Sunday, December 16, 2018

Writers on Writing

From Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Safire (The New York Times) born December 17, 1929:

If you want to "get in touch with your feelings," fine, talk to yourself. We all do. But if you want to communicate with another thinking human being, get in touch with your thoughts. Put them in order, give them a purpose, use them to persuade, to instruct, to discover, to seduce. The secret way to do this is to write it down, and then cut out the confusing parts.

When articulation is impossible, gesticulation comes to the rescue.

Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don't know and I don't care.

Remember to never split an infinitive. The passive voice should never be used. Do not put statements in the negative form. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.

Do not put statements in the negative form. And don't start sentences with a conjunction. If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do. Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all. De-accession euphemisms. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky. Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

10 Quotes from Emily DIckinson, born December 10, 1830

Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.
I dwell in Possibility…
If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.
Truth is so rare, it is delightful to tell it.
Parting is all we know of heaven and all we need of hell.
There is not frigate like a book to take us lands away nor any coursers like a page of prancing Poetry.
Because I could not stop for death, He kindly stopped for me; The carriage held but just ourselves and immortality.
Beauty is not caused. It is.
If I read a book and it makes my body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry.
Tell the truth, but tell it slant.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Quotes from Joseph Conrad, born December 3, 1857

Here are some quotes from the author of Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness:
Words, as is well known, are the great foes of reality.
All roads are long which lead to one's heart's desire.
Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men.
You shall judge a man by his foes as well as by his friends.
It is respectable to have no illusions, and safe, and profitable and dull.
It is not the clear-sighted who rule the world. Great achievements are accomplished in a blessed, warm fog.
If you don't make mistakes, you don't make anything.
To a teacher of languages there comes a time when the world is but a place of many words and man appears a mere talking animal not much more wonderful than a parrot.
Facing it, always facing it, that's the way to get through. Face it.
My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel—it is, before all, to make you see.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

When eating bamboo sprouts, remember the man who planted them.--Chinese proverb
A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.--Cicero
Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.--Seneca
Does not the gratitude of the dog put to shame any man who is ungrateful to his benefactors?--Saint Basil
Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.--Estonian proverb
Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.--American Indian saying
If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice.--Meister Eckhart
Many of our prayers were not answered, and for this we are now grateful.--William Feather
We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.--Thornton Wilder
When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.--Willie Nelson
Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.--Oprah Winfrey

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Concert in the Park

Last Thursday night we treated ourselves to a concert at the gazebo in Speedway’s Meadowood Park. The TomKats, a blues-rock cover band out of Muncie, entertained a crowd of around 300 with a rollicking two-hour set. Children played and danced while their parents and grandparents chatted and noshed, and surprisingly few people hunched over their electronic devices.

Soon after the set started a boy about five stepped in front of the bandstand, transfixed by the blues he was hearing, and started playing air guitar. A girl about eight left her family of nine In front of us and joined him. As soon as she left, her mom and dad started using her chair as a table for pizza boxes, cups, and napkins. She started an air blues guitar solo, too. More children gathered, fascinated by the blues.

We all toe-tapped to some great medleys–-
“I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone”/“Theme from Gilligan’s Island”
“R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.”/“That’s What I Like About You”/“Coconut”
“Hiway 69”/“Maybelline”/“Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”
“Werewolves of London”/“Sweet Home Alabama,”
and many others.

The old Hank Williams/George Thorogood song  “Move It On Over” was a big hit with the kids. One song popular with the older set was “White Castle Blues,” which included the lyrics “Gonna eat them sliders, gonna pay your dues,” and the group easily medleyed this tune with “Hey Joe.”

“Tennessee Whisky,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Sweet Home Chicago,” “Takin’ Care of Business,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” ’Work with Me Annie,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Further on Down the Road”–-all the songs played by the quartet went down very well. A trio of girls used sticks for guitars, then flutes, then back to guitars, and a little brother joined them in dueling guitars for “Roadhouse.” Mindful of their young audience, the TomKats changed the lyrics to “Roadhouse” to “Well, I woke up this morning, I got myself a Kool-Aid” and earned appreciative chuckles from parents and grandparents.

A young woman was holding a five-month old when the baby dropped her pacifier on the grass. The mother, also tending a two-year-old as she stood chatting with a friend, nonchalantly picked it up and gave it back to her. “The dog licks it all the time,” she said. No problem.

Many people seemed to know each other, from the neighborhood, or from church, or from meeting at concerts in the park. When we received a few inquiring looks and smiles as if to say, “Do I know you?” we just nodded to the music and smiled back. We’re regulars at the park, too.

The audience was scattered enough that parents could keep their children in sight even as they ran around. It was good to see little ones romping barefoot in the grass, untethered. The nights I best remember from childhood are summer ones-–roasting marshmallows over the embers in the grill after a cookout, catching lightning bugs, playing “Kick the Can” and “Ghost” and running the streets long after the street lights came on. I can still see my dad sitting in the screened-in porch reading the newspaper as moths fluttered around the lamp, the hot humid day settling down into a cool evening.

It was a good night for those children to make memories, too.

Here is a link to the TomKats on Soundcloud:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Some thoughts on my alma mater

After 132 years, my old high school is shutting down. Due to declining enrollment, the Indianapolis school board is consolidating seven local high schools into four. If it doesn’t become a charter school for at-risk kids (which appears unlikely), good old Broad Ripple High will probably be turned into condos like my old grade school was, a few blocks away. (Get your 1BR 1.5bath School 80 condo for only $135,000 today!) The buildings are in great shape and the area is bustling with shops, bars, and restaurants, so the board should get $7-8 million from the sale. Famous graduates include TV’s Dave Letterman (’65), Second Lady under Bush 41 Marilyn Quayle (’67), and Cleveland Cavaliers point guard George Hill (‘04).

Last week the school hosted an open house. Graduates of 2018 led tours of the complex so alumni and interested parties could see the place one last time. We had attended an open house in 1990 after Broad Ripple became a magnet school for the Arts and Humanities and our son Eoin was considering attending there (he eventually chose a Science and Math magnet elsewhere) but didn’t see much of the school then, and I looked forward to showing John some of the sights--the old gym with those marvelous hardwood floors, my locker (would my combination still work?), the chem lab, the cafeteria, the newspaper and yearbook offices--but very little was recognizable to me. What was the “new” section in 1970 is now the “old” section, and the most recent addition replaced the oldest and most interesting part of the complex years ago. (Sigh.)

We joined a tour group of ‘66 (a little before my time) grads until the talk of bad knees, malpracticing doctors, Zoloft vs. Prozac, and evil HMOs got to be a little depressing, so we struck off on our own.

I was able to show John the door I used to sneak out of to go sit in my car when I should’ve been in French class, the choir classroom where we rehearsed for Christmas shows, and especially the auditorium where some very talented students put on South Pacific and The Music Man (where I was on makeup duty) and the annual Ripples, student-written and student-produced skits (where I made costumes and hung out in some crowd scenes). Outside the auditorium, now named for beloved music director Gene Poston, hang some wonderful paintings--there’s one by Edward Hopper--gifts from classes gone by.

The tile on the stairs in the newest section looked familiar--did they keep the floors and build new walls around them?--but I noticed something missing throughout the complex--there were no clocks. At one time analog clocks dotted the hallways--I think there was one above every classroom door. All you had to do was look up to see what time it was. There’s no need for them in today’s digital age, of course, but I missed them, nonetheless.

Would my sister Louisa (’68) recognize more than I did? I think even my niece Miranda (’89 valedictorian) would have trouble--there’ve been two more renovations since she graduated.

After our tour we stopped at McDonald’s  for a sandwich. We were supposed to meet up with some of my classmates there, but no one showed. Some old farts came in, looked around for a second and left, but they couldn’t have been anyone from my class, could they? :)

Go Rockets!

P.S. John’s old high school, Northwest, is one of the three being closed, too, but in a different way--it’s being turned into a middle school. Go Pioneers!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

March 26 Birthday quotes

from Robert Frost (1874-1963), America's favorite poet:
A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain.

A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman’s birthday but never remembers her age.
By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.

Don't ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.
Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
If society fits you comfortably enough, you call it freedom.
In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.
Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee, and I'll forgive Thy great big joke on me.
I'm not confused. I'm just well-mixed.
A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.
Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can't, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.
Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.
I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.
Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.
The reason why worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work.
The ear is the only true writer and only true reader.
The best way out is always through.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Quotes from Adlai Stevenson II

Here are a few of the many quotable words of Adlai Stevenson II, Illinois governor, two-time Democratic Presidential nominee, and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations noted for his intellectual demeanor, eloquent public speaking, and promotion of progressive causes born Feb. 5, 1900:

Public confidence in the integrity of the Government is indispensable to faith in democracy; and when we lose faith in the system, we have lost faith in everything we fight and spend for.

Upon the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions, who when on the dawn of victory paused to rest, and there resting died.

A hungry man is not a free man.

It will be helpful in our mutual objective to allow every man in America to look his neighbor in the face and see a man--not a color.

It's hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.

Journalists do not live by words alone, although sometimes they have to eat them.

Making peace is harder than making war.

My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.

I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them.

It is often easier to fight for one’s principles than it is to live up to them.