On writing: “The lazy from to” Part II

First: An apology. I posted “The lazy from to” from a cafe. Bad Internet connection. A woman six feet away coughing like an emphysema ward (when she wasn’t waving madly at her laptop camera during a loud Skype chat).

So I left out the “from . . . to” I read this evening. Not the worst example. Just the one that made me say enough.

“Next week, the third annual St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs, which is free and open to the public, takes place at USF St. Pete. Tackling everything from international criminal tribunals to sea-level rise, the three-day conference, chaired by retired Ambassador Douglas McElhaney, a St. Pete resident, aims to take a deeper look at issues that often get short shrift in the 140-character media landscape.”

A 69-word metaphor-mixing, cliche-ridden paragraph including the 43-word sentence with  “everything from international criminal tribunals to sea-level rise”.

OK, OK. It’s from the local alternative weekly – Creative Loafing (previously The Weekly Planet).

Doesn’t matter. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times: Just as guilty.




On writing: “The lazy from to”



As a grad student I taught a journalism writing class. Many students hated me because I expected them to write a news story. A lead (lede). Who, what, when, where, why and how. It had to make sense. A misspelled word sent you from an A to a B if not worse. If you misspelled the president’s name – as in the U.S. president – you got an “F” on that assignment. Yeah – I was a real jerk.

That was many years ago. Today bad writing and editing are everywhere. One thing that makes me want to slap editors and writers silly is what I call the “lazy from . . . to”. Yes, I just made that up.

It goes something like this: “The store sells everything from bananas to telephones.” Except “bananas to telephones” isn’t a continuum – at least not one I recognize. Yes there have been banana-shaped telephones. Bananas and telephones might be sold in the same store. But it’s not a “from to”. It’s just lazy writing.

It would be like saying “I’ve seen everything from television to Niagara Falls.” You cannot tell from this simple declarative sentence that I’ve seen anything other than television and Niagara Falls.

Or “she’s been everything from a waitress to public transit token collector”. Again – nothing.

That is the point. A reader must be able to imagine the array of products, visual experiences or jobs being described.  Bananas to telephones, television to Niagara Falls and waitress to public transit token collector. I could just as well have said “I’ve seen everything from bananas to telephones” or “I’ve seen everything from a waitress to a public transit token collector”. I might have seen all these – but the “from to” implies something that does not exist.

As I said – lazy writing. You see it everywhere – especially the “lazy from to”.

Pablo Picasso

To J


Pablo Picasso


The Modern Lovers

Well some people try to pick up girls
And get called assholes
This never happened to Pablo Picasso

He could walk down your street
And girls could not resist his stare and
So Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole

Well the girls would turn the color of the avocado
When he would drive down their street in his El Dorado
He could walk down your street
And girls could not resist his stare
Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole
Not like you

Well he was only 5’3″
But girls could not resist his stare
Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole
Not in New York

Oh well
Be not schmuck, be not obnoxious,
Be not bell bottom bummer or asshole
Remember the story of Pablo Picasso
He could walk down your street
And girls could not resist his stare
Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole

Alright this is it
Some people try to pick up girls
And they get called an asshole
This never happened to Pablo Picasso
He could walk down your street
And girls could not resist his stare and so
Pablo Picasso was never called…



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More Spying: The Original Story

With the news buzzing about the United States and United Kingdom breaking and entering (again) to better spy on billions of people worldwide, here’s the original story from The Intercept. Courtesy, apparently and again, of one Edward Snowden. (Original stories get lost in the mayhem of so-called search engines delivering paid-for content listings.)

The Great SIM Heist

Aldo And Gigo

Walking out the door of an office building Friday about noon – my mind elsewhere.

Something makes me stop. And look.

I hardly believe what I see: A faded blue 1996 Toyota Tercel – covered from front to back, bottom to top, inside and out with U.S. pennies. The car’s owner, Aldo, inside. Flanked by his sidekick, Gigo (“JEE-jo”), the dog.

“This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!”


Aldo, 85, thanks me and patiently answers questions.

He left Cuba for the United States in 1959 – the year Fidel Castro and his ragtag rebel band seized power. Aldo was 30. He hasn’t been back.

More than a half-century later, a replica of the Statue of Liberty rides the front of Aldo’s hood, waving an American flag. A miniature Cuban flag dangles from the inside mirror. A sign in the rear windows displays more patriotism for his adoptive country.


Aldo glued his first penny on his Tercel about six years ago. Now it’s mostly maintenance. A few Canadian and Cuban. Almost all from the United States. Aldo shows me the Cuban penny and a 1901 Indian head penny I thought might be worth some real money. However, a pristine copy sells on Ebay for less than $100.

More than 1,700 pennies. Pennies everywhere. Tires. Mirrors. Windshield wipers. Steering wheel.



Another thing; Aldo and Gigo ride around on seat covers sporting the likeness of 1970s-era southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyd (“Sweet Home Alabama”).

“You were a fan?”

“Yeah, sure!”


A loose penny rolls under my fingers – in the railing above the passenger door. I can’t help myself. “Can I have this?” A souvenir.

Gripping a tube of Loctite adhesive Aldo prepares to fill a hole. I dig in my pocket to find a penny. Aldo thanks me. Adds it to his rolling collection. You can see it in the photo – stuck bright and shiney in a sea of darkened copper.


A new penny.


Loose pennies fill jars in the back of the car. He has more at home. I don’t ask how many.


I cannot stop my mouth. “So given the recent attempts to make friends with Cuba blah blah blah do you think you’ll go back?”

“No,” Aldo says with a soft chuckle. “I still have problems there.”

With that, I finally shut it. I thank Aldo and say goodbye.

Whatever his politics – whatever he did in Cuba or whatever Castro thinks he did – Aldo is one of the few Cuban-Americans whose dislike for Cuba post-January 1, 1959 is, at least, genuine. Not something he learned about second hand. Not some way to make a political career – like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, beating a drum from a band in which he never marched.

In a world increasingly filled with insta-everything and pseudo experience, Aldo, I sense, is the real deal.




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All photos and editorial content copyrighted 2015 by The People’s Republic Of Freedonia.

Badly Drawn Boy



Freehand. No subject/model/photo as inspiration.

Dying ball point on folded 8×11 scrap paper. Edited to remove dark fold lines (not part of drawing). Still visible in the hair/forehead.

[title inspiration]

[A note: This drawing is because last year I thought I’d learn to draw. I did a few assignments and then one which I posted. An upside-down drawing of Igor Stravinsky. It’s as odd as it sounds.

Meanwhile, before you Ms. Wisenheimers ask – and you know who you are – no, I did not draw this standing on my head.]