Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Geeky Stuff


For the longest time I had not known if the first letter of a sentence fragment after an ellipsis was capitalized or not. Today I got the answer.

Story: I was reading "Catcher in the Rye" and there it was, in chapter 24. Holden is talking with a former teacher of his, Mr. Antolini, in Mr. Antolini's aparmtment, and Mr. Antolini makes some kind of a joke about his wife's friends. It's not a funny joke; I didn't even get it, but it answered my capitalization question. Check it out:

"Excuse the appearance of the place," he said. "We've been entertaining some Buffalo friends of Mrs. Antolini's . . . Some buffaloes, as a matter of fact."

Boom. There it was. The word "some" starts with a capital letter and that is a sentence fragrant right, there, sir.

I can die happy now!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Last Class

So yesterday I had a last class with one my students, and it was nice. It was nice wrapping things up and reviewing the progress she had made. For our final lesson, she and I went over verb tenses. Germans usually have difficulty with our many verb tenses, so I thought it would be a good final lesson.

The exercise we did went like this: I would write down a sentence in German, and she would have to tell me exactly what that sentence would be in English. Once her answer was 100 percent correct, I would allow her to write the sentence down, in English, under where I had written the corresponding sentence in German.

During the exercise, I told her that I wanted to take a pic of the scrap papers we were working on, for my notes. However, after we had finished up the exercise, I no longer wanted to do that, for some reason. I was just going to let it slip, actually. But as I was getting up to leave, she said, “Wait -- didn’t you want to take pictures of the papers?” I decided to stay with my original plan, and I'm glad I did, as there's definitely value in these papers, especially if you're trying to learn English or German.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Another one

When I was in high school, I used to have a friend name Nina, Nina Deppe. Anyway, I'm not sure what happened to her, but recently she popped into my head, or rather a scene from a day we had once spent together did. I decided to write a poem about this scene. The poem is sort of a free verse kind of thing. Enjoy.

"Nineteen Years Later" 

Nineteen years ago, we sat with each other near my bookcase in my room and spoke about whether God existed. 

As proof of God, you offered this: "That feeling that you get when you do something nice for someone." 

You were adamant that this feeling was a form of proof that God existed. You were so adamant, in fact, that you drew a line under your point with a rhetorical question: "If God doesn't exist, what's that feeling, then?"

I just laughed you under the table. I was 17 years old at the time and just laughed you under the table. 

"Oh my god," I had said. "You think that that good feeling that you get after doing something nice for someone is proof that God exists? Are you kidding me? That's not proof God exists." 

You just shook your head at me. My words seemed not to shake your belief about this feeling or your faith in general.

Nineteen years later, I'm writing to tell you, Nina, that I now understand what you were talking about.

Saturday, January 05, 2019


Here's a pretty cool poem I wrote today. It's got a personal meaning for me, but it's also just a lot of fun and a bit wacky. Enjoy.

"I asked you who you were"

I asked you who you were

What a fucking question 
What a fucking night
Everything was wrong. 

The song was out of tune 

The reverend wore no collar 
The cat was bathing in the tub, 
With Franklin on the dollar. 

The jumbo jets grew legs

And flowers bloomed on Mars 
And babies went back in the womb
And Persian rugs back on the loom. 

Everything was fucked, all right: 

The ground was in the sky
The night I asked you who you were
And you could not reply.


Sometimes people say or write things and they don't realize how profound they're being or just how beautifully their words come across. I thought this recently when I received a New Year's message from my old friend Kaivan.

Kaivan and I have been friends for about 25 years, ever since the 6th grade. But we were always a little strange, a little interesting. For example, one of my earliest memories from our friendship is our renting the movie version of Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum" and watching it together in his mom's living room, and falling asleep to it. But "The Pit and the Pendulum"? In the 6th grade? Wow.

Kaivan is also the person who convinced me to read "1984" when he saw a dusty copy of the book on my mom's bookshelf. "It'll expand your imagination," he had said at the time. Before he made his recommendation, though, the only thing I had known of 1984 was that it was a year a few years after my birth.

Kaivan and I have remained in contact all these years, and he's still that interesting, zany, unpredictable, deep and mysterious character I always thought of him as.

Anyway, on New Year's this year, I wrote him Happy New Year, and I wished him happy birthday, because his birthday is also on New Year's. When he wrote back, it was with something that was very profound, I felt. His message was almost a little haiku:

Thanks, Chad!
Wow 37... geez.
Hope you had a great and happy new year!
We are lucky to be here. :) 

You gotta love it.

Happy New Year, everybody.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

bzw. (part II)

On this blog I sometimes talk about the difficulties I have learning German. In one blogpost from a few months ago, I spoke of a German word that bedeviled me for years. The word was "beziehungsweise," which is pronounced beh-TZEE-ungs-vahy-zuh and is usually abbreviated in print as "bzw."

All "beziehungsweise" really means is "or rather." Not that crazy in and of itself, but Germans use it all the time in normal conversation. So it would be totally normal for a German person to say, "Ich mag Eis bzw. ich mag verschiedene Eissorten": "I like ice-cream, or rather certain flavors of ice-cream."

Why am I telling you all this...again? Well, today I found a great example of the English equivalent of "beziehungsweise," proof, really, that we actually do use it. I found the example in a 1986 interview with the late writer Primo Levy. Answering a question, Levy begins,  “My model (or, if you prefer, my style) was that of…”

Yup, totally "bzw." territory right there.