Oct 24

Unfaithfully Yours Summary and Review

Unfaithfully YoursI’ve been a fan of Preston Sturges for at least a couple of decades. But that is based on his first eight films. I haven’t seen anything after Hail the Conquering Hero. At least in the old days, it was hard to find the later films because they weren’t successes. So I didn’t go out of my way to find them, even though I owned all of first eight films. But recently in a comment exchange with James, he recommended that I watch Sturges’s 1948 film Unfaithfully Yours.

Thankfully, The Criterion Collection released Unfaithfully Yours on DVD in 2005. And as usual, they did a great job. It includes an introduction with Terry Jones; a group commentary with scholars (always the best for this kind of stuff) James Harvey, Diane Jacobs, and Brian Henderson; an interview with Preston Sturges’ last (fourth) wife; and some other miscellaneous stuff. I haven’t had a chance to check it out in detail.

Plot Summary

The film stars Rex Harrison (looking rather like Preston Stuges himself) and Linda Darnell as his wife. And it is about jealousy. Really: almost nothing actually happens in the film. It is mostly just Harrison getting more and more freaked out by his imagination. He starts as a man totally in love and trusting of his wife. But a seed is accidentally planted and it works on him as well as Iago did on Othello. But things turn out better for Harrison and Darnell.

I can see why Unfaithfully Yours didn’t play at the time. It has an unusual structure. The first half hour is spent with Harrison avoiding looking at the incriminating evidence against his wife that has been created. The next 45 minutes are spent at a concert where Harrison is conducting. Over the course of three numbers, he imagines confronting his wife and her suspected lover. In the first, he murders her and frames the lover. In the second, he’s very understanding — sending her away with a large check. And in the third, he plays Russian roulette with the lover.

The rest of the film shows him trying to realize each of his fantasies. This go hilariously wrong. That’s especially true of his perfect murder plot, which is 15 minutes of slapstick zaniness. Everything works out, of course. Harrison and Darnell end the film just as in love as they started. And hopefully, Harrison is a better man for it. But you have to wonder, given that he is a Preston Sturges character.

Why Unfaithfully Yours Is Better Today

Another reason people probably didn’t like it at the time is that the tone of Unfaithfully Yours is inconsistent. It’s funny throughout. But the fantasy scenes are funny in a different, darker, way. And I suspect that this left a lot of people cold. It also didn’t set them up for the final act that is a comedic tour de force.

But it is exactly the unusual structure and tonal shifts that make the film work so well for a modern viewer — especially one who is familiar with Sturges’ other work. It’s probably good to think about modern superhero films. They are all the same and they all do well at the theaters. If someone created a superhero film that broke with convention, it probably wouldn’t do well. But it would be one of the few films anyone could stomach in 70 years.

I highly recommend the film if you are the kind of person who isn’t wedded to the new releases. Now I think I’ll go watch it again.

Oct 24

Silicon Valley Incompetence Is Easy to Find

Peter Thiel - Silicon Valley Incompetence[Peter] Thiel did touch on the private sector, touting his native Silicon Valley as an example of a properly functioning community:

“Where I work in Silicon Valley, it’s hard to see where America has gone wrong…

“We don’t accept… incompetence in Silicon Valley, and we must not accept it from our government.”

Of course, even the briefest survey of Silicon Valley reveals a culture that is rife with incompetence, where the basic rules you’d follow running a lemonade stand — taking in more than you spend, for example, or adhering to basic quality standards — are discarded in favor of explosive growth and runaway valuations…

Thiel neglected to mention that Silicon Valley is also in the midst of a serious slowdown, where the bubble inflated by venture capital firms like his own Founders Fund — not Wall Street — shows sign of popping, or at least deflating.

—Sam Biddle
Peter Thiel: I Miss the Days of Strong, Daring Federal Spending

Oct 23

We Need Gun Law Reform — But Not Just Any

Hand Gun Law ReformSharon Lafraniere and Emily Palmer at The New York Times wrote an important article last week, What 130 of the Worst Shootings Say About Guns in America. The newspaper “examined all 130 shootings last year in which four or more people were shot, at least one fatally, and investigators identified at least one attacker.” And what they found highlighted something I’ve argued for years: we need real gun law reform; the problem can’t be addressed by nibbling around the edges.

Let’s start with this finding: “In more than half the 130 cases, at least one assailant was already barred by federal law from having a weapon.” This is devastating. But it is hardly surprising. There are roughly as many guns in the United States as there are people.

Getting Guns Is Easy

There are too many guns in the United States. Handguns are the most dangerous guns. Let’s close the gun show loophole, by all means. But let’s not kid the nation (Or ourselves!) that it will have a large impact.

Guns are everywhere. I live in the suburbs, and if I really needed a gun, there are a large number of people I could get one from. And I don’t make it a point of hanging out with gun freaks. But a lot of people have been convinced that they are safer to have a gun than to not. So they are just around. I’m not saying these people would sell me a gun. But if I told them I was in danger, they’d probably loan me one. And if not that, I could just steal one.

So in order to address gun violence, you have to look at the guns that are already here. Stopping more of them from flooding into our society is important. But even if you completely banned the manufacture of guns, it would not be nearly enough to successfully address the problem.

Maybe I’m just too cynical, old, and tired, but I can’t imagine us doing anything about our huge stockpile of guns. As it is, every widely publicized mass shooting only makes gun purchases go up. And every time a Democrat is elected president, gun purchases go up. There seems to be little that doesn’t cause gun sales to go up. So the idea of reducing the number of guns we have seems out of the question.

But if we are going to seriously discuss gun law reform, we need to start talking about this.

Handguns Are the Big Problem

Then there is the issue of gun types. Today, everyone focuses on assault rifles. But when I was younger, we discussed handguns. There was a reason for that. As the article says: “Only 14 shootings involved assault rifles, illustrating their outsize role in the gun debate. Nearly every other assailant used a handgun.” That’s not to say that assault rifles and high capacity magazines aren’t a problem. But the much bigger problem is handguns.

I think the reason we’ve backed off on handguns is that they seem more respectable to the middle class. If you are going to have a gun for self-protection, it is almost certainly going to be a handgun. A shotgun is almost certainly a better choice, but people think what they think.

On the other side, assault rifles look like they were designed for war. That’s because they were! And so it is easier to convince the middle class that there is no reason to have them around.

Real Gun Law Reform

These days, it seems that what we talk about regarding gun law reform is all about what is easy (or at least possible) to do. But that’s a mistake. For one thing, it isn’t a good negotiating strategy. Liberals have proposed that we do the bare minimum on gun control and the conservatives have offered nothing. But if we had spent the last decade talking about something more meaningful than closing the gun show loophole, we might be able to have moved the playing field in our direction.

But what I fear even more is that we do get a smaller limit on magazines and we do close the gun show loophole and it doesn’t make enough of a difference to show a decrease in gun violence. Then what? We have to make the argument that we always knew that these measures would have little effect on the problem. And that more must be done.

That’s why we need to be honest today. There are too many guns in the United States. Handguns are the most dangerous guns. Let’s close the gun show loophole, by all means. But let’s not kid the nation (Or ourselves!) that it will have a large impact.

As for me, I will go on making the argument that I always do. The American fetishization of guns is indicative of how cowardly we are. We think we need massive firepower to deal with anything. But anyone can pick up a machine gun and kill anyone they feel threatened by. It takes courage and self-assurance to go out into the world and manage difficult situations with finesse and intelligence.

Oct 23

David Horowitz: Free Speech Defender — And Denier

David Horowitz Racist AdOne of Fox News Channel’s favorite recent stories involved a newspaper ad that claimed African-Americans benefited from slavery, and owed America for the favor. The ad’s author, conservative activist David Horowitz, claimed to be a victim of censorship and “political correctness” because a number of college newspapers refused to publish his ad, which argued against the idea of slavery reparations. Fox saw this as a major issue: Horowitz and his ad were mentioned at least 21 times on the network between March 6 and April 3 [in 2001].

On Fox News Sunday, the network’s Sunday-morning equivalent of Meet the Press, interviews with Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham and Senator Joseph Lieberman were incongruously followed by a segment featuring a largely unknown reparations activist and David Horowitz, in a Crossfire-style debate about Horowitz’s rejected ad.

On Special Report with Brit Hume, the Horowitz ad became the subject of at least nine “Grapevine” items in less than a month. The ad was also the subject of Hume’s lead question to conservative columnist John Leo when he appeared for a one-on-one interview…

On Hannity & Colmes, the issue was: “Has David Horowitz’s freedom of speech become a victim of political correctness?” On The O’Reilly Factor, it was Horowitz and host Bill O’Reilly interrogating a reparations activist from Mobile, Alabama. (“That’s my tax money!” O’Reilly exclaimed.) The Edge with Paula Zahn brought Horowitz on three times within a month to discuss the same subject.

But there was one twist to the Horowitz story that Fox couldn’t be bothered to report. When Horowitz’s ad was offered to The Daily Princetonian in April, the paper ran it — along with an editorial describing its ideas as racist and promising to donate the ad’s proceeds to the local chapter of the Urban League. Horowitz, the free-speech crusader, refused to pay his bill unless the paper’s editors publicly apologized for their hurtful words: “Its slanders contribute to the atmosphere of intolerance and hate towards conservatives,” a statement from his office read.

Suddenly Fox lost interest in the Horowitz case. After a month of running twice-weekly updates about college papers that were refusing the ad, Special Report with Brit Hume ignored the Princeton episode. None of the network’s major shows transcribed in the Nexis database reported Horowitz’s tiff with the paper. No editor from The Princetonian was invited on The O’Reilly Factor to debate whether or not Horowitz was being a hypocrite. When their favorite free-speech martyr suddenly looked like a censor, it was a story Fox just didn’t want to pursue.

—Seth Ackerman
The Most Biased Name in News

Oct 22

Blogging, Andrew Sullivan, and Vicissitudes of Acclaim

Andrew SullivanI haven’t done that many live blogs. And to be honest, I always feel bad doing them. They don’t strike me as very useful. I like what I do in the hours leading up to the debates. Then I have time to post related things. That is probably useful to people who are excited about the debate and who find me vaguely interesting. But once the debate is on, there is so little time. It’s hard to write more than a sentence before the topic moves on. But I felt a lot better after reading, Andrew Sullivan Liveblogs the Final Presidential Debate.

For a contrast, you can check out my own, Live Blog: Third Presidential Debate 2016. What you will see if you take the time (I don’t recommend it!) is that Andrew Sullivan wrote a good deal less than I did and didn’t make a single point that I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong: this doesn’t mean I’m a good live blogger. It means that Sullivan sucks at it. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Why Does Anyone Care About Andrew Sullivan?

The truth is that I’ve never much understood why people thought Andrew Sullivan was a big deal. He’s never been very insightful. In fact, he is the very definition of what Digby calls a Villager. For those who don’t know, The Village:

It’s shorthand for the permanent DC ruling class who have managed to convince themselves that they are simple, puritanical, bourgeois burghers and farmers, even though they are actually celebrity millionaires influencing the most powerful government on earth.

And I think that explains Sullivan’s popularity. In the early days of blogs when people called them vanity websites, you found a lot of people like, well, me: idiosyncratic and ranty. But where could establishment types go when they wanted to tune into this trendy new thing called a weblog? Well, there was Andrew Sullivan: the walking, talking embodiment of Very Serious Thinking.

You know, Andrew Sullivan gets a lot of negative attention because of what he wrote shortly after 9/11:

The middle part of the country — the great red zone that voted for Bush — is clearly ready for war. The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead — and may well mount a fifth column.

He gets the attention because of what he says about the coasts. And rightly so. But notice who easily he speaks for “the great red zone” in the middle of the country. This is a place that Sullivan knew precious little about. But that’s what makes him a Villager: he tells the power elite that what they want to hear is what the average Joe is for.

Andrew Sullivan Used to Be Good at Something

The one thing that Andrew Sullivan was ever really good at was provocation. He was the James O’Keefe of his day. And the things he’s know for — publicizing The Bell Curve and Betsy McCaughey’s attacks on Clinton healthcare reform — were mostly wrong and extremely damaging. But being right or helpful or good doesn’t matter in our economic system. He sold a lot of magazines.

So it is no surprise that he would watch the presidential debate and have less insight than I do. He never has had insight into anything.


I found it interesting that Sullivan’s live blog at New York Magazine used no live blogging software. Instead, at the top of the article it said, “Please refresh to update.” That really is pathetic.

Oct 22

Chris Wallace and the Austerity Tax

Dean Baker on 2016 July Jobs ReportAt the debate last night, moderator Chris Wallace challenged both candidates on the question of cutting Social Security and Medicare. The implication is that the country is threatened by the prospect of out of control government deficits. The question was misguided on several grounds…

The country’s problem since the crash in 2008 has been deficits that are too small, not too large. The main factor holding back the economy has been a lack of demand, not a lack of supply. Deficits create more demand, either directly through government spending or indirectly through increased consumption. If we had larger deficits in recent years we would have seen more GDP, more jobs, and, due to a tighter labor market, higher wages.

The problem of too small deficits is not just a short-term issue. A smaller economy means less investment in new plant and equipment and research. This reduces the economy’s capacity in the future. In the same vein, high rates of unemployment cause people to permanently drop out of the labor force, reducing our future labor supply if these people become unemployable…

The Congressional Budget Office now puts potential GDP at about 10 percent lower for 2016 than its projection from 2008, before the recession. Much of this drop is due to the decision to run smaller deficits and prevent the economy from reaching its potential level of output. We can think of this loss of potential output as an “austerity tax.” It currently is at close to $2 trillion a year or more than $6,000 for every person in the country.

It is unfortunate that Wallace chose to devote valuable debate time to a non-problem while ignoring the huge problem of needless unemployment and lost output due to government deficits that are too small.

—Dean Baker
Chris Wallace, Supply, Demand, and the Government Budget Deficit

Oct 21

Google Is Driving Me Crazy!

Google LogoI feel for people who own websites that need to make money. They really are at the mercy of the internet giants that push traffic. A great example of this is Upworthy that saw its traffic go down by 25 percent almost over night because Facebook made a change to one of its algorithms. Late last month, Google made a change in its ranking algorithm: Penguin 4.0. And the results have been dramatic.

The change is not necessarily bad. In fact, it’s been great for Frankly Curious. Traffic has increased by about 10 percent. That doesn’t matter that much to me. For one thing, the site doesn’t really make any money. But more important: I’m focused on the regulars around here. It is nice when a particular article gets a lot of attention, but that’s not what keeps me grinding out content every day. I like the community here, even if it is small. (There are about a hundred regulars, but only a couple dozen who ever comment.)

For other websites, Google’s changes have not been welcome. Search Engine Roundtable ran an informal (non-scientific) poll and found, Only 12 Percent Said They Saw Ranking Improvements After Google Penguin 4.0. But mostly, people aren’t seeing any change. (Of course, it’s hard to say because traffic is noisy.)

Weirdness at Google

But there is one thing that has been going on with Google that driving me crazy. A month and a half ago, I wrote an article I’m rather proud of, Dean Spanley: Film and Book Comparison. It’s more the idea of it that I like. No one has written about this and the film and the book (novella) are really different. So I knew that I would get traffic for it. But I haven’t.

So I went to Google and I did a search: “dean spanley book film comparison.” That’s almost the title, so I figured it should be at the top of the search results — or close enough. But the search produced this:

Google Search: dean spanley book film comparison - Example One

Okay, so it isn’t at the top of the rankings. But when I looked, I found it was nowhere. That is to say: Google didn’t even have the page in its database. This was horrifying — not for me but for the world. The best thing about Google has always been its enormous database. That’s why it has always been better than Bing.

What was going on? Frankly Curious is a small website, but its been around a long time and it has a lot of unique content. What’s more: it isn’t that small. Anyway, I went to show a friend. I entered the same search into Google and I go this:

Google Search: dean spanley book film comparison - Example Two

Now the page was the top ranked. In fact, just “dean spanley book” ranks at number 11. So I was pleased. And, as usual, I just figured I had imagined the other search or that it was a glitch.

Flipping a Switch

But no! The truth is that the search flips back and forth. It seems that my article isn’t in the database during the day and it is during the night. Or something. I haven’t studied it closely. But it is the case that for days, sometimes it’s there and sometimes it isn’t. Of course, maybe Google has always been this way and I simply didn’t notice.

I’m just glad that it doesn’t really matter to me in a practical sense. But it is driving me crazy!

Oct 21

Charlie Pierce on Not Respecting the Election

Charlie PierceThe “takeaway,” as we say in the pundit game, was what Donald Trump said, or didn’t say, about “respecting” the results of the election. Good lord, people were fighting for space on the fainting couch all day on Thursday, too, and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Can we stop with the civics class pieties, please? Yes, what Donald Trump said on Wednesday night about keeping us all “in suspense” as to whether he’ll “accept” the results of the presidential election was a great soundbite and an easy way to emphasize further the fact that the Republican Party has nominated a petulant child for president. But enough with the shocked faces from the pundits who drape themselves in imaginary togas and weep on cue for this assault on the fragile American democracy. This is nothing new…

It has been an article of faith for the entire Republican Party for a quarter-century now that any elected Democratic president is prima facie illegitimate. Trump is just putting a layer of narcissistic varnish on the bucket containing all the historical deplorables. Further, the history of the country is replete with efforts, some of them violent, by politicians to avoid “respecting” the results of elections… We had a civil war because 13 states didn’t “respect the election” of Abraham Lincoln. And that fact is not mitigated in the least by the nice words spoken by Stephen A Douglas in the aftermath, when he declined to respond to losing by joining the Army of Northern Virginia. That’s a fairy tale.

Donald Trump is just being a little cruder about things than many of our television historians would like. Democracy is not a bedtime story, but the monsters within it are very, very real.

—Charlie Pierce
Why Are You Surprised Trump Won’t Respect the Results of the Election?

Oct 20

Agreeing and Not With a Thoughtful Conservative

Charlie SykesRecently, Sean Illing at Vox interviewed Charlie Sykes, a conservative radio host in Wisconsin who is quitting the business.

Sykes says a good many interesting things in the interview. Mostly what impressed me was his consistency. He believes that Republicans who considered Bill Clinton’s sexual behavior unfit for the White House are utterly hypocritical in supporting Trump. Sykes admits that Trump represents a fascist figure, and that some conservative voters believe in “crazy stuff.” He said, “How many times can you say that Obama isn’t gay or a Muslim or that he wasn’t born in Kenya?”

I especially liked his take on the conservative media’s support: “another chance to beclown themselves on behalf of the Orange Duce.” He added, “They broke it. They own it.” And Trump’s most fervent GOP political allies? “The Huckabees, the Giulianis, the Newt Gingriches — they ought to be totally and utterly discredited by their support.” I agree. But I feel the less outspoken allies should be as well.

Naturally, as I am not a conservative, there are areas of disagreement. Charlie Sykes respects Paul Ryan; I do not. Sykes believes William Buckley’s rejection of the John Birch Society was principled; I see it as purely a strategic move. The Birchers often accused prominent Republicans of being Communist tools; it was wise to break off that kind of dissension, while maintaining the anti-civil rights and Cold War rhetoric that appealed to Birchers.

Did Political Correctness Give Birth to Trump?

There’s one area where I both grant his point, and reject it. Sykes blames some of the far-right’s rise on liberals who were too quick to label opponents as “racist” or “sexist” (while acknowledging that Trump is both). And I’ll agree that these terms are very powerful, so they should not be used lightly.

I’d argue that the perception conservatives have of the nation being “too PC” is something few conservatives have any direct experience with, but they hear about it from their media.

However, there’s a difference between attacking people and attacking policy. I neither know nor care what Reagan’s views towards African-Americans were. His policies were deeply racist. People who support voter-ID laws may themselves be unbiased; but voter-ID laws are deeply racist. Bush II worked well with Condoleeza Rice; but he also supported policies that endangered women’s health.

It Was You, Charlie

Furthermore, at least before the rise of social media, calling conservative voters “racist” or “sexist” was not a frequent occurrence. How often did it come up at the workplace, or at family dinners? Most accusations of “sexism” or “racism” were over-hyped instances of, say, something spoken at a college protest.

It was Limbaugh and Fox News that spread these stories, to further their narrative that liberals were bent on thought-controlling dissent out of existence. I’d argue that the perception conservatives have of the nation being “too PC” is very like their perception that crime rates are rocketing and voter fraud is rampant. It’s something few conservatives have any direct experience with, but they hear about it from their media.

There is blame on our side for using those terms too lightly (particularly on the internet, where pejorative terms are used with little care for how harmful they can be). But it’s mostly right-wing media that has created the notion that white male Christians are threatened by “PC.”

Charlie Sykes and the New Prometheus

Finally, there’s one area where Charlie Sykes is completely, 100% correct. Illing compared Trump to a “Frankensteinian monster,” and Sykes didn’t think it’s an apt analogy. Right on, Charlie! The monster was highly intelligent, and only became filled with violent rage once he’d been rejected by humanity’s cruelty to those who look different.

Trump does indeed resemble an angry monster, but it’s what’s inside that counts. If we’re going horror classics, he’s more Dracula. He lives in a castle, must return every night to his lair, preys on superstitious rural villagers. And like Dracula in bat form, Trump is skilled at navigating blindly through an echo chamber.

My credit to Charlie Sykes for leaving it.

Oct 20

What Did Not Happen at Last Night’s Debate

Clinton - Trump - Did Not HappenAt the third 2016 presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Wednesday night, a few things did not happen.

Hillary Clinton did not fall into a coma.

She did not swear or use a racial epithet, and she did not commit a violent crime.

Her command of policy detail and the way our system of government works did not fail her, and she did not thus reveal herself to be a robot (in which case she’d run the risk of short circuiting on the job) or a victim of sporadic dementia.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, didn’t transform into the second coming of Franklin Roosevelt. He didn’t cop to a late-in-life diagnosis of attention deficit disorder that had impaired his ability to retain and process information over the course of his entire adult life, but which has now been medically remedied. His presentation yielded no heretofore uncovered evidence that Clinton murdered anyone or has a drug problem.

Only a debate development of comical magnitude could have reversed the public’s impressions of these candidates. No such development transpired, and no such development was ever likely to transpire.

This race is over. It has been for some time.

—Brian Beutler
The 2016 Race Is Over

Oct 19

Live Blog: Third Presidential Debate 2016

Third Presidential Debate 2016Welcome to the third presidential debate! Could this get any worse? Given what Trump has been saying on the campaign trail, it’s hard to imagine this thing being anything but worse than the second one.

Trump’s new thing is claiming that the election is rigged. This is, of course, what losers say. It’s also what children say. And that about sums up Trump. The main thing I remember from the second debate is Trump complaining that the moderators were going easy on Clinton and giving her more time. It turned out that he actually spoke for more time. He also interrupted her 13 times compared to her interrupting him once. And he spoke over the moderators twice as much as she did.

Trump’s Whining

If you haven’t see Obama talking about Trump’s claim that there will be a rigged election, you should. It is very thoughtful — very Obama. But it has some good lines, especially, “You start whining before the games even over?!” And: “I’d advise Mr Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes.”

Under normal circumstances, I would think the third presidential debate would be changed because of this. Certainly I am known to get over excited about things. And when people say things like Obama did about Trump, I am ashamed. And Obama isn’t the only one. Elizabeth Warren is openly mocking him. She even clucked at him! But I don’t see this having any effect on Trump.

Trump in the Third Presidential Debate

Trump will do in the third presidential debate what he did in the second one: play to his base of supporters. And that seems to be all that Trump is interested in at this point. That is what all this “rigged election” whining is about. It gives Trump a way to maintain his delusion that he is still a winner even after he loses the election. What’s amazing is that his supporters believe all this nonsense and don’t see it as the face-saving maneuver that it is.

Of course, it isn’t hard for Trump to make this argument, given that Republicans have been pushing this whole voter fraud nonsense for at least the last seven plus years. So perhaps these pathetic angry white men can be forgiven. Of course, they bought the lie with ease at the beginning. They’re big on buying lies.

Trump TV?! Trump Vlog!

For months I’d been assuming that all this would end in Trump TV. But an article by Brian Beutler made me rethink that, Donald Trump’s Media Conglomerate Already Exists. People like Ryan Lizza and Josh Marshall are pouring cold water on it. The problem isn’t just that the market is saturated. Starting up something that would compete with Fox News would be unbelievably expensive. Trump doesn’t have the money to go toe-to-toe with Rupert Murdoch.

I like what Marshall said, “If there’s a post-campaign Trump media vehicle it’s far more likely to be a bargain-basement but perhaps high traffic website on the model of Breitbart.” And such a sad ending to Donald Trump would be perfect. It would give me a small bit of evidence that there is a just God. Or at least one with a sense of humor!

I’m not looking forward to the third presidential debate. It will probably be interesting. But it won’t be edifying.

But stop back by throughout the day and during the debate itself for my gloomy thoughts.

Live Blog

Oct 19

Odd Words: Cacography

CacographyWe are starting the the C words with page 35 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. And I’ve picked another word that has to do with writing: cacography.

Beyond Cacography: Where’s Caboose?

I was shocked — Shocked I tell you! — that the word “caboose” was not in the dictionary. It is one of my very favorite words. When I was incredibly young, my sister and I used to run to the window each time the freight train went by, pointing and screaming, “The caboose! The caboose!” How can you not love a word like that. And it is also the case that cabooses are the coolest part of the train. I’ve never lost my love of the word. In Oregon, there is a town named Scappoose. It’s not very nice. But I’ve always loved it because it rhymes with “caboose.”

Words I Didn’t Know

Even though page 35 was a partial one, it still had some interesting words. There is “caboclo,” which may be the native peoples of Brazil or the people resulting from the mix of the Brazilian natives and the European invaders. It depends upon who you ask.

I was going to use the word “cabotage,” which has to do with trade at sea. But since I did a boat word yesterday, it seemed kind of boring. Most people would find it kind of boring anyway.

A word I did know was “cacciatore.” But that is just because Chicken Cacciatore is one of my standard dishes. I didn’t realize it was a dish “containing or prepared with tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs, etc.” But it is. It’s still one of my favorite things.

That’s enough of such trivialities, let’s get on to cacography!

Ca·cog·ra·phy  noun  \ka-‘kä-grə-fē\

1. inartistic or illegible handwring.

2. bad spelling.

Date: late 16th century.

Origin: from the Greek κακός which means “bad.”

Example: The clippings are peppered with bitchy annotations written in his highly stylized calligraphy to which I make additional acerbic annotations in my cacography of orange felt-tip ink and mail them back to him. —Jamie Brickhouse, You’ve Got Republican Mail!

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