Baggy Paragraphs

Archive for the ‘Ha!’ Category

Look what happens when a local columnist tries to be Mark Twain

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“As visitors to the resort for more than 20 years, the parrots are the first things we visit when we arrive.”

The prepositional phrase dangles at the start of this tautology, which is taken from the MailBox column of Westways, the AAA of SoCal’s mag.

The people visit; the parrots, much to their own chagrin, stay put.

12517006_sDangling phrases are so common. The other day, just passing through St. George, Utah, I read the local newspaper’s humor columnist, who led off his piece this way:

“After suffering from an undetermined malaise for quite some time, my wife bushwhacked me when I wasn’t looking and roped me into a local doc-in-a-box.”

Time out! He means that he suffered from an undetermined malaise, probably gas, and his wife made him go to the doctor. Following this opening thunk, there came a lot of claptrap, although the columnist’s friends in Southern Utah probably think he’s hilarious, a wit who ranks with Mark Twain.

Because I sometimes do, I sent an email to say the grammar patrol had noticed his rankly dangling phrase.

The local columnist’s response arrived in my inbox:

“Dear Mr. Baggy Paragraphs:

“I’m so sorry to learn of your affliction with dangling phrases. I always tell my wife to be sure to undangle all my phrases and she never does. It’s just like her.

8053535_s“Not long ago, I says directly to her, now listen up you “absolute grammar philistine,” one of these days, someone is going to get all tripped up over one of my dangling phrases and then he or she (notice that I didn’t say “they” because that would be an improper pronoun to use in conjunction with the singular “someone” (in most cases – except in southern Utah, in which you can use the term “them” whenever you are speaking about people, cows, church-a-goin’ folks or inanimate things, as in “someone made good cookies and them was delicious! Albeit, proper for southern Utah, I find it confusing as hell because of the dangling phrase which didn’t properly identify what or whom was “delicious,” them cookie makin’ folks or them dang cookies themselves!”)

“Oh, for the love of Mike, there are too many of them dangling doodads all over the place and I can go no further! No, really. No further. (Not “farther” – which is probably incorrect according to the cartoon Grammar Girl. Yippee! Score one for the village idiot!)

“Well, anyways (or is it just anyway, anyway?), I told my wife she would be facing certain liability in causing someone to go no further. And dang, if it didn’t happen. And so I am sending you a tube of Dr. Whizzlebub’s patented ointment for severe grammar irritation as recompense for her negligence. (It’s also sold in the U.S. under a different label as Boudreaux’s Butt Paste.) I recommend a application before reading any more of my nonsense.”

I fear he’ll be true to his wordiness.

Written by baggyparagraphs

May 13, 2015 at 4:00 am

Posted in Ha!

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Why I refuse to learn Finnish or tryst with Gwyneth Paltrow

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Translating a novel from Finnish to English must be like landing a spacecraft on Jupiter’s moon Europa in order to tryst with winsome Gwyneth Paltrow, who avowed she’d be there, too.

Sometimes, as in Arto Paasilinna’s The Year of the Hare, the sentences, like mine, come out a little funny:

imgresTheir apartment had become an extravagant farrago of shallow and meretricious interior-decoration tips from women’s magazines. A pseudo-radicalism governed the design, with huge posters and clumsy modular furniture. It was difficult to inhabit the rooms without injury; all the items were at odds. 

Wasn’t “farrago” an early 1960s Ford, fitting into the model lineup between the Falcon Futura and Fairlane 500? The Farrago Finesse was top of the line?

Wait, it’s already highlighted in my dictionary. It means: “A confused mixture: hodgepodge.”

Herbert Lomas, the novel’s translator, was very capable, and so far—other than the gummed up passage on display—this fable’s pages have flown by. Mr. Lomas specialized in Finnish; he had taught in Helsinki and somehow mastered the difficult tongue.

Maybe he had an easier time picking it up than most would, but Finnish looks pretty challenging.

It shares almost no root words with English or other European languages, meanwhile adding complex variables. To learn Finnish must be about as simple as being handed a hammer and saw with the instructions that you, having no experience whatsoever in the textile industry, must build a loom and produce piqué-knit shirts. You have three weeks.

Does it ease your mind that Finnish is related to Estonian, more distantly to Hungarian, and to some small languages in the Ural Mountains of Russia? If you could learn Finnish, then Udmurt and Erzya are, so to speak, just a few steps away.

How many novels written in Udmurt by G.D. Krasilnikov are being overlooked for translation into English? Gennady Dmitrievich, we need you!

Written by baggyparagraphs

April 30, 2015 at 4:00 am

What I told my dracaena about bottled spring water

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I don’t care what that website says, from now on, my dear dracaena, you’re just another member of the household staff. No more being mollycoddled with bottled spring water. Drink tapwater with the rest of us.

In fact, you should feel guilty for creating so much waste, those bottles going into the recycling bin and then, as it turns out, low oil prices make virgin plastic cheaper than recycled anyway. You’re supposed to be transforming carbon dioxide and light into oxygen. You weren’t put in this earth to create garbage. IMG_2927

Don’t ask any special favors regarding the tapwater from now on. I’m not setting it out in a container for twenty-four hours so the chlorine will settle, as the blogs suggest. This isn’t a distillery. Besides, due to the excellent water quality here–“…some of the best-tasting drinking water in the world,” according to the Mission Springs Water District–there’s little need to chlorinate.

And your tapwater will be dispensed from the usual gooseneck vessel. Your loss of bottled spring water will not be compensated by my inclining a crystal pitcher over your root mass.

If you want to chirp about it, remember when you were rootbound. You looked like Madeleine Albright, except I won’t let you color your hair.

Absolument, stasis. I bought you a nice large pot, fourteen inches in diameter, much roomier, like adding a second bedroom. And that new bag of nourishing soil wasn’t exactly the cheapest on offer, it was mid-grade. If you want, I could dig through household receipts just to prove I didn’t get out of the garden department for under $60 on the repotting project.

This isn’t even to mention the stinky fish emulsion fertilizer that came along later. Nor the cork spacer between the pot and carpet.

The investment in you equals bringing home a puppy. IMG_2936

Think how you make the outside plants and shrubs feel. They see you preening right there by the sliding glass door to the patio, noting how you’re attended, and say, “Hey, all we get is a hose splash.”

Know what they’ve been collecting? Grey Poupon empties thrown from passing Rolls-Royces. They’re drilling a hole in the bottom of each and stringing them together, a garland for you.

You don’t like it, I’m saying right now, potted palms are on sale, and plenty are looking for fourteen inches to call their own.

Written by baggyparagraphs

April 18, 2015 at 4:00 am

Posted in Baggy Stuff, Ha!

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Breakfast with all the trimmings, including pet peeves and a hog’s squeal

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South Haven, Mich.—At breakfast this morning in Captain Nemo’s restaurant, I overheard the talk of two men, one of whom had already distinguished himself by saying, “You can use every bit of a hog but the squeal.” In fact, he did most of the talking. But late in the session, the other one listed his pet peeves:

  1. Socks with open-toe sandals
  2. Low-powered motor scooters on the highway
  3. Motorcycles towing trailers (“If you need that much shit, get a convertible.”)

Then he told of the ultimate. He had seen a low-powered motor scooter going 30 mph on the highway, towing a trailer, and the rider wore sandals and socks.

The every-bit-of-the-hog-but-the-squeal man said, “Did you hit him?”

No reply.

Maybe time to check some cold case files?

Written by baggyparagraphs

October 7, 2014 at 7:31 am

Winnowing out the Rolodex could mean the end of something, but I don’t know what (and maybe don’t care)

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Story and photo by Ronald Ahrens

Every so often, I weed out my Rolodex.

The reason I still have a Rolodex is because of stapling business cards onto the blanks, a good way to match logos with name-o’s.

I first saw this Mandarin system on the desk of Jean Jennings.

Blank cards are getting hard to find. For example, the last bunch came not from a store shelf but the Internet.

And now I’ve run out.

As I look for my doctor’s card, I see the name of a garden tractor salesman from seven years ago at a Pennsylvania flea market. Not that I wouldn’t love to go back. Or the local bartender who offered to wash my windows.

In the photo, you see I selected some to be set aflame (using kerosene, or maybe just the plastic coatings, as an accelerant) and then to be run over by a steamroller.

Reasons for deletion:

  • You moved on, were fired, became disabused of all notions, went on permanent vacay, moldered, retired, drank hemlock with Socrates, called it a day, or otherwise died
  • You never phoned or treated me to lunch, you didn’t pay up, you must be kidding
  • You had a sex change
  • You’re on e-mail, on the Internet, on a bathroom wall, or you posted a card on the hardware store’s bulletin board
  • We will never work together again because you over-edit
  • You dangle modifiers
  • You don’t know that prepositions take objects, even when compounded (for him and me, for crissakes, not “for he and I”)
  • I can’t remember how we met
  • I never believed you worked there
  • Comb your hair and brush your teeth!
  • When I asked if you wouldn’t mind picking up the tip (or else I would’ve had to use my credit card), and you were embarrassed, and said your wallet was in your car because you’d slammed on the brakes and it had slid from your purse—you’re Type A, you drive like a demon, and your car is a leased Mercedes even though you rent a room in Palm Desert—yes, that’s right, when you flounced back in through the wine bar’s front door in your frilly purple minidress and blonde-white hair and heavy make-up, I glimpsed you and wondered how a whore had gotten into such a nice place
  • You drive a hybrid and like to talk about motorcycle accidents


Written by baggyparagraphs

July 10, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Baggy Stuff, Ha!

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Bonnie and Clyde days all over again with Tesla Model S in WeHo

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Mr. Elon Musk

Fremont, California

Dear Sir: –

Tesla Model S Crash

Before the nurses change my bandages again, and while I still have lithium residue in my lungs, I will oh-so-calmly tell you what a dandy car you make. Even before the early fireworks show in WeHo, I have drove Teslas exclusively when I could get away with one. For sustained mashugana and wide dismemberment, the Model S has got ever other car skinned. Even if my business hasen’t been strickly legal, it don’t hurt anything to tell you, no matter what the range indicator said, that I truly believe we could have outrun those coppers clear to San Berdoo in the Model S.

Yours truly,

Champe Barrow, indireck relation to Clyde

Written by baggyparagraphs

July 5, 2014 at 9:59 am

Solar skin, stem cell therapy, hydrogen fuel, rocket bike: my new friend

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UnknownThe yellow Tern Verge bicycle first caught my attention, then his craggy grin. He was tall, wild looking, with a woolly jaw. The bike was a $2000 beauty, yellow and black, like a meadowlark. He wouldn’t let me take a picture, saying I could get one on the Internet. He suggested I buy a Tern Verge for myself, dismissing my assertion that I have a bicycle. This one folds up, he blithely pointed out, and it has a 30-speed drivetrain.

“It’s fast,” he said. “I can get to La Quinta in an hour and a half—faster than the bus.”

Then he started about putting rockets on it, yes, here on either side of the seat post, and making his own hydrogen fuel, flying away, and landing on the flat roof of the house, which is covered with solar panels. Houses will soon be clad with solar skin, you know.

“We have all this technology now, but the big oil companies don’t want us to use it.”

He followed me into Von’s, pushing the bike along, and when he waved his right arm in making a point about 3-D printers, which allow you to make this very bicycle in your own home, the automatic doors reopened behind him. We advanced further into the store. Too far, actually. He had now transitioned to stem cell therapy. We don’t need doctors any longer. We can do it all ourselves: teeth, hair, hydrogen assist for people with wonky limbs. The VA is sending you out on your own. Obamacare? Useless.

I made a getaway, later thinking I should’ve asked his opinion of orgone therapy. celiac disease, electric cars. And whether someday his picture will be taken without his knowledge.

When I checked out, the cashier said he’s a regular, and she laughed when I rolled my eyes. He was standing at the end of Aisle Two, having accosted today’s lucky shopper.

Written by baggyparagraphs

June 26, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Baggy Stuff, Ha!, Persons

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