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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Irony is a force that gives us meaning

Posted By on 12.06.12 at 06:00 PM

This is not a mustache
  • cuttlefish
  • This is not a mustache
It's come to my attention that you don't understand what the word irony means. It's OK, no big, I actually have no idea either. This was pointed out to me earlier this year by a "friend" (put in ironic quotation marks because he's not, per se, a "friend," actually my boyfriend—am I doing this right?) after he'd read something I'd written in which I'd misused the term, or that's what he thought. He probably doesn't know what he's talking about either. Anyway, it came to my attention more recently that neither does Christy Wampole, the Princeton French professor who wrote about it for the New York Times. The writer Elif Batuman tweeted, not long ago, that it's confusing that there are two different meanings of the word irony—"bad hipster 'irony'" and "good Romantic 'irony'"—like there are two different kinds of cholesterol, good and bad. Why not just two different words for these very different modes of expression?

Alanis Morissette was a pioneer of misapplying the irony label, but hers wasn't just a confusion of degree. She misunderstood entirely. She was just talking about bad luck. Irony isn't bad luck, though bad luck can be ironic. It's ironic that somebody can be acclaimed as a songwriter and make so simple an error of language. Isn't it? That basically ties up your irony argument right there.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hanky-panky with the hokey pokey

Posted By on 11.29.12 at 06:00 PM

The hokey pokey, disambiguated
  • puuikibeach
  • The hokey pokey, disambiguated
"The hokey cokey (United Kingdom), hokey pokey (United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia), hokey tokey (New Zealand), also known as okey cokey, or cokey cokey, is a participation dance with a distinctive accompanying tune and lyric structure." —Wikipedia

Hokey pokey (disambiguation)

Hokey pokey can refer to:

Hokey pokey (ice cream)

Hokey Pokey (album), an album by Richard and Linda Thompson released in 1975

Hokey Pokey, the controversial Texas prison, closed in 1963, where the common practice of prisoners holding their arms out to receive meals originated a new dance trend

Hokey low-key, drugged to an artificial state of calm, as in spending the holidays with family

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Against the summarized Web

Posted By on 11.28.12 at 02:43 PM

Moby Dick, condensed for the Web
  • chispita_666
  • Moby Dick, condensed for the Web
The "wave of the future" on the Internet likely will include lots of helpful story summaries, one of our Web gurus, Asher Klein, predicted here Friday. Klein usually knows what he's talking about, unfortunately.

He was writing specifically about TL;DR, a Web expression for "Too long; didn't read." "You see it mainly in forums, where a writer will summarize what she says in a long post so new readers don't need to spend too long to see what they're saying," Klein wrote. "It's a courtesy that acknowledges that a lot of people don't have time to make it through every little story when there's so much ground to cover on the Internet." Or every not-so-little story.

There are a growing number of aggregators capsulizing stories to help us cover all that Internet turf, Klein said. He highlighted one such aggregator, which happens to call itself TL;DR. On its website, TL;DR diagnoses the condition, and offers the treatment:

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lower the boom, release the Kraken, and open the kimono

Posted By on 11.15.12 at 06:00 PM

The kimono, opening
Because the piece was in the New York Times's Great Homes and Destinations section, it was less a profile of Mediabistro founder Laurel Touby than it was a profile of Touby's loft in Gramercy Park. It is an extremely nice loft, and extremely expensive—purchased for $3.9 million in 2009 and since renovated for another $2 million. The loft features what is surely the world's first "hand-woven leather, chain-mail and fur indoor swing" not expressely designed for BDSM play; a "sprawling sectional sofa" that set Touby and her husband, Jon Fine, back more than $30,000; and a $3,500 coffee table, which is described in the Times as among Touby and Fine's "relative bargains." Whenever I read details like this I think about what Joan Didion said rose in her throat when, as a twentysomething, she witnessed the excesses of the moneyed Manhattan elite—a "Veblenesque gorge," she called it, after the economist Thorstein Veblen, who coined the term "conspicuous consumption."

Anyway, Joan Didion's made her nut; set aside class anxieties and wonder at the free flow of all this specific information, from Touby's lips to the Times reader's ear. The author of the profile procured this information with little difficulty, she says, because Ms. Touby's "policy regarding her affairs is relentlessly open kimono."

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Keep the A.V. Club crossword alive

Posted By on 11.13.12 at 01:15 PM

  • Darrel Birkett
  • Feed the beast.
My favorite crossword constructor, Ben Tausig, supplies puzzles to the Reader and other alt-weeklies. Tausig recently launched a Kickstarter project to continue funding another of his concerns: the American Values Club crossword, which Tausig edits and which the A.V. Club recently canceled. (Did anybody but me not know that "American Values" is what "A.V." stood for?) For $10,000, Tausig hopes to keep the puzzle in business for at least one more year, and hopefully beyond; for your contribution of one dollar or more, you'll receive the puzzle till the end of 2012. For $15, you'll get it weekly through the end of 2013; $2,500 or more will compel Ben Tausig to come to your city and make you dinner and teach you how to build a crossword puzzle. (Personal testimonial: he taught me earlier this year, and it was fun. No dinner, though.) See the other incentives and kick in a little money here; the video pitch is below.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Of the Big Shoulders, City": a poem*

Posted By on 11.01.12 at 06:00 PM

Of the Big Shoulders, City
  • Joe+Jeanette Archie
  • Of Tribune Tower, a photograph
* An @NYTprepositions-style tribute, with apologies to @NYTprepositions, #NYTbooks, Carl Sandburg, the city of Chicago, readers of the Chicago Reader, Yoda, the New York Times, Jen Doll, my parents, and everybody else.

For the World, Hog Butcher
   Tool Maker, of Wheat, Stacker
   With Railroads, Player, and the Nation's Freight Handler;
    Stormy, husky, brawling,
    Of the Big Shoulders, City:

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Does Sarah Palin speak jive? and other bullshit concerns

Posted By on 10.25.12 at 06:00 PM

Postdebate cleanup
  • Giuseppe Bognanni
  • Postdebate cleanup
Politico's Mike Allen reported this morning that Barack Obama, in a forthcoming interview with Rolling Stone, indirectly calls Mitt Romney a "bullshitter." Rolling Stone's editor, Eric Bates, told Obama that he'd asked his six-year-old if she had anything she wanted to pass along to the president. "You can do it," the kid responded. According to the article Obama, hearing this, "grinned": "'You know, kids have good instincts,' Obama offered. 'They look at the other guy and say, 'Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell.'" Add it to the binder, already bursting, of election-cycle words that begin with the letter B: bayonets, Big Bird. Bain Capital. (The president's comment is also, the Guardian points out, sort of a descendent of Joe Biden's "big fucking deal," so those of you looking for some symbolic continuity with this trend: there you have it.)

A bit too early to analyze all the blowback, but so far we've heard the remark called "childish, stompy foot and low-class behavior" by, the Internet concern of Michelle Malkin, who last week called a political noncombatant a "ladyparts tool" for asking a question at a debate (a characterization with which we took issue). (To Malkin's credit, I guess, she took some issue with Ann Coulter calling Barack Obama a "retard," which, there you have it.) Then Twitchy went on to collect some various Twitter users' responses to the Obama line, most of the takes-one-to-know-one variety, like this from columnist (?) Erik Rush: "Would a 'pot calling the kettle black' remark be racist?"

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Doing right by Studs Terkel

Posted By on 10.22.12 at 02:31 PM

The book in question
  • The book in question
Reviewer Richard J. Evans is called out by Chicagoan Marc Geelhoed in the new issue of the New York Review of Books for overlooking a set of quote marks. The matter isn't as petty as it sounds.

In the October 11 issue of the NYRB, Evans began his discussion of two books on World War II on this note:

"Ever since it began, World War II has been seen as 'the good war,' to borrow the title of Studs Terkel’s Pulitzer Prize—winning oral history. In sharp contrast to World War I, remembered mainly for its terrible conditions in the trenches of the Western Front, its tragic waste of a whole generation of young men, and its disastrous consequences in Europe, leading to the rise of fascism and communism and the triumph of Hitler, World War II is remembered as the defeat of dictatorship by democracy, racism by tolerance, nationalism by internationalism, extremism by moderation, evil by good. It is a memory that is buried deep in the political consciousness and identity of the modern world and in particular Britain and America."

A footnote explained the reference:

Studs Terkel, The Good War: An Oral History of World War Two (Pantheon, 1984).

But that is not the title of Terkel's book. The correct title is "The Good War": An Oral History of World War Two.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

No fracking, please, we're New English

Posted By on 10.18.12 at 06:00 PM

  • ProgressOhio
  • Word.
Romenesko reported yesterday that the Hearst Connecticut Media Group has banned from its comment boards the use of the word fracking, which sometimes refers to a hydraulic-fracturing process by which petroleum and natural gas are extracted from rocks beneath the earth's surface. Fracking is objectionable for a number of reasons, not least its effects on the environment (and on the flammability levels of the water at nearby residences), but Hearst found it uncomfortable for reasons as follows: "Sadly, many of our users attempt to exploit a perfectly legitimate word as a replacement for it's more vulgar cousin," wrote Brett Mickelson, the executive producer of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group, employing what's known in the trade as the "vulgar apostrophe" (like its cousin the normal apostrophe, only wrong). The entertainment industry is at fault: the vulgar usage was pioneered by the TV show Battlestar Galactica, in which characters used the word frack to stand in for it's more vulgar cousin. There have been two Battlestar Galacticas; frack was actually introduced in the 70s version, but its usage was amplified in the awesome one with Edward James Olmos that ran during the aughts. (Its spelling changed too: the producers of the new version styled it frak so that it'd be a proper four-letter word.)

A multimedia extravaganza, below, illustrates the vulgar usage.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lovely piece of Brit: a spectre haunts the Times

Posted By on 10.11.12 at 06:00 PM

Cheers, rendered properly
  • vmiramontes
  • Cheers, rendered properly
In Illinois we worry about Asian carp, but it's another spectre—sorry, specter—that haunts the east coast. The Times's Alex Williams reported yesterday on the creep of British English into the colonial vernacular, an invasion he sees as originating with New York City media elites, who become the subject of articles by other New York City media elites and, in that way, make it socially acceptable for themselves to describe nice things as "brilliant." Also elites of other backgrounds: comments Euan Rellie, a "socially prominent British-born finance executive," "I'm getting sick of my investment banking clients saying 'cheers' to me." You know what, bro? Me too.

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