Jan 252011

After DeadlineThe New York Times has a weekly column called After Deadline, “Notes from the newsroom on grammar, usage and style.” In this column, Philip B. Corbett, the associate managing editor for standards (who is also in charge of The Times’s style manual), points out grammar and style errors from recent editions of the newspaper.

I learn a lot from this column. While some of the points are specific to The NY Times style guide, many are related to general usage and grammar issues. The examples given are representative of the complexity of everyday usage.

It’s the cart-before-the-horse problem: usually the grammar and usage examples that are given to illustrate a particular issue are simplified to make the issue clear and understandable. The problem is that normal usage is more complex, so it is illuminating to see grammatical analysis of complex sentences.

Further to this, Brian Garner’s Modern American Usage is an excellent reference that uses examples from print media to illustrate grammatical rules. It’s back-of-the-toilet interesting.

 Posted by at 4:46 pm
May 162008

Plebiscite 2004 (Voters)
Creative Commons License photo credit: peterwalshprojects
I normally shy away from public political debate – the water gets too hot. However, the Vancouver Public Space Network has asked mayoral candidates to answer questions about current Vancouver issues (public toilets, parks and public spaces, the Safe Streets Act, the Downtown Ambassadors).

I like this form of political discourse. I find it useful to see the candidates’ answers side-by-side, and I think it gives the candidates the opportunity to articulate substantive ideas (an opportunity that Allen De Genova’s pompous and opinion- and idea-free “blah blah blah my five terms as Park Board Commissioner blah blah blah my intention as mayor blah blah blah” failed to grasp).

Unfortunately, Mayor Sam Sullivan did not participate. (Nor did Raymond Louie.)

 Posted by at 10:24 am
May 092008

Salt Spring yaks
I am merely a mid-grade foodie. (What an awful word.)

That is kind of a confession.

For example, there is only one kind of salt in my kitchen. (Ok, two. Oh, wait – three. But they’re not frou-frou salts. They’re all white.) I do not peel the skin off tomatoes prior to making a sauce. I don’t know how to lard a pheasant and neither favour nor disfavour durian (having never tried it).

As an occasional flicker-through of food magazines in the grocery store line-up and skimmer of food blogs, though, I am occasionally aware of the latest food fad. (Was food always subject to fashions? I don’t remember this as a kid, but, then again, maybe that explains the whole “Cooking with Campbells” cuisine of my childhood. Where fashion is concerned, we often look back in anger. Let that be a warning to us.)
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:52 am
May 082008

There is an interesting discussion going on over at Harvey Oberfeld’s blog about the state of TV news in British Columbia. In the first post, Harvey decries CTV and Global for ignoring important, breaking news (the Conservative funding scandal) in favour of “light” news (biodegradable coffee cups and an update on Canadian interest rates). (“Local TV News: Dumbing Down British Columbians“)

Harvey, now retired, was a senior reporter with BCTV (which was later acquired by Global). (See Wikipedia for his bio.)

In response to questions raised by the post (disclaimer – they were my questions), Harvey wrote a post about why lighter stories are favoured (“Debating T.V. News … the Beauty of Blogging!!“). This prompted a response from Cameron Bell – “State of the News: Read it and Weep!“. (Cameron Bell was the highly respected News Director for BCTV who is credited (along with Assignment Editor Keith Bradbury and the news crew they assembled) with bringing BCTV’s news program to the top of the ratings.)

Harvey points out that it mostly comes down to money – the amount of money a television station is willing to spend on the news-gathering process. Cameron Bell, however, notes that smart organizations are willing to spend lots of money provided that it generates commensurate profits. Profits are determined by the amount of revenue generated from advertising, which fluctuates depending on the number of viewers. The key to attracting viewers is quality content.

However, the low-hanging fruit – the easy stories – are duplicated and re-covered by multiple news organizations. Cameron Bell points out that three major news organizations (one newspaper, two television) covered the warm-up suits for Canadian Olympic athletes. He charitably (in my opinion) gives the original reporter credit for producing an interesting story. I don’t agree – I think it was a travesty of news on the first report that just got worse on subsequent reports.

I find this all extremely interesting, from a news consumer point of view (although my exposure to TV news is mostly limited to clips I see via the internet). It’s sort of a relief to learn that the there isn’t a grand conspiracy to dumb-down the news or avoid certain topics. Instead, there are merely difficult management problems – human resources, finances, planning and “vision”, etc.

 Posted by at 10:08 am
Mar 252008

Ever notice how the fundamental well-being of a small company is usually directly correlated with the quality of the admin person? They smooth out the bumps, connect the dots, provide assistance small and large and generally act as a cheering, competent, soothing presence that keeps chaos at bay.

Well, if you need somebody like this, I know somebody who will be available soon. And if you ask me very, very nicely (via a comment) and pass a rigorous battery of tests to prove that you are worthy, I might put you in touch.

Edit: Note that I manually approve all comments, so you can add a comment with your contact information and it will not be published on this site.

 Posted by at 11:58 am
Mar 202008

Via clusterflock: “Pick up the work of fiction closest to where you are sitting right now that has 123 pages or more, turn to page 123, find the fifth sentence, then post it and the next three sentences.”

From Kim, by Rudyard Kipling:

‘When first I dealt with Sahibs, and that was when Colonel Soady
Sahib was Governor of Fort Abazai and flooded the Commissioner’s
camping-ground for spite,’ Mahbub confided to Kim as the boy filled
his pipe under a tree, ‘I did not know how greatly they were fools,
and this made me wroth. As thus -,’ and he told Kim a tale of an
expression, misused in all innocence, that doubled Kim up with
mirth. ‘Now I see, however,’ – he exhaled smoke slowly – ‘that it
is with them as with all men – in certain matters they are wise,
and in others most foolish. Very foolish it is to use the wrong
word to a stranger; for though the heart may be clean of offence,
how is the stranger to know that?’

 Posted by at 2:11 pm