dicky Perrott, a boy growing up in the Jago, a squalid, impoverished, violent slum, based on the notorious Old Nichol in London’s East End. Dicky acclimates to the ethics of the Jago and becomes a skilled thief, working for the neighborhood fence and dreaming of his ultimate ascent into the High Mob. But he also has leanings toward respectability, and these are cultivated by the local priest who would save him from Jago ways.

EB: How did you get interested in Morrison?

DM: I was lucky enough to study Morrison’s Jago and some of his short stories as a grad student in the mid-1990s. Peter Miles’s excellent paperback edition of Jago had just come out through Dent/Everyman in 1995. I like to think my cohort was the first generation to read Jago in a classroom setting. Everyone was very struck by the novel. Several friends from that class teach it now that they are professors.

EB: So you committed yourself to a critical edition of it. What is a critical edition, exactly?

DM: In a critical edition, an editor frames the original novel with a critical introduction, a timeline of the author’s life, footnotes to clarify terms in the main text of the novel, and a bibliography of recommended readings. Sometimes editors include maps and illustrations. If the novel is written in a dialect unfamiliar to the general reader, the editor might add a glossary, as I did. An editor of a critical edition also works to even out variations in spelling or correct typos through “silent edits.”

Many of us are familiar with the Penguin Classics editions from college: these are standard critical editions. However, the Broadview Editions are special because the end of each edition includes cultural appendices, which are excerpts from relevant texts written around the same time as the novel. These include reviews of the novel, but they also extend to thematic writings beyond it. Depending on the novel, you might find a mix of religious tracts, medical treatises, or parliamentary reports, just to name a few.

For A Child of the Jago, I built up a selection of appendices relevant to slum life. I underlined the topics that haunt the novel and that preoccupied Victorian social reformers seeking to cleanse and reform the city: eugenics, hooliganism, women’s sweated labor. I also documented late-Victorian efforts in cultural philanthropy – that is, efforts to teach slum-dwellers higher values and tastes. These charitable schemes are parodied in the novel.

What in particular prompted you to develop Jago as a critical edition?

DM: I started teaching it my first year at SOU in 1999. By then, the only available edition was the Academy Chicago edition, which is very bare-bones: no footnotes, no appendices, only one map, a very short biographical introduction, and a short bibliography of recommended readings at the end. I started bringing in my own additional texts to class as teaching supplements: photos, maps, non-fictional testimonies about the neighborhood. These would later form the basis of some of the cultural appendices of my edition.

It seemed the natural next step to write to Broadview and ask if I could do an edition of the novel for them.

EB: Who is the audience for the work? It seems ideally suited for classroom use.

DM: Yes, Broadview Editions are marketed as teaching editions, primarily for the undergraduate classroom. One of the most positive aspects of the experience was that SOU awarded me a President’s Mini-Grant through which I was able to hire an SOU student, Carly Dreyfus, as an editorial assistant. Carly was a tremendous help. She gave me insights into what modern student readers would want footnoted and what they would find interesting as appendices.

EB: How does A Child of the Jago compare with other slum literature?

DM: We can situate A Child of the Jago in a couple of literary and social contexts. It frequently gets allied with the late-nineteenth-century literary movement called Naturalism, famously advanced by the French novelist Émile Zola. Zola was interested in the dire combination of industrial urbanism, poverty, addiction, and violence. He framed Naturalism as a kind of literary science that sought to represent the lowlife methodically and objectively.

But Morrison was himself very resistant to being pulled under the umbrella of any one movement. In fact, my edition includes his Preface to the Third Edition of Jago, where he upbraids a critic H.D. Traill for labeling him as a “Realist” and for then saying his Jago is too foul to be genuinely realistic. Morrison found himself at the center of a public debate – trying to defend his creative practices as an artist while also asserting the truthfulness of his representation of the Old Nichol slum.

In the 1890s, there was also a small school of writers who were experimenting with writing phonetically on the page in order to recreate Cockney speech. They included Morrison, Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, and other authors who are largely neglected today, such as Edwin Pugh, William Pett Ridge, and Richard Whiteing. Morrison also tends to get paired with the English novelist George Gissing because both wrote on London poverty, and certain aspects of Morrison’s Jago resonate with Gissing’s earlier novel The Nether World (1889).

EB: What was the most challenging thing about preparing the work?

DM: I was intent on selecting appendices that professors would really want, and so I sent out a survey to about 20 people who teach the novel. I included my provisional table of contents in the email, urging colleagues to suggest additions and also replacements for my original texts. Everyone had new appendices to suggest, but no one questioned my original choices. So the appendices ballooned. At one point, I had written introductions to about 40 of them, and then I bit the bullet and emailed my editor to ask what my allotted word count was for that section of the book. I had more than double the permitted word count! So I spent a very dark January hacking away at my sources and reducing the appendices to 20 sources.

But in the long run, it was a very good thing that I did ask people, since I arrived at more diverse and interesting selections than I would have on my own. Professor-friends gave me permission forego more predictable, canonical sources in order to make space for lesser-known writers. I have more texts by women than I originally included. I have two excerpts from the oral history of Arthur Harding, a gangster and ex-con who had grown up in the original Old Nichol slum. The Hardings were a notoriously powerful local family, something like the feuding gang families of Ranns and Learys in the novel.

EB: Tell us a bit about Arthur Morrison. He seems to have been quite a colorful character—a journalist, novelist and art collector. He even wrote detective fiction—he’s been compared to Arthur Conan Doyle.

DM: Morrison was by all accounts a shy, reserved person who kept a low profile. He grew up in the respectable working class in Poplar, East London: his father, an engine fitter at the docks, contracted tuberculosis and died just before Morrison turned eight. Morrison’s mother then took on the management of her mother’s sewing goods shop (“haberdashery” in British English). Morrison went to local schools and, as a teenager, left school to work as an office boy for an architect for the London School Board. He rose to the status of Third-Class Clerk before he left in 1886. His next job was as a secretary to the Beaumont Institute, which administered the People’s Palace, a philanthropic cultural center in the East End. While working for the People’s Palace, Morrison served as sub-editor of The Palace Journal and published short sketches there about London life.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Morrison’s biography for the modern reader is his reticence about his working-class roots. When Traill and others questioned his representation of the Jago, he might have silenced them by asserting his identity as an East Ender, but he did not. In my book introduction, I suggest at least a couple of reasons for his reserve. First, his home neighborhood of Poplar was at least a 45-minute walk from the Old Nichol. So Morrison never identified with his Nichol subjects at all, but positioned himself as an observer, recording their ways almost anthropologically. Morrison’s further silences and prevarications in other contexts — during author interviews and census investigations — indicate a general reluctance to confess his working-class origins. But we shouldn’t consider this mere snobbery on his part: it was the survival strategy of an author trying to make his way in late-Victorian culture. He had a wife and child at home, and, given that he was a self-employed writer, his class position was a vulnerable one.

He had begun his writing career by contributing columns to magazines. To be a good journalist and earn a living by his pen, he had to be versatile. The detective fictions you mention were a lucrative venture, especially since he began his most famous series, the Martin Hewitt stories, in the wake of Sherlock Holmes’s descent over Niagara Falls. He did so at the urging of his editor, who saw there was a new gap in the market. His detective fictions have a following among readers today.

Morrison had grown up close to the docks of East London, where curio shops sold items from the Far East. He collected prints and paintings from Japan long before they were valued as rarities. He eventually gained prominence as an authority of Asian art, especially after publishing The Painters of Japan in 1911. The sales of his collections were the basis of his fortune – not his royalties from fiction writing. He worked as an art consultant (and unofficially as an art dealer) long after he ceased writing slum fictions.

EB: Was Jago controversial? Well-received?

DM: The novel was controversial and well-received. It went through several editions relatively quickly. But the critic Traill was not the only one irked by Morrison’s representation of the Jago. Morrison’s fictional slum is the site of vivid brutality, with spontaneous outbreaks of large-scale gang violence. Crowds rampage through the streets brandishing street railings and pokers as weapons. Women and children join in the fighting. One female character gnaws the napes of her victims like a dog; another uses a broken bottle to slash the face of her enemy. The actual residents of the Old Nichol slum and several philanthropists and school administrators at work there took umbrage at this portrait of their district as a zone of barbarity. Morrison’s friend and mentor, the local minister, Rev. Arthur Osborne Jay, felt compelled to back up Morrison’s claims in a letter to the press. It had been Jay who invited Morrison to visit the slum in 1894 and who urged him to write on it. In my footnotes, I trace places where Morrison seems to draw on Jay’s own published writings for statistical information and anecdotes.

The verdict today is that Morrison was selective in the facts that he appropriated for the book. It is true that there were terrible street fights and clearly some historical figures were violent alcoholics whom the locals feared and avoided. Like Dicky, children did steal tobacco off the back of vans (“van-dragging”). But Morrison omitted the presence of civilized institutions within the boundaries of the slum: a savings bank, a cloth warehouse, schools, chapels, and a strong network of charitable organizations serving the community. One philanthropist provided children with country holidays away from the city. There was an active association for tenants’ rights, which sought to expose absentee slumlords. Morrison ignores all of these in order to portray the slum as hopeless and impermeable by the wider society and, in some scenes, he represents the inhabitants as unselfconscious, atomistic, and avaricious.

In her excellent history of the Old Nichol, The Blackest Streets (2008), Sarah Wise also notes that by the time Morrison arrived on the scene to research and write his novel, demolitions had already begun on the slum and the social fabric of the neighborhood had been transformed. Original residents had moved away and squatters had arrived from other parts of the city to camp in the buildings about to be torn down, in the hope that they could get compensation from the London County Council. So, in essence, Morrison was recording a moment that had already passed into history.

EB: I know that the book has a lot of interesting slang.

DM: Yes, this novel is unusually immersive: it pulls you into its own universe because of the intensity and allure and comprehensiveness of the Jagos’ language. My students talk about getting “into it.”

For instance, in one passage in the book, the High Mobsmen have gathered to lay odds on a neighborhood fistfight, and the locals identify each Mobsman by his crimes: “Him as done the sparks in from Regent Street for nine centuries o’ quids” [the man who stole the diamonds from Regent Street for £900]; “Him as done five stretch for a snide bank bill an’ they never found the oof” [the man who served five years in prison for a counterfeit bank check and they never found the money]; “Him as maced the bookies in France an’ shot the nark in the boat” [the man who swindled the bookmakers in France and shot the informer in the boat (probably the channel boat back to England)]. These lines are pretty intensely Jago and denser than most. But it is almost uncanny how only a few pages into the book readers almost-unconsciously acquire enough fluency to read along in a gallop (although the footnotes help!).

One of the great early lines in the novel occurs when Dicky’s mother warns him that if he steals, he will be arrested and sent to prison. He dismisses her, saying, “It’s the mugs wot git took” (it’s the fools that get caught).

While I was working on the edition, I used to joke that I was “in the Jago,” and like Dicky, I might never get out. But one of the pleasures of being in the Jago was that I had people to talk to who were just as absorbed in the book as I was. My editor in Canada and I never met, only communicated by email, but I loved that someone else was deep in details of the novel with me and wanted to produce the best possible edition of it.

EB: Can you tell us more about the slang?

DM: Many of the 600+ footnotes define Cockney terms and thieves’ cant in the novel. I am going to leave you with a few words and phrases to share with friends in the hope that we will all be talking broad Jago one day.

    Peter-claimer: a thief who steals luggage from train platforms
    Snidesman: a counterfeiter
    Lob-crawler: a thief who robs the cash register
    Click: robbery
    Yannups: money
    Hook: a pickpocket
    Toy and tackle: a watch with its chain
    Pogue-hunter: pickpocket dealing in purses
    To flimp: to steal by having one person bump into the victim from the back, while another robs him from the front
    In stir: in prison
    To cut one’s lucky: to make a getaway

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

DM: Thank you.

Posted in Ideas and Opinions, Interviews, Language | Leave a comment

Dot, Dot, Dot, a guest post by Celia Johnson

Celia Johnson will be starting her Masters of Arts in Teaching program this summer at Southern Oregon University.

Dot, Dot, Dot

“It doesn’t say Molly and Roger, Forever. It says Molly and Roger Forever… dot, dot, dot! Like maybe it’s forever, maybe it’s not.” – The Truth About Forever, Sarah Dessen

The most fascinating part of the ellipsis is that at its most basic definition it means a lack of something, or nothing at all. When looking into the classical uses of this piece of punctuation I was shocked to find almost no reference to the current uses of the ellipsis in a formal style guide. However, as the quote above demonstrates the ellipsis has taken on new meaning in the speech and writing of today. This change is not restricted to the youth and new generations, but by an entire network of technology using writers.
In order to understand how the ellipsis has taken on new meaning, it is important to know the definitive rules of usage that have been used throughout writing history. Although there are some slight variations between style guides the most concise definition came from Grammar by Diagram, “An ellipsis of three dots indicates that words have been omitted from the direct quotation. No ellipsis is needed at the beginning or end of a direct quotation if it is clear that words have been omitted” (Vitto 305). Although Vitto and some other authors go on to examine more carefully the usage and placement of the three dot ellipsis, and even four dot ellipses, there was never more than a page of detailed examinations of the punctuation mark. That might not seem odd with a period or even a question mark which are incorporated into the basic grammar lessons of young elementary classrooms, but the ellipsis is not taught very often and has a much more complicated use. In fact, even the name of the ellipsis is fairly unknown. It is most often referred to as the “Dot, dot, dot,” or the three periods.

The ellipsis does not have the large sweeping history of usage change, or even of usage. Until recent shifts in daily usage, the most controversial arguments that surround the ellipsis is whether it was three dots or four, spaced or grouped, and how to pluralize the word. There is a difference between three and four dot ellipses. The three dot ellipsis is used at the beginning or middle of a sentence when a period is not also essential. A four dot ellipsis is more common in the middle of a quote or at the end of a sentence when an omission and the end of a sentence are occurring simultaneously (Vitto 306). A good example of correctly used three and four dot ellipses is in dialogue when only on side of the conversation is being written: “Hello, may I speak to the manager please … Oh, OK, can you help me? … Please send the bloodmobile right away … Have you got a pen ready? … I’ll give you the address….” (Taylor). There is a serious of three dot ellipses in use because the speaker is either ending statements as questions, or is being interrupted on the other half of the conversation. However, the last line in cut off and the end of the statement requiring the four dot (ellipsis and period) ellipses.

Unlike other punctuation marks which are single characters, the ellipsis is made up of three dots, but how do you type out an ellipsis? Do you put spaces in between the dots? The answers to those questions are not as straightforward as one would assume. Some style guides show a preference for no spaces because it can take up too much space on the page, or even cause your reader to forget the information at the beginning of the sentence. The Elements of Typographic Style, author Robert Bringhurst suggests using dots right next to each other or inserting a special character that utilizes spaces smaller in width (305). Some typing programs are programmed to insert that special character whenever the user inserts an ellipsis. However, additional style variations may completely disagree. The Chicago Manual of Style suggests typing out three dots, “there is the potential for character-mapping problems—the ellipsis could appear as some other character across software and browser platforms—an added inconvenience. So it’s best to type three spaced dots, like this: . . .” (“Chicago Manual”). The spaced version is most accepted by schools and official writing styles such as MLA and APA. All ellipses are automatically changed to that version in Microsoft Word and Google Documents. Finally, the plural of ellipsis is ellipses, which is extremely confusing when typing a paper about them.

Although the ellipsis has found its use in the world of formal writing, it has been carving an entirely new niche in informal writing. Media such as texting, posts, tweets, and emails have all been affected by the introduction of the ellipsis. Even the users are confused as to how they picked up the habit of adding those three little dots at the end, or middle, or beginning of almost every communication. Lukeman in his grammar guide, A Dash of Style, warns against the overuse of the ellipsis and how its use becomes a writers addiction ““In an amateur’s hands, though ellipsis points can be a problem. They can become a bad habit a crutch to use whenever a writer doesn’t know how to firmly end a sentence. Worst of all… some writers think that merely because they conclude with (…) it will force the reader to read on” (Lukeman 189). Used sparingly the ellipsis can help lead a reader through a time jump, quotation, dialogue, and even into the emotion of uncertain. But informal writing has reinvigorated the punctuation mark into the queen on a chess board instead of the king. In this faction of communication an ellipsis can move in whatever direction she chooses, and become the agent of emotion, inflection, and implied meanings.

The ellipsis has ensnared more than just teenagers; there are countless blogs and articles written by writers who have found themselves entangled in the ellipsis revolution. “Recently it struck me that I have been using ellipses (. . .) quite a bit in my informal writing. Like most people I compose at least a few emails each day and while, by most standards I am an infrequent texter, I do send out a modest amount. In both of these formats I’ve been dot, dot, dotting left and right” (Sacasas). Teenagers, parents, college students and even professional writers have been affected by the trend of inserting ellipses. There are many different uses for it, each with a slightly different effect which has become second habit to read and comprehend. And it is not always easy to figure out why.

Some might suggest that it is out of laziness, but typing three dots takes more time than one. So why has this piece of punctuation taken over our writing? The theory that seemed most prominent and logical is that we are using ellipses more often in messages that still convey our personal voice. In formal writing we can avoid usage, but when we want the audience to read it with our inflections they start to appear more frequently. Matthew J.X. Malady, a writer and editor for Slate Magazine, noted his own usage: “I was delivering drifting, whiny telegraphs of emails: ‘Hey… this is great… I don’t know when I’ll get to an edit but… one thing is you should think about the ending there… but maybe I’ll find one in the middle for you, so don’t worry too much… okay more soon!”’ (1). While Malady found that his usage made him sound less authoritative in tone, the quote does read conversationally. Adding a more inviting conversational tone to texting, emailing, and updating statuses is a trend that has been evolving for some time. Teenagers have been dropping declarative sentences instead opting for phrases and patterns that display humility and the possibility of being wrong. A comedy sketch replicated this pattern perfectly using the ellipsis as the punctuation of choice: Declarative sentences … so called, because, they used to you know … declare things to be true … ok … as opposed to other things that are like totally … you know … not … They’ve been infected by this tragically cool and totally hip interrogative tone … as if I’m saying, “Don’t think I’m a nerd just ‘cuz I’ve like noticed this okay … I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions … I’m just like inviting you to join me on the bandwagon of my own uncertainty …” (Sacasas). Once again, this style of writing and speech is allowing for the input of others, allowing the speaker to not take a strong position and avoid offending anyone else. While this style of usage is prominent it is not the only one, and can sometimes even be reversed with the usage of ellipses.

Many text messages read with more emotion when adding the ellipsis. Some people use them to indicate flirting, while others use them to show worry or sincerity. A phrase that changes drastically in meaning with the addition of an ellipsis is the simple phrase ‘hi’. When an ellipsis is placed before the word ‘…hi,’ it can indicate a reluctance to start the conversation. The parties involved might have been fighting and the person sending the message is the one angry. If you reverse the order ‘hi…’ it indicates that the sender might be worried that the other party is angry. Using of the ellipsis to display emotion allows the user to communicate how they are feeling without being too harsh or overwhelming. One example is the statement “I had a really great time…” by adding the ellipsis there is an implied flirtiness that can be ignored without causing humiliation to the sender.

Of course in order to make the usage of an ellipsis successful the reader needs to understand the implied meaning. The ambiguity can be confusing if the reader does not know the sender very well, or projects their own meaning to the text instead of the intended. Malady did a small experiment by sending out ten random texts to his friends and family with no meaning behind them. The results were ten completely normal responses, thus demonstrating how the receiver will fill in meaning when an ellipsis is in use. “Next I sent an even vaguer text to my mom: “All Star Game………….” Who knows what I meant by that one. I didn’t, certainly. Sure, the All-Star game was on TV at the time, but beyond that, what was I getting at? Mom wasn’t fazed in the least: “I’m falling asleep…Really tired” (2). When the intent can be discerned by the reader the ellipsis can be a great writing tool to show emotion, invite conversation, ask a question, or even just demonstrate a lack of a response.

The ellipsis is being repurposed, and in some cases writers have developed an addiction to the usage. It is versatile, takes little thought, and runs the least amount of risk of offending someone. However, when the usage starts to interfere with professionalism and clear communication an intervention might be necessary.  

Works Cited

Bringhurst, Robert. The Elements of Typographic Style. Point Roberts, WA: Hartley & Marks, 2004. Print.

Lukeman, Noah, and Noah Lukeman. A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006. Print.

Malady, Matthew J.X. “Why Everyone and Your Mother Started Using Ellipses Everywhere.” Slate Magazine. 29 July 2013. Web. 28 May 2014.

Sacasas, Michael. “Dot, Dot, Dot.” Web log post. The Frailest Thing. N.p., 10 Aug. 2011. Web. 28 May 2014.

Taylor, Luke. “Grammar Grater®.” Minnesota Public Radio News. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2014.

“The Chicago Manual of Style Online: Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide.” The Chicago Manual of Style Online: Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide. 28 May 2014.

Vitto, Cindy L. Grammar by Diagram: Understanding English Grammar through Traditional Sentence Diagraming. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 2009. Print.

Posted in Ideas and Opinions, Language | Comments Off

An interview with Tod Davies, author of Jam Today Too

Tod Davies is the author of Snotty Saves the Day and Lily the Silent, both from The History of Arcadia series, and the cooking memoirs Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking With What You’ve Got and Jam Today Too: The Revolution Will Not Be Catered. She is the editorial director and publisher of Exterminating Angel Press and has worked as a screenwriter, film and television producer, social activist, radio show host, actor, and amateur cook.

Davies lives with her husband Alex, and their two dogs, dividing their time between Colestin, Oregon, Boulder, Colorado.

We sat down to talk about Jam Today Too.

EB: Jam Today Too is a memoir of great meals, and it’s revolutionary, spiritual, and funny. What were you aiming at?

TD: Wow, those are great targets! I don’t think I was consciously aiming at any of them, although come to think of it, they’re all combined in what I WAS aiming for: to really encourage everyone (and this includes myself most of all) to realize and act on the fact that any kind of positive change in the society at large has got to start with the individual. We all have, not just a stake in the world around us, but a responsibility to try to change things for the better. And we can do that. We can! I meet too many people who think the whole landscape is just too overwhelming, there’s nothing to be done, let’s just give up. Completely wrong, and, if I might be so bold, lazy, too. What we can do, every one of us, is become ever kinder, ever more knowledgeable about who we actually are and what we are actually doing. And then, most of all, what each one of us can do is learn what truly makes us and the people around us happy…and then get doing it! Honestly, a truly happy, balanced life is the single best contribution you can make to the polity. It’s contagious. Really. And food can help us find that happy balance.

EB: I like the way you’ve organized things into different life events: food for disasters, grief, home, friends and feasts food for oneself and, of course, food for thought. Where do you think our food associations come from?

TD: From our bodies, of course! What our bodies are trying (sometimes, these days, almost desperately) to tell us is who we are, and what are our real, authentic human needs. The more the poor body’s messages get drowned out by frantic media stimuli, drugs (recreational or otherwise), and/or commands that counter what the body needs, the farther we get away from what food really means to us. And since food is nourishment, and nourishment is what keeps us healthy and alive, we can see where obliterating that message is going to get us.

EB: How do you keep track of meals? Are you a food diarist?

TD: I used to be. I have a whole book chock full of menus from meals I particularly enjoyed with (sometimes hilarious) notes attached. Now I just find when a new recipe really impresses me, I want to sit down and write about the circumstances surrounding it. Hence the Jam Today series.

EB: You’re an advocate of cooking without worrying too much about recipes. Why? Do strict recipes get in the way?

TD: I think there’s a place for ‘strict’ recipes. They are terrific as a benchmark of a certain kind of excellence…if they’re good recipes. Certain cookbooks are great for this. Julia Child, of course—if you follow one of the recipes in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” you are going to get an undeniably excellent result. James Beard. Deborah Madison. And for every day cooking, Marion Cunningham. But what I’m trying to get across is the art of strengthening one’s personal autonomy through the meditation of cooking every day. If you interact with a recipe, instead of letting it dictate to you, you’re already starting to change your way of interacting with other authority sources as well—mass media, for example. You’re questioning, you’re interposing who you are into the stated ideal, you’re ACTING. That’s what I’m after. That’s what I’m always interested in supporting.

EB: Do you have a favorite non-recipe from the book? I’m personally excited to try the dried tomatoes.

TD: Really, my favorite non-recipe is the cup of tea. I make that every day of my life. And tea gives me more pleasure than red wine, even. Imagine that! (But I do have to admit, that dried tomato recipe is hugely useful in my kitchen. In fact, I have a bowl of them in the fridge even as we speak.)

EB: You’ve listed the cookbooks in your kitchen. Do you have a favorite or two? What are some must reads for cooks or eaters?

TD: I have a short bibliography in the book about both the cooking memoirs I love, and some of my favorite cookbooks. But there are so many. The ones I like best are the ones where you get a clear picture of the character of the person writing them. These are not necessarily always those that have a lot of prose attached to the recipes. Deborah Madison, for example, who I think can be called the Julia Child of vegetarian cooking. You just know from her recipes that she’s the kind of friend you would want to have if you were hit by some kind of personal disaster. She’d be right there, and she’d be able to give you the best advice. I love reading her recipes. Fergus Henderson, of St. John Restaurant, is another one where you just know you would love to sit down with him and a couple of glasses of wine. There are others.

Obviously M.F.K. Fisher is a must read for ANYONE, let alone anyone interested in food. And Elizabeth David is always a pleasure, though I must say, reading her you know she would probably look down on any “little person’s” efforts. That is a bit annoying of her. But she so loves what she’s doing that I tend to forgive her snobberies.

EB: Your husband is a vegetarian. How does that complicate your omnivoracity?

TD: It just adds another dimension to the never endingly fascinating game of deciding what we want to eat today. And I am really grateful to Alex for being a vegetarian. Twenty years ago it opened up a whole new world of cooking to me. He’s the one who got me onto brown rice. Which I now adore to the extent that I think white rice is an active bore. Thank you, Alex!

EB: You mention some bad meals you have had in restaurants. Do you have a favorite worst meal?

TD: We ate a meal in Hull, in England, that was so spectacularly awful, as well as poisonous, that I still remember it with something approaching awe. It was at a chain restaurant that shortly thereafter went bankrupt, and no wonder.

While the poisonous part of the meal is best left unmentioned, the bizarre part was the salad, which was composed of: Diced avocado. Canned tomato pulp. Partially defrosted frozen raspberries. And a blueberry-honey vinaigrette. It was the most astonishing desecration of the noble avocado I have ever come across. To this day I cannot get over how someone would do that to an avocado, when all you have to do for maximum enjoyment is cut one in half, take out the stone, squeeze a lemon over the whole thing, dab it with maybe a little soy sauce, and ENJOY.

That salad was so memorable, I wrote it into the script of the film we did later: THREE BUSINESSMEN. One of the businessmen orders it in the restaurant in Liverpool. He is exactly the kind of fool who would, too, that character.

EB: There seems to be a lot of umami. Is that a favorite flavor?

TD: They do say that people are one or the other: those who enjoy savory foods, and those who enjoy sweet. I’m definitely one of the former. If you give me a choice between blue cheese and chocolate, it’s blue cheese for me every time. Although nothing against chocolate.

EB: After a flood, your kitchen was remodeled. What’s new?

TD: It’s pretty much the same kitchen—only better. It always had the perfect triangle for me of refrigerator, stove and sink, and it has always had a pretty view out the window of a meadow. But now the cabinets are actually beautiful and designed for my own uses. And best of all, oh heaven, the countertops are now granite. Before they were the weirdest, most useless display of tiny one inch avocado green tile. This kind of counter is impossible to keep clean. As well as being hideous. It was almost worth having a flood to get rid of it.

EB: You also have a section on the portrayal of men in the kitchen. Why are they portrayed as either geniuses or bunglers?

TD: For one thing, because both those images are of individualists unconnected to anyone or anything around them…and this is one of the major myths of our culture, the myth of the individual who triumphs or fails ALL ALONE. Both of these stereotypes come out of an idea that we all act in a kind of ideal void, separate from the actual web of community and event we are truly embedded within.

Most men I know—and certainly the ones I know who enjoy the arts of the kitchen—understand this. They understand that food is an opportunity for mutual celebration, rather than individual aggrandizement. It’s ‘look at us!’ rather than ‘look at me!’ I do think that attitude should get more acknowledgements in the mass media than it does.

EB: Thanks for talking with us. I’m off to try your recipe for “The World’s Best Upside-Down Adult Hamburger.”

TD: It’s fabulous, I promise. And don’t forget to fry more onions than you think you’ll actually need. You won’t regret it.

Posted in Interviews | Comments Off

Summer 2014 — what are you reading?

This summer I’m planning on catching up on some reading: Tod Davies’s Jam Today, Too: The Revolution Will Not Be Catered, a bunch of books by Megan Abbot and Wallace Stroby and whatever is new from John Sanford and James Lee Burke. And I’m hoping to get to José Saramago’s The Cave (suggested by Robert Arellano, Ivan Doig’s This House of Sky (suggested by Les AuCoin),

I asked some soon-to-be SOU grads what they were planning to read, once their course work was behind them.

Haley May is looking forward to Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit, Confessions of an Eco-Sinner by Fred Pierce, Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris, and The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins.

Julie Kanta recommends Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown, which she has already read but says has lots of great information on what to do after college. And it’s funny. She’ll be reading some books based on some of her favorite films: American Psycho, A Clockwork Orange, A Good Year, Out of Africa, and Stephen King’s short stories (Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and more).

Kristy Evans is going to read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin, among (many) others.

Celia Johnson will be reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace and Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris.

Lefty Barber would like to start The Game of Thrones series and work through the Collected Essays of David Foster Wallace.

Holly Deffenbaugh can’t wait to read is A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving and The Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.

Daniel Alrick will be reading The Other America by Michael Harrington.

New dad Randal Lee will be reading Christianity and Liberalism by John Gresham Machen and All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque.

Matthew Kent will be tackling Midnight’s Children and The Silmarillion.

And I heard from a few faculty colleagues too about their summer reading plans. Diana Maltz will be reading the Life of Pi, since she is planning on teaching a new class on The Animal in Literature in the fall.

Charlotte Haddella is planning to read both of Mary Szybist’s books: Incarnadine and Granted (Mary Sazbist will be the Chautauqua Poets and Writers headliner in the fall).

For fun, Bill Gholson will be reading All I Did Was Shoot Your Man: A Leonid McGill Mystery by Walter Moseley. He plans to read lots of nonfiction too starting with I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts by Mark Dery.

Margaret Perrow is looking forward to What is the What? by Dave Eggers and also hopes to finish The Kite Runner this summer.

Bobby Arellano is hitting the Oregon books with Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey and The Klamath Knot by David Rains Wallace.

How about you?

Posted in What People Are Reading | Comments Off

The Food Blog, or the evolution of the online culinary narrative

Published in 2005, Digital Dish compiled culinary bloggers’ notes, reflections and recipes before blogging was as huge a home industry and commercial tool as it is today. Linderholm says in his introduction, “At the time this book begins, in the summer of 2003, there were fewer than 50 food blogs that were easy to track down. By the time the book ends, in the summer of 2004, there were several hundred.”

Today it seems as if sites like Grub Street, Foodista, FoodNetwork, Christopher Kimball’s empire and Eater dominate, but no, the power of individual influencers reign: here’s Saveur’s vote, here’s HuffPo’s, here’s the Weblog Awards, now in it’s 14th year, the International Association of Culinary Professionals gives firsts to blogs in several categories, and there are several pretty big conferences dedicated to food blogging, among them: Foodista’s International Food Blogger Conference (bloggers get in for $95 watta deal!), BlogHer Food (food is just one of BlogHer’s content areas), and IACP (more professional, mixed culinary professions).

But back to Digital Dish: Five Seasons of the Freshest Recipes and Writing from Food Blogs Around the World. Organized by season and indexed by blog, recipe and main ingredient, the work provides a fascinating perspective on a transitional period in culinary narrative, as the web evolved into a more personal form populated by WordPress and at the same time more commercial, fueled by advertising. Digital Dish is text rich, with long musings, detailed recipes and comments by Linderholm. Brand names are almost never noted in ingredients or in the narratives. The urls of the blogs are convoluted typepad and BlogSpot addresses and are not optimized. There are few photos in Digital Dish, though the actual blog posting probably had more. Today, photos rule and text often takes a back seat or is even a no-show in blog entries. Bloggers are courted as paid brand ambassadors, their blogs openly promoting brand partners.

Researching each of the blogs noted in Digital Dish, and their bloggers would be a really interesting project; understanding the evolution and transformation of early influencers.

Sadly, some of the blogs cited in the work are no longer active – checking Spiceblog, hitting a domain for sale page.

Some of those that are active have migrated to later software with updated templates and contemporary color palettes, though again, for some, posts are infrequent or not current. Looka! last posted in 2013, commenting on the use of “weblog”, some distain resonates as he mentions the clipped, contemporary form, “blog”.

Some bloggers may have migrated to other digital platforms, as Sasha Wilson (A Girl’s Gotta Eat) seems to have done: “dudes, i moved to instagram. find me there. blogging regularly is totes too difficult for these crazy times. but i’ll update this here and there…”. And others may have moved to digital platforms managed by others, to share the work of keeping content current.

At least two stalwarts are still active, Cook Sister and Domestic Goddess.

Ultimately, blogging is a huge investment of time and energy and so we have a debt to these early bloggers who made such an investment to an early digital narrative form. They paved the way for all who followed. My thanks too to Owen Linderholm for preserving these early writings in print, many probably now lost to time.

First posted to in April 2014.


Posted in Ideas and Opinions | Comments Off

An Interview with Robert Antoni, author of As Flies to Whatless Boys

Robert Antoni is the author of five books: Divina Trace, Blessed is the Fruit, My Grandmother’s Erotic Folktales, Carnival, and As Flies to Whatless Boys. He earned an MA from the Johns Hopkins University and a PhD from the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa. Among his honors are Guggenheim Fellowship, the Commonwealth Writers Prize, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the NALIS Lifetime Literary Award from the Trinidad and Tobago National Library.

Antoni lives in Manhattan and teaches in the graduate writing program at The New School University. We recently had an opportunity to talk about his latest book, As Flies to Whatless Boys (Akashic Books, 2013).

EB:What prompted you to write this book?

RA: I was leafing through an old Trinidadian memoir, and in the Appendix I came across three paragraphs on John Adolphus Etzler, his machines, and his Tropical Emigration Society (TES). I was fascinated. But what struck me as still more amazing was a footnote to the description of Etzler: that despite the tragedy that ensued with his experiment, several well-known families were established in Trinidad. And last among the list was my mother’s surname, Tucker. Yet my mother had never heard of Etzler or the TES. The only story she knew was that our first relative to arrive from England in Trinidad, William Sanger Tucker, settled the rest of his family in Port of Spain, and left immediately with his fifteen-year-old son, Willy, into the jungle—she had no idea why. And six weeks later young Willy brought his father back to his family in a makeshift stretcher carried by himself, an African, and two Warrahoon Indians. He was dying of yellow fever, to which he succumbed following morning. That was all my mother knew. But suddenly I realized that my mother’s bizarre and horrific story made sense if the Tuckers had been part of Etzler’s experiment. I was determined to find out. So I went to the National Archives in Trinidad, and to the British Library in London, and I gathered together everything I could find about Etzler and his society—including his own published treatises, complete with mechanical drawings of his machines. And I began to pour through the mountain of photocopies, looking for the surname, Tucker. Eventually, I stumbled across it, again and again, and I realized that the Tuckers were indeed counted among Etzler’s first group of Pioneers to land in Trinidad. Not only that, William Sanger had been instrumental to building the Satellite, Etzler’s agrarian mechanism powered by the wind that would have planted the crops and performed all the labor upon the land. But the culmination of my research was the discovery of a letter, fished out of William Sanger’s pocket on his deathbed, and addressed to the editor of The Morning Star—the journal published in London that followed the progress of Etzler’s society, where the letter was mailed and eventually appeared. That letter is the only description we have of the settlement where Etzler’s great plan for humanity came to fruition, and met with its tragic end in a matter of weeks. Once I’d fond that letter, I was hooked. No turning back.

EB:I was fascinated by Willy’s language. How did you fashion Willy’s voice, with its particular cadence and creole-like grammar?

RA: That’s the language I grew up with. It’s the language of my grandfather on my mother’s side, who in his last years, lived with us in our home. He was also named William (a popular Tucker name—my own middle name, too). Having said that, Willy’s language is also an invention, a fabrication, including the grammar. It is an attempt to get that spoken language down on the page, in a way that is both readable and convincing—hopefully, even for readers who have never traveled to the West Indies. It’s the most agonizing and enjoyable aspect of my writing. And all of my books, to greater or lesser extent, are written in some form of West Indian vernacular—or vernaculars. It’s what I live for, as a writer anyway.

EB:Willy also used a lot on wonderful expressions like “What the arse” and terms like “to mongoose” “boobooloops” and “cockspraddle.” Are they authentic or a product of literary license?

RA: They’re both: a combination of well-known Trinidadian colloquialisms and invented words (which Trinis do as a matter of habit). “What the arse” comes from the contemporary “what the ass”—my attempt to make it feel both slightly archaic and British. A mongoose is of course that small rodent common in India (there are lots of East Indians in Trinidad who were brought initially as indentured laborers, and have contributed substantially to the culture and language). So a “mongoose” is commonly used by Trinis to mean a sly, shrewd, conniving, and artful scamp—like Etzler. The calypsonian, Lord Invader, had a popular song called “Sly Mongoose”. But as far as I know I’m the first person to use it as a verb. “Boobooloops” is a popular expression for an over-weight, ungainly, clumsy person—it’s one of those wonderful words that looks like its meaning. Finally “cockspraddle” should really be “catspraddle”, and anyone who has ever owned a cat will know exactly what that means. The thing is, I had already used two cat metaphors in that same paragraph, so I had to think of something else: I half-invented “cockspraddle”.

EB:The theme of language is all through the work. What did you have in mind by having Marguerete born without vocal cords? What is it she is unable to say?

RA: There is nothing she is unable to say in her silence. And in her curt notes to Willy, she says it more succinctly, perceptively, and profoundly than anybody else. But that’s precisely the point. That’s how she knocks Willy off his feet. Etzler and everybody else is all talk. But one of the reasons I wanted to make Marguerite mute was to have her contrast Miss Ramsol, the Director of the Trinidad National Archives who, in the contemporary strand of the story, is assisting the “author” (named Mr Robot, her pronunciation of Robert) with his research—which also turns into a romance. Miss Ramsol communicates to Mr Robot via emails written in what I call a “Trini-vernacular-cellphone-textspeak” (meaning that it contains lots of numerals, abbreviations, and not a single full stop). Miss Ramsol’s emails spill off the page, just like Etzler’s speeches and his own writing. But Miss Ramsol was the easiest character I have every written, and Marguerite was definitely the most difficult. For so long she felt contrived. I just couldn’t make her believable. Eventually my partner and first editor, Ali—an amazing writer herself—told me that Willy has to fall in love with Marguerite not in spite of the fact that she is mute, but because of it. That was exactly what I need to hear. It was the key to bringing her to life.

EB:The parallel love story between the writer Mr Robot and the archivist Ms. Ramsol, who lets him “subjuice” her. That seems to have been a lot of fun to write and an interesting commentary on evolution of language. What did you have in mind?

RA: The only thing I had in mind was to have fun.

EB:Is “subjuice” a real usage?” If not it should be.

RA: All mine, and thanks.

EB:The title alludes to the line from King Lear “As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods. They kill us for their sport.” Why “whatless”?

RA: It’s a fairly well known West Indian colloquialism meaning worthless, useless, eagerly destructive—basically without what. Contemporary spellings are wotless and wutless. But I wanted to go back to the origins of the word, almost as a way to suggest in that word the evolution of language (even though I knew that to spell it that way would piss some Trinis off—they’d say I got it wrong). But I wanted the word to appear familiar and at the same time a little strange to all of my readers, including my fellow Trinidadians. Also, I wanted to let my readers know, right from the title, what they were in for—language-wise at least. It’s like saying, right from the title, read at your own risk! Nobody who picks up the book can tell me I didn’t warn them! Of course, there are a million reasons for using the quote from Lear in my title, one being that there are parallels to Shakespeare’s play throughout the novel—including Gloucester’s blinding, the character who speaks the line of the title. I’m also, somewhat underhandedly, attempting to elevate the stature of my own story simply by association with the master. But Lear is Shakespeare’s history play that is also a family saga, and it is a tragedy, with ample comedy (thanks to the Fool and others), just like my own story. Last, I am constantly rewriting Shakespeare, and Walcott, and all of my mentor-masters-and mistresses, just as they did. What else can a writer do?

EB:What is your next project?

RA:R & R.

EB:Thanks for talking with us.

RA: Pleasure.

Posted in Interviews, Language | Comments Off

Amy MacLennan’s Things to do this Poetry Month

Amy MacLennan’s has put together a great list of readings to help you celebrate National Poetry Month. Thanks, Amy.

** Jackson County Library Poetry Events

    April 1, 5:00p-6:30p, Shady Cove Library: Lawson Inada leads discussion on poetry

    April 5, 2:00p-3:30p, Rogue River Library: Lawson Inada provides a poetry discussion and writing workshop

    April 6 (SUNDAY), 1:00p-3:00p, Ashland Library: Linda Barnes, Angela Howe Decker, Amy MacLennan, and Amy Miller read from their works (some of my favorite poets to steal from)

    April 12, 2:00p-4:00p, Medford Library: Poetry and Pie (read a poem and eat pie)

    April 12, 12:00n-3:00p, Eagle Point Liibrary: Explore Haiku and write your own or decorate a famous haiku poem

    April 13, 1:00p-3:00p, Ashland Library: Elizabeth Hallett hosts a showing and discussion on Stafford’s “Every War has Two Losers” (people can read their favorite Stafford poem)

    April 16, 1:00p-2:30p, Ashland Library: Lawson Inada will provide a poetry discussion and writing workshop

    April 22, 5:00p-7:00p, Rogue River Library: Film showing of Stafford Documentaries, “William Staffford: Life and Poems” and “Every War has two Losers”

    April 30, 12:00n-1:30p, Medford Library: William Stafford Tea and showing of “Every War Has Two Losers”

** OSF Hip Hop Open MIke

    Monday, April 7, 7:00p
    Black Swan Theatre, Ashland

** Last Illahe Event of the Season!!

    Shaindel Beers, John C. Morrison, Vince Wixon
    Thursday, April 17, 7:00p
    Illahe Gallery, 215 Fourth St., Ashland

** Bloomsbury Books, Ashland

    Dawn Diez Willis, Donna Henderson
    Thursday, April 3, 7:00p

    Pepper Trail, Gary Lark, Michael Spring
    Thursday, April 10, 7:00p

    Jeff Alessandrelli, Lisa Ciccarello
    Monday, April 14, 7:00p

    Steve Dieffenbacher, Jenny Root, Kathryn Ridall
    Thursday, April 24, 7:00p

    Angela Decker, Don Colburn
    Tuesday, April 29, 7:00p

** Gallerie Karon

    Wednesday, April 23, 7:00p
    Amy MacLennan, Dori Appel, Bruce Barton, Joyce Epstein, Rebecca Gabriel
    500 A Street, Ashland

** Julia Connor Workshop (Straw into Gold)

    Friday, April 25 through Sunday, April 27
    GEOS Institute, 84 Fourth Street, Ashland
    $150 for 12-participant workshop with 10 hours of instruction
    Deadline: April 1

Amy MacLennan makes her home in Oregon’s Rogue Valley. She is the author of two chapbooks, Weathering (Uttered Chaos Press, 2012) and The Fragile Day (Spire Press, 2011), and many other terrific poems.

Posted in Literary Events in Southern Oregon | Comments Off

Aviation English, a guest post by Brenda Shelton

Aviation English

The most common bridge language in the world is English. Whether the implemented communication is online, in business, or soaring above ground through the friendly skies, English is the chosen language of use and connection. After the end of World War II, English became and remained the official language of aviation. However, the English used in aviation is not entirely traditional. Instead, Aviation English, the restricted register of simplified yet structured English used by pilots and air traffic controllers, is the true official language of air travel. Swift, simple, and systematic, this form of English is a scripted, and in many cases highly dangerous, form of verbal communication. Therefore, while individuals within the aviation profession must have a solid understanding of the English language, Aviation English itself is a specialized and unique form of English that cannot be found anywhere else. Aviation English is the plain yet intricate trade language of the skies.

Since Aviation English is a global language, yet simultaneously a language used solely for the profession of aviation, it may be classified as a bridge or trade language. While native English speakers must learn Aviation English, non-native speakers learn English as well as Aviation English in order to fly. As a result, Aviation English exists as a mutation of traditional English, used to allow for all pilots and air traffic controllers to communicate with one another, ensuring safe flight patterns and operation. It is “a language for specific purposes,” or “a code that is used in a very restricted context” (Alderson 169). It contains the addition of specific grammar alterations for the sake of succinct, brief communication and clarity, as well as a unique vocabulary and certain abbreviations due to the distinctive parts of an airplane and the specific protocol of flying. Thus, Aviation English exists as a “restricted register” (Ragan 26) or a situational, limited language confined to a predetermined script and rhythm.

While no exact tally exists of how many people speak Aviation English, undoubtedly you cannot become a pilot or work in the airline business without a firm grasp of Basic English. The official establishment of English as the primary language of aviation took place after World War II, when commercial airlines began to boom in popularity and the primary manufacturer and supplier of airplanes was the English-speaking United States. As a result, American gained more influence in Europe, and worldwide, leading to “English terms and word translations of English words” taking dominance in the colloquial and professional lingo of the global aviation trade (Sauter-Bailliet 76). Additionally, it was during this time that international, and even specifically European, airline conferences began operating entirely in English. While members of ATLAS (Alitalia, Lufthansa, Air France, Sabena and Iberia consortion), specifically Air France, may feel inclined to still converse in their native languages when within the boundaries of their country of origin, all pilots and air traffic controllers are required to speak English and to be familiar with Aviation English grammar and terminology (77).
With many non-native English speakers conforming to Aviation English as a trade language, there can be a reflection of “the speech peculiarities of the mother tongues” (77) within their pronunciations and wordings. Thus, courses and aptitude tests regarding Aviation English vocabulary and structure are required before an individual may become a pilot. Such courses may be taken through various aviation and online academies after an individual acquires a firm grasp on the basics of the English language through previous learning channels.

The goal of Aviation English textbooks and classes is to prepare an individual for compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Language Proficiency requirements for Aviation English at the operational level 4. Operational level 4 ensures that an individual’s pronunciation, structure, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, and interactions are at a satisfactory level to be able to converse with native and non-native traditional English speakers within time-sensitive and restrictive settings. For example, the operational 4 Language Proficiency qualifications for pronunciation list that for a sufficient speaker: “pronunciation, stress, rhythm, and intonation are influenced by the first language or regional variation but only sometimes interfere with ease of understanding” (ICAO Rating Scale). Thus, one does not need to speak English perfectly to pass an Aviation English test, but must be fluent enough to be accurately understood. Additionally, interaction is important when it comes to Aviation English, and according to the ICAO’s operational 4 standards, an individual must provide responses that are “usually immediate, appropriate, and informative,” and must deal “adequately with apparent misunderstandings by checking, confirming, or clarifying” (ICAP Rating Scale).

Additionally, there are various textbooks that provide the basics for pilots and air traffic controllers regarding aviation-specific terms and the scripting of language within Aviation English. Henry Emery et al.’s textbook and CDROM Aviation English for ICAO Compliance and Philip Shawcross’ Flightpath are good textual sources for introducing and practicing Aviation English structure and vocabulary. There are also specialized methodology courses for Aviation English available through online organizations such as Jeppesen, which is a Boeing company. While Aviation English is not a literary or extremely expansive form of communication, it is important that all pilots have a firm grasp on the grammar and vocabulary involved in order to perform their job efficiently and prevent the endangerment of lives. Therefore, Aviation English is a prestigious and internationally accepted standard language for the commercial aviation profession, despite the fact that it may not be entirely proper in terms of the Standard English language.

Before examining the structure of Aviation English, it is important to understand the terminology involved in speaking the language. Much of the vocabulary used to describe airplane parts is based on the language used in maritime professions. For example, when it comes to the prominent parts of the craft, the main areas are known as the “deck” and “cabin,” while the cargo or luggage is carried in the “holds” (Murphy 1). Abbreviations are also a common feature in regard to plane parts within Aviation English. Some examples of written abbreviations on plane parts are: “valve assy (for assembly)” and “qty (for quantity)” (Sauter-Bailliet 78). These abbreviations exist in the vernacular of all airlines, due to the United State’s dominance regarding plane production and promotion and the ICAO’s establishment of English as the dominant airline language.

The unique vocabulary and signification system of Aviation English is most important, and most frequently found, within the communication between pilots and air traffic controllers—a practice also referred to as radiotelephony (Alderson 169). Often, the word choice in radiotelephony is brief and many simplistic vocabulary words are left out. For instance, when an air traffic controller is commanding a flight crew to perform a specific task, they will often omit many helping words, leaving only the nouns and action verbs. For example, within the sentence: “Avianca 052 climb and maintain 3000” (Ragan 28), it is vital that a pilot understands that “climb and maintain 3000” is referring to 3000 feet and that “Avianca 052” is the air traffic controller addressing his plane. Additionally, there are many terms that can be found within sources like The Dictionary of Aviation or Flightpath’s “Glossary of Aviation Terms.” Some examples of vocabulary found within Aviation English dictionaries are: the phrase “active runway” in reference to a runway in use, and “DA,” meaning a dangerous area (Crocker 5; 64). Additionally, if a bird hits an aircraft, it will be referred to as a “bird strike” (Shawcross 4). There are also various words that are known as “aviation jargon,” and are therefore not considered acceptable Aviation English. For example, if a plane is “buttoned up” then the doors and panels are closed, or more properly, the cabin is secure (Shawcross 5). These distinct phraseologies are vital for a pilot or aviation professional to know in order to be able to communicate properly with other members of the profession during flights and other professional routines.

Coupled with the unique vocabulary of Aviation English, there is a structural and grammatical pattern to radiotelephony interactions prior to, during, and after flight. All radiotelephonic interactions are structured and scripted for clarity and efficiency. Throughout the course of a flight, policies ensure that “pilots are provided with official wordings they are legally required to follow, and which specify who says what to whom, and when. Pilot’s talk is therefore highly predictable and projectable” (Nevile, “Talking Without Overlap” 226). Therefore, the speech pattern within a flight follows a set sequence of call and response, and pilots complete specific tasks and goals in a sequential, swift manner. However, pilots in their work are not advised to speak at the same time in order to avoid miscommunication and error. As a result, pilots use “nonscripted responses, such as okay or thanks, to establish joint awareness that a task has been completed” (228). While completing checklists, pilots also utilize “and-prefacing” to mark the beginning of a new sequence and the ending of an old, and to initiate a shared awareness of a completion of or arrival at a goal (Nevile, “Making Sequentiality Salient” 383; 284; 295). Therefore, in order to clearly showcase that a task in a sequence has been completed, and re-affirm that all tasks before it have been completed as well, a pilot will begin their sentence with and. The following is an example of typical speech used while checking to make sure a runway is clear on both sides before taxing:

    First Officer: clear left.
    Captain: and clear right (Nevile 284).

Here, and-prefacing is vital in maintaining clarity in terms of following sequences or checklists while ensuring that all necessary protocol is completed. The and in this instance “prefaces the talk, after the activity, that claims the activity has been performed and claims therefore that the state of the plane, and so the plane, are as required” (Nevile 284). Thus, the and signals that both the left and right sides are clear. Sentences will also begin with and when a goal is met and there is a shared awareness of achievement. For instance, when a crew is aware that they are to meet a certain altitude during a flight, the pilot will announce “and at altitude” (297), when such a target is reached. And-prefacing is a result of the sequential nature of aviation work and therefore a necessary grammatical element within Aviation English to ensure clarity when performing listed tasks with minimal word usage.

In conclusion, Aviation English is not only a simplistic modification of the Standard English language, but also a very structure and internationally recognized language. In order to speak this succinct style of English, an individual must have knowledge of Standard English and familiarity with traditional English sentence structure to accurately be able to understand and construct shortened sentences and maintain quick word-flow. Aviation English also possesses a set of phraseologies and vocabulary words specific to the practice of aviation. With its simple, scripted structure Aviation English exists as a restricted and specialized connecting global language with the common goal of safe travel and organized, accessible communication.

Works Cited

    Alderson, Charles J. “Air Safety, Language Assessment Policy, and Policy Implementation: the Case of Aviation English.” Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 29 (2009): 168-187. Print.

    Crocker, David. Dictionary of Aviation. 2nd ed. London: A & C Black, 2007. Print.

    Nevile, Maurice. “Making Sequentiality Salient: and-prefacing in the talk of airline pilots.” Discourse Studies, 8.2 (2006): 279-302. Print.

    Nevile, Maurice. “Talking Without Overlap in the Airline Cockpit: Precision Timing at Work.” Text & Talk: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse & Communication Studies, 27.2 (2007): 225-249. Print.

    Murphy, Cullen. “Airline English.” Slate. The Slate Group, 2014. Web. 9 March. 2014.

    Ragan, Peter H. “Aviation English: An Introduction.” The Journal of Aviation/Aerospace Education & Research, 7.2 (1997): 25-36. Print.

    Sauter-Bailliet, Theresia. “English, The Vernacular of the Airline Industry.” American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Usage, 51.1-2 (1976): 17-84. Print.

    Shawcross, Philip. “Glossary of Aviation Terms” in Flightpath: Aviation English for Pilots and ATCOs, Student’s Book. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.

    “About Aviation English.” MacMillan English. MacMillan, 2008. Web. 9 March. 2014.

    “ICAO Rating Scale.” MacMillan English. MacMillan, 2008. Web. 9 March. 2014.

Brenda Shelton is studying English at Southern Oregon University and hopes to become a librarian.

Posted in Ideas and Opinions, Language | Comments Off

An Interview with Kate Lebo, author of A Commonplace Book of Pie

Kate Lebo‘s writing has appeared in Best New Poets, Gastronomica, The Rumpus, and Poetry Northwest among other places. She holds an MFA from the University of Washington, has been a recipient of a Nelson Bentley Fellowship and of the Joan Grayston Poetry Prize, and she is a baker and a devotee of zines. Her book A Commonplace Book of Pie was published by Chin Music Press in 2013 and she is currently at work on a cookbook called Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour and Butter, forthcoming from Sasquatch Books in fall 2014.

She lives near Portland.

EB: I loved A Commonplace Book of Pie, which I found at the Chin Music Press exhibit at Wordstock. Why pie? Why not cake?

KL: I like to eat cake. But I don’t really care about it. Pie, on the other hand, can be mysterious, temperamental. A good pie can be hard to find. Pie has more symbols and clichés attached to it, so even those who don’t have personal experience with pie-making know how pie demands reverence that a cake does not. Also, pie is a sensory experience. I handmake every part of my pie crust. You can’t mix a cake with your hands.

EB: The pies, along with the wonderful illustrations by Jessica Lynn Bonin, are not in alphabetical order. You start with Pumpkin Pie and end with Peach Ginger Pie, with some great ones in between—Cranberry, Chocolate Cream, Rhubarb Custard, Mud, Mumbleberry, and more. How did you decide the order of presentation?

KL: The collection had to start with Pumpkin Pie because, as the very first poem I wrote in this series, it sets the tone and defines the conceit of the rest of the book. It’s a poem that tells you we’re going to use pies to describe and define a personality, we’re going to keep our tongue firmly in cheek, but there’s also some serious matters to attend to here. This poem wants you to pay attention to the possibility of materials (the pumpkin in a can of Libby’s “could be a porchlight or a smear on the street, or this can of future pie”), and to start to think about those materials as a metaphor. From there, I ordered the poems so they could build on and undercut each other and the reader’s expectation of where the book was going. Then comes the recipe portion of the book that gathers axioms, clichés, bits of wisdom, and recipe to invite the reader to finish the book by making a pie.

EB: Are recipes poetry? Or science. Or both?

KL: Depends on who’s writing them. Cook’s Illustrated recipes are closer to science, and proudly so. Mark Bittman’s recipes, with the way they leave themselves open to interpretation, are closer to poetry. As I’ve written Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour & Butter, I’ve gotten completely obsessed with the balancing act of lyric writing and technical writing that’s present in my favorite recipes. The recipe must work. That’s the technical part. If you want the reader to crack an egg, you need state that with words that create clear action. But if you don’t want to bore yourself to tears, and if you’re interested in practice of cooking over the product of cooking, as I am, you long for lyricism, the invitation to feel and sense and interpret. I’m starting work on a new book that will take that tension as one of its themes.

EB: You teach both poetry and pie-making. How do the students compare?

KL: All my students are eager to make something they enjoy, that they can give to other people. Many come to class feeling mystified about how to do that with a pie or a poem. Their motivations—why they’re making pie or poems—are so diverse. I find that exciting and affirming.

EB: Was lemon meringue really invented in Portland? Wow!
KL: The poem Lemon Meringue Pie was invented in Portland. It’s a great example of what I mean when I call A Commonplace Book of Pie “a collection of facts, both real and imagined, about pie.”

EB: You are working on a recipe book called Pie School. Tell us about that project.

KL: Pie School is a collection of recipes and essays about fruit pie. I teach you how to make a pie from flour sack to cooling rack while using poetry and cultural critique to frame the domestic art of pie making. I hope the book will encourage readers to make what they can with what they have, trust their senses, and approach pie as the folk art and deep tradition it is.

EB: I read that you judged a pie contest. How do you do that?

KL: Start by eating the tip of the pie, then break off a bit of the crust and munch on that. Repeat for another 30 pies. Take notes. Remember which pies you didn’t want to stop eating. This will be a very strong feeling, hard to describe but easy to identify. That one wins. As with a lot of contests, it’s all a matter of taste.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

Posted in Interviews | Comments Off