Tag Archives: writing

Let us now commence with the hype

Pax Arcana

Last year the New York Mets appeared to lose every single game in which they entered the 8th or 9th inning with a lead (they were actually fine until Billy Wagner got hurt — then they were terrible). So in the offseason the Mets replaced their wretched bullpen with a handful of proven — if expensive — relievers.

johan_santana1Yesterday the Mets won their opener 2-1 as two of those relievers — J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez — shut down the Reds in the 8th and 9th innings, respectively.


Let’s witness the carnage.

The New York Post:

CINCINNATI — What was a nightmare for the Mets last year played out like a dream on Opening Day.

Much to the relief of Omar Minaya’s players and his manager, the GM’s offseason overhaul of the bullpen couldn’t have worked any more perfectly than it did here in a 2-1 win over the Reds.

The New York Daily News:

CINCINNATI – Johan Santana pitched like an ace. The bullpen blueprint worked as scripted, with J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez handling the final two frames. And Daniel Murphy and Ryan Church’s performances suggested Gary Sheffield need not rush into the starting lineup.

Four years after Braden Looper surrendered two homers against the Reds in the ninth inning on Opening Day to spoil Pedro Martinez’s feel-good debut with the organization, there was no demoralizing reprise. The Mets christened their season with a 2-1 win against the Reds as a steady drizzle fell and the temperature hovered in the 30s.

New York Newsday:

CINCINNATI – The Opening Day blueprint for the Mets‘ 2-1 victory at Great American Ball Park was no happy accident. This was a meticulously planned, perfectly executed strategy that became a reality five months ago in a tricked-out suite at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

That’s where general manager Omar Minaya spearheaded a two-pronged effort to sign Francisco Rodriguez to a three-year, $36-million contract, then traded for J.J. Putz and Sean Green in a 12-player deal that also involved the Mariners and Indians.

The New York Times:

CINCINNATI – The Mets’ team meeting Monday morning began with the players gathering in a circle and, according to Manager Jerry Manuel, discussing their responsibilities for this season.

For Johan Santana, that means reinforcing his status as an ace. For Daniel Murphy, that means rewarding the organization’s trust in him. For their bullpen, that means erasing the bad memories from last season. The Mets’ 2-1 season-opening victory against the Cincinnati Reds on Monday was made possible by contributions from all three.

Look — I’m not saying you can’t mention the famous Mets bullpen collapse of 2008. But when you write your lede and read it back to yourself, and YOU KNOW DAMN WELL that your competitors are all writing the same lede, it seems like a good opportunity to reconsider your approach. It’s almost like blogs exist precisely because these stories are so damn predictable.

Anyway, the important thing is that the Mets are in first place and the Phillies are eating shit at the bottom — right where they belong. Those cat rapers.


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One of your grandparents has HIV


Pax Arcana

It’s been well-documented on this site that old people are hornier than a pod of narwhals (and twice as sexy).  Well, it turns out all that wrinkle-slapping is doing more than grossing the rest of us out — it’s giving them all AIDS.

Or at least that’s what I think the AFP is saying in this summary of a World Health Organization study on HIV:

According to authors of the study, in the United States, the proportion of people aged over 50 with HIV soared to 25 percent in 2006 from 20 percent in 2003.

I’m not an editor or anything [Ed. Note: Yes I am] but I read that sentence five times and I think it says that 25% of all people over 50 have HIV. I assume they mean that 25% of all HIV positive Americans are over the age of 50.

Either way, this is really going to ratchet up the tension in Father Scott’s book club.

HIV+ among over 50s ‘surprisingly high’: WHO [AFP]

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We is old

Pax Arcana

beowulf_raisedThe English language is a frenetic pastiche of influences from other languages — such as those that gave us words like “frenetic” and “pastiche” — but it turns out some words are older than others.

Words like “I,” “we,” “two,” and “three” may be as much as ten thousand years older than other common words — including “four” which was conjured by witches in the medieval period and is not to be trusted. We know this because researchers at Reading University plugged a bunch of words unrelated to technology, plus a mathematical model that plots their relationship to other words in other languages, into a big IBM computer and hit the “print” button:

What the researchers found was that the frequency with which a word is used relates to how slowly it changes through time, so that the most common words tend to be the oldest ones.

For example, the words “I” and “who” are among the oldest, along with the words “two”, “three”, and “five”. The word “one” is only slightly younger.

More interestingly, the researchers say they can predict which words will soon be obsolete based on the rate at which they have changed throughout history:

For example, “dirty” is a rapidly changing word; currently there are 46 different ways of saying it in the Indo-European languages, all words that are unrelated to each other. As a result, it is likely to die out soon in English, along with “stick” and “guts”.

Verbs also tend to change quite quickly, so “push”, “turn”, “wipe” and “stab” appear to be heading for the lexicographer’s chopping block.

I guess this is all kind of interesting. But in my opinion there are really only two kinds of people — those who merely observe the world and those who shape it. For example, in the time it took me to read this article about old words, I invented three new ones — sklurp, yupetide, and plosh. Whoops, here comes another one: TRUNY. I guess we all have our talents.

Oldest English words identified [BBC]

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Um, what?

Pax Arcana


I’ve long admired ESPN’s Peter Gammons and Buster Olney. Both have a long track record of excellent reporting on baseball and a convivial, fan-friendly blah blah blah.

But this paragraph, from an article carrying both men’s bylines, requires a background in cryptography and four swigs from a bottle of Maker’s Mark to decipher:

The Boston Red Sox or the Washington Nationals continue to be the most likely destinations for Teixeira, executives involved in the process believe — the Red Sox, with an offer that might be in the range of $170 million, and the Nationals perhaps with a proposal greater than that of Boston.

My goodness, fellas. Remember the funnel!

Yankees lurking in Teixeira hunt [ESPN]

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This post is irritating

Pax Arcana

I personally believe — at this moment in time — that you shouldn’t of come to Pax Arcana to read this post. It’s fairly unique, but it’s not rocket science. At the end of the day, we strive for 24/7 hilarity and curiosity-piquing content. But sometimes it’s a nightmare. With all due respect, this post will only annoy you. Am I broken up about that? Absolutely.

According to researchers at Oxford University, the above paragraph should be just about the most annoying thing ever committed to cyber-paper. That’s because I used every one of the “Top Ten Most Irritating Expressions in the English Language.”

Here it is with the irritations bolded and marked by their rank on the list:

I personally (3) believe — at this moment in time (4) — that you shouldn’t of (8) come to Pax Arcana to read this post. It’s fairly unique (2), but it’s not rocket science (10). At the end of the day (1), we strive for 24/7 (9) hilarity and curiosity-piquing content. But sometimes it’s a nightmare (7). With all due respect (5), this post will only annoy you. Am I broken up about that? Absolutely (6).


Of course the Oxford list is more British than American, and British people are irritated by funny things. Like Americans. And orthodonture. And when you slap them and say “USA! USA!” Such sensitive bastards.

Anyway, I would add the following terms to the list were it up to me:

Thrown under the bus
I could care less
Going forward

And for the love of all that is good and righteous in this world, please stop saying:


I’m sure my massive readership will have some thoughts on the matter…

Oxford Researchers List Top 10 Most Annoying Phrases [Wired]


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Today’s special: Warmed meat spheres on loaf with vegetation

Pax Arcana

According to the National Post (that’s Canada, folks) fine dining restaurants have finally realized that 32-word descriptions of each dish are enervating to wend through for even the most patient patrons.

But as with all writing, brevity increases the value of each word. This is a good thing when the right words are chosen. Pick the wrong word to describe the grilled marrow bones (“earthy” is good, “gamey” is not), and you better clear out room in the walk-in for leftovers.

Witness the saga of Toronto chef Toby Nameth and her oxtail dish:

“The first day, I put the dish as ‘Oxtail in broth with poached egg,’ ” she says. “It sold really badly and I was so frustrated and irritated.”

Undeterred by the lack of sales, she edited her description, and tried the exact same dish again on the next day’s menu.

“This time, I wrote ‘Braised oxtail with poached eggs’ and it sold right away,” she laughs. “The word ‘braised’ made all the difference.”

Of course, chefs have known forever that certain words will kill any menu item. “Cabbage,” for example, is a notorious killer (as highlighted in the Post article). Other no-no’s include “beets,” “boiled,” “tough,” “sloppy,” and “shit.”

Some words on the menu are essentially psychological crutches for chefs that know diners don’t necessarily want to be challenged. Those seared sea scallops? Those bacon-wrapped whatevers? Those garlic mashed potatoes? Those live on the menu not because the chef is proud of them. They exist to give your appetite a fuzzy teddy bear to clutch when you’re feeling squeamish about the terrine of foie gras and lamb’s tongue.

Braised, grilled, succulent, rich. Hungry yet? [National Post]

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The big lede

Apropos of nothing, save our love of quality journalism, the below is our pick for Best Lede of 2007 (Newspaper or Wire Service category):

New Haven, Conn. — Anthony Perone was so reclusive that his mother gave him a bucket to use as a urinal in his bedroom. The first time the 21-year-old Minnesota man ventured out alone to a store as an adult, he bought an assault rifle with a scope.

Bravo, John Christoffersen. Now that’s how you get people to keep reading.

Man who stalked woman he knew in grade school faces sentencing [AP]

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