Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Drunk Bird In A Pocket, Or, The Story Of Mr. Do-Its

As I sit in my office, happily snacking on my home-made banana nut bread, sipping my decaf tea, with my Lilly Girl in my lap (I think this is the point where my sister would tell me to go do some yoga; little does she know...), I am both humbled and gobsmacked.
You may have noticed that this portion of the Webbyverse has been relatively quiet of late.
That's 'cause I've been busy.
See, a seven week composition class is mostly to blame. An essay that was only supposed to be 1000 or more words ended up being 3370 words (I always say that, once you get me talking, I don't shut up), not to mention something called Peer Review. Being homeschooled from second grade through high school, I'm more comfortable working alone -- and I really, really like it that way -- but you don't get a choice about that kind of thing. Never one to just get my feet wet, I took a flying leap off the ruddy high dive in this class.
I guess that attitude paid off.
"BUT HOW?" I hear the faceless "Dear Reader" in my head scream with enthusiasm rivaled only by the original Match Game studio audience.

Well, you see, I had a very troublesome Peer Reviewee; so troublesome, in fact, that I was given both his first and second draft to review. Of the seven different essays I saw, this man needed the most help (though they were all, quite tragically, in need of some TLC). With his entire essay based on the unfairness of child support, the overall tone of the essay (not just the subject itself) sounded like an episode of Divorce Court...

I'm not kidding, I referred to the essay as "Mr. Do-Its" work during the entire semester.

I helped the guy out as best I could; by the second go around, I was resolving myself to some of the harsher realities of what I had to tell him (names have been changed to protect the ignorant, or something):

7. Does this paper ever use language that is too colloquial or too informal? (For instance, does it use slang? Does it "sound" conversational? Does it use first and second person?) Give examples. Conversely, give examples of strong writing that enhances the academic register of the essay. And when I say examples, I actually want you to provide examples from the paper itself to illustrate your points.

I am going to be absolutely frank with you, Mr. Do-Its. I reviewed your draft during the first Peer Review, and I gave you a lot of tips and instructions to work with. After reading the second draft, I can see that you took my advice to heart, and tried to put the suggestions I gave you to work. There are more statistics, a Works Cited page, and parenthetical citation, which is a marked improvement. Unfortunately, it still is not enough. This essay will make up the majority of your grade in this class; this paper, exactly as it is presented to me, will most likely not get you a very good grade. The grammar is questionable, the problem and solution sections are weak, and the tone is not acceptable for an academic essay. Please, understand that I am not being harsh, but I am instead trying to help you by being straightforward. The topic you have chosen presents many opportunities to prove your point, but this draft does not showcase that fact. You have until Friday, July 22 to make this draft work; it can be done, but will take every bit of time you have. Since some of the pieces of advice I gave you on the last Peer Review are still relevant to the second draft, I shall restate them. Please, use them as a reference to guide you to the final draft. I truly hope you will succeed, and that this review does not discourage you in any way. If anything, my most sincere hope is that it will encourage you to do the best you possibly can. I wish you the best of luck.

This quote from the essay, "Then the courts can still hit the fathers where it hurts by putting them in jail for contempt of court," then going on to say, "That is violating civil rights," is misrepresenting information.
If a citizen is disobeying a court ruling, it is not a violation of civil rights for the courts to take away privileges such as driving, or to imprison the citizen. That citizen, to put it simply, is breaking the law by disregarding a court ruling. When a citizen breaks the law, they are punished. Were our parents violating our civil rights by punishing us as children? The same logic applies to upholding court orders.

There are a lot of grammatical problems stemming from the casual manner this draft is written in. Before the final draft is submitted, I urge you to go back to the Wadsworth handbook, and review Part 4, "Understanding Grammar," and Part 5, "Understanding Punctuation" (this was an assigned reading earlier in the course). If need be, also reference Part 8; though you may not be an ESL student, you will benefit from that section of the handbook. Some things to make special note of for your second draft are: plurals; possessives; all meanings of each variation of their/they're/there, is/are, and do/does (consult a dictionary if necessary; if you do not own a dictionary, I would suggest; proper placement of commas and question marks.
Also, be sure to go back over your draft and look for missing words, such as "an", "the", etc.
Again, keep the Wadsworth handbook, a dictionary, and a thesaurus within reach during the writing process. Perhaps imagine you are writing an article for a newspaper, not an essay; you can refine the draft to fit an essay later.

Considering the conversational tone of this draft, I am unable to identify any examples that enhance academic register of the subject matter.

I was unsure how this might go over, as I had said pretty much the same things with a sugar coating regarding his first draft. That, and I had tried just as hard with the other six reviews (even going so far as to use my infamous authors-and-icebergs analogy on some poor girl). I submitted the review just as you read it and thought nothing more of it, except for the fact that my Peer Reviews, after grading, had an additional twenty points added to them for no reason (my Mama always told me not to look a gift horse in the mouth, or some bollocks like that).
Fast forward to this morning.
I already knew that my essay received a 99.5% grade (which is a really good thing, since my grade kind of hinged on that essay), but the letter I received from my professor truly caught me by surprise (names have been changed, and all that rubbish):

Subject: Thanks

I read your reviews again for Mr. Do-Its, and I must say they are perhaps the best reviews that any student in one of my classes has ever provided for another student. Quite frankly, your reviews surpass what most composition instructors would provide. Both are impressive.
So thank you for your commitment to the peer review process.
P.S. By the way, may I use your proposal paper in future classes?

Well, this explains the twenty extra points on my Peer Reviews.
Oh, yeah, and there's that whole "may I use your proposal paper in future classes?" question.
As a hobby-writer that never shares her work (and obsesses over simple things like blogs), I was both floored and flattered that someone would ever want to use my words to help teach others. My words!
As soon as I had the chance, I sent this reply to the professor's request:

I would consider it a great privilege to have my essay incorporated into your curriculum, and hope that my work will be of help to your future students.
I am also pleased to receive such positive feedback regarding the Peer Review process, as I had never participated in one before. My sincere hope is that Mr. Do-Its took my advice to heart, and that he made a decent grade for his assignment.
I look forward to taking your Freshman Composition II class next summer, and wish you luck for the upcoming semester.
Archibald Heatherington Nastyface

I have to admit, I'd love to know how he plans on using my material; I also feel sorry for the future students that might have to read twelve pages on animal smuggling.
Reginald Kitty is not amused.

You would think that writing the essay was the hard part, but it really was the Peer Review. I'm kind of like the Grammar Gestapo, and make pointing out such errors in everyday situations a game (you would be surprised how many you spot, if you're looking hard enough).

If there are too many issues, though, I kind of go a bit mental.
That being said, I devised something I called the Sanity Break. When I just couldn't stand to be surrounded by so many inaccuracies, I would unwrap a mini Hershey bar, and head to YouTube until the chocolate was gone.
My Sanity Breaks looked a lot like this (feel free to unwrap some chocolate and enjoy)...

Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to take an extended Sanity Break; I'll need more banana nut bread!
Yes, this is my home-made banana nut bread.
No, you may not have some.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Blog Casserole: The Hilarious, The Weird, And The Tiny

It's time for another Blog Casserole, folks!
I've done Blog Casserole a couple of times in the past; it's really just random things that are going around in my brainbox, yet aren't connected in any way.
It's like a good shepherd's pie: made up of the left-overs, and never the same twice (except the mashed potatoes. I am extremely picky about mashed potatoes, stemming from an incident involving tonsil removal and antibiotics. That, and I just really love mashed potatoes)!
Before we really go anywhere with this, I need to point out a really music nerdy date.
Today, July 6th, marks the fifty-fourth anniversary of the Woolton Garden Fete where The Quarrymen played.
Does this mean nothing to you?
Then you don't know the story!
Little Johnny Lennon and his skiffle group banged about on an outdoor stage...
...where a chubbly little lad called Paul was just so happened to be.
It also happens that the little Paul lad played a killer rendition of Twenty Flight Rock, and the basis for The Beatles was born.
My favorite part of the story has always been the actual Quarrymen performance. John, in his fashion, didn't have any idea of what words to sing; he could play it, but didn't know the words (why do you think Yoko was usually on stage with him after they were married? She had the lyrics!). So, he would just make words up. According to Paul, the Lennon impromptu version of the Del-Vikings hit Come Go With Me was "come go with me to the penitentiary". I always think of that when I hear the song.


We now take you back to your regularly scheduled blog post.

The Hilarious
I have to admit, I kind of like that advertisements key into what you look for. It's a pretty genius idea, and, if you're like me, you get really neat stuff. I'm always getting ads for Las Vegas, ModCloth, Beatles related stuff, even the SarahPAC (they call it the TEA Party, I call it New Federalism. Whatever).
That's why this one was really weird.
There I was, just minding my own business, when an advertisement similar to this one appeared on my screen...
I laughed then, and I'm laughin' now. I'm not sure if it's the fact that the lass in the photo (you know, the one on the right) is cougerin' it up, or that this is probably taped on some teeny bopper's wall.

Naturally, I went to investigate, and was met with an entire website full of the metaphorical stench of Kidz Bop and grape jelly (hey, don't knock grape jelly, I had some for lunch today; technically they were grape preserves, but whatever).
I giggled at the Fan Exclusive, which... well, here's what it has to say:

Are you Justin's number one fan? Take the SOMEDAY experience one step further with the Fan Exclusive Eau de Parfum. The iconic bottle comes with a limited-edition, removable, jeweled charm from Justin–so you can bring the experience with you wherever you go.

Before we go any further, don't you think it's a bit odd to think that a bottle full of Justin Bieber perfume could be classified as "iconic"?
You want iconic?
I'll give you iconic, asshat.
At our house, we call it The Hoff. In person, it's just a lot of screaming. Really, I've seen this bass get bigger applause than the song it just played. And yes, I realize that the bass pictured isn't actually THE Hofner (if you didn't see it, this one is a righty, and Paulie is a lefty), it got my point across.

The charm says "I Love You", supposedly in Bieber's own script. Oh, how I laughed!
Come to find out that the proceeds go to charity.
Does that mean I'm not still going to laugh about it?
Hell no!

What surprised me most, though, was how ruddy much the stuff costs! Thirty-five bucks for the cheapest bottle of perfume? For a nine year old?
"Hang on a minute, you hypocritical looser," I thought to myself, "you were wearing perfume to kindergarten!"
Oh, yeah, there was that.
I am feeling unnecessarily old; I couldn't find the bottle I remembered on Google Images, so I had to dig through my old stuff to find it for the photograph. Then, I couldn't get the focus right, so I had to put my glasses on. It's official, I'm a proverbial senior citizen.

"That was different!" I answered myself, "You were trying to garner attention from *insert male name here, which has been excluded for anonymity purposes*."
"Well, why wouldn't it work for some other little girls, then?"
"Mums don't like to spend thirty-five bucks during a recession. Besides, that perfume did get you attention, just from the wrong little boy. How easily we forget!"

I guess the moral of the story is to be careful about your perfume choices. And that I'm ancient, don't forget that one!
I kid you not, I started looking up information for this portion of the post, and my computer isn't working properly now. I. Kid. You. Not.

The Weird
We can't be the only household to get the Collections Etc. catalog. Obviously not. I mean, I don't know what their average buyer is looking for, but I would bet it isn't either of these two strange offerings.

They call this gem the "Bound Gnome Lawn Sculpture Carried By Squirrels". How original.
Um, can I ask the really obvious question?
What the hell would squirrels want with a garden gnome?
Are they going to carry him off to be their personal slave? "Hey, Mr. Gnome-Guy, do the ironing!" "Hey, Gnome-Man-Man, isn't it about time you cleaned the windows?"
Perhaps it's something more sinister. It sounds like Over The Hedge meets the Saw films. Seriously. What is this?

Here's another for ya ('cause really, none of us has anything better to do that this), the aptly titled "Set of 3 Duck Family". These people come up with the best names.
Is it just me, or are these just rocks with twisted metal inserted in the right places? I mean, I'm all for art and everything (and, let's be honest, I don't understand a lot of art), but this is surely considered extremely abstract. Extremely.
Hell, the longer you look, the more these start to resemble potatoes.
Am I alone on this one?
Reginald Kitty is not amused.

The Tiny
I have a bone to pick with Bettie Page Clothes.
I know, I know. We've been good friends in the past. I've bought a few frocks from them, and love each of them. Hell, if I could find some of their older designs, I'd get them. They give you every benefit of real vintage, without worrying about a sixty year old dress coming undone as you wear it (when I wear real vintage, that is always a concern. That, or that I'll spill something on it, but my clumsiness is neither here nor there). Knowing we'd be going to Vegas for Paulie, I went online and did some preliminary research. I mean, if I'm going to Vegas, I'm going to Bettie Page; if I'm going to Bettie Page, odds are really high that I'm coming back with a dress.
Well, that used to be the case, anyway.
Picture the scene: we're walking around in the Planet Hollywood, in the area where it still looks like the old Aladdin. In the distance, the familiar logo draws me in to see what little gems I can find. I had my eye on something in particular, but you never know what's going to be on a sale rack. After perusing, I find what I'm looking for; a replica of an actual Elvgren pin-up dress. Not only was it my beloved circle cut, but with it's red and white candy stripe, buttons down the front, and wide collar, I was sold before I had seen it in person. I was already looking for shoes for this dress (Ballet flats? Mary Jane heels? Special vintage look? So many decisions).
I picked out an extra small, and meandered back to the fitting rooms.
Imagine my surprise when I'd gotten into the damn thing, and it fit me like a feed sack. I mean, we all have about a five pound range to play around with, but I am by no means at the low end of mine.
Filled with confusion, I double checked to make sure I got the right size. I even tried on another one, just to make sure it wasn't that particular dress. I even went to a different Bettie Page, for heaven's sake. It was at the second one that they told me they had changed their sizing.
Here's the thing.
In case you never knew, I'm an incredibly tiny individual. Like, I stopped growing at about age fourteen (and I was a tiny fourteen year old to boot). If you look at photographs of our first trip to Vegas in 2006, and compared them to the ones taken just two weeks ago, the only difference you would see is the length of my hair. Really.
Well, all 5' 2", 100 pounds of me was swallowed up by each dress I tried on.
Isn't it bad enough that I have to shop in the kid sections? Or that I have to have everything tailored? Bettie Page was the one place I could actually get things to fit me. And I can't be the only one, 'cause the old extra smalls used to sell like hotcakes. I often couldn't get a dress I wanted because they simply didn't have the size. Where are the other small, vintage-loving weirdos going to go?
The way I see it, if I have to get Bettie Page dresses hemmed up, I would rather broaden my selection by getting real vintage; any size, color, make, or model.
For example, I'd take any of these...

I'm a vintage size eight, but if we're going to be altering anyway...

I tried to think of a song that incorporated each element of the post, but "tiny" kept throwing me off. Take "hilarious" and "weird", though.

I'm not kidding, my computer still isn't working.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

America, You Don't Look A Day Over 223 ('Cause You Technically Aren't)

So, yesterday was the 4th of July. Here in the good ol' USA, we were celebrating our independence. May I just say, the way we celebrate our detachment from the mother country has always confused me. The Constitutional Convention wasn't until 1787, and the Constitution itself wasn't ratified (therefore, legal) until June 21, 1788.
Why do we make a big deal about the day the Declaration was signed? There was so much more that had to happen between 1776 and 1787 -- you know, like the Revolutionary War -- so that we could have an extra day off every year to grill animal flesh and set our backyards on fire (have I ever told you about the time we set our backyard on fire with a sparkler? Well, another time, perhaps).
Couldn't we just move the damn date up? Big friggin' whoopdy-do, two weeks to get the dates right. THAT'S America, kids.
I can't say that we don't all buy into the nostalgia factor of July 4th, though. We can't help it, we're sappy Americans.
Even at our house, we did the whole bar-be-que thing.

I opted for the kill-free substitute...
Remember, grilling without meat is fun for you and the cows!

And I'm sure that, if there wasn't a massive burn ban in effect in our neck of the woods, we would have watched some fireworks. As it was, there was a television special live from New York City that we watched (God, that sounded pathetic).
Naturally, I was more interested in how the NYPD disposed of 5000 pounds of confiscated fireworks.

So what if we didn't get fireworks yesterday? We had things much prettier than fireworks, like a beautiful golden sunset...


and the smallest wildflowers...

So, whereas yesterday was touted as America's 235th birthday, it was really just an ordinary Monday; that is, except that there was no Bachelorette!
Why do you do this to us, Chris Harrison?
Look at you, with your Baskin Robins ice cream. No consideration for those of us that wait for Monday like Christmas.

Is It A Subscription Box, Or Something More Sinister? (It's A Subscription Box. Maybe.)