Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Too Little Time And Not Enough Me

....But you know if I was twins, we'd fight.

Old Grouch has a terrific photo-edit and good collection of post-Blogmeet links, including Brigid on starting big radial aircraft engines (as compared to jets). I used to liken my MGB to a small private aircraft, especially in the need to do a proper set of preflight checks[1], but the big planes are a whole 'nuther world. Like a locomotive (or a big old genset, something I do have a little experience with, including fun failure modes) that flies!

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This morning, we're enjoying Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, snuck past the Customs station along the Monon by Turk (few North American Customs officers are willing to check a camel really closely and the ones from Turonistan are especially ill-tempered. Camels, not Customs officials, although y'know...). Yum! It was way more than worth last night's quick trip to BigBoxStore for a coffee grinder.

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At the Greenfield Hamfest Sunday, I found William Edward Mead's Elementary Composition and Rhetoric, a high-school text from 1894. It's a gem! Not nearly as stiff-necked as might be thought: "Some slang is more picturesque and forcible than more dignified phrases; and some terms once regarded as slang are now counted among our most valued words. In serious composition, however, all phrases of doubtful propriety must be avoided, though probably no one but a pedant excludes them entirely from his conversation." [Mead, op. cit., p. 18] The book has 3- and 4-word summaries of each new thought set along the outside edges of each page and Dr. Mead often includes footnotes inviting the reader to question the word choice and phrasing of the quotes he uses as examples: "Is this the best word?" "Position of this clause?"

With this book atop my collection of swag, an older ham I know approached me as I was digging though a box of hand-wound radio coils -- "Does your starship company use those? Have a look at this book--" And he handed me McGuffey's High School and Literary Reader. I knew what it was, in a general sort of way but a glance at the table of contents -- Shakespeare, Poe, Daniel Webster, Defoe, James Fenimore Cooper and Samuel Langhorne Clemens[2] -- confirmed that here was indeed The Good Stuff.
"It's wonderful," I said, "what do you want for it?"
"Oh, you can have it; it's yours."
"Oh, gosh -- thank you! Very much!"
These readers were turned out in their millions. It was a sad day when they stopped being standard texts. And this one's missing most of the cover at the spine and is right before losing the front and back covers, not an easy repair for a very amateur bookbinder. But the pages are all there and the content.... Well, you can't do much better. You just can't.

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And with that, I'm more than outta time, yet again. More, later.
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1. Of course, if you get an MGB up to about 65 mph and pull back gently on the steering wheel, the only exciting thing that might happen is, it would fall off in your hand. Also they don't travel as far after sudden engine failure; the upside is, you don't have to land 'em. Usually you don't...

2. You have to have read Twain's essay "The Literary Excesses Of James Fenimore Cooper" to fully grasp my amusment at seeing them between the same covers. I think the essay itself is a must for anyone doing descriptive writing. Title is from memory; I'll link to it later if I can find it online.

6 comments:

og said...

You owe it to yourself to visit The Henry Ford in Dearborn, MI.

THe McGuffy Schoolhouse is there, and you can buy modern editions of the original readers with the original illustrations.

Plus, cool stuff everywhere you look.

D.W. Drang said...

Roberta: Here is an online version of Sam Clemens' How To Tell A Story, And Other Essays, which includes Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses in various formats: http://www.archive.org/details/howtotellastory00twairich

I have a permalink in my Bookmarks to the Online Books Site; Mark Twain's page is here: http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/lookupname?key=Twain%2c%20Mark%2c%201835-1910

Ditto What Og Said vis a vis Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum. Not a lot of touristy type things to do in and around my old home town, but those two are definitely numbers one and two, and make up for any less than savory things one may hear about Henry Ford.

ajdshootist said...

MGB GTs have quite tuff roofs as i found out when many years ago i turned mine over mind you im glad i never turned my MGC soft top over even if it did have a big role bar the big trouble with MGBs is they could not go fast enough to pull the skin of a rice pudding.

BobG said...

The good thing about those readers is that they introduced young people to a variety of classical authors who they may have otherwise never heard about.

Somerled said...

The people of my grandmother's generation attended one-room schools. Few of them went on to high school. Many of them could recite classic poems, and they freely lent me their treasured books.

I still have some of my grandmother's books, including her old readers. I remember laying on a rag rug in her living room reading them while she rocked, read or crocheted. We'd have the best talks when I put the books down.

J.R.Shirley said...

Sounds like a great book.