Thursday, July 15

Capitalization is the Least of Their Worries

Well, at the risk of coming off as "pedantic," I have to point this out, and I confess I'm gratified to do so.

This is a menu from TiGER SUSHi--the odd capitalization being their brand--in Minneapolis. Technically, this is TiGER SUSHi II, as the first restaurant opened in the Mall of America. We went to the Uptown location, and as Uptown is foggy with hipsters, the status of being almost as good as the Mall of America should hint at the calibre of Twin Cities hipsters.

Please to note: the desultory and patternless capitalization of various nouns, adjectives, and adverbs throughout the body copy. This could've been a strange and tedious cut-n-paste job from other texts, or maybe their writer just wanted to emphasize certain points. It's also possible the font they used lacked lowercase form for certain letters... no, that's not possible. That's clearly not true: it's just awful typing.
Abuse of Quotation Marks
Thai Basil "Tossed" Noodles suggests that not only aren't they genuinely tossed, but some other verb has been done to them that the staff euphemizes as "tossing." I have no idea what they're implying with their "stir-fry" style--imitating the facsimile of something resembling something else?
Alakan Salmon
Should be Alaskan Salmon, obviously. Or maybe "A Lacking Salmon," an honest confession of sub-par fish?
Chillaen Sea Bass
Wow, not only did someone not know how to spell "Chilean," but they had neither doubt nor curiosity as to whether they had gotten it correct.

Who Lives by Grammar, Dies by Grammar

Back in 1989, I was stationed at Fort Ord, California, serving as a radio operator in 127th Signal Battalion. Situated 53 miles away from San Jose, we still felt the impact of the Loma Prieta earthquake. We were standing in formation at the end of the day, the First Sgt. called us to attention just prior to dismissing us, and as our boots smacked together the ground began to dance. We heard mirrors and fragile objects falling and shattering inside the barracks, and soldiers fled the building clutching towels around their waists. Every single car alarm in the parking lot screamed in petulant attention-seeking. Eventually the rumbling stopped and we laughed nervously in our relief and shock.

That was my first real earthquake. It was exponentially larger than standing on a bridge while a huge, heavy 18-wheeler lumbers by. I regarded the event with a detached curiosity because I was unable to reconcile with what the ground was doing in direct contrast to what it had always done for the 19 years previous. Some remote part of my mind had the wherewithal to wonder whether the ground would, in fact, crack right open and swallow me whole.

Friday, July 9

Sealed With A Kissinger

Anna Chapman: part Mata Hari, part Tori Amos.
Image: The Guardian.
You know what's dead fascinating to me right now? This whole Russian spy ring that's recently emerged in the news. The FBI announced the bust of ten spies in "deep cover," after intercepting a surprisingly blatant and guileless missive from Moscow.

The Kremlin, of course, denied any such spies were in place and suggested this was a fabrication by the FBI to compromise the largely positive relations President Obama had recently been cultivating with Russia's third president, Mr. Medvedev.

And then the spies started confessing (those who hadn't fled). Their real names have been released to the public. Our two nations have organized and completed an honest-to-goodness spy swap. Very far from a ruse, this tableau feels more like a contrived Cold War plotline taken far too seriously by some department head not overly endowed with imagination or, no pun intended, intelligence.

But you know what this means for us postalaters? Do you know what relevance this bears to us, men and women of letters?

A new draft of postage stamps! It seems that Russia views quite positively any of her spies that have secreted any information out of the United States, and it is not at all uncommon to commemorate them on their postage stamps. I don't know how I feel about the ethics of honoring the qualities of deceit and manipulation, venerating underhandedness and duplicity... but I do know I'd be particularly excited to receive a letter or postcard with a Russian spy on it. I had no idea this was a practice at all, and how fascinating to know it's out there. There's always the potential that someone over there might send me a postcard with one such cultural luminary featured on it, thanks to Postcrossing.

Wednesday, July 7

Various Forms of Water

You know how things come in trends? Like, someone mentions an unusual word, and for the next two weeks you overhear it in conversation, catch it in a TV show or movie, or see it in print media?

"Water" has been like that for me. Certain expressions have been coming up and I started to get them confused in my head (if I was ever clear on them). For my own clarification, I just wanted to render these here so I don't get them mixed up again.
Remote or insignificant.
Reservoir of water welling up behind an obstruction.
(of the) first water
Of highest value or purest quality.
The Online Etymology Dictionary suggests the first term comes from American carnival slang, a contemptuous name for small, rural settlements that had no water tank from which to refill their boilers. Instead, they drew water from any regional creek or stream.

The second definition seems clear once you see it spelled out like that, yet I don't know how I would have ever come across this term in casual conversation. No one I know has ever been overly concerned with "the section which is influenced by the conditions at [a river's] mouth."

The third has a pedigree as rich as usage by Shakespeare, and it apparently refers to the clarity of a diamond. The purest diamond should be as clear as a drop of water, then an ordinal value is added to rank the diamond from "highest quality" to "colored stone."

Not included is "greywater," about which I am absolutely not confused. This is a catch-all term for dirty, used water produced by a domestic environment, everything from laundry water to what you flush down the ter-let.