Monday, June 27, 2011

QUICK PSA: Comma placement matters, kids!

From I forget where—Cynopsis or something: "Star is writing the script starring Goldie Hawn as a woman, who after her husband has a mid-life crisis at the age of 65 and leaves her, struggles with being single again for the first time in 35 years."

There should almost certainly be a comma after script, and I'm not sure you can really say of a script that it stars anyone—but that, I'll acknowledge, is really just nitpicking.

What goes beyond nitpicking* is the comma after woman. What they want is a comma after who: Goldie Hawn is "a woman who struggles with being single again," and she does so "after her husband has a mid-life crisis at the age of 65 and leaves her." The problem with putting the comma after woman is not only that the sentence becomes nonsense when it hits the word struggles, but also that the thrust of its meaning now appears to be that Goldie Hawn plays a woman: "Star is writing the script starring Goldie Hawn as a woman." OK, I'm hooked! Go on!

When Martin Lawrence or Tyler Perry plays a woman, that may be remarkable. Goldie Hawn, not so much. (The difference, if you're wondering, is that she's white.)

This fall, watch this talented young man in
his most challenging role yet: a woman?!?!

* It is still nitpicking.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Appreciation Fest / Review Sliders™

A smash hit on Broadway!

The Book of Mormon [SPOILER ALERT, I suppose]
There's only so much I can not love a major Broadway musical (Tony Award-winning, even!) featuring a "Hakuna Matata"–style song about fucking God "in His cunt."* Hasa Diga Eebowai, everybody!

Who would do such a thing to Tom Hanks?!

Punching Tom Hanks
Although the writer, Kevin Seccia, "is an improbable mix of the blandest aspects of at least two lamentable cultures" (Andy Richter), this book is just crammed full of brilliant comedy writing the way you cram a goose full of— OK, I'm just going to stop myself right there because I'm not going to stop eating foie gras and I need to compartmentalize.

the great Jon Benjamin

Jon Benjamin Has a Van
I've watched to the first commercial break of the first episode of Jon Benjamin Has a Van, and I have decided that this is my favorite television show. I am not entirely serious, but much less so joking.

When I was 13 I loved Wolverine.
Twenty years later, I love Magneto.
(When I'm 43 I'll probably love Forge or something.†)

X-Men: First Class
Best X-Men movie ever? Certainly the best-ever fifth movie in a series. [I said as much to Lauren Donner, and she said thanks! So FUCK YOU!] I loved the X-Men between the ages of 11 and 14, let's say, and I think this movie captured what was great about the comics better than any of the other movies did. The only rival is the second one. (Magneto's escape scene in that one is about as good as anything ever.‡)

In conclusion, here's a picture of Los Angeles:

* As a friend pointed out recently, there's something wonderfully liberating about writing God's personal pronouns with lowercase Hs. Just as calling Jesus "Jesus Christ" is not a neutral thing but in fact an endorsement of Christian theology ("Christ" being not a name but a title, meaning Messiah), capitalizing the H in "His" is a sign of respect, not a grammatical rule. So, for the record, I'd like to note that if I ever capitalize that H, nine times out of ten it's for the comedic effect (the comedy of acting respectful when you're not being: e.g.).

† 43-year-old me is an idiot.

‡ Including the Beatles and fellatio.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Follow me, whether or not you want to live.

fav/RT/print for your fridge

Let's imagine for a second that you wanted to know what my best "tweets" were—keeping in mind that my Twitter "feed" comprises nothing but jokes.* (Who would want to know that, you ask? Let me ask you a different question: Who wouldn't want to know? The answer to that question is Nazis.†)

Here are a few ways you could try:
  1. A democratically determined "best of"!
  2. A democratically determined "best lately"!
  3. What I hand-picked back in January!
  4. What I hand-picked todayish, steering clear or clearish of the above! [No clicking required—thank God, am I right??—just see just below. I mean, merely see directly below. Man, you're tough.]
How soon after saving the Goon Docks do you think the Goonies were like, "Fuck this town, I hate it here"? A month? A week? Couple of days?

Live every day like it's a rambling story you're telling, decades later, to a bored and unhappy grandchild.

"Ephphatha!" -Jesus (and I'm pretty sure also one of the creatures in the Mos Eisley cantina?)

I liked the Velvet Underground Babies because you never saw Andy Warhol, only his stockinged feet.

Lots of funny things can happen, but the funniest is when someone gets his head stuck in something & says, "Hey, who turned out the lights?"

What's the movie where Schwarzenegger looks in his window & sees another Schwarzenegger having dinner with his wife & he's like "AUURRRGH"?

Even if something really valuable is learned, a high-school basketball team winning a game is still less interesting than a werewolf. Sorry.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Cereal #awfulcereal (a bunch of letters, probably, with marshmallow blinking eyes)

Who would win in a fight, God or Mike Tyson? Because God is omnipotent, but Mike Tyson exists.

"Hey! You kids knock it off!" -possible campaign to end gang violence

I bet Prince was pretty pissed off when he first heard the name "The Fresh Prince."

It's like 55°F here in L.A., and I just saw a girl dressed like she was on the ice planet of Hoth.

"Ask child why jaw fall off...child say, 'I don't know.' BRAINS!!!!" (zombie Bill Cosby)

God-shaped hole. Holland Tunnel. Super Mario warp pipe. Undertow. Happy parentheses. Endnotes. Muppetmouth. Moggy. Lurve. #newslangforvagina

Every once in a while I get all super-objective and breasts just look ridiculous to me. (This happens for about two seconds every 10 years.)

"I Owen Wilson-nosed girl with a late-'60s haircut performing cunnilingus in the '69' position." #rorschachblot

This hold music is too sexy.

Spider-Man: You Don't Have to Put on the Red Light

Reads bottom to top (say the bottomwords‡).

* Jokes I'm pretty sure I wrote!
† I defy you to argue that Nazis would in fact want to know. QED, jerks!
‡ "Bottomwords" is an offensive slur for "footnotes." [Dude...I should totally tweet that!]

Thursday, June 16, 2011

You ask the impossible.

A restroom at a restaurant or bar (I forget).

OK. It would be very easy for me to get hung up on the suggestion that customers might want to clean the area after using it (if they're talking about wiping your pee off the toilet seat, then yes—although how about not peeing on the toilet seat?—but doesn't it sort of sound like they're suggesting you kind of actually...clean the bathroom for them? I mean, yes, that would be "kind," for sure, to say the least...), but that's not why I called this meeting.

What really caught my attention was the third bullet point, or rather the juxtaposition of the second and third. One: please clean this area after each usage! Two: it is not possible to clean after each usage!

I understand what they're saying. We all probably get what they're saying. But it sure as hell sounds like they're saying something like—

  • Please be sure to wash your hands before returning to work!
  • Washing your hands before returning to work is impossible!

If I'm not misremembering, my ex-wife's* favorite moment in those redubbed G.I. Joe PSAs that were going around about 10 years ago [seven?] was: "Give him the stick! Don't give him the stick!" A similar thing, really.

* IMPORTANT NOTE: I have never been married.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

You leave me little choice.

[My favorite part about this is that, even if you accept that what is meant here is just that the road to the left is one way (whereas, to the right, it's necessarily two way), it still makes no sense: why in the world would you need a sign telling you that you can't go right, to the left of you? Q.v.]

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"To be like" or "to be, like." That is the question.

Ever since I was a kid and would read people's commentary on kidspeak—you know, those condescending pieces, ranging from the hysterically outraged to the satirically scholarly, in which old people tell other old people that today's youth are in the process of savagely murdering the English language—it has always seemed to me that folks have fundamentally misunderstood the mechanics of "like" in the recounting of dialogue.

People above the age of, like, 50 seem to think that there is only one young-person "like": the "like" I just used, earlier in this sentence (which is, admittedly, almost entirely a kind of verbal tic, communicative waste*)—hence the egregious misconception that young people use the verb to be as a synonym for the verb to say.

I suspect that most older people would see no particular difference between the following two sample sentences:

  1. I was like, "" (Right!)
  2. I was, like, "" (Wrong!)

In the first sentence, the substitute for (roughly) to say is not to be but rather to be like. In the second sentence, the substitute is indeed to be, the word like, sandwiched between commas, being an expendable aside, that "verbal tic" mentioned above. I'm going to go ahead and say that nobody talks like sentence #2.

People do talk like this: "I was, like, so angry." That sentence is grammatically similar to sentence #2 but grammatically dissimilar to sentence #1: it is not what young people are doing when they are reporting on something they said. Young people are things (and therefore, yes, "are, like" things), but they aren't what they say; they "are like" what they say. To be like has come to be a (slangy, yes) verb of its own.

I say "like" too much (a bad habit I picked up in middle school, actually rather deliberately at the time)—but I never, ever use the verb "to be" to report something that someone said. "I was, 'Oh my God!'" seems to me about as nonsensical as I gather all of this seems to older people—and/but I wonder whether that's why it seems so nonsensical to them, that they don't see the difference between "was like" and "was, like."

Nor is this usage of to be like an arbitrary thing, some kind of idiotic nonsense muscling its way into common usage. When I say, "I was like," and then quote myself, I am in fact using like in a rather standard way, just in a less-standard (but of course increasingly standard) context: I really am telling you what I was like. What I say is not what I am, but it is, arguably, a kind of descriptive information—particularly since (and this is pretty important) dialogue reported with "I was like" is most appropriately taken to be non-verbatim (see first footnote because it's similar reasoning).

The clearest way to follow me (if you don't already) might be to think of this analogous example:

  • "I was like, 'Arrrrgh!'" (or, "I was like..." [makes cartoonishly frustrated face])

Essentially, in this context, what you are doing is an impression of yourself. Is this, when you think about it, substantively different from a sentence like, "I was like a crazy person"? Below you can see a kind of evolutionary chart:

  • SPEAKER: I was like a crazy person!
  • SPEAKER: I was like— (Does impression of a crazy person)
  • SPEAKER: I was like (in character, as a crazy person), "God damn it!!!"
  • SPEAKER: I was like, "God damn it!!!"†

Can you see how that "like" is not just verbal waste, and how that last sentence communicates something slightly but significantly different from "I said, 'God damn it!!!'"?

The sentence, "I was, like, 'God damn it!!!'"—with the like set apart by commas—would communicate something rather different: it would mean that the speaker was "God damn it!!!" (or was more or less "God damn it!!!"), which makes no sense at all.

Fortunately, nobody talks like that.‡

This is different. (via)
P.S. Is "stop saying like" someone's name (q.v.)?

BONUS QUESTION: I frequently trip myself up by beginning a sentence with, "I'll either or both..." The shortest answer may be that you can't really start a sentence that way, but come on. Why not? Anyway, here's the problem I run into: if, let's say, the two things in question (of which I'll do one or both) are singing and dancing, then do I say, "I'll either or both sing and dance" or "I'll either or both sing or dance"? Maybe "I'll either or both sing and/or dance"? Problem there is that the either comes first, then the both, so wouldn't it sort of have to be, "I'll either or both sing or/and dance"?
     Then I realized that, just as a verb will always agree with the subject closest to it in an or situation, so must the following conjunction almost certainly agree: in other words, when you say "either or both," what follows is going to behave as if you're only talking about the both.
      I'm satisfied with that.

* Almost but not quite entirely because it communicates a certain kind of doubt. "People above the age of, like, 50" is different from "People above the age of 50" because the former is saying, "I'm not quite sure what the age cut-off is, but I'm going to call it 50, with the understanding that this is a casual guess and entirely open to revision or correction."

† Note, too, that all this actually provides us with a more subtle range of possibilities. Just as (as you, I hope, learned in school) one can say either, "I said, 'You need to get out of here,'" or, "I said that he needed to get out of here," with the one suggesting a direct quote and the other suggesting a general sense of what was said [Cf.], the was like constructions allow for another level of nonverbatim reporting that is really quite useful.

‡ I think people do say, "I was all..." However, that's a parallel construction to "I was like" and works the same way: again, the verb to be is not the operative grammatical thing going on.

overheard in my apartment

[I found this in my drafts folder from April 2009, back when I lived in NoNo in New York. I'm hitting "post" on this without tinkering around with the content.]

My neighbor likes to sit in her window and smoke and talk on the phone, such that I can hear her conversations clearly when I'm in my apartment with my window closed...sometimes even when I have music playing. I let her know a little while back that she was sharing her conversations with her neighbors, and she evidently didn't give a shit, so I decided I might as well get something out of this annoyance: I think I'm going to start transcribing snippets of her conversations and see whether it's of any entertainment value. I'm hoping she'll say something intensely personal and embarrassing: if you make people listen to your private conversations, well, then they aren't private anymore, hon.

So let's see, here:

[a Saturday afternoon]

NEIGHBOR: Um, that's kind of awesome. Well, that's really really awesome. It's so, it's so, like, mature. You know what I mean? Yeah, exactly. Yeah. [Pause, followed by insincere laughter.] Yeah, but that was cultivated! Yeah! Seriously, every time you do, he's gonna think you're his fucking best friend. Yeah, exactly. So funny. Oh, my God. [Laughter, possibly sincere.] No, she could yell out "Michael Jackson"!

[A little later that same afternoon]

NEIGHBOR: Trust me when I tell you, because I've been where you are: do not lose any more weight because you will look worse. No, but, OK, [name inaudible] weighs 195? Yeah, you've got weight up there, but that's your skull. At my birthday, you looked liked you had the most angular... Hm. Wait, one more thing before you get off the phone.. . [Inaudible.] What? Why not? No, Josh Brolin, dude. Not Josh Cohen. Josh Brolin. Honestly, why would I? That's not important, people have sex with Josh all the time. But Josh Brolin... The thing is, he is [inaudible]. [Pause.] I love you. Tell Tyler to stop cheating on me. Ask him, ask him, ask him if Julia wasn't [inaudible]... [Laughter.]

[a Thursday afternoon]

No, that whole town in Mexico where it started. That little boy. [pause] [Inaudible] with Dan because said he had a sex addiction...? [Laughter.] [Radio silence for a while after she leaves her window. She returns to share her conversation with all her neighbors.] Well, you can do that. I'm still going to [inaudible], though. It's not even that, just don't disrespect her. [Pause] I got on the guest list, plus one. So I may embarrass myself... [Pause] Oh my god, are they those African looking ones...? Oh my God, I need those shoes! Wait until you see them, it's a match made in Heaven.

[a Tuesday night]

I hate umbrellas? And my first panic attack ever?—was when I was in this place where there were all these umbrellas?—and I was like, "Oh my God, somebody's going to lose a fucking eye!"