Archive | November, 2010

Poop with purchase

24 Nov

Yesterday, while scrabbling over a small mountain of displaced concrete, hands stuffed into ski gloves, stuffed into pockets, walking toward the mini mart on a mission for gummi worms, a gruff man whose gaze I was trying to avoid stepped into my path.

“Hey, want a toilet?” he asked, pointing toward a cracked porcelain heap lying crumpled in a muddy, grassless yard.

The desire for gummi worms,
like The Force, is strong in this one.

“No thanks,” I replied, attempting to navigate around him.

“What about this kitchen sink?” he tried. “It’s high-quality.” He made a sweeping, Vanna White gesture in the direction of another pile of porcelain, complete with a rainbow of mineral stains: brown iron puddles, streaks of bright green copper, and what’s that poking up from the drain? A tuft of someone’s … hair?

“It’s free!” he beamed.

This overall-wearing salesman was clearly not to be dissuaded with a simple no.

“Maybe I’ll pick it up on my way back,” I lied, and maneuvered successfully around him.

I secured the gummy worms, stuffed half of them in my face, and carefully plotted a new route home that would take me far from Free Toilet Guy. On my way back, much to my dismay, what did I see but this:

What, if any, lesson is to be learned from this? The only thing I can think of is:

All ye who need toilets, kitchen sinks, and possibly on a good day, bathtubs, get thee to my neighborhood posthaste, as there is no dearth of crappers free for the taking.

Having puppy = having baby

22 Nov

A little Monday levity for all y’all with twisted senses of humor out there:
Baby HD from summer of tears on Vimeo.

Can’t watch this ‘cuz you’re at work or you’re visually impaired or you just hate web video? It’s cool, here’s a synopsis for you:

White middle class couple sits on couch smugly discussing how their lives changed post-baby. They gloat about how they were more prepared than your average couple to have a baby, since they already had a dog. “Raising a baby is just like raising a dog!”

Cue scenes of baby eating food out of a dog bowl, mom yelling at baby not to poop on the floor and rubbing its nose in it, mom swatting baby off the furniture with a rolled-up newspaper, baby being packed off in a kennel carrier, dad making jokes about baby humping a guest’s leg: “He must smell your baby!”

OK, so the ending is kinda weird, and they totally could’ve moved their lighting setup out of the last shot, but the whole thing is worth it for the shot of the baby in a kennel. For some reason that probably signals deep psychological issues, I laughed like a crazy hyena.

Weekend Open Thread

13 Nov

Hey you! Yeah, you! No, don’t leave, come back! I promise I won’t bite, I’m just curious about you. I want to know things. Like, where are you from? Why do you read this silly blog? What’s your favorite color of glitter, and how many fingers and toes do you have?

So lurkers, remove those masks and introduce yourselves in the comments! Commenters, tell me a little bit about you. You know weird things about me, so turnabout’s fair play, right? Anything you want to say is fine, but in case you want a prompt, here are some ideas to get you started:

– If you were stuck on an island alone, and you could have only one song with you to listen to for all eternity, what one would you have, and why?
– What do you think about right before you fall asleep at night?
– Cat person? Dog person? Snake person? Why?
– What is the most awesome thing you’ve ever done, that very few other people have done?
– Do you have a rad hobby, like archery? And if so, can you teach me?

You get the idea. Say something, anything at all. Promote your own blog, or tell me how you really feel about cheese doodles.* Post a link to a picture of your Great Aunt Sally, or write a single word, or have a conversation with another reader, or ask me something you think I might know the answer to. Go!

*I, for one, think they’re delicious.

One word can make a difference

11 Nov

A recent NYTimes piece by Karen Zraick brought iHollaback, a nifty web site that now has its very own smartphone apps for the low low price of whatever it is those things cost these days, to my attention. According to the story, iHollaback “is a Web site that encourages women to post their accounts of harassment and abuse as part of a campaign to end practices that are seldom discussed but that many women say are pervasive.”

What’s interesting about this article, other than iHollaback itself, which satisfies an obvious need and looks kind of fun (if anything related to street harassment can be fun), is the way Zraick chose to phrase the above sentence. But before we get into that, a little background:

Journalists understand the power of words. Particularly words like “say,” “claim” and “allege.” At first blush these words look like nothing more than synonyms for “speak.” But seasoned professionals have the ability to wield them in ways that can slant a story without making it seem slanted at all – many may even do it completely unconsciously.

Any of the aforementioned words, when used as modifiers for a statement that, alone, would be taken at face value, have immense power. With that in mind, take a look at the article excerpt again:

“[iHollaback] is a Web site that encourages women to post their accounts of harassment and abuse as part of a campaign to end practices that are seldom discussed but that many women say are pervasive.” (emphasis mine)

Use these infinitive-prefacing verbs sparingly.

Note the difference in the way the two assertions in the sentence are presented. The practice of harassment lacks a “says/alleges/claims” modifier: “practices are seldom discussed.” This leads the reader to take it as an empirically verifiable fact. In contrast, harassment’s pervasiveness requires a modifier: “many women say the practice is pervasive.” Here’s a clue that the author doesn’t think this fact is supported by any evidence other than the claims of a party, in this case “many women.”

There are two main flaws with this syntax and its implications. Firstly, these “practices are seldom discussed.” Says who? Was there a study? I don’t know about you, but I discuss these practices all the time. I’m not refuting the statement – in mainstream Amerikuh, I don’t doubt that street harassment, and women’s rights in general, come up in conversation with disturbing infrequency, but it’s in no way more well-supported than the second statement.

Secondly, the subject matter of the article itself would suggest that the second statement does not require a “says” modifier. iHollaback is a Web site that sprung up to address a practice that is so pervasive that the site has regional and global variations, viral participation, at least one bajillion press mentions, an iPhone app and an Android app in development. This should be enough to, if not present pervasive street harassment as an irrefutable fact, at least qualify the statement for a modifier bye.

Modifiers are equally powerful when included or omitted, serving the opposite purposes of discrediting when included, and supporting when omitted. Thus, they can be used strategically to make a point. By modifying “these practices are pervasive” with “says” but not doing so with the previous statement, the author skewed the “truthiness” playing field – leaving readers to assume that while harassment is certainly rarely discussed, it may not actually be as common as “some women” would lead you to believe.

While this may be considered nitpicking, it’s important to realize that these people are professionals – they understand the impact a single word can have, and so choose (or should choose) them carefully. Journalists are the gatekeepers of information, and the filter through which millions of people see the world. One word can make a difference.

Girls can be cheerleaders

7 Nov

In only 30 seconds, this local Portland commercial for Mattress World manages to rewind gender stereotypes by approximately 50 years, scar children’s psyches, and not say anything helpful about its products’ features. They run more than one version of this exact message here during Trail Blazer games – other versions start with the little girl proclaiming her only dream in life is to be a cheerleader and then move on to the little boy with his many basketball-related dreams:

Not only are the gender roles here patently unnecessary and painful to watch, I fail to see how this campaign could sell mattresses. I imagine the crack marketing team at Mattress World sat down and said, “We need to come up with something that the locals will like. Locals like sports, right? Hmm, well there is only one professional sports team in the entire state. So the Trail Blazers are a pretty safe bet! Now, how to relate basketball to mattresses? Umm, well, they have cheerleaders, and players, right? Boys are the stars, and girls are the sideline decorations. But, we don’t want to be too sexy, we are a family mattress company. Let’s use kids, everyone likes kids. Go!”

They probably learned this form of marketing from reading kids’ books from the ’50s: “Girls can be nurses, boys can be doctors! Girls can be secretaries, boys can be businessmen! Girls can be mommies, boys can be rock stars!” Then they watched a few rip-and-replace local car commercials, where car companies come up with a bunch of generic characteristics they ascribe to a region, then voice them over pictures of their vehicles pasted over static images of local landmarks, and call that a regional targeted ad. It’s insulting. What’s worse is that they, and the vast majority of viewers, probably don’t see anything wrong with this approach.

No post this week

4 Nov

due to tropicality:

In lieu of actual content, I give you a picture of me at a luau, making a funny face. I hope this amuses until I return to a mood more snarkily suitable for Serious Blogging:

Now I’m going to go eat some cookies.




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