A Call for Submissions
I urge every one of my FB friends (assuming you support it) to write a letter a week to their congressional representatives. If they’re Republicans like mine in Texas, you understand the urgency. If one or more of them is Democratic, please write them anyway; it will reinforce the idea that they need to stay the course (blue dogs particularly need stiff encouragement). Then send all your FB friends (some of you have hundreds) a message urging them to write their representatives one letter a week until some form of a jobs act is passed.
Yes, it will cost you $1.32 to send a letter a week to your three representatives, but I like to imagine the tiny offices of these tiny people filling with letters to the point that they’ll have no room to sit in their tiny chairs. And no stationary is needed. No computers.
Scrawl your letters on the back of used paper (sift through your recycling bin at work).
Write your urgings on the back of an unpaid bill (better yet, a copy of the unpaid bill).
Write your urgings on a copy of your mortgage bill.
Write with your kid’s crayon, an old marker, a Sharpie, chalk.
Send it in a used envelope and tape it shut.
If you’re short on time or words, write it big: PASS THE AMERICAN JOBS ACT, five words every week until it is passed. Even if it fails, we continue write: PASS A JOBS BILL NOW. All the Republicans want to talk about right now is depriving a woman of her right to choose. Let’s keep them focused on jobs until they’re so sick of hearing from their constituents they’ll do SOMETHING.
On numerous occasions President Obama has declared that he cannot do this alone (and we see that it is true). I know we may feel helpless, but if we do the things we are capable of doing, perhaps, in the aggregate (imagine millions of letters flowing out the windows of the office buildings in Washington and down the streets, K Street in particular), we can succeed. Washington offices could soon be filled with stationery, scraps of paper, all screaming for congress to pass a jobs bill. Now.
Cut back one staff member.
Cut back to one less trip home, one less vacation.
And while we’re cutting, why not cut that second mortgage deduction on federal income tax.
Who says members of congress must own property in one of the most historical and expensive real estate markets in the country? The people who claim to serve us should be willing to live in federal housing (i.e. grown-up dormitories of 2-3 bedrooms). More and more of them are leaving their families back home during congressional sessions anyway (so as to protect their offspring from the scourge of life inside the beltway), so why not assist them in their finer instincts?
Congress will continue to call on 98% of Americans to sacrifice, particularly those who don’t have or can’t find a job (all except their billionaire friends sans the honorable Mr. Buffett). Members of congress should be willing to do their share. Of course, 550 legislators freezing their salaries would not add up to much in savings, would largely serve as a symbolic gesture, saying, “We share your pain,” something that most in congress have not been willing to do—but it would be a start. Right now most Americans view people in congress as an elite group whose self-regard rivals that of nineteenth-century royalty—people who will eventually leave Washington (if you can drive them out) richer than when they arrived—people who continue to see that they and their friends and associates get richer and richer year after year. Is this really what writers of the constitution had in mind (is capitalism a concept meant to work well with democracy)? If so, they must be rejoicing in their graves.
A Dictionary of Errors
As I observe the ambulance-chasing news being delivered by ever younger and younger people, I cringe at the grammatical errors I hear. Nothing catches my ear faster than if someone in the news says the word “bust.” Now, to be fair, the word is listed in the most comprehensive of dictionaries as being informal or slang. So context is important. But is the local TV news an informal context? If the anchor is reporting a drug bust or busting a drug ring by the cops (and whatever happened to using the word police or officer?), it is probably an honest use of bust. In some ways law enforcement people (with the help of TV cop shows) have made “bust” their own. No, where I become irritated is when the anchor or reporter uses the word “bust” to mean “to burst” or “to break.” A major water main busted today at Main and Avenue Q. Eek. If you are reading, local TV news people, use “burst” or “broke” to indicate breakage. You’ll garner the respect of educated and genteel followers among your audience.
Another error that creeps me out is the confusion over “lie” and “lay” (and often the speaker doesn’t even realize s/he is confused). Each is a discrete verb with its own conjugation (sorry this looks so English booky):
Present Past Past Participle_____________________________
Lie Lay Have Has or Had Lain = TO REST OR RECLINE
Lay Laid Have Has or Had Laid = TO PUT/PLACE AN OBJECT
We see that “Lay” is the ONLY word held in common by each conjugation and obviously the two have separate meanings.
Some well-considered examples of the verb lie (TO REST OR RECLINE):
I lie down to take a long-deserved nap. I’m lying down now, kids, so knock off the noise.
You lie down this instant. You’re lying down when there’s all this trash piled up?
S/he lies down for a long winters’ sleep. S/he is lying down to quiet her nerves.
They lie down after a long day on the road. They are lying down after getting in late.
Last night I lay down after supper. When the phone rang, I was lying down.
You lay down after supper because you were sleepy. You were laying out your clothes.
Now comes the form you may never in your life have heard used or used correctly.
I have/had lain down before taking a shower.
You had lain down as soon as you got in from your date.
S/he has/had lain down with a bad headache.
Some well-considered examples of the verb lay (TO PUT OR PLACE):
I lay or am laying the blanket on the bed.
You lay or are laying the blanket on the bed.
S/he lay or is laying the blanket on the bed.
I laid the blanket on the bed last night.
You laid the blanket on the bed last night.
S/he laid the blanket on the bed last night.
(Often “laid” is used incorrectly as part of the conjugation for “lie.” The only exception allowable is if you got laid last night or any other time.)
I had laid the comforter on the bed before it was laundered.
You had laid the comforter on the bed before having it laundered.
S/he had laid the comforter on the bed before she lay down to take a nap.
It might take ten minutes to memorize these conjugations, but once you do, you will distinguish yourself among educated people. Perhaps your listeners will mimic you, thus perpetuating the language we so love. A hundred years from now the two verbs may have merged as one, but for now (as long as I have breath) they most certainly have not.
The (meta)morph(iz)ing of English. R we dvlpng a ntion of bby tlkrs? Will texting dictionaries replace Webster or Random House?
Self publication. Is it only a way of bypassing stuffy commercial publishers, or is it a rebirth of an old tradition?
How to write a successful New Yorker story—secrets not yet revealed by anyone. Late novelist John Gardner says in his 1983 work On Becoming a Novelist: “The New Yorker, for instance, ( to mention one of the best), has from the beginning been elegant and rather timid, a perfect magazine for selling expensive clothes and fine china, and its fiction editors, probably without knowing they do it, regularly duck from strong emotion or strong, masculine characters, preferring the refined and tentative.” [italics mine]
Still true in 2011? We shall see. I am currently re-reading every New Yorker story published in 2011. At the end of the year, I shall make an analysis and reveal what it takes to be one of the 50 stories published each year. There must be a formula.