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If Hitler Hated It, It’s Gotta Be Good

Pieces of art labeled “degenerate” by the Nazis and seized from German museums in the 1930s—and missing ever since—turned up last January as workers were digging near Berlin’s City Hall. They’re now on exhibit at the Neues Museum, just a stone’s throw from the Deutsches Historisches Museum. Which, ironically, is where a Hitler exhibition is currently underway.

The New York Times has the story.

In related news, a French electrician has revealed that he’s in possession of 271 previously unknown Picassos. Apparently, that’s how Pablo paid his bills.

Roll Over Beethoven

Alex Ross poses an interesting question: We have embraced the avant-garde in other art forms; why not music?

For a taste of what he’s talking about, here’s Jonathan Nott conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in a performance of György Ligeti’s Atmosphères (Teldec 8573882612).

Give it a minute or two to load. You won’t be disappointed.

What’s It Mean to Be “Creative”?

Hollywood writer and producer Rob Long has a hilarious take on the creative process, courtesy of KCRW. You can subscribe to Long’s weekly podcast, Martini Shot, here.

Happy Thanksgiving

There’s a lot of talk this time of year about how to properly cook a turkey, how to ensure a lump-free gravy, and whether it’s true that jellied cranberry sauce has its origins in a subversive communist plot. Here at the last word, however, we’re (and by “we’re” I mean “I’m”) all about the stuffing.

So here you go—courtesy of the White Castle Family of Columbus, Ohio:

White Castle Turkey Stuffing

10 White Castle hamburgers, no pickles

1 1/2 cups celery, diced

1 1/4 tsp. ground thyme

1 1/2 tsp. ground sage

3/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

1/4 cup chicken broth

In a large mixing bowl, tear the burgers into pieces and add diced celery and seasonings. Toss and add chicken broth. Toss well. Stuff cavity of turkey just before roasting. Makes about 9 cups (enough for a 10- to 12-pound turkey). Note: Allow 1 hamburger for each pound of turkey, which will be the equivalent of 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound.

An Appeal

Back in the 90s, it was “don’t go there.” In the aughts, it was “my bad” (still a pox on our culture). Now, we have “rock” as a transitive verb—as in, “Mr. Rogers really rocks that cardigan.”

How bad is it? It’s hit the pages of Sunset magazine, as staid a publication as you’re likely to read. From the latest issue, in a blurb about a new Spokane business:

The just-opened Sun People Dry Goods Company is modeled after an old-fashioned general store but rocks eco-mod design, with exposed brick and salvage-metal accents.

Please, please, please stop. All of you. Right now.

More Grammar! Yay!

Following up on Wednesday’s post about the many-splendored semicolon, I want to shed a little light on the frequently cited but completely misunderstood “run-on sentence.”

In the advertising/marketing/PR/communications world, brevity reigns supreme—an admirable trait, to be sure, but not necessarily an inherent good. I get it, of course. “Omit needless words” is one of Strunk & White’s Elementary Principles of Composition, after all. But sometimes, a thought requires more than half a dozen words.

Consider Whittaker Chambers’s review of Dr. Zhivago, in which he writes:

“Reading it is more like taking, under compulsion, a very long journey, about which you begin to suspect, from the general route, scenery and comments by the way, that, after you have got wherever it is you are going, you will not have got much of anywhere.”

There’s a certain type of person who recoils at stuff like this. I like to call them “illiterate.”

Now I’ve written sentences a lot like that one, and when I do, nine times out of ten some editor or proofreader or account executive sends it back with the instruction to “fix the run-on sentence.”

The thing is, it’s not. It’s a long sentence, but it’s not a run-on sentence. The two are not at all the same.

A run-on sentence is an error in which two or more independent clauses are joined by a comma (rather than a conjunction or semicolon). It’s also called a fused sentence; the offending comma is called a comma splice.

So, in the case of run-on sentences, size really doesn’t matter.


Research suggests that a habitual marijuana habit impedes cognitive function. Who knew?

Half a Colon’s Better than No Colon at All

One of the more egregious writing errors I come across—from adults who ought to know better, no less—is the joining of independent clauses with a comma.* Like this, for example:

I’m not feeling well this afternoon, I’m going home early.

The two independent clauses (clauses that can stand alone as complete sentences) are, of course, I’m not feeling well this afternoon and I’m going home early. They each contain a subject and a verb; each is syntactically correct. Which means replacing the comma with a period would technically be within the rules.

I’m not feeling well this afternoon. I’m going home early.

Clearly, however, that’s lame. So what’s a writer to do? Let’s look at three options, the first of which plays on the cause-and-effect relationship:

Because I’m not feeling well this afternoon, I’m going home early.

Now we have both a dependent and an independent clause; joining the two with a comma is grammatically kosher. Second, we could introduce a conjunction. Like, say…so:

I’m not feeling well this afternoon, so I’m going home early.

Not just any conjunction will do, however, so choose wisely. Finally, we could deploy the much-maligned semicolon, which is far and away my favorite punctuation mark:

I’m not feeling well this afternoon; I’m going home early.

What’s the difference between the period and the semicolon? Semicolons indicate a closer relationship between the two clauses. (Notice the implied “therefore” in the above example?)

INCORRECT: Aaron is a genius, I have much to learn from him.
CORRECT: Aaron is a genius; I have much to learn from him.

*Known as a comma splice or a run-on sentence.

Should You Kill the Fat Man?

I find this sort of exercise irresistible.

My moral consistency score (100%) suggests that I am “admirably consistent in the way [I] view morality.” In fact, the analysis goes on to say, none of the people who completed the activity demonstrated greater moral consistency in their responses than I managed. Apparently, I’m “not…particularly impressed with consequentialist moral reasoning.”

Don’t be surprised if the last word begins to take on a more condescending tone, as I wield my moral superiority with a little more vigor.

Thoughts on Fall Reading

Just to poke another finger in the eye of those whose literary lives consist entirely of summer reading lists, I thought I’d demonstrate that it’s quite possible to pick up a book in the off-season. Plus, what with the chill in the air and the early onset of darkness, what better way to spend an evening than with a good book?

  • Been working my way through Raymond Carver’s short stories—when you read one at a time, it’s not unlike rationing m&ms—over the last month or so. Sherman Alexie clearly owes a debt to the man; but then, I suppose anyone writing short stories these days owes something to Mr. Carver.
  • Instead of turning to H. P. Lovecraft this Halloween (which I recommend to anyone), I read Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows, which can be found here in its entirety. Very creepy.
  • I also, finally, cracked open Dracula. Never read it before. So far, so good. Makes me want to trek across the Carpathians. The version I have includes an introduction in which all sorts of post-modern nonsense is ascribed to Stoker’s narrative. Yawn.

To a Cannibal, I Would Most Likely Taste Like Spicy Beef

…at least according to this exhaustive, peer-reviewed, and scientifically accurate quiz.

In other news, “Seinfeld” can teach us a lot about economics.

And one of the very first Apple computers, hand-built by Woz himself, is for sale.

A Salute to All the John Robert Monaghans

In the spring of 2008, I was on a photo assignment near downtown Spokane for one of our clients. We were shooting their employees in and around several locations, one of which happened to be the street median in front of the Spokane Club—near Monroe and Riverside. This location is the home of a tall bronze statue on a beautiful concrete base with the word MONAGHAN inscribed on it. Unlike the nearby Abraham Lincoln statue, this person doesn’t appear to be of the famous variety.

But that day, as we were preparing to shoot our subject, I read the words at the base of the statue: “During the retreat of the allied forces from the deadly fire and overwhelming number of the savage foe, he alone stood the fearful onslaught and sacrificed his life defending a wounded comrade lieutenant Philip V. Lansdale United States Navy.” For this act of bravery in 1899, U.S. Navy Ensign John Robert Monaghan was commemorated with a bronze statue in 1906. “Erected by the citizens of his native state,” it goes on to read.

But there’s more: Mr. Monaghan was born in my hometown, Chewelah, on March 26th, 1873. Surely, he must be the only native Chewelan with a statue in his honor.

I called my mom today to see what she knew about it. It turns out she’s been working on her church’s history, and told me that James Monaghan, John Robert’s father, donated the land where St. Mary of the Rosary Catholic Church and its former school reside—both of which I attended in my youth. So it would appear that I owe a great debt to this Annapolis graduate, not only for his heroic actions, but also for his family’s contribution that enabled the founding of Chewelah’s Catholic church in 1895.

So on this day, as we celebrate our veterans, let us not forget the men and women who have served – and continue to serve – our country. Those with statues, and those without.

CD of the Week

A couple of weeks ago, the suits here at AMD World Headquarters saw fit to upgrade my work-issue computer—a “gently used” 1983 Commodore 64 they assured me was all a writer really needed—to a screaming fast, drop-dead-gorgeous MacBook.

So, with 250GB of hard drive space to play with, my thoughts naturally turned to how much music I could load into my iTunes library. Which meant repeated trips to the cavernous temperature- and humidity-controlled CD storage facility located 30 feet below the surface of my back yard, which, in turn, led to today’s post: the first in an ongoing series of music recommendations.

Thelonious Monk
Live at the “It” Club

Recorded over two evenings in the fall of 1964, this double album shows Monk, along with Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), Larry Gales (bass), and Herlin Riley (drums) at their creative apex. The set is a mix of originals and standards, the latter including a 12-minute “I’m Getting Sentimental over You.” The sound is great, the playing superb, and the price—$16 and change at Amazon—hard to beat.

Because It’s Friday…

…I bring you the 100 coolest sports logos of all time. And, as a bonus, an infographic explaining how smartphone users see each other. Enjoy.

Out with the Old, in with the New

We’ve had the good pleasure of working with the local accounting and advisory firm LeMasterDaniels since late 2006. This Monday, they officially became LarsonAllen, the result of an acquisition by the Minneapolis-based accounting firm. Working in conjunction with LD’s talented in-house marketing group, our work has included a new logo, stationery system, brochures, advertising, a major revamp of their website, and a host of miscellaneous projects—none of which consumers can see today.

I’m reminded of just how fleeting design can be. Much of our work is intended to be temporary. Some things are meant to last just days, others several months, years, or maybe decades. But most of it—sooner or later—becomes ephemera. You get use to seeing your work disappear over time. So the most you can hope for is that it has served its purpose: to educate, inform, persuade, and ultimately help build a credible and relevant brand. Through the collaboration of many individuals and partners, I believe we did just that. Perhaps in a small way, we even helped make LD more desirable for acquisition so that it will continue to serve this region with even broader expertise.

Can you imagine the fire-sale prices on all those LeMasterDaniels-branded polo shirts, golf balls, coasters, cups, and caps?

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