Archive for December, 2010


December 26, 2010

The congressional votes were in a bit more than a week ago, and President Obama signed the bill for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on Wednesday. Now will come negotiations.

I have something of a personal stake in the matter, since one of my boyfriends was a military officer, serving for a variety of reasons, one of them being genuine patriotism that led him to want to serve his country. And so was obliged to lead a secret gay life (or, for some time, no sexual life at all). Painful to see.

George Chauncey had an excellent op-ed piece in the NYT (on-line on the 20th, in hard print on the 21st), “Last Ban Standing”, about the long, sad history of excluding gays and lesbians from the military (and hence from full citizenship), leading to many dishonorable discharges, and to President Eisenhower’s 1953 order excluding homosexuals from employment in civilian agencies as well as the military and indeed from employment by private companies with government contracts. Chauncey writes:

This rule was enforced with considerable vigor: even at the height of the McCarthy era in the 1950s, the federal government discharged more suspected homosexuals than suspected communists.

President Clinton attempted to change this, but eventually had to submit to what was billed as a compromise between the old system and the policies urged by gay rights groups, but in fact seems to have served as way of carrying out the old system in a fresh guise. The new policy was Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue — three injunctions having to do with what one set of people could say to others. The military couldn’t ask servicemembers about their sexual orientation, servicemembers couldn’t tell anyone in the military about their sexual orientation, and the military couldn’t pursue sexual orientation by investigating reports or asking people other than the servicemember in question.

In fact, Don’t Pursue seems to have dropped away, leaving a grotesque system in which investigations proceeded by indirect attempts to force servicemembers into telling, often as the result of reports from or testimony solicited from people other than the servicemember in question — material thought to be relevant to the question of whether that servicemember exhibited a propensity or inclination to homosexual activity, or, worse, had secretly engaged in such activity.

A most unpleasant history.

Decline of traditional e-mail

December 26, 2010

A report by Matt Richtel in the NYT of December 21, “In Youthful World of Messaging, E-Mail Gets Instant Makeover”, on the preference of young people for the speed and instant gratification of “online chats and text messages” over traditional e-mail, and the way internet companies like Facebook are altering their messaging services to make them less like e-mail and more like texting.

Old fogey that I am, I still prefer e-mail, as I noted in a posting a while back.



December 26, 2010

A Zits on the difficulty of interpreting brief responses when you don’t have the full context of the responses or knowledge of the speaker’s intentions — and especially when the speaker is a stereotypically laconic teenager:

Sarcasm? Irony? Rhetorical question?

[Added December 28, discussion by Mark Liberman and commenters on Language Log: 12/27/10: Txt and context (link), 12/27/10: Oh great (link)]


Punnies #11

December 26, 2010

Today’s Bizarro:

As usual, three different sorts of word play: an elaborate punning variation on a familiar formula (“Chestnuts Roasting in an Open Fire”); a portmanteau (Nascar + escargot); and a simple pun on Tonto (which would be a subtle perfect pun for those who have an “open o” in Tonto).


Cee Lo’s memorable song of 2010

December 26, 2010

Back at the end of August, I posted on attempts to cope in print and on air with the title of Cee Lo Green’s song “Fuck You” (from the album The Ladykiller). Now the panel of the NPR show All Songs Considered have coped (in the show of December 7) with the title in selecting their choices for the best songs of the year (“The Year in Music”).



December 25, 2010

From “E.P.A. Challenges Texas Over Rules on Emissions” (NYT December 23):

The regulations will in principal curb emissions by requiring plans to use the best available technology to control them.

Yes, yes, that should be PRINCIPLE, not PRINCIPAL (and it’s been corrected in the on-line version). One of the most common spelling errors in English, in both directions. (When I served on boards at granting agencies, we used to get huge numbers of grant proposals listing PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR(S), to the point where I had colleagues who half-seriously suggested that such proposals should be summarily rejected for spelling errors. Surely a disproportionate punishment.)

PRINCIPAL/PRINCIPLE is one of those irritating details of English orthography that in fact makes no effective difference in comprehensibility but is maintained through a fetish for correctness — there are a number of these — and elicits orthographic rage from some people, who feel that if we “give way” on these points then we’re on the slide to chaos and the death of the language: according to them, it’s our duty to chide and punish those who violate the orthographic canon (especially those who “ought to know better”, like writers and editors on the NYT).

As I’ve said many times, the deep sadness of these attitudes lies in their focus on things of absolutely no consequence at the cost of attention to genuinely consequential matters.

Yes, I noticed the spelling in the Times, but to tell the truth, I don’t fuckin’ care.

More periodophilia in the NYT

December 25, 2010

It’s probably about time to give up on mocking the NYT‘s love of periods in initialisms, but here’s one last bash. In the map accompanying the December 23 story on the enormous snowfall in Syracuse NY, we see figures for the month (through December 22) for various New York locations:

What caught my eye was J.F.K. referring to John F. Kennedy International Airport. Uniformly, references to the airport in its own literature seem to be as John F. Kennedy (International) Airport or Kennedy Airport or simply Kennedy or JFK (International) Airport or simply JFK (JFK is its airport code, changed from IDL when Idlewild became John F. Kennedy). Yet, because the abbreviation for John F. Kennedy, the name of the person, is J.F.K., the Times is treating the airport name by the same convention, which in any case accords with its own style sheet, despite the practice of the airport and virtually all the other sources I could find. (There are too many hits for me to search exhaustively.)

(Practices on periods in initialistic abbreviations of names vary, though not of course in the Times. Elsewhere, you can find both F.D.R. and FDR for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, G.W.B. and GWB for George W. Bush, and so on.)

I don’t know of any parallel cases. There are a fair number of airports named after people, but as far as I can see, few after people with three-initial names, and none of these carried over into customary names for the airports: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), John Wayne Airport (SNA), General Edward Lawrence Logan Airport (BOS) (called simply Logan), and so on.


More ridiculous underwear with zipper pulls

December 25, 2010

[You should be 18 or over to view this posting.]

Found in the Undergear catalogue (on sale for Christmas!), another piece of underwear with a zipper pull, even more outrageous (and, to my mind, a lot more uncomfortable-looking) than the last one. This one’s a jockbrief — brief in front, jock in back (no back panel, only straps):

That’s one tight little pouch to cram your package into. And a pretty sizable zipper ring to have in your pants — not that I’d expect the wearer to have pants on.

The ad copy:

Gregg Homme® Forbidden Jockbrief

Sheer pleasure. The ultra-sexy Gregg Homme Forbidden collection is a bold and cutting-edge design that provides supportive lift at both the front and the back. Featuring a faux-leather and latex look with a front contoured pouch, these daring men’s jockbriefs have a unique design of a sheer mesh with a front functional zipper for a sexy look. Plus, the zipper has protective lining so you can have peace of mind. Nylon/spandex.

Hardly any nod to comfort: the “supportive lift” and the “protective lining” to counteract the threat of the metal zipper. Otherwise, it’s vain display.


Ari in gold

December 25, 2010

In the mail yesterday from Max Vasilatos, a postcard version of this portrait of singer and songwriter Ari Gold by Joe Phillips:

Gold has been openly gay from the beginning of his career, often weaving themes about relationships and sex between gay men into his music (usually in various “black” styles). He’s also enormously sexy and enjoys displaying his body. In the work above, Phillips has chosen to depict Gold, in gold (a little visual pun), doing a Pits ‘n’ Tits display, one type of sexualized presentation of the male body in the mass media and in male photography (some links here).

Phillips does mainstream comic art and also depictions (often comic and sometimes over the top) of gay male life, featuring enthusiastically sexy young men. Max has been sending me postcard versions of his stuff for some time now.

The Xmas leaf

December 25, 2010

Found by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky on a Palo Alto street this morning, all green and red (and, yes, yellow):

Some nice little presents for me, including a set of seven rainbow penguin erasers (one color for each day of the week) from my grand-daughter Opal, postcards to send to friends, and a penguin corkscrew. From me: a HexBug Nano Habitat and two books: Deborah Fallows’s Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language and Nicholson Baker’s The Size of Thoughts: Essays and Other Lumber (both chosen because I admire the books and because I know the authors).

Then a long yummy Chinese dinner with the family and a friend and his son, who’s one of Opal’s great buddies (they collaborated on a wonderful drawing, played iPad games together and separately — one iPad per child — and plotted a sleepover for tonight).