Month: May 2015

James Stewart is the protagonist in “Harvey,” the 1950 film in which our man Elwood P. Dowd’s best friend is a 6-foot-3½ invisible rabbit, a pooka. This causes concern in Elwood’s family. Is it the booze? Is he crazy?

Is he more clever than all of them?

There will be no answers here. The reason for this post is this “Harvey” quote stuck in my head, and the reason why.

“In this world … you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.”

For about a decade, if I saw those words on my computer screen, chances are there was something worth reading above them. That quote from the movie was part of the tagline of SF_Express at, a site where I and many others in the newspaper business (and other walks of life) discussed journalism, writing, editing, pop culture, current events, nonsense and further nonsense. SF_Express brought considerable experience and wisdom to bear on many topics, especially about good writing and editing. The tagline on his posts at also included a link to his blog, which changed names a time or two, but mostly was about using words well.

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misquotedCartoon by Cartoonresource

This is the longest piece I’ve posted here to date. It’s about the way we quote people —  and misquote them. It’s a lot of words about sometimes minor differences between the reality of what someone says and the popular but inaccurate way it’s later retold. In the end, very little of substance is affected, but it’s always been interesting to me the way what a person says, quite often, goes down in history as something other than the actual, verbatim quote.

Equally engrossing to me is deciding when it matters and when it doesn’t. Most times, it’s nothing more than a minor footnote, of interest only to someone like me who enjoys dissecting and analyzing what people say and how other people retell it. For most people, this entry falls into the “too long, didn’t read” category, and that’s OK. But if you have a similar interest in how quotes become misquotes, you might have noticed these things too. Also, if you make it to the end, you’ll be rewarded with a couple of fun videos that poke fun at misquoted lines, or list dozens and dozens of them. So, there’s that.

Don’t misunderstand me (or misquote me): This is not a dissertation, nor an indictment of the way popular culture hands down such quotes. Also, I don’t have the answers from oral-history experts regarding questions I have about this common dynamic, and I don’t have scientific explanations, particularly regarding misheard or misremembered quotes, but I’ve enjoyed collecting and writing about phrases that have become part of history or pop culture, or both. And, as I consider this post a work in progress, a collection of notes I’ve kept over the years, expect it to be augmented and perhaps annotated from time to time.

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keyboardPhoto by BrianWancho

And now for something completely different.

2015-05-19 22.48.372015-05-19 22.35.58
2015-05-19 22.50.252015-05-19 22.55.032015-05-19 22.53.49To hear what it sounds like, click here: Hanx writer app typing sounds.

If you haven’t seen it before, check it out with this iTunes preview.

Bon app, Tom.


2015-05-19 19.58.57OK, technically, it’s not a quote, but I’m giving myself some latitude on this one. I caught the end of the 1997 film “Contact” on cable tonight, and no matter how many times I see the final scene fade to … well, not black, but to a sky full of stars … I’m always caught off guard by what appears next.

The movie has some interesting moments, and some quotes I like, but for some reason this is always my new favorite part when it appears.

Of course, the filmmakers are referring to Carl Sagan.

And that’s pretty cool, too.

“Movie Quote Stuck in My Head” is self-explanatory, but it’s more than that. It’s a chance to dig inside an old quote for new meaning, or a new quote for an old truth, or to chew on a line for fun or sustenance. It’s also inspired by and a tribute to “Real Time Song Stuck in My Head,” a popular feature on the Twitter feed of the late Craig Stanke, a former editor for and, for too short a time, a leader by example to me during my time working there.

2015-04-28 13.33.55Today is my mom’s birthday. I wrote about her eight days ago, on Mother’s Day. She died July 3, 2006, after a hard fight with lymphoma and other unsolved mysteries. A few months later, my sisters began the bittersweet task of going through her things and discovering forgotten souvenirs and curious keepsakes in her home.

You will find images of one of them as you scroll.

My mom was a smart shopper. She bought when items were on sale, bought with coupons and stretched a dollar near its breaking point. She also bought in bulk those things she knew she’d be buying down the road. One such example, apparently, is birthday cards. One of the discoveries my sister made upon closer inspection of my mother’s living-room desk was, in a slotted organizer on the old-fashioned kind of desktop, a birthday card for a son. Because I have three sisters and no brother, we could assume the card was for me. She had to have bought it before April 9, 2006, the last day she saw her home before going to Houston for a fourth biopsy and further treatment. She never recovered from the complications of the biopsy, and she never came home.

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Looking through things I’ve written, I stumbled upon something I blogged almost a decade ago. After a stop at a convenience store close to home, I had to put my thoughts into words:

Joe works the overnight shift at a nearby Circle K. When I lived in this neighborhood from 1999-2002, I met Joe after stopping in for a midnight snack or a roll of paper towels. He is the kind of cool I wouldn’t mind being: uncomplicated, unaffected, rushing for nobody and yet in no way a slacker. He works two, maybe three jobs to make ends meet.

I lived in an apartment in another neighborhood, then moved back here in October 2004. The first time I stopped at the ol’ Circle K after relocating, there was Joe, restocking between waves of customers.

This Circle K is in the crosshairs of a convergence of wildly different neighborhoods, a short walk from a highway exit fully capable of depositing drifters, across the street from an all-night bar no cop would care to investigate — and popular after midnight. I’ve seen people dancing in the parking lot to music playing on their car stereos. I’ve seen fights. I’ve seen people drive up and just sit in their cars, waiting … for what?

I worry about Joe. Late-night crime documentaries are rife with security-camera video of convenience-store robberies and murders. This is the reason I prefer the term “overnight shift” to the more common version when I talk about Joe.

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So, we’ve learned that statistical analysis shows that punk was not a musical revolution.

It’s time to cease those perpetual debates with your friends about whether Nirvana’s Nevermind was a musical revolution. Once again, science has done its job, and we can all stop having differing opinions on a subject that was previously thought to be open to subjective interpretation. According to the BBC, a recent scientific study has demonstrated definitively that pop music has been marked by exactly three revolutions, no more, and no less. So it’s time to cool it with that “Elvis changed everything” nonsense.Queen Mary University and Imperial College in London looked at more than 17,000 songs from the United States’ Billboard Hot 100 Chart, and found exactly three “music revolutions,” something which can definitely be quantified and logged as pure data. The scientists defined a revolution as a “period of extremely rapid change within the charts.” Evaluating a number of musical characteristics, such as timbre, harmony, chord changes, and how they shifted over time, these intrepid researchers were able to pinpoint exactly when these musical revolutions happened, and can confirm that, no, punk rock really didn’t change anything.

Source: Science proves there were exactly three pop music revolutions, so that’s settled · Newswire · The A.V. Club

Reading about this, I couldn’t help but remember a comment by a friend’s 13-year-old daughter years ago after she saw “Sid and Nancy.”

“I love the punk movement. It was really a romantic movement disguised by horribleness.”

I know I didn’t say anything that interesting when I was 13. Her mom told me she made the comment after seeing the movie and reading the following passage written by Colin McDowell in Harper’s Bazaar:

“Powerful enough to frighten old ladies in the street, punk was actually a romantic movement hiding its insecurities and fears behind a buccaneering, sneering facade.”

And really, doesn’t that pretty much describe all of us, in one sense or another?

There are several ways to find posts you’ve not seen before, or retrace your steps to one you’ve already read. These options exist so you can navigate the site in whatever way suits you best.

The menu buttons at the top of pages are mapped to specific types of content. About takes you to more info about me and the site. Blog is a category link to posts designated as such. Long Form is in development, so it doesn’t yet link to content (but here’s a brief explanation of what’s to come). Extras are discoverable several ways, and the drop-down menu below that button contains category links to Audio, Coolest Thing I Learned Today, Movie Quote Stuck in My Head, and What I Am Reading.

The Search the Site tool on the sidebar on the right side of pages, below the Subscribe tool, lets you find posts by keyword, phrases or subject line. Type in a word or two, and you’ll see a drop-down list of search results. Click on the appropriate one.

Categories are just that, in the parlance of WordPress, and they are listed on the sidebar, below the search tool. Click on a category to see every post with its designation.

Below that you’ll find Recent Posts, a clickable list of the past few entries on the site.

Farther down, below my Twitter section, you’ll see Monthly Archives of all content. You can look for posts this way if you prefer.

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A button on the lower left of most pages takes you back to the top of and refreshes the Home page.

My ideas for the website don’t align with the typical WordPress approach, but I hope I’ve given you enough ways to find what you’re looking for. Suggestions and other comments are always welcome. Please note the Contact button at the top of most pages.

Thank you for stopping by.

madmenbussceneAs “Mad Men” fans await the series finale Sunday, I’ve reflected on seven seasons’ worth of powerful moments. After the dust has settled following the final episode, I’ll have more to say about a lightning-bolt moment for me in “Severance,” the eighth episode of Season 7, but today I wanted to flash back to a scene from the 10th episode, “The Forecast.”

After taking Sally and her friends to dinner, Don drops them off at the Greyhound bus station. As soon as the images in this screen shot appeared on my TV, I was floored by immediately being able to smell the scene, diesel fuel and all. This was unexpected, and it derailed my seamless viewing of the show so much that I had to play back everything from that scene forward once I regained my sense of the present. In that moment, I’d been transported back to every Greyhound bus I’d ever ridden on, and every bus station, in some sort of visually provoked compressed composite memory. Or did one particular bus ride or depot become exhumed, rushing to the fore from some deep trench in my mind’s archives because of that visual stimulation? I didn’t know.

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An exceedingly sad movie, beautifully told. Even the most quiet dignity contains at times achingly haunting and silent screams — of unrequited love or unfulfilled promise, or perhaps unbearable pain. Sometimes it is all three, and at other times … well, who’s to say?

You know what I am doing, Miss Kenton? I am placing my mind elsewhere while you chatter away.

That line, one of many I remember from the movie, is in the official trailer. It popped into my head earlier today while someone outside my apartment talked and talked and talked and talked …

And then …

spoileralert(In case you haven’t seen the film but plan to) *

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