Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Santa Got His Emmy

Okay, don't laugh. I won an Emmy on Saturday. Was I in L.A. partying with Don Draper and the cast of Mad Men? No, I was at the National Television Academy's Upper Midwest Chapter Awards Gala. That's a regional outlet of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which does the Emmys.

Every year, the NTA gives away about 100 awards for excellence in television journalism (the 35W Bridge collapse had several of its own categories, to give you a sense of the scope). My friend and video collaborator, Tyler Richter, found an obscure non-TV category called "Online Marketing Initiative, Independent" (that's 41D), and entered "Santa Lost His Mojo," our campy music video/short film/website developed as a holiday promotion for my former agency last year.

When the magic moment came, what seemed like 9 hours into the ceremony, it was announced that we had, indeed, defeated "Experience Eagan" and "Sutherland, the Killer Next Door." And so, yes, we won an Emmy. A regional Emmy. Literally, one Emmy. Which, since Tyler did the application, he gets to keep.

Me, I have to figure out how to order one for myself... and pay for it. Watch your back, Steve Carell!

P.S. Special thanks to Tyler "Attack Ad" Richter, Brian Tard Larson, pfoser, Shaniqua Manogue, Pat Whiteboard Rosenstiel, "Ted for the Border" Wright, Stephen Ambrose Johnson, and Kevin Shrink Sawyer. And now, the best worst song I've ever written:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Son Is Not Normal

So about a month ago, James (5) said he wanted to write a book. I took some scrap paper and stapled it together to simulate a book, and he started writing. This is the result.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

LangAlert: Look Who's Looking


While the word "look" has been on the LangAlert langdar for several months now, its use has officially reached epidemic proportions--growing in, but spreading far beyond, the incubator of insipid political rhetoric. It's time to out "look."

You know the "look" I'm talking about--"look" not really as a verb, but as a hybrid word lying somewhere between an imperative and an interjection. Like this:

Interviewer/Debate Moderator: "Tell me, Senator [Obama, McCain], what would you do about the fact that much of our current economic crisis will be financed through issuing more Treasury bonds, for which the Chinese might appetite may be waning?"

Presidential Candidate: That's a great question, [Tom, Jim, Gwen], [insert attempt at levity, wait for laughter]. Look, we're in a crisis. There's no doubt about that. People are hurting. People are scared. But look, we've got the greatest workforce in the world. Are we in challenging times? Yes. Could things be better? Absolutely. But look, we've come together before. And at the end of the day, frankly, I believe we can do it again.

Used in this way, "look" is a kind of shorthand. What people are trying to communicate with this one word is this: "You just asked me a very serious and complicated question. I may or may not actually be able to answer it on the level it deserves. But we're on television here. This is the Super Bowl of soundbites. I'm going to give you the impression that I'm cutting through all the clutter, getting right to the point, not boring you with details. Very American. So allow me to use a verbal magnifying glass and give the appearance of down-to-earthiness."

The problem with "look," as with "frankly" and "at the end of the day," is that it's meaningless. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of excellent political rhetoric out there, even in this election. But look, at the end of the day, frankly, most of it is as worthless as a wink.

P.S. Count how many times the candidates use "look" in tonight's debate (but don't, for the sake of your health, make it a drinking game).

Previous LangAlerts:

False Contractions
Nerbs
Move Forward
Linguacopia
At the End of the Day
Whither "An"?
"Sort of" Is the New "Like"

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Here's Who Won Tonight's Debate



Tom Brokaw for President.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

"So what, neither can I!"

I've tried to exercise restraint. I can't do it anymore.

I'm not going to unleash on Sarah Palin. There's no need to do that. When not shielded from the media in a hermetically sealed undisclosed location with all the other politicians who are allergic to public accountability, she gives herself plenty of leash... and then hangs herself with it expertly.

What I can't take anymore are the people who support her because "she's just like me." The Apologist Chorus. Here's how it goes:

The person gunning for Leader of the Free World can't say that she ever set foot on non-North American soil prior to 2007, and the Apologist Chorus sings: "So what, neither can I!"

When asked to name an information source she relies on, the person who wants to lead 300 million American citizens through arguably their country's greatest economic challenge can't name anything. And the Apologist Chorus sings: "So what, neither can I!"

When asked to name a Supreme Court case other than Roe v. Wade that she disagrees with, the Republican vice presidential nominee in the year 2008 can't. And the Apologist Chorus sings: "So what, neither can I!"

Don't get me wrong. It's not the "neither can I" that bothers me. It's the "so what." Ignorance is the only universal. Socrates famously said the only thing he knew was the fact of his own ignorance. That shows humility, self-awareness and a constant desire for greater knowledge. The "so what" of the Apologist Chorus shows pride, defensiveness and intellectual hostility.

If you're so indifferent to or hostile toward knowledge, then stop telling your children to value education, pull them out of school and cash in that college savings account.

If you think that your vice presidential candidate should be as content with or proud of his or her ignorance as you are, then run for president yourself.

If you think that a potential President of the United States should be unexceptional, then stop saying you believe in American Exceptionalism.

And if you think this country was founded by "regular folks," go back and read your history books, if you believe in history books.

And finally, let's just get real for a minute. Ladies and gentlemen of the Apologist Chorus, kindly turn your gaze to the white elephant standing in the middle of the room. If overturning Roe v. Wade is so important to you that it causes you to overlook every other social, political and economic issue (and every trait and qualification in a political candidate other than his or her desire to criminalize abortion), then please, for the love of God, just admit it. And stop apologizing.