Monday, June 2, 2014

Wearing Tuesday

Following those mysterious currents of marital conversation and those sublime meanderings of domestic bliss, my wife and I somehow got to talking about the fact that people used to have underwear with the days of the week printed on them.  I started wondering why that was.  If it was just a matter of separating the clean from the dirty, wasn’t that the job of the hamper?  Did people really need such a strict regimen for the rotation of their underpants?  I fired up my browser and hit the mean streets of Google, trying to find some answers.

Of course, Google has always been hit and miss with this sort of thing.  Searching Google is like trying to deal with a senile librarian that has been bribed with whiskey and donuts and told to only show you certain books.  “Civil war cannons!?  Why I have a whole rack of catalogues here where you can get a great bargain on replica mmphhh ggggrrrrr chhhh *swallow* *slug*”  You take a deep breath, you think about what you want to say, you think about how to get your point across, you reword your request, and then you hear, “Civil war cannons!?  Why I have whole rack of catalogues…”

So it’s no surprise that Google wasn’t doing much to help me.  I was treated to page after page of results from sites like Yahoo Answers all asking the same question, “Why don’t Days of the Week underwear have Sundays?”, which was inevitably followed by a reference to a scene from When Harry Met Sally where Sally explains that it was “for God.”  Listen, I don’t know what kind of person clogs up Q & A sites by asking questions that they already know the answers to just so that they can demonstrate that they’re capable of sitting through a movie, but whoever you are, you’re not cute.  In fact, you’re a fucking moron, and I kept hoping one of the top answers would be, “Because Sunday is the day we’re going to lower you into the pit with the flesh eating cockroaches and the underwear would only get in the way.”  But hey, I’m a live and let live their last agonizing moments in unbearable pain kind of guy.

As usual, I’m making my thought processes sound more articulate and eloquent that they actually were.  At the time I was throwing my hands up in disbelief and yelling at my computer screen, “You take the time to ask a stupid fucking question just because you saw it in a stupid fucking movie, but it never once occurs to your stupid fucking brain to ask why we have the stupid fucking things in the first place!?”

At this point my wife intervened to suggest that they were probably just a novelty item, that people just thought they were cute.  Yeah, I suppose I could see that.  Somehow, though, I’d always had the sense that there was some utilitarian purpose behind them, and that they were fairly common at one time.  I remember the old jokes about getting caught on a Friday wearing Tuesday, and they always seemed to take it for granted that people would know what they were talking about.  Plus, if people find that sort of thing “cute”, I don’t know, that sounds kind of gross to me.  It sounds like something my mother-in-law would come up with, and she’s fucking disgusting.

So, in the end, I never did find the answer to my question.  I’m still just that much further from unraveling the mysteries of human behavior.  I did find, however, that they still sell Day of the Week underwear in all sorts of styles for all sizes and all ages.  Why, if you step right this way, I have a whole rack of catalogues mmphhh ggggrrrrr chhhh *swallow* *slug*

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Some Writer Tricks a Bear to Learn Overnight

There is an old school of thought which admonishes people to "write like they talk."  It has a nice attractive ring to it.  Setting words to paper can seem like a daunting task, but hey, everybody can talk, right!?  You've been doing it for years.  You've had tons of practice.  You've picked up lots of words and you can say all kinds of stuff, from "Momma" to "Dadda" to "Please don't shit in my macaroni."  When you put it like that, writing sounds like a piece of cake.  Anybody can do it!  Sure!

Yeah, unfortunately ... no.  Writing and speaking may be very close cousins, or maybe even siblings, or at least some kind of relation that would produce offspring with a hand growing out of its forehead, but they are not entirely the same.  When you speak, you have the tone and cadence of your voice, as well as a whole repertoire of gestures, to help you convey your meaning.  You have facial expressions.  You pause between certain words and place special emphasis on others.  You can play a lot faster and looser with the language when you're talking and still get your point across, and it's because you have these other tools at your disposal.

If you think about it, it's fairly rare to run across someone who is so inept at the art of talking that they leave you shaking your head and drooling in utter bewilderment -- well, at least when you're among the sober, that is.  And yet, so many of our online interactions (which take the form of text) read like coded communiqu├ęs sent to some glue-eating cabal of finger painters.  If writing and talking are basically the same, why are people fine with one and absolute shit with the other?

Well, first of all, you have people that seem to think that if they're lazy when they write that somehow it will be easier for lazy people to read.  I'm not sure why anyone would think this, but it does seem to be a fairly popular notion.  Oh, they don't put it in quite those terms, of course, but it's the assumption lurking behind statements like, "I don't need a bunch of fancy grammar and punctuation."  Such a person seems to think that these things just exist to give people headaches, or to make life more difficult all around, or to give English teachers excuses to hit you with a ruler.  They seem to think that foregoing these things will make their simple words easier for everyone to digest, like pureed carrots.  In reality, it's more like handing your reader a sundae with rusty screws and plastic novelty whistles in it that they have to pick out before they can eat it.

But it goes a bit deeper than that.  When you speak you can kind of get away with that shit.  You can always make a wavy motion with your arm and your listener will be like, "Mmm, yes, he speaks of water.  And when he swelled up his cheeks and made that loud burst of air, that meant he wrecked into something.  I understand."  When you're writing you just have THE WORDS, so it's doubly important that you use the right fucking ones, in the right fucking order, and in the right fucking way.  What might sound like half-way intelligible gibberish in person looks like monkey diarrhea in writing.

In language circles they have a term called "crash blossoms" that illustrates this point nicely.  A crash blossom refers to a statement which is quite naturally and easily misread when seen in print.  The term comes from the headline "Investigation into crash blossoms."  At a glance it sounds like the police are looking into some strange phenomenon knows as "crash blossoms", and then it finally dawns on you that "blossoms" is the verb in the sentence.  Another infamous example is, "French push bottles up German rear."  You assume "push" is the verb and you get quite an image in your head.  You take "bottles" as the verb and you're mercifully transported to the realm of military strategy.  Heard aloud, both sentences can be easily parsed -- given the right delivery.  On paper they're mystifying.

The REAL trick is to write so that the words just roll smoothly through the reader's mind as though they were hearing them.  Some writers make this look easy (which is the whole point), and so people start to think it IS easy.  It reads like talking, so they figure that you should just write like talking.  But there's nothing easy about trying to bridge the silence between two minds with nothing but a bunch of marks and chicken scratches.  It's takes a bit of magic, a little sleight of hand.  Like I've said before, good writing should be like good acting.  If it's done right, no one should even notice.

Uhhh, I'm not seeing any flowers here, Officer.
            

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Closed Case of Bad Grammar

Some years back O.J. Simpson put out a TV special entitled If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened to promote a book of roughly the same name.  Regardless of the man’s guilt or innocence, this had to be one of the most shocking examples of bad taste since that time I dropped a 9-volt battery in my breakfast cereal.  Who flaunts a double homicide for a quick cash grab?  Who plays armchair quarterback for a murder that they were acquitted of?  O.J. Simpson, that’s who.  The balls on this guy!  He might has well have been driving around with a bumper sticker on his Bronco that read, “My other glove is bloody too.”

I haven’t seen the special, and I can’t say that I plan to, but the thing that I really find especially creepy is the way that the title is worded.  Properly and consistently speaking, the second clause of the sentence should have continued in the same hypothetical vein as the first.  In other words, it should have been If I Did It, Here’s How It WOULD HAVE Happened [Emphasis mine.  Well… I mean, I added those words, so of course the emphasis is mine, but I’m saying that if that had been the title, then they probably wouldn’t have put such an emphasis on the words that I added, because that would be kind of weird.  I’m just doing that to make a point that those words really should have been… Hey, are you still reading this?]
 
As it stands, however, with the hypothetical pretext dropped for that second clause, it comes off sounding more like a tired confession, rather than the rousing party game of “What if!?” that O.J. seems to think he’s proposing here.  It’s almost as if you hear a sigh at the beginning of the sentence, the conditions of the “if” already met and now conceded, with nothing left to do now but break down the details as a denouement to the whole mystery.  It’s as if he’s saying, “Well, I guess if I did it, I might as well go ahead explain how it all went down.”  Then at the end of his appalling exposition, he just gives that lovable O.J. shrug while everyone else sits there with their mouths hanging open in disbelief.  Oh Norbert!  We’ll let it slide this time!

I don’t know if anyone else has ever confessed anything so openly through their misuse of the wrong verb form, but leave it to O.J.  Naturally, we all know that his stupidity eventually caught up with him when he got arrested for trying to steal back his own memorabilia.  Oh Norbert!  Let this be a lesson to you kids.  Pay close attention in English class or… you know, at least try to keep a low profile for the rest of your life if you get away with brutally murdering two people.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Big Foodspiracy

It all started with the cheesecake flavored cream cheese, clearly one of the most brilliant culinary innovations ever conceived.  And so obvious too!  I'd like to think that a single tear welled up in the eye of who ever came up with the idea.  Maybe they ran through the streets naked yelling, "Eureka!  Eureka!"  Then, for days afterwards, they probably walked around shaking their head and saying, "Why didn't we think of this before?  Why, oh why, didn't we think of this before?"  Yes, cheesecake that you could spread on a bagel.  The world was good.  Everything felt right.

But then it was gone.  And soon the pineapple and strawberry flavors disappeared as well - even the blueberry.  What was left?  Salmon flavor and onion & chive.  Yuck!  Now, I know that grocery stores are driven by the principle of supply and demand, just like any business, but salmon???  More popular than cheesecake flavor???  Really!?  I'm sure there are plenty of snooty cocktail parties where people are smearing that salmon shit all over their crackers or whatever, but who wouldn't like the cheesecake flavor?  It's cream cheese, for crying out loud!  It spreadable cheesecake!  How can you go wrong?  It would be like vanilla ice cream losing out to Grub Worm & Tabasco parfait.  But hey, apparently the salmon flavor must sell better.  Either that or I don't know shit about how grocery stores work.

And it wasn't just the cream cheese.  It started to seem like anything I liked just up and vanished.  I found this spicy sloppy joe mix.  *poof*  Gone.  I found this chili cheese dip to spread on my tacos.  *poof*  Gone.  Vanilla Pepsi, this awesome creamy mustard shrimp sauce, these great hot dog buns.  *poof* *poof* *poof*  Sometimes I would reach for something on the shelf and it would just poof right out of existence right before my eyes, snatched away just as my hand was about to close around it, leaving just a little whisper of blue smoke behind.  Okay, that part never happened.  But still.

Of course, I know that there really is no great conspiracy here.  No one is tracking my purchases and then pulling my favorite items from the shelves just so that they can slowly starve me to death and watch my mind unravel in the process.  At least I hope not.  No, I guess it's just the price I pay for living in a world where everyone doesn't have the same wonderfully sophisticated taste in food that I do.  *sigh*  I remember the Elvis Reece Cups, peanut butter and banana.  I knew they were doomed from the start.  I knew that such a thing could never last.  Hell, even I was skeptical about them at first.  But they were the...BEST!  Just before they were discontinued, I saw them selling in a store for ten cents apiece.  I cleaned out the rest of their stock.  I knew those were the last ones I would ever have.  *sniff*

Well, now that I've made myself sound like the biggest pig on the planet, I guess it's time to turn the floor of to you guys and ask if anyone else has run into this problem.  Have any of you found your favorite offbeat brands and flavors disappearing into the Bermuda Triangle of consumer products?  Do you think that maybe there's a grocery store in Heaven where all this stuff goes?  Where they sell nothing but Elvis Reece Cups and cheesecake flavored cream cheese?  Mmmm....     

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Rapunzel

As I was laying down trying to take a nap in preparation for the double shift I had to work, I got to thinking about the story of Rapunzel.  You know, the one where the girl is trapped in the tower and she tosses her long hair out the window so that the prince can climb up to her on it?  I started idly mulling over the logistics of the whole thing in my head.  It’s amazing the stupid shit that crosses your mind when you’re trying to sleep.  Anyway, I figured that no matter how long, no matter how lustrous, her hair was, as soon as the prince started to climb all of the strain and tension would be right on her roots.  That’s gotta hurt.  Even a poor bald son of a bitch like me can remember how much it hurts to have your hair pulled.  Just imagine someone climbing on it!

Then, on top of that, you have the simple physics of the matter.  You gotta figure that the prince’s overall body mass is a great deal more than Rapunzel’s.  No matter the tensile strength of her hair, the prince is pitting all the weight of his body against Rapunzel's weight as soon as he starts to climb.  Instead of climbing up to meet her, he’d be yanking her down out of the window.  She could, perhaps, anchor herself to something in the room, strap herself to the wall maybe.  But think of the strain that would put on her neck!  We’re talking a serious dislocation, possibly a decapitation.  One good tug and Rapunzel’s pretty head is liable to come tumbling out the window and land in the bushes at the prince’s feet.  That’s no way for a fairy tale to end.

But how to solve this problem?  I pictured a heavy clamping mechanism, something wood and iron, appropriate to the period, of course.  The hair could be placed in the clamp, the clamp locked down and tightened securely with a screw.  The hair leading from Rapunzel’s head to the clamp could hang slack and loose, coiled on the floor even, while the hair from the clamp all the way down to the prince could be pulled tight and tense.  Of course, this clamp would have to be a large free-standing apparatus, fixed to the floor in order to bear the strain.  I pictured heavy bolts, screwed deep into the wood. I could almost hear the floorboards crack under the prince’s weight.  Apparently he’s a big guy.  It’s all muscle, naturally.

Of course, then you’d have to wonder why the troll or the gnome or the psychopath or whoever that’s keeping Rapunzel prisoner would have this clamp installed in her room in the first place.  So, it’s likely that she would have to improvise from the stuff that she DOES have in the room already.  I hit upon the idea of her using the window in the same manner as I had envisioned her using the clamp.  She could drape her hair across the window sill and then shut and latch the window on it.  Perfect.  Oh, but wait.  She’s got to open the window for the prince, and he’d still be holding on to her hair.  Plus, we’re talking about a castle tower here.  I don’t think they had those kind of windows back then. I’d have to look it up.

Ah, but then it came to me.  So simple.  She could just tie her hair to the bedpost!  It would work by pretty much the same principle as the clamp and the window.  It would just be fastened with a knot instead of gripped by something.  And think of how big those freaking beds were back then!  I always got the impression that the ogre (or whoever) had Rapunzel set up pretty comfortably, like a pet or a prize, so I’m thinking a big queen-size bed with a heavy wrought iron frame, and the posts probably have that nice spiraling groove with a big knob at the top, perfect for tying her hair to.  Yep, that’ll work just fine.

So there you have it folks.  When Hollywood finally makes Rapunzel: The Movie - which is probably bound to happen – you can keep an eye out for this kind of shit.  Then, when all the movie nerds with their Dorito fingers hop on the message boards to complain about “plot holes” as they inevitably will, you can just sit back with a knowing grin and tell them how they SHOULD have done it.   
Well, that's a whole other problem.
    

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Benny the Amazing Rescue Dog

If I have to hear this term "Rescue Dog" one more time, I might have to straight up bite someone's face off.  What is this shit?  Is this what we've come to as a civilization?  Fuck the homeless!  Fuck the starving people in third world countries!  Apparently we've decided to bank all of our moral self-esteem on adopting stray dogs now.  And it's such a transparent way of declaring, "Look at me world!  Aren't I a wonderful person!?"  "It's a Rescue Dog!"  A Rescue Dog, huh?  Does it still lick its balls and eat disgusting shit like a normal dog?  Yeah?  Well then shut the fuck up, because I don't care.

I've had two dogs.  My first, Patrick, was a spastic little fucker that I got from the pound.  My second dog was Curly.  I got her from this girl that I worked with who had somehow been saddled with the dog from its former owner and she needed to get rid of it.  I suppose if I hadn't taken Curly, she would have ended up at the pound as well.  But I never thought of either of my dogs as "Rescue Dogs" and I never stopped to give myself a nice smug pat on the ass for taking them in.  They were just my dogs.  I hugged them and they licked my face.  That used to be enough.

But now we have this term "Rescue Dog."  The wording itself bothers me.  Why is it that every time someone adds an obnoxious piece of flotsam to the public lexicon like this, they have to screw around with the grammar like they're trying to tongue-fuck the English language?  Technically, shouldn't it be a "Rescued Dog"?  I hear "Rescue Dog", and I picture some pooch doing a ride along with the paramedics.  Even worse is when they say, "It's a Rescue."  Listen, I know you think you sound like a cute, but you're coming off as totally asshole.

And, on top of that, I don't care for this manner of labeling the dog.  Why should the fact that you got it from the shelter define the dog?  Would you call an adopted child a "Rescue Person" for the rest of their life, like they weren't a normal human being?  My wife speculated that it might be a kind of snotty code word for rich people to explain to their friends why they didn't get a pure bred dog.  Yeah, I could see that.  "Oh no, I wasn't being cheap when I picked up this trashy mutt; I was being a noble, generous, person.  You see, it's a Rescue Dog!"  "Ohhhhhh, well that's alright then.  Shall we go bathe in the caviar?"

Anyway, it's gotta go.  All these "Rescue Dogs" and "Forever Homes."  It's like there's some sort of cult of dog owners forming right under my nose.  Don't people just have pets anymore?  And what about my cats?  Don't I get credit for "rescuing" them, or does no one give a shit?  And what if a bird falls from a tree and no one is around to hear it?  What if you have one bird in your hand and two in the bush?  What's the exchange rate there?  *sigh* I'm so confused.   

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Straight from the Tap

I've been hearing a lot recently about Extreme Breastfeeding.  This is where parents raise children made entirely out of butter and then the kids come home from college on the weekends to suck on mommy's tit and hear a "bedtwime storwy."  It's basically just a concerted effort to destroy the human race by women who don't know when to stop smothering their children and people who take for granted the luxury of being able to survive as a nice soft marshmallow in our technological civilization.  Now, this is a big subject and I couldn't hope to give it the full, rounded treatment that it deserves.  I don't think that I could get in there and explore both sides and really bury my face in...*ahem* Sorry about that.

There was something, however, that caught my ear the other day.  They were talking about this shit on Dr. Phil.  There was this woman going on about how she still breast feeds her four year old son and how they've already picked out a nice big house with a motel in the desert when he can prop up her corpse and dress up in her clothes after she dies.  There was some commotion from the audience.  One woman stood up and said it was disgusting because the child already had his teeth. Another guy in the audience, clearly irritated, responding by saying, "Why is it disgusting?  It's not like there's an offical time to stop breast feeding."  *facepalm*

There's an old joke that I heard years ago that I like to tell from time to time.  Like all good jokes, it contains a seed of truth.  There's this man that hears that a storm is coming and the whole area is going to be flooded.  His friend stops by and says that they're evacuating and offers him a ride, but the man just says, "No, go ahead.  God will save me."  Later, the flooding starts and he climbs up onto the roof of his house.  Another guy comes along with a boat and offers him a ride, but again the man refuses, saying, "No, go ahead.  God will save me." Later still, a guy comes by with a helicopter, but again the man refuses to be rescued and says, "No, go ahead.  God will save me."  Finally, the man drowns, and when he gets to Heaven, he appears before God and asks him, "Why didn't you save me?"  God looks a little confused by the question and replies, "What are you talking about?  I sent a car, a boat, and a helicopter."

It seems to that this "official time limit" asshole is a bit like the man in the joke.  He scoffs at the idea, but let's think for a minute how that would work.  In this context, I must assume that by "official" he means set by nature.  Otherwise, he's even more fucking clueless than I thought.  Now, how would nature go about signaling such a limit?  Well, other such milestones in our lives are usually heralded by biological changes.  We start ovulating, we stop ovulating, hair starts growing in weird places, voices change, curves take shape.  So, offhand, I would guess that nature would signal that it was time for a child to be weaned off the breast and started on solid food around the time that, say, THEY START GROWING FUCKING TEETH!!!

But hey, that's not good enough for this jackass.  No, he wants nature to smack him upside the head with a big rubber dick and yell, "Stop fucking doing that!" before he considers it "official."  But hey, they're your kids buddy.  You can breast feed them into the next century for all I care.  Just don't leave them out in the sun too long or they'll melt.  Don't say I didn't warn you.