Be Our Guest
Rock Out Like /

So, the new old thing for me is the Nordic Track. I've been watching movies whilst doing it, trying to take my mind off the searing side pain.

My first was a rewatching of Waiting for Guffman. It's hard enough to keep those ropes going in sync with the skis when you're not laughing... impossible when you're watching the mayor explain that Blaine is the Stool Capital of the World. Eminently scatological.

Tonight, a mere six days later, Christoper Guest enters my regimen again. As Nigel Tufnel, rocking out atop a VW, in a new ad for a buy-a-car-get-a-guitar promo (which I think is really dumb, but anyways). What the...? Apparently, he directed the vdubsrock ads, including the Slash one ("rock out just like Slash... if you're Slash"). I checked Youtube... no one's got it up, yet. Probably by morning.

And, For Your Consideration's coming out next month. That man is freaking everywhere.



Holy cow.
This does not fit in any way the parameters of this blog, but I just gotta say.
I'm trying to work in one room, while a show called Celebrity Duets plays in the other. I can't take my eyes off it. Right this second, Clint Black and Cheech Marin are singing together, earnest as Sunday. Marie Osmond and Little Richard look on. It's a train wreck of High Cheese... I cannot turn away, and am crying from laughter. This is not Must-See TV (an oxymoron, to be sure), yet I submit it is Need-to-See-at-Least-Once TV.


Three Things

Thing One
Scanning radio stations can result in scary fusions of top-of-the-hour news briefs. Yesterday morning, I got this:
Cathy Guisewhite, creator of the Cathy comic strip...was killed instantly when a barb from a stingray punctured...videos clad in lingerie.

Thing Two
Back to school means back to sharing a very small rest room with no ventilation. As I was completing a download, I contemplated creating a euphemism that roughly meant "Hey, I know it stinks in here. But it was like that when I came in!" Here's what I came up with:
Listen, I'm only adding embellishment to a symphony already written.

Thing Three
A recent parade led by firefighters revealed the following painted on the side of the fire engines:
Through these doors walks Whitehall's finest
Unless that sentence ends with "man" or "guy" or even "dalmatian", we've got an agreement problem.


Vacation Dispatch Two
Wannabe Your Lover, Indeed

Drove past a senior center with this on its marquee:


Insert David Beckham joke here.


Vacation Dispatch One
Cougar Sighting

During the last few weeks away from the computer, I've amassed literally days of material for this blog, which will be meted out in small posts over the next year or so. Enjoy.

At the national park we recently visited, there was a sign warning us that we were in a cougar habitat, and that at any time one could pop up and eat our dog or child. It told us what to do if this happened ("throw sticks", "spread arms wide to appear bigger"), so it was cool.
That night, I had this dream:

The Dream I Had About The Cougar
by E"B"M

I was walking along the beach last night, and a cougar walked up to me.
"Hey," I said. "Must be a pain having all us tourists messin' up your place like we do."
"Well," he said. "I was born in a small town, so you know it hurts so good."
"Hey..." I said. "You're John Cougar! What are you doing in Empire, Michigan?"
"Same as you, man. Just ate me a couple toddlers, and now it's back to the campground where they grow all the honeydew and watermelons. You know, the Melon Camp."


Quoth the Ravin'

OK, people.
Quotation marks have a number of important uses.

They let you know you're reading exactly what a person said.
"You never know what your history is going to be like until long after you're gone."
—George Bush

They let you know you're reading the title of a short work.
Ambrose Bierce's "My Favourite Murder" was not made into a Diagnosis Murder episode.

They let you know the writer finds a term wack, skeptical, off-the-mark.
"Stars Are Blind" is the new single from model, "actress" and "singer" Paris Hilton.

And now, a reminder:
Quotation marks do not get used around portions of prepositional phrases. This is just crazy.
Last week, it was GOLD "BY THE" INCH at the fair. Today, from outside Silver Lake State Park, it's


Pardon my French, but what the crap, people? What is it about quotation marks that freaks us out so? Why do we feel the need to wrap random words in quotes? I've mentioned this before, but I must remind everyone that there are only so many of each character to go around. If we continue to make giant signs that say everything is "half" off (I go in the store, and everything is actually 25% off, and the lady does the air-quotes thing and says ""half" off... so not really! Get it? Hahaha!") and sides of buildings that advertise "TV's" "VCR's" "RADIO'S" "GREAT DEALS" "OPEN DAILY" we are going to run out. Then where will we be? Imagine this hellish scenario:

I was just reading The Purloined Letter, and I thought it was quite good.
You were reading a Purloined Letter? You thief! Give it back!
One can't run about purloining things, even if they are a good read. I'm very disappointed!
I mean Poe's The Purloined Letter!
I don't care whose it was, Mr. Random-Article-Adder. Just take it the back!

If folks keep overusing quote marks, we may have to resort to other punctuation:

(*Mr. Heathcliff?}; I said.
A nod was the answer.
#8Mr. Lockwood, your new tenant, sir. I do myself the honour of calling as soon as possible after my arrival, to express the hope that I have not inconvenienced you by my perseverance in soliciting the occupation of Thrushcross Grange: I heard yesterday you had had some thoughts...

//Thrushcross Grange is my own, sir,®§ he interrupted, wincing. ☮ðI should not allow any one to inconvenience me, if I could hinder it - walk in!^^¾ ¿

No one wants this to happen. It's up to all of us to keep the overuse of the quotation to a minumum. Due vigilance, compadres.

"Never Give In. Never, Never, Nev^^¾ ¿
-Winston Churchill


Rock the Vote.
With Sugar On Top.

There's a campaign sign around town:



I don't recall seeing many, if any, campaign posters that use the word "please".
On one hand, it seems polite. Nice. Friendly.
But on the other hand, and this is my dominant hand, it seems pleading. Needy. Sad.


For the love of God, elect me!

C'mon, please? Pleeeeze? Pleasepleasepleaseplease?

It's the only sign in town that pleads with us. There are many, and most either just say "Elect" or nothing at all.... just the person's name and office. I like this last one. I know the purpose of the signs are to suggest that I "Vote" for or "Elect" someone on Election Day. I doubt there is anyone who would see the yard sign:


and say "Hey, Commissioner Edwards lives there!"

So, don't look so needy, Todd. It's not cool.

*Hey, speaking of voting, the MIPA J-World site has a cute article about a very important election. Let your voice be heard!


True Story

Went to the fair yesterday.
A guy had a booth, where he sold


I have nothing else to say about this.


Dodgy Logic

I took my eight-year-old and five-year-old to the 3/8 mile paved oval track in the middle of the corn field down the way. We got to wear squishy dayglo earplugs, sit on a bleacher built during the Johnson administration, and eat hot dogs way after bedtime. Very fun.

During intermission, we checked out the "Souvenir Stand". To give you an idea of its appearance, I can tell you my five-year-old daughter's first question was:
"Is this a garage sale"?

It was quite the hodge-podge of merchandise. Some stuff from Oriental Trading Company for the kids (500% markup, natch), some Dale, Jr. wallets, some tin signs for the side of your garage that have the dixie flag and the words REDNECK BOULEVARD.
The one item that's stuck with me is the decal for your truck window that says:


Now, that's a statement that conjures an image. And it ain't pretty.

But more to the point, it just doesn't make sense. I'm not a science teacher. But we're led to believe that the guy's vehicle practices some magical alchemy that can change a vehicle it consumes into another make of vehicle?
OK, I get it.
But it still doesn't work for me.
Like, I think I'm led to believe that a Chevy is better than a Dodge.
But the Chevy turns into a Dodge when eaten and pooped.
So, in the end, I've got a Ford and a Dodge, and no Chevy.

I don't know what this means. I'm just thinkin' out loud.
Or, maybe, over-thinkin' out loud.

All I know is that it'd be more helpful if I had a car that instead of s******g Dodges, dodges s***.


Dear Dr. Dean:
Is There An Aftskin?
-Nonplussed in Nantucket

I stood, watching members of the class of 2006 enter the arena to receive their empty folders signifying that as soon as final grades are posted and the fine list is checked, they will officially be High School Graduates.

A colleague, feeling led by the somberness of the affair, said:

"Again with the Pomp and Circumcision."

Hm. Was this simply clever wordplay, or a serious commentary on the event? I was unsure how to respond. I thought of the appropriate response for a couple of seconds, and came up with:


Which probably was read as something like "Yes, well played, my friend. Very clever!" though I really was just left confused.

Upon reflection, there are better ways I feel I could have responded. For instance, was he saying that the rite of commencement was a cutting away, of sorts, from family? Though it's a bit of a stretch, this reading kind of works for me. I like it. So maybe I stick with the theme and come back with:

"Yeah. They could be playing Prelude To A Bris."

Or maybe I acknowledge the pun, yet come back with what I find a more appropriate feel for the day:

"Yeah. More like Pomp and Circumspection."

Or maybe a withering comment that shows I do not appreciate the sullying of such a staid affair with such sophomoric punnery:

"Yeah, but now please commence zipping your lip."
"You know, you really put the dict in valedictorian."
"Yeah... now please move your tassel from right to shut up."

I am not happy with these. I'm fairly certain Groucho would turn away in disgust. I am open to suggestions.



Depp Impact

I just watched The Secret Window last night. Actually, I slept through the middle 30 minutes, but I got the gist. I know, it's, like, two years old, but our Netflix queue has 190 movies in it and it just came up.

Anyhow, remember my reminiscence re: "I love you/Me too"?

In the movie, Johnny Depp's housekeeper says something like:

"You're a good man, Mr. Rainey."

And he replies:

"You, too, Mrs. Garvey."

That's all.


Snap, snap, grin, grin, wink, wink

I've got a school email account I rarely check. I only ever get spam. This was my inbox when I went in for my quarterly email dump:

I don't know Penny Lewis, but I really appreciate the sentiment.

Eupemisms can indeed be cumbersome.

Like "Talk to a man about a horse." What a mouthful. Just say you gotta pee.

On the other hand, euphemisms can be enjoyable. It is more fun to talk about Sam Hill than Hell. And I do appreciate the people who choose to yell "Judas Priest!" instead of invoking the name of Jesus. Unless they're invoking Rob Halford. Which I guess is possible.

There's the line from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? where George asks:

"Martha, will you show her where we keep the... uh... euphemism?"

Good stuff, that.

Hey, it just occured to me. The hippos George & Martha, are they so named because of Edward Albee's play? Probably. Huh.

Good stuff, that.

So, Penny. I never did read your email. I just assumed that "euphemism cumbersome" was your way of saying that you had a line on some cut-rate penis-enlargement, and opted out.

And now that I think on it, that's actually a pretty apropos random phrase for spam-filter-evading software to pick for a title.

Good stuff indeed.


Getcher Motor Runnin'

Local public radio told me today that "most crashes occur on two-lane roads, not highways."

Maybe I don't know what a highway is. In my mind, a highway is a two-lane road.

This is actually something that I've historically gotten confused. As I look up definitions, I find that there's not a ton of consensus, and some of the definitions depend on where you're from.

I've always gone with:

Freeway: uses on- and off-ramps. So the traffic flow is, like, free.
Expressway: same as a freeway, but bigger, and, maybe faster.
Highway: can be multiple lanes, can be limited-access, but can also be two-lane country roads. Two-lane country road is usually what I think of when I hear "highway". As in: "I grew up in a small town with a blinker light off Highway 46."
Parkway: no idea what this is.

As I did a little (very little) research, I found that many stories stating the "most crashes on two-lane roads" fact specify undivided two-lane roads, like the ones I'm thinking of. I guess the story I heard needed to specify this.

Maybe "highway" is too generic. How about a new word? Maybe just call the divided highways "high ways". You know, divided.

No, that's stupid. "Divideways"? Gack.

Never mind.


I &hearts I

Jack Bauer saves the world.

Well, not yet. But he's close. There's still a crazy Russian out there.

Any-hoo. After many near-deaths, he comes in to the hospital room of his gal, and she says:

"I missed you."

He says:

"Me, too."

She says:

"You missed you, too?"

Not, really.

That last part I made up.

Now, I know this is a common thing.

I love you. Me, too.

I've always thought it weird, though.

You, too?


Thing One and Thing Two

Thing the First
Arby's still doesn't list its new gyro on their site, so I continue to get 100+ people a day visiting. Also, this weekend I passed the Battle Creek Arby's marquee which reads:


So, it must be a thing. Just not a very smart thing, IMHO.

Thing The Second
Jan Freeman's column this week includes a poll, to see how much of a prescriptivist you really are. She points out that my boy Ambrose threw down with some Rules back in the day, some of which now seem quite dated and laughable.

To which I say "Yeah, so?"

Go check it out and vote for yourself.

I'll even openly admit that I went with "oblique" on this one, and on further research, rather regret it.

9. ''On the photocopied sheet she gives students, Ms. Yamamoto includes guidelines that are _____ at first: 'Destroy many paintings,' ''Meditation is through Sumi-e, therefore long conversation is not allowed in class.'''

C. obscure
A. obtuse
B. oblique
Total votes: 25


Also Try The New Ellipsis Rooter

Those responsible for this:

Need to get their hands on some of this:


Make Money Writing Kids' Books!

First, if you're here about Gyros, click here. It's not what you're looking for, but you might laugh.

I've decided that the crowded kids-book market isn't that hard to crack, after all.
You just need a great idea, right?
All those out-of-work writers just aren't creative enough.
Because every kids' book I look at in the store is a revelation, rarely a recycling-of-tired-themes in the bunch.


Not only do I have a great idea for a kids' book.
I have TWO great ideas.
And I'm sharing them with you.
For free.
You're welcome.

Kids' Book Idea That'll Make Me Rich #1
Characters That Grow Old

I know. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? But it rarely happens. Yes, Harry Potter's aging, but I'm talking kids' books, here. Like Clifford. Not only is he no older than he was 40 (280) years ago, he's getting younger. Will Arthur ever make it to fourth grade? No. He won't.
Ostensibly, this is because we want Arthur et al to appeal to the next generation of third-graders. They become timeless.
I submit, though, that there is a market out there for characters we can grow up with. If Arthur's Glasses can help assuage fears of kids getting new specs, couldn't Arthur Finds Hair In Strange Places help them deal with those gawky tween years?
Answer: Yes, it could.
Now, I just have to come up with my own character. I'm thinking of starting out with a board book series featuring an anthropomorphized Howler Monkey named Charlie Howler. Some titles:

Howler's Friends
Howler at the Zoo
Howler Goes Zoom

In a few years, I release

Howler Rides a Bike
Howler and the Dentist
Howler and the Emergency Appendectomy

Titles to look for down the road include

Charlie Howler's SAT Study Guide
Charlie Howler at Sweet Valley University (see crossovers)
Mr. Howler and the Audit
Turkish Prison Blues (an Inspector Howler Mystery)
How Charlie Got His Groove Back
Howler's Colonoscopy
The Five People Charlie Meets In Heaven

Kids' Book Idea That'll Make Me Rich #2


Coming soon.


Nu Mu Words (and Nu Mu Promises)

First, if you're here about Gyros, click here. It's not what you're looking for, but you might laugh.

The day after my post about NuUnion's goofy name, a friend asked me if I'd caught a new Washington Mutual television ad. I'd never heard of them, but they have a few banks around the state, probably the result of a merger or acquisition.
They refer to themselves as "WaMu." Pronounced, Wah-Moo. Their tagline: "The WaMu Way."
It's kind of fun, and interesting that a bank would take on such a moniker. They're trying for the hipper, younger, fun-loving-er customer, I'd say.
They have an education rewards credit card called "WaMoolah."
Now, they just need to merge with NuUnion and become:


or, NuWaMu?


Nu (No, it's Ni! Ni!)

There's a new bank in town.
You ready for its name?


OK, so it's a "Nu" Credit "Union". I get it.
But why "Nu"? Hipness? Probably, yes. Why else?
But is it a good idea to grab onto what I can only assume will be a short-lived trend?
Doesn't this strike anyone as, in five years, being so 2005?

They're not the only nu's out there. You've got:

Nu-Global (technology)
Nu Metro (South African theatre chain)
Nu Urban Music (urban music)

and more, I'm sure. But, a bank? Come on.

Granted, as a Greek letter, Nu's been around for awhile. And perhaps their nu moniker will attract some students from the local university. Whether they'll be opening an account or attempting to pledge Nu is yet to be seen.

Describing the move, their press release explains:

When the organization adopted the State Employees Credit Union name 53 years ago, it accurately described its membership. But today, less than 20% of its members are state employees. The organization chose the name NuUnion Credit Union to reflect the new kind of credit union its [sic] building for its membership -- one that combines more products and services families need with a long tradition of commitment to members, community, and service. The organization hasn't been bought, acquired in a merger, or lost its independence in any way.

It chose the name NuUnion to reflect their new kind of credit union. What, the pay-some-22-year-old-consultant-a-few-grand-to-come-back-with-"nu"-
as-a-makeover-concept? I see the pitch meeting just like all the meetings in Fox's The Loop, where the kid gets drunk the night before and comes up with his Grand Idea the second before it comes out of his mouth:

President [on speakerphone with ad agency]: OK, kid, whatcha got?
Joey [who has spent the first part of the meeting eating Bunny Basket Eggs, and has to respond with his mouth full]: Nuu?
President: New? Are you kidding me? How much're we paying this guy? My four-year-old could write this crap! Come on!
Joey [scrambling]: Uh, no. Sir! It's, uh, Nu! N-U. Like the Greek letter! As in, history! And Nu is very now, as well. Everybody's doing it. Nu this, nu that... it's fresh, trust me! So it's old... and new! Just like your bank!
President [after dramatic pause]: Crap, kid, you've done it! NU! Of course! It's brilliant!

A thought: NuUnion's website should use the NU domain. I checked: nuunion.nu is still available.


Year? Oh...

My hits have nearly doubled in the last two days.
Word must be out! SPASTIC is the place for quality word-nerd action!


They're clicking on me because I'm the #2 hit in Google when you search "Arby's Gyro". Search "arby's gyro sandwich" (as some do) and I'm #1.

Since the Arby's site has no info at all on their new offering (probably a Michigan test market thing), my post on their effing signage gets top billing. Maybe someone searching for gyro info will stick around and read my March Is Reading Month post, of which I was quite proud.

Or not.


Bunny Basket Egg Cinquain

Just polished off a bag of 1/2-off Easter candy.
The final piece was my favorite flavor.
Karmic bliss, spurring me on to a quick poem.

Pure, Refined
Bite, Revel, Adore
Last one; it's white


Putting the FU in SNAFU

arbysnew copy

My problems decrypting* abbreviations have been documented. But here's one I found to be a stumper. My wife and I pulled into Arby's yesterday to see this on the marquee:


Says I: "What do you think the MF stands for?"

While the obvious, yet slightly inappropriate, answer to the question loomed in our minds, we scoured the building for clues. A full-color banner proclaimed "New Roast Beef Gyro!" No, that would be an "RB GYRO".
We tried talking it out:

Most Fabulous?
Magically, um, Flavored?
(trying to sneak up on it) Mmm...marble...uh...fff... uh, fff.. forget it. It makes no sense.

I decided that MF(in') Gyro! was actually not a bad name for a sandwich.

Today, I googled "MF Gyro" and got diddly. The Arby's site doesn't mention it. But, I think I figured it out. They've got a line of sandwiches called "Market Fresh". That must be it.

Note to Arby's: Your Market Fresh line isn't well-known enough to initialize. And if it ever does become well-known, I don't know if "MF Sandwiches" has the ring you're looking for.

If Arbys' corporate is reading this, you should call the Arby's in Coopersville and ask them to change their MF sign.

*de·crypt tr.v. de·crypt·ed, de·crypt·ing, de·crypts
1. To decipher.
2. To dig up (see mummy,).


The First 100 Pages Book Review

I don't get much chance to read. I grab paragraphs while shaving and brushing my teeth, while completing a download. When I'm reading a book I enjoy, I think about the review I might write when I finish. But I often don't finish. When I do, I've forgotten why I really liked it as I was reading it.

So, I'm reading a book and I want to tell you about it. It may have a crappy ending, I don't know. But I'm 100 pages in, and it's swell.

It's called The Big Over Easy, and I think it was pretty much written for me. One of those books I think I'd write if I and my family were willing to give up the public-school-teacher-lifestyle to which we've become accustomed while I quit my job and sit alone with my laptop waiting for inspiration and movie deals to descend.

This book is dang clever. The premise: Detective Investigator Jack Spratt works for the Nursery Crimes Division of the police force. If a crime is committed involving characters from Mother Goose, fables or myth (characters with real lives outside of their stories), he's the guy you call.

It's what I used to call a "potboiler", which I thought was synonymous with "gritty, pulpy" until I found out that potboiler referred to a book an author cranks out to keep the franchise rolling (pot boiling). So it's not a potboiler. It's Hammett-esque.

I'd spell out the plot, but I'm only 100 pages in. I do know that Humpty Dumpty's been killed. He was a womanizing drunk involved in shady financial dealings, and someone bumped him off (the wall).

Why I like this book:

pg. 58, description of how things usually go down in the NCD:
...There's usually a rule of three somewhere. Either quantitative, as in bears, billy goats, blind mice, little pigs, fiddlers, bags of wool or what-have-you, or qualitative, such as small, medium, large, stupid, stupider, stupidest. If you come across any stepmothers, they're usually evil, woodcutters always come into fame and fortune, orphans are ten a penny, and pigs, cats, bears and wolves frequently anthropomorphize.

See? Beautiful.

pg. 76, they meet constable Tibbit, a fellow raised on wordplay. (longer, but worth it)
"...Sergeant Mary Mary, pleased to meet you."
The young officer thought for a moment. "Arrange a...symmetry."
He didn't answer for a moment, then said
"Many...martyrs agree."
"Are you OK?"
"Of course! It's an anagram. The trick is to make them make sense. I could have give you 'my matey arrangers' or 'my artery managers' but they sort of sound like anagrams, don't you agree?
"Tibbit. It's a palindrome. Easy to remember."
"First name?"
"Otto. Palindrome as well. Sister's name is Hannah. Father liked word games. Fourteen times world Scrabble champion. When he died, we buried him at Queenzieburn to make use of the triple word score. He spent the better part of his life campaigning to have respelt those words that look as though they're spelt wrongly but aren't."
"Such as?"
"Oh, skiing, vacuum, freest, eczema, gnu, diarrhea, that sort of thing. He also thought that 'abbreviation' was too long for its meaning, that 'monosyllabic' should have one syllable, 'dyslexia' should be renamed 'O' and 'unspeakable' should be respelt 'unsfzpxkable.'

Since I started writing this a week ago, I've gotten 50 more pages, so I've added
pg. 148, where our heroes meet suspect Lord Spongg.
"Thank you for seeing us, Lord Spongg-" began Mary, but Spongg interuppted her.
"Just 'Spongg' will do, Sergeant. I don't use my title much, but the first 'g' is short and the second 'g' long. Let it roll around for a bit before you let it go."
"Close enough. Just put the brakes on a little earlier and you'll be fine."

That's all I got. A post of almost-all-copied text, very little insight or critique. It feels cheap, but there it is.
This is the first book in author Jasper Fforde's new series. Before this, he wrote a mystery series called Thursday Next, which I plan to check out.

cc: New York Times Book Review


Emoticon Typo Commits
Area Woman To Second Date

I've spoken before on my disdain for emoticons. Here is a wonderful meditation on these nuisances.


Wordplay on Uranus

Why is it Uranus never ceases to amuse?
(I mean it. This is still funny to me.)


Say Anything...

A local one-stop supermarket offers a photo lab, barber shop, tailor, and CPAs in addition to its groceries, TVs, clownfish and Lion Bars.
Walking in today, I noticed a banner for the tailor:


I inquired within.

Anything? Truly?

Sure, yes. You bring it in.

Like, how about time and space?


Or, what about endings? Because I just saw The Final Cut with Robin Williams and I really liked it, but the end came and I was like huh? I may have been dozing a bit, but it seemed really abrupt, and even though my wife explained what she thought happened, I still was like I don't know, if that's what they wanted me to get out of it, I don't think they set it up well enough, 'cause I missed it. So, can you alter that?


OK, how about altars? I don't know if altars ever need altering, but I just thought that would be funny.


[walks to back of store. does not return.]

OK, then. Uh, thanks. I'll just, uh, head out to the rest of the store and get my sashimi.

My encounter left me with more questions than answers. Did the employee not speak English? What happened in the back room that she didn't return? Is she OK? Should I have checked on her, or alerted a manager? And I'm still unclear on what exactly they alter.

Hm. Tomorrow, I'm headed over to the car dealer. Apparently, if I can push, pull or drag anything to him, he's going to give me $2,000. I'm assuming day-old sashimi will qualify.


An Open Letter to Mr. Willy Wonka

March 26, 2006

Mr. Wonka:

I recently purchased your Laffy Taffy® product and thought you should know that the product packaging did not live up to its usual high standards.

Namely, I found that the jokes made no sense at all. Joke #91, from Nicole P of Kingman, AZ asks:

"What happened to the wind?"

The answer (under flap) given is:

"It blew away."

Now, I'm sorry.

But I think I'm a half-way intelligent person. For example, I have a blog. I spent some time with this punchline, trying to make it work. Maybe, I thought, "away" is wordplay, and it's meant to be heard as two words: "It blew a way." A way where? Home? To the store? I don't know, I need more information. And either way, it's not funny.

My riddle for you is this:

What happened to the wind joke?
It blew.

See what I did there? I took the double-meaning of "blow" and worked it so I made fun of your wrapper.

But, wait.

Is it possible, Mr. Wonka, that the wind joke is actually a very concise Shaggy Dog Story? A joke with no punchline at all, in effect, making it quite funny, in an absurdist vein?

Now that I think on it, Joke #91's a cracker, to be sure. I hadn't expected such a high level of humor from your company, therefore wasn't looking hard enough. I say, well done. Well done, indeed.

Having thought this through, I will withhold comment on Christy M.'s Joke #92 about the cow jumping over the moon, which I found dreadful, but I see now it may just need a good rethinking.


Eric "Babe" Morse
President, SPASTIC


Donna? Read!
Lou? Read!
Everybody Read!

A couple years ago, my family moved to The Country. Our first visit to our son's elementary school let us know we weren't in the City no more. At the front entrance, a large cutout of Jeff Gordon waved to us. A word balloon instructed us to "Race Into Reading!" The rest of the school was NASCAR'd as well, with models and stickers and flags and books on racing. The first book order, he came home with a Dale Jr. punch-out book.

As I mentioned recently, March is Reading Month. The structure (can it reach snowclone status?) X Into Reading is ubiquitous, as schools struggle to find new and interesting school-wide themes. Just a quick Googling uncovers schools who:

Dive into Reading
March into Reading
Step into Reading
Dip into Reading (ice cream theme)
Rocket into Reading
Tune into Reading
Race into Reading
Escape into Reading
Get Clued In To Reading (with Inspector Digit!)

It's got to be tough for those Media Specialists who each year have to come up with the cool, motivational theme. Well, folks, never fear. Reading Month 2007 is taken care of. Bookmark this page and check back next year. Feel free to steal any of these ideas. Any attribution to SPASTIC, LLC would be appreciated.

It's Kirk. He's reading Suess' Oh, The Places You'll Go!. The whole month, the hallway is plastered with planets as kids read more and more books. For every 100 books read, the principal gets on the PA and does his Bones impression: "Dammit, Jim! I'm a doctor, not a librarian!" Every kid that reads a certain number of books gets plastic Spock ears as a prize. Could be fun...
Here's a quick mockup of a hallway poster:

Kirk_and_Checkov_read copy

Baseball theme? Playground? Nope. How about a tribute to White Castle Sliders? Little square pieces of paper covering the halls with book titles kids have read written on them. The classroom with the most books read gets a field trip to the nearest Castle, as well as a visit from the Indian in Harold and Kumar (I don't remember if he played Harold or Kumar). If school meets goal, the principal gets "steamed" in all-school assembly. Bonus if you can work in very small amounts of diced onion.

This, of course, would be a month-long Tribute to the '80s heavy metal supergroup Spïnal Tap. Many books on Druids would be made available, as well as Ten Little Indians: Special Edition (the one that goes to eleven) and the Illustrated Book of Saints, which includes the oft-neglected Saint Hubbins. The month could culminate in a staged retelling of the Billy Goats Gruff, with a giant inflatable goat's head that, unfortunately, stands a good chance of deflating and suffocating a few children.

Matisyahu beat boxes softly over the PA every morning as students enjoy 20 minutes of Sustained Meditative Reading. Motivational Reading Month posters could include such icons of the Jewish faith as Madonna and Ashton Kutcher. For the goyim in the house, Fiddler on the Roof and Laverne and Shirley would be playing on a loop in the cafetorium. As students complete books, Estelle Costanza and Helen Seinfeld tell the kids they could just plotz, they're so proud, but isn't Arthur a little easy for you? Why not more of a challenge? What's wrong with a Nancy Drew once in awhile?

torahtorah_read copy


Don't Speak. Me Know What You're Thinking.

Just tea for two
And two for tea
Just me for you
And you for I...

So, I hate to disclose the fact that I'm exercising.
But I am.
Well, I am trying.

I'm Gazelle-ing. The GazelleTM is sort of like a flying NordicTrackTM. You sort of feel like Fred and Barney as they take off in their car, feet spinning wildly until finally they gain traction and speed off. Except with the GazelleTM, you're just always flailing about in space.

Anyhow, the guy that makes the GazelleTM is Tony Little, and he yells at me on his "butt-kickin' workout" that I Can Do It and that if I Believe, I Will Acheive. He's kind of crazy, but he's actually quite likeable. I'm kind of getting into the GazelleTM scene, though I really don't feel like I'm working as hard as when I do things where I'm touching the ground. But I think that may be the Point.

So, I'm in the groove, Zero G Flailing. And every seven minutes or so, Tony says:

"In the privacy of your own home, just you and I"

I do a little convulsive twitch that throws my rhythm all off. One leg hitches up, the machine tilts crazily, and I am nearly tangled in the Aircraft Grade Cabling.

Tomorrow, I'm going to watch Tony with the volume off. I'll play my own soundtrack: a thumping groove with some William Safire samples thrown in. It's my New York Techno.


My Green For The Day
(it's not what you'd think)

But green's the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly-like.
And green can be big like an ocean, or important like a mountain, or tall like a tree.

Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

-Kermit The Frog


Dr. Suess had a birthday. Not coincidentally, it is Reading Month... four short weeks for lesser-known children's book writers to cash in on the lucrative Elementary School Meet & Greet market.

What do you mean, we can't get Rowling? How about the 3rd Rock From the Sun guy? Crap. Jenny, didn't your brother write a kids' book? It was a cereal jingle? Close enough! Get him on the phone! We need Authors! Now! No, April's too late! MARCH is Reading Month! In MARCH, we read!

So it is that I've been reflecting on Suess. I always think of him as this funny, smart guy who knew how to get down on the floor and look a kid in the eye and just play with him. But he also knew how to make a kid think... with a little help from a parent, he opened the door to discussions about anti-semitism, racism, and the environment.

In thinking of Ted, I also think of another childhood hero, Jim Henson. Here's another guy who knew how to talk to kids, and slip in something More without preaching. Following is a poor excuse for Poetry, but it's my small attempt to process what I've been feeling since I saw a Super Bowl commercial with Kermit.

In a time not long ago
Things were different from today
We needed stories of Sneetches and Whos
To help show people the way.

These simple stories showed those who would hear
How silly it was to be uncertain and fear
The things that make Peter different from Paul
And that a person's a person no matter how small.

Alongside these stories that taught
What kindness can mean
Came a similar character
Though smaller, and green.

Kermit the Frog was his name
And like Horton and others
He simply taught of injustice,
And respect for your Sisters and Brothers.

Kermit turned 50 last year,
For that long Mr. the Frog's been adored.
To celebrate this milestone
He made a commercial for Ford

It must have somehow seemed right to
Use It's Not Easy Being Green,
A song about intolerance,
To pitch an SUV.

Sure, the car that he's endorsing
Is all tree-huggy-hippie, but there's doubt:
Would Kermit's dad (Jim)
Have allowed him to sell out?

This rhyme, it goes on
(I'm long past laconic)
My point, I guess, it this:
Isn't it ironic?

I'm just sad, I suppose
To see HensonTM get caught
Sucking up to Big Bucks
For, I fear, they've truly lost the plot.


Maligner Notes

I learned a new word today. Well, new usage for a word. And it's not a hard one. And I hope you don't think me naive for not having known this. But I feel better now that this gap in my vocabulary has been spackled.

Regarding the (newly-dead) Slobodan Milosevic, Condi Rice said this weekend that he was

"one of the most malign forces in Europe in quite a long time."

I've never thought of malign as an adjective. "Malignant", yes. But there it is in the dictionary. Harmful, evil, mean. Yup.



Flat-out Wrong?

Recently, my local paper ran this headline:

Online course to help kids think global

My first thought is, surely they mean globally. Adverbs, hello?

But then the doubts come.

Am I being a Neanderthal Prescriptivist Looney, taking issue with this?
Perhaps there's no problem, the doubting voice calls. Isn't this the same as "Think Different", where we were told that there was a thing that existed called the "Flat Adverb", and maybe people have started clipping the -ly from "globally", and that's perfectly OK?

Google finds lots of “Think Global”s, but I want to believe that many of these fall into structures like “…those that think global warming is a bunch of hype…”

But there’s a good amount of adverb-flatteners out there. Thinkglobal2005.org sought to "explore the impact of globalization on your way of life..." ThinkGlobal magazine covers international trade topics. Also, metroblogging.com tells me to "Think Global. Blog Local". It seems that Think Global, Act Local is a pretty big slogan out there; it shows up a lot.* I don’t know if anyone in particular owns it.

But here’s the thing.

I’m much more inclined when I’m resting.

Hang on, that last sentence got away from me.

I’m much more inclined to be OK with a tagline that uses a Flat Adverb. Think “Local”. Think “Power”. Think “Pink”. But saying “X Thinks Global” in a newspaper headline is saying this is how we talk. And I don’t think we do, yet.

Do we?

*Globecitizen.com tells me that "This is some of my observations and analysis of the Global Village I live in..." I find this helps my case.

PS: I’m finding I like Jason Mraz. But, can I buy a vowel for that last name? It’s like those fantasy names I never know how to pronounce, like “Fendthrrjl”.


Ah? So.

I just gave a design test, where students had to create an ad for a refreshing beverage. I gave them the image (lime splashing in cool, clear water) and the headline:


As they are turning in the finished project, and I'm seeing the headline in 150 point type, I realize that there is a difference between




One is contented. The other is running away in terror. I've made a note of it.


Memos Def

To: SPASTIC employees
From: Human Resources

Re: Usage

First, someone has accidentally been printing papers that have
written in 72 pt. Garamond to my Laserjet (is this Latin? Yiddish?). If this your document, I have a stack of them for you to pick up. Also (and it pains me to say this), I'm afraid I found an AP Stylebook stuck in my shredder this morning. It must have accidentally been dropped there by the night custodian. If you are missing yours, I will gladly buy you a new one. And I am sorry for your loss.


Thanks to everyone for the positive feedback on my recent series of memos regarding usage. Even though you don't say it to me in person, I can tell that they've gotten eveyone's blood pumping. In that vein (tee-hee!), I've come across another trend.

Please remember:
Even if I spend time both in New York and London, it does not make me a transponder.
A Transponder is also not a sportscar.

Oh, and related: please, please refrain from calling Trans Ams "trannies". No one says this. And it gets us on some very strange mailing lists.

I hope this helps.



Nothin' But A G* Thang

To: SPASTIC employees
From: Human Resources

Re: Usage

We are supposed to be the people folks look to for nuggets of languagey goodness. We need to be examples to the teeming masses yearning to speak well. But lately, we've been really steppin' in it.

To wit:
You will not find dipthong in the Victoria's Secret catalog.

I hope this helps.




A memo, random

To: SPASTIC employees
From: Human Resources

Re: Usage

Recently, it has been brought to the attention of The SPASTIC Usage Dept. that certain words and phrases are being used incorrectly. Here's the thing: it's fun to pepper our speech with fun words. Just double-check if unsure of its use. If we all work together on this, we can begin to create a new usage paradigm.

To wit:
Teutonic is not a drink.
It also does not mean hair gel abuse.

I hope this helps.



A Clarification

To: SPASTIC employees
From: Human Resources

Re: Usage

Recently, it has been brought to the attention of The SPASTIC Usage Dept. that certain words and phrases are being bandied about with reckless, um, ambandon (note to self: check root of "bandy" and "abandon". Connection?).

Just because the word sounds right, there's a chance you're a bit off.

To wit:
Canonical does not concern things related to cannons.
It also does not mean having to do with cameras.

I hope this helps.



Should I Expect More From A Place That Can't Figure Out How To Make A Round Hamburger Patty?

To Do Is To Be.
To Be Is To Do
Do Be Do Be Do

Just Do It.
-Nike adman

Daddy didn't do her.
-Some doctor on House.

Sean Penn, before he lost his sense of humor

It connotes action and forward movement. As a verb meaning "engage in", the word is usually followed by a noun or pronoun object, telling us what it is, exactly, that is about to be done.
As in:

1: Well, I'm off to do my taxes at the place where the lady dresses up like Uncle Sam and stands out by the street in the cold wearing a sandwich board and smoking!

2: Can you do this for me? The problem with sticky traps is that when mice get caught, they are inconveniently alive, and still must be murdered!

3: I've told you before, oh, you can't do that.

Wendy's has recently been flipping how we do "do". They've taken a page from Burger King's Packaging Playbook and put writing all over the stuff holding their food.
My recent Diet Dew did this Do:

DO fresh long after most places have put fresh to bed.

It goes on from there about how nice it is that they're open late with tasty fare.
At the bottom of the paragraph is their tagline:

Text continues on other containers, as well.
On my chili, I'm told to:
DO slow-simmered.

So, it's "Do Adjective". Except when it's not.
Their website tells me to
DO a real hamburger.

Not an adjective, but still doesn't line up with our understanding of what do does. This, in fact, is more the usage of "do" in "do her", which, IMHO and ITOODAW*, I would consider slang. And, this makes the image of one doing a hamburger more American Pie than Wendy's may wish.

Of course, picking on advertisers for using slang is like picking on Jessica Simpson for being an airhead.**

But, still. If we don't make a stand, and say Hey! What are you up to, here, Buddy? aren't we saying to our kids that you can Do This when This = Any Old Word You Dang Well Please? Well, put me on the record as having Spoken. FWIW.

This is reminiscent of the dust-up over Apple computer's "Think Different" campaign, where folks were upset over their apparent ignoring of adverbian codes. They claimed they were doing differently, using "different" as a state of mind. Like, Think Pink. Or, Think Spring. According to spinsters,*** it's actually "Think [thoughts that are] Different." Whether or not you saw it as another example of style as an excuse to confuse gradeschoolers and ESL students, the hubbub on that one died pretty quick.

And the hubbub on this one? It's pretty much just me. And, actually, I'm already tired of talking about it.

*In The Opinion Of Dictionaries As Well
**there's no point, and you just end up looking like a prude.
***this, not this.

For Your Consideration...

This observation from guest columnist ACoolKid:

Spotted on a file cabinet near the Reinsurance department:

"Please be considerate of those around you when
using these cabinets for the noise level."
-Thank You

I had never considered using cabinets for the noise level.
But once you get started, the possibilities are endless!

I'm thinking about going all STOMP! on 'em. I think
they'd appreciate my consideration.



Maybe I'm just way off, here. In the past, I've talked about how nonparallel structure in ad fragments annoys me ((I wanted these little tagline snippets to be called frag tags. It didn't catch on). This is probably a petty peeve. It's not even breaking any real rule, as far as I know. It just sounds bad to me.

Ads for The Amazing Race shout this at me:


Does this bug anyone?

Exotic, amazing, adjectives. Adventure, noun.
When I hear the hardcore voice-over guy trying to get my adrenaline pumping, my brain stops to think more adventure? Don't they mean adventurous? and I don't think they want me stopping to think.

It's probably just me.

Wendy's is doing it, too. It was bugging me yesterday as I read my cup, but now I can't remember what it said. I'll have to score a Diet Dew tomorrow and update the post with their vexing verbiage.


Pining for the Ford

Lisa Loeb told me that I say she only hears what she wants to.
Well, Lisa, to my ownself I must be true.

Because I'm in classic only-hear-what-I-want-to mode.

"What we essentially have here is an old-fashioned, not always convincing B picture with A-list stars."
"A passable distraction. Nothing more."
"As we watch Ford reprise his trademark mannerisms, we no longer enjoy the ring of familiarity. We just hear the tolling of a bell -- Ford's."
"Harrison Ford needs a better agent."

But, wait. There it is:

"It kept me alert, terrified and royally entertained."

Yes! Royally entertained! A-list stars! Passable distraction!
I am so there.


Down Wit Wit

If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.
-Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker's birthday Jan. 22 gave me reason to reflect again on what many see as a profound loss of intelligence and wit in our popular culture. We could try to dissect this thesis, argue as to its causes, or nominate worthy heirs to the modern Throne of Wit (can I get a Steve Martin? A Woody Allen?), but I don't have any real opinion... I just know that when I hear people from Days Gone By talk, they sound more intelligent, more fun to hang with.

We are definitely living in a different age. Video games get much of the blame for the dulling of our edges, and I tend to hang with this idea. I can think of many a time when I could have:

a) read a book
b) written in my journal
c) played Snood on Evil setting for the four millionth time

and chosen, you guessed it:

d) downloaded the latest Ask A Ninja podcast.

Where are the Twains (To create man was a quaint and original idea, but to add the sheep was tautology.), the Grouchos (I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it.), the Menckens (After all, all [Shakespeare] did was string together a lot of old, well-known quotations.)?

To encapsulate a person's lifetime of thinking into a pithy quote is overly simplistic, yes. But that the thinkers of the Algonquin Round Table and others of generations past can generate so many quotable quotes has to be worth something. Who do we look to for insight? In 50 years will we be looking back at our era and quoting the Sandlers (You eat pieces of s*** for breakfast?), the Pitts (Being married means I can break wind and eat ice cream in bed), the Cruises (I want a world without war, a world without insanity. I want to see people do well)?

I realize looking to pop culture stars for wisdom isn't quite a fair comparison... if wisdom-seekers from the future only took lines from Golden Age actors, the fare may not be much better. But a quick look at Bette Davis (Why am I so good at playing bitches? I think it's because I'm not a bitch. Maybe that's why Miss Crawford always plays ladies.) and Humphrey Bogart (Things are never so bad they can't be made worse.) show a couple folks who thought before they spoke.


Maybe I just don't pay attention to current talkers. I'm sure what I long for is still out there. William Safire (Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don't know and I don't care.) has got some stuff to say. So does Anna Quindlen (I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.). Will it hold up 50 years from now?

I'm sure future generations will look to the collected wisdom of many contemporary authors. But we need only return to Ms. Parker to be reminded of what a deft wit truly sounds like:

I might repeat to myself slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound -- if I can remember any of the damn things.


My Short List Of Words That I Have Used
In Writing But Would Be Slightly
Embarrassed To Use In Conversation

FAQ (when I first saw this term, I pronounced it in my head as two words, "Fa" and "Q". I don't think I've ever said it out loud)
Ball Movement
Most of Ian Fleming's Bond Girl Names

et vous?


I Would Die 4 U

A year or so ago, University of Pittsburgh linguist Scott Kiesling published a paper breaking down the usage of “dude”. It was quite the topic in media for a week, then went away.
And now, a year later, I’m thinking about it again.

Probably because I'm reading Slam Dunks and No-Brainers: Language in Your Life, the Media, Business, Politics, And, Like, Whatever, in which Leslie Savan deconstructs "pop language" like "dude".

And because I say "dude".
A lot.
There are many contexts for the word, but I only really use it in one way. I draw it out.

Kiesling says “dude” can be:

A greeting ("What's up, dude?")
An exclamation ("Whoa, Dude!")
Commiseration ("Dude, I'm so sorry.")
Agreement (Dude, yes)
Surprise (Dude!)
Disgust (Dude)

My dude fits the surprise/disgust/exclamation category, I suppose. As in:

“I just got back from Grandma’s Boy. It was awesome!”

Naturally, this got me thinking about how many U’s to actually put in the drawn-out “dude”. I just used six. Is that about right? One more, perhaps?

I went to Googlefight to see what others were up to.
Consensus: There is none. The folks at AP Style have definitely not weighed in on this one. Folks kind of just randomly lay on the U key. There is no standard here.

First, I found that two U's is not enough drawing-out. Three U’s beats two U’s hands-down:

Beyond that, I find, as I add more and more U's to my search, that the number slowly trends downhill. At times, though, there's a jump up. For instance, there are 3,000 more duuuuuuuuuuudes than duuuuuuuuuudes.
There is a threshold, though. After 11 U's, there is a huge drop:

Then the number hovers around 500 or so, until finally, at 31 U’s (duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude), it drops to 217. It goes back up and down for awhile after that, then levels out to between 25-75 hits for dudes with between 40-60 U's. At 65 U’s, I’m down to two hits.
I'm gettin' down there now, I think. I add the extra U, and crap! 60 hits.
72 U’s is the first search to give me only one hit. It’s: http://www.quizilla.com/users/tailsfangirl/quizzes/Random

It reads, in part:

Hi mi name ish !11!BOB!!!1! huu ru?
-Cuu cuu cachu

73 U’s is the first "duuude" to give me no hits.

I decide that if I can get Google to return no results five increments in a row, I’ll declare a winner in the longest-dude contest. At 94 U’s, I get one hit. Then nothing. And nothing. And nothing. Then five hits.

At 126 U’s, Google tells me to try a shorter word, it’s finished. It quits.
So, due to hitting the Googlewall, the winner is:
Killgore, in his(?) 2004.02.15 post on Poweranime.com. The complete transcript of the post follows:


The post seems to be part of a thread of folks trying to post the longest “Dude”.

Huh. Who in heck would find that interesting?



Oh, and N.

And S.

WARNING: "Kids These Days" Rant to follow.

In 1961, Barry Mann had a hit with a song that thanked doo-wop songwriters for their ability to set the mood for love:

Who Put the Bomp
by Barry Mann

Who put the bomp
In the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?
Who put the ram
In the rama lama ding dong?
Who put the bop
In the bop shoo bop shoo bop?
Who put the dip
In the dip da dip da dip?
Who was that man?
I'd like to shake his hand
He made my baby
Fall in love with me (yeah!!)

Over the holiday, I helped my nephew load music onto his new iPod Shuffle. I previewed some of the music. I was shocked, I tell you, shocked to hear what the kids are listening to.

OK, not really shocked. But it put back into my brain again how much uninspired, purely-for-shock-value dreck is out there, in the mainstream. What would Mr. Mann pen today?

Who Put D*ck

by Barry Mann

Who put the d*ck in the Baby, s*ck ** d***
Who put the f*** in the f*** the f*** the f***
In the ho in the pimp my ho da ho
Who put the f*** in the d*** a f*** a s***
Who was that man?
I'd like to f*** his ****
He f*** my n*****
s*** the f*** to f*** (s***!)

I know I sound like a prude (which, I believe, is a rude prune).
But where is there any value in a young man shouting that he's going to "F a N up"?


I know:
If it's to loud, you're too old.

But it's not the volume.
It's the f****** s*** n**** a*q* **zz* f***.