Escalator safety tips

Please hold small children by the hand.
Don’t run or sit on escalators.
Make sure your shoe laces are tied.
Stand to the right. Hold on to the railing.

Thank you, MTA. Do you have a similar set of tips for how I am supposed to do other things in my life, besides ride escalators – and if so, can you also write them in loose tetra/pentameter, and print them on farecards so I can keep them in my pocket? Thanks.

criticism, quotes, wordage

I do not intend to define the term “thought”

In beginning to speak about the application of thought to textual criticism, I do not intend to define the term thought, because I hope that the sense which I attach to the word will emerge from what I say.

– A.E. Housman, “The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism,” Art & Error: Modern Textual Editing (ed. Ronald Gottesman and Scott Bennett)

How awesome is that? Awesome, right? If I went around like that, I wouldn’t ever have to define anything. “I do not intend to define the term “assonance,” because I hope that the sense which I attach to the word will emerge from what I say…”

I am being kind of facetious. Actually, I like it. And I think he gets away with it. And more:

In beginning to speak about the application of thought to textual criticism, I do not intend to define the term thought, because I hope that the sense which I attach to the word will emerge from what I say. But it is necessary at the outset to define textual criticism, because many people, and even some people who profess to teach it to others, do not know what it is. One sees books calling themselves introductions to textual criticism which contain nothing about textual criticism from beginning to end; which are all about paleography and manuscripts and collation, and have no more to do with textual criticism than if they were all about accidence and syntax. Palaeography is one of the things with which a textual critic needs to acquaint himself, but grammar is another, and equally indispensable; and no amount either of grammar or of palaeography will teach a man one scrap of textual criticism.”

His semicolons are so dashing. Oh, and how about that “no amount either of X or of Y”? Yes. You know you like it.


say more

“There’s a beauty to things like ‘Got Milk?’ or ‘Just Do It’ or ‘Where’s the Beef?’ — this incredibly simple writing that seems to kind of say more,” he said. “They seem to work on some kind of a different level that has nothing to do with the product.”


a propos of nothing, wordage

No, you are not required to do anything.

That’s a line from a recent online chat with a Bank of America representative, assuring me that all the appropriate steps have been taken to get me a new ATM card. I saw it as I was glancing at the transcript and it popped out at me. No, you are not required to do anything. I think it’s an important thing for me to remember. We have a choice in everything we do. I have a choice in everything I do.

I am not required to do anything. So I must be here, in Wroclaw, for a reason. I must have chosen it.

L'Internet, wordage, writing

hoist ourselves atop the oblongs

I just got totally Gmail-ad-snatched by this blurb: “Isn’t it time you started reading The Straddler?” Well, I clicked over, and sure enough, it’s a litmag, they have Robert Frost’s Twitter page, and a bunch of stuff on architecture. Another example of successful advertising through guilt.

The Editors write:
If we are able to see more clearly the web of forces structuring, to a greater or lesser extent, our lives, we may be able to hoist ourselves atop the oblongs for a few moments—or even longer—and hear more clearly what it actually is that beats in our deep heart’s core.

poetry, rhyme, wordage, writing

sputter sputter

Today, during yoga, the Random Rhyme Generator turns on again, and hands this over: “marzipan-pale, mandolin-frail.” What do I do with that? It’s so retro – those are the kinds of poems I was writing in 1999 – and if I ever wanted to describe women in terms of musical instruments (high-strung), sugar, and alliteration, I don’t want to do it now.

To be honest, there is a very, very regrettable and derivative poem I wrote that year, in high school, which is some kind of Rapunzel-Greensleeves-Shalott-courtlylove-clusterstuck, and that is SO a line from that poem, which I thought I had left composting in the backyard of my brain, to feed future poems but not ever to remerge. Surprise. It’s back, shuffling its overwritten zombie stanzas up the stairs, dropping rhymes like clods of earth all over the kitchen floor.

Maybe, as I write more poetry, lines from the poems I was writing ten years ago will keep coming back. It’s like you can’t turn it on without turning it all on.

I wouldn’t use a line like that now, but I’m still proud of myself that that skill, matching words to one another on as many qualities as possible, which I cultivated so exclusively and so extremely for twenty-two years, is still dormant in my skull. (No more rhyming and I mean it.)

The kind of thing I would do now, and I’m about to, is write a poem about thinking of a line you can no longer use.

wordage, writing

untitled folder

Ah, January – when the desktop is studded with identical bright-blue icon-droids all bearing the name of “untitled folder,” full of important documents that you haven’t named, mostly titled “Document1” and “Copy of Document1,” and when the words of Polonius’s Guide to Portfolios become, with repetition, increasingly meaningless. This above all:

“A poem may be more than one page, however, please do not put more than one poem on each page.”

I used to be good at titles – these days I want to call everything “Baby Girl Poem (DOB 1-12-09), 3 stanzas, 11 lines.”

wordage, writing

It’s all pun and games till somebody loses an eye…

The cover of this month’s CONSCIOUS CHOICE, a magazine I pick up at the yoga studio, has this headline:


I’ve probably told this story on this blog before, but the great thing about blogs is that, unlike people, they can’t stop you when you say “Stop me if you’ve heard this before.” Besides, no one ever does. Stop anyone. So, when I was at Stanford, I thought it was a very important thing for me to be proficient in all forms of writing, including comedy writing, at which I have never had any particular skill.

I decided to audition to be a comedy writer for the Stanford Band’s halftime shows. I wrote a script which was mostly composed of rhyming and punning jokes, and won one of the three slots. I got into the writers’ room only to discover that my two co-writers actually knew about the other elements of comedy…timing, plot, delivery…and all I could do was puns.

I didn’t write a word of the remaining scripts in the season. I participated in the process, and helped be that person you bounce ideas off of, but except for a few occasions when a pun was needed, I was S.O.L.

Still one of the best times I’ve ever had, and made me appreciate the work of comedy writing so much more.

Once again (oh come on, you know you like it):