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Writing Tip: Omit Needless Letters

   The two great challenges of writing are the things you haven't written yet and the things you already have.

    The not-yet-written material nags the conscience. You fret over all that you haven't gotten around to including. You have notebooks that stare at you reprovingly. They say: What about us. Yo. Dude. Hey. Remember how you were jazzed about our notations. Remember how you exerted all that effort to excavate all this great material and waste the time of all those sources. We're waiting. Have you decided you don't need us, or, as we suspect, have you simply not gotten around to opening us and peeking inside?

    So there's that, the whining and mewling of the Unwritten. We all have unwritten stories, and in some cases, unwritten novels, unwritten poems, unwritten rock operas, unwritten letters to our children to open someday when we're gone, unwritten bedtime stories we had promised to put down on paper, and so on.

    The only good thing you can say about the Unwritten is that it's not nearly as big a problem as the Already Wrote. Because the Already Wrote is usually terrible. As a professional writer I spend far less time dealing with the Unwritten than I do with the Already Wrote. The Unwritten at least has the potential, in theory, hypothetically, in an ideal universe, to be great; the Already Wrote hasn't a chance.

    The problem with being a serious writer is that you can tell the difference between literature and the stuff you just wrote. The ancient craft known as "rewriting" is similar to triage in a military hospital. There are passages that can be saved, and those beyond hope.

    If you want to be a professional writer, here are some tips.

   1. When you think you've written a decent sentence, strike it out.

    2. When you think you've written a truly great, wonderful, sublime, and literary piece of work, delete it in its entirety and get a real job in a real industry, like steelworking.

    3. Go through your manuscript and delete all the adverbs. Then delete all the adjectives. Then delete all the prepositional phrases. Then delete any verbs longer than four words. Then change your byline to a name that sounds more commercial. Then hire a publicist.

    4. Omit needless letters. For example, "judgment" is always preferable to "judgement." "Won't" is a huge improvement on "will not," and "it'd've" eliminates many of the needless letters in "it would have." Consider also "hewudn't've" instead of "he would not have."

By Joel Achenbach  |  November 20, 2005; 8:11 PM ET
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Next: Kennedy Assassination 42 Years Later: Case Closed?


This should not be construed as a commentary on the story I've just Already Wrote. Though that wouldn't be a stretch.

Posted by: Achenbach | November 21, 2005 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Was going to post a single emoticon until I spotted this:

3rd para., 2nd line: "in some caseS"?

[But maybe it was deliberate.]

Posted by: Tom fan | November 21, 2005 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Some people like Hemmingway, some like Neal Stephenson.


Posted by: bc | November 21, 2005 9:52 AM | Report abuse

I can add some whining:

I was asked by an editor for a feature of 3,500 words or so on a deadline, I did the research and delivered 5,000 in 3 weeks (and I have a full time job that has nothing to do with writing). They said they liked what I'd written and suggested I expand on some points for another 1,000 words or so. I delivered 1,500 over a weekend.

So they shoot me the proofs last week, looks like roughly 4,500 words.

I coulda saved a lot of time by not writing those extraneous 2,000 words.


Posted by: bc | November 21, 2005 10:08 AM | Report abuse

There's always the William Burroughs option- sweep up the dregs, run them through the shredder, publish the result and call it art.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 21, 2005 10:12 AM | Report abuse

As someone who regularly shoots authors proofs of butchered manuscripts, I'm not sure whether to laugh or take umbrage at that. (But I'm veering toward laughing. I'll save the umbrage for another time.)

Remember, the editor is your friend, and copy fitting is an art form. Just ask Tom the Surgeon.

Posted by: Tom fan | November 21, 2005 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Disney has its corporate hand in this year's national turkey pardons--oh my gosh! And they're gonna join Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse in Anaheim--priceless! Wait until the Washington Post finds out about this!

Presidents traditionally have granted the National Thanksgiving Turkey a "pardon". For the past 15 years, the National Thanksgiving Turkeys and their alternates have been retired to Frying Pan Park in Fairfax County, Virginia. The farm is a 1930s-era replica farm operated by the Fairfax County Parks Department.

This year, after the presentation, the National Turkey and its alternate will be taken to Disneyland Resort and Theme Park in Anaheim, California to be a part of the holiday display and where they will stay the remainder of their natural lives. Both the turkeys will serve as honorary Grand Marshals for Disneyland's annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Posted by: Loomis | November 21, 2005 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Disneyland's gotta be an improvement on a place called Frying Pan Park though, no? (From the turkeys' perspective, at least.)

[And I just love the idea of a turkey having an "alternate."]

Posted by: Achenfan | November 21, 2005 10:24 AM | Report abuse

When Cryptonomicon came out, Neal Stephenson did a reading at the late lamented Bibelot in Timonium MD. He read the Cap'n Crunch chapter where the entire piece is about the ability to eat breakfast cereal at the exact moment between when the cereal gets moist but before it gets soggy. Literary genius.

At the reading ther was a stereotypical looking Unix enthusiast with a t-shirt that said "This t-shirt is legally classified as munitions and cannot be exported." Underneath was a script for 128 bit encryption. I don't know who is the bigger nerd. Him for wearing the shirt or me for getting the joke.

I have all three of Stephenson's latest trilogy bending the framing underneath my nightstand table. I need about a month of bedrest to even consider tackling them.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 21, 2005 10:29 AM | Report abuse

It's not you, Tom fan, it's me.

If I knew which ideas were dumb and which words were unnecessary, I wouldn't write them.

Writers would like to believe that all the ideas and scraps of information and florid prose they write add value to a story.

Someone needs to say, "Sorry, that's just self-indulgent.", or "Dude, that is SO stupid.", or "You are SO lying."

That's where editors come in. They keep writers from looking like the vapid, illogical narcisists we - er, they - are.

And they make room for ads.


Posted by: bc | November 21, 2005 10:36 AM | Report abuse

bc -- Were you paid by the word? And it is nice that they sent you the proofs. Not everybody does that.

Or did you mean it literally, that they "shot" the proofs and then sent them to you? That isn't usually done, but some copy is deserving of it.

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 21, 2005 10:36 AM | Report abuse

True, the "alternate turkey" reminds me of the runners-up in the Miss American contest. I wish I could get that analogy out of my head...

Apparently, Bush had some problems with the turkey pardon several years ago, as captured in this photo:

Most unruly turkey pardon honors go to President Ronald Reagan:

Lane, from Amarillo writes:
Hello, Christopher, I would like to know if any Presidents have ever been pecked by an unruly turkey. If so who was it? Thank you.

Christopher "Turkey Guy" Smith [White House staff]:
The only incident I am aware of occurred in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan was in office. Apparently, upon receiving the bird, the turkey flapped its wings in the President's face. Despite the rigorous process of selecting a turkey, even the finalists can be a little unpredictable.

Id like to see this year's White House pardoned turkeys named "Gobbledy" and "Gook." The voting for the names from the White Houses' "official list" of paired name offerings closes at noon today.

Can anyone speak to the rumor that White House turkeys pardoned by Bush only have right wings?

Posted by: Loomis | November 21, 2005 10:40 AM | Report abuse

There is a great episode of West Wing where CJ has to select the turkeys and becomes emotionally attached to them. Hilarity ensues.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 21, 2005 10:52 AM | Report abuse

[Several years ago, thinking out loud]

Hmm, I knew it was a bad idea to bury OBL under ten tons of rubble. They said if he just disappeared, everyone would forget about him. Those fools!
Boy, it would be great to parade that body down Main Street in Baghdad. That would certainly stop this little insurgency that has sprung up.

By George (not really), I've got it. We will create a new OBL. Kind of a wag-the-towel type deal. Blame him for everything. Then, he can be our ace card when the going gets tough. When we need him the most, we can capture him. No, that won't do at all. We would have to kill him so that he could never expose the plan.

Yeah, that's it. We create a monster, kill it, and then parade it through town.
So, let's see, gotta call Bobby W., Novak, Judy...

Posted by: R. Cheney | November 21, 2005 10:54 AM | Report abuse

How could anyone *not* become emotionally attached to a turkey? (Although, we once had our rental car charged by a furious mother turkey when we were lost on some back road in West Virginia. After that, I never felt quite as guilty about eating turkeys as I once did. [I know, I know . . . forgive and forget . . . that turkey deserves compassion; she was obviously hurtin' inside . . . transcend your inner jackass . . . consider the Tofurkey option this Thanksgiving.])

Posted by: Achenfan | November 21, 2005 11:00 AM | Report abuse

No story involving turkeys will ever beat the mid-air turkey release from helicopter episode of WKRP. Not ever.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 21, 2005 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Bayou, that line was a wretched double entenre, and I'll admit I had a juvenille giggle when I wrote it. Shoot.

I'll take the SCC on that one.

I've never worked with any publisher that paid by the word, as far as I know that practice went out with the pulps. I'm friendly with the folks I write for, and when we collaborate on the final product (e.g. I see digital proofs with time to make changes before it goes to press), it always results in a better product for all concerned.

As much as I'm (and I suppose, Joel, too) yanking editoral chains here, I can't say I've ever had a really bad experience with anyone. As in any relationship, the secret to success is being open and willing to compromise.


Posted by: bc | November 21, 2005 11:06 AM | Report abuse

bc -- Many publications still pay by either the word or the column inch. There was a freelance story I did where I ran quite long, way long, he-could-go-all-the-way long. But it was a tactical shot, as the story was to run in the first edition after January 1 and I guessed they'd be thin on material.

They ran every word of it. Cha-ching!

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 21, 2005 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Hmph. I guess I've got the wrong deal.

Where's my agent?

Achenfan, re. emotional attachment to a turkey reminds me of a certain episode of Mr. Bean...

Yellojkt, I loved that bit in "Cryptonomicon", would have liked to hear that reading. I would have suggested the productivity graph myself, but that's just me.

I'm halfway through "The Confusion", a dedicated month to tackle all three sounds about right. Don't let the first half of "Quicksilver" throw you off, it picks up nicely in the second half of the book and is still going strong to where I am in the second (though it's taken me 3 weeks to get there). Still, some friends have declared QS "unreadable".


Posted by: bc | November 21, 2005 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Ha ha, bc! I love that episode. (Although it is kind of sad that he has to shoot himself Christmas cards through his own mail slot.)

I think my favorite Mr. Bean episode is the one where he stays at that hotel and gets all competitive with another guest -- eating far too many oysters, knocking a hole through the bathroom wall so he can take a bath, etc., and eventually locking himself out of his room whilst naked.


Posted by: Achenfan | November 21, 2005 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I liked that one too, Achenfan.


Posted by: bc | November 21, 2005 11:48 AM | Report abuse

"Gobbledygook": banned in several UK firms as sexual harassment because of its sound.

On Don Watson's Sept. 2004 book, "Gobbledygook":

'Obliterates [Obliterati, anyone?] the vernacular vandals among journalists, academics, politicians, and business people with deadly aim.'

A reviwer from, a good Kit-fit:
Well, you get the picture of what Watson is railing against. Defending language sounds conservative, but Watson is asking for clarity rather than pedantic obedience to the rules of grammar.
The book seems to be selling widely: let us look out for people using more straightforward language to allow others to understand what they are up to...


Gobbledygook - Language characterized by circumlocution and rhetoric, especially in government reports. Coined by Texas Congressman Maury Maverick in 1944; Maverick, appropriately enough, is a descendant of the Samuel Maverick after whom the word maverick (a non-conformist) came into being.

[And we come full circle--Maury Maverick Jr. was an established icon in the community and wrote for years for the San Antonio Express-News. Old Sam Maverick was an early colonial Boston inhabitant.]

Unintelligible language, especially jargon or bureaucratese.
This is a truly maverick word, not only because it is surprisingly modern and also one whose genesis we can pin down to the day, but also because a maverick coined it --Maury Maverick, a Texan lawyer who was at various times a Democratic Congressman and mayor of San Antonio.

He used the word in the New York Times Magazine on 21 May 1944, while he was chairman of the US Smaller War Plants Committee in Congress, as part of a complaint against the obscure language used by his colleagues.

His inspiration, he said, was the turkey, "always gobbledy gobbling and strutting with ludicrous pomposity". The word met a clear need and quickly became part of the language. It is sometimes abbreviated slightly to gobbledygoo.

Word coining runs in the Maverick family, since Maury Maverick's grandfather, Samuel Maverick, a Texas rancher, was the inspiration for maverick, originally an animal not branded to identify its owner (because Sam Maverick didn't brand his own herds), later an unconventional person, and later still a politician who stands aside from the herd, refusing to conform to the party line.

Posted by: Loomis | November 21, 2005 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Less than six degrees of separation between George Clooney and Rick Casey, now with the Houston Chronicle?

In Memoriam: From Sam of Boston to Our Maury - the Last Maverick?

'Part One: Maury Maverick Jr. was a great teller of stories.

He loved, especially, to tell stories of his late father -- soldier, congressman, mayor, philosopher and raconteur. Most of the stories he told many times, but my favorite was one he told me only once.

His father persuaded him to attend a Friends meeting one Sunday in the early 1950s. Maury Jr. would have been about 30. Here, roughly, is how Maury told it in his deep, raspy voice:

'Those Quakers would sit and meditate, and then a brother who was leading the meeting would invite them to share their reflections.

'Well, one of the brothers got up and said he'd been meditating on `how we need to love everybody.' Another one stood to say that he'd been thinking about `the need to pray for world peace.'

'My daddy squirmed in his seat. I think he had to go to the bathroom, but the lead brother noticed him and said, `Mr. Mayor, we'd be honored to hear your reflections.' My daddy said, `No, no.'

'The brother said, `Mr. Mayor, we'd truly like to know what you have been meditating.' My daddy said,


'The brother started again and my daddy finally stood up, and said, `Well, to tell you the truth, I've been thinking how somebody ought to kill that sumbitch Joe McCarthy!''

Part Two: Maury was a great generator of stories.

I was walking downtown one Saturday about 20 years ago and ran into Maury on Soledad Street. I was full of enthusiasm for a space that artist Tinka Tarver had rented as her studio, and decided to show it to Maury. It was, I believe, very close to the spot where his ancestors Mary and Sam Maverick had lived on the banks of the San Antonio River in the early days of the Republic of Texas.

We headed down a narrow walkway alongside the old SoloServe building, then up a metal ladder to a roof and up another metal stairway to a door overlooking the River Walk.

The door was open, and I called for Tinka. She wasn't there. I figured she was out getting coffee or running an errand, and she wouldn't mind my showing the space to Maury.

He walked around, studying the ancient walls and admiring the light from the windows.

At that time Tarver was in what might be called her Jackson Pollock stage, a style that involved dripping paint onto canvases scattered about the floor.

Suddenly I realized that Maury was standing on one of them.

'Excuse me, Maury,' I said hesitantly, 'but I think you're standing on one of Tinka's paintings.'

He looked down, took a quick hop back, and exclaimed, still looking at the canvas: 'Well! I don't know whether to be embarrassed or outraged.'

Part Three: Maury Maverick was the worthy scion of a great American family.

Many think the prototype was the above-mentioned Samuel Maverick, a land speculator who came from South Carolina and declined to brand his cattle. That's how the term 'maverick' is said to have come into the language, from free-roaming cows that didn't appear to belong to anyone.

But there was a prior Sam Maverick, the one who came from England to the Boston area in the 1600s, setting up a farm on Noddle Island near what is now Logan International Airport.

Maverick had his differences with the local leaders. He was jailed twice: once for missing church services, another time for providing hospitality to a husband and wife who were not each other's husband and wife.

But when the king sent a commission to accept Manhattan from the Dutch, Sam Maverick was a member, and received a parcel of land on what is now Broadway for his services.

He was the Maverick prototype: a member of the establishment who marched to a different drummer.

That certainly described Maury Sr., who ended his political career and endangered his own life by insisting that the First Amendment applied to communists. Citizens rioted when he refused to ban a local Communist Party group from using the Municipal Auditorium for a rally.

And it described Maury Jr., who was elected to the Legislature, but who also defended a Communist before the U.S. Supreme Court and conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War.

A friend described Maury as the 'last true liberal voice.'

Maybe so, but my concern is dynastic. Is he the last Maverick?" (Rick Casey, San Antonio Express-News, January 29, 2003)

Posted by: Loomis | November 21, 2005 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I like "strutting with ludicrous pomposity."

[Makes me wonder, is there such a thing as pomposity that is *not* ludicrous?]

Posted by: Tom fan | November 21, 2005 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I like "strutting with ludicrous pomposity."
[Makes me wonder, is there such a thing as pomposity that is *not* ludicrous?]

Idi Amin comes to mind. Not a barrel of laughs. Then there was Mussolini...

Posted by: Anonymous | November 21, 2005 12:33 PM | Report abuse

kurosawaguy, please tell me that the turkey had a parachute.

Linda, waaaaay back when, the riverwalk was open to artists on "Starving Artists Day", at no charge for space. My sister, Claudia, used to show/sell some of her paintings there.

Posted by: Nani | November 21, 2005 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Second your opinion, Kurosawaguy. Oh the humanity!

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 21, 2005 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Staying with the "degrees of separation" thing, I've written about Maury Maverick.

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 21, 2005 1:06 PM | Report abuse

As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

Posted by: Tim | November 21, 2005 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I must admit to not knowing whether or not they can fly. Regardless [not to be confused with irregardless], I think a flying turkey would be quite a sight to behold. It would probably look a little AWK.

Posted by: Tom fan | November 21, 2005 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Wow, talk about a delayed reaction. OK-

The show was about a promotional idea for the radio station which involved dropping frozen turkeys from the air. This somehow morphed into live birds. Although wild turkeys can fly a bit (I've seen 'em do it), domestic gobblers have been bred for the table and are flightless. The result was a debacle captured in reaction shots and voice over radio narration- no birds were harmed. Tim quotes the Gordon Jump station manager character Mr. Carlson. My personal favorite line was the on the scene reporter Les Nessman- "Oh the horror, the horror. The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement!"

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 21, 2005 1:35 PM | Report abuse

CowTown, there's gotta be a story in this . . .

Posted by: Achenfan | November 21, 2005 1:41 PM | Report abuse

K-guy, how do they breed them for flightlessness?

Posted by: Loomis | November 21, 2005 1:42 PM | Report abuse

. . . or maybe you'd rather save it for the Boodle's Special Thanksgiving Episode.

Posted by: Achenfan | November 21, 2005 1:43 PM | Report abuse

"It's a helicopter, and it's coming this way. It's flying something behind it, I can't quite make it out, it's a large banner and it says, uh - Happy ... Thaaaaanksss ... giving! ... From ... W ... K ... R... P! No parachutes yet. Can't be skydivers ... I can't tell just yet what they are, but - Oh my God, Johnny, they're turkeys!! Johnny, can you get this? Oh, they're plunging to the earth right in front of our eyes! One just went through the windshield of a parked car! Oh, the humanity! The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! Not since the Hindenberg tragedy has there been anything like this!"

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 21, 2005 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I gather that wild turkeys fly pretty fast. Not very far, but fast. Horizontally, that is. The domestic kind are limited to 1-dimensional flight.

They don't breed turkeys to be flightless precisely, it's more that they breed them to be huge. Without appropriate care to also breed for enormous wings and powerful flight muscles, the poor things can't fly at all. Based on the wild turkeys that I have seen by the side of the road, compared to turkeys at a local petting zoo, the domestic animals completely dwarf the wild turkeys.

Posted by: Tim | November 21, 2005 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Imagine that the designers at Europe's Airbus factory took the material used to build the plane's wings and devoted it to a bigger fuselage. The resulting Airbus would carry more passengers, but they'd have to shorten the name to just Bus. I have heard tales of birds bred for maximum white meat who were so top heavy that they broke their legs if they jumped up and down. This is probably Achenpocryphal.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 21, 2005 1:59 PM | Report abuse

They clip chickens wings somehow or other to render the bird flightless, don't they? Perhaps they do this for turkeys too.

Another thing I have heard about domestic fowl is the breast meat is white, because of the type of muscle it is, and that it is little used. The more they use it, the darker it gets.

Of course my knowledge of birds ends when I was about 7, so maybe they do breed that out of them now.

Posted by: dr | November 21, 2005 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I've seen wild turkeys - well, fly is too strong a word - but perform wingbeat-assisted leaps cover distances of 50 yards or more, not attaining more than 2 meters of altitude.

Those big butterball domestics, I can't ever recall one leaping more than a few feet.


Posted by: bc | November 21, 2005 2:05 PM | Report abuse

AUTHOR: omnigood
DATE: 11/21/2005 02:18:45 PM

Posted by: omnigood | November 21, 2005 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Looks like omnigood has applied Joel's four rules and achieved perfection!

Posted by: omnigoo | November 21, 2005 2:19 PM | Report abuse

That was me

Posted by: omnigoof | November 21, 2005 2:19 PM | Report abuse

omni, are you being a goofball again? (Better that than a butterball, though, I suppose.)

Posted by: Achenfan | November 21, 2005 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm all caught up on past kk'boodles two days sooner than predicted. Yep, that's me the goofball not the butterbal.

Posted by: omnigood | November 21, 2005 2:22 PM | Report abuse

JA's actual turkeyless (so to speak) kit is what intrigues me. I love to write, and in fact if I could, I would write and write and write until my brains fell out. What bothers me is the increasing deterioration of writing skills -- adverbs seem to have pretty much disappeared, for example. I tend to put other people's writing through a "Yikes!" template, and the box it falls into is overflowing.

Writing, as communication, is so powerful. You can be right out there in front with it, you can hide behind it, you can paint your canvas in colors and shapes with words and it's all yours. I make my living by writing and by analyzing the writing of others. Arguments can be won or lost merely by the way we express ourselves. Two (at least) caveats are in order, however: (1) the maintaining of a position in court can still depend on the side of the bed on which the judge woke up on any particular morning; and (2) arguments can never *ever* be won with someone with dementia. That aside, however, I'm not sure that in our world today we really recognize just how powerful we can be with words.

I would like to think that the best writing is that which you can read with your eyes closed -- have someone read to you, and you'll know what I mean. Writing is the key to our imagination and subsequently to our innovation. The pen (or keyboard) really is more powerful than the sword.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | November 21, 2005 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I remember reading somewhere that Benjamin Franklin proposed that the turkey would become the national bird instead of the bald eagle. I don't think it was a joke. Has anyone else heard this?

Posted by: Eurotrash | November 21, 2005 2:54 PM | Report abuse

One of the greatest enemies of good writing is this machine you're staring at right now. Blogging and especially e-mail are spontaneous and off the cuff and frequently, oh so frequently misunderstood. How many times have each of us had to crawfish and explain ourselves here because the first thing we wrote failed to clearly express the thought(?) behind it. Good clear unambiguous communication is very difficult, and its value should never be misunderestimated.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 21, 2005 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Oh Eurotrash you are absolutely correct. BF thought the bald eagle a poor symbol. It is a predator and scavenger. He was all for the turkey.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 21, 2005 2:59 PM | Report abuse


On the other hand, many more people write nowadays then did 15 years ago. The average quality might go down, but on the other more people write 'publicly' so that in the long run literacy might increase.

P.S. I am constantly horrified on how bad I write. Compared to many of you I feel I don't get my points across in a concise way.
That's one of the reasons I lurked for a couple of months.
(I can't even use the excuse that english isn't my first language since I have the same problem in Dutch. But I do use that fact to absolve me from some SCC's. )

Posted by: Eurotrash | November 21, 2005 3:04 PM | Report abuse


A story on turkeybombs? We'd get letters from PETA (that's People Eating Tasty Animals). I'll get my gnomes working on it. Not today, though.

Posted by: CowTown | November 21, 2005 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I do appreciate good writing, but there is one famous Nobel Prize winner whom I have not been able to stomach since I first tried to read his work 40 years ago -- William Faulkner -- okay, okay, all you Faulkner lovers out there, I can't stand his writing, and I've tried again and again over the years. Never more. I figure that if he had to be drunk to write it, I have to be drunk to read it.

That's my literary rant, am I'm sticking to it.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | November 21, 2005 3:16 PM | Report abuse

I'm with you on the Faulkner thing, firsttimeblogger. I've tried too, to no avail, and I'm inclined to think, Why bother? Life's too short. So many books, so little time.

Posted by: Tom fan | November 21, 2005 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Try the aforementioned William Burroughs. He was a heroin junkie, buddy of Ginsberg and Kerouac, who used cut his stuff into strips and then reassemble the strips randomly. I was assigned to read him in an English course as an undergrad. The things we did to stay in school and out of the draft in '68!

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 21, 2005 3:23 PM | Report abuse

SCC from my 2:05 PM post, remove "but".



Posted by: bc | November 21, 2005 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Euro -- Faulkner's The Bear is required reading around here.

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 21, 2005 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I can't hack much of Faulkner, either, but would like to correct the notion he wrote while drunk. He generally wrote sober, then drank when he wasn't writing (or vice versa). In fact, most writers who have/had an alcohol problem didn't write when drunk, as it's just about impossible to do. You drink around the writing, or write around the drinking, but I can't think of any who did both simultaneously. Ditto the druggies (Kesey, Borroughs, Thomas de Quincy, et al.) Even the great Hunter Thompson generally held it together long enough to work (though I think he was happy to pretend otherwise). There are a few writers who claim drugs or alcohol "helped" their work, but most are deluding themselves (and if not, they produced crap). Unfortunately, you need a pretty clear head to write. If there are a few exceptions to the rule, they are exactly that: rare exceptions.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 21, 2005 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of which (drunks and druggies, and great writers), over the weekend I happened to be listening to one of the NPR stations when they replayed the C-SPAN Book TV program that was the hour-long National Book Award ceremony which gave special awards to Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Norman Mailer (sorry it took so long to get to the point). You can listen/see at

The Ferlinghetti award was especially well-deserved, I thought; they created a new award called a "Literarian" award, and he was the first recipient. Both Ferlinghetti and Mailer (and host Garrison Keillor) had a lot to say about literacy (or lack of it) in this country.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 21, 2005 4:03 PM | Report abuse

My recollection of Faulkner and drinking and writing is the same as Curmudgeon's. However, I heard that the work of Perry Miller, the great Harvard historian of the Puritan era, should be read the way he wrote it - which was drunk. I tried it once and it seemed to help. For what it's worth, he also rode a motorcycle around campus dressed in leathers and would chase after the wives of his colleagues.

Posted by: pj | November 21, 2005 4:04 PM | Report abuse i read the kit above i was reminded
of jack lemmon and walter matthau and the
movie they were in about a newspaper and
ensuing excitement and mayhem around it...
............. with the help of Yahoo! it
was not difficult to locate it...........
..THE FRONT PAGE from 1974.........:-)...
...a users reveiw survey yielded this small

acbrantley...december 7,2004
the movie about a time most journalists
long to visit. liquor in the cabinet,smoke
in the newsroom and wild stories where
truth was secondary to the story.

...the movie gives lemmon and matthau a
nice matchup for comedy and story twists...
...... i recall a scene in which lemmon does a rewrite of a story,spicing it up and
giving it more bait and hook......... is a fun movie, set to the news and
paper biz....................:-)...........

Posted by: an american in siam... | November 21, 2005 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Typepad seems to have gone weird again. I started typing up a post about my drinking and reading habits and noticed it was coming out double-spaced. (And no, I'm not drunk.)

Hold on to your hats, folks.

"Typhoon! Typhoon!" [Another one for you, Nani]

Posted by: Achenfan | November 21, 2005 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I have to thank the kaboodle for getting me interested in Vonnegut For the moment I'm into "julian" by Gore Vidal. But once that book is finished I'll get onto Vonnegut and then Faulkner. So little time, so many books.

Posted by: Eurotrash | November 21, 2005 4:16 PM | Report abuse

(Racing to beat Kurosawaguy to it)--The movie "The Front Page" was derived from a classic stage play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur; it also spawned several offshoots, including a Cary Grant version ("His Gal Friday," if memory serves; K-guy correct me if I screwed it up) as well as the basis for the Broadway show "Chicago," and the subsequent Richard Gere/Rene Zellweger movie which was on TV last week. (The musical and "Chicago" movie concerns the same murder as in the Front Page, but dispenses with the journalism angle.)

All us journalist types revere The Front Page's two main characters, reporter Hildy Johnson (Lemmon) and his editor, Walter Burns (Matthau), in the spirit of whom I derive my blog handle. Ah, those were the days...

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 21, 2005 4:21 PM | Report abuse

i LOVED faulkner's light in august! and i desperatly tried to read borroughs' naked lunch and literally threw up. yep... can't for the life of me remember what made me throw up...

all the panda tickets are gone! :( none available till well into jan!!!

Posted by: mo | November 21, 2005 4:25 PM | Report abuse

SCC: the murder in "The Front Page" isn't the same one as in "Chicago"; however, in the "Front Page," Hildy Johnson takes credit for writing Roxy Hart's Diary, which is what is central to the movie Chicago. Rene Zellweger plays Roxy Hart.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 21, 2005 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I was just wondering about you. Been busy at work, eh?

Posted by: Achenfan | November 21, 2005 4:28 PM | Report abuse

achenfan - i've been SWAMPED! this project we have is nuts - and a NUTS deadline too! i've missed you guys! hey, did we ever decide a location for the bph?

also go immediately to this site -

be prepared to go *awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww*

Posted by: mo | November 21, 2005 4:31 PM | Report abuse

I thought the last BPH location (McCormick & Schmick's) was pretty good, but I'm flexible. I'd welcome other people's ideas since I'm a bit of a geek and not hip to the hot spots around town.

Posted by: Achenfan | November 21, 2005 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Mo, if you know anyone who works at the zoo or any Smithsonian museum (didja know the zoo was part of the SI?), they may be able to get you in to a staff only viewing.

The role of Hildy was changed from a man to a woman for Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday and she and Walter (Cary G) were married but separated and soon to be divorced. The comic timing and rapid fire talking over each other is marvelous.

I think the play had been filmed previously with two men. Pat O'Brien was Walter the editor.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 21, 2005 4:37 PM | Report abuse

[I wonder if the Obliterati rents out its treehouse for BPHs and other such functions. (Could be a bit cold this time of year, though.)]

Posted by: Achenfan | November 21, 2005 4:37 PM | Report abuse

[Or if someone has a minivan we could adapt the Carbucks approach to the BPH.]

Posted by: Achenfan | November 21, 2005 4:40 PM | Report abuse

someone expressed an interest in going to a less costly location for the bph...

i don't know anyone who works for the zoo or the smithsonian (which seems rather odd cuz i did grow up here) - they are being real sticklers about who gets to see the baby - even if you have a ticket it's no guarantee that you'll see him...

Posted by: mo | November 21, 2005 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I don't think the Obliterati would want to host the BPH, we're not their type, I fear.

Besides, that would really cut down on the amusing people-watching commentary (and we are indeed people watchers, as it turns out).

I'm game for anywhere in/around the city, but that's not news.


Posted by: bc | November 21, 2005 4:43 PM | Report abuse

My bad. IMDB says P O'B was Hildy and Adolph Menjou was Walter. I can never think of Adolph Menjou without thinking of Paths of Glory by Stanley Kubrick, perhaps the finest anti war film ever made.

Posted by: kurosawagoof | November 21, 2005 4:43 PM | Report abuse

mo, I think maybe kurosawaguy was delivering a hint...

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 21, 2005 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Not a hint about me, though -- I do my science elsewhere, not for SI.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 21, 2005 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Hint? I don't have time for hints. I'm up to my armpits in alien autopsies here! I'll be lucky if I get home for dinner Thursday.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 21, 2005 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone maybe know of someplace in the Gallery Place/Chinatown area that might work well for the BPH? It's centrally located and seems to have a lot of bars/restaurants. I went to a bar there once that seemed like it might be big enough to contain us all, but I can't remember what it was called. It was kind of like the Capitol Brewing Company, but I don't think that was it.

Somebody help me out here. I'm a dag, remember.

Posted by: Achenfan | November 21, 2005 4:58 PM | Report abuse

there's a place called rfd's... (regional food and drink) - has a million beers on tap - food is only so-so...
course there's always hooters! (i keed i keed!)

Posted by: mo | November 21, 2005 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Or we could go to the Zoo Bar at 3000 Connecticut Ave. All the time we were porching we'd know we were just across the street from that cute li'l panda.

(But I must declare a conflict of interest here: I live pretty close to the Zoo, so the ZooBar would be especially convenient for me. Maybe not so much for others, though.)

Posted by: Achenfan | November 21, 2005 5:08 PM | Report abuse

I think if we held the BPH at Hooters only one person would show up. (And who would that person be? I'll give you a hint: First name starts with b, last name starts with c. [Back me up on this one, TA.])

Posted by: Achenfan | November 21, 2005 5:11 PM | Report abuse

zoo bar sounds like a great idea - pull the ideas of the boodle together!

Posted by: mo | November 21, 2005 5:22 PM | Report abuse

d'oh! i killed the boodle! i am scum...

Posted by: mo | November 21, 2005 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for seconding, mo. (I guess we should wait for others to weigh in before we declare it decided.)

Posted by: Achenfan | November 21, 2005 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Doh! No, you didn't kill the 'boodle, mo. I was too slow to respond, and I 'boodled out of order. Now it looks like I was seconding your view that you are scum, which is not the case.

[I thought maybe *I* killed the Boodle with my ludicrous BPH venue suggestions.]

[What was that Joel was saying about self-loathing?]

Posted by: Achenfan | November 21, 2005 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Turning the Boodle Rudder in a new direction:

Interesting article in The Huffinton Post, about the attack by Rep. "Mean Jean" Schmidt against Rep. John Murtha. We were given the impression that the "marine" Rep. Schmidt quoted was active duty.

"By employing Bubp, a Marine reservist, as her surrogate attack dog, Schmidt sought to give the impression that the military rank-and-file overwhelmingly deplored Murtha's resolution. Murtha may have been a Marine a long, long time ago, but he doesn't understand the harsh realities of the post-9/11 world. But that tough-talking paragon of the modern warrior, Colonel Danny Bubp, whoever he is, sure as hell does. Or so Schmidt would have us believe."

Posted by: CowTown | November 21, 2005 5:42 PM | Report abuse

me thinks everyone is fighting cold, dark, rainy, dc traffic right now and not currently boodling... i'll be out there in 15 min as well...

Posted by: mo | November 21, 2005 5:43 PM | Report abuse

The Boodle naps while its ertwhile denizens migrate to their home computers. Be safe, all.

Posted by: CowTown | November 21, 2005 6:10 PM | Report abuse

"ertwhile" what the heck is that!

Posted by: CpwTwne | November 21, 2005 6:28 PM | Report abuse

I have been coming in late to work the last couple of weeks and scroll through the boodle at the end of the regular work day. It seems to have boiled down to about 10 to 12 regulars without too much input from new blood.

Posted by: LB | November 21, 2005 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Not me--fighting dark cold rainy traffic dc traffic right now, nor napping. It's 70 degrees and the back door is open. I've decided to unpack the summer shorts. It'll be a mesquite-smoked and grilled stuffed turkey on the Weber barbecue, since the temperature on Thanksgiving will be about 77 degrees. Not to mention a butter-infused pumpkin cake for dessert here in the desert. (Thanksgiving wish: Please somebody...send rain!) I wooda gone swimming if they hadna already drained the community pool.

But I do have to make the stuffing, so I must depart the Boodle as I have bread to cube.

bread bread bread
bread bread bread
bread bread bread
bread bread bread
bread bread bread
bread bread bread
bread bread bread
bread bread bread
bread bread bread
(Voila! Bread cubed!)

Posted by: Loomis | November 21, 2005 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Great blog!

Posted by: Diana | November 21, 2005 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Diana - In it's own quirky way, it IS great, isn't it?

Posted by: Bob S. | November 21, 2005 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Oops, one of the unforgiveables! That is properly - "its" own quirky way. No apostrophe, or it will eat, shoot and leave!

Posted by: Bob S. | November 21, 2005 7:07 PM | Report abuse

This is good-

A letter to the editor in the San Luis Obispo (CA) paper.


Recent news about the avian flu virus has raised concerns from main street to the White House. There is the possibility, even
likelihood, that the virus will mutate into a form that can more easily infect humans. As the president pointed out, a vaccine
cannot be made until this evolution occurs.

This raises the concern that it may be impossible to create enough vaccine fast enough to protect all our citizens.

But there is hope. Gallup polls tell us that up to 45 percent of Americans don't believe in evolution. Since random mutation is the engine of evolution, these same people must believe that the virus
cannot mutate.

Therefore, there is no need to waste vaccine on folks who believe there is no possible threat to themselves -- thus leaving a sufficient supply for the rest of us.

Perhaps the president, given his doubts about evolution, may wish to demonstrate his leadership by foregoing vaccination.
This approach has added benefits. Polls also tell us that disbelief in evolution is more pronounced among the less educated, the poor and conservatives. If the anti-evolutionists among these groups
were to opt out of vaccination then, through immediate deaths and natural selection, we would reduce poverty, raise educational attainment, and become a more progressive society."

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 21, 2005 7:12 PM | Report abuse

k-guy: Very funny. Not nice at all, but very funny.

Posted by: Bob S. | November 21, 2005 7:14 PM | Report abuse

K-guy: I don't think I mentioned it at the time, but when you (it was you, wasn't it?) chimed in so quickly with the plea for direction on finding the proper weasel (mink? ferret? Anyway, something of that ilk.) gonad a few days back, I giggled out loud.

Posted by: Bob S. | November 21, 2005 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Just a quick comment, k-guy. The WaPo had a big feature this past week about how star anise is the active ingredient, so to speak, in Tamiflu--but that the the effective star anise is Chinese star anise, not Japanese star anise. The interesting 'graph was that the anise is grown in China not far from the place that avian flu is believed to have erupted from poultry, where bird handlers first became infected.

The weird thing is, several days later, the San Antonio Express-News runs a short article inside its A section mentioing how many Japanese kids have died as a result of taking Tamiflu. Maybe I can find the piece. Don't know if the WaPo article mentioned deaths from the medicine that is supposed to block avian influenza. Dumb question, but would Chinese star anise affect Japanese kids differently than Chinese kids?

Posted by: Loomis | November 21, 2005 7:23 PM | Report abuse

k-guy writes:
"If the anti-evolutionists among these groups were to opt out of vaccination then, through immediate deaths and natural selection, we would reduce poverty, raise educational attainment, and become a more progressive society."

Ah! Intelligent design! Or is that a design for intelligence?

Posted by: Loomis | November 21, 2005 7:28 PM | Report abuse

Loomis - If I were a betting man, given the dramatic income disparity between the countries, I'd bet that more Japanese kids have taken Tamiflu. But, I haven't read the article.

Posted by: Bob S. | November 21, 2005 7:28 PM | Report abuse

Food for thought (and has nothing to do with the current direction of this blog):
I read somewhere that said great writing takes talent, good writing takes skill. I don't remember who said it -- it might have been someone extremely quotable or just some hack writing an article about writing. Either way, it stuck with me because if I consider myself a skilled technician, well, I feel I can meet that standard. It's when I get delusions that I might actually write something beautiful someday that I get depressed.
I'll just toss that on the fire and see if it catches....

Posted by: jeanne | November 21, 2005 7:33 PM | Report abuse

And look! A typo! That's just great.

Posted by: jeanne | November 21, 2005 7:34 PM | Report abuse

...and a cliche. Geez, I can't even write a decent blog post. I'm outta here.

Posted by: jeanne | November 21, 2005 7:38 PM | Report abuse

jeanne: Yuk, yuk! Anytime I try to lay down a particularly thoughtful comment (especially one concerning precision of thought or writing!) here, it invariably contains an error or two. Oh, well.

My professional writing isn't nearly as extensive as that of some others here. Some of the correspondence that I do gives me scope to attempt originality and excellence, though, and I truly enjoy it. My recreational writing is generally short pieces, and on the very rare occasions that I think I've done a really nice bit I share it out in one way or another. The feedback is generally pretty positive, but I don't think I could feed myself on the two or three short pieces per year that I think approach excellence!

Yep, there's probably some something that genuinely good writers possess that I ain't got.

Posted by: Bob S. | November 21, 2005 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Interestingly (in light of recent school system news) I have a hobby project that I've been working on for about two years. It's a book-length examination of some social ramifications (from 1860-ish to roughly the present) of the awareness of Darwinian theory. I really enjoy working on it, but doubt that I'll ever get too wound up about wrapping it up.

Posted by: Bob S. | November 21, 2005 8:02 PM | Report abuse

A couple of boodles back, Bob S. mentioned that Stephen Hunter (among others) said that "Gone with the Wind" wasn't even the best movie of 1939. At the risk of a thread hijack, here are some of the films released in that year in alphabetical order so you can draw your own conclusions:

Beau Geste
Dark Victory
Destry Rides Again
Drums Along the Mohawk
Gone with the Wind
Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Gunga Din
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Love Affair (later remade as An Affair to Remember)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Of Mice and Men (sorry, Sara)
Only Angles Have Wings
The Roaring Twenties
The Rules of the Game
The Wizard of Oz
The Women
Wuthering Heights
Young Mr. Lincoln

Not a bad year for flicks, eh?

Posted by: pj | November 21, 2005 8:10 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Stephen Hunter. (Here I come again with more GWTW venom. I really do think about other things, I swear.) I read the responses to the last time I raised GWTW, but by the time I got to them it was late at night and I was functionally braindead, so I didn't respond. They were interesting, though. I agreed with the person (I'm sorry, probably committing a faux pas by not recalling the handle) who said "Birth of a Nation" was considered great cinematography, too, but was too overtly racist to appreciate. That's how I feel about both movies. I've seen better examples of artistry than GWTW that wasn't couched in racism. I think people just want to buy into the moonlight and magnolias romanticism of the South (see also "The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood") without feeling any of the pain. It reminds me of the debate over the Confederate flag. People say, "Well to *me* it doesn't mean hatred and racism," but the point is, it means that to LOTS of people, and the ladylike or gentlemanly thing to do is to acknowledge that discomfort and say, "I won't plaster the Confederate flag all over my car" out of respect for one's neighbors. GWTW is similar. People say they like it because it's pretty, essentially, trying to ignore all the ugliness about it. Not for me, you know?

Posted by: bugs bunny | November 21, 2005 8:38 PM | Report abuse

You're probably closer to the truth than not, LB--there are about a dozen of us regulars. Is that a problem? But since your post, we've had Bob S. and Jeanne pipe up.

Welcome, Bob S. and Jeanne. Pipe up all you want, whenever you want. (Bob, you really ought to work on that book; sounds like something we need right about now.)

K-guy, if you can break away from the alien autopsies for a moment (how are those going by the way? Just curious), didn't somebody once say that 1939 was the best year ever for good movies? I like PJ's list. It'd still be tough to pick the best movie in lieu of GWTW. Personally, I like Goodby, Mr. Chips, though I imagine Wizard of Oz would probably win a popular vote.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 21, 2005 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Let's give a little context to "Birth of a Nation". It's considered extremely important because it's the among the first real film equivalents of a novel. Not just a brief exploration of film techniques, but uses many of those techniques to flesh out a story. I don't think that anyone has ever claimed that it was as important (as social commentary) as, say, the novel 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'. It's definitely an important film, for those who care about the history of film.

Posted by: Bob S. | November 21, 2005 9:02 PM | Report abuse

"Only Angles Have Wings"?

I personally know that birds, planes, and angels ALSO have wings!!

Posted by: Bob S. | November 21, 2005 9:09 PM | Report abuse

And museums, libraries & some feminine hygiene products.

Posted by: Bob S. | November 21, 2005 9:10 PM | Report abuse

What's the difference between a bird with one wing and a bird with two?

It's a matter of a pinion.

Posted by: pj | November 21, 2005 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Bob S., bugs, I was one of those people who said they had a tough time watching BoAN (ha!) for technical and artisitc merit, and wondered if some would consider GWTW a similar experience.

I should take umbrage at my good friend Achenfan's suggestion that I'd enjoy a meal at Hooters. The food there is awful.


Posted by: bc | November 21, 2005 10:00 PM | Report abuse

BoAN (I like it!) isn't a fun flick!

Hooter's has decent wings, little else to suggest it.

Posted by: Bob S. | November 21, 2005 10:10 PM | Report abuse

I like the abbreviation. I'm lukewarm (at best) about the film. Like many old novels, it's a bit of a task.

Posted by: Bob S. | November 21, 2005 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Late boodling again - had to work (on a Monday!) because of the holiday.

Linda Loo, glad you're cooking the turkey and stuffing. What time do you want us to show up? Someone needs to bring the salad and vegetables - oh, and the mashed potatoes. TBG and I have the sweet potatoes and cranberry bread covered. We'll need lots of beer and wine too. And some spaghetti would be in order.

Looks like a light week - hope everyone has a good holiday. I know I have lots to be thankful for, not the least of which is being part of this crazy little community. Hope Cassandra, Nelson, jw, bostonreader, pixel, cubedweller are doing well, even if they don't check in very often these days. Moi Moi too.

Posted by: mostlylurking | November 21, 2005 11:02 PM | Report abuse

I'll say again, GWTW is good soap opera of a book/movie. I didn't find Scarlett's character appealing - she was spoiled and manipulative, but fascinating (think Paris Hilton). It's a tale of the wealthy brought down low. It's about people going off to war thinking it's going to be quick and glorious, and finding out it's hell.

I didn't find it a nostalgic look at the South, but maybe that's because of my perspective - a girl from the north, near stops of the Underground Railroad, who was disgusted by the very notion of slavery. My great-grandfather was a Union soldier, so I felt a personal connection to that side. I've always been outraged by injustice.

But I read GWTW several times. Of course, I've always yearned for an estate like Tara, where I could have all the horses and gardens I want. I'm sure Nani can relate to that.

Posted by: mostlylurking | November 21, 2005 11:14 PM | Report abuse

mo - you didn't get panda tickets! I read on the CNN crawl that they got snapped up in an hour (just like U2 tickets). Keep trying - can't wait to see your cute panda pics!

Posted by: Caged Rabbit | November 21, 2005 11:16 PM | Report abuse

I'm an odd critter. Born in Atlanta, lived in Georgia (mostly Savannah) thru 2nd grade, then did some serious traveling with the folks, then back to Atlanta for 10th grade through a couple of years of college. Then I joined the Air Force and did some reasonably serious travelling of my own. So, I've got real chops as a Southern boy, but plenty of outside perspective.

But that's not the point. The point is, doesn't LindaLoo have a deep family secret recipe that we're supposed to be wheedling from her? Or is that contingent upon my sharing certain shower stories? (In which case, alas, it may never be forthcoming, as it were!)

Posted by: Bob S. | November 21, 2005 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the pancake recipe! We were hoping on Thanksgiving, for a special occasion, she'd feel like sharing...

Shower stories? Hmmm, maybe that was the comment I skipped because it was getting kind of, you know, uncomfortable?

Posted by: mostlylurking | November 21, 2005 11:46 PM | Report abuse

Uncomfortable for YOU?? How do you think I feel?

Posted by: Bob S. | November 22, 2005 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Boring, typical tech support story...

I just spent the past three hours on (& off & back on) the phone with various tech support people. I won't bore you with the details, but once I found the correct person, the problem was solved within ten minutes. But, golly, the search for that person was maddening! (OK, technically, I occasionally let fly some epithets rather more colorful than 'golly')

And, lest you be tempted to ask, the issue was one that required their intervention. I didn't spend all that time to have someone to tell me where the "ON" switch was located.

Posted by: Bob S. | November 22, 2005 12:13 AM | Report abuse

Last remark on this subject:

I let those colorful epithets fly only while on hold. I didn't feel the need to share them with people who were genuinely trying to help me. I really am getting better at this "battling my inner jackass" thing!

Posted by: Bob S. | November 22, 2005 12:17 AM | Report abuse

I do, however, hope that I always remember to perform a occasional strut with ludicrous pomposity, just for the sake of the self-satisfied amusement of my betters!

Posted by: Bob S. | November 22, 2005 12:32 AM | Report abuse

My lessers can take caring of amusing themselves without my assistance!

Posted by: Bob S. | November 22, 2005 12:33 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps by pointing out to themselves that the last sentence was intended to read:

"My lessers can take CARE of amusing themselves without my assistance!"

Posted by: Bob S. | November 22, 2005 12:35 AM | Report abuse

Reference to the original Kit (can we remember that far back?):

I've actually written (informally, to those who would get it) "it'd've". And anyone who's noticed a few of my posts knows that I ain't afraid of using "ain't"!

Posted by: Bob S. | November 22, 2005 1:11 AM | Report abuse

But "y'all" refers to more than one of you, dammit! The usage referencing a single person is either 1) a joke being played upon you Yankees, or; 2) exactly the sort of ignorance exemplified for those chowderheads who think that "imply" and "infer" are interchangeable.

(... serenity now....serenity now...)

Posted by: Bob S. | November 22, 2005 1:17 AM | Report abuse

Last (silly) entry for the night:

Exemplified BY those chowderheads... (sigh)

Posted by: Bob S. | November 22, 2005 1:20 AM | Report abuse

...reading about dick cheney speeches or
worst catching parts of them on tv news
film clips is unfailingly always an
exercise in the practice of tolerance....
....i would ascribe qualities of "just
another rancher from texas" to bush2...
... after seeing his facial expression on
learning the door would not open i may
revise that to something more akin to a sheriff roscoe take from
a "DUKES OF HAZZARD" episode....come to
think of it this WH could use a similar
style of voice over for plot reveal as
was done on the DOH......................
.........cheney is more like the emperor
in the STAR WARS movies....deeply hooded
and filled with menace...for this guy to
go in front of conservative tilt groups
and sneer about what he considers to be
deplorable behavior in others is the
boldest of acting....for his script and
lines are what is contemptable..........
whatever america stands for it isnt what
dick cheney is selling.....and he should
be brought to heel for his maliced and
corrosive intent and acts of the last five
years as vice president..................
dick cheney has a vision of america that
i dont share...fearmongering,deception and
the practice of torture are not noble...
....nor is dick cheney....................

Posted by: an american in siam.... | November 22, 2005 7:05 AM | Report abuse

American in Siam, you words about Dick Cheney really hit the spot. I just don't think you should look at a vice president and see (and feel) only contempt. What a bad guy.

Posted by: TBG | November 22, 2005 7:53 AM | Report abuse

But, you know, I must say that as much as I am ashamed at the way our administration has behaved and what behavior they have condoned, I am still incredibly proud to live in a country where I can write, for all to see, that I think the vice president is a bad guy.

Posted by: TBG | November 22, 2005 7:54 AM | Report abuse

american in siam, I think John Dickerson's take on Dick Cheney in Slate is apropos:

Posted by: slyness | November 22, 2005 8:03 AM | Report abuse

I was halfway paying attention to the Today Show this morning, and Matt Lauer was talking to some lady (I wasn't paying attention to who she was, unfortunately, though maybe someone else here knows) who said Americans like Dick Cheney and think he's a good guy. I almost choked on my toothbrush.

Posted by: bugs bunny | November 22, 2005 8:57 AM | Report abuse

It's the next day so this is a bit late in coming, but I just saw Linda's "bread cubed" statement and I laughed out loud! I hate math but I love math humor.

Posted by: Sara | November 22, 2005 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I think "math humor" may be a contradiction in terms, though. (Kind of like Garfield feels about "good morning.")

Posted by: Sara | November 22, 2005 9:14 AM | Report abuse

this is stupid & worthless drivel

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2005 9:20 AM | Report abuse

"this is stupid & worthless drivel"

Snort, now I have to get a paper towel to wipe the diet coke off my computer monitor, LOL.

Posted by: omnigoof | November 22, 2005 9:29 AM | Report abuse

There has been much talk on the Boodle during the past week of the film, "Birth of a Nation." I don't recall ever having seen it, but am aware of its place in movie history. I have a trivia story related to the movie.

I had returned from my year in Europe on scholarship but with no academic credit given to me by my college for my year abroad. The three roommates I had through my freshman to junior years had completed their respective senior years and graduated.

I had yet to complete my senior year and didn't know of anyone in particular with whom I felt like sharing an off-campus apartment. Humboldt State had just completed a large, brand-new complex of hillside dormitories, so I opted to live in the dorm.

I was paired with a great roommate who was a junior college transer student. But the majority of the young females on the floor were freshmen. Two were in a room directly across the hall from the end-wing room that Nancy and I shared.

One of the two of those young frosh was from Marin County, and I can't remember her name for the life of me, after all these years. She had a vry thick braid of blonde hair down her back and often wore a kerchief tied on her head and back and under her braid. She claimed that on her family's mantleplace in Marin County sat D.W. Griffith's Academy Award. I think Griffith may have been her great-uncle. I don't know if D.W. Griffith had children, but somehow, through family connections, his award was passed on down to their family.

Just to make certain I'm on sure footing this morning, I did an Internet search to verify that D.W. Griffith received an Academy Award--or the film did. Yes indeed.

Honorary Awards are given by the Academy for "exceptional distinction in the making of motion pictures or for outstanding service to the Academy." Previous recipients over the Academy's 75-year history include Charles Chaplin (twice), D. W. Griffith, Bob Hope (twice), Gene Kelly, Jean Renoir, Alex North, Federico Fellini, Chuck Jones and Sidney Poitier.

My old roommmate Nancy now works for the Department of Motot Vehicles in Santa Rosa, Calif. I could probably sleuth this story to attempt to reach my former Marin County dormmate. But a very small piece of movie trivia on D.W. Griffiths "Birth of a Nation" brought to you from little ol' biddy Humboldt State.

Posted by: Loomis | November 22, 2005 9:33 AM | Report abuse

old bread + knife = cubed bread

In the fancy language of mathematics, the associative property of addition says
that if a, b, and c are any whole numbers, then (a + b) + c = a + (b + c).

(bread + butter)+ spices = bread + (butter + spices), or, simply reduced:

dried cubed bread = croutons

Posted by: Loomis | November 22, 2005 9:41 AM | Report abuse

croutons + legumes + drivel = boodle filler

[WARNING: Do not under any circumstances substitute dribble for drivel.]

Posted by: Achenfan | November 22, 2005 9:59 AM | Report abuse

And here I thought: croutons & legumes = drivel = boodle!

Posted by: omnigoof | November 22, 2005 10:05 AM | Report abuse

omnigoof, your math signs don't add up to real math.

Posted by: Sara | November 22, 2005 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Thanksgiving Day history, Part 2

[Since 1812] The observance of Thanksgiving remained sporadic until the depths of the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday. Lincoln acted at the urging of Sarah [Josepha Buel] Hale, a magazine editor who had lobbied for the estblishment of the holiday for nearly two decades.

In a column published in 1858 in her magazine, "Godfrey's Lady's Book," Hale called Thanksgiving "a truly American festival."

"Let us consecrate the day to benevolence of action," she wrote, "by sending good gifts to the poor, and doing those deeds of charity that will, for one day, make every American home the place of plenty and of rejoicing."

Hale, who also wrote the song "Mary Had a Little Lamb," sent a personal pitch to Lincoln in 1863. Lincoln responded by proclaiming the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving that year and in 1864. After Lincoln's assassination in 1865, other presidents followed suit out of respect for the slain president and Hale's continuing crusade.

After Dave Uhler's feature went to press last year in the San Antonio Express-News, I sent Uhler a follow-up e-mail to explain that Sarah Josepha Buel Hale is descended from one of the founders of ancient Windsor, Conn., the same pioneer community in Connecticut where the Loomises settled (since I am mentioned in Uhler's article).

According to Stiles' "The History of Ancient Windsor, Conn.: Part Two," William Buel a Welchman [sic] who was a joiner (carpenter) by trade, who was part of the first land division in Windsor. Thistlethwaite in his book "Dorset Pilgrims," explains that Buell [spelling variation] was one of a number of Windor settlers trained in the building trades, and it was Buell who "fit out" the meeeting house. Buell also received a contract to divide the meeting house's great pew into two parts, one to be reserved for the magistrates.

One of William Buel's grandsons, John, married Mary Loomis, and one of their descendants was Norman Buel Judd, Chicago attorney and one of Lincoln's early campaign managers. Sarah Josepha Buel Hale is also among William Buel's descendants, so there is much Windsor, Conn. influence in the American story of Thanksgiving.

Posted by: Linda Loomis | November 22, 2005 10:14 AM | Report abuse

I am certain that the award given to DWG was for lifetime achievement and not for a specific film. He is generally considered to be one of the great early directors and made over 500 films of which BoAN, Intolerance, and Broken Blossoms are the best known and best regarded. Intolerance was made in response to criticism of BoAN. Apparently Griffith was surprised and hurt that anyone would think that BoAN with its white actor in blackface attempting to ravish the heroine while the KKK rides to the rescue was racist. He was a rigid and imperious personality, said to have about the same sense of humor as Dick Cheney.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 22, 2005 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Can someone please explain the origin of marshmallows as a topping for a sweet potatoe casserole and why.

I've heard of some people adding brown sugar to rutabagas, and to me this falls in the same category. I've never tasted either with a sweet topping, we always had them plain.

Posted by: dr | November 22, 2005 10:22 AM | Report abuse

The thing I always loved as a kid about the marshmallow topping was how it would catch fire if left in the oven too long. I suspect my mother used to do that on purpose cause we loved it so and then everybody rushed around fanning the flames. Still tasted fine with a little carbon added.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 22, 2005 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Clearly these were recipes for boodle filler gone wrong.

[Now *that* was drivel. Sorry. I hope someone else will have a serious answer to your question. Me, I don't even know what a rutabaga is.]

[Actually, yes I do -- I just looked it up in the dictionary. It would appear to be a turnip. And I know what *that* is.]

Posted by: Achenfan | November 22, 2005 10:31 AM | Report abuse

[I got the "automated robots" screen again. Yay! I like the anti-automated-robots feature.]

Posted by: Achenfan | November 22, 2005 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Main Entry: ru·ta·ba·ga
Pronunciation: "rü-t&-'bA-g&, "ru-, -'be-; 'rü-t&-", 'ru-
Function: noun
Etymology: Swedish dialect rotabagge, from rot root + bagge bag
: a turnip (Brassica napus napobrassica) that usually produces a large yellowish root

Main Entry: tur·nip
Pronunciation: 't&r-n&p
Function: noun
Etymology: probably from 1turn + neep; from the well-rounded root
1 a : either of two biennial herbs of the mustard family with thick edible roots: (1) : one (Brassica rapa rapifera) with usually flattened roots and leaves that are cooked as a vegetable (2) : RUTABAGA b : the root of a turnip
2 : a large pocket watch

Posted by: omnigood | November 22, 2005 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I mentioned earlier that I had written some time back about Maury Maverick Sr. By chance, what I wrote included the following ...

UT law professor Pat Hazel says Maverick should also be remembered as a wordsmith. Hazel says Maverick coined the commonly used slang term "gobbledygook."

"He used it and it just got started," Hazel says.

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 22, 2005 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Just wanted to stop in an say hi between meetings--and I have an observation from Hong Kong that should have gone under the "Carbucks" kit, but oh well.

There are Starbucks everywhere in Hong Kong, just like here. But next to every one, is this other coffee shop, called the Pacific Coffee Co. In fact, if you removed all branding, the two places would be identical. I found this hilarious every time I saw it, and felt neccessary to come up with crazy coffee company conspiracy theories to explain it. Which was there first? Is Starbucks trying to move in on Pacific Coffee Company's turf, or is it the other way around? Is this symbolic of some greater conflict between China's socialist roots and modern capitalistic pressures?

Also, there is no such thing as a "Venti(c)" in Hong Kong. Their sizes are short, tall, and grande. This says a lot, I think.

Posted by: jw | November 22, 2005 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Omni -- Is that a rutabaga in your pocket or are you just keeping time?

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 22, 2005 10:39 AM | Report abuse


If you don't know what a rutabaga is, you aren't missing much. Like the turnip, it's a root vegetable, but has even less personality.

Posted by: pj | November 22, 2005 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I'd like someone to explain to me why sweet potatoes were ever created. Ick. (I have a mental problem reconciling sweetness with saltiness. My brain doesn't like the idea of it and neither do my tastebuds. I also have a problem with things that I think are supposed to be salty but actually shock me with sweetness, hence my loathing of sweet potatoes. I don't like to be taken by surprise like that.)

Posted by: Sara | November 22, 2005 10:42 AM | Report abuse

That does indeed say a lot.

[By the way, good to hear from you; hope you had fun in Honkers.]

Re. the location of Starbucks and its competitor, I think this can be explained by "Hotelling's model":

"Suppose that two owners of refreshment stands, George and Henry, are trying to decide where to locate along a stretch of beach. Suppose further that there are 100 customers located at even intervals along this beach, and that a customer will buy only from the closest vendor. Finally, assume that the beach is short enough so that total sales are independent of where the vendors locate.

"Suppose that initially the vendors locate at points A and C in the illustration below. These locations would minimize the average traveling costs of the buyers and would result in each vendor getting one half of the business. However, this solution would not be an equilibrium. If George moved from point A to point B, he would keep all customers to his left, and get some of Henry's customers. For similar reasons, Henry would move toward the center, and in equilibrium, both vendors would locate together in the middle."

A___________ B ____________ C

[I copied this from some Web site that I can't be bothered to cite.]

[But I did the A,B,C drawing myself. It's good, isn't it.]

Posted by: Achenfan | November 22, 2005 10:49 AM | Report abuse

___________ ____________

''''''''''''/ \''''''''''''''

Posted by: Anonymous | November 22, 2005 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Uh...somebody want to e'splain that anonymous 11:00:34 post to me?

Just realized today is the anniversary of the JFK assassination (haven't seen anything in the MSM on it yet). And it also happens to be my middle daughter's "gotcha day," which people in the adoption community understand to mean this is the day we "gotcha" from the adoption agency. In our case, it's the day we got her from Korea 21 years ago (she was 4 years old). So Happy Gotcha Day, Cassie.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 22, 2005 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, on my flight back from Hong Kong, there were many couples with new babieson the flight back (I assumed they were newly adopted). Kinda gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. Of course, that might have been the Ambien kicking in.

Posted by: jw | November 22, 2005 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I believe it was supposed to be Achenfan's drawing the other direction, but the drawer didn't realize that extraneous spaces are removed. And that bit below is a stick figure with beach muscles.

Posted by: ack | November 22, 2005 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I thought it was crop circles.

Posted by: Dreamer | November 22, 2005 2:05 PM | Report abuse

cut and paste into an editor like notepad (something without truetype fonts) and you'll see it.

Posted by: ack | November 22, 2005 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Geez, all these comments are intimidating. Loved the piece. Adverbs suck. Choose the right verbs and they're unnecessary 95% of the time.

Keep the good stuff coming.

Laurin Manning

Posted by: Laurin Manning | November 22, 2005 9:35 PM | Report abuse

About needless letters:
"He would not have" (17 spaces, 4 aspirated sounds) comes out: "hewudn't've" (11 spaces, 4 aspirated sounds). But one hears: "hewudn't'a" (10 spaces, 4 aspirated sounds). Even: "hewud'n'a" (9 spaces, 3 aspirated sounds). I think the last is most common. Apparently in informal speech we tend to slur things together. Short is best: you can spurt stuff out faster.

Posted by: David | November 22, 2005 10:33 PM | Report abuse

Sara: I've got a sneaking suspicion that sweet potatoes were created for the same reason that eels, granite, water & light were created!

Posted by: Bob S. | November 23, 2005 1:59 AM | Report abuse

Can you please moderate these comments. How dreadful it was reading all 400 of these.

Posted by: dave galon | November 23, 2005 5:15 PM | Report abuse

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