Style by Joseph M. Williams

I never thought I would read the word “turgid” so many times in my entire life. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace repeats the word, of course, because it’s telling you how to avoid writing “turgid prose”.

There’s a lucid chapter on the subject of usage, which deftly cuts through all the normal chatter about what should be a rule and why or why not, but most of the book is not about controversial words and grammatical constructions. It’s about what makes a passage understandable, and it describes the process of transforming one that’s not into one that is. It’s describing the acquisition and communication of concepts and knowledge as much as anything. It’s almost a book of cognitive psychology. I have a lot of books on language and writing, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like this before.

Maybe that’s because it was originally a textbook. It feels a bit strange to watch someone poke sentences and move bits of them around on the page; the skills being described can only really be improved through use. This version of the book is informative, but perhaps not as effective as the versions that give the reader practice writing and revising.

More on what I liked about the book and when and why I read it below.

Continue reading Style by Joseph M. Williams

Blade Runner (1982)

Note to self: There is no need to ever watch Blade Runner again.

I think we Netflixed it sometime in the New Jersey era (2003–2008), and parts of it seemed vaguely familiar. Yet I watched it again!

Yes, Blade Runner is a classic. And yes, the rainy/neon Japanese/German/Spanish vision of the future, with giant pyramid skyscrapers, is wonderfully creative (if not realistic for 2019). And yes, the movie has an interesting, philosophical sci-fi premise. But it’s just brutal. And it goes on for too long.

We watched the theatrical version this time; maybe the international version? I dunno, there are lots of versions. There were silly voice-overs, a happy ending, and no unicorn dream.

The premise is that bio-engineered people (originally created to do dangerous work off world) have developed realistic emotions and thus resent their short lifespans. Four of them are back on Earth for some reason and Harrison Ford’s character is supposed to “retire” (execute) them, which is a creepy thing to have to do because they’re not that different from regular people.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/blade-runner/id594314564

The reason my husband and I watched Blade Runner again was that we are typically intrigued by movies made from Philip K. Dick stories.

Have not seen:

  • Radio Free Abelmuth (2010)
  • A Scanner Darkly (2006)

Okay, I guess I would watch Blade Runner 2049, which is supposedly going to be released later this year. Not a remake, but rather some kind of sequel. With Harrison Ford in it.

Between/to vs between/and vs from/to

Take my word for it, this sign is about a discounted movie screening that is taking place “between 1pm to 3pm”.

Using “to” with “between” sounds terrible, but I know why people write this way because I’ve done it. You start out thinking about two times in one sense, then your thinking unaccountably changes before you finish writing what you set out to write. Gah!

When stating a range of times, here are some acceptable formats to use:

We are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. [from/to]
We are open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. [to]
We are open 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. [en dash, not hyphen]
Drop off your donation between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. [between/and]

In the case of a movie screening, I definitely wouldn’t use “between/and” because the movie isn’t happening at one point between the two times mentioned, it’s happening for the entire length of time. I probably wouldn’t even use from/to, though. I’d probably use “start at” and “finish at”.

The movie will start at 1 p.m. and finish at 2 p.m.

Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

Everybody Writes is a book that Derek Zoolander would recommend to “adults who can’t write good and want to do other stuff good too”. If you’re one of those, then, by all means, share and enjoy.

It’s not, or not entirely, Ann Handley’s fault that I found her book disappointing. For one thing, I had high expectations. I eliminated at least a dozen books on blogging from my Amazon cart before I decided to buy hers. For another thing, I was, simultaneously, reading a book on writing I much preferred, an erudite tome called Style by Joseph M. Williams. And anyway, I am probably not in the target audience. The subtitle of Part I, “How to Write Better and How to Hate Writing Less”, should have been an obvious red flag: I don’t hate writing.

The book has a lot of good reviews on Amazon, so some people seem to have found it useful, and even I got some use out of it—just not as much as I was hoping to.

More on what I disliked about the book as well as when and why I read it below.

Continue reading Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

Apparels vs Apparel

This sign at Marks & Spencer at Parkway Parade says:

20% off Ladies’ printed apparels & bras

It should say ‘apparel’, not ‘apparels’.

The sign also says:

Image for illustration purpose only

We can say “for the purpose of illustration only”, but because there’s no article, “purpose” should be plural in this case.

Upshot: The total number of letter s’s on the sign is correct. They just need to move the ‘s’ from ‘apparels’ to ‘purpose’.

Wait, I take it back. The word ‘apparels’ is on there twice. Gah!

Just so we’re absolutely clear:
Do not ever put an ‘s’ on ‘apparel’.
Or ‘clothing’.

‘Apparel’ is a mass/non-count/uncountable nouns (like equipment), and thus does not have a plural form.

Clothing shops sell apparel, not apparels, no matter how many individual items they sell or how many kinds of items they sell (ladies’ apparel, men’s apparel, kids’ or children’s apparel).

I suppose maybe it’s possible you could talk about a business importing a variety of ‘apparels’ from different countries, just as a chef could study the ‘cuisines’ of different countries, but I’m not sure whether anyone actually uses the word in this way.

Just assume that if you see the word ‘apparels’, it’s wrong. The word ‘apparel’ should be used instead.

Oh well. At least they didn’t write ‘lingeries’!

Chinese Garden at Jurong Lake

My husband and I went to visit the Chinese Garden.

The place looked a little worn, which in a way was refreshing since much of Singapore is shiny and new and lacks that friendly patina old places have.

As the sun went down, there were a lot of people out jogging in the relative cool. We strolled around and I took a few photos before the sun disappeared and the park was filled with shadows from streetlights.

This is a pretty good map of the place.

Fifteen more photos below. Continue reading Chinese Garden at Jurong Lake

Out of Mao’s Shadow by Philip P. Pan

In Out of Mao’s Shadow, Harvard graduate and Washington Post foreign correspondent Philip P. Pan does an absolutely fabulous job of drawing readers in to the upside-down and inside-out world of modern China by showing us how the lives of a handful of specific Chinese people have been affected by recent events in China’s tumultuous history.

The stories are sympathetic towards the people whose lives the author explores and the choices they make, yet he leaves us to form our own judgments about them. Compelling and informative, this book is one I would recommend to anyone who wants to understand China.

If you had to choose between this one and Chinese Whispers by Ben Chu, read this one. Pan provides a unique perspective but doesn’t take the debunking tack that Chu does. Pan’s writing is more like Peter Hessler’s, though his tone is somber while Hessler’s in Country Driving is humorous at times.

When and Why I Read Out of Mao’s Shadow

This is one of only a small handful of books that I bought in the period from July 2010 to June 2011 that I have not yet read. China is a topic that interests me, and it was nice to check this book off the list of books waiting patiently to be read. I didn’t necessarily expect to enjoy it as much as I did.

Genre: non-fiction (politics, history, China)
Date started / date finished:  06-Feb-17 to 13-Feb-17
Length: 326 pages
ISBN: 9781413595519 (paperback)
Originally published in: 2008
Amazon link: Out of Mao’s Shadow