Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Stuff White People Complain About*

  1. Punctuation: A few weeks ago, when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, I re-read the text of the Second Amendment. While I came to no new insights about the constitutionality of gun ownership, I was reminded that there are way too many commas in the Bill of Rights. The Second Amendment has three of them when it only needs one, right between "state" and "the right." The whole document is just swimming in unnecessary commas . Were the rules of grammar different in the 18th century? Did the states mistakenly ratify a rough draft of the Constitution? Are there qualifying clauses that somehow went missing ("A well regulated militia, and not some bunch of yahoos with automatic weapons, being necessary to the security of a free state...")? This is why I tend to be suspicious of people who talk about the Founders' original intent; it overlooks the possibility that the Founders may not have really put a lot of thought into what they were writing.
  2. The New Yorker: I am surely not being controversial when I say that the cartoons in The New Yorker are not funny. I don't necessarily mind that; "Beetle Bailey" isn't amusing either, but it's presence in the newspaper doesn't offend me. My problem with the cartoons is the way that the magazine publishes them on their website in the middle of an article, as though they just ripped a page out of the latest issue and scanned it. Look, all I want to do is read Seymour Hersh's latest depressing article on the inevitable march to war with Iran; I don't like being distracted every few paragraphs by some incomprehensible doodle. Come to think of it, I do mind that the cartoons aren't funny. If you're going to interrupt my bleak predictions of endless war, at least let me have a laugh.
  3. Bob Dylan: Last week, a situation too long and strange to recount here spurred me to pull out a mix CD that I compiled several years ago and listened to maybe once. I've played it at work a few times, each time writing a little self-review in my head ("Song selection too reliant on a handful of artists, many obvious choices given subject matter, sequencing is overly literal and, frankly maudlin. Still, I made it, so B-"). Things are going smoothly, and despite the disparate song sources, I manage to keep it at a volume that is audible, but courteous to my co-workers. That is, until I get to Dylan's "Girl From the North Country" (the version from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, not Nashville Skyline; don't try to argue with me on that one), on which the vocals and guitar are apparently mastered at 1/10th the volume of the harmonica, so when Bob starts his harp solo it sounds like a damn fire alarm, I jump three feet in the air, and rush to turn down the volume before everyone else in my office asks me what the hell I'm doing. I doubt I'll ever meet Bob Dylan, but if I do, I'm gonna bitch about that damn harmonica.
*Hey, Random House! Can I have $350,000 now?

No comments: