Adventures in Bureaucracy
Monday, October 31, 2005
I am so sick of the perpetually offended, which is probably one reason I gave up watching TV news, since that's where all the offended seem to turn up.

Cases in point:

The National Italian American Foundation objects to use of "Scalito" to refer to to-be Justice Alito and to "frequent reference to his Italian heritage". The man is the son of an immigrant from Italy, and he's nominated for a seat in the highest court in the land. This is as American as you can get. And "Scalito" isn't a racial thing, it's shorthand to paint him as similar to Scalia. It's not like he's the only one to get a nickname from the press. Read the New York Post for a while.

And then there's this: Britons think French deserve their 'negative stereotype'. The only person quoted in the blurb says that jokes about the French are "racist and dangerous". Bollocks! People in every culture have made jokes about people from every other culture since time immemorial.

Counterpoint: How many jokes are there about the French? One, the rest are true.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Even better - a remake of "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" with Jessica and Ashlee Simpson. I know I'd consider buying the DVD.
Two clicks away from my normal web viewing brings this bit of startling news.

Hmmm.... Demi Moore as Joan Crawford? I guess that's one way to try to reinvigorate a career. Imagine: "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" with Demi as Blanche and Madonna as Baby Jane. OK, maybe not Madonna - you've got to have SOME standards - but how about Whoopi Goldberg? It would be like a cast reunion from "Ghost". Who wouldn't want to see that?

No? Then how about this: Demi in a remake of "Mommie Dearest". I can TOTALLY see her rasping the most famous lines in the whole movie:

"No... wire... hangers. What's wire hangers doing in this closet when I told you: no wire hangers EVER? I work and work 'till I'm half-dead, and I hear people saying, "She's getting old." And what do I get? A daughter... who cares as much about the beautiful dresses I give her... as she cares about me. What's wire hangers doing in this closet? Answer me. I buy you beautiful dresses, and you treat them like they were some dishrag. You do. Three hundred dollar dress on a wire hanger. We'll see how many you've got if they're hidden somewhere. We'll see... we'll see. Get out of that bed. All of this is coming out. Out. Out. Out. Out. Out. Out. You've got any more? We're gonna see how many wire hangers you've got in your closet. Wire hangers, why? Why? Christina, get out of that bed. Get out of that bed. You live in the most beautiful house in Brentwood and you don't care if your clothes are stretched out from wire hangers. And your room looks like some two-dollar-a-week furnished room in some two-bit back street town in Okalahoma. Get up. Get up. Clean up this mess."

With Drew Barrymore as young Christina Crawford? Cinema GOLD, baby.
Chicago wins the World Series. Isn't that one of the signs of the Apocalypse?
No additional comment necessary:

A Wisconsin man is in big trouble for photographing his penis... police in Germantown and Menomonee Falls told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he violated their penal codes.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Changing gears a bit, Steve at PragueBlog expresses mild disapproval of Frank Gehry's work, which brings forth reasoned argument in the comments. I'm in your court on this one, Steve. The man is a menace to every skyline in the world.

This says everything that needs to be said about Gehry:

Over the years, Gehry has moved away from a conventional commercial practice to a artistically directed atelier. His deconstructed architectural style began to emerge in the late 1970s when Gehry, directed by a personal vision of architecture, created collage-like compositions out of found materials. Instead of creating buildings, Gehry creates ad-hoc pieces of functional sculpture.

Gehry's architecture has undergone a marked evolution from the plywood and corrugated-metal vernacular of his early works to the distorted but pristine concrete of his later works. However, the works retain a deconstructed aesthetic that fits well with the increasingly disjointed culture to which they belong.

When we're talking about buildings, I rather they be assembled by construction workers, although I'd probably welcome a literal deconstruction of any of his structures if I had to live near them.

Fear not, Steve, we are not alone. STR writes:

Ugh! I hate Gehry. I've yet to see anything made by his hand that looks good. Hey Frank, try designing somthing that doesn't look half-melted!

But for a really, really good critique of Gehry's body of work, check out entry number twelve at that last link.
I wonder who makes the decisions about the Czech language? I'll bet they've got a huge stockpile of unused vowels in their basement...

UPDATE: Well, there you are, a list of languages and their authorities. For Czech it's the Ústav pro jazyk ?eský. The address is in Prague 1, but they've probably got the vowels held hostage in Karlstejn.
This is the kind of thing that I find fascinating:

According to a new grammar rule in the Netherlands and Belgium, the name "Christ" will soon be written with a lower-case "c", as stipulated by an orthography reform published last Friday.

According to the agency, the new spelling rules also will stipulate that the Dutch word for "jews" (joden) be spelled with a capital "J" when referring to nationality and with a lower-case "j" when referring to the religion. The changes will be mandatory starting in August 2006.

The rules themselves aren't as interesting as is the fact that there is some official body that makes binding changes to the language. I think most people who follow such things know about the Académie Française, but for Dutch there's the Nederlandse Taalunie. Nine million euros is a lot of money to come up with rules on capitalization, but at least they're staying out of greater mischief, like abolishing gender and declension... but then, they already threw those overboard. I kind of liked the looks of the vowel-heavy old written Dutch, but they've gotten rid of that.

There's apparently been even more controversy in German with the Rechtschreibreform, which changes various bits of spelling involving the B-looking letter that stands for double-S. (Although it did explain why Hungarian uses "sz" for the "s" sound - that B-looking letter is es-zet and makes the same sound in German.)

English is great because its basic spelling rules describe how the words were pronounced four hundred years ago, and we're holding on to our heritage no matter how confusing it is. Sure, the British still insist on their appalling orthography, with its superfluous "u"s ("colour" and "favourite") and inverted "er" endings ("centre" and "theatre"), and there are the odd cranks who think the spelling should reflect current pronunciation, but start changing it and where does it end?

Here's where it ends.
This is the Washington I know:

"As Bush's staff secretary, she was known to correct spelling, grammar and even punctuation errors in memos to the president." ... However, now that we can see for ourselves that she's not really a grammar maven, it suggests that perhaps she was more of a passive-aggressive, petty bureaucrat who was always trying to impose her will, even in small ways, on materials other people were sending through her to her boss. If you've ever been in government, you know that this is exactly the type of appointee who succeeds at the special assistant and staff-secretary level.

I had a supervisor who was exactly like this. Now it's true that I'm no Shakespeare, but I can generally string together words and phrases in a grammatically correct manner to express a thought, but everything I wrote came back covered in red ink. In the end, the rules seemed to be never to use a single-syllable word when a longer one was available, and always to write in the passive voice.

Later I found out that the guy had quite a reputation throughout the agency. The secret to his success was apparently that he loved meetings and would drag them out until he wore down any opposition. He also had saved everything he had ever written - during one of the editing sessions, he once pulled out a memo written while I was still in high school.

The guy wasn't a complete ogre, but it wasn't easy being his underling. I remember the day he called me and another co-worker into his office to announce his retirement. My co-worker and I couldn't look at each other, because we were biting our cheeks so hard to try to repress the grins.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Every time I see someone with some elaborate tattoo, I wonder how it is possible that its owner couldn't realize that the permanent marking was something they would eventually regret. And let's face it, there are a LOT of regrettable skin markings out there. So this article doesn't come as a complete surprise.
Personal comments, opinions and observations from someone stuck inside the Capital Beltway.

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