Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Eurydice at the Yale Rep

An elementary school classmate of my father, a woman in her mid-eighties who travels anywhere in the world at the drop of a hat and continues to sit on the boards of various public bodies—and who still has thick black hair to the waist of her four-foot-ten-inch frame, runs around in heels, and drives like a bat out of hell—has long been a film buff. She has not only seen far more movies in her life than you have, she has probably seen more movies in the last week than you have. If she can’t persuade one of her daughters to go with her (What? Did you think she was going to go with a contemporary? They’re all dead or in dementia units.), she goes by herself. This is a woman who weeps easily and she has always rated movies by the number of hankies she soaks, a system I am borrowing for the moment.

Eurydice, a modern take on the ancient myth, written by Sarah Ruhl, is in previews at the Yale Repertory Theatre, in New Haven. The opening is tomorrow, September 28, and the show runs through October 22. For my wife, this was a three-handkerchief evening; and for any daughter who mourns her father, for any parent or spouse or lover who mourns another, it well should be a three-hanky evening.

Eurydice, in case you were not in class that day, was the young wife of Orpheus. Details vary, depending on the author; but, short story short, Eurydice dies early in the tale and is transported to the underworld. Orpheus, a great musician, play a tune so mournful that the spirits relent and allow him to lead Eurydice back to the world of the living. The condition, though, is that he must not look back during the journey, else Eurydice will die a second time and forever. Of course, he does look back, and thus endeth the tragedy.

The tale was always told from Orpheus’s perspective. Orpheus’s tragic flaw was that he loved Eurydice too much. What Ruhl has done is reimagine the story from Eurydice’s point of view. She has also transposed the plot forward a couple of dozen centuries, added some wickedly funny foils, and, most important from a dramatic standpoint, introduced Eurydice’s father as a central character.

The staging is imaginative and effective. The Rep kicks off their season with a great night of theater (they spell it their way, I spell it my way). The show is ninety minutes without intermission, and there is running water involved. So pee first. If you have never been to the Rep, as I had not, I assure you the seats are comfortably wide, with plenty of knee room, something that cannot be said for other New Haven theaters I’ve been in.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Another voice on the value of editing

Commentary from the journalism side of the aisle.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fun for wordnerds

Thanks to Philadelphia Inquirer book editor Frank Wilson for a link to Etymologic! If you fancy yourself an etymology buff, you’ll enjoy playing along. I beat Frank’s seven out of ten; I aced the test.

Perfect Score

Here’s the list of words and phrases the site gave me:
  • sea butterfly
  • coco
  • soteriology
  • boondocks
  • bootleg
  • gaffer
  • pencil
  • chocolate
  • curfew
  • get a bead on
I admit I had to guess at a couple of them.

Well, I'll be darned

In a largely vain ploy to increase the number of people who visit this blog each day and to convey the illusion that I update the content more often than I actually do, I early on decided to incorporate the daily features visible in the sidebar—the Quotation of the Day, Today’s Birthday, and the Word of the Day.

Meanwhile, in tracking what people search the blog for, using the Google Search tool at the top of the blog, I’ve noticed that several folks have searched in vain for a definition of virgule. (Never mind that the Online Reference block in the sidebar lets you just type it in and look it up.)

Well, imagine my surprise to find that the Word of the Day for today, September 20 is virgule, which is, I admit, a fairly obscure term. So, for those of you paying attention today, consider yourself informed. For the rest of you, go ahead and type it into the Online Reference block.

As to why the word occurs in the name of the blog, that’s another matter altogether.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The spice of life

I like juggling a variety of projects, but there’s variety and then there’s variety. It just occurred to me that I haven’t posted to the blog in nearly a week and I’m going to have to hand in my bloggers’ union card if I don’t write something. Then I thought about the reason and realized it’s because in the last week I’ve:
  • Drafted a user guide for a medical device

  • Started writing a book proposal (for a client) for an inspirational memoir (and ghostwriting the sample pages)

  • Closed a deal to design a book to be privately printed for a wedding (I’ll also be doing the composition)

  • Closed a deal to design an InDesign XML-import template for a product catalog

  • Designed two small Web sites

  • Written blurbs and shipped sample books for a couple of regional book trade shows

  • Scheduled a television interview for October

  • Written some thumbsuckers for various online fora

  • Gotten out of the house a few times, too

  • And I have a feeling I’m forgetting a couple of things
No wonder I’m tired.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

If you write, you must read this

If you are reading this on Sunday September 10, stop what you are doing, go immediately to the nearest newsstand or store that sells The New York Times, and buy a copy of today’s paper. Go now. I’ll wait.

If you are reading this on another day and no longer have access to the Magazine, you may need to pay for a subscription to TimesSelect to read the cover article, On Self, which consists of excerpts from Susan Sontag’s notebooks and diaries.

Reading these few pages may profit you more than would spending the next several months taking yet another creative writing workshop. Don’t miss this.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Turkey shoot

Thanks to Kristen King for having the patience to dig through Miss Snark's recent spate of Crapometer postings to find this gem, which I've added to the Articles links in the sidebar.

The Turkey City Lexicon gathers in one place descriptions of a lot of common writing errors that a good editor will point out. Even experienced writers would benefit from a quick perusal.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Abandoned is the new lost

department …

Maybe the 1970s was the golden age of journalism and we have no right to expect that same level of commitment, integrity, and perceptiveness today. Maybe elevating the superstars of Vietnam-era journalists to celebrity icons is what led, ultimately, to our current nadir. Perhaps young people started going into the field to become stars instead of to uncover the truth about the way the world works. In any case, we’ve come to a fine pass, haven’t we? It’s one thing for a small-town paper or television station to pass off a news release they receive from a corporate or government source as actual news; it’s quite another, I think, for a serious newspaper like The New York Times to do so.

Today’s Times (Sunday) has a major article about screening technology at US airports (link may not work if you are not a subscriber). I’m sure the paper’s own staff are responsible for the reporting, graphics, and photography. Nonetheless, I can hear the government spinner talking in the cutline to this picture. It reads, “At the Transportation Security Laboratory outside Atlantic City, scientists and technicians build bombs with various explosives and stuff them into abandoned pieces of luggage purchased by the federal government to see if their cutting-edge equipment can detect the bombs.”

Excuse me, but abandoned!?!?! Surely they jest. Or, in this instance, . The fact that airlines lose huge numbers of bags does not mean that their rightful owners ever abandoned them. Please!

I’ve got to wonder how much other government guff the reporter swallowed. And I have to wonder whether journalism schools are even training reporters and editors to be skeptical these days.

Meanwhile, if you recognize your own luggage in the photo, at least now you know who ya’ gonna call.