Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Year Without Dad

Today marks the one year anniversary of the day my Dad died. It's also the day that fundamental family architecture we come to rely on to provide firm footing as we bounce around wildly into the early stages of the adult world finally crumbled, or, at least, lost a load-bearing pillar.

When I got home last summer to be there for the last few days, he was mostly already adrift in a sea of semi-consciousness, hounded by the reality of the leukemia only when the hospice nurse arrived to change the sheets or rub lotion onto his flaky skin. "These people are vultures, Tim," he'd say, floating to the surface of coherence for the brief moments as he was forced over onto his side while the nurse ripped a sheet from under him in what he portrayed as an extraordinarily painful and unnecessary manner.

At night, after mom and Lauren had gone to bed, I'd sit up for a few more hours reading next to his bed, its ugly metal railings and the whirr of its hospital-height adjuster crammed awkwardly between bookshelf and computer desk into the small room that was once the dining room, before becoming my father's personal study or lounge or something after his retirement. His head rolled sleeplessly on the boiled white pillows, not far from the window, the same spot where on Thanksgiving nights he'd sit at the head of our nut-brown dining room table, the extensions put in for this rare occasion of company and celebration at 920 Cable Ave.

At night, my Mom left a small TV in the corner turned on so Dad has some company, always tuned to Turner Classic Movies and the volume of the cowboy pistols and noir taxi-cab engines kept just above a whisper. In healthier times, Dad loved those movies -- the men who always dressed sharp in fedoras and tall coats; the women who always primmed to the expectation of some great social outing, high heel shoes of impeccable polish walking across gray city streets. And everyone had a cigarette in their hand, he'd note, when smoking still was a mark of sophistication and not the poison my mother made it out to be by forcing him and his Parliaments onto the front porch many years ago.

He was mostly a ghost already, brittle skin stretched across a tired and defeated body, his gray hair sharp and short, the faint echo of a goatee left to roam on his chin, the army-green Playboy bunny tattoo looking on with wrinkled ears and sad eyes.

The last thing Dad said to me, actually, the only real coherent thing he said during this week, was a few days after I got home, when he shifted in the bed to look at me and momentarily broke free of the dark fog of cancerous decay, a candle of his personality still burning somewhere deep. He said "hi" to me in his fatherly casual tone and looked glad, maybe even surprised, that I was there. Then he thanked me for the electric blanket I had sent to the house after my last visit home after his return from the hospital, when he drifted slowly from room to room searching for some unknown solace, always in want of a warmer blanket or thicker robe. "That was really thoughtful," he said. Of course, Dad, I replied. That night I sat by the bed, some Spencer Tracy picture mumbling in the corner, me deep into the pages of Andy's copy of "Into the Wild," hoping my company was noticed as he stirred, occasionally deploying a tiny bit of muscle strength to shift a pillow or wipe his dry lips.

As Thursday approached, his eyes became milky white slits discerning only shades of light and his speech shriveled to a low, soft groan. When the girls got back to the house, I stepped out for some air for a little while, and got the call from Mom that the moment we'd been awaiting with compassionate anxiety had finally come, and he had died.

I was at the boardwalk at the time, awash in its circus of neon pizza and the tinny metal smack of the pinball machine, the barker's pitch, the screams from 80 feet above as the freefall slammed back to earth, forcing a great rush of air up into the bennies' hair and through the planks of my memory. There inside the pane of a carefully preserved moment still brighter than its fading photographic version, Dad and I threw ourselves down the hard plastic bumps of the Fun Slide for the hundredth time, the burlap sacs wrapped around us suddenly ruffled by a new blast of air.

As the family journalist, I wrote the obit for the Asbury Park Press. The composition of it received a startling amount of praise and applause from family members and friends, which I shrugged off as inconsequential, having encapsulated the lives of reams of faceless strangers in short inches over my career. I was pleased by the catharsis found in exercising this Journalism 100 assignment to mete out emotions over our own loss.

Here is the what I wrote for the funeral, labeled the extended version of the obit. All I can think of to do today is to post this here.

I miss you Dad. More than I ever thought was possible.

Paul Donnelly, 59, of Beachwood, died Aug. 30 in his home after a yearlong battle with leukemia.

He was born in New York and moved shortly after to New Jersey. But he was never far removed from the city, returning often later in life to go to Yankees games, see shows or get dinner. He once brought his children sightseeing and recorded all the day’s expenses in a tiny notebook. He didn’t understand all the hoopla surrounding those elaborate Broadway productions but did, years ago, take his son to a live version of the Muppet Babies and bought him a T-shirt he wore to bed every night until the seams threatened to give out.

He graduated from Keyport High School in 1967 and enlisted in the Army that summer.

He never liked talking about his time in the war, except for a few entertaining stories. His discharge papers say he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal, among other honors. He said he also received a Purple Heart, though the medal itself was left at some ex-girlfriend’s house and never seen again.

His stories from the Army were weightless, like the time his unit attached a bush where they thought an enemy was hiding, only to find their knives had sunk into a fat Vietnamese pig. Once a jeep ran over his foot -- not during combat. Another time he broke his arm, forcing him to learn to light matches for his cigarettes with one hand. This trick he later passed on to his son, who would use it to impress girls in bars and nearly light his dorm room on fire freshman year.

He later told his 23-year-old son his friends and family thought he was crazy for reenlisting so many times during the war.

“You don’t understand, Tim,“ he said. “The Army was different then. The way I looked at it was, if I was enlisted, that’s one less person they had to get to go over there.”

His children knew he was injured in the right ear during the war, which forced them to always walk on his left side at the mall so he could hear them talk. He finally broke down and got a hearing aid a few years ago.

In the end, he never wore the hearing aid anyway and his family again had to speak loud and slow beside his bed so he could hear.

With an eye for men’s fashion, he spent nearly three decades in the men’s clothing business, working for various companies until retiring from the Men’s Wearhouse three years ago. While working in stores under the bright lights of Atlantic City casinos, he crossed paths with the rich and famous who passed through the casinos, including Joe DiMaggio, who he said was a jerk in real life. Before work in the mornings, he would sometimes dip peanut butter covered rye toast into his morning coffee while working on the crossword puzzle.

He married in 1978. Twenty-eight years later, he would be told by doctors he had myleofibrosis, a disease no one could easily pronounce and did not really understand at first. Then it was upgraded to leukemia, easier to pronounce and more well known.

He had two children, Tim and Lauren. He was a coach on their little league teams, though neither was terribly gifted on the field. He helped his son lobby successfully for a puppy in eighth grade.

He rarely wore socks outside of work and sported a tattoo of the Playboy bunny on his left arm. He went through three rounds of chemotherapy. This summer, when the leukemia seized control of his body and continued its steady march from heart to head, he became thin and weak and his tattoo became a shriveled ink blot on his flaky skin.

He loved a good steak dinner and never really quite understood what it meant when his son became a vegetarian in college. Even at a fancy Italian restaurant, he would sometimes order spaghetti and meatballs to the frustration of his family, but always say “Well, I bet they do a damn good spaghetti and meatballs.”

He tried unsuccessfully to quit smoking several times, but he was too stubborn to ever really give it up. Earlier this year, he bought his first convertible, a sporty, fast little car with satellite radio and leather seats. He drove it a spare handful of times before going into the hospital again.

He was notoriously private and tight-lipped about personal issues, until the end, when his dependence on medicines and doctors and the comfort of others caused him to open up. He came from a generation of men that were proud and self-reliant and never wore hats indoors. In the end, the look on his hollow face betrayed the fact that he absolutely hated being a sick person that needed to be taken care of. He was appalled by the rudeness of the disease.

He was preceded in death by his sister Elizabeth of Atlantic Highlands, father Hugh, and mother, Elizabeth, who once gave a baby outfit to Tim that his mother and father found so atrocious, they dumped apple juice on the boy in the car and immediately changed him when entering Paul’s mother’s house. They blamed the accident on the child’s clumsy juice-handling skills.

He is survived by a brother, Patrick, whom hasn’t spoken to in years; wife Debbie, who took care of him in the end, handled his medicines, changed his sheets, yelled at doctors and lay with him in the creaky hospice bed when he said he was scared; his daughter, Lauren, and son Tim, who both made it up from South Carolina in time to say goodbye to their father.

During his life, he enjoyed telling dirty jokes with punch lines that often involved parts of the human anatomy, bodily functions or blondes.

By the end, he said very little, except to ask for a cigarette and say, “look at my wife. Isn’t she spectacular?”

He was 59.

Friday, August 29, 2008

At Least it's not Rocks for Jocks

In honor of today's ilf-related news one of the all-time great Simpsons quotes:

r. Hibbert: I'm afraid your playing days are over my friend, but don't worry, you can fall back on your degree in *Gasp!* Communications? Oh dear Lord!
Luchenko: Da, I know I know it phony major. Luchenko learn nothing, nothing!

Sarah Palin official campaign bio.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Trivia team names for the week

• The Infinitely Repeating Airport Egg Salad Sandwich
Steve Blust's Empty Fanny Pack of Dreams*
• OMG: Barack Nvr Txted Me
• Is There Anything Funny About the Situation in Georgia?*
• Joe Biden and the T-t-t-t-train to Victory
• The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuit*
• I Buy All My Clothes from a Traveling Salesman

* Used in actual competition

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Reflections from Virginia

After a weekend of touring and job interviewing here:

• Several letters in the word "Norfolk" are useless. Several others arise mysteriously upon pronunciation.
• Virginia Beach is significantly less heinous than Myrtle Beach.
PETA being based in Nahfik infects the surrounding city with vegetarian-friendly dining options.
• PETA is located on the banks of a river, possibly creating a runoff problem that apparently does not rise to the level of an ethical dilemma.
• Newspaper journalists everywhere are a depressed, downtrodden lot.
• Common sense will tell you to avoid eating an airport egg salad sandwich. Do not ignore this.
• Virginia Beach has Actual Surfing.
• Rarely is there a collective mood on an airplane that welcomes the irreverent gallows humor of the male flight attendant who mistakes the intercom for the microphone at Evening at the Improv.
• Having a baby immediately enters you into a rotating free dinner delivery service program.
• Newspapers are still struggling to understand "the internet"
• Newspapers' plan to save themselves is alarmingly similar to Bush's Iraq strategy circa 2005.
Hampton, Va., is allegedly the most-integrated city in America.
• All the Tribune newspapers are being redesigned to resemble children's picture books.
• Virginia. Effing. Loves. Mixed-use development.
• Serious, weighty, pivotal thinking and decision making will dominate my next few weeks. Heavy drinking is expected to be called upon to lubricate the cogs of introspection.

(photos by me, except for the map, which is from

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cell phone update

Sign on msnbc coverage outside the convention at the Pepsi Center: Bring Back Crystal Pepsi

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Echoes of a Job Prospect

I'm leaving in the morning for a potentially momentous job interview in Virginia that will very likely be the pivot point where I decide whether to stay in newspapers or seek some other yet-to-be-determined writing outlet. It's kinda like that mid-level philosophy class you take in college where you weigh if there are any real career options in the field, or if maybe you'd be better off joining the rest of the slackers learning about Advanced Science Fiction Theory in the American Studies department. Except, um, you know, like a much, much bigger deal.

If I can quote my grizzled, cowboy boot-wearing Arkansas boy, ink-in-his-veins night city editor, after he recently learned about the latest rock slide in the ongoing avalanche of cuts at our newspaper: "I'm trying to remember the mindset I was in when I decided to do journalism for the rest of my life." We later determined that this decision was most likely made in the sixties, and the mindset was the same one that caused him to stand on a swivel chair and swat at large, insectoid panthers he saw floating above his desk while the chords to Pink Floyd's "Meddle" were being painted on a nearby wall by a coverall-wearing garden gnome.

The funny thing is, a year ago, I would have absolutely erupted at the possibility of landing a job at this paper. I even applied there once before, and was benignly jealous when another coworker got a job there instead. Now, with the daily death march that is the Romenesko feed and more and more of our generation feeling like most newspapers have done everything they can to make themselves appear undeserving of our efforts and enthusiasm, it's a dramatically less inspiring landscape.

But who knows -- maybe some people out there are still fighting the good fight, and maybe there is still a tiny spark of hope for the withering embers of that ancient civic-duty minded newsroom soul.

And maybe I'll see swat one of those flying panthers square between its stupid eyes this weekend.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Final Fantasy

What Samus would wear:

What is it about the classic NES that just won't ever fully vacate our collective psyche? For me, I assume the reason is related to having been more or less raised by Link, Dr. Mario and the Elevator Action guy while my parents were off running a crime ring at the local high school with frat boys. OK, that part is not true. Wait, I think that's the plot of River City Ransom. See?

Nintendo basically colonized my brain in the late 80s and never ceded its imperial rule. I have to check the calendar to remember family members' birthdays each year, too often have to look up how to spell simple words like "canceled" and "naseau" and still to this day have to read the instructions each time I make a box of macaroni and cheese, but I can recall in the flash of a finger how to escape the Lost Woods (North, West, South, West ... bitch) and which tombstone hides the Magic Sword. Like anyone from that generation, I'll probably be tapping out the Contra code from my deathbed, long after dementia has taken hold and I couldn't distinguish between a doctor and Battletoad, in a vain attempt to get 29 more chances at life.

This is our blessing, and also our curse. As for the Geekini, it's only a conceptual design by French aritst John Nouanesing and may never end up in stores. The bigger problem of course would be finding a girl willing to wear it, especially considering where the "start" button is located (see below). Hit the select button for a two-player game.

Next steps in Nintendorotica: the vibrating Power Glove, the latex Power Pad, and the full-body Tanooki suit, for the furry crowd.

Waves of Mutilation

WARNING: this post contains discussion of unpleasant body functions.

I've scarified any number of items or body parts to the sea over the years. A rough estimate says this includes at least 10 contact lenses, three necklaces, two rings, too many hair ties to count, unknown amounts of cash, in addition to varying levels of skin, hair and a lot, lot of blood. All these usually are related to surfing, or rather, the many years I spent being tossed into the air and raked across the sea floor up and down the east coast trying to become minimally proficient at surfing.

But something happened to me on the waves this morning that I've never had to deal with before: I threw up.

Tropical Storm Fay is stirring up an impressive amount of wave activity, particularly for the typically flat and joyless Hilton Head surf. So I got up early to catch the tide and joined the dozen or so others who ducked into the strong winds and jumped into the turbulent waters. About an hour in, I started feeling nauseous, so much so that I could barely lie with my stomach on the board without worrying about intestinal reverb. I tried to wait it out but decided to pathetically doggie paddle my board back to the shore, probably looking like a confused kook in the process. It was then that I retched, out of nowhere.

Luckily, this is one of the least embarrassing places I've ever performed the Freshman Flush (higher on that list are various bathrooms at workplaces; a Walgreens parking lot; the outside of a Chinese restaurant when I was 9; in front of our girls' team at the finish line in a cross country race in high school; about every 50 miles along I-95 between Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and Boston last fall [thank you, whiskey]; and, the all-time, still-can't-live-it-down, gold medal holder: the side of my mom's Chrysler Concorde at a toll plaza on the Garden State Parkway on the way back from Medieval Times on my 12th birthday).

The hurl this morning was masked by waves and ocean spray, and it wasn't much more than stomach juices, so I doubt anyone else noticed. The entire situation, however, was disconcerting. I hadn't felt sick earlier that morning. I had a few drinks the night before but was far from hungover. I put my board down next to the dunes, where I sat contemplating this situation for a long while while more surfers and tourists continued arriving at the beach. Possible scenarios:

1) Lack of food -- Dinner on Tuesday night consisted of two Yuenglings and several handfuls of Hsieh's white-cheddar-flavored popcorn at Tropic Thunder. This seemed adequate sustenance at the time. I did not go to bed hungry, at least.

2) Geography-related muscle atrophy -- Living on Hilton Head has surely made me soft. In a place like Jersey or even Maryland, where the waves break with somewhat more consistency and the ocean has more than a 20-inch depth, you actually have to paddle your way through the breakers to reach the lineup -- a process that everyone I've tried to show how to surf has agreed is by far the most difficult and frustrating part. I reference the normally docile Matt Remsberg, lying defeated wearing his new rash guard and clutching onto a 9-foot sponge board like a lost sailor in Santa Monica in 2002, informing the ocean at the top of his lungs that it could go fuck itself as it continued to mockingly push him closer back towards the shore every minute. In Hilton Head, it's rare there's even any outside waves to find your way to. Even if there were, the water is usually so shallow you would look ridiculous paddling your way out, with your head level to some Ohio tourist's ankles.
Facing an actual strong current and steady sets required calling upon muscles that have not been used in some time, and this exertion, combined with aforementioned lack of even a sampling of the 1,200-calorie Michael Phelps diet, may have caused the stomach to erupt in sudden revolt.

3) Horrible, ghastly, job-related depression -- You know that scene in Titanic where the ship's sinking fast and the only ones left on board are the band? I'm pretty sure I'm that band's roadie at this point. In the span of one week, we found out McClatchy was freezing wages for a year, that more job cuts are expected and that three (EDIT: Now four, as of Thursday) key staff members at our sister paper The Beaufort Gazette including the executive editor, are quitting, likely not to be replaced. The lower-level staff resignations have been coming hot and fast since then, creating more positions that probably won't get filled. To recap: the strategy to save newspapers and make them profitable again is to hire fewer people, offer them less money and give them fewer resources and less space to work with. This is similar to the Milwaukee Brewers' strategy to win more games this year by only using seven players, giving them whiffle ball bats to play with and making them sell hot dogs in the stands in between innings.

I, too, am debating quitting and making the next few months until my lease runs out more profitable by waiting tables, cleaning toilets, catching alligators or selling fake diplomas via e-mail. Surely this nest of ill-tidings could easily manifest itself in unpleasant gastro-intestinal ways.

4) The forest for the trees -- I've been experiencing unhealthy mental necrophilia in the past few weeks about the breakup with Andy, particularly after spending a weekend at home amid the forest of childhood friends turned into husbands, wives, parents, PTA members and broad-smiling, contented adults, when all I can do is stare up and wonder how the tree canopy grows so fast. Then I keep poking and prodding at fresh scabs and wondering if I'll ever be lonely enough to look back and classify this as the foundations of a towering pile of regret.

I sat on the board for a little while longer before finally deciding it was probably the second scenario that caused the unexpected upchuck. It was nearing 10:30, about half an hour before the tide turned and the waves would start to dissipate. I strapped my leash back on my leg and marched into the churning ocean. A slight nausea returned when I pressed my stomach to the board, and my biceps were screaming for relief with much paddling left to do before getting to the line up. But I was not leaving without the satisfaction of sliding down at least one decent wave, to feel that ocean rhythm and it's overpowering force rise up and propel the board on its own course, completely indifferent to all the throw-up, contact lenses and blood it claimed from me over the years.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Walt Disney's Sin City

Something about this feels so horribly wrong. And yet, another, bustier, more sensual part feels oh-so-right. I always found Ariel kinda hot. Is that weird? Not weird because she's a cartoon, but because she's half fish. That's also kinda hot in its own way too. I am clearly not Disney's target demographic.

Images via notafishinglure, by artist Curt Rapala.

Related: Remember all those hidden Disney sex messages that would cause you to wear out the VCR while trying to convince your friends they were real? That was fun. VCRs, I mean, not the sex thing. What a crazy technology that was. Maybe there's a VCR plant hiring somewhere. It's got to be a more promising career than newspapers.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Nothing like coming back from a weekend away to find the latest in our company's ongoing series of Memos From the Funtime Happiness Police. I've edited out the corporate doublespeak and treacle below.

DATE: August 14, 2008
TO: All Employees
FROM: (Publisher)
SUBJECT: Wage Freeze

economic downturn ... unprecedented negative effect on revenues ... our financial health. ... control expenses.

... implementing an across-the-board, one-year wage freeze effective Sept. 1, 2008

... avoided taking this step as long as possible .... stress on your personal expenses ... you are working hard to adapt to our changing business model. ... we hope we can continue to count on you ... difficult period. ... confident ... cost control measures ... financially healthy company in the future.

Translation: Hooray newspapers!

We got a shipment of new reporters notebooks today and they came with a few free black notebook holders. The boss said they sent us these to try to entice us to buy more of them. Michael Shapiro said, "But this will come in handy when I start working in a restaurant at nights."

The boss looked at him and said, "Well, yeah, it would."

Yeah indeed.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Trivia team names for the week

-Sometimes Love Is Large and Bearded
-Adam Carroll's Bad-Ass Quilt
-Snot Rice
-Failed Olympic Ladder Ball Athletes
-Isaac Hayes Finally Got the Shaft
-For the Love of God, Someone Protect Samuel L. Jackson
-Not for Adult Use, and Other Warnings that Go Unheeded When 90 Beers are Involved
-Jeff Tweedy's Mangled Face on a T Shirt

Friday, August 8, 2008

Counting Down the Hours: Ted Leo's Southern Mystery Tour

What's that sound? Oh, don't mind me -- it's just the sound of MY HEAD EXPLODING.

No, gentle reader, this is not some photoshopped chicanery by malicious interweb trolls out to shatter my already fragile psyche. This is true, verified and confirmed by all sorts of PR people and club managers. Ted Leo, TED FREAKIN LEO, is booked to come to posh, docile little Hilton Head Island. You must immerse yourself in perspective to fully comprehend this. Several items to consider:

1) In the three years I've been here, musical acts on Hilton Head have included:
-Hootie and the Blowfish (x2)
-Blues Traveler (x2)
-Spin Doctors
-George Clinton
-Ride the Lightning (Metallica cover band)
-Kenny Rogers
-Eduardo Dinero (BKA Eddie Money)*
-Black Light Burns
-Dionne Warwick
-Brian Howe

2) A typical playlist at an island bar consists of the following, either in recorded or live cover version:
"Sweet Home Alabama"
"Cheeseburger in Paradise"
"That Was a Crazy Game of Poker"
"Don't Cha"
"The Thong Song"
"Let the Good Times Roll"
"Sweet Home Alabama"
Various by Linkin Park
The latest Usher song
The latest Kid Rock song
"Piano Man"
"Hollaback Girl"
"Sweet Home Alabama"
"Piano Man"
"Bad Day"
"Brown Eyed Girl"
"Sweet Home Alabama" into "Cheeseburger in Paradise"
"Back in Black"
"You're Beautiful"

Put that playlist into your headPod and hit repeat. Allow it to play for 625 days straight, and you get the picture.

3) Approximate number of people on Hilton Head who know of Ted Leo's existence: 8
Approximate number of people outside The Island Packet who know of Ted Leo's existence: 2
(margin of error +/- 2)

4) Activities of the average Ted Leo fan: leftist political protests; music blogging; purchasing pomade for mohawk; cataloging Joe Strummer b-side discs; checking Barack Obama's Twitter page.
Activities of average Hilton Head resident: golfing, yacht shopping, aging, complaining about illegal immigrants; polishing "W '04" bumper sticker; stopping randomly in the fast lane on major highways; remembering things the way they used to be; taking family pictures in khaki pants and white T-shirts on the beach.

All this adds up to a pretty ridiculously improbable appearance for Teddy and his crew. They just got done playing in front of thousands at sold-out shows at MSG and elsewhere opening for Pearl Jam. Now they're going to play in front of four local newspaper staff writers and maybe a handful of state-line jumping hipsters from Savannah. Jawsome.

I don't understand it, but goddamnit am I excited for it. We figure Ted is going to be forced to hang out with us after the show, because, let's face it: what else is he gonna do? The Wild Wing Cafe is not, we can be certain, where the rude boys have gone.

Column: What's a loud band like you doing in a nice place like this?
Interview with Ted Leo, when he toured through Orlando and Atlanta in 2007

* You need to read this interview my roommate did with Eddie Money, for this quote alone:
Q. How often are you on the road?
A. I'm on the road every weekend if I can help it. Everyone in the band has kids and they're divorced so everyone's miserable. So if they didn't work for me they'd go work for Styx or R.E.O. (Speedwagon). I try to keep the band happening.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

10 mispro-nownciations that make you sound stoopid

If you're a word person, hearing someone completely verbally bludgeon the English language with their uninformed tongue is the equivalent of hearing the devil's nails raked against the chalkboard of your soul. I don't know how many times I've cringed hearing someone talk about a car called a "Jag-wire" instead of "Jag-war," whereas I'm pretty sure Jag-Wire is the internet streaming radio station for Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Then there's the drinking game guaranteed to make you drunk enough to pee in the closet if you watch the State of the Union address and take a shot every time Dubya's drops verbal NU-cu-lar bombs. You'd think someone would have pulled him aside sometime in the past eight years and said, "hey, boss, here's some flash cards. See if you can get to NU-clee-er by day 1,200, maybe?"

Tech Republic recently ran a list of 10 mispronounciations that make you sound stupid. Good reading for anyone who was suppose to buy some jewelry this February.

My ultimate pet peeve to add to the list is Pulitzer. The name of the top prize in journalism is not "PEWL-itzer," despite how many times you hear this mangled in movies about journalism. You'd be surprised at how many actual journalists get this wrong too. It's a double chalk-board-scratch-gag-inducing response every time I hear it from a journalist, who should know better, and who should at least make it his or her responsibility to figure it out.

One of my J-school teachers gave a good way to remember it. Joseph Pulitzer was always being picked on for his big nose. "Pull it, sir," he'd say.

Don't believe me? Primary source on your face!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

You'll Only Read This Post Because You Hate It

It's fun to pick on the hipsters. Go on, try it --- follow one of them from your local PBR dispensary as they bike down to the farmer's market to cram their messenger bag full of local, organic groceries while listening to an album leak on their iPod by a band you can't even pronounce. See, good fun, right? If you're a hipster yourself, you can still do this, because the Hipster Code of Irony requires that at no point you recognize the value of the subculture you're a part of, or that you at any point are actually part of a subculture. This is alternately known as the "I Only Wear This T-Shirt Because I Hate It" Theorem.

The bashing of hipsters (like any other predictable subset of society; see also "Dude Where's My Boat?" style) is pretty much ever-present, and, truth be told, often times warranted. Example: the grounds of Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2006, watching girls attempt to out-hipster each other with increasingly oversized sunglasses so large I swear I saw one girl lose balance and take a face plant into a pile of Parliament butts.
Example of when it's not warranted: summer of 04, Barry Schwartz and I going to get tickets for Ted Leo at The Black Cat in DC. As we walked up, the big metal door rolls up and a man looking like Iggy Pop, except more bedraggled, standing behind the door stuck his hands up to his forehead to shield his face from the sun, the brightness of which was clearly causing himself some discomfort. "F---ing good morning," he murmured, shrinking back into the darkness of the club. Barry and I looked at our watches — it was 6 p.m. Barry and I shared a look of awe that said simply: "Punk rock."

The problem is, no one in the history of time has ever actually admitted to being a hipster. Doing so would be so completely anathema to the idea of hipster they'd probably take away your Soulseek account immediately. The term is so nebulous that it's applied to anyone who wears tight shirts, or anyone who is mildly cynical about pop culture. In practice, it's such a big tent that anytime someone criticizes hipster culture, it's usually just representative of the other end of the spectrum. "I can pick on your tight jeans because I don't wear them, even though I have a blog I use to cynically tear apart other people." Snark begets snark and the snake keeps eating its tail. Until the tail becomes part of the mainstream culture. Then that snake is sooo over it.

So that's why the following is kind of ridiculous. Adbusters, that anti-commercial publication that costs $6 and is usually buried deep in the Barnes and Noble rack way behind Out Magazine and The Woman Astronomer, ran a cover story this month titled "Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization." The article breaks down the hipster culture into tiny bite-sized caricatures resembling a Webster's definition of the term. Surely Adbusters would be up in arms if another publication took such reductionist liberties describing the anti-capitalist movement.

Author Douglas Haddow writes:

An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the “hipster” – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.


But it is rare, if not impossible, to find an individual who will proclaim themself a proud hipster. It’s an odd dance of self-identity – adamantly denying your existence while wearing clearly defined symbols that proclaims it.

This leads to the question: if the people behind Adbusters aren't hipsters, then who the phuck is? If the people who disdain every single element of commercial culture (including Chucks, the fundamental element of any hipster wardrobe) and shun the mainstream aren't paragons of the most elite form of hipsters, then no one is.

In reality, the reason hipster as a classification is so loathed — yet so lacking in self-identified membership — is that it's a lazy way to describe anyone who took a sharp left turn when everyone else was funneling into the mainstream classroom line. Is there a term for the people behind Adbusters (asides from pinkos, anarchists and, um, boundless contrarians)? Not really. Is there a term for people who dress in thrift store clothes because it's cheaper, not because it mimics the Urban Outfitters look? Not yet. And what about Chucks? CAN'T I JUST LOVE MY CHUCKS AND BE DONE WITH IT?!?! Apparently not.

The point is, hipster isn't a defined spectrum of tastes with specific ingress and egress points, like how metalhead is framed somewhere between Cemetery Gates and rabid, Ozzfest-canceling violence. The term hipster has a starting point — somewhere around anti-commercialism, admittedly traversing a predictable style of iron-on irony that gets copied in MTV2 videos — but without a final terminus. It kinda spans eternally to the side, taking in all the tattooed, wanderlust freaks and all the kids searching for cosmic meaning at the bottom of an iPod playlist, snarking at one another for acting too much the part in the meantime. Every now and then, they all meet up at Mousetrap at the Black Cat and pretend, just for one night, that being young and interesting and intelligent isn't a reason not to dance with a stranger. They're free for the moment to make a sincere request to, just this once, hear "Modern Love" twice in one night.

Not that all this ranting means I consider myself a hipster. I would never stoop so low.

McSweeney's Rejects Mike Mussina's Seventh Consecutive Submission

Oh Mike Mussina, I feel your pain.

Mussina's past submissions include "Insults That Would Only Work If You Were Talking To The Leucadendron Genus Of Plants," "Sequel Titles To Famous Revolutionary War Battles," and "Companies With Hard-To-Remember 1-800 Numbers," which he admits he built around the idea of one of the examples being "8347826, Inc."

The kicker:

Mussina plans to send his latest rejected McSweeney's submission to the New Yorker's "Shouts & Murmurs" section, which has published three of Mussina's pieces in the past two months.