NB: Paper Cut Flophouse was a group blog that ran in the late aughts. Most posts were written by two contributors: me, using the pseudonym Roman Briton, and my friend Pompeston, the mastermind of the endeavor. This is a cross-posting of a post I originally wrote for PCFH; here’s a link to the original.
At a coffee shop not far from my house, to the right of the cash register, a small clipping from, I believe, The New York Post has been taped to the back of the espresso machine. It’s not an original article, but rather a wire service feed from Reuters; the headline reads: “KILLER CHIMPS ATTACK TOURISTS.” Someone—the coffee shop employee who must have originally cut out and taped up the article, perhaps, or a coffee shop customer?—has scrawled on the clipping with what appears to have been a ballpoint pen, to the left of the headline, the following words—which, like the headline, are all in capital letters:
On the bottom edge of the clipping, also in all caps, and in what appears to be a different hand, someone has also written these words, all forced together as if it might be a domain name rather than the title of a film:
Further complicating the understanding of this marginalia, this palimpsest, is the matter of punctuation. To the left of the letter “B” there are symbols that look like two exclamation marks, bending to the right in the wind, with two additional symmetrical vertical lines shooting down from the double periods, a mirror of the lines above them, twin masts reflected in a lake; to the right of the letter “S” are similar figures, except these look like two bars leaning to the left off the tops of two right-angled exclamation marks, or like two bangs, twice the usual length, that have been cleanly shot by an invisible bullet right through their middles. Perhaps these glyphs are meant to indicate exploding French quotation marks? Maybe they’re intended to be a fusion of Spanish and English and French, indicating exclamation, quotation, and bracketing all at once? I don’t know the answer to this, nor can I fully explain why the former graffito is so funny, but the latter is so completely not, other than to wonder if perhaps it is a matter of becoming something, rather than just pointing at something, which seems to be a more interesting variation of the old writing-workshop saw to show and not tell, a useless piece of advice if ever there was one; and it also might have to do with voice, perhaps specifically the commonplace of the ominous Lord of the Rings or Star Wars voice, intersecting culturally here with another Hollywood cliché, the random smattering of strange and foreboding isolated incidents seen occurring all over the world that always opens those wonderful movies about the apolcalypse; but even more than these, maybe that great little three-word tag wins because of punctuation, or lack thereof, because it could have so easily been followed by an ellipsis—such an abused mark!—one that ought to be reserved for a trailing off, a “tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther” trailing off, or an actual elision, but all too often seems to be an incompetent conveyor of sense, of seriousness, or an inadequate stand-in for a full stop?