Wednesday, August 11

The Burden of Beauty

The Chronicle of Higher Education features a piece on the unique challenges facing beautiful people in academia.

Monday, August 9

I'll Read What She's Reading

Alas, in our summer busyness of seeking after the perfect salad and attempting to befriend homeless cats, K'barbic and Keastland missed out on a truly golden opportunity: seeking the wisdom of the Biblioracle. When we learned of his existence from this piece at Salon it was already too late, for his page had been closed to comments. According to the page, the way Biblioracle works (or worked when the comments page was open) is that you "simply list the last five books you’ve read. Based on that list, the Biblioracle will tell you what to read next." Seems simple enough to pair your apparent taste in recent reading to a new recommendation. Of course, if you have not enjoyed those five most recent books, there may be a problem. I suppose, regardless of Biblioracle, we will still find an ample supply of books on food history and Greek mythology to satisfy our tastes here at TBATC.

Also, in the spirit of our never-ending literary quest, we would gladly welcome the return of the Penguincubator, a treasure indeed.

Friday, August 6

Watchwords We've Been Avoiding

There are many journeys for people to take these days. Life is a journey after all. Even the word journey itself has journeyed a bit, veering off path from the traditional travel sense of the word to take on more spiritual and emotional meanings. Vague, yet profound, use of the word has journeyers sounding like they are reciting a proverb from a fortune cookie: "Life is about the journey you take to get there." Confusing, yes, but unraveling the meaning is part of your journey, depending on the path you choose.

I reached the end of my journey in tolerating the term this summer. I found myself following a reality TV star's journey as chronicled by a major network. Although the viewing experience is part of my personal life's journey I would gladly take back, I comfort myself with the reminder that there is no real wasted time in the self-discovery land of reality TV. At every plot turn, dramatic voice-over, or emotional interview, contestants would discuss the progress and importance of their journey. Each week, as I would listen to vague descriptions of these all-important journeys, I couldn't help but wish that the "stars" would start referring to themselves as "journeyers" or better yet work in the verb form of journey to their dialogue. Something akin to: "It means so much to see how far we have journeyed." Still vague, yes, but shifting from nouns to verbs can demonstrate growth on one's linguistic journey.

Referring to "life growth" as a journey is technically an acceptable use, but the word is not so powerful that it can withstand the exhaustion of overuse. At summer's (near) end, journey is looking run-down. Tattered and worse for wear, journey belongs to another side now, the side where it's harder to put things into words.

So, let us move on to other words and consider synonyms for getting from here to there. Journey is, after all, not the only travel word in the dictionary. In our travels, we can relish the variety of verbs at our disposal: pilgrimage, voyage, trek, etc. At TBATC, many sights and sounds have fascinated us as we have traversed our summer paths, yet we have managed to avoid the bland possibilities that the journey affords--even journeying out of our way, when need be, to avoid them.

What We've Been Missing

The summer is mostly a blank here at TBATC (as the sad gap in our postings indicates); thus Keastland and K'barbic, in an effort to restore good faith with our loyal TBATC readers, shall spend the month of August endeavoring to catch up--lest you were beginning to despair that we had abandoned our corner, or worse that we were expecting our followers to re-read the favored words of David Foster Wallace indefinitely. We look forward to sharing some of our favorite summer stories with you in our special recurring feature this month: "Things We Didn't Blog About." So join us here at our corner as we look back at all the quirky and whimsical items we've missed.

Thursday, August 5

No Apostrophe Left Behind

Just when I thought we had heard the last of TEAL, I find the grammar vigilantes' new book was released this week. Actually I had not given much thought to the former "Typo Eradication Advancement League" since reading about their exploits the summer of 2008. The League made news after going a little too far with their grammar zeal by defacing a historic national park sign at the Grand Canyon. TEAL disappeared from the public for the year that followed their misadventure, but now they are back and, according to their website, planning another "adventure." Far be it from TBATC to stand against proper grammar and its adamant supporters, but we will miss the entertainment that comes from quirky and ironic misspellings if TEAL fully accomplishes their goal.

Thursday, April 15

The Online Word-Hoard of David Foster Wallace

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas-Austin has listed all the words David Foster Wallace circled—apparently, he did not underline—in his American Heritage Dictionary. Slate published the long list yesterday. Since I have not read a lick by DFW, I won't comment on his writing—nor will I make fun of him for wearing bandanas (look to the left) or having hipsterish author photos taken of him in the middle of cornfields.

But back to the list. While I was thrilled that the first word he circled is an alliterative grammatical term—ablative absolute—I was surprised to see that he circled words as basic as "bisque" and "citronella" and "sateen." (That he, a man not fluent in women's shoe speak, circled "espadrille" is not so odd.) His list has some great words, such as "coxcomb"—a fop or dandy; and "lucubrate"—literally, to study by lamplight. Fun fact: Lucubrare, the Latin verb from which "lucubrate" derives, was Cicero's favorite verb.

And how can one forget the splendid word for the small scraps we leave after a meal, our "orts"? The next time my dogs beg and stomp their tiny feet for food from my plate, I'll say, "Be patient, animals, and you shall have a portion of these orts."

Wednesday, April 14

Not So High Tea

Since fashion houses sell us not just style but "lifestyle," it makes sense that even one's tea can now be designer.

As reported at the Editor's Blog at W, Prada sent packages of tea based on its two new scents—Infusion de Tuberose and Infusion de Vetiver—to various beauty editors. The tea boxes are nearly identical to the perfume boxes, and the tea itself is not looseleaf. It is in a bag the size and shape of a ketchup packet (note image to the left). I found this most strange. Should not designer tea be beautiful and exciting and clever? And shouldn't it be looseleaf? What saddened me most is that the folks at W put the tea in ... paper cups. But perhaps they realized this tea was not special enough to put in a porcelain cup.

I do not think the tea can be purchased by the masses/myself, at least for now. The French designer and "perfume icon" Lolita Lempicka, however, has crafted a few teas, which can be purchased at Cambria Cove, at 25 sachets for $68. You might as well buy a tea by Mariage Frères, the oldest tea company in France whose impeccable leaves are far better in quality and cost and come in a lasting, truly iconic container.)

In the meantime, I think I'll order these excellent German tea people. There's nothing like having Angela Merkel, Putin, and Obamaor Humphrey Bogart!—in your cuppa.