Friday, July 28, 2017

Historic Controversies

There is a renewed interest in the author, James Baldwin these days. One of the reasons for this may be that his birthday is August 2.

However, there is a lot to be said about the gay Black author. He wrote about topics that were exotic to a 1950s and '60s audience. He explored heterosexual relationships between people who were of different racial backgrounds and sexual identities. He considered whether these relationships could survive in a Jim Crow culture where segregation and discrimination was the way of the land, where homosexuality was only whispered about in smoke-filled cocktail party room of predominantly comprised of the Beat crowd and university thinkers. But that, in and of itself, was a distinction because few Black writers were able to rise to having the status of having their works and theories form the basis of serious discourse.

He dared to speak of the rejection of the Black native son and portray his position in a society that allowed travel on one of two paths while ignoring all the others. And, like Richard Wright, Baldwin attempted to explain the psychology of existence and moral standards of one racial group compared with another.

Perhaps Baldwin's friendship with archaeologist Margaret Mead explains some of his essays and the depths into which he went with his analyses of his subjects and the critical acclaim he gained because of his willingness to explore these topics with the reading world. When we compare some of the titles of his works to those of Richard Wright, the critical-thinking reader will ponder to what extent Wright influenced Baldwin's voice.

And here we are, more than a half century since he emerged in the literary world, now daring to include black characters on both the large and small screen who go about their lives in all walks of life, without restraints, because the diversity and inclusion conversation was doing little toward moving us forward in the realm of diversity and acceptance in reality.

Perhaps this birthday will be the one where the resurgence in interest will be the one that also encourages the lowering of the barriers to outright acceptance and nurtures consideration and inclusion based on actual ability without regard to genetics.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Critique: Still Star-Crossed

It's been a goal to write a review/critique of the TV series "Still Star Crossed" since it first aired. That is still my goal. It's one thing to watch an adaptation of a classic. It's yet another to view the sequel not anticipated by the original author, complete with 21st Century modifications for inclusiveness. How closely the after story follows the conventions of the times is worth at least a viewing or few.

When it first aired, it was one of the Summer substitutes for the Shondaland empire on Thursday nights. That was interrupted when the air dates started changing in deference to things such as awards shows, sports specials, TV reality contests, and other madness. Then the show air dates started moving. Initially, it followed episodes of "The Bachelorette." That changed. It showed up again on a Sunday night then eclipsed itself only to reappear on a Saturday night - in conflict with KCET's dramas and PBS's Masterpiece Mysteries.

At this point, it isn't clear whether it's supposed to be a weekly Summer show or just a filler until the Fall season starts. It appears the series is going to suffer a slow death. Thus, a good review/critique may be a postmortem.

In the meantime, here are a few observations about "Still Star-Crossed."

It's the next chapter of the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet, penned by the bard, Shakespeare. Perhaps that's why the Italian families speak with extremely British accents.

There's nothing to explain why the royal families are so diverse. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that Italy is so close to Morocco and the northern areas of Africa. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the remains of Beachy Head Woman of British archaeology was originally from a sub-Saharan country and who could have been the wife or mistress of merchant. At any rate, the awareness of Beachy Head Lady lends credence to the array of colors of the Veronese and Venetian aristocracy portrayed in the series.

Much of the story line has a "Scandal" feel with regard to the intrigue the hangs like a heavy cloud over the characters. But that was also the signature intrigue unique to the bard in many of his dramas. Richly colored costumes (that have a certain color scheme for particular characters) are very accurate for the time. There's a very limited view of the common life that should be part of the population. The story feels like we're watching a period-based soap opera. But it's well executed, which is one of the reasons for my frustration when it isn't aired on the expected day and time.

It was a bit difficult to take when Lady Rosalind ran off astride a horse instead of side saddle with Lord Benvolio. There were reasons why ladies rode side saddle. But there were also women who broke with traditions and were brazen and bold and rode cross saddle. It appears she was among them. (Right on, ladies!)

Which brings me to the roles of the women in this series. Were they truly involved in the various maneuverings of political plans and schemes or were they merely window dressing for their husbands? Theory has it that the former was true. Although there could have been strategic pillow talk, it was not uncommon for there to be his and hers bedrooms. Is it really possible that the women of rank from the House of Escalus could fall to being servants and then rise again to being considered aristocracy? Is that, perhaps, how the stardust of Liberty was sprinkled onto the subconscious of the masses? (wink)

For the time being, the series can be viewed on Saturday evenings. Find episodes and show dates here. [I just found it while attempting to learn whether it's still being aired.] Each episode can be viewed on Amazon.com for $1.99 per episode. The episodes are exciting and very close to a Dumas novel.

So there you have it. A review of the show that isn't a postmortem.

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Proofreading and Attention to Detail - Spam or Scam

Many times documents are created but the finishing touches aren't added. Most of the time the reason for the lack of attention to detail is because the writing is simply a reminder to self or a quick note to a friend. Those are instances when the errant misspelling or incorrect punctuation can be forgiven. Additionally, the circulation is negligible, if any at all.

But there are communications such as business letters, proposals, articles and blog posts intended for generating new business, and even term papers (not to mention books), that demand attention to detail. The typos, misused words, and so on, detract from one's credibility.

Lately a large amount of spam and scam mail has been reaching my mailboxes. Much of it presents itself as emanating from a legitimate source. Well, that comes into question when reading the message starts. Here is one example. I've added proofreader comments as we move through the text so that all of us can benefit from this exercise. Please also note that this post is made with the assumption that the name of the person at the end of the message is fictitious although the intent of the message becomes clear by the end.

Sent: Sunday, June 25, 2017 11:38 PM
Subject: <<<< [brackets should not precede the content of the subject line]From U.S. Department of the Treasury [The name of the agency sending the message will not be in the subject line. The subject line denotes what the message is about.]

Attention:

Your credit payment file have been [should read "has been"] added and opened,[This should be a period followed by a space to start the new sentence. ]We received an email from Mr Fred Atkinson [titles that are abbreviations such as "Mr.", "Ms.", "Mrs.", or "Dr." are followed by a period to show they are abbreviations.] today that you had an accident and died in the act.. [only one period at the end of a sentence.]
Mr [title] Fred Atkinson claim [should read "claims"] to be your lawyer and he is ready to claim your funds related to your compensation funds of $500,000.00 (five hundred thousand United State Dollars [the amount should be initial capitals; the name of the nation is plural]) that has been with us for three months now which you refuse to claim. he has also agreed to pay the fund release charges of US$460 [consistency of reference].

So we write to confirm if you are DEAD OR ALIVE, [punctuation] if [first word of a sentence is capitalized] you fail to reply back within 48hrs [space between number and word; "hrs" should be spelled out], We [improper use of a pronoun as a proper noun] will assume that what Mr Fred Atkinson said about you is right so we have no other alternative than to believe that you are truly dead according to Mr Fred Atkinson . [no space between last word of the sentence and the closing punctuation]

After 48hrs of no response from you, We [improper use of pronoun] will start the transfer and the delivery of your funds to your next of kin account which he claim to be [parenthetical phrase should be set off by a comma; end of sentence should be closed with a period]

IF YOU ARE STILL ALIVE, YOU ARE ADVICE [wrong word] TO GET INTOUCH [should be two words] WITH US BY A REPLY ON [should be "by"; unclear] MAIL OR GIVE US A CALL AS FAST AS YOU CAN..my cell phone. [numerous errors: One period followed by a space; first word of a new sentence is capitalized; reference has changed from "plural pronoun to singular] +1 484-305-9864[end a sentence with a period before starting a new paragraph.]

Take note that Mr Fred Atkinson has agreed to pay for THE RELEASE CHARGES, if you refuse [punctuation; new sentence] to get back to us, am afraid [missing pronoun; improper verb] we shall give him the go ahead with the release chareges [spelling] payment and then the fund transfer will be made to his Name and Account [no initial caps].

NOTE: He has drop is ["dropped his"?] account details and his home address for delivery of the funds into his International [no initial cap] ATM card and he promise [tense] to make the neccessary [spelling] payment.We are writing to confirm if all he said was [tense] true because he want [tense] us to start the transfer ASAP [should be spelled out].

You are to send a scan [tense] copy of your driver's licence [this is the British spelling of the word that is used by an American government agency] or national ID [abbreviation improper] for proper confirmation.Please ,get back to us as soon as possible to know if we are to get Mr Fred Atkinson Arrested [lower case] for trying to claim your fund illegally.note that you have been given just 48hrs to get back to us .

fill the Information Below. [incorrect use of capitals]
Name:
Country:
House Address:
Occupation:
Phone Number:

We await your swift response in regard to this news we received from Mr.Fred Atkinson

U.S. Department of the Treasury
Sanusi Kayode.

In addition to the numerous composition errors, Mr. Kayode does not provide his title. His email message did not contain a reply address. And he does not indicate which Treasury office location is where he is located. The Treasury Department has at least one office in each state.

There are a number of ways to contact the Treasury Department by phone. Mr. Kayode's phone number doesn't seem to match any of the ones listed.

The Treasury Department also has a division that can be contacted to learn whether it is holding unclaimed federal funds for individuals. Their website can be searched. It should also be noted that each state has a department for unclaimed funds.

Incidentally, a lawyer does not have a right to a client's (current or past) unclaimed property. To claim the property would be a form of unjust enrichment. It isn't clear why Mr. Kayode is giving legal advice in his letter of notification. He does nothing to identify himself as a member of the legal staff in the Treasury Department.

After experiencing this correspondence, there are probably questions going through your mind about various forms of property, such as
  • life insurance benefits
  • real estate
  • intellectual property rights
  • tax refunds
  • insurance overpayments
and other types of funds and properties. There is a page on Reference.com that provides many answers to these types of questions. We've meandered away from copy editing and proofreading but when your writer comes from many backgrounds and wears several hats, you get bonus information. No matter what, do your own research to confirm that the information is correct.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

All Muddled Up

There are those times when you're trying to dash something off on a social media site and in the back of your mind you sense that the word you're using isn't the right one. In the alternative, something tells you it isn't spelled properly - you're using the homonym for what you really want to say. But there you are trying to dash off a quick response to something. You ignore that instinct that I affectionately call "My Muse" and click Post. No going to Dictionary.com to check the spelling. No tolling the benefits of spell check. Auto-correct! Isn't that a four-letter word!?

So eight different instances of using the term in different posts (and a couple of other terms) that My Muse started nagging you about that are also generously sprinkled about your social media home (still without checking the spelling or usage of the terms), and

lo and behold!

You come upon all of them in a news headline - spelled correctly. And you've been telling people you have perfect spelling and are a quality proofreader. Would you like this plain paper bag to cover your head - and embarrassment?

In the alternative, you wrote it one way. Then you reasoned through whether that was the correct version of what you wanted to say. Let's say the word was about courage and fortitude. You know that sword metal needs to be tempered and tested. Does that, therefore, mean that the character's "metal" is being tested or is the character's "mettle" the subject of the passage. You go with "metal" because the result will be the strongest possible. It would be so much wiser to double check which spelling (thus, which word) is the one that should be used. Two days later you decide to double check. That's when you're reminded about the other homonyms, "medal", "metal", "mettle", and (just for good measure, "meddle"). Are you slapping your forehead with the palm of your hand? Here's an ice pack. Your face has a few blue marks and I don't think they're from an editor's - or copyeditor's, for that matter - pencil.

Maybe you can make an argument about the location of Briton and how it's related to Britain. (And we won't even get into whether either one is spelled with one "t" or two.) Of course, the person listening to the rationale won't tell you that one is a person from the region whereas the other is the region. They'll simply hand you a mental shovel as they walk away with that strange smirk on their face.

Their loss. They don't know about your sharp wit and mounds of awards for public speaking and debate.

Besides, there are all of those new words that are becoming part of our lexicon these days because of global language blending, colloquialisms, and idioms that allow all (global all) of us to speak in emoji and Twitter-speak. Remember those good old days? You know, the ones where we were scrambling to keep up with computerese? That time from the 1980s when computers were becoming every person's language as we evolved from "every man's" language.

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Importance of Bibliographies

Many bloggers do not use bibliographic notes appended to their posts. Perhaps that's because most blog posts are simply thoughts of the writer rather than researched articles. Perhaps the bibliographic notes are missing because the writer doesn't realize the "why" of creating that reference point. Either way, the bibliography (sometimes called a resources list) serves a very meaningful purpose. It isn't a bunch of cross links to other sites in order to promote a friend's or colleague's website or blog.

For a lab report, a research paper, or an article, the standard is universal. A reference list or bibliography is used in order to show that there was research done to support the thoughts being put forth in the writing. The facts can be proved; anyone who wants to check them has a list of the resources relied upon to develop and support the ideas.

There are those who attempt to detract from the writer's credibility. Some criticisms amount to saying that the list is nothing more than a bunch of links that were thrown in as an afterthought. Chances are, those critics aren't even aware of the resource list and have not visited any of the references in order to learn more, much less verify that they support the theory being proposed.

No, the reference list is not a gimmick to make the article appear long or increase the word count or make it impressive because of mass. Its purpose is to provide substantiation of what is contained; the author's words provide the substance of the proposition based on how well the arguments are formed. The reference list shows what was examined. Because the list is held up to scrutiny,

it is wise to actually read the source in order be conversant about what it contains. It's also important to read the entire source (unless, of course, it's a very lengthy book or treatise that requires an inordinate amount of time to consume) in order to be certain that it doesn't start by making one proposition that will be disputed and proved wrong or different at the end. Know the content. If the original proposition is different from what is being argued, find one that supports the proposition that is being made. In the case of the treatise, it's better to examine the chapter or section that directly deals with the subject of the writing. There is the matter of overkill when researching a subject.

It's also useful to double check resources to be certain the theory or principle is still the same. In law, some principle will be cited in the pleading (or brief). Woe to the lawyer who doesn't Shepardize their case law or legislation to be certain it is being maintained in their jurisdiction and that it is still good law. Even if it isn't law that's being discussed in the paper, make certain the propositions are supported by evidence or facts (or both) in order to make certain the arguments are as strong as possible.

Citation Styles

There are a number of citation styles. The more standard are Chicago, Associated Press (AP), and Modern Language Association (MLA). The style that is used is primarily based on where the writing is going to be published and its purpose. If it is for journalism, it's wise to determine whether the publisher prefers (or defaults to) the Chicago style or AP. There are differences between the two. Better to have your writing submitted under the correct style rather than have the writer's credibility questioned because the wrong style was used without regard to the quality of the content. It means the publisher will have to be doubly careful about scrutinizing the content because there's first impression evidence that the writer doesn't pay close attention to details.

But there's no wiggle room for legal writing. The rule of thumb is to follow the Harvard Blue Book of Citation.

No Matter What

Suffice it to say, it's wise to create and list the sources used to support the proposition being discussed in the paper. If nothing else, the reference list provides evidence of having looked into the matter rather than just blowing off a bunch of gibberish intended to flimflam the unsuspecting reader. It's also wise to use a reference list to help keep track of what was used as the paper is being developed. Most importantly, the reference list is not the paper; it supports the paper's proposition.

The next time you're discussing something more than the latest reality show and there's a difference of opinion, an assertion that the current topic is flawed, ask for what shows otherwise.

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Evolution of Expressions

Yes, word usage evolves over time. That means the word takes on new meanings from the onset of its use to somewhere in the distant future. One classic example is the word "nice" which at one time did not enjoy a very favorable connotation. Colloquialisms became associated with it and how it was being used. Those nuances caused changes in the meaning and because of that, how it was subsequently used to describe something. Now it interpreted as indication of being favorable or enjoyable, pleasant to have but not above average. Still, it has evolved through the ages.

Every One vs. Everyone

Paul Madison tells us that the term "every one" has taken on a new meaning and directs our attention to nGrams to emphasize his point. He notes:

. . . I forgot to send a link to google nGrams like I said I would at out last meeting. The main website is https://books.google.com/ngrams

Here's an example of how nGrams can be used to find "correct" grammar as it changes over time: When were the words "every one" more correct than "everyone"? The answer may (or may not) surprise you:

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=everyone%2Cevery+one&year_start=1650&year_end=2000

There's a bit of an oversight here. The term Madison is referencing is to a group, true, but there's something missing from the explanation. The thing is "every one" can be broken down into "each one of . . ." and relates to pinpointing one object or person individually out of the entire group.

Compare "every one", for example, "each one in the group" to "everyone" or "everybody" which mean "all of the people" or "all who are/were there." It's inclusive and looks at no single instance as an example; it looks at the entire collection. When musing over a term and trying to determine whether an alternative is correct or whether the term has really evolved, test it. Say it in another way while maintaining the gist of the intended meaning. As with this example, is everybody in the room what's intended or is each apple in the basket what's being highlighted.

It's a good idea to stay open to using reference tools. Just be careful that you're researching the right information. Take some time to explore nGrams.

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Inflammatory Words

Words of hate and mistrust are proliferating nearly everything these days. The more the words are used, the more it's prudent to question and learn the definitions before blindly following suit and using those words - sometimes incorrectly. It's also a good idea to know how to spell these terms so that you show yourself knowledgeable in as many ways as possible.

As to Women

The first word that comes to mind is "misogyny." What does that mean? It's rising in use in sitcoms and now while speaking of one of the Presidential candidates.

While attempting to find it on Dictionary.com, I spelled it "misogeny," which the site quickly prompted me was the incorrect spelling. What we need to remember about the meaning of the word is it relates to distaste for women. Thus, the spelling has its roots in gynecology. You'll find the correct spelling to be "misogyny".

Forms of Governing

The next word on today's radar is far removed from feminism - or is it. The word is "facism," right? What did I say before? You need to know how to spell the word in order to approach using it in the correct manner. Again, Dictionary.com swatted my fingers (gently) and asked if perhaps I really wanted to find the word "fascism". It says a lot about a national sentiment. As you get into conversations (and debates) with others about our current Presidential campaigns, as you write about the things that are happening, and as you search for ways to compare these events to an understandable reference point, it won't take long to find comparisons of people, places, times.

I won't get into trying to expound on either of these inflammatory words, nor other words that convey hate. Suffice it to say it is wise to use the word correctly and spell it as it is spelled.

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