Archive for March, 2012

The tone but not the words

March 27, 2012

From the Sunday NYT Magazine, Nathaniel Rich’s “Jungleland: The Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans Gives New Meaning to ‘Urban Growth’ “:

Not everyone in the neighborhood has been satisfied with the work of the Nuisance Lot Maintenance pilot program. A Mr. Harris, who declined to give his first name, stood on a viewing platform built on the flood wall at the edge of Bayou Bienvenue. He ate sunflower seeds while three friends, lifelong residents of the Lower Ninth, baited lines for drum and redfish. Harris gestured at a cleared lot near Florida Avenue, at the edge of which stood a pile of construction debris left behind by the crew.

“If we’re going to pay you money to do that, I want professional work,” he said. “Hire some real professionals. I don’t want it to look like that there.”

Harris spit out his sunflower shells in disgust. A luxury motor coach, filled with tourists behind tinted windows, trundled down Florida Street toward the Make It Right houses. Seventeen expletives have been edited out of the following paragraph:

“Every day 20 tour buses come down this street to look at this neighborhood and take pictures,” Harris said. “Don’t tell me they’re just touring the city. If you’re trying to tour the city, then you’re in the wrong neighborhood. They just ride around in the part that’s been devastated. Lower Ninth Ward ain’t receiving a single penny for that. Why can’t I get something? Why does the man driving the bus get all the money? I ain’t a guinea pig. I don’t want to be put under a microscope. We’re the ones that suffered down here, who lost everything. There are still dead people that they haven’t accounted for. It’s frustrating. It took almost seven years for the Ninth Ward to look like what it looks like now, and it still don’t look like [anything].”

Nice stroke in the writing: gets the tone of Davis’s spewing anger just right, without brooding on the specific expletives the man used. A kind of executive summary of cursing.


Mara Chibnik

March 27, 2012

I am saddened to report the death of my good friend Mara Chibnik, in New York City, of pancreatic cancer. Starting in the 1980s, Mara became a mainstay of the newsgroup soc.motss and the social life (including gatherings, like the annual motsscons) surrounding it, and a close friend of many of the regulars on that group; she became part of the soul of this social world. Her role was as a wise, sympathetic, supportive, and good-humored visitor from the straight world, and we all miss her terribly.


Zippy and Zerbina were pinheads

March 27, 2012

Today’s Zippy, with another burlesque:

This time on “Frankie and Johnny”, with the story much compressed.


Flat denial

March 26, 2012

From a little while back, a language-and-politics story that got some press coverage: the tale of this bumper sticker:


Annals of mishearing

March 26, 2012

From Ann Burlingham last week, this report from the Facebook account of her cousin Jay Steigmann, who is with Second City in Chicago:

Last night, I gave the direction to play a character more coquettishly. This was misinterpreted as “cokehead-ishly.”

An entertaining but not surprising mishearing, especially if the actor is more familiar with cokeheads than coquettes. (The Google Ngram Viewer shows a steady steep decline of coquette from 1900 to 2000. Much lower numbers for cokehead, of course. But a lot depends on the social context.)


“Structure” or “work of art”

March 25, 2012

From the NYT Sunday Review today, this report (“Art Has Legs”) by Barbara Goldsmith about public art on Long Island:

It may seem an insignificant power spat in the small village of Sag Harbor, on Long Island. It isn’t. It is a quintessential example of a continuing, centuries-old battle over what can be deemed art, what can’t and who can rightfully judge the difference. I should say who among the living, for time has a way of sorting it all out.

For about four years, close to the side of their white clapboard home, the gallery owners Ruth Vered and Janet Lehr displayed a Larry Rivers mixed-media construction of a pair of attenuated fiberglass legs, 16 feet tall, modeled on a 1969 work called “40 Feet of Fashion.” Rivers, the provocative painter, sculptor and filmmaker, died in 2002. By 2010, a Rivers painting had sold for $1,142,500; that year, Fred W. Thiele Jr., the Sag Harbor village attorney and a state assemblyman, decided that Rivers’ “Legs” — which had long been established and exhibited as a work of art — was, in fact, a “structure.” As such, it was not a “conforming use,” according to the village code. (Mr. Thiele dug in his heels and told a Times reporter, “It’s a structure, and a structure is a structure is a structure.”)

Gayle Pickering, chairwoman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, tried to deflect the issue by saying: “This is not a decision about art. It’s about setting a precedent for building structures.” Try to get your head around that bit of specious reasoning.

The offending object:

After rancorous discussion, a decision has been put off until (at least) April 17th.


On the bro- watch

March 25, 2012

I am saddened to pass on this development in the world of bromanteaus (via Tim Pierce on Google+), in “Brogrammers Bring Frat-House Ethos to Geek World of Coding” by Douglas MacMillan on Bloomberg at the beginning of March: brogrammer (and the bronus brotein).


Food puns

March 25, 2012

Two plays on food names: panini and congee. The first with an excellent visual pun, posted today by John McChesney-Young on Facebook, under the heading

Almost Certainly the Best Visual Pun on an Ancient Sanskrit Grammarian and a Light Italian Repast Ever

The second I have no visual for, though I can still hope to find a photo of a bowl of kanji — a sort of Japanese alphabet soup.


unfair / not fair

March 25, 2012

Yesterday’s Zits, with Jeremy bemoaning the unfairness of things:

Two Fair World assumptions:

an egocentric version, which seems to be Jeremy’s: In a fair world, I would get what I want/need;

an evenhanded, or utopian, version: In a fair world, everyone would get what they want/need.

Kids, teenagers included, are much inclined to the egocentric understanding of fair: what inconveniences me is unfair.


Jon Bon Jovi

March 25, 2012

(Not about language.)

In the Celebrities Unclothed series, this 1997 spread of Jon Bon Jovi looking hot for Versace (photos by Bruce Weber):

(Hat tip to Aric Olnes on Facebook.)

Recently in this series: Mario Lopez here, David Beckham here, Ben Cohen here. Entertainment and sport.