Gripes and Grumbles


“Renown?” Um, No

Okay, kids, it’s time for another fun-filled episode of Copy Editor Pet Peeves with your charmingly curmudgeonish host, me.

I was just reading an article on “bad movies that are fun to watch” (you know the type) and I saw this sentence referring to the iconic Patrick Swayze vehicle Road House:

“…let’s act like America is a country where club bouncers are revered and renown like celebrities…” [emphasis mine]

Um, no.

No, no, no, no.


The word is not “renown.” Not in this context, anyhow. I’ve been seeing this error a lot recently, almost as if it’s just suddenly and spontaneously become a thing, and it’s driving me nuts. For the record — and write this down, you will be graded — it’s “renowned” with an “-ed” at the end. RenownED.

“Renown” is a noun meaning “acclaim.” It’s something you possess or are given. If you are fortunate enough to have someone give you renown, then you are renowned, just as you are “acclaimed” when you receive acclaim. Simple, right? And yet people are blowing it all the time… even in a sentence where it’s preceded by the correct past participle “revered.” Didn’t it look strange to have one action-word ending in “-ed” but not the other?

Sigh. “Renowned,” not “renown.”


Following Up on the Previous

I’d like to note for the record that the previous entry kind of went off on an unintended tangent, as they so often do, and I’m rather unhappy about that.

The post was meant to be about that recent conversation I mentioned and my own bemusement at someone thinking something of me that I don’t think of myself, namely that I prefer Star Trek to Star Wars. (If anything, I would’ve guessed that people would assume the opposite!) My intention was to talk about the disconnect between how we perceive ourselves and how others see us, as well as my own specific feelings on this particular subject. Instead, I brought up the silly fan-rivalry thing — which some people dispute even exists, or may in fact be an invention of the media and its tendency to look for competition in every possible venue — and my actual original purpose got completely submerged.

Not that it matters. The original idea was about as mediocre as the finished post turned out to be. (I think it’s mediocre anyhow, even though I’ve received some nice feedback from folks. Thanks anyhow, guys!) But I am frustrated that what ended up on the page — er, screen — was not what I had in my head. That’s a sensation every writer, photographer, painter, sculptor, and musician is familiar with. But lately it’s been a little too familiar, you know?


A Day in My Life

I mentioned in the previous post that the past few days at work have been a little… intense. And by “intense” I of course mean “unrelenting,” “all-consuming,” “utterly draining,” “mind-numbing,” and “soul-crushing.”

Now, I like my job, something I feel compelled to state for the record every time I give public voice to a complaint. (I also feel compelled to voice those complaints in the first place; I have a lot of compulsions, it seems.) No, really, I do like the job. Most of the time. But these hectic patches take a lot out of me, physically and mentally. The way I’m wired, I can hear the despair-wolves howling in the distance on the best of days. When I start feeling like I have so much to do that I can’t take the time to breathe, those buggers come right up on the front porch and threaten to batter down the door with their racket. The only thing that makes these busy periods bearable for me is the understanding that they’re temporary.

But Bennion, you might be saying, what have you got to complain about? You work in advertising. Isn’t that all booze and broads and oversized cars, like in Mad Men?

Well, yeah, sure it’s like that… for the creative directors. That’s not what I do, though. What I do is a lot more… or maybe it’s a lot less… um…  well, here, perhaps a little illustration will give you a better idea. Ladies and gentlemen, the immortal Charlie Chaplin:

Yep, that’s my recent days in a nutshell, only my widgets are made of paper and the bolts I’m twisting are covered in red ink.

Incidentally, you may be wondering what jackass added sound effects and voices to a silent movie. That would have been Chaplin himself; this clip is from his film Modern Times, which was released in 1936, well after the advent of synchronized sound in movies. Modern Times was in fact conceived as Chaplin’s first talkie, but he realized at some point that his signature character, The Tramp, worked best as a universal Everyman if you never heard his voice. Sound effects and even some voices (but not The Tramp’s) were fine, but overall, the movie was made the way he’d always made them… and its brilliant and still very much relevant today.


The Saddest Thing You’ll See All Week

SamuraiFrog posted this image some time ago, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. It’s pretty evocative of how I’ve been feeling the past few weeks:


For the record, I like my job. I honestly do, in spite of my periodic bouts of bitching about it. The griping and moaning I do here and on social media and in person to anyone who will listen is just my way of blowing off steam when I get stressed out. It’s purely reflexive, and admittedly kind of childish, and I often end up doing a lot of apologizing after the storm passes. The truth is, I work for a good company that offers a lot of perks; I have a boss whom I trust to have my back when necessary; and I seem to have a knack for what I actually do. I’m coming up on my ten-year anniversary with this company — ten years, the longest I’ve ever worked in one place, longer than I ever dreamed I would work in one place — so obviously it must be a fairly good match for me. Nevertheless, this job takes a lot out of me, both in terms of time and spirit, and I can’t pretend that I don’t feel frustrated about that. Between the hours I spend in the office and the time I lose to the damn commute — which must be counted against the work side of the work/life equation, because I certainly wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t have to — there just aren’t very many minutes left at the end of the day to spend on my own pursuits. I exist in a constant state of low-level anxiety, always conscious of the clock ticking, always feeling like there’s something else I ought to be doing, no matter what I actually am doing, because the to-do list is just so bloody long. I never feel caught up, or like I’ve really accomplished anything. Even when I do find some leisure time, I don’t seem capable of actually enjoying it anymore, because I feel guilty whenever I’m not doing something that can be described as productive. I can’t tell you the last time I wiled away a carefree afternoon reading, or watched a movie all the way through in one sitting without feeling antsy.

And that’s at the best of times, when the assembly line is running at a steady but not-too-intense pace. When things heat up, as they’ve been for the past couple weeks… when I start feeling like I can’t get away from my desk because there are too many items in the inbox and they’re all due by EOD, and the new work requests just keep piling up… when I can’t spare the time to go for my customary glucose-busting afternoon walk  — a vital and anticipated part of my day ever since I was diagnosed with the ‘betes — well, that’s when I start to feel like this adult-responsibility stuff is grinding me up inside and making me lose touch with the person I really am, or at least the one I used to be, or maybe the one I wanted to be, because all I am managing to do with my life is keep the cogs turning. And that’s when I can’t help but start to bitch.

Incidentally, this isn’t about the number of hours I work. I know that lots of people work long hours, and that many folks log far more of them than I do. (Of course I know, because they all hasten to tell me about it anytime I raise the subject; I hate that I can’t mention the work/life thing without it turning into some kind of competition to see who’s the biggest grind, which completely misses the point and only reinforces my certainty that we live in a deeply sick society filled with people who suffer from some kind of Stockholm syndrome informed by the Protestant work ethic.) And if I’m being honest, I’m not called upon to work nearly as many late nights as I was a few years ago. These days, I very rarely get held up past my usual quitting time. Nevertheless, there have been many evenings, especially lately, when I’ve felt as if I’ve put in an 18-hour day. I don’t think people understand how fatiguing it can be to proofread all day long. I so often find myself slumped on the hard-as-a-plank bench seat on that hateful train, rolling for home, watching the sun sink behind the mountains to my right with their yellow-and-orange skirts of waste ore from the mine where my dad spent 36 years of his life, and wondering what the hell I’m doing wrong. At those moments, I usually find myself trying to remember what I used to imagine my adult life was going to be like, back when I was young and anything seemed possible.

What I mostly remember is that I thought my life would be relatively relaxed. Not easy, just… not infused with this unending worry that I don’t have enough time — that I won’t live long enough — to get it all done. I think I must’ve dreamed it would look something like one of those old Taster’s Choice commercials, all golden-hour lighting and bare feet on wood floors and a sense of tranquil unhurriedness. I never imagined that one day I would have to schedule times to call my distant friends on the phone, because we’re so damn busy the odds of catching each other at home are next to nil. Or that I would have a basement filled with books that I’ve never gotten around to reading, and the guilt and regret I carry around because of it. That I would feel genuine shame at how long it’s been since I managed to write even a shitty little blog entry, let alone a good one, or a sense of loss for the audience that I fear has largely evaporated.

And then there are the novels I was going to write. Did you know I once dreamed of being the next Stephen King? Yeah… that didn’t happen, did it?

I never careened down a grassy hillside in a little child’s wagon with a stuffed tiger for a companion. But I know exactly what that image up there at the top of this post is depicting.



What’s on My Mind Tonight?

Well those drifter’s days are past me now
I’ve got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out


Against the wind
I’m still runnin’ against the wind
I’m older now but still running
Against the wind

Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind,” if you don’t recognize it. A song that has been haunting me a bit the last couple of weeks.

And now there are only seven hours until I have to get back on the treadmill again. And in the meantime, I’ve got a dishwasher to empty, and chores to take care of before bed, and outside the wind is rising…


Commuting Is Hell

I haven’t gotten home from work before seven o’clock in nearly 10 years.

That’s how long I’ve been working for my current employer, and how long I’ve been riding TRAX, the Salt Lake Valley’s light-rail system. I tell myself all the time that it’s the best option, that I’m helping the environment and I don’t have to deal with the stress of freeway driving, that it gives me an opportunity to read for fun, or to nap, or to study the unceasing pageant of human behavior, or to just stare out the damn window. But the truth is, I’m getting very, very tired of being a prisoner to somebody else’s schedule, to wasting time standing around in the cold or the hot or the rain or snow, or running to beat the clock so I don’t end up waiting around. (I’m no runner, not even after losing some 40 pounds a couple years ago.)

If I get out of the office at just the right moment, I can make the 6:07 southbound, which puts me at the end of the line at 6:49. Then I still have to drive home from the park-n-ride lot, which takes between 10 and 15 minutes. Most nights, I step into the house about five after seven. That’s on a good night, one of the nights when I don’t have to take a later train.

Tonight was not a good night. Tonight was a very not-good night. A collision between two trains earlier today closed off a segment of the main trunk line connecting downtown to the rest of the valley. I had to wait around for a southbound train, ride it as far as the point where the track was closed, then switch to a bus to jump over the out-of-commission section, wait some more for yet another train, and then ride it the rest of the way. Oh, and then I discovered the road I usually drive between the train station and home was a mess due to a broken water main and resulting sinkhole. I finally got home 35 minutes later than usual. And the whole time I was thinking I could have just gone down to the parking garage beneath my office building, gotten into my car, and driven home in roughly half the time of my regular commute, let alone this cocked-up mess of one. I’m so sick of my nights being basically a wash and having to try and squeeze all my errands, all my chores, all my socializing, all my living into the scant 48 hours of the weekend because I spend so damn much time commuting.

We won’t even speak of the situation in the mornings, except to say I’m no more a morning person than I am a runner.

I was planning to post this image, one of several that Boing Boing recently gathered under the title “5 strangely comforting gifs,” tonight anyhow, simply because I thought it was neat, but now… now I think I really need to just stare at it for a while and work on my breathing:




Can You Beam Me Up Now?

I have a confession: I hate talking on cell phones. Cordless handsets for landlines, too. Sure, it’s convenient to walk around the house while you’re talking to someone, but at least back in the days when we were tethered to the kitchen wall by a 20-foot length of curly vinyl cord, we rarely had static or random noise in the line, and calls never just “dropped out” because you walked through some Poltergeist-ian “dead spot.” (I live in an old house, and plaster-and-lathe walls are murder on reception.)

That’s why I can’t help but roll my eyes when some Damn Kid™ starts acting all superior and sniffing at how outdated the original Star Trek looks because the communicators used by Kirk and Spock aren’t as “sophisticated” as our modern-day smartphones. Um, kids, do you really think your iPhone has enough range to contact a spaceship in orbit? And have you ever seen a communicator fail to make or maintain contact with the guy on the other end (assuming some mysterious god-like entity wasn’t interfering with their operation, of course)?

The following illustrates my point quite handily, by showing what Star Trek would be like if communicators functioned as well (i.e., as unreliably) as our cell phones:

(Sensitive Loyal Readers be warned: there’s an F-bomb. But it’s funny.)

And yes, I know the video is riffing on The Next Generation and its “combadge” technology instead of the original series’ classic handheld communicators. Even so…

Via Boing Boing, of course.


Shaping Up to Be One of Those Weeks

I spent my first three days back in the office from the holidays last week twiddling my thumbs. Then my project managers (or possibly their clients… somebody) seemed to wake up in the same fashion as someone who realizes they’ve missed their alarm and overslept by a couple of hours: with a snort, a surge of adrenaline, and a sudden mad scramble of activity. The resulting avalanche of work hit me on Friday, I ended up bringing a big project home with me over the weekend, and I just now looked up and saw that it’s nearly three o’clock. I’ve been proofreading nonstop since I got here at ten and had completely lost track of time.

Which means it’s time to bring this out again:


Naturally, all this hell breaking loose coincides with a surge in mental fertility; I find I’ve suddenly got lots of ideas for blogging topics, in addition to other things, but no time or energy to spare for them, naturally. And that makes me feel like this:


I’ve been in this job for nearly a decade now, and I still don’t understand why it’s always like this… feast-or-famine, either nothing going on or no time to breathe. Seriously, what’s wrong with spreading the load out a little more evenly, guys? Surely it can’t be that hard to plan?

Sigh. Back to proofreading…


Can Everyone Take a Deep Breath, Please?

I’ve seen a number of panicky Facebook posts and tweets about the Ebola crisis today, no doubt fueled by the news that a couple victims of that dread disease are now here in the U.S. instead of safely isolated on the other side of the world, and — I have to be honest — they’ve really annoyed me. Yes, Ebola is scary shit, and the idea of a pandemic wiping out the human race is one of my deepest fears, even worse than my worries about a nuclear holocaust followed by an army of chromium skeletons systematically exterminating the survivors. (Seriously, I grew up in the latter days of the Cold War, when Ronnie Ray-Gun had his finger on The Button and every third movie, TV show, and pop song was telling us we were all going to die in a planetwide crop of mushroom clouds; I jest because I remember what that fear was really like.) But everybody needs to take a deep breath and apply some rational thought to this Ebola thing.

The truth is, Ebola is actually pretty hard to contract, and the odds of it breaking out in any serious way in the United States — let alone turning into something out of The Stand — are extremely long. The Centers for Disease Control website has a lot of good information on the subject; the CDC has also produced a calming infographic, which I’m just going to leave here….


You’re welcome.