Shmanguage

I don’t understand it. (You should know that sometimes when I say “I don’t understand,” I mean that I do understand, but I’m just not particularly happy about the conclusion.) All too frequently, I see people acting as the grammar police of the universe; they scour worlds real, social, and virtual for every misspelling, usage error, and made up word and publicize their findings to the fullest extent of their broadcast reach. Whether they (or you, I don’t know) do this as a service to the general intellectual health of the public or as punishment to those who dare trample on the sacred ground of the English language or as a self-pleasuring stroke to their own egos, I really do not know or care. (Okay, maybe I have a pretty good idea, and I obviously care enough to write about it, but to the latter point, you should know I did start writing this in 2011 . . . so I don’t care that much.)

What I do know is it’s annoying as hell. As someone who has made a living correcting errors and improving the condition of the collections of words that crossed my gaze (and who reads The Chicago Manual of Style for pleasure), I notice and dislike grammatical and spelling errors quite a lot. I am also guilty of making them. But I rarely call attention to the mistakes of anyone who is not me. I mean I. Quite frankly, it isn’t my place to do so. I dislike flaws in grammar far less than I despise arrogance and treating people like Less Thans over the way they spell or speak or write.

The point of usage, grammar, spelling, whatever is to communicate effectively. That’s it. Using the objective case in the subject of one’s (or is it ones?) sentences is no sin. It’s a simple mistake which has not once in the history of mankind caused the least bit of confusion in communication. So what, in the name of the Associated Press and their unholy abandonment of the Oxford Comma, is the point of correcting people’s grammar when you understand perfectly what they’re trying to say? Hmm. Let’s examine the possible answers.

To improve the way they communicate? A) That’s not your job (if it is, please, go right ahead). B) They can obviously communicate just fine. You understood not only what they were saying but also the so-called proper way to say it.

To make them better people? Yes, because the true measure of a woman or a man is adherence to a style guide.

To put an end to the evils of bad usage and poor spelling? I’m so glad you chose to replace those evils with bad manners and poor taste.

Please stop.

There are some instances when public (or even one-on-one) grammar/spelling correction is called for. If you’re a grammar teacher, for instance. Or an editor in the act of editing something, NOT just having a conversation with someone. If you are a parent, it is perfectly acceptable to correct your children’s grammar. It is your job to teach them. If you are working with someone who is about to enter a social or professional situation in which a blunder would cause embarrassment, please do feel free to gently and kindly alert said someone to the mistake. But come on. In most instances, this is not what any of you grammar correctionistas are doing, and you know it.

Oh, and that reminds me: let people make up words. Every word in every language was made up by someone at some point. There is absolutely no reason to stop now. Language is living, and it should grow accordingly. Don’t ever stop making up words. Don’t ever discourage others from making up word. Look what happened to Latin.

Now, I understand I must sound hypocritical (or hypercritical) as I publicly correct your manners for publicly correcting someone’s grammar. And, yeah, I can see that. I suppose it’s not my place to tell you how to live any more than it’s your place to tell other people how to communicate. But I will say this: the people who say supposably instead of supposedly aren’t hurting anyone. They’re getting their points across. They aren’t hurting you, you’re just being overly critical, which is your fault not theirs. But what you’re doing? You’re making people feel stupid to make yourself feel smart (or one of the other reasons, I don’t really know). That’s a bigger offense in my book.

But I’ll make you a deal. I’ll never bring this up again. I don’t make it a habit to correct people for correcting other people’s grammar. Typically, the only time I say anything to the grammar Nazis is when they are wrong. People who incorrectly correct other people’s grammar are just too (or two) wrong to allow. For instance: “You’re not nauseous, you’re nauseated.” They’re synonyms, jackwad. If you count yourself more authoritative than Merriam-Webster, I find your arrogance nauseating. Use nauseous or nauseated or nauseating according to your preference. Don’t correct people for preferring another perfectly acceptable and common way to express the same idea. Or people who say things like, “Can you have an apple? I don’t know, can you? Say ‘may I’ next time.” Guess what? Can and may are interchangeable in that context. And someone can feel good, not just feel well. If you correct someone for using good in place of well in that case because an adverb is needed to modify the verb well, you should be slapped and slapped well. Well and good modify the subject in such a sentence, not the verb as feel is a linking verb. Either will suffice. See? Look what you made me do. Now I’m correcting people’s grammar, too. Kind of.

Anyway. Consider this a brief timeout from my general preference to silence such objections. I’ll stop correcting you. Now please, for the love of Webster, stop correcting everyone else.

Thumbtack just might stick

So today I stumbled upon a site called Thumbtack that allows local businesses and clients connect, do business, spend, earn, get shit done, etc. I’m just getting started offering writing and editing services on it, but it seems like a well organized, convenient to use little place. I’m hoping it’s worth the little effort it has taken to get started.

Wait. I hope it’s worth much more than that. But you get the idea.

I’ll keep you posted. But for now you can check it out here: AK Creative.

Happy living, my friends.

Dear God

Dear God, whoever you are

Am I just wishing on a star?

Do my prayers drift through you like grains of sand tossed to the infinite wind?

Are you a you or just a faceless force of cosmic nature?

I never figured you to be a myth or simple mystery,

But I don’t know that you’ve a clue there’s such a thing as me.

Your evidence breaks forth each dawn but how that spawned this story of your detailed history is queer to me.

Do I love you? Do I care? I hardly know who’s there.

I just figure you’ve done a lot. Enough.

Who am I to complain?

Who are you to listen.

I need not now, but I suspect there’s quite enough to keep me happy here in our little mess.

 

 

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (YouTube Version)

Gold, Frankincense, and Ham

I’ve posted this a couple of times in different ways, but instead of the mp3 version, here’s a YouTube version of my performance of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, if that makes viewing easier. If that doesn’t make enjoying it easier, forget this ever happened.

Carry on. And enjoy. Merry Christmas.

Two Songs for the Moment

Everyone in the history of the modern shower has sung “Piano Man” at one time or a thousand. That’s because everyone has, at one time or a thousand, identified with one or more of the characters in the song. Right now? Me? I’m John. (And, let’s face it, anyone unsatisfied with any part of their existence identify with John to some extent.)

John at the bar is a friend of mine.
He gets me my drinks for free
And he’s quick with a joke or to light up your smoke
But there’s someplace that he’d rather be.

He says, “Bill, I believe this is killing me,”
as the smile ran away from his face.
“Well I’m sure that I could be a movie star
if I could get out of this place.”

I don’t work at a bar. I work at Kraz Construction. And, sure, I’m in marketing, which I’ve done before . . . as in, all my adult life. And, yes, as I tell everyone, I run the company’s facebook, twitter, and instagram accounts. I have little reason to complain about the opportunity to make a living doing social media. I love social media (a couple years of anti-social-media behavior notwithstanding). But if you take a look at any of those accounts, you can tell the social media aspect is not consuming 40 hours of my every week. I’m fortunate if I can devote 40 minutes to it. It’s just not the way things are right now.

Nope. The majority of my time with Kraz is spent driving a car full of my fellow marketers to various neighborhoods, walking around through the streets and elements, and knocking on doors to solicit appointments for free in-home estimates of home-improvement products. Yeah. I go door-to-door. Every. Day. Six days a week.

Now, I’m past the point of caring that most people look down on any such profession as the bottom of the employment barrel. No, it isn’t my preferred career path. I’m not proud of the fact that my professional life has led me down this road (or the hundreds of roads I traverse on a daily basis). It doesn’t take a forensics specialist to take these clues and calculate the level of my intentions to stay in this role long-term.

The Piano Man knows. There’s someplace that I’d rather be. And, yes, Bill, I believe this is killing me.

But I’ll tell you this: I’m still sure I can be, well, not a movie star, but exactly what I aspire to be when I can get out of this place. At this very moment, however, I’m in this place. I’m here. In this moment. This is where I am. And I’m through hiding the fact that I’m here. I’m not ashamed of who I am, and I am not ashamed of how I live my life.

I’m still quick with a joke or (insert infinitive for action of helpfulness equivalent to lighting up your smoke here). I treat my coworkers and my potential customers with respect. I carry myself with dignity. I still maintain what has been my mission with every job I’ve ever held, and that is to improve the day being had by every person with whom I come into contact. I don’t consider myself a lesser human being because of what I do just because of the stigma attached to it. I determine who I am.

At some point, I’ll share a bit more about what it’s like going door-to-door, but here’s a quick overview of what I observe at this job:

  • People lie like crazy.
  • Plenty of people are extremely and genuinely nice.
  • Plenty of people are fake nice whilst being extremely rude.
  • Some people go beyond rude into a place of anger and bitterness to the extent that they have no qualms with the thought that their sole interaction with another human being, in that brief and singular intersection of two life paths, would consist of nothing but a foul, spit-laced, fifteen-second shouting soliloquy and the slam of a door.
  • People are generally good.
  • So many people are hurting in ways I can hardly fathom.
  • For just about everybody, there is someplace that they’d rather be.

I and pretty much everyone who does outdoor marketing at Kraz spends most of our days being John, wishing we were in a better position. But there are loads of time when it feels more like I’m Bill, listening and observing the ways in which the people I meet at the door or on the sidewalk wish they were in a better position.

And, let’s face it, we’d all rather identify with Bill. Sometimes we’re the waitress who’s practicing politics or the businessmen slowly getting stoned. A few of us are Paul, the real-estate novelist . . . or we don’t have time for a wife, husband, or whatever. We might be Davy, who’s still in the navy, and whose prospects of leaving are slim. Not exactly those people, but the people who have tiny little stories with nothing extremely special on the horizon. Maybe that’s not how we define ourselves, but it may feel like that describes our lives some days. But we want to be Bill. Everyone is coming to see him.

They sit at the bar and put bread in my jar and say, “Man, what are you doing here?”

We know Bill’s story ends with him successfully emerging from the bar. Every day I think, That’s me. I’ll make it out as sure as the sun will break through the dark side of the horizon. I don’t belong here, and everyone knows it.

So, yeah, John speaks up in my mind every day, too. I believe this is killing me. It is a lonely feeling. But every single day I’m reminded I’m not at all alone in it. There is hope. There are remedies both short- and long-term. The immediate elixir, aside from beer (thank God for beer) is what the old man sitting next to Bill asked for:

“Son, can you play me a memory?
I’m not really sure how it goes.
But it’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man’s clothes.”

It’s an interesting lyric, substituting memory for melody, but the point is, that a song can have a way of taking us back to a time when the someplace we’d rather be was closer to the place we were at the moment. That quick fix of a sad song or nostalgic turn of thought can help us reminisce. It’s a backward journey of longing. But that does little to change anything real. The true journey into happiness leads forward, which leads me to another song, “Morning Song” by the Avett Brothers.

The one lyric I want to focus on is this:

Even though I know there’s hope in every morning song
I have to find that melody alone.

You can listen to the whole song to get a better sense of it than I can describe. But the gist for me is that every dawn brings with it the hope of moving out of the hurt and disappointment and into the place I want to be. But Billy Joel won’t take me there. I have to do it myself.

It sounds lonely. It is. But one interesting touch thrown in there by the brothers Avett is the way the song concludes with roughly a billion people singing that lyric together. Each one of us here at the bar of discontent has a solitary journey to travel, but there is companionship in our solitude, comfort in knowing we aren’t alone in our loneliness.

So . . . carry on I must, must we all. Let’s go.

Randomnicity

My kids are gigantic. Even Maya. Although Maya is gigantic for a squash. You see a squash her size and you say, “Whoa, that’s a gigantic squash.”

Maya is not a squash.

IMG_9799I don’t know. She’s kind of a squash.

I’m pretty sure the last movie I saw was Tron. The original. On Betamax.

I missed the fall. I remember the spring. It lasted until July. I remember the summer. Longest four days of my life. And I remember winter starting late in the fourth day of summer. I can’t remember fall being here. I just looked up one day and saw freezing naked trees.

The government shut down for awhile. I was profoundly affected, I’m sure, but I’m not exactly certain how.

People are crazy.

Crazy can be crazy awesome.

Crazy can also be crazy crazy.

I no longer have opinions.

I vow to write more. A ton more. A shit ton more.

Shit ton is just an expression. I don’t want to write shit.

Not to confuse expressions. I don’t want to write things that are shitty. But I want to write shit. Shit being stuff. Stuff being writing that is the shit. And the shit being a phrase people still used the last time I wrote consistently. But when I say that I don’t want to write shit, I hope you understand I don’t mean that I don’t want to write anything.

Not that I’m really trying to win a Pulitzer.

Is there a Nobel Prize for random rambling? I’d like to win that.

Actually, I’d like to post a few snippets of things I have written that are pretty near and dear to me. But they’re so near and dear to me that I would really rather not just throw them up here. They need to be ready.

So, writing is happening. It will be happening a lot more. I hope you like it.

No, I hope you read it. I hope you can just think and feel honestly about what you read. Like it or not.

I’m still not sharing a ton of what is going on in my life. I’m not there yet. But if you know me well, you know. That’s plenty enough for everyone.

I’m ready for some ice cream.

The Cubs will be good again. Better than any of us can remember.

Life is good.

Make the most of this moment. (Translation, stop reading this nonsense and go do something you’re proud of.)

 

I’m a Writer, Dammit.

I put words together. That’s how I live. I try, and I think a few times here or there I succeed, to make people glad they know how to read and remember how they feel. I persuade. I inspire. I motivate. I confuse. I clarify. I explain. I obscure. I wrong. I right. I write.

I’m a writer, dammit.

I put words together. If you need some, let me know.

Filch slap swither paddle lop slitch shump

Filch slap swither paddle
Lop slitch shump
Rainy slamming sloppy on a dirty spirit stump
Bumper bumper lane jumper
Hurry frantic roar
Come up for the holdup
Shut up
Stood up at the door
Parlez-vous Ferigno
Fury quake smash
Drippy slippy soupy Thursday
Thirsty for some cash.

20130822-134710.jpg

February Seven

I was on the search for something real.
I traded what I know for how I feel.

There’s a song by the Avett Brothers called “February Seven,” and it’s one of those songs that leaves me feeling like someone’s been sneaking into my soul and reporting what they see to the world. Discovering the song and listening to it literally every day since confronts me with that disconcerting yet remarkably refreshing and encouraging feeling (true or not) that someone knows exactly how I feel.

I was on the mend when I fell through.
The sky around was anything but blue.

It’s disconcerting to think that anyone really knows how I feel and have felt because my walls have gone way up. The past 16 months of my life have featured pretty seismic shifts in my life. I have reported very few of them publicly. I don’t think so much of myself or my importance to anyone’s existence to count that as a giant loss to society, but it’s not exactly like me to nearly completely shut down. So why have I? There are a lot of ancillary reasons, but the driving force behind my communication quarantine has been safety. I don’t feel safe talking to many people about anything substantial.

I found as I regained my feet
A wound across my memory
That no amount of stitches would repair

The truth is, I didn’t completely cut off the world. I opened up to a lot, a lot, of people. Rare (but existent) was the moment, however, when I felt like I was confiding in someone who truly listened to me and accepted what I was saying at face value. And I don’t mean I was expecting anyone to agree with me and give a stamp of approval on my every thought or decision. What exasperated me was the feeling that anyone I talked to had a preconceived (and in many cases predeceived) notion of what was going on in my heart and in my mind. (“I hear what you’re saying, but let me tell you what’s obviously really going on.”) Everybody has a right to their opinion. But I reached the point when I realized that I was obligated neither to listen to all of them nor to see to it that everyone felt satisfied that their judgments on me were well informed. I didn’t need equal time. I just needed privacy.

This need became crystal clear when one comment author suggested the opposite about a year ago.

He/she said that I owed it to my readers to tell the whole story about everything that was going on in my life. My announcement about my faith and what I truly believe (along with what I truly don’t) was not detailed or thorough, and this person suggested it was my duty to tell everyone everything.

Everything. Really? I must not have ever read that article in the disclosure section of my blogging-for-free contract that stated by voluntarily posting portions of my random observations and less-than-profound thoughts I was agreeing to disseminate every detail of my life and reflection of my heart. Perhaps I missed that cultural trend in which every person tells every other person about everything in their lives. Perhaps because no such trend exists.

Say what you want about everything being public on facebook and twitter, but people post what they want. We tell each other what we want. We all keep private what we choose to keep private. No one shares every doubt, every temptation, every nasty emotion, every hopeful dream. We don’t get close. It’s impossible. Even the most idiotic of brains produces more thoughts than can ever be expressed. Even the most mundane existence contains more details than can be reported.

We don’t report minor details. And often we keep deep, crucial, heartfelt, broad-stroke, earth-shattering things to ourselves as well. It is our right. It is my right.

There’s no fortune at the end of the road that has no end.
There’s no returning to the spoils once you’ve spoiled the thought of them.

When I share something, it’s because I choose to do so. This should be self-explanatory, but so often many of us forget about something as basic as human privacy–we get so caught up in other people’s business and a false sense of entitlement to know about and even control other people’s lives–that we simply lose sight of personal boundaries.

A person’s life is like property. What I put in my yard is for all to see. If I put up a fence, it’s because I don’t want you to see it all. What I display in my house is for those I invite inside. What I keep in my closets and medicine cabinets is for visitors to leave alone. Some snoopy guests might look. Oh well. What I lock away in a safe or under the floorboards? Yeah. Nobody’s seeing that. And nobody objects to it, as long as it isn’t a rotting body or something.

But the ceiling and the walls collapsed.
Upon the darkness I was trapped.
And as the last of breath was drawn from me . . . 

So. I don’t share everything. But it’s time to share this.

I’m divorced. I have been for quite some time. I haven’t lived at my former house for over a year. I’m not looking for support or condolence or good thoughts or criticisms or anything. That’s why I’ve kept it private. I’m still not looking for support or condolence or good thoughts or criticisms or anything. I’m just letting you know.

Plenty of people already know. I have invited plenty of people in to this portion of my life and explained a great deal of what is going on and has gone on. I’m done sharing details about it. I’m moving on. I’m happy.

Light broke in and brought me to my feet.

I don’t feel free from prison. I didn’t escape from Alcatraz. I wasn’t tormented by the wicked duplicity of the church and the sham of bogus relationships. Nothing like that. There’s no need to revisit the past and drag out the stories. I won’t tell them. I won’t look back. I won’t explain.

I will say this, though: those songs that make me feel like a lyricist has stolen a journal written only on my heart encourage a lot more than they disconcert. They give me (and I’m sure you’ve felt something similar) that reassurance that someone somewhere has felt something so similar to what I can’t seem to express, it almost seems like my voice coming out of the ear buds. (It’s not. The brothers Avett sound much better, but you get the idea.) When the walls are up and the vow of silence is in force, it’s always nice to feel a little more understood and a little less alone.

There’s no falling back to sleep once you’ve wakened from the dream,
now I’m rested and I’m ready,
I’m rested and I’m ready to begin.

And to quote my favorite character from one

 

Rise

No bird ever soared by holding others to the ground..
And never did a feather feel the sun by facing down.
The sunshine of happiness warms the weathered faces of
Those souls whose wings outstretch through bitter clouds to rise above.

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