Friday, July 30, 2010

Thinking of Prop 8 and its consistent inconsistency

In the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial where closing arguments occurred a while ago, the supporters of Proposition 8 were trying to nullify the 18,000 same-sex marriages that were performed in the period between when they were declared legal and the passage of Proposition 8 (and upheld as legal even after that). Apparently that there are any married couples who are homosexuals—well, homosexuals who are married to each other—is too abhorrent for that ever-so-slight majority who voted to ban such unions, and those behind it feel compelled to go about negating (from a legal standpoint) that which was done.

I've made it very clear that I opposed Proposition 8, voted against it, and think it abhorrent that there's people who would go to such lengths to deny a group of Americans the same right that others have. And I think this latest salvo to negate existing marriages is absolutely a dick move. However, begrudgingly I can admit there's a certain internal consistency to it. If the law is that only those of different sex can be legally married then that's the law until such time as the law is changed or overturned.

Again, I'm not suggesting I agree with this attempt to take away these 18,000, but it is tricky to justify a situation where marriage ends up being a matter of getting there first.

Allow me to interject here, so we're all clear: Proposition 8 cannot be overturned fast enough in my book.

But I'm pretty sure that everybody already has an opinion on that topic, so now I'm just going to take this a prompt to ranterate (rant and ruminate) on the general notion.


If someone came along and told me that my marriage to my wife was no longer recognized by the state because a group of bigots got together and reinstated laws where only persons who were of the same race could be legally married... let's just say: I would not take it lying down.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tabloid fun: Brad Pitt stolen

Judging from the cover story on the latest Us Weekly—not that I've read it but while we were in the drug store over the weekend I saw the cover while in the checkout counter—it's pretty easy to see who the editors believe is their audience. The cover features side-by-side photos of Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston and the blurb: "How She Stole Brad."

They're coming down squarely on the side of the poor-Jen faction, who, by inference empathize with her girl-next-door image. She'd nabbed the sometime "sexiest man alive" and then the cool sexpot with brains (Jolie) came along and plucked him away.

Basically, it's appealing to the average woman's subconscious fear that her husband will leave her for someone hotter.

Because, of course, Brad Pitt (and by inference, all men) is a rube with no ability to exert any control over himself, and a perfectly happy marriage can be broken up with modest feminine wiles. It's just that simple.

(Boys are stupid. Throw rocks at them.)

There's no way that a man would choose to stay with a woman with whom he is happy if someone who is prettier comes along and decides she wants him. I mean, duh.

Celebrities: They're just like us, and by implication we're just like them. Except unworthy of being on the cover of magazines, what with our marriages not being talked about by Billy Bush. How dull.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Enough talking

There's no questioning that a lot of people are very gung-ho supporters of the iPhone, and even with the significant problems that the new 4 model was revealed to have after its release and the less-than-contrite response from Apple about that there's little question that the iPhone remains a very in-demand device. In large part, I think that's because even with earlier models and the coverage by AT&T the users are accustomed to poor connectivity when making calls, and that hasn't driven customers away in the past, so the faithful aren't as troubled as one might otherwise expect.

Yes, there are many who've expressed dismay and Consumer Reports could not endorse the new 4 with its problems, but overall I don't perceive that the reputation of the iPhone has dropped to the level of other smart phones. One could easily quip (and I'm sure someone already has) that with all of its marvelous apps but the fact it doesn't handle making actual calls that well it's ironically named. But the thing is: I know many people who have iPhones and when I've discussed it with them many of them freely admit that they don't use it to make calls very much. It's not that they have given up on trying to make calls due to the issues; the way they interact with others using the device does not involve much voice-to-voice communication. So it's not that the irony is lost on them; they simply have embraced it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It's no lie that this the last I'll be laying down

A few last thoughts on that lay/lie topic from last week:

Some months back during an interview on The Tonight Show Mindy Kaling (from The Office) said "laying" when from a stricter language standpoint she meant "lying." I barely recall that from seeing it, to be honest. However, the next day a friend who'd seen that said "lay" but immediately corrected herself and said "lie." I said nothing, and actually smiled approvingly. However, she felt self-consciously defensive and brought up the Kaling interview and noted how the fact that Kaling was an Ivy League graduate (originally placed at Harvard, then revised to Dartmouth) and the actress had said "lay" it was okay.

The friend was being facetious, of course, but it does bring up an intriguing question: If intelligent, highly educated people are using a term in a non-conventional way, at what point must the mavens of language accept the word's definition has changed? All words in English are only there because people started using them, they meant what the persons using them meant, and they became codified. Even a cursory analysis of the language shows how words come to be used in different ways over time, how slang or informal terminology gains academic acceptance.

Ultimately, if what one says conveys one's meaning to the listener effectively (without need for the listener to pause and have to interpret what was said in order to cull that meaning or ask for clarification), there's little room for criticism.

Communication is always about knowing who one's audience is. And further trying to figure out if there's any sticklers about proper language usage in the bunch who may give one a hard time.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Animal cruelty ruins Lilith Fair. Or something.

On a music podcast I heard recently they were debating the relevancy of the current Lilith Fair tour. However, that's not so much what inspires this typing now.

The host played some songs from the '90s tour lineup, opening with the current tour "headliner" Sarah McLachlan and her maudlin hit "Angel." Yes, the one that's played under pictures of abused animals in a prevalent TV commercial for the ASPCA in which the singer appears.

That McLachlan used her celebrity to draw attention to a cause about which she cares is admirable, certainly, but by allowing that song—appropriate as the theme is to the plight of the abused animals—to be used in that heart-wrenching ad she has ultimately changed it from whatever association a listener may have had to being solely about those unfortunate animals. When I hear the plaintive vocals of that track, even absent any visuals, the image of those cats and dogs is what springs to my mind.

It hasn't spurred me to donate to that organization (not that I am in any way a supporter of animal abuse) and, to be frank, has inspired in me an overwhelming urge to change the radio station if that song comes on (not that I listen to the radio that much any more).

Even the most laudable of intentions should be seriously contemplated and their potential long-term ramifications considered.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lay down your qualms and join the Lie Club

I'm not a language maven, although I have occasionally ostensibly played one on the interwebs (most notably in the last couple posts and which I'm continuing here). It's possible I possess a slightly above-average level of interest on the topic of faux pas in English (while using a French term for mistake—ack) stemming from the extent to which I've had to pay attention to "proper" usage, but I'm not one who can claim absolute expertise there. I know what I know.

More important to my thesis here: I notice what I notice.

My rhetorical edification (which can be attributed to formal education only in part) regarding vocabulary has embedded in my consciousness at least one thing: One would not go lay down; one would go lie down.

To lay is to put; that action requires an object: One could lay oneself down, but that's about as close as one can get with that phraseology.

Now, let's not overlook that when someone says "I'm going to go lay down" it is understood that the person is going to go lie down—to recline, presumably on a bed or couch or the ground—even by those of us who know the distinction. It's not a malapropism that utterly changes the intended meaning of the phrase. It indicates only that the speaker either doesn't know the difference between "lay" and "lie" or had a mental lapse at that moment, but even a listener who does know the difference is not left flummoxed about what was meant.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lying down on laying down

Continuing the topic started in the previous post (which you should read first if you haven't already), where I suggested it may be time to abandon quibbling when "lay" is used when "lie" is actually correct...

To those who know the difference between "to lie" and "to lay" (for the purposes of this post let's pretend I'm your peer in the in the realm of rhetoric) I must note here that I understand the compulsion to correct the errors of language made by those who simply don't know better. I get it. I've been there—heck, as evidenced by the paragraph noting my response to the first Hanes commercial in the last post, I still encounter that. I grasp that sense of being the last bastion of order in the land of linguistic chaos. The intentions are not to force one's will upon these others out of a thirst for power; it is, in its own way, a noble pursuit, with designs only on helping these others express themselves better, to allow what they say to convey what they really mean.

(To everyone else: Yeah, I'm sure some of the people who harp on your grammatical faux pas are just a-holes who get some stupid sense of superiority, but that should not be interpreted as suggesting all language mavens have such petty motivation.)

I fathom that if no one addresses these mistakes that through repetition they will become the norm and may eventually gain some begrudging acceptance (see "irregardless"). Some metaphor about a weed that unless it is pulled early will spread its seeds and flourish and take over the whole lawn is not completely inapplicable. However, the analogy that seems like it represents the feelings some of you have is more akin to William Wallace striding before a band of kilted warriors saying "They may take our lives, but they'll never take our MLA Handbook!"

Or perhaps a better analogy is of defending the Alamo. And we all remember how that turned out.

Semantics is not worth dying for.

(Yes, I know I ended that sentence with a preposition.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Laying aside the 'lay-flat' collar

Some time ago I saw a TV commercial for Hanes, featuring Michael Jordan on an airplane with a lesser-known person sitting next to him. The joke is that another passenger, seated across the aisle, keeps glancing over and the guy who's not Jordan thinks this other person is looking at him (not-Jordan) rather than at the former NBA star. The non-Jordan quips to Jordan about the other passenger having "bacon neck"—a term I suspect made up by those in the Hanes' marketing department not by actual slang—which refers to the way the other passenger's undershirt collar curls up in a manner resembling cooked bacon. Both non-Jordan and Jordan sport the Hanes "lay flat" collar on their undershirt, thereby avoiding the embarrassment of "bacon neck."

(Click here to go to the video.)

For me this unavoidably elicited a particular reaction, but not so much an insecurity about my collars that would spur an impulse to buy new undershirts. No, it was the impression that the marketing department at Hanes lacked anybody who paid sufficient attention in English class to chime in at the naming meeting and point out collars would not lay flat but lie flat.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Jezebel and the Daily Show and the coming comedy utopia

On the a recent Slate Culture Gabfest podcast they touched on the Jezebel/Daily Show… situation (we'll call it).

The panel consisted of the male host and two women, so there was a balance that was not evident on DS from the Jezebel perspective.

Ultimately, however, the panel captured my general response. First, a kneejerk defense of my beloved Daily Show, with the acknowledgment that, yes, there needs to be more women working in comedy, and, no, that's not going to happen overnight. There is still a cultural reality that it's easier (more acceptable) for males to be funny, going back to childhood (where the class clown is far more likely to be a boy than a girl), and that likely does make it that there aren't as many women who'd fit in at DS writers room. One does like to believe  with the success of Tina Fey (and other brilliant female comedians working today) girls growing up now will develop a different perspective on who can make it as a comedy writer than women did in the past, and in a generation or so this may be a non-topic.

I think the trickiest part is that comedians are… special. In order to have the drive to seek acceptance through humor one probably has certain personality… quirks… that tend to lead one to have... particular social skills. Part of the reason the writers room is filled with dudes is not merely because guys have had an easier time being funny in our society (and therefore developing the comedy skills that get them there) but because those guys are more comfortable around those who are similarly... inclined. Which tends to be other guys. The cohesion of the group relies on an unfortunate but predictable awkwardness. It's not misogyny; it's not that they have anything against women; they just haven't come across that many women who share that awkwardness.

It's not that all these guys are this way, nor that there's no women who could fit in, but as we've speaking in generalities here it's worth acknowledging that's the situation with which we're dealing.

We're not only going to need a new breed of female comedy writer; we're going to need a new breed of male comedy writer, too. However, I think that will be the natural course of social evolution of comedy as women are allowed to be weird, to be funny, and to allow their awkwardness show.There will be no gender gap, and what will matter is who is funny.


Someday we'll have ubiquitous equality and we won't have anything left to say. It will be a grand and boring time.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

See you in four years, World Cup

On Sunday I sat and watched the entire championship match in the World Cup. Oh sure, I stepped away at times for a moment (to use the bathroom, to put in a load of laundry, etc.), but for the most part I watched the whole thing. I even posted a status update on Facebook where I commented on how the ref was giving so many yellow cards that I feared I'd get one through the TV.

And the thing is: I was reasonably entertained, even though I wasn't really rooting for either Spain or the Netherlands, even though there was no scoring for nearly two hours. I'd casually followed the tournament, had watched parts of earlier games, and had even gotten emotionally invested in the U.S. team's victory that propelled them to the second round.

But did that convert me to a soccer fan? No more so than watching it during the Winter Olympics converted me into a fan of ice dancing.

I'm sure that in four years, when the next World Cup takes place, I'll watch some if the matches are on TV, but I doubt in the intervening years I'll view even a single game. Just like how when the Olympics roll around on that same schedule I'll watch the vaunted international competition. It will be a function of the power of sport combined with the convenience of merely turning on the TV. It won't make me seek out those events between the games even if they can be seen. It can hold my attention for a few weeks and then… there'll be something else.

Perhaps the appeal of soccer for the rest of the world is not merely that the sport involves nothing more than one ball and an open patch of land but also that they don't have the plethora of other sports competing for their attention the way Americans do.

If the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB all suddenly folded would MLS games shoot up in popularity? Certainly.

Now, it would still be way below NASCAR, but eventually, after the world's supply of oil is depleted and that cannot continue… and the associated worldwide quasi-Armageddon brings down most everything else, it's likely that soccer will be the primary sport here.

Oh wait. That is unless the World Series of Poker is still around. If there's still gambling and there's still TV, it's likely ESPN will be airing that. But hey, there's 24 hours in a day; they can't fill that all with poker.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Slow news day

For those of you keeping score at home:

The blurb writers for the thumbnail links on Yahoo's home page...
Fond of mild alliteration. Still using the Alanis Morissette dictionary.

Perhaps they can talk to the ones who write the headlines for the full-size links, as they appear to grasp the difference between "irony" and "coincidence":

Of course, dwelling on the whole "ironic" thing is only distracting the reader from noticing that Yahoo considers a tongue-in-cheek piece suggesting Jimmie Johnson named his new daughter with the initials "G.M." because he drives a GM car (and owns a Chevy dealership) to be front-page-worthy.

Coincidence that they tried to throw us off with some misuse of "irony"? I think not.

Of course, I turned it into a post, so apparently it worked. Curses! Clearly I have even less noteworthy topics than the Yahoo front page! Aaargh!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sweetgum Project 2.0 (so far)

Updating my interested readers that over on the photo site the Sweetgum Project 2.0 is well underway. I explained in this post what happened with the Sweetgum Project 1.0 and why 2.0 had to start, but now let's see how 2.0 is going.

Here's a particular branch on another American Sweetgum tree in my building's courtyard area, and how it looked when photographed on the day noted below each picture, showing how it changed from week to week.

There's a lot more shots of the Sweetgums over on the photo site. Click on the date below each picture to see more shots from that day, or just click here to see the all the posts for the whole project (so far).

Keep checking the photo site for further updates.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Reason #949 why having a blog is awesome

Checking the site metering I have set to monitor the visitors to this corner of the Web I can see not only when some browser connects and from what part of the world but sometimes even how they were referred here. That can include the specific search terms that were entered for which a post of mine came up in the results. And no matter how much I think I know about the 'net-using world this information enlarges my insight into that in ways that I could not have imagined.

A few days ago someone in one of those rectangular states in the middle of our fine nation typed the following into Google: "hot vibrator songs". And apparently that led them to this post of mine (presumably because one of the songs I included in my list of the 225 I theoretically couldn't live without was the Vibrators cover of Motorhead's "Vibrator"--but that did not even crack the top 50). I say "apparently" because I couldn't find it when I explored the specific results pool (after clicking through 19 pages' worth--I won't include a link here because, well, you can probably guess what shows up in that sort of search), but maybe if I dug deeper I would have come across it.

Now, if you think that I was shocked that someone in the Midwest would be looking for vibrator songs you would be wrong.

What's amazing is that the person thought he/she needed to include "hot" in with those other two terms. Would anyone want a cold vibrator song? Is that even conceivable?

I contend it is not.

Also, clearly people who would search for such things have a lot of time on their hands if they can go through enough results to find my humble (and undoubtedly disappointing from their perspective) page. But that isn't any sort of revelation.

Thanks for dropping by, regardless of what brought you here.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


One evening last week I entered the lobby of the building, checked the mail, and turned to see taped to the elevator door a piece of paper with the following message:


(Yes, in all capitals like that.)

Now, I wasn't bothered, as I prefer the stairs anyway, and I grasped what information the sign intended to convey (that the elevator was out of service), but I was intrigued by the choice of phrase. One of my first thoughts, without even trying, was, Well, isn't that what you want from an elevator—for it to act "up"?

Of all the ways to put that sentiment, the writer chose one where it featured the word that is synonymous with what a properly functioning elevator would do.

That the wording was an expression suggesting that a mechanical device exhibiting the behavior of an insolent child proved an interesting element to the situation, and to me indicated it was written by a parent. I can't imagine a childless person selecting that phraseology.

I'm pretty sure I'm the only resident of the building who analyzed the sign this way. I would speculate that most everyone else simply experienced dismay that they'd have to take the stairs.

This is my world.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Trumping 'America: A Story of Us'

Recently I finally finished watching the America: The Story of Us series that I'd recorded from the History Channel. As noted in this post a few weeks back in the episode about the Civil War there was an allusion to Twitter (as an analogy for the telegraph) that struck me as a particularly noteworthy lowlight. At the time I suggested I might continue just to see if in the latter episodes they might top (so to speak) that.

So? Did they?

There were some moments in their summaries of the last 145 years, but the nearest contender for that specious honor came with about 10 minutes left in the concluding episode. Not surprisingly, it involved more of the nigh-insufferable interview footage with Mr. "You're Fired" himself, Donald Trump.

The topic was the resiliency of Americans in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. First Rudy Giuliani talked about how the terrorists didn't kill our spirit, then Soledad O'Brien talked about how people became polite to one another presumably having been reminded of the fragility of life, Vera Wang talked about how America came back to New York and helped by spending money. So the bar was already not that high.

Then "The Donald" appeared on screen and uttered the following: "We were able to do something so quickly, so expeditiously, in terms of getting back to order after the travesty of the World Trade Center when it came tumbling down. To have done that so quickly is amazing."

I rewound and listened to it again and again, just to be sure I heard him correctly, to verify he didn't say "tragedy." I suspect that even though that's probably what he meant the word "travesty" is what came out of his mouth.

Travesty, as in to make a mockery of something.

I can't claim to know the ultimate motives of the terrorists who orchestrated the plane hijacks, but in the intervening years when I've pondered that topic never had it occurred to be they were operating on some kind of cruelly satirical level.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Anniversary reflection

My wife and I wished each other a happy anniversary last Sunday, as it was a year ago that day we were married. It was a day we enjoyed and happily commemorated. However, I must say that it's slightly odd to be wished a happy anniversary by others. It's appreciated, certainly, and I'm sure these others have nothing but admirable intentions behind their congratulations, but it seems to suggest that staying married is so amazing as an accomplishment that it must be lauded annually.

Obviously, a 50% divorce rate does suggest that staying married is a significant achievement, but I can't help but think that suggests more about how it's perhaps too easy to get married, that our romanticized vision of love overlooks the necessary pragmatism. Clearly a majority of that 50% who get divorced probably never should have married in the first place. Insufficient reverence for the institution of marriage was exhibited when those couples tied the knot (with a loose knot). And one must guess that in some of those cases someone knew it probably wasn't going to work out, that 'til-death-do-us-part was really 'til-we-come-to-our-senses, but that person had to stand by idly, letting the couple go through with the doomed union.

And while that is what one must do—bite one's tongue and let the disaster play out—it does seem like that's why people make such a big deal of applauding those who did nothing more than comply with what they said they would do in their wedding vows.

It's kind of sad that we're so surprised when people merely do what they said they would, who follow through on their promises.

Love is magnificent, love is the paramount good, and two people finding each and loving each other and being right for each other—i.e., what it called "true love"—is (to paraphrase The Princess Bride) not something that happens every day. That is worthy of celebration, by all means. But when it comes to people merely following the pledges they make to each other in marriage, perhaps we should be setting the bar a bit higher.

But genuine thanks to everyone who wished us well in honor of the completion of our first year as husband and wife. I wish you all well and offer you congratulations for the accomplishment of simply being alive.

Friday, July 02, 2010

This post is not available in 3-D

Over the weekend we went to Toy Story 3 in glorious 2-D. We enjoyed it very much, and I fully admit that I got a little misty-eyed at a couple scenes in the film.

However, I'm here to comment on the previews that preceded the showing.

Given that Toy Story 3 is a G-rated, animated feature it's not surprising that many of the trailers that ran before it were for animated movies that are coming out in the future. Fair enough; the point of the previews is to allow the studios to market directly to those who, by virtue of being in the theater, may be interested in similar upcoming fare.

And judging by the trailers for upcoming animated features it appears what the studios believe we want is movies in 3-D. And more movies in 3-D. And movies in 3-D.

After the first preview (for Despicable Me, which actually looks pretty good) where it was noted it would be available in 3-D it wasn't a big deal, but then as trailer after trailer finished with that same declaration (Alpha and Omega, Megamind, Tangled...) my attitude shifted to something akin to:

Hey Hollywood, you can just start mentioning when the movie is not going to be available in 3-D; I'll simply assume they are unless otherwise specified. You've made your point.