Saturday, February 28, 2009

Below the Fold

If, as noted in post ex parte a priori:

Above the fold is an expression rich in meaning, conjuring metaphors financial, erotic, biological, psychological, historical, chronological, sporting, physical, metaphysical, informational, categorical, theological, semantic, and musical. Connotations, denotations, and illustrations also abound in the world of fashion, clothing, and tailoring; or baking; or sheep-herding.

. . . then it stands to reason (or stands to emotion; though neuroscientists increasingly tell us there is no difference between reason and emotion; these are Aristotelian impositions, labels) that below the fold conjures metaphors scatological, Earthy, apocalyptic, illiquid, liquid, Venusian, recondite, illusory, underdoggerel (or is that subcaninic?), impish, secondary, tertiary, secretive, preternatural, fecund, fetid, and nascent.

Below the fold.

I like to read below the fold as well as above the fold.

It is most difficult to read or discern precisely at the fold itself. Perhaps at the fold is the most cogent metaphor for our current times.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Above the Fold

In doing research on website (I prefer the one word, instead of web site, or Web site, both of which I feel will soon look as archaic as tele-phone or tele-vision) content writing, I was pleased to learn the term "above the fold" has new life. Above the fold. It comes from the world of newspapers. The top news items are above the folded portion of the front page (don't think tabloid, though; well, think tabloid all you want, if that's what you need to stir up excitement, fear, and panic, not necessarily in that order). Above the fold. I used to work with a textbook editor who would ask about obituaries in The New York Times. When someone famous died, he'd call out from the row of cubicles in back of me, "Was it above the fold?" in referring to the front-page obituary. (Whom was he referring to in that era? Richard Burton? Maybe.) John D. noted how rare it was for the Times to put any obit above the fold. (I can't recall if Updike's was.) Regarding websites, the meaning is much the same, but digitalized as it were: information captured on one screen at the resolution your computer is set at, without any scrolling down on the part of the reader, user, visitor, audience, etc. Above the fold is an expression rich in meaning, conjuring metaphors financial, erotic, biological, psychological, historical, chronological, sporting, physical, metaphysical, informational, categorical, theological, semantic, and musical. Connotations, denotations, and illustrations also abound in the world of fashion, clothing, and tailoring; or baking; or sheep-herding.

Any others?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


A recent article in The New York Times business section, about Bernard L. Madoff (was he born with the right name or what?), said the following:

"Although customers who received substantially more from their Madoff account than they put in may be required to return the excess money -- a step called a clawback -- the trustee and his lawyer repeatedly tried to reassure the audience that it would not be practical for them to seek clawbacks of small amounts from customers of limited means."


Clawback. Just where to begin? (Who isn't of limited means these days?)

I predict the word clawback will be in the running for Word of the Year, 2009.

(Last year, I picked tranche.)

And why not?

Think of the myriad applications of clawback, with its rich imagery and motherlode of metaphorical mayhem.

The divorce lawyer wished to insert a clawback clause on behalf of her client.

Cosmopolitan magazine headline: "Cuddly? Or Clawback? 5 Hot Ways to Get There!"

He's showing some clawback in his swing.

They thought his political prospects were damaged, but he's got clawback written all over him.

The owners are demanding clawback from his huge contract after such terrible stats.

"What's your favorite little thing?" he whispered. "Clawback, baby," she murmured huskily.

Another Pair of Ayes

Aye, where have I been, mates? Working, meandering, mulling, malling, and walking. That sort of thing. As for mulling, I'm a big believer in the value of having another pair of eyes to mull over one's document, especially if I am hired as that pair of eyes, naturally (since I am a gainfully self-employed editor and writer). Yesterday I encountered one of those lovely gems you can't make up, as if it came straight from one of the novels of Peter DeVries, a favorite of mine (I have a collection of his first editions). I was reviewing a document for a client who was trumpeting the virtues of certain empirical educational benefits to his client. It showed up twice in the document as "lesions learned." I thoroughly enjoyed this; fortunately, so did my client. We laughed together with a sense of shared relief. (If he were to read this, I am confident he would take no offense, since none is intended.) Alas, a computerized spellchecker did not alert either one of us to this potential embarrassment. I am glad I caught it. Granted, the eye plays tricks, and it is quite likely that the reader would have performed a visual gestalt sleight of hand, so to speak in mixed metaphors, and have read the phrase as "lessons learned," as intended. But maybe not. "Lesions learned" can now be invoked as a ringing example to other clients of the value of editorial review. I happen to believe in the old-fashioned notion that, especially with technical documents, accuracy counts for something. And if the reader were to accept an oversight such as "lesions learned," he or she would have planted a mental seed in his or her head (where else?) that would slightly doubt the veracity of more substantive issues in the rest of the document. (After all, what's a decimal place or two?) Given the right circumstances, of course, a decimal point or two means life or death, speaking of lesions. (Yes, learning can leave scars.) Maybe I should form a new social networking group, The Lesions of Honor. All a-bored!

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Um, Happy Saints Cyril and Methodius Day, if you want to celebrate it today (instead of July 5 or several days in May).

After all, I am of Slovak descent.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fiction Begins Here

My ol' Baltimore Catechism declared that a sacrament is "an outward sign of God's love." Something along those lines. Correct me, Mark, if you know better. Speaking of signs, of God's love or otherwise, I saw this sign at the Central Library branch of the Onondaga County Public Libraries, in downtown Syracuse, on the fourth floor:


Hmmmmm. Well, at least the sign wasn't on the non-fiction floor. How mystifying. "Fiction begins here." We can all use such overt warnings now and then. I mean, we don't always get such explicit declarations. For example, many folks entering a marriage or other such relationship would welcome such a disclaimer. At least you'd know what you were in for. "Fiction Begins Here." That would also work on the boss's door. Or even on the top of the annual so-called performance evaluation form in bold italic underscore all uppercase. Or maybe it should be the standard crawl on the bottom of the television screen when certain public officials are speaking (for my money, you know I'd reserve it for jowly, white-shirted, obstructionist Republicans). "Fiction Begins Here." It's a handy sign, and of course the library fiction department is a swell place to have such a sign, sacramental or otherwise.

Incidentally, not far from FICTION BEGINS HERE, I saw this sign in the library:


Right below that sign, immediately below it, maybe even taped to it, was this:

Security Cameras Are In Use

So, does that mean the security cameras are or are not in use? Fiction? Or fact?

Non-fiction fiction ends here, for now.

Friday, February 06, 2009


Dan Zak in The Washington Post of February 6, 2009 (today; it's today but someday someone will read this and it won't be today, though it will be the today of that day) writes amusingly about being tagged on Facebook with the virally popular "25 Random Things About Me." I'm not on Facebook. Should I be? I don't like being tagged. It seems silly. Sometimes. It makes me feel so, so, I don't know, like my personal space has been violated, like kids in sixth grade "tagging" me with cooties. But that's just me. Today people get tagged with unwanted cookies, instead of cooties, come to think of it. Maybe I'll be on Facebook before today, this today, is over. Anyway, I hereby tag myself. (I didn't even know I was into self-tagellation, but it's fitting for a blog that invites "solipsistic sophists.")

Here goes.

25 Random Things About Me

1. Last week I discovered I don't care that much for Bruce Springsteen, not anymore; though that can change, like anything else.

2. I have my doubts.

3. Crying comes easy.

4. For parts of 30 years I've had a recurring nightmare about lying about not drinking alcohol.

5. Right this minute, I am sitting in a coffeehouse, wearing only one sock, nothing else (won't say where -- the coffeehouse is, or the sock).

6. I am already tired of doing this.

7. I want to miscount on this list and see if anyone notices.

8. Thirty days in a chipaholic rehab center did not cure me of my potato chip addiction.

9. My pantyhouse is itching me.

10. I do not shower every day and don't mind at all.

11. I like aromatic soaps.

12. My deodorant is very expensive, from Crabtree & Evelyn.

13. When I was under 10 years old, I tried to call Willie Mays.

14. Sometimes I wish I were a priest.

15. Walking the dog alone is often my favorite part of the day.

16. I'm not ready to die, but maybe I am.

17. I've read very little of Soren Kierkegaard; I love the name.

18. I envy enormously people who can gracefully and seemingly effortlessly do anything physical, things like rollerskate or ice skate or dance or swim or play the piano.

19. Now I'm enjoying doing this.

20. I am still angry that Mr. Tunick hit me and sent me shocked and reeling to the floor in junior high.

21. I feel guilty (slightly) that I haven't sprinkled this list with references to my wife and children, but, hey, they should make their own lists!

22. I like the number 22, its palindromic endlessness.

23. I wonder if there is a heaven and hell; purgatory was always hard to accept; more so, limbo.

24. It was probably (almost certainly) the best thing to shuck my job a year ago, but bitterness sometimes sneaks in about how it went down.

25. When I was very little, I loved to rub my fingers along the silk border of the blankets, especially along the sewn nubs, hypnotically entrancing me.

Consider yourself tagged.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Perfection Wasted

I remember loving this John Updike poem when I first read it (1990?); so true. A gem.

Perfection Wasted


John Updike

And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market —
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their tears confused with their diamond earrings,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories packed
in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That's it: no one;
imitators and descendants aren't the same.