Things That Annoy Me Feed

Bad Writing

If you can even call it writing.... Maybe just jargon. Or guff.

I received an email on my work account with this subject:

Implement Engaging Prevention Training at [college]

I wondered what it meant. Training for the purpose of preventing something, apparently. Opened the email and saw a company logo with this text:

Proven, Engaging Student Prevention Training

What?!? 

So I read the first paragraph:

Did you know SafeColleges Training provides a variety of effective student prevention courses through a robust training system?

I experienced deepening confusion. Few colleges wish to prevent students.

Only by reading as far as the second paragraph did I learn that they are referring to training aimed at "encouraging healthy behaviors" on topics like drugs, alcohol, and sex. 


The War on Transitive Verbs

I know I can be pedantic, but I like to think I'm not excessively so. I deny that I'm a grammar Nazi. I understand that language is constantly shifting, and that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Some departures from standard grammar--I hesitate even to say "correct," so wary am I of being overly judgmental--are enhancements in the way of color, or meet some need not provided by the standard. 

I notice the first one sometimes in certain constructs that less-educated people use. For instance: in the opening episode of The Wire, a character commenting on the death of a friend: "I guess sometimes life just be that way." "Be" is wrong, but it has a flavor that "Life is just that way" doesn't. I see a lot of memes that use, for lack of a better word, black English, and sometimes they're funny or punchy in a way that they wouldn't be in standard English. Like "be like":

SouthernersBeLikeAnd as for the second: I'm becoming reconciled to the use of "they/them/their" for the third-person singular when the sex of the person is unknown. You don't have to be a feminist to find "he/him/his" odd-sounding when the person referred to is most likely, or just as likely, to be female. I felt it often in my job in software services, where the office workers using the software were far more likely to be women than men. "Each user can set his own preferences." But 90% of them are women, and we all know it. "Each user can set her own preferences"--but isn't it just a touch patronizing to assume the user is female? "Each user can set his or her own preferences"--that's fine for one sentence, but it's clumsy if you need to repeat it. "Each user can set their own preferences"--yes, that grates mightily on my ear, but I guess I have to get used to it.

But there is no justification for this kind of thing:

This recording will repeat.

When the process is complete, a message displays. 

The screen populates with the information. 

Dr. Banner transforms into The Hulk.

She dies, then resurrects as a zombie.

If your tax doesn't calculate...

Is it really so hard, is it really too much trouble, to say "will be repeated," "is displayed", and so on? I'm not sure exactly what this syndrome signifies but I'm sure it's something bad. 

And by the way the title is partly in jest. Something else that annoys me is the declaration that any opposition to, or just neglect of, a thing constitutes "a war on..." the thing. 


Does the Pope Believe in the Resurrection?

Some weeks ago I was asked about a remark attributed to Pope Francis by that journalist he talks to from time to time, Eugenio Scalifari. According to Scalifari, the pope said that the resurrection of Jesus did not actually happen as a physical event. This was one of those conversations with the 90-plus-year-old journalist who neither records nor takes notes of his "interviews." So (1) who knows what Francis actually said? (2) who knows what Francis actually meant? (3) who really cares, unless something more definite is known about (1) and (2)?

So much for that. But my correspondent had searched for something like "does the pope believe in the resurrection?" and had turned up something more serious, albeit happily more obscure. The web site of a self-described "reformed, Calvinistic, conservative evangelical publisher" based in Edinburgh, "Banner of Truth," asserts that Benedict XVI clearly denies the resurrection. A look around the site reveals that it also pushes old-school anti-Catholicism: Far From Rome Near to God: Testimonies of Fifty Converted Catholic Priests. So it's not surprising that in an article called "Does the Pope Believe in the Resurrection?" Matthew Vogan says the answer is no:

Continue reading "Does the Pope Believe in the Resurrection?" »


Trump Didn't Say That

The title would be applicable at least once a week. In a comment on some current-event-related post a while back, Janet said "Don't make me defend Trump." I find myself in that position a lot. So do enough people, I guess, that the Babylon Bee did a post about it

It's maddening. I really haven't changed my negative view of Trump. But the unrelenting effort by Democrats to destroy him by, apparently, any means necessary, makes me at least a little sympathetic toward him. Or at least toward the truth which is such a frequent casualty in this war.

I'm thinking right now of the insane bit of controversy that's happened over the past few days. Trump wondered out loud whether disinfectants should be studied as possible measures against COVID-19. That was immediately turned into "Crazy Trump Tells People to Drink Disinfectant." And then they warned people not to do it. As if the idea would ever have occurred to anyone without the help of the press.

If you want to read a careful account of what Trump actually said and the way it was handled, read this piece by Andrew McCarthy: The Times Inflates Trump's Foolishness Into Monstrousness

How depressing is the erosion of the principle that when the president of the United States speaks, it means something, that it’s not just stream-of-consciousness that willy-nilly gets revised or reversed or treated like he never really said it. Just as depressing, though, is the media’s abandonment of straightforward fact reporting, in favor of unabashed alliance with Trump’s political opposition.

Why do blind partisans and demagogues have such sway these days? Because no one can trust the reporting of institutions we used to expect would give us an accurate rendition of the facts being debated....

When the president speaks publicly, he should stick to what he is in a position to convey factually, not hypothetically. Especially when it comes to scientific and medical information, as to which he is quickly out of his depth.

At the same time, no matter how much the press abhors Trump, no matter how sincerely believed its conviction that he is a dangerous man who will induce people to do dangerous things, reporters worthy of the name do not have license to portray Trump as living down to their worst fears when he has not. If he says dumb things, they should report that he said dumb things. That’s bad enough (and since they’re clearly hoping to hurt him politically, nothing stings like the truth). The press destroys its own credibility, however, by reporting the president’s ill-advised remarks as if they were culpably, recklessly irresponsible remarks.

I don't care much about Trump's political fortunes for Trump's sake, but I do care about the transformation of most of the national press into a weapon for his enemies, because it means that the institutions which are supposed to inform us, and are always eager to preen themselves upon their own importance, have more or less abandoned that duty where domestic politics is concerned. When I said "Democrats" earlier, I meant the word to include most of the media. As McCarthy says, "No one can trust the reporting." And as a journalist of another time used to say, "That's the way it is." 

TrumpSaysEatYourGrassAnd by the way Al Gore never claimed to have invented the Internet.


Hating "Holiday"

And not much liking "the holidays."

Every year I get more annoyed with the de-Christianized winter festival formerly known as Christmas. Unfortunately the advertising for that season begins in mid-November, which means that it's during football season, which is almost the only time I watch standard TV and am exposed to any great number of commercials. I am unreasonably annoyed by advertisements that begin "This holiday....", usually followed by something like "make your family happy by buying our thing." I might not be so put off by the whole thing if I weren't seeing those commercials.

The American Christmas has always, or at least since the middle of the last century or so, had its secularized aspect. That was fine: we were a predominantly Christian country, but plenty of people who did not celebrate the religious holiday as such found much to enjoy in the cultural paraphernalia. Irving Berlin gave us "White Christmas," which no decent person could dislike or resent, and he was Jewish. Notice, though, that he didn't shy away from using the word "Christmas." From an early age I had a sense that something was missing when the decorations and greetings and such of the season left out any mention whatsoever of Christmas itself. And at a not so early, but not very late, age it occurred to me that "the holiday season" would lose the essence of its charm if the religious core of it were removed.

Well, that has pretty much happened now as far as public speech is concerned. It seems that Christmas has become That Which Must Not Be Named in most situations that are not specifically Christian. And as far as I'm concerned all that paraphernalia I mentioned, which I used to enjoy for the most part, has begun to seem lame, dull, tawdry, and often depressing. I guess every Catholic who's ever read a book has heard of Flannery O'Connor's famous response to the suggestion that the Eucharist is only a symbol: "If it's only a symbol, then the hell with it." That is pretty much my view of Holiday carefully scrubbed of any Christian reference whatsoever.

The good part of this is that as I lose interest in Holiday I take more notice of Advent. I can't say I've observed it very well this year, but I did a little better than last year. And this year, thanks to the Anglican tradition, I've discovered what is called "the Advent Prose": an English translation of the Latin Rorate caeli. You can read it at the Wikipedia page for Rorate caeli. It's obviously not a contemporary translation, but I don't know how far back it goes. It's good strong stuff; here's how it begins:

Drop down, ye heavens, from above,
and let the skies pour down righteousness.

Be not wroth very sore, O Lord,
neither remember iniquity for ever:
thy holy city is a wilderness,
Sion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation:
our holy and our beautiful house,
where our fathers praised thee.

I guess it would be wrong for me to think it would be fine with me if that deluge washed Holiday away. 


Un-movies, Un-music

I partly agree with what Martin Scorsese says in this NYT piece. In case the link doesn't work, here are a couple of excerpts:

I was asked a question about Marvel movies. I answered it. I said that I’ve tried to watch a few of them and that they’re not for me, that they seem to me to be closer to theme parks than they are to movies as I’ve known and loved them throughout my life, and that in the end, I don’t think they’re cinema.

The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but that’s becoming increasingly rare.

Most movies have always been junk; after all, the movie industry is an industry. I don't agree that there's any kind of a definite line between "entertainment" and "cinema." Or for that matter between "entertainment" and art of any kind. 

But the comic-book movies do seem to be something different from others. Not drama, not comedy, not horror, not thriller. Not even action, in a sense, because the action is un-human; a sub-genre of their own, really. I've seen a couple of them, and they are entertaining. But the elevation of spectacle over everything else really does make them closer to theme parks than to memorable art. The endless tie-ins to actual theme parks and all sorts of merchandise reinforce that. 

Come to that, I've never bought into the whole idea that comics of the Marvel-DC sort are some sort of profound pop-mythological art to which we should pay serious attention. Even as a child and a young teenager, I didn't have a huge interest in them. I read and enjoyed them when they came my way, usually at a friend's house, but I don't recall ever putting my very limited spending money into the purchase of one. 

This started me thinking about a similar phenomenon, a similar sort of disjuncture, but to me a more striking and decisive one. I don't hear much of today's popular music that is actually popular, but when I do it often strikes me as not being music at all. I don't mean that it's noise; I sort of like noise. I have not just a tolerance but a liking for an adept infusion of noise into music.I like Sonic Youth. I like Low's Double Negative album. I like Fennesz.

I mean that it seems like some sort of artificial quasi-music. When I hear it, my brain doesn't register it as "music" to be liked or disliked, but only as an aural phenomenon, and a very irritating one. It's the musical equivalent of Cheez-Whiz, which is described on the package label as a "processed cheese food product" or something like that. 

Example: the other day I saw a link to a new song "dropped" by the trio of Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, and Lana del Rey. Just out of curiosity, I played the YouTube video. I didn't get more than about 45 seconds into it. As something in the background in a public place, I guess I could have ignored it. Listened to attentively, I found it almost literally unbearable. I dislike absolutely everything about it. I especially dislike the singing style that's fashionable among a lot of these young women singers. And the pugnacious bragging lyrics, also fashionable. The typical music video sleaze is pretty much to be expected. Listen for yourself, if you like. I tried it again and this time didn't bail out till 1:45. 

It's ok if you scoff at my complaint as those of an old boomer who can't handle the kids these days. It doesn't actually have much to do with age. It has to do with whether Cheez-Whiz should be considered cheese or not.

I considered including a video by a young woman artist whom I actually like, though sometimes against my better judgment, but it's a little disturbing. Look for Myrkur on YouTube if you like (or on Spotify or whatever), but be warned that she's...challenging...in a way that these girls are not.


Apostrophes Matter

I went to the local "ordinary Catholic" parish yesterday (as opposed to my normal "Ordinariate Catholic" Mass). We sang "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name," using the music and text from the seasonal missalette. As usual, I grumbled to myself at the second line:

All on earth thy scepter claim

I'm pretty sure the sense of that is supposed to be "acclaim," not "take possession of." Though the latter is arguably a good bit closer to the truth. And I'm sure that I've seen it printed

All on earth thy scepter 'claim

where the apostrophe is meant to indicate the missing "ac." And I've always thought--this is where the grumbling comes in--that whoever worked up this hymn for the missalette simply didn't understand that "acclaim" was meant, and that "claim" is actually rather ludicrously contrary to the intent of the hymn.

Or at least I was sure that I'd seen it with the apostrophe. I decided to track it down, so, back home, I consulted no fewer than six hymnals--I didn't even know we had all these: The Methodist Hymnal (1966); The  Hymnal (Episcopal, 1940--they just call it The Hymnal, because obviously there is only one); The St. Gregory Hymnal (Catholic, 1920); The Pius X Hymnal (Catholic (duh), 1953); The Summit Choirbook (Catholic, 1983); The Adoremus Hymnal (1997); Baptist Hymnal (1956). 

And every one of them has "claim"--except the Baptist, which doesn't have the hymn at all.

Then I looked on the internet: "claim" after "claim" after "claim." The closest I came to what I was looking for, and thought I remembered, were a few variants that had a somewhat different line there, like this one

Saints on earth your rule acclaim

So did I just supply that apostrophe and plant it in my own brain as a memory? If anyone else has ever seen it, please let me know.

The odd thing is that in the "claim" version "sceptre" takes three notes--"sce-ep-tre", so the melody could accommodate "sceptre acclaim" perfectly well. As the hymn is based on the Te Deum, "acclaim" is certainly what's meant. But "claim," as I said, is all too appropriate. I wonder if Providence slipped "claim" in there as a sort of grim joke about the modern world.

I also looked for some definition or widespread use of "claim" in the sense of "acclaim" or "acknowledge," but didn't find that either. 


Sharing Is Not Necessarily Caring

Like any reasonable person, I am annoyed by the tendency on the part of some people to use the word "share" in place of "said" or some equivalent. "Jane shared that she had pizza for lunch." I guess it's one of those infections that has spread from the world of psychotherapy. But I very much enjoyed this item from a news story about a fitness instructor who apparently went a little berserk and started sending death threats to people she viewed as competitors:

“All hell is gonna rain fire down on your world like never seen before,” Steffen allegedly shared in a message to one victim.