Dec 31, 2013

Flyin' 'Cross the Land, Tryin' T' Get a Hand

slice of life by killre

The 737 that carried my fat [donkey] back to the Left Coast at the end of my Christmas vay-kay had just come out of the O'Hare sky through the leading edge of an ice fog that had frozen the flaps in the whatever position and probably caused enough other aerodynamic idiosyncrasies that the screws who run the airline were forced to admit, grudgingly, that not de-icing the plane just might result in bad public relations.  Don't get me wrong: I'm glad they de-iced the plane.  I just wish they'd delayed boarding rather than effectively turning the torture of a four-hour flight into the extended nightmare of a five-hour flight.  (I know, I know: they needed space inside the terminal for the meeples who were overbooked on the next delayed bird.)

Once we finally got clearance, the pilot didn't [richard] around.  His name has successfully escaped from the 9.86% of dying cells inside my skull that I actually use, which is unfortunate because I'd like to give him, um, props.  Not standing on ceremony, he pushed the throttles against the stops, released the brakes and away we went in what turned out to be the smoothest takeoff I've ever experienced.  Usually, you thunder down the runway and the pilot pulls back on the yoke too early and you continue to thunder down the runway with your nose in the air and your rear wheels too obviously still in contact with the tarmac and you have time to wonder more than once if this baby is ever going to claw her way into the atmosphere.

Then, a heartbeat or two after she does slip the surly bonds, there's that unsettling settle.

If you've ever flown, you know what I mean.  Nearly every airliner I've ever ridden has done it.  A second or two after the wheels leave the ground, the plane seems to sag in its trajectory-- as if she thought she could do it but suddenly realized she couldn't, like Wile E. Coyote defying gravity until the moment he looks down.  It's a subtle, slow-motion dropping sensation that lasts only a moment; then you're climbing again.  Well, the guy driving this particular plane proved it doesn't have to be that way: there was no adrenaline-inducing dip.

Before we ever taxied to the starting line, the guy in the middle seat next to me turned to the ten-year-old girl at the window and asked, "Are you flying alone?"  It was the start of a conversation that lasted almost the entire flight.  I took little part in it because I've been intermittently slogging my way through an unabridged, annotated version of The Arabian Nights (compiled by Sir Richard F. Burton) that is, OMG, so very, very, very, very, very mind-numbing repetitive!!  I don't remember the name of the story I was rolling my eyes over, but it comes just after the Seven un-be-[vulgarism]-leeeve-ably repetitive Voyages of Sindbad the Seaman.  It starts promisingly, then gets bogged down (heh, as opposed to blogged down) when they march up to the curtain wall of a city that seems to have no gate, so they decide to march around it looking for a way in.  Then the following four things happen seven times over...

1.  They come to a tablet bearing two lengthy inscriptions.  One is written in prose; the other in verse.  All the various and verbose inscriptions say essentially the same thing: "Everybody dies.  We are already dead, and before you know it you will be too."

2.  They spend two sentences weeping over the beauty of the writing.

3.  They spend three sentences praising Allah.

4.  They walk to the next tablet.

Now go back and read that six more times while I go smoke a cigarette.  Don't worry, *cough,* I'll catch up.

Repetitive, right?  Redundant and reiterative, too.  By the fifth tablet, I was expecting the inscription to say, "O son of Adam, are you really still wasting your time reading these?  Because they all say the same thing.  #PraiseAllah"

The book is 882 pages long.  I reckon 670 of them are unnecessary.  So, understandably, I heard a great deal of the patter exchanged by the man in the middle and the girl at the window.  I don't know precisely how precocious that pint-sized, prepubescent punky-brewster is, but she uttered a plethora of ponderable and opinionated pronouncements.  My first contribution to the convo was when they couldn't remember the title of That Movie-- You Know The One?  I cleared my throat and said, "Slumdog Millionaire."  They looked at me as if they hadn't known I was capable of speech and said, "Y-y-yeah."  Then they ignored me for two hours.  I was okay with it.

She, apparently, is from the tiny town of Way The Hell Far And Gone Up North In, Canada-- a fact that led to my next verbalization.  She claimed the average high temperature in summer is only two degrees, Celsius.  The guy said, "How much is that in Fahrenheit?"  I was heartened by that; I consider it a small but significant step up from "How much is that in American?"  She replied that she didn't know; they never use Fahrenheit where she's from.  Then she asked him if he had a conversion app on his phone.  Just as he started to paw blindly at his pocket, I cleared my throat again: "It's about thirty-six degrees."

I must have said it authoritatively.  When he looked at me and asked, "Thirty-six degrees?" it was in more of a can-you-believe-that tone than how-the-Hell-do-you-know.  I assumed it was the former, anyway.  I held up my hand and said, "All I did was the math.  It's not my story."  He grinned and said, "Oh, yeah-yeah," started to turn back to the girl, then snapped his eyes back to me and said, "Wait, how'd you do that?"

So I explained to them both how to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit and vice versa.  I'll not trouble you with it, dear reader, for two reasons.  One: it's one of those things where the explanation sounds far more complicated than the actual procedure.  Two: chances are good you either already know, or never want to.

Incidentally, the girl soon revised the average summer temp in Far And Gone up to about forty-one, Fahrenheit.  I figure that's another small but significant step.

P.S.... Dan "The Problem With Wishing People A Happy New Year On This Site Is Is You're Never Really Certain Where To Put The F-bomb" Hicks must go.

Dec 30, 2013

Ironic Ice Traps Scientists

Deep deep into the to the southern reaches of the planet's polar cap - where, it is currently summer, a group of climate scientists have become trapped. In ice. Really bad, thick ice. If by some chance you have missed the Alanis Morissette song, you're not the only one. 

Notice how the Associated Press story does too:
The Snow Dragon icebreaker came within 7 miles (11 kilometers) of the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been stuck since Christmas Eve, but had to retreat after the ice became too thick, said expedition spokesman Alvin Stone.
The Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been on a research expedition to Antarctica, got stuck Tuesday after a blizzard's whipping winds pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place. The ship wasn't in danger of sinking, and there are weeks' worth of supplies for the 74 scientists, tourists and crew on board, but the vessel cannot move.
So is the exact mission of these scientists? AP is rather vague about this reporting only:
The scientific team on board the research ship — which left New Zealand on Nov. 28 — had been recreating Australian explorer Douglas Mawson's century-old voyage to Antarctica when it became trapped. They plan to continue their expedition after they are freed, expedition leader Chris Turney said.
Okay, maybe they're on a pleasure cruise or counting penguins. Usually if you're putting 74 scientists on a boat there might be more to it than just repeating a century-old voyage. If AP is vague about the mission's purpose, Reuters provides even less information.
Still searching for the real purpose of all those scientists traveling to Antarctica, I turn to Whats Up With That.
The expedition is being led by Chris Turney, “climate scientist”, who has “set up a carbon refining company called Carbonscape which has developed technology to fix carbon from the atmosphere and make a host of green bi-products, helping reduce greenhouse gas levels.” The purpose of the expedition is “to discover and communicate the environmental changes taking place in the south.”
It seems they found out what the “environmental changes taking place in the south.” are.
Then, National Geographic states the mission purpose:
...The current crop of explorers are hoping to document some of the same data and compare them to Mawson's numbers, "using the twist of modern technology," Turney told National Geographic earlier this month.
As may be expected, global warming might play a role in this, he suggests, particularly with respect to melted ice in the East Antarctic.
Okay, now it's becoming as clear as black ice - the ironic headline should actually read "Global Warming Scientists Trapped in Antarctic Ice." That's, perhaps, an inconvenient truth.

Krugman on the Internet

Sage-like wisdom. Let us all break some windows in his honor.

Dec 20, 2013

Under the Cover of Ducks

Senate Passes NDAA 2014 via Fast Tracking, President To Sign

Late Thursday night, under the cover of some Duck Dynasty outrage that's captured the media's attention, the Senate passed the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2014, in a sweeping bill now being sent to the President - to which he is planning to sign. 

Like a family sneaking past the line at Disney World - the Senate Fast Tracked the bill while slobbering morons were complaining about what a millionaire moron had to say about... who cares!?

The bill, now being sent to President Obama, also leaves out an amendment by Sen. Gillibrand on sexual assault prosecution, which in and of itself is curious. The bill passed the Senate in an 85-14 count. Note that the media isn't reporting that - only that the President is giving the military a year to clean up it's act.

“It’s a failure of leadership on the part of the majority leader,” Arizona Sen. John McCain told reporters, echoing Republican colleagues who said the accelerated process was designed to prevent tough votes on Iran sanctions and other controversial issues.

Also, the bill would authorize a release of $527 billion in base defense spending for the current fiscal year, plus funds for the war in Afghanistan and nuclear weapons programs overseen by the Energy Department, among numerous other controversial measures.

EDIT : Added this picture from the interwebs.

Dec 16, 2013

Good Guy With A Gun vs. Bad Guy With A Gun

The following is a cut'n'paste from 's article in

Authorities are dramatically revising the response time of law enforcement officers to the Arapahoe High School shooting on Friday.

Originally, it was claimed by multiple outlets that responding law enforcement agencies took 14 minutes to arrive at the school, and that the shooter was not located until 30 minutes into the event. As we noted based on this information, this proves that schools need armed staffers and/or faculty on campus because it takes far too long for outside law enforcement agencies to respond to stop an active shooter.

It now appears that our original thesis was confirmed because there was an armed officer on campus who was the reason the shooter was stopped after only shooting one student.
They are now stating that the entire incident was over in just 80 seconds because there was an armed sheriff’s deputy on staff who was alerted over the school’s radio system, who cornered the shooter in the library. It now appears that once the shooter heard the deputy identify himself as a law enforcement agent, he committed suicide.
The rampage might have resulted in many more casualties had it not been for the quick response of a deputy sheriff who was working as a school resource officer at the school, Robinson said.
Once he learned of the threat, he ran — accompanied by an unarmed school security officer and two administrators — from the cafeteria to the library, Robinson said. “It’s a fairly long hallway, but the deputy sheriff got there very quickly.”
The deputy was yelling for people to get down and identified himself as a county deputy sheriff, Robinson said. “We know for a fact that the shooter knew that the deputy was in the immediate area and, while the deputy was containing the shooter, the shooter took his own life.”
He praised the deputy’s response as “a critical element to the shooter’s decision” to kill himself, and lauded his response to hearing gunshots. “He went to the thunder,” he said. “He heard the noise of gunshot and, when many would run away from it, he ran toward it to make other people safe.”
Tell us again, gun grabbers, that a good guy with a gun is not the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun. As Alex Rawls of Errortheory noted in his riveting remake of the Moms Demand gun control ad:
What society in human history ever gathered its children together, then issued a public guarantee that they would be left completely undefended?
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Moms Demand Action, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and other members of the citizen control cults can’t and won’t answer that question, of course.

Put armed guards in schools, or allow faculty and staff to become trained and carry their own arms.
There is no other viable immediate solution to deterring armed violence in schools.

Idiosyntaxies, Part Two

posted by killre

You don't necessarily have to be a fan of the show to recognize what the writers, producers, directors, et cetera of NBC's Parenthood have accomplished.  Recently named one of the twenty best shows on television, it is an hour-installment, scripted drama populated by a pantheon of characters who are all utterly bereft of any but the tiniest, torn shreds of eloquence.  They stumble their way through the American dialect as if they have heard it before, but have never really understood what much of it meant.  I can't figure out if it's a queer kind of genius influenced by reality television or if the writers are, in genuine reality, every bit as verbally stunted as their characters.

Trace evidence suggests it is the former, if only because they were able to slip the following line of dialog into last Thursday's episode (I believe it worth noting the line was delivered by a satellite character, not a representative of the main cast).  I wanted to reproduce it here because I think it speaks to the spirit of our banner:

"I'm dying.  It's like a hall pass to be blunt.  Plus I'm really high."

One need not be a philosopher to note:  We're all dying-- it's just a question of how quickly.

If, on the other hand, the reason for their characters' ineloquence is the latter, and the writers of the show lack even the linguistic competence to justify doing five over on "the 5" (Californians haven't the faintest clue what an "Interstate" is), they certainly wouldn't be alone.  In "Idiosyntaxies, Part One," I investigated the history and interpretations of the expression the pen is mightier than the sword.  A symbolistically updated version of the sentiment would be: The computer keyboard is mightier than the rifle.  In this modernized metaphor, the words formed by the keystrokes are the bullets-- because, as we all know, guns don't kill people... bullets do.

We live in an era and in a society where it seems all we ever do is express ourselves.  (No, I don't have a mirror handy.  Why do you ask?)  Movies, television, You Tube, radio, podcasts, Facebook, books, blogs, texts, tweets and something apparently called a "meme" --a word with all the aural panache of a malformed, premature kitten-- somebody expresses themselves and then somebody else expresses their thoughts on the first individual's self-expression and then a third person comments on that and then someone does the verbal equivalent of sticking their tongue out and away we go in a digitally connected shouting match that, heh, soon devolves into a digitally conducted shouting match.  Well, assuming the metaphor holds insofar as words can be equated with bullets and the internet is a cybernetic wild west, at least in spirit, it seems to me millions of people are metaphorically striding down the dusty street at high noon armed with weapons that are partially loaded with blanks.

Consider some of the following constructs that are growing like weeds in our English garden...

Wholeentire.  Sample sentence: "Dick had not kissed a girl in his wholeentire life."  This is a compound word comprised of the component parts whole, which means "all of," and entire, which means "all of."  Apparently, all ain't what it used to be.  Mathematically, the existence of this word implies that 100% no longer equals 100%.  Someone should alert Cal Tech.  Philosophically, it suggests there's another level of wholeness beyond, you know, wholeness.  With this in mind, it is easy to presume the term was coined by a theologian... or maybe somebody who was just really high.  Either way, it was high time those of us north of the Mason-Dixon and west of the Pecos had our own version of the country-fried "all y'all," because verbal virtuosity like that needed to be replicated.

Personal note: I have been known to respond to the use of wholeentire in one of two ways:  "Is that anything like totalcomplete?" or "Hole in tire?  You mean you have a flat?"  In certain situations, responses like these have been categorized as self-[rooster]blocking and the reason we're firing you.

Bighuge.  Sample: "Jane thought Spot was a bighuge dog, but her previous experience was limited to Chihuahuas."  Similar to the previous example, this is a compound word.  It is the marriage of big, which means "large," and huge, which means "large."  This has become the go-to term for a frightening number of Americans for whom enormous, giant, gigantic, humongous, mammoth, immense, vast,... let's see... oh yeah, large, massive, spacious, bulky, ample, important, significant --or, for that matter, the simple modifier very-- are foreign words that cause a faint crossing of the eyes and a dull ache just behind the temple.  Nothing bighuge, mind you, just a mild discomfort.

Personal note: Oddly enough, I'm not bothered even slightly by tinylittle; I am, however, bothered immensely by Tiny Tim.

Whether or not... or not.  Sample: "Dick couldn't decide whether or not to invite Suzy down to the swimming hole or not."  You have probably seen or heard myriad examples of this construct, whether or not you realize it or not.  It is tempting to suppose it is either used by, or perhaps used to portray, somebody who is so addled they ponder their options twice in a single thought.  More likely, it is simply an example of someone who, by the finish of a sentence, has forgotten how they started.

Personal note: Or not.

Also... as well.  Sample: "Jane also liked that Spot was a very friendly dog as well."  There are a number of variations of this example, using interchangeable terms.  While not technically compound words, because they tend to be used in separate locations within a sentence, they definitely double each other's definitions and, to use the gunfighting-with-blanks metaphor, accomplish little aside from making noise.  Also means "in addition to;" as well means "in addition to."  See what I mean?

Likewise, additionally and moreover also mean the same thing as well, too.

Is is.  Sample: "What Dick's dilemma is is that while Wendy is the prettier girl, Suzy is the faster one."  This construct is gaining traction with alarming rapidity.  I'm tempted to say is... um... is the language's most passive verb, but doing so would ignore its past-tense form was and, in turn, that word's plural form were, whose only attractive feature is that it still has more sonic impact than meme.  That said, is... ahem... is pretty passive, and its definition is absolute: "to be."  One wouldn't think we'd need to double down on it.  After all, Shakespeare had Hamlet soliloquize, "To be or not to be," not, "To be and to be."  I guess, though, a world that needs wholeentire to describe a realm of wholeness that exists beyond wholeness also needs is is to describe an existence beyond existence.  It stands to reason.

Are-are is actually a word... in Dolphin.

Two thousand and.  Sample: "By the end of two thousand and thirteen, Jane was a disappointed divorcee with an unhealthy connection to her dog."  To begin, I think the moment has long passed when we can start referring to the years of this century as twenty-whatever.  Failing that, can we at least drop the word and?  In math, and indicates a decimal point.  Two thousand and thirteen actually transcribes as "2,000.13" or, granted some leeway, "2000 and 13."  Two thousand and anything is a chamber-full of syllables.  Waste your bullets elsewhere, Broadside.

Personal note: Due to several factors, it's possible I'll not post again before the end of the year.  I already have something cooking, however, for the first week of 2000 and 14.

P.S.... Dan "Whether Or Not You Like The Slogan 'Show off your Impiou-Tee' Or Not, You Must Recognize What A Bighuge Compromise It Is Is.  So Pleased Am I That The Wholeentire Debate Is Is Over, I Won't Point Out The Letter U Is Is Extraneous.  'Impi-o-Tee' Would Also Have Worked, As Well" Hicks must go.

Dec 12, 2013

Farewell, B(c)S

posted by killre

If you have ever seen ESPN stock player Rece Davis on television, you could not be blamed for finding the word "jockey" pushing its way to the forefront of whatever part of your mind is responsible for word association.  Statistics pertaining to Davis' physical size are (I would imagine) difficult to unearth.  That's understandable since they are far less important to most people than those of the athletes he covers.  It is probably safe to assume, though, that his dimensions fall within the ambiguous parameters that you and I would consider "normal."  He just looks elfin in stature because, with one exception, he spends his studio time surrounded by hulking ex-jocks.

A digression:  The lone exception is former football coach Lou Holtz, a lisping little leprechaun of approximately 278 years of age.  On ESPN's Sunday night bowl selection special, Holtz had the half-drunken temerity to do a mildly humorous impression of South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier.  The short sketch was accurate enough to widen the eye, though that owes far less to Holtz's talent as a mimic than to the fact that Spurrier currently uses the same style of coach-speak Holtz once did, but he does it with a southern accent.

Anyway... Davis can be seen as a jockey for another reason.  As the lone broadcaster in a telecast that features a stable of juiced behemoths, it is his job to exert what control he can over the big dumb animals around him, keeping them on-track and on-pace and knowing when to give them their head, coaxing them to their best performances while simultaneously keeping them from destroying the set.  Also like a jockey, no-one but a few insiders cares how good or bad he is at his job.  Most people care only about the horses he rides.

The jockey metaphor aside, Davis --as well as his faceless fellow anchors-- is a moderator: selecting topics, posing questions, picking and choosing which analyst gets to garble their own answer and for how long.  He is not expected to voice an opinion of his own.  ESPN, in fact, discourages its anchors from giving their opinions, even during opinion-laden programming.  If they could discourage their anchors from ever having opinions, they would.  Opinions reveal distinctive personalities, after all, and ESPN much prefers their anchors be drones: they ruffle fewer feathers and command lower salaries.  The day after somebody develops a robot that can host Sportscenter, ESPN will be knocking on their door with one hand and waving a fat check in the other.  Maybe they already have.

In spite of all this, Rece Davis has managed to be opinionated-- at least on occasion.  Mindful no doubt of the wrath of the tight-sphinctered, big-brother management types who make employment decisions, these occasions have been far enough between that when he does actually say something worth noting it strikes one as being out of character.  You can't help but wonder why Davis wouldn't be equally mindful of one of the other major pitfalls of venturing an opinion:  He might be wrong.

In my opinion, that was the case Sunday night, soon after Davis was done waxing wistful over the imminent demise of the political organization known to college football fans as the Bowl Championship Series, or B(c)S.  For those of you who have always wondered what the heck a B(c)S is, don't worry: it soon won't matter...

...but I'll tell you anyway.

[edit.  There was to have been at this point a short section on the history of the college football bowl system.  While it would have been entertaining enough for some, I have sent it the way of the dodo due to two significant drawbacks:  1. short became long; 2. much of the information is well-known, and rehashing it here served little purpose outside of a gauntlet of pointed jokes.  Suffice it to say the B(c)S is (soon to be was) just the latest fraudulent ploy in a nearly three-decades-long campaign by the already-rich but still insanely greedy powers-that-be in major college football to dupe the sporting public into thinking there was a credible framework for determining the sport's overall champion while in fact stubbornly preserving the cash-cow status quo.  If you think that sentence is {insert adjective of your choice}, you'd be flabbergasted by the paragraphs it replaced.]

...All of which led to Rece Davis stepping out of his moderator's role Sunday night and slipping the audience the shocker of an opinion cast in a complete sentence-- something his on-set cohorts are often incapable of doing.

I would love to provide you, Dear Reader, with Davis' precise quote.  Unfortunately, I can't.  While my mental reaction to his statement was almost immediate, it didn't include the idea of saving the recording on my DVR.  A transcript of the broadcast probably exists somewhere, but sifting through the mountainous haystack of information ESPN publishes on-line for the needle they probably didn't bother to release --because surely they recognized the vast ocean of words they vomit on their air is, for the most part, almost as pure a form of b-grade s as is the B(c)S itself-- is a task too daunting.  You will, I'm afraid, just have to trust that the following, admittedly loose, paraphrase captures the gist of Davis' argument:

I hope the selection committee (which beginning next year and for the foreseeable future will be responsible for selecting the four-team playoff field) takes a lesson from the B(c)S and doesn't get reactionary and tinker with the selection process, because that's what undermined the public's confidence in the system.

Davis might not have actually used the word "reactionary," but I included it so I could make the following statement:  There is a connotative difference between "reactive" and "reactionary."  What Davis was referring to was this:  In its early years, the B(c)S, on an almost annual basis, tweeked the formula by which it determined who would play in its Championship Game.  It always did so in the off-season (unlike the NBA), and it always did so in response to some idiosyncrasy in the previous year's formula that promoted what many considered a less-deserving team over a more-deserving team.  Despite my criticism of the B(c)S in general, I would argue that this seemingly constant tweeking early on was actually a positive thing-- like a programmer debugging new software.  Problems were found; problems were fixed.  As time went on there was less tinkering (and, correspondingly, less controversy) because the wrinkles had been ironed.  I don't know who Davis has been talking to, but tinkering with the formula was never the problem.

No, Rece, what undermined the public's confidence in the B(c)S is the same thing that has always bothered them about the bowl system:  It isn't a playoff.

P.S.... Dan "That Depends On What Your Definition Of Is-is Is" Hicks must go.

Dec 11, 2013

Let's put the FUN in this Funeral!

President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a picture with Denmark's Prime Minister, Helle Thorning Schmidt, during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela Tuesday in Johannesburg, South Africa. First lady Michelle Obama (possibly displeased by the lack of tact at a funeral service by her fellow heads of state?) is on the right.

Ever wonder why Nelson Mandela was in prison so long? Because he was black, and the Man was keeping him down... for standing up to what he believed in, and because he was a political prisoner... and, er, racist white colonial overlords, amiright? But then I looked it up. Nelson Mandela went to prison for battling South African apartheid - which is great - but the part that everyone seems to have forgotten and left out of all those nice obituaries and speeches was that he was caught with Soviet weapons, and was planning to overthrow the government with violence. Not just a couple guns, but 48,000 anti-personnel mines, and some 210,000 hand grenades. On June 12, 1964, eight of the accused members of the African National Congress including Mandela, were arrested. Nelson Mandela was then released on February 11, 1990. He was offered a chance to leave every single year if he would renounce violence. He never did. 

The world-wide media, however is much more preoccupied with a photo...
“I took these photos totally spontaneously, without thinking about what impact they might have. At the time, I thought the world leaders were simply acting like human beings, like me and you. I doubt anyone could have remained totally stony faced for the duration of the ceremony, while tens of thousands of people were celebrating in the stadium.”

“I later read on social media that Michelle Obama seemed to be rather peeved on seeing the Danish prime minister take the picture. But photos can lie. In reality, just a few seconds earlier the first lady was herself joking with those around her, Cameron and Schmidt included. Her stern look was captured by chance.”

-Roberto Schmidt (photographer)

Meanwhile, speaking of fun - the guy doing sign language at Mandela’s memorial service was a fake. Complete gibberish. 

Dec 10, 2013

Meme for a Reader

"I'm not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Lou." was requested by a reader - so I made this for him. Looks like he wants to use it as a Meme on a message board, probably to school some teenagers who don't realize that QE3 is the exact same as Trickle Down that the Democrat party has be wailing against since the first time they ever heard it. Well, whatever it's used for - enjoy. I love promoting the Coen Brothers. Speaking of... here's the new trailer for their new movie coming out this year. Most likely they'll do for folk music what they did for Bluegrass in O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Dec 7, 2013

Pearl Harbor Day 2013

U.S. sailors render hand salutes in front of the remembrance wreath during the Naval Support Activity Naples Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony in Naples, Italy, Dec. 6, 2013. The ceremony honored the 2,403 Americans who died during the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Offier 2nd Class Jared King

Did you order anything?

Dec 6, 2013

Ponderable Meme

This one just popped into my head the other day... 

I'm hoping to start a MEME with this...   my impiousness abounds. 

Dec 5, 2013

Idiosyntaxies, Part One

posted by killre

It has been said the pen is mightier than the sword.

For once, the yahoos I employ as a research team earned the digitally transferred pennies I pay them, returning a list of links that were helpful in learning the origins of the above expression.  The site at the top of the list was located at  Clicking my way through three or four other sites confirmed and cross-referenced much of what they had to say.

"The pen is mightier than the sword," in that specific form, is almost universally attributed to an English writer named Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839-- although the attributors always hasten to add that the sentiment is far older.  (A footnote for fans of the cartoon character Snoopy:  Bulwer-Lytton was also the author of the opening line, "It was a dark and stormy night.")

The oldest-known expression of the sentiment is ascribed to the ancient Greek playwright Euripides more than 2400 years ago: "The tongue is mightier than the blade."

The first use of the same thought by an English-language writer was cited by as taking place in 1582 by a man whose name, given this context, was incredibly ironic: George Whetstone.  In case you're currently blanking on what a whetstone is, it's an implement used to sharpen blades.  Whetstone's choice of terms, in fact, hints at a possible attempt to avoid the inherent irony.  I will both paraphrase and translate from ye olde mispelde Englishe: The wound of the pen is more grievous than the wound of the lance.

In addition to the two I've noted, there were several references to the same essential thought being expressed in slightly different words --including by such luminaries as William Shakespeare (again with the irony) and Thomas Jefferson-- that precede Bulwer-Lytton's more well-known version.  Whatever the specific incarnation, the expression has the same basic meaning.

Meaning.  Ah, yes... there was one troubling item I encountered in my thumbnail search.  Addressing from the outset the question of what the pen is mightier than the sword actually means, the researchers at provided a ponderous two-word paragraph that they didn't even bother to capitalize: "literal meaning."  In other words, their esteemed estimation is that the pen is literally mightier than the sword.

That statement is so demonstrably untrue one is left to wonder if the boys and girls at know the meaning of the word literal.  "The pen is mightier than the sword" is not and never has been meant literally.  As evidence of my contention, I point out that in the whole of human history, no swordfight has ever been won by the guy wielding a goose quill.  Maybe I'm going out on a limb in saying that, but I feel every bit as confident as I would if I were about to fight, oh, you know where this joke is going.

One other site also claimed the expression has a literal meaning.  Having perused the entry, however, I am forced to conclude that the person who clickity-clacked the claim into cyber-existence is, if you'll pardon my use of a technical term, a goofball who thinks she's a writer and offers exactly zero evidence to support her assertion-- probably because there isn't any.

What the rest of us already know is that the expression --in all its various versions-- is and always has been a metaphor, from first letter to last and all the spaces in between.  The groundwork for the case is laid in the word choice of the three examples I've given.  All three writers chose terms that were at once familiar to their audience while being slightly out of fashion.  Euripides said, "The tongue is mightier than the blade," despite the fact that the pen, or stylus, was the, heh, cutting-edge technology of the day.  Shifting his attention to the other weapon, George Whetstone basically said the pen was mightier than the lance.  Whetstone did this in the late 16th century, two hundred years or more after the use of guns had become fairly widespread in Europe.  Likewise, Bulwer-Lytton chose to employ sword, even as that weapon was falling into disuse.  In all three cases, the writer was seeking to cast his idea in obvious symbolism-- specifically so it wouldn't be taken literally.

What the pen is mightier than the sword actually means, of course, is that words are ultimately more powerful than violence-- at least in the long run.  Words are the code by which we transmit ideas, be they profound or ordinary.  Well-thought ideas, communicated by well-chosen words, have the power to change the way others think... although it too-often takes a deal of time.  Violence, on the other hand, seeks only to quickly impose one's will on another.  It does not change their fundamental attitudes, and it leaves the underlying disagreement alive and festering.

[Unfortunately, but accurately, I have been known on numerous occasions to state --either to my fellow contributors or to you, Dear Reader-- that I have either a new or continued post coming soon, which I then fail to deliver.  To subvert whatever juju affects this phenomenon --Murphy's Law, writer's block, good old-fashioned laziness-- I will make no such promises here.  Instead, I will say only that I hope this post serves as a springboard to a sequel, which I intend to be both lighter and more recognizably relevant.]

P.S.... Dan "Yes I Can Afford A Better Tailor But I Choose To Look Like The Hobo Who Crashed The Cotillion" Hicks must go.

Dec 3, 2013

Commercials Suck Cess

[It is appropriate at this time to address what some might characterize as the inappropriate.  Many years ago, while slowing for yet another toll on the Chicago Skyway, I heard an anonymous Citizen's Band user opine, "Profanity is the crutch of the conversational cripple."  It was somewhat in this spirit that Blasphemes long ago adopted an unofficial guideline regarding profanity, obscenity, vulgarity and any other "-ity" that might cause consternation for some, due either to their long-standing principles or simply because they suddenly found themselves the parents of young children. 

For the most part, we at this site try to avoid the overt use of some of the more widely acknowledged offensive words.  Some of us --and by some I mean me-- often do little more than pointedly substitute alternatives which are, when viewed objectively, every bit as ugly as the words they replace but for some reason are subjectively seen as somehow less impolite.  Every now and then, though, bringing a word in off the bench just won't do; one needs to keep the starter in the game.  This post contains multiple examples of one such instance.  After all, the proclamation that profanity was the crutch of the conversational cripple was quickly followed by the rejoinder, "Talk dirty to me, baby.  I LOVE IT when you talk dirty to me."]

posted by killre

So, I heard a commercial on the radio the other day...

Someone once told me I had forever changed their perspective on radio commercials simply by uttering the word writing. I regarded it a fairly casual utterance at the time (heh, rather than a causal one).  I'd not yet realized I was one of but a few who actually gave much thought to such things.  Still, I have no doubt that the great majority of people, were they to stop and think for all of 1.59 seconds, would easily recognize that radio advertisements are scripted.

There are essentially two reason why most of us don't fritter away such an enormous chunk of our lives pausing to consider it.  Both reasons might factor into a given example, but for the most part they work independently of each other.  Curiously enough, despite their exclusivity, they are almost equally effective in shielding us from the bottomless nightmare that is critical thinking.

The first one is called, by the people who give names to such things, a willing suspension of disbelief.  The unwieldy length of that label is strikingly indicative of just how little thought our species has given the phenomenon, because that mealy mouthful of syllables describes a truly ancient development in the psyche of homo sapiens.  In fact, it may predate the sapiens part.  I'm not a paleoanthropologist, but I don't think it wholly whimsical to suppose this development came soon after enough members of the genus homo figured out how to control fire.  Simply put, we like to be told stories.  So fond are we of being told stories, in fact, that we frequently and readily dial down our skepticism when being told one.  We know, on a level almost instinctive, that nothing spoils a good yarn quite so quickly as poking our mental fingers into the weakest points of its fiber.

The second reason people don't give a second thought to how a commercial is cooked from scratch is far more familiar.  It is commonly referred to as I wasn't really listening.  This speaks to a much more recent development in our collective psyche:  As much as we like to be told stories, we dislike them ending with someone trying to sell us something.  Just as readily as we dampen our skepticism for the first reason, we avert our attention for the second.

As I alluded to earlier, we sometimes do both in quick succession.  This is why we can often remember what happens in a given advertisement, but can't remember, you know, the advertiser.  (Serves 'em right, anyway.)

Such was the case the other day when I heard the first part of a recorded message that was neither a song I liked nor the banal banter of one of the local morning zoos.  A woman who sounded a lot like Allison Janney was reciting a list of things we could all do to become friendlier drivers and thereby, I don't know, foster world peace or something.  No doubt the list ended with buying a particular brand of gasoline-- because the sale of petroleum products has done so much to advance world peace in recent decades.

Near the top of the list was something about using one's turn-signals.  I think we can all support that, at least in theory.  I'd guess the overwhelming majority of people, if pressed, would agree at least in principle that using turn-signals = good; not using turn-signals = bad.  In fact, I'm such a proponent of turn-signal use that my own attitude on the matter would be more accurately described as: use turn-signals = good; don't use turn-signals = you are an unmitigated asshole who is so overflowing with assholishness (wait... assholiety? assiety? ashiety?... no, I'll stick with assholishness) so overflowing with assholishness that you have to go out of your assholish way to vent your assholishness in a multitude of small and ultimately cowardly assholish ways or you won't be able to sleep at night for all the poisonous assholishness still coursing through your system, asshole.

Further down the list was an item about not honking one's horn as soon as the light turns green.


There are a number of reasons why a radio commercial might be badly written.  In my mind, they all stem from two causes.  One: a significant percentage of people who write radio commercials never dreamt of writing for a living and therefore would never dream of trying to be any good at it.  Two: another significant percentage wanted to write for television, but weren't good enough.

Most of the time the flaws are merely cosmetic, like another recent advertisement for a local dating service (typically, I can't remember which one) that told me --oh, yes, told me-- that I was "sick of the whole bar scene atmosphere."  No, what I'm actually sick of is people not just using, but recording for posterity, terminology like bar scene atmosphere.  In the given context, scene and atmosphere mean the same thing.  I'm also sick of people telling me what I'm sick of.  After all, it depends greatly on the bar in question.

Occasionally, though, the chinks in what someone probably convinced themselves was carefully crafted copy are more substantive.  Consider what it reveals about the author of the gasoline commercial, for instance, that they place the burden of courtesy on the would-be honker rather than the, um, honkee.  If there is a line of cars waiting at a red light, and the light turns green, and none of the cars move, it is the fault of just one person: the one driving the lead vehicle.  There that person sits, [Insert here a long list of possible activities that doesn't include paying attention to the stoplights.  You know... driving.  Feel free to use the comments button to suggest one or two, be they insightful, humorous or revelatory.] or any number of other actions that are self-involved, likely trivial, thoughtless and ultimately irresponsible.  It is the person who has apparently forgotten --just since their last stoplight, I might add-- that green means go who has succeeded in [screwing] up a small part of everyone else's day.  The guy two cars back who gives his horn a couple of toots (a toot sweet, as it were) is merely calling attention to it and, in doing so, trying to limit the causal effects.

(For the record, I very rarely honk, blow, toot or otherwise sound my horn in traffic.  I have a blog for that.)

P.S.... Dan "Dislikeable If Only For Porking Hannah Storm" Hicks must go.