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  • Ted Mann 1:47 am on December 29, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Listapalooza: My top 5 books of 2006 

    1. “The Areas of My Expertise,” by John Hodgeman (If you haven’t read this yet, drop whatever the f your doing and go get it. Now. It’s the funniest book you’ll ever read.)
    2. “Under the Banner of Heaven,” by John Krakauer
    3. “Guests of the Ayatollah,” by Mark Bowden
    4. “1491,” by Charles C. Mann (and no, I’m not just saying this because he’s my cousin)
    5. “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs,” by Chuck Klosterman

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  • Ted Mann 10:33 pm on August 24, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    The Post Concerning All Things Which Are Totally Kick-Ass 

    There is something deeply troubling about this blog, which I must now come clean about: I have yet to post about John Hodgman‘s “The Areas of My Expertise,” perhaps the single greatest 500-words-per-sitting bedtime-reading tome ever collected into a hardcover binding. And while I am not particularly proud of not plugging the book — of effectively trying to hoarde all of Mr. Hodgman’s complete world knowledge, including matters historical, matters literary, matters cryptozoological, compilations of all the presidents who had hooks for hands, 700 hobos named and illustrated, the mystical secrets of Yale university, the dark side of the food court at the Mall of America, squirrel and lobsters and eels … especially the eels — but at this point, I can still atone. Which is to say, if you simply click on the icon at the center of the image below, follow the instructions outlined in the video, and kindly post comments to TurkeyMonkey the blog in thanks, all will be forgiven.

     
  • Ted Mann 9:33 pm on July 26, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Guests of the Ayatollah Gotcha 

    I just finished reading Mark Bowden’s “Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam,” an extraordinary narrative of the Iran hostage crisis. Although it took place when I was out of toddler-dom (November 1979 till January 1981), I have next to no memory of the events, and Bowden’s story kept me riveted through all 700-plus pages. In part, it was my sheer awe at his being able to reconstruct the memories of dozens of hostages, hostage takers, and other involved players more than three decades after the event. Much as I aspire to be Bowden’s kind of long-form journalism, I don’t think I have an ounce of his organization and talent.

    OK, now that I’ve heaped on the praise like Paula Abdul, I should confess that the book wasn’t quite as speedy a read as Black Hawk Down. While the section about the Dessert One disaster — Carter’s failed Delta force rescue mission, which ended in a helicopter and plane colliding in the Iran dessert in the middle of the night — was completely enthralling, some of the sections about the hostages read like, well, an account of 444 endless days of mind-numbing captivity. Also, I should mention that I actually met Bowden when he was deep in the throes of working on the book — five years ago. He was kind enough to buy me lunch outside of Philly, shortly after I’d moved down there and contacted him out of the blue for career advice (using the Atlantic Monthly internship by way of an introduction). He was extremely nice and supportive, suggesting that I get a job at a newspaper (hey, only took me four years to follow through on that!), but made no mention of how insanely long his books took to write. At any rate, I guess it’s good that he’s still working at a faster clip than guys like Gay Talese.

    Still, the book is totally worth reading through to the end. It indirectly makes a very persuasive argument that sometime diplomacy doesn’t work (at least, not as fast as it should), and if you wait for the U.N. to act on international disasters may spend a lot of time twiddling your thumbs.

    My favorite part was actually Bowden’s account of Iran today, drawn from four visits to the country. My favorite anecdote comes from his last trip, when he tried to brind a documentary camera crew into the old U.S. embassy — now a museum dedicated to glorifying the hostage crisis — and was told that no moving pictures could be shot. Afterwards, three guards came out after him, apologizing for their country, giving him the thumbs up, and saying Yeah George W. Bush, and in halting English, “OK for George W. Bush.”

    This struck me as odd when I read it, smack at the end of the book. But then I saw a comment on Bowden’s Guests of the Ayatollah blog:

    Thumbs up, to an Iranian, is the equivalent of giving someone the finger. Look at the caraciture of Carter on page 294. The revolutionary and the oil barrel are both giving Carter the thumbs up. It doesn’t mean he is doing a good job.

    The revolutionary guards at the end, offering a thumbs up and a “YAY GEORGE”, are pulling your leg. A non-American, offering unqualified praise of any US president, let alone George W. Bush, should’ve raised your
    suspicions.Thumbs up, to an Iranian, is the equivalent of giving someone the finger. Look at the caraciture of Carter on page 294. The revolutionary and the oil barrel are both giving Carter the thumbs up. It doesn’t mean he is doing a good job.

    The revolutionary guards at the end, offering a thumbs up and a “YAY GEORGE”, are pulling your leg. A non-American, offering unqualified praise of any US president, let alone George W. Bush, should’ve raised your
    suspicions.

    While Bowden responded “I did not mistake their meaning,” I gotta say, that poster’s interpretation sounds a whole lot more plausible to me.

     
  • Ted Mann 10:39 pm on May 16, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    My Theory on Lost 

    OK, I’m just wanna throw this out there: Locke is the lost heir to the Widmore family, an extremely weathy clan with a Murdoch-like empire of companies under their control. In the final episode of the season, we’re going to see Locke’s twin, Charles, another baldie (who looks fairly similar to O’Quinn). Charles is the British Widmore heir; Locke is the American (as referred to in the last official Lost Podcast). For those who’ve read “Bad Twin,” Locke is Zander to Charles’s Cliff.

    Separated at Birth?
    Alan Dale (left), set to play Charles Widmore, and Terry O’Quinn (right) as John Widmore, nĂ©e Locke

    The Widmore companies are the ones pulling the strings at the Hanso Foundation and, by extension, the Darhma Initiative and the Lost island. I’m not totally sure why Charles would want to bring Locke to the island (he could be sick, wanting to remove Locke as a potential heir, etc.), but my bet is that we’ll get some clue about what he’s up to in the finale.

    As for Michael, I suspect that tomorrow night’s episode will show that he worked for Widmore and was, in some way or another, manipulated by his employer to spring Henry Gale two episodes ago. A lot of this is based on reading “Bad Twin” and what I’ve gotten off of lostpedia.com (Incidentally, I also like the theory that “Bad Twin” was authored by James Patterson). Although the Lost Experiece game and thehansofoundation.org site have been entertaining and fun thus far, I’m not totally sure how those clues about Alvar Hanso and the company board add up. If I had to guess, I’d say there’s something similar to the plot of “The Constant Gardener” — drug trials and scientific experiments going on in Africa, the Middle East, and hard-to-find islands, plus plenty of other shady pharmaceutical company dealings. But regardless of what the island’s actual scientific purpose is (I think there are many, actually), I’m fairly confident that the Widmores are behind it.

    There, I’ve said my peace.

     
  • Ted Mann 10:32 pm on January 16, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Top 10 Books of 2005 

    In 2005, I had about as much spare time to read as I had spare hair follicles to donate to the bald and needy. Which is to say, my “top 10” list reads suspiciously like my “only 10” list. I did omit a couple of duds, though, those chick lit books that I attempt to read to get a better insight into my wife’s inpenetrable psyche. Next time I’ll just read Cosmo.

    At any rate, here are my faves. First I thought I’d skip over “A Treasure’s Trove,” seeing as how I’ve already spilled so much virtual ink about the book already. But … naah, that would just be silly.

    ATT1. “A Treasure’s Trove,” by Michael Stadther: The single most satisfying and engrossing extra-curricular part of my last year. Searching Washington Square Park, Clark Park, a hundred assorted trees between Philly and Vermont, and the infamous James Baird State Park was the best time I’ve wasted in years. It brought me closer to my brother, friend Andy, and a half-dozen internet pals who I dropped the second it was over. Can’t wait until the follow up, “The Secrets of the Alchemist Dar.”

    ATT Companion2. “100 Puzzles, Clues, Maps, Tantalizing Tales, and Stories of Real Treasure,” by Michael Stadther: It was probably this book, as much as the actual main illustrated treasure hunt tome, that got me excited about searching for bejeweled broaches. All the insights into codes, codebreaking, and hidden treasure info (maps, messagest, etc.) in literature (Poe, Doyle, etc.) was just plain fascinating. It even got me reading other armchair treasure hunt books (Maze, Masquerade, etc.) and code-breaking how-tos.

    Freakonomics3. “Freakonomics,” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner: The best non-ATT book I read all year. Besides the much-quoted passages about how realtors don’t have a financial incentive to sell your house for the highest price (yes, mom, that’s right!), I really liked the section about how people choose baby names–so much so that I went and named a few babies Henrietta, just for giggles.

    Secret Man4. “The Secret Man,” by Bob Woodward: A pretty fascinating account of how Deep Throat, Woodward’s source at the FBI during the Watergate crisis, was assistant director W. Mark Felt. Just as interesting as all the steps they took communicate during Woodward and Bernstein’s historic articles during the Nixon downfall was Felt’s post-resignation reluctance to step foreward. While the story doesn’t have all the meat of Woodward’s other recent books about the Bush administration, it was far more engrossing to me because of the tense personal drama between Woodward and Felt.

    Blink5. “Blink,” by Malcolm Gladwell: Anything by Malcolm Gladwell is just plain genius, in my humble opinion. Granted, this one isn’t nearly as good as “The Tipping Point”–and I’m already more intrigued about his coming book on precociousness than I was about “Blink”–but the sections on the Pentagon’s war-gaming and doctors’ snap decisions are well worth the paperback price.

    Vowell6. “Assassination Vacation,” by Sarah Vowell: Like the Malcolm Gladwell book, this one wasn’t nearly as good as the author’s last — “The Partly Cloudy Patriot.” But the audio version that I listened to–with people like Jon Stewart, Conan O’Brien, and Stephan King bringing Vowell’s memoir-tinged stories of Presidential assassination obsessions to life–elevated the so-so stories to poetic brilliance.

    14917. “1491,” by Charles C. Mann: As I posted to Audible, the book “shows how the Amazon is largely the artifact of human engineering, with giant earthworks (canals, island mounds, fishing arteries) that prove the area is far from the pristine wilderness that environmentalists make it out to be. The revelations about terra preta — dark earth that was, by all accounts, engineered by the Amazonians with a microorganism to make it super-fertilized — isn’t just fascinating history, but could be a breakthrough discovery for present-day third-world agriculture.” Oh, and the author is also my cousin, so obviously his brilliant prose is a god-given, genetic gift that can’t be denied.

    Collapse
    8. “Collapse,” by Jared Diamond: Sort of like Cam’s book, only much more of a glass-is-half-full take on things. Actually, they’re both pretty pessimistic, but Diamond ain’t no cousin of mine, so he get the number eight slot. Mwa-ha.

    RHWE9. “Red Herrings And White Elephants: The Origins Of The Phrases We Use Every Day,” by Albert Jack and Ama Page: Another late addition to the list, I just got this book for Xmas, but an already engrossed with its explanations for how we got so many of the nonsensical expressions we now think of as cliches. For example, did you know that drinking the “hair of the dog” means you’re following the advice of medieval English doctors, who recommended rubbing the hair of a dog into the wound left by the animal’s bite?

    ATT Solution10. “Official Solution Book to A Treasure’s Trove,” by who else? Michael Stadther: Thought I was all done with the treasure-hunt books, eh?! I just got this one as a belated Xmas gift from my brother- and sister-in-law. I didn’t expect much, having already interviewed Stadther about the aftermath of the hunt, and thought I’d already learned everything there was to learn about the solutions from the various authoritative websites (ATT Solution, Tweleve) out there already. I was wrong. Not only does he answer all the unanswered questions I forgot to ask, but he also walks readers through how he actually hid the tokens in the first place.

     
    • Gwynne 7:43 pm on January 17, 2006 Permalink | Reply

      My favorite book of 2005 was “The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls. One of the MOST amazing stories…and it’s true to boot! It’s a memoir of a girl growing up with totally crazy parents who choose to be homeless and pretty much raise their kids as homeless….she’s now a successful writer and a surprising normal person.

      Everyone has to read this book.

    • Ted 11:18 pm on January 17, 2006 Permalink | Reply

      Except for the fact that my family had a home, that pretty much describes my childhood.
      Which, quite frankly, ain’t no Treasure’s Trove.

  • Ted Mann 4:53 pm on April 27, 2005 Permalink | Reply  

    e-Haggling 

    On the Internet, there are basically three forms of e-commerce: the bargain-basement wholesalers (Amazon), the auctioneers (eBay), and — my personal favorite — the used goods sellers (Half.com, Amazon Marketplace). But as great as all these options are, something still seems to be missing. In this virtual bazaar of vendors, where can you go to haggle with the sellers? Granted, if you don’t like the opening bid price on eBay, you can offer less than the seller is asking. But it’s pretty certain that in such cases your offer will yield only a Priority Mail “pshaw”!

    It was only today, when a mysterious package from IDS – REMAINDERS arrived in the mail, that I realized — Hallelujah! — haggling is an option after all. The package, you see, contained a book called “Quest for the Golden Hare,” by Bamber Gascoigne — a book that has been out of print since about 1985. Despite the fact that I lowballed the Amazon Marketplace sellers with an offer that was about 15 percent of what they were asking, the book still magically found its way to me.

    The book is about Kit Williams’ book “Masquerade” and the whole treasure-hunting craze that it started in England. It recounts all of the eccentricities of the treasure hunters, along with an insider’s look at how Kit Williams came up with his book’s puzzle and the method for solving it. The Gascoigne book has become a kind of required reading for anyone obsessed with “A Treasure’s Trove.” ‘Nuf said.

    So, about two months ago, when I was in full Treasure Trove mode, I started trying to get a copy of the book. But at all of the used book places online — Amazon Marketplace, Alibris, Half — the sellers were asking a minimum of $80, which seemed outrageous. This was just an ordinary trade hardcover book. After many frustrated searches, a link curiously appeared one day, asking me, would I like to “pre-order” the book “Quest for the Golden Hare”? Considering that I could set the price and conditions, I was like, hells yeah! I filed the order, waiting a couple days, and then nothing. Not willing to give up on the book, I resorted to a much cheaper route — going though the Penn’s interlibrary loan search. It took a few trys, but ultimately the LaSalle library came through for me.

    It’s now been like two months since I got the Gascoigne book and devoured it in a day. But suddenly, today in the mail, the book arrived via USPS. The price I’d set? $10.

    As if that weren’t cool enough, the book is in mint condition; I believe it’s a new copy that got remaindered by the publisher decades ago. Apparently they didn’t send it to a pulp factory, though, but instead to a warehouse in New Hampshire.

    What I love about this whole “pre-ordering” thing at Amazon is that it allows you to actually set your own price — to haggle. In the case of the Gascoigne book, it seems like there’s a limited supply, and perhaps because of this, the price of the book on the used market had spiraled wildly out of control (this was confirmed, incidentally, by Andy, who I think was quoted the same $80 price by a Center City book dealer). But nobody, not even the most die hard of treasure hunters, would pay that much. Thankfully, Amazon’s system has a way to correct for out-of-whack prices; if the Marketplace sellers aren’t playing fair, then the buyers can pre-order at their own prices.

    When I went back to Amazon and began searching for the “pre-order” button, it was nowhere to be found. It turns out, it’s completely buried in the site — no idea how I found it the first time. There is a trick, though, that you can use to get your haggle mojo working. Instructions posted after the jump …
    (More …)

     
    • George W. Bush 12:07 pm on April 28, 2005 Permalink | Reply

      I’m happy that you bought a book you were already able to borrow from the library. This reaffirms my faith in an ownership society and the wondrous powers of the American consumer.

  • Ted Mann 11:50 pm on April 11, 2005 Permalink | Reply  

    Bullshit Envy 

    With the impending move to Westchester, it appears that my two-year stint at the University of Pennsylvania Press is coming to an end. A tear. Actually, many tears — I hate, hate, hate job hunting. Plus, how am I going to find a job that’s only a 5-minute commute or one that gives off every holiday from MLK to Yom Kippur?

    There is one thing from the university press world, though, that I won’t miss: the bizarre way it’s distorted my perception of normalcy. The way I now look at people making more than $30k a year as virtual millionaires. How medievalists now seem like minor celebrities, instead of the academic aliens they truly are. And, worst of all, the way that “trade” books, the ones appealing to an audience larger than 50 or 60 scholars, are just soooo pedestrian.

    A perfect example of how this intellectual snootiness has gotten out of control: the response to Harry Frankfurt’s “On Bullshit.” As you may have heard, this slim 80-page, 4×6 tome has been hovering steadily on the New York Times top-10 bestseller list, getting plenty of press, and even being taken seriously by some people (such as the folks at Slate).

    Naturally, my colleagues at Penn can’t stand it. And that would be pretty typical of any mainstream success — they can’t even pronounce “Da Vinci Code” without making the overbite-fart sound. But when you take into account that Frankfurt is an emeritus philosophy professor at Princeton, and the book was published by our buddies at the Princeton University Press — well, you’ve got some seriously conflicted acquisitions editors in West Philly.

    “It’s not even a real book! It’s just an essay!” is a typical complaint. “They profiled the bullshit book on 60 Minutes. Can you believe that stunt? To publicize a book when you can’t even read the title on air.” It’s not exactly jealousy that’s behind these comments, though I think just about any editor at Penn would kill to get the NY Times coverage that Frankfurt’s been getting (mind you, they can’t print the full title either). And I’m not sure the editors cared a wit about Frankfurt getting interviewed by John Stewart on the Daily Show — despite my insistence that the two men set the basic cable swearing record — est. at 202 utterances of “bullshit.”

    Frankfurt on the Daily ShowThe thing that really kills my colleagues, I think, is that we didn’t think of this first. A book all about the philosophical underpinnings of bullshit, with the legitimacy of a university press and the academic clout of a Princeton professor behind it — brilliant, I tell you, just brilliant. Penn actually tried this sort of contrarian project a few years back, with the provocatively titled “Why Education is Useless,” a book about the functions of education throughout the Western civilization. But of course, that title doesn’t have quite the umph of “bullshit.” And the book was still at heart a scholarly monograph, with 256 pages of philosophical analysis, historical overview, and university politics. Frankfurt’s book was adopted from short 20-year-old essay, and boy did Princeton squeeze every last page they could get out of it. Thanks to generous margins, kerning, and font sizes, they managed to stretch the thing to 80 pages, and then packaged it in a stately little green-and-beige hardcover, sans dust jacket. From design to marketing to publicity, Princeton really executed brilliantly on this one.

    Jeez, I hope I never hear myself utter that phrase ever again.

    One of these days maybe I’ll actually pick up the book and comment on it’s content. For now, I think I’ve given enough book marketing commentary to last me through all of 2005.

     
    • Korey 3:34 pm on April 12, 2005 Permalink | Reply

      I’m not going to get worked up as long as Princeton limits its flawless execution to publishing academic tomes and not backdoor cuts against defending national champions.

    • Ted 3:53 pm on April 14, 2005 Permalink | Reply

      Just got back from a trip to the bookstore, and I noticed that Frankfurt’s book is #1 this week. NY Times has it at #3.

      And when I actually checked the page count, I noticed that it was only about 50 pages of actual text, formatted in 3×4 blocks — which I’d guess adds up to maybe 10 magazine pages. Help me out: When was the last time a $10 10-page essay became the bestselling book in the country?

      The success is so huge at this point that I’m starting to think the book itself is bullshit.

  • Ted Mann 10:24 pm on July 28, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    Half-Price Honeymoon 

    Contrary to what you might have read in The Devil Wears Prada or Love Monkey, there are plenty of benefits to a low-level job in publishing. Even if my job as an Acquisitions Assistant at the Penn Press is essentially that of a glorified secretary, I still get my share of perks: dental insurance, unrestricted high-speed internet access, free Penn Press tote bags, a one-block walk to work, and of course, whole heap-loads of free books (albeit ones I’ll never read—but still, nice bookshelf filler). Some people might question the financial compensation, and whether a job that pays in the mid-twenties makes the late-night shift at McDonald’s attractive. And these smug bastards are dead right. But when a Penn Press book like Understanding Terror Networks is featured prominently in a New Yorker article on al-Qaeda, or Negro League Baseball gets the cover of the New York Times Book Review, I put all thoughts of McGriddle flipping out of mind. Call me a sucker for the passing interest of high-brow intellectuals.

    So, by and large, I’m proud of my job, of my honorable duty to bring recycled dissertations to the masses. But if there’s one thing I’m not proud of, it’s that the job has turned me into a compulsive coupon clipper.

    I used to recoil in disgust at the nincompoops who present $2-off Swiffer coupons in the check-out line. Now, I fear, I’ve joined their ranks. It all started with the successful purchase of our car, a Pontiac Vibe, which, through the use of umpteen rebates and discounts, I was able to get for $6,000 off the sticker price. Soon, deals that hadn’t seemed intriguing before—when I was living in New York, earning twice what I am now—suddenly became irresistible. Furniture sales, free movie-ticket offers, obscure marinade discounts. These days, when marketing with Ana I’ll always reshelf the preferred brand in favor of the two-for-one option. I make the woman at the cash register wait in constipated agony while I rifle through my pockets for the latest Listerine voucher. In only a couple months, this practice has become something of an obsession. No, I haven’t just joined the nincompoops’ ranks; I’ve become the skipper of the S.S. Coupon Clipper.

    If you need proof, look no further than the recent purchase of my honeymoon trip to Belize. In my post about Trip Advisor, I mentioned the destination we’d settled upon, but I consciously omitted the part about how we we’re paying for it. It probably comes as no surprise that I immediately hit up my sister, Stacey, for 60,000 airline miles to get free tickets on American. (Even in my pre-coupon days, I was this kind of mooch.) But it was in purchasing a package to two Francis Ford Coppola resorts that I really exposed my inner cheapskate. On the advice of wedding guru MelDave (aka Melody Kellenberger), I went to a website called LuxuryLink.com, which happened to have the exact same Belize package I was planning on—except it was being auctioned for half price. There’s probably some rule in the wedding handbooks that says you shouldn’t buy your honeymoon on clearance or chance your future on an Internet auction. And if there is, that person never worked in publishing, and they better not show their ass face at a university press anytime soon. I bid on the package, and God help me, we won!
    (More …)

     
    • Gabe 10:56 am on July 29, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      Congratulations. Now you just need to skip the cake knife.

  • Ted Mann 3:59 pm on July 16, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    How to Cure Sweating 

    Over the July 4th weekend, I leaned an ugly truth about myself. In the course of walking about West Philly with my brother’s family, I realized how disgusting my sweat truly is. Thanks to massive salt stains circling my man tits and underarms, I now see that, with three months until the wedding, drastic measures are necessary. Surgery, as I’ll explain below, might be an option.

    On the recommendation of my friends Pete and Kim, I downloaded the audiobook of Dr. Atul Gawande’s Complications last month, and have been listening to it on my iPod ever since. Gawande is one of the New Yorker’s two nonpareil medical correspondents (the other being Dr. Jerome Groopman), and the book is basically a collection of his essays from the magazine—most of which are drawn from his days as a medical resident. You get a peek into gastric bypass operations, Morbidity and Mortality (M&M) conferences, and the ever-so-pleasant discovery of Necrotizing Fasciitis (aka “flesh eating bacteria”) in a 23-year-old woman. But what fascinated me most was the story of a female TV news anchor who had a case of chronic blushing. Because the embarrassing redness was interfering with her career, she sought out an experimental Swedish surgery to sever the nerve that controls facial blushing. But, as luck would have it, cutting this fiber had an unintended, if convenient, side effect. It eliminated almost all of her upper body sweating!

    (You can read the New Yorker incarnation of this particular story, “Crimson Tide,” here. Definitely the best part of the book, in my opinion.)
    (More …)

     
    • Gabe 2:10 pm on July 17, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      Ted, I never thought I’d say this, but: please go back to talking about the presidential candidates’ hair.

    • Ted 3:52 pm on July 18, 2004 Permalink | Reply

    • andy 9:00 am on July 21, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      Uhh, before you go down that road, try some botox.

      http://www.excessive-sweating.net/botox.html

    • Carole 11:23 pm on August 31, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      This “experimental Swedish surgery” that is mentioned in the article has been stopped in Sweden over a year ago. Websites are going up from many countries around the world trying to warn people of the potential severe side effects. I hope you have not had the surgery yet because although your hands may be dry at your wedding, you risk having your groin and lower body from the nipple line down soaked in sweat.

      http://www.ETS-talk.com

  • Ted Mann 3:58 pm on July 7, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    Louis Menand, Tosser Extraordinaire 

    The Brits aren’t taking The New Yorker’s bitch-slap of Eats, Shoots & Leaves lying down. After the magazine’s withering diss of the book, last week, The Guardian launched a counteroffensive with an article that basically calls the critic, Louis Menand, a big grammatical sissy. The piece takes umbrage with Menand’s characterization of Britain’s grammatical laxness, calling the attack “deeply xenophobic.” Even more upsetting was how Menand didn’t understand Lynn Truss’s humor and, therefore, the ultimate point of the book, “which is not a style guide but an entertaining ‘call to arms.'”

    Riiiiight. Who would mistake a book with a subtitle like “The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” as a grammatical style guide? The most entertaining retort came from the book’s editor, Andrew Franklin. You may recall, if you read the New Yorker piece, one of Menand’s snarkier comments: “Either Truss needed a copy editor or her copy editor needed a copy editor.” Franklin’s response? “I think he’s a tosser. You’re welcome to use that … I’d never want to spend an evening in his company.”

    What, pray tell, is a “tosser”? I had to look this one up on Wordnet.

    tosser (n.)
    jerk-off, wanker, onanist — (terms of abuse for a masturbator)

    How great is that? Say what you will about the Brits, Mr. Menand, but you can’t deny the potency of their comeback lexicon.

     
    • Korey 9:21 pm on July 7, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      Quit your pseudo-intellectual babbling, and get back to praising the Democratic ticket’s hair.

    • Ted 11:02 pm on July 7, 2004 Permalink | Reply

    • gwynne2001 7:09 pm on July 8, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      i had a two week fling in high school with a boy nicknamed “Toss”. no need to guess how he got that name.

    • Ted 11:32 pm on July 8, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      I can identify, Gwynne. I dated a girl named “Crackie” in college. And yes, to answer the inevitable question, she did indeed do crack.

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