January 25, 2013

January 22, 2013

It Ain't Right

From Thought Catalog (as in: "This is so inane, I thought I was reading a catalog"): 25 Signs You're A Writer

Normally my opening gambit for something like this — In Which Andrew Angrily Eviscerates A Mindless Blog Post — would be a knowing "Gosh, I really hate to be snooty about this, but...". I've had enough random internet readers completely miss subtle matters of tone like that before, though, and I don't really want there to be any misunderstanding here. So let me be clear: I am being snooty. This article really bakes my Alaska.
1. You take a pen and paper with you everywhere, sometimes even into bed with you, just in case you have an idea at three in the morning that absolutely must be remembered. That idea never usually ends up good, but like everything you say when you’re stoned, it sounded very good at the time.
Here's my problem with it: these are manifestly NOT signs you are a writer. They are signs that you think you are a writer. Not even that: they are things you identify as writerly that you think you can use to impress other people with how writerly you are. They are like, the sort of stupid cliches that a bad movie would drop in during the first five minutes to really hammer home to you how much of a writer the person on screen is.

Here is the one real sign you are a writer: you spend at least twice as long writing each day as you do thinking about all the ways in which you are like, totally writerly.
2. You really, really want to buy a typewriter, even though you never expect to actually use it. You just want a typewriter because you’re one of the 10 people in the world who still finds them romantic and sexy. All of those people are writers.
Uh-huh, yeah, no. That does not make you a writer. It makes you a hipster. And notwithstanding that all hipsters also "write" a tumblr of some sort, that doesn't make you a writer either.
6. When you hear the words “I’m on deadline,” you immediately burst into action, a Pavlovian response to a) always having something due and b) always being behind on it. You’re certain that if they were able to make your procrastination into an energy source, it will solve our nation’s fuel crisis. Or at least make gas cheaper.
And, okay, everyone has a different way of working and a different experience of being a writer and whatever. That's fine. I accept that. What bothers me is that nobody accepts my version of being writer, viz. writing a lot every day and often feeling kind of miserable and/or guilty about it because you are ignoring your wife and/or missing out on fun social plans to do it. No. Because I'm "a writer," people assume that I have the stupid kind of work ethic where I buy typewriters and get stoned a lot by way of procrastination and then turn out something shitty to meet an arbitrary deadline.

What bothers me is that I have to put up with bloggers telling the world shit like this as if it applies to anyone who's ever strung more than 300 words together:
10. You sometimes refer to authors by their first name or a pet name you never realized you gave them, like calling Bukowski “Chuck” or “Charlie,” James Joyce “Jimmy” or Salman Rushdie “Sally.” Most people aren’t allowed to call him Sally, but it’s an in-joke between the two of you. And, yes, it still counts if he doesn’t know about it and you’ve technically never met him.
Oh, Andrew's a writer? He must refer to Jonathan Franzen as "Franny." Either that or he's not really a writer. Seriously, what is this shit? I get that it's probably meant to be, like, you know, not entirely serious, and, like, you know, I'm probably like, you know, totally missing the joke. But, I'm not. The joke just ain't funny.
14. You’re a little too obsessed with post-it notes and stationery and have a favorite pen. An alarming amount of your budget goes out every month to writing supplies, books and coffee — but mostly coffee. Fact: If I gave up drinking coffee, I’d probably be a millionaire. Is it sad that I choose my love of java over my love of money? No. Not expecting any fiscal reward proves you’re a writer.
OH HA HA HA! WRITERS LIKE COFFEE! WHAT AN ORIGINAL OBSERVATION!
22. You have a bad habit of solving your problems or conflicts by writing the person a letter, rather than just confronting them about it. In high school, my mother was in her “I want to be a romance novelist phase,” and I could tell when she and her husband were in a fight because there would be a letter on the table every morning until whatever they were going through was resolved. Some people fight, you start an epistolary novel of angry feelings.
I will be magnanimous and admit that (1) I do have a bad habit of doing this, and (2) I LOL'ed at the epistolary novel line.

HOWEVER, I maintain that this is in general a stupid article, and only makes me further hate poseurs who call themselves writers just so they can procrastinate/drink coffee/buy typewriters/whatever. PLEASE STOP.

January 18, 2013

January 16, 2013

Pundigrioh No You Di'nt!

Papa Pundigrion alerts me to a deluge of pundigrion-related lexicographical news that passed me by last autumn. From The Guardian:
The new Chambers rides to the rescue of pundigrion

The 12th edition of Chambers has just been published....

This volume is more than an exuberant dictionary.... [It] also includes lists of "words to cherish" ("arctophile", "roscid"); "words with pleasing sounds" ("mumpsimus", "tosticated", "williwaw"); "super-slang words" ("skank", "scrote", "cum-savvy", "meemies", "tweedler"); "extinct words" ("bejade", "giglet", "pundigrion"); and "100 words to watch" ("dumbsizing", "foodoir", "notspot").
I'm not quite sure why 'pundigrion' was singled out for the headline when it occupies a dreary parenthetical backwater in the actual article — I can only assume it was to capitalise on this blog's fantastic reputation — but the fiery response from the Macmillan Dictionary Blog gives it the pride of place it deserves:
Why say pundigrion when you could say pun?

[Robert McCrum's Guardian piece] was largely devoted to two themes: first, the inevitable ‘new’ words (most of them far from new in fact), and second an enthusiastic survey of the various obscure and obsolete words Chambers had ‘rescued’ from oblivion. One of these was pundigrion. Heard of it? No, I thought not.... Rare words are rare for a reason: they have not been found to be useful, and have quietly died out.
Steady on, old bean.
Pundigrion, for example, means the same as pun, so it’s no mystery that it failed to make much impact on the lexicon of English. (The OED gives it the label ‘Obs. rare’, which means it is not only obsolete – its last recorded use was almost 200 years ago – but it was never in common use even when still ‘alive’.)
Look, all that proves is that the OED doesn't read my blog. Why do you have to be such a killjoy?
I don’t want to come across as a killjoy: there is a place for words like pundigrion.... But we need to keep in mind what dictionaries are really for... a resource for helping its users understand what they read or hear, and for enabling them to communicate more effectively.... Anyone who thinks the function of a mainstream dictionary is to preserve words that have been (rightly) obsolete for centuries should try talking to a lexicographer.
KILLJOY. Anyway, I disagree. Anyone who wants to communicate more effectively these days Googles the words they don't know, or uses their computer's built-in dictionary. When I pick up an honest-to-god paper dictionary, I want to browse, and see not only pundigrions, but apocynthions, octodecimos, and frontes. So put that in your pundigrion and smoke it.

January 12, 2013

Stats of the Union

I'm a little late with my new year's round-up of the blog's traffic, which I blame on the NFL playoffs combined with the bar we found in our neighbourhood that shows the NFL playoffs while serving delicious pizza and beer. That plus, you know, marathon editing session of novel manuscript, attempting to write second book, doing Ploughshares editorial work, planning honeymoon, lamenting my lost youth... Typical 29-year-old stuff, really.

Anyway. Last year I was depressed because my I published a record low number of posts and, as a result, had a record low amount of traffic; this year, remarkably, I published exactly the same number of posts — how about that regression to the mean, amirite? — but saw a pretty solid 20% rise in traffic. Which I guess means the recession really is over.

Last year I also made a silly, ego-shielding statistical argument that I wasn't really losing traffic so much as gaining a more focused audience, because searches for "recycling jokes" were then — and are still — accounting for an ever larger percentage of my pageviews. This year it's even more ridiculous: I don't just get hits for "recycling jokes," but for "recycling paper jokes", "recycling center jokes", "jokes about refuse disposal", "jokes about solid waste management", and so forth — not to mention the delightfully saucy "recycling jokes for adults." For those readers, I now present this limerick:
There once was a lady named Jan,
Who liked getting an all-over tan.
She'd take off her top,
And go to the shop,
And redeem the deposit on a can.
If you liked that poem, please consider a donation to the Emerson College MFA program.

Actually, though, that silly, ego-shielding statistical argument seems to have some kind of merit, because — I presume on the back of all the "recycling jokes" referrals — I am now getting all kinds of search traffic from people looking for other kinds of jokes. To wit:
Jokes about communism
Jokes about the election
Jokes about Gandhi
Jokes about linguistics
Jokes about masturbation
Jokes about Iran
Break-up jokes
Ritalin jokes
Awful jokes (ouch)
Capoeira jokes
Calvin and Hobbes jokes
Daylight savings times jokes
And the bizarrely specific trifecta of:
Jokes about plenty of fish
Texas spam jokes
Died masturbating jokes
So there you go. I'm now your source for all kinds of really esoteric jokes. Which, I mean, I guess I always was. But now Google has finally caught on.

And finally, as always, my award for favourite search referral of the year, which this year just manages to perfectly sum up my feelings about pretty much every family dinner I've ever had:
linguistics fuck
Happy new year!

January 11, 2013

January 04, 2013