Also: my wife is hot.
I am struggling through my third attempt at reading “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”, and I’m not going to make it. I’ve slogged my way through the foreword, the prologue and the introduction, but I’ve only been able to convince myself to skim the rest. It’s terrible. It says on the cover that it’s a #1 British bestseller, but I can’t shake the impression that this means that British literature is in the same sad state as British cooking.
In theory I should be right in the middle of this book’s target audience; I am white, for example, a reasonably affluent anglophone and something of a dick, and first two sections of the book are aimed at that demographic like a dowser’s rod in the hands of Gandalf the Grey.
Alas, however, it is not to be; it gets clear fairly quickly that the author is not talking about good punctuation for clarity’s sake, despite strained nods in that general direction. She is talking instead about punctuation for the sake of justifying her smug self-satisfaction and self-centered eccentricities. Over and over again you can see missed opportunities and contradictory arguments rolling lazily about like tumbleweeds while the author frets about missing apostrophes; an observation that English has evolved dramatically over time flows smoothly into a series of hard prescriptive rules for one glyph and back out again to a few pages of completely aimless, disjoint generalities for another, lubricated by an oily condescension that’s been smeared throughout.
The only common thread in the whole thing seems to the recurring impression given that if you do not follow this poor old Englishwoman’s strict sense of good grammar, she’ll come down with a bad case of whatever it was that poor old Englishwomen came down with bad cases of in ninteenth-century period fiction. The vapors, the swounds, a horrific case of the mollycoddles or something.
But you don’t need to get so far into Eats, Shoots and Leaves that you come across the oblique jabs at minorities and foreigners to fully form an opinion about it, oh no. That crystallizes very early on. Have you ever been introduced to somebody who, after five minutes of conversation, you felt a visceral desire to punch in the head for reasons you couldn’t clearly articulate? That’s your author, right there. By the third page of the introduction I started to feel a little sympathetic towards those people who shake crying babies until they’ve got brain damage; I’m sitting quietly, reading these words that are grinding away at my eyes over and over again and wishing they’d let up just for a moment.
It’s possible that the phrase “One must”, or “One does”, in the hands of someone actually taking themselves seriously, might just be the most annoying construction in the entire English language; nothing else combines the passive voice with the act of looking down your nose at the underclasses quite so concisely.
And the entire book is like that; snotty, superior and cripplingly useless, in that peculiarly effete way that dowager aristocrats are always portrayed, and serving the dual purpose of making the reviews on the first page suddenly wierd and creepy and making the entire rest of the book completely unreadable. This book, we are told, “makes the history of punctuation [...] urgent, sexy, and hilarious”, claims somebody who is clearly using a dusty old hardbound copy of “The Erotic Adventures Of The Widower Ganglesworth” as his sole reference point. “Lovers of good english have thought of themselves as isolated outposts… Lynne Truss has emerged as our champion”, claims another, failing to follow through with the observation that this fight they’re ostensibly waging is doomed, and that perhaps if we were at street level talking to people who actually use the language, rather than sitting around with our heads lodged firmly up our isolated outposts, we’d have a better feel for what was going on among those who actually use the language we’re supposedly standing up for.
I’m going to stop here before I get into specifics, because that could take days of work and this book deserves far less of my life than it’s already taken. If this book is a bestseller I can only assume that it’s being bought as a gag gift to cleverly, so very cleverly, imply that the recipient can’t spell. It’s either that or there are an astonising number of reviewers out there who have some basic human needs that have gone long unmet, like breathing fresh air and living among others.
I’ve been sort of mulling this for the last few days, and I know that all of you who are familiar with My Upbeat Demeanor™ expected this, but here it is anyway.
You know what sucks about weddings? You’ve got all these people around who you love, some of whom you haven’t seen in ages, and who you’re dying to catch up with, and you get to spend about three minutes with them the whole time, when what you really want is an hour or two to sit down over drinks and catch up.
Hi, everybody. I’m glad you could all make it; stay in touch!
For those of you who weren’t in on the joke, our recessional music was a song called “Overture” from the soundtrack of our favorite video game.
That’s merely a fraction of how awesome my wife is, incidentally.
Having heard a lot of horror stories recently about weddings and wedding planning, I’ve become convinced that the reason that people get nervous about weddings is that you have to plan them together, and at some moment one person is going to look over at the other and think “You what? You think that’s a good idea? Wait a minute, I’m going to be spending my whole life with somebody who thinks that is a good idea?”
I do not have that worry, because my fiancee has impeccable taste and neither of us has any sort of ingrained bias as to how weddings are supposed to work, so the phrase “that’s dumb, so we’re not going to do it” is a club that comes out of the bag early and often. Seriously, it’s amazing how much of a time saver those words have been; apparently a lot of people decide their “special day” should be some combination of pathologically selfish and completely insane, but if you choose not to go that route there are enormous economies of time and effort to be found.
I am now about 24 hours out from the big moment, and for those of you playing along at home, let me answer the question you’ve been pestering me with for weeks: no, I’m not nervous.
I am resolved.
- Gang Of Four, “Contract”.
- Cop Shoot Cop, “The Coldest Day Of The Year”
- Jimi Hendrix, “Hey Joe”
- Harvey Danger, “Diminishing Returns”
- Afghan Whigs, “Mr. Superlove”
- The Dresden Dolls, “Bad Habit”
- Tom Waits, “Frank’s Wild Years”
- Gang Of Four, “Love Like Anthrax”
- U2, “Until The End Of The World”
- Furnaceface, “You Poison My Cup”
Today’s theme is “Songs that you kind of wish hadn’t come up on shuffle while you were trying to plan your wedding ceremony.” Damn you, random numbers! In truth, though, things are coming together pretty well. It looks like we’re down to a small set of solveable problems. Here’s to not having one event suck up all of our free time, soon; let’s all raise a glass to the inexorable passage of time.
On the off chance that some large percentage of our imminent guests are reading this, I’d like to say that we’ve done a fair bit of work on this wedding thing. And while I don’t think you’re obliged to act grateful or be extra-nice or anything, you should know that if anything actually makes Arlene cry on the day of, my wrath will be without mercy or end, an engine that pursues and grinds and neither slows nor tires. It will have form and agency and you will hear a faint and keening wail, as though legions are suffering in the distance, and it will extend a vast clawed hand skyward to blacken the sun.
I’m just sayin’. So you know, y’know.
“Zidane: What The Hell?!”
Name: Pocari Sweat.
Mental Image Evoked By Name: A huge factory holding thousands of Pokemon on treadmills, being watched closely by stern-looking men wearing lab coats and holding cattle prods. The Pokemon are wrapped in transparent plastic outfits that are connected by long blue tubes to the top of the bottling mechanism. Spent pokemon are being dumped bodily into a slot at the side of the apparatus, which throbs ominously.
Taste: Flat, thin Fanta.
I will spare you the details, because these are recklessly bad movies. Just astonishingly bad. “We know our target audience,” these movies shout, “and we look down on them with total disdain and relentless, unmitigated contempt.”
You know what? I lied; I won’t spare you the details.
Fantastic Four has no merit whatsoever. It exists only because Marvel Comics has decided that having its loyal audience pissed on voluminously and from a great height is a sound business decision.
Ultraviolet stars Milla Jovovich’s torso and a menagerie of elaborate devices that periodically anchor her in place and force her to make porn-star faces. While laudable, this was not nearly enough to atone for the soul-searing stupidity that is everything else in the movie.
But, let me share with you one observation that struck me while I was watching these movies which has, upon reflection, held true in all instances I can think of.
I have been playing a very small number of video games recently, mostly Halo 2 and Gran Turismo, and one of the things that I’ve noticed is that the physics engines in video games look an awful lot more realistic than the models being used in movies. Watching replays of a race in Gran Turismo 4 doesn’t look as shiny and smooth* as Ultraviolet, but the way they move around looks wildly more realistic than than the way CGI vehicles move around in any movie I can remember.
I’m thinking there’s some collaborating to be done there, that’s all.
* – almost, though, and that’s on a six-year-old graphics engine running at 300mhz.