Archive for the ‘Reading and Writing’ Category
When last we met, Dan’s book was causing problems for everybody, Blair and Louis were struggling to get on the same page, and Diana Payne was making ludicrous claims about her new website. In the interest of efficiency, I’m gonna go ahead and copy and paste this intro onto next week’s diary. Let’s do it!
7:58 I’m boycotting any brand that airs a Christmas commercial during a single digit date in November. That means you, Brigham’s ice cream.
8:02 I have some comments to make about Nate and Elizabeth Hurley doing it in the office all the time, but I’m withholding them in case my family or employers read this.
8:04 Hasn’t dream interpretation been discredited in terms of therapy? I need some of Dangerous Dirty & Unfun’s many psychology correspondents to check in here.
8:05 Dorota: “Queen Bee need last hurrah.”
Blair, to Louis: “That’s why we’re a perfect match. You don’t have the scheme gene like I do.” Ha!
8:07 Giving Serena a blog! Do they give blogs to just ANYONE these days?
8:08 Blair, on her potential bridesmaids: “Even Pippa knew when to pipe down.”
Ooooooh. I LIKE this plot by Louis, paying off the psychiatrist. We need Chuck to be unleashed! But he should keep the dog. I like that lil guy.
8:10 Come on, Marshalls and TJ Maxx! Not you too, with a Christmas commercial!
8:12 Eliza Barnes: “Expressing your rage and anger are part of your healing process.” This woman is clearly speaking for the entire Gossip Girl audience.
8:15 Glee this up! Great idea! Of course Dan walks out of a meeting where someone seeks to inject the slightest bit of whimsy into his undoubtedly dour prose.
8:24 I’m disappointed they aren’t going to Glee up Dan’s book. I’m equally disappointed that they’re gonna Zuckerberg the eff out of it.
8:26 Hey, there’s a party that brings all of the cast together at the end of the episode. Wrap yourself in Gossip Girl’s tropes like a warm blanket.
8:29 Let’s just take for granted that Charlie can keep up her own fake identity while also engaging in all manner of subterfuge and secret plots. Meanwhile, I have a hard time remembering to pay my bills. Mmm, that’s some good suspension of disbelief.
What a loyal sidekick that dog is. He’s helping Chuck expose schemes!
8:38 Diana: “The Spectator is only going to print facts.” lol
GG: “Don’t worry B. You’re still marrying a prince . . . of fools.” Gossip Girl went on to add “Also, your face!”
8:45 I don’t think Louis trusts Blair.
Is it just me, or would I not mind a “hatchet job” if it meant that my bestselling novel got turned into a movie written by Aaron Sorkin.
8:47 There’s too many schemers and grifters this season. Serena and Diana and Charlie and Nate and Chuck and Blair. How are we supposed to keep up?
8:53 Serena to Diana: I know I owe you a favor for ruining my friend’s movie deal and getting me fired from my job.
The fundamental flaw behind Diana’s plan to bring down Gossip Girl is that Serena blogging about herself wouldn’t make GG irrelevant: she would just start printing gossip about high school socialites like she did in the first couple seasons. Is the NYSpectator going to employ every student at Constance Ballard as a blogger?
8:56 Sorry, Lana del Rey was distracting me from that emotional Blair and Chuck scene. “Video Games” would be a much better song if it were peppier and its vocals weren’t sung through a bowl of cool grits. I’m waiting for the upbeat punk rock cover. Still, <3 you bb!
Sometimes, you run across a piece of prose that touches your heart with the poignancy of its undiluted, universal truth in such a way that, had it not been written more than a hundred years ago, you feel it could have issued forth from your own pen. In all my years, of all the brilliant writers I’ve read, of all the insightful arguments I’ve consumed, none have ever found themselves in such lockstep agreement with my own sentiments and perspective as this piece from the May 3, 1902 edition of the New York Times, simply and appropriately titled “Pie.” Precious readers, I can assure you that you’ll never find a clearer, more illuminating window into how I look at the world (well, maybe not the “woman’s baneful influence over man” part). Please read it. Hat tip to Lawyers, Guns, and Money for this wonderful treasure.
A short news story, noteworthy only because it involved a spat between two New York sports teams, ignited my imagination today, because it united three of my passions: the Yankees, literature, and poking fun at the Mets for being a bushleague organization.
Here’s the story: PNC Field, the former Lackawanna County Stadium and home to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, is in need of renovations, so the SWB Yankees are in need of a temporary home for the 2012 season while their stadium gets repaired. A perfect location would be Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium, home of the Newark Bears. City and team officials were all about it; having the Yankees’ top minor league affiliate in town would attract many more fans than a season of Can-Am League baseball. And Newark is a part of the Yankees’ geographical base, so it would present an opportunity for fans priced out of the big league stadium to get a look at some still pretty good Yankees baseball.
Of course, Newark is also part of the Mets’ geographical base, so they were able to invoke territorial rights to veto the move. I suppose the Amazin’s weren’t interested in having two professional baseball teams in the tri-state that played better than them. Oh well. It would have been nice.
Should the AAA Yankees taken up residence on Broad Street, the Bears would have been forced to play all of their games on the road. I had a nagging feeling that I’d read the story of a displaced team of Newark ballplayers playing a season’s worth of road games before. And amazing but true, I had; in fact, I’d based the concluding chapter of my undergraduate thesis on it. The story is Philip Roth’s The Great American Novel. Here’s Wikipedia’s plot summary: “The Port Ruppert Mundys of New Jersey lease their stadium to the United States Department of War at the beginning of the 1943 season—to be used as a soldiers’ embarkation point—which forces the athletes to play as the league’s first permanent road team.” (There is, obviously, no such place as Port Ruppert. However, comma, remember that the original Newark Bears and the Negro League Newark Eagles played in Ruppert Stadium, named for the Bears’ owner, Jacob Ruppert.) Today’s Newark Bears could have become the real life Port Ruppert Mundys! I know you all probably didn’t write your theses about Philip Roth’s novels, but surely you can get excited about life almost imitating art!
Regular readers of Dangerous, Dirty, and Unfun understand how dismaying this little chestnut would seem to me:
As a general rule, do not use the serial/Oxford comma: so write ‘a, b and c’ not ‘a, b, and c’. But when a comma would assist in the meaning of the sentence or helps to resolve ambiguity, it can be used — especially where one of the items in the list is already joined by ‘and’.
That’s the Oxford Writing and Style Guide telling us not to use the Oxford (also popularly known as the seriall) comma. As a professional writer and editor with a lifelong passion for grammar, punctuation, and usage, this is huge. I’m generally a descriptivist, and I’ll engage in a Talmudic level of discussion and debate about almost any point of grammar, but I’m a serial comma zealot. A line has to be drawn somewhere.
So I read about Oxford turning its back on its own comma, and for a brief instant, I was crushed. But almost immediately, I was reminded of this scene from The Last Temptation of Christ. (Which, if you haven’t seen it, this is kind of climactic? So stop reading. But seriously, see it. We’re living in a culture here, people.)
This is how I feel about the Oxford comma. Just replace “the resurrected Jesus” with “the Oxford comma” in Paul’s discussion with Jesus up there. Go ahead, Oxford. Go on. Tell them now. Who’s going to believe you? You started all this, and now you can’t stop it. We know about the greatness of the Oxford comma. The good news is out there, ready to be heard, and here’s the plain facts: the Oxford comma far outstrips whatever style the Oxford guide now claims as the truth. Willem Dafoe’s Jesus can go along working and raising his kids and living however he pleases, because for Paul’s, and humanity’s, purposes, what he does with his life is now irrelevant. Ditto for the Oxford guide.
There’s a new battle up on Contest of Champions. This week, we’ve got a battle between two part-man, part machine heroes, Deathlok and Cyborg. I’m defending Deathlok, and if you head over to CoC and it appears as if Miles is getting the better of me, just rest assured that I’m merely toying with him, and the hammer will have been dropped, numerous times, before the end of the week.
However, comma, I’m counting on you, DD&U Nation, to get over there and vote for me. I’ve yet to win one of these contests, and it’s starting to weigh on me. I mean, I know I’ve been substantively better than Miles each and every week, and yet somehow the voting never reflects that. Anyway, get on over there and vote! And comment, too. We love reader input. Love it to death!
Given this week’s assassination of the person who’s actions resulted in the invasion and occupation of two Middle Eastern countries, it’s probably a good idea to reflect on war. It’s of course a coincidence that the opportunity presented itself today, in the form of this story from the Awl, “The Last Two Veterans Of WWI.” It’s a good one. You should read it and come back.
It’s a story about the only living veterans of what was then called the Great War (or even more dramatically, the war to end war), so named, as you remember from social studies, because it was of a scale unseen in human history. Fleischer only needs to supply two numbers to indicate the extent of the damage: “Nearly 10,000,000 men were killed in the conflict, 65 million participated.” He goes on to quote some firsthand accounts of what the conduct of the war, in the literal trenches, was like. Which you should read, if you haven’t already. (It’s important, considering World War I is so often treated as a quick bridge between the Progressive Era and the Roaring Twenties in our history lessons. I learned a lot!)
I don’t have a ton to add, except to say that I think tracing the history of the last survivors of our wars is a pretty clever and effective way of telling the broader story of our wars. When we think of wars, we think of winners and losers, and we think of statistics, and we think of the big names. Washington and Lincoln and Grant and Lee and Roosevelt and Wilson and the other Roosevelt and Eisenhower and Patton and MacArthur and so on and so forth. We’re good at recognizing how the last war leads to the next one, but we’re not so good at thinking about how the last war lives on, in the lives of the people that survived it, and in the lives of the people that fought it.
That’s a shame, because the last man standing is never the general or the president or the prime minister. The last man standing is the grunt, the nurse, the ambulance driver. In short, the regular person who got pulled into war’s vortex (and usually a dumb kid who lied to get into the service). It’s important to keep that in mind, because when you get right down to it, war is about regular people: advancing their interests, protecting their ideals, defending them. Regular people fight the wars, and regular people bear the brunt of their carnage.
The sad and often unappreciated truth is that a lot of people had to die to get us to where we are. Some reflection isn’t a lot to ask. Or, as Fleischer writes:
[W]hen those of my generation place their centennial flag in the ground in 2084, 2085, 2086, and 2087 . . . it would be nice to bow out amongst our grandchildren knowing we stood tall enough to catch the lessons of the past—those things that threatened to entropy—and hand off a better past, that we made Walt Whitman’s job global, that every atom in me really did end up belonging to you, that we figured out how to do niceness and happiness in a smart, new, warm and lively way . . . [W]e don’t have to bray on about the responsibility of memory either (enough people have) but we just can’t walk underneath a sky as blue as this, as nice as this, and as sweet as this without nodding towards time’s cavernous past, too.
Regular readers of Dangerous, Dirty, and Unfun know that in addition to being one of the cleverest and most handsome bloggers on the Internet, I’m also a writer for Boston College Magazine. The Winter 2011 issue just came out, and I’ve got a few stories that I would recommend that you read. Here’s a bit I did about BC’s club hockey team, which in five years went from not existing to being one of the top club teams in the country. Here’s a rundown of a few professors in BC’s Lynch School of Education doing research projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
There’s also a couple non-Timmy stories that are really excellent. This piece is about Solasta, an energy startup founded by a group of BC physicists based on a revolutionary nanoscale solar cell they developed. The company eventually failed, but there are a lot of great lessons about the competing priorities of research scientists and the venture capitalists who fund much of that research. Finally, this is a piece about the research of Martin Summers, a history professor who has studied how mental the mentally ill were classified differently based on their race in hospitals in the 19th century. It’s a great ish, even if you have no interest in anything related to Boston College.
If you read only one story about mince pie today, make it this one. Seriously! Here’s a teaser:
Imagine, by way of analogy, that Americans abruptly and collectively lost their taste for cheeseburgers. Imagine the cheeseburger demoted to the same rank as eggnog, ritually consumed only on, say, July 4th. Suppose furthermore that the vestigial cheeseburgers served on America’s birthday were prepared without meat. Now suppose that a condition of cultural amnesia set in such that we all forgot, within the space of a decade or so, that cheeseburgers had ever been considered the iconic centerpiece of our nation’s diet.
Now go read about mince!
The whole thing is cartoon babies pooping! In a contest! With judges! Can you believe this is on TV?
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