Archive for March, 2011

Spell Check Versus WE Check

There is no doubt that spell check is an awesome feature. It helps proofreading go miles faster, right? Unfortunately it, like us, is not perfect. Like myself, it does not catch homonyms (their, there, they’re). Oh sure, sometimes the grammar check will tag those, but not every time. It’s fabulous for catching my favorite word (weird) but sometimes I just type odd and move on because I don’t like seeing all that red on my documents. And really, who does?

The problem is, if a word is spelled correctly chances are the program won’t care if your “too” friends went “two”  the market “to” many times.  So, what’s the answer? After spell check, WE check.

I know we’re all in a hurry. More gadgets to manage our time, and yet we’ve become busier instead of the other way around. So delegate! Have someone you trust eyeball your manuscript/blog/whatever for problems if you don’t have the time.

Our words represent us. If we put something out there that looks hastily put together, we look lazy, absent-minded, or (worst of all) incompetent. Nobody wants that, right?

Of course, I started thinking about this topic when scanning this blog and finding all sorts of little flubs peppered throughout. Mea culpa maxima! So, learn from my mistakes, and let’s all prove that we’re a hard-working, focused, capable slice of humanity.

What words do you always stumble on? What homonyms make you want to tear out your hair? Most importantly, where have you seen these sorts of mistakes on the web and what did it make you think about the person who wrote it?

This PSA brought to you by the letters i, o, u, and the number 42!

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Immortal – John Taylor

For a few years, John Taylor struck out on his own, got away from Duran Duran. I’m not going to sit here and tell you he was the most brilliant solo artist, because he wasn’t. He was… okay on his own. Mostly it’s the cauldron of creativity fired by his Duran band mates that makes him the Almighty Bass God. He needs that conflict to push him to greatness, as do they all. Still, there are a few bright gems that he cut, and Immortal from his Techno For Two album is one of them.

There’s got to be a reason to this rhyme
There’s got to be a message here this time
You’re not one of us, but I’m one of them
You know it’s not that easy
It’s so much harder to be real

Now I’m no immortal, but I think like a king
You’ve got to be queen just to satisfy me
A social disorder

There’s gonna be moments here living with me
I know it’s not easy to satisfy me
I’m no immortal
But I think like a king

I’m not gonna let go of my prize
I wanna keep the symmetry alive
There’s so many changes
One day to the next
Sometimes I’m disappearing
But you know where to find me
Under the gun

Now I’m no immortal, but I think like a king
You’ve got to be queen just to ratify me
A social disorder

A strange situation, apparently
It takes more than order to civilize me
I’m no immortal, but I think like a king

Give me everything
I’ll not settle for less
That’s my ceiling
Method to this rhyme

No I’m no immortal, but I think like a king
You’ve got to be queen just to satisfy me
A social disorder
But I sting like a bee

I’d like to say the lyrics speak for themselves and be done, but there’s so much to them, so many things to be gleaned. He’s known in some circles (okay, Duranie knitting circles, but still) for telling on himself. Sometimes it’s inadvertent, but sometimes he very clearly goes out of his way to share, to connect with his listeners.

With that in mind, these lyrics are astonishing and heartbreaking in their honesty. Before I wax on too much more about what *I* see in these lyrics, I want to know what *you* think, without my opinion biasing you. What sort of man wrote these lyrics? What was he feeling? What was he struggling with (or, conversely, conquering)?

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Anticipation (or, Why Not To Order Online)

I’m going bonkers. Usually ordering stuff online isn’t a big deal. It’s so easy and user-friendly over at Amazon.com that I have a great time. Well, when waiting on a new release, it’s horrible.

I didn’t have much of a choice, though. If I wanted the new Duran Duran album All You Need Is Now, I had to use my coupon and the free super-saver shipping. Believe me, if I’d had the cash, I would have been at Best Buy when the store opened to get my hot little hands on a copy.

But these are hard times.

We’re all tightening our belts and making do as we can. So when I found I’d accrued enough points from research.fm surveys to pick up the album for free, I jumped at the chance. Otherwise, I would have had to wait who knows how long until I could buy it. When you think about it, I really lucked out.

I’m still going bonkers, though. All the other Duranies have their copies and are happily listening to and chatting about it.

What a sad puppy?

Image by Cameron Bennett via Flickr

My copy will come some time next week. We will review it. There will be much rejoicing.

 Until then, there will be frustrated, giddy waiting. Hoping the album will be better than the iTunes download, breathlessly anticipating the liner notes and artwork, I will sit on my hands and try not to whine too much.

What about you guys? What have you had to wait for that made you jump every time the postman went by? Have you ever waited outside a store for it to open on new release day? Please, please tell me now, is there something I should know?

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Old 97s – Doreen – guest blog by Nigel Blackwell

I was stunned and inspired by the way a new friend of mine was able to apply his writer’s sensibility to the dissection of song lyrics. So please welcome our guest blogger, Mr. Nigel Blackwell!

If it can ever be said that I grew up, I did it listening to the Beatles, the Sex Pistols, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Squeeze and everything in between. I ended up with a mixture of musical tastes. There are some that would say “taste” isn’t the first word that comes to mind looking my music collection. At least they did say that until I sent the boys round (governor).

The Old 97s were an instant hit with me. Pounding melodies, a vocal line that shouts “I don’t do melodies,” and no %$*#@! Disney channel vocal effects.

What’s that you say? Disney doesn’t use a million dollars of equipment and software on anyone they select for stardom? Yeah, right. In which case I bet you can’t wait for Mitchel Musso’s “live” tour. I’m on tenterhooks. (what’s sad is that Disney used to care about talent -ed)

I digress, back to the Old 97s., specifically Doreen, from Hitchhike to Rhome.

Don’t know it? Well, iTunes has the first minute to give you the idea (and maybe buy a copy).

http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/doreen/id6557602?i=6557584

Pounding melodies – check.

Banjo front and center – check.

And then there’s the vocal line. Hot damn (as they might say). Alt country. No whining about “ma dogs done gone left me” here. There’s a story, and like the best stories it’s shown, not told.

To start with there are the cheesy rhymes.

When I first met Doreen
She was barely seventeen.

And

Well you can roll your eyes and nod
But I swear that I saw God,

Rhett Millar’s delivery is so no-nonsense that it all just works.

And the lyrics show, not tell.

In the first four verses we’re shown how he falls in love with her. No blatant “I’m in love” lines here (even though Sir Paul’s made a fortune through that route).

When I first met Doreen
She was barely seventeen.
She was drinking whiskey sours in the bar.

The way she tossed ’em back
I would’ve had a heart attack.
But as it is I let her drive my car.

We galloped through the boroughs
Like a pair of horny thoroughbreds,
Until I said, “Stop the car, Doreen.”

Well you can roll your eyes and nod
But I swear that I saw God,
In the moonlight on a side street in the wreckage we call Queens.

Brilliant. Not only do they show us he’s in love, they keep the car theme going with “side street” and “wreckage.”

Then we hit the chorus. The awful dream. The dark threat of new lovers (esp the ones started with Whiskey sours. So I’m told, anyway).

Doreen, Doreen, Last night I had an awful dream.
You were laying in the arms of a man I’d never seen.
Come clean Doreen. Come clean Doreen.

So we’re shown he’s worried about her being faithful and (hot damn) we’re shown how he’s separated from her and has to admit his feelings to the band.

Well I’m pulling into Cleveland
In a seven-seater tour van.
There’s eight of us, so I’m sleeping on the floor.

The guy that plays the banjo
Keeps on handing me the Old Crow,
Which multiplies my sorrow, I can’t take it anymore.

Now I’m begging and I’m pleading,
“Well pull over guys, I’m bleeding.
There’s a Fina off the highway with a phone.”

Keeping the threads going, we’re still traveling and the whiskey hasn’t been forgotten. The best lines are surely, “so I’m sleeping on the floor,” “I can’t take it anymore,” and best if all, “There’s a Fina off the highway with a phone.” Everyone knows what he’s taking about, but the sound of the word “Fina” is such a great contrast between the “ing”s and “o”s of the previous verses.

Finally we’re shown that she’s dumped him. The inevitable conclusion. His dread manifest.

I’m calling you Doreen,

But it rings and rings and rings.

Where is it that you are, if you aren’t in our bed at home.

Even the last line is nothing ordinary. It’s a great reversal of the normal word order to put “home” as the last word, the final take-away. They wanted you to understand, if you hadn’t got the picture by then, the guy’s dream of home was gone.

Show, show, show. No telling. Brilliant.

Course, I can hear lots of you saying serves himself right, moral of the story – don’t pick up chicks under alcohol. But really guys, are you so pure you can throw that stone? Have a heart.

Better still, put that stone down and spill the beans. Do whiskey sours ring bells in your past? Margueritas in Austin? Or was it Poire Williams in the Swiss Alps (if you’re rich)? Don’t worry. Your secrets will be safe with us.

And we’ll be sooooo sympathetic. Really…

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The Surprise Next Door

co-written by Laura Christian

 When I was growing up, there were a lot of Saturday morning shows my sisters and I watched through the years. Not counting the cartoons, there was Saved by the Bell, California Dreams, and my all-time favorite: The Guys Next Door (GND).

Sadly, GND lasted for only one season in the fall of 1990. I was sixteen. Now, this show was on the order of The Monkees, with both skits and music videos. I’ve heard it described as “Saturday Night Live” for kids. NBC had pulled together a group of five “Guys” to meet every teen’s dream: Patrick J. Dancy, Eddie Garcia, Bobby Leslie, Damon Sharpe, and Chris Wolf.

 At the time, I had two favorites, Chris and Damon. Chris was the “bad boy” (although how bad could you be on Saturday morning TV?), and Damon was the… fashionable one? Actually, I think I liked him because he was the one true triple threat. 

 Sure, Eddie was the dancer, Patrick was the actor, Bobby was the “funny” one (read: stoner, though I didn’t know it at the time), and they all sang. Heck, they even recorded an album. But Damon could do it all. WELL. He made me laugh, he danced, and he sang like this made for TV band was his big break.

My favorite of their songs was and still is their comedic spoof, “Bad Hair Day.” It was sung by, you guessed it, Damon Sharpe. Yes, it’s a silly song. It’s also the most fun song I’ve heard to date and has a special place in the soundtrack of my life. Every time I hear it, I am filled with joy and must sing along. And he’s the reason I’m writing this post, to introduce you to who I believe is a truly talented, amazing artist.

 

Now, thanks to Laura, who is also a GND fan, I found out that Mr. Sharpe has kept himself quite busy since 1991. His career has been pretty impressive actually. He’s worked with J-Lo, Anastacia, Sharon Stone as both producer and songwriter, and written award-winning songs for the movie musical Chicago. Bless his heart, he even produced his own CD in ’99 which was surprisingly difficult to get a copy of. Of course, Laura has 2 copies. He’s worked with more artists than I have space to list.

The last time she was in town, Laura and I YouTube searched Damon and found a recently released song called “Break My Bank” and fell in love with him all over again. One thing you pick up on following his career – Damon believes in himself, and his music reflects that conviction and passion. Watching all of the little clips available and reading about him, it’s impossible to imagine him doing anything else with his life and enjoying it. He’s just so happy in music, and you can’t help but feel that when you listen to him.

 

 

Unfortunately, he hasn’t released an album recently. Believe you me, we looked. There are songs here and there, and he’s on the Twitter (@damonsharpe), so of course we follow to see on what projects he might be working. But mostly, Damon has been busy producing other artists and sharing his passion for music with them.

As fans of his particular artistry, we want an album. Possibly a tour. Maybe see him on Ellen or Jimmy Fallon or another show. His cameo in the first season of Buffy, short though it was, is still one of my go to clips for a little smile. I love that I can tie him to one of my other loves.

My friend Kristen, author and social media expert, does something called the Mash-up of Awesomeness. Here, today for my amusement and your hopeful enjoyment, we’re going to do a Mash-up of Damon-ness.

Damon Sharpe on:

 Wikipedia

Myspace

IMDB

Facebook (fan page)

and a couple more videos for your enjoyment:

What’s Good Witcha?

 

Alter Ego (Damon, feat. Rob Allen & Andre Merritt)

 

 

 

…and a little GND for all the vampire lovers out there (Patrick J. Dancy on lead)

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NCIS is eating my mother’s brain!

Main logo/inter-art for the television series ...

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It’s all my fault. I started watching NCIS because of Michael Weatherly, because I loved him as Logan in Dark Angel.

One day, my mom came in and asked me what I was watching. I never thought to worry. She likes CSI, she reads mystery, so this show would be right up her alley. I was excited to be sharing a fandom with her.

Now, she tells me that she’ll “Gibbs” me when I irritate her. For those of you wondering, it means to smack someone upside their head. It’s called “Gibbs-ing” because it is used often (and well) by the character Leroy Jethro Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon. On its own, that’s sort of cute, especially from a 67-year-old.

It’s even kinda cute when she talks about how cute Gibbs and DiNozzo (Weatherly’s character) are. We had a grand ole time when Robert Wagner first guest-starred as DiNozzo Sr. We haven’t been able to stop talking about how eerie the resemblance between Weatherly and Wagner is.

It’s just, I’ve sort of hit a wall. I like NCIS. In fact, I love it. I’m just over-saturated with it since mom found out that the USA network does daily marathons of it. Oh, it was fine for the first three or four months… but now, I almost don’t want to watch any of the new episodes!

I said almost, I’m not crazy… yet.

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Wordsmith Wednesday – The Muse

A representation from the 1500s of the Muses d...

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Writing, sharing words with others, is incredibly personal. It involves pouring out bits of your soul for others to look at and *gasp* judge. Some of the most volatile feelings we have center around what we write.

Hi, my name is Gigi, and I am a writer. My deepest relationships are with my muses.

What is a muse? It’s that voice (or voices) inside a writer’s head who holds the keys to our closet of inspiration. They are more than friend, more than family, they are the gatekeepers of our imagination, our soul. And yes, I did say muses plural earlier. I have several.

Each has a distinctive voice, or personality. Only one talks to me at a time, and they’re all male. I don’t know why.

One is a broody, emo brat whom I have locked in a dungeon. All my teenage angst poetry that will never see the light of day are his fault.

Another is full of hope and sunlight and joy. He lives in the garden, wanting me to join him, get our hands dirty together as we plant seeds for the future. He also likes lots and lots of sex. I tried denying him once and looked down to find I’d written the torrid scene he demanded anyway.

Our muses know what we need to say. They are there to help us get it done, and we ignore them at our own risk. We have to trust ourselves when we write, and that means trusting our muse.

Admittedly, sometimes they want us to write something uncomfortable for others to read or even hear about. That’s perfectly fine. Not everyone has to like what we write.

Unfortunately, most don’t stop at not reading, especially if they care about us. They try to tell us not to write whatever it is they find offensive. While well-meaning, thinking to help us rise above our “filthy” impulses, they cut into our hearts. Instead of building us up because we’re “better than that,” they are, in fact, tearing us down.

What then, do we do?

We listen to our muse. We are writers. We tell the story our soul needs to share, and trust in ourself.

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Music Monday – What We REALLY Like

When meeting someone new, one of the first questions we ask is what their favorite music is. How many times have we been answered that they “like everything”? Well, guess what? This is a lie.

Probing unearths a deep-seated hatred of either a genre or a particular artist. Which is fine, to each his/her own, right? So, why say you like everything? As someone who has done it in the past… What? Me? Unperfect Flawed? Absolutely! Where was I? Oh yeah, reasons why we say we like everything.

Well, the biggest reason I used to do it was because I wanted people to think I was cool. If we say we like everything, we’re sure to like what the other person likes, right? How cool is that? Of course, I’d get outed the first time they played death metal or really hard-core rap. I just can’t take it. It’s fine for others, but I just get so violently angry when I listen to it that I get all depressed and… uncool. Of course they, in turn, would cringe when I played NSYNC or Lorrie Morgan. The point is, everybody has different tastes, and that is cool. That’s what makes us awesome, our uniqueness.

So, let’s all make a promise, okay? When someone asks us what our favorite music is, we tell the truth. I’ll go first. It must be pop for me, as my top five artists are Duran Duran, JC Chasez, Christina Aguilera, Elvis Presley, and Madonna. Although I do very much like many other artists in other genres.

So who floats your boat, musically speaking?

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Fangirl Friday – Fandom Midwife

Today is a very special day. We’re going to talk about a beautiful event: birthing someone into a fandom.

Coming into a new fandom is a lot like being born. Sometimes it’s fast, easy, and plop! We’re in a new world full of promise and hope. Sometimes, it’s excruciatingly slow, with long and painful labor, and we emerge into a new life kicking and screaming. I’ve had both happen to me, and everything in between. The best experience though, is being someone else’s midwife. Guiding them into the world, watching their face light up, hearing them express their joy and wonder and opinions for the first time is… well, it can be addictive.

Currently, I am inducting my dear friend Kelly into the Buffyverse. She missed it the first time around, though her sister watched both the Buffy and Angel tv series, mostly because of her age. However, at nearly 21, she’s ripe for the humor and pathos woven into this particular universe of Joss Whedon‘s making. Plus, she prefers her vampires to NOT sparkle.

We’ve already finished seasons one and two, and are about to start season three. It’s so difficult when she says she loves this or that character to keep my mouth shut about their future on the show. Sometimes I’m very good about not spoiling her, but I do often slip up and blurt something out. For example? Every time Spike comes on screen, I give commentary. I can’t help it. I say things like, “did you see how, given a perfect opportunity, she failed to kill him?” Or, “Oh just wait! You’ll see!” And then I cackle. I smirk and cackle, causing her to glare at me.

My mom, who is watching most of it with us, doesn’t help. She’s always asking for spoilery knowledge when the suspense gets to be too much. “Is Jenny (Calendar) in the whole series? Oh, she’s gonna die, isn’t she?” I bit my tongue almost hard enough to bruise when she asked THAT one. It was such a relief when that question was answered on the show.

It’s amazing to see the conclusions Kelly draws. After “getting to know” Angel, she gave me the side-eye and asked if Stephanie Meyer based Edward off of him. I chortled with glee. I thought that too. I mean, they even have the same hair. Who knows if she did or not, but it’s fun to think about.

I can’t wait to get through the rest of the shows with her and, possibly, the comics. Then we can really get down to spinning theories! It’s absolutely fantastic to revisit familiar territory with new eyes pointing out things from a different perspective. She catches things that I never did, and I see and hear foreshadowing that I missed before, like Xander saying, “once more, with tension.”

What about you? Down what primrose path have you led a friend? Or what have they taught you? Are you still friends?

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Wordsmith Wednesday – All Aboard For Books

Open book

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There’s something magical about a good storyteller. They can suck us into the worlds they weave almost without our knowing. One minute we’re sitting at home, maybe with a cup of tea – Earl Grey, hot. The next we’re in Narnia, fighting the White Witch, or perhaps we’ve found ourselves on Platform Nine-and-three-quarters, waiting to board the Hogwarts Express. Some days, we even find ourselves on the streets of Ancient Rome, lending our ears to Mark Anthony.

How do authors like C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, and William Shakespeare capture our imaginations? How do they transport us into their worlds?

First, of course, we have to invite them in. We have to suspend our disbelief by opening the book.

Second, we need the stories to have good structure. My friend Kristen has a good series on that in her blog.

Third, there has to be conflict. Why else would we keep turning the pages if not to find out what happens next? This is also something Kristen explains very well.

Fourth, we need them to resonate with something inside us. This need is why some books that don’t adhere as tightly to the second and third options can take the world by storm.

Let’s take one of those excellent authors from earlier that fulfill all the needs, and look at why one of their stories resonates. How about J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series?

Okay, there’s lots of excitement, solid structure, enchanting scenery, and so on. That got us, especially the target demographic of eleven-year-olds, interested. What really hooked all of us was that it tapped into our fears of abandonment. We’ve all been there, right? From the moment we left the womb, there was a sense of separation, loss. We were no longer physically tethered to another soul.

Then there’s those of us who have lost a parent. We know that feeling of abandonment on a far deeper level.

How many of us would feel like that loss had meaning if it forged us into a hero? That it was not in vain if, rather than a car accident or bad health, it was because of a tangible monster we could train ourselves to defeat?

Rowling also tapped into our bone-deep need for hope… that our suffering could be the learning blocks for saving the world. We can be that lonely kid living under the stairs with spiders, learn to not only face our personal demons, but conquer them as well.

Most of all, she showed us that we are not alone. Our friends can be part of our family if we let them in. They add to our strength, make us more than we are.

Through all of that, she consistently advanced her writing. The older Harry got, the more complex and mature her storytelling became, making us feel as though we were aging with Harry or watching him grow. We felt the passage of time. No mean feat, if you ask me.

When the series came to a close, we felt we had completed a journey. Our hearts bore the scars and yet were left whole. Closing the book, we blinked owlishly as our mundane world came back into focus.

To what worlds have you travelled? What authors have led you to lands far from (or near to) home? How? Why?  And what effect did it have on you?

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Music Monday – The Soundtrack of Your Life

The first music I remember, really and truly know, is the Imperial March from Star Wars. You know, the music that plays as Darth Vader enters Princess Leia’s ship? That’s because that is actually my first memory. I was three years old, in the movie theater with my mom and dad, in 1977. When that music plays, it’s a visceral thing for me. My muscles tighten and my nerves hum with anticipation. Every cell of my body knows that music.

I have a similar reaction to Hungry Like the Wolf, the first Duran Duran song I ever heard. I was ten, and the twelve-year-old boy I had a crush on played drums on it with his friends for the school talent show in the spring of 1985. Instead of anticipation, this song fills me with the imperative to move, dance, and sing along. It fills me with life and light.

We all have those songs, don’t we? Songs that, by us listening to and loving them, have become a part of us. They make up the soundtracks of our lives.

Why are those songs so important? Music is good for the soul. It can be cathartic, helping to leach out pain or anger so that we can continue through our lives. It can help us express our joy, or even show our love to someone. It binds us together on a level that can’t be reached through speech alone.

What happens when people hold candle-lit vigils? That’s right, they begin to sing. It’s usually something simple that one person starts and gradually others join in. Why? Because it brings them closer, chases away the darkness.

I always joke that music is my drug of choice, but it’s true. Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries can get me emotionally high for hours, as can Walkin’ on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves. Eclectic, moi?

Skeptical? Go to a concert, a really good one where the band (or singer) engages the crowd. Ride the wave of hundreds or thousands of people singing and dancing and chanting along.

Let me know, what songs get you high? What’s the first music you remember? What gives you that visceral, gut-and-soul reaction? What is the soundtrack of your life?

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