Wednesday, November 4, 2015

An Update and Some Nitpicking

The picture above is of an Ai Weiwei Lego sculpture. It is one of 176 images of political prisoners made by the Chinese artist and displayed last year at the former Alcatraz Prison in California.  

Recently Lego refused to sell any of its products to Ai, a former political prisoner himself, because Lego did not want its toys involved in politics.  I discussed this a couple weeks ago -- "Thinking About China: Ai Weiwei."

Well, hahaha.  On Oct. 21, the the British firm that operates Legoland theme parks announced that its next location will be in -- of all places -- Shanghai, which happens to be in China.  What a surprise.  

Meanwhile, volunteers in cities around the world (including Beijing) are collecting Legos to send to Ai; You can look them up on Twitter at #LegosforWewei.  

Happily, not everybody is afraid of a little bit of politics. 

More Fun with Words

I now will don my curmudgeon hat.  Follow along if you wish.


"Much of the case centered around a 2011 state law regarding program accreditations, and whether or not the school properly notified students about the law."
     This "centered around" business has to stop.  A thing can be in the center 
     of something or around the center.  By definition, it cannot be both.  The
     phrase is sloppy and discredits the person who uses it.
     Also, "whether" is just as good as "whether or not," and probably better.  
     "Whether" implies the possibility of "or not."  

     Back in the days of hot type, when every single character in a news story 
     was plugged manually into a heavy frame for printing, editors prized 
     economies of phrasing.  They excised "or not" every time they saw it. 
     The practice should be resumed. 


"A spokesman for Star Career Academy said in a written statement Monday that the school previously determined the state law did not impact its students ability to practice as surgical techs in the state and stands by its program." 

     Fish in a barrel here.  "Students ability" makes no sense.  "Students' ability" 
     does make sense.

     "And stands by its program" is too far away from "the school previously 
     determined." The result is confusing.  

     In my journalism school, this kind of sentence would be marked "CNS," 
     for "chicken noodle soup."  I don't know the origin of this formulation, 
     but once you hear it, you remember it.  And you know it when you see it. 


"Christie accused Sweeney of acting on motives of wanting to be the state's next governor."

     "Acting on motives?"  Really?  Any thoughtful fifth grader could write 
     a more effective sentence here.


 The juvenile was court-ordered to stay at Ranch Hope.

     No.  Court-hyphen-ordered is not a descriptive phrase here.  It also is not 
     a verb.  And "stay" is a weak formulation for imprisonment. The juvenile 
     isn't being told to walk to the Ranch House and "stay" there.

     Better -- "The judge ordered the juvenile to be held at Ranch House."

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