Too early to call it a tradition, exactly, but one year ago I put up some examples of what I thought were decent turns of phrase accumulated during the preceding twelve months, and there were almost no complaints, so I figure I'd try it one more time. Besides, it beats coming up with an actual topic, you know?

The Secret Origin of a New York Times columnist, from "The Grey Lady and the children", 7 January:

"I think Maureen Dowd is the secret child of Disney's Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable, and whatever Type A personality traits she may have inherited from Kim are offset by Ron's intractable B-ness. Besides, Ron is sweet and goofy, and God forbid Maureen should ever show such a side."

No feigned compassion here, from "Keeping up with the cool kids", 25 January:

"I have never felt the overweening need to present myself as a Kind and Caring Person, and I have this weird idea that results are more important than process — cf. the ostensible War on Poverty, which costs at least as much as we spend perforating insurgents and has gone on for quite a bit longer without even the faintest suggestion of success. Or, for that matter, of an exit strategy."

The official lawn inventory, from "Seed money", 23 March:

"The lawn was characterized as 'fair,' in the sense that you would characterize the Antarctic as 'cool.' They consider eleven weed types to be controllable; I had five of them. Of ten potential lawn diseases, three were recognized. On the upside, I had acceptable thatch, and truly, how many of us can say that?"

A weird lapse in academic standards, from "Minus five for Dr Phil", 18 April:

"I admit to being a couple of generations behind, college-curriculum-wise, but I honestly can't see the value of offering ten extra-credit points for watching an episode of Oprah — especially in an English class, since whatever the technical term for the touchy-feely verbiage woven into the very fabric of that program, it bears only the faintest resemblance to actual English. Now if they assigned Futurama for physics, well, that's different."

On a complaint about the San Diego Padres' inexplicable lack of Latino players, from "I hear one of the Twins was an only child", 22 April:

"You think that's a shame? Not one of the San Francisco Giants is over six-foot-five. Talk about unrepresentative."

On developing a writing style, from "Reads great, less suing", 11 May:

"One of the happier byproducts of this whole blogging thing is that people are getting the sort of drill they used to get in English comp. Over the course of twenty-two years online, my style has gone from "well-nigh unreadable" to "not especially sucky," which is more of an improvement than you'd think."

A look at the American Association for Nude Recreation's Youth Outreach Program, from "Not many birthdays on that suit", 15 May:

"Out of curiosity, I downloaded the enrollment package, and the pièce de résistance is a multi-page (okay, two) Affidavit of Good Moral Character, which details a whole bunch of Thou Shalt Nots intended to disqualify anyone who might cast dark shadows on the lifestyle. On the cleanliness scale, the proverbial hound's tooth doesn't even come close. I can't really blame them: gotta keep the pervs out, after all. But while I haven't come close to these depths of depravity — okay, once I made use of the pictures and accounts of a game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball — I'm still kind of put off by the sheer size of the list. Of course, this is just a ruse: what really puts me off is how much lower the student dues are."

In praise of Tough Love, from, from "The lost art of hardassery", 2 June:

"In an era distinguished by endless wails of 'You're not the boss of me!' the hardass reminds you, well, we'll just see about that. And every time we lose one, we sink a little bit farther into the muck."

Gallows humor, from "The laugher curve", 5 June:

"We don't execute a lot of people these days — at least, none of the ones I want — and their sentences are normally carried out behind very thick walls so it's impossible to know for sure, but I have always believed that if you don't actually go insane as your time approaches, the quality of your remarks is bound to go up sharply. And when the Nanny State finally achieves the dominance it desires and I'm sent before a firing squad for extreme disloyalty, seditious remarks and ownership of a George Foreman grill, I plan to ask the riflemen if those things have trigger locks. Because if I have to die, and I assume I do — and if I don't, I'm wasting a crapload of money on insurance — I intend to die laughing."

A Midwestern musing, from "Oh, Cedar makes your life easier", 20 July:

"I was going to start out on I-74, but it was shut down for about twenty miles, so, map in hand, or at least on seat, I plunged into the cornfields. And there were a lot of cornfields, occasionally interrupted by soybeans. I couldn't help but wonder just how much of that stuff was going to end up in gas tanks. Not being a big fan of nondrinkable forms of ethanol, I found myself wishing that we'd give up the whole idea and return corn to its proper place in American life: taco shells, Fritos®, and whiskey. "

Filling one's subscription for a magazine that's expired, from "Didn't finish the crossword, either", 1 September:

"[T]his past spring Premiere was replaced by Us Weekly, the equivalent of being forced to trade your Volvo sedan for a hat full of bus passes and a two-for-one coupon at the free clinic."

Cars smarter than their drivers, from "The new '08 Cocoon", 7 December:

"Consider, for a moment, a cruise control, such as the Mercedes-Benz Distronic, that slows you down if it thinks you're getting too close to the car in front of you. If the road is that crowded, using cruise control at all brands you as a complete and utter idiot, and the only 'natural signal' you should be getting is digital: the upraised middle finger."

The Chickens Little of local TV news, from "An 80 percent chance of panic", 14 December:

"I think what bugs me most is that I know we're a resilient bunch — you don't spend any time out here on the Temporarily Non-Electric Range without developing something of a survival instinct — and yet television feels compelled to treat us like scared second-graders. Maybe it's just because of the handful of alleged grownups who actually act like scared second-graders under these circumstances, and the unfortunate fact that in 21st-century America, wherever there is a stupid person, there will eventually be a smart lawyer trying to make money off him."

If you see this again around this time next year, which should be around, um, Vent #611, you'll know that it's caught on.

The Vent

#563
  1 January 2008

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