Tense

The midsummer sun was pounding down on me while I dug my hands into the dirt. I could feel the wetness in the layers of mud as I kept sifting through the moist soil. My daughter’s voice ran through my head after every rinse in the water hose, just wear gloves, Gideon, but I never listened—why would I? I liked the feel of it. The grunginess of my hands after a long day outside, they made me feel like a mechanic. At first, I thought it was unusual that planting flowers and various herbs was my way of escape, but it felt right. So, I quickly got over the judgmental stares of passersby watching a six-foot-tall man with his knees in the dirt because I kind of had to.

Today though, it wasn’t about the flowers or the herbs. Today, I was tasked with tearing apart the dirt in front of my daughters’ home. Tasked to destroy what was once beautiful, but it had to be done. There were unwanted dandelions, chickweeds, purslane, and bluegrass interrupting the growth of the sunflowers and morning glories I planted a few months ago. These pesky weeds were relentless; they kept coming back, even over the summer. Although, I could never understand why she couldn’t do this herself. All it took was a good pair of gloves, and a little patience. The task was easy, but ever since we buried her husband a couple months ago, she wasn’t motivated to do any of the outdoor chores. Although, I was amazed that she even invited me over—my wife must’ve had something to do with it. We never got along, even before my grandson’s father died. Our relationship was fine, but it was always uncomfortable. The tension was inevitable though; she’d never forgive me for what happened.

My thoughts were quickly interrupted by a checkered ball hitting the window and landing in the array of weeds in front of me. Soccer. They were playing soccer. My grandson quickly rushed over, apologized, retrieved the ball, and ran back to continue playing with my daughter before I could respond. I looked over and she didn’t acknowledge me; she was still mad. She’s lucky my wife was persuasive enough to get me here.

Last time I saw my daughter was a week after the funeral when I let slip that I thought his son should return to his biological mother. I’ll never understand why she couldn’t let him move back. She always had this way about her where she just had to control everything; including him.

His son’s life was never just his, just like my daughter’s was never really hers. After my son-in-law was six-feet-under she had to start anew. Discover who she was, where she belonged, and what she needed to survive. She barely scraped by after his passing, it’s no wonder she never let his son leave her side. Don’t get me wrong, I love the kid; he just doesn’t love us. The word grandpanever came out of his mouth, but collectively we were a familyfor over a decade. It wasn’t his fault though, it was his fathers. He alienated them from us, and if I hadn’t have done what I did, I’m not sure how much longer it would’ve been before I lost my daughter completely.

Digital vs. Analog Writing

Click-clack-click, click-clack-click, are the sounds of the keyboards’ keys beneath my fingertips as I type out this writing log. Ah yes, we’re in the world of digitally typed up manuscripts, roughly written down notes, and the inconsistent savior we call auto-correct. The simplicity of typing gives us such ease that we almost forget how nostalgic it is to put pen to paper. Our pens/pencils sit idly by on our desks in cups, drawers, or pencil pouches.

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My QwerkywriterS: a typewriter-inspired BlueTooth keyboard

More often than not, they’re only picked up to keep our hands busy.

While our fingers tap away at the keys, our pencils sit in their designated areas woefully. Thier erasers untouched, the points left either unsharpened or brand new, and they’ve never felt the warmth of a hands’ embrace; or at least, they don’t remember the feeling. Even the iPencil gets more attention than the average pencil or pen. It comes with the ease of digitally drawing or writing, as well as the several options the iPencil plus the iPad gives us.

However, the iPad isn’t the only thing that provides us several options when it comes to the digital world. As I’m typing, I’ve found that you can read this more legibly than if I were writing this by hand.

I’ve often found that I tend to take advantage of the ease of access during a digital writing session. The thesaurus is just a mouse-click away (even though there’s a physical one on my desk), and instead of drawing out photos I can just Google them. However, there is something that writing with a pencil gives us that typing on a computer doesn’t and that, my dear readers, is nostalgia.

Picking up your handy black Ticonderoga, shoving it into the sharpener in front of a class or at your desk, and cramming that #2 pencil onto a piece of paper can take you back. Writing by hand can give you more nostalgia than typing will ever give you, (Unless you have one of those orange desktop key covers from fifth grade – ya know, the typing test ones?).

Regardless, just look at these results! The differences between the two are so clear and obvious.

Halfway through the “old-fashioned” writing, my hand cramped up! I’m not sure if it’s the many years of 12-hour RockBand marathons, or if I’ve been writing too much, but ow! Also, did you notice the cursive? It seems as though it’s a lost art in today’s society. My fifteen-year-old brother was never taught how to sign his name or write his ABCs in cursive and he’s already in ninth grade! It’s ridiculous.

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Just a few of my pen/pencil cups.

I remember back in first-grade when we got those little handwriting journals to practice in. They were always my favorite because we got to write in the books and you don’t get to do that often. Still, to this day, I’ll admit I love workbooks. I’ve even bought a few from Barnes&Noble, ya know, the “100 Writing Prompt” or “List Yourself” books? They’re usually no more than $10, but I love them. Like I said, there’s just something about writing in books that is just so revealing and, here’s that word again, nostalgic.

It seems as though nostalgia is the number one difference between the analog and digital worlds of writing. Yet, how important can nostalgia be if we continue to ditch our pens/pencils in their rightful places? I’ll tell you all one thing, I’d choose the click-clack-clicks over the hand cramps any day. While nostalgia may be a fun characteristic of life, we’ve evolved into the digital world for a reason: simplicity.

Yes, I said it.

Simplicity.

The digital world has made it to where we can avoid those writing cramps and illegible notes. It’s wonderful that we have the option to alternate between the two as we desire unless you’re an online student like me… then it all has to be digital. Fortunately though, currently I can watch Freaks and Geeks while typing this blog, so the all-online option definitely has its perks.

Now, don’t forget about the pens/pencils you’ve bought and forgotten. While they may be with others in their many jars, they could still be used for art, writing, or just simply jotting down reminders. So, next time you go to write, pick up a pencil and let it take you back to the days in grade school before you learned how to type.

Also, make sure to keep up with me these next few weeks.

There’s bound to be more.

 

 

Podcast: Fiction

From the time I learned how to read, I’ve always read fiction. I could get lost in Wonderland or Hogwarts, just by opening up a book. The simple stumble into a couple hundred pages could result in many hours, or even days, spent entwined in the content between the cover pages. Yet, one of the best parts is the smell. Oh, the smell of a book. If you’re an avid book reader who’s in love with printed literature, describing the smell is almost impossible. It’s easy to get lost in it. Just picking up a book and sniffing the pages, old or new, it’s enticing. A digitally printed book doesn’t even compare to a hard copy, especially since a hard copy could be placed on a shelf. Personally, I love having my books on display.

Ah, the display. IKEA really has some fantastic bookcases even though they’re cheap. Alphabetically organized and divided between read and unread, the books give off a floor-to-ceiling library effect. Now, let’s not forget about the people responsible for my aesthetically pleasing case.

There are currently 266 books, or rather 178 authors that are alphabetically aligned on my shelves, but let’s get down to the authors I have the most books from. Off the top of my head, there’s JK Rowling (who we all know and love), Danielle Rollins (a, as she puts it, candy-coated horror novelist), and Chuck Palahniuk (who you might know as the man behind Fight Club).

These three authors have the most books on my shelves, and here’s why:

For one, all three authors write in some form of fiction. Whether it’s considered fantasy, horror, or transgressional, fiction is always my go-to.

Joanne Rowling, or JK Rowling, is the writer behind the entire Harry Potter franchise. Naturally, I have more books of hers than I do anyone else’s (besides Chuck’s) and I’ve been reading and rereading her books since 2006.

The Harry Potter series has had such a big impact in my life. Right from the start, my mom read me 60 pages a night so I could get through them before the big AR tests we had. Now, for those of you who don’t know what AR tests are, they’re Advanced Reading tests we used to have to take in elementary school. We got points for each one depending on our grade and I was number 2 in all of the fourth-grade class of Martin Walker Elementary, all thanks to JK Rowling and her magical books. Immediately, I got hooked on Severus Snape (RIP Alan Rickman), Mad-Eye Moody (may he rest in peace, as well), and all of the mythical creatures throughout the books. While the series may be finished, Rowling still continues to produce widely-loved novels even to this day. I’ll always appreciate the boy who lived under the stairs, and I’ll always appreciate the woman behind it.

Danielle Rollins is a different story. She’s a fireball with her words. One minute I’d connect with a character and the next I’ll start feeling queasy due to some gory scene she slipped in. Her books are like roller coasters and if you go under her pseudonym, “Vega,” they just get gorier. Now, I’m not talking Saw-gory, because she is technically candy-coating some of the scenes and the books are for young adults. Yet, somehow, someway, I can’t read them all the way through without taking a few breaks. Rollins, or Vega, has published a total of six books, and I barreled through them in a matter of weeks. Now, let’s get into my all-time favorite author, Chuck Palahniuk.

From this point forward, for the sake of not mispronouncing his last name, I’m going to refer to him as Chuck. Chuck is a trangressional fiction novelist who refers to his fans as Chuckleheads. All of his books plotlines were written so that the main character broke out of societal norms. For instance, in Fight Club, the main character got tired of working a nine-to-five job, so he started doing illegal activities after hours. Which, coincidentally, I can’t talk about due to the number one rule: “Don’t talk about fight club.”

Chuck has published a total of 21 books and I have 17. Alphabetically, by book title, there’s Beautiful You, Choke, Damned, Diary, Doomed, two copies of Fight Club, Fight Club 2, Haunted, Invisible Monsters, Invisible Monsters Remix, Lullaby, Make Something Up, Phoenix, Pygmy, Rant, Snuff, Survivor, and Tell-All.

Surprisingly, there’s actually a story behind one of the copies of Fight Club. On Black Friday, my fiancé and I woke up at 7am to go and get a signed copy of it. Now, we didn’t meet Chuck because he wasn’t there, but we now own a signed first-edition copy of Fight Club and we’re planning on putting it in a shadow box. It’s become one of our prized possessions and we don’t let anyone touch it, which sounds obsessive, I know, but the Chucklehead in me can’t resist.

Anyway, I think that’ll be enough for this podcast. I hope each and every one of you go out there and find a good book, get lost in the pages, and have the same experience I do when I find a new favorite. Make sure to keep up with me to find out more about the vast world of literature, multimedia topics and the study of writing.

Reflection

My composition process changed by switching to a more audio approach because I had to think about how I’d say it while I typed it. I included commas where I’d usually take a breath.  On Microsoft Word, I typed up the blog so I could read it easier. That way, I could double-space the text and increase the readability. Overall, this was an interesting and fun experience and I’m glad I finally did a podcast.

Flash Memoirs

Below are 10 six-word memoirs that I concocted:

  1. After learning how; she endlessly read.
  2. He proposed; she cried and accepted.
  3. Writing, like painting, is her art.
  4. Two weeks notice; she’s quitting again.
  5. By procrastinating, she fell behind homework-wise.
  6. Twenty-pound cats were her feet warmers.
  7. Fine arts are her biggest strengths.
  8. She collects records, Legos, and books.
  9. Over summer, she hopes to tan.
  10. Supernatural creates paranoid nightmares and illusions.

Creative Non-Fiction Inspiration

In this blog,  I’m going to discuss a Creative Non-Fiction piece and answer a few questions. This piece, in particular, caught my eye because of the name and the hook the author wrote in the beginning. The following is a link to the piece itself by Jane Bernstein:

CNF Inspiration Piece: The Marrying Kind 

Summary: The Marrying Kind is a short essay about the narrator getting ready to officiate the wedding of someone they’re very close with (the bride). She then proceeds to discuss more in-depth on the lengths her officiating goes through, bringing up her past marriage, the several weddings she’s officiated, and her relationship to the first bride she writes about.

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At first, she doesn’t think she would or should do it. She thought that an online officiating site was just a scam until she joined her first couple in matrimony. After that, she continued to keep on going. Marrying people left and right. Same-sex couples, different religions, different families, she just kept going further on her quest to be an officiator but she still only married couples who she felt were in love.

Now, for the questions:

1. How does the form contribute to the meaning of the piece?

The form of this essay is traditional and it carries several descriptive characteristics. It’s estimated at around five pages of text and it kept me hooked throughout the entire thing. While this essay could’ve fit into the “shell” of a hermit crab essay, I feel as though the traditional route was better in this instance. Throughout the piece, the author incorporates several different factual statements, along with analogies, irony, and a few flashbacks.

2. What literary devices make this piece aesthetic?

The author uses quite an analogy when writing about the process of officiating a wedding ceremony. They compared a wedding ceremony to a simile; the form is precise.

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There’s also underlying irony in the text as well. The narrator often points out that it’s great being single, while also on her way to officiate a wedding that’s very dear to her. I found it ironic that she was relieved that she was divorced from her husband, yet she still found the sanctity of marriage to have an emotional aspect. However, this irony also gave her a reason to keep officiating. She knew all the trouble it took to be in a relationship. All the fights and the turmoil were inevitable, but if these couples were truly happy she wanted to be there for them because she went through them herself.

The author also uses flashbacks to make the story more in-depth. The narrator points out in the beginning that she knew the bride because she knew the bride’s mother. She brings up moments from the past in order to build onto the relationship she has to the bride and I feel as though it was very successful. A few would be:

  • the time when she felt the bride’s mother’s stomach before the bride was born
  • when she planned her wedding to her ex-husband
  • when she left her husband
  • her past relationships where she didn’t marry, but “played house”

In one of my personal writings that I’m working on, I’m including flashbacks as well.  I feel as though this tactic is very effective in increasing relatability, depth, and potential tension.

3. What sort of ethics does the writer seem to be following?

Along with the irony that the piece has, she often points out the different characteristics of marriage. Due to her recent marriages, she predicts which couples are going to be happy and which ones aren’t by the way they interact with one another. She went through a lot of what everyday couples go through; arguments/disagreements/etc.  So, she followed through with the ones she felt would last. The ethics she follows might not be solid in logic, but they’re her own beliefs and she wouldn’t go through with something she felt was wrong.

Writing as a Metaphor

Writing is an art. 208cf27b2e80467fb7fed0b834ee564f

As Lakoff and Johnson state in Metaphors We  Live By, life, in general, is a concept. It’s a concept that we cannot understand because it is not obvious (Lakoff). However, it’s up to us on how we choose to live that concept. Sure, it’s easy to dissect and evaluate your own life, but there always seems to be an underlying meaning behind it all. The simple four-word sentence I wrote above could be dissected in a number of ways, so here I am to do just that with help from the aforementioned book.

When anyone asks what I do, the first word that comes to mind is “writer.” Yet, it used to be “artist.” I often wonder why it can’t be both. Writing is an art. It’s a form of expression and it leads to a result you’re proud of; even though you’ll always be your worst critic. After all, writing is never perfect and neither is art.

secrets-of-short-story-writingIn Metaphors We Live By, they used the metaphor “argument is war” as an example. They said that if we were to change “war” to “dance” we would view arguments differently (Lakoff).  When I think about war, the first words that come to mind are strategies, defense techniques, artillery, military, treaties, and foreign countries (unless it’s a civil war). When I think about arguments, the first words to come to mind are defensive,  close-minded, social media, debating, and a resolution. By combining the two, it makes the word argument out to be this horrid thing when in fact, it can be eye-opening. However, would comparing an argument to a dance make arguing come off as any less evasive? Yes, yes it would, but would it make the statement about an argument being similar to war any less true? No, it would only lighten the load a little. paint-brushes-jar-over-wooden-aqua-blue-background-51063951

Well, let’s get back to the original metaphor at hand. “Writing is an art.” When we take the two contents of the metaphor; writing and art, what do you get?

Personally, when I think about writing, I think about pens, pencils, laptops, BlueTooth keyboards, and notebooks. Coincidentally, art involves most of those things too. When you write, the whole point is to put your voice on a page. When you draw you’re putting your personal view of things on a page. No artists are the same, they merely contain different mediums or styles, just like writers do. Except in the writing world, we call our styles our, well, styles and we call our mediums fonts.

Putting a pen to paper, a brush to a canvas, or your fingers on a keyboard are all similar. They all do one thing: express the style of the person behind it.

download (4)As a writer, I feel it’s important to consider writing as an art. It’s not just a task you set out to do just because you’re assigned a paper or have to write a resume for a job. Writing is another form of expressing yourself, as I stated several times above, therefore, it is an art regardless. While you read you can create your own versions of the stories you read in your head. You create the images, but the writer creates the imagery. The mind is such a crazy, imaginative, and wonderful thing and when you express yourself, it’s even better.

 

 

 

Reference

Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. Univ. of Chicago Press, 2011.

Dance Gavin Dance vs. The System of Grammar

Music is a universal language. The simplicity of listening to a group of instruments and vocals can result in a complex mood change, or even help create a memory of someone/something significant. A strategic rhythm set to a beat can get stuck in your head in an instant. The magic of a symphony in an auditorium can give you goosebumps—especially if you’re listening to John Williams or Stephen Sondheim. Luckily, today there are several other ways to listen to music other than live. Whether you’re looking for country, rock, pop, indie, folk, opera, metal, or post-hardcore, music will always be powerful. However, in this case, we’re only going to narrow the vast subject that is music down to one genre and one band.

The subject: Dance Gavin Dance. The adjective: post-hardcore. The collective noun: band. Established in 2006, in Sacramento, California, Dance Gavin Dance consists of five members: Tilian Pearson (clean vocals), Jon Mess (messy vocals), Matthew Mingus (drums/percussion), Tim Feerick (bassist), and Will Swan (lead guitar). This band contains a lot of attributes towards grammar, not only with their lyrics but with the group members themselves.

To further explain what “messy” vocals are–they’re vocals that are “screamed” into the microphone. They create an intense effect on the lyrics and exaggerate (or italicize), their meaning. By switching between messy vocals and clean vocals, the band creates different rhetoric altogether.

Usually, the messy lyrics would consist of primarily utter nonsense, but when Jon Mess screams them, they somehow seem to fit. For instance, in their song “Chucky vs. the Giant Tortoise,” the line (or should I say a sentence): “Riding a rhino pico de gallo. Roosters beak, I’ll go to sleep when I leap that jeep,” is screamed by Mess (CITE). Even with the rest of the context, it’s unusual:

“[Jon Mess] I’ll go in cryo and return to life h-. And make a Bisque, some tomato basil s—, Riding a rhino pico de gallo. Roosters beak, I’ll sleep when I leap that jeep. (Mess)

[Tilian Pearson] Don’t close your eyes tonight. Perfect melodies are hard to find. I got a feeling we could touch the sky.” (1)

When you listen to the lyrics, they come off a little easier. Also, since the “screamed” lyrics aren’t entirely necessary for some of their songs, Jon Mess’ portion would/should be surrounded by parentheses.

Tilian also partakes in partial “messy” singing. He often switches back and forth between the two when it’s necessary, but he isn’t the “messy” vocalist because he doesn’t scream. His way of choosing either way of singing would be the perfect example of a slash in grammar.

The simple act of singing and playing their guitars/drums would be their verbs. They play their guitars, drums, and bass. They sing/scream their lyrics. The names signed on their instrument cases are an example of apostrophes because they’re possessive. Also, in brackets next to their part on their lyric sheets, there should be the bands’ names.

While each member plays an essential and vital role in the band, Tilian and Jon are the direct objects because they’re always front-and-center. The rest of the group are indirect due to them playing in the background and supporting the singers. However, musically, each instrument couldn’t stand alone, or else this wouldn’t be a post-hardcore band (since they can’t stand alone musically, this would be an example of a conjunctive adverb).

Dance Gavin Dance has changed a lot since 2006. They’ve gone through several members over the years. The band cycled through Jonny Craig and Kurt Travis before Tilian came along in 2013. Before it was just Will Swan, he played alongside Sean O’Sullivan back when the band began; before there was Tim Feerick on bass, there was Eric Lodge. These weren’t the only switches over the bands lifetime, but we’re only going to focus on the 2018 edition of the band. Coincidentally, there hasn’t been a change in their role-call since 2013.

Before their sets, the owner of the venue announces the band, which would be an example of metadiscourse. The owner informs the audience who’s up next, and Tilian tells the audience what song they’re going to play. These announcements would result in the venue owner or Tilian being considered as the appositives due to them explaining who’s next or what song is up. Along with these announcements, a colon would be placed on the general admission ticket or flyer announcing the set: “The Black Sheep Presents: Dance Gavin Dance and Chon, featuring Eidola and Vasudeva.”

Most of the bands’ cohesiveness (or when all the words in a sentence link together to give the sentence more meaning), is when the members are all playing together. For their music to make sense and stay in rhythm, they must agree with one another. Each member of the band must make sure that their hands and mouths are playing/singing in coordination with each other. In general, all bands must follow this rule, or they wouldn’t thrive and continue to gain fans. Coincidentally, the coordination between the band members results in a hyphen. They’re used for word division, yet they also combine words. In this case, they’re combining the members. Without cohesion or coordination, Dance Gavin Dance’s music wouldn’t be able to create the symbolism they have, which would result in a lack of underlying meaning in their music.

For instance, in their song “Here Comes the Winner,” there’s plenty of symbolism behind it if you read between the lines. The song was released in 2016 when the presidential election was going on in full force. One of the verses (or clauses) in the songs suggests that all the public figures were lined up on a stage to win the hearts of America. They incorporated a few political statements within the messy vocals, and altogether they made everything agree.

Another line that could be used to show symbolism is a verse from their song “Inspire the Liars”:

“So, let’s start a religion, they’ll believe in what we say. Let’s start a religion; we can blind their eyes with faith. A new religion, we’ll tell them where our spirits go. Start a religion; I need my ego to explode.” (CITE)

This verse is towards the end of the song, and it symbolizes the “cult-like” mentality of some of the religious groups in society. It suggests that some of the religions result in “blind” followers and that people will follow anything that interests them.

Throughout their songs, there is a known-new contract. As you listen, you begin to learn the choruses (the known) and are gradually introduced to the verses (the new). In this “contract” they also created ties into their listeners’ expectations, (or readers expectations). Their fans expect their set to flow together and their music to keep with their usual style, (or the way they establish their overall mood or meaning). To keep the contract and the expectations of their listeners up-to-par, the band also needs to keep their (sentence) rhythm.

Rhythm is among the top qualities every type of band needs to know. If one instrument/singer is off-beat, then the whole group is off. The bands’ rhythm would be where the punctuation would set in. Their music breaks between lyrics could be considered as semi-colons because they create a new mood. The breaks between their songs would be considered commas due to the literal breaks between independent clauses (or songs). The line, “Are you ready?” would end in a question mark, and their lyrics all contain quotation marks around them because they’re direct quotes coming out of their mouths.

The choruses could pass as a predicate. They’re the primary voice in the song, and they contain verbs that state something that they’re doing or are going to do. For instance, in “Inspire the Liars,” the chorus represents an antithesis (by showing opposition in one sentence), and a predicate: “Say you want to know the truth, well you can ask me a question. I’ll tell you something that you may wanna hear, but I’ll lie” (3). The chorus states that if you want to know the truth about something, then you should ask them even though they told you they’d lie. So, why ask them in the first place?

The choruses could also represent parallelism because they’re repetitive and show importance throughout the song. Their parallel structure is consistent throughout all their music when it comes to how often their choruses are played.

If Dance Gavin Dance were to break down, it would result in over-excessive songs with minimal lyrics or meaning—which could also serve as a run-on sentence, (or in some cases a comma splice).  Luckily, to decompose the system a little, music breaks (or their form of semi-colons), can help divide up the extended run-ons or potential comma splices.

Musically, the band creates a solid post-hardcore sound altogether. While they’re not the only band in this genre, they are certainly unique in their own way. Since 2009, they’ve had a significant impact on my life. A big part of the reason why I got into Dance Gavin Dance was that of their unique song names and unique verses. It’s part of their style and their voice. Actively, they sing these lyrics with pride and create their overall rhetoric by doing so. Dance Gavin Dance proves that music is universal with their take on the genre they’ve been placed in. With their careless demeanor and their relatable lyrics, this band really puts the phrase, “fake it ‘til you make it” to good use with some of their songs.

 

 

 

Works Cited

Mess, Jon. I’ll go in cryo and return to life h-. And make a Bisque, some tomato basil s—, Riding a rhino pico de gallo. Roosters beak, I’ll sleep when I leap that jeep. “Chucky vs. the Giant Tortoise.” Mothership. Vinyl. Interlace Audio Recording Studios. 2016.

(1) Pearson, Tilian. Don’t close your eyes tonight. Perfect melodies are hard to find. I got a feeling we could touch the sky. “Chucky vs. the Giant Tortoise.” Mothership. Vinyl. Interlace Audio Recording Studios. 2016.

(2) Pearson, Tilian. So, let’s start a religion, they’ll believe in what we say. Let’s start a religion; we can blind their eyes with faith. A new religion, we’ll tell them where our spirits go. Start a religion; I need my ego to explode. “Inspire the Liars.” Mothership. Vinyl. Interlace Audio Recording Studios. 2016.

(3) Pearson, Tilian. Say you want to know the truth, well you can ask me a question. I’ll tell you something that you may wanna hear, but I’ll lie. “Inspire the Liars.” Mothership. Vinyl. Interlace Audio Recording Studios. 2016.

 

15-20 Seconds of Creative Non-Fiction

As I laid my head down on the already fluffed pillow, I heard a small sound. At first, I wasn’t sure what it was or where it was coming from. It sounded almost in agony, yet it was so soft, so quiet; I didn’t realize it was coming from my own bedroom. Quickly, I threw my maroon comforter off of my recently cocooned body and I got up. My first instinct was to turn on the flashlight on my phone and check under the bed.

Around the light, it was pitch black,  and the chilling feeling of someone watching me crept over me. The darkness under my bed always creeped me out; I’ve seen too many horror movies. After too much overthinking, the hairs on my neck stood up; the noise was back. Except, this time, it was closer. I quickly scanned the room with my flashlight in hand and I saw it.

Or rather…  I saw her.

Underneath the dark wall of clothes that lined my closet, I shined my flashlight in her direction and her shiny blue-eyes looked up at me with exhaustion washed over her face. I walked over to her and saw that the blanket on the floor was spattered with blood. I quickly inspected the area around her and at a closer glance, I saw quite a few jellybean toes, along with ten unopened eyes, and five pink and black noses. My beautiful blue-eyed baby girl just gave birth to five squeaky little kittens.

Disclaimer: This is a creative non-fiction story about a 15-20 second moment in my life. I decided to write about this particular moment because it was the day my grandkitties were born (April 24, 2015). I kept two of the five and they’re pictured above.

Theodore Toe-fur Meowsevelt is the kitty on top. He almost died at six-months by eating a shoestring (you can read about it here: A Matter Of Four Days ). I’m so happy he made it through and he’s still my baby munchkin.

Patrick Meowsevelt, on the other hand, is still a chubby little man. He’s definitely grandpa’s cat, but he’s very particular and judgmental when it comes to who is in his house. They’re both such characters, and they’re little punks, but I love them unconditionally.

To read more on my boys and their mama, see the following:

Baby Blue Eyes

They Pounced

Theodore “Toefur” Meowsevelt: A Memoir From a Cat’s Perspective

Origins of Language

Origins of Language (Revisited)

“The origin of language, or glottogony/glossogeny, is a topic that has been written about for centuries, but the ephemeral nature of speech means that there is almost no data on which to base conclusions on the subject” (Ying). So, how do we study it? Where did these research-backed hypotheses come from if there’s almost no data? Well, an easy place to start would be the basic anatomy of the human mouth and all the sounds it’s capable of producing. Along with the places of articulation and the sounds, throughout this paper, we’re going to explore the speech development timeline and the various theories of language.

SOUNDS OF SPEECH

Taking into consideration how exactly speech works, is mind-blowing. We have what most animals don’t, a pharynx (Goodall). The elongated throat of a human is what makes it possible for us to speak. However, you don’t just come out of the womb speaking in full-fledged sentences, you develop it throughout your life.

There are three different types of phonetics (acoustic, articulatory, and auditory), but we’re only going to focus on the articulatory. The articulatory phonetics is the part of phonetics that deal with the sounds that come out of our mouths.

1.1 VOICELESS VS. VOICED

Articulatory phonetics is the “study of how speech sounds are made, or articulated” (Yule). The internal organ that is responsible for the sounds coming out of your mouth is your larynx. Inside of the larynx are your vocal cords, which has two positions: spread apart or drawn together. When your vocal cords are spread apart you can make voiceless sounds and when they’re drawn together you can make voiced sounds by pushing air through your larynx. A way to distinguish which sounds are which is by producing sounds like: S-S-S-S or F-F-F-F (voiceless) and Z-Z-Z-Z or V-V-V-V (voiced). While making these sounds, feel your neck or Adam’s apple. If the noises are voiced, you should feel a vibration and if they aren’t voiced there shouldn’t be any vibrations. (Yule)

1.2 PLACE OF ARTICULATION

After the air comes out of your mouth, it’s important to note that this journey through the throat isn’t finished. While you talk, the air is released and there are parts of your oral cavity that constricts. “If you slice a head right down the middle, you will be able to see the parts of the oral cavity that are crucially involved in speech production” (Yule). These are: the larynx, pharynx, tongue, vocal folds, the uvula, velum, palate, and your lips.

Your lips help you annunciate. For bilabial consonants, both lips are used. Then, for labiodentals, you use your upper teeth and lower lip. Lastly, for alveolar sounds, you use the alveolar ridges behind your upper teeth. Any sound where you use your teeth are called dentals, and any sound where the tip of your tongue is used between your teeth are called interdentals. Plus, any sounds where you use your palate are called palatals, and any sound where you use the back of your mouth are called velars. Each of these terms only apply to consonants because vowels use a freer flow of air.

While pronouncing vowels your mouth is divided into three sections: the front, central, and back. All vowels, along with diphthongs, are produced primarily with our throat and these three sections. The vowels and diphthongs “glide” out of our throats and through our mouths while we say them. A few examples of front, central, and back vowels would be words like: bead, bid, bed, bad, (central): above, oven, butt, blood, and (back): boo, book, born, caught, cot. (Yule) Try saying each of these words slowly and concentrate on where they are coming from. This’ll give you a better understanding of how they are produced.

SPEECH DEVELOPMENT TIMELINE

Before diving more into the realm of language, it’s important to note that this timeline isn’t strict on the ages. The dates in this timeline are approximated as each child is different and learns at their own pace.

“The real engine of verbal communication is the spoken language we acquire as children” (Pinker). Speech starts to develop around the first few months after you are born. From birth, you have the capability to make some sort of noise. The first noise out of a baby’s mouth sounds like a “coo”.  In my opinion, “coo” reminds me of something you would hear from a small bird, not an infant. However, if you put this into perspective – it makes sense.

During the first few months of life, an infant can produce the “k” and “g” sounds. “By the time you’re five months old, you can distinguish “i” from “a” and “ba” from “ga” (Yule). So, producing “coo’s” like a small bird is possible. At about six and eight months, kids start to babble (or what I would like to call Star Wars speak, like the Ewoks). Then at ten and eleven months, they develop the capability to put together syllables like “ma-da-ga-ba” and they attempt to imitate their surroundings. At this point, it’s important to watch whatever you say around kids because of the Ding-Dong theory and the kids’ ability to mimic humans (Johnson).

2.1 AFTER A YEAR

From twelve to eighteen months, kids move into the “one-word stage” where they can label everyday objects such as milk, cup, spoon, or cat. Also known as holophrastic speech, children can make connections between two words as well (Yule). For example, they can associate spoon and bowl, milk and cookies, and so on.

At eighteen to twenty months, children start to move on to the two-word stage. This is where they start creating phrases. In fact, by the age of two, children can produce “200 or 300 distinct ‘words,’ he or she will be capable of understanding five times as many” (Yule). By the time kids are two to two-and-a-half, they’re capable of a type of complexity called telegraphic speech. Telegraphic speech is when children can develop lexical morphemes and their speech starts to expand more rapidly than before. Their sentence-building starts to improve, and they start to put words together more accurately.

THEORIES

The theories of language were created to find out how humans begin to speak. While there is barely any data to back these theories up, a few scientists have managed to create the following hypotheses. Each theory is unique in its own way, but a few of them you could combine with one another to create one bigger theory.

3.1 PSYCHEDELIC GLOSSOLALIA HYPOTHESIS

The Psychedelic Glossolalia Hypothesis elaborates more on speaking in tongues by consuming psychedelic fungi. This theory vaguely reminds me of the term “Parseltongue” from Harry Potter, but in this case, it deals more with the Pentecostal church and various other religions and tribes. Originating in Africa, when their land was dry, and resources were scarce, they consumed the Psilocybe plant which led to complex and unnatural communicative speech. This theory was clearly a reach when it comes to how language came-to-be which is why it is listed first, making it the least practical.

3.2 THE “TA-TA” THEORY

Created by Charles Darwin, the Ta-Ta theory shows how humans imitate hand gestures vocally. (Get ready for this fancy name), “Vilayanur S. Ramachandran’s research into synesthesia and sound symbolism” supports Darwin’s hypothesis (Ying).

However, despite all of Ramachandran’s research, there is still a plethora of questions that remains unanswered. Where did the original hand gestures come from? Even though “sign languages do have somewhat imitative gestures, they also contain quite arbitrary symbols and have vastly different meanings” throughout the world (Ying).

Another issue with Darwin’s theory is that using hand and facial gestures are useless if they’re unseen. If you can’t see someone’s face, how could you imitate what they gestured? Also, if you’re working on another project with your hands, how can you use your hands to demonstrate hand gestures?

This theory, while well thought out, reminds me of Meet the Fockers with Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller. There is a scene in the movie where DeNiro teaches his grandson Jack to learn signs that mean various things a child should know such as: eat, poop, drink. Unfortunately, while Stiller was babysitting Jack, he didn’t know the meaning behind each sign. What ended up happening was Stiller thought Jack needed something, but the message was misconstrued because Stiller thought Jack signed for food, when he signed for drink. Resulting in a massive tantrum from Jack, DeNiro came into a house with a screaming toddler and a frazzled Stiller and Stiller was accused of not catering to Jack’s needs.

While Stiller could’ve just called DeNiro to ask what signs mean what, he wouldn’t have been able to see DeNiro show him the signs through the phone. Just this example is enough for me to approach this theory as invalid.

3.3 YO-HE-HO

The Yo-He-Ho theory deals more with poetry than anything else. “According to this hypothesis, language arose in rhythmic chants, and vocalisms uttered by people engaged in communal labour” (Ying). This theory still doesn’t have a rightful “owner” and only states that people sing in groups. However, “it’s uncertain from this hypothesis how meanings became associated with songs that were sung by workers” (Ying).

3.4 THE “UH-OH” THEORY

The Uh-Oh theory is like how monkeys use warning calls. “According to this hypothesis language begins with the use of arbitrary symbols that represent warnings to other members of the human band” (Ying). Like how monkeys warn their troop about predators in the area, or even how they warn each other when they overstep their boundaries, humans have different “warning calls” for different things. If your sibling is about to eat the last of your favorite cereal, you might yell at them to save the rest for you instead. If your child is trying to jump off a swing, you might warn them not to or they will break an arm or a leg. This theory seems logical because it does not just include single words or phrases, but it is still uncertain as to how more abstract features of our language has evolved.

3.5 THE “POOH-POOH” THEORY

According to the Danish linguist, Otto Jesperson, “speech developed from the instinctive sounds people make in emotional circumstances” (Yule 3). Which explains how the phrases “Ouch!”, “Ah!”, “Ooh!”, “Phew!”, “Yuck!”, and “Wow!” came about (Yule 3). However, because this theory limits speech to just expressing emotions, it does not tell us where the other noises came from. “The clicks, intakes of breath, and other noises which are used in this way bear little relationship to the vowels and consonants” (Nordquist). Without vowels and consonants, we do not have a clear concept of speech and where it came from, which makes this theory impractical.

3.6 WATCH THE BIRDIE

Watch the Birdie is associated with E.H. Sturtevant, a linguist and ethologist from Jacksonville, Illinois. He received his Ph. D. from the University of Chicago and created the Indo-European character of Hittite, which is an extinct language established in Turkey (Edgar Howard). Sturtevant came up with Watch the Birdie because he believed that “humans found selective advantage in being able to deceive other humans,” thus giving them the capability to learn how to react to things happening around them (Ying). For instance, if you are at work and your coworker does something to upset you, you cannot react accordingly because you are in a place of business. There are certain ways to react to things in certain settings and the Watch the Birdie theory is an example of learning to “read the room” before reacting.

3.7 THE “DING-DONG” THEORY

The Ding-Dong theory is based off the notation that humans grow to mimic the sounds of the world around them (Ying). This theory deals with onomatopoeic words such as “boom”, “splash”, “rattle”, and more. While infants are learning to speak, the Ding-Dong theory relates more to how their speech is developed in an early age. Copying onomatopoeic words sounds easier to naturally come by, and other languages besides English can abide by this theory as well. However, it does not explain how the words for inanimate objects were created. The rock “splashes” into the river, but how did the word “rock” come about or any of the other prepositions used in this sentence?

3.8 THE “BOW-WOW” THEORY

The Bow-Wow theory is another theory by the Danish linguist Otto Jesperson. This concept is like the Ding-Dong theory because both theories say that speech is onomatopoeic, but the Bow-Wow theory deals with the animal sounds around them instead of imitating sounds humans make (Ying). However, this theory does not translate well throughout the different languages. “For instance, a dog’s bark is heard as au au in Brazil, ham ham in Albania, and wang, wang in China” (Nordquist). Thus, resulting in another faulty theory.

CONCLUSION

From the moment we start to speak at a very young age, language has continued to develop. The next time you speak to another being, whether it’s a human or an animal, take into consideration that one of the few things that separate us from the non-speaking chimpanzees is a pharynx. Our places of articulation may seem small, but they’re so powerful. Language will continue to develop without our control. Whether it’s slang or newly documented words, the potential for new vocabulary in the future is intense.

While most of the previous theories don’t have much research to back it, the theories that scientists have uncovered throughout the years seem mostly valid. All it takes is for someone to pick up the hypothesis and try to experiment with it. Hypotheses are supposed to be based around limited evidence so that way whoever picks it up next can experiment further off their statement. However, while this research is interesting, this is not a complete analysis of the subject at-hand and it’ll require a more in-depth study of the origins of languages.

Chaos: A Short Play

Characters

Psylas Grayson

Willow Grayson (Psylas’ mom)

Denny Grayson (Psylas’ dad)

Doctor James Lanham

Doctor Margeaux Skillings

Doctor Michelle Fillmore

Waiting Room Guests and Nurses

Time: The present

Setting: A hospital waiting room

The curtains open to a hospital waiting room. Psylas and his mom are sitting in two individual chairs amongst several other impatient spouses and family members. There’s a woman sobbing in the corner. Kids are playing in the little waiting section made especially for kids. Psylas’ grandma, Aimee, just went in for heart surgery. Psylas and his mom are sitting and waiting for a result from the doctor.

Psylas: Where’s dad?

Willow: I’m not sure hon, he said he was on his way. You know how he gets when his mom gets put in the hospital.

Psylas: Are you serious? (His voice raises slightly.) I thought he put the whiskey away… he just earned his 5-year chip from AA.

Willow: Honey lower your voice please… I didn’t want you to find out. Ever since your grandma got diagnosed with heart cancer, he’s gotten off the wagon. It’s been tough since your grandpa died, I don’t know if he can take losing another parent.

Psylas: Mom… why didn’t you tell me?

Willow: I didn’t want to worry you. You’ve been so focused on finishing your degree, I didn’t want you to lose your focus. Plus, I knew you would’ve told Johanna and I don’t want our business out there like that. Especially since you two had a falling out after your trip.

Psylas: Mom, if you would’ve told me not to tell her, I wouldn’t have told her. It’s okay.

Willow: I know sweetie, and you know I love her to death. I just didn’t want anyone else to know. I’m sorry, I should’ve told you.

Psylas: (Puts his hand on his moms’ leg to comfort her.) It’s fine mom, I just wish I would’ve known.

(They continue to sit there for a little bit with Psylas’ hand on her leg. A couple minutes’ pass before they see Doctor Lanham come out onto the stage. Psylas and Willow stand up almost immediately and notice Dr. Lanham’s sullen face.)

Psylas (whispers to Willow): I don’t think this is going to be good news…

Willow (whispers back to Psylas): We don’t know that Psylas, calm down.

Psylas: Mom. Just look at his face.

Willow: Shush, Psylas.

(Doctor Lanham walks up and shakes both of their hands.)

Doctor Lanham: Hi Psylas, Mrs. Grayson. Let’s have a seat. (Gestures towards the seats they were just sitting in.)

Psylas: (panicky) Something’s wrong, isn’t there? Why else would you be telling us to sit?

Doctor Lanham: I’m so sorry Psylas but…

(There’s a loud crashing sound made off-stage and the left side of the stage breaks apart. The guests in the waiting room scramble away. Nurses and doctors run towards the accident to make sure no one was hurt. Willow shields Psylas, while Doctor Lanham shields them both.)

Doctor Lanham: (stands up.) Doctor Skillings! Is anybody hurt? Where’s the driver?

Doctor Skillings: Luckily, the car only managed to reach the second pair of double doors in the lobby. Nobody was hurt, but we had to call the firefighters to get the driver out so we can assess his injuries. The front of the car was pretty smashed up.

Doctor Lanham: Psylas, Mrs. Grayson, I’ll be right back. I should make sure the driver is all right.

Psylas and Willow: It’s okay. Go ahead.

(Doctor Lanham runs to the scene.)

Psylas: (Looking towards the sound of the wreck.) Um, mom. Isn’t that dad’s car?

Willow: Hon, do you have any idea how many Toyota Corollas there are out there?

Psylas: Mom… I have his plates memorized. That has to be dad.

Willow: Why on earth do you have your dads’ plates – you know what, forget it.  Let’s just find out if it’s him or not.

(Doctor Lanham runs back to the Grayson’s.)

Doctor Lanham: I’m sorry, but your father has just been officially admitted into the E.R. It appears that Mr. Grayson has been driving under the influence, but we’ll take good care of him.

Psylas: Oh, kind of like how you took care of my grandmother?

Willow: (yells) Psylas! Stop it! Doctor Lanham is doing his best.

Doctor Lanham: I’m so sorry Psylas, but I have to go.

(Doctor Lanham walks off-stage.)

Psylas: Go check on him mom, I’ll stay here to see if anyone can give me an accurate update on grandma.

Willow: Are you sure? I don’t want to leave you.

Psylas: Yes mom, go. Be with dad.

(Willow walks off-stage to check on her husband. Psylas finds a seat to sit down in for a moment to think about what just happened. A few moments pass until Doctor Fillmore comes into the lobby holding a clipboard.)

Doctor Fillmore: Hi, Psylas. I’m Doctor Fillmore. I was one of the surgeons on your grandmothers’ case. Has anyone told you anything about your grandmother?

Psylas: Not exactly, but I have a bad feeling that I already know what happened.

Doctor Fillmore: I’m sorry Doctor Lanham got caught up in the wreck, but I have your grandmother’s charts right here. Your grandmother passed away due to a tear in one of her arteries. She lost way too much blood and her…

Psylas: Her age prevented you from defibrillating her heart because it was too weak because of her age. I thought so. (Tears start to fall down his face.)vAlso, she signed a DNR so you couldn’t bring her back anyways. There wasn’t anything else you could do.

Doctor Fillmore: Oh. Did Doctor Lanham already tell you about this?

Psylas: No (Sniffle.), but when he kept apologizing. I kind of took the hint. Plus, I’ve watched a lot of Grey’s Anatomy with my old friend Johanna. I know it isn’t accurate, but I’ve done the research involved in some of their cases (wipes face with his shirt sleeves) and some of the outcomes are realistic.

Doctor Fillmore: Well, Psylas, (Hands him a handkerchief from her jacket pocket.), shows like Grey’s give us a bad reputation, but your prognosis was accurate. I’m so sorry about your grandmother.

(Pyslas starts to sob. Doctor Fillmore puts her arm around Psylas to comfort him. Willow comes back onto the stage. Psylas sits up.)

Willow: Psylas. Oh, Psylas. Doctor Skillings told me what happened to Aimee. Come here. (Wraps Psylas in her arms.) Doctor, can you give my son and I a moment alone?

Doctor Fillmore: Yes, of course.

(Doctor Fillmore leaves the stage.)

Psylas: Um, mom. How’s dad?

Willow: Your dad’s going to be fine. He managed to get away with a few minor bumps and bruises but he’s okay. However, he was really drunk so they put him into a room so they can watch him overnight.

Psylas: Does he – Does he know about grandma?

Willow: No… he doesn’t. Doctor Skillings and Doctor Lanham thought it would be best to wait until he sobered up a bit before telling him any bad news.

Psylas: That makes sense. I can’t believe this happened. Grandma and I were so close. (Sniffle)

Willow: I know baby, but we’re going to be alright. Let’s go check on your father.

Psylas: Okay, mom. (Continues sobbing down the hallway, holding onto the handkerchief Doctor Fillmore gave him.)