Wednesday, December 23, 2009

David’s Definitions for February 2010


Unfortunate, luckless, unlucky. It comes from an old word, hap, which originally meant luck or chance and then later came to mean good luck. We don't use hapless in modern English, but we do use other words that come from the same root. For example, happen was originally happenen and it meant "occur by hap." If you're happy, you possess hap, good fortune. Haphazard, meaning irregular or disordered, comes from combining hap with hazard, which was a game played with dice.

(Will be published in the February 2010 issue of Denver's Community News.)

I'm collecting all of these at:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

WIPing along, again

I’ve been working fairly steadily on the Work In Progress, working title Chains, as you can see from the graph on the right.

The stepwise nature of the graph isn’t what I’d like to see. The steps are the result of long periods of little or no productivity, until recently. It would be great if the line on the graph were fairly straight and at a 45 degree angle – or even better, around 60 degrees.

Better than flatlining, though.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

This here’s Winkel’s town, pahdnah

And don’t yew fergit it.

When I was a boy (traditional opening of stories told by old guys), my family moved from South Africa to the US. We didn’t stay here long, that time, but it was long enough for me to watch every cowboy show I could on TV and every cowboy movie I could in the theaters. At that time, there were a lot of both.

Then we moved back to South Africa. I was 10 at this point. We moved to a town named Rustenburg in the Transvaal, the deepest depths of the Afrikaner homeland, an area that had played a huge role in Boer history. Afrikaners in those days felt that there was considerable similarity between their ancestors of Great Trek days and the Americans who settled the Wild West, and the local library had a huge collection of cowboy novels. (No one called them Westerns in those days.) I devoured them all.

Rustenburg was a small town then, with one main street, which had lots of small shops owned by individual proprietors. (Yes, this was during Apartheid, so those were white shops, for use by whites only. At 10, I wasn’t aware of any of that.) The main street was paved, but because of the sun, there was a wooden canopy over the sidewalk, supported by posts. It looked a lot like the main streets in those beloved cowboy movies. Most of the stores had signs in front of them that said DuPlessis se Winkel and Smith se Winkel and so on – in each case, an English or Afrikaans surname followed by se Winkel.

During our brief stay in the US, I had forgotten whatever Afrikaans I had known before, so I deduced that se meant and and that Winkel was the name of some powerful rancher with a mighty big spread just outside town who had forced all these honest but cowardly shop owners to fork over a 50% ownership in their shops. All that was needed was for a hero on a white horse to ride into town and set everything right. All I had to do was be there when that happened.

And then I started learning Afrikaans and discovered that se is a possessive, um, something or other (preposition?), and Winkel means shop, and all those signs just meant So and So’s Shop. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Three reasons I don’t plan to see Invictus …

… despite my being an ex-South African who was moved by the episode the movie depicts and despite loving that poem.

  1. Movies are for escape. I have no interest in serious depictions of serious matters in which stuff doesn’t get blowed up real good and there are neither monsters nor space ships. Major babes are also helpful, but they’re not sufficient in and of themselves. Of course, this objection applies to many other movies, too.
  2. I’m sick to death of the unspoken belief that South African history began with the end of Apartheid. Both white and black history in South Africa extends far back beyond that and is full of fascinating stories – and many of them actually have nothing to do with race relations! Even those enormous figures who did have a great impact on race relations had interesting and important lives outside that area. (And black history in South Africa involves more than Chaka and Mandela.)
  3. I’m even sicker of movies set in South Africa in which South African characters are played by American actors. Yeah, I know about box office. It’s also possible that Eastwood is friends with Damon and Freeman and wanted to work with them. I don’t care. South Africa has a movie industry of its own and a goodly supply of fine actors, black and white. They’d work for less than the Hollywood stars, they’d do a better job, and they’d get the accents right. South African actors are also objecting. Let’s hope that does some good.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Today’s stupid criminal trick

Teens arrested by police on suspicion of stealing cars ask if they've set a record for most cars stolen in one day.