As writers go, I've always considered myself to fall into the category best described as "sub-hack"; to wit, I don't write any better than the people who churn out X number of words for Y cents a word, and my earnings from it are Z. As in Zero. Still, every once in a while I spew forth a phrase or two that I like, and since you probably missed them the first time around, here's a sampling of some of my Better Vent Stuff from the first few months. Yes, it's the online equivalent of a clip show on television, but what the hell.

[W]hile it's way too early to predict that Bowers v. Hardwick will be overturned, even that particular action has a balancing act of its own to consider; if Bowers were to be reversed, it would presumably be impossible to prosecute the proponents of [Colorado's]Amendment 2 for having their collective head up their ass. (Vent #8, 22 May 1996)
The purest form of the shopping channel. It exists solely to parade products before you and get you to call 800-something for one of your very own. None of that tedious what-will-they-watch angst; just show 'em the goods. Snooty PBS types will sneer, but QVC and the Home Shopping Network manage to keep going without having to pass the hat, tap the Treasury, or grovel to Archer Daniels Midland, a trick public television has yet to figure out on its own. (Vent #12, 21 June 1996)
The folks around Dustbury charged with the task of attracting tourists make much of the area's "four-season climate", by which is meant that you can always tell which season it is, something not true of places like, say, Bora Bora or San Diego. What they don't say is that all four of those seasons are distinctly uncomfortable: in the winter, arctic air comes rushing down from Manitoba in a desperate attempt to get to Texas; in the summer, just enough of the Gulf of Mexico remains trapped in the atmosphere to make you think you'd died and gone to Guatemala; in the spring and the fall, it's raining, with "a chance of thunderstorms, some possibly severe," just the sort of phrase you'd expect out of a laconic resident of Tornado Alley. (Vent #25, 14 October 1996)
"Does your writing Suck?" Mrs Muckenfuss used to think so, back in the days when I was studying English As A First Language, but then her standards were high, being as how she was old enough to have actually dated the Vicar of Wakefield. Certainly she would never have forgiven me for splitting the infinitive in the preceding sentence, and she would never have countenanced using "suck" as an intransitive verb. (Vent #32, 7 December 1996)
Whatever the merits of Paula Jones' case, and it does have the considerable merit of having been told more or less consistently all these years, I think the President does her, and us, a disservice by attempting to diminish its importance. I have severe reservations about the notion that sexual harassment can be legislated out of existence — "You mean, something I said hurt you so badly that you have to call in the Government? Geez, what do you do when you lose a bet on the Super Bowl?" — and if the Supreme Court can possibly clear up the astounding murkiness of the laws as written, the sooner, the better. It's not that I want to enlist under the banner of Men Behaving Badly or anything; I'd just like to see a return, however slight, to the days when people could conceivably settle their differences without having to resort to the judicial system, which has enough troubles trying to keep up with the demand to jail anyone who's ever owned a hemp rope. (Vent #37, 16 January 1997)
The Republicans, of course, recommend tax cuts as a solution, but then the Republicans recommend tax cuts as a solution to everything up to and including the heartbreak of psoriasis. The Democrats recommend basically that something be done other than what the Republicans want. Meanwhile, the market, driven by the twin dynamos of fear and greed, looks for ways to pile up wealth without the annoyance of having to have some of it trickle down to the provinces. Can anything be done? Maybe. Will anything be done? You'll see Kathie Lee Gifford canonized first. (Vent #59, 1 July 1997)
I was hopeful that the stunning success of our current automated mission to Mars might bring a little attention back to the task of finding our place in the galaxy. And for a while, for a couple of days, maybe, it did exactly that. But once again, it won't last, and next week if you ask Joe and Jennifer Sixpack about outer space, odds are they won't mention the desolate landscape of Mars — they'll mention the desolate landscape of Roswell, New Mexico. Apparently the only thing the American public likes better than bad science fiction as fiction is bad science fiction as public policy. Who needs Sagan and Asimov when you have Scully and Mulder? If NASA wants to get any attention paid to their next mission to Mars, they'll have to strap O. J. Simpson to the lander. (Vent #61, 16 July 1997)
"Bipartisan" is definitely all over the place politically, which makes me uneasy about its very ubiquity. Compared to its dictionary definition, its use in these contexts is accurate; a bipartisan accord, just as you might expect, becomes such when it is agreed to by both parties. Unspoken, but certainly implied by your favorite politico, is the notion that if both Democrats and Republicans can come to this particular agreement, it must therefore be a Good Thing. And farther down in the subtext is the notion that those two particular parties somehow manage to subsume the whole of American political belief; you got your Democrats, you got your Republicans, and what's left isn't worth a bucket of John Nance Garner's bodily fluids. As any registered Libertarian will tell you — in those states where the bipartisan efforts of Republicans and Democrats have somehow failed to make it impossible actually to be a registered Libertarian — this is a crock. (Vent #63, 1 August 1997)

That ought to do for starters. I figure most of these have gone largely unread, since by the time I'd finished up sixty-three Vents, at the usual rate of four per month, I had managed to build site traffic to the startling figure of twenty-five visitors per week. (These days I have occasional hours that draw 25 or more.) Besides, I may need to trot out this concept again on some future date when I'm desperately scratching around for a topic.

The Vent

17 January 2003

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