Category Archives: Peeves

OK, you’ve hit your limit: No more ‘having a field day…’

Some folks having an actual field day about a century ago.

Some folks having an actual field day about a century ago.

You ever suddenly hit a wall in terms of your ability to tolerate trite, overused expressions?

I do.

For instance, this morning that moment arrived for “have a field day.”

A woman on NPR was talking about all the complex junk thrown into the Republicans’ tax bill at the last minute. She started to say that in the coming months, tax lawyers would… and suddenly, driving the old Volvo over the Jarvis Klapman bridge, I’m thinking Don’t say “have a field;” please, just spare me… and she completed the sentence with “have a field day,” as everyone listening knew she would. Once a sentence such as that one has gathered speed, there’s no avoiding the inevitable.

Perhaps you’re not tired of it. Perhaps I’ve reached my threshold because of the way it’s overused in reference to journalists, as in “The press will have a field day.” (Which it tiresome, but not as tiresome as non-journalists saying something is “splashed all over the front page” when it simply appears, quite soberly and modestly, on the page in question.)

But think about it: How much sense does this expression make to begin with? A “field day” is:

a : a day for military exercises or maneuvers
b : an outdoor meeting or social gathering
c : a day of sports and athletic competition

And usually, it means the last of the three.

What does that have to do with what tax lawyers will be doing with this mess of a bill? Nothing, really.

So it was kind of a stupid expression the first time it was used to mean “to gain advantage or success from a situation, esp. one that is bad for someone else.” (Which doesn’t, let’s face it, really quite describe what people are doing when they “have a field day.” They mean something more like “have themselves a time with it,” or “go hog-wild with it,” or some other hoary expression that doesn’t irritate me quite as much — yet.)

And at this point, it is far beyond useful. So let’s have no more of this nonsense…

Another popular field-day activity.

Another popular field-day activity.

Respect noon! Do away with DST for good…

Rep. Norrell at Smith announcement last month.

Rep. Norrell at Smith announcement last month.

I’ve heard good things about Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell. She seems to be something of an up-and-comer in the S.C. House. She gave a nice speech at James Smith’s campaign kickoff last month.

But boy, has she taken a wrong turn on this one:

Aaargghh!

You see, she was responding to this:

Alan Clemmons

Rep. Alan Clemmons

I had meant to write when I first heard of Mr. Clemmons’ bill a couple of weeks back, to give him my full support. At least, for the idea. I’m not so crazy about the referendum part. Lawmakers should just bite the bullet themselves and end this unnatural abomination called DST. Every referendum on a nonconstitutional issue is a step toward direct democracy, and that of course would be worse than year-round DST.

But the basic idea of doing away with DST altogether? Good one. Hear, hear.

Mind you, I’m slightly more sympathetic to the cause of the DSTers since I started my thing of walking 10,000 steps a day. I had a nice routine going in which I’d do 5,000 on the elliptical trainer before work in the morning, then take care of what was left with a nice, long walk with my wife when I got home.

The end of DST ended that. (So I’ve replaced it with a walk downtown in the middle of the day. And my wife and I still walk together on weekends.) But there’s a bonus on the other end: I’m not getting up in the dark — or at least, it’s not quite as dark — to do my morning workout. And that counts for a lot.

Mostly, though, it’s the principle of the thing. Noon is when the sun it at it’s zenith, or these man-kept hours have no meaning, no point of reference in the natural world! It’s the midpoint of the day (or, if you’re a captain in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars — and you probably aren’t — the start of the day). And if your clock strikes 12 an hour before the sun is at his height, then your whole day is a lie.

It’s just wrong, don’t you see?

No, you probably don’t. Few do. But I will fight my rear-guard action as long as I can. And thanks for doing your bit for the cause, Rep. Clemmons. I may not always agree with you (on, say, bills such as this), but you chose the side of the good guys on this one…

Hey! Alla you kids, get offa my Blossom Street!

This was on Friday, as I sat through several light cycles waiting to turn onto Pickens.

This was on Friday, as I sat through several light cycles waiting to turn onto Pickens.

Have you made the mistake of trying to get anywhere on Blossom Street — say, between Five Points and the Congaree River bridge — since the kids came back to campus?

If so, you know why I say “mistake.”

The worst point is at the intersection of Blossom and PIckens, which I at least attempt to traverse several times a week.

It has never been this bad, or even close. This no doubt has something to do with the record freshman class, but it seems like there must be three or four times as many students in the past.

And all, of course, driving cars.

On Friday, stuck through about four full cycles of the traffic light trying to turn left onto Pickens from Blossom, I glanced over at the sidewalk on the north side of Blossom, and suddenly flashed on a memory: It was me as a freshman, that one semester I went to USC, walking with groceries back from the Winn-Dixie in Five Points (where the Walgreens is now) to my room in the Honeycombs.

Which reminded me that I only knew of one guy on the floor of my dorm who had a car. I once got a ride from him to the K-Mart in Cayce on the way to the airport to pick up something that my uncle in Bennettsville needed, and which he could only get from K-Mart, to his knowledge. (It was vacuum cleaner bags. Remember, there was no Amazon.)

Not one other time, that whole semester, did I need to go anywhere in Columbia that I couldn’t easily walk.

So… I’m going to shock everyone by making a commonsense suggestion: Why can’t USC at least bar resident freshmen from having cars on campus?

If we can’t do that, then USC and the city need to get together and figure out something to do about the daily problem on Blossom…

This was a few days earlier than that...

This was a few days earlier than that…

Too many microbrews are just TOO MUCH

beers-1283566_960_720

On the whole, I like the idea of microbrew beer. Anything that helps America break the hegemony of Bud Light seems to me a good thing in general.

But I have a complaint. Something crystallized for me last night. I was at an event at which several microbreweries were sharing their wares. And I started thinking a thought that had not fully formed for me before…

Whatever they call their specialized brews, and however they describe their qualities, these uberserious brewers tend to have one thing in common: The taste is just TOO MUCH. There’s a complete lack of nuance, subtlety or restraint.

They’re all so concerned with differentiating themselves from the popular American mass-produced beers, so worried about not being tasteless dishwater, that they go overboard with the flavoring. Too much hops. Too much maltiness. Too much everything. It’s as though a cook dumped every spice in his cabinet into a stew to keep it from being bland, and the result was disastrous.

The taste tends to stick with you the rest of the evening, whatever else you eat or drink.

I tasted a stout last night, grimaced and told the guy from the microbrewery that it tasted like an IPA. And by that I meant an American IPA, which is to say something overpowering. An India Pale Ale, properly understood, should be <em>refreshing</em>, like the Fuller’s Bengal Lancer IPA I had in England, inspired by the ales formulated in the 19th century specifically to refresh the troops in India. And it got the job done, going by my experience with it.

Last night, I tried a porter from the same brewery, and it tasted like the stout, which as I said tasted like an American IPA — a truckload of hops dumped in with other overbearing flavors. I put the small glass down as soon as I had walked out of sight.

Occasionally I really like something from a microbrewery, such as an ESB I had not long ago at Hunter-Gatherer. But too often they’re trying too hard to impress, and it’s just too much

Enough with the materialism orgy, already!

materialism-orgy

Maybe it’s envy. Maybe it’s just that I don’t have money to buy expensive gifts. Or maybe it’s that I wouldn’t buy these kinds of gifts even if I could. I’d give people something more practical. Or burn the money.

But it seems to me that each Christmas, the materialism orgy gets several degrees more offensive.

Get a load of the guy in the screengrab above. Excuse my imagery, but he looks for all the world like he’s about to have an orgasm from sticking his nose into a wineglass.

This is from a pop-up video act that forced itself upon me when I tried to read a story on the New York Times website. The video went on and on like this, in slow motion. With “Ode to Joy” as the background music, just in case the images didn’t lay it on thick enough. It all just seemed to embody perfectly everything that bugs me about the ads for jewelry and perfume and watches that cost more than my house (and what’s more pointlessly ostentatious than an expensive watch, in an age when we all carry phones that keep perfect time?) with which we are inundated this time of year.

Part of this is that I’m kind of jaded about foodie stuff. (And may that’s because I have such a limited diet, and tend to think good food is anything I can use for fuel that won’t kill me.) People make WAY too big a deal over how good a bite of food or a sip of a drink — or in this case, the smell of a drink — can be. Face it — if there’s a cake recipe that you think is better than sex, you’ve got a problem.

But there’s much, much more than that going on here. A lot of effort was put into making this guy look posh, upper-class, refined, better than you, and something to aspire to — if only you can afford and appreciate this product, you, too will be a superior being. It’s so extreme, it’s laughable. Like a Thurston Howell caricature of wealth and snobbery, only with better production values. The makers of the ad were going for the same effect I was going for in my own cheesy way with this selfie, except they weren’t kidding.

This is actually expected to appeal to… somebody. Donald Trump, maybe. He probably thinks it’s classy.

This holiday started with celebrating a poor child born in a stable. And now this.

Do y’all know what I’m saying here? If so, what’s the materialism-deifying ad you hate the most? Share, so we can heap scorn upon it.

Give it a rest with the football! It’s BASEBALL SEASON!

We just GOT this beautiful, pristine ballpark, and they're going to put FOOTBALL in it!

We just GOT this beautiful, pristine ballpark, and they’re going to put FOOTBALL in it!

On Saturday, I flipped on the old TV in my upstairs home office, the one in front of the recliner I keep there, intending to glide off into a nap while half-watching something…

… and there was football on my TV!

It’s still August, people! I don’t get but a handful of TV stations — just the local broadcast tier — and if there’s going to be sports on one of them in August, it should be baseball! But was there a single MLB game on my limited set of choices? No. More’s the pity, because there are few things more restful on a Saturday afternoon than non-playoff, regular season, workaday baseball.

But wait — there’s the Little League World Series! But no. Those overexcited little kids running around don’t have the right sort of languid, professionals-doing-a-job approach that I prefer when I’m in nap mode.

So I snoozed with the TV off, the way cavemen did in their home offices.

Monday night, I’m in the kitchen and my wife turns on the TV in the next room, and for a second before she changes the channel, I could swear I heard football again! She says I didn’t, and there wasn’t any on the guide, so maybe I’m just getting jumpy. But it sounded like football!

Look, people, I know you’re all going to be going on about football at full volume 24 hours a day after Labor Day, which is bearing down on us, and that’s just one of the miserable facts of life in the season that would otherwise be my favorite time of year. (I’ll see leaves turning and feel a delicious coolness in the air, and someone will say, “Football weather!” and ruin it.) I’ll deal with it, and look forward to the World Series.

But let me have the rest of this week, OK? Stop encroaching on the last week that should be football-free.

And for sure, don’t give me more news like this:

Six local high school football teams will face off this fall at Spirit Communications Park, the $37 million home of the Columbia Fireflies minor league baseball team….

Aw, come ON, people! We just got this ballpark! I just went to my first game there last week, and you’re telling me next week there’s going to be football there? Really? You didn’t think there was enough football going on in enough places in September, you had to sully this place, too?

When does it stop? Yeah, I know — February, right? I’ll start counting the days…

Let’s be clear: That one’s not sexism; it’s football

Are you ready for some football-related news from the Olympics?

Are you ready for some football-related news from the Olympics?

Feminists have the things that drive them up the wall, and I have mine.

The Washington Post today had an interesting piece about how no matter what female athletes at the Olympics accomplish, media coverage has a tendency to focus more on what their husbands do. And there are some good examples so absurd as to cause you to laugh, cry, scream with rage or tear your hair out.

But I zeroed in on this one, because it hits me where I live (and on my blog, that’s what matters, right?):

In case you’re tempted to call that a fluke, let’s look at how the Chicago Tribune wrote about Corey Cogdell-Unrein, its hometown Olympic star:

“Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics,”the newspaper tweeted Sunday.

Not even her name. Or her event. Or the fact that it was Cogdell-Unrein’s second Olympic medal in trap shooting, in her third Olympic Games. The most newsworthy part: She’s married to NFL lineman Mitch Unrein.

The Trib got called out on the sexism, and not just by angry women’s studies majors.

Peters and Justins and Scotts all over Twitter had a field day.

“In other news, husband of Olympic medalist Corey Cogdell can’t seem to win a Super Bowl,”tweeted cartoonist Scott Johnson.

“Bill Clinton Back in White House. Brings Wife,” tweeted another outraged man….

Yeah, OK, maybe all those other cases are blatant sexism. But this one? This is about the American obsession, which finds its most virulent expression in newspaper sports departments, with football.

Newspapers are so incredibly obsessed with football, particularly in our own part of the country, that they cover it year-round. And it’s not just the sports guy: the best chance a story has of moving from sports to the front, it often seems, is for it to have some sort of connection to football, however tenuous or indirect.

The sports journalists involved in that story weren’t picking on this woman or being mean to her. By their lights, she was lucky to get such great coverage, because they are incapable of seeing her as anything other than someone who has a connection to what matters, which is football. In their universe, she is either the wife of a prominent football player, or she doesn’t exist.

They were doing her, and the Olympics, a favor. They were trying to get their readers to care, by explaining her in terms of her connection to something important.

So go ahead and point out when something is sexist. But know when something is not. And this particular absurdity was not. This one was football.

A few words that are nouns and not verbs

gift

Just a take-note-of thing. Not that it’s getting on my nerves or anything…

In this one day, I have been subjected, via various media, to the following nouns being used as verbs:

  • Impact — the granddaddy of them all, which you’ve heard me gripe about before. I actually heard this come from the mouth of a professional announcer, on PRI’s “To The Point,” I think it was.
  • Advantage — Interview subject on NPR this morning.
  • Disadvantage — Same young woman this morning. She kept going back and forth between saying something “advantages” one person and “disadvantages” someone else. Torture.
  • Partner — A press release from a local nonprofit, which I will not name, out of kindness.
  • Gift — A subscription promotion from Boston Review, which I received via email (see above — note that they did it twice!). Look, folks, this is simple: A gift is a thing that you give. You don’t “gift” a gift; you give it. Got it? (It’s like “lend” and “loan,” only more so.)

Sorry. After the fifth one in one day, I had to say something. I wasn’t trying to find them; they found me.

Oh, and spare me the citations proving that these usages are OK. They’re not. Authorities who say otherwise are wrong. I speak ex cathedra as the ultimate authority within the universe that is this blog.

Hey, you know what ELSE affects how much sleep I get?

sleep

Yeah, I know, I know; I should have fixed this on my phone the last time it happened and I complained about it.

But I forgot. Now that I’ve had this fresh incident, I’ve fixed it. I don’t think it will happen again.

Anyway, I’m kind of a zombie today. I woke up twice during the night because of the poison ivy that is aggressively trying to take over my left leg (I’m going to see my allergist this afternoon to talk over strategies for combating it — boots on the ground will not be off the table, far as I’m concerned).

Then this, at 5:52 a.m. What with all the itching, I never dozed back off for any of the precious hour and 23 minutes left until my alarm went off.

Yeah, I shoulda taken care of this sooner. At the same time, I do want to complain on behalf of people who don’t know how to turn off such notifications.

The category of things that I want news sources to wake me up for is very, very narrow. “Tornado bearing down on YOUR house, specifically!” is pretty much it.

The last thing I need to be awakened for is advice on how to get more sleep…

As if a DST Monday weren’t bad enough

As y’all know, I hate Daylight Savings Time. Hate it.

And the demonic DST gods know that I hate it, and they take it out on me. For instance, in recent years, it has started at randomly chosen, earlier and earlier dates. This enables them to do things like this to me:

On Sunday, my wife, who is from Memphis, flew there to visit her brothers and their families. I needed to get her to the airport by 6 a.m. Which I am more than happy to do. But the DST demons saw that, and immediately decided that would be the night when we lost an hour — because that’s the one weekend I would feel it the most.

Fine. No problem. I can take it as well as dish it out. I went back home from the airport and, after tossing and turning for about an hour and a half, went back to sleep and slept past 11:30. (We had gone to Mass the evening before; it’s not like I was going all heathen or anything.)

Then this morning, at 5:28 a.m. — which in a rational universe (a universe in which everyone understands that noon is at the height of the sun) is actually 4:28 a.m. — my phone goes “DING!” So I pick it up, expecting to be told something important, and I get this:

DST

Really? You had to wake me up to make sure I knew I could have another cup of coffee if I wanted it?

Yeah, I know — I could turn off the notifications for that particular news app. But I turn them on so that I can get timely notification of actual news events. Not so that I can be waked up and told stuff that could most definitely wait until later!

As it happens, I already knew that it was OK to have that second or third cup of coffee. And thanks to this, I needed it today…

ARRRGGGGHHH! Marco Rubio just lost ground with me

I’ve been struggling to figure out which candidate I’ll vote for next month, and Marco Rubio has been in the mix for consideration (since he meets the critical “not Trump or Cruz” criterion).

But he just lost a lot of ground with me.

Watch the above ad. It’s only 30 seconds.

Did you hear it? Did it grate on you as much as it did on me?

Yes, he really did say, “It’s time for a president…” (note that — A president, as in just one) “… who will put THEIR left hand on the Bible and THEIR right hand in the air, and keep THEIR promise to uphold the Constitution…”

ARRRGGGHHHH!!!!

I really don’t think I’ve ever heard it done so egregiously by any candidate for any office — three times in one sentence!

Yes, we’re a republic, but that’s no excuse for abusing the Queen’s English so…

Word peeve of the day

What’s the news across the nation?
We have got the information
in a way we hope will amuse… you…
We just love to give you our views — La da tee da!
Ladies and Gents, Laugh-In looks at the news!

— “Laugh-In”

A new feature, which will appear when I feel like it.

This is a minor one, a subtle one. It doesn’t bother me as much as some others. Still, it just seems… odd.

I saw it in a cutline today in The State, but I don’t mean to pick on my friends there; I see it everywhere…

It said that “The Force Awakens” will be “opening Friday around the country.”

Around the country? Why not across the country? Or even, perhaps, throughout the country?

Say “around the country” and I picture a path that runs through Canada, the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf, Mexico and the Pacific.

“Around the world” makes sense. “Across the world” does not. But ours is a continental country, one that can be seen in its entirety from one side of the planet. One crosses it; one does not bypass it.

Yeah, I know — it’s not a big deal. And it can make sense, thought of a certain way. (You could argue that the film opens here and there all over the country, or around it, as opposed to following a single, straight line across it.) It’s just a peeve of mine, not because it’s necessarily wrong but because, most of the time, it fails to be the best word…

ACROSS

ACROSS

AROUND

AROUND

A film almost, but not quite, entirely unlike anything that appeals to me

When I saw the email from Netflix headlined “Brad, we just added a movie you might like,” I braced myself. Netflix chirpily announcing it has something I will like gives me the same creeping feeling that Arthur Dent got when the Syrius Cybernetics Corporation’s Nutrimatic drinks dispenser offered him another cup of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

And sure enough, here’s what it was offering me:

netflix

Don’t know about you, but I consider that to be one of the silliest, most ridiculously hyped films of the past decade. It easily qualifies as my least favorite Ron Howard film, and I suppose my least favorite featuring Tom Hanks as well.

It was like a cheesy retelling of Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, and I didn’t like that, either. There are people who just eat up a tale involving a conspiracy stretching over thousands of years, especially when it involves the Knights Templar (as both tales do). I’m not one of them. I’m not a huge fan of the whole paranoia thriller genre to begin with, and when you stretch it to such extremes, you totally lose me.

And don’t even bother feeding me a tale about brilliant algorithms duplicating the human mind and taking over the world. When Netflix gets a clue as to what I like, then I’ll worry…

Personally, I don’t believe in probabilities

That is, I don’t believe in assigning numerical values to them. That practice seems to me a mendacious attempt to quantify the unquantifiable.

This came up because of this email from a friend today:

When I was in high school, I once wondered whether a 50% chance of rain meant: A. there is a 100% chance that it will rain on 50% of the city or B. there is a 50% chance that it will rain on 100% of the city.  I think the real answer is that there is a 50% chance it will rain at least somewhere in the city (which is actually less than a 50% chance that it will rain in any one place).  It’s painfully obvious that my chances at a STEM major in college were much lower than 50%!

For my part, I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a 50 percent chance of rain, period. I don’t mind someone saying, “I have as much reason to believe it will rain today as I have reason to believe it won’t.” But don’t insult me by attaching a number to it. You don’t know enough to attach such precision to the matter.

You want to assign a numerical value to the likelihood of rain on Thursday? Here’s my advice: Wait until Friday. Look back, and if it rained on Thursday, there was a 100 percent chance. If it didn’t, there was a 0 percent chance. The rest is nonsense.

Nostalgia interrupta: A brief Boomer rant about sampling

I really have nothing to add beyond what I said on Twitter, reflecting a Boomer’s disappointment at almost, but not quite, hearing and seeing things that bring back fond memories — repeatedly:


Here is the first sampling abomination I spoke of, and here is the second.

OK, I will add one thing: To keep my contemporaries from also experiencing nostalgia interrupta, here are the far-more-satisfying originals, including the theme from “The Man from U.N.C.L.E”…

WHAT is the point of those blasted red parking meters?

I hate ’em.

I try, I really do try (as hard as Billy Jack tried to be nonviolent) to pay for my parking on city streets. I carry a Smart Card and top it up when it runs out. If I think I’m going to be an hour, I pay for an hour and 20 minutes in advance. I really try. Because I don’t mind leaving some time on the meter for the next person. I just hate getting a ticket.

So something like this really ticks me off…

I arrive today at Immaculate Consumption for an interview with Hogan Gidley, senior communications advisor to Mike Huckabee. There’s not a single available parking space on that block, either side of Main Street. But look! Somebody’s moving out!

And when the vehicle is out of the way, I see that the space has a red meter. You know, one of the ones at which you can only pay for 30 minutes.

Having no choice, I took it, and said to myself, Self, I really hope you can remember to come back out here and stick your card in again after 29 minutes.

But of course, being me, despite the best will in the world, I had forgotten this by the time I got to the counter and ordered my coffee. And if I had remembered it that long, I’d have forgotten it when I spilled my coffee taking it off the counter because I didn’t realize there was a little curb on the edge of the counter that I had to lift it over. And if I had still remembered it then, I would have forgotten it by the time I sat down and started talking politics with Hogan.

I would have forgotten it because that is what I do. I wish I didn’t do that, but I always do. It’s the way I’m made. Yeah, I could have paused to set myself a little alarm, except that my appointment had arrived before me and I didn’t want to stand there fooling with my phone before speaking to him, and once I started talking I’d have forgotten to set the alarm anyway, because that is what I do.

Of course, when I came out, I had a ticket. And what really gets me is that I’m pretty sure we had not talked for much more than 30 minutes. Way under an hour, anyway.

Now here’s the thing: I wanted to pay for an hour just in case, but I could not. It was physically impossible.

And this is not right. This is not fair.

And what I’d like to know is, why do red parking meters exist? Why can’t all parking meters be not merely green, but blue, so we could pay in advance for hours at a time if that’s what we want to do?

I’m thinking your answer might be something like, to keep customers turning over. In this case, to prevent the problem common to coffee houses of people coming in with a laptop, buying one cup of coffee, and sitting there all day.

OK, so if that is the case, why is there only one red meter on the block? That’s the way it always is. And time and again, that’s the only space that’s available — not because the 30-minute limit keeps it turning over, but because nobody wants to park in that space! It’s the short straw of parking spaces. It’s the Old Maid card! It’s snake eyes! Nobody wants it!

So why even waste a space by putting a red meter there?

I want an answer from y’all, but you can probably tell that whatever you say, it won’t satisfy me. Because whatever good they do, I will be convinced that it is not worth the gross unfairness of the situation.

Oh, as for what Hogan Gidley and I talked about — I’ll tell you later, This was more urgent…

Properly understood, these are not ‘midterm elections’

Yes, I know, that’s what all the cognoscenti call them, but it sets my teeth on edge when they do.

As I said last night on Twitter,

This is not mid-term for anyone, with the possible exception of Tim Scott, who’s running for the rest of Jim DeMint’s term. Other than such special exceptions as that, this is a regular, end-of-term election for representatives, senators, council members, school board hopefuls, everybody who’s running.

But we call them “midterm” because it’s the middle of the term of the president of the United States — someone who’s not on the ballot. So, the modifier we now use for this kind of election only makes sense within the context of an office that is in no way involved with the election.

Do you see how something is just… off… about this?

Because somehow, somewhere along the way — perhaps because we are influenced by inside-the-Beltway media who nationalize everything — we’ve come to believe that the presidential election in each year divisible by the number 4 is the only election that counts, and that everything else is a sideshow.

Never mind that the actions of council and school board members and state legislators are likely to have a more direct and immediate effect on our lives; Americans have come to regard such elections as distractions from the Main Event. Which is why so few people bother to show up to vote in this elections, and those who do tend to do so because they’re mad at the president, not because they care about who holds the office. Which is why the president’s party generally loses ground in Congress in these elections, and why politicians get away with the madness of talking about the president on the stump, rather than about issues relevant to the offices for which they are running.

This kind of dumbing-down to be all about One Thing is enormously harmful to our republic, and certainly to the quality of officeholders we get.

This morning, I saw this Tweet:

Which made me think, how on Earth could USAToday tell me anything I need to know about next Tuesday’s elections much less everything?

The kinds of things a conscientious voter needs to know about these elections are such acutely local things as:

  • Where is my polling place?
  • Who is going to be on the ballot? (Because not everyone you’re reading and hearing about will be, based on what precinct you live in.)
  • Who are all these people running for school board in my district? (Something that even local media fall down on telling us, in most districts.)
  • Where do legislative and council candidates stand on issues important to me? (Of course, with the way the Legislature apportions districts, the legislative seats are mostly foregone conclusions, but some few of you will still have a choice to make.)
  • What are the records of incumbents, and what are the qualifications of challengers, in these local contests?
  • What’s the weather going to be like?

There is no way that McPaper, the nation’s one completely generic and placeless newspaper, is going to help you with those things.

So… what is at the other end of that link on the Tweet? Why, an interactive graphic that’s all about… the likely partisan makeup of the Congress. Because that’s the only prism through which national media are able to speak coherently about these elections. Totals of Democrats, totals of Republicans.

Which has nothing to do with the way we, as voters, interact with the process. We get to vote on one member of Congress, and two Senators. That’s it. And the House districts are drawn so there is zero suspense over which party’s going to win them (in South Carolina, at least, and in most other places). To the extent that we get a choice, it’s mostly in the primaries.

In other words, the only way national media speak of these elections is in terms of something — the partisan control of Congress — that I, as a thinking voter who despises the parties, don’t give a rat’s posterior about.

Oh, and why is the partisan makeup of the Congress supposed to matter? As often as not, it’s couched in terms of what kind of time the president is going to have over the next two years: Will he have a hard time getting things done, or an even harder time? Or will it be impossible?

Because, you know, all elections are about only One Thing.

Except that they aren’t.

I’d hate to see this guy trip and hurt himself

pants

And now that my temper is up, I may as well go on and abuse every body I can think of.
– Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad

Yeah, I know I used that same quote just a month or two ago, but it’s one of my all-time favorites.

And it’s perfect for a post in which, having ranted about one of my chief peeves just moments ago, I let loose on another one.

Look at the photo above, from the Washington Post iPad app. (Here’s the story it goes with.) See anything wrong with it?

Yeah, it’s a good action photo, the player seeming to float in the air as he runs the bases.

But I can’t enjoy it because I can’t stop thinking, When he lands, he’s liable to trip on his pants.

Yeah, I know — ballplayers have been wearing their pants like this for a long time. Rather than wear proper knicker-length pants, with the team-color stirrup showing over their socks, their pants legs go all the way to the tops of their shoes, and too often, beyond.

And it just looks stupid. Almost as stupid as wearing a ballcap with the brim artificially flat as a mathematical plane, instead of curled like a hyperbola, the way God and Abner Doubleday intended. It’s so unbelievably uncool. Like some clueless alien trying to dress like a ballplayer to pass as an earthling, and failing miserably. Players who do that look like dorks. It makes them look, well, like this. It makes me wonder, What are these people’s heads shaped like? (And yeah, I know it comes from hip-hop culture, but I don’t care — it’s definitively uncool.)

But there’s something especially awful about this particular photo, something that justifies my bringing this up again: That’s Bryce Harper, No. 34 for the Washington Nationals. Bryce Harper is known for being one of the few present-day ballplayers who still wears knickers and stirrups!

So this is a particular betrayal of tradition, and all that is right and true about the game.

Maybe it’s temporary, maybe it’s some playoff superstition thing; I don’t know. But I’m deeply disappointed. I mean, this was supposed to be a guy who gets it….

I know it won’t do any good, but I had to say something. Again. I just hate to see it.

Now, all of you kids — get offa my infield!

These guys got it.

These guys got it.

No, it could not, because ‘impact’ is not a verb

Recently, The State led an editorial off by citing a headline in the Charleston paper:

A RECENT HEADLINE in Charleston’s Post and Courier asked: “Could Bobby Harrell’s departure impact Charleston’s road money?”…

I read no further, but immediately emailed Cindi Scoppe to say, “The answer to the P&C’s question is ‘no,’ because ‘impact’ is not a verb. (I later went back and read the edit. You should, too; it will make you feel even better about Jay Lucas being the new speaker.)

But I’m still harrumphing about the P&C headline.

Then, this morning, I saw a Tweet that said:

SCOTUS’ Same-Sex Marriage Decision Could Impact SC

To which I could only respond, “No, it could not — because ‘impact’ is a noun, not a verb. :)”

I added the smiley face because the Tweeter does not know me. Wouldn’t want her to think I’m an unpleasant person or anything.

Yes, I know I’m fighting a losing battle. I know that people who employ this abomination think that it is a verb, and can probably cite all sorts of authorities to support them. Doesn’t matter. I refuse to accept it.

There is something about “impact” used as a verb that for me invokes the most stilted, bogus, officialese. People think it sounds authoritative, official, like something an expert would say. It’s like, I don’t know, cops calling everyone a “subject,” or saying they “observed” the “subject” doing this or that. I actually don’t mind that as much, though — I can appreciate a cop trying to distance themselves from the incident with technical, unemotional language. “I observed the subject exiting the premises at a high rate of speed,” sounds more like the voice of law and order than, “I saw that stupid jackass with my own eyes, running off like a scalded dog.”

But “impact,” used as a verb, affects (note the way I used the right word there) me differently. Every time, I hear the voice of someone who is trying to sound smart, but instead is coming off as illiterate. To me, anyway.

Yeah, I know I’ve mentioned this before. But it bugs me every time, and sometimes I just have to say something…