Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Grammar Nazis are Useless and Noisy

Thanks to digital technology, inter-personal communication is now more text-based - and this is exciting. Ideas can be expressed more potently. Grammatical innovation can open new avenues of thought. Indeed, this is a fantastic era where everyone has the opportunity to project themselves through aether. This ability - this power - comes with a responsibility. Anyone and everyone can have an earth-shattering idea, but an inability to explain oneself through a competent use of grammar tragically nullifies that idea at the source. Grammar is more than adhering to man-made rules of spelling and punctuation; it is man's attempt to gain some kind of traction in understanding the language mechanism in the humanoid brain.  And, by nature, it is flawed and incomplete - that is why language is so exciting and interesting! Specifically, English is one hot mess. Our methodology of verb use is to throw a bunch of words together and, essentially, hope for the best. Yes, because so much semantic meaning is derived from word order English has very little use for morphological inflection. And this is why confusion surfaces when, for example, a verb and a noun are spelled the same way or when pronouns work against themselves.

In this exciting era of open communication through use of text-based communication, some of the more arbitrary grammatical errors are being identified by so-called 'grammar nazis'. Through posts on message boards and feedback forums, these readers rub the error in the writer's face like a puppy that just plopped a steaming load on the living room carpet, and do so with a trite purpose that seems two-fold: 1) to demoralize the writer and 2) to assert their own piddly online presence. No other constructive input is given. Some of the more obvious errors pointed out are all those infamous homophones: There, their, they're, for example. Whoopde-fah-freaking-do. I'd be heard-pressed to believe that any of these grammar nazis would be able to point out a gerundive, or explain modality, or differentiate between active and passive sentences - the more constructive tools of grammar to effectively and convincingly express and argue ideas. Grammar nazis just add to the noise one must sift through to find true content.

The reason English majors may obviously have no jobs is because they.are.everywhere. Just because one cannot see oxygen does not mean the whole world is devoid of it. Likewise, look at how the name of the major and its related occupational title compares to other major and occupational titles: 

- I'm a Business major so I can become a businessman
- I'm a Nursing major so I can become a nurse
- I'm a Chemistry major so I can become a chemist
- *I'm an English major so I can become an english 

English - and I'll add Linguistic - majors are everywhere. That's the beauty of the study of language: There is no set mold, and, paradoxically, it takes a certain type of person to be one. They move deliberately. They cast a wide net. They can adapt. They are part of the foundation of constructive matters. This meme is misinformed: grammar nazis are not English majors because English majors have more important, constructive shit to do. Now, I recognize that this is a mere meme and it, like all other internet memes, hold little clout. And I shall not furthermore devote much more attention because doing otherwise would be exactly what these grammar nazis would want. 

The question I have is this: Do other languages have grammar nazis? If English homophones are among the most damning offenses, what happens with errant gender use in German, or sloppy tense work in Arabic?

Thursday, September 27, 2012


The following three individuals are the only three individuals whose presence I suspect, in a sudden chance meeting, would yield from me some sort of embarrassing yet mirthful case of being star-struck.

I permit you to speak
More than anything Steve Martin's verve would would send me into an embarrassing tailspin. Just the physical sight of him would send my brain swirling as I recall the history of what this man has accomplished, all done with panache and style. Were he to suddenly walk into my living room I would first apologize for the Navin Johnson shrine, and ask him to ignore the ostentatious display of LP covers of his old standup gigs. And my silver-haired wig. I would then probably start rambling about Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Three Amigos and his vignette about smokers, entitled "The Smokers", where smokers are smoking; And then there's the one where he writes a fake news report about a shortage of periods and how he doesn't use a single period in the whole thing - oh man it's great. I'd just keep prattling on while he'd stand there like royalty, refusing to make eye contact,  and maintaining that s#&$-eating grin of which he is so adept.

Rick Steves is so high right now
Unlike Steve Martin, Rick Steves will not suddenly walk into my living room. Instead, we'll have a chance meeting in a town square somewhere in Istanbul or Oslo or Rhodes or Rome or Devonshire or not midwest USA. And like Steve Martin, Rick Steves has spent his life fully and with joy. Steves has done so by being a professional traveler of Europe. Our chance meeting would witness Steves being the first to extend a hand in cordial greeting; I would follow suit awkwardly because I would have just choked on my own sputum in excitement. My mind would be flashing through all those cataloged images of this man standing before fantastic sites during his travels, and in thinking of all the wisdom he's accumulated. I would stutter and spurt and making weird grunting noises because my brain would be short-circuiting, when all I'd really want to say is "Please tell me a story".

No, Triv, microphones are not for eating.
Mike Trivisonno is a local drive-time radio personality who is Cleveland through and through. He's also a fat, greasy old man with a big mouth and a temper. No Frills. No Patience. And although he would be the first to agree with this personal assessment I would never say it to his face in a chance meeting because I am afraid of Mike Trivisonno. I'm like the freshman and he's like that 20-year old senior that just can't quite get over that last hump. I would care about what he thinks of me. I would want to be measured in my conduct and want to say only the correct things; to stand upright and assertive. His positive opinion of me would be like a divine blessing, which I would accept it with loyalty with the hopes that he'd let me kiss his pinky ring. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Latin and Dark Souls: A Mosiac of Intellectual Tempering. Part 1 of n*

*This contains a few blatant C&Ps from my post found over at

The better part of 2012 has witnessed a great tempering of my intellectual faculties. I feel more alert, confident, humble. Acute. I feel more in-tune with myself, aware of strengths and weaknesses. And I have the growing mental musculature to overcome many self-imposed obstacles and will myself to action - which is key. This maturity has been brought about not only by aging or an increase in domestic and ecclesiastical responsibility. Prior to the better part of 2012, I was still the same age and possessed the same amount of responsibility. I even graduated with honors, having successfully pulled my GPA up from the pits where I had left it years ago. All of these are but minor influences to my intellectual tempering. The true fire continues to come from my studies of Latin and spending some of my leisure time playing FromSoftware's 2011 title Dark Souls on PS3.

Do not furrow your brow. Perhaps one might have a knee-jerk reaction to the claim that a video game possess a tempering quality, to claim that a video game has been more of an impact than a college course. And this reaction is perfectly valid because many popular console 3rd person Role-Playing Games do deserve a furrowed brow. Despite the fantastic technical strides that developers have reached, gameplay has suffered. But developer FromSoftware created an exception with Dark Souls. This game is intricate, foreboding and purposefully constructed. It shares these qualities, and many others, with the gnarly, enduring linguistic system of Latin. Undertaking Dark Souls and Latin at the same time yields remarkable results.

As a primer, pop this sucker into full-screen. Give it due attention.

Ne timeam; cum arte sapientiaque superbo

I first watched this video when I was well into my first playthrough of Dark Souls, and I have watched it many times since. And every time - every.single.time - I watch with wonder and pride. The trailer is true to the game's immensity. Although its focus is Dark Souls the same sensations felt can also be applied to the study of Latin.

Similar to the general misplacement of Dark Souls, sharing my desire to learn Latin has witnessed many furrowed brows. "Who the hell speaks Latin anymore? It's a dead language." This post will not be the place for my in-depth reaction. But allow me - a blooming intermediate Latin student - to posit: Latin is not the official or national language spoken within any current geopolitical border, yes, but its prestige remains; its history is rich and vast. It is a fascinating and frightening linguistic jigsaw puzzle, and I have reaped only benefits from its study. One of which includes the realization that I am far more analytical than previously thought. It has given me a stronger command of my own natural language. Latin has altered the way that I see the world as I do not just read but cannot help but try to parse sentences, break them down to their grammatical components and intents. And in doing so I am more aware of the bedeviling nature of language. Indeed, I have glared down the rabbit hole after asking 'What is language?' and felt more than I saw, and saw more than I can say. These are not the effects of a dead language.

Dark Souls has also unjustly earned an antagonistic reaction, even from players who separated the game from the ever-growing blob of mediocre RPGs. Many feel that the game is too difficult, unfair - a pathos that may spook off interested players. But the perception here, as with Latin, is shallow and misaligned. Believe the hype that surrounds the game, but do not be mislead by those who have failed. Dark Souls is not notoriously, unmercifully difficult; it is demanding. Many players will not meet the game’s high level of expectation - and they fail, blaming everything and everyone but themselves. As for myself, the average gamer fairly inexperienced with HD 3rd person RPG: I started in April 2012, flabby and proud (ignorant); I came out chiseled and humbled. It is a transformation that is earned, and treasured with reverence. Advancement in Dark Souls requires grit, patience and forward-thinking. Until Dark Souls I gamed, and lived, far too passively.
tuus ferrum in ventrem mollem timoris treudete!

Undertaking Latin and the gameplay of Dark Souls are behemoth situations in which I was suddenly thrust without a clue or a lifeline. Overtime, I began to see how their mechanics phased in and out of one another. Just as in the paragraphs above, certain adjectives, certain concepts, may be directly addressing one but can surely be applied to the other. Indeed, these are universal attributes that lend themselves to intense intellectual tempering. And so begins a series of posts about the parallel forges of Latin and Dark Souls, and how they are contributing to my transition into this stupidasscrap called adulthood.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Neurosis - 'Cleanse' as a stage production

I've always had the vision of this track as a stage production. It would be a menacing exploration of what happens when definitions and limits dissolve at a very slow, sure rate. It would be highly amplified and stereophonic. The lighting would be earth tones, morphing, bleeding that gradually dim down to 30%. There would be a single array of standing drums and percussion mid stage. Flanking this would be two massive gyroscope frames with a mounted drum kit, and at certain parts of the program it will slowly follow the tracked loop. Other percussion and instruments will be tiered up and down stage: I want the performers - the motley forms of shadow and light - scurrying around. Vocal microphones will be either solo down stage right or shotgunned at specific locations of the drumline to capture the orchestration of voice and drum. The electronics will be helter skelter around the stage. No stage dressing; The cables should look like vines running across the deck. Ample DSP at FOH. The whole thing is meant to saturate.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kerri Walsh Gives Me Warm Fuzzies

Kerri Walsh of the US Women's Beach Volleyball gives me warm fuzzies. She is all smiles and handshakes. I don't know her from Adam but I can tell that she's got the right attitude about life. I'm not a behaviorist but I can tell just by looking at Walsh, be it in interviews, photos, even when she's playing, that she's found (or made) her niche in the universe. And she's thrilled about it. You can see it in her smile. A smile is not just a complex system of varying muscle contractions around the mouth; it is also in the eyes - an unmistakable, unshakable glint that works with other facial muscles to denote someone who is truly at ease with him/herself. I believe that a smile can go a long way; that just a sincere grin, direct eye contact and quick head nod to a passerby can resonate positive energy.

Walsh kicks this method of shared resonance up notch, as can be witnessed at the end of each of her Volleyball matches in London. Walsh and teammate Misty May go through the obligatory sportsmanship routine of 'good game, good game' with opponents, reaching under the net to high-five, handshake. And then they continue on to shake hands with the officials, 'Thank you, Thank you'. While the losers sulk away and May returns to the sand and basks in the glory of attention and praises of the stands and cameras what's Walsh doing? She is darting around, corner to corner to corner to corner, thanking the ball handlers. Many times catching them off guard. They assume that since the game is over their business is done. But Walsh is not done. She recognizes their efforts and makes the effort, even after a physically demanding performance on the court, to sprint after these low-level volunteers to express her gratitude. That is positive resonance in action. And even in my living room on the other side of the pond I feel her televised vibe, and I can only hope that the millions of other viewers can feel those warm fuzzies too. Dig it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Time is Precious

I recently canceled my Facebook and Tumblr accounts. Browsing both had lost its dazzle long ago and had turned into an activity bordering compulsive. I would not spend hours upon hours on Facebook but I did find myself logging in frequently for short bursts of times. And because I was extremely selective about who I friended my list was under 100 people; Maybe 10 of those people updated regularly, 5 of which updated the same type of crap. As for Tumblr: They saw a deluge of activity from me for about 4 weeks. It was fun to browse pictures and lose time searching tags and creating a personal tumblr page that I thought defined me through a selection of redirected pictures. Over time I again recognized that I lacked self-control for moderate browsing times and pursuing a meaningless and shallow endeavor.

Time is precious. I value my use of it. Facebook and Tumblr (Hereafter referred to as ‘they’) were not effective uses of my time. And upon retrospect deleting them was a smart move because my thoughts have naturally drifted back to thinking about content for this blog. They were damaging to my intellectual capacity because it was too easy to blurt out in status updates stuff that I like, think is cool, worthwhile, post links, youtubes. Etc. etc. The problem is that the content of the status update was severed after the initial statement was posted. Sometimes there was a little banter back and forth between friends, but these ideas and opinions never really developed because I would quickly move on to something else.

Example: I was listening to Yawning Man two or so weeks after deleting facebook. I love Yawning Man, and listening to it that day affirmed this opinion. Had I still been on Facebook I would have logged in and posted: “YAWNING MAN IS GREAT!” And then left it at that. But as I was sitting there two or so weeks after deleting Facebook and listening to the magnificence that is Yawning Man I realized that I did myself a favor for deleting them because now I shall take the time to develop my thoughts, ideas, and opinions… and share them here on Doctor Jones where brevity may not always been a course of action. And this is the perfect place to hone in on my resolve to improve my compositional and writing skills. Plus, I just graduated (why I've been so inactive here) so I’m gonna have more time on my hands.

Coming soon: A thorough post about why Yawning Man is great

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Stuff That Falls Out of Books I Flip Through at Half-Priced Books

More often than not I am finding these makeshift bookmarks placed somewhere in beginning one-third of the books they respectively reside. This is an interesting observation, one that is fertile ground for speculation of all sorts; speculation in which many variables must be considered. Let us examine the facts that surround our current find.

This, let us call it a Tiki Menu, was found in between pages 156 and 157 of The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1830-1850 by Paul Johnson. Relevant to the general observation mentioned above, it is worth noting that the total page count of this book (apparently an older edition) is 1,095 – indeed, placing the tiki menu well within the range of the first third of this tome. After reading the inside flaps and doing a brief thumb-through it is obvious that this is a layman’s history book, albeit a thorough one; cat nip for anyone with a burning curiosity about this period in history. Now, let us examine the tiki menu: Bi-folded, color print, limited selection, price listings for alcohol only, United Airlines logo on the back. Here’s the story:A man of middle-age is taking a respite from his job in the accounting department and taking his wife for a week’s jaunt in Hawaii. They have reservations at a sea-side resort but no tentative schedule for anything. This is to be a relaxing, low-key getaway; sit-on-the-beach-and-read kind of thing. In anticipation for the trip our friend visits the local bookstore. He deliberately walks up and down the isles, carefully pulling books off the shelf to preview what is in store. Ultimately, he comes to Johnson’s book. It’s a hefty one, very dense, but so very alluring. This could be the greatest beach read ever!

Now, allow me to pontificate. It is devastatingly easy to convince oneself to purchase a book of this type while standing there in the History aisle of the non-fiction section deep in the embrace of a bookstore. Indeed, a bookstore is a place where the air of intellectual ambition is potent; where the sincere desire to dive headfirst into a 1,100-page history book, for example, seems easy and rewarding. I have found myself in similar situations that have witnessed me walking out with, for example, a 700-page biography of Jorge Luis Borges and a book that is a comparative study about social revolutions throughout the ages of civilization. The ambition to chew upon and digest these works was honest and fervid. I may even stop someplace for lunch to begin the endeavor – yes, I can – Nay – I will do this, and it will better me!

… and then I get home: the apartment is suddenly too muggy; the ceiling fan is suddenly too rhythmic; my attention span is suddenly cut short. I am fatigued and the environment of this place is not conducive to reading this elaborate biography. I will take a nap and then try to pick up where I left off. The momentum is then lost, and the rest is history.

This, I fear, is what I suspect happened to our accountant friend. A history book may have perhaps seemed like an excellent choice to lose oneself in while on vacation. Why wait until we get to Hawaii? We’ve got a long plane ride ahead of us. Thank you, stewardess, for this tiki menu. I’ll have the pupu and the ono beef slice entrĂ©e! Wow this book is really great. I love that we’re going on vacation. This beach is beautiful. Come let us frolic and order sea-side drinks. Wait, I have to go back to the room, I forgot to bring my book. This is so interesting, honey; check it out, In 1832…

And so it continued. The tiki menu marked his progress all through the vacation. However, 156 pages later, our accountant friend finds himself returned home, back in the rat race of life. And Johnson’s book just sits there, clutter accumulating around it. The desire to learn about the onset of the modern era just doesn’t have the same appeal that it did in the bookstore. Too much time has passed since the vacation and the book is just so damn big! The clutter continues. Then our accountant spontaneously combusts and his wife sells back all of his stuff the end