Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Punctuation According to Johnny Cannon

I reckon probably the biggest difference between writing and talking is along the matter of punctuation. ‘Cause when you’re talking, you don’t really give no nevermind to whether or not you done put a comma where it’s supposed to go or whether it’s YOUR or YOU’RE. But brother, if you get a punctuation mark wrong when you’re writing, you can bet your sweet bippy that Mrs. Buttke is going to make her red pen pee all over your paper.

So, here’s what I’ve done. I made myself a list of punctuation marks and what they do. I’ll give you the list here, and then I’ll get into each one with a little more spit and polish later.

Commas Separate
Apostrophes Replace
Colons Introduce
Semicolons Link
Periods End
Exclamation Marks Shout
Question Marks Ask
Quotation Marks Say
Parenthesis Whisper
Dashes Interrupt
Hyphens Glue

So, there you go. Hopefully that’ll hold you over until I can start looking at each one. If not, well dadgummit, go look it up or something. For crying out loud.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spelling Rules According to Johnny Cannon

Making Vowels Make Sense

I reckon the first thing you got to learn how to do when you’re writing English is learn how to spell words, cause a rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but if you spell it like you spell manure, ain't nobody going to sniff it. 

Don't worry, though. Spelling ain’t so hard, really. Except for all them consonants and vowels. In fact, if you didn't have to deal with no letters or nothing, spelling would be a piece of cake.

Actually, consonants ain’t really too hard. Oh, sure, you got your Cs that sometimes sound like a K and sometimes sound like a S. And you got the Gs that can either be its own blamed self or it can be a J in disguise. And every once in a while the S sounds like a Z, and the T sounds like a SH when it’s got a IO after it.

OK, consonants are hard. But they ain’t nearly as dadgum hard as vowels. Vowels are like squishy, mushy putty that moves and changes every which way and never how you want it to. Still, there’s a few tricks to remembering how to get the vowels right in the words you’re writing:

The Sometimes Y
Now, I ain’t just talking about the fact that sometimes the letter Y is a vowel and sometimes, like in Y’all, it’s a consonant. Instead, I’m talking about the fact that Y is only SOMETIMES a Y, but if it starts feeling crowded and such, it lets off a stink like a skunk and turns into an I. Like if you’re adding the letters ES to the end of PARTY, the Y turns into an I and you get PARTIES. Or adding it to TRY, you get TRIES. The only time you ain’t going to see the Y turn yellow and change its shape is if you’re sliding an I along side it, like if you’re adding ING to TRY, you’ll get TRYING. Dadgum Y.

The Shy E
There’s a certain kind of E that is a whole mess of a lot like me, and that’s what’s known as the Silent E, but I like to call it the Shy E. See, the Shy E don’t say nothing, but he shows up in a word at the tail to help the other vowels stand up straight and shout their own names. Like in the word LIKE, that Shy E shows up and makes the I yell “Aye!” Or in HOPE, Mr. Shy E comes along and the O  hollers, “Oh!” But if you start trying to force the Shy E to make other vowel friends, he’s probably going to duck out of the room something fierce. So, if you add ING to HOPE, you’ll get HOPING and Shy E will be HIDING off in his room. The only time that won’t happen is if you make Shy E hang out with a consonant. Then he’ll probably stay around, like if you turn LIKE into LIKENESS, or ENTIRE into ENTIRELY.

The Wrestling Vowels
Shy E has a twin, and that’s the Wrestling E. And Wrestling E hangs out with Wrestling I, and the two of them is always fighting to see who’ll get to be in front. Usually I wins, and so I gets to be in front of E, like in words like BELIEVE or CHIEF. But, sometimes E wins, like if the letter C helps him out in words like RECEIVE. Also, if the word wants to say the A sound, it’ll make I hop in the back, like in NEIGHBOR or WEIGHT. But, every once in a while, I get’s his dander up and hops in the front even when he ain’t supposed to, like in ANCIENT or EFFICIENT. And sometimes the E puts the I in a headlock and jumps over, like in WEIRD or NEITHER. So, you see, them two like to mess around with your head as they punch each other in the face.

So there you go. Vowels is tricky. That’s why I like to make a big ol' sign for all them vowels to help me remember. Then I go and put it up on the shed in the back yard and shoot it with my gun. To help me forget.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Oh, HIMYM. Your Finale...

Oh HIMYM. You poor, misunderstood show.

As has been noted here before, I am a big-time TV buff. I love to watch every episode of my favorite series and dissect it for story arcs, character development, and the ebb and flow of writing. I also just enjoy committing long term to characters. And one of my favorite television shows of the last ten years has been How I Met Your Mother. So it should come as no surprise that I have a pretty strong opinion about the series finale.

I loved it.

And that apparently puts me in the minority of HIMYM fans. But I’ve got to say, I feel like the majority is (how do I put this nicely) smoking some wacky weed and treating HIMYM like it’s a Disney Channel show or something. It’s not. A television series has the potential to be a long-form art piece, and HIMYM came as close as any TV series to accomplishing that.

So, without further ado, I’d like to address the complaints presented against the finale (at least the ones I’ve heard) and give a rebuttal. (OBVIOUSLY, SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS)

They crammed too much into one episode.
a.     This is probably not the most damning of complaints, but it is the best one to introduce what will be my most common rebuttal: The name of the show is “How I Met Your Mother.” Not “How I Lived My Life With Your Mother.” The show is framed as a story Ted is telling to his kids. His kids who, since we already know Ted likes to tell stories, have probably already heard about the life Ted and Tracy had after they met and fell in love. Plus they were there for a great deal of it all. It’s not really important, from that perspective, for Ted to give anything other than the bullet points.
      We’ve been anticipating the mother for nine years, and then they go and kill her off.
a.     Yeah, life sucks like that, doesn’t it? And yet, the outrage you feel is exactly the outrage that a person would feel in Ted’s situation. He’s been waiting his entire life to find “The One,” and then, after only ten-eleven years with her, he loses her. You are experiencing empathetic pain for a fictional character. If that’s not good art, I don’t know what is. (And, again, this story is “How I Met Your Mother.” Not “How We Lived Happily Ever After.”)
      But they didn’t even tell us what she died from!
a.     Because that would have made it better? Remember, the kids already know what their mom died from. And if they’d have put forth some disease or illness like cancer or something, it would have taken away some of the mysterious beauty and romance of her death.

     Yeah, but the kids were awful eager to have Ted run after their Aunt Robin. Shouldn’t they be sad/grieving/etc.?
a.     Well, no, it’s been six years. And these kids have been raised by two of the most romantic people in the history of the universe. They want their dad to find happiness again.

      But why would Ted even tell them this whole story if all he wanted was to go after Robin?
a.     That’s what you do when you’re a widow/widower and you have kids. You need to know that they’ll be ok with you moving on. And, for Ted, king of the yellow legal pad/over-thinking-life/etc., he probably needed to make sure HE was ok with moving on as well.

      But Robin? Really?
a.     Who else? The whole series has been about Ted and Robin and what it would take for them to finally be together. From the beginning they wanted different things. Through marrying other people, they got their different things (he got kids and a house in the suburbs, she got to travel the world as a reporter). Now that they’ve both gotten their dreams out of the way, they’re perfect for each other.

     Yeah, but he’d moved on from Robin. She even blew away like a balloon in the weirdest scene over.
a.     And well he needed to move on, or else Tracy would have merely been slappy-second and Ted wouldn’t have been truly happy with her.

     Ok, but it still feels like an out-of-nowhere slap in the face.
a.     It shouldn’t though. Ted’s favorite book is Love in the Time of Cholera, which ends with the death of a spouse and the reuniting with a former flame. His favorite President is Teddy Roosevelt, whose wife that he loved immensely died and then he married a long time friend and flame. Tracy herself had the exact same thing happen to her, the love of her life died and then she moved on to Ted. The clues have been there throughout.

      What about the Barney-Robin season long wedding that ended in divorce. What’s up with that?
a.     That’s life, man. People get married and have beautiful weddings and then eventually get divorced and it’s tragic and disappointing. Again, you’re feeling empathetic disappointment. Which means the art worked.

     Ok, but where the heck was Bob Saget? Why the heck was it his voice all the way until the end, then he became Josh Radnor?
a.     Yeah, ok, I’ll give you that one.

Any complaints I didn’t mention here? Any other insights into the nature of all thing HIMYM? Let me know in the comments!