"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bridesmaids, Blessings, and Birthdays

I've been distracted lately and haven't been able to write full blog posts. I like to write complete, coherent essays for each post instead of a list of nonlinear or unconnected thoughts or ramblings. I also don't think of this blog as a journal where I can just tell you what happened today. But recently I haven't found the time or, really, the inspiration to write a complete post.

Case in point: School has been out for over a week and I still don't know what to write about it. It was a strange year at my job, what with me taking off the equivalent of a summer vacation in the middle of the school year to be a stay-at-home dad, not to mention a tiring and frustrating year due to the country's current view that teachers are lazy, ungrateful water-flies. I hope to be able to make something of it soon, so I can post an end-of-year review.

I somehow have found the time to add a couple of tabs at the top of this page. Check out the new About Me tab. Fascinating stuff.

A new breed of chick flick posters.
Now to completely break my own blog posting rules and tell you about my week in disjointed, incoherent fashion.

It's been all Xander, all the time. Which I love. And still, it was with some relief that my wife and I were able to get away last night to celebrate our anniversary. We saw Bridesmaids, which is funny and sweet and gross in that Apatow way even though Wilson Phillips never did anything for me. Then while my in-laws stayed with the baby, we stayed at a local Westin hotel for a little luxury. The accommodations were a mite disappointing, but it was satisfying to sleep without a night light again.

Regarding Xander, he's off the oxygen during the day. Recent photos coming up:
Xander in his blessing outfit. He's a little old for his church blessing, but remember we didn't take him out of the house for five months.

Clifford doesn't taste very good.

Still with the oxygen cannula in this one, but babies are always cuter in hats. 

Photographing crazy-cute shots of the boy is getting more and more difficult. He seems to recognize the camera now, so he changes his expression when he sees we're about to take a picture. He gets all stoic, as if to say, "You can't make me be cute."

As you can see, Xander still has those sticky pads on the side of his face so we can pump oxygen up his nose when he goes to sleep. The doctor says that in July they'll send someone out to do a sleep test on him to make sure he's getting the oxygen he needs while he's asleep at night. Until then, it's pleasant enough to be able to take him places and not have the oxygen tank dragging us down.

Finally, my birthday was this week. I'm one year into the second half of my life. I've made peace with it.

My wife and I went with a couple of friends to Texas de Brazil, a Brazilian churrascaria that's rapidly becoming my favorite destination for meat. It's expensive, but we get these 50% off coupons or we'd never go. It's worth a birthday splurge. The only real authentic Brazilian taste you get is from the feijoada (kind of a bean stew with meat parts that, in Brazil, are anybody's guess; kind of a "parts is parts" situation). Even the rice is fancied up a bit with jasmine or something. But everything is yummy and the meat is double yummy.

By the way, we went there BEFORE we saw Bridesmaids. Once you see the film, you might think twice about eating at a churrascaria. But Texas de Brazil is kosher. I swear.

In conclusion, I've been reading Tiny Fey's Bossypants. I like her because she's nerdy in all the right places and she's exactly my age. This is what she says about being forty: "What Turning Forty Means to Me: I need to take my pants off as soon as I get home. I didn't used to have to do that. But I do now."


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Drop-off and Pick-up Thing

It's about a boy dancing or something.
Tonight my fifteen-year-old daughter is out with a friend to attend the musical Billy Elliot at the world famous Denver Center for the Performing Arts. And perhaps this sounds like a non sequitur, but this makes me feel like a better father.

A few points of explanation:

If you've been paying special attention to the information about my family in this blog, you will know that I have two daughters,15 and 11, who live with their mother in Greeley, which is about an hour's drive north of where I live in the Denver area. I don't see them nearly enough.

I haven't mentioned them much in this blog. Most of the personal family posting is about my new son because he pretty much has consumed my life for the past six months. Plus, my girls occasionally read this stuff and I hate to embarrass them. (That last part is patently untrue, but the fact is our living situation is a ticklish subject and it's difficult to write about it here where I'm pretty glib about things most of the time.)

My oldest, Persephone, is heavily into the theater program at her school; plus, she's currently working a summer job at the University of Northern Colorado's theater department. She's been to the DCPA complex several times before, through school activities and theater conferences.

For Christmas last year, my wife (Persephone's step-mother, just to be clear) and I gave her the Billy Elliot tickets and told her she could take anyone she wanted. She chose to take a school chum.

This evening I drove to Greeley to pick them up and take them downtown to the theater. It was touch and go there for a few minutes because I missed the Speer exit off of I-25 (I always miss the Speer exit) and had to drive in a big circle along one-way downtown streets to get to the front of the theater complex. We passed through blocks of road construction and found that there was no easy way to drop them off. I eventually just pulled over at a corner a block away and told them to meet me there after the show.
The DCPA is an architectural wonder.

(I'm only slightly worried that they might be on an opposite corner when I arrive; Persephone has a mediocre sense of direction. But that's not the point. Just one more bit of info and I'll get to the point.)

I will go back to pick them up in an hour or so, and they will spend the night here. Tomorrow morning we will awaken early to head back to Greeley so that Persephone can be at work at nine a.m.

So what about any of this makes me a good dad? I did leave my fifteen-year-old daughter and her friend on their own in big, bad downtown Denver. Is that good parenting? (Whatever your answer, this, too, is not the point.)

Here's the point: I never drive my daughters anywhere. Not that we never go places or do anything as a family. We do things together all the time, and usually I drive. What I don't get to do is drop them off somewhere and then a couple of hours later go pick them up. Parents do that all the time, right? I remember my parents, and friends' parents, all the time taking my friends and me to the movies or soccer games or other places around town and picking us up afterwards. I have done this a total of once before with my teenage daughter.

Last December, my girls were with us for the week of New Year's, and Persephone went to a church dance with a friend. She said her friend's mom would pick them up if I dropped them off. At about 11:00 that night, I got a call from Persephone asking for me to come pick her up. There was a mix up and she and her friend had no ride home. All I could think of as I drove the twenty minutes across town was how awesome this was. My daughter called because she knew I would come. She kept apologizing and thought I would be mad, but she knew I would come. I realized that this was the first time I had ever done this and couldn't have been happier that I was able to do this for her.

Tonight is the second time, and I'm elated. I trust that my teenage daughter can handle herself in downtown Denver, and I'm sure some parents would rather never have to do the child drop-off and pick-up thing. But me, I relish it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Smekday, the Cocteau Twins, and Repentance

Today I want to direct your attention to my latest book review over on my Shelfari to your left. Just hover over the book and see my review. I read the YA Sci-Fi tale called The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. It's a pleasant read and a tad silly, but when I read these kinds of books I always find myself thinking that I could write this if I wanted to.

Also, I've added a gadget from Playlist.com at the very bottom of my blog page. I decided for now to forgo the automatic startup of the music because I think it's a bit annoying when I open a blog and someone else's idea of good music infiltrates my ears, but if you want to open yourself up to one of the loveliest sounds on earth, scroll down and click play to consider Elizabeth Fraser's divine voice with some tunes from the Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil. You're welcome.

Lastly, I've posted a new piece of fiction on my author site brentwescott.com. It's a story I originally wrote and published when I was in college. Just a small, college literary mag called Entropy, but published is published. I recently revised and updated it a bit, so go here if you'd like to read "Repentance." I welcome feedback. Feel free to pick it apart or just tell me how brilliant I am.

Friday, May 13, 2011

This Quintessence of Dust

I recently reread Hamlet in order to teach it to my class. As I was reading the play this time (I have read it before), I was struck by some language that seems especially apt. You have seen or heard most of these words before, but they have fallen out of favor in our effort to dumb ourselves down to as few vocabulary words as possible. As a fan of British English, I want to celebrate these expressions in an effort to promote their use among the general populace of English speakers. Of course, some of this is just poetic language, but we could all add a dose of poetry into our everyday patois.
Language from the sequel, Hamlet 2: "Writing is hard."

"He may not, as unvalu'd persons do/ Carve for himself" (I.iii.19-20)
Laertes is explaining to his sister, Ophelia, that Hamlet is of royal blood and isn't able to choose for himself who he will marry. I like the image of having to carve out a single option from the morass of choices we all face. I'm going to start saying things like, "You may carve out whether you would like a banana or root beer popcicle."

"As I perchance hereafter shall think meet/ To put an antic disposition on," (I.v.171-172)
"To sleep: perchance to dream:" (III.i.65)
Perchance means "maybe." I use this periodically, and I'm certain it just makes me sound pompous. If we all used it once in a while, my own arrogance would seem diminished.
A wistful sentiment to be used when you want to die.

"Wherefore should you do this?" (II.i.34)
Wherefore means "why." As in, "Wherefore art thou Romeo?" It's not, "Where are you, Romeo?" It's, "Why are you a Montague?" If we all used wherefore regularly and correctly, I would never again have a student think Juliet is wondering where Romeo went.

"Thus it remains, and the remainder thus./ Perpend." (II.ii.104-105)
Here you have Polonius trying to explain Hamlet's behavior to his mother. The irony is that Polonius just got through saying things like "Brevity is the soul of wit," and he's anything but brief. And then he uses a word like perpend, which is to say, think, consider, ponder. It's funny, see? Or do you need to perpend on it?

"Lord Hamlet is a prince, out of thy star" (II.ii.141)
Dude, she's outta thy star. Sorry.
Another of Polonius's verbosities, this is his response to Ophelia when she admits her love for Hamlet. No one in this story is supportive of Ophelia being with Hamlet. And it's always because she's not good enough for him. Talk about adding to low self-esteem. But I love the phrase "out of thy star." We should all use this metaphor instead of the sports analogy "out of your league." If someone had carved to inform Billy Joel that Christie Brinkley was out of his star, it probably would have forestalled years of jokes at his expense.

"Good lads, how do ye both?"
"As the indifferent children of the earth." (II.ii.227-229)
Instead of saying, "How are you?" "I am fine," how awesome would it be if we all greeted each other thusly (and just in case you're one to pick on my grammar as I'm evaluating Shakespearean language, I'm well aware that "thusly" isn't officially a word; I use it thusly for comic effect): "Dude, how's it going?" "Meh. As the indifferent children of the earth, I guess."

"O! there has been much throwing about of brains." (II.ii.361-362)
One of the best images I've ever read. There's much to perpend here. It's not an argument unless there's been much throwing about of brains.

"The actors are come hither, my lord"
"Buz, buz!" (II.ii.395-396)
Hamlet waves away the news Polonius brings by declaring, "Buz, buz," as in, "Tell me something I don't know." This could be the new "Talk to the hand," perchance saying it with your fingers of one hand forming a point and waving it about as the flight of a bee.

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks." (III.ii.234)
Methinks the best explanation is to see "perchance" above.

"Get me a fellowship/ in a cry of players, sir?" (III.ii.281-282)
Alas, not this kind of player crying.
I love the English language convention of collective nouns calling a group of things something other than a "group." It works especially well for animals. Some are widely known and used, like a "flock of geese" or "a pride of lions." Others just sound cool, like "a murder of crows" or "a pod of dolphins" or "a crash of rhinos." Here's a link to a mega list of collective nouns for animals, if you're interested. I want to learn them all, but I can start with calling a group of actors "a cry of players."

"Alas!/ poor Yorick." (V.i.190-191)
Why don't we use "Alas!" any more as an exclamation? Instead, it's just swear and cuss and vulgarity followed by crudity. Our world could use fewer curses and more Alas-es. And you have to put the back of your hand to your forehead when you say it. It just more expressive that way.

"Dost know this water-fly?" (V.ii.83)
Of all the Shakespearean insults, this is one of my favorites. Not only does Hamlet call Osric an annoying bug, but he's a "water-fly" with an implication that this bug serves no purpose. This could carry a variety of uses. From "You little water-fly. Bring back my hairdryer" said of your younger brother, to "Was that idiot water-fly really your boss?"
Ugh. Gross.
 Here's a link to a random Shakespearean insult generator if you're interested.

So who's with me? Language is fun, no? Use more Shakespearean language and we'll create a better world. And bonus points if you can explain the title of this post.

Where o where has my little post gone?

Blogger lost the entire post I wrote yesterday. My mistake for wanting to revise it later before posting. Because then Blogger shut down and stole my writing. I hope they feel good about themselves, the cutpurses. (That insult, by the way, is an allusion to what my post was all about. And you might never know what it was because I hate recreating writing ideas from scratch.)

So instead of reading more here, you should check out an old post you've not read before. Or check out my author website for some fiction. www.brentwescott.com

UPDATE: Two hours later, my lost post has returned. I suppose I must have shamed Blogger into returning my stolen merchandise. I'm glad I didn't start to rewrite it. Still, who knows what's will happen in the next two hours.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Turn and Face the Strange

This card opens the movie The Breakfast Club. It's practically a perfect movie and one that, along with Catcher in the Rye, should be studied by every high school student before they graduate. But deconstructing John Hughes's films, or J.D. Salinger's prose for that matter, is not the subject of this post.

When I was 17, I knew everything. I knew what was funny and interesting and right and wrong. I was cool and creative and knew exactly what I was going to do with my life. Immune to the consultations of those who would spit on me, I was quite aware of what I was going through.

Now I'm 40, and I know very little. I am none of those things any more. I don't know what life will bring any more than I know the price of tea in China. No need to worry that I'm in the midst of a midlife crisis, though. I just get nostalgic every year in May and hark back to a time when, as complicated as it seemed then, change was easy and everything seemed possible.

So I like to share the above quote with my students at this time of year. Especially the graduating seniors. I hope they will see that despite the myriad of options before them, this is the one time in life when opportunity is clear.

Listen to Bowie as he exhorts us to "turn and face the strange."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Editor on the Prowl

Announcements! Announcements! Annou-ounnce-ments!
A terrible death to die.
A terrible death to die.
A terrible death to be talked to death.
A terrible death to die!

I learned that when I was eight or nine, at the only scout camp I ever went to. I only made it to Webelo. But I remember that chant. We were all supposed to yell it out whenever someone said they had an announcement. I still yell it in my head every single time anyone ever says that, ever. There must have been a lot of announcements at that camp.

That said, I have two announcements to make. (Go ahead and chant. I'll wait.)

I have made live two new websites bearing my name. The first is www.brentwescott.com. I am officially my own URL. Go ahead and Google me. I might not be first on the list yet, but I'm there somewhere.

www.brentwescott.com is my author website. It's true. I am an author. I've even written a novel. The title is Trendy Poseurs Go Home. It began as my Master's thesis in grad school and has evolved into what I can only call a coming of age masterpiece. The book jacket will certainly mention Catcher in the Rye, perhaps Nick Hornby, definitely the word "genius." Check out the first few pages on the website and let me know what you think. And if your best friend is an agent looking for the next YA phenomenon, forward all this on over. Thanks.

www.wescottwritingservices.com is my editor website. It's true. I enjoy editing. I've pretty much done it for a living since I began teaching, but I decided that I'd also like to help those who actually want to become better writers. You know, when I spend time marking a paper full of grammatical errors, making revision comments in the margins, it might be nice to know that my expertise will be taken seriously instead of the usual half-hearted attempts at doing the minimum possible to pass the course.

The intricacies of language have captivated me. My fascination piqued as I studied foreign languages (German, Portuguese, Spanish) and realized I was learning English grammar because I had to ascertain how the other language worked. Now I take pride in knowing things like what the Oxford comma is and why some people like it and some don't. And I ain't talking about the Vampire Weekend song.
There it is. Can you spot the Oxford comma?

So whether it's a blog post that needs proofreading, a college application essay that needs tweaking, or a short story that needs improving, I'm open for business at www.wescottwritingservices.com. I have the card with my name on it to prove it.

There you have it. My summer work. In July I'm attending the Write to Market Conference in San Francisco. See if I can stoke any interest in Trendy Poseurs Go Home and my editing capabilities.

End Announcement.