Saturday, October 20, 2007

"Nuance," and other deceased words

For a while, it was "problematic." Which means puzzling, open to doubt, baffling, even enigmatic. Confusing. Hard to solve.

And how is the word used? To mean "filled with problems." A problematic thing is supposedly a thing filled with problems. How did it come to mean this? Who knows?

For that matter, how the hell did "verbiage" (which means prolixity or verbosity) come to mean word choice? And why did my supervisors at my next to last company misspell it "verbage"?

Leethinks that people are ceasing to give a hoot what words mean.

Anyway, the new word in the "problematic" category--and one that's driving me nuts--is "nuance" (or, even worse, "nuanced"). The actual meaning of the word? It has to do with subtle shades of meaning, slight differences therein. Ah, but what are people MAKING it mean? Complex. Layered with meaning. Containing many meanings, even.

It's none of those things, but why get technical about definitions when we're defining something? That's too much like paying attention. We Boomers never do that.

Nuance involves subtle differences in things. It has nothing to do with context, as a richard dawkins fan tried to suggest recently. And it has zero to do with some deeper meaning lurking beneath a seemingly simple surface--to wit, if you think my analysis of something lacks depth, don't tell me I'm missing the "nuance," or however NPR puts it. Unless you want to babble.

Oh, and I forgot "irony," which has somehow come to mean saying the opposite of what you really mean. It's like, "Hey, nice car," when what you're really doing is making fun of the car. "Nice" being sarcastic (a word used, anymore, to mean satirical).

How that qualifies as irony is anyone's guess. In fact, saying the opposite of what you mean is... saying the opposite of what you mean. There's nothing ironic, in and of itself, about mocking someone or something. Nor anything ironic about the other person (or his car) not knowing he's being made fun of, unless we presume that the other person should know he's being mocked. But why would we presume that? Just because we think he should know?

How is our perception correct and his not correct? Or vice versa? In a piece of literature, the reader knows which perception is correct and which is not. In real life, there's no text. (Text-messaging, yes, but no text.) Literary devices can fall flat when taken out of their natural environment.

No, irony is more nuanced than... erp... I mean, more complex than that. The disconnect between the expected outcome and the actual outcome, or the intended vs. received meaning, has to have a point. The irony consists of the point in, or of, the disconnect itself.

To put it another way, where there's irony, there's a disconnect. But where there's a disconnect, there isn't necessarily irony.

In other news, a Huff-Po blogger has written about Rep. Stark. Cool. Saturday morning, and HP is writing about something that happened Thursday morning. And.... Oh, this is nice--the blogger doesn't agree with Stark's statement. No, probably not--Stark spoke his mind, and he did so directly. And with his ego in park. The HP'ers are ego first, honest stand second, if at all. They're trying to impress someone, and that never entails putting your heart and soul into your utterances. Too uncouth.

Many on the so-called progressive side are downright annoyed (in Junior High School fashion) by honest and direct communication--you should read, for example, the nasty things said about Cindy Sheehan by some of them. Cindy speaks up, and she does so in simple (but elegant and eloquent) English. But she should use bigger words, presumably. And more "nuance." Always more nuance.

Meanwhile, they're the first to bitch because Dems in Congress (or elsewhere) aren't speaking up. Ohhhhhhh-kay.

Fit these folks for straitjackets, lace them in, and cue Napoleon XIV's great novelty classic.

(Remember when you ran away, and I got on my knees, etc.--Jerry Samuels)

Which reminds me--I need to finish They're Coming to Make Me Pray. More on it later.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

How to recognize believers in your midst

(Continued from here.) Anyhow, with religion becoming so fashionably unpopular these days, many folks are wondering how to tell believers from normal, everyday people. To avoid accidental interaction, or whatever.

I've been thinking about that a lot, and I've come up with a list of features to look for--tell-tale signs that the person you're observing is... one of those. You know, believers. Someone with faith. Of which I am one, which means I know what I'm talking about, believer-standard-characteristics-to-look-for-wise.

Here's my list:


Believers are bipedal primates, male or female , black or white (or neither), and native to America or some other country. We vote Democratic, Republican, other, or not at all.

We watch TV, listen to the radio, go to movies, rent videos and DVDs, own iPods, send and receive email, use pocket calculators, and talk on cell phones.

Those of us born in the United States call one or more of the fifty states our home, depending upon how many places we've lived and for how long.

Some of us are musical, some of us aren't. Some of us are multilingual, though most American believers, like most Americans, aren't. We speak and write one language well, if that many. Some of us are really into cameras, and others of us never caught the photography bug.

As a believer, I like to drink coffee (can't stand tea), and for breakfast I prefer eggs and juice (usually orange). I like cats and have a lot of sheet music.

So, there you have it--a short, handy guide to figuring out who among us is a believer and who isn't. (Oh, Who's an atheist? Never mind.) Ha-ha. Just thought I'd throw in that Abbott and Costello reference.

Next week: Church and State: Is Separation Good Enough, or Is a Divorce Called for?


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thrift store score--or, adventures in finding stuff

A small haul, but one to be remembered. Adventures in Sound and Space looks especially cool, and it's in very nice condition. (Hopefully, a closer inspection won't reveal a long and deep cross-cut or something.)

Let It Be is on the Apple label and in nice condition, so I got it. I think I've heard of this group someplace. Heard them even, maybe. There were a number of LPs by the same guys, most in crappy condition. The owner may not have liked this one so much--hence, the good condition?

TV-theme LPs are always worth getting, especially when they're put out by Peter Pan. And I live to find stuff like A Visit to New York with Arthur Godfrey and All the Little Godfreys.

I found three or four other things that are nice but not worth picturing. You gotta love the grease-pencil prices on these things--I've gotten so used to such defacement, it hardly registers any longer. I'm just glad to find cool stuff for 99 cents a pop.

Thrift reports don't get any more exciting than this, do they? Oh, well--the moment the exciting details of any hobby are committed to paper, they become about as interesting as dried toothpaste. Yes, you can quote me.