Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hey, Mom!

In celebration of Mother's Day, a virtually-delivered card for our mom (previous tribute here). That's Cindy and David in the foreground, and Mark and me in the background (that is, the redheads). Now that I look at it, David looks sort of bummed out. (An intense child. But a well-adjusted adult.) 

I have a dim memory of playing a game in which we tried to ascribe animal identities to the various members of our family. It's actually sort of a dumb game, and its limitations were no more clear than in the attempt to boil down our mother's attributes to a creature. In some ways, the cat fits, in that she knows her own mind and carries herself with a certain noble reserve; in other ways, an ox, for her tremendous industry and endurance; finally, there's our standard poodle Schubert, with whom Mom shares inexhaustible devotion, a steady-eddie temperament, sharp intelligence and athletic grace. (Schubert wishes he had her vocabulary.) 

Again, a dumb game at heart: a metaphoric jumble, and a retroactive justification. Fact is, I woke up and saw this cat in my head. 

Our mother is many things, and we love her for all of them. 

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! 

Love, your offspring.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Like, Illustrated Grammar

A few weeks ago, Dan Zettwoch wrote a post that used sentence diagrams to explain illustrations and comic panels. A work of expository genius. In Dan's honor–and also to unburden my scanner of images that had been sitting on it, unprocessed, for some time–tonight I bring you the opposite. Courtesy of Reader's Digest, a series of illustrations designed to enliven the subject of grammar. They come from a set of pamphlets issued by the magazine, publications intended to aid teachers of composition on the college level. Published in 1944.

Clear, crisp expository writing is always in short supply. Truly, I applaud the effort, and would happily hand off such advice to students, who now as then who struggle to keep noun and verb in close proximity, etcetera.

Alas, the uncredited cartoonist who labored to serve the text was up against it. The dominance of text in these images is a clue to their insufficiency for abstract explanations.

But I am partial to the crime scene.

And the madcap sentence procession.

Illustrated heckling, of supposed variety. Clever, and true.

I'm not sure what this is, but I'm not persuaded by it.

Who is FC? His monogram appears in every image. Any attribution detectives out there?

The boating metaphor for the run-on sentence is a bit forced, but really, give the guy a break. Would you want this assignment?

And really, the advice is spot on. Never! Have you ever read Leviathan? Sentences that last pages. (Yes, I know, that's a fragment.) Today we have shockingly informal stream-of-consciousness chat-a-thon "texts" that pass as writing (as opposed to typed speech).

Here's a text page, to give a sense of how the pamphlet worked, and in what voice it was written. No-nonsense admonitions, leavened by visual wit. The illustrations' real job was to prevent textual glaze-over.

Re: 10j: or, alternatively, never use like as verbal junk. "I'm, like, at the mall." Or as a synonym for say or said. As in, "He was like, ..."

Long live 10j. 

Abraham Lincoln was like, "With malice toward none, with everybody like chill, I am like so ready to get this thing over with."

These pamphlets were scooped up on my behalf by the ever-alert Linda Solovic, whose estate-sale instincts are legendary. Thanks, Linda!