Saturday, August 18, 2007

Writing Is Easy: Down With Stupid Verbs!

I've decided to create a new regular installment here at Dregs that I like to call "Writing Is Easy." I think someone else has something with that same name somewhere on the internet, but I like it, so I'm going to use it as well.

Each episode of "Writing Is Easy" will provide tips and/or advice on writing. I figure, since I do it professionally, I might be able to share a thing or two with you, the reader, though I will most likely use "Writing Is Easy" as a thinly disguised platform to rant about the degradation of our language.

Take, for example, today's exciting episode: Down With Stupid Verbs!

Lately, as I've read various and sundry "entertainment" style websites in an effort to keep up with newly released motion pictures, I've noticed the insidious creep of the word "pen." As a verb. Where it shouldn't be.

"Pen" has long been used as a verb, but it's only recently begun to bother my somewhat literal mind. For example, two days ago I read the phrase "So-and-So penned the screenplay." Now, the likelihood that So-and-So used an actual pen seems pretty low, so, in the interest of accuracy, it seems to me that the phrase should be "So-and-So keyboarded the screenplay."

See? Doesn't make sense when you look at it that way.

What's wrong with plain ol' "write" and its variations? Why didn't So-and-So "write" the screenplay? Because people think "write" is boring and want to go with something they propose to be fresher and edgier. It is the sad state of our exclamation mark culture, where people no longer want to communicate--they want to outshout the competition.

But I digress.

Another stupid verb? "Google." I don't know why, but it annoys the heck out of me when I hear this used as a verb (and I hear it all the time). "Google" is a proper noun, not a verb. It can also be used as an adjective, which is how I use it: "I did a Google search on 'pomegranate juice,'" for example. I understand I'm kicking against the goads here, and that eventually I will be dragged kicking and screaming into Google-verb acceptability, but I'll fight it as long as I can. I shall not be a Google-verb Pod Person.

What about you, theoretical reader of my blog? Any verbs-that-aren't-really-verbs that stick in your craw? There's a whole comments section below just a-waitin' for your thoughts.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Fact: TV Makes Kids Stupider.

Don't believe me? Check out this article from, tantalizingly titled "Baby Einsteins: Not So Smart After All." I have to admit, we've plunked the tots down in front of those videos before, though I often failed to see the appeal. Still, if it was supposed to be, as Homer Simpson might put it, smartening them up, why not?

Oh, but we were wrong, says journalist Alice Park, who tosses out such tasty, guilt-inducing morsels as:

Led by Frederick Zimmerman and Dr. Dimitri Christakis, both at the University of Washington, the research team found that with every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watched the videos. These products had the strongest detrimental effect on babies 8 to 16 months old, the age at which language skills are starting to form. "The more videos they watched, the fewer words they knew," says Christakis. "These babies scored about 10% lower on language skills than infants who had not watched these videos."


Mounting evidence suggests that passive screen sucking not only doesn't help children learn, but could also set back their development. Last spring, Christakis and his colleagues found that by three months, 40% of babies are regular viewers of DVDs, videos or television; by the time they are two years old, almost 90% are spending two to three hours each day in front of a screen. Three studies have shown that watching television, even if it includes educational programming such as Sesame Street, delays language development.

...and, my favorite...

He and other experts worry that the proliferation of these products will continue to displace the one thing that babies need in the first months of life — face time with human beings. "Every interaction with your child is meaningful," says Christakis. "Time is precious in those early years, and the newborn is watching you, and learning from everything you do."

The only flaw I can find in the piece is that Park calls Sesame Street "educational," a claim I've found dubious ever since they introduced that stupid fairy character. She's cute, but I think she exists more to sell ancillary products than to teach my kids how to count to twenty. For a more incisive take on the whole business of that show, check out this flammably titled LA Times article: "Elmo Is An Evildoer."

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Two Years And Counting.

Today marks the second anniversary of our adoption process. Two years ago today we contacted Amani Baby Cottage for the first time to tell them we wanted to adopt from Uganda. Two years ago today we set out on this grand journey not knowing when it would be over. Two years.

We still didn't know who we were going to get; we told them we wanted a baby, and that we were pretty sure we wanted a boy (then-three-year-old Noah was certain, however--as we looked at their website gallery, he jumped up and down and said, "Let's buy a boy! Let's buy a boy!"). Little did we know that we would be saddled with a fifteen-month-old boy whom everyone said was the best kid in the orphanage, even though he didn't necessarily meet our parameters.

Two years. As I sit here thinking about it, writing about it, it seems almost like we've always been in the adoption process. We've had soaring highs, and crushing lows, and lots of median time in-between where we felt like we were simply treading water. And now, after two years, I go into Noah's room, and I see the extra bed we've had in there for 730 days or so, always ready to be filled at a moment's notice with his African brother, and I plead with God, "If you won't hear our prayers, please hear those of this little child who just wants his brother home. He just wants to buy a boy."

And in the meantime, we look forward to The Bean, and we carry on with our lives, and we contact our Congressmen and Senators and tug every possible governmental heartstring we can find, and we wait on God to move heaven and Earth and unite this family of ours.

Friday, August 3, 2007

How Many Colors Do You See?

According to this website, you see 16,777,216 colors in the above image, assuming your computer monitor settings allow it. Depending on your computer, you could be seeing as many as 16 million-plus colors...or just sixteen.

Careful. Don't get too mesmerized. You'll put your eye out.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Up Next For Me: Survival.

I just finished the final manuscript revision for The High School Survival Guide, coming in March 2008 from NavPress/TH1NK. The subtitle to the book is Making the Most of the Best Time of Your Life (So Far), and it's an all-encompassing compendium of advice for the high school student, touching on topics like studying, test-taking, dating, sex, dealing with family, the purpose of life, and various and sundry other issues the students of today face.

So far, everyone at the publisher is enthused about it and is rarin' to go on bringing it to press. I'm excited to be done with it, and now must endure that 6-9 month wait between the time I finish a book and the time it is released before I can get a bead on how it actually turned out.

You can bet I'll make the links available as soon as it's available for buyin'.

File Under: "You're Kidding, Right? This Is Some Kind Of Joke?"

From those crazy compilers over at Rotten Tomatoes comes this movie news:

Disney's turning Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs into a live-action action drama, and they just got the guy who helmed Constantine to direct it. And no, today is not April First.

The long-gestating project is working under the title of
Snow and the Seven, but The Hollywood Reporter indicates that this is only a temporary label. The project's been through a bunch of screenwriters, but Disney and new director Francis Lawrence seem ready to get production rolling early next year in China. (Yuen Woon-ping was hired to orchestrate the fight sequences!)

Our source provides a handy plot synopsis: "The story, a fantasy adventure, centers on a British girl being raised in 19th century Hong Kong. When she realizes her destiny is to conquer an evil force, she must prepare to fight by being trained by seven Shaolin monks."

So... yeah. My mind's so misshapen after those three paragraphs that I can't think of anything else to say. Am I alone in thinking this is a spectacularly bad idea? Sound off in the comments section.