Posts Tagged ‘Think About It

28
Jun
11

Time Travel Tuesday: How to Make it in Journalism Without Really Trying

No big story behind this one, no real logic to presenting it today. But I recently came across this old column, and I remembered it fondly, so I thought I’d share it with you guys…

September 20, 2003

How to Make it in Journalism Without Really Trying

The saddest thing about Jayson Blair landing a six-figure book deal due to his actions while working for The New York Times is that I wasn’t even surprised to hear it.

For those of you who may not know, Blair was a reporter for the once-venerable newspaper who caused a minor squall when it was discovered that he had written several stories without the benefit of actually traveling to where the stories took place, fabricated quotes whenever he found it necessary and basically forgot every fundamental rule of journalism, explaining the piece in which he identified Senator John Breaux as “a small, hairless marsupial.”

Unfortunately, while all this was going on Blair committed the one sin that, in America, forgives all of the other ones: he got famous. Therefore, New Millennium Press will be giving Blair hundreds of thousands of one-dollar bills (ironically, with George “I Cannot Tell a Lie” Washington’s picture on them) in exchange for the rights to publish his book Burning Down My Master’s House: My Life at The New York Times.

This is really a slap in the face to any legitimate journalist out there, myself included. It’s not that long ago that I gave several thousand of my own personal dollars to a university so that people would teach me all of the rules that Blair broke. I especially recall the lessons of journalism professor Dr. Lloyd Chiasson who, among other things, taught me inverted pyramid structure, the importance of proper attribution and that the guy from the Police Academy movies did not, in fact, invent moveable type.

But who cares about those things anymore? Clearly, as Mr. Blair has demonstrated, telling the truth and following the rules are not the way to get where you want to go in the modern publishing world. Therefore, in the interests of eventually securing my own exorbitant book contract, I’m going to let you guys in on a few stories that we here at the newspaper have been holding back on for a few weeks. Although we caution you: any facts you come across in the following news snippets are entirely coincidental.

CHICAGO — Talk show host and self-help guru Dr. Phil McGraw stunned fans Tuesday when his new diet book was found to contain the sentence, “Eat less and move around more,” followed by 319 blank pages.

“That’s all there is to it,” said a hysterical, laughing McGraw in a telephone interview. “And these idiots are paying $25.95 a pop!”

Readership for The Ultimate Weight Loss Solution has been almost evenly divided between those who throw the book in a wood chipper out of protest and those who immediately proclaim McGraw the Messiah.

McGraw has two more books scheduled to come out in the next six months: one where he blames all the problems in his life on prejudice against bald men and another where he gives fashion tips he culled from episodes of Bravo’s Queer Eye For the Straight Guy. New Millennium Press will publish the books.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former Iraqi Information Minister “Baghdad” Bob Feldman, in his new position as a spokesman for the North Carolina legislature, today denied the existence of Hurricane Isabel, which at last count had capsized four cruise ships and blown a 57-year-old lady’s straw hat overboard.

“There is no hurricane!” Feldman announced at a press conference. “These winds are the winds of the people of Charlotte as they rise in strength against the infidel storm surge, which does not exist either!”

Feldman went on to declare that NBC News meteorologist Al Roker will be gutted like a pig and roasted upon a spit over the glowing embers of Hell. Feldman was then overpowered by several estranged Hornets fans who duct-taped him to a lightning rod, threw him on the beach and evacuated.

SEA OF TRANQUILITY, Moo. — Reality television producer Mark Burnett announced Thursday that the eighth edition of the popular reality show Survivor will be filmed on the surface of the moon.

“We were running out of frontiers here on Earth, and then Jeff [Probst, Survivor host] said to me, ‘We’re gonna have to go into space to find something new’,” Burnett said. “Then I thought… why not?”

Contestants on the program will be hurled out of an airlock in bikinis and wind pants and forced to survive on green cheese and hunt space-rats for food, “just like the first settlers on the moon,” Burnett said. Taping has been delayed due to problems constructing the “Tribal Council” set, where 14 workers have either suffocated to death or gone blind when their eyeballs exploded into the vacuum.

Blake M. Petit expects the book contracts to start rolling in at any moment. Contact him with comments, suggestions or hundreds of thousands of dollars at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com.

26
Apr
11

Time Travel Tuesdays: Soda Wars-Revenge of the Fizz

There are some things, friends, I’ve always loved. Friends. Family. Hamburgers. And on that list, let’s include that fizzy concoction that drips down into our 12-ounce cans from the dew-covered slopes of Heaven itself: soda. I do love soda, and I love when someone experiments with a new flavor of soda, and back on June 18, 2005, I talked about this love in the following column…

SODA WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE FIZZ…

Brace yourselves, folks, it’s time for another incredible announcement in refreshment, a brilliant beacon of hope for the parched, a revelation unmatched by any since virtually an identical revelation about a month ago: there is (drumroll please) a new soda on the market!

Okay, technically it’s not a new soda, it’s yet another variety of an old soda. I discovered it just a few days ago as an enormous display of them stood out, calling to me from the Wal-Mart cooler that’s always broken. Ladies and gentlemen, we now have… Coke Zero!

I’m not sure what, exactly, qualifies this beverage as a “zero.” Zero calories, zero sodium, zero carbs, maybe? At any rate, it calls to mind another recent breakthrough, Sprite Zero, and of course makes it sound like they’re just trying to one-up their biggest competitor, Pepsi One. Of course Pepsi is planning to fire back in a few months with Pepsi Negative One, which Coke will follow with Coke Negative Infinity, which inevitably will lead to Pepsi Negative Infinity Plus One No Takebacks Nyeah Nyeah Nyeah. Royal Crown Cola, still not quite grasping the concept, is currently in development of RC A-Squared Plus B-Squared Equals C-Squared.

Pepsi should take comfort, however, in the fact that for once Coke is following their trend instead of the other way around. In the past we’ve seen Cherry Coke followed by “Wild” Cherry Pepsi, Coke with Lime followed by Pepsi with Lime, and Vanilla Coke followed by (this is the innovator) Pepsi Vanilla, which inexplicably featured, in its commercial, a delivery truck with giant speakers that bounced like an arthritic rabbit. Pepsi’s commercials make me think of that kid in high school whose efforts to join the cool crowd were so sadly pathetic that they let him hang around just because they felt sorry for him.

There was also Coke’s low-carb soda, C2, which was followed by Pepsi Edge, both of which, to the best of my knowledge, have vanished from the face of the Earth. I never drank Pepsi Edge, as the only Pepsi product I can stomach is the Cherry variety, but I did drink C2 a few times, mostly around my pal Chase because I knew he had an inexplicable hatred for the product and it would annoy him.

The only other blow Pepsi really struck first in the soda wars over the last few years was with Pepsi Twist, which featured lemon flavor in the Pepsi. Coke followed this, of course, with Diet Coke with Lemon, which would have been more innovative if people hadn’t been inventing the same flavor on their own in restaurants for years.

Other sodas, of course, are tossing their own efforts out to the public. We’ve had multiple varieties of Sprite Remix, Sierra Mist Free, Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper (a two-fer) and Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper, which I personally declare to be the nectar of the gods, assuming the gods drink soda.

Even bottled waters have joined the fray, with Dasani adding Raspberry and Lemon flavors to its roster and Aquafina throwing in fruit of their own, both beverages aiming for the “I know I should drink water but it tastes like… well… water” demographic.

I must admit, though, I’m surprised we haven’t seen a stronger showing from Fanta. In Europe, there are about a hundred different varieties of this brand of fruit-flavored sodas. Here in the states, we’ve only got the four basic flavors: strawberry, grape, orange and yellow. One would assume they’re busy auditioning additional Fantanas before they try to spring some of the other flavors on us. But come on, admit it — aren’t you curious as to what Kiwi Fanta tastes like? Yeah, me neither.

I’ve decided, however, that it is time to offer my services in the soda wars (and to collect the hefty paychecks that I can only assume would accompany such a prestigious position). There are two ways I would consider being such an operative. On the one hand, I would allow Coca-Cola to pay me millions of American dollars, for which in exchange I would begin offering them my ideas and taste buds to develop new flavors such as Chocolate Coke, Grape Coke, Cinnamon Coke and Coke So Good It Makes You Wanna Slap Your Momma.

However, if that didn’t pan out, I would also allow Coca-Cola to pay me millions of dollars to go work for Pepsi, where I would begin to push flavors like Turnip Pepsi, Rhubarb Pepsi, I Can Believe It’s Not Pepsi and, of course, Pepsi With Worcestershire Sauce, which would be a surprisingly popular flavor in Keokuk, Iowa, but would bomb everywhere else.

I am now accepting offers. In the meantime, folks, stay refreshed.

Blake M. Petit is sitting on a top-secret weapons in the soda wars. Three Words. White Russian Tab. Contact him with comments, suggestions or to start hurling money at him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com.

19
Apr
11

Time Travel Tuesday: Do It For the Children

Here’s something I find particularly amusing, and, actually, kind of topical. Many years ago, my friend Joan made an offhanded comment to me that at the time I didn’t really think much of. But things changed…

February 1, 2003

Do it for the children

I must admit, I was surprised when my friend Joan first told me she thinks I should try writing a children’s book.

Joan is a teacher, you see, someone who has a deep, constantly-evolving insight into the minds of the young that she gets to cultivate in-between trying to get them to stop eating paste and being worried that some of them didn’t know Louisiana is the state they live in. If this is something she thinks I’d be good at, maybe she’s on to something. Perhaps she thinks I have the sort of vibrant, lush imagination that would resonate with audiences of all ages. Perhaps she thinks I possess the average maturity of a 9-year-old. Both of these arguments clearly have merit.

Children’s books, I think, are frequently overlooked as an art form in and of themselves. There’s certainly no reason for it to be that way, lots of your great writers have done books that are geared for a younger audience — Mark Twain, Isaac Asimov, Judy Blume. Pulitzer Prize-Winner Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay) came out with his first young reader’s novel, Summerland, last year. Neil (Sandman) Gaiman practically invented the current genre of mature-themed fantasy comic books, and he recently released Coraline with the young’ns in mind. Even Clive Barker of Hellraiser fame has joined in.

I’m not sure every writer should dip into children’s literature, though. I like a good Stephen King novel as much as anyone, but he’d have a lot of explaining to do if the parents of America were suddenly inundated with kids climbing into their beds at 2 a.m. complaining of nightmares about being abducted by a man with the initials R.F. and being held captive in a massive black tower or, for the really scary books, Maine.

No discussion of young reader’s books can be complete, however, without addressing the gargantuan popularity of that British entertainment juggernaut, the raven-haired lad who has won the hearts of the entire planet. I am referring, of course, to Simon Cowell.

No, wait, I meant to say Harry Potter, of course. Since the first book was published in 1997 the author, J.K. Rowling, has gone from a single mother working two jobs to the second-richest person in the United Kingdom after God, and He only claims partial residence there anyway.

So it is from Rowling that we find our strongest argument to pursue the art of children’s literature (that argument, namely, being that you could become exorbitantly wealthy and get to meet Alan Rickman), but what does it take to write a good children’s novel? That’s another question entirely, isn’t it?

Aside from simply having well thought-out characters, settings and stories, there is one thing Rowling does that I think a lot of people who attempt to write children’s literature forget. If you read those Harry Potter books something is clear — at no point does Rowling condescend to her audience. She never writes down to children, and the children respond to that.

Kids are a lot smarter than I think most of us give them credit for. They know when they’re being patronized. They may not be able to define “patronized,” in certain school districts they may graduate without being able to define “patronized,” but they know when it’s being done to them and they don’t like it.

It is this respect for her audience that has allowed Rowling’s books to latch onto people like nothing else in the past half-century. It’s the reason so many of Harry Potter’s readers are grown men and women who can see not just their children, but themselves in the books, and that’s what keeps them coming back for more. That’s certainly what’s going to have bookstore owners across America hiding under the counter at 11:59 p.m. this June 20, 60 seconds before book five is to be unleashed.

So with all due humility (humility, along with grace and charm, is one of those qualities I have in enormous amounts), I think it is safe to say I understand what makes a good children’s book.

Understanding and doing, of course, are two entirely different things. While I have tremendous respect for children’s books, while I even think it would be a lot of fun to try my hand at writing one, the more I think about it, I don’t really have any ideas at the moment that would be suitable. Oh I’ve got lots of story ideas, don’t get me wrong, but they all seem to involve shapeshifting aliens or homicidal phantoms with glowing icepicks or bitter third-generation artists who suffer a blow to the head and start to believe they are cartoon badgers. Not the sort of thing you necessarily want your kids to read.

Sorry, Joan. I appreciate your faith in me, but I guess this is one idea that will have to go on the back-burner until the pieces in my head fall together in the right way.

I just hope Alan Rickman is still available by then.

[2011 Note: Joan’s comment stuck with me longer than I expected. Not long after I wrote this column, I began the first draft of a new book, which eventually became Lost in Silver. This book, of course, was serialized here at Evertime Realms some time back, and is part of my long-term plans to inundate the world with eBooks.]

Blake M. Petit bets you think he’s kidding about that badger thing. Heh, heh, heh. Contact him with comments, suggestions or plot ideas he can rip off like that Lemony Snicket does at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com

15
Feb
11

Time Travel Tuesday: The Merging Mambo

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve had a Time Travel Tuesday, hasn’t it friends? Let’s get back to it, shall we? this gem comes from the far-off days of November 20, 2004, when a bit of business news rocked us all to the core. Let’s take a look at…

The Merging Mambo

The world of business was rocked to its core this week when the news came out that K-Mart and Sears would be merging into a new company, Sears-Mart or something, I really wasn’t paying that much attention. Combining the assets of these two retail giants will create the third largest retailer in America. Now when you heard this news, friends, I’m sure many of you had the same reaction I did. Namely: Good grief, those two together are only number three? Wal-Mart has gotten further along in its plans for world domination than I thought.

Predictably, there are a lot of people in a panic over this. There are people who panic over any merger. If I were to take two lumps of Play-Doh and mash them together into one big one, there is a certain Chicken Little percentage of the populace that would take this as a sign that Play-Doh is attempting to grow so large that it eclipses the small businessman and that mom and pop mud pie outlets would never be able to compete in the face of such a massive undertaking.

Frankly, this merger does not impact me very much, because it has been a very long time since I have shopped at a K-Mart or a Sears. I don’t shop at Sears because the primary purchases I would be inclined to make there would be clothing, and they never have clothing that fits me. I’m the sort that falls into what they call the “big and tall” category.

“But Blake,” I hear you saying, “doesn’t Sears have a ‘big and tall’ section?” Well yes, several of them do have such a section. Or at least, they have a sign that reads “big and tall.” But my friends, I’m here to tell you from painful experience, this is a lie. These stores are not equipped to handle the big and tall. They are equipped to handle the big or tall.

If I go to Sears (or for that matter, to most clothiers) looking for a pair of pants, invariably, any pair that is actually long enough for my legs has a waistband that would fit snugly around three strands of spaghetti, and any pair that can comfortably accommodate my waist has pant legs that almost cover my kneecaps, if I’m lucky. Sears does not allow its customers to be both big and tall. They require you to choose one or the other.

As for K-Mart, it’s terrible shopping there. Nearly every K-Mart store I have ever walked into has the same problems: dirty floors, hastily arranged aisles, hidden price stickers and a huge mess blocking every other pathway you want to take because some lazy employee left a palette of merchandise out in the open instead of stocking the shelves. Wal-Mart, by comparison, is much cleaner, better arranged, more efficient and was voted “most likely to succeed” by its high school retail outlet giant class. (Target is still jealous, but at least it got homecoming queen.)

At any rate, for me this merger is essentially meaningless, but there are a lot of people who are going to freak out about it. Why? Remember the AOL/Time-Warner fiasco? When the company that owned Warner Brothers pictures, the WB network, Turner Broadcasting, DC Comics, Time-Life Books, Six Flags, TNT, TBS, the Cartoon Network, Hanna-Barbera and a Partridge in a Pear Tree merged with America Online, people flipped. It was pandemonium! It was terror in the streets! It was “Big Brother” taking over their lives! (This is a fallacy in and of itself. Big Brother is actually on CBS, part of the Viacom Empire.) But a few years later, looking back, how much has really changed? America Online is still slow, frustrating and riddled with computer glitches, and Warner Brothers is still making crappy movies like “Catwoman.” The cosmic balance remains complete.

We seem to have reached a state, in this country, where the primary occupation is worrying about things that never happen. People worry about the government bashing down their door because they finally tracked them down for that mattress tag they removed back in 1989. The media tells us to worry about a stray asteroid that could achieve a miracle in the intergalactic game of billiards and actually strike the Earth, sending us rolling off into the corner pocket of oblivion, at least until we’re rolled out onto the green felt table of the cosmos for the next game. I personally have reached a point where I freak out every time I get a mosquito bite or eat a piece of slightly undercooked chicken and then lie awake until 2 o’clock in the morning waiting to get sick, which just results in me being tired and cranky the next day, which means the mosquitoes have won.

While it’s never a good thing to be complacent, overreacting doesn’t do anyone any good either. Sure, if you work for K-Mart or Sears or own stock, this will effect you. But for those of us that don’t the biggest change here will be that we now will have two stores to make fun of in conjunction with Martha Stewart instead of one.

And in the long run, isn’t that the greatest gift of all?

Blake M. Petit shops on the internet now. Contact him with comments, suggestions or an Overstock.com coupon at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com.

14
Dec
10

Time Travel Tuesdays: The Sensational Season

It’s another Time Travel Tuesday, gang, and we’re spinning the wheel of time back to December 18, 2004! This was the year that something particularly happened for my family not on Christmas, but on Thanksgiving, although I waited until that year’s Christmas column to discuss it in the column. It was a heck of a year…

December 18, 2004
The Sensational Season

Seven days. I can’t believe there’s just seven days left until Christmas. Seems like just yesterday we were carving up the Thanksgiving turkey (or even carving up the Jack-O-Lantern for Halloween). How is it that you spend so much time anticipating Christmas, and yet it finds a way to race up on you every single year?

And why is it that I feel it more this year, somehow?

Christmas is more than just a time of year, friends, it’s also a sensation. Sometimes you just feel things. When you go to the doctor, for instance, sometimes you know that, no matter how good you feel on your way in, somehow you’re going to wind up with a needle in your vein or a rubber glove poking around certain personal areas without even buying you dinner first.

Sometimes, the events around you can contribute to a mood. Let’s say one morning you wake up with a headache, find there’s a weird rash developing that you can only attribute to the new deodorant you’re trying, you’re down to your last three cornflakes in the bottom of the box, and on your way the car you smack your eye into the door frame. This is a day where you’d best just turn around and go back to bed, because you can sense it’ll be a bad one.

Then there are the days you can sense will be good. You make that last red light, there’s a message on your voice mail from somebody you really wanted to hear from, that guy three cubicles down who always tries to show you pictures of his Rottweiler is out sick — this will be a pleasant day.

Seasons are like that too. And I can feel this Christmas season more strongly than I have in a long time. I think it started on Thanksgiving. And I don’t mean that in the usual sense that I don’t consider the Christmas season as having begun until the Macy’s Parade is over and I’ve had my third slice of pumpkin pie. (Although that did happen again.)

This year was different for my family. My Uncle Scott lives in Cincinnati (the one in Ohio of all places) and hasn’t been down to visit in a few years. He hasn’t been down for Thanksgiving in an even longer time. He’s my grandmother’s youngest, and even though he calls every year, it always clearly breaks her heart a little that he’s not there.

This year, he was.

Everyone managed to keep it a secret from my grandmother, and my Uncle Renee helped plot. Once Scott and his family were there, in her driveway, they called Renee (who was not at her house yet) on his cell phone to give the signal. Renee called her and told her to go look outside. She did and, by all reports, the last thing Renee heard was “Oh my God!” Click! Dial tooooone…

The rest of the family filtered in, and it was an incredible Thanksgiving. For the first time in years my grandmother had all five of her children and all 14 of her grandchildren together at the same time. Oh yeah, there were pictures. And there was tons of food as always, and even my Uncle Wally’s children (who have a reputation for being slightly more rambunctious than a head-on collision between a truck hauling propane and a charter bus full of trial lawyers) didn’t get yelled at to calm down as much as usual.

Things have been good since then. Positive. I’ve spent this last week involved in various activities leading up to the wedding of my friends Chase and Jenny (which happened last night as you’re reading this, tomorrow as I’m writing it), and even the insanity and befuddlement of planning a wedding has felt great, like we’re all ramping up to something. Chase and Jenny, of course, clearly are — but somehow I feel like we’re all along for the ride.

And maybe there are a few other things going on right now that feel really special, like things are really falling into place.

Oh, there are still headaches. Shopping can be a pain, traffic can be murder. Right now I’ve got a slip in my pocket from the post office saying I’ve got a package someone needs to sign for and would it be more convenient for me to reschedule a drop-off for a time of day where everybody in the universe is at work and unable to sign for it or to personally pick it up at the post office, which conveniently closes right before everybody in the universe gets off work and would be able to make an appearance?

But you’re used to the headaches, the stress, the aches and pains. I’m not used to the happiness, the joy, and the sense that there’s something amazing in the air. That may be the difference, I think. The uber-PC “Holidays” carry the stress. Christmas carries the magic.

Seven days left.

Wish I could make it last longer.

Blake M. Petit invites you all to his website to read “Toyetic” ONE WEEK FROM TODAY. Contact him with comments, suggestions or more wrapping paper at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com.

07
Dec
10

Time Travel Tuesdays: Have a Merry, So-Called Grownup Christmas

Once again, friends, let’s slide back in time to the ol’ days at the newspaper. This week, let’s look at December 22, 2001, when I thought about what makes Christmas a little different for adults than kids…

Have a Merry, So-Called Grownup Christmas

You know, when I was a kid I’d find myself unable to sleep once we reached about 36 hours before Christmas. But I’m an adult now. I’m grown-up. I’m wiser. I can open jars myself, thank you very much.

So why is it now about three days before Christmas and I’m crawling the walls?

I’ve actually thought about this long and hard and I think I’ve figured it out. I think I know why I’ve grown to enjoy Christmas even more as I made the tenuous progression into an adult (a progression some argue, quite convincingly, I never exactly completed).

I’ve got money now.

Now wait, don’t throw your hands up in the air and say that Blake’s gone commercial! Give me a chance to explain myself! You in Mimosa! Take the newspaper out of the recycling bin and hear me out! Geez, you guys…

Here’s the deal: when you’re a kid, Christmas is all about the toys. Oh sure, kids like to give little presents to their parents and teachers and friends, but let’s face it, your teacher already has seventeen pretty rocks on her desk that students thought would make good paperweights. So for a kid, the joy is in getting stuff that you normally couldn’t get because (unless they are Daniel Radcliffe from the documentary motion picture “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”) kids have no money.

Then the world does a terrible thing to children. It makes them grow up and get jobs. I still haven’t figured out who to register a complaint with. But it happens regardless, it happened to me, and now I am gainfully employed. As, I’m sure, are most of you.

Now if your job is anything like mine, the best part of being employed comes every other Friday when Eric hands out the paychecks. Even better then that, I have learned, is that there are institutions called “banks” which will take those paychecks and give you, in exchange, a toaster oven. But that’s just when you open an account, afterwards they give you money.

The end result of all this, which a normal human being would have gotten to about six paragraphs ago, is that okay, maybe I’m not exactly getting rich, but when there’s something I particularly want or need, I generally can afford to purchase it myself. Except for that trampoline room like Bill Gates has. So while it’s still nice to get presents at Christmas, the magic is sort of gone.

Once this happens, friends, you’ve got two options. You can either turn green, move to the top of a mountain and plot ways to steal every shred of Christmas cheer, right down to the last morsel of Who Hash, or you can start using some of that money of yours to buy stuff for other people, both kids and adults, and live vicariously through them.

Here’s the cool part.

Once you take the latter option, in my experience, you start to figure out that giving stuff to the people you care about is a much bigger thrill than getting stuff yourself.

It’s the game! The thrill of the hunt! Figuring out what it is they want, what it is they need, and searching like a madman for exactly the right present so that, on Christmas morning, you’ll see their glowing face as they pull open the wrapping paper, smile with glee and ask you if you kept the receipt because it’s the wrong size!

Ah, Christmas.

It’s all part of a big, wonderful, magical chain, folks. Here in southern Louisiana, we don’t get cold enough to have real snow, so without Christmas there’d really be no point at all to the month of December and we may as well go straight from gorging ourselves with turkey on Thanksgiving to drinking too much and setting off fireworks on New Year’s.

After eleven months of tedium, spite, bad attitudes and Freddie Prinze Jr. movies, we need a time where people go out of their way to make the world a little better place. And let’s face it, I may only be 24, but I can’t recall a single year where we’ve needed to make the world better than we have this time around.

So you Scrooges go off and be miserable by yourselves. Give me Jimmy Stewart screaming at the moviehouse. Give me Linus holding his blanket and reciting Bible verses. Give me Rudolph pulling the sleigh and Frosty dancing around with his top hat! Give me little Ralphie shooting his eye out with an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!

After all, folks, isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Blake M. Petit wishes you all a Merry Christmas, even that guy who tried to recycle the column without reading it. Contact him with comments, suggestions or some leftover Roast Beast at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com.

16
Nov
10

Time Travel Tuesdays: English as a Second Language

Even before I was actually an English teacher, friends, the rampant misuse of the English language drove me straight up the wall on a fairly daily basis. Now that I have to try to impart this information on young minds as my profession, it’s even worse. Here’s an old-school rant about people who just don’t talk good.

Oh — and I do now know the difference between “who” and “whom.”

August 17, 2002
English as a Second Language

As you may have gathered over the many moons I’ve created this column, I fancy myself something of a writer. Oh, I may not be Mark Twain or Julius Shakespeare or anything, but when it comes to stringing words together, I are pretty good.

And that, my friends, is why the way some of you out there are mangling the English language makes me want to scream gerunds at you in the past infarctive tense until your alliteration pops open like a dangling participle.

Now I don’t expect everyone to have the same brilliant grasp of the language that I obviously do, but there are certain blunders that are made over and over again. Blunders that common sense can fix. Blunders that irritate me enough to make weird “gerund” jokes like in the last paragraph.

I am brought to this state by something I see nearly every day here at the newspaper office — press releases announcing something as a “first annual” event. Great secrets revealed time, my friends: There is no such thing as “first annual!” It’s impossible!

Webster’s Dictionary defines “annual” as “an event that occurs yearly.” Webster’s also defines “annatto” as “a yellowish red dyestuff made from the pulp around the seeds of a tropical tree.” That has nothing to do with this rant, but I found it interesting.

The point is, the first time something happens, it cannot have occurred “yearly,” now can it? Nothing can be “annual” until at least the second time it happens! What you’re having is just the “first event!” Sometimes I find myself wishing an earthquake would swallow up these activities, thereby negating any possibility of there being a “second annual” event and making them feel quite foolish in the process.

And while we’re on the subject let me vent a little about how the way a lot of people misuse the word “anniversary.” “Anniversary” and “annual,” of course, have the same root word, “anno,” which was Latin for “year.” (Examples: “Hey, did you see what Billy wrote in Suzie’s Senior Annobook?” and “Remember when Latin was still a viable language? That was a heck of a lot of annos ago.”)

Teenagers are particularly guilty of this crime — you see them making schmaltzy eyes at their boy-or-girlfriend du jour and proclaim things like “it’s our one-month anniversary.”

No it isn’t! You can’t have a one-month anniversary! Anniversaries can only denote the passage of year-long increments of time! And you’re never going to last a year anyway because he’s going to dump you as soon as you introduce him to your friend on the cheerleading squad!

And you know what else bugs me? When somebody says, “I could care less.” People always use this term in an attempt to indicate that the level of concern they have for a certain subject — let’s say the gross national product of Tanzania — is as low as mathematically possible.

Well friends, you’re saying it wrong!

When you say that you could care less about the gross national product of Tanzania, then mathematically there is still some padding of concern beneath you! That means, on some level you care! What you mean to say is that you couldn’t care less, but evidently the mental exertion required to enunciate the phrase “n’t” is too much for people!

And since I’m busy using exclamation points, can’t we just end the suspense now and give Kelly Clarkson the grand prize on “American Idol”? ARGH, that R.J. guy just bugs me so much!

And furthermore does anybody know the difference between “who” and “whom”? I know I don’t know anymore! It’s impossible to keep track! Every time I say “who” I’m afraid it should be the other one! (Examples: “Okay, whom ordered the kegger and the eight gallons of Jell-O?” or “Have you seen Larry?” “Larry whom?”)

All of this adds up to one inescapable fact, guys. People just don’t know how to talk anymore! Why is that? Inadequate schooling? Lax parental involvement? The popularity of Country Music?

Whatever it is, sometimes it seems that Americans speak English as a second language. Especially in California. So let’s all make an effort, in the future, to talk more gooder whenever possible.

Do it for the children, my friends. Do it for me.

Blake M. Petit is one of five people left in this hemisphere who knows what a “gerund” is. Contact him with comments, suggestions or a list of the grammatical errors in this column, for those of you who didn’t get the joke, at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com.




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