Friday, June 13, 2008

Random Roundup III

1. Link this.

Michael Agger on Slate boldly throws down the glove: "you're probably going to read this," he dares. His goal is to develop an exercise that describes what readers direct their attention to while reading online. I'd advise against following the link. Agger advocates writing from the Bill Gates school, in which content-free bulleted lists are highlighted, every other thought is bolded, and lots of white space separates the readers from the content (such as it is). I kept on for a page--hoping for humor--but he lost me on the first hyperlink. You lost, Mike.

Style is a tell. One of my first rules on visiting new blogs is the thought-to-quote ratio. Some cut and pasted material is forgivable, if there's a comment to be made. Composing ones thoughts primarily of other people's is a travesty, however, and any number of people live to break the news of what other people are thinking. Really, I'll just get a reader. Another really unforgivable sin of online journalism is explaining things through links. Agger claims they look authoritative, but that's only if you use them right. My rule: if the article doesn't make a point that I can decipher without clicking the blue text, then it's almost certainly not worth reading. Used properly, hyperlinks are a way to provide the reader the choice to verify content, and they similarly can provide sidebar information that doesn't necessarily fit in the text of the article or post. The benefit of using link text is that it's unobtrusive, and that it's optional. Nothing makes me less likely to follow through with an article than requiring me read linked material. It advertises that the very point the writer is trying to make is borrowed.

I actually don't think his is a bad idea for an article, but he comes down for quantity of product (by which I mean his audience) over quality, which as a discerning member of the same, I find insulting. Like any writing, you have to consider what you're trying to communicate and to whom. The tricks Agger advocates are designed to tell me that an atom of content must be rendered as smooth and flavorless as possible so that the lowly reader may have a passing chance of digesting the learned wisdom. It's about as cleverly written as a chain letter, or a marriage book by John Gray:

  • imply knowledge
  • belabor the point
  • use small words.
  • bite me

    2. Karma visits the Busch family

    The great American icon Budweiser is going to be bought out by Belgian company InBev. As you might imagine, real Americans are angry about the threat to the beloved corporate icon, which is"'an American original,' in league with baseball and apple pie" (purpose of link: to cite the story and verify the quote). What's more American than nepotism?

    I think that we can safely call A-B an American company, and at this point, the American pilsner a style that's a child of United States. Unsurprisingly, pilsner began in this country with an influx of German and Czech immigrants in the nineteenth century. Prohibition choked off the American pilsner, as it did many other styles, but the Busches kept alive by selling brewing ingredients and near beers during the dark, dry days. The pilsner style appealed to Americans after the second world war, both for its lightness, and it was well-suited to accommodate commodity grains, and mass production--refrigeration made lagers a lot easier to brew. The American light beer suited the twentieth century fondness for the industrially revolutionized food industry. The makers of Bud have committed a lot of sins against real beer, but at the end of day, it's just another style, and I don't revile it for being what it is, even if its popularity is a little mystifying.

    But Budweiser's name has a European root, the rights to which has been contested for decades. "Budweiser" means that it comes from the Bohemian town of Budweis, (now) in the Czech Republic. Breweries in the area would really prefer to call their local beer "Budweiser" for obvious reasons, possibly including a wish to associate their name with something that doesn't suck. Pilsn--which got its name tagged to the style--is also a town in Bohemia, and the idea of a Budweiser pilsner is as oxymoronic as an American pilsner or as Budweiser from America.

    And now we're looking at a European-named American beer being bought out once again by the Europeans. There's a joke in there.

    (I'll add that Belgian beer, with its funny and sometimes delicious yeasts, is nothing like any of these things.)

    3. It's the silly season.

    Composing this post probably cost an hour of being here on Saturday. I'm telling myself I'll be less distracted. Certainly this is what I'd rather be doing.


    twiffer said...

    i must not be a real american, since i don't care what oorporate comglomorate churns out bud.

    there are so many misconceptions about beer. such as dark beer being always "heavy", whatever that means. i like beer with flavor; bud and its ilk have little to speak of. i suppose that's appealing, if your goal is to get shitfaced quickly, but then, why not drink grain punch instead? bud, coors, miller, have also always pushed the "refreshing" angle. i suppose i can understand that. an oatmeal stout, for instance, while tasty is not exactly thirst quenching. but a hefewiesen is, and far more flavorful. besides, if i want a thirst quenching alcholic beverage, i'm more likely to get a gin & tonic or a bottle of hard cider.

    speaking of hard cider, harpoon has started putting on one out. pretty good. "original sin" is still my favorite, but hard to find (for me). woodchuck's 1815 (i think that's it) is good too.

    Keifus said...

    I wouldn't say I care exactly--I don't even think Bud is good compared to the other insipid mass-produced swill--but I think it's funny that they bastardized a European style, used a European name, and then called it the height of Americana. And now...

    Never been a big cider fan. That could be at least partially related to the time as a teenager that I absconded with a gallon of Dad's homebrew. Yeah, that was interesting.

    twiffer said...

    well, if you like apple juice, then you should like cider. provided you get a good one. tasty and tangy.

    hey, bud is american as apple pie (specially as apples are native to kazahkstan)

    twiffer said...

    also, re #1: i didn't read it.

    Keifus said...

    Good for you, I wouldn't recommend reading that sort of thing.

    So I find myself in a really unfamiliar situation this weekend: for the first time in over a decade, I'm looking at an entire Saturday all alone, at home, with no commitments to anyone. I have no idea what I'm going to do with myself: I'm thinking maybe rollerblading, yard work, or perhaps going to a movie and childishly sneaking in a little flask of whiskey. Maybe I'll do all three.

    At least two of them could give me an excuse to try some hard cider, banish those teenage demons.

    twiffer said...

    -woodchuck (particularly the dark 1814(or whatever it is)
    -original sin


    stay the hell away from: