Monday, October 31, 2005

GlenMary Glen Ross

Sometimes I feel like Shelly "The Machine" Levene. Well, maybe Gil would be more appropriate, considering my industry.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Big Crime in the Small City

Each Thursday, the Laurel Leader faithfully shows up on my stoop. It's the free local paper in my little burg, and I don't think it gets the respect it deserves. Let me explain:

For years I felt disconnected from Laurel. Even though we owned a house, shop locally, and belong to St. Mary of the Mills' parish, I didn't really feel enmeshed in the community. The reason for this kind of clicked during a visit to my in-laws in Ohio. I was reading The Plain Dealer, and found loads of news about Cleveland and the surrounding suburbs. I was engaged in the news because it was about the local community! Seems obvious, I know.

But Laurel lives on the fringes of Baltimore and Washington, DC. Consequently, neither markets claim it as one of their suburbs, and we enjoy little media coverage. The bit that does make the airwaves is usually about crime (Remember the attempted theft of an ATM a few months back? Yep, that was us.) Doesn't exactly help educate a citizen about her city, ya know?

Anyway, the only outlet for local info that I could find, from construction notices to high school football stats to audition postings at the Laurel Mill Playhouse, is the Laurel Leader. And now I'm a dedicated reader. Here's what's ironic, though: one of the sections that I skim without fail is the crime log. I don't know why; maybe it's 'cause I have a young child (no crime's been logged in our neck o' the woods, for what it's worth).

And here's something to compound the irony: the crime log actually made me laugh out loud! Here's the entry that got me:

Sept. 12: 1100 block of Montrose Ave. - Entry gained through a window. Forty DVDs, jewelry, Nikon camera and bank checks were taken. Before leaving, the robber also ate a pizza that was in the victim's refrigerator.

Is it terrible that someone's sanctity was violated like this? Absolutely. Is it funny that the thief was so confident in his getaway that he ate a pizza? Positively.

If I were the victim, I'm not sure if I'd view this as adding insult to injury, or if it would make me laugh too. Either way, I'll take this kind of crime over the goings-on of Baltimore and DC any day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Parents' "Maybe" Conversation

The Boy has been waking up in a screaming fury the past two nights for no discernible reason. At fifteen months old, he can't tell us what the problem is, so we have to go all Sherlock Holmes and see if we can figure it out. Problem is, in the middle of the night, our keen powers of observation are, well, not so keen. We're both fairly blind (shout out to the stigmatism crowd). And we neither of us wake up in a crisp state of coherence. At least we're not alone...I get the impression that most parents of young children are like this. So, I present to you the conversation that I believe every couple has during a child's nocturnal screamfest:

Parent 1: Just ignore him. We can't go in or he'll think we'll come in every time he squeaks.

Parent 2: I am ignoring it. (Places pillow over head. Takes pillow off head after a minute.) Is he still going?

Parent 1: Yeah; I think it's worse. (Sighs.) Do you think he's hungry?

Parent 2: No...he had a six ounce bottle before bed. And he had a good dinner before that.

Parent 1: Maybe he's going through a growth spurt and he's hungry again.

Parent 2: That doesn't sound like his hungry cry. It's definitely not that. I think.

Parent 1: What about his diaper? Do you think he's wet?

Parent 2: Maybe. But he's normally OK with a wet diaper. He's only upset if it overflows. And even then he doesn't care half the time. I don't know...maybe he's overtired.

Parent 1: How could he be overtired? He was asleep. Why would he wake up, then scream because he was tired?

Parent 2: How am I supposed to know? I'm just throwing out ideas. (Rolls over.) Do you think he has a cold?

Parent 1: He has been a little sniffly. But the temperature's changed this week, so maybe it's just a seasonal thing. Could be allergies.

Parent 2: Yeah, see, I thought the sniffles were because of teething. Maybe I should go give him some Tylenol. (Sits up and pulls back comforter.)

Parent 1: But if it's a cold and he has a fever, the Tylenol's just going to mask it. So maybe we should hold off on that.

Parent 2: (Sighs. Lays back down.) He's going to have laryngitis. He can't even talk, and he's going to have laryngitis.

Parent 1: Maybe he's too hot in the fuzzy sleeper. Or maybe when the heat kicked on, it woke him up and he's confused.

Parent 2: Maybe. (Sounds doubtful.) I don't know. I wish he could tell us what the problem was.

Parent 1: Yeah, but when he can talk, he'll call us by name and that'll be harder to ignore.

Parent 2: I suppose. Hey, do you think he lost his pacifier?

Parent 1: No, I heard in sucking it in between screaming fits.

And...scene. Truth is, this conversation would truly capture parental exasperation if it repeated itself at least six more times. If you're on tenterhooks about the Boy's status, I do believe he's teething. We dosed him with Tylenol, and after about twenty minutes of righteous indignation, he drifted off to a deep slumber.

I love Tylenol.

Monday, October 24, 2005

If Language Is Living, I Think It's Ill

Many things stick in my craw, but since I'm a passivist (get it?), I don't really get to unleash my frustrations on those who deserve it. My husband's heard my complaints about inconsequential things time and again, but I recognize you should start paying someone after the hundreth reiteration of a pet peeve.

My pettiest of peeves tend to fall into two different categories: litter and aggressive verbal blunders. The first one's pretty obvious. I mean, is it that hard to pitch your chip bag into the trash can that six feet away? I'm not an eco-warrior or anything like that; I just like things to be organized.

The verbal blunders are a little more complex. Spoonerisms and Malapropisms are endearing; coining phrases is necessary in the modern era; and puns, while annoying, are products of craft, not happenstance. All of those are acceptable ways of playing with the English language.

Here's what's not: jumbling together prefixes and suffixes until you get a word that shares a root with a real word, but is itself a work of fiction. This irks me 'cause people drop these word bombs in pursuit of intelligent conversation, yet they can't be bothered to crack a book to verify their word choice. In retrospect, it's kinda like verbal litter.

To wit:

1) Irregardless. Nitwits out there have decided that tacking "Ir-" to the front of "regardless" creates an even even fancier way of dismissing preceding ideas. A cocktail of "irrespective" and "regardless," which in turn makes me "irate."

2) Commentate. This bastardization of "comment" cements the notion that news magazine shows have captured the imaginations and the IQs of Americans. I'm certain that this is supposed to be the verb form of "commentator." And since that word is so prevalent in today's steady diet of not-really-news-so-lets-jazz-it-up-with-personal-opinions news coverage, people have gravitated toward this usage. [Editor's Note: OK, so I looked this up and it turns out there are no "nonstandard" notations in the definition...which makes it a real word. But I still don't understand why it would be used when "comment" means the same thing.]

3) Orientate. Again, we find ourselves using words that don't exist, thinking they are the roots of words quotidien tasks in which we are frequently mired. Let me break it down for you: in order to "orient" you to some new experience (college, company, health insurance, etc.), I will conduct an "orientation." At no point will I "orientate" you, 'cause frankly, that's not a real thing. [Editor's Note: See Editor's Note for "commentate."]

4) Supposably. I just shake my head when I hear this one. So, I have to assume that the speaker in this case has a reading disability and really, truly thinks he reads "supposably" when he's really seeing "supposedly." 'Cause if our friend has either a speech impediment or an hearing impairment, I have to think he would've read it somewhere, seen how it was supposed to be pronounced, and steered clear of the word knowing he couldn't pronounce it.

5) Deshell. Nope, sorry. The word is "shell." "Shell" is a wonderfully economical word because it has about 12 different meanings, one of which means to REMOVE a shell. I mean, you wouldn't say that you were going to "depeel" an orange, would you? Other verbs in this vein are: "bone," "skin," and "bark."

6) Attitudinal. The connotation ('cause Lord knows we're not getting any denotation) is that someone who is "attitudinal" is exhibiting a bad, aggressive, flippant, etc., attitude. In context, "Don't get attitudinal with me because I'm pointing out your grammatical errors."

7) Pleonasms. Which is a fancy way of saying are some examples: empty space; bald headed; complete monopoly. There are loads of these floating about in the verbal ether.

That's all I've got for now. As language (gasp!) evolves, more of these inventions will crop up, I'm sure. Here's what's scary: people will cite these words' existence in the dictionary as validation to use them. Please, I'm beggin' you, when you flip through Webster's masterwork to prove me wrong, note the "NONSTANDARD" notation next to the entry. Know what this means? It's not a real word!

Phew. I can go now and massage that throbbing forehead vein back down to a more manageable size.

[Added October 31, 2005]

8) Innappropriate Possesive's.
You know what, Roy Rogers? You don't have a "Fixin's Bar." Not unless someone named "Fixin" works for you. What you have is a "Fixins Bar." By tossing in an apostrophe to demystify your slang for "Fixings," then you've committed the greater sin of deliberate error. I don't know why "Fixin's" is so much hipper than "Fixings." Seriously, do you think you're going to attract more folks fromt he 18-24-year-old demographic by swapping out a perfectly nice "g" with a perfectly unnecessary " ' "?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ice Cream TV

I'm having one of those moments where I think I could be standing on the precipice of understanding something about myself. Then I think maybe it doesn't really mean anything at all. What is "it" you might ask? It is the Parents Television Council's Top 10 Best and Worst Shows for Family Viewing on Prime Time Broadcast Television for the 2005-2006 Season. Phew, that's a mouthful.

When I heard the PTC had released such a list, I giggled 'cause I was certain that I would probably be a fan of what they consider to be the Top 10 Worst Shows, and that I would consider the whole of the Top 10 Best Shows list to be sappy pap. Then I looked up the lists; the ones I regularly watch are in green:

1. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition ABC/8:00 Sunday - Returning show (3 seasons)
2. Three Wishes NBC/9:00 Friday (1st season)
3. American Idol Fox/Returning in spring '06 (4 seasons)
4. The Ghost Whisperer CBS/8:00 Friday (1st Season)
5. Everybody Hates Chris UPN/8:00 Thursday (1st Season)
6. Reba WB/9:00 Friday - Returning show (5 seasons)
7. Bernie Mac Fox/8:00 Friday - Returning show (5 seasons)
8. Dancing with the Stars ABC/Returning in spring ‘06 (1 season)
9. 7th Heaven WB/8:00 Monday - Returning show (10 seasons)
10. Not available.
Collective season total: 31

1. The War at Home Fox/8:30 Sunday (1st Season)
2. The Family Guy Fox/9:00 Sunday - Returning show (4 seasons)
3. American Dad Fox/9:30 Sunday - Returning show (1 season)
4. The O.C. Fox/8:00 Thursday - Returning show (3 seasons)
5. C.S.I. (Crime Scene Investigation) CBS/9:00 Thursday - Returning show (6 seasons)
6. Desperate Housewives ABC/9:00 Sunday - Returning show (2 seasons)
7. Two and a Half Men CBS/9:00 Monday - Returning show (seasons)
8. That ‘70s Show Fox/Returning in November ‘05 (8 seasons)
9. Arrested Development Fox/8:00 Monday - Returning show (3 seasons)
10. Cold Case CBS/8:00 Sunday - Returning show (3 seasons)
Collective season total: 33

Color me surprised. Here I thought I was a rebellious, trash TV watcher. I was sure I was going be be a dedicated viewer of all the 'Worst' shows. Let's not even discuss whether or not the shows have won Emmys. We're not talkin' about what the critics have to say -- we're just taking a look at these shows through the PTC's "family frinedly" lens. But I don't even have the facility to make fun of either of these lists because I don't watch enough of the shows.

What I can sincerely mock, though, is the PTCs choice to list the "returning" or inaugural status of the show. My take is that they are trying to shame network execs into giving family-friendly shows a shot at longevity. But when I looked up the lists on, I found that they collectively had the same seasonal duration average (3 seasons).

Know what's really funny about this? The PTC sees fit to list only nine shows in its "Best" category. It says that they simply can't find a tenth family friendly show. Yet on their "Best and Worst Shows of the Week" site, I count six prime time shows that weren't included in the annual ranking (Wife Swap, Nanny 911, So You Think You Can Dance?, R U the Girl?, Meet Mr. Mom, and Brat Camp). Weird that all of these are reality shows. Anyway, back to my point: clearly there are a lot of shows that make their weekly grade. I can't help but wonder if they declined to include a 10th show because it would appear that the shows one both lists are, oh, I don't know, on equal footing with respect to how long the American public, via Nielsen ratings, keeps them on the air.

Here's a basic fact: Television producers are in it to make money. If it's not about the money, then it's on
PBS. To make money, the broadcast television companies charge for advertising during their programs. The more the American public want to watch a program, the more money the TV suits can charge advertisers for commercial air time. If the American public doesn't watch a program, ratings go down, the suits can't bank cash money for advertising, and so they pull it from the airwaves. 'Cause it's ALL ABOUT THE MONEY, which is determined by whether or not people WANT TO WATCH A SHOW.

So if there are only NINE programs on TV that are suitable for families, ipso facto, that's all the happy shiny family programming that the majority of the American people WANT to see. Maybe that's disappointing, but it's the truth.

Long story short: if the PTC wants more family friendly shows on television, then it needs to open up its resources to clever, talented writers who want to pen sitcoms, dramas, crime stories, etc., that fall under that umbrella. If it's good, people will watch it. The tack they've taken -- shaming executives into feeding the American people a steady diet of vegetable TV -- won't work. Americans have proven time and again that they want ice cream TV.

I'm not saying I want PAX 24/7. I'm just saying that the PTC is going after the wrong people

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Right. Right. Right. Right.

There's a dark new trend on the horizon in talk radio. It's the dawn of "right." Not the Right, as in Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, or Bill Bennett. I'm talking about the prodigious use of the word "right" as a semantic crutch. I'm lookin' at you Elliot, and Chad Dukes, and you, random evening-but-not-late-night dude on WJFK.

Let me 'splain...

On multiple occasions on all of these shows, someone will call in to share a story. At brief pauses during the caller's ramblings, the above-mentioned talk-show hosts will punctuate the lull with "Right." I think they're doing this to indicate that they are engaged in the caller's tale, but it just sounds like it confuses the listener. It definitely gives me pause (har har) because I'm a Gen Xer, and whenever someone of my skeptical era hears "Right" in a conversation, it makes the speaker sound sarcastic and disinterested.

I'm not saying that it isn't appropriate to sound saracastic and disinterested on occasion. If people were calling me to dissect the latest NASCAR race, I might sound bored outta my skull too. All I'm saying is that the radio hosts should change it up a little since every other host in the same demographic is overusing it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Three Weeks Since My Last Post?!?

Looking around, it's a pretty common thing for bloggers to hem and haw about their lack of posting. I'm no exception. Hem haw, hem haw, hem haw.

Thing is, not much else has been going on in my life besides feeling my way through my new job. It's wonderful to feel challenged again. My greatest professional pleasure is applying some kind of order to swirling chaos. Okay, that's a little hyperbolic. It's not like I stepped into a tornado or anything. More like a tropical storm. Much as I enjoy it, I recognize that it's not terribly interesting to read about someone tapping out press releases or performing statistical research on web traffic.

Oooh, wait, here's something new: my thirty-year-old self seems to be falling apart. In the span of a week I've gotten an infected hangnail, a cracked tooth, a random twitchy muscle in my back, and some weird swelling in my right eyelid. The last one is especially concerning because I can't figure out what it is since it started yesterday afternoon. It's definitely not pinkeye, 'cause, well, my eye isn't pink and it isn't oozing any crusty goo. Have you ever worn fake eyelashes? And the fringy strip came loose and got stuck under your eyelid? That's what this feels like. Clearly, I've got ebola of the eyelid. I'm trying to get an appointment today so I can get some kind of prescription strength soother.

Phew. I thought this kind of stuff started happening during retirement, when I'd have time to run around to doctor's and pharamacies. Ah well. Maybe it's God's way of telling me to take it easy for a minute.