Month: June 2009

Quotes from the King of Pop Show Some Soul

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I was no doubt born a century too late and on the wrong side of the pond. I would’ve been perfect in 19th-century Italy–spending my evenings at Verdi operas.

That being said, you must realize that I know next to nothing about the music of Michael Jackson–just the lurid headlines.

However, I stumbled upon a page of quotations today from the King of Pop, and I was impressed.

Two really struck me:

If you enter this world knowing you are loved and you leave this world knowing the same, then everything that happens in between can be dealt with.

The meaning of life is contained in every single expression of life. It is present in the infinity of forms and phenomena that exist in all of creation.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Shakespeare a Plagiarist and Copyright Scofflaw?

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Consider this from Michael Masnick at TechDirt:

If the current US Copyright Law had been in effect over Shakespeare, I think he could have been sued by many authors for copyright infringement for writing that masterpiece.

Count how many lawsuits there could have been just for King Lear alone:

Shakespeare’s play is based on various accounts of the semi-legendary Celtic mythological figure Lear/Lir. Shakespeare’s most important source is thought to be the second edition of The Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande by Raphael Holinshed, published in 1587. Holinshed himself found the story in the earlier Historia Regum Britanniae by Geoffrey of Monmouth, which was written in the 12th century. Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, published 1590, also contains a character named Cordelia, who also dies from hanging, as in King Lear.

Other possible sources are A Mirror for Magistrates (1574), by John Higgins; The Malcontent (1604), by John Marston; The London Prodigal (1605); Arcadia (1580-1590), by Sir Philip Sidney, from which Shakespeare took the main outline of the Gloucester subplot; Montaigne’s Essays, which were translated into English by John Florio in 1603; An Historical Description of Iland of Britaine, by William Harrison; Remaines Concerning Britaine, by William Camden (1606); Albion’s England, by William Warner, (1589); and A Declaration of egregious Popish Impostures, by Samuel Harsnett (1603), which provided some of the language used by Edgar while he feigns madness. King Lear is also a literary variant of a common fairy tale, in which a father rejects his youngest daughter for a statement of her love that does not please him.

The source of the subplot involving Gloucester, Edgar, and Edmund is a tale in Philip Sidney’s Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, with a blind Paphlagonian king and his two sons, Leonatus and Plexitrus.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Found: A Living, Breathing Proofreader

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I stumbled across a real, live proofreader today writing about her profession for an online publication called MedPage Today. Not only was it refreshing to read about someone’s plying an honorable but almost extinct journalistic trade, but Liz O’Brien also had two great links. (I wonder if Ms. O’Brien would catch what’s seriously wrong with my previous sentence.)

First, she linked to a story about a proofreader who died at his desk and wasn’t discovered for five days. His legendary name is George Turklebaum, and you can read about him here.

What’s even better is a collection of un- or mis-proofread headlines that are worth more than a few chuckles.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Surprise Source for Newspapers’ Woes

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A lot of what’s causing heartache for newspaper finances across the land is flying under the radar. Most pundits point to the availability of news online, which is all very good as one contributing factor, and others chart the migration of ads from print to online–or to oblivion in these trying times.

However, as both the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Cleveland Plain Dealer announced restructurings over the weekend (the Star Tribune through bankruptcy), the bedrock of newspapers’ financial survival has been gobbled up by Craigslist and other free online advertising venues.

That would be the least flashiest aspect of the business–newspaper classified ads.

So, while newspaper readership is marginally down, classified advertising is hemhorraging. Analyze it as you may, but the bottom line is that newspapers are an endangered species, at least the big-city variety.

Which is all too sad.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

There’s Strength in Numbers, Or Is There?

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Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon have come out with a new book, and a Web site of the same name, called I Hate People.

What it reveals–and what took me almost my entire professional career to figure out–is that you can’t trust anyone at work. They’ll all stab you in the back or throw you under the bus in an instant–if it somehow helps them.

Now, back to my headline. I could examine the saying, "There’s strength in numbers," from a perspective of where it came from and what it means, but I’d rather cue it into the book, I Hate People.

The authors reveal that forty or so years ago, Fortune magazine did a survey of qualities employers most sought in employees. Teamwork ranked tenth. In a similar survey done by the magazine in 2005, teamwork had jumped to number one.

How depressing, considering that the only people who love teams are those who command their appearance and those blowhards who worm their way into taking charge of them to feed their egos.

Hershon and Littman cite an experiment by a French engineer named Maximilien Ringelmann, who measured people’s efforts pulling on a rope attached to a strain gauge. Pulling in groups, people exerted themselves less; pulling alone, they gave it their all.

This has come to be known as "social loafing," or simply the "Ringelmann Effect."

Either way, it accounts for the futility of throwing teams at a problem. Better to give a million monkeys one typewriter each and see how long it takes them to recreate the Great Books of the Western World.

Categories: Grammar Sucks