Sunday, July 15, 2012


I have something of a tab explosion of things I want to talk about, but none of them is really worth a full-on ramble, so here's a pile just to get 'em out of the way.  On to bigger and better things!

Grammar Girl on How to Write Numbers:  I was actually going to go off on a whole rant about style and the horrors of homogeneity, but decided to skip it because fuck it.  It wasn't going to be a rant at Grammar Girl, anyhow; in truth, I was going to be railing against The System, and tooting my own horn a lot.  But after thinking it through, that's not something I really feel like doing.  The main thing is that there's an insoluble tension in a mongrel language like English:  on the one hand, there's a need for some standardization, just to make sure that we can be clear on what we're actually saying; on the other hand, if you have too many rules then you end up with only one way to express a thought, and that's awful.  If you remember your Orwell, that was the point of Newspeak in 1984.  In case you can't guess, I'm right in the middle - of course, I probably only think it's the middle because I'm the one standing there, but whatever.  I mean, we need the rules for things that ought to be clear and unambiguous, including engineering manuals and Western philosophy; but art is half knowing rules and half breaking them creatively, which we need for things like literature and poetry and Continental philosophy.  You'll notice I didn't use a serial comma there, and that was deliberate - because I wasn't pausing in my head, and I didn't want you to pause in your head, either.

Spelling a Word One Way:  I was going to open the aforementioned rant with a quote of dubious origin, which I decided to look up.  Turns out, there is no answer - or at least not one I can know with confidence - and that may or may not have been the straw that broke the camel's hump.  (The hump is my motivation.)  But now I've got a wonderful new resource for diving headlong into trivia, so hooray!  I entertained the idea of ranting on spelling instead of style, but again, fuck it.  In a language like Spanish, rigid spelling conventions make sense, because it's got enough diacritics and few enough sounds that you can tell how to spell a word by hearing it and tell how to pronounce it by looking at it.  But that won't work for English, because English has a much messier and more complicated origin.  And really, all I wanted to say was that I can effect a change in my affect to have different effects when I want to affect someone in this or that particular way.  There.  Done.  No need to conjure up a half-assed rant around it.

Garfield Minus Garfield:  I read about this some years ago, when it was a single web page (as I recall) and just kind of stayed that way for a while.  While I was away, Jim Davis applauded the derivative work, showing uncommon grace and perspective.  If you're not savvy, Garfield Minus Garfield digitally removes Garfield from his own strip, revealing Jon Arbuckle's struggles with his own unstable mind.  While the original Garfield stuck to a narrow range of the emotional palette, slightly amusing within the confines of what you could talk with your folks about at Thanksgiving dinner, the removal of the cat allows the strip to transcend those boundaries and wander all over the map.  The strips now range from bizarre, to hilarious, to depressing, to uncanny, to pitiful, to vindicating, to existential, to insightful.  I'm amazed by it, and you should check it out.

Open Letter from a Millennial:  Yowza.  I have a lot of thoughts on this one, but every time I go over them, they change radically.  Not back and forth, but round and round, in an expanding spiral that keeps touching down at various points in history and possibility.  The more I think about it, the more I think that continuing to think about it is what I should do, rather than come up with some kind of "answer."  But even that may change.  So I offer it to you without further comment.

That Reminds Me:  Stephen Colbert gave a commencement speech at Northwestern last year.  You need to watch this.  It's twenty minutes of awesome, even the "boring" introductory matter.  You owe it to yourself.

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