Category Archives: Pedagogy

Refer to part of the name of this blog.

Twitlight

No, there was not a typo in the title. I meant to do that. This series is atrociously ridiculous and hackneyed. Usually, derivative works tend to lose some quality in the translation. In the case of the Twilight series, I give the movies just a nudge—a mere vampire weekend, if you will—above the books. Yes, in this humble writer’s opinion, Stephenie Meyer is just that bad at what she is getting paid gazillions to spit out. She is suckling, like her monsters of inspiration, on the lowest common denominator’s teet. 

While I have yet to conceive the next great American novel, much less write and [attempt to] publish it, I am fully confident that when I do, it will be a much higher quality work. I believe my blog writings and short fiction attest to that claim. What will it matter, anyway? It never ceases to amaze me what the seemingly literate public desires to consume. While Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Meyer’s Twilight are both novels under the strictly technical definition, one is clearly more objectively palatable than the other. Obviously, fortification for the brain is not the same as banal entertainment. It is the same reason that McDonald’s is a more popular venue for sustenance than your average health food store. It is quick and easy to digest. It also leaves you full of hot, putrid gas to compensate for lack of actual nourishment. 

Let me do a quick comparison of some of the variances between Ms. Meyer’s vampires and the ones of lore: 

Lore: Vampires can only come out at night.
Twitlight: Vampires go wherever they damn-well please. Inexplicably, it is high school. 

Lore: Vampires burst into flames when exposed to the sun.
Twitlight: Vampires sparkle in the sun. I guess they don’t have to dive into the nearest plot-hole for cover.  

Lore: Vampires have fangs.
Twitlight: Vampires must have an awesome dental plan. 

Lore: Vampires fear religious relics, as well as garlic.
Twitlight: Vampires have some seriously powerful magic underwear. That’s the only explanation. 

With fictional characters, there is a little poetic license allowed. I grant writers that, and have done it myself just recently with my own vampire tale, as well. So, parking the plot wagon for a moment, let’s focus on the quality of the writing. The premise is rather simple and unoriginal. Girl moves to new town, girl falls in love, girl almost dies, boy saves her. Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom, that could be fully realized in less than 250 pages. At almost 500, it is too long for so little to happen. Egads did my mind drift as I waited for something remotely interesting to happen. It’s like the vampires glamoured me into a stupor. 

There are two reasons I give the movies a notch above the books. First, the quality of the acting is good. Actually, it is sad to see such talent wasted on terrible material. Seeing the two stars—Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart—in better projects, just leaves me shaking my head. Second, I confess to having a grand old time as hubby, friends, and I conduct running commentary à la MST3000. Good times, good times. 

There is a tendency for women to breathe life into their fantasies through their writings, and some of them are paid for it. Unfortunately. A common one is to make the female protagonist the objet d’lust for many characters. I’ll get to the point; apparently, it is thrilling to imagine powerful and sexy beasts willing to fight to the death in order to be with you. I don’t know why, but it is a rampant theme. See my previous post about it: Creatures of the Trite

Despite my aforementioned kudos to the acting, I am not any closer to suspending disbelief with Ms. Stewart’s Bella Swan (is there a more contrived name, by the way?). While pretty, her character is so bland. The undead have more zest for life than she does, and the most mundane circumstance can make her so tense. She is stuffed to the gills with angst. She does play that convincingly, I will say that. But, I don’t get why vampires and werewolves (of course!) are so willing to lay their difficult-to-kill, if not immortal, asses on the line for her. I just don’t see it. Sorry. 

Here is a lesson in writing: The plot must be consistent within its own internal logic, thus allowing suspension of disbelief. As an example, while on the surface, their lightning-fast baseball game seems clever and cute, albeit a lame attempt at achieving the same level of awe as Harry Potter’s Quidditch. Fail! Unfortunately, a ball traveling that fast and hit that hard would be structurally unable to withstand the extreme forces thus applied to it. Since these are fictional creatures in the real world, laws of physics still apply. It is difficult enough to swallow such a bastardization of vampire legend, but defying scientific logic where it should exist is inexcusable. 

I noticed a lot of writers fall into what I call “murmuritus.” There are at least thirty synonyms for that word, but many default to that one. I don’t know what the hang-up is with that particular verb. Ms. Meyer is definitely no exception. Just to drive the point home, I downloaded all the books for the sole purpose of doing a search on murmur, et al. The “find” function is a wondrous tool for empirical research. Here are my results: 

Book 1:  46
Book 2:  30
Book 3:  95
Book 4: 111 

As you see, it gets worse as the saga thickens. I know emopires are so bothered that they are reduced to a mere whisper, but really, perhaps they should just learn to enunciate through their non-fangs. If that weren’t enough, Stephenie felt it important to demonstrate her characters’ blasé annoyance by having them roll their eyes. Inordinately. While I had the PDFs, I figured I might as well confirm that. If you don’t believe me, read it and weep blood: 

Book 1:  12
Book 2:  18
Book 3:  21
Book 4:  25

 I just decided to start rolling my eyes to see how many creatures, great and small, cock-fight to the death for my affection. Apathy is hot!  

Now admittedly, I only read the first novel. I strongly suspect that it is a representative sample, albeit possibly misleadingly in favor of Ms. Meyer. From what I’ve heard, they get worse. Perhaps it is due to a few ridiculous key plot points in subsequent books, such as being turned [into a vampire] used as a metaphor for (eep!) going all the way—which must not happen until marriage, dagnabbit. I’ve also been informed that Edward is forced to turn his beloved Bella as she is giving birth to their vampire hatchling, because that bugger is being a recalcitrant monster imp. Edward must then commit an unspeakable act: Use his teeth to tear his offspring out of mommy’s stomach to save them both! Now that’s just nasty. I suspect Meyer took Vonnegut’s rule to be cruel to her characters just a wee bit too far. Be that as it may, there’s no Father’s Day Hallmark card for that creepy level of devotion. 

To say nothing of the fact that the werewolf Jacob imprints romantically on the baby who miraculously matures fully by age seven. He is, in fact, lusting after a seven-year-old, ergo, making him a Native American Mormon werewolf pedophile. Ms. Meyers just squicked me.

In the second or third book (does it matter?) Edward spurned Bella’s advances because he is old-fashioned and wants to wait until they are married, blah blah blah. So, does this mean that he has gone over one hundred years without sex? Really, come on! Let’s put him in a taxicab for some dashboard confession here. He may rip out the cabbie’s carotid before allowing his chaste image to be sullied. All right all right, let’s assume he is a virgin for a moment. It must also be pointed out that he doesn’t feed off humans—just wild animals. Hmm. Not that I know personally, but every vampire tale speaks of the thrill of the kill and savoring the sanguine life force flowing from its human victim into his gullet. Assuming he is completely genuine (and all Mormons are, of course), what the HELL is the point of existing? So little pleasure and all this wasted energy expended on resisting tempta . . . oh wait, that sounds eerily accurate. Pfft! 

Gotta love proselytizing pulp.

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Infuriatingly refudiating

I must extend my thanks to Ms. Palin for inspiring this post. I suppose it is a sequel of sorts to discuss (more like I write and you agree) erroneous grammatical usage and spellings that set my teeth on edge. I have to tip my hat to the woman; she came up with a new one that vexed me before I even had a chance to drink my morning tea. But, like rolling out the red carpet—since she had a cameo in my first post to this blog—I’ll save that one for last.

No, it’s not alright

Think about the origin of this word, which is actually two words that unfortunately many like to shmoosh into an idiotic mess. When one says that everything is peachy, that would mean that all is right, i.e., it is all right. Doesn’t that make sense? Then who the hell truncated the damn thing? It was just fine and dandy the way it was, then some lazy ass comes along and fatigues at the thought of that extra letter and space. Poor thing. I understand that tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome are major concerns in this computer age, but find it somewhere in your heart of hearts to hit those two extra keys so you don’t piss me off. Really, you don’t even need to press that hard. Here, I’ll show you: l . There, it took a fraction of a second. Okay, I did put in the extra effort to highlight it and click the italics button. But, this is important to me and I must drive the point home. Still, there is nary a ghost of the sensation from the keys pressing on my ring finger and thumb, respectively. I am haunted, however, everytime I see this idiom spelled incorrectly. I won’t be all right until “alright” is exorcised out of the written lexicon.

How do you qualify the unqualified?

I refuse to pull any punches with this one. A kitten howls in mortal agony everytime someone attempts to throw an adverb or adjective in front of a certain adjective. Okay, it probably is acceptable to do that under many circumstances, but I am rendered dumb by the inanity of this assault on such a straightforward concept, and can’t think of any examples as I focus on one in particular: unique. It is what it is, and it is one of a kind. How can there be different degrees of it? Nothing is fairly unique, very unique, somewhat . . . I can’t go on. The cacophony of tortured kittens is causing my inner ear to bleed out. If you really don’t want to commit to labeling a person, place, thing, etc., as unique, ple— nah, I don’t need to ask nicely—just be specific, dammit. Here are a few examples of the wrong and right ways to use this word:

Wrong: The music is kinda unique.| Right: The music has a unique rhythm. 

Wrong: I will approach this in a fairly unique way. | Right: I will approach this in an unusual way (This is a real example, and it annoyed the crap out of me, especially since I couldn’t stand the bitch who said it and she was trying to nail me against the wall for something I didn’t do). 

Wrong: This person is pretty unique. | Right: This person has some unique traits. 

I really hope I have made my point crystal clear. The kittens will purr their gratitude, assuming the absence of their pain is indeed pleasure.

Irregardless

Yes, that is all the introduction this one needs. Quite frankly, it doesn’t deserve a clever title. Irregardless is not a word. Don’t use it. Ever! You are trying to create a new word containing “regardless” with “irrespective” as its parasitic conjoined twin. I assure you; you will succeed only in sounding stupid. Plus, if you saw a person with a parasitic conjoined twin walking down the street, what would you do? I rest my case.

Don’t focus on the double negative

That does not mean I promote eternal optimism. I’d probably have to slap the beatific grin off your annoyingly cherubic face. But that’s neither here nor there (what does that phrase mean?). Anyway, I am merely suggesting you be so kind as to say what you really intend to convey. If you can’t get no satisfaction, am I to assume you do get satisfaction whether you want it or not? Unless you clarify, I’ll go with the literal and grant myself carte blanche to commence spewing my sour grapes all over that smug mug of yours. Oh wait, you meant the opposite of what you said. Oh, I get it. You can’t get satisfied, and you were just being cool about it, you torpid little tool. You still deserve to be beaten. Sucks to be you.

Now there their they’re

All right (see how much better that looks?), I make this mistake sometimes. However, it is not due to ignorance, it is just because I am human and prone to making mistakes. I write a lot, and do get fatigued on occasion and slip up. Sue me. Go ahead, I dare you. But make no mistake: I know when to use there, when to use their, and even when to use they’re. The logic is really simple, and I beseech you to embrace it. When you are referring to a location or direction, it is there. When speaking of a possessive, it is their/theirs. They’re is a contraction of they and are. Why am I having this conversation? Man up and figure it out for yourself. Google these three words, and I trust you will get many hits . . . hang on, I’ll check myself . . . holy crap, I got 3,770,000,000 hits! Apparently, I am not the only one in the English-speaking world who is passionate about this. I guess that about covers it, then.

And the winner is . . .

Sarah Palin gets the award for being the most educated dumb person. Apparently, she pulled the same irregardless logic and combined “refute” with “repudiate”. We all know what she meant, but it is more fun to watch her stick her right wing into her mouth and suck on it. Hard. She gave us the fodder and cooked it up for us, so I guess there is nothing else that could be said. I’ll give her credit, she is thorough.

Riddle me this: If she became pregnant again, and the doctor told her without fail, i.e., she would not be able to refute, repudiate, or even refudiate it, she would give birth to a baby with a parasitic conjoined twin, would she go through with the pregnancy? Just curious.

Factoids and other questions that should not be begged.

English is a complex and fascinating language. While not the most difficult to write and speak fluently, it certainly has more than its share of speed bumps. There are plenty of references to trace back origins of words and phrases; the butchering of said words and phrases isn’t quite so clear cut. There are some that leave me scratching my head at best. At worst, I am brought to the brink of gnashing my teeth as I attempt silence or a diplomatic correction. Here are several examples of ignorance and apathy in colloquialisms.

Avoid the factoid

I suppose I can sympathize with this one. It sounds like it might be a small fact. However, that was not the intent of this word. The suffix -oid means something that may contain aspects of the original, but not completely, e.g. humanoid is not quite human. Therefore, a factoid is an unsubstantiated claim. Somehow, someway, some boob took a broom and with one bold stroke, made it mean something else. It is generally an innocuous incorrect usage, but say it in front of ones in the know then, Look out! If Timmy falls down the well and you announce it as a factoid, don’t be surprised if his rescue team challenges you. Lassie would probably be barking a fact, but it won’t matter. Timmy will die if you do not get your facts and factoids straight. 

Itchy and Scratchy 

I show no mercy with this one. An itch occurs and is treated with a scratch, perhaps an ointment. A scratch has the privilege of being a thing, an action, and possibly a consequence of that action. An itch is just an itch. It is a noun, not a verb. This verbal goof should have been left at the steps before entering middle school. Don’t vex me with such a disingenuous display of childhood innocence. You should know better.

Tinfoiled again

It’s aluminum foil. Reynolds says so. Let’s apply a premise of economics to this: the high demand for this product requires a more frugal way to supply it. Tin has not been used for this household wonder since World War II—so says Wikipedia. I don’t care that the Brits still use the name. Let’s call a spade a spade, and a multi-functional wrap aluminum foil.

They say what?

My tolerance of this depends on my mood and familiarity of the present company. “They say . . . “. Who might “they” be? Experts? Plumbers? Your neighbors? Zoo animals? Ghosts? Aliens? I don’t get it. How can anyone put faith in a claim from some unknown, disembodied entity? I certainly can’t. Prove it. Give me names; show me witnesses, and then maybe we will discuss that factoid. 

Basically basic

In an effort to conserve space, I’ll give you a two-for-one here. I had an instructor e-mail me that he would not make the class, as he was very sick. “Basically, I was throwing up all night.” I don’t know, that doesn’t sound too basic to me. It sounds like a night of Hell spewing a complex soup into the porcelain commode. Why do people feel compelled to preface or top off a sentence with that word? It is so overused that it lost its glimmer long ago. The word has been rendered meaningless by its common use as a space-filler to give the impression that the person knows whereof he or she speaks. Personally, I’d take “um” over “basically” any day.

As for the second bird, refer to the first sentence of this post. Our language is vast with myriad synonyms, giving us an almost daunting menu of words for seemingly endless combinations and ways to communicate. Please don’t be redundant, it makes me peevish. I have read at least three authors’ works where someone’s eyes were described as “blue, blue”. Oh, I was assuming the character’s eyes were grayish until you doubled up on that adjective. Thanks for clearing that up for me. How about “intensely blue” or “cobalt blue”? Please, anything but “blue, blue”. While we’re at it, you may have gone to your drawing class to draw a drawing with drawing pencils, but I’d much prefer that you go to your art class and focus on your pencil drawing so that you don’t annoy me with your redundancy. Just as an example. 

Know what? 

No, I don’t know. And quit asking me. Just finish talking so I can get some peace.

Europeans and Asians have a point

If you ever get indignant when cultures residing in other parts of the globe look down on us as commoners, aim the mirror on our society. Notice its maddening habit of taking their words and phrases and westernizing them in a misguided attempt to be hip and trendy. 

Somehow, someway, someone (probably the same boob who crucified factoid) noticed the similarity in Hara-kiri, the Japanese suicide ritual, and Harry Caray, the sports announcer. Outside of that, I can’t connect the dots with this one. But wouldn’t it be cute to substitute the latter for the former, just for poops and snickers? I assure you, no, it would not. In fact, what sounded initially like a slip of the tongue from lack of sleep now comes across as an overreaching effort to be funny. Yes, let’s make light of the honor- killing of thousands of Japanese soldiers over the centuries by referring to it as a geriatric, dough-faced, and mumble-assed media personality. He is dead, and so should the bastardized namesake be, as well.  

The morphing of laissez-faire into lazy fare was unexpectedly poetic, albeit still stupid. The French term’s application is mainly in the political, and literally means to “let it be”. Ergo, you can let people change that one up to mean absolutely nothing except to confirm that they are too lazy to pronounce it correctly, much less spell it. Why is being stupid considered cool? Lazy fare is indeed everywhere.

It isn’t ironic

Alanis, you ignorant slut. How dare you encourage the improper usage of the word irony? Having 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife is annoying. I hurt for you in that regard. But don’t call it irony. The figurative is different from the literal. It can be loosely defined as sarcasm, even. You made millions of dollars on a mediocre song with lyrics that fly in the face of logical thought. Awesome!

Now that’s irony.

Get on your knees and raise a question

I left the best for last, i.e., the one that causes me the most unrest. Does anyone know what “begs the question” really means? Apparently not, because I hear it several times a week, and it never ceases to annoy the crap out of me. Anyone who knows me well, knows that this really sets my teeth on edge.  

If an actual question is being introduced, the question is raised. Raised, not begged. Okay okay, I’ll give a little. I understand how it seems if a question is just screaming to be asked, it must be begging, as well. I was in that place many years ago, but then I saw the light. When something begs the question, it is not followed by a specific question.

        Begs the question: a conclusion based on an assumption.

Sarah Palin is a good Christian, therefore God will love me if I vote for her in 2012. A cold day in Hell aside, this is an example of a statement that begs the question. Meaning, it is a specious declaration open to be challenged. The conclusion: God will love me if I vote for Palin in 2012, is based on the assumption: she is a good Christian. Prove it. What makes her a good Christian? Even if she is, how does that mean that God will love me for supporting her? If Timmy fell down an Alaskan well, my guess is that Palin would not be part of that skeptical search party. She’d be in a helicopter, hunting down Lassie.

Okay, that might have begged the question.