Peeves

I’m not all about the abuse of apostrophes. There are other things that make me twitch.

One
I wanted a cheap ebook to download to my Nook last night–just something light I could read before falling asleep. I found a collection of six novels that sounded interesting, and the set was only $1.99. The first book is funny and engaging–heavy on the dialogue, but it’s snappy dialogue–but the writer has used “effect” and “affect” incorrectly every time so far. At the moment, I can’t remember the main character’s name. But I can remember this misuse of two words. Anything that takes your reader out of your story matters, so don’t shrug at the rules of language. If you don’t respect your writing, why should anyone else?

If you’re publishing your own ebooks, it’s important to find yourself an editor or proofreader. I’m expensive–and worth it!–but I’ll bet you could find an English major (either in school or someone who graduated long ago) or English graduate student in need of money who’d be willing at the very least to correct the grammar in your manuscript for a modest fee. You’ll be repaid when readers keep buying your books.

Two
I just brought this up on Twitter, but I can elaborate here. If you never took a logic or debate class, then maybe you don’t know what “fallacies” are. Simply put, a fallacy is a flaw that renders an argument invalid. There are many fallacies that can ruin your chances of making a sound argument, and one of those is called “begging the question,” that is, drawing a conclusion in an argument by merely repeating the premise. This fallacy has NOTHING TO DO WITH A QUESTION.*

Here’s an example of how to use the term “begs the question” INCORRECTLY:

“Even the highest speed limit on U.S. roads is eighty miles an hour. This begs the question: Why do U.S. automobile manufacturers build cars that will go 120 miles an hour?”

I repeat: “Begs the question” is used incorrectly here. What is meant is, “This raises the question.” If you mean raises, prompts, provokes, encourages, invites: SAY SO. Don’t say “begs.”

Here is what “begs the question” actually means.

When you say, “I was late because I didn’t get there on time,” you are begging the question. You’ve proved nothing except that you speak in circles. The conclusion is the same as the assertion, so nothing has been proved logically. A logical statement would be, “I was late because I overslept.” This is a simplified example of a fallacy that can be quite complicated, but I’m not trying to give a logic lesson here. I’m trying to show that “begs the question” is a phrase that doesn’t mean the same thing as “raises (or invites) the question.”

Three
When did people start using “than” when they mean “from?” One thing is different FROM another thing, not THAN it.

When you mean two things are unalike, use “from”:

My house is different FROM yours.
My language peeves are different FROM yours.

When would “than” be correct? When characteristics of things are compared:

The rooms in my house are smaller THAN the rooms in your house.
You may think my language pet peeves are more pedantic THAN yours.

Note: Use THAN for comparisons, not THEN, which means time or a sequence of events. But that’s a whole ‘nother pet peeve, as they say.

*If it has nothing to do with a question, then why is the word “question” used? The Latin term for this fallacy is petitio principii, a translation of the Greek to en archei aiteisthai (“at the beginning to assume”), but aiteisthai literally means “to beg.” I suppose at its simplest, the debate raises a point of contention that demands someone question its veracity. I can provide more illustrations of this, but someone is sure to get miffed if his or her own particular faulty logic becomes my example.

Legacy Writing 365:252

In an episode of Sex and the City (the one with the Post-It), Carrie Bradshaw is already having a bad morning and she’s on her way to meet her friends for breakfast. A man walking toward her plows into her so hard that it spins her around. As he continues walking briskly away, she shouts at him, “Oh, you’re SO BUSY,” but he never looks back, apologizes, or even acknowledges her. Whenever I see this scene, I cringe, because I know that I’ve been the person who’s SO BUSY, though I don’t think I’ve ever actually run into anyone, certainly not without an apology.

I suppose a parallel in my own life would be from the years when I worked outside my home. There would be mornings I’d stop at the grocery store because I needed to take food for a meeting, or I needed to grab something microwavable for breakfast or lunch, and I’d encounter That Old Person™. You know the one: He or she is watching the register monitor like a hawk, slowly pulling out coupons, writing a check, scrutinizing the receipt. And all the while, I’m there mentally shrieking, WHY WHY WHY are you doing your grocery shopping during rush hour, can’t you just wait until everyone’s at work, you have all day, blah blah blah… And I’m sure I was looking desperately toward other registers for a faster line or rolling my eyes or sighing. In other words, being a bitch.

I’m willing to bet nine times out of ten when someone annoyed me on my way to work or to an appointment or whatever mandated my being somewhere by a certain time, my own time management skills were less than optimal. But oh, let me resent and mentally castigate some person who moves a little slower, with a little more fragility, and with less compulsion to rush around like an idiot who’s just SO BUSY.

I’ve been mostly out of the work force for about ten years now, by choice. Maybe that has changed my perspective. Or maybe it’s just growing older and seeing some of my own limitations develop. Or maybe it’s that I watched my mother struggle with an insidious disease that robbed her of her independence. Because there was no way she could remember passwords and ATM codes. She had to write checks, and sometimes, she struggled to do that, and would have to write two or three before she could get it right. Sometimes she’d go days without having anyone to talk to, so when a store employee was nice to her, she liked having a conversation. And I would think to myself, as I watched her navigate and hesitate and try to get her bearings without exposing her confusion and anxiety, A stranger has no idea who this woman is, the life she’s lived, the things she’s seen, her losses, her triumphs, her spirit. She’s just an old woman slowing them down. And sometimes, I was the person who was hurrying her along, trying to get back to my SO BUSY life, trying to keep her from inconveniencing other people.

I think I know better now. I try to do better. Last week, Lynne told me about an experience she had at a business that was set up almost like a maze. She saw an elderly woman come out of the restroom, and she realized the woman was having one of those moments of feeling utterly lost. It could have been the confusing layout, or she could have been having what gets called a “senior moment.” Lynne offered her assistance, but even so, neither she nor the woman could find where she was trying to get to. So Lynne took her back to the reception area, where an employee was less than understanding, even rude. As Lynne told me the story, I shook my head and said, “One day, if she’s lucky, she’ll be old, too. Then she’ll know what that’s like, how scary and overwhelming things can be.”

Really, so much of the pressure we feel to be somewhere, get somewhere, is self-imposed. And even when we do everything right, we can’t control the train that stops on the tracks, the freeway that turns into a parking lot because of an accident, the business that suffers a power outage. Nothing is going to be fixed with our sighing and eye-rolling, our lane-switching and tail-gating and meltdowns, our rudeness, our Tweeting and Facebooking to the world how much we’re being inconvenienced and thwarted by it all.

Something silly made me think of all this. I like finding people’s lists, and the other day at the grocery store, the woman ahead of me had set her list down while she was paying. I fully intended to grab it after she walked off, but she picked it up with her purse. However, there was another list beneath it, from an earlier customer, so I grabbed that one. And the spidery handwriting made me smile because I believed it came from someone elderly. But some of the quantities led me to think the person is not cooking for one. However, I can’t decipher everything, so I leave it to you to fill in my blanks. (If you need to, you can view a larger version here.)


pork roast, 6 orange roughly filets, 1 1/2 pounds squash, milk, 28 oz Italian [indecipherable], 10 oz package spinach(?), [indecipherable], shebert (sic)–this one makes me laugh because I can’t for the life of me pronounce sherbet correctly–to me, it’s sher-bert, and the list-maker has put the “r” in the wrong place, which makes me think that person has the same problem as me–fruit, OJ, V-8, eggs

I hope whoever was behind That Old Person™ wasn’t SO BUSY that s/he couldn’t be as patient as I’d want someone to be with my mother.

The world of plastic can be treacherous

Excuse me for a moment while I wallow in self-pity because of this.

Over the years, I’ve shown nothing but love for Mattel, Project Runway, and Tim Gunn. For no compensation–other than wonderful gifts from friends and blog readers–I’ve done every challenge and presented a final collection for five–now beginning my sixth–season. When other people said, “I don’t like Project Runway since it moved to Lifetime,” or “I’m over Project Runway,” or “I’m not watching again because I didn’t like this season’s winner,” or “All Stars sucks!”, I kept plugging along, stabbing my fingers with pins and needles, burning myself with the hot glue gun, sometimes sewing into the night until my eyes were crossing. Did I receive big cash prices or a car for my efforts? An HP TouchSmart or EliteBook? Even a crumb of recognition from the corporate entities for whom I’ve been a goodwill shill?

I did not.

Now Tim Gunn has designed for a line of Barbies, including accessory packs, and it’s as if the concept is ALL NEW. All over the Internet people are dazzled and full of praise. It’s NOT NEW. For example, PR’s Nick Verreos designed two looks for MyScene Barbie, one of those a challenge in Season Two (you can buy that doll right now online for around $195.00). That challenge was an exciting one for the contestants because they knew in the past Mattel has teamed up with dozens of designers including Diane von Fürstenberg (doll available for $135.00), Badgley Mischka (doll available for $181.00), Vera Wang (dolls available from $90.00 to $470), Anna Sui (doll available for $168.00), Juicy Couture (set available for $155.00), and Christian Louboutin (dolls available from $83.00 to $299.00).

Fortunately for everyone who thinks this is the best and greatest idea ever, Tim Gunn’s dolls are reasonably priced. Unfortunately, they, too, will be snapped up by resellers who’ll gouge consumers and collectors for whatever the market will bear.

I’ll still be here in my lonely garret designing and sewing. But I refuse to gush about this Tim Gunn project. Although….I’m pretty sure I can be bought if Mattel or Project Runway wants to open their pocketbooks. Perhaps they could offer me a vintage red truck!

Make good choices!

Tuesday Tom came in from work and told me a story. On one of the busy roads he drives, a car ahead of him was going excessively slow, so he finally passed it. When he did, he glanced over and saw that the driver was looking ahead, toward the road, but she was also holding up her phone in front of her face so that she could text.

People texting and driving has become as commonplace a sight in our neighborhood as sidewalks buckled by decades-old Live Oaks, people walking their dogs, and near-jungles of bougainvillea. Guess which one doesn’t belong?

I hadn’t done one of these in a while, so inspired by Tom, here’s a new one. The perils of texting have been on my mind lately because of two works I helped edit.

Put the phone down, people, and watch where you’re going, whether you’re in a car, on a bike, or on foot.

Home

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
― Maya Angelou

I’ve thought so hard about how I could respond to a post ‘Nathan published yesterday. Finally I realized that all the words I could use, could arrange as artfully and persuasively and reasonably as my abilities would allow, already exist succinctly in the above quote. Who knows if she really said it; the Internet is full of trickery. Even if she didn’t, the words are no less true to me.

I was happy to welcome ‘Nathan and Dan into my home in 2010. I lost most of the photos I took during their visit in my computer meltdown, but a few that had already made it to my blog and to Flickr remain. I used one of them to draw this in my Fat ‘Lil Sketch Book–my first drawing of 2012. I love that they are looking at Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk outside Rothko Chapel. The sculpture found a home there after it was rejected by the city as a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. following his assassination.

Sometimes the right thing is a long time coming. Sometimes there are people who block and circumvent and disparage the right thing. But when Tim and I were talking about this in a different context yesterday, I said it’s good to remember that every step toward justice and freedom and fairness is also taken by people. There will always be those among us who will march to the beat of what is best in us. Or maybe, in a less contentious image, will dance to the rhythm of what is best in us.

‘Nathan and Dan are my friends and will always be welcome and safe in my home. I want them to feel that way in theirs, and I want their home to expand to include…everywhere.

Because I love them.

Because it’s right.

Button Sunday

Somebody gave me this button years ago, and I figured I’d never use it for a Button Sunday. When I moved from LiveJournal to here, I resolved to give as little of my blog real estate as possible to people who I find deplorable. If I wouldn’t invite someone into my home, why would I let him/her hang out here?

But I decided if ever there were a time to use it, it’s this week. I really don’t care what politics you espouse, there are lines that decent people don’t cross. I can’t think of a single group he hasn’t exploited and mocked for his own personal gain; this past week, it just happened to be my gender.

Do I believe in free speech? Of course. I also believe exercising that freedom doesn’t mean there are no consequences when we choose our words unwisely.

Wisdom has never been a trait of bullies.

Legacy Writing 365:8


“Knock the L out of Hitler”

There are so many reasons I have strong emotional reactions to this photo.

On the back, my mother has written, “WW2. Bill with his half track in Louisiana on his way to the big war.” I wish all the family photos came with such precise descriptions to help me fix them in time and circumstance. This picture was taken long before she met my father, and one thing she probably liked about it was that he actually looks like a man in his early twenties. In fact, when Tom saw this photo, he said, “He looks so young!” because usually he says, “Your father always looked old, no matter what age he was.” When I think of all the things Daddy saw and lost in that “big war” he was headed for, I understand why he aged. And why his sleep remained troubled the rest of his life. He loved the Army, just as he loved all the careers he had, but it wasn’t love without a price.

In the coming year, I’ll probably share several photos showing signs my father painted. He learned that trade even before he went into the CCC, because there he learned the skills that would later be part of his time in the Army’s Signal Corps. But when he left the CCC, he bought an A Model Ford off a friend and refashioned it to become his mobile sign painting shop.

The year was 1938 and I felt completely free and footloose. The depression was beginning to grind down to an end, and although there was rumbling in the Far East and in Germany that hinted of a possible war to come one day, I refused to be concerned.

One of his stories, about which he says “a small part…is true but most…is fiction,” allows me to see his world through eyes that have not yet looked on war.

So here he is, young, and with the brash personality troops would need to do the job that would land them in Normandy and send them throughout Europe. He has put his sign-painting skills to use, adorning the half-track with his promise to Hitler. So many vintage war photos show shapely women painted on the machines of war, much the way pin-up photos of beauties like Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, and Jean Harlow were pasted inside footlockers and lockers to boost morale and symbolize the life troops were fighting to return to.

I could write reams on the way the framing of one war as heroic and the viewing of another war as horrific created the conflicted baby boom generation that I was born into. I don’t know if all the men and women who go into war have the young eyes and bold heart of this one, but I do believe when they come home, they should have all the opportunities, respect, and assistance they need to find their place in the world again. Some are stronger for the testing; some are broken. They’re all our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters.

Button Sunday


Another button from my days in the bookstore.

Last night I had a very long and complicated dream about working at Borders. Usually when I dream about working at a bookstore, it’s Bookstop, and I generally have those dreams when I’m under a lot of stress.

This time, however, I know the dream is because I’ve been reading articles about the last few days of the final Borders stores. It seems to me both chains followed pretty much the same trajectory. They were begun by people who had a passion for books. The unique approaches each founder bought to the bookselling world resulted in fast and furious success. They expanded to their breaking point, then sold out to a larger corporate entity who wanted to cash in on their success. Regardless of how passionate the chains’ booksellers, customers, and local management were, from the top down the stores were driven by profit without regard to the products and services provided. They lost all the qualities and practices that made them a success to begin with.

And in time, they failed and shuttered their stores.

The cities and towns where they once existed have lost a place to discover new books and rediscover familiar writers, meet authors at book signings, enjoy a community where a cup of coffee can be read over a newspaper or magazine, find knowledgable people who can help answer that plaintive question Can you tell me something good to read?, join readers’ groups for lively discussions, hook up a laptop and do some work in what many people (including me) feel is one of the best settings in the world–surrounded by walls and shelves of books.

For now, we still have Barnes & Noble, a few smaller chains, independent stores, and our libraries. If we lose those, too, and all reading is dependent on devices, will we be returning to an age when only the privileged have access to learning? Where reading is a luxury denied to a majority of people whose lives consist of work and more work and the struggle to provide food, clothing, and healthcare to their families? Where the newspapers are gone, and the magazines are gone, and maybe some entity just a little crazy and greedy and power mad can silence the fibers and air waves of our televisions, radios, computers, smart phones, and e-readers to keep us focused on whatever is needed to keep the crazy/greedy/power-mad at the top of the heap of humanity?

Maybe it was a stress dream after all…

Social media weirdness

Yesterday I visited some Facebook walls that are public, and I was reminded again of why Facebook is a terrible fit for me. I expressed a mini tirade about it on Twitter (everything on Twitter being mini), mostly regarding my inability to understand why people who carp incessantly about other people’s bigotry–including hate language–turn around and do exactly the same thing to people whose beliefs and politics are different from theirs. This is not quantum physics. You think it’s wrong to be generalized, stereotyped, insulted, demeaned–then it’s wrong for YOU TO DO IT, TOO. And if you’re going to do it anyway, then you’ve lost any moral high ground in calling out other people, and you’ve lost some of your sympathetic audience. Including me.

I don’t miss the cacophony.

Conventional wisdom says that when someone talks politics on Twitter, they lose followers. Even though I hadn’t technically done so in my mini tirade, I did glance at my list of followers this morning, and none seem to have vanished. However, the number of people I follow had lessened by about twenty. Now I’m the only one who can make that choice, so it’s obviously a Twitter glitch, and other people are experiencing it, too. I’m sure it’ll all get worked out eventually. Meanwhile–boy, is my Twitter quiet.