Archive for the ‘Mental’ Category

Earlier this week, I posted something about the right kerfuffle involving Warner Bros., Daniel Radcliffe, and the Broadway production of How to Succeed….

The theatre's a small world, isn't it?

Well, according to Playbill.com, the Warners won.


Victory calls for Comic Sans.

Actually, this isn’t that big a deal.  I understand it’s just business.  (Or maybe it is a big deal:  Is this equivalent to the film saying theatre doesn’t matter?)   But two things stick with me.  The first is that selling out three nights of a Broadway show is about $500,000, which isn’t a huge amount of money and yet still covers about a half a week’s salary for lot of actors, technicians, ushers, etc., plus running costs, royalties, and all that good stuff.  The second is that, in the film industry, that same $500,000 is a nuisance.  It’s mind-boggling.  You could probably add all the budgets of all the shows I’ve ever done, and it still wouldn’t add up to $500,000.  In this case, it’s just an obstacle to getting a star to do some press.

But I digress.  This post isn’t about How to Succeed…, Broadway, or even the Harry Potter franchise.  It’s about the Warner Brothers.  And their sister Dot.


The theme of today's puzzle.

It’s Yakko’s world.  We just live in it:

Not to be outdone, Wakko rules the country (and he starts with my favorite capital city):

And Dot’s cute:

So, if How to Succeed… is dark those nights, then WHO’S ON STAGE?

Hahaha!  I love that show. 🙂


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News from New Orleans is that an autistic woman has had her “service monkeys” illegally confiscated.  Favorite quote:

You see all kinds of things on Bourbon Street during Carnival, including drag queens in costume, but what you don’t typically see is a woman in a pirate costume with four live monkeys, also dressed in pirate costumes.

“We were dressing up for the Mardi Gras and we dress up as pirates,” said James Poole, caretaker for Newberger.

Click the link.  Read the article.  Watch the video.  No, seriously.  Watch the video.

Did you watch it?

Am I a bad person because this story makes me think of the Bathroom Monkey from SNL?  (Watch that one, too.)

Bathroom Monkey. That funky monkey. Arr, matey.


CORRECTED:  Both links were going directly to Ebaumsworld.  Now you can see the actual news item from WWLTV.com, too.  Sorry about that.  Monkey hate proofreading.

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My Space

My wife is bu-huh-sting my ballses over a style thing.  I’m not talking about my sartorial skills, which are mad, bad, and dangerous to know.  I rock the streets of Brooklyn in an oversized hoodie, un-ironic tennis shoes, and my faded wide-leg, full-cut, husky jeans practically EVERY DAY, so believe me, it ain’t my fashion sense she’s slamming.  No.

It’s my tendency to type two spaces after a period, or “full-stop” for my Brizzits in the hizzouse.  I have to admit, I learned keystroke-writing back when typewriters existed.  (For the children, that’s a device a lot like a laptop, only there was no screen and you had to put paper into it one sheet at a time.)

Obsolete, but gorgeous.

Two spaces between the end of one sentence and the start of the next was simply the rule.  It’s what we were taught to do, it’s what we did, and it’s what kept our writing civilized and separate from the illegible, illiterate twaddle coming out of the animal kingdom.  (For the children, that’s texting.)

Turns out, though, it’s wrong.

Farhad Manjoo (love it, don’t ever change it) over at Slate posted a big exposé on the topic, and frankly, I don’t like his tone.  For example:

What galls me about two-spacers isn’t just their numbers. It’s their certainty that they’re right. Over Thanksgiving dinner last year, I asked people what they considered to be the “correct” number of spaces between sentences. The diners included doctors, computer programmers, and other highly accomplished professionals. Everyone—everyone!—said it was proper to use two spaces. Some people admitted to slipping sometimes and using a single space—but when writing something formal, they were always careful to use two. Others explained they mostly used a single space but felt guilty for violating the two-space “rule.” Still others said they used two spaces all the time, and they were thrilled to be so proper. When I pointed out that they were doing it wrong—that, in fact, the correct way to end a sentence is with a period followed by a single, proud, beautiful space—the table balked. “Who says two spaces is wrong?” they wanted to know.

He goes on to cite typographers (“Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule.”) and style guides (“Every major style guide—including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period.”) as support for his argument.  The problem for me, though, is that his defense is selective.

James Felici, one of the “every” modern typographers Manjoo references, is infinitely more gracious and diplomatic in his assessment of the issue; and his article is fascinating reading, full of nuance and detail.  It’s hardly the sledgehammer absolute Manjoo suggests.

Similarly, the MLA specifically says:

Because it is increasingly common for papers and manuscripts to be prepared with a single space after all punctuation marks, this spacing is shown in the examples in the MLA Handbookand the MLA Style Manual. As a practical matter, however, there is nothing wrong with using two spaces after concluding punctuation marks unless an instructor or editor requests that you do otherwise. (My emphasis.)

CMOS is a bit less kind, but still acknowledges that the “rule” is often a matter of “preference”:

The view at CMOS is that there is no reason for two spaces after a period in published work. Some people, however—my colleagues included—prefer it, relegating this preference to their personal correspondence and notes.

The CMOS #1 reason against using two spaces is that “it is inefficient, requiring an extra keystroke for every sentence.”  Personally, I type these two spaces so reflexively that the exact opposite is true: to adhere to the single-space rule, I have to spend so much more time going through my work and correcting what I’ve already done.  (I realize and fully concede that such review can be considered proofreading.)

Manjoo also cites the publications manual of American Psychological Association, bending their position to support his claim.  Their exact wording is as follows:

The new edition of the Publication Manual recommends that authors include two spaces after each period in draft manuscripts. For many readers, especially those tasked with reading stacks of term papers or reviewing manuscripts submitted for publication, this new recommendation will help ease their reading by breaking up the text into manageable, more easily recognizable chunks.

Although the usual convention for published works remains one space after each period, and indeed the decision regarding whether to include one space or two rests, in the end, with the publication designer, APA thinks the added space makes sense for draft manuscripts in light of those manuscript readers who might benefit from a brief but refreshing pause.

In the comments section of that same article, author Sarah Wiederkehr links to the Wikipedia page on the topic, which (again, diplomatically) acknowledges the validity of positions on both sides of the aisle.

It seems that throughout this argument, as you can see in the quotes I’ve included above, the energy on the double-space side is genteel, civil, showing concern for the reader, whereas the timbre of the single-space argument is aggressive, hectoring, self-righteous, and accusatory.  To wit:

“Forget about tolerating differences of opinion: typographically speaking, typing two spaces before the start of a new sentence is absolutely, unequivocally wrong,” Ilene Strizver, who runs a typographic consulting firm The Type Studioonce wrote. “When I see two spaces I shake my head and I go, Aye yay yay,” she told me. “I talk about ‘type crimes’ often, and in terms of what you can do wrong, this one deserves life imprisonment. It’s a pure sign of amateur typography.”

I checked out Ms. Strizver’s website.  It’s nice, but I would argue that using at least seven different fonts in a single page is also a sign of amateur typography.  (Hugs, Ilene!)

To me, single-spacing looks jumbled and cluttered.  I like the breathing room that double-spacing provides.  Granted, most of the writing I do is playwriting, and I do it in old-school manuscript format using Courier font. (Well, more precisely, Courier New.)

And why do I use it? Because it looks like a typewriter. Womp-womp.

Since that font is a monospace font, even on the computer, two spaces helps immeasurably with the clarity and readability of my work.  But I also email, and now I’m blogging, and the whole thing has me thinking.  Is my double-spacing holding me back?  Do prospective employers see it in my cover letter and give me a pass because of it?  My wife has already pointed out that my use of it in my blog posts occasionally creates unintentional indents on the left margin, which looks stupid.  (Resizing the page seems to correct the problem, but it also doesn’t magically create the problem on single-spaced type.)

Where do you stand?  One space, or two?

UPDATE: My virtual brother-in-law Brian covered similar territory over on unqualified.org.  It’s worth a read.  He’s smart, he’s literate, and he loathes Farhad Manjoo.

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I suppose it’s good to be exposed to the great works of literature at an early age.  It helps one develop a sense of cultural literacy, and if all goes well, it whets the appetite for more.  I wonder sometimes, though, if we’re just too young for some of the books we’re forced to read in school.  I mean, when I was really young, I was a voracious reader.  Everywhere I went, I had a bag of books with me. (Don’t believe me?  Ask my family.)  And I have a pretty good memory for stuff I read when I was that little, too.  For example, I still remember vividly the details of certain Encyclopedia Brown cases.

Bugs Meany was ALWAYS a douchebag.

SIDEBAR #1: Topless Robot has a fun list of the 10 Most Ridiculously Difficult Encyclopedia Brown Mysteries

SIDEBAR #2: It’s a shame what happened to Encyclopedia Brown in later years, too:  Read about the ultimate tragedy.

SIDEBAR #3, because I fell into a Proustian reverie with the Encyclopedia Brown reference and can’t stop finding shit to distract me: Mental Floss spins some quick EB trivia right here.

But I digress.

What I’m getting at, in my typically rambling fashion, is that I read The Great Gatsby in high school, and I’m shocked today that I remember very few things about it.  Here is an arguable candidate for the title of Great American Novel, and what I remember about it can be reduced to patter in a blogpost.

For example, I remember that the book had quite possibly the greatest cover I’d ever seen, one of the most iconic in publishing history:

Shut up. It's gorgeous, and you know it.

SIDEBAR #4, because I’m into it: The painting on the cover is called Celestial Eyes, and it’s the work of Francis Cugat.  Read this fascinating article about it by publishing scion Charles Scribner III. (Warning: the article has weird random characters throughout, like ò in place of intended punctuation marks.  Seriously, 2011 and we can’t stop that from happening or fix it when it does?  The article’s good, though.)

SIDEBAR #5, because I love this: Francis Cugat emigrated from Spain to Cuba in the early 1900s, and then eventually to the U.S.  He was the brother of bandleader Xavier Cugat, who himself was once married to Charo.  It’s all true, look it up.

SIDEBAR #6, because this freaked me out: When Cugat married Charo, he was 66.  She was 15.  TRUE.

Cuchi-cuchi. (I'd totally go see her live. No lie. In a heartbeat.)

Okay, so I remember the gorgeous cover.  I remember West Egg and East Egg, where much of the action of the book takes place, because I had no idea where the hell they were. (They’re imaginary, but Long Island.)  I remember the green light on the dock, but I don’t know why it’s important or what it’s meant to symbolize.  I remember people’s names: Nick Carraway, Daisy Buchanan, Jay Gatsby, Jordan Baker.  I remember – SPOILER – that Myrtle gets hit by a car.  (I did not remember until just now, when I looked it up, that the car was driven by – SPOILER Jay Gatsby Daisy, driving Gatsby’s car.  I looked it up, typed it in wrong, and my friend Ricky helpfully corrected me.  I’m telling y’all.  I can’t even retain what I read on Wikipedia anymore!)  And that’s pretty much it.

Oh, and I remember that Nick Carraway worked for the New York Probity and Trust Company, because I missed that costly question on a test in Mr. Templet’s class in 10th grade, and I AM STILL NOT OVER IT.

SIDEBAR #7, because it’s cool: Did you know that aspiring actress Susan Weaver chose her stage name from The Great Gatsby?  It’s true!  Looka:

Can you guess who it is?

Anyway, the point is, I should remember much more about this book.  I had to dig up my copy to take the picture above, and now that it’s out and I’m bitching about it, I’m going to reread it.  I mean, what am I gonna do instead?  Watch the movie?

I look great, but I am bad. Very bad. (Oh, how bad? Well, I once gave birth to the spawn of Satan, will that do?)

SIDEBAR #8: If only a possibly-insane Australian filmmaker with a middling track record would remake this movie — someone like Baz Luhrmann, yeah! — and maybe if he made it with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, and maybe if he’d shoot test footage to see if it would work in 3-D, well, then maybe that one would be worth watching.  Or not.

Hell, you know what?  If you watch the one below, it’ll make sense AND you’ll remember what happens. Because it’s Sparknotes.  But I still would have missed that sonofabitchin’ question on Templet’s test.  HERE BE SPERLERS (and droning, monotone narration):

But why bother with all that when you can play the VIDEO GAME!

(LAST SIDEBAR: This game is what inspired me to write this whole post. Thank you for making it this far and taking this free-associative journey with me.  Enjoy!)

Here’s an actual magazine ad from the late-’80s, early-’90s.

Click the image to go to there.

Below are some screenshots I took.

Beautifully done, even for 8-bit.

Your task: FIND GATSBY! Your wallpaper: FLEUR-DE-LIS!

A triumph, indeed. (There's a waiter on that bookcase!)

In case you didn’t click the game ad, here’s the link.  Thanks to Flavorwire and io9 for the scoop.  Good sites, y’all.  Check ’em out.

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I’m working this afternoon (writing, not job) in the reading room of the Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library. That’s the building with the big marble lions out front.

All you need is just a little Patience.


Would you rather have a Fortress of Solitude, or the Solace of Fortitude?


The building itself is gorgeous, and the reading room is almost distractingly beautiful.


I'm over on the right near the front.


That picture looks like it’s out of 1988, but it still looks pretty much the same, just with laptops. The façade of the building (thank you, Spellcheck, but façade is perfectly correct with the ç) is awesome in the proper sense of the word.

Look how little the people are. LOOK HOW LITTLE THE PEOPLE ARE!



Inside, it’s all marble and brass and shadow, full of history and secrets. It makes me feel like I should be in period dress.


Vewy scawy.


It’s well lit, it’s not too warm, the internet is fast and free, and there are outlets built into the tables, so you can work without burning battery. People are even respectful of the rules here, which is delightfully at odds with the typical New York-y sense of entitlement. Everyone is quiet. No one is using a cell phone. No one is eating or drinking. I may come here more often. They even have real-life literary visual gags!


Dozing Caulfield, from CATCHER OF THE ZZZZZZZs


Forgive me. I’m delirious from the fumes of the man next to me, who smells strangely and strongly of pickles.  No lie.


I'm sure he's very nice, but he do bring the dill.

You can find out more about the Schwarzman Building here and here.

P.S. Pickle Man just left, and I was not just being mean. The pickle smell is gone. For true.

P.P.S. Dozing Caulfield finally woke up, pulled off his red hunting cap, and started listening to some Sade rip-off through headphones so crappy I can sing along from across the table. Yay.

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I have an absurd sensitivity to grammatical errors.  I understand that most of us compose our writing on a computer screen these days, and I accept that most of that writing is done in haste, where timeliness is a much higher priority than clarity.  Sometimes, we want our writing to have the immediacy and looseness of speech.  We want it to read the same way it would sound, and so we tend to disregard the finer nuances of grammar that we might observe in more formal writing.  And I also concede that there are times when one might violate specific grammar “rules” for effect, such as beginning a sentence with a conjunction, as I have done here, or purposely constructing a run-on sentence to illustrate a point, or ending a sentence with a preposition, or anything else you can think of.  I get all that, but it doesn’t stop me from judging people who make really stupid mistakes and don’t seem to know (or care about) the difference.

If you’re one of these people, I apologize in advance.  It’s nothing personal. Really.

Please, for the love of the English language, print this page and KEEP IT WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES.

That equals sign with the slash through it?  That means “is not equal to,” which also means “is not the same thing as,” which also means “cannot be used interchangeably or people will think you were held back in school.”

IT’S  vs. ITS

With pronouns, the apostrophe indicates a contraction, not possession.  It’s means it is.  Its is possessive.

As with other possessive pronouns like his, her, our, and their, the possessive form of it is its own word, formed by adding the -s with no apostrophe.

Here’s an example:  It’s funny to watch a dog chase its own tail.

See? Funny.

TO vs. TOO

To is usually a preposition expression motion, direction or purpose.  Too is always an adverb expressing addition, emphasis, or intensity.  Here’s an easy way to remember the difference: too adds more emphasis because it has one more -o than to.

Example:  I’m too tired to go to the store.


Then is an adverb expressing time or order of actions.  Than is almost always used for comparison.

Examples:  Back then, things were simpler than they are now.


This one is very simple.  If you can substitute you are into your sentence, you should use you’re. The apostrophe makes that a contraction.  If you’re trying to indicate possession, use your.

Example:  You’re eating your own face.

...and it's deeply disturbing.


Their is possessive.  They’re means they are.  There is tricky, because it’s usually an adverb indicating a specific place or point or direction, but sometimes it can function as a pronoun introducing a verb, a noun, or even an interjection:  There!  See?  There is no “there” there.

Example:  They’re putting their things there.


This one’s easy now.  The apostrophe is a contraction, and the possessive is a separate word.  Who’s means who is, and whose is the possessive form of who.

Example:  Who’s that guy from Whose Line Is It Anyway?

His name is Colin Mochrie.

Now, look.  I’m one of those freaky people who actually reads about grammar for fun.  I text in complete sentences.  I realize I’m overreacting a little.  But if you spend enough time on the Book of Face, or read the user comments after practically any article posted on any website from any mainstream news source, you’re bound to see so many violations of the above that you’ll fear for the future of the English language.  We have to be vigilant.

And, y’all…when you use words the wrong way, it makes the baby Jesus cry.


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C is for Coffee!

So, according to the National Coffee Association (yes, there is such a thing, and it’s their centennial year!), today is National Coffee Break Day!  Yay!  I mean, for me, everyday is Coffee Break Day, but still yay!  Do any of y’all remember this video?  It’s included on the NCBD website, and it explains the secret of legendary actress Cicely Tyson’s success:

I love that Jerry Zaks gives her notes and rehearses a slap with the coffee in hand.  That’s my kind of rehearsal.  I also love that she has to almost literally shake off the caffeine high in order to process that she has just won an award.  Brilliant.  ‘Cause, honestly, in this one, she looks like she could use a cup or two.

Beautiful, classy, and a leetle low-key.  But there clearly must have been a samovar or something backstage, because if you keep watching, she practically bounds up there for a second time.  And I say, good for her!  Hold on tight to your dream, baby.  (And as much as I dig ELO, isn’t “Hold On Tight to Your Dreams” a counterintuitive choice for a coffee commercial?  Coffee should help us wake up, right?)

Anyway, I love coffee like a junkie loves needles.  I can drink it any time of the day or night, and I can drink whole pots of it.  I like it black, thanks, and I prefer actual coffee to an espresso or an americano – which is espresso with water added to it to make it more coffee-like – although I will happily drink any or all of those.  But it’s gotta be black.  If I’m having beignets at Café du Monde, I might pop a Lactaid and go for the café au lait, but that’s rare.

(Y’all remember when HBO used to show videos between movies?  And they played this one in the heaviest rotation possible?)

I don’t know why I love coffee so much.  When I was a kid, I remember my grandma giving me coffee milk, which was basically milk with a couple of spoons of coffee in it.  Or maybe she’d let me finish the bottom of her coffee after it had gotten cold.  But I don’t really remember when it became this necessary part of my life, when a coffeemaker became a vital household appliance.  Maybe it’s because I worked at Royal Blend on Metairie Road when I was an undergrad.  I don’t know.  But I love it, and although I’ve tried to give it up, I keep coming back to it like a bad relationship.

My favorite is Community Coffee New Orleans Blend.  Yeah, this New Orleans boy loves his coffee and chicory.  I like Café du Monde’s ground coffee and chicory, too, and I just found a place in Park Slope that carries it.  Also, at Carnival time, I also really love Community’s Carnivale Cake, because it tastes like King Cake.

Speaking of coffee, did y’all hear that Starbucks is introducing their new 31 oz. Trenta cup size?  But did you also know that PJ’s of New Orleans has been offering a 32 oz. size since summer 2010?  It’s only for iced drinks, but still.  Get ya a big ol’ iced coffee in one of those, and you’re good for the afternoon at least.

So, Happy Coffee Break Day!  I wanted to include a final video of Charles Nelson Reilly doing “Coffee Break” from the original How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, but I couldn’t find it.  Enjoy this fabulous ’70s relic instead.

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