Monthly Archives: January 2012

I LOVE YOU HANK GREEN!

In which Carrie gets excited about packing for her trip to Nerfighteria…

 

I’m so excited.

I’m such a nerd!

I’m so excited!

 

Shhhhhhh….don’t tell anyone, I’m lying and deceiving and pretending that I’m not actually as thrilled as I am.  This is the art of pretending.  Dot dot dot.  I am not what you think I am.  See, my look is of indifference. My animated frame says it’s any old day… in the shade!  I’m cool.   I’m cool.

 

But, to be truthfully-honest, I’ve gone far greater lengths than you can imagine in packing.  Packing!  The traveler’s language!  What should I bring?  Those who fly by the seat of their literary asses to travel, FBTSOTLATT, for “research.”   No, I’m not one of those, per se.  I am not any of those that you can imagine.  I am…UNDERCOVER.

 

[Aside: Probably I haven’t given this much thought to “outfits” (ssshhhhh) since my three week trip to Bhutan and Thailand.  Then I was limited to a certain baggage weight (which I was totally, like, twenty pounds under…I’m THAT good), but this time I have my two heartthrobs, Hank and John Green (a.k.a. The Vlogbrothers) on tour in Portland and I can’t decide: jeans or corduroy?  Well…indecision is the gold of the artist*…]

 

But I have packed many things; I’m still mentally packing as if I might starve in the desert like Edward Abby if I’m uncareful…still deciding: two or three books?  I have three pair of underwear: “the lichen,” “the tiger,” and white; I DO have that reputation of packing more books than underwear. (Aside:  My shampoo in a re-used planeridesized Absolut Vodka bottle.  It looks cooooooolllll.)

Aaaaahoooooooh——sweeeeet!  I’m, like, young agaaaaaaain!

See, um… why this is so covert though is I have places to stay in Portland, for free, and for fun, and I feel a little guilty for NOT chickening out on a little adventure I devised for myself…the thing I really want to do…one’s gotta go OFF trail sometimes, right?… and doing my duty as friend or family member.

I’m actually choosing to spend money to have this strange freedom.  I reckon there is something novel in it too attractive to resist.  It is how my mind works….with an old meds container (label carelessly ripped off) filled with all of the pills I could possibly want on my Great Weekend Journey (GWJ): melatonin tabs (2mg), fish oil gels, Metamucil (aaarg, matey!), IB-Pro (200mg), and a couple of Altoids in case we get busted by the COPS!  Let them analyze those babies to see what kind of girl I am!  Ha!

I wanted to be closer to the site of the show… is why I chose to stay two nights at the Hawthorne International Youth Hostel; it’s right close to the Baghdad Theatre where the vlogbrothers will be astounding us, truly, me and about 10,000 teenagers.  John Green is promoting his newest novel, The Fault in Our Stars, and Hank (I like him best), his brother, is along to show support, and because everyone knows him from their Youtube videos.  Here is why I love Hank so much (me and a million adolescents).

I hope to meet some new people.  I wish forever to meet interesting people.  Please, I packed…am packing carefully…let me look into the eyes of my secret love and shake the hand of the author who introduced me to the writing philosophy… “permission to suck.”   ( i love you hank.  love carrie)

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Why Did Santa’s Elves Go on a Labor Strike?

In which Carrie considers the supernatural realm…

I’ve just been reading the most delightful little book.  Somewhere in the Ideal world of Forms* exists a perfect manual for good use of what I’ll generally label “grammar.” I find myself privy to such perfection by a god of correct English convention usage.  He is William Strunk Jr., and it is The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition, co-authored by Charlotte’s Web author E. B. White.  This pocket companion measures 17.5 centimeters by 11.5 centimeters and is .75 centimeters thick. (I measure it in metric because this is SCIENCE!)

Normally I would not be attracted to such a little book.  I go for thick, epic novels or non-fiction which serves my scientific and skeptical leanings.  Neither would my first choice be a text on how my native language should look in writing.  But this one yelled at me from a shelf, and given that I’ve declared myself a writer, I heeded its authority.

Direct and command he does, this Strunk Jr.  His voice is of cheerful military caliber, and, for once, I appreciate such a voice.  I have been so lucky to have learned to love writing from teachers who probably hated teaching grammar (et. al.) as much as their students hated learning it.  This means I have no recollection of ever being specifically taught what should be automatic for me at this age, but I have memories of my praises being sung because of authentic expression, albeit painful to read, from my enthusiastic and unbridled younger days.  Strunk writes:

Rules 3, 4, 5, and 6 cover the most important principles that govern punctuation.  They should be so thoroughly mastered that their application becomes second nature.” (7).

I’ve often thought about what skills I have which are automatic, and those which I have had to learn the hard way.  I realize I could have bypassed tense minutes spent in slow-flowing composition trying to know when to use a semicolon or comma. Some of these important rules are:

3. Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas.

4. Place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause.

5. Don’t join independent clauses with a comma.

6. Do not break sentences in two.

But what is a clause?  Let’s get back to the title:  “Why Did Santa’s Elves Go on a Labor Strike?”

Answer: Because they were tired of being subordinate clauses.

Now, this implies that Santa might be a bit of a micro-manager, or it could just be that since he is the unrivaledSuperiorclause, his Subordinates merely serve him as extra details to his existence, but they aren’t worth that much.  Consider this sentence:

The elves rose up against their boss, partly for higher wages, partly for their pride of being put to better use.  Here commas are used to add description to the power of the main clause.

But say the joke was written, “Why did Santa’s elves admire and respect him?” with the answer being, “because they liked being independent clauses,.” This story might be different.

Here is a case where Santa’s best interests are in the interests of his workers.  He may be called democratic and ask them to perform functions which they are capable or most skilled. They might be happy because they are driven by an inherent desire to work for the good of the whole without the administration of unjust demands from a dictator.

These independent clauses, then, would take the form of equally important clauses, often separated by a semi-colon as in rule 5, rephrased as: join independent clauses with a semi-colon; they are complete and important thoughts closely linked to each other, as a unit.  The last three words, if I’m not mistaken, comprise a subordinate clause.

Santa asked his elves to work as a team to develop a new product line; they were happy to take on this project as if it belonged to them equally.

 

I’m sure in the coming weeks, months and years I’ll be practicing these skills, and others, found in this little book.  Mostly I just want to get to the point where I won’t have to think, and painfully second-guess my grammar usage–that it will become automatic, mastered, and involuntary.  I can then devote my thoughts to what is below the surface of my mind and wants to get out creatively and intelligently.  No doubt this is a newer development for me: to practice the forms so they may be easier on readers’ eyes.

I wonder if I’m suddenly self-righteous here, like a grammarpolicewoman of Strunk’s ancient, yet alive, army.  When Cervantes wrote, “Forewarned is forearmed,” I think this little book will serve its $10.99 purpose in saving me from future grammar angst and I can use my time and labor more independently.

*Forms: Plato. Example: A drawn triangle is a mere, or imperfect, copy of the Ideal triangle, again Plato.


On Philosophy, the Biosphere, and Written Linguistic Expression

In which Carrie explains why she began a blog…

I was corresponding with poet and shortstoryist, Linda Ferguson, about a recent development in my manner of reading.  It is like I am studying books for a purpose.  And maybe it isn’t “like” that at all, but truly is that I am studying with a purpose.  I lay there on my bed, or sit in my philosopher’s chair ($7.99 camping seat with holes in the arm) and devour the pages of Works of Love by Søren Keirgegaard or Tree: A Life Story by David Suzuki and William Grady or Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, and I bottomdogearmark pages which hold a particularly clever simile or a passage of universal importance, and sometimes extend a tiny bit more energy to write in a thought of my own.  Linda says of herself:

I’ve been reading more analytically too, and I have to say it’s actually increased my enjoyment of books.  I haven’t been marking pages, but I’ve been taking notes in my journal, asking myself what works and what I’d do differently.  I love this feeling that I have the power to learn and learn and learn — and I don’t need a car or money to do it.

I feel she has captured the idea perfectly.  It is what the poets and paupers have been doing all along, and I’ve just realized for the first time that something within me is compelled to study, while without my really being conscious of it, I was studying for the sake of my own learning.

I want to be a writer.  And so I am.  Taking that leap from “I want” to owning the identity was more philosophical than you’d realize.  I had to seriously think about how much this scares me, putting words and sentences and thoughts out there for all to see.  I’ve had help along the way, encouraging and critical people who understand what it is to do something you love with your whole heart and mind.  And these are just exactly what are on the line.  But: “It is always the adventurers who accomplish great things, “said Montesquieu, and I really have no argument for that.

I’m inspired also by my favorite teacher of philosophy, Shultz, whom I believe will secure his place in history of being one of this century’s greatest philosophers.  He told his students, more than once, that we do this “to be adults taking ourselves seriously.”  I have hung onto “this” thought in spite of myself, in spite of my arguments to the seeming contrary, that I do “this” for fun.  In fact, it is exhilarating to face a fear with my chin up, earnestly, as though my life depends upon it.  I have a purpose, it is both fun and serious.

So besides the study of the great, or, not-so-great masters, it seems vital that if I want to be a writer, if I am indeed a writer, I must practice.  I have thought for months about starting my own blog after some success contributing to another’s, and so now I intend to adhere to the obligation I hold to myself, to work more at what I love.

This, too, is a community blog and I welcome submissions which speak within the domains of Philosophy, the Biosphere, and Literature in general.  These are umbrellas I find myself obsessing over and would love for you to share your specific thoughts on these wide subjects.  Please submit pieces to thegrammararchitect@gmail.com.

In truth, forsooth.