Don’t cry for me, Art and Tina

I’m on holiday! Between now and the fifth of September I will be taking my leisure, by which I mean shifting furniture, painting and plastering, and trying to make our new house a bit more livable.

I’ll probably be online less than usual, so you’ll all have to muddle along without me, internet peoples. Be good, and if you can’t be good, have a bloody good time.

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For the sake of argument

I’m an argumentative sort.  Most people who’ve known me for any length of time will tell you that.  Especially if there’s anything at material at stake, I like to thoroughly explore all sides of an issue.  And sometimes I just like to argue for the sake of exercising my brain and stopping it from just sitting there sluggishly and regulating my breathing.

I must admit that sometimes I get carried away; I have on occasion seen an alarmed look cross the face of my co-argumentor and realised that they thought I was taking it seriously – like I was really passionate about iron filings or the exact contours of a bowler hat.

And then there are the times when it’s hard to tell what the other person is thinking.  Aware that I can come across a little strong sometimes, I do make an effort to tone it down, and then I wonder if actually I’m just being wishy-washy and failing to make my point.  Especially online, after wrapping up a little parcel of opinion and firing it into the void, I may sit and watch it into the distance, wondering if I’ve just torpedoed a developing friendship.

For what it’s worth, people, I don’t hold grudges, and I don’t judge.  I’m a seeker after truth and beauty and all that, and as long as you’re not trying to obscure those, then we’re on the same side.

Unexpected flow state

I had a pretty great day at work today, unexpectedly.

I arrived in the office completely exhausted and with a major overhaul needed on my UI designs before I go on holiday in two days. As I sat there, barely able to keep my eyes open, and having a hard time understanding the contents of my emails, it seemed unlikely I was going to make it through the day without either falling asleep under my desk or running screaming from the building. (Neither of which has happened to date, but there’s always a first time…)

When I realised I hadn’t yet taken my meds, I figured I’d better do that at least. They haven’t seemed to be helping a lot lately, but on a morning like this morning I need all the edge I can get. I grabbed a coffee, took my medicine like a good little girl, and sat down at my desk with a plan to take it one step at a time and see how much I could get through.

HappyAnd it worked! It never works, and yet I keep trying. (It’s a sign of insanity, apparently.) But today I had that beautiful, blissful experience of settling down to work, and then lifting my head a few hours later to realise that not only is it lunchtime already, but I have a bunch of stuff written down that didn’t exist a little while ago.  (Not fiction writing, which would have been even nicer, but specs and designs, which contextually was more important.)

So I went and had lunch, and chatted with a friend, and headed back early because even though I had been very productive in the morning, there was still a whole bunch to do.

It happened again!

I don’t know if it was the meds, or the coffee, or the impending holiday, or just because it was a lovely sunny day outside, but I got a ton of stuff done, and I might actually get everything prepared before I go away so that it doesn’t all explode while I’m away.

I would like more days like that, please.

(And I wonder if excessive parenthetical asides is also a sign of insanity?)

 
© Gloria Hanlon 2016 All Rights Reserved

Photo credit Michael R Perry 2013

The train gang

Today will be mostly spent on a long train journey – with my inlaws, but not with my husband since he will be picking us up at the station.  I expect it will be… interesting.

Either it will be dull and peaceful and I’ll have a longer post later, or it won’t.  Wish me luck!

Funny ha-ha or funny peculiar?

It’s funny how there are trends in humour.  Watching some of the old sitcoms from the 70’s these days, it’s quite cringe-inducing how characters we loved can suddenly come out with something appalingly sexist.  Presumably when they were topical, those subjects were a bit edgy, and they would have considered modern attitudes to be ‘PC gone mad’, or whatever the equivalent was.

The earlier ones are worse still, and I find myself wincing when a black character comes on, because you never know when you’ll be hit by a blast of casual racism.

Similarly, thinking about a show like ‘Friends’ which was so popular for so long, I realise that actually, the fat jokes about Monica, and the ingrained homophobia passed more or less unnoticed at the time, but they can be quite striking now, (say it softly) 20 years later.

It makes me wonder what we’ll look back on, 20 years from now, and consider to be unbearably offensive.

 

© Gloria Hanlon 2016 All Rights Reserved

Those three little words that mean so much…

Sorceror. Runs. Fast.

Or maybe fire.danger.dragon.  Or even computer.broken.help?

The amazing site What3Words.com assigns a three word phrase to every 3mx3m square on the face of the earth.  Designed partly to help people who have no official address and no way of getting one, such as those who live in shanty towns or very remote areas, it also has the wonderful side effect of generating catchy and memorable phrases which one day might replace memorising GPS co-ordinates.

Browsing around Dublin for example, I found union.trades.metals in Stephen’s Green and exam.sweat.plank near Trinity College.

Further afield, by guessing against the available words, famous.racing.driver is a little South of Indianapolis, and nice.warm.breakfast is in a part of Russia that looks distinctly chilly.

Here are some more great possible addresses:

  • unsafe.fire.managements
  • invisible.broad.house
  • wonderfully.green.duck

So tell me, who wouldn’t love to live at funny.banana.vibrates?

 

(I should note that I have no affiliation with what3words.com, I just think they’re great)

© Gloria Hanlon 2016 All Rights Reserved

Image courtesy of hanciong.

English as She is Teached

Today I spent quite a bit of time reading about rules of grammar.  I have to confess to having been something of a prescriptivist myself in my younger days, so I think it’s healthy to get a better understanding of the zombie rules which infest the English language, so that I have an idea of the people I’m likely to be pissing off with my writing style.

I’ve been a fan of Language Log for many years now, and reading through their archives has been an educational experience.  I have come across a fascinating number of ‘rules’ which go into incredible detail, and I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface.  It seems there are people out there who are memorising pages and pages of rules because they are so unsure about how to write in their native language.

Frankenstein_MonsterI found this monstrosity, which is a mind-boggling attempt at scoring a given piece of text for things like whether it has exceeded some apparently arbitrary number of adverbs. I’ve had Grammarly.com pushed at me regularly over the past few weeks on various sites I’ve visited, and that doesn’t exactly seem like a particularly high-quality tool either.  I put the text of the post so far into its checker, and it told me it had detected two errors, and also evidence of plagiarism.  Of course the next step was to sign up so that I could discover exactly what these egregious faults are and obtain their expert help in dealing with them.  The first app’s opinion on the same piece of text was that I had used 4 adverbs but that I was only allowed two, and that only the very first sentence in the post was understandable.  Right so.

There are also a whole bunch of things like ‘comma splices’ and ‘avoid passive voice’, which I had never even heard of until a few years back, but which seem pretty pervasive in guides to writing.

It made me wonder about other people’s experience of learning to write English.  I don’t mean as a more-or-less adult learning techniques about characters and worlds and compelling plots, but the kind of writing done in primary school.  I’ve been racking my brain to think of examples of writing I had ‘corrected’ when I was younger, and the few that come to mind seem straightforward and uncontroversial:

  • Ending a story with “and they woke up and it was all a dream” is a lazy way of avoiding writing a proper ending.
  • ‘Nice’ is not an adequate description in most circumstances.
  • Try to avoid overuse of a specific word or phrase.  (If I recall correctly, the culprit in this particular scenario was the word ‘actually’)
  • Vary the lengths of your sentences – use short snappy ones for action, or longer and more descriptive ones for a relaxed passage.

Other than these, I’m struggling to think of any specific instructions, although it’s possible I simply blanked out the ones which didn’t mesh with my experience of the language.

Looking at the masses of misinformation out there, I can’t help feeling like I dodged a bullet.

 
© Gloria Hanlon 2016 All Rights Reserved

Photos from Wikimedia.org – White Zombie screenshot and Frankenstein’s Monster

Title in homage to English As She is Spoke.  Any and all errors intentional, naturally.

Fanning the flames of Fan Fiction

I’ve never really understood fan fiction.

I’ve known a couple of people who were really into it and who had written vast stories by building on a fictional world that they loved.  If I understand them correctly, a large part of the appeal is to keep a story alive after the author has finished it, to be able to stay a bit longer in that world which they enjoyed so much.Woman_Reading

I understand the desire; believe me, I do.  I’m the escapist type of reader – I want to be taken away from my day-to-day live to a place where the people are different and the rules are different, and life is just… different.  I have felt the deep sense of loss when a story, or a book, or worst of all a series finishes, and I’m dropped rudely back into my own world.  I have felt the anguish when a character I loved dies and I’m sitting there with only a stack of pages to console me.

I understand the desire for the world or the character to continue so that I could spend a little bit longer with them.  But what I can’t get on board with is the solution that fan fiction represents.  Quite the opposite – I find it rather disturbing, particularly the idea of using the same main characters; I can’t shake the macabre image of taking the original characters, scooping out their insides, and tying strings to their hollowed out corpses to use them as puppets.  Sure, they may appear to move around, but the mind that originally animated them is gone.

IndianPuppetsThe same discomfort, to a lesser extent, also follows to the idea of writing in someone else’s world.  Even suppose you have a new main character, and the originals are only sidelines or cameos, I get the uneasy feeling like you couldn’t quite trust them.  After all, you’re an impostor in their world, who knows what they’re really thinking?  Or you end up in a sort of creepy stalker role; you’ve been watching the most intimate details of their lives, and you feel as though you consider them friends, but from their point of view you’ve just pushed in and started acting all chummy even though they’ve never met you before.

Most likely, this is all a symptom of my extreme willingness to suspend disbelief and sink deeply into a fictional world.  It’s just too real for me to imagine that it’s nothing more than a story.

 

© Gloria Hanlon 2016 All Rights Reserved

Photos from Wikimedia Commons – Chinese Fan, Woman Reading and Indian Puppets