Saturday, August 18, 2012
Frequent visitors to this site are aware of my distaste for words that have been grossly over-used. Of late, I have found that I cannot wait for the annual New Year's list from Lake Superior State College, as there is a new contender for the throne. I refer to the one word that has been used in nearly every article I have seen written about the next Republican nominee for President. It's bad enough that we have been bombarded with this for months; over the past week, after the announcement of the #2 person on the ticket, the same adjective has been applied to him, ad infinitum. The word has not been limited to print or online commentary; those talking heads on the networks spout it as well.
The frequency of the use of this word has led me to conclude that people reporting on this year's election are lazy. This is not a new phenomenon. My first exposure to this notion came from Timothy Crouse's tale of the 1972 campaign, The Boys on the Bus. One of the themes of the book was that reporters exhibit a pack mentality; they will, as a group, follow any tidbit that one of their members has unearthed, until their readers (and the writers themselves) become exhausted by it. The story then becomes a footnote to that campaign, remembered only by geeks like me who cannot unclutter their brains of such trivia.
There were but three synonyms listed in Dictionary.com: probable, possible, circumstantial. I cannot recall seeing the word used in any previous election. I am hopeful that after the offical dubbing concludes next week, I will not suffer it again anytime soon.
The picture above is from Poet's Corner at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, certainly one of the more moving spots on the planet. Somehow, I cannot picture "presumptive" being chiseled on the floor alongside words penned by Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Wharton and Twain.
Friday, August 10, 2012
There are so many choices for my favorite movie quote. I suppose I should narrow my search to lines I have pilfered, then used in a different context. So be it.
My career has been spent in the customer service industry. During that time, I have heard countless tales of woe, abuse, indifference and complaints. I have been thanked far more times than blamed. I have seen people do the extraordinary (more on that next week) and the idiotic. I've been yelled at more than I care to remember. While it has not been often, I can probably recall every single time that it has happened.
Once, someone was berating me for circumstances that were far beyond my control (the weather at a Florida hotel). I listened patiently, allowing the customer to vent far beyond what was reasonable, for what seemed like 15 minutes. Finally, the customer asked me what my thoughts were on whatever he was ranting about.
I knew I only had one chance to defuse this person with a statement so sublimely perfect. Somewhere, out of the recesses of my memory, I pulled out this nugget from an old film. As I could not find the clip on You Tube, you will have to read about it here:
Warren Beatty, as John McCabe, a blowhard sort, is explaining the meaning of life to another character. "Sheehan, you sumbitch, if a frog had wings, he wouldn't bump his ass so much, you know what I mean?"
For the sake of gentility, I omitted the reference to Sheehan's heritage from my citation. The guest looked at me, mentioned the film, then proceeded to tell me about his admiration for the work of Robert Altman, the film's director. We had a lengthy conversation, both concluding that Nashville is perhaps the 3rd greatest film of all time.
While I have quoted this on numerous occasions, only this one time did it have such a purpose. It worked beautifully, mollifying the situation, getting the irate customer onto another topic altogether and sending him away, happy. I don't think I would use it in such a situation again; kismet need only strike but once.
Thursday, August 2, 2012
I have noticed a disturbing phenomenon of late: places that nominally sell gasoline have felt compelled to add sound effects to the place of purchase. I thought the playing of loud music was bad enough; the other day, I encounted a station that actually had a video screen, playing I know not what. How can I watch a silly screen while I'm cleaning the windshield; or, I as I used to tell my children, providing clear vision for myself?
There is simply too much noise out there. I despair at parents who have obviously not instructed their children in the art of using an inside voice. I have never liked the pounding of bass rhythm, no matter how near the offending car may be. Worse still, we're in an election year. Fortunately (or not, depending upon one's point of view) I live in a state that will not be in presidential contention, so I will be spared the massive amounts of noise spewing from either candidate's camp or their (unrelated) supporters hiding behind their Super PAC's. Still, I suspect I will be victimized by a near-constant barrage by mid-October, with various and sundry people and their lackeys spewing untruths, reckless accusations, or, perish the thought, out and out lies, for and against those seeking lesser offices.
I wonder why no one ever calls these people out on their lies? The media sources that accept the money for these ads disclaim all responsibility for their veracity. The opposing camps make wild, unproven accusations (Obama spokesperson hinting at felonious activity by Romney; Romney surrogate calling Obama a socialist). The news media report these same statements, with no effort to declare whether there is any truth behind them.
Finally, we have a hero, a beacon in the night willing to call out these pathological sorts, those who apologize for them and those who choose to look the other way. There may be an ad before the clip; bear with it. You'll be glad you did.
In other words, those seeking the highest offices in the land, to whom we entrust our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honors are held to a lesser standard of truth than the makers of Nutella? It's no wonder nearly half the eligible voters in our country choose not to exercise their right to vote. I may write-in Lewis Black; at least he's honest.