Skip navigation

Your Friday Reads

Globe and Mail Update

icon George Carlin's death hit harder than most people expected. He was such a great and prolific stand-up comic that it seemed he'd never go away.

In an appreciation of Carlin, comic Jerry Seinfeld wrote a brief but succinct piece called Dying Is Hard. Comedy Is Harder.

He writes: "I couldn't even count the number of times I've been standing around with some comedians and someone talks about some idea for a joke and another comedian would say, 'Carlin does it.' I've heard it my whole career: 'Carlin does it,' 'Carlin already did it,' 'Carlin did it eight years ago.'...

"I know George didn't believe in heaven or hell. Like death, they were just more comedy premises. And it just makes me even sadder to think that when I reach my own end, whatever tumbling cataclysmic vortex of existence I'm spinning through, in that moment I will still have to think, 'Carlin already did it.'"

Meanwhile, writing in BuzzMachine, Jeff Jarvis has a short but perfect response to George Carlin's death. In its entirety, it reads: "He no longer needs a place for his stuff. Damn."


icon In a tirade that would warm the heart of any editor, Paul Collins sounds the alarm for the semicolon, which he says is rapidly moving toward extinction (Has Modern Life Killed the Semicolon?).

Arguing against essayist and literary critic Sven Birkerts, who blames the Internet for punctuational decline, Collins says that "from the 1850s onward, it's virtually impossible to find anyone claiming a prevalence of semicolons in writing. We now lived, complained a critic in 1854, in a 'fast era' that neglected punctuation; by 1895, the Times took it for granted that 'many writers have adopted the plan of punctuating as little as possible.' What these writers intuited had an empirical basis: A 1995 study tallying punctuation in period texts found a stunning drop in semicolon usage between the 18th and 19th centuries, from 68.1 semicolons per thousand words to just 17.7.'

Collins says that Morse code and the telegraph were a semicolon's slippery slope: "Perusing telegraph manuals reveals that Morse code is to the semicolon what weedkiller is to the dandelion. Punctuation was charged at the same rate as words, and their high price — trans-Atlantic cables originally cost a still-shocking $5 per word — meant that short, punchy lines with minimal punctuation were necessary among businessmen and journalists."


icon Internet entrepreneur and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, a staunch supporter of presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, feels that Senator McCain is in trouble and needs "an intervention."

"A major theme is that John McCain has a lot to offer, but over the last year, we've heard nothing from him; instead, we hear from the predatory lobbyists putting words in his mouth," he writes. "That's why he seems to have flip flopped so much recently; the best example, by undermining the troops by attacking the new GI Bill, while misrepresenting it. ... I suggest that the people who admire him (including me) find a way to stage an intervention to free him."

Nice use of the semicolon there.


iconSocial networking isn't very social, argues Rhodri Marsden in Facebook Faux-Pas: The Geek's Guide to Netiquette.

It's a "minefield for manners," he says, and offers golden rules, embellished and updated from the etiquette guide Debrett's Correct Form.

Here's a sample: "Don't mix business with pleasure: Your list of social networking buddies will grow into an unholy collection of people who, in everyday life, you'd probably go to great lengths to keep apart. Your colleagues and mates will become aware of each other, and if you've taken great care to construct a hard-working persona in the office, it's going to surprise your line manager when he discovers you're a foul-mouthed waster with a penchant for Brazilian porn. More terrifying is the shock of receiving a friendly request from a parent. If you deny it, you'll be seen as secretive. If you accept, your mum will know why you are so secretive. Facebook's 'Compare People' application recently asked a friend which of two of her friends they'd rather sleep with: The choice was between her brother and her dad."


iconIt turns out it isn't just the fanboys who have fallen in love with Apple's iPhone, reports Jeremy Caplan in the online version of Time magazine, but pornographers (The iPhone's Next Frontier: Porn). And Apple knows it: "Steve Jobs' company is keeping a civil, if embarrassed, silence on one of the potentially most lucrative and controversial uses of its handheld jewel."

He continues: "The technological feats of the 3G iPhone are key to the coming pornucopia. To date, mobile porn has consisted largely of still images, racy text services and 'moan tones,' which are sultry-sounding ring tones. In Europe there is an active market for video chatting; customers pay on average $50 a month to exchange dirty messages with actresses. But now, thanks in large part to the iPhone's video dexterity, short clips are becoming a staple of the mobile porn business. The speed promised by the iPhone 2.0 is much anticipated. Google Trends, which measures Web buzz, shows a sharp increase over the past year in the popularity of the term 'iPhone porn.'"


iconOne new technological trend has spooked Bruce Schneier, author of a book called Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World.

In Security Matters: I've Seen the Future, and It Has a Kill Switch, Schneier says that "it used to be that just the entertainment industries wanted to control your computers — and televisions and iPods and everything else — to ensure that you didn't violate any copyright rules. But now everyone else wants to get their hooks into your gear. OnStar will soon include the ability for the police to shut off your engine remotely. Buses are getting the same capability, in case terrorists want to re-enact the movie Speed. The Pentagon wants a kill switch installed on airplanes, and is worried about potential enemies installing kill switches on their own equipment."

He concludes that this is part of a conspiracy: "This is really about media companies wanting to exert their control further over your electronics. They not only want to prevent you from surreptitiously recording movies and concerts, they want your new television to enforce good 'manners' on your computer, and not allow it to record any programs. They want your iPod to politely refuse to copy music [to] a computer other than your own. They want to enforce their legislated definition of manners: to control what you do and when you do it, and to charge you repeatedly for the privilege whenever possible."

Recommend this article? 3 votes

Back to top