Tuesday, November 29, 2011


       Continuing the theme of lists, here are my picks for the most annoying people:
1. Howard Eskin. For those not in the larger Philadelphia area, he is (was) a sports talk radio host who recently was forced off his afternoon drive show because he was losing the ratings war to a rival. Eskin is the most egotistical, abrasive, crude radio personality I have ever heard.
2. Donald Trump. Another egotist who unfortunately did not run for president, as he threatened to do. I say unfortunately because he would have been eviscerated.
3. Ann Coulter. The conservative talker and columnist who, among other things, claimed that 9/11 widows were trying to profit from their husbands' sacrifice. Describes herself as "a mean-spirited, bigoted conservative." I couldn't agree more. Oh, and she dresses like a hooker.
     Wanna add to my list?

Even More Movies

As promised, here are more favorites, these from Joe M., in no particular order. These include one that has yet to be released (although the European version came out early this year). Again, those I agree with and were not on my list are boldfaced.

1) The Sound of Music

2) Silence of the Lambs

3) Bridge Over the River Kwai

4) Blues Brothers

5) Raiders of the Lost Ark

6) Jaws

7) Witness

8) Steel Magnolias

9) The Magnificent Seven

10) Forrest Gump

11) Godfather

12) Lawrence of Arabia

13) Airplane

14) Dances with Wolves

15) Rocky

16) Lonesome Dove

17) Gone with the Wind

18) Blazing Saddles

19) Pretty Woman

20) Stalag 17

21) Animal House

22) Alien

23) The Great Escape

24) The Shawshank Redemption

25) ET

26) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (soon to be released)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Movies, Continued

A Matter of Opinion

My list of movies has prompted a couple of responses, all via email since people continue to find it difficult to get into the blog to comment. Son Steven in particular has an extensive list, some of which I agree with (indicated by boldface) and should have included on my list:

1.     Pulp Fiction
2. Rocky (if only the fight scenes had been more realistic. Have never seen a man take such a beating and get back up -- and with such a display of spastic, over-acting energy!)

3. Star Wars or Empire Strikes Back

4. The Hustler

5. Road to Perdition

6. Forrest Gump

7. Scarface

8. Goodfellas

9. Casablanca (how did I overlook this?)

10. The Departed

11. Reservoir Dogs

12. The Green Mile (I know, a lot of Tom Hanks)

13. Full Metal Jacket

14. Independence Day

15. Ocean’s Eleven (the new version) and, I would add, Ocean's 12

16. No Country for Old Men -- definitely; and a great book

17. The Wizard of Oz

18. Kill Bill (Vol. 1 & 2)

19. Million Dollar Baby

20. Westside Story

Only two comedies in your list? How about some great comedies:

21. Office Space

22. Clerks

23. Airplane!

24. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

25. Vacation or Christmas Vacation
Steven's beloved spouse, DJ, adds A STAR IS BORN – Barbara Streisand & Kris Kristofferson version, and THE LION KING, and suggests we need a few chick flicks. OK, how about Crazy, Stupid Love?
And I'd like to add another I overlooked: Babel, from about four or five years ago.

A friend promises to send his list later tonight.

Can't do a posting without a language reference. Over at Spark, a Wilmington News Journal publication, the apostrophe fairy was loose, leaving random droppings. One of them wound up at the end of noggin, a synonym for head, as in "keep your noggin' warm . . ." Guess they think the actual word is "nogging." Once again, they would be wrong.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Movies and Turkey Day

       Having listed my favorite Western movies in a previous blog, it seems appropriate to name my favorite movies of all types. With the understanding that those Westerns match up well with those below, and would be interspersed throughout, here's my list, more or less in order:
1. Gone with the Wind
2. The Godfather -- Parts I and II (a tie)
3. It's a Wonderful Life
4. To Kill a Mockingbird
5. Saving Private Ryan
6. Cool Hand Luke
7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
8. Citizen Kane
9. Schindler's List
10. The Bridge Over the River Kwai
11. Crash
12. The Shawshank Redemption
13. A Chorus Line
14. Annie Hall
15. Chicago
16. Some Like It Hot
17. Raging Bull
18. The Graduate
19. Psycho
20. Lawrence of Arabia
21. The Deer Hunter
22. American Graffiti
23. Jaws
24. Taxi Driver
25. On the Waterfront

Upon re-examination, I might move some of these up or down  the list, and I'm sure others will occur to me later, but this will do for a start. How about you guys -- all six of you? What are your faves?

The Book Cometh -- Really
The War on Words book is almost ready for shipment. Should be here by this time next week. Order your copy now by going to the Out & About website: outandaboutnow.com. Price is $9.95 plus $3 shipping. Or contact me. The e-book is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony and iBook for just $3.95.

Can't have a blog without a grammar mention. Spark continues to be ignorant of the difference between further and farther, opting for further every time. No doubt they think it sounds more sophisticated. Here's how to decide: If talking actual physical distances, use farther. Otherwise, as in "that couldn't be further from the truth," use further.

Those Republican Candidates -- Again
Really, now, are there any adults among this sorry group? They are so intent on pandering to the lowest common denominator in their party that they have adopted an anti-intellectual attitude. God forbid any of them supports global warming or the remote possibility that he or she might raise taxes. And Hermie Cain continues to implode. Asked if he supported Obama's stance on Libya the other day, he took a long pause, then gave an answer that he was obviously making up as he went along. Last night, he called moderator Wolf Blitzer "Blitz." Guess he was think the guy was Blitz Wolfer.
       This is sad. Looks like it will come down to Romney and Gingrich. Hard to believe, but I think Obama, as bad as he has performed, can beat either one.

It's been a tough year, or a tough two years, or three years -- more so for some of us than others. But I'm sure we all have something to be thankful for, so do that tomorrow. Thank whoever or whatever you find it appropriate to thank, and resolve to do your best in the coming year to deserve whatever good fortune may come to you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Media Miscues and More

Errant Broadcasters
Sadly, I must report that Todd Blackledge, quarterback of Penn State's 1982 national championship team, committed a miscue during his commentary on the Penn State-Ohio State game Saturday. Speaking of the rush put on the OSU quarterback, he said that Penn State was "trying to force him into an errant mistake." Not really a redundancy; more of a superfluosity. Much like Tim McCarver's comment about "a respite of rest." Proof once again that when these ex-jocks use any out-of-the ordinary word (e.g.,errant, respite), they run the risk of making fools of themselves.
Literallys of the Week
Mika Brezinski, she of "Morning Joe" fame on MSNBC, really needs to back off the literallys. She was literallying all over the broadcast yesterday. Example: "Newt Gingrich is literally on his high horse." Mika, baby, it means "actually, really." I doubt that Newt rides horses, high or otherwise.

Book Banter
Am trying to move up delivery of The War on Words book. It went on press today -- 1,000 copies. Should be here by end of the month. In the meantime, electronic versions are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony and iBooks.
    Speaking of the book, an old friend who has bought the Kindle version sent along these words for "lexiphiles" -- lovers of words:

You can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish.

To write with a broken pencil is . . . pointless.

When fish are in schools they sometimes . . . take debate.

A thief who stole a calendar . . . got twelve months.

When the smog lifts in Los Angeles  . . . U.C.L.A.

The batteries were given out . . . free of charge.

A dentist and a manicurist married. . . . They fought tooth and nail.

A will is a . . . dead giveaway.

With her marriage, she got a new name . .. . and a dress.

A boiled egg is . . . hard to beat.

When you've seen one shopping center . . . you've seen a mall.

Police were called to a day care where a three-year-old was . . . resisting a rest.

Did you hear about the fellow whose whole left side was cut off? . . . He's all right now.

A bicycle can't stand alone . . . it is two tired.

When a clock is hungry . . .. it goes back four seconds

The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine . . . was fully recovered.

He had a photographic memory . . . which was never developed.

Those who get too big for their britches will be . .. . exposed in the end.

When she saw her first strands of gray hair, . . . she thought she'd dye.

Acupuncture: . . . a jab well done.
OK, so some of these are real groaners, but worth a laugh or two.



Saturday, November 19, 2011

More Media

Movie Marilyn
OK, call me mean (hey, you wouldn't be the first one), but I'm just going to say this: Michelle Williams has neither the face nor the body to portray Marilyn Monroe. I haven't seen My Week with Marilyn, so you may say I'm being unfair, but all one has to do is look at a photo of Michelle and compare it to the other-worldly Marilyn, and you'll see what I mean. Yes, Williams has acting chops, as evidenced by Wendy and Lucy, Blue Valentine, Brokeback Mountain, etc. But please . . .

Alumnus, Alumnae
Anonymous (and we know who it is) sent this comment regarding alumnus as the singular noun for a graduate: "If one follows the Latin, an individual graduate might be an alumnus, if male. A woman would be an alumna. All women graduates are alumnae; however,the combined body of graduates are alumni. This loss of gender distinction not only appears in this Latin word but also in today's English. It seems more politically correct to say actor or host rather than actress or hostess. Why?????"
     Some time ago, we covered this distinction between alumnus and alumna in our War on Words column, but failed to go into here on the blog, since we were speaking of male callers to talk shows. We appreciate anonymous's contribution, and we have no explanation for the androgynization (is that a word?) of certain terms. I have noticed, however, that female actors have embraced that word. Host/hostess is a little trickier. Terms like mail carrier or chair person can overcome the gender difference, but hosting an event defies that neat solution.

More Apostrophes
A reader writes to say that he saw a photo of a Pagan motorcycle gang member wearing a t-shirt with the word "Pagan's" on it. He wanted to know if perhaps the man wanted to indicate that the shirt belonged to the Pagans. I doubt it, but I'm not about to tell one of those guys that their t-shirt is grammatically incorrect.

More on Penn State
So now we find out that JoePa has lung cancer. Hope that makes all the haters happy. Can this story get any more tragic? Unfortunately, I'm afraid it can.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lists, Political and Otherwise

Sad Sacks
      As Herman Cain self-immolates with repeated foreign policy gaffes and Rick Perry fails the short-term memory test, guess who emerges from the putrid quagmire called Republican presidential candidates? Our old friend, Newt Gingrich. Here's a guy with more baggage, as someone on a morning news show put it, than a Rolling Stones tour. Yet he is now challenging Mitt Romney in the latest poll of Republican voters. Once again, it seems, the GOP electorate is saying, "Anyone but Mitt."
       It's sad. With people like Cain, who becomes more ludicrous every day, and Perry, who is a cowboy posing as a politician, and Gingrich, a slimeball of the first order, making serious runs at the nomination, how does this party hold onto its base? Obama has practically gift-wrapped the election for them, and they can't bring themselves to get behind the one candidate who's capable of winning because he's "too liberal." Amazing. Time for the tea party to break away and nominate its own candidate? Say, where is that Sarah Palin?
     Let's take a break from grammar and go to one of my favorite subjects: movies. Some experts maintain that America has given the world just two art forms: jazz and Western movies. It should come as no surprise, then, that some of the greatest movies ever made were Westerns. Unfortunately, when best movie lists are compiled by "experts," Westerns barely crack the top 10. I think any of the following movies, in no particular order, could qualify for those lists:

1. The Magnificent Seven -- Based on the Japanese classic The Seven Samurai, it's the ultimate comrade-in-arms action flick, with a great cast.
2. The Searchers -- John Wayne ages realistically as he and a nephew spend years searching for his niece, played by Natalie Wood, who was captured by Indians.
3. Shane -- A multi-layered character study of a gunfighter who throws in with homesteaders, this Alan Ladd starer has two of the greatest fist fights in movie history.
4. Red River -- Wayne again, this time as a nasty old man leading a herd of cattle to market who gets crossways of his adopted son, played by Montgomery Clift. It's said that Wayne couldn't stop laughing during filming of the fight scene with the diminutive Clift, who was supposed to best Wayne in the fight.
5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid -- Almost all the dialogue is either a punchline or a setup for a punchline, and Paul Newman and Robert Redford are pitch perfect in a comedy that ends in tragedy.
6. Lonesome Dove -- A made-for-TV epic, it starts slowly and picks up momentum with each episode. Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones are spot-on as two retired Texas Rangers who drive a herd through a lawless West.
7. True Grit -- Either one -- the John Wayne original or the Jeff Bridges version from last year. The latter is more realistic in terms of costuming and is more true to the book, but Wayne won his only Oscar for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn, and Bridges couldn't quite match him in delivering the greatest line in movie history, Rooster's admonition to outlaw Red Pepper: "Fill your hands, you son of a bitch!"
       There are many more, which I will get to in a future blog, but these will do for starters. Any thoughts about this list among my six readers?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Further PSU Grammar Fall-Out

Nothing good has come of the scandal at my alma mater -- except perhaps a couple of items for this blog.
        Item 1: I have discovered that, sadly, like other universities, Penn State failed to teach its graduates that each of them is an alumnus, not an alumni. Don't know how many times I've heard callers to radio stations say, "I'm an alumni of Penn State." Sad.
      Item 2: A friend overheard a student talking about the situation and referring to the "alleged allegations" against Sandusky. Talk about redundant redundancies.
Proper Prepositions
      The November War on Words in Out & About Magazine noted the misuse of prepositions in expressions like "I'm bored of this book." Heard a new one in the movie The Change-Up: "Are you embarrassed of me?" The proper preposition is "by." How do these things happen? I never heard such mistaken useage until a few years ago.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

PSU Weekend

Just back from Penn State. Very emotional weekend, very mixed feelings about what it all means. Can only say that the acts Jerry Sandusky committed are beyond heinous, and inexcusable. But the world seems to want every Penn Stater to pay for his sins. While the university has not handled every aspect of the situation perfectly, I think they are getting their act together, and the leadership and culture will undergo profound change in the very near future. It's already started. In the meantime, I hope those in charge will be given the time and consideration needed to effect those changes, and they will not resort to extreme measures, such as shutting down the football program or taking down the statue of Joe Paterno.
     I may have more to say about the weekend -- and the whole scandal -- in a later post.

Your Faithful Servant -- Always on the Alert
     As always, I was on the alert for grammar gremlins during my trip with son and grandsons to Happy Valley. On the way up we saw a sign advertising "Busses for your next excursion." I'm sure the sponsors of that sign didn't mean what it says. Busses, you see, are kisses (buss is the singular). Buses, on the other hand, are large vehicles. 
      Then, on the way home, I heard a Fox radio commentator talk about a running back who carried the  ball many times during a game. He called the player the "bell cow" of his team. Now, he may have actually meant bell cow -- which is the lead cow of a herd and is called that because she has a bell around her neck. But I'm pretty sure what he meant was "workhorse," which of course means a hard worker. This is the second time I've heard the term used by a sportscaster in the last month, so I could be wrong. But these misconceptions have a habit of proliferating among jock commentators, much in the way that "mano a mano" became "mano e mano" for many of them some time ago. Next time I hear the expression, I'm going to try to check with the speaker.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Further on JoePa and Penn State

To say this story has gone ballistic is an understatement. Clearly, it is an ugly situation and Jerry Sandusky is a sick person who needs help. He obviously cannot control himself, and he should have been institutionalized years ago. I have grandsons who are about the age of those involved in this case, and it sickens me to think about the boys who were victimized by this monster.
       But the rhetoric and demagogueing that I am hearing on talk radio is beyond the pale. People are calling for boycotting the game this Saturday, dismantling the football program, and jailing Joe Paterno and Mike McQuery. Can't count how many times I've heard people say, "If I had been there I would've . . ." followed by some statement about beating Sandusky to within an inch of his life. Putting aside the fact that Sandusky is about 6-3 and 240 lbs., such macho posturing is so much wind. NONE of us knows what we would do in McQuery's situation. He was a graduate assistant, the lowest rung on the coaching ladder, and he was accusing one of the icons of Penn State football -- the architect of two championship defenses, the rumored successor to the sainted Joe -- of an unspeakable act. None of us know what we would do until we are in a given situation. Frankly, I think many people would have stolen away and never mentioned the incident to anyone.
      But of course callers and talk show hosts have staked out the moral high ground. I find Angelo Cataldi and his morning crew on WIP particularly reprehensible in their diatribes. This is the group that gave the world the ultimate low-brow event, The Wing Bowl, and they are pillorying a man who gave millions of dollars and a library to an outstanding university and has been the mentor to thousands of young men who have gone on to lead stellar lives, as he himself has. And he's been joined in his efforts by his wife, Sue, who acted as a surrogate mother to many of those players. There has never been a hint of scandal in their personal life. In fact, Joe leads a pretty boring existence.
          Outsiders are shocked  by the support he is receiving from students, calling them young and naive. They forget that for 56 years, Joe has been the face of Penn State. It is natural that his supporters would not allow this incident – which has yet to be fully explained –  destroy their love for the man. He has his faults, and should have resigned several years ago, but his entire body of work needs to be acknowledged before categorizing him as some sort of monster. I want to hear his explanation of what he did and did not do. At the same time, his decision to step down was long overdue.
     It should be noted that not everyone on campus supports him. As I said yesterday, there is talk that the student body won't sing the alma mater on Saturday. And someone taped a note to Joe's statue that quoted a line from the alma mater: "May no act of ours bring shame . . ."
    It does not look good, admittedly, but his body of work must be considered in the final analysis. As I say, I want to hear from Joe.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

JoePa, Illi-NOISE and Hermie Cain

OK, I've been reeling the last few days over the news coming out of my alma mater, Penn State, so the blog has been pushed to the back burner. Here's my take: Joe Paterno will resign, if not today, by Friday, and if not by then, then by the end of the season. He's a stubborn old guy and he loves that job, but I think the decision is no longer his to make. It's a terrible mess, and all due to one man: a sick individual who is bringing down a football program that has a proud, clean tradition while besmirching the reputation of a fine university. There is talk among students and alums about not singing along when the alma mater is played on Saturday at the Nebraska game, the last home game of the year. I will be there and I WILL be singing (despite a distinct lack of ability in that area). I love that song and I love Penn State. Roar, Lions, Roar!!
     Penn State played Illinois two weeks ago and a friend referred to them as Illi-NOISE. Since I am such a good friend, I simply HAD to tell him that the s is silent in that state's name. His excuse: "I was a science major." Not good enough. Plenty of scientific types know how to pronounce Lincoln's homeland.
Raising Cain
     I caught Herman Cain on Jimmy Kimmel last night, and noted that the front-runner among GOP presidential candidates has gone all third-person on us. A sure sign that he's starting to take himself far too seriously. Too bad the rest of the country isn't.
     The Republicans have a real dilemma: looks like their only viable candidate is Mitt Romney, and most of the party seems to hate him. Too "liberal," you know. Obama, as bad as his ratings are, might actually have a chance against Romney. In fact, I don't see any of that sorry bunch of right-wingers as a sure thing against the president.
     Signing off now to go back to ESPN and see if Joe has resigned yet.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Media Watch

Interesting that, on MSNBC they are attacking Republican  Herman Cain for his lack of knowledge about China's nuclear capabilities, while over on Fox, they're attacking Democrat John Corzine for the scandal involving his unfortunately name MF Global. Both networks seem to be totally ignoring the other story.
       John Corzine is old news. He's out of politics and probably will never return. Herman Cain, on the other hand, is one of the sorry group of Republican candidates for president. It would seem to me that knowing China has nuclear capability (and has had it for decades) would be the price of admission to the presidential campaign. Apparently not. Cain continues to lead all contenders in the latest poll among benighted GOP voters.

     Department of Redundancies Dept.:  Heard a garden expert on WDEL (1150 AM) use the term "congregate together."
      WIP sports talker said the Eagles' performance "baffles my mind." It may baffle you, pal, but the expression is "boggles my mind."
      May be more to come later. The day is young.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Good News (and Bad)

The Good: The War on Words book version is live on Amazon! -- at least the Kindle version. Easiest way to find it is to type in my name. That will take you to The War on Words and Sawyer, my other book. The E version of War is selling for $3.95. Print version should be available by end of next week if not sooner. Spread the word -- all four of you.

The Bad: Saw a chart in USA Today showing results of a poll question: For which type of charity or cause would you most like to volunteer? The winner: animals, chosen by 17 percent of respondents. Poverty & hunger came in at 15 percent, sick or ill children got 11, education 9 and homeless 8.
     Don't get me wrong, animals are great. I like my cat a lot (notice I didn't say love), but it seems to me society's values are a bit skewed when people put animals above the welfare of fellow human beings. That's a bit discouraging.
      And finally, under Department of Redundancies, Dept., I got this email from the book's printer today: "I have processed your approval of the text and we are proceeding ahead with printing." (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
Till next time.