Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Invisible War


“It’s a consequence of the way we go to war these days. It doesn’t affect the general community, whether it’s York (Penn.) or Des Moines or anywhere else. It’s a volunteer Army, so there isn’t general sacrifice at a personal or economic level. There’s no rationing. We’re an affluent country. We can go fight two wars at the same time, and most people don’t even feel a pinprick. Frankly, I don’t think the average person thinks about these wars at all. They’re more concerned about what’s going on in ‘Lost’ or who’s winning ‘American Idol’ than what the country is doing overseas.”
—Craig Trebilcock, lawyer and Army reservist who fought two tours in Iraq, March 2010, The Christian Science Monitor URL
Photo: Trebilcock holding flag aboard tank outside Basra, Iraq.
Courtesy of Craig Trebilcock and CSMonitor

Factoids: The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have cost U.S. taxpayers about $910 billion and more than 5,400 U.S. dead; U.S. troops have been in iraq for seven years, and in Afghanistan since 2001—8.4 years—longer than any other American war. (Source: CSMonitor and Congressional Research Service,

Editor’s Note: What’s on “Jeopardy,” Alex?

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Moonrise

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


NYTimes Pays for Access?

News Note: The New York Times just paid $114,000 and apologized to the Singaporean prime minister for possibly implying that he got his job because his dad had the same job.

“Are New York Times readers aware that the New York Times makes agreements like this? Did the article disclose that, in exchange for access, the paper had agreed not to say that the Lees were a political dynasty? We don’t mean to be overly critical here, but we get tired of holier-than-thou mainstream media bellyaching about how only mainstream media can be trusted—when so much of the mainstream media game is granting control over coverage in exchange for access. Which certainly seems to have been the case here.”
—Henry Blodgett, CEO of The Business Insider, March 29, 2010 URL

Editor’s Note: $114K for “possibly implying’? How much for definitely offended?

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Sweetpeas

Women Rock the Runway:
From Mother Teresa to Lady Gaga . . . to Ted as Julia Child?! bon appetite!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Kindergarten Newspaper Wars

NYTimes ‘Girl-Man’?

“Without a doubt, the Wall Street Journal has selected [New York Times publisher] Arthur Sulzberger as a prime example of its idea of a feminine-looking man. . . . [WSJ owner Rupert] Murdoch often uses the editorial power of his papers to pursue his business goals. Foremost on his agenda is to maul The New York Times. Murdoch believes that one advantage he has in going after the Times is that Sulzberger is so easy to play and rile up . . . and that Murdoch has a special understanding for how to get under Sulzberger’s skin. In the past, Murdoch has taken particular delight when the New York Post’s ‘Page Six’ has ridiculed Sulzberger, with Sulzberger calling Murdoch personally to protest. ‘Whining’ is the word Murdoch uses for Sulzberger’s calls. So just imagine what Young Arthur felt this morning when he saw the lower quadrant of his face in the Journal representing the archetypal girly-man. This is a psychological warfare side of what's going to be a very nasty newspaper war.”
—Michael Wollf, Vanity Fair columnist and Murdoch biographer, March 27, 2010 URL

Editor’s Note: No wonder no one takes newspapers seriously anymore.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo:
Lulu Afield . . . .

Women Rock the Runway: From Mother Teresa to Lady Gaga . . .

Friday, March 26, 2010


After March Madness

“What’s the difference between a 3-week-old puppy and a sportswriter? In six weeks, the puppy will stop whining.”
—Mike Ditka, football coach and sports commentator

Editor’s Note: Puppies are easier to paper-train, too.

Editorial Cartoon of the Day: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune, March 25, 2010

Today's Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: The Wellsvilles


Thursday, March 25, 2010


Editor’s Note: Today’s is Gloria Steinem's 76th birthday, and USU’s celebration of Women’s History Month (Click here).

Speaking Out

• “Most women’s magazines simply try to mold women into bigger and better consumers.”
• “Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.”
• “I will no longer be referred to as Miss Steinem of Ms. magazine.”
• “The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.”
• “We've begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”
• “The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.”
• “The first resistance to social change is to say it's not necessary.”
• “Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else.”
—Gloria Steinem, author, writer and activist.

Editor’s Note: Thinking can be hard work.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Splish-splash


Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Public Discourse

“The news cycle that once defined the day at the White House has given way to a more ferocious beast. Call it the news cyclone, a massive force without beginning or end that churns constantly and seems almost impervious to management. . . . ‘The current media culture doesn’t reward getting things done in government. It rewards saying the most outlandish things,’ explains [Obama communications director Dan] Pfeiffer. But the cyclone is the new reality, and respect must be paid. ‘You can’t really control it,’ Pfeiffer said. ‘You’ve just got to sort of edge it in one direction or another.’”
—Michael Scherer, TIME White House reporter, March 15, 2010.

Editor’s Note: Blowhard.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Water Lily

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More on ‘Modern Journalism’

Editor’s Note: The alert WORDster will remember way back to yesterday, when we heard from Mrs. Florence Richmond and Mrs. H. Heynemann of the Pacific Coast Women’s Press Association (Click here). The discussion continues today.

Expert Rebuttal

“Mrs. Heynemann took the floor and proceeded to refer to journalistic indiscretions in the way of advertising divorce proceedings and revelations of crime. She concluded by reading from a number of newspaper clippings headlines which she regarded as injurious to the young.

“John D. Jury, who had studied the question under consideration in a newspaper office, plunged in and saved the press. Jury effected general rescue by explaining that it is only the dramatic and the picturesque that constitutes news, news being a departure from the ordinary. He drew attention to the fact that a newspaper cannot consistently run a list every morning of the married people who are continuing to live in harmony, as it is hardly a news item. Also, it would serve no purpose to mention the names of those people who had thoughtfully refrained from killing anybody the previous day.”

“And further it would be quite futile to print the news by enumerating those cities not yet destroyed by flood or fire, the presidents who have not been assassinated and the kings who have not gone mad.

“Having thus illumined the subject, Jury withdrew before the general expression of feminine point of view, which occurred later under the stimulus of Russian tea and a desire to reform the world.”
The San Francisco Chronicle, March 15, 1910.

Editor’s Note: Snotty Know-it-all.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Spring Reflections

Monday, March 22, 2010

‘Modern Journalism’

Editor’s Note: The WORD returns to the fray today after a refreshing week of Conan the Grammarian’s sentence-diagramming followed by electroshock treatments at St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose. Coincidentally, he was able to take in this fascinating discussion among fellow inmates.

The Ladies Speak Up

“‘Modern Journalism’ was the theme discussed yesterday at the Pacific Coast Women’s Press Association. The lady members discussing the subject were Mrs. Florence Richmond and Mrs. H. Heynemann, both of whom prefaced their discourses by the frank admission that they knew nothing about the subject. After saying what the public wants is an honest newspaper, Mrs. Richmond deplored the fact that the truth is frequently sacrificed in favor of dramatic effects and picturesque language.”
—From the San Francisco Chronicle’s “Wayback Machine,” compiled by Johnny Miller, March 15, 1910.

Editor’s Note: Knowledge of one’s subject is no impediment.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Pacific Beach


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Break

Editor’s Note: The WORD has suffered a breakdown (who could tell?) and has been admitted to St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose for the usual round of conjugation and adverbial defenestration. Coincidentally, these treatments correspond to Spring Break. Back March 22.

Advice for the Web Age

On Style: “Yes, ‘defenestrate’ is an excellent word, but only use it in birth announcements and obituaries if it’s accurate.”

Context: “Stories on global warming should always be accompanied by pictures of snowstorms or polar bears.”

On Attribution: “If you cannot find the source of a quote, make one up. Nobody’s reading your story anyway. Get over yourself.”

Write Tight! “Remember, brevity is.”

New Media: “‘Web site’ is no longer the preferred usage. Use ‘our Waterloo.’”

Careers: ”While it’s tempting to call them ‘baristi’ because of the Italian roots, the plural of ‘barista’ is ‘journalism majors.’”

Dumb Tools: “‘Chain saw’ is two words in all instances: ‘No one else saw what the chain saw.’”

—FakeAPStylebook URL

Editor’s Note: Students, repeat after me: You want fries with that?

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Luffenholz Beach


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Newsroom Climate

Black & Blue

“There is no such thing as a happy or rationally run newsroom. Anyone who has worked in journalism pretty much assumes that. But could America’s greatest newspaper really be led by such vicious, untrustworthy people? That’s one of the questions one is left with upon reading Gerald Boyd’s angry yet thoughtful posthumous memoir detailing his rise through the hierarchy of The New York Times.”
—Ellis Cose, author and columnist, Newsweek, Feb. 22, 2010
(Boyd, the Times’s first black managing editor, lost his job in the wake of the
2003 Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal and died in 2006; his posthumous book is My Times in Black and White.)

Editor’s Note: Ben Bradlee, famed Washington Post editor, called that “creative tension.”

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Tuna Hunt

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More on Punctuation, Women’s History Edition

A professor wrote this sentence on the board: “A woman without her man is nothing” and told the class to punctuate it properly.

The males in the class wrote, “A woman, without her man, is nothing.”

The females in the class wrote, “A woman: without her, man is nothing.”


Editor’s Note: Without m&m, comma is coma.

March is National Women’s History Month

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Lulu on Houda Beach


Monday, March 8, 2010

Brain Cramps

Hard Work

“Writing is hard, even for the best wordsmiths. Ernest Hemingway said the most frightening thing he ever encountered was ‘a blank sheet of paper.’ And Winston Churchill called the act of writing a book ‘a horrible, exhaustive struggle, like a long bout of painful illness.’”
—Timothy Egan, columnist (and suffering writer), 2008

Editor’s Note: Brain gout.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Trinidad State Beach

Truman Capote—A Massive Headache

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mangling Modifers

Thanks to the fine folks at SPOGG for an excellent 2010 National Grammar Week

One More Trip to the Clemens Font

“I am dead to adverbs; they cannot excite me. To misplace an adverb is a thing which I am able to do with frozen indifference; it can never give me a pang. ... There are subtleties which I cannot master at all—they confuse me, they mean absolutely nothing to me—and this adverb plague is one of them. ... Yes, there are things which we cannot learn, and there is no use in fretting about it. I cannot learn adverbs; and what is more I won’t.”
—Mark Twain (1835-1910), “Reply to a Boston Girl,” Atlantic Monthly, June 1880

and . . .

“As to the Adjective: when in doubt, strike it out.”
—Mark Twain

Editor’s Note: (Interactive element: Pls edit this...) Hopefully, more overly erudite and verbose writers will take heed.

The National Grammar Day Limerick Contest, conducted by Mark Ragan
(Peez sez: The first one submitted used “klaxon,” which was impressive, but scrolling through the dozens of doggerrel, I liked this one (since I have a pile of stuff to grade...). Winners to be announced later today (I think).)

There once was a teacher of grammar

Who’s now spending life in the slammer.
When students would err,
She’d shriek and she’d swear,
And drive home her point with a hammer.
. . . by Doug Hughes

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Pelicans Jumping

Thursday, March 4, 2010

National Grammar Day

March Forth!!!

This Week’s WORDS are dedicated to Grandma, er, grammar...

The Purity of Language (repurposed for the occasion)

“English is the product 
of a Saxon warrior trying to make a date with an Angle barmaid, and
 as such is no more legitimate than any of the other products of that
—H. Beam Piper (1904-1964), science fiction author
(Thanks to alert WORDster Ann Berry)

“Or as I like to say, the Saxon journalist came to town, looking for the local Angle.”
—Brian Buchanan, wise guy

Editor’s Note: Up close and personal.

March Forth: The Grammar Song (via YouTube)

National Grammar Day: Language is something to be celebrated, and March 4 is the perfect day to do it. It's not only a date, it’s an imperative: March forth on March 4 to speak well, write well, and help others do the same!

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Blowhole

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Grammar Week Continues

This Week’s WORDS are dedicated to Grandma, er, grammar... March 4 is National Grammar Day!

More Grammar

“Perfect grammar—persistent, continuous, sustained—
is the fourth dimension, so to speak;
many have sought it, but none has found it.”
—Mark Twain (1835-1910), Autobiography, 1924

. . . and, another classic:

Piddlin’ Rules
“1. No sentence fragments.
2. It behooves us to avoid archaisms.
3. Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.
4. Don't use no double negatives.
5. If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, “Resist hyperbole!”

6. Avoid commas, that are not necessary.
7. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
8. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
9. Writing carefully, dangling participles should not be used.
10. Kill all exclamation points!!!
11. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
12. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
13. Take the bull by the hand and don't mix metaphors.
14. Don’t verb nouns.
15. Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
16. Last but not least, avoid clich├ęs like the plague.”
—William Safire (1929-2009), Pulitzer Prize-winner, wordguy,
ial speechifier and columnist.

and on punctuation:

“He once telephoned a semicolon from Moscow.”
—James Agate (1877-1947), British diarist,
critic and master of the aphorism, 1935
(on being asked if a contemporary writer was a fastiduous journalist).

finally, what the heck . . .

“Bad spellers of the world, untie.”
—Graffiti, anon.

Editor’s Note: Untie? more like unravel.

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Trinidad Pier at Sunrise


Tuesday, March 2, 2010


This Week’s WORDS are dedicated to Grandma, er, grammar and National Grammar Day (March 4, 2010... March Fourth!)

The Exclamation Point!

“The exclamation point is greatly overused!
One could even say it is frequently abused!
In advertising copy, it repeatedly resounds!
And in breathless prose, it literally abounds!
The poorer the writer, the more frequently the case!
The exclamation point, they readily embrace!
To give a little emphasis! To make a little point!
This punctuation mark they will appoint!
But, to make emphasis perfectly clear,
Good writers generally appear
to make little use of exclamations
and other such typographic affectations.”
—Ed Truitt, punctuator and science writer, Weizmann Institute of Science URL

Editor’s Note: That’s what I tell my students. So they shift to emoticons!! :)!!!

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Dogpool


Monday, March 1, 2010

Franken Fumes

Strange Bedfellows

“I worked for NBC for many years. And what I know from my previous career has given me reason to be concerned—let me rephrase that, very concerned—about the potential merger of Comcast and NBC Universal. The media are our source of entertainment, but they’re also the way we get our information about the world. So when the same company that produces the programs runs the pipes that bring us those programs, we have a reason to be nervous.”
—Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., Senate Judiciary Hearing, 2/11/2010
The Nation & Huffington Post
(Thanks to alert WORDster Steve Marston)

Editor’s Note: But the SNL-Senate combo is a good fit.

WEIRD MERGERSDennis Miller and (now-U.S. Sen.) Al Franken merge news with Saturday Night Live in the 1970s. (Photo: Owen Franken/Corbis)

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo: Hockomock Head Lighthouse, Maine