Sunday, August 29, 2010

The impact of impacting and affecting the effect: Another rhetorical concession

At some point in the not too distant past I was involved in a conversation where an elderly quasi-linguistic stickler was arguing about the use of "impact" in the context that it has come to be used in contemporary parlance. He was firmly in the camp that "impact" connotes only a collision; it involves something smashing into something else, period. Also, it's not a verb; it's a noun, period. That's what he was taught in his youth (many, many years ago) and that's how it remains in his mind.

For anyone paying attention to modern usage it's obvious that "impact" is employed as a verb and connotes merely "have an effect"—with perhaps the implication that it may be an effect of more than modest significance. It may carry the implication of carrying the weight of something greater than when one would say "effect," but need not involve a literal crash.

However, having been taught to respect elders (and acknowledging the futility of arguing with the obstinate), I didn't bother to attempt to convince him that his perceptions of language were, perhaps, archaic.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Secret Muslim eats lunch

President Obama is such a secret Muslim that he's not fasting for Ramadan, because then it would tip us off about his clandenstine Islamic leanings. He's too clever for that--I mean, he fooled everyone well enough to get into the White House...

Sure, I'll wait while you go look up Ramadan...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Domestic blindness

Visit someone else's house and you notice every little stain on the floor tiles, every bookshelf that wasn't dusted, every bit of dirt on the blinds.

Sit in your own home and that pile of dirty socks in the corner of the living room, those spots in the shower door, and that pile of unwashed dishes in the sink somehow turn invisible to you.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yahoo!, I give up

Last month I offered this post about a blurb on the Yahoo! home page where they didn't seem to grasp what "ironic" meant.

Today there was this front-page story regarding the Miss Universe pageant:

Zooming in you can see the final link noting the response of Miss Philippines that may have cost her the crown as being "ironic":

That link takes you to their recurrent web series, Prime Time in No Time, a snarky recap of the previous night's TV. In that video we see her answer to the question (from judge Billy Baldwin--seriously) where she claims to never have made a "major, major" mistake in her life (and it's speculated that is where the judges turned on her)

Note that In the actual content there's no allusion to that potentially ruinous remark as being "ironic"; it's only in that blurb on the home page that the term is employed.

So, fine, Yahoo! front page blurb writer: You win. "Ironic" is now beyond how the Alanis Morissette song would have it be defined; it is whatever you need it to mean. "Blithely stupid"? "Hideously off-putting"? Sure, why not?

Your persistence has worn me down past the point of caring. Heck, let's call that ironic. My astonishment that the Miss Universe pageant still exists? Ironic! That I continue to visit your site? Let's call that tragically ironic.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Take him out OF the movies

Over the weekend I saw a movie on cable: New York, I Love You (it was a case where the wife started watching and I was there with her). It's a series of vignettes about fictional New Yorkers (each written, directed, and shot by different crews); some intertwine slightly but overall there just small scenes strung together. I'm not sure how impressed I would have been with that regardless of the cast, but right out of the gate it opens with a story that features Andy Garcia, Rachel Bilson, and… Hayden Christensen (a.k.a., He Who Ruins Any Movie He's In Because He's So Abysmal). The specifics of the scene are unimportant for this (although the vast difference in levels of talent when he acts opposite Garcia is flabbergasting).

Suffice it to say, I could not recommend the movie.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Where's the ramp?

Steven Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant who last week got fed up with rude treatment from passengers and pulled a dramatic "take this job and shove it" exit (by jumping down the inflatable ramp of the aircraft) was lauded in general despite the irresponsible nature of his actions. Most people seem to be able to relate to being pushed to that edge in their jobs, with having to put up with idiots but not say anything, and fantasizing about giving it all the proverbial middle finger.

His folk hero status stems from the envy that frustrated people who dare not be as intrepid when conditions reach that unacceptable point. However, is the main reason that most people don't just up and quit: a) that they understand their obligations and responsibilities which require a sustained source of income; or b) that they don't have an inflatable ramp down which they can jump in a wonderfully dramatic manner?

Is the lack of an appropriately exciting mode of escape the only thing holding the rest of us back?

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Over at the photo site I've posted some pictures of these gerber daisies that I gave my wife back on our anniversary (even though, yes, it was a month and a half ago).

Why not click over and enjoy the photos now?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another universal truth

When you hear a stranger playing loud music, be it the driver in the car next to you at a red light, a house party a few doors down, or a guy blasting out the speakers on his mobile device, there is one aspect of that scenario that is always true:

What's coming out of those speakers is never Beethoven, Mozart, or anything you'd hear on a classical radio station.

(That's not where you expected that was going, was it?)

Is this because those classical works don't sound good coming out of the sort of sound systems typically employed in those scenarios? Perhaps. Is it because listening to those pieces are better suited for a concert hall environment (regardless of the quality of the sound system used)? Perhaps.

Or is it that self-centered a-holes always lack any taste in music? Or maybe there's some subliminal aspect to crappy music that inspires a-holes to think sharing it with all within earshot is a good idea?

Ah, so many questions…

Thursday, August 05, 2010

What's on the mind of Facebook users? If only they'd tell us...

Sometimes it seems as though someone needs to remind users of Facebook that what used to be the status update now is preceded by the text "What's on your mind?" It used to be a mere matter of what one was doing, but now it's a matter of what one is thinking. And not only whatever happenstance topic that runs through the consciousness but something that is persisting in some way.

In short, there's a tacit suggestion on the part of the site that what one enters in that field should be more than a direct summary of what one is doing (or has done); there should be some sort of hook, some angle that makes it interesting even in the most rudimentary sense.

Let's look at a theoretical example:

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Get in the tank (Green Police)

I recently saw again the commercial Audi aired during the Super Bowl which featured the tune of Cheap Trick's "Dream Police" reworked as "Green Police" and used as the theme for a fictional troop of ecological law enforcers hauling people away for choosing plastic bags at the grocery store or throwing a used battery in the garbage or drinking from plastic water bottles. The end of the ad features a traffic stop where all the cars are held up except one: an Audi "clean diesel" that is allowed to speed down the road.

It's reasonably clever, not merely for the use of the song and for lampooning overzealous environmentalism, but for appealing in a quasi-ironic way to those same environmentally conscious consumers that it just lightly mocked.

We've reached the point where a commercial can make fun of something and tout its importance simultaneously.

And thus we've reached the point where I can appreciate that dichotomy while acknowledging its absurdity.


The best thing for the environment would be for everyone to stop driving altogether, but that's farther than Audi would like this taken.

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Nobody-gives-a-crap-but-I'll-say-it-anyway Files: Inception edition

Yesterday we finally saw the philosophical action blockbuster Inception. We even spent the time to go all the way to Hollywood to see it in the Cinerama Dome. The reason we did that was because a friend had seen it there… two days prior… and had mentioned how immersing the sound was in that environment.

That our friend was so willing to see the film a second time, not merely to go along with the outing but from genuine interest does suggest something that those who haven't seen the movie can glean about where I'll be going with this (with any luck—we'll see how my brain complies). In short, I will note, right up front, that it struck me as being designed to be seen more than once.

I must admit that I'd specifically avoided reviews or discussions because I wanted to have as genuine a reaction as possible to seeing it. Given that the movie opened two weekends ago, I'm sure a lot of what there is to possibly be said about it has already been said about it—likely by people who have seen it more than once. I hadn't read articles about it to speak to what writer/director Christopher Nolan intended (to the extent he would reveal that in interviews).

Here I'll offer a spoiler alert even though I'm not going to talk about much specific.