Monday, September 28, 2015

A Pet Peeve: Grammar

Much unnecessary capitalizing in an official sign at Kaiser Pharmacy, Oakland, Ca, 9/28/15

One thing that bothers me about American society is that we teach children the rules of English grammar in school, and then we don't reinforce it out in the world. Some of the main things adults seem to struggle with in English are: apostrophes, quotation marks and quoting, and capitalization. Despite my efforts to remind people that apostrophes, though tricky, really aren't as complicated as people make them, people seem to return to their own conceptions of what the grammar rules are. They also do this with capitalization and quotes, and it's an interesting phenomenon that you can remind someone of the right way to do something, and they'll get it in the moment, but then return to their erroneous, habitual ways after awhile. Why is this? 

One can't separate grammar in a notoriously tricky language such as English from social justice: I'm empathetic to the fact that America is an immigrant country, and many people who are ESL struggle with English grammar in its written form. Spanish doesn't use apostrophes, so I understand it's an alien concept. People have different levels of education. I get that. But there's a disconnect between the emphasis we place on the importance of grammar all through American school -- hell, students are graded on it, after all -- and how these rules fall apart out in the marketplace of capitalistic society. 

Take the example above: "patient confidentiality" doesn't need capitalization. Nor does "please" and "receptionist." Health Plan Card is ok since it's a specific proper noun about a specific thing at Kaiser. "Photo" in "Photo ID" needn't be capitalized. Whoever wrote the sign -- and approved it! -- didn't understand how proper nouns work. 

Grammar is important. How we write is an expression of our education, our participation in a social contract, and what's going on in our minds. Grammar is agreed-upon by a culture and is taught uniformly. I'm fine with people breaking the rules -- such as in surrealistic writing, experimental poetry, etc -- but one has to know the rules, first. It's time to align the world outside school with what goes on within its walls. Or at least study why people pass tests as children to know this stuff, and then forget it over time. One good example of this is -- people who make cakes at supermarkets seem to be some of the worst offenders.

Worthwhile Reading

The latest Atlantic has some great articles: "The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration" by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a sobering and bleak in-depth article; and Alison Gopnik's article on skeptical British philosopher David Hume and the Buddha is an interesting read. Check both these out.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Geeking Out By Going Within

Longtime meditator and Buddhist author Michael Taft, whom I've had nothing but the pleasure of meditating with and studying under for a number of months now, has a new book out called The Mindful Geek. It's brand spanking new, so I haven't read it yet, but I just ordered it from Amazon. Michael has written previous books about nondualism (subject/object, mind/body, etc) and ego. He's a fantastic meditation leader who has given me a lot of meditation and life skills, based on a kind of American Zen approach rooted in the teachings of Shinzen Young. I think Michael is on the cutting edge of things with this new book, because the newest crop of hybrid Buddhists are the computer/tech geeks who meditate. They make us Dharma Punx look old! But it is so interesting to watch the 2,500-year old tradition of Buddhism and meditation evolve into new and exciting forms. Check Michael's new book out. He's an insightful and beautiful person whom I hold in high regard for the down to earth and helpful ways he's helped me learn to work with my own mind a little more skillfully, compassionately, and richly. (It's also a fire under my tookus to dust off and try and get my own geek-themed manuscript, The World According to Geek (about a fictional carnie geek), published!)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Green Inferno

I'm excited about Eli Roth's upcoming Green Inferno. I like the premise that a group of well-intentioned do-gooders trying to help an indigenous tribe.... get eaten by the tribe. Very Grizzly Man-esque. The title of the film comes from the film-within-the-film in the classic movie Cannibal Holocaust, which I've very mixed feelings about. I liked that that movie pushed boundaries and went for broke, but I felt sad about the animals killed in it. We'll see how Roth's vision holds up in the ol' cannibal film canon (one of my favorite genres).

Thursday, September 10, 2015


New Slayer out 9/11/15. Pretty clever packaging it comes in! The video for "Repentless" was filmed in an L.A. prison, which I think is cool, if only that it draws attention to the momentum to reform the prison industrial complex....


One Direction is most decidedly not punk rock, but I have to say: Harry correcting that sign IS PUNKROCK. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Mad Max costumes and what they reveal about the films

Found a cool website that focuses on the costuming in all the Mad Max films that actually really helps one go deeper into the films by understanding the various character factions in each movie. For example, Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior's characters, since it's a fast-moving action movie, at first seem like a confusing jumble of post-apocalyptic crazies, but the website really breaks it down nicely. For instance, do you know the difference between a Gayboy Berserker and a Smegma Crazy in MM2/TRW? As many times as I've seen the film, I didn't, either. It's like a complicated piece of music that one can break down into component parts and see how the magic was made.

Some Smegma Crazies from the second Mad Max film (my favorite, along with Fury Road)

3 things

1. Twizzlers Caramel Apple twists are delicious.

2. Critics panned it pretty hard, but I liked Sinister 2. Shannyn Sossamon is easy on the eyes, I liked the rural setting, and I thought the film delivered some jolts and genuine creepiness at times. It also reminded me what an awesome soundtrack Sinister has, which I went back and rediscovered.

3. Some new songs up on Soundcloud to check out