Light, Shade, And The F Word

I don’t think James Patrick Page was the first musician to understand the power of sharp contrast in a performance; anyone who has ever heard the entire violin section of a symphony start bowing at once, after a period of silence, has experienced and understood it himself. Page’s insight, rather, was that the recording studio and home reproduction equipment had evolved to a point where what he called “light and shade” could be expressed on vinyl. The early wax cylinders of Edison didn’t have enough dynamic range for “Ramble On”, nor did the average unamplified phonograph of the immediate postwar era. Certainly a single-speaker car radio couldn’t handle it. You need “hi-fi” for a Zep album to truly work.

Incidentally, this is why “Stairway to Heaven” loses much of its punch on the radio: it’s heavily compressed by specialized equipment designed to maintain volume and, consequently, the listener’s attention.

Mr. Page was also not the last artist to understand light and shade. The sophomoric mewlings of bands like Evanescence and Limp Bizkit prove that their long-suffering producers, at least, have a grip on the subject. Modern EDM relies on it as well, as a cursory listen to “Feel So Close” by Calvin Harris will demonstrate. In fact, one could make an argument that the intellectual value of music can probably be approximated by its compression level: a Telarc classical disk would score a 9.9 and Ariana Grande would get a 0.1. If you can listen to “squeezed” music at maximum volume for more than ten minutes at a time, I fear for your humanity.

Which brings us, however awkwardly, to the matter at hand.

In my new capacity as content-company quasi-executive, I’ve been forcing myself to read quite a bit of mainstream writing, both automotive and general interest in nature. Prior to this, I had the luxury of avoiding all that junk. At least a dozen times a week, someone would message me: “Have you read the latest by XXXX at site YYYY?” My answer was invariably “Not even once.” What could I possibly learn about my craft by reading my contemporaries, who were, almost without exception, functional illiterates? When I was in the mood to read, I would pick something by a writer I wanted to emulate, not a word salad from a buffoon I desperately wished to avoid.

That blithe luxury, of spending my airplane or recliner time with Congreve and Steinbeck instead of Oppo and Car Twitter, has now disappeared. (It was replaced by another luxury, of a four-wheeled nature, about which more tomorrow.) Now I’m reading a broad spectrum of auto writers.

Having done so, I could use a broad-spectrum antibiotic.

To recycle Pope’s old insult, most of these folks never deviate into sense. The most you can say about them is that they have mastered the art of duckspeak; subject-verb agreement is beyond their exceedingly modest capabilities but they can effortlessly recite whatever gender-or-race-based neo-orthodoxy has attained the status of current fashion at the moment. That’s fine, I suppose. Forty years ago, the pages of Playboy and Esquire were filled with the hyper-masculine rantings of male writers who, were you to meet them in person, you would surely suspect of having been locker-stuffees rather than the arrogant locker-stuffers described in their prose. If the current situation is an overreaction to that, then perhaps what we are seeing is a gradually-decreasing oscillation that will eventually return us to the archetype of dignified and masculine, yet intelligent and curious, writing exemplified by a Coleridge or a Steinbeck.

Unfortunately for me, one unmistakable trait of today’s genderless authors is something I call


after the two words most commonly found in their prose. Today’s latte was FUCKING AMAZING. The fabric on the city bus seats was FUCKING SPECTACULAR. The pablum served to them via Netflix every night is AMAZINGLY FUCKING AMAZING. Everything is FUCKING THIS and AMAZING THAT.

You’re probably aware of what a BIG DEAL it was when Clark Gable said, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” That’s light and shade at work. That’s Jimmy Page hitting you with the riff to “Ramble On”. By contrast, an automotive-related article where the author says some variant of FUCKING AMAZING five times in four paragraphs amounts to this:

There’s a reason Page has a hundred million dollars and that dude is playing the matinee slot at county fairs. You can’t pump up the volume all the time.

With that said, part of the reason today’s auto-twitterati hit the FUCKING AMAZING bell so often is this: They know that it’s offensive to their classically-educated predecessors. Much like the Ramones, they take a sort of twisted pride in not being able to play their instruments, which in this case are the instruments of grammar and structure employed by five hundred previous generations. I’m not so dense that I can’t see that the FUCKING AMAZING style is, just like the endless and meaningless tattoos many of them have drawn on themselves, meant to put me and my Gen-X cohort off our lunch. So we stay away. Their toneless bleating is much like the N.W.A. compact disc I used to blast in my Fox. It says: leave me alone, grownups. We’re FUCKING AMAZING over here.

I hope that some of them will outgrow this phase. We need good writers in this business. I’m willing to wait for some of these kids to clean up their acts. I’ll be watching them, looking for signs of intelligent life. Ah, but what if they never grow up? What if their audience, in turn, refuses to grow up? What will happen when today’s thirty-year-olds never actually get around to discarding their furbabies, throwing away their young-adult trash fiction, and joining society as we know it today?

What if the Millennials arrive at financial primacy without having entered an authentic adulthood, in taste or diction? What will my superannuated ass do at that point to pay the bills? Well, maybe I’ll wind up like Paul McCartney, another fellow who never truly got a grip on the musical nature of light and shade… maybe I’ll be (FUCKING) amazed!

68 Replies to “Light, Shade, And The F Word”

  1. Avatarstingray65

    Very interesting observation, but I’m surprised that the frequent use of the F word by today’s PC oriented authors isn’t criticized for being “violent” speech or a manifestation of “rape culture” or patriarchy. Furthermore, if everything is F—–G Amazing, then nothing is.

    • AvatarShortest Circuit

      I think it is not criticized because those two adjectives are invariably used alongside pronouns so neutral, that they jar you out of whatever incoherent picture they managed to paint up to that point. So in the end they wrote nothing… about nothing.
      (I just got told off by some…thing for using ‘they’ – I am apparently a bigot, or racist, or something-phobe.)

      • Avatarstingray65

        Its not that I think the authors should be criticized on the basis of PC concerns, its just that the PC crowd is always on the lookout for things they can get upset about and this would be a relatively easy one for feminists, LBT, race hustlers, etc. to get their dander up. On the other hand, Jack’s point about the use of such words as a signal or symptom of poor writing ability is absolutely spot on.

        • Avatarsgeffe

          Though I can remember when “fucking” was just a”flavoring particle” in my Gen-X college days.

          What REALLY strips my gears today is the mysterious construct that eliminates “to be”: “This needs documented.” (No, Millennial boss and the rest of his cohort, either “this needs to be documented,” or if you’re going to drop “to be,” use the gerund: “this needs documenting.”)

          Grammar snob at work! 😁

      • Avatardejal

        Asia Kate Dillon who plays TAYLOR on “Billions” prefers to be called “They” in real life.
        Read her wiki bio

        “Dillon was born in Ithaca, New York. They were assigned female at birth,[26][27] but identify as non-binary. Dillon explained that around 2015, they began removing gendered pronouns from their biography, and auditioning for the part of Mason helped them understand their gender identity.[3][4] Dillon identifies as pansexual, stating they are attracted to multiple genders.[28]”

        Too bad Asia Kate Dillon wasn’t with you when you got told off. That would have been interesting.

    • Avatareverybodyhatesscott

      Fuck isn’t even a dirty word anymore. A different F word has replaced it on the forbidden list. The old guard found it offensive and the old guard were bigots so it’s obviously not a bad word. It’s hard to keep up.

  2. Avatarbjarnetv

    I guess one of the reasons why the writing style has evolved the way it has, is that people are so used to blogging, live streaming and so on, making it appealing for the audience to feel that the journalist is just some relatable schmuck – one of your friends, instead of an elitist professional speaking down to you from his highly educated and eloquently spoken horse.

    I can remember when jalopnik and its ilk first appeared, it felt like a breath of fresh air and something truly enthusiastic compared to the old, stodgy and tired auto journalism that was the norm of the day.

    In the end, it just went too far with the casualism and rebellion against traditional journalism and we ended up in the FUCKING AMAZING world we are in today.

    Hopefully, the next generation of young bloggers will be a bunch of elitist pricks rebelling against they current trends of not knowing anything about writing, or what you are writing about.

  3. AvatarTyler

    PJ O’Rourke commented that Boomers used up all the convenient personal rebellions, and that when he sees a modern teenager inked and pierced to hell, he thinks, “I’m sorry, that must hurt.”

    Re: cussing and stuff. SEO-friendly prose is probably part of the problem. When your job is to combine specific phrases at least X times per paragraph, there are only so many ways to cut through the fog and try to communicate a point to your non-bot audience. Such as it is.

    • Avatarsgeffe

      And when I see this phenomenon of tatts everywhere, I cringe, then KNOW I’ve chosen the wrong career path!

      Instead of computer programming, I should have gone into dermatology! In fifteen years or so, when all of these tatts start sagging, give someone a laser, and they’ll write their own damn ticket!

      • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

        Fifteen years? There’s already a big billboard on Eight Mile for laser ink removal. As an embroiderer I appreciate the craftmanship of the best tattoo artists, but I’ll be very happy when the ink craze is over.

        Speaking of tattoos, tomorrow I’m going to the funeral of a man who had a Hollerith number with an “A” prefix tattooed on his forearm. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone having one of those removed.

  4. Avatarrwb

    If you’re genuinely hopeful about the mean product of any known endeavor, you have my condolences in advance of your upcoming disappointment.

  5. Avatardejal

    Amazing is the American version of the British Brilliant.

    I find the old Top Gear and now the Grand Tour unwatchable because of “BRILLIANT” this and “BRILLIANT” that.

    I cringe at the ESPN F1 coverage because they throw “BRILLIANT” around.
    That and “Crofty” but that’s a subject for another time.
    If I played the BRILLIANT and Crofty drinking game I’d never get past the pre-race grid show.

    DId a quick google search. BRILLIANT has been pissing people off since at least 2005.

    • Avatarbjarnetv

      That’s a pretty good observation – i guess most of the FUCKIN AMAZING journalists grew up watching new Top gear, and that in turn was their benchmark for entertaining car journalism.

    • Avatarjc

      I suppose no one but me remembers Tony and David in the Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin: “Great!” “Super!”

      Oh well, in a world where people under 30 seem to slather “like” all over everything as if sticking it in four or five random places in each sentence added to clarity, I guess Fn everything is not too surprising.

      • AvatarNoID

        This, and ending sentences with “so…”

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly guilty of “Like” and “So.” However I’m aware of it and I try to, like, catch myself, so…

        • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

          I’m a bit obsessive about not starting sentences with “and” or “but”. Then my younger daughter pointed out to me that “so” is also a conjunction, so I can’t start my sentences with that either.

  6. AvatarE. Bryant

    From my perspective, I see no reason to hope that Millennials (or the follow-on Gen Z) will have to “grow up” or move beyond their collective state of existence in any meaningful way. Yes, the Greatest Generation came home from the war, went to work, started families, built the interstate highway system and the Mackinaw bridge, and so forth. But the Boomers largely never evolved beyond their narcism and sense of entitlement, as has been pointed out previously on this very blog.

    Us Gen Xers are still wandering around in a state of emotional and physical intoxication. Previous generations prematurely died from things like “widow maker” heart attacks and some of the nastier cancers by the time they got to their mid-40s; our generation’s leading causes of death now come from ODing on various opiates or dropping from liver cirrhosis from a quarter-century of nightly binge drinking. Those that won’t die from drug and alcohol abuse will later succumb to the side effects of a poor diet because we’re incapable of proper diet and exercise. For a generation raised on irony, DARE and the President’s Fitness Council provide the sort of morbid humor that sustains us. My go-to music is still the same sludgy grunge that I blasted from much-too-loud car stereos in the early 90s (much of it produced by artists that suffered from premature death at a far greater rate than that of musicians from the 60s and 70s), and that’s pretty much the only “art” of any value produced by my generation.

    So if Millennials take a look at the past two generations (the only generations with which they have any real working experience), why should we think they would feel any urgency to “grow up” in any fashion? Dad’s out of work, 50lbs overweight and lying on the couch high on pills for “back pain” while Mom self-medicates with weed for her “anxiety”, and Grandma thinks she’s the center of the universe. This generation has as role models people who got rich quickly by monetizing social media or the sort of pseudo-intellectual billionaires who want to be the next Rockwell or Ford but deliberately ignore the past century-plus of modern industrial history while standing on the shoulders of giants and bragging about their first-principle thinking (which I guess is better than idolizing corporate leaders who “innovate” by cutting thousands of jobs in the same week as announcing billions in quarterly earnings). I don’t see many opportunities for self-actualization coming out of this scenario.

    It’s going to take a *major* event to pop everyone out of their current funk. Despite early proclamations to the contrary, the Sept. 11th attacks were not “the death of irony” and the 2008 crash didn’t result in anyone hanging from lampposts, so that provides a lower bound to what would constitute “major”.

    And now that I’m in a thoroughly pissy mood, I’m going to blast some Rollins Band at the gym.

    • Avatarsgeffe

      As a 48 year-old Gen-Xer, I consider 9/11 to be our generation’s Pearl Harbor. But we’re seeing the pendulum moving to the other side much quicker. So yes, it’s going to take something at least that horrible to reverse course.

      May God help us.

  7. Avatarhank chinaski

    Another other popular use of that expletive: ‘I fucking love science’.

    Paul M, Billy Joel, the Stones and surviving members of The Who will tour, in wheelchairs if necessary (see the old Rod Stewart bit on South Park) until the Boomers shuffle off their collective mortal coils or their discretionary retirement income is ultimately hyperinflated away to pay for their own Medicare and SS.

    I see a future in high end artisanal Quidditch brooms (with wood sourced from recycled guitars), tattoo removal and body modification reversal, and (the big one) fertility treatments for the stronk wahmens. The problem is the debt they will never get out from under.
    Go short on single family homes except for section 8.

  8. AvatarJustPassinThru

    Yes. Functional illiterates.

    It is ever thus in that industry. David E. Davis has been dead eight years, and one forgets what a breath of fresh air HE was to the market. The crop of young writers he mentored, circa 1980, have mostly retired, been marginalized (Jean Lindamood, one of the weakest) died (Larry Griffith) or sold out (Rich Ceppos).

    But he got a following because he had a seemingly unique ability to think and write in polysyllables while writing about CARS. For whatever reason, the subject matter doesn’t draw the best talent. Tom McCahill was supposed to be one of the best…but I was a junior-high kid when he was still writing, the last years, and I found his prose stilted and strained.

    The use of the F-Bomb as an all-purpose adjective is demonstrative of our drop in literacy – but it’s not specific to automobiles. Were that it was – I’d have a ready-made career as a car reviewer. But it is not.

    • Avatardejal

      No. DeD wasn’t. When it got down to hounds tooth sport coats with leather elbow patches and double barrel shot guns every month in his personal column it was over.

      I found Purdey + Holland & Holland shot guns all the time to be a bit out of place in a car magazine.

      • AvatarJustPassinThru

        Ah. His later years.

        All of us, in our careers, have our rise, our peak, and our decline. David E. just had his, publicly. When one compares the magazine he founded, over the one he resuscitated a decade earlier…it was obvious he favored the esoteric over the technical, the lifestyle over the hard product. Automobile Magazine had no measured tests, no spec charts, no Top Speed (indicated).

        The Peter Principle – Davis, promoted beyond the limit of his competence. His crowning act, as a personal failure, was to make Jean Lindamood his successor – and have her organize a coup with the Murdoch company to oust him.

        But I’m referring to Davis’ peak years. I remember C/D before, and after, his (second) arrival, as Editor. Prior to that, the writing was dry and somewhat contrived – more-so even than Popular Science. Coming in, he brought conversationalism-as-prose into articles, and took creative readers’ submissions.

        Now the industry has gone that far, just as our general attention span has completely fizzled, thanks to the brain-candy that is Twitter and to Smartphones.

        • Avatardejal

          That’s fair. I started paying attention to CD in the early 80s. I was an R + T guy up to that point.
          After Manney had his stroke in 1980 R +T wasn’t the same and CD was my go to.

          Lindamood wasn’t bad when she had an overseer to keep her on the path. When she was the overseer it all went bad. But, the magazine is still around, so she obviously wasn’t a total failure.

        • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

          It got stale so I never published the work, but when Tom Wolfe died, I contacted some former Car and Driver writers about his influence on automotive writing. My impression is that Wolfe may have had more impact on automotive writing in the ’70s and ’80s than Davis. Davis may have provided the forums but I think Wolfe affected their actual writing more.

      • AvatarTTDaley

        Agree. Though I see some of that coming through in Jack’s recent blogs (although JB’s firearm choices seem a little less, er, refined)

        Incidentally, a friend was factory manager at Purdey for a while. Half the craftsmen there were drunk most of the afternoon. Their skills were such that as long as they got some productive work in before hitting the beers at lunch, they were kept on

    • AvatarHarryC

      As you say, this seems to reflect a broader trend.

      We’ve gone from a sustainable print journalism model (polluted by ad-revenue, but still) to outright click metrics. We’ve also gone from the written word to visual media. People want to watch videos, not melt into longform…well, _anything_. The Doug DeMuros of the world capitalized on that broad trend.

      I appreciate Jack being a voice crying out in the wilderness in this regard, but it’s like holding back the tide.

  9. AvatarHarryC


    (just kidding)

    I was having a similar discussion with my daughter about writing _style_. “Dad, what’s the difference between ‘terrible, horrible, and reprehensible’?” she asked.

    “Well, they all mean ‘bad’. you could substitute ‘bad’ for any of those words.” (I’ll elide the 5 minute discussion of connotation versus denotation).

    “Basically writers are like musicians. You can’t be at 100% volume all the time, or else it’s the same as 0% volume. You lose the listener/reader.”

    “Oh, okay.”

    Maybe some of it will penetrate. Or, I’ll just hand her “Elements of Style” when she turns 15.

    • Avatarjc

      Heck, if she’s concerned about the differences among “terrible, horrible, and reprehensible”, she’s ready for Strunk and White now.

      I would follow it up with a copy of Twain’s “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses”.

  10. AvatarDeSoto

    I grew up in a time when the superlative ‘Amazing’ was reserved for Grace, and Kreskin (and I’m not sure that he deserved its use).
    English offers many options to describe the superlative by subtle degrees, yet the collective pandering has led to the use of ‘amazing’ becoming the literary parallel to “everyone gets a trophy”. It’s now a word without meaning.
    “F***ing amazing” simply describes a heightened level of meaninglessness.

  11. AvatarWayK

    As an adult we can all appreciate the use of the word on an occasional basis without becoming too prudish. I explained to my then teenagers that using Fuck for shock value is terribly diminished when it becomes their primary adjective. Fortunately they took the advice to heart. Many adults, especially those of us who are older (60), try to shield the younger folks (under 15 or so) from excessive cussing. I find it difficult to share some automobile articles and magazine issues with my younger male relatives due to the proliferate use of the word fuck today. Auto enthusiasts want to share that enthusiasm with children as they are growing and today’s writers make it difficult to share.

    • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

      If you ask my kids what it means when I drop an F bomb, they’ll say, “Dad is serious.”

      Vulgarity and profanity have their places in writing but they should be treated like spices. You don’t put pepper in everything you eat.

  12. AvatarDomestic Hearse

    Have you read [Wes Siler] at [Outside Magazine]? He writes the [Infinitely Wild] series.

    Asking for a friend.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Yeah I call him Zoolander The Glamper. I’ve never seen anybody try so hard to be so unimpressive. My wife had done more hunting than he’s done before her sixteenth birthday.

  13. AvatarCliffg

    Steinbeck? I can understand Dos Passos or Faulkner. Whatever. My father could replace drum brake pads on a rusty ‘62 Chevy complete with bloody knuckles and never use a 4 letter word. And he was not a particularly religious man and was a career NCO. Manners. Lost in the shuffle.

  14. Avatar1a

    I (“LITERALLY”) just closed another article seeing that F-word used in proudddd defiance right before I opened your site. Next may you expound on the m0r0ns who incorrectly use the word “literally”. It’s always low-IQ leftists.

    “Feminist Pastor Unveils Vulva Sculpture Made From Melted Purity Rings – Proudly presents idol to Gloria Steinem”
    “She wrote: ‘ANNOUNCEMENT: I’m inviting women to mail in their purity rings for a massive art project. SweetBirdStudiois collaborating with me to melt them into a sculpture of a v@@g!na, click here to join in and get your certificate of impurity!'”

    She too is tatted up.

    One sent in her ring with the words “GOOD F///KING RIDDANCE”. At that point, I knew I was reading drivel 😉

    Now to read the comments.

    Side note: should only be a couple more days before all the details are in and you can write up the latest faux hate crime. Thanks in advance 🙂

    • AvatarJustPassinThru

      There’s cursing, and there’s cursing.

      Creative use of the F-Bomb, when to illustrate the depraved, mind-numbing ignorance and idiocy of the protagonist…can truly get the point across. Somehow, Stephen King’s work came across my path at the right time…no, I despise his silly themes, but in painting a picture with words…in taking you and placing you in the situation…the young Stephen King had no peer.

      You can just feel it. Here you are, applying for a job – as a frikkin’ CUSTODIAN of an empty seasonal hotel. You’re educated and you have prospects – and you fucked up. (the F-word is not gratuitious) You are deep in it – even AFTER taking stock, quitting the booze, you managed to send yourself down the toilet, and you’re taking your wife and son with you.

      And the pompous ass across the desk is prattling on about the glorious history of his dump hotel. Yes, you’ll sneer with your inner voice…”Officious Prick…”

      Or of one of his vignettes, of a pathetic sub-idiot sent on a beer run…already having drank 20 or so, he staggers to the store to get more while his partner-in-alcoholism is bribing a high-school friend to slap an inspection sticker on the old heap. Yes, the F-word is going to be spoken, thought, and used to discuss, more than once.

      That’s talented wordsmithy. Sadly, though, although many modern web-scribblers have read King and his bad words, they took the wrong lesson from it. This reflexive F-this, F-that, F’n-AMAZING…is more keeping with Tourette’s than with literacy.

  15. Avatarjc

    For an interesting contrast, consider the historical novels of Jeff Shaara. He writes about soldiers in battle (Revolutionary War, Civil War, World Wars, etc.) and somehow he does so without using curse words. I expect “Damn” shows up now and then, but nothing worse than that. Now, we all know that soldiers in battle actually use every curse, obscenity, and blasphemy there is. But Shaara, for whatever reason, has chosen not to reproduce this in his semi-fictional treatments; yet he writes with such verisimilitude that you don’t notice all his characters are communicating without it. (I haven’t used “verisimilitude” in an actual sentence in ages!)

    I’m not a prude, but (I suppose every prude starts out by saying that) I do find it interesting that an author does not find bad language necessary to communicate about an environment where it is endemic.

  16. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    Incidentally, this is why “Stairway to Heaven” loses much of its punch on the radio: it’s heavily compressed by specialized equipment designed to maintain volume and, consequently, the listener’s attention.

    I’m old enough to remember when my older brother brought home Led Zeppelin IV. We listened through the complete album and when it was done we put the speakers from his stereo in our bedroom window and cranked Stairway so the whole neighborhood could enjoy it. Funny thing is I had the earlier Zep albums but neither Jeff or I were huge Zeppelin fans but we immediately knew that Stairway was special.

    We may have heard it first on a mid-fi stereo and I don’t know if radio stations used less compression in the early 1970s but FM radio stations certainly had a role in Stairway to Heaven becoming the phenomenon it came to be. There is a reason why it’s a staple of classic rock stations.

    Also, you have access to very good audio equipment and high quality pressings of Led Zeppelin releases. Most early Zeppelin fans were listening on low-fi equipment. The stereo equipment boom of the 1970s was just starting and few young people had good audio equipment. My brother was a ham radio enthusiast, so because of Heathkit and Popular Electronics there was some crossover in our interests from good audio and he had a decent turntable and receiver. We knew about McIntosh equipment because Pecar’s, the store that sold more reasonably priced but good audio like KLH and Advent, was a Mac dealer but nobody we knew owned McIntosh gear. If you were lucky, your dad was a hi-fi or stereo buff, otherwise your exposure to Stairway to Heaven was likely on a console stereo or on a car radio 6×9 speaker.

    Speaking of which, Stairway to Heaven was released in 1971, when Motown producers were still doing final mixdowns using automotive 6×9 speakers because that’s how most people were going to hear it.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I absolutely agree that Zep still has plenty of appeal regardless of reproduction, but Page simply put more thought into the recording than his contemporaries did and it pays off even in 2019.

      • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

        Page and Zappa understood that just as the amplifier is part of the instrument, the studio itself is an instrument.

        • AvatarFelis Concolor

          “My TONE! My precious TONE! I’m going to sound PLASTIC!!!”: Frank Zappa commenting on LSO weenies complaining about PZMs in plexiglas domes set above the string section.

          I don’t agree with much of his politics today, but I always recommend “The Real Frank Zappa Book” to everyone I know regardless of his views. It’s amusing to learn his skill in the kitchen is summarized by the eponymous “Burnt Weenie Sandwich” title.

          • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

            Frank was mostly a small L libertarian as far as I could tell, though he liked taking potshots at Republicans and Evangelicals. His late wife, Gail, gave money to Democrats. She also shafted Dweezel in her will, one of the reasons why the Zappa kids have sued each other.

  17. Avatarhank chinaski

    Your pieces got linked at miatanet. Welcome to the ND club. That orange is eye catching.

    I may jump on a ticket for the cup car, if only for the donation.

  18. AvatarBooty_Toucher

    Couldn’t agree more. I can’t count how many mediocre restaurants I’ve been to after reading a “FUCKING AMAZING” review, or some variation thereof.

  19. Avatar-Nate


    This is a very good thread as it’s thought provoking and I’m well pleased to see that reading as a medium isn’t gone by the board .

    I’m poorly educated and so don’t write well but reading rather than video remains my favorite method of non personal communication .

    The details of how to properly diagram and construct sentences is lost on my but I do appreciate good writing, I’m just not able to explain why some writers are better than others .

    Sortytelling is an art and some who don’t well grasp punctuation etc. are still good writers, many more, far less so .

    Keep up the good works folks and don’t ever stop trying to teach those who don’t know, how it’s properly done .

    (in temporarily sunny So. Cal., off riding my vintage Honda to Yaz’ B.Y.O.C. in a short)

  20. Avatarcwallace

    I’ll read reviews on Jalopnik once in a while, mainly for the unintentional Swifties that count as educated observations – “stop/start can be surprising, but only if you aren’t expecting it”, and the like.

    People who aren’t trained to write are writing about cars, and their audience is fellow kids who don’t know about them, and don’t really care to. The review is handled like one for a dishwasher or a television- “this one has some features that other ones don’t have, and there are lots of specifications. I’ll list some for you to goose the word count, and so we can both pretend to understand them. You can’t go wrong with this choice, because I threw some crap in here about food trucks and socialism to show you that I can be trusted. The end.” Unfortunately, low-quality auto journalism could also be called ‘giving the customer what he wants’ in a lot of cases. Who really cares about dishwashers?

    One could code a Jalopnik-erator that writes reviews based off of spec sheets and TikTok posts, and put them all out of work inside of a week. Throw in a compositionally-irrelevant swipe at Trump somewhere, and the result would be so realistic Elon Musk would pull the plug.

    • AvatarJustPassinThru

      That’s it, exactly. The economic model behind auto-writing changed, and drastically – from sponsorship and print ads (which included pressure to promote models by sponsors) into an online model. Instead of soliciting ads directly, the need was to get “clicks” to show an article was “trending” – and the need to draw in the Googlebots with words like AMAZING and, probably, FUCKING.

      Meantime, as there’s a larger potential material source (eager writers with little/no training) there’s less pay. Which means the quality authors or potential authors find something else to do.

      It’s been that way in other industries. I remember a time, the 1960s, when grocery checkers were skilled – and fast. They would work their cash-register keyboards with one hand while moving items through with the other. As fast as secretaries, and paid almost as well.

      Bar-code scanners rendered that talent obsolete – and now we have dazed semi-sentients who fumble making change, who cannot manage manual entries, who laboriously struggle to bag the customers’ purchases.

      It’s the dark side of progress. But for us, the potential reader/consumer, it means, there simply is not quality writing available on the subject.

    • AvatarCarmine

      “Amazing Fucking Amazing” should be the title of the “How to write for Jalopnik” study guide. I had to recently quit visiting their site and I never will again after one their pussiest millennial “writers”, Michael “Ballbag” Ballaban or whatever thehell that wuss’ name is, a little 5ft nothing soft candyass with glasses and beard or course, went on a pro communist pro AOC rant in an article, thats when I decided I really had enough of Jalopnik’s snarky pseudo wanna be intellectual but really don’t know shit about shit attitude.

    • AvatarCJinSD

      Let the above phrasing serve as a warning to anyone who thinks that driving or writing under the influence of night time cold medicine is a sound idea.

  21. AvatarJonathan

    I refuse to believe that your daily wading through the automotive effluvium has yielded nothing of promise. Who isn’t shitting the bed?

  22. AvatarMike

    I’ve always thought that Led Zeppelin was one of those rare bands that I could listen to every single one of their recordings, and love. One of our local radio stations does “Led Before Bed” and delves into a lot of the stuff you never hear on typical classic rock stations.

    Agreed fully about the whole “Amazing” trend. it’s not just in written form however- I hear it in conversation quite frequently as well. It’s to the point where “Amazing” means to me, “pretty good”.

    It seems to go hand in hand with another recent phenomenon- that everyone who disagrees with you politically is a “Nazi”, a “Commie”, or, sometimes, a “Fascist”. There is no political grey area, particularly not online.

    People started using emoticons to convey sense and tone and intent on the internet. But that’s just laziness. There are enough words out there that one ought to, with some practice, be able to adequately express what they mean to say without resorting to hieroglyphics.

    They say that the human ear adjusts to volume. If you turn your car radio up to 7/10, after a while, you won’t really notice any difference from when it was at 3/10. Music should only be as loud as required to experience the full dynamic range possible from the equipment, given the environment. In modern society, where everyone is shouting into the ether, additional volume accomplishes nothing.

  23. AvatarSpud Boy

    I used to really enjoy the writing of the old Car and Driver magazine. I see no evidence of such talent in the web site articles and reviews these days.

  24. AvatarDirt Roads

    It’s like:
    “I worship nothing, everything is sacred.”
    “I worship everything, nothing is sacred.”
    It means nothing.

  25. Avatarrpn453

    I never appreciated Zeppelin until I saw them live – sort of. I’m not sure I even fully appreciated live music at that point. I had mostly been to stadium/arena shows, and hadn’t stood right in front of the stage where they can occasionally sound great.

    But I stumbled into a show by an excellent Zep tribute band, called Kashmir, at a local blues bar called Bud’s one night, and I immediately got it. I went to as many of their shows as I could after that, and also developed a taste for small and medium sized shows at other venues, but particularly that one. I even saw Wild T do a raggae-infused Hendrix tribute there last year. It seems possible to me that they have the best sound guy in the world. He’s an electrical engineer that retired early to focus on his love of live music.

    I have a good Paradigm home system but the recordings still can’t compare. If I had a time machine, I can’t think of a better use than to go back and watch the greats when they were playing small venues.

    Our local Pink Floyd tribute band – Outside the Wall – was equally great. Unfortunately, it’s been a few years since they or Kashmir have played. But Night Train is back in a couple weeks, following a long layoff. So things are looking up!

  26. AvatarSIV

    If I’d seen this old post when it was new I’d’ve made the case I have for well over 40 years now that, actually, the Ramones could play their instruments really well.


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