I stole this idea from Barb Knowles who got it from Paul who got the idea from Aaron who stole it from Jess. (Whew! It all reminds me of the Tom Lehrer song “I got it from Agnes”–quite possibly the dirtiest song ever written without using a single off-color word. But I digress.)

  1. Blogging
  2. American football
  3. Pizza
  4. Economics
  5. The color red
  6. History
  7. Desert landscapes
  8. The movie Lawrence of Arabia (combines 6 and 7)
  9. Writing
  10. The book A Confederacy of Dunces
  11. A good scary story.
  12. Gilbert and Sullivan operettas
  13. Political theory
  14. Hazelnut coffee
  15. Conspiracy theories
  16. Well-written, metered, rhyming satirical poetry.
  17. The number 17
  18. Thunderstorms
  19. Friendly political debates
  20. The sound of howling wind.
  21. The unutterable melancholy of a winter sunset in a farm field.
  22. Pretentious sentences like the one above.
  23. Knights of the Old Republic II
  24. Halloween
  25. The book 1984
  26. Niagara Falls
  27. The song “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”
  28. Pumpkin-flavored cookies. coffee, cake etc.
  29. The book The King in Yellow
  30. Hats
  31. Chess
  32. Trivia competitions
  33. Numbered lists
  34. Mowing lawns
  35. The smell of fresh-cut grass
  36. Black licorice
  37. Beethoven’s 3rd,5th and 9th symphonies
  38. The color light blue.
  39. Exercise machines
  40. My iPad
  41. Feta cheese
  42. The movie Jane Got a Gun
  43. Etymologies
  44. Gregorian chants
  45. December 23rd
  46. The story “The Masque of the Red Death”
  47. Mozzarella sticks
  48. Leaves in Autumn
  49. Long drives in the country
  50. Fireworks
  51. The song “You Got Me Singin'”
  52. The book To Kill a Mockingbird
  53. Constitutional republics that derive their powers from the consent of the governed.
  54. Strategy games
  55. Puns
  56. Ice skating
  57. My Xbox One
  58. The smell of old books
  59. Hiking
  60. Tall buildings
  61. Bookstores
  62. Gloves
  63. Rational-legal authority, as defined by Max Weber
  64. Bagels with cream cheese
  65. The Olentangy river
  66. The movie The Omen
  67. Far Side comics
  68. Planescape: Torment
  69. The song “Barrytown”
  70. Reasonable estimates of the Keynesian multiplier
  71. Stories that turn cliches on their heads.
  72. Editing movies
  73. Really clever epigraphs
  74. The movie “Chinatown”
  75. Ice water
  76. Deus Ex
  77. Silly putty
  78. Swiss Army Knives
  79. Anagrams
  80. Wikipedia
  81. Radical new models for explaining politics.
  82. Weightlifting
  83. Lego
  84. Madden 17
  85. The song “The Saga Begins”
  86. Trigonometry
  87. Writing “ye” for “the”
  88. Well-made suits
  89. Popcorn
  90. Pasta
  91. The word “sesquipedalian”
  92. The movie Thor
  93. Blackjack
  94. The movie The English Patient
  95. Pretzels
  96. Cello music
  97. Bonfires
  98. The story “The Hound of the Baskervilles”
  99. Soaring rhetoric
  100. Astronomy
  101. Getting comments on my blog posts.

My favorite part of the book 1984 by George Orwell is the appendix, entitled “The Principles of Newspeak.” In 1984, Newspeak was the official language of the Party that ruled Oceania.  As the Appendix states:

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc [English Socialism], but to make all other modes of thought impossible.[…] This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words…

Orwell then explains how, through shrinking the vocabulary of the language, heretical thoughts became unthinkable. He illustrates by quoting the following passage from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.

Orwell then states that “it would have been quite impossible to render this into Newspeak while keeping the sense of the original. The nearest one could come to doing so would be to swallow the whole passage up in the single word crimethink.”

Why do I mention this?  Well, it is very relevant to our present political situation.

One of the most notable things about Donald Trump is how few words he seems to know. People mock his tiny hands, but to me what’s truly amazing is his absolutely minuscule vocabulary.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in his tweets, where he will often conclude one of his communiques insulting someone or complaining about something with an imperative “Sad!” or “Bad!”

If Trump needs to lengthen some statement, usually all he can do is add the word “very” or, if he is talking about something he does not like, interject “so terrible”.

When Trump wants to add extra emphasis to some point, he often adds that it will be “big league”. (e.g. “We are going to win big league.”) Thanks to Trump’s peculiar accent, many people have misheard this as “bigly”; a child-like non-adjective that seems extremely fitting for the man, with his penchant for gaudy, oversized buildings.

If the problem were merely that our President-elect was a man incapable of eloquence, that would be one thing.  But it is far worse than that.

The scary thing is that his style of communicating is very infectious.  People–myself included–have picked up his habits of saying “sad!” or “big league”. It’s addictive, I won’t deny it; and there is an alarming pleasure in mimicking him–even for people like me, who find him utterly appalling and oppose him completely.

But that is the frightening thing: once you start to talk like him, you will start to think like him.  And once that happens, you could reach a point where “a heretical thought” becomes, as Orwell warned, “literally unthinkable”.

To be clear, I think Trump’s rhetorical style (if you can call it that) is more a symptom than the disease itself. I wrote back in 2010 that “Twitter = Newspeak”, and that was before Trump was even on the political map. I do think that the ascendance of Trump, who communicates through Twitter far more than most candidates, supports my point. It may be that Twitter itself made Trump possible.

You all remember a few weeks back when I made my bet with Barb Knowles of saneteachers?  We posted about each other’s blogs, and I have been enjoying following hers ever since.

Well, she provided the highlight of my week when she read and enjoyed my book, The Start of the Majestic World. She was even kind enough to post her comments both on my blog and hers. It’s always really nice to hear that someone has read my book, and even nicer to hear that they enjoyed it.

So, the least I can do by way of thanking her is to drive some traffic her way.  (Well, that and writing a sequel) I know I’ve recommended her blog before, but once again, I can’t stress enough how interesting and enjoyable it is.  Check it out!

 

 

I had a friendly bet with Barb Knowles on the AFC Championship game.  The loser had to do a post about the winner’s blog.  But, I like her blog “saneteachers” so much that I am going to post about it even though I didn’t lose.

She has a delightful post about the dialect differences she encountered on coming to Ohio Wesleyan University from New York. As she puts it:

They don’t speak New York in Ohio.  They speak Ohio in Ohio. Of course, to me it sounded more like Ahia.

As a lifelong Ohio resident–I grew up about a half-hour from Ohio Wesleyan’s campus–I know what she means.  Non-Ohioans have frequently pointed out that central Ohioans sound like this when listing our home country, city and state:

I’m ‘Merican, from C’lumbus, Ahia.

but then again, they might be from a place a little way east of Columbus: Newark, which is pronounced something close to “Nerk”.

I took a linguistics class in college where we had to do an assignment on regional dialect differences.  For instance, when informally addressing a group of people, Southerners would say “you all” (often rendered as “y’all”) whereas Midwesterners say “you guys”.

That of course was small potatoes next to the big dialect difference: what do you call those glowing insects we get in the summer–fireflies or lightning bugs?

In her post, Barb also mentions the age-old debate of “soda” vs. “pop”.  (Some also call them “soft drinks” or “fizzy drinks”.)  This one I missed, because in my family we called the drinks by their brand name, but I remember the first time I heard someone call it “pop” I was puzzled.

I’d also never heard of the confusion over “bag” and “sack” that she describes–I’ve always heard both used interchangeably. With the prevalence of television regional dialects have declined over time–maybe that’s the reason. I also never heard “rubber” for “rubber band”.  I shudder to think at the mix-ups that could cause.

I once got into an argument with two of my friends–both of whom are also native Ohioans–about whether you call this a “flathead” or a “slotted” screwdriver. (It’s “slotted”.  Don’t let my evil friends tell you otherwise.) I don’t know if this is a generational or regional thing, but it was interesting.

I’m lucky in that I have relatives all over the country, so I get to hear a lot of different regionalisms.  Even if it does cause some confusion sometimes…

Anyway, you guys–and you all–should check out Barb’s blog.  She’s a terrific writer, and has some very witty observations.  I wouldn’t have made my bet with her if I didn’t think so–and the fun of a bet like this is that everyone wins.

Every time I go to my WordPress stats page this morning, this pops up:

danger will robinson

If you aren’t familiar with WordPress: normally, the giant red bar isn’t there.  I can’t help thinking it means something–most likely something bad, since the bright red color and exclamation point clash with the normal friendly blue and white scheme.

I feel like there should probably be some text in the giant red box, but there never is. Just an “x” for me to click to dismiss it. But I don’t know what dismissing it means.  Is the box supposed to say: “click ‘x’ if you wish to have a box of weasels dumped in your bed”? Is it trying to warn me that even now the enemy is sneaking up behind me?

All I know is, it’s freaking me out.  I hope the text was just supposed to be “Don’t Panic.”

Longtime friend of this blog Maggie Swanson recently published a collection of her blog posts from over the past five years.  It includes many of her poems, opinion posts, fiction and artwork.  Asb8e93-bookcoverimage she has been one of my most loyal readers, I just had to read it.

It is a very enjoyable collection, and as a long time reader of her blog, it was fun to revisit some of the old posts.  I could remember reading many of them when they were originally posted years ago, and it was a pleasure to revisit them. For anyone who hasn’t read them, I recommend getting this book.  Maggie has a talent for poetry, and is extremely inventive in the way she plays with the language.

My only complaint has nothing to do with the book’s content, but rather with its formatting.  I’m not sure how much control she has over this even, but sometimes titles of poems would appear at the bottom of one page, and the entire poem on the next page.  Also, because the book is printed in black and white, much of the originally colorful artwork suffers as a result.  but I imagine it would be extremely expensive to print in color, so this may be unavoidable.

These issues aside, it’s a delightful collection of posts; well worth it for the clever poetry alone. I’ve learned over the past two years just how hard it is to publish a book, so I’m glad she was able to do it. You can get “Whaddya Know!” here.

I have friends who don’t get blogging at all.  “What’s the point?” they ask. “Most blogs are not even reporting; they are just people pontificating about things.”

Which is more or less what I do.  And I have to admit, they have a point.  After all, when you are not reporting new information, all you can do is give your take on it.  And let’s face it: when you are giving your take, the three  major reactions are:

  1. I agree.
  2. I disagree.
  3. I don’t care.

If they agree, there was no reason to read it, since they already thought so.  If they disagree–well, this is the internet, so they will probably just insult you and leave.  (I have been fortunate to have intelligent readers who can disagree civilly and with reasoned arguments.)  Or they don’t care, in which case… they don’t care.  That’s probably worst of all, since it means the least traffic.

So, given all that, what’s the point of blogging if you are not going to be a shoe-leather reporter bringing the latest news?

One of my favorite quotes from literature is Lovecraft’s “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”  This, as longtime readers will remember, was on the footer of my old blog.

But despite the pessimistic tone, I actually like correlating contents. In my opinion, the best post I have done so far is this one, because it involves correlating a lot of disparate ideas and information.  It’s not like I did any original work, but I like to think it led people to information they might not have been aware of otherwise.

The other thing I like about blogging–and I realize many bloggers do not take advantage of this–is that it can be collaborative.  This poem, which I started and then Thingy and P.M. Prescott completed is a good example, and I’m sure I could find more.

I guess that’s really what I like about it more than anything else: the opportunity to exchange ideas with interesting people.

Peaches at A Lateral Plunge has a great post about “liking” blogs.  It’s on the front page of WordPress as of this writing, so probably lots of people have seen it already, but I wanted to mention it because it confirmed what I’ve suspected about likes on here for some time: to wit, many of them are worthless.  I mean, why would a real estate agency “like” a whimsical post about Antarctic aliens and H.P. Lovecraft?

I’ve had similar issues with “likes” on here.  When someone “likes” a 1,000 word post 3 seconds after I posted it, and without apparently viewing my blog, I know that something is rotten in Denmark.  Or Russia.  Or wherever the spam “likes” happen to be coming from.

Also, I don’t think I’ve ever “liked” a blog.  I prefer to comment, even if it’s quick, just so they know I’m not a spammer.  I’ve also never re-blogged, although I considered doing that for Peaches’ post, because it feels a little lazy to me.  Just my opinion, though.

P.S. I’m leaving “likes” on for this post.  I’ll be curious to see how many it gets–and how many are genuine.

UPDATE: Too awesome–this post earned me my “200 likes” award!  And my pageview count remains the same as it was before.

I noticed in my stats that someone got here by searching on “one stdv blog gone”.  I checked; and indeed, the blog of the writer whom I once called my “opposite” is no longer accessible.  I don’t think it’s been removed; it looks more like he’s made it private.  At least, I hope that is the case, and that this is not some manner of censorship.  Repugnant as almost all of his ideas are to me, I’d hate for speech to be stifled on those grounds alone.

Regardless, it would be too bad if he’s stopped blogging.  He’s certainly a more thoughtful and interesting writer than the majority of widely-known Conservatives.  And he’s far more honest about what he really believes than, say, a Rush Limbaugh-type who will hide behind the “I’m only kidding” defense.