A century ago, dozens of American girls were named Milady because of the success of a new product: the Milady Décolleté Gillette safety razor, developed to remove underarm hair. (And did you know that “underarm” was coined as a euphemism for “armpit”?) (Baby Name Wizard)
On February 22 – the birthday of America’s first president, George Washington – @RealDonaldTrump rose early and poked out a farrago of tweets – seven in all – proffering his theories about guns, schools, and a “GREAT DETERRENT” (his capitalization) to massacres like the one that occurred on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Davis High School in Parkland, Florida. Scattered within those tweets like so much buckshot were three occurrences of the word sicko.
....immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A “gun free” school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!
....If a potential “sicko shooter” knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there...problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work!
My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus looks at numbers from a non-mathematical perspective: as words and names. I include commentary on some numeric names I’ve written about here, including 605, SENS8, 23, and 427.
Original 420 Brand CBD gummies. For more on 420 as shorthand for “cannabis,” see my 2014 post.
Full access the column is restrict to subscribers (still just $19.95 a year)! Here’s an excerpt:
How best to mark the end of the shitshow that was 2017? With a pilgrimage to an institution that mocks and celebrates all manner of flops, lemons, fiascos, misfires, and fuckups, of course. Which is how I found myself last week at the Museum of Failure in downtown Los Angeles’s Arts District. The traveling installation, housed in the A+D (architecture + design) Museum, is open to the public through February 4; it then returns to its permanent home home in Helsingborg, Sweden.
Collins Dictionary, based in London and Glasgow, got a head start on the WOTY competition in early November, selectingfake news over runners-up such as unicorn, echo chamber, and gig economy. (Related: My November 2016 post on fake.)
During my recent trip to VancouverI attended five screenings at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF). The films were good – I especially enjoyed Lucky, the actor Harry Dean Stanton’s last movie (he died in September); and You’re Soaking in It, a disturbing Canadian-produced documentary about data-driven advertising – but what most impressed me about the festival didn’t appear on the screen. It was, instead, a 32-word statement read by a presenter before each screening.
When I returned home I emailed VIFF to get the precise wording of the statement. Here it is:
First we would like to acknowledge that we are on the unceded Indigenous land belonging to the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, Stolo, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
Five films, five readings, each exactly the same except for one ad-lib when the presenter looked up after “unceded” and commented: “I guess we aren’t yet allowed to say stolen.”
Now, I attend film festivals pretty regularly here in the Bay Area, which is also – like much of these United States – unceded Indigenous land. Has anyone ever acknowledged that fact here? Not even once. Not even at the most politically astute events.
Between screenings, and after I left Vancouver, I thought a lot about that word unceded. Its root, cede, has a legal meaning: to yield or grant, especially by means of a treaty. This Vancouver land hadn’t been ceded. It had been taken long ago by British colonizers. Stolen.
I asked the VIFF organizers how this acknowledgment came about. Was it unique to VIFF? The response was prompt and clear:
It is quite common in Vancouver for organizations to publicly acknowledge that they are on unceded land belonging to the Coast Salish peoples, particularly arts, culture, and educational organizations. This is part of Canada's ongoing reconciliation with the First Nations peoples. VIFF believes in the importance of this reconciliation. This is the first year that VIFF has made this acknowledgment before each screening, but we are actually latecomers to this practise, as other local film festivals and live event exhibitors have been doing it for quite a few years now.
Repeating an acknowledgment about unceded land and the people who refused to cede it – five, 50, or 500 times – will not change history. But it makes an impression that lingers and deepens. It changes the way you look at your surroundings, the way you think about how you and your forebears got here, the way you think about what you owe to those who came long before. For the institutions that commit to the acknowledgment, it’s a powerful form of branding – of communicating character and purpose. It’s a step away from the spotlight, which is an unusual and admirable thing for a film festival to do, when you think about it.
I inherited my love of factory tours from my late father, who rarely missed an opportunity to schlep us kids to something (a) educational and (b) free. Among many other jaunts, I clearly remember touring a Chevrolet factory (loud) and a Chicken of the Sea tuna factory (smelly). I’m sure Dad would have approved of the Huy Fong hot-sauce factory in Irwindale (Los Angeles County), California, where the tour isn’t just educational and free, but also concludes with a giveaway: a generous bottle of one of the three Huy Fong products – sriracha, chili-garlic paste, or sambal oelek.
What’s more, the founder of Huy Fong is an immigrant, as was my father. David Tran was born in Vietnam in 1945 into an ethnic-Chinese family that was exiled by the Communist government in 1979. The Taiwanese ship on which he departed was called the Huey Fong – “gathering prosperity” – and Tran adapted the propitious name for the company he founded in Los Angeles in 1980.
Figure of Huy Fong founder David Tran with oversize sriracha bottle, in the training room at Huy Fong headquarters.
Years ago, I named the world’s first “bidirectional” condom, so this story really spoke to me:
Diverse & Resilient, an LGBTQ organization in Milwaukee, decided to do something about the bland branding of free condoms. So it partnered with a local marekting agency, Cramer Krasselt, to create Naughty Bags, condoms designed by teens for teens. According to Adweek, the condoms are made “to be sex-positive, humorous, and cool” and feature “witty names like Pork Parka, Pelvic Poncho, Scuba Gear, Surge Protector and—our favorite—Papa Stopper.” Brilliant – in every sense.