Category Archives: tone

January 17, 2010, 3:00 pm

Only Daddy talks like that, kids.

Kevin Drum says he’s adopting Sir Rex Richard Mottram’s extended conjugation as his personal mantra:

We’re all f*cked. I’m f*cked. You’re f*cked. The whole department is f*cked. It’s the biggest cock-up ever. We’re all completely f*cked.

Which reminds me of what I believe Walter LaFeber said was Brooks Adams’s shaving song: the phrase “God-damn” repeated to the melody of the Westminster chimes. I mean, it probably is too much to ask that one’s fatalism be cheerful, but musical seems a reasonable request.

June 17, 2009, 6:44 pm

automated linking gone mad

What attracted me to this image was the glamorous name of this Miss Seattle — Peggins Madieux. But the more I look at it, the more questions it raises. Does the cow over Miss Seattle’s head imply that the cans are of milk (e.g. sweetened condensed, to mellow the harsh of the coffee from that urn)? Would the number over her customer’s head have raised an eyebrow in 1927 (the year of my father’s birth)? But most of all, what value did UW think was added by links, on the descriptive text, to search queries for the likes of “U” and “S” (on the honorific of U.S. Senator Warren Magnuson, to whom she was briefly married)?

November 18, 2008, 4:16 pm


Discussion of cabinet-staffing yields:

You don’t want the camel pissing in the tent.

True, but not unproblematic. There are of course two tent metaphors: better inside pissing out than outside pissing in, and the problem with letting the camel get his nose in the tent is, pretty soon you get the rest of the camel, too.

And these metaphors have, it seems to me, opposite implications for cabinet-staffing.

April 3, 2008, 4:58 am

The G00gles.

Scott McLemee wants to know the zeitgeist of the 00s as a decade.

The 00s were the decade when it stopped being okay to call me on the phone and ask me stuff you could find on the Internets in about fifteen seconds. And no, this is not some fit of pique, a row with an imaginary maître d’ culminating in the shriek, “Do you know who I am?” The premise there is that you should; my premise here is that you don’t and you shouldn’t—but the Internet does, and it would tell you, and that would save us both a deal of time and money.

People have actually called me to ask my email address. I honestly don’t know how it is possible for this to occur.

And of course this doesn’t apply to you if you are living in the Third World, or perhaps if you are quite old, or poor, or poorly educated, or somehow cannot use the Internet very well for medical reasons I can’t now imagine. But for Heaven’s…

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March 25, 2008, 9:09 am

Too soon?

Speaking of “a class of the lost,” on this day in 1894, Jacob S. Coxey started out with his army of the unemployed, also known as “the Commonweal of Christ,” from Massillon, Ohio, to march to Washington. You know the basic story: it’s a deep, desperate depression, the worst at least until the Great Depression; Coxey is a soft-money man, a People’s Party kind of guy—not poor himself, but believes in the cause, and wants the federal government to provide aid.

Here’s the thing: it’s awfully hard not to play Coxey for laughs. He named his child “Legal Tender.” He converted to a peculiar version of Christianity at the hands of an amateur theologian named Carl Browne, who held that each of us is reincarnated from a pool of mixed souls, so that a new soul contains an amalgam of old souls, which means that each of us contains a bit of Christ’s soul, too—and that Browne and Coxey had…

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January 9, 2008, 4:06 pm

On the other hand, it has some problems.

An awe-inspiring cascade:

cloacal … nepotism … absurdly broad and comically wrongheaded … a caricature … bizarro … thoroughgoing incoherence … oxymoron … classic Newspeak … Newspeak incarnate … grotesquely misrepresents … incorrectly claims … false characterization … almost comical upending of reality … Michelle Malkin … Ann Coulter … selects a narrow band of often unrepresentative facts, distorts their meaning, and simultaneously elides and ignores whole mountains of contravening evidence and broader context … an absurd and nakedly self-serving thing … complete with copious but meaningless footnotes … pseudo-academic veneer


December 16, 2007, 10:59 am

No emergency necessary.

Thanks to a comment from IDP, we can think more about Reconstruction, tone, worst presidents, and enjoy a little Keith Olbermann. Bill Moyers asks Olbermann, on behalf of a young member of his staff, are you any better than they are, with your vituperation? Olbermann (with video under the fold):

it’s the one criticism that I think is absolutely fair. We’re doing the same thing. It is– it becomes a nation of screechers. It’s never a good thing. But emergency rules do apply. I would like nothing better than to go back and do maybe a sportscast every night. But I think the stuff that I’m talking about is so obvious and will be viewed in such terms of certainty by history that this era will be looked at the way we look now at the– at the presidents and the– the leaders of this country who rolled back reconstruction // I think it’s that obvious. And I think only under those…

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December 14, 2007, 11:30 am

Nor breaks my leg.

Clutching Pearls

On the front page of our local paper, and indeed in many papers today, we find the complaint that mean-spirited scientists have been calling poor old Bjørn Lomborg names. “`I really think it reflects entirely on them,’ said Lomborg, a mild-mannered Danish statistician who says global warming isn’t a big threat and that international treaties requiring sharp and immediate cuts in carbon emissions would cost a lot but do little good. Angry words and table-pounding, he said, only show `that your argument is not that strong.’”

In the story we read that E. O. Wilson referred to Lomborg as “the parasite load on scholars who earn success through the slow process of peer review and approval.” We read that Ellen Goodman compared him to Holocaust deniers, that Rajendra Pachauri compared Lomborg’s view of humanity (as, in reasonable numbers, sacrificeable) to Hitler’s; that Richard Lindzen…

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November 6, 2007, 5:02 pm

It’s not you. It’s the text.

God bless Robert Darnton for beginning his discussion of letters of recommendation like this:

The main problem in writing letters of recommendation derives from a basic contradiction: the recommender wants to promote the candidate, yet at the same time he or she needs to convey the impression of giving an objective evaluation. I see no way around this problem. Unnuanced encomium will inspire disbelief, and unadorned frankness will be self-defeating. The most common strategy is to begin the recommendation with a barrage of praise and then to add nuances that can sound somewhat critical. On the whole, this works: the recipient is assumed to be savvy enough to discount for the rhetoric while understanding that the recommended is a less-than-perfect human being, like the rest of us. The trick is to get the balance right.

Too right. For the love of mike, people, everything we write is an …

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November 3, 2007, 10:10 am

How much for the t-shirt?

Lots of dumb stuff about best blog post ever (which, honestly, I generally concur in the choices, especially the Davies Bush Initiative Test and the Editors’ Poker with Dick Cheney) made me want to bookmark this, especially for the concluding exchange.

Tyrone: (shrugs) Probably right, then. Speaking of Obama, I need to get t-shirts printed up to sell.

John: I can do that on the web. What do they say?

Tyrone: Don’t You Dare Kill Obama

John: How about Don’t You Dare Kill Obama (… and we know you’re thinking about it)

Tyrone: Niiiiice.

John: Or You Kill Obama and WE WILL BURN SHIT DOWN

Tyrone: Even better. Nobody wants their shit burned down.

John: Glad to help.

Tyrone: I’m having you taken off the list for when the revolution comes.

John: … there’s really a list –

Tyrone: Oh yeah. Hell yeah.

October 28, 2007, 11:06 pm

Because he can.

I do not know much about gods, but I think that Paxman is a kind of god — crusty, untamed and truculent. When we moved to England he was all over the airwaves, hosting Newsnight and University Challenge on BBC television and Start the Week on Radio 4. His great virtue was not caring a tinker’s cuss about anyone, cabinet ministers or toffee-nosed Oxbridge swots or war criminals. His run-in with Henry Kissinger was a thing of beauty and a joy to hear: “Did you feel a fraud accepting the Nobel prize?” He famously asked an evasive Michael Howard the same question a dozen times.

Perhaps best of all, he’s credited as saying something like “the appropriate relation of journalist to politician is that of dog to fireplug.” Though I can’t find a citation. And though he did not first say it, you can tell he’s often asking himself, “‘Why is this lying bastard lying to me?’”

If we’re lucky, …

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