Sunday, April 25, 2010

Short Post the Second: Grammar!

They're/There/Their: Okay, yeah. This one just bothers me. If one is using, "they're," it can be replaced with, "they are." If one is using, "there," it is a place. "Their" is a possessive.

"They're going to put their things over there."

"They're from Kentucky."

"Their gifts arrived just last night."

"The gifts are over there."

Usually, the difference it clear. However, it is not always clear by the time the reader has reached the word, meaning s/he has to reread the sentence, and that's no fun!

Short Post

Storyteller, Trickster, riddle me this:
What's the price on the head of a hiss?
Above or below a wonderful bliss...
Can you even put a price on something like this?

So people wonder, and people want,
And search for money, and those with it flaunt.
Because deep down, we all know:
Nothing beats that first throw.

There are those who would kill
For one last thrill
But leave you alive, so you might thrive.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Grammar and Punctuation

Today's Lesson: Endangered Species

Parentheses: The text can be read with or without the text contained.

Example: "Have you ever been sent to school with the same old (empty) bag lunch?"

This means if you have gone to school with the old bag lunch, whether it is empty or not, you would say yes. You might clarify, but it is not necessary.

Spoken as: "Have you ever been sent to school with the same old--possibly empty--bag lunch?"

In other words, parentheses should almost never be used in dialogue--excluding reading aloud. They can be used in any written mode, but cannot be pronounced. There are ways to indicate parentheses if you are reading a quote, but to properly 'enunciate', one would need to say "Parentheses [blah blah blah] close parentheses."

It is also worth noting that some people use parentheses when they mean to use dashes. Dashes are these:--. These are both quite useful punctuation marks, but are different.

Begging the Question: Okay, let's start here, because I love that site. tl;dr: Begging the question is assuming something is true with no proof but the assertion of the statement.

Examples: "I think he's unattractive because he's ugly." (Any tautology fits here, really)

"I can't see why this is so hard. Anyone with a brain could figure it out." "Ah, but that's begging the question. You assume he has a brain."

Misestimated/Underestimated: Misestimate is to misjudge an estimation. Underestimate is specifically to estimate too low.

In explaining that the former is losing its use, I must point out that my spellcheck does not recognize it. I really think that's all I need to say on the point.

Examples: "I appear to have misestimated." "Over or under?" "I'm not sure..."

"You underestimated me."

Lay/Lie: I do this so much. Lay is to put/place. Lie is to recline.

Examples: "Chickens lay eggs."

"I'm going to lie down."

However, and here's the tricky part: "I lay my head down."

This actually has a fun meaning if used correctly: It can imply a feeling of separation from one's body.

Okay. How many grammatical errors did I make? Oh, and feel free to add any others that Just Bug You (TM) in the comments section.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"Stars, hide your fires."

Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 4, Line 50-51:

Stars, hide your fires;
Let not light see my black and deep desires:

Now mine:

I walk upon hot coals.
I fear not.
I know it is fire, and it calls to me, but I fear not.

I feel the sun shine down on me and burn me rose red.
I fear not.
I know it is warmth, and it calls to me, and I answer; I fear not.

I see the lamp burn too-bright white.
I fear not.
I know it blinds, and it calls to me, but I do not look.

I look at the moon.
I fear not.
She is mother and giver. I know her power over tides, but that power is a part of me, so I fear not.

I look at the stars.
I see fires, pinprick suns far off.
I see something I know.

I look between them.
I see black velvet.
Darkest night.
Blackest dawn.
Not clouded. Not lost. Present, and dark, always dark.

I see something of myself.
I see my demon, and I see my angel.
I see what Freud called superego and id.
I see what is my self.
And I see something that scares me.
I see myself, not thinking.
But I do not look.
I fear to, should I look, examine, what should I see?

But I press my will and I make myself.
I know that not thinking is a greater sin than any I would find.
I know.
I smile and might chuckle.
I thought.
I fear not.


In a story--and any time you communicate an event, that is a story--one has to separate breaks. First, the simplest way I do:

1) Meta breaks: In a written format, this would be paragraphs, chapters, line breaks, or whatever else; when speaking, it is a pause or change in tone; in acting, a scene break, act change, or any in the previous; in movies a fade to black or any in the two previous categories. This list is not exclusive.

2) In-story breaks: Times when the character took some time. Examples are taking a break from whatever the character is doing, be that in writing, reading, fighting, or anything else. This may overlap with the above.

What is fascinating is exactly how much difference separating these two breaks makes. Say an author goes through a day in the life of one of her* characters. In the first telling, she put down everything that happens, and the character's feelings about all of it.


Wow. That is boring.

Okay, she goes back. Looks it over. And she asks herself that most important question in all of fiction, nay, in all of storytelling:

"What am I trying to write?"

The simple truth is, if the author can't figure out an answer to the question, the editing process is going to go nowhere. In Rapunzel, you will almost never hear what happens to her mother and father after she leaves in anything but the scantest of detail. The same goes for the witch. Why? Because the story is about Rapunzel. Adding all that information just breaks from the main action, the main story. It is not about her parents, or the witch, or even her prince. It is about her. So those are the details that got passed down.

Not knowing where your story is going when you write it? Fine! There's no problem with that. But trying to edit a story when, when it comes right down to it, no one knows who or what it is supposed to be about it going to end in disaster. If someone didn't know the story was about Rapunzel, would that person cut the description of the Prince's childhood, her parents', hers? Has to cut at least one, all these things are cluttering up the book and we don't get 90% of the loose ends tied up! We're breaking from the main action in half the book; I don't even know what the main action is supposed to be.

So, what is the story? Is it about Rapunzel? Her Prince? Their love? The witch? Her parents? A young boy who watches some or all of it happen and his response? Something completely esoteric?

There is no need for that to be the only thing in the story--no matter what the response is, all of those will be affected by the environment. But the majority of the book should be based around the focus of the book. The rest are breaks. A book without breaks makes no sense, a book that is mostly breaks is just plain weird. Though that can be done well, in order to do weird things well one has to be A) really lucky or B) aware of the weirdness.

[announcer voice] Step right up and try your luck!

* I dislike saying him or her.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Song Analysis

All my own opinions, I have not seen anything Idina said. If we're going by the school of whatever the artist says is right, I'm probably way off.

Also, note: the she I refer to is the speaker, not the author. Idina may share some or none of these traits, I wouldn't know.

My Own Worst Enemy
Idina Menzel

In the roses
In the spring

Innocence, specifically in the sense of ignorance. Roses are used as signs of love, and spring of new life; everything has its own little realm and you see the world through new, bright eyes.

I remember

Immediately implies that that time has passed. If you still are innocent, you do not remember, it simply is. This is particularly true with innocence, those truly innocent (using it as partially synonymous with 'ignorant') do not even know that it can get worse.

There was a time
I wasn’t afraid of anything

Emphasizes the innocence/ignorance again. People talk about having no fear flippantly occasionally, when discussing bravery. But, in context, this seems to imply a literal lack of fear. A lack of fear is caused by either a lack of experience or a lack of imagination. Considering the idyllic setting, it is probably the former.

But with the lilacs
And the rain

Direct link drawn back to the roses and the spring, mentioned earlier. This time it includes an obvious reference in the spring vs. rain parallel, rain comes later in the year and we assume it to be slightly worse. Not necessarily in the long run, but in the here-and-now? Yeah.

This draws us back to the innocence/ignorance, as looking to the future is a sign of wisdom, but you have to earn that.

The roses vs. lilacs is more interesting. There is nothing particularly bad about lilacs--they are also used for love, they bloom in spring, all that good stuff. But it's also just a bit less mainstream. On the other hand, combine it with rain and you could get tears on lilacs--very easily a loss of innocence, when you consider the juxtaposition of love and tears.

One day you went away

Loss of innocence, realizing you can lose people.

I remember
I forgot everything

Can be seen as a first freak out. You spend your entire life learning how to fit into society, learning every rule, probably learning how to manipulate them and then BAM. You lose it. The first time this happens can be liberating, surreal or both, making the opposites above very appropriate.

My mother’s always trying to tell me
How to be grateful how to believe

May be just me, but I always heard "believe" as "be free". One could see this as showing how to trust even in the face of bad things, and how to survive on one's own, either way.

My father’s always trying to say
Baby you’re beautiful in every way

Classic good dad. He's saying that everything she does is alright, everything she is is beautiful. The multiple meanings of beautiful--outer, inner and actions--make this an interesting set of lines. It could just be out there to show how she has no reason to be scared/hurt, or it could be that he has trusted her and helped her every step of the way.

My lover’s always got me in his arms
Trying to protect me keep me from harm

She has a close relationship with her lover. By this point it is clear that these three sets of lines are a unit, establishing that she has people helping her, people who care about her, every step of the way.

It's also worth noting that, in all three instances, the word "trying" comes up. Her mother and father are trying to teach her, her lover is trying to protect her. This means it ultimately comes down to her, and...

So why do I always have to be
My worst my own worst enemy

She clearly feels she isn't living up to this. She feels she is holding herself back, hence her bit about being her own worst enemy. There is also a not-quite-pause between My worst and the rest of the line. This makes the line being spoken, however briefly, into, Why do I always have to be my worst? This takes us back to tears and the freak out, few people would want either of those things to be someone's first impression of him or her.

In the shadows in the grays

First off, shadows is very loaded. We have a long history of associating darkness with evil, making it impossible for it to be otherwise.

The grays has a bit of duality because it's gray. Just as we've associated dark with evil, we've associated light with good. Gray stays solidly in the middle of that spectrum, meaning that it is both not what one would hope for in good nor what one would expect in evil.

In the lonely
There is a place
Where we can all hide away

Being lonely is bad.

We're pack animals. We can handle being alone, but loneliness automatically has a number of stigmas against it, to the point that those who remain alone by choice or necessity are seen as odd.

But hiding can be a comfort, and it is often necessary to be alone if one wishes to hide. So we have a wish and a necessity noted in this line.

But in the windows of the soul
There is nowhere we can go
If we keep running
Running from our destiny

Back to being alone. If you are alone, you have to deal with...yourself. You naturally can't run. It is worth noting that the speaker knows there are things you can run from (see above), but running from the bad bits of something will also run from the good parts of it.

So you can run, but there are things you cannot run from. And I suppose it makes as much sense as anything else to call those things your destiny.

My mother’s always trying to tell me
How to be grateful how to believe
My father’s always trying to say
Baby you’re beautiful in every way
My lover’s always got me in his arms
Trying to protect me keep me from harm
So why do I always have to be
My worst my own worst enemy

The chorus, this time can be seen as the things that keep her from running. Her mother, who helps her remember the things she is grateful for and so should stick around for. Her father, who helps her remember she doesn't need to run. Her lover is the most forward in this interpretation, he is actively holding her from running and trying to stop the things that are making her want to run.

But still, we have trying. Are they succeeding?

You say I walk on water
You say I walk on the moon
But it’s never enough
(no it’s never enough no it’s never enough)

The former is downright divine, and the latter is widely established as a turning point in American history. But still, no matter what she does, she is not good enough. Usually this would be a way to make the character sympathetic and the person who is creating this feeling unsympathetic. But the speaker is neither asking for sympathy nor blaming someone else. In the context of the song, it is clearly never enough for herself. Everyone else is supportive, but she never feels like she's worth it.

You say I’m only human
It’s all in my head
But it’s never enough
(no it’s never enough no it’s never enough)

Emphasizes that the above things are all but impossible for humans, doing them at all is impressive. Any claim otherwise is just her trying to be more than anyone would reasonably expect of her.

One day I’ll find
My alibi...

An alibi is only used when someone has done something wrong. The idea that she cannot do these things is, to her mind, a crime.

My mother’s always trying to tell me
How to be grateful how to believe
My father’s always trying to say
Baby you’re beautiful in every way
My lover’s always got me in his arms
Trying to protect me keep me from harm
So why do I always have to be
My worst my own worst enemy

Now the chorus takes on a feel of people trying to convince her that she has nothing to be sorry for. They're trying to say that she's done enough, and her lover in particular is saying he can help her through the rest, if she just lets him.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Just popping in to wish everyone a happy last day of march. So, even if blogspot won't let me put it, happy 3/32/10 everybody!
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