Of the Icebox

Words about stuff and sometimes things

The Oxford Comma Debate — June 13, 2018

The Oxford Comma Debate

Unless you’re Cindy Knoke, you might be wondering why I’m dedicating a whole post to Oxford commas and subjecting you to the onslaughts of my full-blown philosophical panic attack about this relatively minor conundrum of the English language which occupies a significant portion of my non-productive hours. There’s a very good reason for this which I will likely fail to address. But onwards and upwards, as they say.

If you have read my About page, you will know that I have confessed to having the occasional philosophical panic attack over coffee-shop bloggers [editor’s interjection: Stop trying to guilt me into buying organic, free-trade, naturally decaffeinated early gray and lay off the sea salt hair spray already–if I want a latte full of fatty milk that belongs to the slaughtered calf I ate for dinner last night, I’m gonna pay my $5 and have it, gosh dang it], and Santa Claus [I can’t even talk about this one or it’ll make me so hot and bothered I’ll never get to the point of this post], and, you guessed it, Oxford commas.

What is the Oxford Comma?

Whether you have a hazy idea of what the Oxford comma is and need a quick refresher or are as intimately familiar with this hairy language mole as I am, I strongly encourage you to resist the urge to pull out a dictionary or conduct a Google search and just sit back and take my word for it. I am, after all, the resident Oxford comma expert on this blog and while you are here, the rest of the contextual world doesn’t exist.

Side Note: The Oxford comma is not to be confused with the Oxford coma, a deep-seated fear that gripped the heart of the English nation for 3 1/2 years in the 1950’s and led to this guys commitment to practice contemplative non-blinking.

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Let’s stop evading and define this melanoma, shall we?

Stage 1. Defining the growth.

The Oxford comma is when you have 3 or more items in a list, and you decide instead of letting the final conjunction (usually the word ‘and’) stand in place of a comma as is its entire reason for existing, you’re going to go ahead and add a comma anyway just for the heck of it.

Some will try to argue that it’s not just for the heck of it. It’s actually for clarity. I would argue that clarity is overrated. Some will also argue that if you have need of an Oxford comma, your sentence is already weak and you should rewrite it rather than trying to ‘rescue’ it with the Oxford comma. I would argue that I don’t believe in eradicating weak sentences, just as I don’t believe in eradicating weak children. You may choose designer babies but my writing is all natural and edit-proof, just as God intended.

Stage 2. Research the Prognosis.

You can read some fabulous examples (and more fabulous comments) on this Grammarly article. These lovely tidbits talk about Lady Gaga & Humpty Dumpty’s love child. Then an all out war breaks out in the comments section which starts with slanderous claims of one person being a terrible writer for asking a ‘proper use’ question and another person being accused of being a ‘grammar nazi’ (ahem…my spellcheck says that’s grammar Nazi, friend) for asserting a strong preference for the Oxford comma. It ends with the collective smelling of cheese and grass, as all good wars do.

I had prepared an example but I’ve lost all motivation to go on. The war was long. The cheese was aged. It was a good example too. It was about the size of the fourth dimension, ballerinas and Brad Pitt’s penis.

Or was it about the size of the fourth dimension, ballerinas, and Brad Pitt’s penis? You see here, I trust, the confusion I’ve created.

Was I talking about the size of ballerinas and the size of Brad Pitt’s penis in addition to the size of the fourth dimension? Or perhaps I was talking about Brad Pitt’s penis in relation to ballerinas, a separate topic of conversation entirely from the size of the fourth dimension. All distinct possibilities, friends. How many topics of conversation were there? Was it 2, 3, even 4? Was it as limitless as the dimensions we’re surrounded by? The world will never know.

Stage 3. Understand the origins.

Maybe you think this whole debate is an elaborate hazing ritual started by these dancing Oxford boys because it’s no longer enough for the elite to haze themselves. They must now haze all of us too.

source

And maybe if you’re not bound by a style guide at school or work, it ultimately just comes down to personal style. But if it is just personal style, which is more stylish? Because let’s face it, I need to be ‘on trend’ if I’m going to be successful at this writing thing.

Stage 4. Embrace your inevitable fate.

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On the one hand, I could be loose like an American poet who embraces, nay delights in, the grey area of interpretation between the size of the fourth dimension, ballerinas and Brad Pitt’s penis. Heck, in this world, my ambiguous reference to Brad Pitt’s penis in relation to ballerinas shrinking waistline and the invisible fourth dimension was more than intentional. It was art.

On the other hand, maybe you care about context. Maybe you think that clarity must always win. Maybe you drink tea with your pinky up and insist on using an Oxford comma even when it isn’t necessary for clarity, just to make a point.

Maybe we will never agree with one another on this point (the we I refer to being the two severed halves of myself). Maybe I will continue to waffle between embracing and rejecting the Oxford comma for all my days, spreading mass confusion and being judged for my failure to master any individual style throughout all my writing. Because we all know mastering is just another word for ownership and I don’t want to own the Oxford comma.

End Stage. Stopping treatment.

I hope now that we’ve come to the end, if nothing else, I’ve successfully passed on my philosophical panic attack to you. I ask that you take up the torch and extinguish my fire because I’m tired of carrying it. It’s time for me to #Brexit from this conversation. Until next time.

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When happiness is a tree, you feed it to your children — June 3, 2018

When happiness is a tree, you feed it to your children

One day, you’ll realize that you’re not born with an allotted amount of happiness, that you can keep stretching it, keep growing it, keep pushing the limits of conceivable joy until you understand.

When you realize that the price of happiness is patience, you’ll plant a tree to watch it grow. You’ll count the rings, the branches; one year, you’ll even try to count the leaves. You’ll see limbs overtaken by tiny insects. You’ll see the tree expel a branch to save the trunk. You’ll climb up, sit beneath, walk around the seasons and at some point, after 30 years, you’ll realize deep in your bones the appeal of cyclical timelines. You’ll love every season, even the barren Winter because you could use a rest and the tree grants you permission.

You’ll dance when you learn the roots are growing into your foundation. You’ll cry when the doors start sticking. You’ll stand dumbstruck when a lightening storm breaks a branch over the roof of your car. Even more dumbstruck when your kid drives into the tree — a learner’s mistake—leaving behind a barely perceptible tilt that it never cared to correct. But still, you trust it to support your grandchildren through stories so wild your ageing mind struggles to jump from myth to myth. You trust it remain patient enough not to collapse into your house until you’re done using it.

And at last you’ve learned the secret to happiness, you’ve earned the right to claim it. So when your daughter decides to throw her failed attempts away, you drive her to the arboretum and you tell her that lasting happiness is never stumbled upon, it’s been built out of all the days you waited, out of all the days you sat in the driveway and decided to return. And when she rolls her eyes and curls against the door, you get out, buy an oak tree and tie it to the roof. One day, she’ll understand.

Destinations made of tin — June 1, 2018

Destinations made of tin

I watched as words strangled. I listened as nights buried. I walked every route back to you but I was always a visitor. Forget the journey, it’s the destination I’m afraid of.

When they say it’s not about the destination, they’re trying to tell you that if there is such a thing as destination, they have never found it. They’re trying to tell you that you will spend your life walking, that stopping to take in the scenery sometimes includes building a house, that building a house sometimes includes pacing empty halls.

To house your sorrows, I have walked. To escape my own, I have built a house from dreams that hardened into corrugated tin sheets. Not my own, these dreams. Not yours either.

 

Don’t Call Her No Tramp — May 29, 2018

Don’t Call Her No Tramp

In appreciation of bad-ass women who sometimes have to wear big-ass British hats.

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The indomitable, incomparable Ms Betty Davis. I don’t introduce her (despite what that past sentence may indicate) because a woman like this introduces herself.

betty_davis-revised1

I have a new standard to decide if my life decisions are worthy. I simply think, “Would I shock Betty Davis?”

If the answer is no, I go back to the drawing board. If the answer is yes, I check with the hubby just to make sure I’m not about to do something that he would leave me for, then I proceed.

All of which is to say, I’m the proud owner of this garden as of 2 minutes ago (thanks Etsy):

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#BAMF (had to Google that just to make sure it meant what I thought it meant. Urban Dictionary says yes.)

 

Nip the Bud, Shoot the Kid — May 24, 2018

Nip the Bud, Shoot the Kid

Woman things happen to me and I speak of them and they call me a feminist.

Woman things happen to me and I don’t speak of them and they call me strong.

Some woman things:
bleeding,
learning to fear the night,
learning to hear the whispers,
writing in emotions.

Resistance is for feminists,
speaking is for feminists,
writing is for men’s education,
women’s edification.

To be identified is to be empowered, to self-identify is to debase, devalue, deflower.

I have been deflowered, little girl, I asked him to nip the bud of the flower.

Some girl things:
bleeding,
learning to fear the night,
learning to hear the whispers,
writing in emotions.

I am not a dirty feminist. I am not a clean woman, that is, a man

with the addition of two letters. Fuck, me-

n are more than the subtraction of two,
more than tools for staunching, more than fearless nights,

more than the roar of the whispers, the erasing of the voice
of emotions. I am not a cunt, bitch, douche container of womanhood waiting
to be expressed, raw sentiments waiting for a close shave, a hipster beard.
A loud quiet loud person once said it is brave to speak up, wise to sit down.

Bliss is living without doors — May 23, 2018

Bliss is living without doors

Let us live as if it were clear
Even if we do not know what clarity is,
Even if our clarity is thick
With sounds that don’t know how to stop
Occupying space, let us cease wearing ponchos.
I want to become bloated absorbing the clouds.
And if the sun shines for you
No brighter than the moon, let us drink
Of its craters, become the pores
Of its ancient rivers, fill our hearts
With a primitive devotion
And not feel less for our chosen ignorance.

When I am silent — May 20, 2018

When I am silent

And you ask me where I am,

There is a red umbrella and a green raincoat and a naked sky and I walk inside these boots that never understood breaking in as a process and I keep asking myself if I am too full or too empty but I can’t ever tell.

And you ask me where I am,

There is a ball of letters and a history of abusive suffixes and I mention your name sometimes as a swear word and sometimes in sentimental revelation and I keep asking myself if you are too good or not good enough but I never have been certain.

And you ask me where I am,

There is a fuck you for anyone who claims they have figured me out and a fuck me for anyone who has and future disdain for a past self that required impulse purchases and self-help books to understand happiness and I keep asking myself if I have become a stagnant pool of grievances or if I have just begun to heal but I never can tell.

And you ask me where I am,

There is a small glass of tea and a large puddle of sugared love and my mind is dancing on the barstools because the tables were unsteady and I keep asking myself if others think I am strong or if they think I am insecure or if they don’t think towards me at all but I’ll never know for certain.

When I am silent and you ask me where I am, I smile politely as though you are a stranger, I grip your hand as though you are a confidant and I look away as though I belong to myself. It’s all very civil.

 

Lessons from a Pharmaceutical Rat — May 10, 2018

Lessons from a Pharmaceutical Rat

Your sanity tied l(   ) s ely in a bow

How does it make.you feel to know

You are les s powerful than a dru g

Less real than a b ump on the head

That the .self. you. identified. with

Does not identify with you? Crank

Or tighten life’s screws dis lo d g e

The pi.ec.es. that holdyoutogether

Ooze. ( )pen this fragile existence

F-r the dis com bob ulat ed spectator

Keep askingwhy it makes youfeel

Prickly.The shrink wants to know

Your aptitude presupposes zealous

Tendencies. You like the straight-

Lines with power to secure a .self

Dis-joint-ed in its inherent be-ing.

Is a broke-n identity hazardous? I

Want to know, Iwanttoknow, I wan

Solving Life: Bottles & Bottles — May 7, 2018

Solving Life: Bottles & Bottles

Do you ever browse blogs thinking, ‘What am I doing with my life and what the hell are all these random bloggers doing with their lives?” I can answer both of those questions for you.

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought because, frankly, I know you’ve been worried. And not just about me, not even primarily about me and what I’m doing with my life. Mostly, you’ve been worried about yourself. Worry no longer! By explaining what I’m doing with my life, I guarantee at least one of you will spontaneously realize what you should be doing with your life. Don’t worry, what I’m going to tell you doesn’t involve cults, pyramid schemes or the morally grey area of testing goats milk soap on goats.

So what exactly am I doing? I’m thinking up creative business ideas that I have no desire to actually make a reality. For example, today’s business idea of the day is

Bottles and Bottles — Taproom and Nursery because every mom deserves a happy hour at least once a day.

Possible liabilities:

  • Nursery staff accidentally fill sippy cups from taps.
    • Workaround: Nursery staff prohibited from accessing the bar during working hours.
  • Nursery staff get drunk while on duty
    • Workaround: same as #1.
  • Mothers drive their children home after drinking a few too many and angry mombsters shame-picket the front of the establishment.
    • Workaround: Hire Ubers with car seats to wait out front during peak hours. If this is too expensive, hire counter-picketers who hold pictures of pints chanting, ‘Mom’s deserve to drink too.’ It’s uncertain if this second group are anti-dad protesters or if they’re against drunk-mom-shaming protesters, but all the attention will promote conversation.
  • It might already exist. I haven’t Googled it but it’s possible I’ve subconsciously stolen this whole idea like Madonna accidentally stole a dozen songs over the course of her career. These things happen sometimes.
    • Workaround: If you discover this is one of those times, the best thing to do is to buy an internet-sized rug and sweep this all underneath it.

I know you’re wondering why I’m not capitalizing on this brilliant idea right now, why I’m just giving it away for free. The answer is twofold. Firstly, I think this idea has a lot more gusto if it’s put into action by a mom. I do not fall into that category. Secondly, I’m not just giving it away for free. I fully expect that you will pay me a creative consultancy fee, preferably in cryptocurrency, for services rendered.

You might now be feeling dizzy and confused. It’s to be expected. After all, you’ve been unsure what you’re doing with your life for so long that the sudden realization that this is it–this is your ticket out of those endless cycles of treating Google like it’s a magic 8-ball–has left you feeling frazzled.

If you’ve spent the last five years Googling, top 10 careers that make a lot of money and what to do if you’re 30 and don’t know what you’re doing with your life and should I get a masters degree? and ethical porn; if you’ve been binge-watching all sorts of shows from all sorts of streaming services at all sorts of hours in an attempt to stop feeling like your life is meaningless and you are alone; I release you now to your new, fulfilled life. The search is over, bliends (that’s blogger friends). This is your chance to shine as the enlightened feminist-revolutionary for modern women. You are about to be the proud new owner of the hippest mom-bar in town. So shine, sister (and don’t forget to transfer my finders fee or I will join the picketers).

Tips for Proper Plant Care — May 5, 2018

Tips for Proper Plant Care

When you speak to the plant you must tell it that happiness is optional, that it can’t expect to bloom all the time, that one of these days you’re going to leave or it’s going to die or you’ll knock it over on the way out the door and it won’t be able to stand up again. And you won’t even know the damage you’ve caused until you come home that night.

When you speak to the plant, you must tell it that love is like the sun, you can never get enough until you’ve had it. And then you’ve had it and you aren’t certain if you’re melting from too much light or too little love. You ask the plant if it can tell the difference between a heat lamp that’s ten feet away and a ten million degree flaming ball of plasma that’s ninety-three million miles away. It might want to tell you that it’s actually 92,960,000 miles away and it’s that forty-thousand miles that makes a difference but it won’t.

When you speak to the plant, you must tell it that you’ve never been able to keep one alive, that you’ve buried two but mostly you toss them out when they start to rot or dry, or some variation of improper care starts to make itself manifest.

When you speak to the plant, you can’t expect that oxygen will be enough, that any words will do. You can’t expect that it will grow legs and walk away when you share a  story that causes root-shriveling agony. You can’t blame yourself for running out of words, for collecting large reserves of anger, for huddling in the far corner with a book and allowing the plant to suffer the wrath of your silence.

When you speak to the plant, you must remember where life started, that it was not in your arms, that you are not a caregiver, a life-sustainer. You are, have always been the steady, and your plant is just passing through.

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