Friday, November 26, 2004

My B&C blog is idle this week.

My latest Tribune language column:
On the word "co-family" as a replacement for "stepfamily."
temp link/perm.preview

I thought about starting the article with this Paul Reiser joke, but it didn't work out:

Comedian Paul Reiser once joked that there's a greeting card for every possible situation: "From the Three of Us to the Three of You," "From Some of Us to All of You," "From Both of Us to Nobody in Your Area."

[From Reiser's "Couplehood," p. 254:]
I once went up to the guy at the register and said, "You know, a friend of mine just got a job on the same day as his anniversary, and his dog just had puppies, but sadly his grandfather passed away that afternoon. Is there a card that might cover the whole thing?"

He said, "Sure. From the whole family, or just yourself?"

More from Wayne Glowka on euphemisms:
"Undertaker" sounded better than "gravedigger"; perhaps "funeral director" sounds better than "undertaker." "Grief specialist" sounds specious and
certainly more expensive. Whatever the case, there is still a body to
embalm and dispose of in some fashion in the midst of grieving relatives and
friends. When a co-mother tells her co-daughter to quit talking back, the sound of
this conversation will not be improved with the new terms.

Re: gypsy: lists the American Heritage Dictionary's entry for "gypsy" as its primary definition, identifying gypsies as descendants of migrants from northern India who "have preserved elements of their traditional culture, including an itinerant existence and the Romany language." AHD's fourth entry for "gypsy" is "one inclined to a nomadic, unconventional way of life. A person who moves from place to place as required for employment."

ASD-L says the season's greetings of an ad for Virgin Mobil talks about Chrismahanukwanzakah

• An advisory at for Wednesday's storm predicted that "snow will continue to overspread southern lower Michigan this afternoon."

• Ad for some truck: "Roomier. Brawnier. Versatilier."

• One of Letterman's Top Ten Signs You're Watching A Bad Disaster Movie was ""Explosions" are just crew members shouting, "Pcchewwwww!"" Here's where I wish I knew the IPA, but that spelling doesn't sound much like the usual explosion noises I've made and hear people make. There's a K and an F in there, and some kind of an SH. I was going to try to spell it, but I can't.

• Is this the origin of queen meaning queer? Apparently nasty rumors surrounded King James (of the King James Bible). From Wikipedia: "When James inherited the English Throne in 1603, it was openly joked in London that Rex fuit Elizabeth: nunc est regina Jacobus (Elizabeth was King: now James is Queen)."

• The LRB looks up naughty URLs.

LL on the excess politeness of writing "X was killed when the SUV he was driving hit a tree."

(Don't you just hate it when the SUV you're driving hits a tree?)

• Language and the Onion:

QUINTER, KS—Sophia Reed, 7, dominated Monday's Family Game Night, thanks in part to her inscrutable Uno face, family members reported. "She'd just sit as quiet as a church mouse, then hit me with a 'draw four wild card,'" said Leo Reed, Sophia's grandfather and Uno opponent.

• The Online Etymology Dictionary's plea for sponsors for certain pages is clever: "Sponsor 'peace'. Give your boyfriend 'lust.' Show your appreciation for 'candy.'"

• If the English subjunctive was dying, the Toronto Sun may have just yanked at its plug, says RC.

Speaking of which, I want to diagram the name of the song from Moulin Rouge that my wife and I danced to at our wedding: "Come What May." I can't figure out if "may" is a subjunctive; is it an auxiliary in a subjunctive construction? I hate my grammatical ignorance.

• ""everynow and then" gets about eight thousand hits" at Google, says ASD-L.

From FT:

In their extended commentary the editors contend, and the collection demonstrates, that notoriously fissiparous evangelical enthusiasms are, in recent decades, converging in a creedal affirmation of the Great Tradition grounded in Scripture as authoritatively interpreted by the early fathers and councils of the Church.

M-W: fissiparous Etymology: Latin fissus, past participle of findere + English -parous
: tending to break up into parts : DIVISIVE

• "Oh well, right?" my wife said/asked me this morning. I thought that was interesting: using the interjection "oh well" to make the statement "it is not important," then asking me to confirm the statement. Or was she quoting it--"'Oh well,' right?"--as in, "'No pain, no gain,' right?" more

QT on viz:

QT Grammar R Us Seminar on the English Language (cont'd):

David Pinion, a Los Angeles reader, regarding QT's inclusion of "viz.," i.e., "videlicet," i.e., "it is permitted to see," on a list of commonly confused Latin abbreviations, viz. "i.e.," "e.g." and "viz.," writes:
"Wouldn't 'viz.' be more appropriately placed in the list of commonly confused Latin abbreviations that pertain to lists, i.e., 'i.e.' 'e.g.', 'viz.' and 'et al.'?"
We do seem to have a growing list, viz. "i.e.," "e.g." "viz.," "et al.," etc.


QT Grammar R Us Seminar on the English Language (cont'd):
J.T., a Milwaukee reader, regarding QT's referring to a common confusion between two Latin abbreviations, i.e., "e.g.," i.e., "exempli gratia," i.e., "for example," and "i.e.," i.e., "id est," i.e., "that is," messages:
"You forgot 'viz.' "
You are referring to "viz.," i.e., "videlicet," i.e., "it is permitted to see," which is not an abbreviation to be followed by an example, e.g., "e.g.," or by a restatement in different words, e.g., "i.e.," but by a complete list of whatever is being written about, e.g., three commonly confused Latin abbreviations, viz. "i.e.," "e.g." and "viz."
A cohort is a group, not a person, by the way.

DTWW says says there's such a political slang term as if-by-whiskey speech: "southern US regionalism: a speech coming down emphatically on both sides on an issue."

From the days when any good southern politician had a speech of this sort at the ready, concerning his views on spiritus ferminti. Several such passages are of record, of which this is the best. Supposedly from a Mississippi legislator in 1958.

'You have asked me how I feel about whiskey; well, Brother, here's how I stand.

If by whiskey you mean the devil's brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean that evil drink that topples Christian men and women from the pinnacles of righteous and gracious living into the bottomless pits of degradation, shame, despair, helplessness, and hopelessness, then, my friend, I am opposed to it with every fiber of my being.

However, if by whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the elixir of life, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer, the stimulating sip that puts a little spring in the step of an elderly gentleman on a frosty morning; if you mean that drink that enables man to magnify his joy, and to forget life's great tragedies and heartbreaks and sorrow; if you mean that drink the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars each year, that provides tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitifully aged and infirm, to build the finest highways, hospitals, universities, and community colleges in this nation, then my friend, I am absolutely, unequivocally in favor of it.

This is my position, and as always, I refuse to be compromised on matters of principle.'

Previous column and inflections
Etymology Today from M-W: purlieu\PERL-yoo\
1 : an outlying or adjacent district
2 plural : environs, neighborhood
3 : a frequently visited place : haunt
4 plural : confines, bounds

In medieval England if you were fortunate enough to acquire a new piece of land, you might hold a ceremony called a "perambulation," in which you would walk around and record the boundaries of your property in the presence of witnesses. If your land bordered a royal forest, there might be some confusion about where your land started and the royal forest ended. Luckily, the law said that if you performed a perambulation, you could gain at least some degree of ownership over disputed forest tracts, although your use of them would be restricted by forest laws and royals would probably still have the right to hunt on them. Such regained forest property was called a "purlewe" (or as it was later spelled, "purlieu"), which derives from the Anglo-French word for "perambulation."

Previous E.T.
More from the Sun-Times' QT column:

News Headline: "13-year-old boy charged with abducting exotic dancer."
They grow up so fast, don't they?

From the QT Archive of Knowledge:
*Thirty-two percent of the voters who supported John Kerry have visited Belgium at least once.
*Twenty-six women are older than the world's oldest man.

Supermarket Headline of the Month: "SUPERMARKET LOBSTERS ESCAPE TANK."


S.S., a Chicago reader, writes:
"Because the past four years and the election have shown beyond any doubt that President Bush's supporters don't care what he does, but only what he is and says, he now has a rare opportunity to please all the people, if he does what his opponents want."
You know, it just might work.
From a column I clipped by Michael Kelly, on why saying something well doesn't make it true:

All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way? No, that is exactly wrong. Happy families are wildly, even eccentrically, diverse. But in every unhappy family, as any social worker can tell you, you will likely find the same dreary woes: dead love, physical or psychological brutality, alcoholism, infidelity, poverty.
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter on Terrell Owens, Desperate Housewives, and hypocrisy:

First, the good news. If this had happened 20 years ago (and it could have; TV was full of sexual innuendo then, too), all the talk would have been about the interracial coupling of Sheridan and Owens. This time, the hottest of hot buttons in American history-the source of countless lynchings-caused barely a public peep.
Wikipedia's Web

Wikipedia's Web

White House Thanksgiving Turkey Detained Without Counsel x

FDA Okays Every Drug Pending Approval, Takes Rest Of Year Off x

Pabst Still Coasting On 1893 Blue Ribbon Win

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

From my Thanksgiving post two years ago:

• The menu for the first Thanksgiving dinner included fish, venison, corn, squash, berries, and corn bread. There's no record that turkey was on the table.

• Benjamin Franklin, advocating the turkey as the national bird:

"The Turkey is in comparison a much ore respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America.... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."

• In this morning's Sun-Times, QT spoils your Thanksgiving dinner:

Relish trays contain aflatoxins, benzaldehyde, quercetin glycosides and hydrogen peroxide.
Roast turkey contains heterocyclic amines.
Bread stuffing contains benzo(a)pyrene, furfural and sihydrazines.
Cranberry sauce contains furan derivatives.
Apple pie contains acetaldehyde.
Antacids contain aluminum.
Happy Thanksgiving!

QT also notes that as travelers clog airports today, security personnel are reportedly getting less modest when it comes to "patting down" passengers. "And remember," QT says, "even as you are being patted down, that, even at that moment, the Transportation Security Administration is allowing uninspected cargo onto your airplane."

Seriously, safe travels, all.

Update: from AHD at


The bird Meleagris gallopavo, commonly known as the turkey and familiar as the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving feast, is a native of the New World. It acquired the name of an Old World country as a result of two different mistakes. The name turkey, or turkey cock, was originally applied to an African bird now known as the guinea fowl (Numida meleagris), which at one time was believed to have originated in Turkey. When European settlers first saw the American turkey, they identified it with the guinea fowl and gave it the name turkey. There are many other examples of this sort of transference of old names to newly encountered species by speakers moving into a new area. In North America, for instance, the large thrush called a robin (Turdus migratorius) is an entirely different bird from the robin of the Old World (Erithacus rubecula), but they both have a breast of a reddish-orange color.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

This week in my B&C blog: On the decline of expository preaching, as politics and psychology dominate the pulpit. Also: Why Manhattan is good for the environment, the true story behind premium gas and fortune cookies, and more ... LINK/ARCHIVE

Skip to my language column
My latest B&C Book of the Week:
Review of Autumn: A Spiritual Biography of the Season.

I wanted to use the phrase "fiery folial finery," but I thought that would just be a pile of glop. More on autumn leaves here and here. Another brilliant picture here.
My latest Det. Free Press op-ed:
Why I'm a "values voter" and went for Kerry.

• I got the 8 in 10 stat here, but Christianity Today has a much better breakdown of the "values voters" numbers here. (Also see Slate on why James Dobson must choose either church or state.)

• At the risk of making it look like I'm tooting my own horn (my wife will tell you I do enough of that after we eat at Chipotle), I wanted to pass along some of the e-mail responses I got as a way of exhorting fellow left-leaning Christians to keep the faith. I was stunned that of the over 40 e-mails I received, all but a half-dozen were positive (My favorite negative one was this: "I guess at our local paper in metro Detroit, we ran out of liberals to write columns so we are starting to recruit them from neighboring communities.")

Here are a few fellow bleeding hearts:

- I would like to tell you how heartening it is to know that there are Christians out there who think the same way as my family. After the elections, I did not want to go back to our church and be associated with people who limited their Christianity to 2 issues. It seems the whole country is full of them. I know God is sovereign and in control but I am struggling with the fact that an incompetent person is once again at the helm. ... Let's not stop praying for our country.

- Thank you for putting so simply ... what I have been feeling these many long months about the "Christian values" issue. Somehow it's all gotten twisted around. ... I am passing your article along to others who share my feelings. Regards, Another "2 in 10er"

- I myself am a Christian - attend church every Sunday and Wednesday and actively involved in other church activities- that voted for Kerry. I even felt like the black sheep among my fellow Christians, and questioned myself and prayed on this issue. To me the two big issues that swayed Christians are small issues and are being approached in the wrong way. ... I want to thank you for making me feel that as a Christian, that I did not neccesarly vote wrong when I voted for Kerry.


• Some of the negative responses I received said there was a contradiction between my points that values always affect voting but that church and state should be kept separate. I should have clarified that. The difference is this: the institutions of the church and the government should be kept apart (so James Dobson should not seek to be a power-broker in the Republican Party, as he is, and President Bush shouldn't be a figurehead for certain religious groups, as he seems to be). The church must speak truth to power without becoming part of that power. But individual citizens couldn't separate their values (whatever they are) from their voting if they tried.

• I was a little reluctant to publish this op-ed, since some consider it bad form for a journalist to disclose her voting preference (others appreciate it; but since a sizeable majority of those in mainstream media vote Democratic, there isn't much suspense to begin with). If I were a news reporter instead of a features writer, I might not have done it.

My reluctance came from the likelihood that some readers will now dismiss everything I write about anything, since they have successfuly identified me as a member of a vast left-wing conspiracy, an evil empire whose corruption of my cerebral capabilities is so complete that I am unable to put together a single sentence without submitting to it and extending its nefarious influence.

Meanwhile, those who agree with me may presume that I bat for their team and have abandoned any effort to locate wisdom among people with different views. They, too, are wrong.

If you think that either of the above is true, I despair of persuading you that my articles about language and other topics should be read in their own context and on their own merits, rather than as undercover dissemination of an agenda that will either degrade or transfigure America. So I leave it up to you.
My latest Tribune language column:
On the fascinating history of the alphabet.
temp link/perm.preview

This was cut:

As a result, C has multiple personalities, changing sounds in the words “critic,” “dance,” “ocean,” “chain,” and “indict”). The letters M, B, and D are the easiest to say, so they're the first sounds out of the mouths of babies ("ma," "ba," and "da"). The sounds "er" and "sh" take them longer to learn.

Also see this chart on various world alphabets.

From the Plain English Campaign, 10/7

Last week we set you the puzzle of trying to work out the abbreviations in the following passage.

"The CoLP COG and the MPS wish to work together to create a DCPCU. The EIDU, in partnership with BDB has been assisting AC SCD with securing s93 or s25 PA funding from APACS and HO once approval has been given from HMC&E regarding the VAT issues."

The answer is as follows.

"The City of London Police Chief Officer Group and the Metropolitan Police Service Management Board wish to work together to create a Dedicated Cheque & Plastic Card Unit. The Events and Income Development Unit, in partnership with Bircham Dyson Bell has been assisting Assistant Commissioner Serious Crime Directorate with securing Section 93 or Section 25 Police Act funding from the Association of Payment and Clearing Services and the Home Office once approval has been given from Her Majesty's Custom & Excise regarding the Value Added Tax issues."

• The Daily Show's Ed Helms described the Democracts as "feckless--devoid of feck." M-W: Scots, from feck effect, majority, from Middle English (Sc) fek, alteration of Middle English effect

• Another Comedy Central show, which is animated, is called "Drawn Together."

• A reader asked me about the word triennial. I had to look it up:

1 : occurring or being done every three years (the triennial convention)
2 : consisting of or lasting for three years (a triennial contract)

ADJECTIVE: 1. Occurring every third year. 2. Lasting three years.
NOUN: 1. A third anniversary. 2. A ceremony or celebration occurring
every three years.

So I advised that treat it like biannual/biennial:

biannual - twice a year
biennial - once every two years

triannual - three times a year
triennial - once every three years

• A CTA infomercial on Windy City TV (trust me, it was better than anything else in prime time last Wednesday after West Wing) referred to bus drivers as bus operators.
Who in the world--outside of CTA headquarters--actually calls them "bus operators"?

• From wordcrafter:

Vixen is one of extraordinarily few words beginning with v which comes from Old English, rather than a foreign tongue, typically French or Latin. (The only others are vane and vat.)
Also, though the names for this animal (a fox if male but a vixen if female) seem related, but why do they begin with different constants? Which led to the other, and why? The root of these oddities is the region dialects of southern England, where folk tend to pronounce an initial "unvoiced fricative" as a "voiced fricative". Putting that in ordinary terms, an s is pronounced z, and an f is pronounced v, at the start of a word. For example, the locals in Somerset will pronounce that name 'Zomerzet'. The word fat became vat, and the Germanic word fahne = flag became vane. In Old English, the feminine of fox was fyxe or fyxen, which the southern dialect converted to vixen. These three words are the only such bits of such dialect that have worked their ways into standard English.

• Two interesting words posted recently at DTWW (I especially love the second one):

king v. among graffiti artists, to (pervasively) paint one’s name or symbol (throughout an area); to own an area through tagging or bombing. link [Is this like checkers? "King me!"]

unass v. to dismount or disembark (a vehicle); to get off of (something); to unseat (someone); to leave (somewhere). link

• Nicholas Kristof quoted the following in a recent column:

"When a Texas governor, Miriam "Ma" Ferguson, barred the teaching of foreign languages about 80 years ago, saying, 'If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for us.'"

ASD-L says there's no evidence for this quote, though there is for a related quote from a different person. more (at bottom of page)

Previous column and inflections
New Yorker moview review links I want to save: Anthony Lane on Wicker Park, Motorcycle Diaries, P.S., Enduring Love, and The Incredibles; David Denby on I Heart Huckabees, Vera Drake, Sideways, and Ray.
10 so-called bright ideas from the London Guardian:

1. The Environmental IQ: profiling the impact of products
2. Hibernation Day: an international duvet day for the world
3. Fame Lottery: people get their 15 minutes, money goes to charity
4. A city/country house swap network to house everyone efficiently
5. Lottery entry slips to have a tick box for 10% to charity
6. A proportion of defence spending to tackle the causes of terrorism
7. Heavy parking fines (but only for persistent transgressors)
8. Charging the candidates for political apathy
9. A focused eco-tax on using animals in product marketing
10. Using cartoons to assess middle management problems
more ...

Also from the Guardian: superstitions of the British isles
I hope lightning from heaven strikes whoever actually wrote about God's comeback in a headline about election and religion:

Religion plays new election role
God's comeback changes interplay between hopefuls
Three years. I started this blog on November 14, 2001, as an intern at the Chicago Journal. So many links, so much ... junk, really, though I've tried to keep things substantive here. Of course, I've since started a blog at, and so it's rather unseemly to ask people to read two blogs now. For that reason--and for the principle of it--I'm determined to do less blogging and more reading in the next 3 years.

It won't be easy. Addictions die gradually.
The post to end all posts
Here lie links I don't want to lose but don't want to clog my bookmarks folder, either. They go to show that for all the compulsive instaneity of blogs, sometimes the most worthwhile links are to longer and older pieces of writing.

Skip this

2Blowhards on bestseller lists, Mozart's economics, and Frank Lloyd Wright

Alfred Bierstadt paintings

Archaelogy interview with Robin Lane Fox, classics scholar and advisor to the film Alexander.

Atlantic Monthly on truth and articulation, the computer delusion, Annie Dillard on appalling fecundity, the Market as God, the moral state of marriage, the state of America in 1987, Guglielmo Ferrero in 1913 on the riddle of America, and David Brooks on democratic elitism

• The Australian on Shakespeare

Banner of Truth archive; pedestrian lives and glorious destiny

• The BBC on a ride in the clouds of Eritrea

Beliefnet on Science and Religion: The New Convergence; Gregg Easterbrook on secular humanism; Alan Wolfe on Rick Santorum.

Blogistan Theology blog

Books&Culture: C. Stephen Evans on Kierkegaard, jottings on back of movie poster

Book Magazine on the lives of fiction writers

Boston Globe on the no-kids movement

Brain, Child on what motherhood does to you

Brad DeLong review of Guns, Germs and Steel

Brookings Review on Russia's geography and economics and trends in math review of Nickel and Dimed

Butterflies&Wheels on postmodernism and truth

ByFaithOnline Paul in Athens; Do Not Be Conformed

California State's Michael Foucault pages

Calhoun Community College on Southern Literature and Culture

Calvin College exhibit: Religious Observation within American Protestant Homes; Lewis Smedes obit and links

Calvin Institute of Christian Worship on justice in worship and Neal Plantinga on Isaiah 60

Calvin Theological Journal: John Bolt on common grace and civic good

CBS News on online searches for classmates

Center of Theological Inquiry on Einstein and God (more here and here); Stanley Hauerwas on Bonhoeffer; Moltmann on Western values; N.T. Wright on Paul and Caesar

Chicago Reader's Straight Dope column on butlers in whodunits, deja vu, the hiccups, the right to bear arms
and more

Chicago Tribune on Dave Eggers, Julia Keller's Pulitzer

Chimes on Grand Rapids sports

Christian History on the Reformation and the sola scriptura principle, Calvin and missions

Christianism bibliography; NT history

Christianity Today on the definition of an evangelical, tradition vs Scripture, why not to imitate Christ, Robert Bellah and the sociology of religion, why God loves baseball, Philip Yancey on the need for gracious evangelicalism and holy sex

Christian Science Monitor on how a bullet started a friendship in South Africa

Christian Thinktank on the soul; women in Paul's epistles

Chronicle of Higher Education on the economics of government help for the poor, the study of emotions, Shakespeare and pop culture, Is grad school a cult?

Comment on the next neo-Calvinism; our civic ties; CCO Jubilee on Kupyer

C.S. Lewis links index and book synopses; quotes from The Weight of Glory. More apologetics links

Dead Poets Society script

Debra Rienstra's Great With Child reviews

Democracy in America text

Detroit News on malls and 'lifestyle centers', Billy Sunday, more Detroit history

DoHistory's Martha Ballard's diary

• The Economist on the homosexuality in the 19th century (more), review of The Earth: An Intimate History
on eBay

Elliott Bay Booknotes on books on deserts, on indep bookstores (more) on athletes and video games on bird strikes and migration patterns

First Things on the history of moral philosophy, Jane Austen and theology

Flak on sports franchises and economic development

Forbes on neuroscience and marketing on evangelism and Calvinism

Gadfly on a day in the life of a Parisian cafe

Geoff Nunberg's timeline of the history of information

G.K. Chesterton quotes

Good Will Hunting script draft

Globalization bibliography on the uses of GMT

• The Guardian Beethoven's lover, Google tricks, on Chekhov, reviews of Space Between Our Ears, Our Shadowed Present, Living With a Writer, Making Stories: Law, Literature, Life, Myths We Live By, Unbearable Lightness of Being

Haddon Robinson sermons

Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Suit (1837) on a Calvinist Christmas

HUD on West Michigan regional activity

Hudson Review on Ovid

Human Nature Review on evolutionary psychology

Isaiah Berlin's Two Concepts of Liberty

James Lileks on political lumping and a day in his life

John Ellis blog

James Wood on John Updike, on beauty, on J.M. Coetzee

Jonathan Harwell links

Kalamazoo's historic buildings

Lawrence Crowl on the naming of the months (more here, here, here, here, here, and here) on the history of Canada

Linguistix on the relationship between knowledge and understanding

• The London Review of Books on Pattern Recognition, conjoined twins, the history of touch and power, the politics of sin in American history, Left Behind, and Terry Eagleton on The Representation of Reality in Western Literature

Mad About You finale script

Martin Marty on Christianity and Literature and Irony and Religion's neat new Net stuff

Matrix review essays here, here and here

Melbourne Age on sex in the suburbs

Michigan History back issues

Monty Python scripts

NPR's Fresh Air interviews with Simpsons writers and actors

• The New Criterion on Hugh Kenner (more) and the role of the critic

• The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (contents)

• The New Republic: Richard Posner on Sherlock Holmes

New York magazine Michael Wolff archive; David Denby on Wag the Dog

New York Observer Jason Gay archive

New York Review of Books on gays and genes, Mark Twain, history of masturbation, review of Nature via Nurture

New York Times on its font change; series: six months in the life of a NYC classroom; how non-profits are benefiting from post-bust dot-com real estate vacancies; air passengers carrying on meals; strangers carpooling; cellphone towers in church steeples; writing students expecting hollywood offers; anniversary of NASDAQ peak; faith vs. reason; virtual museums; more on museums; the metaphors of football; A.O. Scott on the history of sex research; Peter Steinfels on Walter Rauschenbusch and the social gospel; review of Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps; review of James Wood's Book Against God

New Yorker on traffic; the history of childhood; Tocqueville (more); Stanley and Livingstone; James Wood on God's Secretaries; scandals at the NY Times and CBS News (more); Roger Angell on the Red Sox' championship; Richard Wilbur's poetry; writer's block; Desperate Housewives; Nicholas Lemann on hatred of the media

Nietzsche's second "Untimely Meditation," review

Ohio U on agenda-setting and the media

Oregon State's Daniel Taylor on Roman coins

Oxford American back issues link

Philosophy Now on Charlie Brown as an existentialist

Plus on why cars in the next lane go faster

Policy Review author index; Martha Nussbaum and the cosmopolitan illusion; Mark Bowden on the transcontinental railroad; review of Elizabeth Cohen's A Consumer's Republic

Poynter Institute on the New York Times Book Review

Positionem on the Pruitt-Igoe projects

Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation link

Public Culture articles

Raleigh News-Observer: Yanet Shimron on Stanley Hauerwas

Reason on All Culture, All the Time

Rebecca Mead on Sophie's World

Read recently by Fernando GouvĂȘa

Reformed Reading List by R. Scott Clark / more

Religious Thought in the West bibliography

Richard Rorty on fascism in postmodernism

Robert Putnam on the Strange Disappearance of Civic America

Salon: Anne Lamott archive; Confessions of a semi-successful author

San Diego Union-Tribune on Detroit's Comerica Park

San Jose State on Inductive vs Deductive reasoning

Scientific American on The Brain in Love

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: blog

Seattle Times: Life today would seem a fantasy in 1900

Slate on secular life ceremonies; media bias; review of A&E's 'Airline'; voice-over voices on The Simpsons as social satire

Smithsonian on Rockwell Kent; the history of American transportation

Sports Illustrated Steve Rushin archive/Cheatin' Hearts; sports smells; World Series archive

Sports Night scripts

Stanley Fish on academic administration

Sydney Morning Herald on personal ads review of Paul Tournier's Meaning of Persons

San Francisco Chronicle on older bachelors

This American Life Shoulda Been Dead on the nature of journalism/more

Tom Wolfe's Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died

Touchstone: Alan Jacobs on the Apocalypse

UR Chicago on keeping the faith

USA Today on the 10 hardest things to do in sports, minorities becoming majority in more U.S. areas

• U of Virginia on The Puritan Tradition and American Memory

Virginia Postrel on Dallas megachurches and other D Mag Spaces columns; consumption patterns in an experience economy

The Washington Post on the burst of the baby boomer bubble; profile of Lloyd Nance, USDA grader; abuse of indigenous Saskatchewanians; a football team as the soul of a Montana town/review of The Meaning of Sports; More being treated for depression; ad placement in video games; Paul Theroux on The Writing Life; profile of John Updike; Jay Rosen on What Liberal Media?; newsless networks; the Google-ization of the world; ping-pong; Annapolis politics; Michael Kinsley on the future of capitalism

Washington University course on Information Research Strategies in History

WBUR's The Connection on Marshall McLuhan

The Week on how Google and eBay conquered the world

Washington Monthly on courtship

Wired News on the sorry state of e-books; blogging Alzheimers patients
Books I would read if I had nine lives:

The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer

History of Reading in the West by Chartier and Cavallo

Conspicuous criticism : tradition, the individual, and culture in American social thought, from Veblen to Mills by Christopher Shannon (more)

Time in History: Views of Time from Prehistory to the Present Dayby G.J. Whitrow

Rome Is Love Spelled Backward: Enjoying Art and Architecture in the Eternal Cityby Judith Anne Testa

Public Life in Renaissance Florence

Taboo, Truth, and Religion: Selected Writings (Methodology and History in Anthropology , Vol 2) by Steiner et al.

Medieval Civilization, 400-1500 by Jacques Le Goff

Missing Persons: A Critique of the Social Sciences (Wildavsky Forum , No 1)
by Mary Douglas

Is the Market Moral?: A Dialogue on Religion, Economics, and Justice (The Pew Forum Dialogues on Religion and Public Life) by Rebecca M. Blank and William McGurn (
also: The Mind and the Market)

Anthropology of Media (Blackwell reader) by Askew et al.

The National Gallery of Canada: Ideas, Art, Architecture by Douglas Ord

Source Book of American Architecture: 500 Notable Buildings from the 10th Century to Present by G.E. Kidder Smith

You Have to Pay for the Public Life: Selected Essays of Charles W. Moore

Utopia and Reality: Modernity in Sweden 1900-1960 by Windenheim and Rudberg

• Amazon list: Reformation Theology

The Greatest Stories Never Told by Rick Beyer

• Amazon list: books on Indiana

History of Listening
Intro to Italian Poetry
Literary Book of Economics
Simpsons and Society
Writing Material : Readings from Plato to the Digital Age
Now that this blog has veered in a linguistic direction (and now that I've outed myself as a Kerry voter--although I remain committed to looking for sense on both sides), it's time to retire this blog's slogan ...

Random Curiosity. Ideological Ambivalence. Purposeful Diversion.

... Aggrandizement:

"Thought-provoking ... worth viewing."
Chicago magazine online / more

... and "About" blurb:

About this blog:
My weblog is primarily my personal scrapbook for clipping articles and keeping track of story ideas. It is also meant to reflect three asssumptions and observations about the media: 1) The most important and interesting news is usually just below the media's radar. There is no such thing as a "news cycle" in the real world--only the constant daily drama of people's lives and the fascinating dynamics of culture.
2) Rather than ghettoizing news into sections, the media should promote and satisfy broad curiosity about the world, seeking to connect not with consumers in categories, but with readers in general.
3) The media must find the balance between personal voice and public responsibility. Newspapers are typically dry and lifeless, blogs are typically pointless personal or political bloviating. There is a place for personal analysis written with voice, so long as it is wise, balanced, and humbly provocative. more

Also, you can never have too many B&C banners:


Ashcroft Loses Job To Mexican

Domineering Wife Specifically Said 'Chunk-Style' Pineapple

Local Life-Insurance Salesman A Catalog Of Horrific Sudden-Death Scenarios x

Opinion: What Happens At Yucca Mountain Stays At Yucca Mountain x

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

This week in my B&C blog: A roundup of recent articles on philosophy and reason in America today, including the Sopranos-and-Philosophy craze. LINK/ARCHIVE
My latest Tribune language column:
On a new kind of sentence fragment in TV newscasting: so-called "ing-lish." Plus: Overheard on Election Night; Tom Brokaw's pronunciation.

temp link/perm.preview

My closing line on "ing-lish" was cut:
For the viewer already dizzy from all the news crawls, instant online polls and ever-shrinking sound bites, it's getting harder to tell the difference between what has happened, what is happening, and what will or may happen in the future. These days, everything seems to be happening at once.

However, if you really dig grammar (God bless you!), you know that this line, and my line about "putting everything in the present," are regrettably misleading. Absolute phrases and gerunds have NO tense--they are non-finite, since they do not specify tense, agent, and number. There's a good, clear breakdown of this at I.G.O.E. My English professor's more thorough explanation is here. He adds a few common absolute phrases:
"all things considered, all other things being equal, God willing..."

This essay at News Lab and this PBS segment suggest the phenomenon has something to do with "dropping the verb," but in fact only the auxiliary verb ("is," "have been," etc.) is dropped; the verb remains in something resembling absolute form.

More on newsspeak here and on Election Night here. Transcript of CNN's 7 p.m. hour of Election Night here. The Seattle Times on how the media can get it right next time. And more Ratherisms.

I was really interested by David Gergen's "locust of lawyers." Here's more:

United Press International
October 15, 2004 Friday
HEADLINE: Analysis: Will lawyers decide the vote?
Like a biblical plague of locusts, lawyers are gathering by the thousands at the call of the Democratic and Republican parties to handle voting-related court challenges both before and after the Nov. 2 presidential election.

Election Integrity At Stake
By George F. Will
Sunday, October 24, 2004;
Today's worry concerns a cloud of locust-like lawyers asserting novel theories that purport to demonstrate that sensible rules, such as requiring voters to have identification, are illegal, even unconstitutional. This locust litigation will erupt around any close election -- any not won beyond "the margin of litigation." link

GERGEN: What the attorneys will be looking for is the same thing the monitors will be looking for. And both sides will have them out in force. As George Will called them, the locust of lawyers.


• Slogan of the Nader campaign, qtd in the Chi.Tribune: Bush and Kerry make me want to Ralph.

• "'Wal-Mart Republicans' is probably more accurate [than "Religious Right"], given that Bush's majority was built up in the same kinds of small communities where the world's largest retailer thrives." x

• "I have to admit that I am a little confused by all this talk of 'man date' by Republican leaders in the days since the election. I thought they were opposed to same-sex fooling around." x (more on mandate)

• This was from a rerun of either Seinfeld or Sex in the City, I forget which:

To boyfriend: "Here's the thing."
Bf: "Oh no, not the thing! I hate the thing."

• A word from WorldWideWords I want to save: sonofusion

• My wife spotted a flyer nailed to a phone pole that said "Found: Lost Cat." "It's not really lost anymore, is it?" she observed. On the other hand, the alternative is posting a flyer that says: "Found: Cat That Had Been Lost At The Time We Found It But As Of Its Finding Is No Longer Lost"

• Someone found this blog by doing a search for the architect of the "ifill tower." (I had posted a quote from the debate moderated by Gwen Ifill, and said something somewhere about a tower, so voila.) I wonder if that surname was originally someone's attempt to name their family after the famous landmark? I doubt it; the name is probably older than the tower.

• "If "The Incredibles" did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them," wrote the Tribune. This is approaching cliche territory, suggests a quick search for "If x did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him/her/them."

• Googling my name (everyone's entitled now and then), I found this post from a Lon Bierma, my relation to whom (if any) I don't know.

From: Lon Bierma
Subject: Words with Opposite Meanings
Sigmund Freud speculated that language may have first developed with one word representing both one thing and its opposite. He cited several examples but let's use the word 'day'. Day can be used to represent both day and night or only daylight. Picture two people without a language trying to communicate the meaning of day and night as they watched the sun rise or set. It is easy to see how one word would suffice. Freud also pointed out that when we hear a concrete word our minds immediately jump to its opposite. Try it on friends. When you say black the first word to come to their minds will be white. Same with up/down, hot/cold, etc.

Previous column and inflections
Etymology Today from M-W: nexus \NEK-sus\
1 : connection, link; also : a causal link
2 : a connected group or series
3 : center, focus

"Nexus" is all about connections. The word comes from "nectere," a Latin verb meaning "to bind." A number of other English words are related to "nectere." The most obvious is "connect," but "annex" (meaning "to attach as an addition," or more specifically "to incorporate into a political domain") is related as well. When "nexus" came into English in the 17th century, it meant "connection." Eventually, it took on the additional meaning "connected series" (as in "a nexus of relationships"). In the past few decades it has taken a third meaning: "center" (as in "the trade nexus of the region"), perhaps from the notion that a point in the center of an arrangement serves to join together the objects that surround it.

Previous E.T.
Red and Blue America? Nope


From Slate:

George Bush is already proclaiming a mandate, for chrissakes. If the narrow margin of victory in this election had swung the other way, does anyone doubt for a moment that an army of Republican surrogates would have immediately fanned out to the shouting-head shows to argue, until they were collectively blue in the face, that the election of John Kerry was nothing more than a statistical fluke that certainly carried with it no greater meaning?

"I'll reach out to everyone who shares our goals."
- George W. Bush, 11/4/04

Now that's conciliatory!

"How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?"

-headline in London's Daily Mirror.

It's not just the 59 million--we're all stupid, says Jason Keglowitz.

Not Quite 'Dewey Defeats Truman':

'Tis the season--yes, already--for Christmas decorations. I did this brief for Chicago Tribune Magazine last year:


A: We used to consider stores jumping the gun if they did it before Thanksgiving. Now they seem to start closer to Halloween. But there's little uniformity. Marshall Field's reports its holiday decorations went up chain-wide on the first weekend in November, a la the past 50 years. Bloomingdale's followed two weeks later, same as last year (but its New York flagship decorated a week later than in '02). Many Mag Mile mainstays waited until the Festival of Lights parade on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. And Nordstrom's brags that it waits untill the day after Thanksgiving.

Nationally, most stores started their holiday decorating on Nov. 1, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. "That's been pretty consistent for the past five years," said a spokesman. But Russell Salzman, president of the Greater North Michigan Avenue Assn., says the long-term trend has stores inching into October. "I'm sensing stores are looking to extend the holiday shopping season," he says. "Over the past 10 years, decorations have been going up earlier and coming down later." Longer or not, this holiday season is expected to bring a 5 percent jump in spending over last year, according to the National Retail Federation. That would lighten our wallets by more than $217 billion.

My column on Christmas Web sites
"If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
-Yogi Berra
Posted without comment...

For a leap of faith, that's the breaks

Devin Rose
Chicago Tribune
October 31, 2004

My aunt is finding her new church surprisingly entertaining. She recently told of a sermon that left the youth minister in stitches--literally.

Young and exuberant, he bounded across the stage of the sanctuary one Sunday with a gleam in his eye, preaching the power of faith.

"I have so much faith," he exclaimed, "that I know I would be OK if I were to leap into the congregation right now, because my brothers and sisters would catch me."

To prove his point, he leapt.

His brothers and sisters didn't catch him.

Instead, panicked by the body hurtling toward them, they parted like the Red Sea.

The young preacher emerged with cuts and a broken collarbone, and, surely, a touch of wounded pride.

But his faith was unshaken--as he told it later, God might be teaching him not to take himself too seriously.
Is this true?

The wretches who roam around aimlessly in gangs and kill people by throwing stones from a highway bridge or setting fire to a child--whoever these people are--turn out this way not because they have been corrupted by computer "new-speak" (they don't even have access to a computer) but rather because they are excluded from the universe of literature, and from those places where, through education and discussion, they might be reached by a glimmer from the world of values that stems from and sends us back again to books. -Umberto Eco, On Literature

Last month was National Novel Writing Month. Yeah, like there aren't enough poorly written novels around.

Napoleon was, in writing, at least, quite the Romeo, according to the new book The Linguist and The Emperor:

I have awakened full of you. The memory of last night has given my senses no rest... Sweet and incomparable Josephine, what an effect you have on my heart! I sent you thousands of kisses---but don't kiss me. Your kisses sear my blood. p26

David Flemming, Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. link
G.K. Chesterton on journalism:

We announce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding. We do not announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off a scaffolding. Yet this latter fact is fundamentally more exciting, as indicating that that moving tower of terror and mystery, a man, is still abroad upon the earth. That the man has not fallen off a scaffolding is really more sensational; and it is also some thousand times more common. But journalism cannot reasonably be expected thus to insist upon the permanent miracles. Busy editors cannot be expected to put on their posters, “Mr. Wilkinson still safe” or “Mr. Jones, of Worthing, not dead yet.” link

Nation's Poor Win Election For Nation's Rich x

Kerry Captures Bin Laden One Week Too Late x

Nation's Wildlife Fleeing To Canada

Self-Help Book Believes It Can Be A Bestseller Someday x

"Our nation may be bitterly divided, but at least our government can agree on being ultra-conservative."

"Now that the Republicans run Congress, the White House, and soon the Supreme Court, they'll just have to invent some new branches of government to dominate, as well."

"The fact that 48 percent of Americans voted for a boring placeholder like John Kerry is actually a really good sign for the Left."

Thursday, November 04, 2004

I'm still not sure the election was won on abortion and same-sex marriage. When you think about it, in nearly every election since FDR's Fireside Chats--which helped begin the personality era of presidential politics--the friendlier candidate has won (Eisenhower over Stevenson twice, Kennedy over Nixon, Carter over Ford, Reagan over Carter and Mondale, Bush Sr. over Dukakis, Clinton over Bush Sr. and Dole, Bush Jr. over Gore and Kerry). Nixon's wins might be an exception, but even he learned a hard lesson in likability in 1960. (In the case of Truman and Johnson, neither they nor their opponents--Dewey and Goldwater--were friendly, so it wasn't the friendliness factor, but the macho factor.)

So if the presidential nominees had been Edwards and Cheney...

[Update: Slate on the gay marriage election myth; Louis Menand on why voters weren't sending a message]

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

This week in my B&C blog: October news and book review roundup. LINK/ARCHIVE
Yale U PressMy Tribune language column today:
On the new book "Doctor Dolittle's Delusion," on why animal communication doesn't qualify as language.
temp link/perm.preview

Here's author Steven Anderson's page at Yale. Here's the full text of The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, and here's much more on the series. Here's the NYT on Anderson's book. Here's a clip from my story this summer on Rico the dog.

Here's more on the Endings items: First Idea, parrot tongues, and bilingual brains.

• As if voting weren't confusing enough, a sign yesterday said "Voting Enterance." (Is that syllable added in common pronunciation? I'm not sure.)

• "These restrooms are for accessible use only," a sign said in a hotel lobby. So I looked for an inaccessible one.

• Manny Ramirez on why the curse of the Bambino didn't stop the Red Sox: "You make your own destination."

• One of Jay Leno's Headlines, from an ad: "Going away? Don't Want To Leave Your Dog In a Canal?" (Sure don't. Wet dogs reek.) He also had an ad for "Frosted Shredded What."

• The NYT: "Music critics have a word for ... this knee-jerk backlash against producer-powered idols who didn't spend years touring dive bars. Not a very elegant word, but a useful one. The word is rockism, and among the small but extraordinarily pesky group of people who obsess over this stuff, rockism is a word meant to start fights.

• I want to look into the transitivity of the verb "quit" in British English versus its American intransitivity: "[Hostage] calls upon Britian to quit Iraq." (There's that line from The Raven: "Leave my loneliness unbroken! Quit the bust above my door!")

• The Trib on people with the last name of Frankenstein.

Previous column and inflections
I've said it before and I'll say it again: What more does a president have to do to lose re-election? How do you look at President Bush and say, "Job well done. Please do more of it"? I guess the difference was the macho factor: "I have more testosterone in the fight against terrorists, and I don't like the thought of gay guys doing it."

But the harsher question goes to Kerry, the second-straight underachieving Democratic nominee. How do you lose to this guy, after these last two years? How many more vulnerabilities can a challenger ask for in an incumbent? Kerry should be prepared for even more Democratic hatred than Gore got--at least Gore won the popular vote.

Take a look at the last four Democratic losers: Kerry, Gore, Dukakis, Mondale. All aloof elitists, all vastly ineffective communicators. As was said last night, the Democrats are mostly a bi-coastal party, and desperately need to become a national party again.* You don't become a national party--you don't wade into that sea of red states--with Hillary Clinton. You might do it with John Edwards, but he doesn't make up the gap in the macho factor, especially not against Rudy Guiliani. You could do it with Barack Obama, but he won't be ready until '12 or '16, and will probably start out as a VP nominee.

There is just one consolation in all this: Now Bush will have to clean up his own mess. It wouldn't have been fully fair to ask Kerry to hoist us out of the hole--in Iraq and in the economy--that Bush dug. Bush will have to sleep in the bed he made. And he'll have to face, on a daily and public basis, his failure.

One last thought: will the Democrats pipe down now about the Electoral College? It nearly won them the White House this time despite a two or three percent deficit in the popular vote.

David Brooks registered his apt misgivings about both Bush and Kerry yesterday. William Saletan has a reality check for Democrats this morning. Nicholas Kristof in today's NYT on why the working poor vote for trickle-down Republicans. (Update: what went wrong, what won't work next time, and more on the "God gap" here, here, here and here. And Slate on how to move to Canada.)

* - States that Clinton won in 1992 and/or 1996 that neither Gore nor Kerry carried (with the exception of Gore's sort-of and squeaker wins in FL and NM): Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Montana, Ohio, Nevada, New Mexico, and West Virginia. (response/more results)

Look at how little these percentages budged after four years. Kinda makes you wonder, what's the point of all those ads, sound bites, conventions, debates, and most of all, all those polls?

STATE Bush-Gore Bush-Kerry
AL••••••57-42•••••• 63-37
AK•••••• 59-28•••••• 62-35
AZ••••••51-45 ••••••55-44
AR•••••• 51-45•••••• 54-45
CA•••••• 42-54•••••• 44-55
CO•••••• 51-42•••••• 53-46
CT•••••• 39-56•••••• 44-54
DE•••••• 42-55•••••• 46-53
DC•••••• 09-86•••••• 09-90
FL•••••• 49-49•••••• 52-47
GA•••••• 55-43•••••• 59-41
HI•••••• 38-56•••••• 45-54
ID•••••• 69-28•••••• 68-30
IL•••••• 43-55•••••• 44-55
IN•••••• 57-41•••••• 60-39
IA•••••• 48-49•••••• 50-49
KS•••••• 59-37•••••• 62-37
KY•••••• 57-41•••••• 60-40
LA•••••• 53-45•••••• 57-42
ME•••••• 44-49•••••• 45-53
MD•••••• 40-57•••••• 43-56
MA•••••• 33-60•••••• 37-62
MI•••••• 47-51•••••• 48-51
MN•••••• 46-48•••••• 48-51
MS•••••• 57-42•••••• 60-40
MO•••••• 51-47•••••• 54-46
MT•••••• 58-34•••••• 59-39
NE•••••• 63-33•••••• 62-32
NV•••••• 49-46•••••• 51-48
NH•••••• 48-47•••••• 49-50
NJ•••••• 41-56•••••• 46-53
NM•••••• 48-48•••••• 50-49
NY•••••• 35-60•••••• 40-58
NC•••••• 56-43•••••• 56-43
ND•••••• 61-33•••••• 63-36
OH•••••• 50-46•••••• 51-49
OK•••••• 60-38•••••• 66-34
OR•••••• 47-47•••••• 47-52
PA•••••• 47-51•••••• 49-51
RI•••••• 32-61•••••• 39-60
SC•••••• 57-41•••••• 58-41
SD•••••• 60-38•••••• 60-39
TN•••••• 51-48•••••• 57-43
TX•••••• 59-38•••••• 61-38
UT•••••• 67-26•••••• 71-27
VT•••••• 41-51•••••• 39-59
VA•••••• 52-45•••••• 54-46
WA•••••• 45-50•••••• 46-53
WV•••••• 52-46•••••• 56-43
WI•••••• 48-48•••••• 49-50
WY•••••• 69-28•••••• 69-29

Total 47.9-48.3••••••51-48

Bush 50,456,002
Gore 50,999,897

Bush 58,874,321
Kerry 55,319,301

(more numbers from CNN/WP; speech tranx's; more 2000 numbers here, here and here.)

So, ladies and gentlemen, here he is, your commander-in-chief, Mr. Mission Accomplished:

(Well, at least it isn't this guy!)

Tom Shales this morning in the WP: "We finally figured out who [Kerry] looks like: Jay Leno's grandfather."

Update: (I lost the source of this, sorry):
There were about 115 million votes cast. There are
217.8 million eligible voters. That means that about
52 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. That means
that the president was re-elected by 27 percent of
eligible American voters. And that Kerry received the
active support -- that is, taking the trouble to vote
-- of 25 percent of eligible American voters.

"Bad politicians are elected by good people who don't
vote." (George Jean Nathan)

concession speech delivered by Dick Tuck, a
candidate for California assemblyman in 1964:
"The people have spoken -- the bastards."