Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why Don't You Learn the Trade

And of course, the laughing stock of Wall Street today is Goldman Sachs, which posted a 70% drop in profits. Hey, learn how to run a bank, you clowns.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Politics The Way It Oughtn't Be

To a disappointed Clinton supporter, Palin must seem like Leela in "A Leela of Her Own." Discuss.

Friday, September 12, 2008

He's Back, Baby

Today's column gives McCain the full Krugman treatment, old-school. I love it. I think he even manages to be fair, as in the classic Bush-bashing columns. One advantage of McCain's recent gain in the polls is that it tends to focus the attention and suppress intra-party squabbling among the Democrats. Something tells me we won't be seeing a lot of Obama-bashing from Krugman between now and the election.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

I Got Sidetracked, But Now I'm Humming Right Along

So my latest fascination, which I've blogged about before, is anachronistic language. To be more precise, I'm interested in words that we don't think of as new or modern, but that would have been meaningless to anyone before a particular point in time.

An example will illustrate. If you told Isaac Newton that you had been "sidetracked," I'm pretty sure he would have looked at you funny. To "sidetrack" a railroad car is to divert it onto one of the tracks that runs parallel to the main tracks. Those parallel tracks were just to hold railroad cars while more important traffic went through, so while you were "sidetracked" you weren't going to make any progress. Hence, you know, getting "sidetracked."

So, no railroads, no "sidetracked." Now, if you go back far enough, of course, any word is going to be anachronistic, but I guess I'm interested in the words with an etymology that is unexpectedly recent but that you realize couldn't be otherwise once you think about it (like "sidetrack").

These words are not so easy to find, and of course you always have to beware of folk/false etymologies. Still, fun game! I guess the way I would play the game is to think of a word, and then try to figure out when that word would have begun to make sense to an English speaker. I guess "sidetrack" would have started to make sense to lots of people when passenger rail travel became common, so mid-to-late 19th century? But anyway, fun game.

I Just Wanted to Say It

Two thoughts:

1. Allegories are sort of silly, and crude symbolism is generally looked down on. And yet everyone gives in to the "allegorical temptation," seeing symbols everywhere ("note that his teeth are white, white symbolizes death, which is a theme of the work"). Often this reasoning is employed to determine "what the author meant" or what the author "was really saying." I don't have much to say about this, except that it's really fucking annoying. It seems to me that writing (and art generally) has progressed far past this, why hasn't our analysis kept up? In all likelihood I'm just not reading the right analysis.

2. In the same vein, I think we sometimes radically overthink what a poem "means." So for instance, I just sent this e-mail to Alan:

I have eaten
the cookies
that were in
the Tupperware

and which
you were probably
for a snack

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so flavorful

I changed 4 words of a famous poem, and yet it worked perfectly as what it was: an apology for eating some fucking cookies. So in other words, despite having read it in about 5 different classes growing up, what never struck me about the poem is that it's a perfectly functional apology. You know, for eating the plums. That were in the icebox.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The New York Times, Forever Eating the WSJ's Shit

The Wall Street Journal had this story long ago and it was much, much better written. I don't mind being a little experimental with your writing style or whatever, but if it doesn't work, don't print it.

Crystal Clear

"But for months, Americans have been driving fewer miles than before it has been costing them more."

Well, then.

Kick It Up Another Notch

Former Senator Phil Gramm got in trouble for calling the United States a "nation of whiners," and Obama has been using this line to illustrate Republicans' obliviousness on economic issues. Fair enough. Gramm would go up a notch in my estimation, though (putting him at notch 1), if he simply issued this statement, without any further elaboration:

"I have been quoted as saying that America is a nation of whiners. This is a misunderstanding - I meant to say that America is a nation of weiners. You know, dickheads."

[UPDATE: fixed spelling - but left "weiner" as "weiner," not "wiener." It just looks right to me that way, but I can understand why some people may feel differently.]