I’ve Never Herd Of Smith

People Named Smith
H. Allen Smith once wrote a book titled People Named Smith. This was a financial move on his part, as he knew that if only five percent of the Smiths in the United States bought the book, he would be able to retire rich. Unfortunately, he discovered that “almost everyone named Smith is either (1) stingy, or (2) illiterate, or (3) both.”

He did this because Mark Twain had shown him how. Twain claimed that he had met a John Smith in every town he had ever been in, and cynically dedicated his first novel to “John Smith,” claiming that people who have a book dedicated to them, will purchase a copy of it.

Captain John Smith was an explorer of note, and an island he discovered near Cape Charles was named “Smith Island” after him. However, Captain Smith wasn’t happy with the island chosen to honor him, and he complained, “Why, I could spit across it.”

The book is mainly about names, and not all of them were of people named Smith. He once met an imposing man, when invited on a cruise on a yacht in the Caribbean. Not impressed with the commonness of his name, Smith, he declared, “A man’s name is a mere label – nothing else – and has no more meaning than the label on a can.

The gentleman disagreed, and introduced himself. He was Theron Lamar Caudle, the assistant Attorney-General of the United States. His name was all old Anglo-Saxon, and represented a complete sentence. Theron means ‘go seek.’ Lamar means ‘the sea,’ and Caudle is a ‘hot toddy.’ Translated literally, it means, “Go seek a hot toddy by the sea,” and here he was, with a drink in his hand, on a boat, in the Caribbean.

People afflicted with the last name Smith, sometimes go to lengths to have a first name of some significance which sets them apart from all the other multitudes of Smiths. Labels are important to many, although one Appalachian mother cared so little that she insisted to the interviewer, that the official names of her two kids, on the ‘Guv’mint papers, really was Shithead and Fartface Smith.’

One child was named 5/8 Smith. I don’t know if he was the runt of the litter, or maybe, just not all there. One father christened his son Smith, so that he went through life with the double-barreled name of Smith Smith. A photographer, whose work appeared in newspapers and magazines, legally changed his given name to Another, because he was tired of hearing, “Oh, another Smith.”

One day the author was speaking to a writer friend. They discussed some personal things, and then he said, “What are you working on these days?”
“I’m collaborating on a book.”
“With whom?”
“Man named Ira Smith.”
“You serious??”
“Certainly I’m serious.”
He said, “My God, that’s exactly what I’m doing.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that I’m collaborating on a book with a man named Ira Smith.”

It was true. The other writer was working on the memoirs of Ira R. T. Smith, who for 51 years had been in charge of mail at the White House. At the same time, H. Allen Smith had been working on a book of baseball anecdotes with Ira L. Smith, a Washington journalist.

Ira wouldn’t seem to be an especially common first name, yet Ira L. had had his share of confusions. He was forever getting newspaper clippings from friends;
Ira Smith caught drunk driving in Georgia
Ira Smith an upstate New York cabbie, kidnapped, robbed, tied to a tree, and murdered
Ira L. Smith, a retired Virginia lumberman, dying at the age of 91

He even had a newspaper ad which said;

FOOL your friends. Pretend you are in San Francisco
3 postcards sent 25 cents (20-$1) You write
message, address, return. I remail in San Francisco
Letter mailed 15 cents. Your friends will think
you’re travelling. Ira Smith, 153 Liberty St., San
Francisco, Calif.

The middle name of our Ira L. Smith was Lepouce, his mother’s Belgian maiden name, meaning ‘the thumb’. He was once under consideration for a great job in Washington, but a senior executive named Smith, didn’t want him hired. There were already too many Smiths in the office, and he didn’t want another one messing up phone calls and mail.

Ira went to the man, and offered to apply his middle name to all phone calls and correspondence. The exec replied, “Anyone who would permit himself to be called I. Lepouce Smith in order to get a job must want that job pretty badly. You’re hired.”

The author mentions a situation called Ultra-Smith, where one Smith marries another. My sister did this, confusing all sorts of folks. As you climb down from the family tree, EVERYBODY is named Smith.

(* I have a framed reproduction of a Feb. 13, 1923 Saturday Evening Post cover, with a Norman Rockwell painting and an article about Wodehouse’s recent Psmith book, which refused to upload to WordPress.  It, and a mug with his name, Cyril, were all I got from the nursing home when my Father died.  I didn’t even know he had it.  Perhaps if/when I figure out the problem, I can display it in a later post.)

In England, we have the interesting case of Mr. Psmith, a dashing young character invented by P. G. Wodehouse. In the novel Leave It to Psmith, we find him engaged in a colloquy with a young woman.

“The name is Psmith, P-smith.”
“Peasmith, sir?”
“No, no. P-s-m-i-t-h. I should explain to you that I started life without the initial letter, and my father always clung ruggedly to the plain Smith. But it seemed to me that there were so many Smiths in the world that a little variety might well be introduced. Smythe I look on as a cowardly evasion, nor do I approve of the too prevalent custom of tacking on another name on the front by means of a hyphen. So I decided to adopt the Psmith. The P, I should add for your guidance, is silent, as in phthisis, psychic, and ptarmigan. You follow me?

This Smith book was written in 1952, which explains the ancient, minuscule postage fees, and the somewhat formal construction. Aside from the P-ed off words above, the author used ‘expatiate,’ which means, to enlarge in discourse or writing; be copious in description or discussion: ramble on and on – which I’ve done magnificently with this post. Thanx for rambling along with me, and some of my questionable namesakes.

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A to Z Challenge – E

April Challenge

Letter E

EGGS – are organic vessels in which embryos first begin to develop.

Egg

Isn’t this egg-citing?

Dr. Seuss’s ‘Green eggs and ham’ is better than eggs and green ham.

Emus lay green eggs, about the size of softballs.

He’s a good egg, even if he’s slightly cracked.

Why did the chicken cross the road?  ‘Cause her friends were egging her on.

Ham and eggs is just a day’s production for a hen, but a life’s commitment for a pig.

Justin Bieber’s a rotten egg because he egged a neighbor’s house.

egg on one’s face, Informal. humiliation or embarrassment resulting from having said or done something foolish or unwise:
They were afraid to back the losing candidate and wind up with egg on their faces.

lay an egg, Informal. to fail wretchedly, especially to be unsuccessful in front of an audience:
He laid an egg as the romantic hero.

put all one’s eggs in one basket, to venture all of something that one possesses in a single enterprise.

walk on eggs, to walk or act very cautiously.

Eggs and oaths are soon broken.

You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.

Don’t rush things.  Eggs can’t be unscrambled.

The same boiling water that softens potatoes, hardens eggs.  It’s all about what you’re made of, not your circumstances.

Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

Evil chickens lay deviled eggs.

Why did the egg hide?  Because it was fry-day.

In my youth I was called an egghead.  Today I’d be a geek or a nerd.

The recipe said to separate the eggs – but it didn’t say how far.

I can’t lay an egg, but I’m a good judge of omelets.

Mark Twain said it’s okay to put all your eggs in one basket – if you watch the basket.

Eggs shouldn’t dance with stones.

People judge you by your actions, not your intentions.  You may have a heart of gold, but so does a hard-boiled egg.

That’s enough yolks for now. I’m going to make my eggs-it.

Community Writing

I may have invented another new English term.  As opposed to “Committee Writing”, where two or more authors collaborate on a book, or books, Community Writing is when a group of authors each produce a book or books in a large series, by themselves.

About 1974, I read a science-fiction book titled The Guns of Terra 10, by an author named Don Pendleton.  Heavy on both sidearm and particle-beam weapons, and light on character development, it wasn’t the worst book I’d ever read, but, having been spoiled by the likes of Asimov and Heinlein, it was well down the list.

Several years later, I was attending a Christmas get-together at my sister’s.  The gals were cooking, setting tables and general women stuff.  The guys were downstairs in the rec-room, watching an exciting (Yawn!) hockey game.  I stayed in the living-room, hoping to score a snack before the real eating began.

I spotted a book that one of my nephews was reading and tried a couple of chapters.  It was by Don Pendleton and was number 15 in a series about an ex-army Special Forces who was waging war against the Mafia, who had destroyed his family.

Liberally stocked with things that go boom, but with much better character portrayal, it wasn’t long before I was haunting second-hand book stores to acquire the series from the beginning.  It took a while for word of mouth to let the series take off.  Pendleton wrote about 56 of these books before he, or his publisher, decided to farm them out.  They were being released on a monthly basis to keep up to the now-popular demand.

A group of 8 or 9 production writers was engaged to write individual books.  All Pendleton had to do was create story arc, co-ordinate timing and establish limits.  At about book number 85, some genius saw the limitations of a protracted fight against the Mafia, and “killed” the hero off, to have him reborn as Colonel John Phoenix, scourge of terrorists everywhere.

As well as the 250/300 page, numbered books, there were dozens of 450/500 page Superbooks.  I quit buying after number 216, and 30 or 40 of the Superbooks.  Finally dying off, the numbers approach 400.  To support the hero, Pendleton invented a three-man domestic team, and a five-man foreign-soil team, headed by a fox-faced Canadian, eh.

They were so popular that two other authors were handed the task of writing a series about each.  One guy got to 36 books, and the other to 52, before interest or writing ability died.

Besides ennui, one of the reasons I gave up that series was the discovery of another.  Jack Adrian dreamed up a series about a four-man, two woman, survival group in post-apocalypse America.  He wrote the first couple and then let his hired guns write about these hired guns.  The author name used is James Axler, but none of the 8/9 pet writers is named that.

The writing in the Pendleton series is so smooth and even, that all the books might have been written by the same person.  Not so with the Axler series!  It’s hit and miss.  Some are great.  The Mars Arena contained every literary reference imaginable.  Both Tom Sawyer and Mark Twain showed up, smooooth!  Hell Road Warriors, on the other hand, contained historical and geographical errors, as well as questionable technology.  Also, every chapter, sometimes almost every page, contained English usage errors.

This series is essentially about the man on the outside.  Adrian then dreamed up another series, set another hundred years in the future, basically about the man on the inside, who wants to get out.  Another group of 8/9 writers was hired to pump these babies out each month.  There is a bit of cross-pollination.  Occasionally one of the A-series writers produces a B-series book, and vice-versa.  At last count, there were 112 of series A published, and exactly half of that, 56, of series B.

Having followed the older series for ten years, and the newer one for five, through a total of almost 160 books, I’ve finally decided to stop buying them.  They’ve both become soap-opera-ish, especially the newer series; multi-dimensional sauroid space aliens called Annunaki, from Earth’s unseen twin planet Nibiru, controlling Man’s development for the past 30,000 years with the help of an evil dwarf named Sindri.  Every old superstitious story is woven in to sell more books.  Fun’s fun, but I’ve had enough.

I’m eight books behind and no chance of catching up.  I have 10 Clive Cussler books, and about twenty others to read, including the two “Locator” novels, and Pouringmyartout’s e-book, Saloon at the Edge of Everywhere stranded on Kobo.  My son has introduced me to some nice new books, including the 1632 series(?).

This started as a stand-alone book, positing a small Virginia town, suddenly stranded in 1632 Germany.  Having established the parameters, the author, Eric Flint, has invited other writers like David Weber, Virginia DeMarce (the irony), and Marilyn Kosmatka to take a bite out of his little universe and write connected stories from their literary viewpoint.  The print copies since 2000 number 26.

There is a strong online presence to these books, with a website and very active discussion page where fan-boys, and –girls, submit detailed short stories about mentioned characters and occurrences, to flesh out the narrative.  Flint reads them all, chooses the best, edits and accumulates them, and publishes them in print as The Grantville Gazette, I thru XII.

This is a different type of Community Writing from the above, and the wealth of detail makes the stories, and the people in them, as real as your neighbors, and a treasure trove of historical social study, from war, politics and religion, to love and marriage.

Triviana Two

The further spewings of a mind incapable of holding a cogent thought longer than….what was I saying?  Oh, yeah.

Do you store your kitchen knives in a wooden knife-block?  Are there grooves in the bottom of each slot?  You aren’t doing the edge, or the block, any good.  I was watching a British detective show, and the young Copper wanted to impress a date, by cooking up a home-made meal.  He reached over and removed a knife from the block – upside-down!  And the little light went on!  There’s no rule that says they have to go in edge down.  The knife-nut took a Gibbs’ head-smack out of petty-cash, and moved on.

This area must be a good one to live in.  There have been three articles about birthdays in the paper recently.  First, the oldest person in the Region is a lady who is now 106 years old.  A week later, we had a report of twin brothers who had celebrated their 100th.  Granted, they were born in India, and came here after W.W. II, but two of them??!  One hundred!!  Must be the water…. or the preservatives in the Twinkies.  Finally, there was an article about a pair of female twins who had reached 90 years of age.

When she listens to radio in the evening, while reading, the wife likes to put on a local station which carries a syndicated show by New-Ager, John Tesh.  She likes the choice of music on his show, but his inane yammering drives her crazy.  I heard him say, the other night, that someone had done a study of 3700 crosswalk push buttons.  I don’t know what disturbed me most, that someone had got paid to study crosswalk buttons, or how badly they screwed up the findings.

Tesh claimed that 47% weren’t connected to anything, because, when they were pushed, nothing happened.  In my Analog Curmudgeon post, I bitched about things going on in the background in computers, which I couldn’t see.  It’s the same with computer-controlled traffic lights.  Just because you push a button, it doesn’t mean that the light will immediately go green.

The Traffic Department doesn’t want the flow of traffic disrupted, nor drivers slamming on brakes to stop at suddenly-red lights.  Your request goes into the system and your walk-light will appear in sequence.

MSN had an article today, about lengthening the time on yellow lights.  If the dwell-time is too short, drivers are put in a dilemma-spot.  Do they take a chance on running a red light, or slam on the brakes, and possibly get rear-ended?  The local Traffic Department, like others everywhere, installed red-light cameras at several problem intersections, “To improve safety!”  An independent survey group recently revealed that crashes at these corners are up 31%, and personal injuries have increased by 51 %.

Despite having these data given to him, the Traffic Co-ordinator insists that it’s not about the cash infusion from the fines, “It’s about the safety.”  We pay the company which installed and maintains the cameras, an outrageous fee.  The Ontario government takes an unearned cut, and the Region banks what’s left.  Thanks, Mr. Co-ordinator, my wallet feels much safer, just like your job.

As an ego sop to a bunch of egotistic saps, the Regional Council seems hell-bent on putting an LRT street-railroad down the middle of the already too-small, over-burdened main street.  Despite huge public outrage, it seems destined to be a fait accompli.  The projected cost is 818$ million.  The Provincial and Federal Governments are each providing one-third of the funding, but that just means we’re getting our own money back.  The inevitable cost over-runs will push it above ONE BILLION.

Regional Council has paid a local think-tank $75,000, to come up with a name which will make us like it.  Citizen suggestions had already included White Elephant, SUB – seldom used boondoggle, WTF – Waterloo Transit fiasco, TNT – Taxpayers’ nightmare transit, MET – money-eating taxer, FUUS – forced upon us suckers, RBI – really bad investment, RMP – Regional money pit, and OUCH – over-priced, under-used cash hole.

Without consulting the public, probably because of the above, the fairy-dust sniffers brought it down to three names.  They felt it should be Trio, for the three main cities in the Region, even though Cambridge will not be hooked up for years, if ever; Arc, because of the pot-of-gold (Which it’s going to cost us.) at the end of the rainbow feeling, and the curve it forms on the map; or Ion, which is supposed to represent energy, and the local electronic/technology industry.

With the predictable public reaction, they are now back-pedalling, and offering to accept public input.  C’mon guys, you’re burning money!  Somebody do what they’re (over)paid to do, make a damned decision.  Why not officially name it what everybody’s going to call it anyway – LRT?

Three naked male teens were reported jumping on a trampoline in a residential backyard recently.  They were clothed when police arrived, but were cautioned.  This is Ontario, in mid-January; parts can freeze and break off.

In case you didn’t notice at Christmas-time, the Politically-Correct Police removed the reference to Santa smoking a pipe, from the, ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, poem.  They declared that nicotine addiction was “a pediatric disease, for which prevention must start early.”  This ranks with the Bowdlerization of Mark Twain’s, Huck Finn, and the recent furore over the movie Django Unchained.  It ain’t pretty, but it’s historical fact.  Not being exposed to it merely prevents us from making an informed decision when it inevitably arises.

I know my header says “Rants and Rambles”, but that’s enough for now.  I don’t want to tire you out with all that thinkin’ stuff.

S**t I Read In The Papers

Mark Twain once said that, whenever he read something in the newspapers, about which he had personal knowledge, they always got it wrong.  Then he nailed the concept by stating that, reports of his death were greatly exaggerated.  I often read funny things in newspapers.  Occasionally it’s intentional.

I read two newspapers a day, five days a week.  I read the Waterloo Region Record.  It’s a somewhat conservative broadsheet.  I also read the Toronto Sun, which is a bit more liberal, tabloid style.  I read them both to get some idea of the average of social and political issues.  I actually read the Sun a day late, to give me some time to assimilate the Record’s position first.  I also read the Sun because it has more and better comics which, aside from the humor, are also a good reflection of modern life, and I read it for the strange and amusing little filler articles.

Like Mr. Clemens, sometimes I see things printed that just make me go, “WHAT!”  Non-weapon knowledgable writers referring to .9 MM pistols.  Those bullets would be the size of the lead in an automatic pencil.  Last summer, there was a story about a tanker truck which crashed on a tight turn in the hills above Monte Carlo.  The piece included description of, “streams of burning liquid oxygen running down the hill and into a tourist camp.”  Now, I stayed awake in high school, both (especially) in English and in Chemistry.  The dictionary definition, backed up by the Chemistry textbook, says that, “burning is the rapid combination of an element or compound with oxygen, producing heat, and sometimes light”.  It is chemically, physically impossible for Oxygen to combine with Oxygen.  It was probably truck fuel that witnesses saw burning.

I called up my old friend, the editor at the Record, to mention this bit of silliness.  Instead I got a summer-job Journalism intern.  I said I’d call back or, since it wasn’t important, I’d just forget it.  Oh, no, he says.  You give me the message, and I’ll pass it on.  I thought that I did a lucid job of describing the error, but, after I finished, I got back a snippy comment that, if I didn’t like stories about burning trucks, I just shouldn’t read them.

I saw a socially/politically active woman on a CBC talk show trying to save the world from CFCs.  The first statement out of her mouth was a provable mistake.  I had been corresponding with a columnist who held the same indefensible views.  I sent him an email to show how she was in error.  Instead of admitting that he might possibly be wrong, he sent back a reply demanding to know what her name was.  What did it matter?   What side of your desk do you put your coffee on when you’re incorrect?

Earlier this week there was a horrific crash about an hour west of here, just the other side of Justin Bieber’s house.  A Canadian driver with 12 Peruvian farm workers in a van was returning to Kitchener after a day on a farm.  The van was t-boned and a truck driver, the van driver and 9 of the workers were killed.  Three articles, in the two papers, said that they were coming back to Kitchener, which is east of the crash site, yet insist they were travelling west.  If they were travelling west and were struck by a north-bound truck, the van would have been impacted on the driver’s side, but every photo shows the passengers’ side destroyed.

Driver’s error, or failed brakes?  My brother works part-time for a limo company.  He had to study and pass a test to drive the extra-long, extra-heavy stretch limo.  It takes special knowledge.  This guy had a regular license.  13 men in the vehicle, and a box the width of the van and extending four feet back, carrying clothes? tools? food?  The brakes, suspension and steering are just not designed to carry that much.  Twice, the wife and I have been out and seen overloaded vans.  The first time we counted 17 people, the second time, a different van, there were 18  sardines in the can.  Both times they were church vehicles.  Oh, good!  Let’s kill Grandma and Grandpa on their way to worship.  They’ll get to Heaven early.  She wrote a letter to the editor, protesting this practice, yet it’s still happening.  Now, finally, with 13 dead, the politicians are waking up.

Even when they get it right, they often don’t get, or print the whole story.  From Toronto, the story of an 18-year-old female.  She’s been the skimpily-clad Sunshine Girl in the paper four times and was moving on to a career in modelling and acting.  Somehow, she fell, jumped, or was thrown from a car on the expressway.  Then she was struck by a five-ton truck,  Perhaps that was a mercy.

As a teenager, I “fell” from a car once.  It was doing 30 MPH on a hardpacked beach.  I thought I could just roll over the side of a convertible and hit the sand running and slow to a stop.  I got about three steps before physics took over and I cartwheeled onto the ground.  Sand in orifices I didn’t even know I had, some interesting bruises, but I avoided actually breaking anything, most especially my neck.

What in Hell was going on in that car?  I know what it was like hitting wet sand at thirty.  I don’t think I want to know what it was like to hit pavement at 60/65 MPH.  No more modelling career.  She’d have been lucky to get a job as a doorstop.

Today’s paper has a story about the Russians drilling a mile through the Antarctic ice to get to a lake underneath, to do research on biologicals that have been sequestered for over 200,000 years.  Have they not seen either movie version of The Thing?  Let’s release an Ebola type virus, or blood-sucking parasites, or a damned E.T.  Sure, what could possibly go wrong?

The location of the drill-site was given as “1300 KM Southwest of the South Pole.”  There’s nothing Southier than the South Pole.  1300 KM southwest would be somewhere in orbit.  You can’t even fix it by substituting Northwest for Southwest, because, when you leave the South Pole, no matter what direction you take, it’s just North.

We are warned that information obtained on the Internet may not be reliable.  Much the same can be said of what is printed in the “reliable” media.