no im not angry. seriously.

It seems like everywhere I turn lately, I learn about some other aspect of communication that I’m doing wrong. I value face-to-face communication. When I send an email, the subject line is relevant to the email’s content. The email itself contains more than a single thought or idea. It is probably written in paragraphs, which are in turn composed of complete sentences, using capitalization, spelling and punctuation according to the generally accepted rules of American grammar. I’ve even been known to (cover your ears, Mabel) use capital letters, fully spelled-out words, and punctuation in text messages.

Now, I’m not a complete fogey. It doesn’t bother me to receive texts or casual emails that are written in all lowercase or use abbreviations for common words. It’s just that I learned how to type on a typewriter back in the Stone Age, and I can type 92 words a minute accurately. Capital letters, commas, and proper spelling take less time for me to type than it would to force myself NOT to do those things. So is there a problem if I prefer to compose “proper” messages, as long as I’m not judging people who don’t? I didn’t used to think so, but now I’m not so sure.

I don’t care if people think I’m an old fossil for the way I write. (We can just add that to the other perfectly good reasons people have for thinking that.) But it turns out that a consensus seems to have developed that using punctuation, particularly in text messages, is considered hostile. That’s the assertion of Ben Crair, writing last year in The New Republic. I’ll let his opening paragraph speak for itself:

The period was always the humblest of punctuation marks. Recently, however, it’s started getting angry. I’ve noticed it in my text messages and online chats, where people use the period not simply to conclude a sentence, but to announce “I am not happy about the sentence I just concluded.”

Hostile? It’s hard enough to convey tone in written communication, but now I have to worry that one of the standard symbols of punctuation is considered hostile? I’ve never heard anyone else express this thought, but maybe they’re too busy sniggering at my capital letters and carefully hyphenated compound adjectives to tell me that I’m pissing off the whole world, one text at a time.

So I’m asking you to give it to me straight. Is using periods in texts considered an expression of anger? Do I owe everyone in my phone’s address book an apology? What other unwritten rules of written communication have I been merrily abusing? Don’t hold back; I can take it. It might not be too late for this old dog to learn a few new tricks.


It’s time to raise the gas tax | Vox

Over at Vox, Matthew Yglesias makes a powerful argument for raising the gas tax and indexing it to inflation.

For starters, gas taxes serve as a kind of user fee that ensures that the people who benefit from highways — those who drive on them a lot — are doing the most to pay for them. They also help to constrain congestion. Last but by no means least, as anyone who’s ever rolled down the windows in a crowded tunnel can tell you, burning gasoline creates a lot of pollution.

(via Vox)

5/9 Reading Room: Around the Web this week

Metcalf dominates at Beat the Streets | Hawkeye Wrestling Club

“There was a whole lot going on all around Wednesday at the 2014 Beat the Streets event “Team USA vs World All-Stars”, as you might expect from a wrestling meet staged outdoors in the middle of Times Square in New York City. Enormous electronic billboards and neon signs flashed overhead, adding visual noise to the loud music and raucous crowd sitting mat side. None of that fazed Hawkeye Wrestling Club’s Brent Metcalf, who took care of business against Russia’s Magomed Kurbanaliev, winning an 11-8 decision over the 2013 World bronze medalist at 65kg/143 lbs.”

Rock and roll future, 40 years on | Backstreets

The preeminent site for all things Bruce Springsteen takes a look back at the concert that inspired the famous review quote from Jon Landau: “I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” That part of the story’s been told a million times, but Backstreets also has some rare photos from the soundcheck for that show, courtesy of photographer Barry Schneier. When you look at them, you’ll be reminded of Bruce’s quip in the Blood Brothers documentary, “Back when this was a band that wore hats …”

Coffee and tea around the world | Pew Research Center

Is it coffee that gets you up and moving in the morning, or is it tea? Your answer to that question would vary widely depending on where you live. Pew’s interactive chart will tell you if your brew of choice conforms to your country’s norm or if, like me, you buck the trend all around you. “As economic geographers and market analysts have long known, most countries show a distinct preference for one or the other — a legacy of geopolitics, colonial expansion and shifting trade patterns.”

Literary Style: 15 writers’ bedrooms | Apartment Therapy

nowhere is the essence of the artist more present than in the bedroom. It’s here that one can intuit much about a writer’s process. Is it a hermit’s lair? A sanctuary? A work space? Is it the place where they do all of their best work, or the place that allows them to leave that work behind?

Herky goes on parade again around Iowa City

Finally, tweets that show off a couple of the unique artists’ visions of what Herky, mascot for the University of Iowa, might get up to. In the first, he’s embracing his home of Iowa City, one of the UNESCO World Cities of Literature, by becoming a Little Free Library. In the second, he’s channeling iconic public-television painter Bob Ross.

4/11 Reading Room: Around the Web this week

Connecticut Pride: Silly Putty, Frisbees and College Basketball Champs | Sports Illustrated

America’s bafflement is understandable. Connecticut had no real business becoming the nation’s foremost repository of basketball glory, sandwiched as it is between Massachusetts and New York, double-teamed by the birthplace of basketball and the self-proclaimed World’s Most Famous Arena.

High Hopes 2014 Oz/NZ Tour: Top 100 Photos | Paramatta Yankee

Call it a lack of willpower or an overabundance of great shots or an inability to let go of the streak of joy that was Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in Australasia in 2014. Whatever. A hundred it is.

Continue reading

The G.O.P.’s Dixiecrat Problem

From The New Yorker, an interesting look at the origins of the current political dysfunction on the right: it all goes back to 1948:

The [Confederate] flag, defended by its stalwarts as an apolitical symbol of Southern pride, actually came to prominence not in the aftermath of the Civil War but eighty years later, in defiance of civil rights. The massive resistance campaigns that inspired the Southern Manifesto and shut down school districts rather than comply with Brown v. Board of Education were orchestrated under the banner of the Stars and Bars. The election that galvanized the brand of racialized acrimony and indignation we’re now seeing in the country was not the one that brought Barack Obama to office in 2008; it was the one in 1948, which brought us the Dixiecrats.

The G.O.P.’s Dixiecrat Problem : The New Yorker