Saturday, October 6, 2007

Tough Love Naps on the Couch

I hate to be the one who has to do this, but y'all need some tough love. I see a lot of misguided behavior out there, and since your mama obviously didn't teach you any better, it falls to me to be plain and direct with you.

Because I am not without compassion, however, I am leavening my harsh words with a few pictures of men on the beach. Enjoy. Fear.

1. The term "Hear! Hear!" comes, primarily, from British politics. It's what members of Parliament say when the speaker, usually from their own party, makes a good point. In other words: "Listen up, people! What he said!" You can, I suppose, say "Hear, hear," but that would indicate a certain lack of enthusiasm that is at odds with the sentiment behind the words. Remember:
Interjections show excitement or emotion. They're generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point, or by a comma, when the feeling's not as strong.

If you write "Here, here" or some differently punctuated variant of the same, you are displaying monumental ignorance, and I may have to send my goons over to show you the error of your ways. My goons will not be gentle, and they will be not gentle not in a good way.

2. Your haiku sucks.

I'm sorry. I know that you're trying to be simultaneously deep and concise, but (unless you are a Japanese man living in the seventeenth, eighteenth, or nineteenth century) if you are writing non-humorous haiku, you are badly misguided. The sad fact is that almost every haiku written in the last twenty years can be summed up thus:
Look! I wrote a poem!
It only took twelve seconds!
Somewhere, Basho weeps.

(Full disclosure: it only took me nine and one-half seconds to come up with that, but "nine and one-half" didn't fit into the rhythm, so I took an extra 2.5 seconds to fix it. At a leisurely pace.)

Most of what you people are calling haiku isn't even haiku. I won't give you a discussion of the fine points: I'm not an expert. If you really feel the need to know, you can google it for yourselves. What you're writing are nothing but seventeen-syllable sentences. Seventeen-syllable sentences are not that tough to come up with.

The only way pseudo-haiku works in modern times is if you're being funny (or at least highly ironic, but few people can pull that off). Here is an example.

For a couple of other examples, consider these two efforts, written by friends of mine, in honor of neutered dogs:
My balls, they are gone
I can no longer lick them
Shit shit shit shit shit
The white buds unfurled,
The bitches outside in heat.
I nap on the couch.

Note that the second example is as close to a real haiku as you're likely to see these days.

3. Apparently, I lied when I said that no one gets to my site through inappropriate search terms. Just yesterday, someone googled "undercooked flounder" and got here. I would like to think that he read through that whole entry (3,800 words!) before realizing that something was very, very wrong. I realize that I am kidding myself.

I also realize that my last paragraph doesn't really count as harsh words for anyone, so let me add: I HATE your shoes. Also: I own the entire Schoolhouse Rock series on DVD, and you don't. Ponder your ill fortune, and despair!

4. If something makes you unhappy, don't do it, okay? I look at pictures of naked men, and I think "Damn, he's good looking," and it makes me smile. If you look at a picture of a naked man, and you think, "Damn, my abs/pecs/legs/whatever aren't that good," and it makes you frown, then look at something else. The same thing applies to any number of so-called vices. I had three glasses of wine last night, and I was deliriously happy for hours, probably because I usually only have one glass. If you drink wine and you turn morose, then do something else. (Try jerking off. Try endurance jerking off. Try to set a new personal best in the endurance jerk off. If jerking off makes you morose, seek professional help. Please.) I would go so far as to tell you that you can only choose one of the following:
a) be happy with who you are, or
b) work to change it,
but I realize that we all sometimes need to walk before we can run. Also, there's that whole glass houses and throwing stones thing, though, honestly, I'm a lot better about sticking to a) or b) than I used to be.

I will say this, though: if there's something about yourself that you don't like and you can't change, don't whinge about it. Whinging might get you some attention for a little while, but it encourages you to wallow, it doesn't help you either solve or accept your problems, and in the long run, it's always unattractive. I once heard my cousin -- an otherwise unenlightened sort, but not in any way a bad guy -- say to his daughter, "If something's so bad that you need to cry, then cry. If it's not, then shut up. But don't whine. Never whine." (My cousin obviously doesn't share my ill-conceived and hopeless -- but fun! -- crusade to get Americans to say "whinge" instead of "whine," but I'm constantly reminded that nobody's perfect.) This is very good advice. If something really bad happens, then by all means mourn: crying, wailing, keening, and gnashing of teeth are all appropriate responses. Then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, shut yourself up, and start all over again.

5. Lie and lay are two different verbs. Lie is intransitive; lay is transitive. The past tense of lie is lay; the past tense of lay is laid. If you say "I'm going to lie down" today, then tomorrow, you would say, "Yesterday, I lay down." If you say, "I'm going to lay roses on Madonna's grave" today, then tomorrow you would say, "Yesterday, I laid roses on the grave of somebody I've never heard of: it turns out Madonna is still alive."

The only way you could properly say "I laid down" is if you were a comforter or outerwear manufacturer. Then you could, perhaps, say, "I laid down -- 70% goose, 30% duck -- in the comforter shell before sewing it up." But if you took a nap on the job, you would still say, "I lay down in the comforter shell, and when I got up, there was a huge mess." Of course if you were laying something -- your sword and shield, for example -- down, then the past tense would be laid. By the way, if you are singing, it is perfectly acceptable to pproclaim that you're going to lay down your sword and shield, down by the riverside. In other contexts, the second "down" would be redundant.

(If you're telling a falsehood, of course, then lie is yet another verb, and the past tense is lied, which, especially when italicized, might also be the German word for song.)

The past participle of lie is lain. "I have lain in still waters." The past participle of lay is, like the past, laid. "I have laid my troubles at the feet of Cthulhu, and I have been eaten."

Is that all clear? Good.


Paul said...

I do believe that laid is the object of got.

Jason said...

I thought there would be something tougher and lovelier....

The Neighbors Will Hear said...

I find it difficult to argue with you, Paul, since I believe that laid is the object of everything.

The Saturday Morning swim club is going to be very disappointed that you don't find them sufficiently lovely, Jason. As for tougher, well, I'll get right on that.

Will said...

I do so admire a stickler for grammar.

As you know Basho, you might enjoy a very interesting and quite good play called "The Narrow road to the Deep North." I almost got to design it once but the director suddenly chose another script and the opportunity never came again. It has some aspects in common with Steven Sondheim's "Pacific Overtures," a tremendous piece of material that I DID get to design.

durban bud said...

I still don't understand the proper use of lie, lay and laid. Perhaps if we meet up one of these days, you can demonstrate on a flip chart for me. Also, I'd like to hear you sing. Maybe you could sing one of your posts to me. Then again, the song would end up being an hour and a half long, so scratch that.

jason said...

"...swim club is going to be very disappointed that you don't find them sufficiently lovely, Jason."

Disappointing, as for word choice. On the other hand, I am not disappointed at all!

The Neighbors Will Hear said...

I could certainly use graphic aids to help you get lie and lay, but I don't think a flip chart ever helped anyone get laid.

Paul said...

It did me.

The flip chart, that is.

copperred said...

Poor grammar and spelling in erotic fantasies of the Nifty era made it very difficult to focus. Maybe that's why it's better to meet people in person, so I don't lose interest after seeing they can't write better than a sixth grader. On that note, I wonder if one should assume anyone who cannot spell is under aged, and thus to be avoided for reasons other than linguistic vanity?