Monthly Archives: August 2012

Semicolons: A Love Story – NYTimes.com

Semicolons: A Love Story – NYTimes.com.

Presented without comment.  Well, maybe just the one: AMEN.

updates from the archives

Hey.  Sorry I haven’t written in a while.  Time’s been short (like me).  Ok, I have a LOT to tell.  On the Monday of two weeks ago my friend [Rita] came to visit.

[…]

Alrighty, I can’t really remember what happened throughout the rest of these two weeks.  [Arthur] got braces.

This week [Harriet] was being all nice to me like we were best of friends.  I have no problem being nice to her, but I don’t trust her as a friend.  Anyway, I think she was being so nice because for drama we were gonna put on our play this Fri, & in the play Harriet & I play best friends.

[Henry] kinda ignored me this week & I embarrassed myself twice.

I was really sick on Wed. so I missed school.  I had a science exam the next day I’m POSITIVE I flunked.

I’ve got a lot more to tell, but I’ve gotta go now.  We have Monday off, so, don’t worry, you’ll hear all.

No, friends, what you just read is not, in fact, the first of the regular Monday updates I have vowed to write.  I have just shared with you an excerpt from my seventh grade journal.  You may note the brackets around the names; the sense of paranoia that comes with being a dork in middle school dies hard (actually, never dies).

I rediscovered all of the journals I used to keep when I was cleaning out my bookshelf in a bout of feng shui a month or so ago, and it was like meeting a completely different person.  If only I could have done this the other way around and sent a journal entry from the future to my thirteen-year-old self – a self who, by the way, kept “crush statistics” at the end of every entry.

A few days ago, my friend asked me if I ever kept journals as a kid, even though to look at me is to know the answer.  By high school I had moved on from handwritten journaling and had made my first foray into the blogosphere via livejournal, and it’s taken me until now to reflect on how the transition from analog to digital has affected my writing style.

Of course, I have grown up, and my voice has changed (although probably not as much as I think it has), but my audience has also changed.  In our conversation, I admitted to my friend that the Diary of Anne Frank had a profound effect on me; without knowing who she was writing for, Anne had written a memoir for a global audience.  I, self-consciously, began to write to an ambiguous “you,” which may have been my journal, but might also have been the readers I anticipated long after my death.  Blogging allowed me the instant gratification of a (mostly) sympathetic audience.

I am still trying to figure out to what extent the medium of blogging has affected my voice.  It has certainly made me more guarded with information.  In my seventh grade journal I tore classmates to shreds using their real names – in 100 years, who would remember them, anyway?  Now, even though none of us have kept in touch, I’m worried about posting their real names on the internet.  On the other hand, I feel almost obligated to include as many of my incidental thoughts as I can.

Maybe the internet is just like seventh grade.  I’m working, right now, on a balancing act of authenticity: on the one hand, sharing what I’m thinking, to the world, immediately; and on the other hand, wanting that world to find me, and read me, and like me.

what’s going on in my brain digest

Oh, guys.  For once, my tardiness is due to an influx of ideas.  I suppose that you don’t know exactly what I mean when I say “tardiness” because the timing of these blog posts seem to have to rhyme or reason, but I will tell you now: from this day forth I will aim to have a new post for you every Monday with additional, incidental posts during the week as I see fit.  Public statement.  Public shaming.

Now, against my better judgement, I will share with you the various topics that have been bouncing around in my head for the last week and some, and I will perhaps expand on one or none of them this coming Monday.

1. I realize that, at this point, the Pussy Riot verdict may already be old news, but it appears that there are many trials to come, so let’s not let it become ancient history just yet.  Last weekend, I encountered this article on the Daily Beast, which succinctly brings to light the alarming reality of the judicial process, which may have itself have been pulled from the vaults of Russia’s long history.  Ms. Gessen’s point about language and modernity stuck out to me most particularly:

I suddenly realized these texts sounded better in English than they do in Russian. It wasn’t that the translators had improved the quality of the writing: the originals, which I had read in Russian, had been clear and cogent and surprisingly erudite for three very young women—they range in ages from 22 to 30—who had been known for staging radical actions, not for writing political commentary. The problem with the writing in Russian was that the women were speaking the language of the modern world in a country that is rapidly traveling backward in time.

Go with me here: when I was studying abroad in France in 2009, I talked about  music all the time.  It’s an easy topic for small talk and doesn’t require an extensive vocabulary.  Eventually I had to ask, though: why do so many French recording artists sing exclusively (or almost exclusively) in English?  The tradition of Rock and Roll, my interlocutor explained, is American; the spirit of the music is rooted in the English language, and it doesn’t sound as good in other languages.  I don’t want that to be true for Pussy Riot, though.  English, really, can’t possibly be useful as a language of rebellion anymore.  The bigger rebellion, I think, is finding the phrasing and the words to say what you aren’t allowed to say in your native tongue.

2. From the political to the mundane.  Yes, I am talking about the transition from Pussy Riot to this image, but I guess I’m also talking about the image itself.  Bathroom graffiti is still the best forum to editorialize anonymously.  Sorry, internet.  What I really love, though, is the lurking possibility for inappropriate juxtaposition.  While I’m sure learning to read will make a difference in our lives for so many reasons, I am equally sure that Rachel ❤ Chad and that they will be together 4ever.  There’s a heart within a heart.

3. Please consider the following.  First a real screen shot from an online job application I recently filled out:

And now this, which is funny because it’s true:

I have to confess: I am horrible at coming up with passwords.  It is easier for me to memorize an arbitrary series of numbers assigned to me by a random website than it is for me to come up with a memorable password.  Moving on.  Having just seen the above video, I laughed – actually laughed – when the first company website told me to include numbers… and then to include a capital letter… and then to include a special character.  Why couldn’t they just tell me all at once?  At the top of the page?

I realize that these are the principles of creating a safe password: using as many different kinds of symbols as possible to create the largest possible pool of potential combinations.  I took statistics, yo.  I just can’t handle how weirdly analytical some of the guidelines can get.  At this point, it really isn’t a passWORD anymore, anyway.  It is just an arbitrary series of numbers and letters.

So, there you have it: my brain dump of the week in lieu of a cohesive (hah!) post.  If you have an opinion on what you’d like to hear my opinion on, please feel free to leave me a comment.  Clearly, I’ve got plenty of opinions to go around.

‘Ascent of the A-Word:’ The Beauty of the Indispensable Vulgarity – The Daily Beast

‘Ascent of the A-Word:’ The Beauty of the Indispensable Vulgarity – The Daily Beast.

I love this.  My two pull out quotes from the article:

An impolite vulgarism that has rudely elbowed its way into polite discourse without losing its air of impoliteness, asshole fills a gap.

and

“Every age,” Nunberg says, “creates a particular social offender that it makes a collective preoccupation—the cad in Anthony Trollope’s day, the phony that Holden Caulfield was fixated on in the postwar years—and the asshole is ours.”

I love this notion that as our vulgarities change, so do our sensibilities – that the asshole is actually a cultural trope, and not just a word.  Note: this would make a GREAT birthday present.

I’m fascinated by the way a product name can supplant a more general, neutral word in common usage. In some ways, it’s a testament to successful marketing, but it also seems like our response to a successful product – the product that does everything we want and expect a tissue, or mop, or clementine to do. It’s a strangely semiotic transition, an acceptance of new signifiers which both specify and become broad in their usage. Some interesting ideas here. 🙂

Freshly Ground

Current location: 
demitasse, Los Angeles

Currently drinking: 
Soy latte, double espresso

Currently re-reading:
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace 

At lunch the other day, a coworker asked if I wanted one of her Cuties and handed me a clementine.

Since when did this word become the name for all seedless mandarin fruits? 

I mean, genericized trademarks aren’t anything new. We often ask for Advil when we just mean ibuprofen, or a Kleenex when any tissue would do. And in my house, we “Swiffer” the floor (even if we’re just mopping) and “Clorox” the counter (even when we use Target-brand wipes). How about ChapStick? Saran Wrap? Do we “Xerox” or “photocopy” a document?

The list goes on. But for some reason, it’s unsettling to see this standard marketing strategy applied to produce. Sure, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is obvious marketing. It’s a slogan — you can…

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tying the knot

After a hiatus of nearly two months, I am back.  Excuses aside, I am back.  But here is my main excuse: I was working at a job which contractually forbade me from blogging about it, and I knew that I would be overwhelmingly tempted to work it into my La-la-language updates, so I decided to go cold turkey for the duration of my contract.  Lucky for you (for us, really), that contract is over and I am freshly unemployed (albeit tan and unemployed).

It’s 11:17pm right now, and truthfully, I was going to wait until tomorrow to write an update (and boy, will that one be a doozy), but I have to get something off my chest right now.  Over the past year and some, I’ve watched an alarming number of friends, peers, facebook friends, and friends and peers who I am friends with on facebook wed their one-and-onlies.  I would use the following adjectives to describe my experience: beautiful, inspiring, terrifying, and voyeuristic.

As droves of my facebook friends unironically change their marital status (stati?) to “Married to [real person],” I continue to encounter what has to be my least favorite marital euphemism.  Most recently, and in context: “i am so happy u 2 are finally tying the knot.”  My reaction to this particular turn of phrase could only be referred to as visceral: it makes me want to rip out all of the hair on my head, including my eyebrows.

And yet, up until this moment, I’ve had to work to avoid casually using it in this post.  It’s what springs to the tip of my tongue when I want to say “married” without saying “married,” but seeing it in print makes me want to vomit at best, and engage in my own iteration of an ancient Egyptian mourning ceremony at worst.

Here are the best reasons I could come up with for my seemingly irrational reaction:

  1. The old-timey sound of this particular cliché is synaesthetic.  No sooner have I read it, than am I choking on the cologne and cigar smoke emanating from the Old Boys’ Club.
  2. What’s with all the bondage imagery, anyway?  One day you’re tying the knot and the next you’re beholden to the Old Ball ‘n’ Chain.
  3. I don’t understand why we talk about the knot as if it’s something we’ve all seen… or is it precisely something that we haven’t seen?  The Platonic signifier for marriage?
  4. If that’s the case, a knot seems like a pretty menacing image (see point #2).
  5. I want to know how many pieces of rope (string? yarn?) are involved in this knot.  Two: a union of two threads (laces? ribbons?) into one?  Or is it just one: marriage is a transformation? A tangle?

As I write this list, I realize that perhaps my aversion to “tying the knot” (take that as you will) is indicative of a larger frustration with the kinds of images we use to describe major life events – or even, dare I say it, life in general.  I’m never one to turn my nose up at a good old fashioned analogy, but I wish we didn’t have to hide behind vague, figurative language when we describe important changes in our lives.  Life. Is. Not. A. Highway.  And marriage isn’t a knot.  When we’re in the midst of a crisis or a change or some other kind of experience that’s too large for us to tell whether it’s good or bad in the moment, we’re allowed to humble ourselves.  We’re allowed to say: “This is big. I don’t know what it means, but I’m excited/afraid/hopeful/curious. I’ll tell you about it later.”