Bruce Dickinson: Historically Underutilized Bohemian Intellectual — A Biographical Sketch, by J.D. Meyer

Top musicians in the hard rock/heavy metal industry rarely receive the widespread serious respect and attention that they deserve. Hence, the subtitle for this biographical sketch is a play on words, a take-off on the Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) certification for predominantly minority or female owned businesses. Nevertheless, Bruce Dickinson succeeds in carving a wide range of niches for himself though his achievements largely go unnoticed as far as mainstream pop culture is concerned.

Best known as the lead singer for Iron Maiden since 1982 with a break for a solo career in the mid 90s, Bruce is a noted fencer who has a line of fencing equipment. Bruce has contributed his share of song lyrics to Iron Maiden, and he has written two novels. Dickinson also flies jets, does BBC documentaries on jets, and hosts a BBC music talk show.

Bruce began fencing at the age of 13 (1971) and became captain of the school fencing team by age 15. Music got his attention, so he quit fencing until 1983 when one of Iron Maiden’s roadies brought back his interest in the sport. Two years later, he endured a rigorous fencing trainers’ camp and earned a certificate. Bruce entered tournaments around Europe between the Powerslave (1984) and Somewhere in Time (1986-1987) tours. Bruce moved to Bonn in West Germany for tax purposes and to be close to the outstanding national center for fencing. Bruce ranked as high as seventh in Great Britain in men’s foil fencing, and his club—the Hemel Hempstead Fencing Club—represented Great Britain in the European Cup of 1989. Bruce founded a fencing supply company, Duellist.

Bruce wrote two novels, and they were translated into German. Bruce’s novels are about an English landlord, Lord Iffy Boatrace, situated in northern Scotland. Iffy’s problem in both novels is the lack of money. In The Adventures of Lord Iffy Boatrace, Iffy tries to solve his money problems through all-year long grouse hunting. But Iffy needs some grouse built for him, so his next-door neighbor, retired wing commander, Bill Symes-Groat builds some indestructible grouse. But first, the commander introduces Iffy to a huge plum pudding with a cherry on top, a very special and magical pudding. Then Iffy invites some folks from his old boarding school under the pretense of a school reunion. The guests arrive and strange things start to happen. The book was written during the Somewhere in Time tour (1986-1987) and published in 1990. It sold 30, 000 copies.

The sequel to this novel is The Missionary Position. The story begins with the Battle of Hastings in 1066 then switches to a flight to Los Angeles where an elderly couple meets Lord Iffy and his butler, ex-con John Butler. Lord Iffy and his butler scam the elderly couple of their money and tickets. Meanwhile, Lord Iffy’s new scheme is to become a TV evangelist under the guidance of Jimmy Reptile. The evangelist was modeled after a corrupt character in the Iron Maiden song, “Holy Smoke.” At the time of that song’s writing, there were at least two TV evangelist scandals, and they involved Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. There are a few other fascinating bizarre characters, including a US senator, a Japanese businessman golf fanatic, a rock manager who spends his days in an earthquake proof Jacuzzi, and a porn star.

Bruce Dickinson’s flying career started with getting a private license before being taught by British Airways pilot, Phil Dales. Bruce passed his commercial pilot’s license and later his ground and flight exams. Now Bruce flies Boeing 757s for United Kingdom airline, Astraeus. He flew the Rangers Football Club (soccer) to a UEFA cup game against Hapoel Tel Aviv. Bruce feels that the greatest innovations in jets are the aerodynamics of swept wings and power plants. Bruce’s flying career and radio/TV career have intersected through the documentary, Flying Heavy Metal, a five-part aviation series on Discovery Channel UK. He was even a guest on a Discovery Channel about trains, and he drove a Russian T-34 tank for a program on tanks.

Dickinson presents the Friday evening rock show on BBC Radio Station Six. Bruce interviews up-and-coming musicians and plays their songs. You can find this program easily in the US on the Internet, along with archives of the series. He has taken over the BBC Radio Two serial, Masters of Rock. Bruce’s documentary career led to a show entitled, “Inside Spontaneous Combustion with Bruce Dickinson.”

Iron Maiden songs represent the peak of thinking man’s lyrics. Like Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, bass guitarist, also was a history major in college and writes many of the lyrics for Iron Maiden. For example, Iron Maiden’s longest song (over twelve minutes) adapted Samuel Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” “The Flight of Icarus” comes from the ancient Greek myth. True to the British Air Force, “Aces
High” shows the life of the fighter pilot. “Trooper” recounts a cavalryman’s tale of the Crimean War between Russia and England in the mid 1850s. Yet “Mother Russia” (1990)hails the end of Soviet domination and welcomes the beginning of a new era; time has shown the change to be a major improvement over the Cold War era. Bruce may not have written all these songs, but his influence has always been felt in the lyrics of the band.

Bruce Dickinson certainly fits the definition of a Renaissance Man, someone with a wide range of intellectual pursuits and curiosity. Furthermore, he has taken all of them into moneymaking professions. Bruce can say that he has been 42,000 feet above earth in a Boeing 757 and played in front of 300,000 fans at Rio de Janeiro with the rest of Iron Maiden. What will he do next?

Note: This information came from various websites—Wikipedia, Bruce Dickinson’s Official Website, Discovery Channel, and BBC Radio Six. Originally, this article was published at the now defunct Voices.yahoo.

Booker T. Washington: Neglected Exemplar of Practical Education

By Mr. J.D. Meyer…Juneteenth 2005/Revised: Juneteenth 2008

Introduction
First, it’s very doubtful that I would have discovered Booker T. Washington if it wasn’t for primary resources on the Internet. In other words, third-rate historians who pass judgment while withholding evidence from the reader have obscured the real writings of BTW. Thus BTW is “ a figure more often caricatured than understood,” to quote Thomas Sowell et al’s article, “Up from Slavery,” based on Washington’s autobiography with the same name. BTW has been unfairly and illogically labeled as an Uncle Tom for emphasizing vocational education near the turn of the 20th Century. Yet in “The Awakening of the Negro,” Washington stated that if a Black owned the mortgage on a White’s house, then that White couldn’t prevent the Black from voting. In his autobiography, Up From Slavery, Washington admitted, “How often I have wanted to say to white students that they lift themselves up in proportion as they help to lift others, and the more unfortunate the race, and the lower in the scale of civilization, the more does one raise one’s self by giving the assistance.”

Washington’s greatest speech (1895) was praised by many but maligned by some
as the Atlanta Compromise rather than the Atlanta Exposition address. It was the first speech by an African-American before an integrated audience in this country. This was a time when 100 Blacks/year were being lynched. Reconstruction was long over, having only lasted from 1865-1877. Furthermore, a conquering army had imposed Reconstruction.

In his later years, Mr. Washington admitted that if his Atlanta Exposition had been unsuccessful, it could have shattered the cause for Black advancement for years. Instead, the governor of Georgia ran across the room to shake BTW’s hand and offer congratulation. President Grover Cleveland mailed a letter of praise to BTW. The climate around the turn of the 20th Century was so tense that President Theodore Roosevelt was criticized for having lunch with Mr. Washington. It was even the topic of cruel newspaper cartoons. If you think that a call for crossbow manufacturing was overlooked, then you forgot what happened to the Black Panthers for their assertion of their American right to bear arms.

This presentation will examine the Atlanta Exposition Address, a talk that is a
component of Washington’s autobiography, Up From Slavery. Then we’ll have an
overview of “The Awakening of the Negro.” Our first reading is from “Black Race, Red Race,” reflections on Washington’s early career as the dorm supervisor of Native Americans at his alma mater, Hampton College. We will end with the article that significantly shaped my views on African-American history, “Keeping the Spotlight on Failure,” by Elizabeth Wright, and a chilling indictment of how many teach Black history to be little more than slavery, freedom, civil rights movement, and integration. There were plenty of great economic and institutional success stories individual and group, before the civil right movement and desegregation. Wright and many like her are philosophical heirs to Booker T. Washington, and their work can be found at websites like Issues-Views.com and Booker Rising.com

Excerpt from “Black Race and Red Race”—BTW
Six years after graduating from Hampton Institute, General Armstrong, the
President of Hampton, invited Booker T. Washington to be the dorm director for a
group of Native American males. Hampton is still one of the leading HBCU’s
today.
“There was a general feeling that the attempt to educate and civilize the red men at Hampton would be a failure. All this makes me proceed very cautiously, for I felt the keen responsibility. But I was determined to succeed. It was not long before I had the complete confidence of the Indians, and not only this, but I think I am safe in saying that I had their love and respect. I found that they were about like any other human beings; that they responded to kind treatment and resented ill treatment. They were continually planning to do something that would add to my happiness and comfort. The things that they disliked most, I think, were to have their long hair cut, to give up wearing their blankets, and to cease smoking; but no white American ever thinks that any other race is wholly civilized until he wears the white man’s clothes, eats the white man’s food, speaks the white man’s language, and professes the white man’s religion.”

The Atlanta Exposition Address
Why did BTW feel that vocational education was so important? First, because the
Talented Tenth that WEB DuBois wanted to nurture was just that—the 10% of any
population that can become doctors, lawyers, and the like. BTW chose to reach the black masses. As the first president of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Washington seized the opportunity to do just that. The practical education movement at Tuskegee was paralleled at white colleges like my alma mater, Texas A&M University, because of the Morrill Act of 1862. This act provided for state funding for universities in each state to specialize in the sciences of agriculture, engineering, and more.
Thus, there is nothing demeaning in not gambling on replacing one’s archeology professor. For as, Booker T. Washington contended in Atlanta at the Exposition Address, “No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.”BTW opened the Atlanta Exposition Address by stating that the event was the greatest thing to happen between the races in the thirty years since the end of slavery. Then he admitted that the awkwardness of Reconstruction. The newly freed slaves began at the top instead of the bottom and blacks sought a political position rather than “real estate or industrial skills” or “starting a dairy farm or truck garden.”

On the other hand, subsequent research revealed to me that at least some to those African-Americans who ascended to political power truly were competent—like Matthew Gaines of Brenham, Texas. Mr. Gaines was instrumental in the founding of Texas A&M to the extent that a movement led by Aggie Republicans like my former philosophy professor, Richard Stadelmann, wanted to have a statue of Gaines erected on the campus.

Washington’s bold call to both races was “Cast your buckets down where you
are.” At that time, it meant for blacks not to give up on America and sail back to Africa. For whites, it meant not to expect foreign immigrants to be the answer to economic expansion because of the loyalty shown by African-Americans over the centuries. Suggesting anything to whites back then was quite bold. Yet perhaps the latter was one of Washington’s most peculiar contentions as there had been brutal slave uprisings, sometimes with white abolitionist assistance, as noted in WEB DuBois’s critiques of BTW. Perhaps Mr. Washington was hinting that black uprisings could have been a lot more frequent or worse in an off-hand (even clever passive aggressive) way.

Let’s jump back to the Back to Africa movement. It was extremely influential at
the turn of the century until 1920. Marcus Garvey was its most famous proponent and the leader of the largest black movement in history. Martin Delany, the first African-American field officer and a medical doctor, was another key figure. However, Delany changed his mind about the Back to Africa movement and leaned toward South America before his change as well. Dr. Delany has the peculiar distinction of almost being lynched by a white mob in a Northern border state before the Civil War; then he was almost lynched by an angry black mob because he supported an ex-Confederate officer who supported vocational education for African-Americans.
One of the most surprising aspects of this twisted by emotion era in American history for me is that some of the finest men fighting for black rights were the slave masters’ sons, as opposed to uneducated white competing for jobs open to ex-slaves apart from the BTW or DuBois game plan. Always looking at both sides of any issue, Washington admonished blacks not to sink into resentment over the atrocities of slavery because that would bog down progress.

Thus, the central theme of the Atlanta Exposition Address was that “there is no defense or security for any of us except in the development of the highest intelligence of all.” He waved aside already lost causes for his generation such as racial integration offering his example of as being “separate like fingers yet one in the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.” He never renounced equal rights under the law but noted, “The ability to earn a dollar in a factory was more important than the right to spend it at an opera house.” BTW observed that as one-third of the population of the South, blacks could be a force for progress or stagnation, depending on whether blacks took the opportunities that were given, or had opportunities denied them, or simply blundered away chances. Thus,
BTW was able to link the fate of both races by connecting rights and responsibilities.

So how different were Washington and DuBois? Less than what it is popularly
assumed today, and at one time, they were close allies. DuBois did view the Atlanta Exposition as something of a sell-out. DuBois proved to be right in noting that without political rights, African-Americans could not protect what they had earned. Yet DuBois failed to see that part of Washington’s program of vocational education proved to be the beginning of the modern science of agriculture. Building construction was another area of training in all phases from bricklaying to carpentry to architecture.
After Washington’s death, it was discovered that he secretly donated to civil rights causes. Ultimately, Washington praised whites of good will while DuBois verbally attacked whites of ill will. Washington received substantial financial contributions for Tuskegee Institute as its president. DuBois lived to be 95 (1868-1963) while Washington didn’t make it to 60 (1858-1915). Admittedly, the savagery of white backlash over black success and BTW’s relentless speaking and work schedule may have driven him to an early grave. On the other hand, poor DuBois was subjected to an FBI investigation for his socialist leanings, and he moved to Ghana to spend the last years of his life with Kwame Nkrumah, its first president and a Pan-African giant.

Yet DuBois shared the fears of Washington that if whites lost their prejudices
overnight, much of the ignorant masses of blacks would stay down through using
prejudice as an excuse or drift into “indifferent listlessness or reckless bravado.” In short, you could not imagine a more effective early leader for African-Americans than BTW. His ability to point toward quiet economic success as a prerequisite for the achievements of later generations was essential and tragically unappreciated. There wouldn’t have been a Civil Rights’ Movement if some African-Americans hadn’t risen to middle-class stature. Likewise, my new T-shirt says Martin Luther King’s dream is being realized in Barack Obama’s message of change.

The Awakening of the Negro
Washington’s vision of practical education included witnessing the opposite. Once he saw a young man studying French grammar in a run-down shack, and another time, BTW saw a young lady playing a rented piano in a run-down shack. Washington responded to the objections that would surface later anyway: a young black has the right to study French or the piano. But in those troubled poverty-stricken days right after slavery, a more practical alternative was needed. Washington earned his degree at Hampton College—a model for Tuskegee. Washington was “surrounded by an atmosphere of business, Christian influence, and a spirit of self-help that seemed to have awakened every faculty in me, and cause me for the first time to realize what it meant to be a man instead of a piece of property.”

Washington saw the cardinal needs for African American as, “food, clothing,
shelter, education, proper habits, and a settlement of race relations,” a list that reminds me of the basic needs according to Abraham Maslow. Furthermore, Washington believed that training of strong young people in the “head, hand, and heart” would lift up the race from within better than missionary efforts launched from afar. By learning industrial or hand training, the young African-American could move up from their status at that time. Three other factors stood out: (1) the student could pay for some of his tuition; (2) the school called for a job that required skill; (3) the industrial system teaches “economy, thrift, the dignity of labor” and gives “moral backbone” to students. Such a student gains a “certain confidence and moral independence” when he is “conscious of his power to build a house or wagon or to make a harness.”

It is easy to update these practical suggestions for our century. Obviously,
residential and business construction is still leading fields, and the automobile or truck has replaced the wagon and the harness for the horse. But we need to add computer skills to our list of confidence-imparting practical skills. I am one of many who have the power to search the Internet, type rapidly and save the information on a computer or on a disc, insert tables, dabble with contrasting fonts, and make a Power Point. I could get off-task and ramble indefinitely about the new practical professions that exist today but were not present at the time of BTW.
Mr. Washington’s vision of industrial education was “how to put brains into every process of labor… (Therefore) much of the toil is eliminated and labor is dignified.” Tuskegee had a staggering total of 650 acres of land for agriculture: cattle and vegetables. At this time, 85% of African-Americans in the South worked in agriculture. Furthermore, Tuskegee graduates taught rural blacks how to save money, get out of debt, and buy their own house. Keeping isolated schools open more often was another typical goal. Older adults organized local clubs or conferences, and the Tuskegee Negro Conference was held every February, bringing 800 people together from all over the Black Belt. Besides the Tuskegee Negro Conference for the masses, BTW started a simultaneous gathering called The Workers’ Conference. The Workers’ Conference brought together instructors and administrators from the leading black schools of the South. By having these conferences at the same time, the laborers and educators were able to learn from each other.

What was the strategy behind Washington’s focus on industrial education? It was
to improve race relations through empowering blacks to produces something the white “wants or respects in the commercial world.” Furthermore, the white would become partly dependent on the black and less able to deny his political rights.
One of the greatest evils of the slave system is that it warped the work ethic. The white master did not work but was the ideal—the idle rich. Another evil was that slavery discouraged labor-saving machinery. Blacks worked but under protest. All of these strange quirks led to the Southern habit of putting off repairs until tomorrow. Thus the Tuskegee influence bettered all society—not just black. The South evolved from exporting its cash crop—cotton—in exchange for food supplies, to a society with diversified agriculture.

Keeping the Spotlight on Failure
Elizabeth Wright refutes the notion that blacks achieved little before integration in this fine article. The result of conditioning blacks into such thinking leads them to having a negative opinion of black businessmen and institutions while accepting the guidance of the elite without question. The perpetrators of this view are the black elite and white liberals. She cites no less than nine successful African-American entrepreneurs who lived between 1840—1930; some even lived before the Civil War.

Wright notes that during Booker T. Washington’s heyday, blacks had a better spirit of entrepreneurship, optimism, and pragmatism. It was accepted that economic change would precede changes in the laws. Getting bogged down theory or dwelling on victimization would divert one from making money. Furthermore, the Tuskegee Movement provided moral encouragement as well as technical assistance. Frequently, Washington and his colleagues would go into the rural areas and show poor blacks how to get out of debt, save their money, keep grade schools open more often, and become homeowners.

After the end of BTW’s influence, progress was no longer due to the individual’s effort and enterprise but the result of a group of civil rights leaders. The title that Ms. Wright chose for this article was actually borrowed from Mr. Washington himself. He noted that there were already black leaders in his time that wanted to remind their followers of sad stuff to keep them loyal but depressed and good whites feeling guilty. Nevertheless, I’d like to interject that it’s essential to examine each view in order to have a balanced view of African-American social/intellectual history. Without legal protection, successful black communities like Tulsa suffered wholesale destruction with no recourse, and lynchings got worse when African-Americans became more successful in the first two decades of the Twentieth Century. Ironically, the Tuskegee machine was far from democratic and often crushed opposition from other black scholars.

Overall, I still endorse Ms. Wright’s view of African-American history with its
endorsement of Booker T. Washington as the more valid model. For example, the GI bill enabled many black World War II veterans to go to college, become more successful economically, and influence legal change. Perhaps the current young hustlers carry on some of that BTW style attitude concerning the importance of “make money first”; however, there’s all too often a spirit of Machiavellianism and a frequent idolization of gangsters. Obviously, black-on-black crime has never been worse, especially violent crime. John McWhorter observes a counterproductive anti-intellectual spirit in today’s youth also. Washington endorsed putting scientific skill into trades like agriculture, and he never negated that a “talented tenth” would go into professions like medicine and the law. But BTW did note that it’s more important to be able to make a dollar than spend it
in the theater of your choice.

Let’s look at some of those entrepreneurs cited in Ms. Wright’s article. First, she mentions Martin Delany (1812-1885) of West Virginia, hailed as the “Malcolm X of the 19th Century.” I mentioned a bit of history earlier in this essay. Dr. Delany was the first black field officer and medical doctor. He also was a book and magazine author who wrote non-fiction and fiction. Dr. Delany wrote for Frederick Douglass’s journal, the North Star. Charles and Ana Spaulding founded the Mutual Life Insurance Company of Durham, North Carolina at the turn of the 20th Century, and the company still exists today. William Powell was an ex-slave who opened a repair shop and invented or improved tools. George Downing owned a hotel in Rhode Island and was a caterer before the Civil War. Robert Reed Church was a Memphis businessman who built a park for summer festivities, graduations, and held Thanksgiving dinners for the poor.

To conclude my summary/analysis of “Keeping the Spotlight on Failure,” we
need an inclusive attitude toward information on history, especially something as twisted by dogmatic paradigms as African-American history. I certainly didn’t want to read depressing Black History essays, and I received tons of them until I wrote a guide to writing a Black History essay for my class. It was their one chance to do an essay on this topic, so be happy. Undoubtedly, Ms. Wright could have predicted that young blacks would generally focus on the dreariest aspects of their history unless urged not to do so.

Conclusion
To conclude this talk, I hope you have a better understanding of Booker T.
Washington’s achievements in the cause of African-American advancement and the business-oriented movement that not only succeeded him but preceded him too. It is too easy to judge somebody in the distant past by today’s standards. Maybe history can teach us to develop empathy and understand cause-and-effect. Furthermore, it is a victory for an entire country when any disadvantaged group can improve their status, not just the disadvantaged group.

Utilizing the #You Matter Paradigm by Angela Maiers in Composition Textbooks, by Joffre (“JD”) Meyer

On Utilizing the #You Matter Model by Angela Maiers
for Sustainability in English Composition & Developmental English/Writing Textbooks,
by Joffre (“JD”) Meyer

The “You Matter” educational model developed by Angela Maiers looks like an ideal complement for the sustainability in composition theories of Derek Owens. Whereas sustainability vindicates the validity of one’s neighborhood and career goals as source material, “you matter” brings an articulate method for affirming the individual.
Let’s start with highlights from the You Matter Manifesto. (1) You have influence through solving problems by contributing your genius in a new way. (2) Your insight can find original solutions if you have enough passion and don’t surrender to indulgence. (3) Your actions define your impact; you have a gift that others need. (4) Our presence is important, for we can realize that we matter in small encounters.
In concluding, Angela Maiers defines to matter as to be significant and relevant, as well as consequential and important—perhaps not locally, but elsewhere. Through the Internet, I was able to discover the persuasive and uplifting work of Angela Maiers and renew the defense of my philosophy of writing textbooks.
In “12 Ways to Let People Know They Matter,” Angela Maiers begins with a quote from the late Jackie Robinson, the baseball star. Robinson proclaimed, The measure of a life is its impact on others, rather than one’s accomplishments.” Maiers notes that those who simply believed in her made the biggest impact on her, not necessarily raved about her expertise or accomplishments. Once again, my analysis of her article will attempt to apply “you matter” to sustainability in composition.
Angela Maiers reveals that we ask, “Do I matter to you?” For the classroom, this implies we should allow a wide range of essay prompts and model essays for our students in our textbooks and assignments. In that we way, teachers show they really care about what the students are saying.
A great mattering question for the writer is, “What rocked your world (not necessarily today)?” Young kids ask out loud, “Is this okay?” Developing writers have the same feeling inside; they need encouragement. Cynicism sucks the life out of work, business, and people, according to Angela Maiers. For years, I have acquiesced to the cynic-supported fear that I should settle for only submitting my grammar chapter to a textbook publisher.
An open teacher/writer could be so inspired by his students’ wide ranging essays to include some as edited student essays in his/her textbook. Edited student essays turned chapter sections received the subtitle, “The Students Take Over,” in my textbook. It’s like talking nicely about the other in conversation shows what has been shared. Offering hope is as contagious as its opposite. Teachers can lift students above their circumstances or send them into a tailspin, cautions Mrs. Maiers.

Remedial English Meets Stand-Up Comedy

  Originally a Presentation at a Downtown Tyler Arts Event: Precursor to Tyler Spoken Word

I decided to go through my Developmental English textbook and look for funny model sentences. Textbook engagement is one of the major concerns in that industry. Most of these model sentences are from the grammar chapter. I’ll lead into them by mentioning a category first. Well after this talk, I realized that the textbook engagement aspect of amusing model sentences would add to my sustainability in composition stance.

Three sentences are accounts of rare physical humor in the classroom. Very early in the semester, I’d say, “The teacher threw an eraser over the students’ heads,” while I was explaining the prepositions as usually about space and often beginning with the letters, “a, b, o, u, or t.” Now let’s talk about fragments. “I type,” is a very short sentence: subject, verb, and complete thought. However, “Drives to the basket after a fake in the opposite direction,” is a very long fragment that’s missing a subject. Of course, I demonstrated my move for the class. How about a very forceful imperative sentence? “Watch out for that pit bull hiding behind the car on the front porch.” That led to a successful titanium hip replacement after slipping on wet grass but no pit bull bite, as the beast was on a chain.

I’ve been known to make health-related and pet-love jokes. “Finally, (comma) I can walk up the stairs without wheezing,” illustrates a comma after an introductory word. I have had two phases of hording cats. Once I was able to make a pro-cat remark and salute Whitney Houston: “He has found the greatest joy of all—(dash) to have a pack of red cats.” That dash prevented an added-detail fragment. Here’s an actual happy cat family event, “I gave my male cat, Dat, a compliment (not complement) for letting the three female cats eat first (Smoky, Ms. Kwame, and Lupita). That sentence was from a Commonly Confused Word chapter section.

I have proposed an all-new acronym for the coordinating conjunctions because FANBOYS paints a very disturbing picture in my mind that involves a monarch and far from role model activity on the part of youth. So I’m offering FABSONY as a new way to remember the coordinating conjunctions–for, and, but, so, or, nor, and yet—while saluting a fine Japanese radio/TV company and its founder, Akio Morita. By the way, I read his biography, Made in Japan, back in the Nineties.

It can be fun to acknowledge the generation gap. “I can’t understand why so many young people wear loose jeans (two “o’s” not one), and why bell-bottoms and flares haven’t made a comeback.” ((More from the Commonly Confused word chapter section). On another note, make a joke about teachers usually being more bookish than students, “Searching through the websites, the instructor tried to find something exciting or at least tolerable for his students.” That shows the use of a comma after an introductory phrase.

Hinting at strictness when it comes to passing or not is prudent, whether through teacher talk or the teacher’s book. Some students (and maybe some administrators) think a jolly teacher might pass anyone. One of my early statements in the semester was “Just because I may laugh with y’all and try to be funny doesn’t mean I won’t do the same thing next semester when I see you if you do bad on tests and don’t turn in essays or do poorly on them. The instructors for the higher level classes are next door to me, so I don’t want to risk hearing them complain about a backwards student.” Awareness of mischief is good too. In an irregular verb quiz section of a multiple-choice quarterly exam, I once gloated,”Somebody stole the answer key from my office, so I changed the order of the answers–ha, ha!” True or False? True on both counts!

Let students know what your pet peeve is in grammar since that could be extra memorable. I can’t stand apostrophe splices! Don’t use an apostrophe with a singular noun that doesn’t show possession. Years later, I saw a funny picture on a Facebook grammar site that had the caption, “Every time you use an apostrophe + “s” to make a noun plural, a puppy dies.” I get funny with pictures too for a Flickr photo of a Jolly Roger flag is next to statement,” Look at the lovely lady’s.” Look at what of hers; wait, you want me to look at a photo of three ladies. Don’t use an apostrophe with a third-person singular verb; that’s even worse. A Flickr photo of unique sign shows rotating saws with the caption, “Don’t feed body parts into adjacent counter-rotating rollers,” goes next to that model sentence. You can only get that zany once per chapter or maybe once per book, so pick your pet peeve wisely. Comma use can be more important than acknowledging when to catch your breath. A comma to prevent confusion can be very important, “Let’s eat, Helen.” Without a comma in that sentence, the author could be suggesting cannibalism!

Let’s talk about dealing with African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) because it’s a Developmental English/Writing textbook. Ebonics is not a proper term because it implies a completely separate language. Irregular verbs and subject-verb agreement seem to be the most likely place for this slang or dialect. Check out these false statements on True-False test on irregular verbs. “I’m gone to the house. She being silly again. This exam is so throwed, I’m glad to be taking it.” Now don’t get the wrong idea. In a subject-verb agreement quiz I confessed, “Internet sites, and not Mom, reveal that Black Irish were mixed: African-American and White, thereby explaining Grandmother Charlcye Elrod’s resemblance to actress, Josephine Baker.”

Do you have a controversial hero, or do you still enjoy some of his or her old writings? What if you have a redneck teacher who could give you a lower grade just because (s) he got mad? There’s a way you can quote somebody and not give their name. Preface or conclude the quote with a phrase like, “A prominent thinker once said, ‘Let’s look at a great quote from the Keynote Address at the 2001 Hip Hop Summit in New York City, “Every time you use your rap song against another rapper and the magazines publish your words, the people you love then turn on the people you have spoken against. (With) leadership comes responsibility. You did not ask for it. It is imposed on you, but now you have to accept responsibility that you have never accepted.'” That was from the Keynote Address at the 2001 Hip Hop Summit in New York City. Then I have a picture of Russell Simmons to go with that quote. He was the organizer, and everybody likes him. So I was just able to get away with quoting Minister Louis Farrakhan and not get in trouble (big laugh ensues).

Here’s a goodie from early in the Persuasive chapter, “If you give your Valentine a Tupperware full of chocolate mints chiefly because you like to have containers for leftovers, then your persuasive strategy in love would be….(Predicting Results).” It’s good to quote a joke from somewhere else. In a chapter section on developing you vocabulary, I quoted Frank Burns (played by Larry Linville) from M*A*S*H when he said, “It’s nice to be nice to the nice.” “Nice” makes the short list as one of the most overused words.

Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers is a rare advanced grammar chapter section that is funny from start to finish. Much of the section shows how a sentence’s meaning can be totally changed through placement of the words: “almost, only, just, nearly, and even.” To end, I’ve actually provided a risqué, but cautionary, model declarative sentence. Here’s a way to use a pair of dashes, “She had all the qualities a gentleman could want—a steady job, social adeptness, and a lack of meanness—but a far different type of female enamored him.” Bad!

Thank you very much. You’ve been a receptive audience. Feel free to read and laugh.