Charlotte Braun: The Forgotten Peanut

I loved Peanuts™ as a kid. The first collection was published a scant year before I was born, and I learned to read more from Schulz’ work than I did from Dick and Jane. I knew every character by heart, and followed the evolution of the strip until Charles Schulz passed away.

However, recently I learned that there was one character who only appeared in a handful of strips – a loud-talking young lady named Charlotte Braun.

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Charlotte Braun

Charlotte No 1

Charlotte appears on Nov. 30, 1954

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Two additional Charlotte strips

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Charlotte’s 10th and final appearance.

Some of the early characters – Patty, Violet, Shermy and Pig-Pen – gradually faded into obscurity as their rôles took on less significance, to be replaced by Peppermint Patty, Sally Brown, and to a lesser degree, Rerun. But Charlotte seemed good for only a few gags, and in response to a letter from a reader, Schulz agreed to give her the ax.

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Letter from Charles Schulz to Elizabeth Swaim

Interestingly enough, Schulz introduced a number of characters along the way who were destined for only a few appearances:

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Tapioca Pudding, daughter of Joe Pudding, a marketer, was concocted for a single story line.

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José Peterson, who showed up briefly when Peppermint Patty was introduced.

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“5”, and his sisters “3” and “4”

All these, and some others, were never designed to be regulars. From the history, it would seem that Charlotte was introduced  as a regular cast-member, but that Schulz simply ran out of gags to use her in and she was deliberately sent to sleep with the fishes. What I found interesting is that I never saw her in any of the Peanuts collections which I had or have in my library. I was charmed to make her acquaintance.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Tohoku: Let us not forget

A new video has recently surfaced showing the devastation suffered in the Tohoku area of Japan in 2011. People in the first part of the video have no clue how serious things are about to get. At about 9:50 the debris arrives; that much water flowing that fast has about the same impact as solid rock.

Much of the debris has now been removed, but people continue to suffer. There are still ways to help.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Aurora Porn

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Beautiful spiral aurora, photograph by David Cartier. See more gorgeous photography at his Flickr Stream.

I love the aurora, I’ve only seen it in person once – as far south as Montana, on a dark night at around 2:00 AM. We were driving back home from a trip to Calgary, and off behind some hills we saw what looked like those big advertising spotlights moving across the sky. We stopped to watch, and saw some ribbons as well. Someday I’ll make it up to Alaska and hope to see some better displays.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

No, we haven’t “broken English.”

A recent article over at The Guardian asks the question, “Have we literally broken the English language?”

The gripe stems from the fact that the word “literally,” meaning (and only meaning, dammit, if you listen to the prescriptivists) “to the letter, in a literal way or sense,” has now been updated with an additional definition. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it can now be “‘used for emphasis rather than being actually true.” Google’s added definition states that literally can be used “to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling”.

Randall Munroe riffed on this some time ago in his wonderful XKCD:

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Cushlamochree, people – get a grip.

One of the first things I learned when I started studying historical linguistics is that language is about as fixed as the clouds of Jupiter. A course in Romance Philology, taught by the illustrious Madame A.M.L Barnett, had me watching the exquisite steps from Vulgar Latin into French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian, Catalan, and Romansch [1] over the course of 800 years; it was intriguing to be able to chart the transformation of Vulgar Latin blastemare[2] into the Italian bestemmiare or the French blâmer (whence we get our word “blame”).

Let’s look at some examples from more recent history, and our own language:

  • Meat used to mean food in general; now it simply refers to the flesh of animals.
  • Meet used to mean “appropriate,” whereas now it means “to encounter.”
  • Corn used to refer to all kinds of grain, whereas now it means that great stuff we eat at picnics on the 4th of July. Amaizing, isn’t it? [3]
  • Actual meant “pertaining to an action;” it now means “real” or “genuine.”
  • Awful used to mean “full of awe” i.e. something wonderful, delightful, amazing, instead of “horrible” or “terrible.”
  • Besom, meaning “a broom,” is only encountered in very old texts like the Bible and rare literary references.

And on and on. In fact, have a look at the original text of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales:

Middle English (late 1300’s) Modern English
This carpenter out of his slomber sterte,
And herde oon crien ‘water’ as he were wood,
And thoughte, “Allas, now comth Nowelis flood!”
He sit hym up withouten wordes mo,
And with his ax he smoot the corde atwo,
And doun gooth al; he foond neither to selle,
Ne breed ne ale, til he cam to the celle
Upon the floor, and ther aswowne he lay.
This carpenter out of his sleep did start,
Hearing that “Water!” cried as madman would,
And thought, “Alas, now comes down Noel’s flood!”
He struggled up without another word
And with his axe he cut in two the cord,
And down went all; he did not stop to trade
In bread or ale till he’d the journey made,
And there upon the floor he swooning lay.

If that doesn’t do it for you, let’s look at Beowulf:

Old English (8th-11th Century) Modern English
Ðá wæs on burgum Béowulf Scyldinga
léof léodcyning longe þráge
folcum gefraége — fæder ellor hwearf
aldor of earde — oþ þæt him eft onwóc
héah Healfdene héold þenden lifde
gamol ond gúðréouw glæde Scyldingas·
ðaém féower bearn forðgerímed
in worold wócun weoroda raéswan:
Heorogár ond Hróðgár ond Hálga til·
hýrde ic þæt Ýrse wæs Onelan cwén
Heaðo-Scilfingas healsgebedda.
Then was in boroughs, Beowulf the Scylding (Beaw),
beloved king of the people a long age
famed among the folk — his father having gone elsewhere,
elder on earth — until unto him in turn was born
high Half-Dane, he ruled so long as he lived
old and battle-fierce, the glad Scyldings;
to him four sons in succession
woke in the world, the leader of the legions:
Heorogar and Hrothgar and good Halga;
I heard that Yrse was Onela’s queen,
the War-Scylfing’s belovèd embraced in bed.

Yes, it’s English – even though some of the letters have long since fallen out of use. Anyone not familiar with the history of language would swear that this was another language altogether… which, in a sense, it was.

The bottom line is that usage drives language, not rules. Scream all you want about the Oxford Comma [4], in as little as 100 years, people may not even know that it ever existed; in 400 years, English as it is spoken today may no longer even be recognizable.

Having used and worked with and studied multiple languages over the course of a career, it’s my own feeling that folks who get their knickers in a twist about  how language should be used are basically holding up their hand to try to change the mighty Amazon in its course; “As well you might have piled dry leaves to stop Euroclydon!” [5] Language is going to change, whether you like it or not, whether you want it or not, and whether you complain about it or not.

That’s not to say that there is no need for rules or style – I cringe when I see people mistake “lose” and “loose,” or mix up “there,” “they’re,” and “their.” But these rules are in place for the sake of meaning and clarity, enforced largely by academics and journalists and publishers for their rarified purposes; authors regularly violate every conceivable regulation if it suits their good pleasure (have a look at e.e. cummings or James Joyce if you don’t believe me.)

In the end, then, the claim that adding a dictionary meaning for the “misuse” of a word is tantamount to “breaking English” is  folly, and naught more than clickbait. Sadly, about 99% of the Internet is made of such nonsense.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


[1] And that list is by no means complete.

[2] Itself from the Late Latin blasphemare, which is visible as the ancestor of blaspheme, blasphemy

[3] Valid for Americans only. Other varieties of English still use this meaning, and refer to the stuff on the cob as maize.

[4] That’s for you, Melissa

[5] The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, Church Educational System Manual

A red day… ere the sun rises!

The Academy of Greatness, a school for ethical young leaders, has now been certified by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) public charity. Effective August 20, 2012, all contributions to the building of this vision are fully tax-deductible.

The creation of the Academy of Greatness will be an adventure of massive proportions, requiring a large financial commitment from numerous sources.

Those who understand the principles of abundance know that there is more than enough and to spare in the world. All one has to do is look at recent presidential campaigns, where candidates from both parties were able to raise over a billion dollars eachto realize that there is money out there in massive amounts, waiting to be put to use in the right cause.

It is our intention to begin our first school year with an endowment of 30 million dollars or more. This will allow for the acquisition and retrofitting (or initial construction) of a campus, and allow for a springboard for future expansion as well as healthy fiscal operations.

Phase 1 is to raise $200,000 which will be used to defray the initial costs for the following items:

  • Incorporation as a non-profit, 501(c)(3) entity – Completed
  • IRS non-profit status certification – Effective 8/20/2012
  • Business plan refinement
  • Legal and accounting support
  • Further website development
  • Design and printing of initial promotional and fundraising materials
  • Curriculum development
  • Campus search

All contributions are tax-deductible. This school and the philosophy behind it has never been more needed.

It goes without saying that if you can help us reach this goal, or if you know others who can, please contact us.

And thank you.

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New Study Reveals: Wolverines Don’t Like to be Teased!

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An Open Letter to the Media:

Stop it. Just stop it. The press, television, radio and the blogosphere latch on to every new study and report it as though the results were definitive.

Here’s a perfect example:

Heavy coffee consumption linked to higher death risk – USA Today

Oh, wait – that’s from USA today, the “thinking man’s National Enquirer” (women not exempt either), so probably wise to take anything you read there with a whole box of salt. But seriously, folks:

NIH study finds that coffee drinkers have lower risk of death – National Institutes of Health

Just go out there and do your own research: butter, eggs, chocolate, vitamins, sugar, white flour – and we’re not even talking about the tinfoil hat patent-medicine and nostrums hawked by the populist doctors and talk-show hosts like “green coffee beans[1] and the Açaí Berry – just the run-of-the-mill, everyday stuff; it’s good for you, it’s bad for you, it stops cancer, it causes cancer, it gives you diabetes, it lowers cholesterol, and on and on and on to the lemniscate [2].

As it turns out, most of what the media reports is nothing like the actual conclusions found in the study. Put together a database of 50 peer-reviewed studies, each double-blind, placebo-based and randomized, and if there’s a preponderance of evidence, *then* report on it. Oh, but wait, truth is not as important as eyeballs on ads. Yarg.

Angry Wolverine

This wolverine is angry


[1] In fairness, this particular article pretty much debunks the hype and asks the right questions, but there are plenty of others out there trumpeting the benefits as though this was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

[2] ∞

Skinny Townhouse, $3¼ million.

8 feet four inches wide at its widest spot, the narrowest townhouse in New York has sold for 3.25 million dollars.

Bedford

990 square feet is described by the New York Post as “underfed,” but I compare that to my first home in south Provo, Utah, which had 800 square feet finished. Yes, there was an unfinished basement of the same size, but we didn’t use it for much except storing a few things.

This particular home was built in 1873, and has housed such famous individuals as Edna St. Vincent Millay, who wrote “Ballad of the Harp-Weaver,” there in 1923-24.

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Edna St. Vincent Millay and husband Eugen Jan Boissevain in front of the townhouse.

I seriously don’t understand the economics of New York City, even though I grew up there. Who’s got the money to rent this place for $14,000 a month? The 1%, I guess.

Intersting piece of New York trivia, at any rate. See the Post article linked above for more interesting bits and pieces about this little home.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Tools

Viking Tools

 

Original image found at Flickr.

Wooden viking tool chest complete with over 200 implements found in 1936, in a bog on the island of Gotland at the site of what was once Lake Mästermyr . There are axes, hammers, tongs, punches, plate shears, saw blades, files, rasps, drills, chisels, knives, awls and whetstones among the 200 objects that were found in the chest. There are also raw material and scrap iron as well as finished objects such as locks, keys, a frying pan, cauldrons and bells. As noted, the 1000-year-old artifacts look as though they could have been made today.

Of course, several of the voices in my head immediately objected to this informative and interesting historical tidbit, and demanded that I post this as well:

Cow Tools

“Cow Tools” – From “The Far Side” by Gary Larson

The Old Wolf has spoken.