I went on a small tear at the work blog Monday on a piece by Jim Fallows at Atlantic - spurred by the term “Is a thing” in the headline. I used to get hives when I saw the phrase “in the wild” to describe the appearance of a piece of technology in stores; I have the same reaction to “so (XX) is a thing” now. I was also annoyed by the author’s discovery that people out in the great expanse of America - the part outside the Bosnywash megapolis - have giant lawn tractors. So I snarked it up, posted, went on with the day, checked my mail, and hello, there’s Mr. Fallows kindly pointing to some other pieces in his series that contradicted my assumptions about parachute journalism, or dropping into Real America to learn something. Very nice letter.

So now I’m abashed and chastened, and we have a few more letters, and I’ll write an update at the work blog tomorrow.

Reminds me why I laid off screedy fiskings. Partly because the unbelievably profane hate mail got tiresome, and partly because I just got tired of pointing out that someone was wrong on the Internet.

But sometimes, well, someone is wrong on the Internet, or a Big Name does something so smug and contemptuous AND unimaginative you just can’t resist. This was not the case with Mr. Fallows, though. End of topic.

Apropos of nothing, let's wander over to see what John Gruber is saying at Daring Fireball!

I read the site daily, delete the bookmark once or twice a year after some particularly inane piece of political commentary (people who don't share his opinions are bad, stupid people, barely worth the energy it takes for his dendrites to pass along a reaction). Then I reenlist because he’s very good on the subject of Apple, and writes excellent reviews of their software, products, and strategies.

He also gets away with banal punch-the-clock posts like this:

The Gold iPhone 5S
Rene Ritchie:
"So, technologically, it wouldn’t be hard for Apple to make a gold iPhone. But commercially, what would be the motivation?
Given how popular gold is as an aftermarket option for color-treatments, and how many gold cases there are — including but certainly not limited to the Asian markets — it could simply be the decision to offer supply where there’s demand."

Can’t say I’m a fan of gold, but it’s clear many people are.

Okay. Noted. By the time I read that I'd come across a half-dozen Gold iPhone pieces, and had learned about the shade of gold it might have, the appeal of the unit in Asian markets, the fate of an earlier Apple gold-hued product, and so on. Anyway, a subsequent item: Then:

‘Why We Talk in Tongues’ 

Hard to believe The New York Times ran this piece of claptrap on their op-ed page. “We” don’t speak in tongues; religious nutjobs do, and they do it because they believe in superstitious nonsense. I’ll bet my bottom dollar that there is a high correlation between tongue-speakers and climate change deniers and creationist “science” school curriculum pushers — people who are doing real and genuine harm to our society and the planet.

This is why I hate the “You” and “We” construct in headlines. “Why People Talk in Tongues” is more inviting, because it reaches those who don’t, but might have curiosity about the topic.

Ah, but this: religious nutjobs do, and they do it because they believe in superstitious nonsense. They are doing real and genuine harm to society and the planet by the simple act of being “climate change deniers.” Anyway, did you learn anything from that entry, other than Gruber doesn’t like religion and makes broad assumptions about people he doesn’t know and gets rumplestiltsky when the hallowed Times passes along a piece of religious commentary written by a believer? No, you didn't learn a thing.

Let’s take a look at the article itself. Unless you regard the concept of "religious

There are, broadly speaking, two kinds of Christian prayer practice, beyond rote recitation. “Apophatic” prayer, which looks a lot like meditation and mindfulness, asks one to still the mind and disengage from thought. The classic example is the 14th century “Cloud of Unknowing,” a monastic text whose anonymous author advised: “Thought cannot comprehend God. And so, I prefer to abandon all I can know, choosing rather to love him who I cannot know.”


The apophatic method is probably more effective in shifting attention from the everyday, but harder to achieve. That seems to be what the fifth-century monk Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite meant when he described kataphatic prayer as a steppingstone for those who could not pray in other ways. Many of us know people who have tried to meditate and failed, defeated by thoughts that refused to stay put — what skilled practitioners call “monkey mind.”

Speaking in tongues - which the author ties to the kataphatic idea - apparently helps reach a state where meditation is easier. Now, you can think all of this is nonsense if you wish, but saying it isn’t knowledge worth having is like saying it’s useless to know that Pliny the Elder thought amber came from the urine of lynxes. It isn’t. It’s context; it’s information.

And there’s little side notes like “Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.” Eh? Was this monk so often taken for Dionysius he had to append “Pseudo” to his name to deal with constant inquiries? (Here's Wikipedia, if you’re curious, on the fellow.)

By the way, the article begins thus:

LAST month I was in Accra, Ghana, to learn more about the African version of the new charismatic Christian churches that have become so popular in the United States and are now proliferating in sub-Saharan Africa, especially Ghana and Nigeria. What struck me was how much people spoke in tongues: language-like sounds (usually, repeated phonemes from the speaker’s own language) thought by those who use them to be a language God knows but the speaker does not.

Since the main example of tongue-talkers in the piece are Africans, you can only presume that Gruber is contemptuous of other cultures and, in this case, since he singles out a piece that discusses Africa, he is racist, or at least comfortable with people who are and hence want nothing to do with efforts to help the continent, and these are the people who are doing real and genuine harm to society and the planet.

See how easy that is? Everything’s just so much simpler when you know everything, and can extrapolate the true meaning from a cursory glance.

Like I did with Fallows today, in other words.



So no one's perfect. Imagine that. Let's go back to the comforting world of the past, supine and helpless before us:

A look at old ads and designs, intended to pass along a small portion of understanding about something you'd never considered before, usually for good reason. Not a thing learned here will apply to anything you do today, which is why it's necessary. Every day needs useless information.


This week’s Elsie, of course, it’s about Elmer’s overreaction.

This week’s Elsie, of course, it’s about Elmer’s overreaction. It’s always about Elmer’s overreaction, often with angry shouts about leaving the family. It must have been hell growing up in that household, what with Dad exploding every day and threatening to abandon them. In this case, he’s set off by the imminent visit of Elsie’s mother, but really, it’s just the latest excuse.

The number of times he threatens to leave, you'd think he'd invest in some luggage. But no. Hobo bindle.


It’s bonded for quality!

Whatever that means. The "Famous Surety Company", which is in the business to approve of the quality of carbonated water, is not named, possibly at their request. The name’s a bit confusing, expecting you to mispronounce “effervesce,” but that’s a great logo. It looks cool and refreshing. The bottle makes you thirsty. There's a reason bottled water doesn't come in red.

I say that just so people will spend time googling around to prove me wrong. Don't bother!

Can’t find anything on it anywhere, aside from a wikipedia piece that suggested the brand was still used in South America. There was no link, except to a page about the deleted Evervess page, which lead to one of those long, complicated threads about page modification that opens up the vistas of a truly hellish world. People sitting around having vicious arguments about semi-colons on a page about an extinct caterpillar.


Another look at that fine old label:

Preferred Stock: it's a type of financial instrument. Or the supply of beer that people prefer. Turns out that selling the beer that people do not prefer wasn't a winning strategy; after a few meetings, they released the Preferred stock to the market, and noted the bottles accordingly.

Which sells the beer better: this one . . .

. . . or the more lavish and expensive one?


From the company that made everyone a photographer, and made substantially fewer of them filmmakers, a late-50s summer round-up of the cameras you could purchase for memory preservation. I love this one:

Get as close as five feet! Once you’ve turned the pictures into slides, bore all your friends and relations with one of these:

$149? That was about $1200 then. For a slide projector. Shows you how seriously people took the genre, until they didn’t, anymore. Why? Nothing superior came along. People just got tired of putting up the screen and getting the projector out, and kids associated it with boredom and didn’t clamor for their own when they grew up.


Who’s developed this 17-step thing? SCIENCE, that’s who.

Yes, SCIENCE just got together and invented it. The disembodied authority head says so! Better than that: they meet a principle approved by an Official Doctors’ Committee. Trouble was, you had to take several a day to get the effect, which explains the subsequent popularity of a supplement that had it all in concentrated form. Its name?

One-a-Day. Explains that a little better, eh?

After you’ve swallowed your STAMS, swish with . . .


It was a liquid toothpaste, ahead of its time. Daub the gel on your brush and work away.

They do seem happy about grinding cavities in their own teeth, though; probably not as much trouble as grinding them in someone else's.

That's it for today; new Comic Sins, and the usual usual in the usual places. Have a grand day!





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