Flotsam and Jetsam

Friday, January 27, 2012

Egregious Paula Deen

Posted By on 01.27.12 at 01:40 PM

  • dbking
I complained last month that "pragmatic," the word Merriam-Webster said was the most frequently searched on its website in 2011, was impossibly boring. So utilitarian! And so unrepresentative of a year in which pragmatism wasn't the rule. (See the Republican primary, for instance. Come to think of it, "pragmatism" continues not to be much of a Republican ideal—New York magazine notes that just last night, the candidates spent seven and a half minutes debating the possibility of a lunar colony.) Anyway, Merriam reports today that right now "egregious" is the word that you, the people, are wondering about. Why? Paula Deen, of course! She's been up to some egregious business lately.

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Monday, January 23, 2012


Posted By on 01.23.12 at 11:34 AM

  • Uncle Catherine
A good way to get in touch with old friends is to have your e-mail account hacked, as mine was in the predawn hours Saturday—between 3:01 and 3:08 AM.

When I woke up that morning and checked my personal e-mail, I was thrilled at first. My inbox was overflowing. Then I noticed that almost all the messages were from that reliable bearer of bad news—MAILER-DAEMON—and the cheerful subject was "Failure Notice."

Uh-oh, I thought. I hadn't sent many messages the day before. I opened one of MAILER-DAEMON's notes. It concerned a message sent from my account that fortunately hadn't gotten through to all: "Only for you hot proposal right now! Be quick!" With, of course, a link to click. This had gone to most of my contacts whose e-mails begin with the letter "J."

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Against all odds

Posted By on 01.13.12 at 07:35 PM

I go to 7-Eleven almost daily, and the register's typically crowded with people buying lottery tickets. I've never done so, and the one time I was tempted to—there was a pot so large I could have bought the Reader and given everybody raises—I was baffled.

This is a truly bizarre subculture. The official guide to the games begins: "WARNING! The following dances are designed solely for performance while in the grip of "Oh-my-gosh-I-just-won-the-Lottery" euphoria. Do not attempt otherwise." The instructions for each game are then given in the form of an Arthur Murray-type graphic. Odds are given below in a chart that I suspect makes people's eyes glaze over rather than absorb the fact that, e.g., the chances of winning the 200,000,000 Million Cash Spectacular instant game are 1 in 3.46 million. The site doesn't say "If you win"—it's "When you win." So I confess I wince inwardly when I see someone, to all appearances impoverished, avidly forking over the cash.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why I won't tell Frank Sennett and Dan Sinker to kiss my ass

Posted By on 01.11.12 at 12:20 AM

First of all, it wasn’t my idea. It was Tal Rosenberg’s idea. He’s the digital genius at the Reader in charge of building our Internet empire. He said, “Ben, here’s what we’ll do: We do a live feed of you tweeting the Bulls game.”

I told him I don’t know how to tweet. And he told me, “No problem! I’ll type it as you say it.”

So what the hell, why not meet at Father & Son in Logan Square. Spend the first half eating the garlic chicken. Dang, that shit is good.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Very extremely loud and amazingly incredibly close

Posted By on 01.10.12 at 03:00 PM

  • rhett maxwell
Sam Worley noted here last week that "amazing" and its cousin "awesome" are among the nation's most overused words—words deserving banishment.

I just got off the phone with someone who said "Sounds awesome" after I'd left an amazing message for someone else—my name and phone number. "Sounds good" once was good enough. Similarly, "Thank you" has been ousted by "Thank you so much."

We fear that people will doubt our sincerity unless we're really, really sincere. Why this insecurity? It's an important question, one I hope Obama and Romney get to between Iran and the economy. We're suffering from word inflation, maybe even a word bubble. Can't this kind of bubble burst? I'd be so so grateful.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Partial confession is good for the soul

Posted By on 01.09.12 at 01:00 PM

  • Thomas Quine
Statement from Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago—Jan. 6, 2012:

During a recent TV interview, speaking about this year's Gay Pride Parade, I used an analogy that is inflammatory.

I am personally distressed that what I said has been taken to mean that I believe all gays and lesbians are like members of the Klan. I do not believe that; it is obviously not true. Many people have friends and family members who are gay or lesbian, as have I. We love them; they are part of our lives, part of who we are. I am deeply sorry for the hurt that my remarks have brought to the hearts of gays and lesbians and their families.

I can only say that my remarks were motivated by fear for the Church's liberty. This is a larger topic that cannot be explored in this expression of personal sorrow and sympathy for those who were wounded by what I said.


Bless me father, for I have sinned. It has been one week since my last confession. During that week, I swore at my brother three times and punched him twice. I am personally distressed that he took this negatively.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Once burned, thrice shy

Posted By on 01.06.12 at 11:00 AM

The first time I lapsed was in the mid-aughts. I was driving to O'Hare to pick up my mother, and was so anxious about what I'd find that I stopped at a convenience store for a pack of Camel Filters. I hadn't smoked in a couple of years, but, boy, did it sink back in with a vengeance. I got to the airport, parked the car, conducted a somewhat frantic search, and found my mom in the wrong terminal, wearing a large wooden cross and chatting amiably with a stranger.

I must confess I continued chain smoking throughout her visit, shepherding her to Wrigley Field, paying $50 bucks for parking, leaving her with a vendor for safekeeping, etc, etc. "Oh, Kathleen, just stop it," she'd say of my puffing. But that took me a while.

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Say you want a resolution?

Posted By on 01.06.12 at 08:00 AM

Resolutions? In January? In Chicago? Pishposh, I say! Humbug! If we want resolutions that mean anything, we ought to move New Year's Day to May 1.

Here in the so-called temperate zone, most conventional plans for self-improvement are subverted as soon as the sun goes south for the winter. It's plain foolish to tell yourself you're going to stop overeating at precisely the moment in the year when your body is crying out for a nice, warm, protective layer of fat. Or to promise to start exercising just when the trip to the gym is fraught with ice-glazed danger. Did you decide to learn a new skill or improve your mind? Good luck doing it on one of those short, gray, frigid days that cry out for a long nap. And if your goal is to be more cheerful, well, you can try that while digging out your car. Under the circumstances, the only truly doable commitments are to watch more TV, sit by more fireplaces, buy more blankets, and make more plane reservations.

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Emanuelism, my new best unbelievable faith

Posted By on 01.05.12 at 03:30 PM

I've been considering taking up religion for the New Year. I'm one of those recovering Catholics—I have fond memories of Saint Rita High School, especially the theology fables. Some years ago I wrote a Reader story on a debate in southern Illinois between a Baptist preacher and a member of American Atheists on whether God exists. I thought the infidel won, and I've been a heathen ever since.

But now I'm thinking of converting to Rahm Emanuelism. The perks sound great, at least the reincarnation bit.

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Rahm swears off swearing for 2012

Posted By on 01.05.12 at 08:00 AM

For his New Year's resolution, Mayor Emanuel has decided to confront what he perceives as his lone weakness: his tendency toward indelicate expression. Or, as the mayor himself has put it to confidantes: "I'd like to do something about my potty mouth."

According to irreputable sources, the mayor informed his closest advisers of the resolution during a New Year's Eve conference call from Buenos Aires, where he was vacationing with his family. "No more cussing for me, and I am not fudging kidding," Emanuel said.

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