Phillip Herr finds the USPS fascinating: ubiquitous, relied on, and headed off a cliff. Its trucks are everywhere; few give it a second thought. "It's one of those things that the public just takes for granted," he says. "The mailman shows up, drops off the mail, and that's it." He is struck by how many USPS executives started out as letter carriers or clerks. He finds them so consumed with delivering mail that they have been slow to grasp how swiftly the service's financial condition is deteriorating. "We said, 'What's your 10-year plan?' " Herr recalls. "They didn't have one."
That's right, metaphors, like Shakespeare's famous line, "All the world's a stage," or more subtly, "The darkness pressed in on all sides." Every speaker in every language in the world uses them effortlessly, and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity wants know how what we say reflects our worldviews. They call it The Metaphor Program, and it is a unique effort within the government to deal with how we use words.
Image: Julian Mackler / MACKME.COM
Mother Jones guest blogger Mark Armstrong is the founder of Longreads, a site devoted to uncovering the best long-form nonfiction articles available online. And what better time to curl up with…
LENGTH: 4 minutes (1153 words)
“Federal Standard 595—Colors Used in Government Procurement” has its roots in World War I, when in 1918 Bulletin No. 90 of the General HQ of the American Expeditionary Force established a color identified as “olive drab” as the official shade for tactical vehicles, though what exactly those words indicated was a subject of some confusion. In 1917, the manual for the Quartermaster Corps had defined olive drab as a combination of ochre and black pigments, though it did not mention a specific ratio, nor did it indicate which manufacturer’s pigments were best suited for the job.
This, however, is not a story of my cooking, or the odd combination of freedom and thralldom it confers. It's the story of what — or who — inspired my decision to be my family's cook, gave me the will to do it, and made it both a practical and, apparently, a psychological necessity. It is the story of my mother — of my mother's cooking.
"You may remember some of my other biggies, such as, 'Any monkey in a story had better be a dead monkey,' and 'Aunts and uncles are best construed as the heliological equivalent of small-scale weather systems,' or (the mother of all advice-quote-pairs): 'The number of rooms in a fictional house should be inversely proportional to the years during which the couple living in that house enjoyed true happiness.'"
For more than 50 years Harold Bloom’s name has been synonymous with the study of literature, from his groundbreaking book The Anxiety of Influence (1973) and its sequel A Map of Misreading (1975), to definitive studies on Shelley (Shelley’s Mythmaking, 1959), William Butler Yeats (Yeats, 1970), and Wallace Stevens (Wallace Stevens: The Poems of Our Climate, 1977) among others.
PUBLISHED: April 1, 2011
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5304 words)