December 31, 2009

Andrew's Things To Eat And Drink While In Edinburgh List, Winter 09

Pizza from Mamma's Pizzeria [√]
Bacon roll [√]
Deuchars IPA [√]
Fish and chips [√]
Caramel shortbread [√]
Cheddar and pickle sandwich [√]
Caledonian 80/- [√]

Now to get myself some vegetables and exercise before my heart stops altogether.

God bless Scotland, and happy new year!

December 30, 2009

Clip Show

As I was saving my screen grab from Monday's post into the blog folder on my server, I was shocked to discover (well... not that shocked) that I have approximately 250 other screen grabs and assorted visual gags from the last eight years (oh God) of my blog. And — partly to prepare you for the egregious recycling of content that I'm planning for January 1st — I thought I'd share with you a couple of my favourites, especially since many of them are from before my most devoted readers' time (ahem... Malloryclairepatrickmom). Enjoy, after the jump.

December 29, 2009


You may recall that in September I trashed a website called DailyFinance for providing what was possibly the most imbecilic review of a Dan Brown book, ever (and that's saying something). Well, today I am officially upgrading DailyFinance to 0-for-2 and on my shit list, for another piece of brainless, poorly researched, PLAGIARISED "journalism". So...

From DailyFinance: Speak No Evil: The Decade's Worst New Business Terms
Perhaps we were doomed from the start. In a decade that we never knew how to name -- the aughts? the naughts? the zeros? -- tortured words and phrases in business communication blossomed. The list of jargon is long and lackluster: jump the shark, it is what it is,meta, there's no there there, [blank] is the new [blank], no worries, verticals, the new normal.
Okay, first of all: jump the shark? Really? REALLY? For a start — and admittedly I ain't as well acquainted with the business world as I used to be — as far as I know "jump the shark" isn't a particularly common phrase in corporate boardrooms. But even if it is, it isn't primarily a business term, isn't JARGON (definition, OED: "words or expressions used by a particular profession or group"), and isn't an expression new to the fucking DECADE. I'm sure I don't need to explain to any of you hardened internetistas that "jump the shark" refers to a Happy Days episode from 1977 and has been around as an expression since at least the late nineties if not, according to (unverified) Wikipedia, the mid eighties.

Now, let's see — what else is on the list?

•"It is what it is." A cliché, maybe, but again, not jargon (I'm reminded of my unofficial motto: doesn't anyone know how to use a fucking dictionary anymore?).

•"Meta". Meta?!?! First used on its own as an adjective in 1979 (doesn't anyone know to use fucking Google anymore?).

•"There's no there there". I will give them a pass on this one because (a) I initially had no idea what it meant and (b) it turns out it's a Gertrude sodding Stein quote and hence jargon for insufferable modernist literature snobs — but it still isn't a fucking business term and, hello?, Gertrude Stein died in 19-effing-46 so it's not exactly current, eh?

•"[Blank] is the new [blank]"/"the new normal" (apparently they're too thick over at DailyFinance to hold more than two list items in memory at the same time). Language Log to the rescue: "X is the new neutral" in the late seventies, "X is the new black" in the mid eighties, and not a huge jump from that to assume that "X is the new Y" (as Pullum et al. have it) is a lot older than this decade. (Bonus example, from elsewhere in the realm of exceptionally boneheaded internet writers: Is Yemen the new Afghanistan? Jesus, I fucking hope not.)


What's particularly heinous about this inane introductory list of non-00s, non-business, non-jargon phrases is that it actually has about zero to do with the actual 00's business jargon that the rest of the article quite rightly complains about — so I am doubly bewildered as to why it's there. Or at least, I was, until I listened to the "Audio Extra" that author David Schepp links to at the bottom of the page: an interview with They Might Be Giants about... annoyingly overused phrases! Turns out Schepp apparently confused "annoyingly overused phrases" with "contemporary business jargon" and lifted the entire list, without proper attribution, from the Giants interview! It's fucking PLAGIARISM! Can you believe it?!

So, yes, you're on notice, DailyFinance: I am watching you and your team of alleged journalists like a fucking hawk; try to grow some brains, and buy a fucking dictionary.

December 28, 2009

Mildly Insensitive Headline of the Day

"Harm"? "Affect"? "Hurt"? "Slam"? "Lower"? Etc.

I think there should be a general principle in the AP style guide that headlines not contain the words "airplane"/"airline" and "crash" unless the corresponding stories are actually about plane crashes.

December 27, 2009

In Which Andrew Rants Further On Official Reactions To The Recent Aviation Incident

From BBC News: US flight delays from British airports after terror bid

First of all, as an extension of my harping on the news media yesterday: what's with the lack of snappy Event Title for this story? I mean, they had "9/11" pretty well cemented after a day or two, and "The Shoe-Bomber" was practically instantaneous — it seems like they should have had this one all wrapped up by now.

Since they're obviously having trouble, though, here are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling:

"The Knickerbomber"
"The Undiebomber/Ted Skivvinski"
"Warmed And Dangerous" (because he was under a blanket, yes?)

By the way, I'm fully aware that I'm now just deteriorating into random underwear puns — but there are so many good ones! Did the FBI debrief him afterwards? Has he been urged to repant or be damned? Is this a new Y-front in the War on Terror™?

Of course, what bothers me most are the new efforts to tighty-whiten airport security in the wake of the Knickerbomber (I'm telling you, that one's going to stick). Passengers aren't allowed to stand up or have any items on their lap (laptops, books, magazines, etc.) for the last hour of flights into the U.S.? What's the plan, to bore the terrorists to death? I mean, the whole liquid restriction thing is inconvenient enough, but now I can't even read an effing book? Why don't we just cut straight to the chase, Department of Homeland Security, and require everybody to board naked and entirely depilated and then pass the flight in a medically induced coma? That would surely be safest, no?

Look, I'm all for not getting blown up on a plane, but as I believe I have said many times before, in various different ways: why don't we focus on not letting known terrorists on the plane in the first place, rather than curtailing my right to read SkyMall?


PS. Dear Universe,

Please accept this post as what it is, i.e. an attempt to defuse with humour my renewed and not insignificant fear of dying in a plane crash, and not as an invitation for a horrific karmic mishap involving being seated next to some lunatic trying to light his balls on fire when I fly back to Boston next week.

Warmest regards,

December 26, 2009

And Don't Get Me Started On The Moon Landing...

I have to admit, without wanting to sound too much like a conspiracy theorist, that I'm slightly troubled by how swiftly almost every news outlet seems to have fallen into the official line on this Detroit plane brouhaha.

So, the plane lands around noon EST, and as late as almost five p.m. EST the story is still that some fool set off firecrackers on the plane:

Then all of a sudden the story changes, to a terrorist with alleged al Qaeda links trying to set off a bomb made from an unidentified powder and liquid combination. This seems fair enough — get new information, update articles — but what strikes me as weird is how thoroughly that change seeped through the web. Now even the pages in my browser history from when the story was still about firecrackers redirect to the story about terrorism; the above was one of only two news sources I could find that even mentioned firecrackers.

Anyway, again, I don't want to come off like a conspiracy nut. But why the monolithic terrorism narrative, all of a sudden? Why so decisively wipe the firecracker story from memory? After all, it still happened. So why do none of the updated stories contain even a sentence along the lines of: "It was initially thought that the incident involved firecrackers"; why do none of them attempt to explain why firecrackers was the initial story when the guy clearly had third-degree burns; why do none of them attempt to explain why and what point the story changed? Why, ultimately, is it so important to present this seamless story about terrorism?

I know I'm being a little incoherent, here, and that's because I can't really put my finger on anything that is clearly wrong with any of this. And yet it seems troublesome to me that five full hours of coverage have been effectively erased; it's a particularly vivid example of the news media effortlessly dictating the "reality" of events. After all, people only seeing the story this morning might never know that anybody ever thought it was firecrackers. And maybe they don't really need to, and I can understand that line of reasoning, but still — slightly disturbing, no?

December 25, 2009

December 21, 2009

Shaping Young Minds

Today I taught my last class of the semester; it ended like this:

ME: Okay, guys, that's it. Now go forth and do good in the world.

STUDENT: Oh my God! That's exactly what Mr Feeny said in the last episode of Boy Meets World!

ME: Oh dear.

December 19, 2009

Oh, BBC, How Fickle Be Thy Memory!

From BBC News (18 December 2009):

From BBC News (27 February 2001):

December 18, 2009

December 17, 2009

Take It Or Lieb It

I must admit, I share with every liberal-minded, pro–healthcare reform person out there right now an intense frustration with Joe Lieberman's incessant bullshit. It remains unclear to me why he finds it impossible to vote for a public option — with or without an opt-out, opt-in, or trigger — other than that he likes being fucking stubborn and has an awful lot of insurance companies to answer to back in Connecticut. That, or he just likes feeling important.

However, I must also admit that my frustration is connected entirely to my own despair at the ridiculous healthcare system in America, and my own upbringing in a socialist dystopia where you can go to the doctor if you get sick, and get your medicine for free without ever having to think about it. Indeed, the main reason I am pro–healthcare reform is precisely because I grew up without ever having to think about it, and so even the relatively minor hoops I now have to jump through to see a doctor in the States (as an insured person who can afford my co-pays) seem as unconscionable to me as healthcare reform apparently does to Joe Lieberman.

Anyway — though I'm feeling very anti-Lieberman as regards the healthcare debacle, in principle I'm not sure I can really find much to fault with his behaviour. I mean, my biggest problem with U.S. politics in general is the ridiculous two-party system where vacuous, psittacine, party-line bullshit stops anything constructive from being done with any expediency (let's be honest: the only reason Lieberman has this much sway at all is because not a single Republican will break ranks on the healthcare issue). So politicians who "call 'em as they see 'em" are exactly what I think Congress needs; to a certain extent, I think they're the sort of thing that anybody who claims to want "bipartisanship" must also, at the end of the day, think Congress needs. After all, if you're not sticking to the party line, you must be voting for what you think is right — right? If only everybody could be like Lieberman. (Ptooey.)

That's the problem, though: intelligent, considered voting only works if there's more than one person doing it, and only in an environment where the few "independent" votes aren't the sole arbiter of successful legislation (i.e. where the ayes and nays are not otherwise deadlocked) — and that's why Lieberman is being such a thorn in everyone's side right now. But, again, let's be honest: the real problem is that there are so many other people who are just voting against (or for) the healthcare bill out of principle; Lieberman may be the most obvious symptom of the fucked up two-party system in the U.S. (and boy, what a festering, pus-filled symptom he is), but he's hardly the disease.

So, in conclusion: public healthcare = good. Two-party system = bad. And Joe, if you're reading, just let the fucking bill pass, okay?

December 15, 2009

Not Out Of The Woods Yet

Um... Poorly?

Other things I love about this story:

Quoth Jamiee Grubbs (alleged mistress #2):
He gave me a huge hug and said, "I've missed you. You look amazing." … We cuddled, watched Angels and Demons, then had sex. It was very romantic.
•"He had such a big sex drive and wanted it fulfilled," [alleged mistress #4 Mindy] Lawton told News of the World. The secret to his big sex drive? He always follows through! SPLABANGO!

•From Tiger Woods's official website:
Did you know that Tiger's biggest challenge is to become a better person…
…comic pause before finishing sentence…
His website also informs me that Lee Trevino describes him as "a dedicated player". I'll say!

December 14, 2009


Has anybody else noticed the uncanny similarity between recently attacked Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, and long-suffering counter-terrorism agent Jack Bauer?

Other things I love about this story:

•Berlusconi is being treated by the reincarnated spirit of Italo Calvino, if this report on the premier's condition is anything to go by:
"I found him shaken, embittered, as if he had been woken from a bad dream really disheartened."
•The weapon used in the attack was a model cathedral. Talk about a rift with the Catholic church!

•One of Berlusconi's aides has alleged that the premier had a "premonition" about the attack:
"On the way to Milan's cathedral square [Berlusconi said] that he feared "something might happen" because of the "climate of hate" against him."
Which I think is impressive less as a piece of clairvoyance and more as an example that Berlusconi is occasionally somewhat cognizant of what is occurring in the real world.

Italy: the Homer Simpson of global politics.

December 11, 2009

December 09, 2009

Merry Freakin' Christmas

From Emerson College's December calendar of campus events:
Home for the Holidays
We will enjoy some non-alcoholic eggnog and watch clips from holiday movies which feature characters abusing alcohol during the holiday season.
WOO-HOO! How could this night get any funner?!
Using this [sic] fictional characters as examples we will discuss the tensions that arise when going home for an extended period of time and healthy ways to deal with those situations rather than abusing drugs or alcohol.
It's violence, right? The solution is violence?
Movies might include National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, It's a Wonderful Life, etc.
So bring your friends and loved ones, and get ready for the most mildly depressing Christmas celebration of the year!

The More You Know

December 07, 2009

In Which Andrew Loses Faith In Humanity, Pt. 2

From AOL News: Natasha Bedingfield to perform at Nobel concert
OSLO -British pop star Natasha Bedingfield will perform at the Dec. 11 Nobel Peace Prize Concert honoring this year's winner, U.S. President Barack Obama, organizers said Wednesday.
Well, Jesus, I guess if there's one audience who can sit through a Natasha Bedingfield concert without murdering someone, it's a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates…
Bedingfield, a chart-topper in the U.S. and Europe, will join Wyclef Jean, Toby Keith, and Chinese pianist Lang Lang, organizers said.…

American actor and rap artist Will Smith and his wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, will host the concert.
WTF? When did MTV start sponsoring the Nobel Peace Prize? Will Smith?! I mean, I suppose there's no good reason why the Nobel Peace Prize Concert has to be as highfalutin as the award it complements, but I feel like they could have done better than a guy whose best-selling album was called Big Willie Style.

December 06, 2009

In Which Andrew Loses Faith In Humanity, Pt. 1

Extremely dedicated readers may remember that, while I was living in London, I went on a rant (shocking, I know) about a "Twenty Common Writing Mistakes" article I'd found that was quite hilariously full of writing mistakes itself.

Anyway, that was coming up on three years ago, now, so you can imagine my surprise when yesterday, out of the blue, I received the following angry, anonymous comment on the post:
I really hope you've failed in your objective [to become an English teacher] because I'd hate you to be involved with teaching my children English.

Well, I say the comment was "anonymous", but considering the original post took aim at one person in particular — a man named David B. Wildgoose — and considering that yesterday was also the first day in the history of my blog that I got a Google hit from somebody searching for "David Wildgoose", I'm going to speculate wildly for a moment and say that my angry commenter was, in fact, David B. Wildgoose himself. (Even if it wasn't, I like the irony inherent in my wrongly assuming something about somebody named Wildgoose.)

Anyway, David, if it really is you: I'm sorry if I offended you, and I've removed the most egregious insults from the original post, but I hope that next time, rather than leave an anonymous comment, you'll do the civilised thing and take responsibility for your reply.

December 04, 2009

December 02, 2009

A Writer And Two Directors Go To The White House

A little late, I know — I liked it enough that I thought I'd try and get someone else to take it first (no dice… sigh).

Also, CWG will probably be a day late this week. Sorry.

The guest list [at President Obama’s first state dinner] included… the directors Steven Spielberg and M. Night Shyamalan, the writer Jhumpa Lahiri, former secretary of state Colin Powell and Indra Nooyi, the chief executive of PepsiCo.
—The New York Times
Shyamalan: Ms Lahiri! Hey, Ms Lahiri!

Lahiri [turning]: Oh. Good evening, Mr Shyamalan.

Shyamalan: Please, please — call me M. Night.

Lahiri: Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you… M. Night. I, uh, very much enjoyed The Sixth Sense.

Shyamalan: What, that old thing? [chuckles] Thanks — I’m a big admirer of your work, too. I thought Interpreter of Maladies was excellent. Especially the title story.

Lahiri: It’s nice of you to say so.

Shyamalan: How would you feel about having it adapted for the screen? I’d love to work on it with you — though I must confess I think the ending could use some tweaking. When the monkeys attack the little boy?

Lahiri [shifting uncomfortably]: Oh?

Shyamalan: I mean, you have such a fantastic opportunity, there — because earlier in the story the interpreter has his photo taken with the family, remember? And he writes down his address on a piece of paper so they can send him a copy?

Lahiri: Yes…

Shyamalan: And then after the monkeys attack, the mother roots through her purse to find something to help clean up the little boy, and the paper flies out and flutters away?

Lahiri: Right. It’s a haunting image.

Shyamalan: Okay, but picture this [holds up his index fingers and thumbs to make a frame]. Just for a moment, as the piece of paper floats away, we see what’s written on it: [dramatic pause] your son will be attacked by monkeys. [Lets his hands drop] Did I just blow your mind, or what? It was right in front of our noses the whole time!

Lahiri: I — well… That wasn’t really the effect I was aiming for. It’s meant to be a story about how our interpretation of events has a profound impact on the way we live our lives.

Shyamalan: Okay, okay, fine. What about that other one from the collection, then? You know, the one with the guy who’s always coming over for dinner?

Lahiri: “When Mr Pirzada Came To Dine”?

Shyamalan: No, I don’t think that’s it. Come on, you know, the guy’s from Pakistan but he’s living in New England and working at a university or something?

Lahiri: I’m pretty sure you mean “When Mr Pirzada Came To Dine”.

Shyamalan: Nooooo… It’s definitely something snappier. You know, and the guy’s family are still in Pakistan and there’s a war going on and he watches the news every night because it’s the only way to find out anything about them? I think it was… “The War”? No, no. “The War Watcher”. “Little Johnny War Watcher”!

Lahiri: I can assure you, it’s “When Mr Pirzada Came To Dine.” It’s a Baurdrillardian commentary on how our lives are increasingly defined by the simulacra that claim only to describe them.

Shyamalan: Right! “Little Johnny Simulacra”! Anyway, the title’s not important — you’ve got to hear my idea for the ending.

Lahiri: I —

Shyamalan: So he’s coming over for dinner every night, right? And the narrator, the little girl, is really fascinated with him — and at the end he returns to Pakistan. Except then, we tack on a little extra scene at the end, and — picture this — it turns out Pakistan never really existed. And the guy was really a gas station attendant who was killed in a robbery the year before. Little Johnny Simulacra! It’ll be the darling of the Academy.

Lahiri [waving to catch someone else’s attention]: I — Mr Spielgberg! Mr Spielberg!

Spielberg [stopping, as he passes on his way to the men’s room]: Yes? Can I help you, Miss…?

Lahiri: Lahiri. Jhumpa Lahiri. I’m an author.

Spielberg: Oh, yes, of course. The Namesake. Great book — good movie, too.

Lahiri: Thank you.

Shyamalan: Pfft.

Spielberg: No, honestly — it was a touching coming of age tale. The quest for identity; personal discovery. Really powerful stuff.

Lahiri [blushing]: Well, it’s very kind of you to say so.

Shyamalan: Pfft.

Spielberg: And the way Gogol’s name resonates through so many generations, on all those different levels. It’s just fantastic.

Lahiri: Oh, you must stop! My head will start to get too big.

Spielberg: Mind you, it could have used some aliens.

Lahiri: I — aliens?

Spielberg: Yes. Or maybe robots.

Lahiri [face reddening]: Robots.

Spielberg: Sure! Like, okay, picture this: [making a frame with his thumbs and index fingers] the train crash, the one that Gogol’s father is in, the one that creates so many ripples throughout his family’s future? Let’s say it was caused by a crashed UFO! [hands coming apart now, drawing a giant, invisible arch in the air above his head] And then much later in life, towards the end of the movie, Gogol is out for a walk, and those very same aliens appear to him, and help him fix his disintegrating marriage! [Lets his arms drop to his side, and shrugs] That’s how I would have done it, anyway.

Shyamalan [nodding vigorously]: Yes, yes! And then it turns out that they’re actually all living in a government simulation to see how people would respond to an alien encounter!

Lahiri [exploding, in a figurative sense]: That’s it! I’ve had it, with both of you! I don’t want to hear another word about how you’d “fix” my stories!

Spielberg: Hey, calm down. We’re only spitballing.

Lahiri: Spitballing! Spitballing! Fine! While we’re on the topic, then: I thought Jaws needed a tortured, loveless marriage, I thought Unbreakable needed an immigrant character struggling to reconcile the culture of her parents with that of her new home, I thought Jurassic Park needed an anguished Other figure, and I thought The Happening was just fucking terrible! [stops, wild-eyed and breathing heavily]

Shyamalan: You didn’t need to be so mean about it.

Indra Nooyi [approaching the group]: Say! You folks look like you could use a Pepsi!