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Posts Tagged ‘what’s so funny?’

So, we have:

Woman without her man is nothing.

And also:

Come and eat grandma!

And slowly, even the most stubborn souls begin to see the value of punctuation.

Woman: without her, man is nothing.

Come and eat, grandma!

Oh, what a different a few dots and squiggles can make.

These are famous ones, of course. I was trying to remember a really wonderful one that wound up in print a while ago, and finally found it:

And this is all silly and a good reminder that commas are life savers (I know Ray’s family and dog are grateful for them!) … but there was a story the other day that also proved that a well-placed comma can mean the difference between winning and losing a legal battle.

I’ll admit that I’m a latecomer to the Oxford comma. I was forced to use it in grade school. But I was forced to do a lot of things with my writing in grade school, and many of them I heartily disagreed with and despised. Once I had a little more freedom to write how I wanted, I began to jettison those things I didn’t care for, and the Oxford comma fell by the wayside with the other castoffs. People have argued with me about it quite a bit over the years — which maybe says something about the folks I hang with¹ — but I have remained stubbornly against. I taught English for many years, and I taught the Oxford comma … but also made it clear that a) I didn’t use it myself and b) no one’s grade would be damaged by the decision not to use it.

But then I got my current job. I got this job, and one of the first things I had to do was edit the big, serious report we were producing. And before the editing began, I was asked to put together a style guide so that all of the people who were adding writing could try to have the same set of rules in mind as they worked and so that changes I made to text would all follow clear guidelines.

Making that style guide was, I have to admit, fun for me (which most definitely says something about the kind of person I am!). I saw the guide as my chance to lay down the law, list out my writing pet peeves, make our sleek and shiny report conform to my writing style. (Oh yes, a little power is truly a dangerous thing!)

Pretty quickly in my style-guiding I ran smack into the Oxford comma. And somehow, for reasons I couldn’t explain and can’t explain now, that comma suddenly made sense. Made perfect, why-didn’t-I-ever-see-this-before sense. And I’ve been using it ever since. (Somewhere, my 6th grade teacher is pointing, laughing, and saying, “I told you so!”)



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices

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¹ This wacky-grammarians-on-my-friend-list business did not extend to the guy who came to a party I threw years ago … who smugly diagrammed the sentences of the people who spoke to him. You may think this is a clever party trick. Trust me when I tell you that it really isn’t.

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Yes, you read that right.

I am a single woman. I live alone. And, while I love to cook, sometimes it’s just too much. With just me in the house, some nights the production of dinner-making is taking up time that could be spent … well … on just about anything else. So, that’s what I’m saying. I get her, Olivia Pope. Popcorn and wine is not a lie.

More often, for me, it’s popcorn and herbal tea. Sometimes popcorn and ginger ale. But you get the idea.

I’ve gone through many popper styles — electric, air, microwave. But the best is made on the stove.

I used to have this old-school beauty:

This is the Wabash Valley Farms™ Original Whirley Pop™ Stovetop Popcorn Popper (they clearly needed to use the word “pop” at least one more time). I loved it. And I used it so much, I wore it out. Now I just use an old stock pot. It’s not as fun as turning the crank, but it definitely gets the job done.

It gets the job done because it’s popcorn, and it’s really not that serious … except that, maybe it is. If you fire up the Google, you will, in fact, get 47,900,000 hits for “how to make popcorn.” Really. Nearly 48 million hits. But sadly, only 3,400,000 returns for “how to make caramel popcorn.” Why so few? How are we living, people? Surely, caramel corn should play a larger role in our lives. And the results tumble down from there. Only 1,880,000 for kettle corn.

So yes, all of this is quite silly. But it’s also reminding me of popcorn balls (7,040,000 hits!), specifically, the popcorn balls my grandmother used to make. She didn’t make them often, so they were an extra especial treat. And they seemed like magic. No one else ever had them, and I never actually saw how she made them, so they just seemed to become … there’d be a big bowl of popcorn, and then <snap of fingers> there’d be popcorn balls! She was a kitchen magician.

And now I have my pick of recipes, and I might have to give them a try.

Um …

But not tonight. If I can’t work up the gumption to boil some pasta and throw on some bottled sauce, am I really going to take on the decadent extravagance of popcorn balls?! I think not.

I am more likely to go on the hunt for the Brooklyn Popcorn truck!



original-slicer-girlgriot

It’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge — posting a little bit of something every day in March!

Go check out the hundreds of slicers over at Two Writing Teachers!

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I had plans for this weekend, things I was so sure I was going to get done. Such good plans. And here it is, my long weekend on the wane, and I’ve done next to nothing. It’s shameful, actually, such complete shirking of my duties.

But at the same time, how can I be expected to get anything done from my mundane to-do list when I am so busy keeping a laser focus on Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this? Sweden! I mean, when you think about what happened the other night, about how they’re having problems like they never thought possible … how can you really, truly focus on anything the fuck-all else?

So I’ve given myself a pass, forgiven myself for my inability to pull my thoughts away from Sweden.

When people listen to THOTUS¹, how do they decide to believe him? How do they turn on the news and hear him talking about “what happened last night in Sweden,” and know they haven’t heard anything about Sweden. And they go online and there’s nothing about Sweden except the thousand articles trying to suss out what the hell THOTUS was talking about. How do folks do all of that and still decide to believe him, still decide to listen attentively when he speaks? How do folks do all of that and not come out the other end convinced that he is a pathological liar, that he makes up stories just because, makes up stories when he doesn’t need a story. He could talk only about Paris and have enough material to sway you. He could talk about Brussels and have enough. He’d have more than enough if he talked about Turkey, but he wouldn’t do that because … well … Turkey.

My point is that he doesn’t need the story. There are enough real stories already. He doesn’t need to throw another country into the mix. And yet he went in with Sweden. And not as a casual throwaway, tacking it onto the end of a list. No, he goes on a bit: “Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden! They took in large numbers, they’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

Really, just why in the all-encompassing fuck does he need to do this?

I taught basic composition classes at a community college for years. The course was prep for a very rigid test for which students would be expected to write a specific kind of essay. It was a test they had already failed at least once by the time they landed in my class. The essay prompts offered up two topics, students picked a side … and then had to have something to say about the random issue they chose.

Students would often ask me if they could just invent some “evidence,” tell a story that illustrated the point they wanted to make even if the story was constructed out of whole cloth on the spot. And I can see why making up a story feels like a good answer. You can craft the story to fit your point perfectly, and what better “proof” is there than the this-really-happened argument?

But I always warned students again storytelling. I would tell them that, if they really wanted to make up a story, they should first assess themselves: how well could they lie? Because good storytelling is about lying, as Mother Zora taught is in her folktale research. So I’d ask my students how often they told lies. Did people always believe their lies? Were they good at not caving in or getting confused and giving pieces of the story away? Were they able to lie and stay calm and focused or did the lying make them flushed and nervous or excited — not good for concentrating on getting an essay written.

I asked them a bunch of questions … and then told them that unless they were consummate liars, making up a story was a bad idea. I had a few receipts, stories of students I’d taught who had chosen not to listen to my warning, who decided that telling a story was the right option for them. And how dramatically they crashed and burned on their way to a lousy score on the exam.

Clearly, no one has told THOTUS that telling stories isn’t going to help him pass this exam. What’s more, it’s just too easy to turn the stories on their heads and fill the empty spaces with the truth. He tells lies — and his people tell lies — that would work if we didn’t live in 2017 in a country with stable internet access and a solid corps of investigative journalists. It’s so outrageous to me, it’s actually hard to fathom what he could be thinking.

Maybe THOTUS is all muddled by what happened the other night in Sweden. Perhaps he needs a nice sauna followed by a romp in the snow. Or perhaps he just needs to admit that this job isn’t the right fit for him, that he was wrong to believe all of Vladimir’s pep talks about how he could so be president.

I understand THOTUS’ issue, though. I told my students not to make up stories unless they were spectacularly good liars. And for the most part, they were able to see themselves clearly enough to know that they weren’t good enough liars. They could think back to times when their lying was detected and the results were distressing at best. But THOTUS doesn’t have this history to evaluate. He surrounds himself with genuflecting toadies. He distorts all facts until they say what he wants to hear. When he looks back at his past, he doesn’t see times when lying tripped him up. He’s already revised those stories into examples of “so much winning!” The end result? He may actually believe he’s a good liar. So he keeps diving in and telling his team to dive in alongside him.

It’s up to us — the people for whom he works — to call out his lies and call him out as a liar. This is all part of not normalizing what we’re seeing, not letting anyone convince us that any of this is okay.

As for me, I’m annoyed to know that I spent my whole weekend worried about the state of affairs in Sweden, where Sweden is doing quite well and not in need of my worry.

My students who lied on their essays failed the writing exam. It was sad for them, but not catastrophic. THOTUS failing in his job could be cataclysmic. Do I wish he didn’t have that Pennsylvania Avenue job? Sure, but he does, and I’d like him to not get us all killed before we have the chance to vote him back to civilian life. Getting him to stop lying every time he opens his mouth might be a step in the right direction.

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¹ Titular Head oThese United States



griotgrind_logo

In 2017, I’m on my #GriotGrind, committed to writing an essay a week.
It’s not too late to join! Check out Vanessa Mártir’s blog to find out how!

Also? It’s Slice of Life Tuesday!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the other slicers are up to!

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My introduction on Saturday to erasure poems has spawned an obsession. At our pair session yesterday, my mentee and I — in between lots of storytelling and laughter — tried our hands at it again. And then I went home and “wrote” another. During the pair session, I used an article about Brazil from a travel magazine. My night time source text was the editor’s note in the Family Circle magazine that showed up in my mailbox.

I neglected to say what an erasure poem is when I wrote about them on Saturday. Here’s the definition we were given to work from (which I realize as I look at it now that I haven’t actually followed at all!):

Erasure poems use a source text that is already written. For example, you can take a page of a book, and that would be your source text. You would then “erase” by crossing out the words you don’t want in your poem. Poems are created with what’s left after the words are erased without adding to it or rearranging parts of it. We preserve some phrasing, but we form new images, ideas, and meanings.

That makes more sense than what I did! I only used individual words, no phrases. That surely explains why my poems make no sense. But I still like them!

Here’s the one I “found” from the travel article:

Between the summer
sprawling, isolated miles
far beyond this coastline.
A tiny village
slice of perfect peace
an adventure
a boat ride
a room.
Beyond days
colorful, turquoise footpaths,
waterfalls.
Remote home.
Protected.
Wild.

I’ll try another now that I’ve actually read the instructions properly. We’ll see what emerges.

So here’s some craziness: I go on and on (and on) about poetry, about my inability to think of myself as a poet, of how self-conscious I am about writing poetry. Then how to explain the fact that I came very close to applying for a poetry fellowship this week? I found out about it only a few hours before the deadline, and that’s the only reason I didn’t apply. I didn’t have enough time to find folks to be my references and to write my letter of intent. That’s all that held me back. Not my terror of poetry or of calling myself a poet. What was I thinking? How weird is that? I honestly don’t know what to make of my actions. What will I do next?

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I am always telling stories. Always. At both the right and wrong times. To people who both do and don’t want to hear them. The hundreds of stories on this blog barely scratch the surface of my tale-telling. I could easily best Scheherazade, Seriously, she needed a thousand and one nights to tell her stories? Give me a couple of days, tops. It’s surely a sickness. I would not be surprised to find this behavior detailed in the DSM in the “Weird Manias” chapter.

So standing up in front of a room full of people and telling a story should be no problem at all, right?

At this point yesterday, I was certain only that I would manage the standing up in front of a room full of people part.

But tonight I know. I know that I can stand up in front of an audience and tell a story. Tonight was the How to Build a Fire storytelling series, and not only did I make it through, I did well! I even sang a bit of a song! Yes, there was one key piece at the end that I forgot to add, but no one seemed to feel the story was lacking.

Storytelling is strange and fabulous. I had such a good time and I can’t wait to try it again!

The HTBAF folks record the events, so there will eventually be a video of me telling my story up on their site.


It’s the end of the 2016 edition of the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see how everyone else ended the challenge! I’m glad to have made it through another year of Slice of Life. I’m not at all ready to start writing poems tomorrow, but we’ll see what happens!

SOL image 2014

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I had a ridiculously late lunch yesterday, walking out of my building at 3:15 to find something I could buy and eat quickly enough to be ready for a 4pm meeting.¹ I walked outside, turned the corner and immediately saw a man coming up the block. It took a nanosecond for my brain to do the processing:

I turned the corner and immediately saw a good-looking Black man with a nice afro coming up the block.

familiar good-looking Black man with a nice afro coming up the block.

familiar-because-he’s-famous good-looking Black man with a nice afro coming up the block.

IT’S NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON!

Seriously. Neil deGrasse Tyson, in all his smooth-walking, self-assured glory. Dr. I-Make-Astrophysics-Crazy-Cool. Dr. I’m-in-a-Superman-Comic Tyson.²

Oh, do I need to tell you I am a science geek and Tyson fangirl?

But I was calm. Ish. I neither stopped walking and pointed frantically nor threw myself at him. Sadly, however, I couldn’t quite function well enough to either take out my phone and snap a pick, or better still, take out my phone and ask to take a selfie with him. Alas. All I could do was stare (yes, very cool). He gave me a knowing smirk and kept it moving.

Neil deGrass Tyson, people!

“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”

Is it any wonder I was starstruck? As Dr. Tyson so grandly informs us, he’s made of “star stuff.”


 

It’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!

SOL image 2014

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¹ Ha! As if I could kid you that I had anything in mind other than pizza!

² No, really. He charted the location of Krypton for the Man of Steel.

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I got on the A train the other night and slid into an empty seat … next to a ventriloquist. Why would that be necessary? Why, of all the people I could sit beside, would I have to find the one over-chatty ventriloquist? I was so with the young man at the end of the car who announced loudly: “Do NOT take that dummy out.” But of course, as soon as he said that, our friend the ventriloquist opened his case and pulled out a dummy.

I don’t hate ventriloquists. Not really. And he was talented. But really. They’re creepy, ventriloquists and their dummies. Creepy.

Let’s pause here. You may agree with me about the creepiness of ventriloquists and their dummies. You may not, but you may know someone else who finds them creepy. Fine. But I have to be clear. My feelings on this subject go deep, deeper, deepest. I so totally have pupaphobia. My puppet fear traces back in a perfect straight line to the movie Lili. No, seriously. That dream sequence scarred me. The only silver lining of this horror is the discovery of “automatonophobia” … which, really, is a way better word than pupaphobia.

Okay, back to business. You know how, if you don’t like cats or are allergic to cats and you go to a house that has cats, they come for you? They could have been asleep at the back of the hidden closet three floors away in the attic, and they come down and come running, looking for your lap? Yes, ventriloquists are the same. Because when that man on the train opened his dummy case, did he try to interact with the people who’d begged him to take out the dummy? No, he turned to me

Puppet Master: Say hi to the nice lady.

Creepy-ass Puppet: She don’t wanna talk to me.

Puppet Master: She’ll talk to you if you say hi. Say, “Hi, pretty lady.”

Creepy-ass Puppet: You think she pretty?

Puppet Master: She’s pretty.

Creepy-ass Puppet: She aight.

Yes, because not only do I have to be accosted by ventriloquism when I was just trying to get home for the night, I get a puppet who has what to say about how attractive I am or am not. Good times.

#NoThanks #NotHereForThis #CREEPY


It’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!

SOL image 2014

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