Month: December 2016

‘Network’ Revisited: Angst Trumps the Season

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What with one daughter in Israel and the other in China, acquainting themselves with their (respective) mothers’ roots, “’twas the season” for me to rewatch 1976’s “Network,” with its Oscar-winning performance by Peter Finch, who didn’t live long enough to accept the statue but who was able to singlehandedly make America “mad as hell” and elect Ronald Reagan four years later to relieve the social angst.

Sound familiar? But for 2016 (40 years later!), there was no Howard Beale to make us “mad” enough to elect Donald Trump. There was, however, Twitter and the social media, which made Howard Beales out of all of us.

In watching “Network” for the first time in decades, I was struck by several realizations.

First, Beale (Finch) urged everyone to open their (okay, his/her) window and shout, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Cut to people shouting out their windows and the first “as” has been eliminated: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Second, the vocabulary: When was the last time you heard the word “adamantine” used in a movie? Probably never, and that’s just one example of the million-dollar words screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky threw in.

(How about a reference between husband and wife during an argument to Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky? Would anybody understand that today?)

Third, the movie exposes the communism in capitalism and the capitalism in communism, labeling everything as “one system.” How true, and isn’t this what Bernie and Trump were railing about throughout their campaigns?

Finally, but not exhaustively, the acting: Wow, was this thing overacted. If actors are too subtle today, in 1976 they must’ve thought they were on the stage and had to gyrate and shout to an audience to be seen and heard.

That being said, in Finch’s case, he had to overact. There was no excuse for Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway and William Holden, however.

Shouting is now better left to the politicians. My, how the world turns.

Categories: Grammar Notes

Fuck Is a 26-Letter Word

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I’ve been bingeing a lot lately. No, not on the stuff in the bottle or can, but on cable TV offerings, and the one thing I’ve noticed is the use and overuse of the word fuck, even in British and European productions in which English is spoken.

(Actually, this one trend morphs into two with the proliferation of scenes of naked sex and the gratuitous scattering of nude bodies and appendages everywhere on cable TV offerings.)

Now most of us grew up learning through social osmosis the pristine meaning of the F word, which is to have sexual intercourse. Since then, however, the word has taken on a meaning and a power of its own, and is used as emphasis, insult or threat, and in negotiation, seduction, jest, violence, as well as .. well, the list goes on.

I have no way of gauging this next assertion — but fuck may be the most used word in the English language when someone wants to make an impactful point — so long as he or she is not on live TV.

Let’s examine the 26 words, combinations and accompanying situations for which fuck is the most natural and logical way of expressing oneself with verve:

A: Anxiety

B: Bitterness

C: Contentiousness

D: Divorce

E: Exasperation

F: Fatuousness (formerly family, but I guess people didn’t connect with “Ray Donovan”)

G: Guys and gals who won’t (or will)

H: Hell, however it reveals itself

I: Irritation

J: Jealousy

K: Killing (with words or devices)

L: Love or loathing (is there a difference?)

M: Marriage

N: Nastiness

O: Opposition

P: Nah, I won’t use that one, so how about panic?

Q: Quarreling

R: Reversal of fortune

S: Shit, however it manifests itself (another popular word these days)

T: Temper

U: Unloved, unwanted, unneeded — the unwashed

V: Violence

W: Women — oops, sounds sexist, huh? Instead, substitute worry

X: Xenophobia (prevalent among us Deplorables, according to Hillary)

Y: Yearning

Z: Zealotry

This list is not exhaustive. If you have alternatives, please let me know. You’ll soon find how ubiquitous and adaptable the word is.

LATE NOTE: I just watched an episode of “The Leftovers,” and I realized that I forgot to mention the use and overuse of the progressive form of the verb — fucking — which is also a heavy favorite among screenwriters for cable these days. Of course, there’s also the expletive form of fuck, as in “Oh, fuck!” and “Fuck no!”, which in turn relies on the noun form of the F word. You see how deliciously complex this gets. You can actually learn parts of English grammar just by being so f–ked up, you have to swear a lot to survive these turbulent times.

Categories: Grammar Notes

‘Be Polite, Be Professional, But…’

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You gotta love a public servant with the savoir faire to be famous for this saying: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”

Meet James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the four-star retired general whom Donald Trump has chosen to be his secretary of defense, God, Hillary and Harry Reid permitting.

(Oops, I almost forgot, but for years the latter two were the first. Nietzsche has finally been proven correct: “God is dead.” Long live the Deplorables, me included.)

I assume Mad Dog means his “kill everyone” aphorism both literally and figuratively. Kind of like “take no prisoners.”

While we’re at it, let’s play “Taps” for political correctness. Long may it rest in the dustbin of history.


Categories: Grammar Notes News