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Swaine's Flames: Don Ameche and the Human Torch

It's been a while since last we spoke, but I've kept the fire burning under this rusty old boiler and built up quite a head of steam, and I have several subjects fit for the fire. So as The Fantastic Four's Johnny Storm would say, Flame On! Here are my latest peeves:

1. Johnny Storm. In the entire grit-eating world it takes three things to keep a fire alive: oxygen, heat, and fuel. Why does the Human Torch get to produce unlimited flames with no apparent fuel source? Perhaps the laws of physics cease to exist in Marvel comics? Are these magic flames? Did he get them from Dr. Strange?

2. Twitter. Okay, I may have been confused about Twitter. I have flamed about it many times, thinking it was an application and decrying its user interface shortcomings and vagueness of purpose. But of course Twitter is not an application, it's a platform, like the telephone. And as a platform its chief defect is the lack of good applications. So everything I ever said about Twitter, let that apply to Twitter apps. And everything I ever said about Twitter users, let that stand.

3. The Telephone. What a great tool for conducting business the telephone is. A great tool, that is, if you like being interrupted while you're working, don't want to give the other person time to think about what you said, prefer a low signal-to-noise ratio, and don't want any record of what you agreed to. According to Wikipedia, Alexander Graham Bell considered the telephone an intrusive device and refused to have one in his study. He oughta know.

4. Wikipedia Bashers. It's a Wiki. And an Encyclopedia. Look up Wiki. (On Wikipedia, naturally.) Then do the math. Wikipedia works exactly as it's supposed to.

5. The "Leadership" of the Rails "Community." Get over yourselves, guys. It's not even a programming language you're evangelizing, it's a framework. The best implementation of the model-view-controller pattern in the whole world is still just a tool. Skilled workers have lots of tools in their toolboxes.

6. Gratuitous Hyphens. The rule is dead simple, but apparently too slippery for a lot of journalists to grasp, so here's an even simpler one: When in doubt, leave it out. The marked uses below are all incorrect:

  • Postmaster General John Potter has asked Congress for permission to reduce mail delivery to five days-a-week.
    Nick Sabloff, Huffington Post, May 9, 2009.

  • Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch expects News Corporation-owned newspaper Web sites to start charging users for access within a year in a move which analysts say could radically shake-up the culture of freely available content.
    (unsigned), CNN, May 9, 2009

  • But on Sunday the free-market casino manager cashed-in his chips.
    Al Rodgers, Daily Kos, May 12, 2009

  • Accommodation and outreach is fine as a short-term political strategy, but it's a loser in the long-term.
    Onanyes, Daily Kos, May 15, 2009

  • It gave Apple an upper-hand.
    Don Reisinger, EWeek, May 20, 2009

  • Since she donned the CIO cap at Cisco Systems two-and-a-half years ago, Rebecca Jacoby has overseen the implementation of the following platforms....
    Elizabeth Bennett, CIO Insight, July 13, 2009

  • This is no-longer about a computer manufacturer with a minor market share.
    Steven Hodson, The Inquisitr, July 28, 2009

  • It's impossible to hold-on to to a top spot in a list-driven market.
    Preethi Dumpala, Silicon Alley Insider, July 20, 2009

There are a few unmarked hyphen uses in this list, and they're all correct. Flame off. That felt good.

Just so today's sermon isn't all fire and brimstone, here's an advance peek at a play I'm writing called "Reading the Minutes." It's based on that classic "misheard" lyric, "I'll be Don Ameche in a taxi, honey." (The original song lyric, for those of you who are not a hundred years old, is "I'll be down to meet you in a taxi, honey.") My plan is to use one near-homonym in each line of dialog and to end each line with a time-related word. Understandably, these constraints make it a little tough to develop rich characters and situations, and this is as far as I've got so far:

He: Archer ready yet?
She: Albedo in a minute.

He: Urdu there in an hour.
She: Gestate a second.

He: Duenna be late.
She: Attenuate a minute?

He: Avant-garde all day.

[Sound of door slamming upstairs.]

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