Monthly Archives: August 2007

what those teeny little garbage cans are for

I’m a fan of eggcorns, and some linguistic squirrels have been collecting these tasty little nuggets for a while now. Eggcorns are those funny little mistakes we make about the original meanings of words or cliched phrases, substituting in words … Continue reading

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crime and almost no punishment whatsoever, part 2

But there’s another reason I’ve always been hesitant to watch The Sopranos. I think I’ve always been secretly afraid that perhaps the critics are right — that perhaps it is the best show on television. I wouldn’t be surprised — it’s on cable, where most of the best shows are these days, and some very smart friends of mine love it. But I’ve been concerned because it appears to be a straight-ahead drama whose biggest twist is that it’s about mobsters — ER, but in the Mafia. This bothers me because I have great love for television as a medium, and if its flagship program, the best it has to offer, is a well-constructed but fairly conventional drama, then I’m frustrated and disappointed.

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crime and almost no punishment whatsoever, part 1

The dialogue is clean and sharp as cracked ice, and the writers nail three subtly different variations on rapid-fire patter: the acid-laced argot of Martin Blank (John Cusack) and his arch-rival (the Aykroyd character), the uneasy, searching wit of friendships rejoined after a long time (Jeremy Piven slips easily into the role of co-conspirator at the godawful reunion), and the magic and soreness of returning to a love long-lost but never abandoned. This is all very lightweight — the moment you start to think about it, it floats away like a dream — but that makes the elegant handling all the more impressive.

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is Harry Potter a complete asshole?

In the books, on the other hand, we frequently dawdle in Harry’s thoughts — and for the most part his thoughts reveal someone thoroughly unlikeable. Harry is quick to take offense and enjoys a good stew — he stews about the Durzleys, which is understandable, but also about Ron and Hermione, about Sirius, and always, always, always about Dumbledore. He doesn’t trust his friends a whit, assuming the worst of them whenever his feelings are chafed: when the other students don’t write to him over the summer, he assumes they’ve snubbed him; when Dumbledore doesn’t disclose every aspect of his plans to Harry or, at times, avoids contact with him, Harry immediately believes the old wizard is slighting him, although Dumbledore has shown time and again that he does nothing without good reason. Even when the reason for something has been thoroughly explained to him, as in the case of his occlumancy lessons, Harry can’t help seeing it as a punishment and an oppression. Well into the seventh book, long after every major character has proven both smarter than Harry and doggedly devoted to him, he can’t simply go with the flow and trust Dumbledore’s plan or his friends’ motives.

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guard duty

The first forty-five minutes or so I was a little on edge, because cars would creep by on the tiny dirt road at about 2 miles an hour as though they were either watching us or about to pop off a few shots. There’s nothing more disturbing than to look up and see a car nearly stopped just outside the fence. Then I realized the problem was the road, which is terrible. They weren’t stopping — they just couldn’t drive any faster. A few people actually did turn their heads to stare at us, but mostly farmers bumped carefully along with bushels of unidentifiable vegetables in the backs of stakebed trucks; families crawled along in low sedans, the men sitting in the front, the women and children in the back, sometimes with a partial curtain ineffectively protecting them from view or sunlight; more rarely, groups of young men would roll by packed into ancient Opels or sometimes trucks. It was hard not to view them with suspicion, but they seemed no more curious about us than anyone else, and none of them blew up.

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