Tuesday, September 27, 2016

About last night

Pretty, pretty good, and just thirteen seconds long. I found no way to embed.

[Speaking of last night: it must mark the first time Rosie O’Donnell, Howard Stern, and a former Miss Universe (Alicia Machado) have been mentioned in a presidential debate.]


My nose is on the run.

Related reading
All OCA weather posts (Pinboard)

Punctuation and parentheses

In a new video from The New Yorker , Mary Norris talks about punctuation and parentheses. The sticky wicket: Situation No. 3, “Several sentences in quotation marks within parentheses.” Norris uses as an example a sentence from a recent New Yorker article about the actress and model Hari Nef. For clarity: the pronoun she refers to Nef, not Piczo:

A Japanese photographer named Piczo snapped away, offering monosyllabic feedback (“Nice.” “Good.” “Good.” “Yep”) as she posed in a faux-fur coat that exposed a vertical sliver of pale torso.
That final unpunctuated “Yep” looks odd to me. Norris’s explanation leaves me unpersuaded:
“If you put a period there, it would just stop the whole flow of the sentence. So by not having the period, you know the sentence is going to continue.”
I would argue that a reader already knows that the sentence is going to continue because the opening parenthesis is still waiting for its closing partner to show up. And when that partner does show up, the sentence is still without a period. It goes on.

The Chicago Manual of Style (6.13) advises against a period when a complete sentence appears in parentheses within another sentence: “the period belongs outside.” A Chicago sample sentence: “Farnsworth had left an angry message for Isadora on the mantle (she noticed it while glancing in the mirror).” But 6.13 adds: “see also 6.96.” That section adds some complications:
A question mark, an exclamation point, and closing quotation marks precede a closing parenthesis if they belong to the parenthetical matter; they follow it if they belong to the surrounding sentence. A period precedes the closing parenthesis if the entire sentence is in parentheses; otherwise it follows.
The sample sentences that follow in 6.96 make clear that “if the entire sentence is in parentheses” refers to sentences in parentheses that stand alone, not sentences in parentheses within other sentences. Following the guidance in 6.96, a writer could embed a series of questions in parentheses, each ending with a question mark and enclosed in quotation marks:
A reporter asked questions (“Who?” “What?” “When?” “Where?” “Why?”) as the model posed in a faux-fur coat.
But if those question marks and quotation marks belong to the parenthetical matter, so too, I think, does the period that seems oddly missing after “Yep.”

The puzzle of punctuating “(‘Nice.’ ‘Good.’ ‘Good.’ ‘Yep’)” can be solved by taking into account what Chicago says in both 6.13 and 6.96: “Avoid enclosing more than one sentence within another sentence.” Granted, these are one-worders. But recasting the New Yorker sentence avoids all problems:
Nef posed in a faux-fur coat that exposed a vertical sliver of pale torso, as a Japanese photographer named Piczo snapped away, offering monosyllabic feedback: “Nice.” “Good.” “Good.” “Yep.”
You can read the original sentence in context and decide if my revision does any damage to meaning. I don’t think it does. A bonus: the revision removes the possible confusion of Piczo and Nef (“she”). I will admit though that I don’t like either sentence very much. “A Japanese photographer named Piczo,” “a vertical sliver of pale torso”: too cluttered for my taste. And why tell the reader that the feedback is monosyllabic? The photographer’s words themselves show that.

I have written at length and with enthusiasm about Norris’s Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen. I’ve been less impressed by Norris’s New Yorker videos. Their recommendations seem sometimes arbitrary, sometimes confusing. This discussion of parentheses and punctuation smacks of reverse engineering, beginning with the way The New Yorker does things (“That’s how we do it at The New Yorker ,” Norris says) and then working out an explanation. But I can’t imagine an explanation that would make “(‘Nice.’ ‘Good.’ ‘Good.’ ‘Yep’)” look anything other than odd.

Related reading
All OCA punctuation posts (Pinboard)

[Writing this post was a lot more fun than thinking about that debate. I was all set to embed the New Yorker video until I heard the name Goldman Sachs in the obligatory ad. An ad-blocking extension will zap the ad at The New Yorker website.]

Monday, September 26, 2016

Stream of consciousness

“I’m very underleveraged” . . . “I could show you a list of banks” . . . “LAX” . . . “a third-world country.” Keep talking, Donald Trump.


9:05 p.m: “We settled that lawsuit with no admission of guilt. It was very easy to do.”


9:23 p.m.: “I think my greatest asset is my temperament.”

At Fred’s Landing

I dreamed of my friend Aldo Carrasco (d. 1986) last night. I was in our living room, calling him on our landline to say that I’d mailed a transistor radio to him and that Elaine and I would be in New York on Friday, and New Jersey on Saturday. Aldo said that he had to work ten hours and would be up for doing something after that. I sounded like my twenty-something self on the phone. Aldo sounded like his twenty-something self — in other words, like himself. The conversation was short and ordinary, one friend giving another a heads up and making plans.

What prompted the dream, I think: watching The Honeymooners episode “The Worry Wart” last night (first aired April 7, 1956). One of Aldo’s letters included a Honeymooners trivia quiz with something from that episode: the cost of a vacation at Fred’s Landing. Answer: $42. I knew it then and know it now, but I know it now as something in one of Aldo’s letters. There’s no forgetting.

A related post
Letters from Aldo

Quinnipiac’s dropped cap

Quinnipiac University has a new “brand identity system.” So says the school’s associate vice president for public relations:

This new system, which includes new wordmarks, logo marks, colors, fonts, design motifs, patterns, etc. is a modern interpretation of the past university brand and represents who we are today, a nationally recognized university with a focus on
— and so on. I can’t bring myself to quote it all.

The system includes the wordmark Quinnipiac university , with a lowercase u . In response, a Quinnipiac student has started a petition to restore the missing capital. Note to QU: when your own students are telling you that they care about capitalizing proper nouns, it’s time to listen. But the school’s vice president of public affairs says there are “no intentions of looking back.”

Those titles: I wonder how the associate vice president for public relations and the vice president of public affairs manage not to trade places in an Ovidian metamorphosis. I wonder too why the school’s vice president for brand strategy and integrated communications wasn’t the one to comment on the u .

And I wonder how much money the school spent on the branding specialists who must have advised dropping the capital — and chose a lousy font, to boot:

[From the school’s website. It’s an image, not text, and it scales dreadfully.]

Related reading
Capitalize. This. U. (The Quinnipiac Chronicle)
Revise the New Quinnipiac University Logo (A petition at change.org)

[The students in this fight have good intentions, but I have to say it: their fight is about conventions of spelling, not grammar.]

“Easily five foot eight or nine”

From Honoré de Balzac’s story “Another Study of Womankind.” A character, General de Montriveau, speaks of his colonel:

“‘An Italian, like most of the officers who made up his regiment — borrowed by the emperor from Eugène’s army — my colonel cut an imposing figure; he was easily five foot eight or nine inches tall.”

The Human Comedy: Selected Stories , trans. from the French by Linda Asher, Carol Cosman, and Jordan Stump (New York: New York Review Books, 2014). This story translated by Stump.
Imposing indeed. General, I like your perspective.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

NPR, sheesh

In a brief news bit about the death of the musician Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr., an NPR announcer just spoke of zy-DEK-o music. No. Zydeco is pronounced ZY-de-ko, or \ˈzī-də-ˌkō\, as Merriam-Webster puts it.

You can hear the great Clifton Chenier say the word, right here.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

“The dream of a nine-year-old boy”

In The New Yorker , Roger Angell writes about the upcoming presidential election. After recounting various well-known Donald Trump insults and crudities, Angell turns to one more, Trump’s comment upon receiving a replica Purple Heart from a veteran. “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier,” Trump said. Angell writes:

What? Mr. Trump is saying he wishes that he had joined the armed forces somehow (he had a chance but skimmed out, like so many others of his time) and then had died or been scarred or maimed in combat? This is the dream of a nine-year-old boy, and it impugns the five hundred thousand young Americans who have died in combat in my lifetime, and the many hundreds of thousands more whose lives were altered or shattered by their wounds of war.
Roger Angell is now ninety-six. He is a veteran of the Second World War. He calls his vote in the upcoming election “the most important one of my lifetime.” You don’t need to share his confidence in Hillary Clinton to agree that it’s necessary to vote for her.

A related post
Allegory (Choosing between A and B)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Antigone in Ferguson

The PBS NewsHour ran a deeply moving story tonight about ​a production of scenes from Sophocles’s Antigone in Ferguson, Missouri. Antigone in Ferguson is the work of Outside the Wire, the theater group that has (among other efforts) staged readings of Sophocles’s Ajax and Philoctetes for military audiences.

Whatever the fate of Sophocles and other representatives of “western civ” in academia, their work remains perpetually relevant to human suffering and human endeavor. Antigone: “Grief for the whole huge disaster of us .” Creon: “Oh weep, weep for the pain of human pain!”

You can learn more about this production from Outside the Wire and Ferguson’s Center for Social Empowerment.

Related reading
All OCA Sophocles posts (Pinboard)
Modest proposals (One of which involves Antigone)

[Lines from Antigone translated by Paul Woodruff, from Sophocles’s Theban Plays (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2003).]