OK, now it's time to tackle the commonly abused dashes and hyphens. (This one's for you, Brad, baby.) This is an area of typesetting that people always seem to get wrong, presumably from some combination of never learning the rules and not being able to easily typeset the correct marks. I certainly don't recall ever learning about the correct use of dashes during any of my school days, except for a few basic principles about how to hyphenate words properly. But, like correct use of apostrophes and quotation marks, there's a method to the madness. When everything is used properly, there's just enough difference between the marks to offer adequate visual clues as to what's going on without too much distraction. that’s the point, kids: not to be super fussy, but to follow a system developed over time so you could know what was going on right away without thinking about it too much. Trouble is, that all breaks down when no one learns the system.
The apostrophe issue is a big aggravation, but the dash issue is really my pet peeve. It seems as if no one ever uses them correctly, software never sets them properly, and people barely even use them in a consistent wrong way, which makes it horrible to proofread and correct a manuscript.
When you're typing an e-mail or preparing a manuscript for someone else to e-mail, you're basically forced to use hyphens instead of the other dashes, which are not part of the most basic ASCII character set. Please, I beg you, follow these accepted rules of thumb:
- Type two hyphens with no space on either side when you need to use an em dash.
- Use a single hyphen with one space on either side when you need to use an en dash.
- Never use spaces around actual hyphens unless they come at the end of word that’s part of a broken compound (e.g., fourth- and fifth-grade students).
By the way, this is a great reference for setting all these characters properly for your web pages. Again, you will find very clear rules for grammatical usage in Words Into Type or your preferred style manual, which is good because I don't want to get into all of them.
Like many others, I have a profound respect for correct use of the poor apostrophe. I’m going to take the issue a step further, however, and complain about a very particular pet peeve of mine: the flagrant misuse of correct punctuation marks when setting type. Even when you know the usage rules, you still have to know which marks are correct. I have seen all sorts of professional typesetting in books, posters, ads, and all kinds of other junk where no one ever thought to notice that a real apostrophe, or real quotation marks, were not being used. (Yes, it's hard being this anal-retentive, but my friends have learned to love me anyway.)
So I offer my own contribution to your pool of grammatical knowledge: Sparky's Typesetting School, Lesson One:
Apostrophe/Single Closing Quote
Single Open Quote
Single Neutral Quote
Double Open Quote
Double Closing Quote
Double Neutral Quote
For more information, you may want to pick up the very excellent Words Into Type, your preferred style manual, or even the simple-but-classic The Mac Is Not a Typewriter (or you can use The PC Is Not a Typewriter so you learn the right keyboard shortcuts).
When you live in a great big open room, it's very easy to feel very small and alone when you go to sleep at night wishing there were someone to curl around you, to shrink the space around you down to the places where you touch.
I realized a long time ago that sex is no substitute for affection. On its own, it's company without companionship, icing without cake. I don't have any problem with sex on its own, but the trick is being aware enough of my longings to avoid tracking down sex when I’m really craving something more. When I’m just horny, the problem is easy enough to resolve here in a big, indulgent city. When I’m lonely, though, the easy solutions are just counterproductive, leaving me feeling lonelier, pessimistic, and occasionally chafed. There are times when I have to really force myself to stay in and not find someone to scratch the itch, because it's not what I’m really after at that moment.
Finding someone with holes to be filled doesn't fill the hole I sometimes feel. sorry, not tonight — I have a heartache.
Since experiencing the magic of the Venezuelan Party People, Dave has been answering "why?" questions with "Porque soy el Ultra-Funk!" Apparently, colleagues' reactions are leading him to think this is only funny in his own head. I think his colleagues must be pretty humorless, because I get a kick out of it.
What a nice boy that Dave is. Not only did he send me some (totally not illegally copied, I swear) CDs and an issue of superman he had mentioned (in which The Big Boy scout battles a group that’s a thinly veiled critique of the Authority), but he also took the time to drop a note to my mom.
I blame Beau, although to be fair it all started out innocently enough. We were having lunch and we strayed onto the topic of comic books and how I love them but I fear them. I stopped collecting long ago (too expensive, too hard to keep up with), but they've remained a dangerous temptation — I’m a Friend of Stan L.
As we talked I was telling Beau how excited I was to see what Grant Morrison would do once he started writing for The X-Men, considering how much I went bananas for The Invisibles once I stumbled across them. Whatever. It was just a brief flare-up of nerdiness at the time, and I went back to work.
Later on in the week I saw that Beau had gotten the new issue, and I suddenly became obsessed with getting a copy for myself. I went to Forbidden Planet, but they were out of stock. I was crushed, but the fever was in me, and I was in a comic book store with a credit card burning a hole in my pocket, and all sorts of things that I had to have, like the new Authority and a kooky issue of Earth X because I’d been coveting it for so long, and I love those Alex Ross covers so much. There was no turning back.
The next day, I finally found the X-Men book I was looking for at a much bigger place near my office, and I was so elated that I also splurged on one of the Planetary and Invisibles books I’d been curious about. Great scores all around, which left with me hours of reading. I was pleased as punch, despite feeling a little bad about going on such a bender.
I know that some think it's really old-skool, but I’m a sucker for the whole superhero genre in comics. I know that comics are a great medium for telling all kinds of stories, but the superhero stuff still excites me in a very primal way. I’ve read them my whole life, making up characters and stories of my own and soaking in as much of the varied universes of superhero stories as I could. It's easy to look back now and see that I have a real soft spot for a lot of stuff from my youth that wasn't especially sophisticated, but it's also very exciting to see that a lot of comics have grown with me. A lot of them are still just slugfests, and I often get exasperated at how bloated some of the more popular mythologies have become. Luckily, there are books like The Authority and The Invisibles and Planetary that play with the myths that nurtured me: they challenge them, contradict them, turn them inside out, and even show affection for them. It's very po-mo now, very meta. And that’s good. There are a lot of people making comics who are up to the challenge of keeping the medium vital without losing the spark of wonder that sucked me in to begin with. Thank god for that.
I beg to differ. In fact, I’d say that a god-damned rainbow mirrorball is enough of a hypercaricature to be the sole indicator of someone so desperate to have an identity that he'd buy one lock, stock, and barrel from a catalogue of homosexual schlock. (It could be a she. I don't want to suggest that lesbians are immune to this sort of tragic kitsch.) Jesus, decades of fighting for public acceptance gets us this? Doesn't anyone see that this is as bad as a Catholic with a life-size velvet painting of the Pope?
You wanna show your pride? You wanna be out of the closet? Hold a guy's hand in public. Tell the fella in the mailroom he's got a hot ass. Ask if your boyfriend can be covered under your health insurance. Just be yourself — I bet you're not as truly straight-acting as you think you are. And that’s not a problem at all.
I switched medicines today, sort of. since I’ve been doing so well on the three drugs I’ve been taking (AZT, 3TC, Ziagen), no gross side effects and impressive changes in my bloddwork and whatnot, I’ve switched from taking them as two pills (Combivir, Ziagen) twice a day to only one pill (Trizivir) twice a day. It's big and blue and looks prettier in my little pillbox than the others, and leaves more room for me to carry around extra Claritin for my pesky allergies.
Have I ever complained about how much I hate taking medicines? Not because I find them unpleasant in and of themselves, but because I hate being reliant on little nudges to my body chemistry rather than just relying on clean living and eating pretty well. Being totally dependent on prescription medicines every day for the rest of my life, particularly knowing that if I miss doses too often they can stop beng effective altogether, makes me slightly batty.