I like and admire Jeff Jarvis, because he’s a smart guy, unsparing in his evaluation of modern media failure, and uncommonly perspicacious about the future of media. A rare old-media guy who got it early on and managed to build a name as an evangelizer without sounding like someone who got eased out the corner office and spent his time on steepled-finger ruminations delivered to executives who wanted to know everything was going to be okay. I had lunch with him a few years ago, and it was a race to see who could talk faster. I think I had three strokes before dessert came.

That said, this business about mainstreaming the effenheimer in political discourse is just juvenile. The whole *f***youwashington hashtag. Please. As satisfying as it may be to vent, to use the naughty words and thrill to the transgressive power of objecting words that make nuns sad into the political discourse, there’s no stopping this. Eventually the failure to use the naughty words becomes a sign of inauthenticity, not restraint. Eventually the politician who unloads an eff-bomb in a public speech is applauded for speaking the Language of the People. Eventually the ante gets upped. Mainstream the effenheimer, and there’s a long line of words itching for a shot in the spotlight.

I don’t see the point. I don’t see the good in it. As I’ve said for a long time, I expect some day I’ll see the king-hell naughty words on a billboard. But it’s just a word, man; it’s only our fear of it that gives it power. Fine. Craft the most ornate, baroque, string of foul language you can conceive, and tell it to your child, your mother, your priest – or a stranger. Pity them if they don’t understand that they’re just words. It always surprises me that people who make their living with words, people who prize the preciseness of language, people who hone their skill with the scapel, choose to cheer the brickbat. The crass demotic in the hands of a skilled writer has great power, but only if it’s doled out with eyedroppers, not beer barrels.

Yes, yes, it’s hypocritical – why, the word is used in private; why not in public? That’s like saying a fellow handles his John Thomas in the loo, so why shouldn’t he wave it about on the street corner? If you think it’s just words, just sounds, phonemes in need of demystification, imagine you’re with your kid, and some fellow wanders up, says well Eff me, you’re effing such and such, is this your effing kid? You’re an effing cute one, you little effer. Call me Effing Bob. Go on, say it; just words, after all.

Do you prod your kid to be polite? Go on, say it, call him Effing Bob. It’s just words.

One more thing, Jeff: if you’re going to be a new media guru, change your effing website so it doesn’t look like a 2000-effing-five blogger template. Learn Photoshop, for eff’s sake.

For all that, his remarks about the nature of the hashtag are, as I might expect, spot on.

The beauty of a hashtag is that no one can control it.

A hashtag is not like a marketing, media, or political message, whose creator thinks it can be created and controlled. It is not like the namespace in domains, on Facebook and Google+, or in trademarks, for anyone can use a hashtag without permission or payment. It’s not like a dictionary with one definition. It’s not like a word on an FCC list that prohibits or chills its use.

A hashtag is open and profoundly democratic. People gather around a hashtag. They salute it and spread it or ignore it and let it wither. They imbue it with their own meaning. The creator quickly and inevitably loses control of it.

All true. What the #f***youwashington hashtag accomplished, I can’t tell. From what I read it was like a hundred thousand shaken soda bottles opened. Lots of fizz. Things got wet and sticky. It’s possible someone burst into the President’s office and said “sir, this hashtag is trending. I think you should take a look at this.” But last time I looked, #rejectedluckycharmsmarshmallowshapes had more action. I don’t think the House’s debt-ceiling bill addresses the issue.

Tweeted something the other day: preferred Alfred Hitchcock Presents to Twilight Zone. Can o’ worms, that. Both are good. Yes. But perhaps a few like the latter because they have memories of discovering the show, and being entranced with the music, Serling himself, the downbeat messages, the sci-fi twists. All good, but the things that endeared the show to a teen geek are the things that curdled so many of its stories. Misanthropy, fatalism, pessimism, and straw-man archetypes stuffed into the armor of recognizable stereotypes. Hitchcock is much more subtle; it handled humor much better, and it dealt with grown-ups, not comic-book conceptions. It may have been the best anthology show of them all.

Everyone knows the opening music, Funeral for a Marionette – mocking, lurching, grotesque. But it’s the title music for the episodes that always gave a me a chill: a chord of dread on the strings, muffled timpani, a barbed stab of a trumpet.

Things I didn’t know, from wikipedia:

At least two versions of the opening were shot for every episode. A version intended for the American audience would often spoof a recent popular commercial or poke fun at the sponsor, leading into the commercial. An alternative version for European audiences would instead include jokes at the expense of Americans in general. For later seasons, opening remarks were also filmed with Hitchcock speaking in French and German for the show’s international presentations, reflecting his real-life fluency in both languages.

Hitchcock’s digs at the sponsors were far more subversive than anything the Twilight Zone ever did.

Kid had a doctor’s appointment today. I was pretty sure it would be a Shot Appointment,
since it had been a few years since the last jab, and she’s due for a tetanus shot. The prospect of a Shot looms over every one of these things when you’re a kid. I remember one hellacious session of pokery with inch-wide serrated needles, or so it seemed; the nurse tried to take my mind off it by telling me to look into a little box, and telling me when the colors changed. They were blue and then they were OUCH red. Told daughter this tale, and she laughed at the crudeness of it all. Like anything could take your mind off a SHOT.

When we got to the doctor’s office I was handed a sheaf of papers: a pamphlet about Growing from A Girl Into a Woman, or something like that; I’m sure the actual wording wasn’t so parasitical. It had 80s clip art on the front and medical illustrations of the inner naughty bits, including the female parts that always look like some strange creature with its arms outstretched in flight. She read it with gathering horror. The rest of the papers concerned allergic reactions to shots, which vary from Mild to Seizures That Can Wear Right Through the Carpet, and I realized there would be many shots today.

The first was nothing; over before she knew it. When the second was being prepared, I got out my iPhone, which caused her to shift to tween annoyance: a picture? Of this you’re going to take a picture? JAB OUCH but it was mild. I flipped the camera around so she could see herself in the screen, and said “here’s what you look like getting a shot,” and pushed the screen-capture buttons so the screen flashed for a second. JAB.

On the way out of the doctor’s office she asked if she could see the picture, and I said sure. Know why I did that? “So I could see myself getting a shot.” No. It was like looking into the box to see when the color changed.

She grinned. Oh. Right.

Off to Target to get something as a reward. C’mon, it’s the deal. You’re a kid, you get a shot, there’s compensation – mainly because you promised it before, as something to salve the dread. We went to the toy aisle, where once again I protested the lack of Acer in die-cast form. You know:

Yes, I bought it on Amazon. Every Pacer owner loves the fact that there’s a Pacer in Cars 2. There was also a new version of Jesse from Toy Story, Stoner Jesse:

She got a Pokemon figurine, and at the checkout she found some sugar-free gum: Apple Pie Flavor. We had a stick and pronounced it spectacular and quite lifelike, really. Walking out into the late afternoon of a late July day, enjoying our gum, shots over, together: you never think these will be the best moments of your life, but they are.

And we talked about gum all the way home. Well, I did. How there used to be only a few flavors, like Spearmint and Doublemint, Clove, Black Jack, Scented Gum (yes, Scented Gum; a thirties product, still around.
In my childhood there was Juicy Fruit, noted for its quick fade into cudhood, and the novelty of Stripe, which came in fruit flavors, and was, indeed, striped. Also known for breaking into shards in your mouth right away. Bazooka Joe was popular, partly because it had comics of a kid who’d lost an eye, but true gum enthusiasts knew the delicate charms of Fleer, the Filet Mignon of pink bubble gum. And so we chattered on until home.

Couldn’t wait to tell Mom she got three shots.

Interesting point: she identified one of the characters on the bandage as “Woodstock,” even though I figured she’d had little exposure to Peanuts – or “Snoopy,” as she called the strip. (My dad called the strip “Charlie Brown.”) She said she read him in the comics, and I remembered she’s been reading the comics for a while now, with the same expression everyone has:

Rote joyless obligation.

Column night, so. This. Also: TV Guide 1968, with a plethora of secret little links to give you hours of amusement. It’s HERE. Enjoy! See you around.


68 Responses to Jiggery Effin’ Pokery

  1. pentamom says:

    Friend of mine — elder in my church, in fact — works in brokerage. Some years ago he started getting management flack for not using “words” like the other guys. He wasn’t “real.” Thing is, that was real him. He was raised in a home where such language wasn’t used, didn’t use it himself, wasn’t restraining himself — it just wasn’t part of his speech pattern.

    I wonder how long it will be before that becomes common — that failure to use “words” even in professional situations marks someone off as undesirable, rather than the opposite.

  2. gene dillenburg says:

    Juicy Fruit was the best. Over-the-top sweet. Mom called it “too sweet.” We kids looked at each other in confusion — those two words, they make no sense when put together like that…

    Never got a reward for getting a shot. You got a reward for doing something good, special, above-and-beyond. A shot was mandatory, required, an unspoken assumption. Like going to church or going to school, it wasn’t something you “had” to do; it was something you did — no questions asked.

  3. [...] we know that Twitter is a stream with limited attention so I wanted to bring special attention to today’s post on James Lileks’ Bleat where he takes down Jeff Jarvis’ current profane political [...]

  4. JohnW says:

    bgbear says

    “I believe Lileks was referring to the illustrations of inner organs as looking like “creatures”. Most likely uterus and fallopian tube illustrations.”
    What I want to know is why on Earth Chrysler feels compelled put them on the front of all their pickups.

  5. hpoulter says:


    Thanks! Interesting background on a visually astonishing film. I plan to watch it again, with frequent pauses, to pick up more detail. Interesting how they used a hidden camera in a panel truck to get people’s natural reactions (to actors running around with guns?)

  6. rivlax says:

    Used to read Jarvis every day, back in the early aughts. Then had an email exchange with him (ironically, it was about some coding problems on his first web site) that made me never return. Won’t go into the reasons. Suffice it to say that I thought he acted, well, like he writes.

    About shots, being an Army brat, I’ve had my share. You never went overseas without getting a whole raft of shots. These were all documented on your “shot record,” a yellow, folded form with doctors handwriting from all the places in the world that you had lived. It let the docs at your next base know where you stood, shot wise. God forbid that your parents misplaced or lost your shot record. It meant you had to get the ALL again. This happened to more than a few of my friends. When I smell rubbing alcohol in any context, it makes me think of needles.

  7. GardenStater says:

    When I was a lad, I’d see “Naked City” in the weekly TV listings, and thought it was…well, naked people. In a city.

    Sadly, it came on past my bedtime, so I never got to see it.

  8. Looks like the italics were supplied in the last couple of sentences of this post by OGH. Even the sidebar and menu contents are in italics.

  9. MJBirch says:

    Ah, the f-bomb. When I lived in an apartment directly below four men college students, I experienced a veritable blitz of that unjustly overused word. They were loud, inconsiderate and quarrelsome. Most of their arguments degenerated into two sentence duels:

    You f’ing did so!
    I f’ing did not! (repeat infinitely)

    I had to be at work by eight in the morning and I bitterly resented such learned debate at 3 am, so I would go into the hallway and yell at them to pipe down. The only time I ever had any effect was when I implored them to give the F work a rest. “If you only did it as often as you SAID it, you’d be TOO TIRED to make this much racket!”

    Silence. They’re probably still trying to figure out what I said.

  10. CaliforniaJeff says:

    From Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1987):

    SPOCK: Your use of language has altered since our arrival. It is currently laced with,… shall I say,… more colourful metaphors. “Double dumb ass on you”… and so forth.
    KIRK: You mean profanity. That’s simply the way they talk here. Nobody pays any attention to you if you don’t swear every other word. You’ll find it in all the literature of the period.
    SPOCK: For example?
    KIRK: Oh, the collective works of Jacqueline Susann. The novels of Harold Robbins.
    SPOCK: Ah!… “The giants.”

    That’s 20 years ago, and yes, it’s gotten coarser since then. In my suburban public high school, one can’t walk across the campus at lunch without having to run a gauntlet of obscenity. Most of the detentions students receive in my class are for profanity. It’s so reflexive with many that I get repeat offenders, who often don’t realize what has come out of their mouths five seconds before.

    I find that consistent operant conditioning (more detentions) usually helps them develop the skill to shift linguistic gears when they enter my room.

    At least my generation had the decency to hide our obscenity from authoritative adults, reserving it for our world. These kids are marinated in vulgarity. And so we slouch toward Gomorrah.

    pentamom said:I wonder how long it will be before that becomes common — that failure to use “words” even in professional situations marks someone off as undesirable, rather than the opposite.

    Farther along this (obscenity is mainstream) cycle, people like your friend will be seen as the uncommon man, and the qualities of his character will stand out all the more.

    Obscenity as authenticity in polite society? No. Lack of sophistication.

    “Polite society.” Now there’s a concept.

  11. S.T. Mum says:

    “The amount of curse words a person uses is inversely proportionate to his intelligence.”
    Don’t remember where that came from. Guess you can tell I don’t curse much; when I do, people who know me make the Sign of the Cross and back away slowly. I got a co-worker to stop using the s**t word for things, though. “WHO PUT THIS S**T ON MY CHAIR!!!” she would bellow, to which one day I replied, “I don’t know, but I put mine in the toilet.”

    I agree with James; the Naughty Bits do look like some sort of creature (male AND female). Think when I was in school, we (girls) were shown a short made by the Disney people about Becoming a Young Lady.

  12. MJBirch says:

    S.T. Mum! Oh, I remember that film! The boys were sent to the playground for the duration!

  13. Draybee says:

    I remember getting my Rubella shot. It was administered by something that looked like a nail gun.

    According to a book I read once, Charles Schulz hated the title “Peanuts” which was assigned early on by the syndicate that ran the strip. Personally, I call it “Lucy” ’cause she’s my favorite character.

  14. S.T. Mum says:

    re Draybee: Is it our imaginations, or were needles truly larger when us older folks were small? Those of us with adult children should ask how big the needles that they were given seemed to be.

    I also read that Schulz hated the title “Peanuts.” (Think he wanted to call it “Li’l folks”) And I used to think Peanuts was the character I later learned was Linus.

  15. Bob Lipton says:

    Yes, needles were larger. I spoke with my doctor about this. Needles were larger and the fluid in them was denser, which made lumps and bumps.


  16. chrisbcritter says:

    @CaliforniaJeff, besides the swearing, my teachers would be on my case if I wrote “run the gauntlet” rather than “run the gantlet“, no matter how that Eastwood movie had spelled it…

  17. Vlad the Impala says:

    My favorite curse story: A friend of mine with a couple childrens he’s been trying to introduce to politeness, still has a serious colorful language addiction.

    After he got done cursing colorfully at the car ahead that just cut him off, he said, “Stupid f***ing car!”

    From the back, he hears a little voice say, “Daddy, we don’t say stupid.”

    “Yes, dear, you’re right, won’t do it again…” (whew!)

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