Monday, November 10, 2014

Words With Criminals, Part I



*Insert obligatory disclaimer about how I know it's been ages and I have no excuse and I am a disgrace to the world of blogging here*

Good. Now that we have that out of the way, let's get right down to business. Allow me, dear readers, to present you with the following flight of literary fancy, inspired by this prompt from the users of r/writingprompts, over at Reddit: In a world where linguistic delinquency is on the rise, a Grammar Nazi is called to the scene of one of the most heinous crimes of his/her career.


            Chief Grammar Inspector Johann “Jack” Schmitt ducked under the yellow crime scene tape and climbed the stairs of the Forman University Library, his brown overcoat flapping in the cool night breeze. He pulled open the heavy oaken door and strode into the library. The normally quiet entryway was abuzz with activity- crime scene analysts pulling out evidence bags and setting up blacklights, tech guys tapping away on laptops, a couple of officers from the Syntax Squad busily consulting their copies of “Essentials of English Grammar” and “Elements of Style.”
The hum of voices abated a bit when Schmitt walked into the room. Six foot five, burly and mustachioed, Schmitt had a commanding presence, in addition to which he was something of a legend in the Grammar Police. A member of the force for nearly forty years, Schmitt had first come to prominence in ’75, after successfully mediating a particularly tense subject-verb standoff. His subsequent rise through the ranks had been nothing short of meteoric. It was Schmitt who held the record for corralling the most run-on sentences; it was Schmitt who, as head of the Punctuation Patrol, had led the highly effective crackdown on exclamation point abuse; it was Schmitt who, after months of undercover work, had at last brought down the infamous Txtspk Gang; and it was Schmitt who had finally tracked down and brought to justice “The Splitter,” a notorious and elusive serial criminal who had spent thirteen months roaming the Eastern Seaboard, leaving a trail of bleeding infinitives in his wake. By now, even the most fresh-faced rookie on the force knew- if Schmitt was on the case, something big was going on. Schmitt wasn’t called in for some routine apostrophe slip or piddling little comma splice. Schmitt was serious.
Ignoring the looks and whispers that followed him, Schmitt strode briskly through the hall to the circulation desk, where Detective Spreckels was waiting for him. Spreckels was head of the Tense Team, and the one who had called him in. “Evening, Herman,” Schmitt said by way of greeting.
“Evening, Jack. Or ‘Morning,’ I suppose I should say. Sorry to get you out of bed.”
Schmitt waved his hand dismissively. “Never mind that. What are we dealing with here?”
“This way,” said Spreckels, gesturing towards a large wooden door. “The scene is up on the fourth level of stacks. The elevator’s bust, so we’ll have to walk it. I’ll fill you in on the way up.”
The two men stepped through the door in the dusty quiet of the library stacks. Narrow shelves towered over them, and a musty odor filled the air. A faded map of the college campus hung on the wall opposite, while to the right, a rickety looking staircase led the way upwards. Spreckels leading, the two men began the ascent.
“Call came in about thirty minutes ago,” Spreckels began. “Undergrad- a senior- stayed late at the library to get some extra work done on his thesis. About one o’clock, he heard a noise coming from the other side of the stacks- said it was a kind of tearing and then a couple of thuds. Went to check it out, got one look at the scene, and ran to call us.”
“Who was first on the scene?” Schmitt asked. The detectives passed the second level of stacks and continued up.
“Hoffmann and Fischer. They were about a block away when the call came in, and called for backup pretty quickly when they saw the scene. I showed up with the guys from Tense about ten minutes later, took a look, and said we should call you.”
They had reached the landing that led to the fourth level. Spreckels paused, his hand on the knob of the door that led into the stacks. “Listen Jack,” he said, “there’s really no way to prepare you for this. I know you’ve seen a lot over the years, but this…this is worse than anything any of us has ever seen. Becker- you know what a tough nut he his- he got one look and just about lost his lunch. And the poor kid who found it, well, he’s at the hospital right now, in complete shock. This thing is brutal, completely beyond anything we’ve seen before. That’s why I knew we needed you on this right from the start.”
Schmitt nodded, his face grim. “I understand. Just let me see it.”
Spreckels took a deep breath and led the way through the door. “That way,” he said, pointing to the left. “Just past the last row of shelves. Forgive me if I don’t come with you. I…I don’t think I can stand to see it again just now.”
Schmitt nodded and walked towards the rear of the stack, where he let out an audible gasp. Spreckels was right- the scene before him was worse than anything he could have imagined. The surrounding shelves had been emptied, the books pulled off and tossed carelessly into a heap on the floor. Atop the pile of bent covers and torn pages sat a copy of the OED, a Number 2 pencil shoved through the front, like a stake through a vampire’s heart. Even worse, however, was the graffiti. It covered the walls, every inch of them, from ceiling to floor, the red paint splashed about in a crude mockery of an English teacher’s corrective pen. As he read it, Schmitt felt the bile rise in his throat:
Last nite! I dr3amd, I wEnt: 2 manderly agn
It’s a? tRUth Universaly aknolejed that a single; man –IN possechun. of a lrg 4-ton “must” b n (wont) of a w’ife,!?!
Hapee: famleez, R al a-lick every. unhapee Famlee iz Unhapee n it’s own, way’
2 b or? not…2 b! tht Is The Qwe’stc{h}Un???,?,?,?
aFteR All. 2m0r0w: iz “an”othr!!!!!!!1!! Day:
s!INg—o Mu’se Of Teh (anger), of; akileez?!
       On and on it went, row after row of the most disgusting perversions Schmitt had ever seen. Seemingly no one had been spared- Dickens, Twain, Steinbeck, Dostoevsky, Milton, Dante…author after author had had their cherished sentences ruthlessly and sadistically gutted on the library wall. “My God,” Schmitt whispered, and put out a hand to steady himself against the door frame. He was certainly no stranger to grammatical carnage. His decades on the force had left him well-acquainted with the atrocities man was capable of inflicting on the English language. But this…never, in all his forty years of hunting down grammar criminals, had Schmitt ever seen such a calculated, cold-blooded attack on everything that he held sacred.
                This was no time to show weakness, however. He’d been called in for his experience, his expertise. The other men were shook up enough as it was, without seeing him fall to pieces as well. He had to get a hold of himself. Closing his eyes, Schmitt took three slow, deep breaths to steady himself, then straightened up, turned, and strode briskly back to where Spreckels was waiting.
                “Was there anything there?” he asked, his voice low and quivering with barely suppressed emotion. “Anything at all that could tell us who was behind that…that…that bloody butchery back there?”
                Spreckel shook his head. “Nothing. It’s the damndest thing. No fingerprints. No fibers. Nothing. The only thing we found was this.” He pulled a sealed evidence bag out of his pocket and handed it to Schmitt. “Forensics wanted to send it right out to the lab, but I wanted you to have a look at it first.”
                Schmitt took the baggie and examined it. It contained a single sheet of lined notebook paper, covered with the same red ink smeared on the library walls. A mounting sense of horror overtook Schmitt again as he read the scrawling handwriting:
                
                   2 teh Grahmer po’Leece

                Gr33t1ngz?. Dis iz r! furst comyoonnikashun;  It will not! b teh (last),. 4  yeers wee hav: laB0red under teh Oppreshun Of You’re grammatehKu’ll rulez? and “suferd” under! the, Standurdized . spe-lling that, haz kwashed; teh awtH-‘entikley Cree8iv v1zshUn off teh! Tr00 R-tists.,!? No “Mor” ( Tihs) mArrks teh/ Furst of r, STRYKE’S? aganst . ur langwage!!! Tee-Ranny…Mor-- will folloh UnTil,l Awl Of. You’re (reepressiv )! konstraint’s “hav” ben dizm-anteld ?and, teh NEW; WORD ORDER haz, ben!!1!? instit00ted?!.?!! do not dowt? taht, w33 will b SuksSSsful You hav seen wat WE! R kapabel of. Begin, teh… kowNt. 4: ur daze?( as) Gramer des’pots “r” numb3r3dd.?!1?:;!?

Teh Illiterati

Under the signature there was a carefully drawn sketch of a pyramid, a dictionary impaled upon its point.

Schmitt looked up from the note, his face hard and grim. “Get this to the lab. Now.” He ordered, thrusting the baggie back to Spreckels. “And get forensics back up here. I want them to go over this place again with everything they have, I don’t care if it takes them all night.” He brushed past the other detective and began quickly descending the stairs.     
                “Sure, Jack, of course, but where are you going?”
                “Over to District. I’ve got to get through to Washington as soon as possible- we’re going to need all the help we can get on this.” Schmitt paused and looked back at his companion. “You were right, Herman. This is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before. And if we don’t stop this now, well, this is going to be just the beginning.” 

To be continued...6rtfcgj

Monday, January 20, 2014

If These Books Could Talk...

There's so much we can learn from literary characters. The inhabitants of our favorite books can, through their examples and stories, teach us about courage, selflessness, friendship, heroism, love, passion, justice, freedom, hardship, determination, and good and evil. But what if we could learn from them more directly? What advice might they impart to us in their self-help books and how-to manuals? What dark secrets might be spilled in their tell-all memoirs? Let's look at a sampling of what we might be offered, could literary characters put their own pens to paper:






















Sunday, December 8, 2013

I'm Back!

I know, I know. I said my New Year's resolution was to update my blog every week. Apparently, I lied. Mea culpa, mea culpa, I am the worst blogger ever. But I'm back now, with a brand new post, and (if all goes well) I should be coming back every Sunday. So, let's kick off what will hopefully be a new season of productivity with...


THE RAVEN
(if Edgar Allen Poe had been an eight-months pregnant mother of two)

Based on actual events

Once upon a day so dreary, my pregnant self was sore and weary
So my husband took on kids and chores.
But upstairs as I lay napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of a child gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some toddler," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber-
Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was nearly to September
I'd been pregnant for forever, since the distant days of yore.
Eagerly I wished my due date, vainly sought to instigate-
From books and websites of midwifery lore-
My labor, but results were poor-
I could not dilate any more.

And the tiny feet that I heard patting just outside upon the matting
Thrilled me- filled me with a terror mothers all have known before.
So that now to still the beating of my heart, I lay repeating
"'Tis some toddler entreating entrance at my chamber door-
But with no answer soon they will forsake my chamber door.
That it is, and nothing more."

Presently, my soul grew stronger, hesitating then no longer,
"Child," I said, "I love you, but your patience I implore.
For the fact is I was napping when so gently you came rapping.
Now persistently you're tapping, tapping at my chamber door-
Ask your father dear to help you," then I listened at the door.
Silence there, and nothing more.

Deep into that silence hearing, long I lay there, nervous, fearing,
Doubting that the child had returned unto the lower floor.
But the silence was unbroken and the quiet gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was when I whispered "Good, no more!"
This I whispered and an echo murmured back "no more!"
Then I again lay down to snore.

Back into my slumber turning, my aching back so sorely burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely said I, "surely, that cannot be a child,
Not a toddler running wild- but perhaps I should explore.
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore.
'Tis the wind, and nothing more."

Open here I flung the door and there sitting on the floor
I saw my daughter just where she had been before.
Not the least obeisance made she, not a minute stopped or stayed she;
But with mien of lord or lady stepped right though my chamber door,
Then perched upon my bed, her feet swinging o'er the floor
She reached a sippy cup out before.

Then this stubborn child beguiling my weary fancy into smiling
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance she wore,
"Though I sent you to your father, me you seem to want to bother,
Silly child, wandering upward from the lower floor-
Tell me why you've come to get me up from the lower floor."
Quoth the toddler, "I want more!"

Much I marveled that my daughter could not ask this of her father.
Her petition was so simple- could not daddy get her more?
For we cannot help agreeing that any living human being
Blessed with two working hands could open the refrigerator door
And into the sippy cup some chocolate milk could pour
And give the little girl some more.

But the child sitting lonely on the king-sized bed spoke only
That one phrase and her eyes, they did implore.
Nothing further then she uttered and so I sighed and muttered,
"All right, dearest, let's go to the lower floors.
Come with me down the stairs as you have often done before,
And I your weary mother shall go and get you more."

Down the stairs we came and I called my husband's name,
Inquiring the reason why he could not get her more.
"Only mommy's chocolate milk would do," he sighed, "though quite ardently I tried-
Tried to keep her from your chamber door.
But now perhaps she'll leave your door,
Since you now have got her more."

The thought of napping now beguiling my exhausted self to smiling,
Straight I wheeled and darted up to the second floor.
Then upon the soft bed sinking, I gratefully fell to thinking
Of the deep and blissful rest that so surely lay before.
Sure that now there would be quiet outside my chamber door,
And no toddlers wanting more.

I set myself to sleeping, but a moment later felt like weeping
From the depths of tired, achy, pregnant core.
For as I lay reclining, noise I began divining,
Once again a gentle padding coming from the lower floor-
Once again a toddler's footsteps just outside my chamber door.
"No," I thought, "Oh please, no more."

And then there was a rapping, once again a little tapping,
And a child's voice came drifting through the closed-up bedroom door.
"Mommy," it cried, "You listening? My favorite car is missing!
I was playing in the living room, now I can't find it anymore!
Come help me find my car, so I can play with it some more,"
Quoth the child at my door.

"Child," groaned I, "ask your father, it is him that you should bother
To help you find your missing car."
But my son was quite undaunted, it was mommy that he wanted,
So as he stood upon the landing he did once again implore,
"Daddy looked and couldn't find it, I need you to look some more,"
Quoth the child at my door.

I with a sigh arose, putting off once more my doze
And stepping 'cross the bedroom, I then opened up the door.
My soul with exhaustion laden, I went down to give my aid in 
What would no doubt be a long and very frustrating chore.
So I went and again descended unto the lower floor,
With the child at my door.

Two hours after starting, as couch cushions I was parting,
And my back and knees were aching as they never had before-
There, hidden in the pillows, stuck to some old marshmallows,
What should I see there lying, but the sought-after matchbox car.
But my son just looked up shrugging from his place upon the floor-
"Oh, I don't want that anymore."

As I stood there disbelieving, there came a sudden rush of feeling,
Flooding down upon me as it seldom had before.
And as my soul rebelled, "That's enough!" I loudly yelled.
"I'm going up to nap, so bother me no more!"
Then I remembered something as I went to the second floor-
And with my soundproof headphones, there were no noises anymore.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Brought to you by...

In the old days, we had patrons of the arts- wealthy individuals who sponsored artists and writers. These days? Well, these days we have corporate sponsorship. But suppose we'd had then what we have now? The shelves of your local library might look very different today had the authors of classic literature worked a little product placement into their books. For example:

Long Day's Journey into Ny-Quil by Eugene O'Neill: a family worried about their son's health is relieved to discover that what they feared was tuberculosis is instead just a bad cold. Fortunately, a nearby drug store stocks Ny-Quil, (the nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, best-sleep-you-ever-got-with-a-cold medicine!), enabling the sick son to sleep peacefully through the night and wake up feeling refreshed.

A Room With A ViewMaster by E.M. Forster: Although originally disappointed that her hotel room overlooking the Arno has been given away, young traveler Lucy Honeychurch is cheered when charming young George Emerson gifts her with a ViewMaster, enabling her to view dozens of high-quality images and reels in brilliant color- no windows necessary!

A Tale of Two Citibanks by Charles Dickens: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Interest rates were down, but housing prices were at an all time high. Thankfully, with the help of competitive rates from Citibank (with branches conveniently located in both London and Paris!), newly minted marquis Charles Darnay was able to obtain an affordable mortgage on a house in London, enabling him to flee from unjust persecution at the hands of French revolutionaries.

The Secret Olive Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: When orphaned Mary Lennox is sent to live with her widowed uncle and crippled cousin at Misselthwaite Manor, she at first hates everything about her new life. However, things change when she stumbles upon a boarded-up Italian restaurant on the manor grounds. Shut up by her uncle after the death of his wife (a woman with Tuscan heritage and a love for never-ending pasta bowl specials), the restaurant has fallen into disrepair, but Mary vows to restore it to it's bustling heyday. But will endless soup, salad, and breadsticks for just $5.95 be enough to bring joy back to the cheerless residents of Misselthwaite?

The IcyHot Man Cometh by Eugene O'Neill: Weary and sore from being beaten down by life, a group of alcoholics, prostitutes, and pimps eagerly await the arrival of the IcyHot salesman, whose arrival heralds rapid relief from aches and pains in a fast-acting, dual action formula- icy to dull the pain and hot to relax it away! With their aching muscles finally soothed, will the depressed patrons of the saloon at last be able to mend their broken lives?

The Honda Odyssey by Homer: After ten years of fighting the Trojans, war-weary Odysseus attempts to return home to his wife and son, only to attract the wrath of Poseidon. But the wrath of the sea god is no match for the Ithacan king's all-terrain vehicle with surround sound stereo system, stowable back seat (creating extra storage for handy bags of winds!), and 6-speed automatic transmission.

A Roomba of One's Own by Virginia Woolf: In her landmark essay on women and writing, Virginia Woolf posits that "a woman must have money, a room of her own, and an autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner if she is to write fiction. Seriously, I have so much more time to write now that I don't have to worry about constantly cleaning the carpet. Also, the last video I made of my cats riding this thing got a record number of hits on YouTube."

Pilgrim's Progressive Auto Insurance by Paul Bunyan: The journey of young Christian and the other pilgrims to the Celestial City is made much easier by comprehensive insurance coverage, offered at competitive rates, and with numerous discounts, including ones for safe driving, homeownership, and recognition of one's own sin.



Many thanks to the fellow members of my Facebook book group, who contributed several suggestions to this list.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

LTV 2

Well, dear readers, the second installment of Dr. Seusspeare's "Macbeth" remains currently under production. However, while you wait for its debut, why not kick up your feet and relax with some of these fine televisual programs, brought to you courtesy of the Literary Universe:

NBC

9:00 pm: The Apprentice- Five hopefuls compete for the chance to be hired as personal assistant to chocolatier Willy Wonka, and hopefully be next in line to run the Wonka candy empire. Tonight- the Chocolate River challenge.

Discovery Channel

9:00 pm: Gold Rush: Caribbean- Rival crews- one led by newcomer Jim Hawkins, the other by the experienced Captain "Long John" Silver, each bent on taking home a payday- vie for control of a claim on a hitherto unknown Caribbean island.

CBS

2:00 pm: Dr. Phil: "Wedding Day Disasters"- Young governess Jane discovers on her wedding day that her fiance is already married; years after being left at the altar, the still broken-hearted Miss Havisham struggles to move on.


FX 

7:00 pm: 30 Days: "Prince/Pauper"- A pampered royal and a scruffy street urchin must take on each other's lives for a month.

 

The CW

9:00 pm: Cheaters- A Russian nobleman is humiliated after the team catches his young wife Anna with her lover; a violent confrontation ensues when General Agamemnon returns home from deployment to find his wife with another man.

SyFy

9:00 pm: Ghost Hunters: "Elsinore"- The team investigates a castle in Denmark where a young prince claims to have seen the ghost of his dead (possibly murdered) father.

OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network)

3:00 pm: Dr. Oz- The doctor interviews three guests suffering from rare and bizarre medical conditions: a farmer born with no brain, a logger born with no heart, and a woman who experiences a severe allergic reaction to water.
9:00 pm: Shocking Family Secrets- A man's life is turned upside-down when he discovers that he has inadvertently killed his father and married his mother; a young hobbit is stunned when he learns that the ring left to him by his uncle is actually a powerful and dangerous magical object.


Bravo

9:00 pm: Real Housewives of Atlanta- Gossip, scandal, and family drama ensue when Scarlett attends Melanie's party, despite having been caught in a compromising situation by India earlier in the day.


A&E
9:00 pm: Hoarders: "Dr. Doolittle"- In a bizarre case of animal hoarding, the team tries to help a former veterinary surgeon who has surrounded himself with a variety of strange creatures that he believes can talk to him.
10:00 pm: Intervention: "Sherlock"- Older brother Mycroft, friend John Watson, and concerned landlady Mrs. Hudson try to persuade private investigator Sherlock to seek treatment for his cocaine addiction.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Dr. Seusspeare

Happy New Year!!! And as we start this new year of 2013, allow me to extend a most heartfelt apology for my lack of updates in the past few months. It's really kind of embarrassing, actually, the moreso because I don't really have any valid excuse. I mean, I have a couple of excuses (such as a move and something like three broken laptops, because apparently I void warranties faster than a two-year-old on a sugar high), but mostly it was just due to my own laziness and procrastinatory* tendencies.

No more, though! My New Year's resolution is to keep this blog updated regularly, shooting for at least one new entry a week, preferably two or three. And so let's kick off this new year with a brand spanking new blog post I've been cooking up for you all for some time now- a little project I like to call "Dr. Seusspeare." Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Shakespeare's plays had been written by Dr. Seuss? Well, I have, and now we are about to find out! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, allow me to present to you the first installment of...

 
William Shakespeare's
The Tragedy of Macbeth
as told by Dr. Seuss

 Scene 1- a heath in Scotland. Enter the three Witches, Macbeth, and Banquo

Macbeth: The sun shineth not,
It is too wet to play,
But we’ve had a victory
On this cold, cold, wet day!

Banquo: Hey, look there!
What do you see?
Some ugly witches,
One, two, three!

First Witch: Hail, Macbeth, how do you do?
Boy, do we have news for you!
Yes, that’s right, we know your name,
And that of Glamis you are the Thane!

Second Witch: We hope you won’t find this a bother,
But you are also Thane of Cawdor!

Third Witch: And this should make you want to sing-
Pretty soon you will be king!

Banquo: Say, that trick is pretty neat!
And news like that just can’t be beat!
If I asked you nicely, please,
Would you do the same for me?

First Witch: Lesser than Macbeth you’ll be,
And yet much greater, you will see!

Second Witch: Sadder than Macbeth you’ll be,
But happier, too, I guarantee!

Third Witch: You won’t be king, but don’t be sad-
Lots of kings will call you “Dad!”  

Macbeth: Wait, what’s all this you say?
I can’t be Cawdor, there’s no way!
He still lives, that worthy Thane,
There’s no way I could take his name!
As to be king, that can’t be true!
What do you mean? Speak, I charge you!

Witches vanish

Banquo: Well, that was certainly very strange-
Do you think that we might be insane?

Macbeth: Will such wonders never stop?
For lots of kings, you will be pop!

Banquo: And if rightly I did understand,
You will get to rule the land!

Enter Ross and Angus

Ross: Hail, Macbeth, the king is glad
You beat those Norsemen, beat them bad!
And so through me he gives the order
That you are now the Thane of Cawdor!

Macbeth: [aside] Well, goodness, that’s some news right there,
And now on end stands all my hair.
What is this awful think I thought?
I must not think it, I must not!
For if chance will have me king,
I should not have to do a thing.

Banquo: Hey, Macbeth, why stop so late?
It’s on your leisure we all wait!

Macbeth: Sorry friends, this news so strange
Was keeping busy my dull brain.
But you’re quite right, too long we’ve stopped.
So now, my comrades, let’s be off!

Exeunt


What dark fate awaits Macbeth? Tune in next time for Part 2 of "Dr. Seusspeare's 'Macbeth'"! 


*Oh hush, it is too a word!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Still Here!





Well, it's been a bit longer than I intended between updates. The reason? I'm working on a rather more elaborate post than usual. Hopefully, it will be done soon and up some time next week. In the meantime, however, enjoy this video, which is not only hilarious, but also provides a small clue as to what I'm up to.