30 November 2007

Post 49

It has been raining off an on all day.

Were I to take my pet thimble out for a walk, I could most definitely fill it with fresh water.

England7 being filled with rainwater--such a small amount of fluid, yet if I attempted to drink it, I would most certainly drown.

Hiding in my room, safe within my womb,
I touch no one, and no one touches me.
I am a rock;
I am an island.

29 November 2007

Post 48

So. I'm cleaning my room (meaning that I'm desperately searching for something I've lost and finding all kinds of stuff that I never thought to look for), and I found a little note I jotted down while subbing in a high school one day.

On that particular day, I was subbing an English class. I had them read an ironic twist on a classic fairy tale, and then we all went to the computer lab for them to create their own ironic twists on classic fairy tales. They typed and printed and turned them in, and I, having nothing else to do, read them while I sat there. Some were good; some were not so good. One in particular, though, stands out in my memory, and this note is an excerpt I jotted down with the express purpose of blogging about it. The story was entitled "Pinocchio." It's been several months since I read it, but I will do my best to tell you how it went:

There was an old puppet maker who made wonderful puppets. And then he died. His widow--um--I forget--got lonely or something. Anyway, she decided to make a puppet to keep her company, so she went to a forest where gnomes were cutting down trees. She asked them if they would cut her some wood, and she did her best to keep her eyes averted as she spoke to them because everyone knows that looking a gnome in the eyes will make you die. The gnomes told her that she didn't want any of that wood because it was cursed, and then they left, refusing to give her any wood at all. But it just so happened that the gnomes accidentally left behind a piece of wood that was the perfect size for making a puppet [deus ex machina]. She took this piece of wood home, carved it into a puppet, and went to bed. When she awoke in the morning, the puppet was staring over the edge of her bed at her. She was surprised to see that the puppet had come to life, but the puppet lamented that he was not a real boy. She asked what it would take to make him a real boy, and he told her that just a little bit of pixie dust would do the trick. It just so happened that the woman's deceased husband kept a little pixie dust on hand [deus ex machina], so the widow took it out of the cupboard, sprinkled some on the puppet, and watched as it turned into "a little boy pale in skin and rosy in cheeks."

As I was reading, I was mildly amused by all the deus ex machina being flung around (the italics and the bracketed notations are my thoughts not what was actually written). What I have paraphrased above took me right to the bottom of the page, but there was a second page. I flipped to it and saw a small paragraph. I fully expected it to say something about how the woman and the puppet lived happily thereafter, but instead, this is what I read:

"So two things happened that day. The puppet became a real being and the old widow learned to never give a puppet made of cursed wood pixie dust to come to life, otherwise you have a vampire on your hands."

Haha. Not very eloquently expressed, but that totally makes all that deus ex machina worth it!

26 November 2007

Post 47

On Thanksgiving, I watched Live Free or Die Hard. I never had any intentions to ever watch that movie, but my cosmetologist sister not only likes and highly recommends it but actually owns it. The fact that this particular sister of mine owned this movie was so intriguing to me that I was filled with an overwhelming desire to watch it--I mean, I usually disapprove of this sister's movie selections on the basis that they are too laden with estrogen, and here she owns this movie that I figured would emit enough testosterone to knock Hossein Reza Zadeh for a loop. This state of affairs still bamboozles me and sets my poor brain to digging for a fancypants vocabulary word strong enough to convey my utter shock--juxtaposition, idiosyncrasy, dichotomy--really, without you knowing my sister, there is no satisfactory term.

Anyway, I was pretty disappointed. I'm still completely thunderstruck that my sister likes this movie enough to own it because it really is just another over-the-top action flick. I mean, it had its moments, and I rather enjoyed it at times, but I don't see how it really stands out much.

Maybe my ignorance is to blame for my lack of wowification, though. Yasee, to my knowledge, most of the things that happened in that movie were simply impossible. But that may just be because of a lack of knowledge. For example, I bet most people like me who were somehow convinced to watch this movie were turned off by the crazy Russians jumping from wall to wall in the alley way and by the especially crazy Russian who did all kinds of impossible things before McClain kicked him into the spinning paddlewheel of death. But as it turns out, while these sorts of things are impossible for most people, Russians and Latvians and maybe the whole Slavic world have a genetic immunity to gravity. It sounds ridiculous, I know! You don't have to tell me it sound ridiculous; I know myself that, above and beyond sounding ridiculous, it is, in fact, completely ridiculous. Unfortunately, unlike many ridiculous claims, this one just happens to be true. Don't believe me? Well you explain this YouTube video then!

Crazy Slavic ninjas? Why can't I evade gravity like that?

Anyway, the disturbing fact of the matter is that, if Slavic ninjas are real (and who can deny video proof?), then perhaps much of the movie is much more plausible than we sheltered middle-class Americans dare suppose.

Overall, though, I (being a sheltered middle-class American) still consider Live Free or Die Hard a run-of-the-mill, over-the-top action flick. If you're into that sort of thing--well, if you're really into that sort of thing, I imagine you've already seen it, and I fully support you in your decision, since we can hardly expect anything better from people of your literary caste--but if you aren't into action flicks--well, good for you; just don't PO any Slavs.

24 November 2007

Post 46

I'd rather be hated for being myself than loved for being something I'm not.

20 November 2007

Post 45

"If my mind could gain a firm footing I would not make essays. I would make decisions. But it is always in apprenticeship and on trial." --Montaigne

16 November 2007

Post 44

Life is a funny thing, but it's also very, very beautiful, and, really, I'm just happy to be alive right now. In fact, I don't think I've ever been so happy to be alive as I am today. I suppose I could try to explain my joy, but it really is a long and complicated story--more complicated than long--and I'm not convinced I could tell it very clearly without the proper visual aids, so I shan't go into any great detail; suffice it to say that I had a near-death experience on my way to a dear friend's wedding, and now I can't stop loving life and all it entails.

14 November 2007

Post 43


I've figured out a few simple changes we could implement to make English grammar so much easier! Really, I can't make myself believe that no one has thought of this before; it's so obvious!

Step One: invent some new punctuation marks. A lot of the trouble we have with punctuation is a direct result of overworked punctuation marks; the more jobs we require a punctuation mark to accomplish, the more confusion we have regarding that punctuation mark. This is why so many Americans are terrified of commas. Think of it: if we added a few punctuation marks, we could greatly reduce confusion.
But here's the really good news: we don't have to invent more than one or two marks; mostly, we just need a better division of labor. For example, check out this sentence:

My sister, Sally, and I went to the store.

That's my favorite example of common comma confusion; because commas are used both to separate clauses and to divide between items in a list, we can't be sure whether Sally is my sister or accompanying me and my sister. In this example, the answer to our confusion is not in inventing new punctuation but rather in using an underused bit of punctuation (parentheses):

My sister (Sally) and I went to the store.

There. Confusion all gone!
Many common comma conundrums can be eliminated if you understand other punctuation marks. I had no idea what a semicolon was for until about six months ago when that was explained to me in an English class; now I use them all the time. No one who understands semicolons will ever make a comma splice, it just isn't something we do (teehee!).
I do propose we employ a couple of new punctuation marks, though. Like, let's make a new punctuation mark to show possession so the apostrophe can be used solely for contractions. We do that, we can say bye-bye to the its/it's quandary. Of course, easier still would be to totally eliminate the contraction "it's" in favor of "'tis." If we did that, then "it's" could be possessive and we would eliminate the only exception to the rule.
One thing apostrophes should not be required to do (the previous sentence just reminded me) is mark quoted quotations:

Nephi said, "Behold, Isaiah said, 'Thus said the LORD to me: "Isaiah, say unto this people, 'Thus said the LORD: "If you don't repent...."'"'"

See, at the end there, you get lost in the mix. Why don't we do like some places and forget our standard quotation mark (which is really no more than a double apostrophe) and use those curvy bracket things?

Nephi said, {Behold, Isaiah said, {Thus said the LORD to me: {Isaiah, say unto this people, {Thus said the LORD: {If you don't repent....}}}}}

[NOTE: my original idea was to use carrots instead of curvy brackets. Some languages do that already, and carrots would be a lot simpler than curvy brackets when it came down to writing by hand, but carrots are used in html, so blogger gets all confused when I use that many of them in close proximity like that. Sorry.]

See? Because they are so directional, no confusion is possible. The reason we have felt obligated to have two different kinds of quotation marks (the double and single apostrophe) is that we know that, if we only had one, no one would be able to determine in a glance whether a quotation was ending or beginning to quote something else:

Nephi said, "Behold, Isaiah said, "Thus said the LORD to me: "Isaiah, say unto this people, "Thus said the LORD: "If you don't repent...."""""

I mean, contextually that makes sense, I suppose, but carrots are easier to track.
So, yeah. There you go. Other than to say that I am, as ever, in favor of the interrobang, I think that pretty well covers my thoughts on punctuation reform.

Step Two: eliminate letter cases. Really, why do we need upper and lower case letters? Is not an a as good as an A? And a t as good as a T? I really see no reason to have two cases. it would be a lot simpler to go e e cummings style and leave everything in the lowercase, methinks. I've always thought it was odd that we have two distinct alphabets without having one do anything that the other can't, but the more I think about our rules regarding capitalization, the fewer reasons I can think of to support it. For example, why do we capitalize I but not me? Or other subject pronouns like he and she? Capitalization in titles makes even less sense. Newspapers generally capitalize only the first letter in a headline, but everyone else is expected to capitalize all nouns and verbs. This creates a real problem because many simpletons (meaning most English speaking Americans) understand the rule to be "Capitalize the 'big' words," so they capitalize Because but not is. Let's just save ourselves some pain and wipe out all capital letters. THEY SERVE NO PURPOSE! (I could have, for example, simply italicized that declaration).

Step Three: eliminate gender-specific pronouns. Seriously, nothing else in our language is gender specific, why do we need he/she and him/her and his/her (and why is "her" double worked?). Let's just make everything "it." Now, I'm sure some people would be seriously offended to be referred to that way, but I doubt any of those people are hoping for gender specific "you"s and "I"s. It will suffice. This will greatly reduce pronoun disagreement; because no one likes saying or writing awkward things like, "Each speaker at the convention was in the top of his or her field," many people revert to using plural pronouns when single pronouns are required ("Each speaker at the convention was in the top of their field").

i think i've covered it. some of you may be thinking, {just three steps‽ surely your list of grievances against english must be longer than that!} i myself am somewhat surprised to be placated by so short a list, but i am pleased with the simplicity of my plan; 'tis so efficient!

Post 42

Today, a salute to Pringles. I just sent them an email using the "contact us" link on their website; this is what it said:
I don't have a question, per se. I just wanted to email you a thank you. I was grocery shopping recently and notice Pringles with 50% less fat and 30% fewer calories. I'm not especially interested in health food, but I was happy to see a corporation that understands the difference between "less" and "fewer." I was very sad as I left that grocery store to learn that their express checkout lane was for customers with "20 items or less."

Thank you for using good English; it means a lot to me.
Go Pringles! You're an inspiration to us all!

Post 41

Things I do not recommend:

-Lighting a beanie on fire when it's drenched in 90% ethyl alcohol and sitting on your head
-Taking a nap on a metal park bench at one in the morning when it's 40F outside
-Telling a class of 6th-graders on November 1st that eating candy in class is okay
-Having ambiguous pronouns when making jokes about a girl's saxophone
-Reading 1984 quickly

Things I do recommend:

-Argyle socks

I may not be a student, but living in a college town has taught me a lot, it seems....

10 November 2007

Post 40

Yeah. Pretty much. Except for the part about having money.

07 November 2007

Post 39

Have I mentioned that I like cows?

Just checkin....

06 November 2007

Post 38

So. I started The Catcher in the Rye today; I went to the library, checked it out, and started reading it as I walked home. I had every intention of swallowing it whole as I have done with so many other books, but now I'm right about halfway through it and may be done with it. It's just too long. When I picked it up, I was happy to see that it was barely over 200 pages--a nice, short volume, I thought--and when I started reading, I immediately liked the narrative style; I expected those 214 pages to fly by.

One of my very most favorite books is Goodbye, Mr. Chips. As far as plot goes, it really doesn't have much going for it, and if you're looking for an engaging read, forget it. If I was only allowed one word to describe Goodbye, Mr. Chips, I'm afraid the only honest description I could give would be "Boring," but were I allowed two words, I would describe it as "Frickin' AMAZING." The two descriptions may strike you as irreconcilable, but they aren't really. The reason I love Goodbye, Mr. Chips is because it's a good, down-to-earth, human story. You want a look at the human condition, if you want to know what it means to be human, Goodbye, Mr. Chips is about as good as it gets--in my limited experience, at least; I've never read, say, Stranger in a Strange Land. But because Mr. Chips is a fairly normal man who lives a fairly normal life, it's not very exciting; honestly, had I not been in an RV on a long road trip, I probably wouldn't've ever read the book because it is, as I said, boring. But I was fascinated that, even though the whole time I read it I was thinking, "This really isn't very exciting," when I was done with it, I thought, "Hm. That was--really quite good."

After getting a few chapters into The Catcher in the Rye, I kinda got the impression that it was going to be a similar kind of read--not a whole lot of story, just a whole lot of--erm--human interaction stuff. I could be wrong; the first 100 pages have felt like--I dunno-- something's gonna happen--eventually, but--freak! I'm a hundred pages into this book! If there's gonna be a plot, it should've started developing a long time ago; if there isn't going to be a plot, the book should've ended by now (Mr. Chips was 115 pages long, but it had several illustrations; I don't imagine it has more than, like, 90 pages of actual text).

Then again, I had a bit of a revelation as I was reading today: books like The Catcher in the Rye weren't written to be studied or even swallowed whole; they were meant to be enjoyed. Author's don't write classics; readers make them classics. I had this idea that by binging on important works of fiction, I'd somehow strengthen my intellect and make myself a better, wiser, higher quality sort of human being, but the truth is that a lot of these books--especially Catcher in the Rye--weren't created to that end; what I thought was actually meat and potatoes is really just highly acclaimed junk food. Sure, a milk shake has calcium in it, but focusing your entire diet around them is no guarantee of good health, probably isn't even a respectable means of fighting off osteoporosis.

Well, I've been reduced to silly, off-the-cuff metaphors, so it's time to end this post. Bye.

Post 37

I changed my mind.

In Post 35, I said that Stardust "was like nothing I've ever seen in a way that nothing I've ever seen was like nothing I've ever seen." While that was true at the time, I've recently decided to recant that statement because it was unlike anything else in the way most things are not like anything else: in that it used unique combinations of archetypes in unique ways.

No. If you want a movie that is like nothing you've ever seen in a way that nothing you've ever seen is like nothing you've ever seen, allow me to recommend to you The Fountain.

I had never heard of it until I noticed it on a shelf in my living room; I figured it was an obscure movie, but perhaps I just missed it because it came out while I was on my mission. Anyway, I watched it yesterday, and it's a trip, man. I really don't know what to say about it other than that. If you're looking to have a "What just happened?" kind of moment, this is the movie for you. I have a sneaking suspicion that the writers knew what was going on (sometimes I think people write stuff that appears to have some rich undertone without having any inkling as to what it might be, which I think is--stupid, frankly), but I'm not sure it was quite as artistic as it tried to be. I dunno. I like it in that, if you watch it with the right group, I bet you could sit around for quite a while after the movie ended and speculate about what you think this or that meant or whether certain things were metaphorical or literal, and most especially argue over whether it's deep or just nonsensically artsy-fartsy.

05 November 2007

Post 36

Time for another movie review. Today's subject: Finding Forrester.

This is a high quality flick; I was quite impressed. I didn't see it straight through--I got through the first hour, 33 minutes, and nine seconds in the first sitting and then watched the remainder a couple days later (not by my choice but because of circumstantial necessities)--so I'm unable to really give a good, thorough opinion as to how consistent the whole thing was, but overall I thought the movie fulfilled its purpose very well.
The way the basketball championship scene played out made me very happy--no taking the easy way out on this one; no sir! Also, the scene where William is reading that thing toward the end, I felt a mixture of amusement and awe as I realized that movies, too, can artistically break good ole "show don't tell," though I think the music could have been more poignant in that scene; I was very impressed with the music throughout the movie, but there it didn't quite do its job, I didn't think.

All in all, though, I really did enjoy the movie and would highly recommend it to anyone.

03 November 2007

Post 35

Last night, I saw Stardust. I really enjoyed it not just because it was a fun movie but because it was like nothing I've ever seen before. In fact, it was like nothing I've ever seen in a way that nothing I've ever seen was like nothing I've ever seen--if that makes any sense at all....

Did I mention I stayed up till 2:30 last night?

Anyway, Stardust was a good movie for a first date--nice, low key movie--so I was happy with it. It's interesting, though, in that I can't remember the last movie I saw in which more people died--maybe one of the Jurassic Park sequels--and yet I also can't seem to come up with a movie that I enjoyed death scenes in more. And I don't mean in the, "Yes! That guy so deserved to die! Ah! Catharsis! Yes!" It was more like, "Oh man! That guy died, too! That's so funny!" And then the whole thing with the ghosts--ah, it's just--death was never so entertaining.
But, I am Schmetterling, so I have to bring up a couple of qualms with consistency: 1) the witch should have gotten way old and gross after making that inn, and 2) Yvaine was not very consistent in when and how much she glowed; had I directed the movie, I would have had a lot more fun with, "Okay, now have her glowing a lot, now a little, now not at all, now just ever so slightly, now a lot again, now none, now a heckuva a lot, now only a little."
I thought the same thing when I first saw the first Pirates movie. That scene where they're all fighting in the cave, sometimes Barbosa's hat casts a shadow over his face, but it remains a skull. How cool would it have been if the patches of his face that were in shadow were fleshy while the rest of him was bony? C'mon, SFX crew! Get on that thang!
As far as writing goes, Stardust made a very believable story overall. I think the unicorn's name was Deus ex Machina, but she hurt as much as she helped, so that was okay with me. Really the only thing I couldn't swallow was Triston learning all that swordplay in a day or two on a pirate ship when, earlier in the movie, we learned from Humphrey that they had been in fencing classes together and Triston just couldn't get it. Of course, maybe his expedited learning had to do with the flower--didn't think of that. That's actually very plausible. I doubt that that's what the writers had in mind, but I'll pretend they did.
Were I really anal, I'd probably point out that there is no way Humphrey and Victoria would have come to the crowning ceremony, but I'm kind of a fan of curtain-call style endings--probably my drama background playing with my biases--so I can forgive and even enjoy that.

Overall, a really high quality feel-good movie, which I hope means a lot coming from the guy who repeated purports to hate feel-good things.
That is all.

02 November 2007

Post 34

So. Today I was subbing at an elementary school, and several 6th-grade students were recognized for their excellence in their keyboarding class. More than a score of students were recognized for typing 30wpm; a goodly number reached 40wpm; several reached 50wpm; a handful achieved 60wpm (the speed I got when I took a test a couple months ago, though I think I type at least a little faster when I'm typing off the top of my head--like right now); one student was saluted for hitting the 80wpm mark.
Once, while subbing at a high school in the same city, a few students showed me their ability to hit triple-digit wpm. I was blown away.

I consider myself a mite bit young to begin memories with the phrase "Back in my day," but, seriously, when I was in sixth grade, I remember my teacher taking me to a computer lab to introduce us to this new fangled internet thing. About that same time, my family upgraded from our computer that was running Windows 3.1 and an impact printer to a Gateway that had Windows 95, a HP that could print color or black and white (though not both simultaneously), and a CD-ROM instead of a 5-1/4" floppy. I remember the first time my brother and I took that thing online; we looked at each other in fear when we heard the dial-up noises (noises now nearly lost to society--thankfully), thinking that something was wrong with our brand new computer.
Nowadays, toddlers surf the web, and elementary school kids type not only with proper form but astounding speed and precision.
Not bad, I don't suppose. Just--kinda surprising somehow.