Saturday, July 23, 2005
I like Stephen King, really I do. He was one to write a good novel, once upon a time. I've gone as far as to compare him favorably to Charles Dickens, and I hate people who denigrate King's work merely because he's a popular author. But King has perhaps gone too far in his idiot celebration of America's hick culture this week in his Entertainment Weekly column.
King, who does himself no favors in his attempts to be folksy (which always sound like a condescending attempt to ingratiate himself with this false image of the "common man" which he has in his head), this week praised American pop culture. Cool with me. If he loves Alan Jackson, commercials for slick crook lawyers, smart-assed bumper stickers, strident sloganeering on tee shirts, shows on Fox, Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, McDonald's, Dodge Ram pickups, Twinkies, and Diet Pepsi, then that's his thing. I don't really care for the above, but whatever. I don't always agree with or support the things he says in his monthly column, The Pop of King, but it's an editorial and he has the right to say whatever he wants.
And it's not that I disagree with his idea of what constitutes American culture; it's the way he writes about it that irks me. After pulling these things to his heart, he says the following:
There are plenty of people who see this beautiful junk-shop carnival as lowbrow, thoughtless, ruinous, even vicious (I'm thinking of folks like Harold Bloom, the literary critic who had a cow when the National Book Foundation gave me an award for, ahem, Distinguished Contribution to American Letters). They are not, as a rule, the ones who shoot off fireworks on the Fourth of July. Or subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, for that matter. Many are folks who believe art should be work and see entertainment as subversive.
As for this kid...well, let me finish by paraphrasing a couplet from "Trashy Women" by the immortal Confederate Railroad: "They say the opposites attract. Well, I don't agree. I want a culture just as tacky as me."
I think that pretty much sums it up. Case closed.
Case closed? What the fuck is that supposed to mean? So, first King throws his credentials in my face (and the National Book Foundation is, like any award-giving body, merely a constitution of collected opinions, and not an arbiter), to make me think he speaks from some kind of authority on the culture, and then sums up by basically saying that only those who are as tacky as he know what culture really is. Why the attack on the highbrow culture, exactly?
I think it stems from America's eternal anti-intellectualist bent. Some people (like King, apparently) seem to feel that, because they don't appreciate Van Gogh or Woody Allen or Beethoven, that it is somehow because they aren't smart enough to get their work. But that has nothing to do with it. It's not a matter of intellect so much as it's a matter of taste. Maybe some people don't think the films of Ingmar Bergman are insights into human behavior, but does that make them dumb? Of course not.
But then people overreact. They bristle at feeling they don't have the intellectual capacity to understand Salvador Dali, and assume they aren't allowed into that highbrow culture, and assault it by listening loudly to Toby Keith albums. They react to this perceived failing by embracing this self-image and becoming proud of it. And I hate it; I hate Gretchen Wilson and her attempts to laud common, lowbrow culture and turn it into something proud and noble. I hate the pride people feel in being stupid. Typical America.
Hey, if you're into Toby Keith and French fries and Larry the Cable Guy, fine. I don't care. But I am not one of you. I don't think you're the "real American culture." But neither do I assume that only Bob Dylan and Woody Allen are it, either. Each one mixes, each comments on the other, sometimes complementing it, sometimes defining it. And I think King's misguided, strident denigration of the literati he still feels have not given him the respect he seems to feel his due is as disgusting as his frequent attempts to position himself as the Voice of the Common Man. He frequently defends himself along those old-fashioned lines: "I know what I like, and I don't need to feel ashamed of what I like."
No, you don't. But couldn't you at least defend your opinions once in a while? Because "I like what I like because it's what I like" truly is as lowbrow as it gets.
London is falling apart so fast you'd almost think it had been built by IKEA. After last week's bombings, and another set this past Thursday, their infrastructure seems ready to succumb to martial law. When did the people whom the Nazis could never conquer grow so damn soft? It's almost like they're just looking for someone, anyone to surrender to.
On Friday, a South Asian man (whose name has not been released) was shot dead by police officers. Remember when they didn't carry guns? This is a good argument for why they shouldn't. A young man, whose block was under surveillance in conjunction with the investigation into the bombings, left his home and immediately drew police suspicion. Why? My best guess based on statements that have been released: he was foreign and wore a trenchcoat. That's pretty much it. Immediately, London police saw a foreign national walking along the streets, who happened to be wearing a trenchcoat on a hot day. Dude, I wear long sleeves and jeans all year long, I'd like to think I'm not going to get gunned down for it one day. But, like people who wear black or show any interest in World War II history or listen to heavy metal music, anyone wearing a trenchcoat is immediately suspicious.
It kind of scares me how much I fit the cliche profile of a lone killer. I like all kinds of music, and among them is some hard rock and metal--especially AC/DC, Black Sabbath, and Kiss. I speak German (had to take a foreign language), have several books on Hitler (I used to be history major and took several 20th century history courses), and don't really like to talk to a lot of people. I wear a regular-length coat, but I dress warmly all year. I keep to myself and don't go out much. I read writers like Robert E. Howard, whose works are violent, and H.P. Lovecraft, who some idiots consider an occult writer. I believe in democracy, but I don't think we have it in America and I wish for a more socialist system. I hate our government, I hate our president, and I don't support the war. I'm irreligious, and I have a lot of books on mythology and religious studies. I long for the overthrow of religion and I despise the papacy. I've been known to play violent video games and enjoy violent movies. Oh, and I love me some porn. I look at pornographic images every single day of my life, because I like the sight of naked women (and sometimes men, for that matter).
Does this mean that if someone pipe-bombed my school, I would be a suspect? Because I fit some profile that's been made-up purely out of circumstantial evidence? If I were mistakenly killed, would the news reports focus only on the above, or would they take into account my fascination with animation history, my vast collection of Disney movies? Or would they twist that around, too? It's sickening to me, because I'm not exactly a believer in violence as a way to solve social problems.
Back to the South Asian victim in London. He was chased into the London Underground and shot five times at point blank range by cops. Point blank range. Five times. And, as I predicted when I first read the story, he had nothing to do with any terrorist activities. He was just too dumb and scared to stop when the police told him to. Maybe he didn't hear them. Maybe he didn't speak English. Either way, now he's dead, and the London Metropolitan Police can't think of anything better to say than "sorry." Actually, they haven't even gone that far. They agree that it's tragic and unfortunate, but they haven't really apologized for it yet.
Doesn't that scare anyone in London? Because it should terrify them. It says that your authorities consider it within their power to murder citizens on the mere suspicion of guilt. The man wasn't even armed, for chrissakes. He was just in the wrong place for some angry cops to find a scapegoat.
Western Civilization just keeps on declining.
Friday, July 22, 2005
It's hard being a fan of a filmmaker who only gets financing once every half-decade or so. My favorite director is Terry Gilliam, and after about a year of wrangling (thanks to the Miramax-Disney thing), his newest film, "The Brothers Grimm," is finally being released. Everyone, please go.
15 random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.
1. The brand spanking new CD The Essential Michael Jackson, contains the following gem in copywriting history: "[. . .] take a special journey through the career and musical genius of Michael Jackson from his early recordings with the Jackson 5 to his lastest musical works." Lastest?
2. Hey, Kevin Smith is at Comic-Con International this year! Can you imagine? Kevin Smith! That's rare, man. The guy is such a recluse--he doesn't take just every single motherfucking opportunity to show up and whore out his tchotchkes and DVDs to every fucking comic book fan alive. I hear this year his booth is on a street corner and that he's giving free handjobs to everyone who buys a copy of Clerks.
3. Well, Eon Productions has narrowed the list of potential James Bond candidates down to four, but they won't say who the four are. Could somebody just fucking pick one, already?
4. Jenna Elfman, Leah Remini, Kelly Preston, Anne Archer, Mimi Rogers, Catherine Bell, Erika Christensen, Kirstie Alley, and possibly Courtney Love--why am I so damn attracted to women who turn out to be scientologists? Damn it, man, that's like popping a nice chocolate in the mouth and finding out it has coconut in it.
5. Dude, why would anyone want to date Jude "Nanny Candy" Law after this point? There's always some bint out there thinks she's going to be different. Yeah, different because he hasn't done it to you yet... The funny thing is, the nanny supposedly turned down a threesome with Law; guess she preferred straight adultery to anything fun. Is Sienna Miller that surprised? Dude, if he still hasn't married you after a year of being engaged, it probably isn't going to happen, anyway. Women, figure it out: if a guy really wanted to marry you, he'd want to do it as soon as possible.
6. Now, after the voracious way I went after Rhino's Have a Nice Decade: The 70s Pop Culture Box and Like, Omigod! The 80s Pop Culture Box (Totally), you'd think I'd want to snap up next week's release of Whatever: The 90s Pop and Culture Box. But am I, like, the only person left who is fighting VH1's package attempts to make us long for a decade that only ended five years ago? I don't know, I think if you're actually nostalgic for the nineties already, there's something a little wrong with your life. I also think they should rename the set WAAAAH! Little Entitled Bitches Ruined Music in the 90s, but I guess that isn't very commercial.
7. Well, the House voted to renew the Patriot Act. Please don't tell me you're surprised. Finding out if you like porn is essential to protecting us from terrorism.
8. Looks like Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee are getting married for the third time. Here's what I propose we do for the wedding: lead them into a crate with something shiny, nail them in, and set it floating out to sea. Then we can all finally stop talking about them. Oh, wait a minute: it turns out they're not getting married again. But I still think we should just try my idea.
9. Lindsay Lohan is doing some kind of tour through Europe, and she's taking 10 trunks of clothing with her, because she wears three outfits a day. In other news, half the world still lives in poverty.
10. A recent announcement stated that, as the face of Skechers ads, Carrie Underwood (whoever that is) will be "following in the 'footsteps' of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera." Didn't you love the way they put the word "footsteps" in quotes like that? You never would have seen the pun otherwise, would you? Speaking of Skechers, I still laugh whenever I see any of those sexy Christina Aguilera ads. Remember the one where she was a sexy nurse? The nurses of America protested the ad and had it removed, I guess because they thought it furthered the unfair stereotype that nurses are sexy.
11. Cameron Diaz on the witness stand: "The photos themselves were not offensive to me. I thought my boobs looked good - at least I had that going for me. I didn't think of it as pornographic. I was 19 and exploring the possibilities of my body. I wasn't ashamed of it." Okay, sooooooooo...why the lawsuit again?
12. Daryl Hannah says she's giving up her acting career in order to focus on protecting the environment. Um... thank you?
13. Al Pacino and Rose McGowan? Dude, I'm starting to get really fucking sick of these ancient men running around with young hot chicks who don't have to give up on life just yet. Jesus, guys, stop groping everything around you in public, or I'm going to barf! Assholes!
14. It's the 75th anniversary of the classic comic strip Blondie. If you were going to argue that Blondie stopped being funny 65 years ago, you're dead wrong--it was more like 71. Anyway, they're going to start bringing in other comic strip characters who've run on long after they continued to be funny--Garfield, um...others--into the strip to wish Blondie and Dagwood a happy anniversary. Jesus, it's like that moment in the third or fourth season of a desperate show, where a character from another series shows up. Remember when Bull was on My Two Dads? Jesus, if you have no idea what that sentance means, I envy you.
15. Oddment. What an odd word. But I kind of enjoy saying it. Oddment.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4, Write down what it says: "[. . .] aristocratic, indeed heroic ancestors. The former is represented [. . .]" From Tom Shippey's J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century.
2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What do you touch first? Nothing.
3. What is the last thing you watched on TV? Surprisingly, the music video for Jessica Simpson's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'." Thankfully, MTV seems to be following my mental dictum to play said video once every hour.
4. WITHOUT LOOKING, guess what time it is: 12:06pm
5. Now look at the clock; what is the actual time? 12:02pm
6. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear? Jessica Simpson. Oh yeah.
7. When did you last step outside? What were you doing? Just a couple of hours ago; I had an exam in Sociology this morning. It was raining hard, too.
8. Before you came to the Web site you're seeing this on, what did you look at? Animation News (in my links). Awesome extras on the upcoming Looney Tunes: The Golden Collection, Volume 3.
9. What are you wearing? My grey sleep pants and a plain dark grey tee shirt.
10. Did you dream last night? Yeah; I dreamt I was married to Jessica Simpson but having an affair with her mother. Weird...
11. When did you last laugh? Just an hour ago, reading Jay Pinkerton's site.
12. What is on the walls of the room you are in? A picture Becca drew of an Indian woman and her child, a Lord of the Rings calendar, a painting of a snowy scene, lots of stains from the constant insect killing that goes on in here, and a Calvin & Hobbes Sunday page. But, I hasten to add, our bedroom is still covered with seven of Becca's posters of Hilary Duff (one of which is on the ceiling), her Hilary Duff calendar, her Barbarella poster, her nude pinups of Pamela Anderson and Miriam Gonzales, and my lone Jessica Simpson calendar. What is she trying to tell me...
13. Seen anything weird lately? Not today.
14. What is the last film you saw? In the theater, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. On video, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
15. If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first? Lindsay Lohan, so I can raise her right.
16. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do? Feed Africa already, for chrissakes!
17. Do you like to dance? At my weight, it just might be dangerous.
18. Imagine your first child is a girl. What do you call her? Vixen, Pim, Barbarella, Ozma, Penny, Andromeda, or Susan Calvin.
19. Imagine your first child is a boy. What do you call him? Kirk, Thomas, Roger, Victor, Harlan Ellison, or Thomas Jefferson. Interestingly, I am actually related to Thomas Jefferson on my mother's side, and to Jefferson Davis on my mother's side.
20. Would you ever consider living abroad? Absolutely.
This summer I'm taking Sociology 170: Introduction to Sociology. The class is far more interesting that I figured it would be (I last took soc back in my junior year of high school, 1992-93), but it has a tendency to be depressing for a myriad of reasons. Here are three tales of Soc 170 that depressed the hell out of me...
PROFESSOR: Does anyone know what a cohort is? A "cohort" is a group of people who were born around the same time and therefore have similar memories and a similar frame of reference. For example, you all remember September 11th personally. Some of you may have watched it happen on TV. But your children will only see images of it. They won't know what it was like. Let's try another example: how many of you were born in, say, 1987?
Two people raise their hands.
PROFESSOR: Alright, how about 1986?
Half the class raise their hands.
Most of the other half raise their hands.
PROFESSOR: Anyone born before 1985?
I raise my hand.
PROFESSOR: But you're probably still within this cohort range if you were born around 1982 or so. What year were you born?
I feel liver spots break out on my hand.
GRANT (a tall, young, rich white guy wearing cargo pants who has blonde highlights in his hair): But, when we're talking about children who live in poverty, it's not really their fault, it it?
PROFESSOR (blinking for a full two seconds): Well, no, Grant...
GRANT: I mean, it's their parents' fault, right? They can't manage their money.
PROFESSOR: Well, what you have to realize, of course, is that poverty is based on two factors--socialization and opportunities available. If you don't have the opportunity of an education, let's say, then your job opportunities will be limited.
GRANT: But, if you work hard, you can do well.
PROFESSOR: That's largely a myth, actually. What about a guy who works 50 hours a week on a loading dock but makes $5 an hour. That should put him around $20,000 a year, and after taxes, that $13,500. That's not even enough to buy a new car. And what if he has no insurance? He has to pay out of pocket when he takes his kids to the doctor, or when there's a hospital emergency. Can you feed your kids on that money?
GRANT (I swear to God this is true): Yeah, if you don't spend all that money on cigarettes and beer.
PROFESSOR: That's a myth, Grant, a stereotype called the Culture of Poverty. A lot of arrogant rich people believe that poor people have something defective in them that makes them unable to manage their money. It's what I like to call Archaic Reasoning, and it's extremely unthoughtful and outdated.
BLACK DUDE WITH BICEPS THE SIZE OF MY HEAD AND MAKES ANY FIVE RAPPERS LOOK LIKE LITTLE GIRLS WITH HIS THOR-LIKE TOUGHNESS (to Grant): You don't know nothin' man... we'll talk about this later...
PROFESSOR: Now, think about this: our country was founded in 1776, but it wasn't until 1920 that women were given the basic right to vote. And their participation in politics got off to a slow start, though that is changing quite a bit. Now, it wasn't until 1996 that the first woman was appointed Secretary of State. Does anyone remember her name?
BUNCH OF STUDENTS: Madeline Albright.
PROFESSOR: Right. Does anyone know who it is now?
Silence. I watch the class to see if someone will answer. A tumbleweed blows through as the professor waits. Finally...
ME: It's Condoleeza Rice! Come on!
PROFESSOR: Thank you.
I once again rethink the wisdom of giving people this young the right to vote...
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
I've just watched the Disney movie Ice Princess (yes, I see everything Disney), and I've been thinking about the talent involved. Ever since Disney opened up the tween/teen girl market just a few years ago (bolstered along by the success of teen pop girls like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera), it seems like there've been more and more movies aimed at young girls. But when they grow up and get serious, where are they going to go? Even after all this time, the amount of interesting leading roles for women are still few in number. This is why a woman can win the Oscar and be rewarded for it with winning the lead in Catwoman, Aeon Flux, and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Where are the roles Meryl Streep used to play?
I think we have to take issue with the directors and studios, really. Disney and others have grown a crop of potentially good actresses: Michelle Trachtenberg, Hayden Panettiere, Raven-Symone, Christy Carlson Romano, Lalaine Paras, Hilary Duff, Anne Hathaway; and from the non-Disney, there's Evan Rachel Wood, Scarlett Johansson, Amanda Seyfried, Lacey Chabert, and quite a few others. But as they grow up, are they going to find any interesting roles, or are they going to linger along playing girlfriends, suffering wives, and the occasional professor or nurse? Why aren't there more women directors and, therefore, more interesting stories for women that aren't based on Jane Austen?
Given the young actors coming up with these girls, the next generation of cinema is bound to be even more of a bore. So rather than waste all of this young girl talent, why not let women tell stories about women? Take a movie like Ice Princess; there is only one man in the story with anything to do. The core of the story is really about mothers and daughters. The screenplay was written by two women, but it was directed by a man. Why? Why shouldn't a woman have directed it, or The Princess Diaries or The Lizzie McGuire Movie, or any of these movies? Wouldn't they have more insight into how to tell a woman's story than a man's? Look at a movie like Normal, which Hayden Panettiere was in, and which told the story of a man who wanted to be a woman. It was directed by a woman, Jane Anderson. Or Thirteen, a hard drama about thirteen year-old girls who get in too much trouble--directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Nikki Caro's Whale Rider. Asia Argento's Scarlet Diva. They're all out there, and they're not as quick to sell out as Amy Heckerling or Kathryn Bigelow (I hope).
Are women going to let men tell their stories forever, or what?
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
A review of the films I've seen this past week.
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005)
It's always so nice to go and see a Tim Burton movie, especially on my birthday (what a nice way to make up for my going to see Planet of the Apes for my birthday in 2001 and being sorely disappointed). I wasn't quite sure what to expect--I knew it was specifically not a remake, and I had never read the book before: I can't quite believe it, but I've never read any Roald Dahl in my life. But this was an excellent, odd movie that lived up to its hype as the "acceptable weird" film of 2005 (now that everyone is suddenly a huge Johnny Depp fan). The performances were so excellent, it's hard to single anyone out, but here goes: Freddie Highmore is a wonderful child actor. It's hard not to care about any character played by this kid--the same was true in Finding Neverland. David Kelly was quite sympathetic without being just another ridiculous old man. The kids were all fine, especially Julia Winter, who played Veruca Salt; she had this weird Katharine Hepburn thing going on that freaked me out a little bit. Deep Roy, playing every Oompa Loompa, practically made the film for me. And, of course, any movie with Christopher Lee, my favorite actor, cannot be all bad (though it can be close). The songs were surprisingly great, using the original Roald Dahl words from the book; good to know that Danny Elfman can still write an Oingo Boingo tune. And, of course, it looked like no movie I had ever seen, which is what you hope for from Tim Burton. As for Johnny Depp, his performance was creepy and off-putting, which is, of course, the entire point. A lot of critics, I've noticed, can't quite figure it out; all they can talk about is Michael Jackson, which seems like a knee-jerk reaction (Depp says he based his performance on Mr. Rogers and Captain Kangaroo, which makes sense to me). When did critics (including the once-great Roger Ebert) get so fucking dumb? They also don't understand the coldness of the film--why isn't Willy Wonka warm and charming underneath the craziness, like Gene Wilder was? That's not the point, either. Wonka is supposed to be cold and creepy and odd. You're supposed to feel sorry for him. He never grew up, he's never known love, he's hidden himself from any human contact, and he's afraid of getting old. Charlie is the character we're supposed to empathize with, and I certainly did. I loved this movie; like the recent version of Peter Pan with Jason Isaacs, it realizes that many fairy tale-type stories are, in some part, about the fear of aging and the unreliability of adults. My only problem is that there's some feeling of slickness coming from the film. Ever since he met Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Burton's films have become less ramshackle and surprising, and much more slick and product-like. Planet of the Apes was a terrible movie, and it seems like his nerve was removed when the movie tanked and his reputation went out the window. Big Fish was excellent, but felt more like someone trying to direct a Tim Burton movie rather than Burton being himself. This is the first one since Sleepy Hollow that really feels like Burton. I hope the next one is even better. For now, though, Charlie warrants *** stars.
THINKING XXX (2004)
HBO purports that this is a documentary about porn and pop culture, but it's really just an hour-long commercial for the recent book XXX: 30 Portraits of Pornstars. It had a lot of commentary that basically boiled down to this: "Did you know that pornstars are, in fact, real human beings?" It was annoying and self-righteous. But it did feature Tera Patrick and Nina Hartley naked, so it warrants * star.
THE HOWLING II: YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF (1985)
Ouch. I think The Howling is, along with Ginger Snaps and The Company of Wolves, the only good movie I've seen about werewolves. I'm not much interested in lycanthropy as a story element (or vampirism, for that matter), but I do love Christopher Lee, who stars in this film, so I thought I'd check it out late on cable the other night. What a shitty movie. Lee is wasted, and the plot is basically an excuse for rather laughable sex scenes. It did show me something I've never seen before, a werewolf three-way, although that probably wasn't supposed to be funny, was it? At least I got to see Sybill Danning naked, feeling up a naked black chick. This movie gets * star for Lee, and the rest is shit.
THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932)
The great James Whale directed this horror picture, from which almost every cliche of the haunted house was taken. At least, in movies (this sort of thing had been done better in literature for some time). Whale has a great, great cast here: Raymond Massey, Melvyn Douglas, Gloria Stuart (also in Whale's The Invisible Man), Ernest Thesiger (later in Whale's best film, The Bride of Frankenstein), the great Charles Laughton, and Boris Karloff. The film actually opens with an announcement that Karloff is the same man who played the monster in the previous year's Frankenstein (where he had been uncredited to keep the mystery going). It's an odd film, very talky, and even for 70 minutes there are pacing problems. But the atmosphere is great, regardless of whether the plot makes sense. ***1/2 stars. Whale was often masterful.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
I am something of a language fascist; grammatical errors rankle me awfully, and though I often don't say anything, I always notice them. I'm not one of those people who expect formal language in every e-mail or anything like that, but as I am currently in a grammar class, I have noticed several ways which people mangle the English language that do bother me a great deal. Here are a few examples:
1. Pronunciation of the letter "i" as though it were "e." I do not live in the state of "Ellenois." Nor do I drink "melk." We wasted an entire half-hour in class because one woman (an elementary school teacher, no less) wanted to know why "sense" was considered an adverb. Well, "sense" isn't, but "since" is.
2. People who say "criteria," even though they don't know what it means. Especially when they say, "my only criteria is..." The singular of "criteria" is, of course, "criterion." If you only have one, you should not be using the word "criteria." To quote George Carlin, "these is my only criterions."
3. The fact that no one on the planet Earth seems to recall any longer that the word "lose" is spelled with only one "o." Everyone now spells it "loose," for reasons I can't comprehend. I dread peer reviewing in English classes, because every paper has "loose" for "lose." If you have lost something, you had something you can "lose." If you have a fence and the gate snaps off the hinge, the gate has come "loose."
4. Similar words that people misuse. You can "accept" a check, or you can "except" yourself from being an asshole today. You can be "affected" by words, or your words can "effect" change. If you misuse terms in "your" paper, then "you're" a half-wit. And, of course, don't forget about academics who are going to review these papers: "they're" watching for your mistakes with "their" brains, which are more formal than yours. And don't get me started on "to" and "too."
5. I know I do it, too, but was there an explosion at the comma store? Comma usage today is completely fucked. It's as though there was a riot, and some people picked up way more commas than they would ever need, and some people ran away with too few. As a result, nobody seems to use them correctly.
6. When people put parantheses or quotations marks around slang. People who are self-conscious about slang should never use it, ever. I remember one person telling someone else that they were going to step out for coffee. "I'm just going to get, uh...a CUPPA." Ouch. What a dork.
7. Phrases that were stupid to begin with, only they've become corporate buzzspeak, like "outside the box" (appropriated by Taco Bell for their hideous "Think Outside the Bun" ad campaign). If you're speaking the same way as an ad exec, I pity you.
8. The colloquial "you" is just insulting. Never, ever use it in a piece of formal writing. "You can't believe your eyes!" Well, maybe I can. Maybe a flaming man falling from the top of a building is so mundane a sight to me that I'm bored with it now. Never assume that way. One cannot believe one's eyes, perhaps, but I'm very special, and I tend to see a lot.
9. "Display how" and "discuss how" are redundant. "Display your pride" has the exact same meaning as "display how you have pride," it just sounds less like a very old man who has been speaking Russian all his life. Also redundant is the word "irregardless." I'm not even sure it's a word. "Regardless" is just fine.
10. The misapplication of inflection. In some new McDonald's commercial, they're advertising for something that sounds truly disgusting that comes with eggs. It's a "something something something with egg meal." But the announcer can't inflect properly, so he says "egg meal" instead of "egg meal." The point is to emphasize the meal, not the egg. The way he says it, it sounds like one word: "eggmeal." What the fuck is eggmeal--it sounds abhorrent. And will BBC America kindly stop referring to its hit ripoff of Trading Spaces as Changing Rooms? The inflection is all off in the commercials. Here they want to emphasize the second word in the title: "Changing ROOMS." Instead, they say "CHANGING Rooms," and unless I'm seeing babies get new diapers or watching chicks try on clothes at JC Penny's, these ain't changing rooms. People on the show are redecorating, or changing rooms. It's supposed to be a clever pun, but instead it's a reminder that puns aren't often clever.
11. Fewer or less? If something has an exact number, and you take another number away, you have less of something. If you don't know the number of a mass of people, and Jesus suddenly takes them away, and people are left behind, those lucky people are fewer than before. "Fewer" is indeterminate. Also, something is farther away in physical reality. Further is how you'll have to think to get it right (it refers to an idea or mental space).
12. White guys need to stop talking like Snoop Dogg. The one that bothers me most is this: a white guy has heard something he can't or won't accept. He tries to make that Snoop Dogg face of congenial stonedness, slits his eyes, and says the following as overdramatically as possible: "Aw, HELLLLLLLLLL, nah." Shut the fuck up you fucking morons. You don't sound cool, you sound like the burger-flipping fryalator-cleaning bathroom-mopping attendants you will one day be. By the way, guys, I like my towels on the thick side and my pants lightly pressed. Just for future reference when we run into each other at the hotel. You'll be working there.
13. The phrase "back in the day" makes me want to punch you in the throat. Back in what day, exactly?
14. People misuse "self," and it really bugs me. Eight times out of ten, it's superfluous. You don't need to tell me you're going to "self-teach myself" something. Just say "I'm going to teach myself to read, because I'm 21 and somehow got into college, so it's only fair." "Someone gave the blueprints to Bob and myself." "Bob and me" is fine, you don't need anymore. Why so needlessly elegant?
I know this all sounds like I'm being a tremendously huge dick, but having a tremendously huge dick and being one are two different things. You all annoy me with your constant kicking of the English language in its face, so it's only fair that I get to have my say. It is (for many of you reading this) your native language after all; one would think using is the only thing everyone would be able to do correctly.
I think I want to be a junior high teacher so I can demoralize the little assholes... Heh.