Friday, June 26, 2009

Goofing on grammar

Many moons ago I wrote a column called "Grammar Goofs". It was an attempt to teach grammar through humor and it was fairly successful -- at first. Then one self-proclaimed editor had an issue with a column and the way I presented the material and complained to the editor of the newsletter/ezine, saying she was ending her subscription. In the 6+ months I wrote the column there were fewer than six complaints, most of them from the self-professed editor, but when that one person ended her subscription my column ended because the newsletter editor didn't want to upset people or have them give up their subscription to a free newsletter. Oh, well, move on and upwards. Fast forward.

Yesterday's little grammar post was because it bothers me to see such blatant disregard for the simple mechanics of grammar, most of which I learned before the age of 10. I enjoyed it so much when the teacher moved on to English and grammar. The harmony of homonyms and the magic of I before E except after C, except in some cases, was fun and it wasn't difficult at all to figure out how to use the lessons in the real world. I had no trouble determining whether I should use TO or TOO or TWO despite them sounding alike (homonyms = words that sound alike but are spelled differently) or how to spell FRIENDS or RECEIVE, and I was a child. I cannot understand why many in the supposedly literate world has such problems. Can't completely blame texting and acronym use for all our problems. Then I saw a video of Jaywalking excerpts from the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and I understood. People are not supposedly literate, they are barely literate and stupid.

People who cannot tell you where the Panama Canal is located or who wrote the autobiography of Malcolm X aren't just camera shy, not in a world where everyone uses their cell phones to take videos and snap photos of everything they see and hear, including their best friend's hurling after a night of mobile mooning from an Infiniti or Cabriolet. Most of these people are in college and the idea that college students don't know the definition of autobiography is beyond sad. I don't believe there is a word for something this far beyond sad.

I don't blame teachers forced to follow curricula that have nothing to do with teaching the basics and teach level testing because they also have to police classrooms and spend time strip searching and metal detecting their students, which does not leave a lot of time for teaching students how to think or learn the basics. I blame the government for kowtowing to political interests fully invested in treating the the symptoms and not the disease. It's patch therapy for a gaping, gushing, arterial wound.

Instead of focusing on how fat people are getting because of the introduction of fat-free foods and putting the empty calories of salt/sodium and sugar in everything, how about focusing on real education and teaching people how to learn? It's no wonder so many businesses are sending their companies overseas, not only for the tax benefits but because American workers are too dumb to handle even the simple jobs without demanding high wages while they sandbag their way through their jobs to get more overtime and benefits. They're not working hard at all, but they're also not working smart, unless you call fleecing their employers and the American consumer smart.

But everybody does it. Yes, and everybody who does it needs to get in line and take a very long walk off a very short pier over the Marianas Trench. Don't worry. Most people won't get that one either.

So, in hopes that someone will read my posts and get something out of them, I will write one grammar post each week on Thursdays. I'd write one every day, but it will take a while for the information to sink in and I don't want to overload those delicate and unused synapses by explaining more than one grammatical rule a week. For those of you who understand grammar and would like to participate by sending your pet peeves and irksome, brawling grammar goofs, please feel free to comment with your wish list. All comments that I hoist myself on my own petard and spin will be laughed at and held up to ridicule because I have no doubt the comments will be phrased in horrendously horrible homonym failures.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kicked out of Eden

A couple of days ago I received my new tarot deck to use with Tarot for Writers. Since I went to bed early, I woke up early and couldn't get back to sleep. I pulled out the new deck of cards, shuffled and pulled three cards with a friend's problems in mind.

Hanged man
The Hanged Man

Ace of Wands
Ace of Wands


At first glance, the news isn't good, but that would be the wrong assumption. The basic meaning is that a sacrifice is required before a new and better future can take place and it will change everything. You will be transformed, but in order for that to happen you have to be ready to accept the change, and the change will be a bigger and better job or opportunity.

No, no one is going to die. Death is about transformation, change, clearing the decks. The Hanged Man is sacrifice and seeing things from a different perspective. The Ace of Wands is illumination, a gift, a powerful and different path lit by the fires of change and inspiration, but you have to be ready to accept the change and not be mired in the past or in a comfortable and safe rut.

The first thing that came to mind was Adam and Eve being forced out of the Garden of Eden. Some sects believe their expulsion from Eden was as a result of sin, the first sin, and that being cast out was a punishment. Many other sects believe that it was a good thing, the best thing to happen to Adam and Eve.

Adam and Eve were children living in a comfortable and beautiful garden with no real responsibilities and no cares. Everything they needed was given to them and in exchange all they had to do was follow the rules. But, like children, telling them not to do something put ideas in their heads, especially Eve's. In a way, Eve and Pandora are the same. They are curious and adventurous and willing to take chances. Eve took a chance and shared her discovery with Adam, but that is the way it was meant to be. Had Eve not taken the apple, she and Adam would have remained children, all potential with no results. Stagnant. Unchanged. Stuck in a rut in a very comfortable zone.

Change demands sacrifice and sacrifice is often a painful wrench. After all, who wants to give up a comfortable rut for the unknown?

Adam and Eve's sacrifice was their childhood, their innocent trust. They took matters into their own hands and had to rely on gaining skill and experience to meet the demands of a changing existence. It's the difference between a pool and a stream or river. If the pool gets no fresh water, it becomes stagnant and dries up. It dies. A stream or river is constantly moving, changing the boundaries and wearing away the obstacles, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, but always inexorably.

What seems like a disaster or a blow to the ego or the heart is often the Universe's way of forcing us out of the comfort zone, expelling us from the Garden of Eden where nothing and no one changes and life becomes stagnant and safe. Lose a job or become injured or ill and we see it as negative when in reality it is an opportunity for change, clearing the mind and the decks down to the bedrock to build something stronger and better. Change is a light burning in the midst of a dense forest that no one sees until the path is cleared and the dead wood moved out of the way. Then the light is visible and lights the path ahead for miles. The dark and forbidding forest is transformed into a clear road forward where more can be seen.

Four years ago I was forced out of my Eden and periodically the Universe kicks me in the hind quarters and forces me out of my comfort zone. The big transformation for me was a new job and moving to a new city. I still have the job but I was forced to move to a new place and it has turned out for the best. As I look back through the years, I see other abrupt upheavals when the Universe gave me a shove and forced me to move on and to change. It was hard at first and I grumbled at the inconvenience and sacrifice, but ultimately, every single time, the change was for the best. I gained new skills, stretched new muscles and arrived in a new and better place. Some of the changes weren't so pleasant, but they always gave me something I could use, some knowledge or skill that I would not have otherwise had if I hadn't been pushed to change, to sacrifice the status quo for a chance to better myself and my life. I didn't always see it that way and sometimes it hurt to be forced to move on, but there is truth to the saying: No pain, no gain. Sometimes you have to tear something down before you can build something new and better, and stronger.

Losing my job five years ago was devastating and the year it took me to climb out of the rut of self pity I dug was difficult. I sacrificed so much and was asked to sacrifice a little more. I thought I had pared my life down to the essentials, but the Universe demanded more. I'm sure there will be further demands if I fail to see the path ahead, but one thing I have learned is that I will survive because I have survived worse.

No matter what we do in life, if there is untapped potential, more will be demanded. It's comfortable and safe in the ruts we dig for ourselves in our relationships, jobs and choices. It's so easy to keep doing things the way we have always done them, but that way lies stagnation. We don't always have to keep changing things just to change them, but it helps to take the hurdles and detours as life's way of pushing us to see things from a new perspective. Whatever the sacrifice, it will be difficult and it might hurt, but the price of transformation is usually costly. The prize is always worth the price.

Had Adam and Eve not been kicked out of Eden, there would be no human race, no dizzying heights of accomplishment and no abysmal depths of destruction and pain. There would be only two immortal children in a stagnant world full of unrealized potential unaware that they are meant for more. There would be no interesting times in which to live only the same chores day after endless day in an unchanging landscape in eternal spring with no surprises and nothing to take the breath away. In short, existence without ever living. The best thing that happened to Adam and Eve was the apple. It wasn't sin. It was sacrifice, a wondrous gift and transformation. It was growing up.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

No-contact sports

There is a letter waiting for a stamp on top of the microwave. It's the letter I wrote to my brother's ex-wife in response to her attack because he cannot control me. Bobbie was adamant about none of his family contacting her. That was in response to my letter to her and Alisha, their daughter, about not sending a wedding gift to people who never welcomed me in their home or included me in other birthdays, holidays or special events. She got so verbally abusive my usually silent brother blew up. Bobbie shut up. He should have blown up before this when she isolated him from his family and made certain none of them were welcome in her home.

Beanie thinks I should let it go and not send the letter because it will only cause more problems for Jimmy. If I still lived in Columbus, it wouldn't be an issue; I'd go to her house and tell her what I think of her not being mature enough or woman enough to face me instead of attacking my brother. He's an idiot, but he's my younger idiot brother. And she wonders why people don't like her.

Bobbie's excuse for not including me before in family celebrations was because she didn't know where I was. I lived in Columbus for about ten years and she didn't know where I was despite being invited to my home for family celebrations. She didn't know how to contact me and yet she knew enough to ask Jimmy to email me and ask for my address. Beanie and my parents have always known how to reach me wherever I was, but it never occurred to Bobbie to ask them or have Jimmy ask. Picking up the phone to call me when I lived in town was too difficult to manage all on her own, but getting my address to invite me to send a gift for Alisha's wedding is more important than any previous family celebration. Higher stakes must mean taking the time to finally include me. Uh, no.

I don't know if Beanie is right and I shouldn't send the letter or if I should follow my own conscience and let Bobbie know what I think of her hypocrisy. I admit I have a big problem with hypocrites and women who abuse their husbands verbally and emotionally, especially because men like Jimmy don't want to admit their spouses are abusive. After all, a man can take being called names and having their manhood called into question. They can take being cut off from their families and friends so they have no outside support. They can take being emotionally and verbally brutalized because they're men. It would be easier to stand face to face with Bobbie and tell her what my family has been unwilling to say all these years when they smiled and welcomed her into their homes only to be treated like dirt beneath her white trash feet. They excused her rude, arrogant and abrasive behavior because they didn't want to make trouble for Jimmy. They didn't get it then and they don't get it now. Jimmy's troubles began when he decided to go through with the marriage despite knowing it was a big mistake.

Like Jimmy told Bobbie, no one controls me. Not my parents. Not my family. Certainly not Jimmy. Now I have to decide whether or not to send the letter. Bobbie said she doesn't want Jimmy's family contacting her. Maybe it would be best to honor her wishes and make sure none of Jimmy's family contacts her again -- or comes to Alisha's wedding or sends a gift. After all, those actions would be contact.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The physics of revolution

There is this horrid problem involving theft and what I assume are tachyons and quantum physics. It couldn't be anything else. It happens when I get an idea, snippets of dialogue and description, stories and characters and all the things that go into writing successful articles and books and posts. The words effortlessly come together, spinning out like the most wonderful of Charlotte's webs and I am caught in the zone, traveling at the speed of thought. I decide the inspiration will still be there when I get back from the store or running errands or doing whatever needs to be done and don't stop and record it or write it all down and go about the tasks at hand. When I return and have the time to sit down and write, they're gone. The most brilliant prose disappeared as though no more than smoke on the wind. No trace of existence remains in the synaptic cul-de-sacs of my brain. My words have been stolen -- again. I'll find them weeks, months and even years later looking up at me from someone else's books and articles and stories as though they belong there. It's quantum theft on a massive scale and I am diminished, violated, raped with no recourse to justice. That's what's happened this morning.

I had a wonderful idea for a post yesterday but I had some chores to do, food to buy and a horrid book to finish reading so I can review it today. The foulness that was the book lingers in my mind like a nasty aftertaste of some poisonous or rotted food that no amount of tooth brushing and gargling has removed. I doubt even writing the review will purge the horrible story from my mind and it will linger, tainting my reading enjoyment with crass, half-assed plotting and prose that barely deserves the designation.

Is half an ass a mule?

The post is gone and I am left sitting here, my fingers tapping out consonants and vowels, arranging them in some coherent order, bereft of my original impulse. In it's place, I offer this:

In the Muslim world it is acceptable to murder women and one movie says it all so eloquently: The Stoning of Soraya M.. This is the truth behind the news, the rights of women that Obamessiah upheld and pointed to in his Cairo speech. This is the tip of the iceberg in Iran and other Muslim countries where sharia law is practiced and where demonstrators for democracy are beaten with clubs while the President offers his mealy-mouthed protestations that he supports peaceful demonstrations. He just does not get it. In a theocracy where human rights are denied and the people oppressed and fearful of speaking out, there is no such thing as a peaceful revolution. Women are demonstrating in the thousands throughout Iran in defiance of the Ayatollah Khamenei's demands that they stop because demonstrations will not change the vote nor will he be pressured as he has pressured the Iranian people since the Shah's overthrow in the 1970s. The people are tired of mock elections and lies and are willing to stand up for their rights to a free and democratic government. It's too bad the President of the United States cannot be pried from his teleprompter to respond as vehemently as he did when he denounced the bloodshed in Romania. After all, pushing more pork and his universal health care agenda is more important than the outcries of an oppressed people in the enlightened Muslim country of Iran.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Peter Pan and real men

While watching a British male version of Sex and the City (that's the advertisement not the actual fact) called Manchild I was struck by the difference in attitudes and social situations of these four men. Only one of them has not had children or been married, Patrick, and the other three are as juvenile as they come, which puts me in mind of my own father on this Father's Day and I am sad, not just because this is the third Father's Day without my father but because these men are indicative of what fatherhood has come to mean. These are definitely men who are children with large disposable incomes.

My dad had his faults. He was vain and afraid of getting old. He primped and preened, but he was a father, a real dad. He was a good role model and still the mark against which I measure all men. He was responsible, caring, thoughtful, generous with himself and his time, tough when he had to be, loving and kind. He was a real man, not a child with a car, house and bank account. He was a little obsessed with age but he was never old and he didn't look old even though he was 79 when he died, not because he was childish or a child but because he was thoroughly engaged in living and enjoyed every moment of his life.

Although Dad wasn't wealthy -- how could he be married to Mom, a woman determined to have everything she ever wanted -- or have an obscenely large disposable income, he wasn't obsessed with things. He was obsessed with family and living. He still managed to go on long vacations and have most of what he needed and a few things he wanted, like his chickens and trees and flowers and plants. He was involved with all of his children, not as an ATM or someone who threw money at them and then went on about his own life, completely invested in our lives, our thoughts, dreams, aspirations, trials, tribulations and joys. He cared.

He cared about his family and his friends. He cared about the people around him. He never needed or wanted to impress anyone and yet impressed them anyway with his friendliness and generous soul. He may have wished to remain young, but he didn't spend his life obsessing about toners or moisturizers or manicures or any of the million things that men today seem to be caught up in. He could admire a beautiful young woman without needing to find a way between her legs to prove his virility or his youth. He was more interested in how people see and live in the world than sexual Olympics, which is not to say he was oblivious to sex. He preferred to keep that part of his life private and not parade it for the whole world to see. He was quite modest in that way. Women found him very attractive and Dad accepted their interest but didn't seek to indulge some Peter Pan fantasy that he still "had it". He had it, no mistake about that. He didn't need to flaunt it or take it out for every Tonya, Diana or Harriet. Dad was a grownup, something most men nowadays are not.

I've found very few men who could live up to my idea of a responsible husband and father. My brother is one of them and I can honestly say I know two or three men of my acquaintance that came out of the same class, one of them a very close friend who lives nearby. I wish there were more like my father. No doubt the world would be a better and a safer place.

On this Father's Day I remember my father and I wish the men like him a very happy and well deserved rest. Thank you, Jimmy, Jerry, Chili Bob and John for giving me real men to appreciate and believe in, men like my father. This day is for you.