Thursday, January 19, 2012

killing me unsoftly

This is not an insensitive rant. It offers no disrespect to victims of violence. It's a semantic commentary, a diatribe on diction. A reflection on language. In the last few days on TV or radio news reports I've been hearing the phrases "brutally murdered" or "brutally beaten." Really? Would it be "kindly murdered"? Or "gently beaten"? I don't think so. I don't think the phrase "killing with kindness" is meant to summon those meanings. And I don't think those who utter such phrases do so with Shakespearean irony, as when Hamlet has some wordplay over the murder of his father (if I recall rightly): "a little more than kin, and less than kind."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

risk-free questions! now! join the millions who...

"Try Smarmy absolutely risk-free."

"And now FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY you too can try Smarmy at no risk."

  1. Risk, to whom? You? Or me?
  2. What kind of risk? Medical? Financial? Moral?
  3. What is "risk"?
  4. Why should I believe your "risk-free" claim?
  5. Doesn't everything have some risk potential, including reading THIS?
  6. Isn't all time "limited"?
  7. What is the limit of your time?
  8. What is the limit of your space?
  9. Is poetry risk-free?
  10. Would you mind if I dehyphenate risk free?
  11. If you concede risk is not "absolutely free," then what is its cost?
  12. What is the best currency to use when paying for the cost of risk?
  13. Do you get irritated and sore with me when I drivel on like this?
  14. Do my interrogatives put you at the risk of losing your composure?
  15. Are you one of the millions, or one of the few, the proud?
  16. Am I the only one whose ears prick upward, like a dog's, at the sound of "risk-free"?
  17. Are any of our politicians risk-free?
  18. Is that what got us into this pickle, expecting our so-called leaders to guide through so-called risk-free times?
  19. Who is doing the calling when something is "so-called"?
  20. Who is doing the answering to these twenty questions?


You are hearing it here first: "insourcing" will be the word of the year for 2012. If that prediction turns out to be correct, the dotted red line I am seeing under the word insourcing as I compose this blog post, indicating a strange word or a misspelling, will disappear into the cyber-ether because the word will have entered the realm of Common Parlance. I'm hearing insourcing a lot. (For me, "a lot" totals one or two times, on an NPR report.) (Notice, my self-appointed style guide calls for initial quotes, and then no more quotes after the word's first instance. Also note that I've zoomed through the lexicographical journey of two words to hyphen to one word solid.) Insourcing sounds suspiciously like one of those words used by corporate managers or HR people to assuage their guilt for sending American jobs to India, Bhutan, or Burkina Faso. Insourcing says, "Out with outsourcing and in with insourcing, comrades! You have nothing to lose but your prefix! [Or your prix fixe!]) Insourcing is the bright and shiny bauble intimating the bubbling and simmering of a new economic stew, that will come to a tasty and nutritious boil just before Election Day, sending Barack Obama to a second term and totally grouchifying wealthy, white-shirt, starched Republicans, who have always wanted Obama's doom more than America's boom. Doesn't insourcing sound vaguely derived from the porn industry? "Hey, Mason, let's shoot that scene over! We need way more insourcing, babe!" barks the morose director, somewhere near LA, wearing shades and baring a hairy chest adorned with tacky bling. Insourcing is your brand-new resourcing for 2012. Welcome to the year of insourcing. Insourcing for one and all. Insourcing for you and me and the commonwealth. (Incidentally, "commonwealth" is a great word. But so 1780s. It won't even be in the top ten of the #word_ of_the_year list for 2012. Pity.)

Monday, January 09, 2012

downtown vibe


not just a container

but an atmosphere





at Jefferson & Salina Streets



may it flourish






bought a recipe magazine

then purchased the required ingredients

"special section! 30 entrees in 30 minutes or less" did it for me.

would be 2nd straight day of actually cooking

this could end up being revolutionary

but let's not get carried away


Sunday, January 08, 2012

Barnes & Ignoble

At store #2908 I approach the customer service kiosk seeking what its name promises. The person manning the booth -- hold it -- the woman womanning it looks me in the eye and greets me with stone-cold silence. I wait for the customary customer service query "May I help you?" Zilch. I grant that this is subjective, but I interpret this as aloof aggression, as condescension, as gameswomanship. Her look says, "Well?" But I silently insist that the protocol calls for her to speak first. I consider silently walking away. Minutes after the event, at this moment I am distrusting my own memory. Who spoke first? Did I break the perceived iciness by saying, "Are you going to ask to help me?" Or did she relent and ask me something -- anything? I wish I could remember more clearly this "event" at Barnes & Ignoble.

"I was wondering what happened to a book I ordered."

"What's your phone number?"

I gave her my phone number.

"Your cell?"

"That's it."

"We don't have anything."

Long pause as she pretends to be an airline ticket representative and looks at a computer screen. The computer screen can veil all problems and save her.

"When I ordered, they asked for my email. I can give you that."

Which is what I do.

To continue, and underscore her aggression, she repeats "M-A-C" as if instead I might have said M-A-C-K. This gives her a chance to appear efficient and official and smart. On top of things.


"I see it might have expired on December 28."

"Expired? I ordered it just before Christmas. Why would it expire?"

"It was returned to the publisher or did not arrive here or it might mean it was put on the shelf."

"Why wouldn't you -- I mean Barnes & Noble -- have called me? Excuse me -- why wouldn't someone have emailed me?"

"That's why we ask for your phone number, as a backup."

"I was asked for my email, and that's what I gave."

I resist saying more, lots more. I am silent. But not stoic. I follow her as she walks to a shelf in the Religion section.

She finds a single copy of "Holy Holidays" by Greg Tobin. "My" copy.

I am determined not to buy it from this store at this time. (I already have a copy anyway, from -- wait for it -- Amazon.)

I take the single copy of "my" book and put it prominently in a display area, promoting it, hoping a stranger buys it.

A stranger not in need of a holiday from the balmy warmth of customer service.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

wastewater, or wastetime, or wastespace

I worked many years in the environmental field.

I still do some consulting work via @kocakwords in that area.


If we have wastewater, can we also have wastetime? May we? Where does time go when it is wasted? Or is it metaphysically and physically impossible to waste time? Are their emissions related to wastetime? Are they harmful or beneficial? How are they measured? Do we even want to measure them?

What about space? If there is wastewater, is there wastespace? Is that what people mean when they angrily assert, "You're fired! You're just wasting space around here!"

Or is it, again, impossible to "waste space"? And if you can waste space, what are the impacts? Can they be mitigated? May they?

Just wondering.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

my eagerly awaited annual list of books read

Books I Read in 2011 *

  1. The Convict and Other Stories by James Lee Burke
  2. The Turnaround by George Pelecanos
  3. The Interrogative Mood by Padgett Powell
  4. The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker
  5. Spring's Third Day by Laura Gross
  6. Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy
  7. Grendel by John Gardner
  8. Jesus Freak: feeding/healing/raising the dead by Sara Miles
  9. Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum
  10. House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
  11. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
  12. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  13. A Band of Misfits: tales of the 2010 San Francisco Giants by Andrew Baggarly
  14. Music Through the Floor: stories by Eric Puchner

* give or take some hours to allow for Mayan-Gregorian-Julian-Hallmark calendar adjustments