Archive for July, 2009

Monday Medley

What we read while Rickey disappointed everyone by saying “I” all the time:

(Can you believe it’s already been 10 years since that song came out? Always puts us in a summer mood. We also like to think 24 is stylistically indebted to the video.)


9780205309023Who died and put Strunk and White in charge of the English language?

If you talk to anyone who takes the rules of grammar and usage seriously, the names Strunk and White are bound to come up. The Elements of Style, the “little book” that was originally self-published by Professor William Strunk, Jr. at Cornell University and then, fifty years ago, was edited and mass produced by his former student, E.B. White, has become the definitive authority for amateur grammarians.

Wondering what constitutes a split infinitive? Check Strunk and White. Need to know when to use a semicolon? Check Strunk and White. What’s the difference between “shall” and “will”? Check Strunk and White.

But where exactly does their authority come from?

On the one hand, it comes from the fact that the snobs who always correct you when you misuse the subjunctive mood and wince when you use “good” as an adverb generally worship at the alter of Strunk and White. Its brevity and sardonic tone (“Prestigious: Often an adjective of last resort. It’s in the dictionary, but that doesn’t mean you have to use it.”) help to make it handy for every show-off on the go. Continue reading

Ranking The Bill of Rights, Number 9: The Tenth Amendment

I like the Bill of Rights. So, while the Second Amendment is pretty terrible, I don’t have a particularly strong distaste for any other of the first ten amendments.

With that said, the Tenth Amendment has no point. It reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

It is a truth reflected already by the rest of the Constitution. The Constitution gives each of the three branches of the national government expressly delegated powers: Why the need to repeatedly emphasize that this is the case? The Supreme Court even claimed in United States v. Sprague that the Tenth Amendment has added “nothing to the [Constitution] as originally ratified.” What is the Tenth Amendment amending? Imagine an amendment to a marriage license that states that the husband and wife are married.  Sure, I’m sympathetic to the idea that the national government’s powers need to be limited, but the reality is that the Tenth Amendment does little to assure that this is a reality. It recognizes that federalism exists without giving any teeth to it.
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BREAKING NEWS! Partial Transcript of God’s Testimony Before the Senate Judiciary Committee

SEN. LEAHY: Thank you for coming out here today to talk to us…

GOD: My pleasure Mr. Chairman.

LEAHY: I wonder if you could start today by talking about the concerns some members of this committee, as well as many Americans, may have about so-called “theistic activism.” What do you see your role as, if you were to be confirmed as the world’s sole omnipotent being?

GOD: Well, thank you, Senator Leahy. That is certainly a concern. I agree with you that it is a god’s job to apply the commandments, and not make the commandments. The role of deities is not to legislate from heaven. The role of any deity is to interpret the law and apply it on a case-by-case basis. I think every deity has to make a good faith effort, looking at applicable precedents and the text of the commandments violated.

LEAHY: So, just to be clear, you wouldn’t let personal politics play a role in your eternal judgments?

GOD: No, that’s certainly not the role of any ultimate judge or authority. My personal opinions about right and wrong are not to affect my judgments.

LEAHY: Thank you…Sen. Franken, any questions?

SEN. FRANKEN: Yes. Mr. God, how would you describe your own personal theistic philosophy, if you have one?

GOD: I think if I had to pick one, it would be fidelity to the commandments, or accurate interpretations of scripture…. Continue reading

The Problem With Brüno: What Is This a “Satire” of?

Josh points out that Sacha Baron Cohen is being held to an unfair standard in many reviews of Brüno: Why is a comedian obligated to perform social commentary? The goal of Brüno is not to end homophobia, it’s to be funny. 

The fact is that Cohen has never really been a social commentator: Even his work as Borat never had the exaggerated social implications that some people claimed. The people featured in the film were generally marginal, or their prejudices came as no surprise. What does come as a surprise, and is more often mined for laughs by Cohen, is tolerance and social manners.

In Brüno, this is even more obvious. The jokes in the film don’t often come from highlighting homophobia, but from what exactly Cohen can get away with. Can he talk on the phone while he’s getting his anus bleached? Yes. Can he get Paula Abdul to sit on a Mexican worker posing as furniture? Yes. Can he show his penis to a focus group, and then make it talk? Yes. Can he pretend to fellate a ghost in front of a psychic? Yes. Continue reading

In Defense of Brüno

bruno-movie-poster-500x740Brüno’s been getting mixed reviews, many of which are unjustified. Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post reflects the critical reviews well by claiming: “In Borat, Cohen created a weird but mostly likable naif, whose bumbling travels revealed the roots of fear and ignorance that grow into larger and more dangerous hatreds. Brüno is no Borat. His narcissism, combined with the fact that the scenes in ‘Brüno’ are far more obviously staged than in the previous movie, give the entire enterprise a nasty and, worse, irrelevant tone… ‘Brüno’ could have been a flawlessly timed satiric contribution to the conversation about gay civil rights.”
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Whatever Works Doesn’t*

*Well, it kinda does, but we couldn’t resist.

WARNING: Plot spoilers contained in this post.


Woody Allen’s Whatever Works brings him back to New York City and unites him with who may be a perfect partner-in-crime, Larry David. NPI’s amateur film critics, Tim and Josh, discuss whether it all, well, works.

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