Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Day

Today's post is going to be on a topic none of you ever expected to see in this blog: baseball.

I don't know how you could have missed it, but in case you didn't know, I'm not a big sports fan. Once a year, I make a halfhearted effort to learn who won the Super Bowl (I've already forgotten this year's outcome) and that's about it.

However, about a year ago, a New Yorker friend informed me that I am a Yankees fan. Lacking any evidence to the contrary, I agreed with him. Being a Yankees fan seems a fairly simple occupation--I just have to enthusiastically agree with everything he says about the Yankees and badmouth the Red Sox at every opportunity.

This year, my friend raised the stakes and inquired as to the identity of my favorite player. Favorite player? Well, it turns out that selecting a favorite player is not too hard either. Naturally, it had to be a Yankees player, so that narrowed down the field considerably. Normally, when selecting from a pool of options I know nothing about, I choose the one with the most interesting name. But none of the Yankees' names were doing it for me, so I dug a little deeper and started looking for someone with a similar birthday to mine. I came up with Brett Gardner. We were both born in August of 1983. Following this, I discovered he's also left-handed (so am I!) and wears the number 11 (my favorite number!) He's like, a favorite player made in heaven! To seal the deal, by striking (you may interpret this as a baseball pun if that makes you happy) coincidence, he's also under 6 feet tall. As I discovered while perusing the roster, not many baseball players can claim that...but I can. Wow, we have so much in common!

So now, armed with a favorite team, a favorite player, and a rudimentary knowledge of what WHIP means, I am ready to face this baseball season head-on. I am pleased to announce that my favorite player will be the opening batter for his team on this opening day. Whee, this is so exciting! Who knew fandom could be so easy?

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Soundtrack to My Life: The B side

In my previous post, I shared the first 8 songs that I would put on a soundtrack to my life. In this post, I finish what I started.
  1. Fool's Garden - Lemon Tree
    When this song came out in the mid-90's, it was nothing but a fun-sounding pop song with lyrics that I ignored. That's what I usually do with lyrics. Little did I know, though, that a dozen years later, it would become the theme song to my existence! Full of loneliness and despair and still having a fun sound, Lemon Tree is a favorite of mine when I want to take an ironic view of my pitiful existence.
  2. Blu Cantrell - Hit Em Up Style
    Following 1996, there was a gaping void in the music world, where nothing interesting dared tread. These were my high school years, when Britney Spears reigned supreme and all the girls were obsessed with Dave Matthews Band. I did not join in, choosing instead to immerse myself in  music from an era before I was born. Upon graduation, however, all that changed! Hit 'Em Up Style has that old-school jazz style that was just what I needed to wean me gently away from classic Broadway soundtracks and back into the world of pop music. Whenever I hear this song, I will always be brought back to a hot summer day a few days before I would leave home for college, sitting in the Kohl's parking lot in my Neon (just steaming), hearing this song and knowing my life was about to change forever!
  3. Welle:Erdball - Deine Augen
    And just how did my life change forever when I entered university? Well...I was introduced to file sharing! I had never been big into buying music, but when one of my roommates downloaded some peer-to-peer software and I discovered all the wonderful things you could find - for free! - by the track instead of by the big bloated boring album! - I knew I had discovered something amazing. When I was just getting started (before I became the borderline music junkie I am today), one of the first songs I downloaded was this gem by the German band Welle:Erdball. I was actually looking for another song entirely, but I'm glad I ran across Deine Augen by mistake, because it remains one of my favorites. You can see from the imagery in the video that Welle:Erdball is known for composing their music on a Commodore 64. And thus, though I didn't know it then, they were my first introduction to chiptune music, which has become one of my favorite genres.
  4. The Doctor Who Theme Song
    Any of them! All of them! Every remix you can imagine! Doctor Who was my favorite television show when I was in second grade and most of the surrounding years (because I couldn't pick something normal like Full House, like all my friends did). Although I forgot about Doctor Who for years following that, when the series was revived (ahem, regenerated) in 2005, I remembered pretty quickly how much I loved it. It is my favorite television show again.
  5. Himesh Reshammiya - Aashiq Banaya Aapne (Remix)
    Well, if I thought things went downhill once I reached adulthood, it was peanuts compared to what I would experience after graduating from college. This super-fun Hindi dance song was the last thing I downloaded before it all fell apart. It was, in essence, the last relic I had of happy times before I entered the worst and longest period of depression I've ever suffered.
  6. Murray Gold - Madame de Pompadour
    A coworker once heard me playing this song and commented, "That's the saddest song I've ever heard." And so it is. I like songs that can manipulate my emotions and reflect them when they're too deep for words, and this one does it better than any other. It also just happens to be from an episode of Doctor Who.
  7. Pain - Eleanor Rigby
    The Beatles wrote this song about "all the lonely people," but Pain turned it into an agonized industrial/goth/metal anthem. I love them for it. This song gave me an outlet for all the horrible feelings I felt during a horrible time. I'm sure it will have the opportunity to thus serve me again.
  8. Taio Cruz feat. Ludacris - Break Your Heart
    Now you might be thinking I just added this song because I don't really think there's any song as bomb as it, and this album needed more upbeat dance music, but in all honesty, I think I can say it pretty much sums up my life at present. I seem to be consumed with this quest to find love. And every chapter ends with someone's heart getting broken. Sometimes it's mine. I seem to have an extraordinary talent for falling in love with unavailable men (emotionally and otherwise), and men seem to have an extraordinary penchant for falling in love with me. Even though, as Taio says, I'm not easy to please. So whether I put myself in the place of the singer or the girl he's singing to, I always fit there!
  9. BONUS TRACK! Muse - Take a Bow
    No, this song has no relevance to my life. But I cannot believe I've never mentioned it in my blog! It needs to be here simply because of its unparalleled wonderfulness! (Maybe I'm just a little expansive because I just got finished listening to the best dance song of 2010, but still!) Listen to the synthy arpeggios! It's like The Neverending Story and the entire Tron Legacy soundtrack all packed into one rock song!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Soundtrack to My Life

My ingenious fellow blogger, Geoffrey, recently posted a soundtrack to his life. Unfortunately, you can't read it, because his blog is protected, but it was still a good idea that I would like to emulate.

I often tell people I come with my own personal soundtrack, because I can't stop whistling, humming, and singing (that's when I'm not narrating to myself). These songs mostly consist of the Chicken Dance, the Sailor's Hornpipe, Für Elise, Frère Jacques, and Hungarian Dance #5, sometimes all in one amazing extended mix that would make any DJ proud. But if you wanted to go a little deeper and come up with a soundtrack that was somehow meaningful to my life, rather than just a collection of tunes that happen to be rolling through my head most of the time, you could do that too. It would look something like this.
  1. Steve Winwood - Valerie
    There's no better way to begin a soundtrack to your life than with a hearty helping of narcissism. While this song isn't much to get excited over, it does have my name in it! It was also released just a year before my birth, as if to say, "Get ready, she comes!" In a good way.
  2. The Grass Roots - Temptation Eyes
    While I spent my formative years in the 80's and early 90's, when I reminisce about the music of my childhood, I mostly think of stuff from the 60's and 70's. We did a lot of listening to the oldies in my household, and I do believe that "Temptation Eyes" was my brother's favorite song for a while. I even have this recollection of the entire family sitting around the fireplace listening to the Oldies station while he successfully requested this song. Of course, I might be making this all up.
  3. The Hollies - Bus Stop
    Part of the reason I have so many golden oldies in my repertoire is my dad's band, the Harmony Hogs, who specialized in covers of songs from their own good old days. Daddy spent many an evening rehearsing these songs in my presence. While I'd like to say that one song holds more significance for me than any other, this is really just an arbitrary selection. In fact, it's a particularly inapt one, since it's a completely implausible love song that holds no bearing on any aspect of my real life. Except that sometimes it rains.
  4. George Harrison - Dream Away
    As I was a weird child, it is only natural that my favorite movie was a weird movie—Time Bandits. And this song is its theme song. Although the cool instrumental introduction is part of the thrill, if you find it too boring, skip to the middle where the pace picks up and there's singing!
  5. The End Credits to Super Mario World
    In recent years, I've developed a love for video game music. Especially games that figured strongly in my childhood—like Super Mario World! The best thing about this video is, if you skip to 1:40, you can watch all the Yoshis hatch! I think nothing will ever make me quite as happy as Yoshi.
  6. The Real McCoy - Another Night Another Dream
    When I wasn't jamming to the oldies, I was usually listening to whatever happened to be playing on the radio. I wasn't very interested in popular music back then, but when I slowly began paying attention to it 5 years later or so, it all came back in a flood of memories. For me, The Real McCoy (with that ridiculous bass voice interjecting raps in the middle of the song) will always epitomize the 90's. And trips to the mall in Bowling Green for haircuts and fun with the Girl Scouts.
  7. Weezer - Buddy Holly
    If The Real McCoy are my poster children for 90's dance music, Weezer play the same role for rock. Buddy Holly and The Sweater Song instantly evoke memories of riding around in a minivan, a vacation to Florida, and...candy corn? Those were my golden years. It was all downhill from there.
  8. Kitaro - Sacred Journey II
    As an introduction to the end of youthful happiness and the beginning of my painful first encounters with the Real World, I'd like to share a song that can both signify limitless bliss and bottomless sadness. Songs that can do that are truly powerful, and my favorite kind of music. This is one of those songs.
Although this is only half of a good album, I'm going to stop here because 16+ songs are a lot to listen to at one time, and a whole lot to write about! Stay tuned for the other side (if this album were vinyl instead of YouTube).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Better get this historical journey over with

I have only a few remaining entries salvaged from my old Words and Images blog, on topics of grammar, design, and the art of communication. Today I'll share with you one more. Soon my topics will be fresh and not dredged out of some old grad-school files.

December 16, 2007

Don't let the grammar gurus grind you down
or, sometimes bad words work

Last time we spoke, I was questioning Constance Hale's status as linguistic royalty. Now, I have nothing against Ms. Hale. She has taught me many valuable things about language and called my attention to a number of entertaining grammatical gaffes and several pulchritudinous passages that will surely go into the book of "things I like." However, while I'm no princess of prose myself, I think I know enough about English to know (when I've overdone the alliteration and) when it's time to think twice about swallowing advice. (I may be about to overdo the rhyming, too, so let's get right to the examples.)

House, Hale says, is a word that has many alternatives. Still, she commands, "Don't even think about colorless words like abode, dwelling, domicile, or residence." But why not? The house in which I live is your average two-story mix of brick and white vinyl siding. It's shaped like a box; its roof is grey sediment-on-tar-paper shingle; and it sits in the middle of a street of houses that could be its clones. There's nothing distinctive about my house. It certainly does not qualify as a cottage, duplex, dacha, shack, bungalow, A-frame, Tudor, or any of the other options that Hale cites. It's a house, pure and simple. Yet if I were to write a passage much longer than this one about my house, my readers would likely die of boredom if I didn't spice up the description with some other term than "house." I could use "home" once or twice, but after that, I'm going to resort to "dwelling." I'm possibly going to call it a "residence." And I don't think I'm going to end up in grammar hell. Even prosaic synonyms are better than no synonym at all.

Beware of back-formations, says Hale (she's talking about verbs that have arisen from nouns). Some of them meet with her approval - rob from robber, beg from beggar, diagnose from diagnosis - but others do not--enthuse, burgle, and televise. There's no established rule about which verbs to reject and which ones to embrace; you simply have to read Hale's mind. Or else make up your own rules. I, for one, am quite fond of the verb televise. I think it's the perfect word to succinctly convey the concept of sending a television broadcast. I think the "ise" ending lends it an electronic feel, and I think it is just different enough from television to have an identity of its own, yet similar enough that its meaning is immediately obvious. I don't think it's awkward, as Hale does; I think I will use it with abandon.

Access as a verb? wonders Hale with disgust, somewhere in Chapter 9. For whatever reason, our author is extremely averse to this back-formation. Earlier in the book, she suggests that instead of using to access, you try to view. Can you imagine using that substitution in the sentence that she's deriding? "It's the line of credit you _______ simply by writing a check." No, that will never work. The writers are definitely not saying you can view a line of credit - which would make no sense - they are saying you can gain access to it. But if you substitute gain access to in the sentence, then you not only accumulate several unwieldy words, but you also separate verb from its indirect object, in an awkward manner that even Hale, with her opposition to schoolmarms' rules, would not condone. Here (and most places) access is not a bad verb. It is not vague. It gets to the point.

Many words that Hale has shunned are words that I find perfectly acceptable. Context matters, and in the right light, even the dullest word shines. Often, the same thing is true of groups of words—phrases that Hale disfavors have their time and place too. You can bet I'll be sharing my humble opinion on those parts of speech, too, but for now I'm tired of writing and I bit you adieu. (Sorry, I couldn't resist one last rhyme.)