Up Against the Wall Motherf***er!

Some 40 years ago, a friend had a cassette tape of some guy belting out a song called “UP AGAINST THE WALL MOTHERF*CKER.” Tonight, Martine was telling me about one of her new exercises, which is basically a form of “planking,” but done with your back against a wall. In one of those things where time collapses — like in those illustrations of how faster-than-light speed could be possible by folding space/time — the song came back to me.

It took about 15 seconds to find it on YouTube. I encourage you all to play this really loud, over and over again.

Oh, BTW, you should read up on the anarchist group the “Up Against The Wall Motherf*ckers” — usually abbreviated as simply “The Motherf*ckers.” No particular reason why. Just a thing to do. You know… inspiration.

https://en.wikipedia.org/…/Up_Against_the_Wall_Motherfuckers

[Originally published on Facebook, November 11, 2016.]

Holiday Progress Report

Half way through the 2010 end-of-year holiday vacation, I hereby present the following progress report regarding planned activities:

  1. Lasagnapalooza: 100%
  2. Reading of books: 5%
  3. Reading of backlog on Instapaper: 5%
  4. Web site maintenance and enhancements: 40%
  5. Shopping for after-Xmas bargoons: 1%
  6. At-home video/movie/Illico backlog watching: 20%
  7. Paring down the 600+ items in my “do to” email folder: 1%
  8. Household maintenance and repairs: 0%
  9. Laying around like a big fuken slob: 800%

Verdict: I need at least two more months of vacation.

Suburban Bird Drama

We get a lot of birds around our house in the ‘burbs. I’m not an ornithologist by any stretch, but the longer I live here and the more birds I see, the more I learn about them.

My interest was piqued last weekend as I was getting ready to make huevos rancheros for Sunday brunch. I was banging a few pots together when I heard a thunk and “eek!” from upstairs. I ran up to see what was going on and found Martine in the bedroom all bug-eyed, saying that a bird had crashed into the patio door and then another bird had come along and carried it off. We looked around, and sure enough, there was a bird perched on a TV antenna about 60 metres away with what appeared to be a dead bird dangling from its talons (the fact that our neighbourhood is full of TV antennas is a whole separate discussion).

I grabbed my binoculars and saw that it was a small bird of prey–later identified as a merlin–and he had what appeared to be a dead mourning dove. Speculation from a birding friend is that that the merlin deliberately chased the dove into the patio door.

I ran downstairs and got my camera. It doesn’t have a long lens but I figured maybe I could crop the picture and get something faintly interesting. I came back upstairs and as I was getting the camera ready Martine said “It’s gone!”

I looked over and sure enough, the the TV antenna was empty. A second later I see the merlin flying straight at us at top speed, still clutching the mourning dove. It was being chased by two other birds (unidentified). A second later, just before the merlin crashed into the patio door, it pulled up “top gun” style and whizzed over the house, passing over our heads by just a few feet. It still had the dead dove in its grip.

Not a chance of getting a photo. Everything happened too fast. So I went back to my huevos rancheros knowing Martine and I were not the only ones eating well in the neighbourhood that day.

Spat!

The mourning dove left quite an impression.

Fly vs. Flies

This morning, Martine found the following sentence in a recent Vanity Fair magazine article: “The couple still fly separately.”

There are two problems with that sentence; first, “the couple” is a singular object, so the verb should be “flies” not “fly” (Bob flies, Bob and Fred fly). So the immediate reaction is to change the line to “the couple still flies separately.”

But that doesn’t account for the second problem; “the couple” — as a singular object — cannot fly “separately” because, well, it’s a single thing. So it’s not just a grammatical issue; there’s a conceptual mistake.

Vanity Fair, as far as I can tell, has high editorial standards, so how could this double-whammy get through? In seeking the rationale for the first problem (fly vs. flies) I thought, “What would Bill Walsh do?” (If you have any interest in editorial machinations in a context that is generally free of the polarizing descriptive vs. prescriptive arguments, you should read Bill’s blog and his web site. Bill flies no flags, he just makes sense.)

Then, as I brushed my teeth, it came to me. “The couple,” in this sentence, is shorthand for “the members of the couple.” So in fact, it is a plural, not singular. The “error” is in not spelling it out, but the editorial argument is (probably) that doing so is unnecessarily awkward, and in the context of the paragraph, the context of “the couple” is obvious. Note that this interpretation solves both problems.

Prescriptivists (of which I am not but am often accused of being) will reject that position, and the descriptivists (whom I have been accused of disliking, when in fact I often side with them) have already stopped reading this post because they never saw a problem in the first place.

But what I’m interested in is the editorial position. Personally, I would have re-cast the sentence as “Mendez and Winslet still fly separately,” or simply “They still fly separately,” but it depends on how the rest of the paragraph is cast.

However, I now understand the choice of “fly” over “flies” even if I don’t fully agree with it. And now I will move on to the next thing.

And so passes a Sunday morning chez nous.