Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Collective Nouns

I have been thinking about collective nouns and how their collective words often seem rather unconnected to the nouns, themselves. The classic is "a murder of crows." I also thought about all the nouns that don't seem to have (as far as I know) specific collective words. So I started a list. Some are sincere, some are silly and some aren't either.

A roll of English teachers
a roster of baseball cards
an exploit of porn films
an eternity of styrofoam cups
a buzz of advice
a glow of lightbulbs
a rumble of luggage
an icon of crosses
a shatter of glasses
a disrepair of bridges
a blasphemy of curses
a gathering of newspapers
a scantron of tests
a slam of doors
a conniving of cheaters
a shudder of caffeine
a postiche of blogs
a pucker of lemons
a hangar of blouses
a tower of cell phones
a flat of paneling
a page of speeches
a heard of ENT's
a knot of ties
a culture of yogurt
a flap of envelopes
a guilt of cookies
a lock of keys
a skosh of jeans
a fish of schools
a shot of cameras

Sunday, September 20, 2009

planning for the future

I was talking with a bunch of people the other day about the definition of "science fiction" and I pointed out that we call things "science fiction" if they could conceivably exist. As an example, I pointed to the technology of Star Trek -- how many of the things that Gene Roddenberry (excuse any misspelling) created as a fictional future have now come to pass and are becoming the standard science of today. TV shows which explore the science of classic scifi shows have shown that we are getting there. Our great ideas of scifi are becoming the realities of our lives.

If that is the case, then why are we investing in science education? It seems that the education system which tries to teach students to become hard core scientists who can invent the future is sadly misguided. We should be pouring money into liberal arts programs and into cultivating the next generation of scifi writers -- they are the ones inventing the future. The scientists lag behind and are simply trying to make the cool ideas that others innovate into something of a reality. So lets stop lauding the scientists for standing on the shoulders of writers. Lets encourage our children to dream, write and let someone else put it all together. Stop wasting money at MIT, and start spending at MYST, I guess.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Till 120

I think I started my mid-life crisis in 1988. I was watching the Olympics and it dawned on me that these gymnasts were younger than I was and by the time they were my age, they would be over the hill. I felt something similar watching the Mets in 1986 and knowing that the stars on that team were right around my age, and by that time I had accomplished, well, nothing, and there they were celebrating and partying because they were champions.

I always had the fantasy that I'd be doing something (playing music, writing a poem, fixing a plumbing leak, whatever) and some super-important-celebrity-famous person would saunter by and see or hear me and be impressed. We'd strike up a friendship and, poof, I'd be famous -- first by association and then later by virtue of my own innate skills. I always saw myself as "that kid that so-and-so discovered". Maybe it would be a good question I asked when I happened into an elevator ride with someone famous that would convince this star that I had a keen, inquisitive mind and should be encouraged. Who knows. I just always thought that I was destined for such stardom.

The mid-life crisis, I think, is the moment when you realize that the odds are now not just against such a chance, but substantially against it. I had 40 years to make something of myself, get discovered or win the lottery. It hasn't happened. I'll never be seen as "the new kid" or "that young up and comer". The crisis is the realization that with every day, the chances of my reaching immortality through renown are reducing at an inversely exponential rate. When I was in college, I didn't want to watch TV shows about being in college, partially because I didn't need to see a fictionalization of what I dealt with all the time, but also because I resented others who weren't in college gaining status based on something which I was doing simply to exist. And maybe this is why people who have mid-life crises sieze the chance to do something outlanding -- buy a car, have a torrid affair. The decision is made to create status: to feel wanted or to be attractive to the masses. If not by someone else or through the kind of talent and hard work that validates others' ascension, then by an act of selfishness.

So that's it. I'll never be found by a VIP who then takes me away from the drudgery of every day life. I won't be stumbled upon as the next big thing.

But I have had over 20 years of a mid-life crisis and I have gotten used to this let down. I have learned to celebrate who I am and make the most of it -- to achieve immortality through my family and my work. Sure, there won't be a bio-pic about my life or mass market paperback exposes when I pass from this mortal coil, but I think I'm getting to be OK with that.

Monday, September 7, 2009

on getting old (de brevitatae vitae)

Some musings
What used to be an adventure is now at best a requirement and at worst, a chore
What used to be liquid courage is now liquid coping
"Pop it lock it" isn't so much a dance move as a set of symptoms
It isn't that the music is too loud, just that it sucks.
I realize that that creepy guy with the trenchcoat was not nearly so creepy as he was happy that he had a really comfortable trenchcoat
Things move really quickly. Except kids shows...they Never End.
It stips being called erudite witty sarcastic cynicism and it starts being called cantankerousness.
All those good intentions I used to have turned in to a lack of caring. Thus, ignoring personal hygeine is no longer a radical statement of non conformity but a resignation that it just doesn't matter.
My cultural references to the classics of the 70's and 80's apparently sound like my parents' invocation of Lucky Strike and Burma Shave commercials.
My lack of style becomes "cute" as all the women now see me as absent minded and doddering and not intense and strong-willed.
I'm sure that there's more but my memory fails me.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Updates as events warrant

So I have a screed in the making about grammar rules. The case for, by the way.

I looked online for this one and found 3 references. One looks like an unintentional, one was removed but I saw the cached version -- it was a comment on a blog, and the third I saw in a list on a blog. So I think, since I came up with this separately, i can still claim some measure of responsibility for this.

Mr. Toad's Wild Rice.

I don't know what to do with it, but there it is.