‘ . . . always light behind the clouds.’ Quote of the moment

November 29, 2020

Google Doodle in 2016 for Louisa May Alcott's birthday on November 29.

Google Doodle in 2016 for Louisa May Alcott’s birthday on November 29. The Doodle pays homage to the characters of Alcott’s novel, Beth, Jo, Amy and Meg. Designed by doodler Sophie Diao.Via SearchEngineLand.

“Be comforted, dear soul! There is always light behind the clouds.”

♦ Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, chapter 15, “A Telegram”

Louisa May Alcott was born on November 29, 1832. Her ending this chapter with a note of encouragement perhaps makes up for the opening slam at the month of November.

November is the most disagreeable month in the whole year, said Margaret, standing at the window one dull afternoon, looking out at the frostbitten garden.

That’s the reason I was born in it, observed Jo pensively, quite unconscious of the blot on her nose.


Housekeeping, and college

May 13, 2012

James is scheduled to graduate from Lawrence University in early June; we’ll make the drive up to pick up his stuff.  Lawrence is chiefly a residence campus, but even there are stories about sloppy roommates.

Roommates, hell.  All college kids are sloppy as hell (except Ben Davidian — exceptions and pathologies are what they are).  We’ll expect to have to do some cleaning to get the place up to the level that the cleaning crew from the University will touch it.

Now, James’s older brother, Kenny, DID have some legendarily messy apartments at the University of Texas – Dallas.  But it got to him, and he became quite civilized on the cleaning front.  Just this past week Kenny and I spoke of his search for living quarters, probably in Connecticut, though he would like, sometime, to live in New York City.  One of his work assignments in in the Bronx, so it’s not totally ridiculous.

On the way to finding something else, I ran across a blog I used to read a lot, but haven’t lately, and found this story of legendarily sloppy apartments, and in New York City (yeah, I know — Queens ain’t the Bronx, but the whole five boroughs would fit in the footprint of DFW Airport, nearly).

From the last post on Michale Bérubé‘s now-dormant blog, a tribute to his friend Tom Buckley:

Like all great souls, Tom loved a good joke even when the joke was on him.  We hadn’t known him very long before he told us the story of when his Bayside, Queens apartment was burglarized (by which I learned that Tom and I grew up within a two or three miles of each other, back in the day).  Tom and his roommate called the police to report the missing stereo, and when they arrived the officers were flabbergasted by the ransacked state of the apartment.  “Wow, these guys really destroyed the place,” they said.  “Do you have any enemies?  This looks like a vendetta.” Tom didn’t admit to them—but cheerily admitted to us—that “this” was in fact the apartment’s natural state.

Yeah, well they grow up.

On sort of another topic, I was also reminded why I liked that blog, and Bérubé‘s writing in general.  Go read the piece.  You’ll lament the passing of Tom Buckley, too.  The one story above is the least funny and least emotional of several told there.  You’ll wish you’d known Tom.  This piece meets the requirements for a good story posed by John Irving in The World According to Garp, as good a requirement as any I’ve ever seen.

Bérubé‘s stuff may occasionally be found at Crooked Timber.  Not often enough, for my money.


Time to retire: “Drunk the Kool-Aid”

July 13, 2009

Here’s a cliché phrase whose time to retire has come:  “Drunk the Kool-Aid.”

Once upon a time it may have been a culturally cool reference to the mass suicide at Jonestown, Guyana.  Following the charismatic and crazy minister Jim Jones, more than 900 people committed suicide, most by drinking cyanide in a Kool-Aid solution.  With some irony we should note that Kool-Aid may not have been used at Jonestown at all, but a similar product, Flav-R-Aid.

Makers of Kool-Aid are probably not too happy about the common use of the phrase now, though it would be interesting to see what their marketing studies show — does the use of the phrase hurt sales or keep the name of the product in the public’s mind?

No matter.  Use of the phrase to mean that an insult target is brainlessly following some concept is tired, decrepit, grating, and in need of retirement.

Uses just in the past few days:

  • Daily Kos:  “Of course, the CoC crowd have drunk the kool-aid and blamed “liberal regulators” for their problem.”
  • Daily Green, by Marion Nestle:  “But before you decide that I must have drunk the Kool Aid on this one, hear me out. He really is a good choice for this job.”
  • In The Baltimore Sun, the Rev. Jason Poling:  “But I must have drunk the Kool-Aid back in civics class, because when I think about freedom, liberty, just government and all that good stuff, my thoughts fly to the Declaration of Independence.”
  • The Wall Street Journal, John Paul Newport:  “I remember pondering these issues back when I first started paying attention to golf as an adult, before I’d drunk the Kool-Aid.”
  • Michael Hirsh in Washington Monthly:  “Before long, Power says, she had ‘drunk the Kool-Aid‘ on Obama.”  [And this usage in an otherwise excellent story that you really should read.]
  • Bill King in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:  “I still haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid when it comes to Big 12 teams, so while I recognize the Pokes have a high-powered offense that some expect to overpower the Dogs defense, and others question whether Georgia’s offense, minus last year’s star power, can keep up, I don’t believe that’s going to be the season’s biggest road challenge.”  [Longest sentence in this list?]
  • Todd Robberson in a blog of the Dallas Morning News: “Steve Salazar on the City Council has drunk the Kool-Aid on this subject, convinced that the online and phone-in survey conducted last year regarding possible names for Industrial somehow constituted a scientific poll with, as Salazar told us, a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.”
  • TPM, “Teamster blasting Rush Limbaugh”: “He’s drunk the Kool-Aid that unions are socialism and socialism is evil.”
  • Politics Daily:  “If you feel like forwarding this to those who are open minded and have not drunk the Kool-Aid, feel free.”
  • Newsbusters: “Back on Thursday, March 5 when Obama held a dog and pony show at the White House, CBS drunk the kool-aid.”  [When I used the phrase “drunk the Kool-Aid,” I thought I’d avoid incorrect grammar in use of the Kool-Aid phrase — clearly I was wrong.]
  • Frank Rich in The New York Times:  “Those Republicans who have not drunk the Palin Kool-Aid are apocalyptic for good reason.”  [This is the one that set me off, today — Rich is too good a writer to drink the Kool-Aid on using such clichés.]

Can we just retire the phrase now?  Copy editor’s, make a note of Darrell’s Corollary:  When any writer uses the phrase “drunk the Kool-Aid” to mean something other than someone has drunk some Kool-Aid, the piece needs to be rewritten.

Building in Hasting, Nebraska, where Kool-Aid was invented by Gerard and Edwin Perkins.  Wikimedia photo

Building in Hasting, Nebraska, where Kool-Aid was invented by Gerard and Edwin Perkins. Wikimedia photo


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