John McAfee, the New York Times catch-up edition

After Gizmodo, after Wired, there is now a New York Times profile of John McAfee's descent into the heart of darkness, this one notable for its use of the underappreciated adjective "priapic."

Well played, thesaurus-using Times scribe, well played.

I kid, but it's actually a great piece, and this is one of those gift-that-keeps-on-giving stories that just becomes more interesting as more news dribbles out.

It begs to be made into a movie. And I'd place good money on Joshua Davis having already written a script.

I asked on Twitter today which actor should play the batshit teen-bonking gun-hoarding anti-virus-mogul 67-year-old.

Who do you think? Your replies in the comments. Herzog for director, amirite?

"I am indeed that same Stuffmonger."


  1. “Priapic” isn’t quite as bad as “limn” or “limned”, which is like writing “Hold everything — Did I mention how many years of college I did? You have no fricking idea. This is how many: LIMNED.” Even worse than using semi-colons.

    1. The last course I had on English grammar was in 8th grade.  Semi-colon use was taught long before that.

      Reverse snobbism is still snobbism.

      1. Just following the advice of one of my heroes, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. 
        “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

        1. Everyone fricking loves quoting that line, because it means that they never need to learn how to use semicolons correctly, and can just be reverse-snobs about it.

    2. I like semicolons; uniting two sentences is different than separating them.

      And I like vocabulary.  I prefer it to Newspeak.  Shakespeare had a big vocabulary; does that make him a snob?

      Now that I look, I see the little blurb next to your name starts with: “Amigurumi-Syndicalist”.  And you’re stressing about “priapic”?

      1. I find semicolons useful when listing clauses that have commas in them. What really cracks me up is in Wuthering Heights where Brontë writes the servant Joseph’s dialogue in this thick accent like a bumpkin, but with semi-colons separating sentences. [Am I misinterpreting this? Is he meant to be a moderately educated person who just happens to speak in an accent different from the protagonist? Or does the author associate dropped letters with low education like Americans would?] Is the character thinking in terms of semi-colons, or is the narrator helpless to keep her understanding of grammar from even this guy’s words?

        I’m not stressing about “priapic.” I’m replying to what Xeni said about it. I’m not stressing about “limned” either, but it seems too high-falutin when I read it.

        I’m not sure if this gets me off the hook for hypocrisy, but “amigurumi-syndicalist” is a joke. I’m aware that only people with a grounding in certain political terms and crafting or otaku terms will get it, and wouldn’t look down on people who don’t get it. In fact, it marks me as a geek if someone has to ask, so potentially raises their clout and lowers mine. It’s like a shibboleth, but I’m not going to kill people who don’t get it, or feel hipper than them, I hope.

        Dammit, shibboleth is obscure too. Oh well. That’s really unique and worth knowing though, unlike “limned.”

        1. What an utterly bizarre notion. Quoted speech in a novel is meant to represent what the person said, not to represent what they would have written down. Otherwise, speech by illiterate characters would just have to be represented by blank spaces in the text.

          1. If semi-colons are essentially interchangeable with periods in those instances, then it’s just ironic. If semi-colons actually convey something different than a period separating two related clauses, then it doesn’t make sense to use them when transcribing the speech of a person who wouldn’t understand them. It would be like transcribing their words with poetic line breaks, adding meaning that wasn’t clear or present in the spoken words.

          2. That’s like suggesting that someone who speaks with a lot of asides and parentheticals shouldn’t be quoted with mdashes or parentheses if they wouldn’t know to use them themselves.

            If a character connects two closely-related independent clauses without a conjunction, then of course you can transcribe it with a semicolon. Similarly, if a character ends a sentence you should transcribe it with a period. You only think the two are different because you’ve decided that that the semi-colon is high-falutin while the period isn’t, but that’s your own problem.

        2.  Semicolons are useful to link together two independent phrases in the case that a conjunction would imply a somewhat altered meaning or disrupt the rhythm or parallelism of the phrase.  Writing requires more than just “saying what you mean”.  The structure and sound of the sentence make a big difference; try reading an awkwardly-phrased sentence quickly some time and you’ll see how difficult it is to derive meaning from it.  (See what I did there?  Now try replacing “;” with a conjunction like “so” or “and”…it seems wrong to me somehow when I do so.)  And not everyone wants to sound like Ernest Hemingway all the time.

          In Bronte’s case, she may very well have been trying to convey a sense of breathlessness or enthusiasm since semicolons are often (and probably should be) read with less of a pause than a period.

          1. Obviously Joseph was the wearisomest self-righteous pedant that ever ransacked a grammar book to rake the semicolons to himself and fling the periods to his neighbours.

      1. You’re part of a dying breed. We’re lucky to have you.

        Now would it have been possible or appropriate for me to use a semi-colon after “breed” above? Would it mean something different than using a period?

        I actually think “priapic” isn’t very obscure, because every kid enjoys looking up pee and poo and ding-a-ling and swear words in dictionaries & thesauruses.

        1. Now would it have been possible or appropriate for me to use a semi-colon after “breed” above?

          Not really, as the concepts aren’t related closely enough. Here are two examples where the phrase after the semicolon either explains the part before it or explains why you should care about it. It’s a tight causal relationship.

          1. Would it be appropriate to write “We’re lucky to have you; you’re part of a dying breed”? The second part explains why you should care.

            This is why I think some people quite reasonably give up on the semi-colon, because teachers scold you for misuse of semi-colon, in situations where periods would have been acceptable. What’s the advantage of ever using a semi-colon, unless it means something different?

            If it means something different from a period, and if there’s no verbal cue that perfectly communicates a semi-colon, then this is a case where written symbols can convey more meaning than speech, or different meaning. It might have begun with the purpose of capturing speech, but it can convey meanings that don’t match up with speech. For example, letters in different colors, different fonts, with weird poetic line breaks or indentation don’t necessarily capture or reflect speech. You can tell because it’s difficult to read them aloud and convey everything that’s on the page. E.E. Cummings might have intended to capture speech in his poems, but would it be possible to read one of his pieces aloud in such a way that everyone could transcribe it with the same indentations or white space or line breaks he used?

          2. Yes. That brings it into the vague semi-dependency that characterizes semicolonic relationships. In this case, I’d say that the semicolon replaces the word ‘because’. With a period, there’s no clear relationship between the two statements.

  2. Jesus, whatever about priapic,  “I am indeed that same Stuffmonger” is not something you hear every day.  If I ever have occasion to say those exact words, I would be taking a deep breath and wondering about the course my life had taken.

  3. i second Walken, but i also think he’s a pretty good likeness for John Glover – the guy who played Lionel Luthor in Smallville amongst others. 

  4. Every time I see this guy’s name in print I read it as “John McPhee” and every time I feel excited, then confused, then disappointed.

  5. Willem Dafoe, Nick Nolte, and John Malkovich are the best suggestions in the thread so far.  All of them are pretty good at conveying the “there’s a 2% chance I’m about to knife you in the throat” vibe I’ve been getting from the articles on McAfee.

  6. Don’t know where the semi colon discussion came in. I thought we were talking about who would play McAfee in a movie.  Someone already suggested Bill Murray, but he would be perfect. Kind of born to play this role. 

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