Monday, February 26, 2007


So apparently some brilliant US senator has proposed a bill that would grant Anne Frank honorary US citizenship. Yes, that Anne Frank.

Now I'm all for honorary US citizenship, and I'm sure Anne Frank more than deserves it. But wouldn't this posthumous gesture be more insulting than honorary? After all, the US barred Anne Frank and her father, Otto, from entering the US in the early 1940s. In fact, during those crucial years, Otto wrote dozens of letters to our consulates pleading for citizenship or at least safe passage.

I hate to say it, but granting Anne Frank US citizenship today would parallel the way in which the Catholic Church handled the whole Joan of Arc affair. Let's not embarrass ourselves in such a way.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Welcome to the Big(otry) Time


New York City is a pretty liberal place. We have sex shops, a surfeit of artists, relaxed liquor laws and an entrenched immigrant population, to boot. So it came as somewhat of a surprise today, after reading a Times article, to learn that gays in Manhattan are still harassed, assaulted, even tormented, for showing the slightest bit of affection in public.

The question left buring in my mind after reading the article was "why?" Why does affection among gay people scare some? Why does it enrage others? Why, moreover, do seemingly normal people feel the need to meddle in strangers’ lives?

And then it hit me — power issues.

We're all, in a sense, born powerless. Besides the literal interpretation of this statement, we as humans don't have much control over many — and some of the most important — facets of our lives.

For instance, cancer could crop up in my liver today, and I could be dead in six months; lightening could just as soon strike a relative dead; a girlfriend could just decide one day to pack up and leave.

Take it or leave it, this is the human condition.

So, with all this in mind, let's return to the question of why people — even to this day, at the height of the information era—still harbor such hostility toward gays.

Simply put, it's an issue — unlike the aforementioned — over which one can exert his control. One does have the power to confront a homosexual couple and say, "Hey, I think what you’re doing is disgusting; life shouldn’t be lived that way."

After all, when we denounce, we pronounce. By upbraiding a gay couple and the way they live, the persecutor is at the same time highlighting what he is not. Doing so gives him a better understanding — or a seemingly better understanding — of who he is, of what he stands for, of his character. The persecutor's yearning to better define himself stems from his not truly understanding the world in which he lives (not even coming close to understanding it).

I guess we can say, then—and pardon me if you find these truths to be self evident—persecuting gays, for some, gives a sense of power, when really we're all powerless, floating 'round and 'round in a universe as vast as ignorance.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Step in the Right Direction


Mission Accomplished.

No, not that mission, silly. North Korea. We actually got Kim Jong Il and his cronies this week to call off their nuclear weapons program. If the DPRK makes good on its promise, it will be the first time any country armed with nukes agrees to give them up.

And like any good deal, this one comes with perks. Quoth Time magazine:

"The North is to receive an emergency shipment of 50,000 tons of fuel oil from the U.S., China, Russia and South Korea. The oil is desperately needed to run electric power plants in the impoverished land. If the North permanently disables [another nuclear reactor], the deal calls for another 950,000 tons of oil to be donated."

Granted, President Bush is still far from accomplishing his most prized mission. But he and those folks over at the U.N. (emphasis on those folks over at the U.N.) played their hand nicely against the Dear Leader.

Closing thought: Too bad Iran doesn't need oil.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Eats, Shoots and BlackBerries



We writers are a picky sort. Hand us any piece of literature—be it a pamphlet, an invitation, even a menu—and the first thing we do, besides read it, of course, is scan the text for errors. We can’t help it.

So it's no surprise, then, that on my subway ride to work, I find myself pondering the ads on the overhang—admiring the cleverness of some, while deriding the grammatical sloppiness of others.

Now, I don't mean to bitch (O.K., maybe I do) but if you're a Madison Avenue copywriter, you're well paid. This means it's your earthbound duty, when writing one or two lines for a product, not to screw up. With that in mind, let's now bring some of the worst offenders to task, shall we?

First up, Research in Motion (RIM). As the maker of BlackBerry, a device catering to top-tier business people, power brokers and intellects alike, you’d think RIM would take the time to edit its copy thoroughly. Here’s the company’s main tagline for the BlackBerry:

“Ask someone why they love their Blackberry.”

Ostensibly, a fine tagline. But if we look more closely, we see that the tagline's first pronoun, "someone," is singular. Therefore, the second pronoun, "they," and the possesive adjective, "their," which both refer to the antecedent, "someone," should be singular. I'm not going to even mention the verb. I will say, however, that were this copy free of errors, it would look like this:

Ask someone why he loves his BlackBerry.

Or, if referring to a corporate shark of the fairer sex:

Ask someone why she loves her BlackBerry.

Moving on.

Perhaps the only thing worse than a company making a grammatical error in its copy, is a company making a logical inaccuracy in its copy—while trying to be cute.

T-Mobile, anyone?

T-Mobile has this little feature on its phones, the “Fav 5.” All it is, really, is a glorified speed dial (albeit one with a dime-size picture of the Fav 5 member whom you're calling). T-Mobile markets this product by posing a question to the ad's viewer, asking him who he'd include in his Fav 5. (Optimally, T-Mobile believes, you'd choose your closest friends.)

“Who knows you secretly cry at chick flicks?,” asks one ad.

Admittedly, that's sort of funny. But we're not here to laugh. So, T-Mobile, listen up and listen well. If someone knows you’re doing something, e.g., crying at a chick flick, it’s NO LONGER A SECRET.

Better would be:

"Who knows you cry, in seceret, at chick flicks?"

All this faulty copy is very unsettling, I know. But the worst isn't over. In fact, just when you think you've suffered all the grammatical and logical errors your heart can handle in one day, you return home on the subway, only to see another flawed T-Mobile ad, for the same product nonetheless.

“Who gets all your inside jokes?”

I'm going to try and make this as simple as possible. This statement is redundant. If you share an inside joke with a friend, of course he "gets" it. Getting an inside joke is an inherent quality of an inside joke.

T-Mobile's idea expressed correctly would be, "Who gets all your weird jokes," or, "With whom do you share inside jokes?"

Advertising: 0
Chad: 1