Monday, July 7, 2008

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

It's bad enough when it's a slow news day. You want something exciting to read about something happening somewhere and you just can't find squat. And if you're looking for that daily dose of newsworthiness online on a slow news day, you're likely going to be wading through some of the stupidest stories you have ever seen masquerading as "news". (I mean, come on, there's "filler" and then there's "crap". Naturally, I shall be talking about the "crap".) The slower the news day, the more inane the stories. And it's as if those writing the stories or the headlines actually know that the story is pointless and they're just running it to fill space. Grammar, sensical meanings, they're all out the window. They don't care. And they know that you don't care either. That's how we end up with things like this:

From the "I'm So Stupid I Need Someone To Show Me How To Fold A Freaking Newspaper In Case I'm In A Narrow Newspaper Reading Zone" files, we have a demonstration from the simple folks over at realsimple.com, we have the feature "How To Fold A Broadsheet Newspaper - Easily read a paper on a crowded bus, train, or plane with this trick."

Now, if you're like me, you hear/read "trick", you think "magic". Thus, if you're like me, you're often very disappointed as actual magic will rarely follow. (That's when, if you're like me, you go right back to thinking "trick" as that's exactly what the whole thing is. Just one big trick.) Regardless, I'm going to walk you through this like they do. Trust me, it won't take long (though it may seem as if it goes on forever. After all, we are folding a newspaper.)
  • Step 1: Before reading, fold the newspaper in half lengthwise both ways, for a flexible, two-way crease. To begin, fold the newspaper back along the vertical crease.



  • Step 2: Find your desired page by leafing through the paper, using the top corners. better handling. (Better handling? How difficult is the handling of a newspaper in general? I'm thinking, "not very". Oh, and thanks for the tip on how to "find my page". Huh. LOOK at the pages to find the page. Brilliant.)

  • Step 3: Fold the left page back along the vertical crease. You will be able to read theouter columns of the left and right pages. To read the inner columns, fold both pages back along the newspaper's center crease. (I'll be able to read the outer columns and then I will be able to test my long term memory as I retain the information in all of those columns before I am able to get to the rest of the story contained in the inner columns.)

  • Step 4: Fold in half horizontally, into quadrants, for better handling. (Better handling again? What am I? On the goal line in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl and trying to score before time runs out? Better handling? It IS a newspaper, right? They're not made out of eels. I'm pretty sure my newspaper handling is going to be just fine even without this "trick". Grrr..)
All photos above illustrating this "trick" were taken by by Christopher Coppola.

I find it odd that the purpose of all of this folding of the broadsheet newspaper (a term I have heard never) is presumably because you are on, as the title tells us, a "crowded bus, train or plane". (And that could be with or without John Candy and/or Steve Martin, although, most likely without John Candy.) It seems to me that you're going to need a bit of room to make these maneuvers in the first place and if you can do that, why don't you just read the damn thing like that in the first place? And really, if you honestly cannot figure out what to do with yourself and your big ass newspaper if you're in a crowded area, it's highly unlikely that you possess the cranial ability to actually read the thing at all, so what's the point? Not exactly news I can use, that's for sure. (Seriously, at the very least, I was sort of expecting an origami swan or something when we were finished. Didn't even get that. A com-plete waste of time.)

Then over at the ABC News website (yes, one of the four major US News outlets is bringing you this vital tidbit of insight into your soul), we can now glean more information about the human species through their feature "What Your Car Trunk Says About You - Market Researcher Explores the Junk in People's Cars to Gather Consumption Information". Oh, for Christ's sake, are you freaking kidding me?

Among the questions that appear to be burning through the loins of the researcher are "Do moist towelettes stay moist in a hot car?" "Where do people squirrel away all the extra house keys she keeps unearthing in cars?" "Where do squirrels people away all of their acorns?" (OK, I made the last one up, but it's hard to resist a good squirrel pun when presented with the opportunity.) The researcher also went out on a limb and made the bold statement, "Cupless cupholders are significant". Why, yes, especially if you're looking for your cup!

What? Just because I have something else in my cupholder besides a cup I am supposed to be expressing something "significant"? NO! Of course not! (What kind of researcher are you anyway? You're nothing like the kind I'm familiar with, let me just tell you that.)

And finally, from one of the most unjournalistic (yes, I made that up) news sites online, we have the oh-so-biased (and in love with Obama) msnbc.com. Apparently, the folks who write headlines over there just want to make sure that the headline includes all of the vital components of the story, regardless as to whether or not it will actually convey what the story is really about. They also don't seem to care about whether their headline will confuse readers who have even a semi-firm grip on the English language. I present to you their mangled headline:

"Panda Moved After China Quake Gives Birth."

Oh, really? Well, I'm touched that the panda was so moved. I had NO idea that an earthquake was capable of actually GIVING birth (so maybe this really IS news after all!) and I really wish that they had included the sex of the newborn baby quake in the headline as well.

The panda headline is a great segway into mentioning the book "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" by Lynne Truss. Lynne is one of those individuals, like myself, who feel a little piece of their soul die (or get really freaking irritated) whenever they encounter writing that is grammatically incorrect, is missing punctuation or is incorrectly punctuated, contains misspellings, etc. The panda headline could cause her to damn near pass out, I would imagine. The title of her book is derived from the following story (which is available on her website, as is the book itself):

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

"Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

"I'm a panda," he says at the door. "Look it up."

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

"Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

So punctuation really does matter, even if it is only occasionally a matter of life and death.

Indeed.

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