Sunday with Zin: More Apostrophe Stuff!

I have written aint, dont, havent, shant, shouldnt, and wont for twenty years with perfect impunity, using the apostrophe only when its omission would suggest another word: for example hell for he’ll. There is not the faintest reason for persisting in the ugly and silly trick of papering pages with these uncouth bacilli.

Hello I am Zin and I love apostrophe controversy!

In May Slate published an article with the title: “Are Apostrophes Necessary? Not really, no” and of course that got my attention!

All over the world (at least in England) apostrophes are disappearing! Waterstone’s is now Waterstones! That is what happens when you sell the business out to a conglomerate they will change your name!

Last year I had a lot of fun with the Nobel-prize-winning physicist Gerard ’t Hooft and his Asteroid 9491 when the International Astronomy Union named an asteroid in his honor but turned ’t Hooft into Thooft! I also got the only email I will probably ever get from a Nobel-prize-winning physicist!

I avoid contractions and possessives so I do not need apostrophes unless they are in quotes or titles or names like ‘t Hooft because I am too boring to re-invent spelling but not everyone is so boring!

I did not know the US had an official policy banning apostrophes in street names! But I did not know there even was a United States Board on Geographic Names in the first place! I think it is just wrong to call the mountain Pikes Peak because how do you know if the name is Pike or Pikes without the apostrophe? And I do not understand how Clark’s Mountain in Oregon got an exemption! Martha’s Vineyard was named in the seventeenth century before people had time to worry about such things (and when apostrophes were all new and shiny and just starting to be used for possessives in the first place) so I suppose that is why it is an exception and gets its apostrophe.

There is a whole movement to Kill the Apostrophe! But Apostrophe Protection Society is opposed to that death penalty! The apostrophe even has a theme song! And a book!

The sole purpose in the life cycle of the apostrophe used to be to torture students and give grammar school teachers something to do but now we have better things to teach in fourth grade and students seem to be torturing themselves just fine so maybe that is not a good reason for apostrophes to go on living! The more modern secondary job of the apostrophe is to scare computers but do we really need apostrophes to do that?

I do not think we should be changing punctuation around to make our computers happier though! Or even to make fourth graders happier! I do not think though that it is ok to just not use them and let dont and wouldnt fend for themselves! And what about hell and shell and ill? I still do not think it makes sense to make people figure out if it is Pike or Pikes who discovered the peak (or whatever he did to get it named after him). It is not that hard to learn to use apostrophes or to avoid them if you do not like them!

Maybe everyone should write Zin style and we can forget all about apostrophes!

Sunday with Zin: Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9) – Preview

Hello I am Zin and it is summer and that means it is time for Food Network Star Season 9!

I am still trying to figure out Season 8 from last year! The goofy MST-style thing with Justin Warner never happened! He did that prime-time special but I did not think it was good at all. People liked him so much but maybe he was making more money from his restaurant and did not have time? Maybe FN did not want to do his kind of show after all? Maybe they had a big fight? He does promos sometimes so it could not have been much of a fight. Maybe they are grooming him like they do with Kelsey on The Cooking Channel and they are waiting for him to be less pimply kid because the “hip” demographic they hoped for never happened (they never put up a show so of course it did not happen!) and more Ready for Prime Time for people who do not cook but want to sit on the couch eating Cheetos and watch others cook? I do not know!

That was last year so it is time to move on!

It is now Season 9! I think there are more culinary school people this time. They usually do not last long because Food Network is not a culinary school kind of place any more. They like family stories. And energy. I confess I have not watched Food Network at all over the past year except for these competitions. I do not even watch Chopped very often any more. I still love America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country on PBS though!

It is time for the 2013 crew which is Season 9! Let us see what kind of train wreck this will be!

The Contestants:

Andres Guillama – 26, North Carolina, healthy Latin food. He is not a flirt he just acts like one! He can not help being charming really! (He also can not count! He says he has seven siblings and he beat the Brady Bunch by two but the Brady Bunch had six kids) He lost 150 pounds so he became a childhood obesity prevention coach. Is that a real job? His whole life revolves around food! That does not sound like eating pathology at all! He is from a Cuban family. Hey he is Herb 2! He is cute in a young way and he has a lot of energy.

Chad Rosenthal – 37, Philly, barbecue. He has a barbecue restaurant. He also has a sad family story but we do not know quite what it is it yet! I think that is a major teaser. I bet it has something to do with his kid(s)! He has a nice manner and has an appealing woodchopper aura! He would look very at home out by the woodpile. I think a lot of people are going to complain about his hair but I like it!

Stacey Poon-Kinney, 34, SD, former dancer, restaurant owner. She really is happy all the time! And she does not know what a hipster is (I do not either!) but sometimes she is called one. Maybe we will find out what a hipster is! She was on Restaurant: Impossible which, wait, does that not mean she was not a very good restaurant owner? She owned it with her father so maybe he was the bad owner and she was just the… bad chef? I do not know! Robert Irvine creeps me out so I do not watch him unless I have to and how often do you really have to watch a tv chef? She was a dancer before she and her father started a restaurant. Cooking is in her blood from her great-grandfather-chef. She does Sunday Pancake Dance Party! She has FN written all over her! It does not matter if she can cook they will teach her!

Chris Hodgson, 27, Cleveland, culinary school grad, runner-up on Great Food Truck Race S2, new restaurant owner. He was a lacrosse player who has had three shoulder surgeries! I am not sure what that has to do with cooking but he seems very proud and it shows he… I do not know but it shows something important. He is the Frat Boy. Remember Chris from 2011? (what is it with the name Chris?) Or Mikey from TC2? ADDENDUM: WAIT! Thanks to wunderbar12 on the TWoP forums I have discovered something else interesting about Chris: Remember Charles Ramsey who saved the kidnapped girls in Cleveland? Chris is his boss! He has made a Charles Ramsey t-shirt with proceeds going to the families of the victims so they can get any support they need! He started out with a Ramsey Burger on the menu but Charles did not like that much so he stopped it! I think Charles Ramsey is a pretty cool guy! Chris goofed with the burger but he made up for it too! And boy does he have a culinary point of view now! Except I suppose the show was filmed before all the excitement.

Danushka Lysek, 37, NYC, culinary school grad, personal chef, eliminated on the second round of Chopped when her lamb and rutabaga lacked taste and creativity. You must see her introduction video! Click the link on her name, it is too good to miss! She swears a lot! She seems to think she is very dynamic and a leader but she seems like a whiney bored teenager to me. A lot of the TWoP Chopped followers are not happy that she is on this show! See she is a model and a personal chef and she works for single rich men who work in banking. If a wife is involved she does not get hired because they feel threatened. This is really what she said go watch the tape! She slams lettuce to remove the core! She advises cleaning your kitchen! She talks about blood and juices dripping down! When she lost Chopped she decided it meant she is not just a pretty face (I am not sure she is that pretty but I am a terrible judge of such things) but that she is also a rock star chef. I am not sure losing a cooking competition for tasteless and uncreative food with relatively ordinary ingredients (no leftovers, no corn fungus) means that but I will not argue. I think she is comic relief! She is the one everyone will love to hate! I do not hate her I think she is funny!

Damaris Phillips, 32, KY, Southern food, culinary school grad and teaches there. She likes to make pickles and super-phallic sausages! From her picture I really thought she was Chantal from ANTM-9 the China season! She is loud and inappropriate! No I am not saying that she says that! She does not seem all that loud or inappropriate in her video unless you count phallic sausages as inappropriate (and I do not). She does not seem all that southern either.

Russell Jackson, 49, SF, culinary school, underground supper club. He is a modern day warrior and he has the hair and the arms to prove it! He is a hybrid of aggression and love! I am not sure what “subculture” dining is but he seems very proud of it. He has a tragic childhood story too! He lost ICA Battle Rhubarb to Jose Garces. It was the best night of a very bad year. When losing is the best night yes that is a bad year! He has a very comfortable camera manner but I think Susie is definitely going to tell him he is too scary! He aims for scary on purpose! But if an underground supper club and a Mohawk are the scariest things he has I do not think he is scary at all.

Daniela Perez-Reyes, 29, Hawaii, born in Peru, culinary school grad, Peruvian/Polynesian twists, caterer. She wants to be hot! Her main selling point seems to be that she is not a grandma with a rolling pin! She has a “sassy personality” and talks with her hands and the Art Institute did not like that! And she has a lot of speeding tickets! She has a wonderful voice! And she is single! She will take over the role of Fiery Latina from Martina for this season!

Lovely Jackson, 27, LA, from Chicago, glam food, culinary school grad, private chef. Glam food? Party food! Her name is Connie but her family teased her, “You think you are so lovely,” so she is Lovely. She has diamonds on her knives and serves edible diamonds and diamonds on the soles of her shoes – oh no that is Paul Simon – she puts rose petals on the plate! I would complain if I had flowers on my plate so I guess I am not glam. I do not know if she can cook but she has Brand written all over her! She even has an acronym: CLT, the Chef Lovely Tip! She has a strong presence. I think Susie is going to tell her she is too strong.

Nikki Dinki, 29, NYC, semi-vegetarian. She has been studying Sandra Lee! Her shtick is Meat on the Side which sounds like… oh never mind you know what it sounds like! The point is she has two names for what she does and she needs to pick one! With a name like Nikki Dinki she is on thin ice already! But her pitch is good to cut down on meat without going full vegetarian and FN loves slogans!

Rodney Henry, 47, Baltimore, pie shops, former rock musician, out first on Chopped, lost the Quiche Throwdown. He is a little old for a rock star. He used to sell pies on his rock and roll tours and now has pie shops. On Chopped he was on the Halloween episode and made chicken feet (!) that tasted like pie so he was chopped first! I think if you make chicken feet that taste like pie you should get a prize! He knows who Charles Bukowski is so that means something but he is too determined to prove he is still cool.

Viet Pham, 34, SLC, born Malaysia, culinary school grad. He owns Forage and it sounds like one of those restaurants that took off after Noma started using weeds! He has a serious sob story starting in a Malaysian refugee camp you can not top that! He was Food & Wine Best New Chef! A James Beard semi-finalist! He beat Bobby Flay in ICA Battle Ground Beef with Beef Fat Ice Cream so dayum he can cook! He is a clone of Eric Lee from last season! But he says “soignee” a lot and I think it is pretty annoying! He is there I think to give the impression they really are looking for good cooks but of course they are not but it is good he gets some publicity!

I am not sure if the setup is the same but Giada, Bobby, and Alton are mentors again, with Susie and Tusch as final judges. And a focus group! Wow, cool, with those high-tech dials from the 80s! And they liked the Last Chance Kitchen from TC so much (who liked it from Survivor so much) they now bring someone back in after they are cut. Here is what is not in the promo material: the guarantee of the show! I will be honest: if the TWoP people did not point this out I would not have noticed. Maybe that is what they are counting on! But maybe the title of Food Network Star is all the winner gets! They have not done terribly well generating shows this way after all. When Guy Fieri is your big success story you need to reconsider what you are doing!

I am Tanned (no, I am not)! I am Rested (I am not that either)! I am Ready (that I am) for the train wreck! I will be back on Tuesday or Wednesday with a recap of Episode 1!

Sunday with Zin: Literaria – Contranyms

Hello I am Zin and it is time for Contranyms!

For the week of March 18 the Wordsmith “A Word A Day” theme was Contranyms! These are words that have opposite meanings and you just have to know which meaning is meant in a sentence! Sometimes they are called “autoantonyms” and sometimes they are called “antagonyms” and sometimes “contranym” is spelled “contronym” but do not let the charming inconsistency of language that reflects the human mind distract you from the fact that some words mean exactly the opposite of what they mean!

You do not believe me, do you? I will show you:

The word “secrete” is a perfectly fine word and if you come across it in a medical or biology setting it probably means “discharge.” Like the lachrymal glands secrete tears or the stomach secretes digestive acids (I am sorry if this seems disgusting but it is ok it is over now). The word did not start as a verb it started as a noun “secretion” in the middle of the 17th century which is about the time biology and medicine started waking up in the Renaissance! Latin was what all educated people knew back then so it was from the Latin word secretus which means “having been separated” and that makes sense if you think of tears being separated from lachrymal glands. “Secretion” was such a cool word it became a verb!

But what about the other “secrete”? Where has it hidden away?

I think if I am reading my OED correctly that the word “secrete” meaning “to hide away” is a variation of the verb “secret” which was around in the 16th century but quickly went obsolete. I think maybe it did not so much go obsolete as add an “e” and become “secrete” in the same sense!

This is interesting since here is the same word with two meanings and they came from different places except they really have at their heart the Latin root of secretus! This is pretty scary but it is again how language reflects people and people are often contradictory and confused! I think it does kind of make a sort of sense though because if the lachrymal glands secrete tears those tears are kind of hidden from the lachrymal glands yes? You have to really want it though!

So here I was thinking I would have to do a Literaria post on Contranyms when what do you know within a month suddenly Salon reprinted an article from The Week all about Contronyms! I think maybe Judith Herman gets the Wordsmith mailing too!

She includes fourteen words like:

Oversight: to watch over something or to overlook it! This may be why Senate Oversight Committees sometimes overlook when they should be supervising!

Cleave: To cut apart or to cling together! Hint: if you are told to cleave to someone the “to” gives it away and you should not chop them up because you do not “chop to”!

My very favorite contranym: Sanction!

Sanction confused me for decades! Sanctions on countries we get angry at but some sports like skating sanction certain events meaning they are acceptable! The Eiger sanction was a punishment but the President will not sanction use of military force! What is going on here? It is so confusing and I think I was in my 30s before I realized it means both things and you just have to figure out which is meant. Typically the noun version means a punishment, and the verb form means an approval, which could be a way of getting around contranym status since it changes parts of speech but I found out there are verb forms for both.

This is why I love words because they do not sit still and behave but squirm around and you get to figure out ways to live with them anyway!

Sunday with Zin: The Books Artists Make

Sissy Buck: "Inextricably Woven"

Sissy Buck: “Inextricably Woven”

Hello I am Zin and what could be better than books and art? Bookart!

These were not illustrations for books or books about art or books containing art but books as artists conceive them so they are not traditional books they are art pieces! This was an exhibition of the students from the Kate Cheney Chappell ’83 Center for Book Arts at USM!

This was part of the Portland First Friday celebration for April and happened the same day as the Edible Book Art Festival! I could not find many pictures online so I had to rely mostly on my own pictures which are not great but they may give you an idea of what happens when artists create books and reading them becomes part of an artistic statement!

Some of my favorites were by Sissy Buck who did the piece in the header photo. She also made a piece from her series “Fitting Words:”

In this series, “Fitting Words”, I have used the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzles that I have done over the years (in varying degrees of completion) for my imagery. By enlarging the crosswords and printing them in layers of different colors using Xerox lithography, the abstracted images take on a different meaning and quality…another riddle or puzzle.

I love the NYT Sunday puzzles and no other puzzles will do! I photocopy them every week at the library so this was a convergence of all sorts of great things for me!

Artist Rush Brown also did a piece called “Susie Dancing” which I liked a lot it was like a cutout mural hung across the wall! He said he was the only man in the workshop at the time! I wonder why women are more interested in making books as art objects than men?

Many of the books took unusual form! Cynthia Ahlstrin made “Without Consent” which was an actual book turned into a shoe and because of the title hints at a very interesting story! In an “introduce yourself” video she talks about “getting away from rendering what you actually see and it becomes more of a conversation between the layers” and yes this piece did that! She also made a piece about a shoe and books that won an art show titled “Every Shoe Tells A Story” which is very clever!

Bonnie Faulkner is a glass artist but she played with book art and made “The Journey’s Angst” which was more of an accordion shape out of paper.

Libby Barrett (who has a fantastic website of wonderful book art where each piece is amazing) made “Summer Day” which is also like an accordion shape with haiku. Libby also made a wall hanging “30 Days” a wall book of postcards for a month!

I wish there was an album of professional pictures for all the pieces because many of them were wonderful! Elizabeth Berkana made a book out of playing cards and Tessa Jeffers made “Little Gold Dress Book” which was a dress made out of the folded pages of a book! Catie Hannigan made a weaving on one page with “I don’t think about you” on the other page! That was brilliant! Susan Colburn-Motta made a wonderful piece titled “Leaf Floating on Water” and she makes a lot of book art but I do not have a picture so you will have to take my word for it or keep an eye on the Center for Book Arts for their next exhibit or workshop!

Sunday with Zin: Edible Book Festival

Hello I am Zin and I am back from my vacation! I hope everyone missed me!

While I was on vacation (and I did not really go on an actual vacation I just took a few weeks off from Sunday with Zin) I went to the Edible Book Festival at the Library!

I had a lot of fun with this last year and I did try for a while to come up with an entry but last year the guy who did the Banana Kareninut Bread with the little smashed banana Anna on the train tracks intimidated me especially since the year before he did Beer and Loathing in Las Haggis the year before and set a very high bar! But he was not there this year which was sad. There were other wonderful things though!

Pi(e) was very popular this year! The winners for both the Children and Adult divisions were about pi(e). But they were very different kinds of pi(e)!

A nine-year-old girl won for “Lord of the Pies” complete with broken eyeglasses and a pie-dough pig head bloodied with strawberry-rhubarb juice! I voted for it because I could not help but vote for it, but I was surprised other people voted for it! And I was most surprised that nine-year-olds are reading Lord of the Flies! She must be very special and I think her parents are probably very special too!

The adult winner was for Life of Pi which of course featured the life cycle of a pie arranged in a circle from the apples and flour to the completed pie! She had to put warnings on one pie to say it was not baked and should not be eaten (we were allowed to eat everything after the judging so taste was not a factor at all). But I had a soft spot for the book and she was clever so I voted for her too! I am so surprised I voted for the winners in both divisions!

Stinky Cheese Man came in third maybe not because it was such a cool rendition but because it is such a cool book! It is a Post Modern Book of Fairy Tales and right there I wonder if I have become so very old, that children are reading post-modern literature! But it is very funny and I enjoy watching the video because I like all that meta stuff! I wish we had meta fiction when I was little!

One of the prettiest entries was Gingerbread Man and it won a prize too. It was a very well-done gingerbread house book!

I voted for an entry that was not very pretty and did not involve any baking or really any food work at all but I appreciated the sign that accompanied it: it was an ordinary fruit salad in a plastic tub from the grocery store with a little note:

Literary Fruit Salad
One Pound of Cantaloupe, Ezra Large
one Sun Dried Raisin
A Half Cup California Grapes, Imported from Oklahoma
Five Small Peppers
One Diced Mango from South America (I think maybe it should be Mexico but I could be wrong)
Peach Jam from Giant Peaches

Now I have to come up with ideas again for next year! I still have this idea to actually make a book out of fruit leather and licorice laces and maybe big bars of chocolate. Except I probably will not but it does not hurt to think about it. It is always fun to see what people come up with.

Zin is on Vacation!

Hello I am Zin and I am taking a vacation from blogging! Everyone should take a vacation once a year right?

I have too many ideas and no time to actually do any of them so I will not be posting for the next few weeks or maybe a month but then I will be back with more Literaria and next weekend is the Edible Book Festival and I will tell you about that too when I get back and other things as well.

Sunday with Zin: Naked Shakespeare

Hello I am Zin and on February 1 Shakespeare went Naked! And I watched!

Naked Shakespeare is a performing arts group in southern Maine that performs Shakespearean sonnets and brief scenes from his plays in everyday places like taverns and summer fairs without costumes or lights or scenery or even a stage! They just show up and speak! It is pretty remarkable! On February 1 as part of the First Friday festivities here in Portland they took over the Atrium of the library for a performance. It was quite strange because the Atrium is very small, it is maybe 30 feet wide, and people were sitting on the floor and wee littles were crying and people were coming and going and the actors never got distracted! It was amazing to watch them keep focused on what they were doing!

They had a special challenge because they were in the middle of the floor with nothing but a bench and people were lined up against both walls and the ends, so it was like they were in the middle of a rectangle of audience! They had to keep moving around so everyone had a chance to hear and see them up close and all of this was improvised which I think is pretty impressive when they are also performing Shakespeare!

Because of the time of year the theme was “Will You Be Mine” and the works were about love of all kinds from the love sonnets and the comedies to of all things King Lear and Cordelia! That was my favorite because the actors were really good! When Lear entered I think the whole audience was worried the actor was having some kind of medical problem he was so convincing!

I took a video recording of the Sonnet 29 (“When, in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state…. Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising…”), a short scene from Measure for Measure, and a longer passage from Troilus and Cressida which I have never read or seen before. Because the actors were sometimes two feet away and sometimes fifty feet away the sound is a bit odd but it gives an idea of the very un-Shakespearean setting! At least un-Shakespearean as we are used to seeing Shakespeare performed now.

Good words and good performers work anywhere!

Sunday with Zin: The Sing-Off Is Back!

Hello I am Zin and it is my Blogging Birthday! I started Sunday with Zin one year ago and I am very proud that this is my 52nd post and I did not miss a single week!

I got a wonderful Blogging Birthday present this week: The Sing-Off is coming back!

I was so sad that it was cancelled last year I did my own six-week a capella tribute at Christmas and it was a lot of fun but I would rather have had the show! It is really strange we were just talking about this and that same day I discovered it had been renewed for this Christmas! Maybe I should start talking about how disappointed I am that Google Reader is being cancelled and they will bring that back too.

History lesson: The Sing-Off started as a surprise! I did not even know about it until the night it started four years ago during the week before Christmas! Since most of the groups were from colleges (that is where the a capella is) it was filmed over the summer but most of the competition was aired in December with a finale just before Christmas and it was so wonderful, so special, like a little Christmas present during a time of year when no one is watching television!

The next year they expanded it a little and we started blogging it (I did 2011, I was not blogging in 2010) because we loved it so much! The third year they made a mistake and turned it into a full twelve-week competition but even though they had some wonderful groups (including my beloved Pentatonix) it did not do well I think because the specialness was lost. It was just another singing competition!

So it seems they have gone back to the original short format for the Christmas hiatus and that is a good thing! Mark Burnett will be the producer which makes me a little nervous because he does things like Survivor and The Apprentice that depend on viewer manipulation and suspense and that is not at all what The Sing Off should be. A lot of people think he has done a good job with The Voice which I have never seen (I think the chairs are gimmicky) but I hope it means he knows how to present music without getting in the way. They had better bring back Ben Folds and Shawn Stockman!

I watched some of the Chinese version last year and discovered some cool new groups! Maybe someone noticed that a lot of people were paying attention to Chinese songs. The article says they never actually cancelled the show they just did not pick it up for last year and I am glad they decided it was time to start again.

They are casting right now so if you are in an a capella group or know someone who is you should hurry!

Sunday with Zin: Everyone Should Know About Vi Hart

"You Are Safe Here" - Vi Hart

“You Are Safe Here” – Vi Hart

Hello I am Zin and I am very happy to see that Vi Hart is branching out even more and bringing her clever video approach to address more personal issues!

I first discovered Vi in connection with Khan Academy! And now she is featured on Brain Pickings in an article about her latest video about dealing with trolls! No not the fairy-tale characters but the contemporary trolls who leave mean messages and tell you how bad your video (or blog post) is! She also has a wonderful video about making videos (“They Became What They Beheld: Medium, Message, and Youtubery”)! And then a video about making a video about making videos! Can you see why I love Vi Hart?

You can check out her YouTube channel and I will help by listing my own favorites!

First she did Math and then became the Mathemusician for Khan Academy. But not just Math: Math like the Binary Hand Dance! And it makes sense whether you know about binary or not!

And my favorite of all time, her story about Wind and Mr. Ug which turns into… well I will not tell you, it will be a surprise!

I think her crowning achievement in math videos was in her series of videos about Thanksgiving Dinner: Green Bean Vectors (I never realized green beans are like vectors) and Borromean Onion Rings (which is better than a Blooming Onion believe me!) and finishing off with Turducken except it is more like turduckduckhenhenhenhenailailailailailailailail. And she actually makes these dishes! She can bone poultry! This is a multi-talented woman!

She started doing music with paper instruments then made some part-science-part-music videos! (Folding Time and Space is my favorite! Her website includes instructions for making paper instruments like a recorder and a didgeridoo! I told you she is multi-talented!

And now she is going into more general topics and doing them just as wonderfully!

I wish I knew how to drop a bug in the ear of the MacArthur genius grant people so they would notice Vi Hart because she has some wonderful things to say and some very creative and entertaining ways to say them!

Sunday with Zin: Literaria – Eggcorns!

Hello I am Zin and I just learned a new literary device: the eggcorn!

I do not think this is strictly speaking a literary device since it is more like a Happy Accident as my idol Bob Ross used to say! It is descriptive of a particular kind of mistake rather than a language tool.

The definition, direct from the A-Word-A-Day:

noun: An erroneous alteration of a word or phrase, by replacing an original word with a similar sounding word, such that the new word or phrase also makes a kind of sense.
For example: “ex-patriot” instead of “expatriate” and “mating name” instead of “maiden name”.

Coined by linguist Geoffrey Pullum (b. 1945) in 2003. From the substitution of the word acorn with eggcorn. Earliest documented use as a name for this phenomenon is from 2003, though the term eggcorn has been found going back as far as 1844, as “egg corn bread” for “acorn bread”.

This week at A-W0rd-A-Day was “Words for Linguistic Errors” and I knew the others like mondegreen and spoonerism but this was a new one! I was very happy to see the “colitis” reference because I spent years back in the days before there was an internet (or for that matter before FM radio was widely used for rock music so you could hear the lyrics better) trying to figure that one out!

When I was a teenager I read a Readers Digest article (yes, I read Readers Digest when I was a teenager, it was what was in the house) that included a long paean to “daunserly light” as sung about in the Star Spangled Banner: “Oh say can you see by the daunserly light…” The author who I do not remember (this was 40 or 45 years ago!) said he knew exactly the quality of that light: it was early dawn, everything was quiet, and the sky was a little pink with morning clouds. That is pretty evocative for something that does not exist!

So I actually knew about eggcorns a long time ago, I just never knew they had a name!

You can get daily emails from A-Word-A-Day with interesting words too! It is free! And they do not pester you with other things. I also get the OED Word of the Day, it is a lot of fun too! Sometimes they will be very common words but usually they come up with things like pogonotomy or pant-hoot.

By the way there is no such thing as a malamanteau (™ Randall Monroe of xkcd) but I think there should be!

Sunday with Zin: Keep Calm and Turn the Page

Keep Calm and Turn the Page!

Keep Calm and Turn the Page!

Hello I am Zin and this is a story that has a sad beginning but a warm and hopeful middle and I believe it will have a happy ending!

You probably know we had a big storm here that started on Friday, February 8 and went for two days. Maine got a record snowfall of 31+ inches! We had the usual problems we have with snow. But Longfellow Books, my Fiercely Independent Community Bookseller, had some extra problems beyond too much snow!

First the storm blew in a window on the second floor of the building above the bookstore and snow blew in and melted and dripped through the ceiling into the bookstore!

Second, the pipes in the building froze!

Third, because the pipes froze, the sprinkler system went off and water sprayed all over the books!

This set off all kinds of alarms but there was a blizzard out there! So it took time for the store owners to get there and I am surprised they were able to, but they were, and the fire department was there already, they had broken in the back and covered some of the books with tarps and were carrying books out of the store to save them! Firemen saving books!

“It was a reverse ‘Fahrenheit 451,'” Bowe said, referring to Ray Bradbury’s 1953 science fiction classic, in which books are outlawed and burned by firemen.

That sounds like a book person!

About half of the 30,000 books were ruined! They hope insurance will pay for most of that but they have also been closed for a week and they expect to be open only sporadically for at least another week!

But like the sign in the window says: Keep Calm and Turn the Page.

That sounds like a book person, too!

This bookstore was voted Portland Icon in 2012 so Portland is helping! The Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance has arranged two events and a third way to help:

First, a Cash Mob on Saturday, March 2, for people to show up at the store and buy books! They can also buy Great Flood 2013 Gift Certificates for later on if they do not need any books right now! I know I am going to need some books later this year so I think I will get one!

Second, a Panel Discussion at the wonderful SPACE Gallery on Sunday, March 3: FLOODED: An Outpouring of Literary Conversation in Support of Longfellow Books! Richard Russo and Monica Wood will talk about memoir, and Ron Currie Jr. and Bill Roorbach will talk about fiction – all Maine writers, all who have given readings and talks at the bookstore in the past, three of them I have read, two of them appear in this blog! I have my ticket already! I bought it when I got the email announcing the event! And it is a good thing because three days later it is sold out!

Third, MWPA is collecting donations by PayPal and check until March 15!

It sounds crazy to give a donation to a private business but a retail business especially one as tenuous as a bookstore that must close for two weeks needs help and they are part of the community and hold so many wonderful events for free we must do something! The bookstore has been getting calls and Facebook queries asking how people can help so now they have three concrete ways to help!

The two owners Chris Bowe and Stuart Gerson were employees at Bookland (I did not know that) which was the bookstore that went out of business 13 years ago (I remember that) when Borders opened in South Portland so look who is still standing! They have held it together this long and they are not going to let a storm get in the way:

“Never underestimate the power of an independent bookstore,” [Bowe] said. “We have survived the chains. We have survived Amazon. We have survived the Kindles. The bookstore is one of those good places in the community. We will struggle, but we will get there.”

Again that sounds like a book person and I believe him!

Sunday with Zin: Euphony

Hello I am Zin and you never know where devices will take you!

What do you think is the most beautiful English word? Love? Money? Mellifluous?

How about cellar-door?

No, I am not crazy! Well, of course I am, but not about this! Cellar-door (and we will allow it as a single hyphenated word to keep things simple) is often cited as the best example of euphony which is the Device of the Day: when words have a pleasing sound!

My search for euphony led to an "On Language" column "Cellar Door” by Grant Barrett from February 11, 2010, and to the cellar-door. It seems this is a famous decision, to name this unassuming phrase the fairest of them all, and a dubious one at that! At least I think so! But they are talking about purely sound, not meaning!

Mr. Barrett in his wonderful article traces the history of the rise of cellar-door to its position of prominence. And it takes some peculiar turns: from H. L. Mencken in 1920 to Dorothy Parker in 1932 to J. R. R. Tolkien in 1955 to the 2001 movie Donnie Darko where a teacher tells Donnie (a crazy teenager with a psychotic imaginary rabbit friend):

This famous linguist once said that of all the phrases in the English language, of all the endless combinations of words in all of history, that ‘cellar door’ is the most beautiful.”

But what famous linguist said this????

No one! The earliest reference Barrett found was a 1903 novel, Gee-Boy by Shakespeare scholar Cyrus Lauron Hooper:

He even grew to like sounds unassociated with their meaning, and once made a list of the words he loved most, as doubloon, squadron, thatch, fanfare (he never did know the meaning of this one), Sphinx, pimpernel, Caliban, Setebos, Carib, susurro, torquet, Jungfrau. He was laughed at by a friend, but logic was his as well as sentiment; an Italian savant maintained that the most beautiful combination of English sounds was cellar-door; no association of ideas here to help out! sensuous impression merely! the cellar-door is purely American.

Now wait just a minute here: does this mean that truly brilliant people like Mencken and Parker and Tolkien have been taking the word of a fictional Italian savant? Or did Cooper take it from a source that has been lost to history? I can not even find any information about Mr. (or Dr.? I do not wish to be rude or improper but I do not know!) Hooper, other than a number of editions of Shakespearean plays he edited in the early 20th century! Maybe he made the whole thing up as a joke!

I suppose we will have to wait until we find a cellar-door portal to another time dimension! Until then, the Cellar Door Theatre Company in London will have to keep the flame alive!

Sunday with Zin: Un-STRIPPED!

Hello I am Zin and we all were UNSTRIPPED on February 1!

Rewind: last summer my friend Jeanne Holtzman (hi, Jeanne!) sent me a copy of STRIPPED, an anthology with a twist! The names of the authors were stripped from the stories! Editor Nicole Monaghan hoped readers would investigate whether they could tell if the writers were male or female.

I read the book and did some work to post some background about the project, and a table of my opinion, and that of two online gender analzyers! And now Nicole has posted The Big Reveal matching up stories and authors!

Here is the good news: I did better than the computers! Score one for people!

Here is the not-so-good-news: I still did very badly!

Overall I guessed correctly on 29 out of 47 stories, for a score of 62%. That is only a little better than random guessing which would have been 50%.

The computers did not even hit 50%: Stevens Institute got 20 of 47 (43%) and the Gender Genie got 23 of 47, or 49%! Ok, I guess you could say Gender Genie hit the 50/50 mark. And Stevens came close.

I will talk more about numbers but first I want to talk about the stories because I was surprised by some of them! Many I just guessed on, but some I was pretty sure, and I was pretty sure of a couple of authors as well, and I was usually wrong, wrong, wrong! I will put the three evaluations (Zin, Stevens, Gender Genie) in parens, and when I say “we” it means me and the computers in this case. for the stories that are available online, either as text or in a video of a reading, I will make the title clickable.

The “IT” section: Editor Nicole Monaghan said, ” The stories I put in “It” were ones I felt either had objects as their center or used an inanimate thing to reveal the desire(s) of the character(s) and motivation(s) of the character(s).”

“Boy-Girl” – Sara Lippmann (F) (MMM): In my notes I wrote, “Male style, female content” and I am not sure what I meant by that! I could not tell if the narrator was male or female, and it is a story about the “poly-gender parade” and “neuter people” and she fooled all three of us so I think she did an excellent job!

Found Objects” by Tara L. Masih (F) (FMF): This was one of my favorites and I felt it had a clearly female sensibility (even though I am not sure what I mean by “female sensibility”). The protagonist is male, or perhaps in a larger sense the protagonist is the house and “he” is just the most predominant person! I do not think I have read anything else by this author, though I know the name, so I will have to make sure to look for her work!

The Bear” by Len Kuntz (M) (FMF): In this story the female protagonist, in a uniquely female situation, must make a terrible choice, and it read very authentically to me! Len did a great job!

“Moratorium” by Sean Lovelace (M) (MMM): I loved this story! It reminds me of some of the flash Courtney Bledsoe wrote a few years ago. We all agreed the writer was male, but here is the twist: until I saw the list Nicole put up, I had thought Sean Lovelace was female! I think I may be mixing him up with another Sean! The narrator/protagonist could be either male or female, but I got a very clear sense it was a man swearing off women.

Afterglow” by Michelle Reale (F) (MFM): I am not sure why I thought this was male, as I reread it I clearly get female, but that is hindsight for you! It is easy to know the answers once you know the answers!

Marooned in a Borrowed Mansion” by Kierstin Bridger (F) (FMM): I was the only one who got this right! I am glad because I liked this story a lot! As I read it the first time I thought the narrator was female but then at the end it becomes clear he is male but that might have affected my vote. A house again is at the center of the piece. Houses are interesting characters! I need to consider that more!

“Cisco” by Darlin’ Neal (F) (FMF): I liked the very clear focus of this story. The narrator could be either but I thought he was male, still I thought it had that undefinable female sensibility to it.

Sculpted” by Rae Bryant (F) (FMF): I thought the erotic elements read feminine, and I am happy to see I was right! I think the narrator is female but not necessarily.

“A Conservator In The National Museum of American History Rigged Into a Suspended Harness Floats Inches Above the Star-Spangled Banner” by Michael Martone (M) (MMM): The story is only five words longer than the title! I love that! I was sure either Randall Brown or Robert Swartwood wrote this, but I was wrong. I need to find out more about Michael Martone! There is no reason the narrator could not be female, but it read strongly male to me.

“HER” – stories where a female character is at the heart of the piece.

“Momma” by Casey Hannan (M) (MMF): I am not sure why I read this as male, maybe it was all the blood and the knife and Dracula. It is a very female story though. And a good one!

“Behind the Eight-Ball” by Robert Vaughan (M) (FFM): I went back and forth on this so I am not surprised I got it wrong! It started very male, but the issues were so female I changed my mind.

” The Distance Between the Bridge and the Water” by Will Henderson (M) (FFF): He fooled us all! The female protagonist comes through very strongly! Excellent job!

“Santa Caterina” by Christopher Allen (M) (FFF): Again we were all fooled! I am surprised! This protagonist was really well-written as a very specific woman. Great job!

” Jericho Beach” by Gay Degani (F) (MMF): I know Gay a little from Zoetrope and from Smokelong so I am happy that she fooled me!

“Chips from the Broken Sky” by Ethel Rohan (F) (FFF): It is a beautiful story and something about the banana felt like such a thing a woman would think of!

“Rosalia” by Gill Hoffs (F) (FFM): I went back and forth on the gender of the writer but I was entranced by this story! It seems to hang perilously close to a “trick” ending that we all get scolded for, but I think it is not, the issue goes deeper than the one detail, it is a matter of what one believes rather than fact. I do not want to spoil the story by being more specific but it is very impressive! I even looked up Gill to make sure the “F” was not a little mistake and sure enough Gillian is female! So even after I knew I wanted to check!

“Seven Happy Endings” by Ashley Inguanta (F) (MFF): Here is where the computers had an advantage over me, just looking at language without actually reading! I thought the sexual elements and the humor read more male than female, but I was wrong!

“Gorgo, Queen of Sparta” by Aubrey Hirsch (F) (FFF): Historical flash, maybe a new thing!

“Eruptions” by Heather Fowler (F) (MFF): Oops! My bad!

“Go Deejay” by Roxane Gay (F) (FMF): At the time I read this I had not read any fiction by Roxane, only her essays. I am glad I got it right! “I decided to become the girl I normally hate” was my clue.

The Turn” by Marc Schuster (M) (MNF): I was surprised this was not in the “Them” category since the reaction of the man felt so strong to me, even though the main character is the woman. It is a very interesting story!

“Porch Light” by Sherrie Flick (F) (FFF): Again we all agreed and we were all right!

“Love Letter” by Kerri D. Schuster (F) (FFF): And again!

HIM: the focus is on a male character

“Limp” by Sheldon Lee Compton (M) (MMM): I liked this, and I felt sorry for the narrator!

“Almost Ivory” by Randall Brown (M) (FNF): I would never have guessed this was a Randall story! Even though the main character is male, I think the female character is so strong and well-written it became to me a “female” story. Or maybe I just paid more attention to the female character!

“Life Without Operas” by Peter Schwartz (M) (MMF): I think I read this as male because I did not really follow it but liked the structure! This is my habit of thinking of experimental writing as more male, and I need to stop that!

Grover Cleveland Has It Out With America On the Eve Of His Second Inauguration” by Amber Sparks (F) (MMM): Amber fooled us all! I have enjoyed several of her flashes and I need to get my hands on May We Shed These Human Bodies! This is such a wonderful story and she did a terrific job of writing not only a male but a historical, powerful male and still incorporating a lyric by Don McLean which not everyone will realize! When I read this I immediately thought of Jeff Rose because he sometimes writes about historical characters in a way that is totally authentic but very human but he was not on the list of authors so I knew it was not him but I could see him writing this!

Jerry’s Life as sung to ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’” by Kenneth Pobo (M) (MMF): What an interesting idea! I have such a visceral negative reaction to the song (which was very popular in my youth and was decried by the people I was hanging out with at the time as being the epitome of raunchiness, which shows you why I stopped hanging out with them) I had trouble reading the story!

Dog Beach” Jess Charest (F) (FMM): I got a little mixed up in here so I am surprised I got it right!

“Give Me License” by Nicole Monaghan (F) (FNF): Nicole is the editor of the collection so I am glad I guessed her story right!

“What Is Best In Life?” by Erin Fitzgerald (F) (FNF): I thought this would turn out to be written by Ellen Parker since it just seemed like something she would do so I got it right for the wrong reason!

“Hard” by Jeanne Holtzman (F) (FMF): Jeanne is the writer who gave me the book in the first place so I am glad I guessed her story!

“And the One Guy Turns to the Other and Says, ‘I’ll Trade You Mine for Yours'” by Tara Laskowski (F) (MMM): I know Tara from the Flash Factory on Zoetrope and from Smokelong so I am very happy she fooled us all! This is a very male story! Great job!

Sniffing Out The Boundaries” by Eric Bosse (M) (FMF): I was very surprised to find this was written by a male but when I look at it I am not sure why, I suppose because it involves children! I really need to keep an eye on my assumptions!

“One More Thing I Didn’t Do” by Ellen Parker (F) (MFM): I love Ellen Parker so I am glad she fooled me writing a male voice! Good job Ellen!

Beasts and Men” by Curtis Smith (M) (FMM): Here I was too smart for my own good and that is not something I am often! I thought this was a counterreaction and a woman wrote the most masculine elements she could think of into a story to fool us! So I was fooled instead!

The Taster’s Last Meal” by Devan Goldstein (M) (FFF): This was a wonderful flash that fooled us all with the subtle emotional element and themes of love and loyalty and betrayal!

THEM – Nicole placed stories in this section if they “gave a hard look into both male and female perspectives or struck me as portraying their characters as connecting as humans, with gender being less of a focus.”

“Breaking Tradition” by Nathan Alling Long (M) (FFF): Again I think I was fooled by a child character! I love the play on the word “break” it is a very interesting word linguistically speaking and Nathan has made great use of it!

“The Ballad of This and That” by Robert Swartwood (M) (MNM): When I posted about this story last summer, I said this was “a very Zin story” and it is, it is the Zinnest story in the book, so I am very happy to find it was written by the “inventor” of “hint fiction!” And surprised! But mostly happy!

“Locked” by Myfanwy Collins (F) (FMM): I enjoyed this story about religion and I am surprised that the computers read it as male because to me it was very female.

Waffles and Honey” by J. Bradley (M) (MMF): I thought this was written by Randall Brown! I was wrong! It has that enigmatic echo where the words just feel right.

“Circling the Flame” by Meg Tuite (F) (FNM): I think this would depend on which character you identify with and I went back and forth on it several times! I got it right by luck!

“The Breaking Heart of God” by Rusty Barnes (M) (FFF): Again I read a powerfully emotional story as female! Good for you Rusty!

“Lies” by Pamela Painter (F) (FMF): Now that I reread this, I am surprised I thought it was female since it has mechanics I would think of as male. Well, I should not complain since I got it right but I am not sure why!

“Emergency” by Mark Nieson (M) (MMM): I loved this story! It is written in the form of a medical chart but the end really works! It is a story that lets the reader write the story!

Let’s Get Together Again Soon” by Scott Garson (M) (MFF): Scott is a hero of the online flash community for the annual Wigleaf Top 50 List (and Wigleaf just got their first Pushcart Prize, congratulations!) so I was very happy that I enjoyed his story so much.

Akimbo” by Kathy Fish (F) (FMF): An earthquake through a different point of view! This has some wonderful images and is very sad!

Here is a chart with all the data from last time, with the names of the authors added in. Correct guesses are in red! I am not sure what to make of all this data (if anyone understands statistical analysis I would love a consult)! I do not see any particular patters, other than the computers did particularly poorly on stories in the “Them” section. I looked at stories we all agreed on: sometimes we were all right, sometimes all wrong!

This was a fantastic project! More than anything else it has reminded me that we all have underlying attitudes and we need to understand them and recognize them so we know when they are misleading us! And that good writers can write characters who are different from them because that is what writers do! But we knew that already, yes? If you want to know more about how they do it, four participants, still anonymous, discussed the project and how they write in the opposite gender at Necessary Fiction.

Title Author (M/F) Zin Stvns GG GG-f GG-m Stv% GG% #wds
Boy-Girl Sara Lippmann (F) M M M 571 701 61 55 616
Found Objects Tara L. Masih (F) F M F 390 314 63 55 356
The Bear Len Kuntz (M) F M F 447 410 57 52 259
Moratorium Sean Lovelace (M) M M M 146 492 72 77 256
Afterglow Michelle Reale (F) M F M 528 721 53 58 435
Marooned in a Borrowed Mansion Kierstin Bridger (F) F M M 593 760 54 56 574
Cisco Darlin’ Neal (F) F M F 243 182 62 57 244
Sculpted Rae Bryant (F) F M F 445 214 60 68 232
A Conservator… Michael Martone (M) M M M 0 30 59 100 27
Title Author (M/F) Zin Stvns GG GG-f GG-m Stv% GG% #wds
Momma Casey Hannan (M) M M F 690 593 62 54 442
Behind the Eight-Ball Robert Vaughan (M) F F M 475 520 68 52 429
The Distance Betw the Bridge & The River Will Henderson (M) F F F 972 769 66 56 500
Santa Caterina Christopher Allen (M) F F F 911 707 68 56 612
Jericho Beach Gay Degani (F) M M F 1016 898 65 53 598
Chips From the Broken Sky Ethel Rohan (F) F F F 975 574 67 63 607
Rosalia Gill Hoffs (F) F F M 632 701 69 53 601
Seven Happy Endings Ashley Inguanta (F) M F F 888 511 55 63 620
Gorgo, Queen of Sparta Aubrey Hirsch (F) F F F 1030 865 71 54 610
Eruptions Heather Fowler (F) M F F 760 538 91 59 580
Go Deejay Roxane Gay (F) F M F 812 642 78 56 608
The Turn Marc Schuster (M) M N F 810 392 96 67 294
Porch Light Sherrie Flick (F) F F F 500 204 52 71 277
Love Letter Kerri D. Schuster (F) F F F 801 612 73 57 454
Title Author (M/F) Zin Stvns GG GG-f GG-m Stv% GG% #wds
Limp Sheldon Lee Compton (M) M M M 130 197 60 100
Almost Ivory Randall Brown (M) F N F 545 438 96 55 497
Life Without Operas Peter Schwartz (M) M M F 248 191 58 56 218
Grover Cleveland… Amber Sparks (F) M M M 380 447 64 54 371
Jerry’s Life… Kenneth Pobo (M) M M F 1032 741 60 58 601
Dog Beach Jess Charest (F) F M M 459 760 92 62 510
Give Me License Nicole Monaghan (F) F N F 867 632 96 58 577
What Is Best In Life? Erin Fitzgerald (F) F N F 764 661 97 54 579
Hard Jeane Holtzman (F) F M F 1504 567 67 73 623
And The One Guy Turns… Tara Laskowski (F) M M M 485 742 59 60 685
Sniffing Out the Boundaries Eric Bosse (M) F M F 215 83 60 72 124
One More Thing I Didn’t Do Ellen Parker (F) M F M 562 685 54 55 618
Beasts and Men Curtis Smith (M) F M M 548 687 82 56 591
The Taster’s Last Meal Devan Goldstein (M) F F F 721 668 57 52 618
Title Author (M/F) Zin Stvns GG GG-f GG-m Stv% GG% #wds
Breaking Tradition Nathan Alling Long (M) F F F 1019 604 61 63 615
The Ballad of This and That Robert Swartwood (M) M N M 407 564 96 58 439
Locked Myfanwy Collins (F) F M M 282 610 63 68 391
Waffles and Honey J. Bradley (M) M M F 339 131 66 72 92
Circling the Flame Meg Tuite (F) F N M 549 577 100 51 403
The Breaking Heart of God Rusty Barnes (M) F F F 606 472 58 56 514
Lies Pamela Painter (F) F M F 623 345 59 64 231
Emergency Mark Nieson (M) M M M 9 23 52 72 99
Let’s Get Together Again Soon Scott Garson (M) M F F 502 222 54 69 201
Akimbo Kathy Fish (F) F M F 228 152 59 60 230

Sunday with Zin: Literaria, Part 1

Hello I am Zin and I have been left to my own Literary Devices!

I am very Aristotelian! I like classifications! Organization! That may seem strange because
I seem so disorganized but I am fond of little boxes and spaces where everything fits even if those boxes and spaces are of odd shapes and live in alternate dimensions!

So of course I love literary terms! All those categories! Each nicely defined! And Latinate (or Greekinate) names for them all! I have talked about apostrophe quite a bit in connection with my Second Person Study (which is not all mine any more, sigh) but there are so many more to have fun with!

I was inspired to do this now by several things. First: in December Jeff Rose on Zoetrope wrote a humorous story that mentioned a character reading a fictional “French’s Tongue-In-Cheek Guide To Literary Devices” and I so want him to write this Guide, sort of like Ambrose Bierce and his Devil’s Dictionary but for Literary Devices! Jeff is a very funny writer!

Then just a couple of days ago, my flash-idol Randall Brown posted about his favorite literary device, aralipsis, on I did not even know there was a word for this structure! Then I discovered there is another word for it, paralipsis so imagine! I now have two words for something I never knew had even one name before!

So I thought, I need to bone up on my Literary Devices! I used to know a lot of them but that was a long time ago and I have forgotten. You can follow along! Impress your friends with words like Adynaton and Metonymy! Sure everyone knows about hyperbole and verisimilitude, but have they heard of Hapax legomenon? In fact I will start there!

Hapax legomenon is not really a literary device! I started the Second Person Study with a story that was not in second person , so I will start here with what is actually a description, not a tool, and I may include other literary terms that are not devices in this Literaria category! Maybe my Aristotelianism needs some fine-tuning! A hapax legomenon is means a word that is only used once in the whole record of a language, or sometimes in the entire body of work or an author, or even in a single text. So it is what would be the tiniest word you get when you do a Wordle! It is a big deal to those who investigate dead languages because the best way to discover the meaning of a word is to see it used in different ways and a hapax does not let you do that! The phrase itself is from the Greek and literally means “a thing said once.”

We must, each of us for himself, decide what in it represents the best in usage–and what is merely a corruption that has become more or less widespread or is, indeed, a mere hapax legomenon..

— John Simon, Paradigms Lost

It also happens to be the title of the Swarthmore College Classics Journal, a book of poetry by Ivan Argüelles, and several blogs. It is too bad I will not be adopting any more cats because I think it would make a wonderful pet name!

If you have a favorite literary term let me know and I will be sure to include it!

Sunday with Zin: Best-Sellers!

Hello I am Zin and my Fiercely Independent Community Bookstore just posted their list of Best Selling Books of 2012!

logo-transThe Publishers Weekly list had – guess what! – Fifty Shades of Gray and The Hunger Games in top spots across the board and they even said, ” Half of the top 20 bestselling books of 2012 in print were either Fifty Shades titles or Hunger Games titles.” That really confused me – how can two books get ten spots? – but I am easily confused, and both of those had three titles each and also came in a boxed set, plus three separate editions of The Hunger Games (paperback, hardcover, and movie-tie-in edition, for the love of god, we have come a long way since Love Story which was the must-have book/movie of my youth).

But the #1 Best Sellling Book at Longfellow Books of Portland, Maine was… When We Were the Kennedys which made me very happy since I went to her reading at the library last summer! She also did a signing at the bookstore I think, and she is local and the book is set in Maine and is about her growing up in a mill town after the paper mill shut down, and there is something interesting about a best-selling book about paper mills shutting down! And by the way do you know who supplies the paper for Fifty Shades of Grey?

The second book on the list, The High Skies Adventure of Blue Jay the Pirate, is also by a Maine author! It is a book for children of course, and I am very happy for Scott Nash, the author and illustrator, as well since he lives in Portland (Peaks Island) and teaches at the local art college!

There were many other local books of course and some oddball stuff (the Portland Bike Map was #13) but a lot of literary fiction showed up on the list, like The Tiger’s Wife and The Art of Fielding and even Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes and Telegraph Avenue and Cheryl Strayed did very well making the list twice with both of her books!

How did your local bookstore do?

Sunday with Zin: Puppet Opera

puppets finale

Hello I am Zin and I love opera! And I love puppets! So what could be better than a puppet opera?

Paper Bull Puppets and VOX Maine put on Hansel and Gretel this year! I did not attend the formal performance where they had live singers and a pianist but they did excerpts at the library and even though it was announced as a Children’s Event, it was ok for adults to go! So I was able to see it! It was really wonderful! It was something like a dress rehearsal for them with all the scenery and the shadow work and it was lovely! They did the beautiful “Evening Prayer” scene which was really lovely! Unfortunately Hansel’s head came off at the end of the first excerpt so they had to repair him during intermission but one of the guys came out and had us singing and he talked about opera and puppets, so it was just fine!

They do not use hand puppets or marionettes, but bunraki, a traditional Japanese theater that uses hand-guided puppets! Two or three people, dressed in black, handle the puppets, one the head and body, one the arms and one the feet! It kind of looks like they are taking care of an injured child because they are all gathered around these three-foot-tall puppets but after a while I stopped noticing the people and just looked at the puppets!

puppets closeupI went to the library early to browse the Edward Gorey display again and maybe find some new thing to read and in the lobby were Hansel and Gretel! It was so cool, the puppet handlers had them sitting on the fountain and they just were trying to generate some interest so they let me take a short video and some pictures! There was a lady telling the puppets not to fight and I wanted her to be quiet but she kept telling them to kiss and make up and they did! Then the puppet handlers talked to us for a while and while they were talking Hansel and Gretel’s heads were moving like they were looking around, and Hansel poked Gretel and pointed to something in the commissary, it was really quite good, they made those puppets look alive even when they were talking to us!

puppets headerI did not know this before I went to see the show but it is very appropriate that Hansel and Gretel is a puppet opera because that is how it was written! He wrote a few songs for a puppet show his nieces were doing, then he wrote a few more and a few more and suddenly he had the whole story as an opera! It is frequently performed this way in fact!

Thank you Paper Bull Puppets and VOX Maine (and Portland Public Library) and I hope you do another show soon!

Sunday with Zin: Illustrations

Sharon McGill

Sharon McGill

Hello I am Zin and I am so impressed with story illustrators and how they capture a story! How do they do that? At last I have some answers!

I love looking for art to go with blog posts! But I can not draw! I can not photograph! I can not use Paint! So I have to search for things that comes close to what I see in my head, and it is not easy (and it is sometimes scary)! Sometimes I am very lucky, like with “Shrimp Attack” for a Next Iron Chef episode recap – who knew someone had painted a picture with that exact title which are words one of the NIC contestants said? I did a Google image search and there it was, the perfect art! I used themes once upon a time, black and white pictures, black and white baby pictures, and for the Second Person Study, black and white twin baby pictures! I am not sure I could cope with a blank slate, though, creating something from scratch!

And that is my question today: how to artists come up with illustrations for stories when they start only with the text?

I am not talking cover art for books, which is also very interesting and maybe I will write about that some day! But that has a lot to do with marketing, so it is more complicated! And it has to incorporate the title and the author which story illustrations do not. I am focusing on story illustrations like those that appear in The New Yorker and in online magazines!

I always pay attention to TNY illustrations to see what scene they incorporate. Some seem perfect! Like what Victo Ngai chose for “Casserole” by Thomas McGuane, the woman looking over the edge of the boat.

And some puzzle me, like the choice the same artist made for “Sweet Dreams” by Peter Stamm! It was another wonderful story (I nominated it as one of my picks for best TNY story of the year at Perpetual Folly, the blog Cliff Garstang runs) but there were so many images that seemed more striking to me, I was surprised that was the one she chose! This has nothing to do with the style of her art, by the way (which is beautiful), and I always wonder if someone at TNY or maybe even the author has any input or if it is 100% up to the artist.

Tomer Hanuka showed a tiny bit of behind the scenes development and wrote a tiny bit about the role of the Art Director in his blog post about his illustration for the wonderful story “Means of Suppressing Demonstrations” (I also nominated this for TNY-SotY) but he says the process varies!

When I saw Richard Russo and his daughter Kate talk at the library I was really interested in what she said about the art she created for the stories in Interventions! For “Horseman” she read the story then put it aside to see what would stick. She kept thinking of the poem, and wanted to draw the horse from the point of view of the rider, which is pretty clever!

Then again with “The Whore’s Child” she was struck by the paragraph about the girl being given shoes two sizes too small that crippled her, and she used the black and white of tiles and saddle shoes to echo the habits nuns wear! It is interesting she also thought of blood in connection with “High and Dry.”

I love these thought processes! But I want to hear more! I need to talk to more artists!

So I was very happy when I recently stumbled over Sharon McGill on the Information Superhighway! I am surprised I had not stumbled over her before, she has a wonderful story on Smokelong #35 from last March titled “Benediction” which I have added to the Online Fiction Sampler page!

But that is not all! I discovered Sharon is on Zoetrope Virtual Studios! She is a story illustrator as well as a writer! She did the illustration for her story! And best of all she answered my questions about illustrating a story when I sent her a z-mail!

Sharon has a terrific blog post about the process of illustrating her own story “Benediction“: the conflict between the Writer – who saw the story as taking place under a dull grey sky – and the Illustrator – who wanted bright hot stark sunlight for lots of shadows and angles! It did not make it any easier that the Writer and the Illustrator were both her! And then she realized the Illustrator had “plagiarized” the hot sun and the junkyard from a novel the Writer was working on! It is a wonderful little flash all in itself, the story of this illustration! I love the duality of her arguing with herself! I can understand that!

But I kept asking why that opening scene? The end, with the man in gold, is so dramatic! Is there something like a spoiler rule in illustrating? And here is what she told me:

I tend to pick something that pops out to me and which I feel has the drama, intrigue, and/or immediacy to pull someone into a story. In this case, I think what also happened was that, as a writer I could see this dreary, low sky, but the moment I started actually thinking about drawing it, I knew that would look too flat. There had to be a strong light source. I was also influenced by the editor who selected the story–she said she really loved the opening line. Since I had worked on it a lot, it had a lot of importance to me, too.

I agree that the final scene is pretty dramatic, but I didn’t want to give it away. Also, it’s one of those scenes that I wanted to have exist only in the reader’s mind. I actually got the idea from a guy who wore a costume of gold leaf to a party and the gold kept falling off. He looked kind of scabby, which was a bit gross and not the image I wanted to leave the reader with (!). I figured it would be very hard to depict that kind of figure without it looking totally goofy.

I see – yes, I had a discussion with someone about writing once in which we talked about forcing the reader into a chair when he maybe wants to dance, so it is the same with illustrating, you have to allow some freedom for reader interpretation!

Sharon also illustrated another Smokelong story in that issue, “Everyone Continued to Sing” by Josh Denlow. And she has another wonderful post on her blog explaining “the juxtaposition of the sacred and profane” as well as some more technical art elements like not using outlines for this picture!

I am so thankful to Sharon for taking the time to email back and forth! I am always glad when I learn something! And now I am following her blog so I can learn more about how illustrators think!

This has inspired me to talk to some more people, like art editors at online magazines about how they choose art for stories! So I hope I will have a Part 2 for this post in the future!

Sunday with Zin: Construction Art

The building is being renovated to become the Preble Street Resource Center’s new Joe Kreisler Teen Shelter. But the mural is actually a collaboration between Wright-Ryan Construction and this year’s freshman class at the Maine College of Art.

LiveWorkPortland, 10/1/12

Hello I am Zin and this is the prettiest construction site I have ever seen! And it is right down the street from me!

The art panels suddenly appeared on the construction wall this summer! The construction company had to build a false facade so they could do the renovation of the street level, and they decided it would be nice to have something pretty instead of just ugly old plywood!

And it just so happens the Maine College of Art (MECA) has a Public Engagement program intended to get students to “take action as citizens, artists and designers. As a result, each student gains the entrepreneurial skills and confidence to directly impact their culture and society during and after college.”

So they joined forces and the freshmen at MECA painted the panels to represent all the different nationalities of students at Portland High School!

After a group brainstorming session, the students were divided into groups of two, each of which was assigned a letter, as well as a language commonly spoken in Portland to act as a visual prompt for the painting of their letter. The mural is divided into 4’ x 4’ squares, each containing one letter, and the individual artworks that developed around each of these letters is based on the students’ extensive research into the visual language of the assigned cultures.

It is gone now, in early December they took it down since the building will open soon and the building is now glass and brick, but the construction wall was very beautiful and I was happy to see it every day when I went out! I will miss it but I will remember it every time I walk past the building! That is what art is for even if it is temporary!

Sunday with Zin: A Capella Series 2012 – Part 5

Walter Inglis Anderson: "Hummingbirds"

Walter Inglis Anderson: “Hummingbirds”

Hello I am Zin and here are two more A Capella songs to make up for The Sing-Off being cancelled this year! I know there are only supposed to be two but I could not choose so I included them all!

If you grew up watching TV back when shows had theme songs, you will have fun with this Medley from the championship barbershop quartet Acoustix! I knew almost all of them which is a little bit scary, yes? If someone had put the multiplication tables on tv I would know how much 6 x 8 is! I love Acoustix, I saw them perform this live several years ago, before there was a Youtube I think, so I am very happy to find it waiting for me!

If you saw the movie Invictus (or The Gods Must Be Crazy a long long time ago) you have heard this! It is Shosholoza (Go Forward) performed by Overtone with Yollandi Nortjie, and the lyrics and translation are provided!

And our Christmas a capella for today is Noël Nouvelet (Sing We All Noel) by The King’s Singers!

Sunday with Zin: A Capella Series 2012, Part 4 – Comfort Music

Jerry Lee Kirk, “Sorrow”

Hello I am Zin. I hope this music offers some small comfort for this bleak midwinter weekend. I am not religious, but I find hymns still touch me in some way.

A Capella:
Psalm (Dedicated to my Mother)” – Adapted/written, composed, performed, overdubbed, and produced by Bobby McFerrin.

This is not A Capella but the introduction is important enough to break the rules.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day” text by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.