Wednesday, September 27, 2006

House of Cards

They're building a new hotel near the office. I pass the construction site on the way to and from work every day. It took over a month to clear out the land and put in the sewer and electric and whatnot. They've now started building up in earnest.

The hotel has a wood frame that is covered with plywood. It looks so flimsy. It seems to take two days to add a story to the building -- they were up to three stories when I left work today. Whenever I see this building-to-be, which to me just loks like a bunch of plywood stapled together into a three-story building, I can't help but think of a house of cards and wonder how this hotel will fare in Indiana weather.

This after watching the new CVS going in up the street. After they prepared the groundwork, this building's skeleton went up: strong, heavy, steel I-beams welded together.

If there's ever a tornado here, I'm heading for the CVS.

Monday, September 25, 2006

First IWS Concert

Last night was the first concert of the season. We started off well with Copland's Fanfer For the Common Man, followed by the Star-Spangled Banner and Stars and Stripes Forever.

The concert went well, and we generally sounded good. I don't know if any of the pieces sounded good enough for a recording, though. Each had its own little shortcomings. But all in all it was a good concert, definitely worth the price of admission.

But something weird happened to me. As I took a breath to play the last note of the last programmed piece (Persichetti's Symphony for Band), I suddenly got light-headed and woozy. I thought for a minute that I might pass out. Then we played an encore, an arrangement of America the Beautiful. in which the clarinets rest for a whopping 3 beats throughout the entire piece. I didn't play very much of that one. Just moved my fingers along and concentrated on breathing regularly. I still thought I might pass out.

I hadn't had any dinner, and I drank a Mountain Dew before the concert. I figure my body was just mad at me. I stopped at the VP on the way home and got a Gatorade and fig newtons.

Trying to get to sleep last night was difficult, because I never felt "right." Thinking about it made it worse, but I couldn't not think about it. I even considered driving myself to the ER just to be safe, but I never did. Eventually I fell asleep.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Note from the President

That's right: Tonight I was ushered in as the new board president of the Indiana Wind Symphony. My first act as president was to abolish the Eb Alto Clarinet.

I was quickly censured and reminded that the board acts as a representative democracy, not a politburo.

But seriously. Voting me in was the first thing on the agenda. After that, I had control of the meeting, in the sense that a ringleader has control of the circus. There was no set agenda (that'll be my first change), and I was completely unprepared, so the best I could do was draw people's attention to the different rings and then hop out of the spotlight.

But tonight isn't a sign of things to come. I hope that I can leave this band in better shape than I found it.

It's strange. I didn't start thinking about those What Ifs until just now. What if I fail? What if I somehow steer the band wrong? What if I do something wrong -- something government-investigation wrong?

Mostly, my thoughts have been more along the lines of WHAT THE HELL HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?! Like so many other things in my life, this is something I'll just have to learn along the way.

That's one great thing about being human. We're so adaptable.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Opposites? They ought to be!

The English language can be rather odd, which I think is what makes it fun. For example, the following look like they ought to be antonyms, but they're actually synonyms:
  • ravel = unravel
  • flammable = inflammable: The source of "flammable" is well-documented. "Nonflammable" exists only because people started using "flammable."
  • press = depress: As in buttons or keys on a keyboard. Occasionally I get authors trying to sneak "depress" in when "press" will work just fine. Some people just can't stand one-syllable words.

Can you think of any more?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Indy Irish Fest

Went ti the Indy Irish Fest with some friends this morning/afternoon. When I got there, I made the bad choice of thinking that Military Park (the festival's venue) was shady enough the I didn't need sunblock. My red forehead hurts!

Other then that, I had a great time. They had four stages going, so we got to hear a lot of great Celtic and Irish music.

I heard, for the first time, a band called Siochain ("SHE-uh kahn," at least that's how they pronounced it -- yes, it sounds like a character from Star Trek) that blew my mind. I had thought the idea of "Celtic Rock" sounded a little too far-fetched and forced to be really interesting. But they rocked!!! They had the drums and bass as a foundation, a guitarist who "doubled" on bagpipes, I woman on keyboard and bodhran, and the main man Nathan Klatt on fiddle. I saw them on two stages, and both sets were wonderful. I especially liked their surprising rendition of Amazing Grace.

The best part is that this is a band from Indianapolis, so if I keep my eye out, I can catch them live at the Claddagh Irsh Pub or somesuch. I liked them so much that I bought their CD.

This festival was so much better than this summer's Jazz Fest -- and I love jazz. The jazz fest had only two stages. PREPAID admission was over $20, it was probably $30 at the door. "Food tickets" were either $1.25 or $1.50 -- and a beer cost 6 tickets. That's right, a single beer for the cost of an entire six-pack. It was just too expensive for what you got.

On the other hand, admission to the Irish Fest was CANNED GOODS! That's right, bring in some cans of corn and you get in essentially free. Food tickets were only a dollar, and a beer -- on draught, not from a can -- was either 4 or 5 dollars. (The real Irish beers -- Guinness, Harp, and Smithwicks -- cost an extra dollar.)

The food at these kinds of festivals is always great. They don't have carnival food. Local restaurants -- and in the case Irish ones like the Claddagh and O'Malley's Steakhouse, as well as others -- peddle their yummy wares.

Summer in Indianapolis is a wonderful thing.

Now I have to go apply lotion to my stinging forehead.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Palate Cleansing

I just had to get a new note posted so that that depressing note from 9/12 wouldn't be the first thing people saw here.

I don't have much to say, though. The IWS has its first concert of the season on Sept. 23. On Monday I put the finishing touches on our possibly only snail mailing of the year -- a postcard with our schedule and a bit more info on it. Now we just have to get them stamped, addressed, and sent. Not any easy task for a mailing list of, oh, 500 people. We'll probably have a postcard-assembling party this weekend, if there's time for everyone.

On Sunday I'm going with some friends to the Indianapolis Irish Festival. I'll probably get drunk on Guinness and whisky. (More on Sunday evening.) It's nice to have some weekend plans for once.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Day After 9/11/06

I suppose September 11 was pretty blog-intensive, especially with it being a multiple-of-five anniversary. I managed to make it through the day without thinking about it much, except when I saw that the flag outside my building was flying at half-staff.

Is it wrong for me just to not think about something painful? I have enough pain ni my past that I could think about it all night long and never leave the house, even without 9/11.

I've often wanted to ask my few friends whether they knew personally anyone who had been murdered (I knew two) or if they new personally any murderers (I know one), but I don't know what I would do with the answers. I just wonder about how unevenly pain is spread around to people.

Since I was born, I haven't been able to go more than five years without someone close to me dying. The saddest part is that over half of these people died before they reached 40.

Maybe I'm bad luck to know?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Presidential Nominee

It's official. At least unofficially so.

I've just sent an e-mail to the rest of the IWS board that I'd like to be considered for the position as president. Of the IWS board, not the United States. Hope I'm not getting in over my head.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Simple Insanity

An "author" for one of the books I'm copy editing has been turning in, to put it nicely, substandard text from the beginning. It started as just bad writing, but then quickly turned ridiculous. A few weeks ago, he went from ridiculous to ludicrous. Now, in addition to the grammatical problems, clarity problems, agreement problems, and word choice problems, he's showing signs of extremely illogical thinking and total lack of organization.

He's gone from ludicrous to online Japanese translator.

Of course, if any of my authors read this, they'll each "know" that I must be talking about someone else.

But all this leads back to a question I ask myself about twice a week: If someone can get paid as an "author" to write and submit drivel like this, then why haven't I written and published a book yet?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Useless Information the Hard Way

There are a lot of phrases that, as a copy editor, an English-speaker, a reader, and a human being, just grate on my nerves. I'll likely list a few of them in a later post, but today, I'm being weighed down by just one.
There are a number of X that Y.
The mammoth book I'm copy editing now is written by two authors who, to be nice about it, aren't good. If I had a nickel for every time these guys used the above phrase, I could buy myself a nice lunch. And a hooker.

What's wrong with this phrase, you ask? This is possibly the most verbose way to convey a piece of information so small as to be irrelevant. Take this, for example:
There are a number of different types of input devices that can be used.
  1. The subject of the sentence is "there." These expletives need to be avoided as much as possible.
  2. The sentence is in passive tense, which should also be generally avoided.
  3. Two is a number. So if there were only two types of input devices, this sentence would still be true but would be exactly the opposite of the intended meaning.
  4. Of what use is this information?
  5. Most importantly, this tiny bit of information could be conveyed more interestingly, more colorfully, and more accurately and with fewer words, like this:

Data can get into your computer in a lot of ways.

Not all input devices are the same.

There are as many different input devices as there are haircuts.

The best solution is probably to work the existence of a multiplicity of input devices into another sentence with only two or three words. It isn't that hard. [In the end, this was my solution. I deleted the whole sentence and slipped the word "myriad" in before the next nearest occurrence of "input devices."]


Omit needless words!!!

Now reread the first sentence of this post and tell me what a hypocrite I am...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

IWS Starts Its 2006/07 Season . . . Rehearsals

Tonight was the first rehearsal of the new season with the Indiana Wind Symphony. Just from sight-reading the music for the first concert, I'm already excited. We're opening with Fanfare For the Common Man. I can't think of a better way to kick off a new season.

Practically everything else we're doing is new to me. The highlight so far is Warren Barker's New York: 1972, a jazzy pop-type tune that is just fun to play. Apparently Warren Barker died earlier this year. If this piece is any indication of the type of music he writes, I hope we do a lot more of his stuff.

Of course, that being said, we didn't get a chance to read through Vincent Persichetti's Symphony For Band. I'm always wowed by Persichetti's band works, and I don't think I've ever played this one.

Before rehearsal, we had a board meeting. There's a lot going on at the beginning of a season, but especially this one. What with the new redesigned Web site, which includes not only a message board, but also has a PayPal link so that people can make donations through the site. We're also planning to send out an e-newsletter, so we can reach more people more often without spending the cost of a stamp.

But first, we have to put together our first mailing. Or, rather, I have to put together our first mailing -- a 4x6 postcard with, among other things, our concert schedule. Somehow I ended up with the job of designing the thing.

Oh well. I guess I'd do as good a job as anyone else on the board.

We're also, for apparently the first time, setting up committees to handle some of the musical affairs. I'm currently on the fundraising committee. But I'm not a people person, I'm an idea man. I hope we don't end up with a bunch of idea-persons and no people-persons. Sigh.

Also, our board President recently resigned because he's going back to school to get his teaching certification. So we're currently President-less.

I'm seriously thinking about throwing my hat into the ring for this spot. (Nobody else wants it.) Although I'm not sure I'd be doing it for the right reasons...

Must ponder.
Must sleep.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

From the Copy Editor: Only

Being a professional copy editor, I spend way too many of my waking hours trying to make what other people write as clear as I can. Most hurdles that trip up authors involve switching from spoken word to written word. The rules (or guidelines or what have you) for written English are different from the rules for spoken English (another post, another time), but some authors have trouble making the switch.

One of the most common corrections I make is the placement of the word only. Normally, people just place it right before the verb, but that isn't always the right place. Only should appear as close to the word or words it modifies as possible. (Even though only ends in -ly, it isn't always an adverb.) Consider these permutations of "I ate the apple."

Only I ate the apple. "I was the only one to consume this delectable fruit."
I only ate the apple. "Bob juggled with it, and Jane did a magic trick with it, but I just ate it."
I ate only the apple. "Out of this entire smorgasbord, the only thing I ate was the apple."
I ate the only apple. "There was only one apple, and now it's in my belly."
I ate the apple only. "I didn't touch your damn pear!"

Now, "I ate only the apple" and "I ate the apple only" seem mean the same thing, but there is a subtle difference. Say the two sentences out loud and listen to where you put the emphasis. You'll probably hear this:

I ate only the apple.
I ate the apple only.

In the first sentence, the stress in on only -- on the apple's solidarity; in the second sentence, the emphasis is on apple; as opposed to the other fruits. These two sentences could answer two different questions:

Did you eat much? No, I ate only the apple.
Did you try one of the peaches? No, I ate the apple only.

Of course, there are sure to be exceptions the "rule" about putting only next to the word it modifies. If only I could come with a good example of one of them . . .

A Rhetorical Question

My father turned 59 over the weekend.

Why does that make me feel old?

Monday, September 04, 2006

IWS Takes a Ride on the Superhighway

I'm glad to see that the Indiana Wind Symphony Web site now has a discussion forum open and running. This summer, the Web site was completely overhauled by one of our own clarinet-playing computer geeks (and no, it wasn't me). The new site has been launch, and we're now in the clean-up stages. The site looks great.
Hopefully, this new venture will help the IWS become more a part of the central Indiana music scene, which will turn into more butts in more seats at our concerts. We're really quite good, and our concerts are now free. So if you live in the Indianapolis area (especially on the northwest side), you have no excuse.

Book Review: Kurt Vonnegut "Man Without a Country"

For as long as I can remember, I've been a serial monogamist when it comes to authors, and Kurt Vonnegut was one of my first "favorite authors." I discovered him in, I believe, the eighth grade, and over the next five years I read probably 85% of what he had written to that point. (It took me a while to find a copy of Happy Birthday, Wanda June.) Since then, I've bought his new releases in hardcover as soon as they came out.

I recently read his latest, Man Without a Country. This, of course, isn't fiction. KV doesn't write fiction anymore. But this isn't fact, either. It's opinions, personal philosophy, politics, and old age.

Yes, old age. More and more, KV is starting to sound like an old fogey. But, of course, he is an old fogey--he was 82 when he wrote this--and he readily admits it...both his age and his fogey-ness. But, perhaps more than before, his age shows through his words. Although he stealthily avoided the phrase "kids these days" throughout the entire book, that implication hangs over every word.

Of course, to KV, "kids these days" applies not only to rebelling teenagers, but also to the likes of W and his sidekick Dick, to baby boomers, to Vietnam vets, pretty much to everyone.

KV touches on many topics. He gives a brief lesson in good humor, tells us the most important works in American literature ("Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" and de Tocqueville's Democracy in America), tells us what war is really all about, and gives a decent discussion of creative writing, complete with blackboard examples (although I, as a copy editor, question some of grammatical viewpoints, to wit: "Do not use semicolons. . . . All they do is show you've been to college.")

Does this sound familiar? Sounds like a blog, doesn't it? Man Without a Country is the closest thing to a blog that this self-proclaimed Luddite will ever write. For anyone who ever wished that Vonnegut would start a blog, he has. It's this book. Fans of blogs will enjoy this book, as will secular humanists, democrats, pacifists, musicians, artists, Tralfamadorians, writers, Luddites, auto dealers, comedians, and senior citizens. Who wouldn't enjoy this book? This list is short, and it starts like this: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh . . .