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· Texas-Style Bovine Epistemology ·

I don't think I mentioned our trip to Texas. Stylish and I spent spring break in Bandera, "The Cowboy Capital of the World," taking in sights in Houston and San Antonio, Kerrville, Fredericksburg, and Austin, too. Returning two weeks ago last Saturday, we have been busy teaching since.

Ironically, Texas teaching framed our trip from first to last. Initially passing through some dairyland enroute to SEA-TAC, we got word of Barbara Bush's plans to donate — through her son Neil's IgniteLearning company in Austin — COWs (Curricula on Wheels) to Houston's Independent School District. You may have seen the story. Meant partly for Katrina victims, the family largesse looks suspiciously like a clever tax gimmick — and it may just smack of Bushism, too (corporate cronyism).

 · The Cow · We didn't reflect on it more till, visiting later in Texas's Bob Bullock State History Museum, we saw in Austin a COW being rolled in for public presentation. Well, you can imagine our surprise: that the thing (pictured at right) was being brazenly displayed in public suggested a better teaching tool I can show a bit more modestly in print — Bill Perry's famous 1963 essay, "Examsmanship and the Liberal Arts." I thought to define its two essentials.

Perry himself calls his piece a study in "Educational Epistemology," turning on the bovine concepts of "cow" and "bull." Here are Perry's definitions:

Cow (pure): data, however relevant, without relevancies.

Bull (pure): relevancies, however relevant, without data.

And again:

To cow (v. intrans.) or the act of cowing:
To list data (or perform operations) without awareness of, or comment upon, the contexts, frames of reference, or points of observation which determine the origin, nature, and meaning of the data (or procedures). To write on the assumption that "a fact is a fact." To present evidence of hard work as a substitute for understanding, without any intent to deceive.

To bull (v. intrans.) or the act of bulling:
To discourse upon the contexts, frames of reference and points of observation which would determine the origin, nature, and meaning of data if one had any. To present evidence of an understanding of form in the hope that the reader may be deceived into supposing a familiarity with content.

Today, reflecting on the clan's claims to leadership, I'm wondering if, in public as well as private, the Bushes have somehow got "cow" and "bull" together in a way better recognized, rather more neutrally, as "The Bum Steer."

In any event, to the Georges, Neil, Jeb, and, of course, Barbara, here's my slightly more literal, semi-pictorial version. · The Bum Steer ·

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· For the Class That You Showed ·

     · Johnny Carson ·

Johnny Carson (1925-2005)

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· Veepstake Styles: Family Resemblances from the Rigging Shack ·

Last night I took in the vice-presidential debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards. I heard it first on radio — then TV. Frankly, there wasn't much difference. It was like Darth Vader going up against Luke Skywalker, though depending on your party, roles can, of course, reverse. I thought family resemblances mattered more at last.

Consider Gwen Ifel's asking Cheney how the men differed. Jabbering on about similarities, Cheney said, "My grandfather never finished high school," while John Edwards added, "And I'm the son of a millworker." Well, as Buffon says, if style is the man himself, why this macho ID shifting?

The reason is simple: the substantively educated (politicians, especially) know they haven't much low-life style. Take me: though I'm "Styles the Logger," I admit (on my About page here) that I'm not "The Real Thing." So, what is? I'd suggest Finley Hays.

Here's his "Foreward" to Finley's Rigging Shack (1996) — a set of short columns from Loggers World from 1966 to 1979 — catching better than I can the "low-life point" of last night's debate. Running commentary is but "high-life delineation."

 · Finley Hays, High Climber, by Eldon Olin · When we started our 'word processor' was a manual desk model Olympic typewriter. The cost was about $140.00 for this machine. We graduated from there to IBM electric models and from there to a Macintosh Computer that cost over three grand. Same man, same words but more expense. I write about logging and loggers. That is what I know the most about and that ain't much. I don't know as much as I think I do because things change rapidly and what you knew last year may be, and often is, obsolete this year . . . and therefore worthless.

"The fact of the matter is," chimes in old Darth Vader.

I have found a way around this by declaring myself a "Logging Historian". This is an enviable position. Many of the men I've worked with have gone to that Heaven specially prepared for Loggers. Thus when I write about those 'miserable old days' there are not too many who can dispute my memory or writings. This allows a freedom to writers in their eighties. I am often asked to give speeches about Logging and how it used to be.

"We have a plan," notes young Luke Skywalker.

The more I learn about the old days the more I distrust Historians generally. They are always talking about a slice of time that is incorrectly remembered, falsely documented and wrongly guessed at. If you take this to mean I'm not to be trusted you made a shrewd guess. But then I'm the best you've got. Me and men like me. Our memories are true although they are often in conflict with each other. We tend to get the names wrong, to remember ourselves as heroes and mighty men of the woods. The truth often is that we couldn't find a good job and had to go to the woods. There are some of us who selected logging as a career. Most of us got there because that's where we got our first job. During the following years many of us were always looking for a safer and more comfortable occupation. Some of us became machine operators, saw filers, mechanics and such so we could get out of the blistering sun and the freezing wet weather to protect our bones and our attitudes. Most loggers of long duration did try other work from time to time.

"I'll drink to that," winks old Yoda.

Many of us had our careers interrupted for several years by one of the several wars we've lived through. Finley Hays, Finley's Rigging Shack, Bend, OR: Maverick Publications, Inc., 1996,

"And which one," smiles Styles Stylechoice, "has the last word here?"*

*You might note the low imprint — Maverick Publications — of Finley Hays's book.

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· A Well Thought-Out English Paper ·

It's amusement time. Having two sets of papers to grade, I thought you might be in need of some amusement. "Waste Not and Want Not" is my theme today. Relief is near.

It comes from Karl Smith — "The Yellow Dart" — a good guy with a great future — likely political. I mean Karl's got promise . . . style . . . even sound. Although his "Englilsh" may be off, you'll be moved, as I was, by his "Hustle and Bustle." In any event, here's Karl "The Yellow Dart" Smith's A Well Thought-Out Englilsh [sic] Paper.

P. S. Note the budding political power of Karl's $2.13 "cash advance."

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· Rube Goldberg Style ·

Happy New Year!

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· Dialectizer ·

Those of you who have seen Doonesbury's Blog-strips will recall the one on the blogger's penchant for clever, messed-up punctuation. Of course, I found it amusing, since I've tried my best to oblige even here. Messing with punctuation, I sometimes think, is the essence of style. But words are no less important.

Requires   No   Work

It so happens I've just learned how to mess with words wonderfully, and as I've been harping on that theme a while (as the artfully difficult grace of style) I thought to share — though I must confess it requires no work and may thus be doubly suspect. In any event, here's the impressively clever "Dialectizer."

Just Click-'n-Clack your way through my site as you will — but please, will someone tell Tom and Ray Magliozzi I'm sorry they're not listed yet.

Here's · You Got Style · in




   Elmer Fudd

   Swedish Chef


   Pig Latin


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· Midweek Sunday Morning ·

My reading student essays this week has induced a midweek yearning for CBS Sunday Morning. I'd frankly like to write for the show, since writers there have so little to say. "A picture is worth a thousand words" is their motto.

So here's my "Midweek Sunday Morning."

The soothing, mellifluent voice of Charles Osgood:

We take you to the wind-swept beauty of Washington's North-Pacific Coast, where Nature reigns supreme today on a rugged, rocky beach.

Cut to moving two-minute "scene."

 · The Washington Coast ·

Osgood saying over and off, peacefully:

The rugged Washington Coast.

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