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Mona Lisa and her pals

I saw an interesting news headline on Facebook this morning:

They linked a CNN story named, “ ‘Mona Lisa’: Hidden portraits ‘found underneath’ ” which I promptly read. Given that we’re talking about a painting, it’s not unreasonable to expect an image, right? I want to see! All CNN gives us is a description.

The hidden picture shows a woman looking into the distance, with no trace of the characteristic smile. Cotte believes he has discovered the genuine portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, also known as Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine merchant.

When reporting on a purely visual item, like a painting, I expect a photo. If that’s not possible, it’s not unreasonable to expect an explanation. Simply saying that the investigators haven’t yet released an image would be sufficient. Come on, CNN!

Despite the disappointing reporting, this is so interesting. There’s another painting under the Mona Lisa, or perhaps an earlier revision? It’s been there, and unknown, for five-hundred years. Of course I want to see it now!

Image capture from

Dawkins on astrology

Astrology […] is an aesthetic affront. Its pre-Copernican dabblings demean and cheapen astronomy, like using Beethoven for commercial jingles. It is also an insult to the science of psychology and the richness of human personality.

Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow, 1998

On accident

Over the years, I’ve heard many children say on accident rather than by accident. Kids haven’t learned the finer points of grammar and phrasing, so it’s but one of the many mistakes they sometimes make. This is born out by the fact that I’ve never heard any child over the age of about ten say it.

Until now. I saw a U.S. John Deere television ad in which the voice-over states:

To make sure people don’t break John Deere tractors on accident, we try to break them on purpose.

I was reading at the time and my head snapped up so quickly that I surprised myself. The only good thing I can stay about this is that I now know why kids make this mistake! Is on accident accepted usage somewhere in the U.S. or should John Deere be looking for a new ad agency before they embarrass themselves further?

Workplace recollections

Things I learned from my workplace neighbours:

  • Don’t use a squeaky grip exerciser in the office. Nearby coworkers will hear it and be annoyed.
  • Carefully consider your lunch choices if they’re strongly scented. Nearby coworkers will notice if you use the microwave oven to reheat a lunch that smells like burnt garbage or a tire fire.
  • Don’t trim your fingernails in the office. Nearby coworkers will hear and be annoyed.
  • Don’t spout off about how lotteries are a tax on the stupid, and then rush to join the office lottery pool because you don’t want to be left out if the pool members happen to strike it rich. Your coworkers will notice that you’re a hypocrite, and that you’ve got a big mouth.
  • Don’t create a ringtone of your very young child speaking a foreign tongue and keep your cellphone at maximum volume. Nearby coworkers will notice when you receive a call and believe you’ve summoned a tiny demon. Again.
  • Don’t trim your toenails in the office. Nearby coworkers will hear and be revolted.
  • Don’t take off your shoes if your feet smell like a wet dog. Nearby coworkers will smell it and be annoyed. They’ll wonder why you don’t wash your feet. Why don’t you wash your feet‽
  • If you’re caught airing out your dog feet once, simply don’t do it again. Don’t tell your co-worker to tell you if your feet bothers him/her again. Keep your shoes on. Why would you risk subjecting your pleasant co-workers to your weapons-grade feet?
  • Don’t chew your lunch with your mouth open. Nearby coworkers will suddenly find themselves not very hungry.
  • Don’t take it a step further and talk to them while chewing. They may throw up on you if they can’t get away quickly enough.
  • Don’t change in your cubicle. If you ignore this advice, your bad karma will certainly have your neighbour pass by just as you’re stripped down to your underwear. Your neighbour will then be forever traumatized by this unwelcome and unpleasant image. Don’t feel relief that only one person saw you, as everyone else in the office will hear about it before lunch.
  • It’s fine if you never talk to your coworkers, but then don’t blow up at them months later because they don’t talk to you.
  • Mute your cellphone. This is doubly important if you text frequently with your spouse. Ignore this advice and nearby coworkers will fight over the privilege of shanking you the next time you visit the washroom.
  • Don’t wear sandals over your socks. If you do, your coworkers will notice and wonder why you don’t know how to dress yourself.
  • Please have more than one shirt, and make sure all your shirts aren’t identical. If you only have one shirt, your coworkers will notice and think you’re gross. If all your shirts are the same, you coworkers will believe you have only one shirt and think you’re gross.
  • Don’t spit in the kitchen sink at work. Your coworkers will notice and wonder what’s wrong with you.
  • If you bring canned drinks to work and forget to put them in the refrigerator when you arrive, don’t put one in the freezer to get it cold quickly when you find yourself suddenly thirsty. You’ll forget, it’ll burst, and when you go to get it, five people will be gathered around the freezer griping about the jerk who left his drink in the freezer. You coworkers will notice you standing there and you’ll be forced to agree with them and leave without your drink.
  • Don’t talk to your invisible friends in the office. Nearby coworkers will hear you and realize you’ve got toys in the attic.
  • Don’t forget your condom wrapper in the mop closet. Your coworkers will notice and…isn’t that enough?

I’ve witnessed these events in all but one case. In that instance, I was the offender.

Do you have any lessons you’ve learned? Let me know in the comments!

Film? I don’t think so.

It always happens. When you notice a new quirk of language, you begin to hear it more and more often, in many different places. It’s almost as if you’re more attuned to it, so it is suddenly everywhere. Unfortunately, the same thing is true for incorrect uses.

Such is the case for me and the word film. The use of actual film has been on the decline for more than fifteen years. When you go to the theatre to see a film, it’s not film. When you film something with your phone, it definitely isn’t film! Still, people keeping using it.

Part of the problem is that there’s not a nice drop-in replacement. For both film and tape, the noun translates to the verb when you record on the medium. Such isn’t the case with flash memory and hard drives. Record works perfectly, but I suspect that people associate the term specifically with audio. Still, it’s the most accurate and as a bonus, it’s not media-specific.

It doesn’t work for going to the theatre though. My favourite term for that is an old one. In old films, they used to call them pictures. “Hey, do you want to go out tonight and see a picture?” or “Do you want to go to the picture show?” I haven’t been able to bring myself to use it, but I find it utterly charming. I suppose the dull and colourless movie will fill end up filling the gap.

If you do nothing else, for goodness sakes, stop saying that you film or tape video with your phone. You never have and never will.

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