or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


My Internet service provider checks incoming mail for virus-laden attachments and alerts me of the fact; if it's something I'm expecting to receive, I have the option of contacting the sender and asking them to scrub the attachment so they can resend it to me. It's invariably spam, of course. Here's one I received this morning, the sort of thing which, I suppose, might be expected to scare the unwitting into opening the attachment had it not been filtered out:

From: "ICS Monitoring Team"
Date: September 30, 2008 5:24:53 AM ADT
To: "client"
Subject: Your internet access is going to get suspended

Your internet access is going to get suspended

The Internet Service Provider Consorcium was made to protect the rights of software authors, artists.
We conduct regular wiretapping on our networks, to monitor criminal acts.

We are aware of your illegal activities on the internet wich were originating from

You can check the report of your activities in the past 6 month that we have attached. We strongly advise you to stop your activities regarding the illegal downloading of copyrighted material of your internet access will be suspended.

ICS Monitoring Team


I might have been momentarily worried if I:

1) were in fact guilty of illegal activities on the Internet,
2) didn't know how to spell "consortium", and
3) hadn't noticed that "which" has been misspelled as "wich", and that the second "of" in the last sentence should be "or".

Oh, and the point of origin in the third sentence wasn't automatically filled in, either. And I'd have trouble taking seriously any document that used the casual "Your internet access is going to get suspended". Officials don't talk like that: your bratty sibling talks like that.

All of this immediately tells me that this is the work of not a professional consortium but an amateurish operation, which is proof that it pays to be able to spell and read properly. I bet it works on some people, though. (But not on me, even I had gotten the attachment intact; I have a Mac.)


A better example of writing is a very good e-book (you can purchase it as a .pdf document) called Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours by Joe Clark, who (occasionally, at least) reads my blog and has sent me a copy. The subject of the book is Canadian English, and I had to ponder the title for a bit--it doesn't seem to make a huge amount of sense--before I realized that it was an encapsulation of the conundrum that is its subject: Canadian English is neither American nor British, but a hybrid which further confuses things by adding its own very special, very quiet flair. We spell "organize" like the Americans (and not the British "organise"), "marvellous" like the British (but some of us spell it "marvelous" like the Americans instead), and "neighbours" like the British (and this is drummed into our heads in school and is invariant, at least among my generation).

The subtitle of the book is "How To Feel Good About Canadian English", and it's nice to be able to feel good about it; if you're a Canadian of a certain age, you've experienced the sense that your tongue is sort of a neither-nor, not British, not American--so what is it? (You can read the book to find out.) We had dictionaries of Canadian English in school in the sixties and seventies, but even so, it was a huge, news-making deal when the Oxford University Press issued the Oxford Canadian Dictionary in 1998, all part of the omnipresent Canadian inferiority complex (coupled with a psychologically complex attraction-repulsion regarding Americans: we aren't them, we don't want to be them, we certainly don't want to be mistaken for them, but we kind of envy them, a little, even as we're used to being ignored by them).

Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours has an entire chapter subtitled "Why Your Spellchecker Won't Help You", and it's true: any Canadian writer has to either put up with all the red underlining the auto-checker does (this document as I write it, in TextEdit on the Mac, is riddled with them) or teach the spellchecker word after laborious word: yes, "centre" is correct; yes, there is such a word as "practise". One of the subsections of the chapter is called "No spellchecker gets Canadian spelling right", and that's for damned sure.

And what about our pronunciation? As Mr. Clark says,

If the Loyalists had not emigrated here, we might not exactly sound British today, but we might have ended up using the mid-Atlantic Canadian dainty accent spoken by the upper classes in the early 20th century, like former governor-general Vincent Massey. (The accent sounds like a twee old man--an ascot-wearing codger who really likes opera and lacy place-mats--straining to talk like a Brit.)

As it stands, the Canadian accent isn't dainty or broad or anything else. It's pleasingly neutral, at least to Americans, which explains why so many Canadian broadcast journalists and actors have sought, and secured, gainful employment in the U.S. (
That's why we sound like U.S. newscasters--lots of them are Canadian.)

"Canadian dainty"! I like that.


Another sort of writing altogether is this essay by Matt Taibbi, a political writer for, among other venues, the Rolling Stone. It's stunning, a volcano of fury meant to incinerate the Republican party in the U.S. and the people who buy what they're selling. A couple of snippets:

Palin's charge that "government is too big" and that Obama "wants to grow it" was similarly preposterous. Not only did her party just preside over the largest government expansion since LBJ, but Palin herself has been a typical Bush-era Republican, borrowing and spending beyond her means. Her great legacy as mayor of Wasilla was the construction of a $14.7 million hockey arena in a city with an annual budget of $20 million; Palin OK'd a bond issue for the project before the land had been secured, leading to a protracted legal mess that ultimately forced taxpayers to pay more than six times the original market price for property the city ended up having to seize from a private citizen using eminent domain. Better yet, Palin ended up paying for the fucking thing with a 25 percent increase in the city sales tax. But in her speech, of course, Palin presented herself as the enemy of tax increases, righteously bemoaning that "taxes are too high," and Obama "wants to raise them."


So, sure, Barack Obama might be every bit as much a slick piece of imageering as Sarah Palin. The difference is in what the image represents. The Obama image represents tolerance, intelligence, education, patience with the notion of compromise and negotiation, and a willingness to stare ugly facts right in the face, all qualities we're actually going to need in government if we're going to get out of this huge mess we're in.

Here's what Sarah Palin represents: being a fat fucking pig who pins "Country First" buttons on his man titties and chants "U-S-A! U-S-A!" at the top of his lungs while his kids live off credit cards and Saudis buy up all the mortgages in Kansas.

Well, he's angry. I'm not sure how you could not be at the current state of the U.S.


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Saturday, August 01, 2009 5:32:00 AM  

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