Names withheld to protect both the innocent and the guilty

A recent exchange between a friend of mine and an academic publisher:

Dear Dr. R:

In an effort to speed up the publication schedule and work through our backlog, we are attempting to collect any remaining permissions from authors who are moving up in line for publication. Our records indicate that we still require permissions for the image(s) contained in your article, “(redacted).”

Please return these permissions as quickly as possible or update us as to the status of your attempts to obtain these permissions. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us.

Thank you for your interest in The Journal of SomethingOrOther, and congratulations again on the acceptance of your essay for publication.

Best regards,

Editorial Assistant
The Journal SomethingOrOther

My friend’s response:

Dear Editorial Assistant,

Thank you so much for your note. I was very grateful when you accepted my article for publication in your journal seven (7) years ago. Since that time, approximately five (5) years ago, you forgot that you had accepted the article and re-sent it through your review process, after which you sent me a rejection letter based on the insane rants of an inflamed tea-partier (anachronistic, I know, but it gives you an idea of what I mean). After I brought this imbalanced review to your attention, you rescinded your rejection and re-accepted the article for publication. A year later you sent me a letter similar to the one above. Since I had several years before supplied all the permissions, I grew tired of our little back and forth, stimulating though it had become, and rescinded my acceptance of your re-proferred acceptance. Soon after, I also lost the article in a devastating hard drive crash, and subsequently quit my academic career. Since I no longer had a stake in feverishly publishing my feeble pensées in poorly-run academic journals, I thought no more of the matter, until today.

Best wishes to you and the entire Journal of SomethingOrOther family,


Note to self: choose topics that don’t require permissions wherever possible.  (This being only one of many lessons that could be drawn from the exchange above.)

Similar to yesterday’s accent rant…

Yesterday, I went on a bit about using regionally-appropriate language, especially if the character in question is of a different nationality from the actor playing said character.  For my next unnatural act, I am going to go on a bit about regional pronunciation.

I had thought this rant was already written, but if so, I can’t find it.  I know I have had the conversation plenty of times.

Ever watched something set in or near your hometown?  Did the characters sound like they were locals?  Why or why not (show your work).

My example is this: back in 2000, the USA channel aired a made-for-TV movie of Robert Parker’s “Thin Air.” The bulk of this movie is set in the Massachusetts town of Haverhill.  There are two things I remember about this movie:

  1. I don’t buy Joe Mantegna as Spenser, and
  2. Nobody in the entire movie pronounced the town name like a Massachusetts native would.

All my life, the name “Haverhill” has been pronounced “HAY-vrill” (well, the i is more of a schwa, but I can’t be bothered to find the encoding for schwa – I’d rather take the time and effort to type about how I can’t be bothered to do a simple Google search).  But all the characters in the movie (including alleged natives of that town) called it “HAVE-ur-hill.”  Even the people trying for a Massachusetts accent.

Now, I’ve done it.  All of my New England readers have run screaming from the room.

So, instead of just watching the movie (or turning it off, which would have been a better option), I kept waiting for someone – ANYONE to pronounce the town name like someone who had spent even a week in Massachusetts would*.  And when they didn’t (not a single person did), I kept flinching and putting my tongue between my teeth the way you do when someone skrees a chalkboard.

Please, oh people who spend vast amounts of money to make television entertainment, get’chiself some real local cullah if yer gonna make ye’self some wicked pissah entuhtainment.

*Well, anyone who was trying to impersonate a native.  My Indiana-born-and-bred grandmother still calls Worcester “WUR-ches-ter,” when EVERYONE knows it’s “WUS-tah.”**

**I think that’s the key to the Mass accent – fewer syllables.

You’re not fooling anyone, you know.

A small note to people who make movies and television with actors not using their native accents:

It really doesn’t help when the non-native character’s dialogue is decidedly… native.

An example?  Sure, I can give you an example.   For unknown reasons, BBC America has decided to air the television show “Demons ” for us Yanks.  Aside from making a sane person wonder why they produced a show which is essentially “A British Buffy in London” (you can see why I don’t write titles for television), they decided that the teen-with-a-destiny’s mentor had to be American.  And for that American, they cast the toweringly magnificent blusterer, Philip Glenister.

So, okay.  Glenister is apparently working on his American accent.  Why?  Maybe he looked at Hugh Laurie’s career and said, “Well that bloke seems to be doing pretty well for himself,” and signed on.  Maybe he wants to get into Hollywood movies.  Maybe… who cares.  At any rate, he wanted to stretch his skills.  All fine so far.

Except, he seems to be having trouble with it.  And again, I don’t really care all that much.  Accents can be tough, and I would imagine doing an American accent in England is probably doubly tough.  It is probably easier to do an accent when you are filming in that country: after all, you can just turn to upwards of 90% of the crew or walk down the street on your lunch break and hear the accent you’re going for in that case.

But here is where my patience breaks down.  If you are a British* writer, please consult an American about the American character’s dialogue.  If you don’t have an American friend, find one.  Because the final nail in the coffin of an actor’s attempt at an accent is to hear them say something that 99.9% of the people in that country just wouldn’t say.  When Philip Glenister, struggling manfully with a midwestern-neutral American accent** says something about the main character’s dad dying in a “car smash,” that’s where I just stop giving the benefit of the doubt.  Because we say “car crash” or “car wreck.”

Unless you’re a pretentious git*** like me who has spent a fair bit of time in the UK, read a lot of British literature,  and watches more British media than is probably good for her, then the following sentences wouldn’t come out of an American’s mouth unless it was put there by a writer:

  • So Jess, I says, get your skates on or we’re going to miss the queue for the motor-coach.
  • Her problem is she would always take the lift in an emergency, when the notices all say use the stairs.
  • The Skoda wasn’t half ruined in that lorry smash, but you don’t hear me whingeing about it.
  • That bloke’s bird is a silly cow.
  • Eat your tea.

I could go on.  But I won’t.

*Or an American writer writing a British character, I am sure – but I am not British, so I don’t get to do that rant.

**Hint: pick a geography.  Make the character a New Yorker or a Bostonian or Texan… ANYTHING but the neutral news-anchor “nothing” accent, because those accents will give you something to anchor the accent to.  Dipthongs are your FRIEND, Phil.

***We don’t say this either.

Yet more snow

Our crazy snow dog/porpoise.

Music: Shira Kammen, “Le Brandevin – Holly and his Merry Men – Angelus ad Verginem” used under a Creative Commons license.

Also, the bundt cake atop our picnic table:

Is it a cake?

Anyone for Scrabble?

Because we’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

This is a LOT of snow.

In case there was any doubt…

…yes, I may be officially crazy.

Because, in addition to my commitments at school, work, and home, I seem to have helped craft a new writing project idea for November.  You may have heard of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.  The idea behind this is kind of crazy, kind of compelling: write a novel-length piece of prose in the 30 days of November.  Conceptually, I can see how this might get me past my, “I want to write a novel-length piece of prose, but what if it’s crap?” problem.  Because the idea isn’t to write a good novel, just something that is that long.  Once convinced of your idea that yes, you can string that many words together about one story, perhaps then you can get out of your own way and proceed crafting something of a decent quality.

It may work, it may not – but I do have one friend who turned the concept into a book contract.  There are probably others.

But procrastinating about writing is more than a common occurrence – it’s a cliche.  So many of us who like to write, like stories, like to read, and want to tell our own stories end up putting it off indefinitely.  Thus it is so that I have about a zillion pieces of ideas around a novel-length piece of prose and have only committed a few of them to pixels.  The rest of those ideas keep rolling around in my head like laundry on an endless tumble-dry, going nowhere.  Perhaps shrinking.  Perhaps I’m letting this metaphor get out of hand.

Enter an idea that sort of bounced around among Rana of Frogs and Ravens, Amanda of Household Opera, and me: NoNaShoStoWriMo, or Not-National Short Story Writing Month.  Instead of committing to a 50,000 words in the next month, we’re shooting for the more modest, achievable goal of about 7,500 words.  I’ve decided to use the ideas/concepts that have been doing the tumbling and spinning and see where I get with it – perhaps that will get me enough of a start so I can use it as a springboard to an actual long-format work.

Anyone with us?


And yes, the name does sound like something in Judoon, for all you Doctor Who fans…

Oh, for crying out loud

E-book manufacturers, get back to me when you’re serious about providing a product that doesn’t treat me either like a criminal or a child.

He’s a magic man…

I got a Wii console for my 40th birthday – because though I may be 40, inside I am 12.  I generally use it to work out (EA Sports Fitness – though occasionally glitchy – is surprisingly intense), though I did get sucked into “World of Goo” on a friend’s recommendation.  Other than that, we only have the sports game that came with the console.  We had a party recently for my school colleagues, and the Wii was the hit of the party.  There is something about the game that seems to bring out the positive, encouraging side of people.  Miss a hit in baseball?  Nobody jeers.  Instead, cries of “You wuz ROBBED!” ring out, even from the opposing side.

As someone who really hates what my mother calls the “nyah nyahs,” I have been surprised to witness this sort of behavior.  Life has taught me more often that games where there are winners and losers are just… well, nasty.

Even John, who doesn’t really like video games, likes to play Wii.  Well, he likes to play Wii Bowling.  Since we are both New England kids, I usually respond to his, “Wanna bowl?” with, “Yeah – ya gonna take me bowlin’ an’ buy me a beah?”  We’re pretty well matched and the usual score is close.  But I found out today that John, well… he’s a magical Wii bowler.  He ran upstairs to do something when I was playing my turn, and his turn came before he had returned.  Suddenly, his figure went live, and I watched his Mii bowl a perfect strike.  Moments later, he ran downstairs and said, “How’d I do?”  He had brought his controller upstairs with him and heard it “ding.”  So he played his turn blind.  From upstairs.

Magic, I tell you.

(He smoked me that game by over 30 points.)

From the rerun file – library edition

Periodically, I post reruns from the old, hard-to-navigate version of WoT.  Today, I was reminded of this post about my experiences as a law school work-study student in our library.  The post dates from from April 2005, and it’s especially appropriate now that I am in library school:


Libraries are where work-study grants go to die, especially at a public university. It seemed that every other student was eligible for a work-study grant at my school, and when you can’t get a job as a research assistant for a professor (or, as in my case, the professor you have your research job with doesn’t have a whole lot of projects for you), you take advantage of your grant working at the library. It’s a pretty good gig – you can drop in for as little as an hour at a time, the work is fairly undemanding, and you can read the papers while you’re attaching them to those long sticks.

The unfortunate thing about the library – at least at Maine – was that random, strange calls tended to land at the circulation desk. Since the circulation desk was generally manned by the shifting mass of students on work-study who were working a 2-hour shift (at the longest), it was a poor choice for those members of the public who might be seeking anyone resembling a clue. On the other hand, since the circ desk students were constantly confounded by the old-fashioned phone (the kind with a row of buttons on the bottom that went “ker-CHUNK” when you pressed them to select a line, put someone on hold, or transfer them to oblivion), it was probably a good way for a harried switchboard operator to get rid of annoying callers.

I was whiling away my time at the circ desk late in my career at U. Maine one spring afternoon when the telephone rang. I answered it, and was greeted by a slow, stentorian voice obviously belonging to an elderly gentleman who was most likely hard of hearing. “I would like to speak to the Law Librarian,” he boomed.

Hmm. There was nobody with that title at the library, to the best of my knowledge, and I had worked there for two years. “Er – sir, do you have a reference question, or would you like to speak to the director of the library? There is nobody with the title of ‘Law Librarian.'”

“I would like to speak to the Law Librarian,” he repeated – as one would with a particularly dim child.

“Sir, as I told you, there is nobody here with that title –”

“I would like to speak to the Law Librarian.”

Fine. It seemed my best choices were a.) the reference librarian, or b.) the director. As I had no more information than that, I selected the director by a semi-random selection method: I liked the reference librarian. He was a very decent chap.  Also, the director had a secretary who was probably better-equipped to handle this than either I or the reference librarian. So I said, “One moment, sir,” and put him into transfer mode, got the secretary on the line, put him through, and went back to replacing pocket-parts or whatever other gripping task the circ desk had for me that day.

About a minute later, the phone rang again and I had a sense of doom. Sure enough, when I answered it, I got, “I WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK TO THE LAW LIBRARIAN.” Either my ancient telephone-fu was weak, or he had gotten confused when he was put on hold and had hung up.

“One moment, sir,” I put him on hold again and called up to the director’s secretary’s office. Now she was not there. Hell.

I took a deep breath and got back on the line with my elderly friend. “Sir, nobody is there at the moment. I would be happy to take a message for you –”

That was when he exploded. He began to yell, ranting about how he needed to speak to the fictitious “law librarian” and how he was retired Maine Supreme Court Justice Hoo-Ha, and on and on. The serials librarian, who had been shelving journals in the open shelves behind the circ desk looked at me as I held the phone’s receiver away from my ear. I felt like one of those cartoons where the noise from the phone actually blows your hair back. Finally, his tirade wound down and he ended by sarcastically asking, “So what do you suggest I do?”

I had a split-second conversation with the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, took a deep breath, and said, “Well sir – the way I see it you have two choices. You can leave a message as I suggested at the outset or you can continue to be rude to me. Which will it be?”

The serials librarian in the stacks behind me inhaled audibly and I waited.

“Um. I guess I’ll leave a message then.”

Score one for the work-study student.

The surreality of living in DC

I just got off a Metro train that, among the usual scaff and raff of us, contained one tidily-dressed gentleman whose uniform shirt quietly proclaimed him to be a U.S. Marshall Service Bomb Specialist.

Sometimes it is just deeply weird living here.