Wednesday, September 30, 2015

An Asynchronous Conversation About the Comma with Lloyd E. Smith

4. The Comma (excerpted from Punctuation Self Taught, Little Blue Book #683 by Lloyd E. Smith, Edited by E. Haldeman-Julius, 1924)

Lloyd: "The little comma is the worst of all marks of punctuation to keep in its proper place."
(SP: I like to use a whip and a chair, Lloyd, you?)

Lloyd: "Don't sprinkle commas about as though you were distributing them from a careless pepper-shaker!"
(SP: This feels like a personal attack, Lloyd. So: I, will, if, I, want, to, Lloyd,)

Lloyd: "Law suits have--rarely, but still often enough to be a warning--been won or lost on the position of a single comma."
(SP: Oh, really. Scare tactics, Lloyd? I thought you were better than that.)

Lloyd: "Words (usually nouns or adjectives, but often other parts of speech and even phrases or clauses) strung together in a series are separated from each other by commas."
(SP: You are about to give me an example, aren't you, Lloyd? I smell an example coming.)

Lloyd: "But be our experience in particulars what it may, no man ever forgot the visitations of that power to his heart and brain, which created all things new; which was the dawn in him of music, poetry and art; which made the face of nature radiant with purple light; the morning and the night varied enchantments; when a single tone of one voice could make the heart beat, and the most trivial circumstances associated with one form, is put in the amber of memory; when we became all eye when one was present, and all memory when one was gone; when the youth becomes a watcher of windows, and studious of a glove, a veil, a ribbon, or the wheels of a carriage; when no place is too solitary, and none too silent for him who has richer company and sweeter conversation in his new thoughts, than any old friends, though best and purest, can give him; for, the figures, the motions, the words of the beloved object are not like other images written in water, but, as Plutarch said, 'enameled in fire,' and make the study of midnight." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

(SP: ?, ?, ?, and ?!)

(SP: Llllllloyd! What the heck? I thought you were going to give me an example such as "apples, pears, and peaches." This? You give the beginner a paragraph like this--without saying "Don't try this at home?" You distress me, Lloyd!!!)

Lloyd: "Doubling or tripling the exclamation point is an outgrowth of its overuse, an ungrammatical attempt to restore the potency the single mark once had, and still has in conservative writing."

(SP: I am beginning to dislike you, Lloyd.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ad Nauseum...New white Ipana with WD-40! Oops...I Mean WD-9

Top Takeaways from this Final Entry in the Ad Nauseum Series:
1) White toothpaste is always a good idea; I don't think dark gray or brown toothpaste would sell. Points for Ipana!
2) Is WD-9 actually WD-40? Zero points for Ipana if this is the case.
3) Okay, no...WD-9 is "Sodium Lauryl Sulfate." Points for Ipana for not being made out of WD-40!
4) Oh, crap. "Sodium Lauryl Sulfate" might not be much better than brushing with WD-40. Points removed from Ipana!
5) Bonus Question: Is that little boy in the background casually drinking a cup of coffee? 40 points for the little boy if this is the case.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Ad Nauseum..."Your Hair Is Romance"

Top Takeaways:
1) When you use White Rain, parrots hit on you...
2) ...and you don't mind because your hair is sunshine bright!
3)  Using White Rain shrinks you down into a tiny little woman creature...
4)...but it's okay because you get a neat tiny umbrella, which will keep you from drowning if the giant shampoo bottle spills!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Devilishly Wild Google Ride: Korea to Memory Lane to Venezuela to ???

The Google Ride Launchpad: Korea
Last night, I was visiting my elderly neighbor and he said the following: "They told me I was going to go to the devil. So, I looked them in the eye and I said, 'I met the devil, in Korea, and let me tell you that I'm on a first name basis with him and he ain't all he's cracked up to be.'"

The Side Trip to Memory Lane
Whoa! I only wish that I could use that line. As I definitely won't be able to, I thought about this thing my grandmother used to say: "And the devil take the hindermost!" I always figured it meant something like "I'm doing this, and I don't care what anyone else thinks!" But, I googled it to see what was doin'.

The First Google
Pretty quickly, I found out that "And the devil take the hindermost!" confuses English language learners. Here's a question in a forum that kinda made me laugh: "Hello, I am reading a horoscope book which is about Aries. Then I came across the sentence as below. 'One can't help being reminded of a certain impulsive ram, Nikita Krushchev, who once banged his hoe in a fit of childish temper, on a table at the United Nations, in full view of a television audience, and the devil-take-the-hindermost.' I have no clue what the devil-take-the-hindermost. My dictionary does not help me at all. Will someone help me, please?"

First: I'm pretty sure Kruschev banged his shoe, but somehow it's better to think of him banging his hoe. Second, I sort of wish the English language learner was reading a different book--this one is bound to be old and include words like "hepcat." Anyhoo: The definition is: "without caring for the consequences" which is close enough to "And I don't care what anyone else thinks!"

The Second Google
Something about "the devil" and "hindermost" made me think about Underwood Devil Spread. Oh...yeahhhhhh. I used to eat this stuff--possibly just because there was a little cartoon guy on the label. And I thought, "I wanna see the little cartoon guy...I wanna see him NOW!" so I did a google image search. And...No! This guy didn't look right! His little arms are outstretched! (Something that also ain't right: Doing what this ad suggests and making a sandwich with Underwood Deviled HamTM and shredded pineapple.)

Blargh! No! His arms are stretched out again--he's looking like Ethel Merman...Also: "Taste the taste" is a pretty lame slogan, as is this little rhyme I found in a quick side search: "Only one good devil in the world. Its the devil on a can and the can is a can of Underwood Deviled Ham." Insufficiently catchy. Let's move on.
Okay, the slogan is a little more imaginative here: "It is branded with the devil, but fit for the gods." But, I'm not sure I would have ever eaten a deviled ham sandwich if I saw this picture of this GUY in a can of the stuff--with what appears to be a disgruntled onlooker pig.Then, hold the presses, THIS came up! I had to track this down to the source...
...which turned out to be the General Mills Web site--specifically the marketing department in Venezuela. Apparently, "Diablitos Underwood deviled ham–found in nine of 10 Venezuelan homes–is just one of many brands that contribute to the success of General Mills Venezuela...Many Venezuelan children enjoy a breakfast of Diablitos Underwood deviled ham with arepas, a bread made of precooked corn flour. This high-quality, traditional product maintains a leading share of the country's meat spreads market."

You know, I never even suspected there was such a thing as a "country's meat spreads market." It's a thing! Also: I did not know that Diablitos Underwood deviled ham was a traditional product in Venezula...Come to think of it, what IS a "traditional product"? Oh, those marketing ninjas...they get my head to spinning. Tired from this wild ride...must go lie down with a traditional blanket and pillow.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ad Nauseum...PRUNES!

Top Takeaway: Prunes give you wicked bad jaundice. The yellow from the box spreads to your face!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Ad Nauseum...Statler Hotels

Rex sez: "HEY KIDS! Statler Hotels look pretty great! Pop can smoke his pipe anywhere! Kids get giant scary head balloons! Your room comes with a free middle-aged woman who sits in a chair reading!" Um...maybe we can store her in the closet?
1) "The Rise and Fall of One of America's Most Innovative Hotel Chains"
2) Statler Detroit: "An Unclear Future for An Overgrown Lot"
3) Statler Los Angeles: "So Long Statler: A Cheerless End for L.A.'s Atomic Age Hotel"
4) Last Statler Standing? (The Statler Built By Mr. Statler's Will)
5) Inevitable Wiki Link for All Your Statler Needs

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Ad Nauseum..."Youthful Feel"

Archie and His Doppelganger's Top Takeaways from This Ad:
1) Why would you want your foot to feel like it did when it was a teenager? Draggin' along the ground all sullen and hormone-besieged...
2) This "Magic Sole"...can it do my taxes and make me cheesecake? If it can't, it ain't Magic.
3) Somehow, that shoe IS kind of hot-looking, but how does a human foot fit in it? Diagram needed.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ad Nauseum..."PluPerfect Peas!"

Pip pip and cheerio! Robespierre present and accounted for, with a few words for you concerning the PluPerfect Peas of Birds EyeTM.
1) Everybody is WAY into these peas: Geezers, donkeys, baa lambs, roosters, pigs, you name it...Either that or they like billboard sign painters creepy much.
2) You cannot eat peas without putting eyeball looking things on them...could be stuffed onions, could be stuffed eggs...they just need to look eyeball-y.
3) Note the warning at bottom right.. "WARNING! Look for the Birds Eye on the package. BE SURE you get it! Other peas will EXPLODE, hit you in your eye, knock your eye OUT, and your eye will land in the PEAS."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ad Nauseum..."With Your Eyes Closed"

Robespierre and Bertie's Top Takeaways from this ad:
1) The best way to choose shoes is with your eyes closed. That makes sure they're nice 'n pinchy.
2) Hey "Miss Peekaboo": Don't walk around like that.
3) If you walk around like that, 9 out of 10 doctors prefer Red Cross Shoes as a source of new and severely debilitated patients.

Monday, September 21, 2015

What Would Bill Do?

Five years ago, when I was wrestling with a vicious tag team of personal trials and tribulations, I decided I needed some spiritual guidance. Some divine being needed to latch on to my sorry bumper and give me a tow up and out of the valley of the shadow of death and that other stuff that valley has. I discounted any religion that makes grown women have catfights over the casseroles they bring to church suppers and anything that makes people feel guilty about anything. That's a lot of religions right there. I also ruled out Paganism and Wiccan and some other stuff because I don't look good in black velvet. As you might imagine, this left me only one option. Yes. I chose Bill Murray as my personal savior and now, when push comes to shove and even "Popular Mechanics" doesn't have a solution, I ask myself, "What would Bill do?" This is super easy to answer, and I usually only have two paths of righteousness to follow: (1) "Right now, Bill would make a mocking or self-mocking, witty remark"; (2) "Right now, Bill would show the universe the silent ache behind his laughing eyes."

Unfortunately, people get confused when I show the universe the silent ache behind my laughing eyes. They tend to say, "Do you have allergies?" or "Been at the computer too much, Squinty?" I do my best with the witty remarks, but I often fall short of the Murray gold standard. While my facial mugging and eyebrow quirking get top marks, I generally think of the sassiest line 11 hours later. Children are born, seasons pass, and infrastructure quietly crumbles as I slowly grind my way through a joke, and...

Beg pardon, gotta run. It's time for me to go practice that "silent ache behind my laughing eyes" look!

Happy Birthday: Stephen King, Bill Murray, Sparkle Plenty

Stephen King, Bill Murray, and Sparkle Plenty were all born on This Day in History. Stephen King and Bill Murray are both 6'2 or taller, can slam-dunk a basketball, and can reach stuff on high shelves! Similarly, Sparkle Plenty...oh, crud.

Let's try again. Stephen King and Bill Murray have both made their mark on the movie-going public--whether you want a thrill, a chill, a yuk, or a heart-break these boys deliver the goods. Similarly, Sparkle Plenty has made several highly-acclaimed (by her sister) home movies of her dog and...oh, crud.

One more time: Hey! At least Sparkle Plenty is considerably younger than Stephen King and Bill Murray! She's still pretty old, but maybe some day she'll still hit 6'2 and make her mark on the movie-going public?

To sum up: Bill Murray and Stephen King ROCK.

To further sum up: Sparkle's gonna have cake she's got that goin' for her.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Vintage Sex Advice

Over the years, my mom gave out some solid advice. A few examples:

1. "Not towards the ditch! For the love of god, honey, NEVER TOWARDS THE DITCH!" (This advice came when she was very patiently teaching me to drive, and it must be said she prefaced this with many gently muttered "Honey, you're a little close to the ditch, honey, you're a little close to the edge of the road" remarks that she escalated when I continued to be magnetically drawn to the ditch.)

2. "Don't worry about them, honey. Drive your own road, and drive it the best that you can." (This advice also came when she was very patiently teaching me to drive, in response to my hysterical mutterings of, "What's to prevent those other cars in the other lane from driving right into my lane? What's to prevent them? Just those painted lines?" Occasionally, my sister and I resurrect this advice and say it to each other in different situations.)

3. "Dock the oars! For the love of god, honey, DOCK THE OARS!" (While teaching me to row--I'm still not sure what this means, but at the time it seemed to mean "You're about to let both oars slip out and into the water and float away, please don't do that.")

All of the above is very solid advice. When it came to seeking advice regarding men, however, I was pretty reticent. I was very private about such things, and I also didn't want to worry her. She had a pretty busy time raising us. She was also 34 years older than me, and I just wasn't sure if her advice would apply. At one point, however, when misery prompted me to set aside my independence and ask for help, I got an earful.

Me: "So, and blah blah blah. And then blah blah blah. And blah. What do you think mom?"
Mom: "I think you're probably making it harder than it needs to be."
Me: "Yeah?"
Mom: "Yeah, you're overthinking it."
Me: "Oh, you must be thinking of some other daughter named Sparkle now. Ha."
Mom: "Ha ha. Really, I think you should just do what you want to do, honey. You know what's best."
Me: "Well, so what did you do when you were dating?"
Mom: "Well, when I was in the Navy, we'd tell the boys, "Keep a cool tool, you fool, I'm wise to the rise in your Levi's."
Me: "WHAT?"
Mom: "Keep a cool tool, you fool, I'm wise to the rise in your Levi's."
Me: "How does that relate to this situation at all?"
Mom: "HA! It doesn't. I just figured it would make you laugh."
Me: "How could you even USE that in the Navy? Weren't you all isolated with other women in the Waves? Who had 'tools to rise'?"
Mom: "Silly. Our barracks were right next to the men's barracks. That line came in handy sometimes. For example, when I was up on all-night watch, Tony Rotini* would come sneaking over and visit me. He'd bring me some food his mother had made and a thermos of coffee, we'd have a little picnic, and sometimes one thing would lead to another."
Sparkle: "What were you on all-night watch for in the girl's navy on dry land? Dry-land enemy submarines? Men sneaking over? Some all-night guard YOU were. What kind of food did Tony Rotini's mother make? Did you ever get caught? Did you ever use that line on Tony Rotini? For real?"
Mom: "It was the NAVY, honey, we were always on guard for something. Tony often brought leftover spaghetti and meatballs from his mother--it was delicious--and chocolate cake. I wish I remembered her recipe for the spaghetti sauce."
Sparkle: "Did you ever get caught? Did you ever use that line? What is it? The Levi's line?"
Mom: "Keep a cool tool..."
Sparkle: "Keep a cool tool..."
Mom: " fool..."
Sparkle: " fool..."
Mom: "I'm wise..."
Sparkle: "I'm wise..."
Mom: " the rise..."
Sparkle: " the rise..."
Mom: " your Levi's."
Sparkle: " your Levi's. HA! People actually said that. And, what does that have to do with my current situation?"
Mom: "Nothing. But, at least it took your mind off it for a few minutes, huh?"
Sparkle: "HA. You're right. But, you little hussy. You and that Tony Rotini."
Mom: "That's nothing compared to what went on at the Pentagon."
Sparkle: "HUH? What went on at the Pentagon?"
Mom: "Ooh, honey--I think that's the kettle's whistling. I need to go get that, and it's almost time for Fawlty Towers."
Sparkle: "MOM!"
Mom: "Sorry, gotta scoot. We'll talk soon, okay? Don't worry about this, it will work itself out. Love you!"
Sparkle: "MO-OM! Oh, heck. Love you!"

*Tony Rotini is not his real name. But, it's actually kind of close.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Meet the New Dinosaurs!

Thank you to all of those who suggested names! Your lifetime supply of Spaghettio's, wardrobe of Hager Double-Knit Slacks, and a handsome check for $1,000 is winging its way to you (unless I forgot to put postage on the packages...).

Eli Ringtail-Tooter fights for justice.
Charlie-Bob stays pretty chill.
Hoke Hadley is a born salesman.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Fancy Pile of Fire! Dirty Joke with Squirrels! Dinner For You!

I feel about cars like cavemen felt about fire: "It's so handy! It's so powerful! I so don't understand it!" So, here I am...driving around in a big ol' handy, powerful, mysterious pile of fire every day. Time for a picture so you don't get bored!

Notice how small, lost, and frightened the woman looks. Yes, that is me, waiting for the gods that gave me the big pile of fancy fire to get angry and make something bad happen. "What's that noise?" "Don't my tires feel funny?" "What's that smell?" Each year, I promise myself that I will take an auto mechanics course and get all smart and competent and stuff. I have never done this. I'm pretty stupid..I put the idiot in idiot savant, and I'm still searching around for the savant part. Here are very bad things I have done: (1) I took air OUT of my tires rather than putting it in--this was on a day when I was trying to be especially competent. The inner dialogue went, "You're a grown woman! You can DO this." No. I could not. (2) I put ignition wires into a 1967 Dodge the wrong way. This was a maneuver my mechanic assured me was "fool-proof." He did not know me well then. (3) I won't mention my car wash phobia. What's that? Did I just say that? No, no. I have no car wash phobia. To speak of.

Let's add a #4 to the above. Yesterday, I drove around and one of my tires had 6.5 lbs of air in it. That is exactly equal to one tiny, dainty china tea cup full of air in terms of tire pressure. Yep, it felt weird, but I thought I was imagining it. It looked weird, but I thought it was maybe because I was parked on an incline. Pardon me, it's time for me to go slap the back of my head again. Thanks. Let's fast forward through my morning, and then I've got dinner for YOU, yes YOU and you and you (and you). You've been looking peaked, and you don't eat enough. So, hang in there.

(1) I slowly inch my pile of fancy fire to the service station down the street. They don't fix tires. The guy puts air in my tire (see idiocy above) and says that maybe there's a nail in there. I am in a state of what I would call "highly agitated, apologetic perkiness." When I go to shake his hand, he gives me a hug and tells me I've made his day. Huh? I worry about the rest of his day. (2) I go to the tire place.
3) The tire guy tells me that my tire is a rogue tire, a bad tire, a no-goodnik, a troublemaker. The guy doesn't have a tire for me. Can get one that will almost match the others. Puts my spare on.

4) I remember I got the tires at Sears, I go to Sears. I wait and wait and wait. I work, work, work for I have a deadline on a proposal I'm writing. I chat, chat, chat with the elderly guy next to me. "Whatcha workin' on?" he asks. "A proposal to, you know, get money for a family literacy project," I say. Instead of saying "WHA?" like most do, he nods his head wisely and says, "It's a noble cause, but once you're crazy, you're crazy." WHA? Then, he tells me a very dirty joke involving Tarzan, Jane, and squirrels. It ain't that funny, but I laugh gamely. Unfortunately, he can tell it's a pity laugh and looks a little wounded. But, he gave me his card. Do you need a knife? I can hook you up.

Enough about me. For you, because it is Friday and it has been a long week, and you are hungry and a weary, frail shell of your usual, bouncy self, here is dinner. YES, dinner DOES look wicked scary--the cream-coated brain in the middle is off-putting (it's cauliflower...cauliflower with cheese sauce, I assure you). But, it's tasty! And, you have double dessert (feel free to skip right to the ice cream if you like). EAT! ENJOY! And, you have a wonderful weekend!
SNOWBALLS IN JULY (a la The Stork Club)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Global Find and Replace

When I was just a little 19-year-old tadpole working as a secretary, I made two of the biggest proofreading errors ever. I'd been on the job for just a week, and I was proofreading a professional organization's newsletter at top speed and under the influence of a great deal of caffeine. First, my eye glazed right over the term "pubic school." As you might realize, there are no pubic schools--at least none that I know of--and there are a whole lot of public schools. A sea of "public schools" ("Public schools have the obligation to ensure that all children receive a hot lunch that enables them to concentrate on their schoolwork and..." "...and many public schools fail to adequately meet their students' needs for...") spanned out before me, and as my eyes swam through that sea I managed to miss the one little "pubic school" bobbing along naughtily ("Some pubic schools have extremely effective approaches to initiating...").

Second, I made the novice's error of thinking I understood a document better than I really did. I was proofreading an article about kindergarten children and age-appropriate activities: "Early literacy work, work on fine and gross motor skills, counting fun, and fingerprinting." HA! I laughed aloud. FINGERPRINTING?! What are these, tiny hoods? Tot Felons? Kiddy Cat Burglars? Chuckling, I carefully replaced the term "fingerprinting" with "fingerpainting." That's what I did in kindergarten--I was a bit of a prodigy, really--and that's what they meant to say here.

Curvy, pink, and liberally dusted with sweet-smelling face powder--she always reminded me of a ladylike jelly doughnut--the editor of the newsletter was especially kind. Gently and sorrowfully, she pointed an exquisitely manicured finger at the term "pubic school" as I turned eight shades of red. Then, as the grand finale, she explained to me that "fingerprinting" was the correct term--not "fingerpainting." In addition to the curriculum activities, children were "fingerprinted" as a safety measure. While I like to think that if the article had mentioned McGruff the Crime Dog I would have realized that fingerprinting was the correct term, I think that "Never assume" is the correct takeaway lesson here.

I've carried that lesson along with me into my life as an editor and writer for hire, and it stands me in good stead--particularly in my last big job. A couple of weeks ago, I took on one of those messes that no editor wants to tackle. There was an extremely tight deadline, a mish-mash of requests to "do a high-speed edit, it's okay if you miss things" and "please read for sense and suggest rewrites," nothing was ready on time, I received sections out of sequence, it was 250 pages, there were 10 different authors, and the "Consistency Checklist" had inconsistencies. Come to think of it, this is often the norm for an editor rather than an exception. Anyway, to cap it off, on Friday, my client asked me--pretty casually, except for the moment his voice cracked--"So, what's your availability like for the weekend?" And my quarterly taxes said: "I am available whenever you need me to be available."

I am going to draw a gentle veil over the experience by saying, "There were a lot of boo-boos." To be fair, I'm not sure if any of the boo-boos were as bad as "pubic school," but some came close. Anyway, the kinda fun part was the high-speed "Find and Replace" of approximately 100 inconsistent terms that I did toward the end. For some of the terms, I could not do a global Find and Replace--instantly fixing all of the terms--and I had to find each one, scooting nimbly down through the files.

I've been writing for most of my clients lately, so I haven't done that kind of concentrated Find and Replace binge in a while. In the first 15 minutes, its power just impressed me. After half an hour, I decided that Find and Replace is a very awesome invention--perhaps second only to the internal combustion engine. Around the 45-minute mark, as I frankly grew a little bored with the majesty of Find and Replace, I decided that I wanted to be able to leap off the printed page and do a global Find and Replace on stuff I don't like in my life and in the world.

I think you can probably figure out how the global Find and Replace for the world will work. You can think of some of the obvious "Find" terms I might take care of right away--starvation, war, bullying, torture, terminal cancer, children in danger--and you can figure out good "Replace" terms. I realize that we might not agree on all of the global Find and Replace terms, but you can have your own wish list, okay? Or, if you don't like the concept, you're free to do a mental Find and Replace of this blog post. I suggest you replace it with an article about pubic schools.

I'm thinking it might take me a few years to get my personal Find and Replace list all hammered out. However, here is some of my current thinking:








8. FIND:

10. FIND:

11. FIND:

12. FIND: