R.S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

Tag: Whose Idea Was This?

My Sister Helps Me Write a Throwback Thursday Post

ME:  Look, I need help with this “Throwback Thursday” post.
VAL:  Help?
ME:  I can’t think of anything to write.
VAL:  Hmmmmm. Oh! Remember that public TV show, 3-2-1 Contact? And when we were really little, how I’d call it “Rumma-Tumma-Summa,” just to piss you off?
ME:  It still pisses me off, 40 years later.
VAL:  Or how we were our own Dukes of Hazzard sibling pair, driving around in our “car” which was just our two matching kid-sized rocking chairs side-by-side? And how we named our car “The Doobie”—like the Duke boys named theirs “The General Lee”—but nobody bothered to tell us what a doobie actually was?
ME:  What? I don’t even remember that.
VAL:  Okay, uhhh—how about that time you crawled into an old 55-gallon drum with the ends cut out so you could roll down the backyard hill? You got up some speed by the clothesline and BLAM! crashed sideways into the well-house wall.
ME:  Nobody wants to read about my first concussion.
VAL: Nah, probably not. But here’s a good one—when we were in high school, and you sat straight up in bed one night, in the middle of a dream and shouted, “Needs more sauce!”
ME: Oh, for God’s sake.
VAL: Oooh! Oooh! I’ve got it! The time when you were a baby, just learning to walk, and somehow you got behind the sofa and ate a dead spider.
ME:  No.
VAL:  Why not?
ME:  Because Mom swears it was poop, not a spider, and she’ll post something on Facebook to that effect.
VAL:  So was it?
ME:  Was it what?
VAL:  Was it poop?
ME:  Forget it. No Throwback Thursday this week.

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

If Blake Shelton Is the Sexiest Man Alive, Then I Am the Jolly Green Giant

So People Magazine has declared country singer [sic] Blake Shelton their 2017 Sexiest Man Alive. And this country music scholar HAS SOME STRONG OPINIONS.

Sexiest Man Alive? In what universe? Have we just stopped trying, as a society? (Wait, no, don’t answer that.) Y’all, I can go to any bar in any town on a Friday night and find half a dozen middle-aged white dudes who look just like this. Standing on any street in downtown Nashville, I can throw a rock with my eyes closed and hit 20 Shelton look-alikes. It’s a goddamn travesty.

Hell, I could browse my Facebook friends list and easily find a couple hundred men who are sexier than Blake Shelton, plus none of them have cheesy-ass redneck stereotype tattoos. Nor do any of them look like everybody’s ne’er-do-well uncle who’s 48 and still lives at home but dresses like he’s 18 and just stepped out of an Ed Hardy photo shoot. (Don’t act like you don’t know which uncle I’m talking about.) Mmmmmmmm, smell that entire can of Axe body spray he fumigated himself with put on before exiting his room.

Jesus, Mary, and Johnny Cash help us.

People Magazine really needs to rethink this whole Sexiest Man Alive deal. Or at least NOT make it so cheap that any middling country star with a regular role on a TV “talent” show can buy the title for $25,000. Means about as much as a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which costs about the same—and there are upwards of 5,000 of those damn things making Tinseltown sidewalks that much uglier.

Since you asked (and I know you didn’t, but too bad, because I’m telling you anyway) here’s my definitive list of things that are sexier than Blake Shelton:

A dirty litter box
2 gallons of mayonnaise
The rear view mirror on a ’92 Oldsmobile
Stewed tomatoes
The Pruitt-Igoe implosion
A colonoscopy
Stale Coors Light
A partially demolished CMU wall
No. 10 envelopes
An outboard motor
Partially-used roll of tracing paper
MRI room doors
Tom Petty’s ghost
Mortgage insurance
Creepy church fans
Dental floss
Murphy’s Oil Soap
205R65 steel-belted radials
Store-brand maxi pads
Any K-Tel Kenny Rogers box set
A 22-ounce framing hammer
The Microsoft Excel formula for compound interest
Elevation drawings of any Frank Gehry building
The ladies’ restroom on Saturday night at the Flora-Bama Club

Seriously: If Blake Shelton is the Sexiest Man Alive, then my 5’2″ ass is the Jolly Green Giant. Now, if y’all will excuse me, I’m gonna sit over here in the corner and drink bourbon (neat) while I sing “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger.”

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

33 1/3 Kinds of Wrong

One bonus of country music research—and of teaching a survey course titled “Country Music and Southern Culture: Beyond Drinkin’, Fightin’, and Cheatin'”— is the material students find on their own for class.

Years ago, after a great discussion of how country music often ignores African-Americans’ contributions to the genre, one student brought me this 25¢ yard sale gem. “Since we talked about DeFord Bailey, Charlie Pride, and Ray Charles last week,” he said, “I thought this might be interesting.”

The next day, I showed it to the class. “Based on our discussion the other day, tell me what’s going on with this album cover.”

At the back of the room, one student raised a hand. “Well, Professor—how much time do you have?”


The Tender Side of Ray Charles (front cover)


© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)
Album cover © 1978 Suffolk Marketing, Inc.


Someone explain this to me.

Because I’m at a loss to explain it, myself.


How did nobody manage to spot this before the banner made it to production?

Maybe someone’s been watching too many late 1970s movie musicals. Sure, both towns are named LaGrange—but this is a bit much.

Emergency Instructions: A Matter of Life and Death

Concise, easy-to-understand instructions can mean the difference between success and failure—or even between life and death. In emergency situations, for instance, our reasoning abilities diminish. We just want to get out alive. Our brains are in crisis mode, not think-and-reflect mode.

When we create text to accompany life-saving equipment, it’s important that even terrified or badly injured people can understand it in a millisecond. How we phrase these brief instructions can determine whether our readers live or die.

Here’s a great example courtesy of my sister, who was traveling for work when she snapped these photos. Continue reading

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: 6/27/12

Blue Ridge, Georgia—21 May 2010

I’ll wash my own hands, thanks!

Workplace signs are among the funniest I’ve seen. They almost never mean to cause confusion, but when they do, the result makes my day. Or makes me weep for humanity. Or both.

This one is courtesy of my sister, who saw it in a Denver area women’s restroom. Continue reading

It’s called a dictionary. USE IT.

For the second time this week—and I’m not sure how it happened, so please don’t point fingers, index or otherwise—I happened across this article on Yahoo! News [sic]. Boxer Floyd Mayweather is serving a 90-day jail sentence in Las Vegas for beating up and threatening his ex, with whom he has three children. Continue reading

Web users want to read content. Who knew?

The other day, I stumbled across this Who Knew? article from Yahoo! News [sic] on long-lasting celebrity marriages. Nothing in there surprised me—I already knew about Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber, et cetera.

No, what really gave me a laugh was the comments section.

Continue reading

Anatomy of a logotype FAIL

Several weeks ago, my tech comm classmates and I had a long discussion about logotypes. Which logotype would we recognize anywhere? To what did we ascribe its power? Was it designed well? Or just ubiquitous?

At first, I had a hard time thinking of a well-known, instantly-recognizable font. Irony of ironies! Finally, though, it came to me:

Figure 1: The old Wal-Mart logo, discontinued in 2008, still appears on the store's plastic bags in some markets.

Well, why not? Continue reading

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