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The Worst Words of 2012

Man, the Atlantic Wire sure hates a lot of popular words. Not just dislikes them. They. Detest. Them.

Writer Jen Doll created a list of 45 words that she grew to hate, hate, HATE in 2012, and savaged them brutally, saying we need to quit using them. Typically, writers don't actually hate the things they use on a daily basis — it's like a carpenter hating hammers — so these words must have been truly heinous and awful.

Actually, I would agree with her for most of her list, except she hated "actually."

Doll said "it's the word that you use when you're actually saying, 'you are wrong, and I am right, and you are at least a little bit of an idiot.'"

What'd I tell you? Hates it. I'm kind of iffy about the word. I use it, but I've never thought much about it. I don't go apoplectic like a lot of people did when the Associated Press said it was okay to start a sentence with "hopefully." That sent people into word rage this …

Dear December 12, 2012

Dear December 12, 2012,

Thanks to our technology in the 22nd century, we're able to respond to the letter you sent us 100 years ago. (Editor's note: see last week's column).

However, this is a costly and energy consuming endeavor, so we are only able to do this once. Still, our energy creation is rather easy.

As you said, we have seen Back to the Future, and many of the "futuristic" inventions in the movie, while laughable in their primitiveness (we were surprised at how many of them missed the mark), ended up inspiring many of the products we have today. Just like your Star Trek first inspired cellular phones and tablet computers, some of the Back to the Future inventions inspired ours.

In 2089, the first Mr. Fusion car power supply was invented, which solved the world trash crisis. In fact, thanks to the environmental policies you created in the 21st century, there is now very little garbage, so we face an energy crisis similar to your own oil crises of 1977 – …

Dear 12-12-2112. . .

Dear December 12, 2112,

Greetings from December 12, 2012. It may be a little weird reading this letter from 100 years in the past. We imagine it's sort of like the end of Back to the Future, when Doc Brown gets sent back to 1885 and sends a letter to Marty McFly 70 years later. We realize you probably don't watch our old movies in 2112. Or at least you have 100 more years of movies, and so would not have had time to watch it. (But if you get a chance, check it out.)

We're writing this while the 12-12-12 Concert is happening, as music's greatest musicians perform in Madison Square Garden to raise funds for Hurricane Sandy recovery. Sandy destroyed and flooded most of the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut coast. Everyone is talking about the concert on a social networking site called Twitter.

Although 2112 history may not know them, the men and women on stage tonight are some of the biggest names in rock and roll history — Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, The Who, Th…

Karl the Curmudgeon's Writers Feud Rages On

So how's the writers feud going, Karl? I asked. My friend and fellow writer, Karl the Curmudgeon, and I were sitting at First Edition, the literary-themed bar we had visited several months ago, when Karl decided to start a writers feud.

He chose one Rene Whitehorse as his victim, a French poet who'd had a passing acquaintanceship with "success" when his razor-thin poetry book was published by some fly-by-night publisher.

"Pretty good, actually," Karl said. "We've been attacking each other on Twitter."

How is that good? Your Twitter accounts are pretty pathetic, and a fight between you two is like a fart in a windstorm. I have more people living on my street than you two have in your network combined.

"He's also talking about me to his Poetry for Agoraphobes support group."

Is that really a thing?

"No, it's just what I call his poetry writers group. They're all reading slam poetry about The Angry Bearded Man at their …

Wear a Belt - With Advice to Mary Schmich, Author of Wear Sunscreen

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 1999, because we didn't think he'd notice.

With deepest apologies to Mary Schmich, columnist for the Chicago Tribune, and the original writer of the "Wear Sunscreen" column/song that was played to death on the radio.

To the Guys of North America:

Wear a belt.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, a belt would be it. Scientists have proved that exposure of your butt crack is enough to make innocent bystanders within a 20' radius laugh and point at you behind your back.

The rest of my advice has no basis in science, but is probably the result of hearing jokes on the radio, late-night latte and doughnut binges.

Enjoy the power and beauty of all the babes you see at the beach. Oh, I know, you're there with your wife, and she's the jealous type. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at that time on the beach and say to yourself, "I wish I had bought those mirrore…

Holiday Etiquette for New Married Couples

The holidays are upon us like a zombie at a Mensa conference. And for some families, it's the first holiday together for the 20-something children and his or her new spouse.

Many people say the holidays are a relaxing time. But they are filthy, rotten liars. These people also give parenting advice even though they don't have children, and think "working hard or hardly working?" is funny.

Holidays are anything but relaxing, especially for the "outside member" of the newly married couple. Once you hit about year 10, your in-laws will begin to thaw a bit and welcome you into the family. But until then, you're in for a tension-filled-don't-say-the-wrong-thing holiday season.

As a veteran spouse now on his 19th Thanksgiving and Christmas, let me give you some etiquette and advice for young married couples, both husbands and wives.

1. If you're not married, don't kid yourself. At this point in your relationship, you're still expendable and rep…

A One-Sided Conversation About Life

"I want the red car."

"Because my real car's red."

"Fine, Buddy, you can be the red car. I'll be the blue car."

"Seriously? What color is left?"

"I am not going to be the pink car."

"Give me the yellow one."

"Sweetie, spin the wheel. Highest score goes first."

"A 9 is going to be pretty hard to beat. All I need is a 10."

"Wait, did I say highest goes first? I meant lowest."

"Okay, fine. Highest goes."

"I'll go to college. College grads make more."

"But there are some careers you can only have if you have a college degree."

"Yes, just like real life."

"That's why they called it that, Buddy."

"Honey, are you going to college or straight to a career?"

"No, a gap year is not an option."

"You may not have a sports car."

"Not a game one either."

"There is no thimble in Life. That's Monopol…

Political Roundup 2012

It's been a crazy two years, but the 2012 presidential campaign is now over, much to the relief of everyone in the country with the possible exception of political operatives and TV station owners in battleground states.

Everyone already knows what happened, despite Karl Rove's best attempts to derail Fox News calling the Ohio results, and the subsequent on-air dope slap by Megyn Kelly, there were a few things you may not have heard about on Tuesday night.

While we watched President Obama become the president again, he managed to do it at all without Florida. Despite their best efforts to be relevant this year, Florida instead came off like a beauty pageant mom reminding everyone how she had been a pageant queen herself.

First, it was the voting — the last votes were cast at 1:30 am, long after Mitt Romney had delivered his concession speech. People waiting in line already knew the result, and so had no reason to vote.

Not that it mattered. Miami-Dade vote counters went home s…

PETA Wants to Memorialize Dead California Fish

Combine California and PETA and what do you get? One of the most woolly-headed, half-baked ideas to ever come out of a Birkenstock-sponsored drum circle.

Dina Kourda, resident of Irvine, California and a PETA volunteer, is asking the city to install a sign to memorialize hundreds of fish that were killed in a traffic crash last month, as they were headed to the Irvine Ranch Market.

She wants the sign to read "In memory of hundreds of fish who suffered and died at this spot."

Instead of the spot where they were all going to be sold for people to eat.

The crash in question involved a truck carrying 1,600 pounds of live salt water bass and several tanks of oxygen used to keep the fish alive, and two other vehicles. Hopefully vehicles carrying jars of tartar sauce and crates of lemons. Ooh, and with a small crate of parsley as a nice garnish!

Kourda wrote a letter, probably with an organic blueberry ink pen and paper made of dryer lint, to Irvine's street maintenance chief a…

Republican Rhapsody (With Apologies to Queen)

My friend, is not only a social media and marketing professional, but he's also a humor writer. This is a contribution he offered up to the Laughing Stalk blog.

What do the polls say?
How ‘bout the Tea Party?
Want to win in a landslide?
Just escape from reality
Open your mouth
Insert your foot and speak

I'm just a fetus, I am not in vitro
Because I'm easy come, embryo
In with Wade, out with Roe
Any way the wind blows, ‘cause science doesn't really matter to you
To you

Mama, don’t kill your son
You’ve got a gun against your head
That rapist just might shoot you dead
Mama, my life has not begun
So please don’t go and throw it all away
Mama, ooo
I hate to tell you this
But if I come out in nine months or so
It’s ‘cause of God, ‘cause of God, because science doesn’t matter

Too late, you’re now preggo
Send an epidural down your spine
Feet are swelling all the time
Goodbye everybody - I've got to go
Gotta leave this uterus and kiss POTUS
Mama, ooo - (any …

Karl the Curmudgeon Almost Wins the Oxford Comma

"Kid! Kid!" My friend, Karl the Curmudgeon, burst into Capoci's, waving a newspaper in the air. Capoci's is an Andorran bar, and we were going to watch the Roller Hockey World Cup's semi-finals. Andorra was facing off against Catalonia, and this promised to be an exciting match.

Don't give yourself an aneurysm, I said. What's up? Karl slapped a copy of The (London) Telegraph on the bar.

"Look!" he declared, looking like he had just found the final map to Blackbeard's buried treasure.

I picked up the paper and began to read. 'Owen Paterson has produced a 10-point guide for his civil servants on the pitfalls of common punctuation errors, including the Oxford comma.'

Son of a—!

"HA!" shouted Karl. "See, I told you the Oxford comma was a load of crap." He gestured at Nicolau, the bartender. "Two Alpha Torradas, Nicky."

Nicolau placed the two Andorran brews in front of us. I took a few big swigs, while I con…

An Homage to Suzanne Glass, Founder of Indie-Music.com

I said good-bye today to one of my writing influences, a woman who is partly responsible for my writing abilities, knowledge, and style.

Suzanne Glass, founder of Indie-Music.com, passed away last week after a short bout with cancer. Suzanne started the site back in 1996 as a place for independent musicians to learn about marketing, the music business, professionalism, and to have their albums reviewed.


It's this last category where I got to work with Suzanne, reviewing any CDs I could, and putting them up on her website.

I met Suzanne through our mutual friend, Joel, who I had known since college. And my first email to her, asking her if I could possibly write for the site was met with, "any friend of Joel's is a friend of ours!" and I was off and running.

I wrote over 150 CD and technology reviews for the site, and a few marketing articles. Suzanne and I toyed with the idea of representing some bands, even going so far as to meet with a few of them, before deciding…

I've Got This Bridge I'd Like To Sell You

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2003.

I realized I had finally made my mark in the world when I received my very own Nigerian scam letter, addressed to me at my office eight years ago. When Nigerian scam artists put your name on a letter, rather than addressing it with an impersonal "Dear Friend," you've obviously done something important.

At least that's what I tell myself.

But there it was, in a pile of mail, directly from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

Keep in mind, this was in 1995, before crooks realized the email was a much cheaper and easier way to swindle people. This was back in the day of fax machines and the post office.

"Grandpa, tell us a story about how crooks used to swindle people with pen and paper."

Nowadays, the crooks use email to blanket hundreds of thousands of people. But back in 1995, they used word processors and stamps to regale me with their tales of woe, of how they had $75 mi…

Need a Hug? Wear the Like-A-Hug Vest

I'm a hugger.

I like hugging people when I greet them, assuming I know them fairly well. People I know less well get a firm, but warm handshake. I appreciate physical contact among friends and family. The pat on the back. The reassuring squeeze on the shoulder. The high five.

And the hug.

I believe that nothing can replace the warmth of physical contact, and even in the growing world of social media — online networking, remote relationships, and video phone calls — physical touch is very important. It's what makes us feel loved and special.

So I was more than a little disturbed by the story in The (London) Guardian about the new Like-A-Hug vest invented by a group of MIT students who apparently never got enough hugs when they were kids.

Whenever you get a "Like" from someone on Facebook, the Like-A-Hug vest will inflate like a life jacket and "hug" you. When a friend likes a status update you made, a comment, a photo, or a video, you'll "feel the w…

Confessions of a Frightened 12-Year-Old

I spent most of my pre-teen childhood afraid of almost everything. Afraid of the Cold War. Afraid of rock musicians and their drug-addled fans. Afraid of being eaten by sharks, even in swimming pools. Afraid of being hit by cars (which I was once). Afraid of the song "Hotel California," the beast they couldn't kill, and the ghost of the guy's wife who hadn't been around since 1969.

One thing that scared me were the drug scare films they showed us in 6th grade to keep us from using drugs. These had been made in the early 1970s to show kids what would happen if they took drugs.

You would die.

Drugs, said the films, would make you freak out and have horrible screaming fits about psychedelic monsters trying to steal your face. Or they would make you think you could fly, and you'd climb on top of a building to try it, only to realize halfway down that things weren't going according to plan.

These films filled me with a sense of dread that stayed with me for we…

How Not to Talk to Your Kids About Sex

Parenting experts (i.e. parents. Also, your younger sibling who has never had children) will tell you that, when it comes to explaining sex to your kids, there are two basic rules. First, ask clarifying questions, so you can understand what it is your child already knows, and what they're really asking. Second, always answer the question your kid asks.

For example, if your 6-year-old asks you where babies come from, this is not the time to explain the whole birds and bees thing to them. Instead, ask "do you mean, from the hospital?" or "where do you think they come from?" And they'll just want to know how they came home, so your answer "from the mommy's tummy" will be more than sufficient

Of course, it's going to be tougher when they come back a year or two later and ask, "how do they get inside the mommy's tummy?"

That's still not the time to explain the whole birds and bees thing to them.

Oh, I know, some forward-think…

Apple, pumpkin pie bakers sought; contest to include media celebrity judge

I'm going to be a judge in a pie contest at Switzerland County's Sleepy Hollow event. Normally, I wouldn't publish articles about me, but I liked this one. And it's from my friend, Kendal, and she asked her media friends to promote it through their outlets, so. . . .
Switzerland County Tourism invites budding bakers to enter apple and pumpkin pies into their annual fall pie contest. The competition coincides with the Sat., Oct. 6, 2012 Sleepy Hollow event in downtown Vevay, IN. Cooked pies should be hand-delivered to the Switzerland County Visitors Center, located at 128 West Main Street in Vevay, no later than 11:00am. Pies will be judged by a panel of judges beginning at noon.

Erik Deckers, an author, Laughing Stalk humor columnist, and blogger for the Indiana state tourism office, will be a media celebrity pie judge. Deckers quipped in a recent Indiana Insider post—the official blog of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development—that he wasn’t invited to judge the Sl…

A One-Sided Conversation With My Son About Music

"Hey Buddy, can you turn down your amp?"

"I SAID, CAN YOU TURN DOWN—oh. Uh, your amp."

"I know you're practicing."

"But you're practicing, not the opening act at Bankers Life Fieldhouse."

"Fine, Klipsch Music Center. But you don't need to crank up your amp so loud for practice."

"Of course I'd come see you play."

"Yes, even at Klipsch."

"Yes, in the summer too."

"Of course I like outdoor venues. Who told you I didn't?"

"Oh, she did, did she? Well, Mommy doesn't like the summer either."

"There's nothing wrong with sitting inside. It's nice and cool."

"That was not heat stroke! I just got a little overheated is all."

"That's because you kids need to be outside to build up a tolerance to the heat. It makes you appreciate the air conditioning when you're older."

"What were you playing, AC/DC?"

"Of course I …

Indiana Fever Fall to Minnesota Lynx, 66 - 64

It's one of our last two home games, as the Indiana Fever face off against the Minnesota Lynx in the first of two games in a row.

The game got off to another slow start, and we didn't see a point scored until Briann January scored after 2:07, but the Lynx had no such troubles. With 6:00 to go in the first quarter, it was Minnesota Lynx 10, January 2. By the time we reached 5:00, she had scored all 6.

At one point, the Fever had 11 points — January with 9, and Tammy Sutton-Brown (or as everyone calls her TammySuttonBrown) had the other 2.

Becky Hardy, the 3-point stair runner, was missing again today. Was that a factor?

The Fever finally got a spark lit under them, and they began to mount a comeback, thanks to two fast breaks by Katie Douglas, and it was 25 - 20, Lynx, after the first quarter. They also played some hard defense, holding the Lynx to four shot clock violations this game.

All told, the Fever did not look like they were playing at their best tonight. January had a…