Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On punctuation, quotation, and tangents

"An excessive use of exclamation marks is a certain indication of an unpracticed writer or of one who wants to add a spurious dash of sensation to something unsensational". -H.W. Fowler

Or, as Lynne Truss puts it, "In the family of punctuation, where the full stop is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the semicolon quietly practices the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark is the big attention-deficit brother who gets over-excited and breaks things and laughs too loudly". Months after starting it, I have finished her book Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and whole-heartedly recommend you read it (especially if you're a grammar stickler; otherwise, much of her humor will probably be lost). As the infamous modernist George Bernard Shaw laments, " The man that cannot see that [the correct example]. . .is the best looking as well as the sufficient and sensible form, should print or write nothing but advertisements for lost dogs or ironmongers catalogues: literature is not for him to meddle with".

"I never have found the perfect quote. At best I have been able to find a string of quotations which merely circle the ineffable idea I seek to express".
-Caldwell O'Keefe
"I improve in misquotation". 
-Cary Grant (1904 - 1986)
"People will accept your ideas much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first".  
-David H. Comin
"A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought". 
-Dorothy L. Sayers (1893 - 1957), Lord Peter Wimsey in "Gaudy Night"
"I might repeat to myself slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound––if I can remember any of the damn things".
-Dorothy Parker (1893 - 1967)

Joy comes with the morning.

So I'm noticing that several of my recent posts have been on Tuesdays...keeping with this theme, here's a word from a neglectful blogger.
Currently, my life seems to be ruled by the o'er looming mountain of homework, all to be accomplished before April 9. Between now and then, I have to teach a class period on Orientalism, act out scenes from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, write between 26-32 pages (and research for it), study for and complete 4 finals, a choir concert, and pack up my life and move back to America. I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed. I can't help but return to Romans 8, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?. . .Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?. . .No, in all these things, we are more than conquerers through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord".

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Slacking off and reading short stories in class...

Today, in one of my lit. classes, I read Earnest Hemmingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place", "The Lamp at Noon" by Sinclair Ross and "Why I live at the P.O." by Eudora Welty. Only Hemmingway was required. It's always severely tempting to have a literature anthology full of classics at your fingertips and be expected to pay attention to the lectures. At this point in the semester, much of the material from one class seems to bleed over to another and focusing is becoming much more complicated. Prime example: I'm writing a paper which will hopefully explore both the concepts and meanings of "nothingness" in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, and how comedy is a fitting medium to discuss these deeper themes by introducing literary critics from my theory course ; We spent this morning's representative literary works class discussing "nothingness" in Hemmingway's work (nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada). Si, "otro loco mas".
Currently posted on my desk is this list:
1. Grades are an illusion.
2. Your passion and insight are reality.
3.Your work is worth more than mere congruence to an answer key.
4.Persistence in the face of a skeptical authority figure is a powerful ability.
5.Fitting in is a short-term strategy, standing out pays off in the long run.
6.If you care enough about the work to be criticized, you've learned enough for today.
It's been rather helpful to remember whenever I start freaking out about the looming mountain of coursework to complete ere the semester ends. Not to mention the old Richard Bach quote that's been on my desk for years now, "Here is your test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: if you're alive, it isn't". It seems there are yet things to accomplish. Now, to get back to writing for school rather than leisure...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In a Station of the Metro (Ezra Pound)

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet black bough.

This weekend, I saw green grass. In Western Canada, days of rain are uncommon; the dust and dirt never seems to wash away. My heart, with the warmer weather, longs for the earth to spring to life again. I want the cool, damp downpours and the little green buds appearing in the mud. But I must be patient. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In the bleak midwinter

There was no question at all of a tornado this morning; it was not that sort of tempest. Peering through the window at the flying debris, we anxiously inspected the clouds; billowing crimson and purple and eerily bright, sweeping across the sky as if the wind envied the raging mountain rapids. What my half-awake midwest heart had hoped to be the sound of rain was merely flotsam and jetsam, tin cans blown against stationary objects and the sounds of the construction site in a dry, midwinter storm. I considered my options. The storm was not wild enough to warrant moving to the basement for safety, but the howling wind and clanging rubbish justified the closing of the window, at least so my roommate could sleep. 
So I lay, typing in the dark, the sun slowly rising and calming. It blows more gently now, as I sit in the soft light. The phantom, the mysterious night storm, is no more. I wonder if anyone else was awake to view the beauty of the prairie winds.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The thought process behind writing fascinates me. Any writing I would consider my best has come about seemingly on the spur of the moment or under great pressure ( as in, " Gee, I've got a paper due tomorrow morning, don't I?"). It's well-nigh impossible to replicate these circumstances, and unfortunately, I can't seem to pick which piece of work ends up being of above-average quality. Why is it that sometimes my thoughts seem to flow out in a concise and elegant manner, when at other times I can scarcely construct a sentence? Am I not still myself? Does my mind alter so much? Really, I ought to figure this out before I write the 4 papers I have yet due before the end of the semester.

Monday, March 8, 2010

"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope,be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." -Romans 12:9-21

This passage is one of my all time favorites (really, all of Romans is...); it's posted on my wall. The title of the section, "Marks of the True Christian", really challenges and encourages me. When I'm wracked with doubt, it's a reminder that these things are outward evidences of the redeeming work of Christ in my life. When I'm overconfident, it reminds me how short I fall of the glory of God and how much I'm in need of grace and growth. I will never fully succeed in accomplishing this list until I reach heaven, but the Spirit has promised to intercede for me with groanings too deep for words, and the Son's blood has satisfied the Father's wrath. May I never outgrow the wonderful conviction that this passage brings my soul! 

On a lighter note, I'm sad to see the end of this Chinook. It was quite the blessing, making my return to Canada after break much easier. But now, the sunshine and warmth are gone and the flakes are starting to fall. A cold wind is blowing, the sky is grey, my window is closed and the space heater cranked to protect my poor little plants. I sit quietly indoors with my tea, happy that I'm not working gloveless at the construction site next door like so many of those poor men. As I was watching out my window, I noticed a small insect, probably one of the first of the year, trapped between my screen and the closed window, trying vainly to escape to the outdoors. How often am I like that little insect, chasing after what I desire or what I think I need rather than laying those things at the foot of the cross and trusting that my sovereign God knows best? (ok, perhaps this isn't a lighter note after all)

Truly on a lighter note, I miss swing dancing. I haven't gone for months now, and my feet start twitching whenever I hear anything with that beat. We'll have to deal with this or I might just spontaneously burst into dance in class sometime. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Restless tonight (to borrow from Alison Krauss)

Tonight, a group of us were chatting over coffee, when one of us asked, "what are your main values"? This is a somewhat vague question, so we asked her to clarify. Essentially, she was asking us what, beyond devoting our lives to serving Christ and spreading the Gospel, we wanted out of life. What did we desire and value most? It's a thought provoking question, to say the least. My answer centered around two, somewhat related, things.

The first was a desire to help people better understand the world and communicate effectively. God has given me an ability to read, analyze and comprehend; I love helping other people verbalize their thoughts and comprehend texts. Seeing that spark of recognition and joy that comes when someone understands truth they've been struggling to grasp excites me. I love challenging people to use their God-given minds and expand their horizons.

The second is perhaps more selfish (and mildly creepy?): I genuinely enjoy getting to know people because I love the diversity of personality that God has created. I could happily spend the rest of my life hearing everyone's backgrounds and stories, getting to know the intricacies and eccentricities of seemingly ordinary existences. People fascinate me and I love encouraging them to relish in the unique and masterful way they've been designed rather than lamenting what qualities and attributes they may or may not possess.

So what exactly do I value? I'm not sure how to go about naming it, but I'll try: Simply put, I value Truth and individuality. What should I do to make sure those values are reflected in my life? Whatever God calls me to do. If I truly value them, it will be evident...more than that, they will happen, inevitably.

On a different, but relevant note, drinking coffee in the evenings prompts random, late night posts.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Grammar Nazi?

 If you can read the following pictures without wincing, I'm afraid I'll have to shoot you.  

What are we smoking? 

Does it now? 

Which can be applied towards getting your car back.. ...

As opposed to?

Bluntly put, but true... 

Not overly proud to be American at this moment.

Probably the best, this community college ad is particularly sad. 

Where to start?

...Be back in 5?

Meaning several lads? I'm hesitant to use this restroom...

Last, but certainly not least.