Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Spooky Spelling Variation

Earlier this month, my friend Lindsay visited the Live Oak Canyon Christmas Tree Farm and Pumpkin Patch in Redlands, California, to find the perfect pumpkin in the farm’s U-Pick field. (You can read about her day, with its cornucopia of fall-themed fun, here.)

Lindsay’s trip benefitted both of us. She got her pumpkin in the patch, and I got a pumpkin sign in need of patching.

Today’s song and dance concerns an unusual absence in the VARIETIES show. Dispense with the theatrics, you say? Fine.

Variety is the (pumpkin) spice of life. Sometimes. Not when it comes to spelling. The word VARIETIES always has been, and always will be, spelled with nine letters. Unlike a witch, we can’t cast different spells. Someone at Live Oak Canyon did, squashing a letter. The first E, like the Great Pumpkin, failed to materialize. I don’t see it in the middle, which is why I see IT in the middle. I don’t like it. If you do, you’re out of your gourd.

VARITIES and VARIETIES are virtually the same. Virtually. Not entirely. VARITIES varies from VARIETIES, marring its veracity. That is verity.

When she wasn’t picking a pumpkin, my IAMNOTASTALKER friend Lindsay was stalking the corn stalks of the farm’s a-maize-ing labyrinth for an exit. It took her two hours, and she took a few wrong turns in the cornfield, but she made it through unscathed. I can’t say the same for the sign’s creator. He neared the very end, with the finish line in sight, but hit a rough, ahem, patch and failed to carve two E’s in VARIETIES.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Vons-dalism Epilogue

Maybe, just maybe, people are checking out my blog. More than three months after I wrote a “Vons-dalism” post about a faulty sign at a Vons grocery store in La Quinta, California, a mystery person took action. Yesterday Lindsay, my friend from IAMNOTASTALKER, sent me the photo below. She wanted to know if I visited La Quinta recently without telling her. I live almost 3,000 miles away and was not in La Quinta. Someone else scratched an essential S on the sign — someone who I’m guessing (and hoping) reads When Write Is Wrong.

This grammatical graffiti artist knows that in sentence construction, as in life, it’s the little things that matter. I don’t condone defacing public property, mind you, but now, like one of the Seven Dwarfs, I’m happy.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hotel Guessed

Want to travel near the coast, in a state known for its warm, sunny weather? Want to stay at an architecturally stunning hotel built in the 1920s? Want to remain close to Hollywood? Want the hotel to have presidential and World War II ties? Want the hotel to have been used as a filming location for a Will Smith movie? “Let’s stay at the Biltmore Hotel,” you say. Say more. That line won’t suffice. Two Biltmore hotels exist that meet all those requirements — one in California, one in Florida.

The Californian Biltmore, known officially as the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, opened in downtown Los Angeles in October 1923 and was the largest hotel west of Chicago. The 683-room hotel has hosted eight Academy Awards ceremonies, and during World War II it served as a military rest and recreation facility. Senator John F. Kennedy used it as campaign headquarters in 1960. Scenes from Independence Day were filmed there.

The Floridian Biltmore opened next to an 18-hole golf course in January 1926 and was the tallest building in the state. The 275-room part-palazzo, part-castle has the largest hotel pool in the continental United States, and during World War II the hotel served as a hospital. President Obama spoke there during a 2012 campaign stop. Portions of Bad Boys were shot there.

When the L.A.-based Biltmore opened to “Host of the Coast” fanfare in the early ‘20s, did architects stop working? No, they built more Biltmores. The Biltmore in Coral Gables, a city southwest of Miami, opened three years later. More than 2,740 driving miles (or 2,330 miles, as the crow flies) separate the two hotels. Someone, it seems, failed to give Flavorwire this wake-up call.

My friend Lindsay, of IAMNOTASTALKER, was reading a Flavorwire article about 50 trips every movie fan should take when she had some reservations about the photo accompanying the Biltmore entry.

No need to light up a candle and show Lindsay the way. She knew that building, with its Italian and Spanish influences, wasn’t the Hotel California. It’s a lovely place with a lovely face, sure, but you can’t find it here, any time of year — here being Los Angeles. The pictured hotel, like the voices that wake you up in the middle of the night, is far away. Flavorwire got its wires crossed, writing about the Biltmore in L.A. but showing the Biltmore 2,000-plus miles away.

I must credit Flavorwire, which isn’t programmed to deceive, for recognizing its mistake and making the necessary repairs. Now, when you check in to the website’s article about 50 must-see places, you can check out a rebuilt Biltmore.

Oh, by the way, should you have a thirst for pink champagne on ice, I’d recommend enjoying “a drink,” not “at drink,” in the Biltmore’s Crystal Ballroom, where the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded during a banquet in 1927.

Friday, October 25, 2013

What's Up, Doc?

Great Scot!

Oh, wait — that should have read “Great Scott!” I omitted the last T. It happens.

In fact, a similar scenario popped up on a toy related to this blogger’s favorite movie. Pop! docked a letter from Doc’s first name, so it’s time for me to pop the question: Where’s the other T?

It’s missing, of course, like a case of plutonium from the Pacific Nuclear Research Facility.

I may know why Pop! toyed with the name, failing to emit Emmett’s ultimate letter. The same incorrect spelling shows up during the film. Emmet is visible when Marty McFly, shortly after arriving in 1955, thumbs through a phone book at Lou’s CafĂ© and finds a listing for “Brown Emmet L scientist.”

Marty rips the page from the phone book, moseys over to the lunch counter and, if I recall correctly, has the following conversation with the establishment’s owner:

          Marty: Gimme a Tab.

          Lou: Tab? I can’t give you a tab unless you order something.

          Marty: Right, gimme a Pepsi Free.

          Lou: You wanna Pepsi, pal, you’re gonna pay for it.

          Marty: Well, just gimme T, OK?

          Lou: Tea?

          Marty: Actually, give me two T’s.

Strange that the crazy, wild-eyed scientist’s first name, in a state of flux, wasn’t filled to capacity on the package or in the phone book. It can — and should — hold six letters. Another T is just what the Doc ordered.

The T may have vanished from that Pop! quizzical box and phony phone book like a DeLorean going 88 mph in the Twin Pines Mall parking lot, but it does show up in Back to the Future’s end credits and in several other scenes throughout the trilogy. Emmett is the first word of a banner headline on a 1983 alternate-reality edition of the Hill Valley Telegraph, and it’s etched on Doc’s 1885 tombstone.

Be more careful in the future, Pop! If my calculations are correct, whenever Doc’s first name hits six letters, you’re going to see some serious Emmett.

Editor’s note: Today’s post came into existence at 8:18 a.m. on Friday, October 25 — the exact time, day and date used in the opening scene of a certain touchstone film of the ’80s. Tonight at 1:20 a.m. Einstein will become the world’s first time traveler. Temporal experiment number one is mere hours away!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What You Talkin' 'Bout, Willis?

Cleveland could advance to the Super Bowl this season, though history suggests otherwise. The Browns, an NFL doormat of sorts, haven’t made the playoffs in more than a decade and are one of only four current teams never to play in the NFL’s title game.* (The Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans are the others.) Still, anything is possible. Check that. I know of one scenario that is not possible: a Cleveland-Denver Super Bowl.

The NFL is split into two conferences, the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). Each conference contains 16 teams, organized into four geographic divisions of four teams each. (See the chart below.) Six teams from each conference make the playoffs, and the respective conference champions meet in the Super Bowl.

Cleveland is an AFC team. So is Denver. As such, the ultimate Browns-Broncos brawl would have to take place in the AFC Championship Game, for a spot in the Super Bowl.

Running back Willis McGahee played for Denver in 2012, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury that November, and the Broncos released him the following June — not July, as the blurb states. (Professional football is a cutthroat, bottom-line business.) Three months later, McGahee signed with Cleveland. In a recent interview with USA Today, the two-time Pro Bowl player pondered the possibilities of his new team, surprisingly tied for first place in its division at the time, crossing paths with his old team in the playoffs — but not in the Super Bowl.

Cleveland battling Denver for possession of the Vince Lombardi Trophy would be a dream Super Bowl matchup in every sense of the word dream. Even my beloved Dallas Cowboys, from the NFC, have a better shot of facing the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII this season.

Well, maybe not.

* The Browns are an expansion team that began in 1999. The original Cleveland Browns franchise, which went to three AFC Championships (losing all of them to, ironically enough, Denver), became the Baltimore Ravens in 1996. The Ravens have played in — and won — two Super Bowls.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The "Post" Knows No Bounds

North Carolina and South Carolina became royal colonies in 1729. Six years later, under the direction of King George II, surveyors using compasses and rudimentary tools of the era set about to create a border between the two colonies. The boundary was to begin roughly 30 miles from the mouth of the Cape Fear River, run northwest to 35 degrees latitude and then extend westward, making adjustments around Catawba to keep the Catawba Indians in South Carolina. The on-again, off-again task lasted decades. Notched trees, stakes and stone markers separated North from South, and a border was officially set four years before America gained its independence.

Though straight for long stretches, the border, more than 330 miles long, zigs and zags near its midpoint. You can be driving in a Charlotte suburb in North Carolina, head north and wind up in South Carolina. No lie.

In the mid-1990s officials from both Carolinas created a joint commission and began a project to reestablish the state line, one aimed at marking a definitive, permanent border. Unable to rely on the notched trees and other markers, which had succumbed to the ravages of time long ago, the surveyors used old maps and new technology (GPS) to determine the boundary, down to the centimeter. The task crept forward, as bureaucratic projects tend to do, delayed by problems, financial and otherwise. The survey created a state line and stately headaches.

The new state line shifted a few hundred feet in spots, and in early 2012 households and businesses in those areas, whether they liked it or not, had a new address, state and all. Moves were more metaphysical than physical. A gas station/convenience store in Clover, South Carolina, for instance, now sat in Gastonia, North Carolina, where gas prices were 30 cents higher and fireworks, which the mini-mart sold, were illegal.

The small shift created big concerns for the unfortunate folks who went from North to South, or vice versa. Consider all the issues that arise when you change your address. Those issues are magnified when the move is to another state and is unexpected. Tax rates. Utilities. School districts. Area codes. The issues are myriad, the impact great.

I’ve shared this long and winding border tale to establish that North Carolina and South Carolina share a state line. You can’t see it, unless you’re looking at a map like the one above, but it’s there. It’s an imaginary line separating our nation’s 12th state (N.C.) from its eighth (S.C.). A Caro-line, if you will.

Allow me to state that in another way: North Carolina and South Carolina are separate states. One is known for the mountains on its western end. The other is popular because of the beaches on its east coast. One is conservative. The other is more conservative. One favors vinegar-based barbecue sauces. The other prefers yellow mustard BBQ sauces. One is the Tar Heel State. The other is the Palmetto State.

The New York Post didn’t get the memo, and that’s the (compass) point of today’s post.

The Gamecocks of South Carolina and North Carolina’s Tar Heels kicked off the 2013 college football season in Columbia, South Carolina. “So. Carolina” is New York Post deck shorthand for South Carolina, and in this case it refers to the football team at the University of South Carolina. UNC stands for the University of North Carolina.

To play this football game, the UNC team had to cross the aforementioned border and venture into a different state, albeit one with colonial ties. UNC faced an interstate rival, not an in-state one. UNC’s in-state rivals are North Carolina State (Raleigh), Wake Forest (Winston-Salem) and, atop the list, Duke (Durham).

The newspaper committed a Post-al error when it failed to recognize the fine line that exists between in-state and interstate — and the imaginary line that exists between North Carolina and South Carolina.

Now, about the Dakotas…

Friday, October 18, 2013

Partners in Crime

Both images below are from an article about stepparents. The article offered eight tips to make stepparenting more rewarding. Yours truly has one tip for the writer — one to enhance your writing style. Use your!

In two of the eight tips, the writer used you instead of your in front of partner. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

Step up, writer, and toss a couple of r's into this article. Otherwise, I may have to poke fun at you. You know, tell some "your mama" jokes. Or, to be more in step with today's article, some "your stepmama" jokes.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Keep E in Mind

The cartoon I came across in USA Today
You know the drill: I keep an eye out for mistakes, and when I find one, I share it with you. Well, I'm pumped! I spotted one in this political cartoon, which was published in USA Today. Keep your eye on keep in President Obama's speech bubble; it has kept on keeping on. A Times-Picayune cartoonist tanked when he accidentally inserted an extra e, and now he must pay, though not nearly as much as an American motorist filling his gas-guzzling Hummer.

Presidents, like Obama, have term limits. Words, like keep, have e limits, so e-liminate one of those three vowels. Consider it a budget cut.

Whew! That's it for me. I'm out of gas.
A color version, as seen on

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sticker Shock

As a stickler for accuracy, I must snicker at these bumpy stickers.


I’m at odds with that.

In seeking a donation from my parents in the fight against childhood cancer, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital sent personalized stickers for use on envelopes, gift packages and the like. If my parents were to give a gift, it would be from the Evanses, not the Evanss.

To form the plural of a proper name ending in s, add es, just as you would for most common nouns ending in s. Examples include addresses, bonuses, gases and lenses.

An e in Evanses has evanesced. Getting it back would allow this family to coalesce. It’s the right thing to do. If you want to keep up with the Joneses, that is.

P.S. If you receive a joint gift from baseball player Evan Longoria and actress Evan Rachel Wood, it’s from Evans.

Friday, October 11, 2013

An Injury Report

Where am I? I'm sitting at my desk, composing this post. Where is i? I don't know. That's why I'm sitting at my desk, composing this post.

A little hard work never hurt anyone, but a bit of careless work hurt this sentence. By omitting the second i, the writer has, well, added insult to injuries. Did the letter get cut? If so, that makes this particular injury a laceration. Was it removed? That'd make this an amputation. All I know is, I can't locate the i. Oh, that makes this a dislocation.

Ouch! That hurts.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

We've Got an F-N Problem

It may be counterproductive to admit this here, but I'm part of a dying breed that prefers to do most of his leisure reading on printed materials as opposed to digital screens. I'm not bashing the latter. Both formats have their merits. I get that. I'm simply sharing my preference — an analog one in a digital world. I don't own a Kindle, and though I check out my fair share of short online pieces, I don't spend hours reading on a computer, tablet or smartphone. It's cliche, but I prefer the physical feel of a book, magazine or newspaper in my hands — paper cuts, newsprint ink and all. It's difficult to explain. I equate it to the belief that your meal somehow tastes better if you're eating it on the back porch on a warm, sunny summer day. It has something to do with the way "real" reading materials engage my five senses. Well, four of my five senses. I have yet to try eating my childhood copy of Green Eggs and Ham.

The mere sight of a particular book on my shelf can trigger specific, nostalgic memories, in much the same way hearing a particular song can instantly transport me to a bygone time. When it comes to "hearing" reading materials, I speak not of listening to audio books but of the simple sounds that I'd miss if I were to immerse myself in an e-world: the whoosh of crinkled magazine pages as I turn them; the flap-flap-flap as I thumb through the trimmed edge opposite the spine, book pages going a mile a minute; the thump of a hefty hardcover snapping shut.

I'd miss, too, the feel of turning an actual page, which sure beats clicking "Next page." No e-reader could mimic the weight of a novel, its open pages pressing down on my chest as I lie in bed at night, and no e-version of Sports Illustrated could fit in my hand as snugly as a real, rolled-up copy.

Don't forget the smell. Oh, the smell! What bibliophile's olfactory senses haven't gone into overdrive from the familiar scent of old, dog-eared, yellowed pages? It's as if the past, in all its glory, is seeping from the pages every time you take a whiff. So many untold stories. So many unanswered questions. Who owned this book? Where have its travels taken it? Oh, if the worn-out copies on my shelves could talk!

I'm not anti-technology, mind you. I do get much of my news from the Internet, but I can only stare at a cold, impersonal screen for so long. Reading my "hard copies" is easier on my eyes, easier on my soul. If I want to, I can scribble notes in the margins. I can clip articles for friends. I can fold the corners of pages that interest me. I can do all this without being affected by power outages, network connections and the like. No batteries required. Olivia Newton-John was right: Let's get physical.

For the time being, I thank you for getting digital and checking out today's post, which pertains to — you guessed it — books. Have you heard of the Little Free Library movement? Probably not. Little Free Libraries, which are typically the size of large mailboxes, are handcrafted boxes located on front lawns from coast to coast. They are filled with books for anyone to take. (For more info, visit

The premise of Little Free Library is simple: "Take a book, leave a book." In that vein, I give you: Take an f (from of), leave an n (for on).

That closes the book on today's post.

Monday, October 7, 2013

On the Chopping Block

My mother alerted me to an ABC News article about the discovery of Lizzie Borden's attorney's handwritten journals. You know Lizzie Borden, right? She's the New England woman who was accused of murdering her parents with an ax in the late 19th century. Borden was acquitted, but the general consensus at the time was that she had made like O.J. Simpson and gotten away with murder. That's why we have the terse, perverse children's rhyme. Perhaps you're familiar with it:

Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother 40 whacks.
When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41.

As mentioned, Borden was found not guilty in her notorious trial. The writer of this article won't get off so lucky. She committed two misdemeanors, and now I have an ax to grind.

By a show of hands, how many readers were able to spot the first crime? Need a helping hand? It may not be evident, but the le is not on hand in the described evidence. Borden supposedly used a hatchet without a handle, not a hatchet without a hand. It was a "handleless hatchet," not a "handless hatchet."

Now that we've gotten a handle on the first crime, let's proceed with our blow-by-blow account.

It's as plain as day that as has been portrayed improperly. We need to ax that h and fix this hatchet job immediately. Do that, and I won't fly off the handle.

Friday, October 4, 2013

My Old Kentucky Home

What in the name of Colonel Sanders is going on? A map accompanying a USA Today story about a natural gas and oil boom in the Mid-Atlantic region is mislabeled. Can you spot the error? I'll give you "Tenn." seconds to do so. Hint: One of the five states bordering West Virginia is incorrect.

Make a trek to the southwest corner of West Virginia and you'll notice that Tennessee has waltzed in and claimed Kentucky's land. What will become of the Bluegrass State? Will horse-racing enthusiasts sip their mint juleps at the Tennessee Derby? Will fast-food aficionados have hankerings for TFC?

Let's take a Louisville Slugger to this map. Ky. needs to go where Tenn. now stands. Tenn. must move one state south, where the "Miles" scale is located. It has no business being in Kentucky's bacKyard.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Great, Great, Great, Great Depression

That opening sentence, like 8.3 percent of the U.S. population in January, isn't working. You don't have to dig any deeper into the numbers to learn why. The numbers are correct; it's the words (one word, actually) that have created unimaginable economic horrors and relegated the Great Depression to a hiccup.

The photo below shows the intro to an article about whether the age of 16 is too soon to drop out of school. (In almost 20 states, students have to stay in school only until they're 16; most states require students to remain in school until 17 or 18.) In general, the longer you stay in school, the more likely you are to be employed as an adult. If you're employed, the unemployment rate is lower.

That's unemployment rate, not employment rate.

The un-, following in the footsteps of many high school students across the country, dropped out. As a result, we have a 91.7 percent unemployment rate. Yikes! The 8.3 percent unemployment rate is bad enough (believe me, I have first-hand knowledge), but 91.7 percent is catastrophic. If it were 91.7 percent, we'd all be clamoring for the, by comparison, halcyon days of the 1930s, when unemployment rates were "only" 20 to 25 percent. Every day would be black, not just Monday.

Unbeknownst to the writer, he uncorked an unacceptable fact error. This article has been undone by a missing un-, the result of which is unfathomable unemployment. That's unfortunate. We've got to get to work undoing this error. Look at me, creating jobs during an unusual economic downturn! I'm believable. I mean unbelievable. (Did I go too far? I can't help it. I'm unable to stop. In other words, I'm unstoppable.)