Thursday, September 15, 2011

I See A Tiny Light

I haven't fallen off the face of the planet.
I'm just in limbo...
Waiting to hear back about the jobs that I interviewed for during a lovely weekend in Philadelphia. Waiting to make plans to move back to the City of Brotherly Love. Waiting to make plans to see the Rembrandt: Faces of Jesus exhibit at the PMA. Waiting for life to begin. And singing Grace Potter. A lot.

I see a tiny light like a flashbulb sparkle in the night.
I see a tiny light telling everyone to hold on tight.
I see a tiny light but it's not gonna shine without a fight....


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Stars in the Mailbox.

We all know that finding an actual letter in the mailbox is something to celebrate. But how about when, instead of the standard-issue forever stamp, you find the dashing Gregory Peck staring up at you from beside your name?

I just bought a sheet of these, and am fondly recalling my long-since-departed sheets of Katharine Hepburn and Gary Cooper stamps.
So next time you send some snail mail, post it with a star.
Here's to the little things in life!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Grammar with Grace.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that I'm a bit of a grammar snob. But I'm the worst kind of grammar snob...I'm the selective kind. I keep a little gig on the side editing magazine articles. Most of them usually appear to have been written by high-school drop-outs who never understood the premise of a thesis statement and the five-paragraph essay construction well enough to take liberties with it.
But let's be honest, I prefer a good clear-cut grammatical slaughter, whipping through pages on my Mac with the track changes hidden so I don't feel too guilty about the amount of re-wording, re-arranging, and re-writing that I've inflicted upon someone's editorial offerings. The time it takes to painstakingly remove unnecessary prepositions from the ends of sentences, re-align arguments so that they make sense, and edit out the senseless side comments of writers who think they're being clever but are really just being daft is a FERRIS WHEEL RIDE compared to facing an article with an unctuous, unnatural, self-conscious style. I'll stare at a single sentence for an hour thinking to myself, "Why in the hell did you decide to say it like THAT?"
The thing is, when I first started as a copy-editor, I was under the false impression that all writers should have passed Mrs. Papp's Freshman Year Honors English Class at St. Pius X Catholic High School, and, additionally, that all grammatical rules were hard and fast. Lord, I was so ignorant.

Four years later, when I edit, I'm looking for that fine balance of reasonable grammatical execution, clear constant style, contextualized voice, and a minimum of total bullshit. Every article is an adventure.

Anyway, I recently picked up Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves from the library, having toyed with reading it for about three years now. It's brilliant. In fact, here; judge for yourself:

Taking the marks we have examined so far, is there any art involved in using the apostrophe? No. Using the apostrophe correctly is a mere negative proof: it tells the world you are not a thicko. The comma, while less subject to universal rules, is still a utilitarian mark, racing about with its ears back, trying to serve both the sense and the sound of the sentence - and of course wearing itself to a frazzle for a modest bowl of Chum. Using the comma well announces that you have an ear for sense and rhythm, confidence in your style and a proper respect for your reader, but it does not mark you out as a master of your craft.

But colons and semicolons- well, they are in a different league, my dear! They give such lift! Assuming a sentence rises into the air with the initial capital letter and lands with a soft-ish bump at the full stop, the humble comma can keep the sentence aloft all right, like this, UP, for hours if necessary, UP, like this, UP, sort-of bouncing, and then falling down, and then UP it goes again, assuming you have enough additional things to say, although in the end you may run out of ideas and then you have to roll along the ground with no commas at all until some sort of surface resistance takes over and you run out of steam anyway and then eventually with the help of three stop. But the thermals that benignly waft our sentences to new altitudes – that allow us to coast on air, and loop-the-loop, suspending the laws of gravity – well, they are the colons and semicolons.

-Lynne Truss,

Eats, Shoots & Leaves, UK edition, Chapter 3

See what I mean? What JOY! To discover that, to at least an elite few, language is more than just a skin-and-bones method of communication. It is an art form. Being a writer is like being a composer, deciding how the construction of the text will affect the reader's perception of the message. The rhythm, the lift, the pause... and this is just covering what the commas and semicolons and colons can do, never mind the intensity of parallel construction, or the gravity and finality of a short, definite sentence after a long, ambling, descriptive one. It's good!

Did you KNOW that punctuation was given life by Greek play writes and Medieval monks tripping out biblical text? That, in its original form, it was more than simply utilitarian? It was integral to the meaning, the meditation, the effect of the words.

Whatever happened?

I know that the Society of Grammar-Obsessed Sticklers has low membership. If you're reading this and you're a card-carrying member, or even a friend, I salute you. If you've never given a thought to grammar beyond the occasional fleeting moment to ponder over the purpose of that key under your right pinky, I say this: Grammar is about flow. It's about cadence, and meaning, and interpretation. Don't stress yourself out over it, but respect it as you would the school of aerodynamic thought: you may never understand it, but it is oh so very useful.

Long live the Oxford Comma.

Today is Just Another Day to Be Fabulous.

I'll admit it. I would benefit from a stockpile of positivity, particularly during the current job-search period. But let's be serious. THE WHOLE WORLD would benefit from a stockpile of positivity.
So let's do this.
Close your eyes. Think of something that makes you feel really, shamelessly, brilliantly, incandescently wonderful.
I don't care what it is... a new sweater, hot chocolate on a snowy day, Schuyler Fisk singing with Harper Blynn, an old-fashioned movie, that moment when you and a friend think the exact same thing at the exact same time, finding a penny head's up, running through a sprinkler, winking at a stranger from across the bar, wearing red lipstick...
There's a lot of strife in the world. There's too much misdirected energy, misdirected hostility, senseless inconsideration, lack of communication.
So come on, kids. Think happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts and maybe we can get this whole world to fly. And while you're brainstorming, stash some of that fairy dust in your bedside table drawer. And don't ever be afraid to use it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just Breathe.

I found myself sitting between the two grand wings of a rather majestic pipe organ.
It was just a few days ago, and I had returned to the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta to do a little rehearsing. You see, one of my very best and oldest friends - one of my Chica Mias, as I like to call them, or my flying buttresses - is getting MARRIED on Saturday. Isn't it divine?
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! It is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
-Shakespeare's Sonnet 116

(Okay. Yes. I just wrote out Shakespeare. But the man has a point, no?)
Anyway, when we were about 10 years old, singing together in that very loft as part of the Cathedral Children's Choir, I made a promise to Jess that I would sing Schubert's Ave Maria at her wedding. And now the "nuptial hour draws on apace!"
Thus I found myself up there. Between rows of giant bronze-colored pipes that were humming and singing and echoing and bellowing. And breathing. It was like sitting right between the two massive lungs of a quite powerful and venerable god of music.
And I didn't even think it- but more felt it (as these things usually happen). Just the power of music; the rich sound, like audible molasses, that pours out of those pipes, that has the ability to lift you up and carry you away and mold your mind into reverence or reflection or celebration.
And as I took deep breaths to fill my own lungs-which rather pale in comparison- to send forth notes in a centuries-old arrangement, I thought about how, on Saturday, those notes will soar over the rows and rows of people (thank you, brilliant architects, for your truly magical gift at acoustics - Lord knows I couldn't do it without you). And some will think of Mary, and some will think of Schubert, and some will think of their own wedding, or the wedding of the one-that-got-away, or the wedding that is to be. And some might think of me. But most will think of Jess.
And isn't it remarkable that something as intangible as music can create such a strong sensation, and unspoken thoughts that link humanity? What beautiful revelations are waiting to be made just by sitting in a church and breathing?

Maybe it's true, what St. John the Divine in New York City says: "Loud Pipes Save Lives."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Write Up My Alley.

Have you ever opened a book, or even an e-mail, and discovered it to have been written by a soul-sister, walking the earth in some distant place or time?
Aren't those glorious moments?

Finding a friend through the written word- someone with whom you may never share a single word of correspondence, but into whose thoughts you briefly step to tread among them and think, "So maybe I'm not quite so alone in the world, after all."
Most notably in my life? Discovering L.M.Montgomery's wonderful Avonlea as a child.
My roommate started reading Elizabeth Gilbert, not even on my recommendation, and would stop every few pages to say, "Chesley. This woman is you. It's so weird."
You know those books that make you laugh out loud? That you read in a single sitting and carry around with you when you scoot to the kitchen for snacks or run to answer the phone because you just can't put it down? 84 Charing Cross Road.
The book that makes you laugh and cry and sigh and smile? (Whoever would have guessed by the title?"
Or the books that have been frosted with magic and just-a-little-bit-larger-than-life dusting of fairy tales for the not-so-common everyday girl?
And the throwbacks, romanticism (in its literary and art historical sense), and still romantic? I mean, with a first line like, "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink," you know you're in for a treat.
Well, call me daft, but I opened up my inbox today and found a lovely little marketing e-mail from J.Crew, that purveyor of all things classic, slightly nautical, casual-chic. And much to my delight, (after falling in love with this delicious looking bag),
I found that kindred spirits don't only write novels. They write marketing copy as well. After reading that "Alison, Editorial Copy Director" for The Crew "singlehandedly keeps in business" I was briefly reassured that there is a job out there, even for a wordsmithing wit. And that even a girl who likes to "carry around a notebook and writing utensil at all times in case i get inspired to jot down an idea, but it never happens. I usually just end up scribbling down to-do lists that I never look at again" can make it. It gives me hope.
Wordsmithing, scatterbrained, classy, fabulous females, speak out. You are among friends here!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Paris @ Midnight

Have you ever seen Paris at Midnight?
You should.

I am an Italophile, through and through. But like all good Europeans in pursuit of personal fulfillment and an enviable cache of life experiences, occasionally I dally on the side.
After seeing Woody Allen's latest film last night, I'm pretty sure Paris would make an ideal mistress. She's always dressed perfectly for any occasion, and she has plenty of secrets and stories and grace.
I've never been to France at all. I may just have to find a way.

Paris at Midnight. The film is the improbable combination of the fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Woody Allen's inimitable comedic style.
It's every romantic's dream, combining multiple memorable Parisian epochs to weave quite a story.
Add to this the delight of not only seeing actors and actresses pop up on screen that spur the thought, "Oh I love her!" "Oh I love him!",
and oohing over the inspired costume design (fashionistas beware; you'll be aching to accent your wardrobe with 20's-inspired items), but the characters themselves make up an echelon of the cultural icons who challenged the mores of society and created cultural milestones, markers, and entire classifications of art. You'll come home and pull out all your school books, desperate to begin reading and learning and reacquainting yourself with these greats.
And until you can feed the hungry intellectual giant that no doubt broods inside your skulls, you can just ooh and ah over the costumes and sceneries, and giggle over Allenisms given renewed vitality by contemporary actors.
And you'll probably find yourself making plans, like I did, to somehow, some way, go dancing in Paris.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Play it Again, and Again, and Again.

It's coming...
The Atlanta Symphony is presenting Casablanca this Friday, film on the big screen, while the magnificent Atlanta Symphony Orchestra plays the score. CAN YOU IMAGINE!
This is not to be missed. And maybe to prepare, I'll do a little 'round robin of classic films starring the truly fantastic actors and actresses of the Silver Screen. We'll start with Bogey and add Audrey for some Sabrina.
And then there's Audrey and Greg Peck in the inimitable Roman Holiday.
Next is Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall in Designing Woman.
Then How to Marry a Millionaire for some keynotes delivered by Betty, Lauren, and Marilyn.
Marilyn and Tony Curtis warm things up with Some Like It Hot.
How about the more obscure Kings Go Forth with Curtis and Natalie Wood.
Also starring The Voice himself, Mr. Frank Sinatra.
Which of course means I'll have to take time for one of my favorites: Sinatra and Grace Kelly in High Society.
And next is Kelly and Cary in To Catch a Thief.
Then Bringing Up Baby with Cary and Katharine.
Or The Rainmaker with Katherine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster.
From Here to Eternity stars Lancaster and the lovely Deborah Kerr,
who starred in The Journey with Yul Brynner.
(And was photographed by him!)
Apparently Brynner was a marvelous photographer, because while on set of Anastasia,
he also captured the beautiful Ingrid Bergman.
Which brings us back to where we started, to Bergman and Bogey at Sam's piano in Rick's Cafe Americana.
So if you're in Atlanta this weekend, head to the amphitheatre in Alpharetta and catch the sweeping drama of Casablanca with a LIVE soundtrack. If it plays and you're not there, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon, and for the rest of your life!