Monday, August 13, 2012

Grammar stuff: Who vs. That

My favorite truck stop, the Planeview Truck Stop, just south of Oshkosh, WI, has a slogan that is grammatically incorrect.

The headline of the stop's web site is "Dirk, the Dutch Dairyman That Bought a Truck Stop." Dirk is to be forgiven. English isn't his first language. And truckers don't care about grammar. At least most don't. I've met Dirk a couple times when he's worked the diner, and while his English skills are rudimentary at best, he makes a mean chicken fried steak, which is great considering that it's not exactly Dutch cuisine.

"That" refers to objects. "Who" refers to people. Dirk is one who bought the truck stop. I've noticed many people who claim English as their first language can't make the proper distinction between "who" and "that." Where word usage gets a little muddy is the use of "whose," which can apply to both people and objects. "The truck's engine, whose oil hadn't been changed in over 40,000 miles, ran a little choppy." "Dirk, whose chicken fried steak is the best in all the land, also makes a tasty omelet."

Somehow, referring to a person as "that" dehumanizes them. I like the following sentence from the Grammar Girl web site, that illustrates this point. "I always think of my friend who would only refer to his new stepmother as the woman that married my father." When the improper use of "that" is intended to dehumanize someone, it can be quite clever.

What about non-humans? Grammar Girl gives her dog "who" status, but relegates her "fish" to that. I guess if you would cry at the death of pet, it's a "who," but if you sigh and reach for a net, it's a "that."

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Prog rock profile: Nektar

I recently discovered a new to me progressive rock band, Nektar, through their breakthrough song in North America, "Remember the Future." This is a beautiful song with finely crafted movements that flow well together and some stellar guitar, bass and keyboard jams. The singing gives me a very 70s era vibe, a good thing if you're in the mood for such nostalgia.

Of course, doing a little research, I discover that Nektar is not only still around, but this month they are in the studio recording a new album. The band disbanded in the early 80s, but then reformed in the early 2000s and have released three studio albums and six live albums since.

 According to the band's press release packet, the band reformed after lead guitarist and singer Roye Albrighton, on the verge of death, got a liver transplant and a new lease on life in 1999. He decided to get the band back together, and in 2002 the original lineup of Albrighton, keyboardist Allan "Taff" Freeman, bassist Derek "Mo" Moore and drummer Ron Howden played many live shows together.

The current lineup includes Albrighton and Howden, with Klaus Henatsch on keys and Peter Pichl on bass. For the upcoming studio work, Billy Sherwood will play bass.

Although all I know of the band is "Remember the Future," which I've heard many times on the Sirius XM channel Deep Tracks, I plan to explore more of their catalogue and may even buy some of their albums. The YouTube video included in this entry is a vinyl playback of the  "Remember the Future" album from 1973.

As one who has been a progressive rock fan for over 20 years, I'm often reminded that my casual fandom has only touched the surface of all the available songs and artists in this genre. Because prog rock is so commercially outside of the mainstream, finding out about new bands often occurs piece meal through word of mouth or the occasional Internet search. Along with Flash, which I will write about soon, Nektar is one of my favorite discoveries of 2012. And I am happier still to discover they are still making music and will be putting out an album soon. As one of their newer fans, I'm looking forward to the release of their next studio album, "Juggernaut."


Thursday, August 02, 2012

Who gives a Chick-Fil-A?

The Chick-Fil-A controversy of 2012 is a barometer of how stupid public debate is in America these days.

 In the July 16 issue of Baptist Press, the COO of Chick-Fil-A spoke in favor of the "biblical definition of the family." He didn't say anything too out of the ordinary for someone of his ilk, a heterosexual white guy from the south.

The reaction of left wingers was typical as well. To paraphrase their views, "How dare a business owner have such wacky, hateful, and exclusionary opinions." Which got right wingers and resident homophobes all in a tizzy. "How dare you suppress someone's right to an opinion? And, oh yeah, God hates fags."

Gay marriage is a controversial topic in America right now as scores of states take stands either in favor of or against it. I just don't understand why Cathy's comments have fomented such a debate on this topic. Maybe it's because it is rare for a high profile business, which must cater to everyone, regardless of gender or orientation, to take any viewpoint on a controversial topic. Or maybe the reaction of gay marriage proponents gave fuel to opponents because it became a free speech issue as well.

It's really simple. If you're against gay marriage, eat at Chick-Fil-A, go to the church of your choice and vote for politicians who reflects your views. If you support gay marriage, don't eat at Chick-Fil-A, etc. etc. What good will come from this debate? Will anybody's mind be changed? Will it affect legislation regarding gay marriage? Only time will tell.

But for now, it's just fast food. Homosexuality isn't one of the seven deadly sins, unless you choose to sub-categorize it under "lust." But Gluttony is. And in an obesity epidemic, when the lifespan of our children's generation threatens to be shorter, and when heart disease and diabetes are leading causes of death in this country, how dare a fast (i.e. fried fat) food magnate speak out in moral condemnation against anything? Cathy is in the business of fattening Americans, and is thus a proponent of Gluttony.

How come nobody has called Cathy to the carpet for that? Because food, like sexual orientation, is a matter of personal choice.