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Saturday, September 8, 2012

When What You Don't Know Says A lot.

Hello, my pretties.


   As of late, your mad scientist has been giving his victims,er, subjects a battery of tests to see how big their individual vocabularies are. Sadly, it is not uncommon for students to graduate from a failed school district with reading and writing skills at the 5/6th grade level. This isn't news, however. As a brilliant social scientist, I was much more intrigued to observe the common misunderstandings of  certain words amongst my test subjects. 
 Some of the mistakes were obvious: "vocation" was often mistaken for "vacation." So too was it common for my lab rats to confuse the word "fabricate" with "clothe."
  Less obviously resolved is the tendency for students to believe that the word "extrovert" means a "main idea." My dear legions, why do you think this is? The word clandestine, which means secretive or covert, was often thought to be a synonym for "noble." I can only speculate that the letter combinations like "destine" and the word "clan" bring to mind great families and royal bloodlines, but I can't be sure. The only potential confusion that makes a sad, grim kind of sense to me is that many of the testers, who have come from poor backgrounds with unstable family lives, conflate the word "diversity" with "separation."

                 ending on a less pleasant note,
                            RRM.

Monday, August 27, 2012

YouTube, Russian Antisemitism, And Even a Little Word Nerdery


     YouTube is a wonderful concept and website, and yet it is sadly true that spending a lot of time on  YouTube in not necessarily the mark of an intellectually curious or well informed person.  Let's come out  with it: I watch an awful lot of professional wrestling on YouTube, and I've never uploaded anything, so I'm in no position to throw stones about people wasting their time on the internet in general or YouTube in particular. There are some channels that I feel are worthwhile on YouTube however. YouTube is one of the best vehicles for exposing the misconduct of public officials-think of the famous police brutality videos that have gone viral-"Don't taze  me, bro."  There are a lot of international perspectives available on YouTube as well-some quality reporting not available via local television or cable, really.  Even so, I am starting to suspect that their are no good sources for news on YouTube, just some occasionally insightful videos. Even establishment journalism turns over a few rocks. I used to watch the Young Turks- hosted by Cenk Uygur, who had a brief run with MSNBC. Cenk is intelligent enough and sometimes funny, but often his commentary makes up 90% of a video, and I'm often more interested in raw footage. I am still subscribed to NDTV, which provides great coverage of the Chinese news and events. I thought I had hit the jackpot at first; it was good journalism coming from a Chinese perspective-then I looked at the channel and noticed that they broadcast out of the United States!  Then there's Russia Today. Russia Today -one of the most popular YouTube accounts extant. Russia Today provides more coverage of American police brutality than the other networks,  and it gave the Occupy movement that I was sympathetic to an enormous amount of coverage. News is presented in a professional format, and it certainly couldn't be accused of being bought and paid for by American corporations. No, it could instead be accused of being bought and paid for the by the Kremlin because, well, it is...  It becomes painfully obvious when watching Russia Today that their interviews and discussions include only one source or spokesperson. Civil libertarians, peace activists, scientists, entrepreneurs, Marxists, fascists, diplomats, whoever, are interviewed and given a forum with no debate or opposition whatsoever. Beyond that, none of this scrutiny gets applied to  to Mother Russia. Any coverage of American foreign involvement comes from an opposite perspective- in some ways it's refreshing as the Arab Spring has always had threatening undercurrents and American support has been suspect. All of the sudden we're back on the side of Saudi bank rolled fundamentalists again. Whatever, it's very clear that Russia Today  supports the Russian government's geopolitical agenda. This includes critical coverage of Israel.  Russian criticism of Israel! Russian criticism of Jews!  Criticism of the cruel Zionist occupation of parts of Palestine is valid, but Russia criticizing anything Jewish arouses my suspicion. It's not hyperbole to state that the nation of Russia invented the pogrom.   The noun Pogrom derives from a Russian verb to "wreak havoc or destroy." Soon enough, the word became synonymous with Russian  police or constabularies putting up the "closed" sign and allowing anti-Semitic rioters to brutalize Russian Jews. Long before Hitler's atrocities required the invention of the word , genocide, the (attempted) murder of an entire race, Russian bigotry resulted in the need for the word pogrom.
 Am I biased and self-righteous? A bit. I am prone to be dismissive of Anti Israeli coverage from the  media of a nation with the largest Neo-Nazi movement on earth. I was further irked by Russia Today giving the spokesperson of the fascist Larouche cult an open floor. So too has this cult been accused of antisemitism. On the other hand, YouTube videos and comment threads are hotbeds of antisemitism. Perhaps, just as the E.P.A. tolerates limited amounts of toxins the air and streams, I should just accept that some media outlets will just have to operate at a 15%  level of antisemitism. After all, if your favorite book had one page that was ripped or written on, you  still wouldn't  trash the entire novel.

                                           sarcastically,

                                               Ray Ray Montoya

    P.S. This whole topic brings to mind several interview's with Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat. Borat told interviewers, " At first the Khazakistani censors were concerned with the level of antisemitism in the moviefilm. Then after review they decided there was just enough."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

An Island of Chauvinists?

By some accounts, 2009 saw Great Britain's standard of living rise above those of Americans. I'm assuming that meant that Britons are living better, but mayhap it just means that percentage by which their quality of life has improved was significantly higher than the American growth. I don't know. In any event, this was three years ago, but for quite some time now a small percentage of Britons now seem to think that they've entered some kind of superior standing and freely insult and characterize Americans as stupid, fat, chauvinist, just generally inferior. There's some legitimacy behind these criticisms as America, located in the heart of capitalism and wide class disparity, seems hellbent on destroying social services, cutting rather than expanding the social safety net, and doing all this while fighting wars of conquest in order to maintain a fossil fuel habit that is unsustainable. A certain reactionary strain in our nation's spiritual life is an impediment to our thinking as well. But then America is still at this time, the world's largest economy and military superpower. In some ways, our problems now become the world's problems soon.

Indeed, the United Kingdom's relatively high standard of living isn't quite as solid a foundation as it might seem. The youth riots of last summer  attest to that and they seem to be the exemplification of the increasing amount of youth violence and discontentment that nation is experiencing.  A restless and somewhat extremist Muslim population, again largely youthful, has been linked to terrorism and has been inflammatory to the general public to say the least. In response, bigoted, far right fascist groups like the English Defence League and the British National Party are aggressively mobilizing in the streets, protesting Mosques and spewing their hellbroth of extreme nationalism/ Neo-Nazi ideology. These fascist or crypto-fascist groups are far more overt and prominent than their American counterparts.

A return to a great and imperial Britain is, of course, a nostalgic dream for many British reactionaries. Great Britain was one of the few other nations to commit troops to America's invasion of Iraq. This is a collective blind spot in the British political street. A famous headline in the U.K. asked "A Nation of Idiots?" about the U.S. as a result of the electorate's reelection of George W.Bush. This was stupid for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that in both the 2000 and 2004 elections, voter fraud was a heavy factor. This was also hypocritical as not too long afterwards Tony Blair, who played a big role in involving the U.K. in the Iraq debacle, was reelected. Moreover, though the United States initiated and led the Iraq occupation, the American public was always heavily divided and largely skeptical of the Iraq war. Not since the Vietnam War, where there had been conscription, had the cities, capitals, and campuses of America been so full of protesters and radicals.

It's likely that, as a species, our sense of national pride provides an ego boost and national difficulties are hard to reconcile, so it's much easier for some Britons to project onto the United States all of the problems that are insidiously and slowly undermining the United Kingdom as well. America the uneducated and obese is not alone as obesity and failing school systems are increasingly a problem in Great Britain.

The bottom line is that Americans are preyed upon by the forces of commodification and crony capitalism-forces western Europe has more ably resisted, but is not immune to.  Hopefully, the U.K. will continue to resist capital's pernicious influence, or they may exchange the inaccurate stereotype of unattractive red hair, terrible teeth, and shabby dress for their new stereotype- overweight junk food eating illiterates. In the mean time, it's best for workers of the world to unite and to avoid cheap stereotypes.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Fag

If "slut" is a word many women use to describe other women who don't model feminine virtue then men use the word "fag" in the same way to describe non-compliant men. I don't think I have any good friends at this point who use the term "faggot" in a serious way, so you'll have to forgive me if I access past high-school memories to make my point.

Obviously, "fag" is often used by men to describe other men who they suspect are attracted to or have sex with other men. It's also used to describe men who don't seem to conform to masculine expectations. Men who aren't physically strong, who dance a little too fluidly, who express  certain emotions a little too easily, who prefer to hang out with women, or who prefer fruity drinks with umbrellas and maraschino cherries earn this term. I've heard this hate speech used more than once in situations where I suspect the accuser had not bothered to actually consider whether or not the accused actually slept with men or not. In any case, it's someone calling someone else a name because they don't like the other person's behavior. One man assumes another man is bound to follow a certain code, just as he is. As I said earlier, there are not Laura Ingalls Wilders anymore, nor are there chastity belts; there aren't any Daniel Boons ar Davy Crocketts either. Name calling makes you a hypocrite.
Of course, faggot is an inherently ugly word. Faggots originally meant burning sticks. Homosexuals were burned to death in the past, so thus the conflation.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The "Slut" word.

In a fit of brilliance as an amateur social scientist, I posted the other day on Facebook "You're a slut, but you're a nice slut." The responses were interesting, but that's another post. To me, the notion of female sexual morality based on how many or how few men you have sex with is relative and makes more than a few women hypocrites. We've all been there when a woman sees another woman, who is usually attractive, wearing a midriff or booty shorts or whatever, and the woman observing her then let's loose with the hatin', "What a slut." Alternatively, she may be in some kind of competition to get the attention of a man with another woman. If her rival seems to offer"it" too freely, then she is also a "slut" or "ho," "scank," "hoochie mama," "whore," "tramp" or any other derogatory term. When catfighting ensues, I wisely and paternally settle it by saying "Ladies, ladies, compared to your grandmothers you're both sluts." This, of course," assumes none of the grandmothers in questions were prostitutes. "You see girls, assuming your age is around 25-30 years old, many of you have already had 5,10, perhaps even dozens of lovers, ranging from fiances to flings. Why shouldn't you? With proper use of protection and birth control, there aren't necessarily any negative social effects." 


One of the sluts then replies,  "Yeah, but professor Montoya, shouldn't it be special? I mean is it moral to give it to just anyone? Doesn't it say something about a woman's morality or even her self esteem?"


As I am the expert, I get to answer a question with a question, "Forgive me for this alarming question, but how many men do you think your grandmother had sex with before she was married? Maybe one or two at the most? 
After looking at me with profound disgust, she responds "Probably not too many, if anyone." 


I reply then, "Of course, we know that there was more activity back then than anyone cares to admit, but certainly a bit less of it. Birth control wasn't as available. And if the women of the Grandma generation knew that a woman had 10 lovers in the past, and she wasn't married, then what do you think they would've called her?" At this point, the woman in question breaks down, sobbing,  "Oh God, I'm a rancid, disposable slut. Let us return to the values of our forefathers and......."


I quickly intercede, "No, no, no, there's no call for that. I have no problem with people maintaining their chastity or virtue, but I think it's a far greater transgression for those who live in glass houses to throw stones. Everyone is a slut compared to someone. The truth is if you aren't undermining committed relationships intentionally, spreading herpes, getting pregnant by absentee fathers constantly, then it ain't no one's business! By all means, fuck who you like as long as you're safe!"


Seriously, I  think people should maintain their self respect and standards, but that might not be affected by how much skin you do or do not show or whether or not you enjoy casual sex. Oddly enough, the original meaning for slut was a lazy housewife. I remember reading a centuries old greeting card at a museum "You've slept all day. Get up and get a broom you lazy slut!..."


Men are the biggest hypocrites on the "slut" issue. Aside from the fact that many men would tell you that they seek out as many trysts as possible, they also, in many cases, call women "sluts" for doing exactly what it is they'd like them to do.


If you're still insisting that we need to cling to some kind of traditional morality where these matters are involved, ultimately, I don't disagree, but I'd caution you that you getting too moralistic might mean your more  flamboyant friends being called "fags" unwed mothers getting scarlet letters, and general stigma for those with regular human appetites. 



Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Words With Friends and Panda Poet conspire against Me

Today's greatest minds are all troubled by the inconsistencies  in Words With Friends. Words With Friends, for those of you with full lives, is the online scrabble game you can play on Facebook or any number of internet/ phone applications. We know that abbreviations, deragatory words, and proper nouns aren't allowed, but we are skeptical about the enforcement of the "no abbreviation" rule.  For example, the "words" "Ad," "Ed, "Ag," and similar offenders seem to be acceptable. I've tried to find plausible definitions for those words, but in the cases of "Ed" and "Ag" they are only words if you can treat them as words in a title. For instance, "Ed" as in "Driver's Ed." Or if someone is majoring in "Ag" (Agriculture) studies. Even so, those seem suspiciously like abbreviations to me.

Another word game I play online, Panda Poet, at first seemed to be guilty of a proper noun violation, although I'm willing to concede this one. I was suprised during a game of Pand Poet when I found myself able to play the word "Hobbit."  At first, I thought of it as a name particular to J.R.R. Tolkien's mythology. However, noun status isn't concerend with the fiction/non-fiction distinction. So, I suppose, that "hobbit" as the name of a species, is just as valid a common noun as the word "dwarf."

--A friend on Twitter made me aware of another webspeak acronym: GPOY. It stands for "Gratuitious Picture of Yourself." We all know what it refers to- online people sharing stupid, often drunken, pictures of themselves that no one has the slightest interest in seeing.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Supposably Intelligent

Imagine you're having a very interesting conversation with "Hank the Carpenter" at a local dive.
The beer is cold, and the mood is relaxed, but not drunken, and the talk is good. "Hank The Carpenter" has made several interesting comments to you as you sit on your bar stool, listening intently. Then "Hank The Carpenter" says it, "Supposably," as in "Supposably" the universe is 6000 years old or something." It seems that anything "Hank The Damn Carpenter" would say after this point will deserve significantly less consideration. Hearing someone mangle a word into "supposably" is like hearing screeching on a chalkboard, glass shattering, or a scratched record.  I've already blogged about "irregardless," so don't get me started.


A friend of mine mentioned that she and her cousin discussed those very offenders. Those words that "literary gods" deem unworthy of the universal lexicon are not only noticed and castigated by myself. They also correctly noted the internet and instant messaging continues to shit on the written world in general and English in particular. Teachers should immediately fail formal papers containing the webspeak of "lol" or "u" where "you" should be. "K" instead of "okay," and "4" instead of four... Well, I can't pretend I care about the last two examples too much. I guess I'm beating a dead horse here: It's no secret that Facebook wreaks havoc on the English language. In the meantime,  I'll be on the lookout for particularly wonderful misspellings to get angry at. Clearly,I'm like your side show, and you can enjoy my anger.

               stimulating myself with private humor,


                                   RRM

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Misanthropy-read politics into this and be shot.

Democracy is for the dogs. Drive the underclasses into their homes, meek and shut up. I don't care to see people in various states of undress on their porches, nothing to do but watch and gawk at you as you walk by.  Disrespectful children, litter. Adults have public, angry, obscene conversations in public, wanting the world to know just how dramatic and exciting their lives are at best, no sense of consideration at worst. They can't afford fresh produce, books, or to make savings, but the cell phone service is always on to facilitate an argument. Worst of all, I'm not strong enough right now to pull myself out of the ghetto, this obscenity. Do I seem reactionary? Fuck you. Live it first, then criticize me. This isn't prescriptive or political, this is a raw, emotional reaction. This is a misanthropy that transcends politics. I rarely hate individuals whom  I get to know well, but like better misanthropes than I, I'd rather avoid the glorious "humanity," "diversity," "community," or whatever the boring, rude, loathsome mob is being termed as these days. I know what I've said isn't the whole story, but maybe I just don't feel like pretending this shit isn't there. I want to go on some tirade about the decline of art and literature, but the heat has dried up my creativity or vitriol on the subject. I'm probably wrong.  This is all for want of air conditioning, sex, and regular medicine intake.


What's interesting in the world of words and language? The other day I found a strip of paper that came originally from a fortune cookie. I didn't bother to read it because I knew that I kept it for a reason, and I would reread it soon enough, perhaps taking enough inspiration from it to write a blog. Ironic, given tonight's tirade, the strip reads "Art misunderstanding by calm, poise, and balance." If only! They don't bottle that shit at Wal-Mart, or I'd buy it and drink it down.  The fortune cookie strip also has lucky numbers and a website, but I don't have the money for the lottery and I'm not sure how to place bets at the track.


 Let's not lose track of how great a quote that is. There are many words that function as verbs, nouns, adjectives, but I'd never seen "art" as one of them. Check out this list of such words: http://www.scribd.com/doc/3271104/150-Words-Which-Are-Both-Verbs-and-Nouns.

Monday, May 14, 2012

More Malapropism from the Malcontent

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away while sitting on the porcelain throne in the Northern Michigan University Academic Library (Jacobetti?) I observed the rare bit of witty stall graffiti. No, it wasn't a random phone number, crude depiction of a bodily process, or anonymous racism. It was, instead, the question "If you your life was a novel, would you read it?" In it of itself, this question isn't a bad way for a mortal to remind himself that these average 72.5  years, maybe, aren't a dress rehearsal. Do you want to be on your deathbed full of regrets? Even so, this good question was not left alone. Another shitter wrote "Nah, I'd just wait for the movie to come out." Say what you want, that response was brilliant and telling. 
Generation X,Y, Z,  the Millennials, are consumers of visual media (because I guess reading isn't visual) and maybe not the most verbally nuanced or precise of generations. Just today, The Princess got a text that read "I need you to send me money know!" As someone who helps students improve their writing, I get to see some rough sentences as well. A student let his vicious antisemitism come to the surface when he read in a speech that he wanted to go on a family vacation in Spain and "fly some kikes." Or was that just an innocent slip of the tongue? What would that old Jew Freud say? Another young man confessed to me that his high school attendance habits had been less than stellar, "My break would be a week or just some days off the mouth." Funny, he never struck me as particularly loquacious. 


Nonetheless, the kids still have active, healthy imaginations and appetites. One student who had earlier lied to me that at the age of 18 she no longer drank or partied was writing of her dream resort. She detailed her ideal bungalow as being furnished with "free booze, room service, and body massages from ripped young men in bathing suits." 


        I can't top that.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Work In Progress.


The hitter watched from the parking lot as the man he would kill entered his house. He usually came back from work around 7:30 and seemed to go to sleep around 11, was divorced, lived alone, drove a Taurus, and worked as a suit somewhere. His occupation didn’t matter so much as long as he wasn’t a cop, someone who carried a gun most of the time. This guy wasn’t. The hitter started up the engine and drove back to his motel on the other side of town, where he would kill a few hours before coming back to what would be the scene of the crime. “Motel 8” was a cheap, anonymous place off of the highway.  He wasn’t expected to explain his stay in Tannis, Illinois to the front desk here, and if he had, that would have been suspicious.  He got out of his car and saw the maid pulling her cart out of his room. He had forgotten to hang his “do not disturb” sign up.  It didn’t matter- he wasn’t stupid enough to leave anything interesting in his room. This wasn't his first go round. “Hi darling!” he said, smiling at the maid. She was a Spanish lady Mexican- or Puerto Rican orsomething. Not a bad looking woman.  “Oh  hi,” she said, “I brought you some new towels and cleaned up your cigarettes. I hope dazz okay.”


“Appreciate it,” he said. He did too. On the job, he acted sincerely where he could. He wasn’t a shark until it was time to feed his kids. Once inside his room, he looked at the mirror. He was heavyset, but not so fat people turned away or kids pointed at him. He had a full head of black hair, but not long hair. As far as he could tell the only noticeable features were his eyes. They didn’t have bags under them, but somehow they always looked tired.  He wore jeans and a Dallas Mavericks sweatshirt, although he’d never been to Dallas and could care less about basketball.  Misdirection should someone ever describe him to any cops.


Work always made him pensive.He knew he could pull it off, and he wasn’t breaking into cold sweats, but  he was capable of getting worked up about things if he let his imagination wander about what might go wrong. Television. History Channel. Jesus. It was some documentary  on a gangsters.  The “Iceman,” a famous hit-man, was being interviewed, describing how he had  become “damn near a gourmet cook, just so I could serve targets poisoned food.” The narrator described  “Iceman’s” ascendancy in the criminal underworld, noting that at the same time he was well known for reading hoity toity books and buying expensive tickets to the opera. Iceman bragged, clearly relishing the attention  “ I was probably the only guy in Jackson that got in fistfights because he turned up his Pavarotti  too loud.”  The hitter groaned a little bit and felt contempt at the better known killer's conspicuousness.  Because in our line of work, you really want a public trademark or something to be known for. “Idiot” he said out loud, leaning over to his mini fridge to grab a beer. He imagined civilians at home, watching “Leon The Professional” or James Bond and thinking that most hitters were geniuses,  killing for honor, muscle bound , looking good, and lovers of the arts. Pure horse shit. 

He had grown up around gangsters. He wasn’t part of the family, but he knew the life. They knew him. Knew he wasn’t very glib. Knew he had been married, but preferred escorts now. Knew he occasionally bought tickets up in the cheap seats and went to ballgames with his son. Probably knew that most of the time he ate microwave dinners and watched  about 4 hours of television a night. His only luxuries were  his own house, a constant supply of bourbon, and  most weekends off. His “job” was  driving a truck for a meat packing firm 3 or 4 days a week as needed.  He earned money fixing more serious problems. He wasn’t mean. He was a business man. If he didn’t “remove pests” someone else would. You hunt or get hunted. 

He finished another Budweiser and slipped off into a light sleep. Oddly enough though, the only time his eyes didn’t look tired were when he thought about the details of his target's lives, which he had to remind himself was unprofessional and a bad habit.


He awoke around 9:45. He never slept longer than he should when  hunting. He showered, dressed, did 50 push-ups, grabbed a winter hat, a very small flash light, keys, and a pair of sunglasses just in case and casually stepped out of his room and got in his car. He drove to a supermarket within walking distance from his target’s house and parked his car right as far away from the store itself as he could get. Not too close to any cameras, hopefully, although no job was completely safe.  He reached under, tore open some fabric, and pulled out his gun and silencer.


Rounding the corner towards his prey, he saw neighbors on the porch. Whatever, most of the time they didn’t care what happened next door.  If they asked, he would just say he was a visiting cousin. His client, whoever she was, probably an ex-wife, had given him a key.  If the neighbors did call the police, the city was large enough that the police wouldn’t likely burn rubber responding to something that wasn’t necessarily illegal, even if suspicious. It would be over in a matter of minutes anyway. The neighbors were looking at him. He pulled out cell phone and dialed no one. “Yeah, hey, I’m here.  Yep, I’ll let myself in.” He did just that. No problems. He was inside. He walked quietly, but not that quietly up the stairs. He opened one door and saw a toilet. No joy. He opened another a door andlooked into  shotgun barrells. A nervous man in vertically lined pajamas held the weapon up to his and tried to look even keeled, but his eyebrows were twitching and his eyes were wide.  "Drop it and put your hands behind your back," the would-be victim warbled out. 
"Okay, okay," the hitter said. "I'm just pulling my gun out of my belt. The Hitter was alarmed, but not desperate. He took the gun out of his belt and simply pointed it at the chickenhawk target.
"I'll blow your fucking brains out," he yelled.
"No," the hitter said emphatically, "you won't."  He quickly kicked the victim in his wrist and watched his nervous prey drop his double barrled survival to the floor.

Two hisses of air and the target was finished.  The hitter turned on his small flash light and verified that he had eliminated the right person.  It wasn’t a pretty picture, but he had gotten his man.

 After a long day on the road, he had ordered a few pornos off of the pay per view, rubbed a few out, and decided it was time to call it a night. In his bathroom, he brushed his teeth while looking at his reflection in the mirror. His eyes were lit up. He wondered if his last target was a bastard or a saint. He wondered how he would tell his son about his line of work.

He woke the next morning, around 10 AM, to the sound of his doorbell.  He looked out of his peephole and saw those religious types that wore white shirts, black ties, Mormons. He opened the door.
“Good afternoon, sir. My name is Elder Robinson and this is Elder Guiterrez from the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints….” In the seconds it took  for the Saints to finish their spiel the hitter started thinking about the human being he'd shot a few nights ago. He felt his stomach twisting into knots and worried even though he wasn't tied to the crime. These mormons in their clean white shirts were and upbeat demeanor were jarring him. He opened his mouth to say something, but then realized his train of thought was unprofessional. His eyes narrowed.
                “Fuck off” he said, coolly shutting the door.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Anglophobia

In my day to day treachery, I take note of Youtube threads, replies to news articles, and observe social media, often noting snarky comments. Aside from the Russians, for whom hyperbole is the national pastime, I notice that the Brits are absolutely the most bitter in their comments towards Americans and American politics. I don't know if it's because of their relative facility with the English language, their insecurity at being seen as too close to America due to unpopular political decisions or what, but it's noticeable.  Yes, our food is loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup, and we Americans are a fat people. Acknowledged. Yes, our politics have fallen behind the rest of the first-world (un PC term) in the past 40 years, mired by religious sheep and patriotic oil worshippers. And don't get me started on our tepid, housebroken media If that's too strong, I'll point out that no one Left of the Democratic party has a regular television or radio presence nation wide and that the media loves to rally around every American war, no matter how faulty its reasoning. The thing is our brothers in the United Kingdom are beset by all of these problems as well. I love it when Brits criticize Americans for being war mongers who started the Iraq War. The advantage of knowing how to read is that I happen to know that Great Britain also participated in that oil grab. They were even on our team! As for the media, well, two words: Rupert Murdoch.  What's my point? Why am I discussing political matters? Lord, I really don't know. I'm easily distracted. It's that constant sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup in my system. ... Somehow, I meant to connect this  to the differences between British and American English. A lot of  American folks think they sound suave for substituting the word "ass" for "arse." They're not. Everyone with two brain cells to rub together by is familiar with that British noun, and it's not that interesting. Similarly, I hear a lot of Americans attempt British accents, and only a few actually manage them in a less than laughable way. American Anglophiles, don't feel bad. How many BBC actors have you seen slaughter American accents? More than a few methinks.

  I did come across a British term I wasn't familiar with though-one among many I'm sure.  As noted earlier, my treacheries keep me on the Internet at all hours, stalking and waiting to pounce on those unfortunate enough to call themselves my friends. I wait for a name to pop up on Facebook, Twitter, or any number of messengers. I message them, seeing if their loyalty has held from when last we spoke, 2 hours ago. If they reply within a reasonable amount of time, I count them among the Church of Montoya. If not, I jot their names and the time of the snub in  my Notebook of Resentments Volume II: Internet and Social Media. An old friend mine who currently resides near Manchester, England popped up on Skype. I messaged her, noting that it was dreadfully early on her side of the pond.  She told me that she would like to sleep, but the she had someone who wanted bottles and attention that time of morning. As a result, her mornings are spent watching exposes and "changing nappies." Stop right there. "Nappies." It became painfully obvious what that meant, but I realized I had never put that together until that very moment. It's probably short for napkins, and the committee and I agree that it's a much more pleasant or informal term than "diaper." I'll also point out that I know who a "slapper" is. Pimpin' ain't easy.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spell Check Follies and Declaring My Attraction to The World

"so' sorry have to check email more off'n  i be their thank you mr montoya."   I checked my e-mail to find this and now speculation abounds. Did the person who e-mailed me this do so via text, where spacing is difficult and predictive typing hijacks good spelling? Was inebriation involved? Or, better yet, did this person decide to make a rather enjoyable commentary on what I  write about? This could be seen as a hilarious "fuck you" to myself and others in the field. We'll never know unless I pump the suspect for information, and I have to tell you, I'm pretty lazy.

 This wasn't the only spell-check folly I would experience in the last few weeks. Another young man was writing about good study habits and positive behaviors for young people to engage in. Imagine my surprise when I learned that  a quiet place, like your bedroom, can be a good place to "castrate." The kids get kinkier every year, although have to say that  I do encourage "concentration."

Last of all, I've been thinking about the word "attractive" a lot lately. Describing a person as attractive seems synonymous with saying that the person is sexually attractive or dating material.  To my way of thinking, the concepts of attractiveness and sexiness have become conflated. Senor Montoya plays on the Blue Team and, despite appreciating beauty where he sees it, does not "switch hit." Even so, it doesn't seem  weird to say that I'm attracted to the personalities of several of my male friends. Why else would I want to talk to them or hang out with them outside of work or formal activity if I didn't find them attractive? I told a woman on Skype that I  always had a  "attraction" for her the other day. By doing that, I didn't intend to formally declare my undying and passionate love for her, mariachis and all, instead I simply meant that she seemed to have an interesting story to tell. So for now on, I won't hesitate. I'll tell strangers at the bus stop that they are attractive. I'll compliment some old lady walking her golden retriever on her "attractive" dog.  When I finally have a chance to interview President Clinton, I'll be sure to let him know that I find him quite attractive. All joking aside, the words that indicate some level of physical or more primal attraction are obvious, but the best word is "hot."
         I don't want to hear your more colorful words to that effect. This is a "family" blog.

                  RRM

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lexicon of the Long Toothed.

Last week it occurred to me that very few people under the age of 60 seem to use the word "gal" seriously. I realize there are exceptions, but I couldn't keep a straight face or refrain from comment if a co-worker   or family member near my age or younger said "Okay,  I'm off to spend some time with the gals." That's an old person's word no matter who uses it. I decided to ask my Twitter followers which words they associated with old people. I meant to ask for the words they felt were preferred by older people, but in at least one case someone suggested actual words for old people like "wizened," "crone," "geriatric," or even "tenured." That's a decent list of synonyms for the aged. Someone else suggested the cliches of "elder language," words and phrases like "whippersnapper," or "kids these days."  To be sure, older generations have trashed the rising generation ever since Adam said to Cain, "You know I might have lost paradise and pissed off God, but I never committed murder. Kids these days."

  Then of course, it was pointed out to me that old folks like to use the diet sodas or light beers of the profanity world, including words like "dang it," "confound it," "blithering," "shoot," etc. In these United States, in that particular context, you could substitute Bible-thumpers or other fundamentalists  for old folks. The religious folk do not regularly deploy the f-bomb.

   So what are some other words I associate with  old folks? I remember my mother having a conversation in which some older woman described a younger lady as a "buxom gal." I've never again heard that word used to describe a woman with big tits. When my mother used to read Little House on the Prarie books to me, she once explained that the word "beau" meant boyfriend. Thereafter, I'd only encountered the word "beau" in bad romantic fiction (which I don't read a lot of) and when my grandmother referred to one of her "beaus."
It's obsessions like these that keep me from the more worthwhile things in life.

                   with a grain of salt,
                         Ray Ray Montoya.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Homo Confusion

It's a boring Saturday afternoon. The weather is non-descript and dreary. I sorely crave the caffeine I deny myself in liquid form. But for you, I battle through the haze and fog on my endless quest to illuminate your dim minds, and in so doing, share the light. Who am I kidding? I feel flat, but I do have a few observations I wanted to share.

I was teaching students how to distinguish between some easily confused homonyms like "affect" and "effect", "accept" and "except, and other separate words with similar sounds. I stumbled across  a few homonyms that I  needed to clarify in my own mind before I taught them. This could be embarrassing, but I don't claim expertise in anything. My blind spots are everywhere. Sometimes basic words elude me and my memory of fractions and long division is sketchy. Back on task: the first confusion "Ensure" vs. "Insure." I do not write about the meal in a can for old people, rather "ensure" means to guarantee a certain outcome, to make sure that something will happen. Of course, I knew this, but I wonder how many times when I used that word "ensure" that I thought I was using the word "insure" which has to do with the payments you make to protect yourself against against financial ruin as a result of car accidents, acts of God, clogged arteries, or robot apocalypse.

 I'm not sure I ever made a conscious distinction between. "Altogether" and " all together" either. "Altogether" means whole or complete, as in "I'm not sure she's altogether sane." "All together" refers to a group coming together. Imagine some nervous looking man taking a picture of your 7/8th grade  baseball team, taking way more pictures than anyone wants to stand around for, all for the perfect photograph that no one present cares about. He yells, for the 6th time, "all together now and smile!"

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Very Brief, very Frank Interview: Multiple Personalities and Word Use

 Just Call Me Frank  she says, and I do. I used the pronoun "she," but I could have just as appropriately used the pronoun "they." Frank is one woman's body, but many distinct personalities, ranging from a 6 year old girl to that of a 32 year old woman (which is Frankie's biological age). Frank or "Frankie" is all over the Internet, but this website is an adequate point of departure :http://justcallmefrank.net/  Although Frank has been diagnosed with multiple personality disorder and uses the blog to channel negative energy and note life events that might otherwise be lost amidst  personality switches, the blog is not just a "mental illness blog" in that it isn't limited to Frank chronicling the difficulties of living with multiple personalities; the journal covers sex, food, art, politics, life in general just as many other blogs do-albeit typically in a much more interesting way. I like Frankie quite a bit and could probably ask questions of her/them? (I give up knowing which is the politest form of address)all day, but most of my questions are word related and won't render an overall portrait of  the interviewee. For that, I suggest you check out Frank's own writing, which is both fascinating and poignant.


RRM: As one body with multiple personalities, if you'll allow that description, you use the pronoun we where many of us would use the pronoun "I." I have a habit of mirroringthe conversational or writing styles of people I interact withI almost slipped into referring to myself as "we."
Does that happen a lot?I mean do people refer to themselves as "we" when talking to you?

Frankie: Not always, inside the head there's more I and Me, especially when it comes to wants, needs, and individual thoughts. we do use I and we in conversation, depending on how many are "hanging about" in our head, or are inclusive, or in agreement, with what is being said.

RRM:
Do you find that the different personalities have different word choiceor different vocabularies?

Frankie:definitely. James (Frankies' boyfriend)notices those kinds of things, probably because he lives with us and wants to be able to decipher who he's having a conversation with (who "executive" is)

RRM:
could you provide an example or is that too close
and personal? Is there a word that comes up more often than not
depending on who's 'behind the wheel'?

Frankie:
Joy likes to use the phrase "you don't know" sort of snotty-like and mouthy.
one uses the phrase "why for" instead of 'how come', or 'why'
James says we have varying accents. Very slight. but he picks up on them.
also, some of us simply sound way different...apparently. while we know in our head what we each sound like we try to control it when it comes put of our mouth with people who don't know us. our last job we didn't always control it, sometimes we'd get odd looks from one of our coworkers.around people we trust we are more relaxed about trying to control it.

RRM:
In a lot of cultures, names have meanings beyond
just their sonic qualities. Do the names Frank and Joy have any significance
that you're aware of?

Frankie: not that we're aware of, though Joy didn't have a name for a long time and it ended up being a play on words because she tends to be so mouthy and sarcastic she's a "joy" (that's sarcastic, obviously)
RRM: ......and Frank is usually just that, although the FB account is known as Frank Subtle Ly.
Do all of you enjoy writing?


Frankie: not really, except as far as it helps us feel better. Some love the research involved in big pieces, Sam only likes it as far as releasing his thoughts, Ivy likes poetry writing...we could go on, but, meh...


Okay, I appreciate your time. A last question: What do you think
of that blogger, Ray Ray Montoya, the one who you beat in Scrabble all the time? Is his vocabulary poor or do y'all comprise an Oxford dictionary between the lot of you?

Frankie: we think he needs to play more Scrabble :-)



Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Fresh New Ishue

   Recently I was ordered by the powers that be to write a blog on the way people add the suffix like appendage known as "ish" to the end of words. 
   My first mental image is of a teenage girl with lots of insecurity about herself, trying to hedge her bets when it comes to self-description "Whatever, I'm smart-ish." Maybe later, she puts on some tube top, pulls her hair back, and affirms to herself in the mirror that she looks "hottish." But I'm being unfair. I hear this suffix of hesitation everywhere. The church I went to for awhile, before I could no longer stand it, was advertised as starting at "7ish."  A girlfriend relates her boyfriend's penis as "biggish." People who are few minutes late are "lateish" or "latish," which sounds like some Jewish prayer or pastry. In fact, I think this is a Millennial or Generation Y tic along with describing things as "uber" or the verb "chillaxin."

  I know that you know me as the cranky, octogenarian shut-in with a habit of shooting his pellet gun at unknown moving objects, and it seems like I would hate it when people add "ish" to the end of words, but I don't. It's an effective way of modifying words, and it's a few less syllables than "semi" or "relatively" or "moderately."

  I guess it can be used to propel stupidity. If a long limbed 6 foot 6 amazon walks into a nightclub, sits down and crosses her legs a la Sharon Stone it would be ridiculous to hear some 19 year old say, "she looks tallish." Then again, it might be ridiculous for a 19 year old to be in a nightclub, unless he has bad i.d. or lives outside of the United States as a few teenagers are known to do.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's been some time

So lately, I've been having fun with the distinction between action and non-action verbs, and by fun, I mean attempting to communicate the distinction in a maddening attempt to improve the minds of America's pride, future, and emerging workforce. Why am I teaching those concepts? Let's not go into that. For the uninitiated, action verbs describe the action of a subject, "He moves with anger." Non-action verbs describe the subject itself or simply state that the subject is extant: "He is angry" or "He is around Republicans." First, I emphasize the distinction between non-action and action sentences, and then I have my students attempt to write some  action-verb sentences and non-action verb sentences  Some of my students came up with the following gems for  non-action sentences:
                                                    1 I taste salty.
                                           2 I taste good.
 After the first kid came up with his example, I felt a little embarrassed. After the older, taciturn gentleman came up with the second example, more or less riffing off the first example, I didn't know what to say. These are awkward expressions of sensuality in the classroom.

  I honestly couldn't think of anything to write in this blog until I started writing, but there is another distinction you might enjoy learning about: the difference between sometime
 and some time.  You may already know this, but like that one kid in your elementary school class, I just need some attention. Sometime refers to  an unspecified, perhaps unknown period of time. For example, you could write of the blog "Sometime last year this idiot started writing these pointless rants" or "he'll have to write something worthwhile sometime." Now, some time,  two words, means a lengthy period of time. For example, "It's been quite some time since he wrote anything that hasn't put me to sleep faster than a Quaalude." 

                with just a dash of humor,
                 Ray Ray Montoya

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Angry Pot Beats The Kettle

There is nothing more safe or impersonal to discuss than the weather. Security guards with gravelly Brooklyn accents discuss it; pudgy, round-faced Lieutenant Governors who eat Puppy Chow discuss it. Don't take my word for it; just listen to my unverifiable anecdote. I remember working in the lobby of a governmental building as a receptionist of sorts. The Lieutenant Governor walked in and there was a titter among the employees and appointees of the executive branch. Two lobbyists waiting to be escorted to a meeting heard the Lieutenant Governor make some idle conversation about the weather, and decided to engage him in further conversation about it, "Oh is it a really nice, stiff breeze or just a gentle wind?" He stopped walking for a moment, looked down, contemplating, "It's a pleasant breeze, but not too strong." Yeah, I know, scintillating inside baseball being served up here.


The other topic of conversation that seems equally as pointless (at times anyway) is illness.  No matter if you have a flu, cold, sinus infection, or any other bugs or attacks on your immune system, someone will always say, "oh yeah, it's going around." Of course, some form of rhino-virus or flu is going around. "It," whatever "it" is, has been going around since The Landlord told Adam and Eve to get out. Even so, whether one person has it at the office, or they all have it at the office, someone will insist it's "going around." And if you get a cold during the summer? "Oh, those summer colds are the worst." No, they aren't. They're just frustrating. Wow, this is a rant after Andy Rooney's own heart.


What else does grandpa need to get off his withered chest? The use of the word "foodie." Food connoisseurs, gourmets, whatevers,  have taken to calling themselves "foodies."  I suppose it's a symptom of the insane English tendency to abbreviate just about everything. Tonight to tonite. But really, foodies? Do we really have to reduce and infantalize language that much?  The pot may be about to meet the kettle, but when I hear someone use that word, I think of some inarticulate 12 year old girls talking over the phone about restauraunt employees or fat people. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mostly Useful

 My layman's understanding of muscle memory is that once your muscles learn certain activities, you can do things like walk, ride a bike, and shoot hoops, naturally, reflexively, as if on auto-pilot. I also use that as an excuse  when I get people's names wrong- "Julie, my tongue muscles are to blame for calling you 'Julia'. Really, I know your name." I think something similar applies to memory. When I consciously decide how to spell words I often misspell them, whereas if I just write and don't reflect, I'll usually spell correctly. Case in point: I had to clarify the difference between "effect" and "affect" some students and suddenly I realized I wasn't entirely certain. In short, "effect" is a noun referring to things like consequences or results and affect is the activity of  influencing. If this seems like a no-brainer to you, then you're right. I would leave a Return of The Living Dead zombie hungry with my ignorance on some days. For a more comprehensive (and interesting treatment of this, look hither:http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/affect-versus-effect.aspx

 Unrelated, and equally as irrelevant,  adverb and adjective confusion can produce some interesting sentences. I explain the difference between adjectives and adverbs so much during the week that I absolutely refuse to do so now. Look them up if you don't know! That's an order! What I will say is that adverbs quite often end with the suffix "ly." He ate hungrily, she walked slowly, Buster snored loudly, etc. This confuses some people learning English because although many adverbs end with an "ly," not all do. An Arabic friend once related that she was uncertain why an acquaintance of hers felt miffed after she called to tell him that he was "mostly welcome to come to my birthday party."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Interjection and Inhalation

  3-2-1: and another round of rambling commences. Before "we" get into  oh so important matters of grammatical terminology, I must share with you a brilliant insight that came to me in the lonely twilight hours: if women choose not to go out on dates with me, it is simply because they are either 1. budding lesbians or 2. about to embark on a career of cat hoarding. Now that I know it truly isn't me, I feel tremendous relief.

      An interesting question bubbled my grey matter the other day: what's the difference between an interjection and an exclamation? Both interjections and exclamations act as outbursts and can signify the sudden release of emotion. The differences seem to be that interjections should be single words ( some people consider them one of the parts of speech) and exclamations can be sentences or phrases. Additionally, interjections can act like distractions or diversions away from the topic at hand. So then, examples of interjections may be: "damn,"  "ouch," "whoa" or even "hey" in some circumstances. A teacher I've worked with describes interjections as the "words you say when you stub your toe." If I then understand it correctly, exclamations could be, "What the hell?"; "Oh my God!" ; or even "Give me a break!" If I need to be corrected on these intricacies or my semi-colon use, then kindly embarrass me in the comments section. If you want a more authoritative presentation on this issue, then check out this link:  http://english-learners.com/2010/03/interjections-exclamations.html

  I don't intend to make this blog about whatever trashy novel or relevant non-fiction I may or may not be reading at any given time, but in my reading I came across something amusing and word/ phrase related.  Right now, I'm reading a book entitled "Taking Charge of My Life: Personal Essays by Today's College Students."http://www.amazon.com/Taking-Charge-My-Life-Personal/dp/B005WE71H4 The book is simply a collection of essays written by college students (primarily middle aged) who are in developmental reading or writing classes. If you find stories of broken or languishing people putting themselves back together again by pursuing an education inspirational, then you might really enjoy this book because that's truthfully all it is. One writer, recalling her past substance abuse problems, talked about coping with her physical pain through marijuana use. She wrote something to the effect that she began to smoke "joints" or "marijuana-cigarettes." Yes, she felt the need to define the term "joint" for her academic readers, who she must have assumed all wear cardigans, spend Saturday night watching Laurence Welk in the rumpus room, and live next to the Beavers. Her usage made me think of high-school debates and freshman essays about legalizing weed where students similarly felt the need to explain to their Martian teachers what the word "joint" meant.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

You People Are Late

Most of what I like to read is not high art, literature, or "literary fiction." Right now, I'm reading a Michael Connelly novel entitled "Trunk Music."http://www.amazon.com/Trunk-Music-Harry-Michael-Connelly/dp/0312963297 I enjoy his novels about a hard-bitten homicide detective named Harry Bosch.  Bosh usually ends up sleeping with a hot chick, killing or injuring thugs, and piecing together a mystery by the end of the novel. He lives in a very noir world. Why am I telling you this? In "Trunk Music," A minor character, a thug bouncer at a strip club, is known as "Gussy" because he likes to dress up or get all "gussied up." Unrelatedly, I recently met a short, feisty old Jewish woman who liked to gossip conspiratorially and her name was... "Gussy." I have trouble believing in coincidences, although the rationalist in me says I should trust that coincidences are just part of life. Maybe.

 Another observation: 

   There seems to be a perception, in these United States and possibly elsewhere, that certain ethnic groups are habitually late to meetings or obligations.  This generalization is often derogatory. Just think of the term CPT, which stands for Colored People's Time. The implication of CPT is that black people are routinely late for work, appointments, whatever. I've also heard of "island time." I'm not sure if "island time" carries the same baggage, but I can imagine people perceiving a relaxed island culture as overly relaxed when it comes to matters of punctuality.  I've even heard of Mormon Time, the explanation for why large families of Mormons are late to church. All of these examples aside, I recently heard someone refer to her tardy sister as being on "Jewish Time." Jewish Time, really?

Friday, January 6, 2012

For example, "living life to the fullest" is cliche


        Hey kids,

       I'm sorry to have been on hiatus for the last few weeks, but I can only promise you that it will happen again. As you know, my life is a boiling cauldron of resentments and my soul is seething with bitterness. I remember things. I remember an editor and a colleague both trying to correct me on my usage of "for instance" instead of "for example," or vice versa. Guess what, you bean-counting nitpicks? Most writing specialists agree that the two can be used absolutely interchangeably! It really doesn't matter, aside from some poetic or artistic considerations. Okay, now that I've gotten that hair off my chest, I'll go on to my other gripe.

   There are a lot of empty phrases or cliches people use when they want to make a point or dress up their language or otherwise be pretentious in some small way. My friends and Twitter lovers offered a few examples of  empty or annoying words and phrases:

1 Literally: As in "he literally beat the living hell out of him" or "I literally ate a ton of pizza."  When of course, it's obvious that no one has ever beaten the fire and sulfur out of another individual nor eaten a garbage truck full of pizza -at least not in one sitting.

2 Bear with me:  A Twitter lover expressed that idea that if  someone isn't  seriously imposing on you, then this phrase doesn't need to be used. My insight is that ESL speakers must find this phrase confusing, perhaps conjuring up images of large woodland beasts in close proximity to the speaker.

3 At the end of the day: Yeah, this phrase can be trite and inaccurate- "At the end of the day, the United States just isn't the superpower it used to be."

4 Living life to the fullest: I can't stand this one. The idea is fine, but the actual use of the phrase is often ridiculous. Whether it's compulsive women who sleep with anyone who cross their path and neglect their Neverneverland family of adolescents in favor of partying or falling down alcoholics who accuse everyone of judging them for the lifestyle they're not ashamed of, I'm generally not impressed with people who use this this phrase. I remember correcting a lazy illiterate's paper where she said she wanted to remembered as "living life to the fullest" because she hung out with friends and partied a lot; meanwhile, she really was illiterate, probably never read a book in her life, and when asked what she wanted to do for a living would respond that she wanted to be a "physical therapy." 

           I think that's enough bile and bitterness for today. Thanks for reading!
                                 RRM