You’re going to love your English lesson for today

You know what absolutely drives me bananas? People who don’t know when to use “your” and when to use “you’re.” Look at this sentence:

You’re going to need your coat.

“You’re” is a contraction for “you are.” “Your” is a possessive, like an adjective. In the sentence above, “your” modifies “coat.” They are NOT interchangeable!

Likewise, check out this sentence:

Would you go to the store and buy two tomatoes and a head of lettuce, too?

“To” is a preposition. It modifies “go,’ in this case. “Two” is a number, i.e. 2. “Too” is an adverb meaning the same thing as “also.” They are also NOT INTERCHANGEABLE!

And this:

Put their books over there. They’re on a trip today.

“Their” is a possessive, like “your.” It modifies “books.” “There” indicates a place. “They’re” is a contraction for “they are.” Again, they are NOT INTERCHANGEABLE!

I know I’m talking to a bunch of writers and ostensibly you know the difference between “too,” “two,” and “to,” and between “they’re,” “their,” and “there,” and “your” and “you’re.” Well, maybe you all know the difference, but there are plenty of writers out there who don’t, many of whom self-publish their books through Amazon then spend more time trying to browbeat their Twitter followers and Facebook friends into buying it than they do proofreading what they’ve written, and having someone who has an eye for catching stuff like misspellings, punctuation errors, and grammar mistakes read over their masterpiece and catch all this little crap. Mary catches this stuff all the time in the books she’s reading, and it drives her nuts. I’m sure it drives you nuts, too. I was taught by nuns that would tell me that spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes drove the nails into the Hands of Jesus…

English is a difficult language, I know, and it’s a mongrel, combining words from nearly every language on earth, each with its own spelling and grammar rules. And there are people who, God bless them, try very hard to learn it. Imagine the confusion they feel when someone doesn’t take the time to write things the way they were told to expect them to be written. Take pity on them. Please.


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Stream of Consciousness Saturday is brought to you each week by Linda Hill, who takes the time to check her spelling, punctuation, and grammar. You can find her blog, with all the rules for SoCS and pingbacks from the participants, here.

The Friday Five: Your “White” Songs

I came up with five songs with “white” in the title, and asked if you had any other suggestions, and you gave me more than five. I do have one song that doesn’t have “white” in the title, and I’ll explain it when I get there.

White Wedding – Billy Idol Halfmoon Mollie thought of this one; while it’s not normally her style (but what do I know?) she was off to a wedding that day. I heard that “White Wedding” is a form of heroin, which might have been Billy’s original intent of the song, but the video shows him at a Goth wedding, so maybe he changed his mind.

White Lightning – George Jones Dan came up with this one. It’s a country classic, meaning there are a lot of versions of this one, but George seems to be having a lot of fun on the video, so I went with his.

White Flag – Dido Joey suggested this. I hadn’t heard of Dido before this, but she has a pleasant voice, and I understand this is one of her signature songs. It was released in 2003 and went all the way to #18 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the Adult Contemporary chart, so one would think I had heard it, but I stopped listening to the radio some time in the mid-Nineties…

White Room – Cream Joey also suggested this, and you KNOW I’ve heard it. It was written by Cream’s erudite bassist Jack Bruce and poet Pete Brown, while the beginning, in 5/4 time, was the work of Cream’s somewhat less erudite drummer Ginger Baker. It’s a classic.

(There’ll Be Blue Birds Over) The White Cliffs Of Dover – Vera Lynn Susan suggested the next three. This was especially popular during World War II in England, and Vera Lynn’s version was the most popular. God bless her, Vera is still with us — she’ll be 100 years old next March — and her 2009 “best of” compilation, released when she was 92, reached #1 in the British charts, making her the oldest person to have a #1 album in the UK. Another song she’s known for is “We’ll Meet Again,” which, if you’ve seen the movie Doctor Strangelove (and who hasn’t?), is the final song played as Armageddon is depicted.

The Night Has A Thousand Eyes – Bobby Vee My rules usually say that the title of the song has to include the word I’ve chosen, but rules are made to be broken, and besides, I thought the name of this was “Little White Lies,” too. Besides, I really like the song. Bobby went to #3 in the US and UK with this in 1962.

A White Sportcoat and a Pink Carnation – Marty Robbins Susan and Uncle Jack came up with this one, and somehow I remembered Marty Robbins sang it. A lot of the early rock & roll hits were actually “rockabilly,” rock done by country artists. Marty wrote this one and recorded it in 1957. It reached #1 on the country chart and #2 on the Hot 100 and was certified gold.

Black or White – Michael Jackson My brother Pat, who’s taking a break from Facebook until at least after the election (as we all probably should), suggested this, saying “that cool headshot transition montage at the end holds up 25 years later.” It’s a good song, too, with a message we can all use right about now.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed. Now to work on Monday’s list of your favorite inspirational songs….

Writer’s Workshop: The Lock

Today’s prompt: Write a blog post inspired by your childhood neighborhood.

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Source: MasterLock.com

When I was about twelve, I found a combination lock in the alley behind our house. It was the kind they issue in school, that had a keyhole on the back, so that the dean can go in someone’s locker and see what contraband is in there. It was locked, but I thought that I could figure out what the combination was by trial and error. This is not the easiest way to figure out a combination, and pretty soon I got frustrated. Just as I was about to throw the lock away, I realized I could write to the manufacturer and ask them for the combination. I wrote to them in my best penmanship, gave them the serial number to the lock, and asked them to please send me the combination. A couple of weeks later, they wrote back and said that they would be happy to provide me with the combination if I sent them the lock.

Simple enough, right? I just put it in a box, wrap the box, bring it to the post office, and send it off. Easier said than done. For one thing, we never kept the materials needed to wrap a package for mailing at home. This was in the days before Express Mail, so there were no supplies at the post office (or so I thought). I scrounged up a box, put the lock in it along with a note of explanation, cut up a paper bag, and, with all the manual dexterity of a gorilla peeling a grape, wrapped the box and taped it shut with half a roll of Scotch Magic Tape.

I looked up the address of the nearest post office, and realized I would have to cross both Devon Avenue and Clark Street to get there. I had never done this, and was sure that, if I told my mother I was off to the post office at Devon and Hermitage, she would flat out tell me, “no way, Jose.” I would have to wait for a day when she had school and we didn’t and go after she left for work.

Finally the day came to put my plan into action. It was overcast and drizzling, and Ray Rayner (who had a kids’ show in the morning) said the high temperature for the day would be forty-seven and five-twelfths (the Weather Bureau, as we called it then, said that the high temperature would be in the upper forties, but Ray liked to put an actual number on it). I put all of my money (one dollar and seventy-three cents in loose change, whatever I could gather from chair and couch cushions) into the pocket of my jeans, put on my winter jacket, took my package, and set off for the post office.

This would be an adventure for me. I had never been on the south side of Devon Avenue or the west side of Clark Street by myself. It was like Field of Dreams, where the players stayed between the base lines because, if they didn’t, they would transform into an older version of themselves, or like the maps they drew in the fifteenth century, with dragons and other terrifying sea creatures waiting for unsuspecting sailors to cross into uncharted waters. As I walked down Devon, I looked across at the familiar storefronts as though I was on a ship watching familiar territory fade from view. At Clark, I waited for the light and crossed the street, realizing that what I was doing was actually no big deal. I got to the post office and left the lock and seventy-five cents (the price of sending it parcel post) with them and walked home, stopping at the drug store for a Zagnut and a Coke on the way.

A few weeks later, at the beginning of summer vacation, what should arrive in the mail but my lock, with a tag through the shackle with the combination on it. I tried the combination, and the lock opened successfully. And I was happy. Of course, I had nothing to lock with it, so I relocked it and put it and the combination into my desk drawer, where it stayed until a couple of years later. With nothing else to do one afternoon, I fastened it around the valve of the radiator in my room. I put the combination back in my desk drawer, certain if, should the opportunity to use the lock present itself, I could take it off of the radiator.

Before we moved from our apartment to the suburbs I realized that the lock was still there, and I should probably take it off of the radiator and take it with me. So I opened the drawer, and looked for the combination. It wasn’t there. At some point during a pre-move cleaning frenzy, I must have either misplaced or, more likely, thrown out the combination, and I couldn’t remember what it was. Thus, the lock stayed behind when we left for our new home.

Sometimes I wonder if someone else was able to remove the lock and put it to good use, or if it’s still attached to the radiator almost fifty years later. Thinking about it, if you removed the knob from the valve, you could lift it off without incident. Not that it matters now.

An Observation About Higher Mathematics For #1LinerWeds

Did you realize that, as you continue the study of mathematics beyond calculus, you reach a point where it’s no longer about numbers?

I was reminded of that fact by this morning’s xkcd cartoon…

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The image caption says “Next, let’s assume the decision of whether to take the Axiom of Choice is made by a deterministic process …” Having gotten as far as Real Analysis as a math major (after that year I transferred and changed my major to the much less dangerous Production and Operations Management), I actually kinda understand that…


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One-Liner Wednesday is the creation of the lovely and talented Linda Hill, who has all the rules and this week’s pingbacks at her blog.

Two for Tuesday: Linda Ronstadt

Running a little behind today. I usually have these written a day or two in advance… where does the time go?

Way back in the Sixties, we heard a song called “Different Drum” by a band named The Stone Poneys. It was most notable for the lead vocal; it really made you sit up and take notice. Later we learned that the voice belonged to today’s guest artist, Linda Ronstadt. Wikipedia tells us, “In total, she has released over 30 studio albums and 15 compilation or greatest hits albums. Ronstadt charted 38 Billboard Hot 100 singles, with 21 reaching the top 40, 10 in the top 10, three at number 2, and ‘You’re No Good’ at number 1.” That’s quite an accomplishment.

She had an incredible voice, suitable for singing ballads, standards, country, jazz, R&B, Spanish songs (she’s half Mexican), and straight-ahead rock & roll, and she’s done all of the above during her career. Parkinson’s disease, which she was diagnosed with in 2012, has ended her ability to sing, though she’s been retired since 2011.

I’m surprised that she only had the one #1 hit, “You’re No Good.” It also reached #10 on the Adult Contemporary chart and #7 in Canada in 1975.

in the mid-Eighties, Linda did several albums of jazz standards with Nelson Riddle. Peter Asher, her manager, and Asylum Records, her label, were uneasy about her changing course, as she was the pre-eminent female voice in rock, but she said she wanted to rescue these “little jewels of artistic expression” from “spending the rest of their lives riding up and down in elevators.” The first album, What’s New, spent 81 weeks on the Billboard album chart, rising as high as #3 (behind Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson) and was certified triple platinum by RIAA. The second album, Lush Life, rose to #13 and was certified platinum in a matter of weeks. From that album, here’s “Skylark,” the first single from the album. It reached #12 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1984.

Linda Ronstadt, your Two for Tuesday, August 23, 2016.

BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “A Rainy Night In Georgia” Results

BATTLE OF THE BANDS! (BOTB Top Photo)

Last week’s battle pitted Conway Twitty and Sam Moore (from “Sam & Dave”) against Aaron Neville with Chris Botti on the Tony Joe White classic, “A Rainy Night In Georgia,” popularized by Brook Benton in 1970. The votes have been tallied, and here’s the result:

Conway Twitty and Sam Moore: 7
Aaron Neville w/ Chris Botti: 4

While I thought Aaron Neville’s version of the song was all right, the combination of Conway Twitty’s country and Sam Moore’s R&B absolutely did it for me. If I allowed myself a vote, I would have gone with them. You can find their version, along with a few other country singers matched with R&B singers, on the 1994 album Rhythm, Country & Blues. On that album, incidentally, you can hear Aaron Neville and Trisha Yearwood do a great job with Patsy Cline’s “I Fall To Pieces.”

Our next Battle of the Bands will be on Thursday, September 1. It’ll be my second anniversary of doing Battle of the Bands, so I guess it should be special. Hell, all of them are special…

Monday’s Music Moves Me: Songs That Inspire Me… Hmmmmm…

“Songs that inspire us,” huh? I’m not sure that there are any that “inspire” me, per se. But, here are a few songs that make me feel good when I hear them. I guess that’s inspiration, right?

Abraham, Martin, And John – Dion This came out not long after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. The messages of this song, “someday soon we’re gonna be one,” and “didn’t they try to find some good in you and me?” are good for this day and age.

The Potter’s House – Tramaine Hawkins I first heard this at an interfaith service for people who had died or were dying of AIDS, and when they got to the line, “the potter wants to put you back together again,” I lost it. The lyrics are here.

O Happy Day – The Edwin Hawkins Singers A classic that I’m sure nearly every church choir does. Ours does a pretty good job of it, except they do it too fast. I didn’t realize it until I heard the original again. I love hearing choir music like this.

Mornin’ – Al Jarreau Al Jarreau is a wonderful singer, and this song in particular is just so damn happy, you can’t help but feel good after hearing it. I love the bridge, that seems to build energy until he hits that high note.

Let’s Stay Together – Rev. Al Green This was popular when I was in high school, and since Al became the Reverend Al it just seems to have a whole new meaning.

So there are my five inspirational songs. What are yours?

Monday’s Music Moves Me is sponsored by X-Mas Dolly, Callie, Stacy, Cathy, and Naila Moon, so be sure and visit them, where you can also find the Linky for the other participants.


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The Hot And Humid Week That Was

Here’s Victor Kiam for the Remington Micro-Screen shaver. Shaves as close as a blade, or he’ll give you your money back!

The Week That Was

Well, I’ve been to all my blogs and left a bunch of comments, listened to some good music from Cathy, discussed cartoons with Eli, and watched a bunch of videos about why certain TV series were cancelled for no good reason than to get myself in the mood to write this. Yeah, sometimes it takes a while…

I’ve been having some wild dreams lately, then wake up and I don’t remember anything about save for the fact I had them. I lie back down and hope to fall asleep again, just to have another one. And usually I succeed. I never quite learned to write down what I remember from the dreams, but trust me, they’re pretty wild.

We’ve had a week of threats of rain, but no actual wet stuff until yesterday. So the humidity has been crazy and I keep getting promises of rain from all my various weather apps but no actual rain. This week, it looks like the temps come down and we might get some actual real honest-to-goodness rain. The lawn could sure use it…

Anyway, back to The Week That Was. Thanks to everyone who dropped by and left comments on the blog. It was more of the usual here. Let’s see…

Monday’s Music Moves Me was dedicated to presenting weather songs you liked in response to my weather songs from the week before. Based on the comments I got from many of you, my readers have excellent taste in music, something I already knew.

Last call for votes on my most-recent Battle of the Bands. The song is “A Rainy Night In Georgia,” and the contestants are the duet of Conway Twitty and Sam Moore versus Aaron Neville with a trumpet solo by Chris Botti. Results tomorrow.

The feeatured chanteuse on Two for Tuesday was Lesley Gore, and Joey let me know that a young lady named Melanie Martinez has a song called “Pity Party” that borrows some of Lesley’s song. Go have a listen. It’s… interesting…

My one-liner this past Wednesday was taken from a blog post from the incredible Kristen Lamb. Like I always say, if you don’t read her blog, you should, especially if you’re a writer, because she’s excellent. Just ask Linda, who’s been reading her blog ever since starting to use WordPress. I’ve been reading Kristen’s blog since about 2011, and I didn’t think it was possible for her blog to get better, but it has.

Writer’s Workshop was a mashup with The Thursday Ten, as Mama Kat asked me to share some Instagram accounts we follow. I had done another collection of Instagram I follow last year for WW, and managed to only repeat one (Loyola University Chicago’s Quinlan School of Business, my alma mater). Joey said my selections were “so you,” and it’s true: There are so many great accounts out there covering the spectrum of interests, you can always find something you like. Kind of like Pinterest…

The Friday Five had “white” as its theme, and you readers have sent me lots of songs that I missed, so guess what this Friday’s five will be? Really, I don’t do those “reader’s choice” selections because I’m lazy… no wait, I do… but because you come up with some great ideas, sometimes ones I never would have thought of, other times ones where I smack my head and say, “Now why didn’t I think of that?” There’ll be some great ones this week, so stay tuned!

Stream of Consciousness Saturday‘s prompt was “date,” and naturally I complained about the state of history education, which (in the United States, anyway) involves memorizing dates so you can regurgitate them on exams, then forget them. That seems to be the general feeeling about history classes: get people interested about what happened, but focus on the dates on the exams. No wonder kids hate it. I also mentioned something about wanting to see Paris, but I probably won’t, since I’m disabled and would need to talk Mary into going, and really I’m not THAT interested in it, so I won’t be sharing pictures from a trip anytime soon. I know, “never say never,” but I think in this case that’s what it is.

So that’s this edition of The Week That Was. Join me this week as I play your “white” songs on Friday, reveal the latest winner in my Battle of the Bands, post some inspiring songs tomorrow for M4, and who knows what else? See you soon!

Remember The Dates, If You Want To #socs

I never liked history classes, because a lot of it was memorizing dates and places. I took world history in freshman year of high school, and the teacher would give us tests where he’d have a map of Europe, with none of the countries or cities marked, and a list of cities, and you had to indicate where each city was. It was usually pretty easy if it were London or Paris. Bucharest? Not so much.

And the dates… I mean, why? Certain dates I know off the top of my head: July 4, 1776, the date the US Declaration of Independence was first signed (it took several years to get the rest of the signatures); 1066, when William the Conqueror conquered England and established himself as the first Norman King of England; June 6, 1944, D-Day, etc. But why is the date the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed important? For that matter, who cares about the Kellogg-Briand Pact? History majors, certainly. But the rest of us? I mean, it was a non-aggression treaty written in 1928 by US Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg and French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand, who is not the same as Aristide Bruant, the French cabaret singer that Toulouse-Lautrec drew several pictures of. Briand did, however, get a Metro station named after him.

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One of my favorite works of art. (Public Domain)

I didn’t do well in history, and I really don’t care.

I’ve always wanted to see Paris. When Mary and I went to The Netherlands (i.e. Holland) in 1990, we arrived on July 14, which was my grandmother’s 90th birthday and Bastille Day in France. I wanted us to get on a train and ride down to Paris for the celebration. Mary talked me out of it. She said it was too wild, and she was tired after we had just spent ten hours on a plane to Amsterdam. I doubt I’ll ever see it now, except through the magic of the Internet, which at this stage of the game is fine with me.


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This post was brought to you by the word “date” and Linda Hill, who hosts Stream of Consciousness Saturday every week. Rules and pingbacks from the contestants participants can be found at her blog.

The Friday Five: Songs with “White” In The Title

I’ve been trying to remember if I’ve ever done songs with “white” in the title for a Friday Five or at any other time, and I can’t. I know I’ve done red, blue, black, and green, but can’t remember what other colors I’ve done. Oh well, guess I have to get that list built. Anyone know how to get a text list of all the blog posts out of WordPress.com? I know I could probably install WordPress on a server at home, restore a backup of the blog on it, and get the list that way, I’m just trying to avoid that. I’m thinking maybe there isn’t any other way. Oh well… Anyway, here are five songs with “white” in the title for your Friday.

A Whiter Shade of Pale – Procol Harum This was Procol Harum’s first single. Released in the UK in May 1967, it reached #1 within a month and stayed there for six weeks. In the US, it reached #5 without too much promotion, and was an anthem for the “Summer Of Love.”

White Christmas – Bing Crosby Just a reminder that we have just 128 days until Christmas. This is from the 1942 movie Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Marjorie Reynolds (whose singing voice was dubbed by Martha Mears). There’s just something about Bing playing the bells with the stem of his pipe that cracks me up.

White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane A song by Grace Slick, who wrote it before her days with Jefferson Airplane. Another song from the Summer of Love, this appeared on their first album, 1967’s Surrealistic Pillow. It peaked at #8 on the Hot 100. If you ever see the Blue Man Group in concert, there’s a good chance you’ll end up singing it.

Nights in White Satin – The Moody Blues From their 1967 album Days of Future Passed, it was released as a single that year and reached #19. It was re-released in 1972 and rose to #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Cash Box survey. Immediately after this on the album is “Late Lament,” a poem that was used at signoff on WDAI in Chicago in the early Seventies, and probably on other stations at the same time.

Black and White – Three Dog Night A song originally written to celebrate the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, Three Dog Night turned it into a #1 hit in the late summer 1972.

So there are five songs with “white” in the title. Let’s see which ones you come up with, and I’ll play your choices next week.

† “Breathe deep the gathering gloom,
Watch lights fade from every room.
Bedsitter people look back and lament,
Another day’s useless energy spent.
Impassioned lovers wrestle as one,
Lonely man cries for love and has none.
New mother picks up and suckles her son,
Senior citizens wish they were young.
Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colours from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white.
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion?”