Friday, March 18, 2011

Dear Somebody

Nobody writes letters anymore.  Nobody.  Ever.  It's a shame, really, because you can say so much in a letter that you can't say any other way.  I have five correspondents from camp with a rich epistolary tradition.  Now, here are the top five reasons to write letters more often.

  1. Complete emoticon freedom
:)  :(  ;) :D :P @@@@:)  (The last one is Marge Simpson.)  That is about the range of emotions you can cover in a text message or an IM.  On the other hand, I tend to draw doodles on my letters.  If you want to show that you are angry about something in a letter to a friend, you can draw a bull with steam coming out of its nose if you so desire.  Can you do that in a text message?  I think not.
     2.  Getting mail is exciting

Even in the digital age, it's still fun to get mail.  Whether it be a package, a new National Geographic, a birthday card, or a letter, we all look through the mass of mostly junk mail and bills to find something addressed to us.  And with so many "instant" forms of communication around, anticipating a letter is a rare, satisfying form of delayed gratification.

    3.  Confusing postal workers is fun

I love addressing letters to the correct address, but not the correct name of the person who lives there.  My friends and I all have Harry Potter-themed nicknames, and I love imagining the look on the postman's face when he tries to deliver a letter to Remus Lupin.  Do you know what else is fun?  Covering the entire envelope with stamps like the Weasleys did in Harry Potter (and the Goblet of Fire, I think.)

    4.  Physicality

We have not yet figured out how to make transporters.  (So don't beam me up, Scotty.)  Therefore, the only way my friend in Houston can send me a batch of cookies is through the mail.  I usually send little trinkets with my letters, and one of my friends burned me a CD once and sent it to me.  Additionally, letters themselves are delightfully tangible.  I keep all of mine in a folder, and I take them out and look at them from time to time.

    5.  A letter is a precious bond you share with someone metaphorically close to you, but physically far away.

Letters are like a private but slow conversation.  Think about this.  On the phone, others can hear what is said on your end, and IM conversations can be distracted and trivial since we usually surf the web at the same time.  A letter, oppositely, is both private and mindful.  I think if one of my friends died right now, I'd much rather have a letter she wrote to me than a record of her call history.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


If you live in Rocky Mount or adjacent areas, come to one of the final performances of Gypsy at the Imperial Center at 7:30 on Friday and Saturday or at 2:00 on Sunday.  We have a fantastic cast and a beautiful set.  It is a long show, but it's worth every minute.

Here's a little plot synopsis in case you want to know what it's about.  The show opens at a kiddie talent show, where headstrong stage mother Mama Rose barges in on the act of her two daughters, June and Louise.  June is talented and lively, whereas Louise is the quiet one.  (Sing out, Louise!)  We follow the family as they travel across the country, building up their act with the help of Herbie, their manager and Rose's romantic interest.  But when June runs off and gets married, the act falls apart and gets booked in burlesque, where Louise becomes the famous stripper Gypsy Rose Lee.  Throughout all this, Rose's relationship with her daughters becomes increasingly strained, and her true motivation for pushing them so hard is revealed at the end.  But don't worry, there's a hopeful, if not happy ending.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Serial Comma Killer and Culling the Herd

Yesterday I was introduced to a punctuation controversy I had never encountered before--the serial comma.  Consider the following sentence, if you will.
"Mary, Peter and Josh went to the store to buy some bread."
This is how I would write that sentence.
"Mary, Peter, and Josh went to the store to buy some bread."
Basically, a serial comma is a comma that immediately follows the penultimate item in a series.  According to my English teacher, it is not good grammar to use them.  This prompted me to do a little Wikipedia reading and credible source follow-up.  It is conventional to use serial commas in everyday writing (which explains why I use them impulsively), but they are less common in British English and in journalism.  We just had a writing test at school with a possibility of an editorial or article format, so that is probably why my teacher brought it up; nevertheless, I like serial commas.  I remember eating out at a restaurant once and looking at a menu that read, under the specialty sodas heading, "grape, cherry, orange and cream".  Since menus sometimes leave out conjunctions altogether, I didn't know if it meant there were orange sodas and cream sodas, or if there was a particular soda that was both creamy and orange-y.  In a final testament to the ambiguity that abounds when serial commas go missing, there's somewhat of an urban legend of a writer who dedicated her book "to my parents, Ayn Rand and God."

In other news, apparently my school library has to throw out a ton of books that don't have recent enough copyright dates, yet some of them are classic fiction books that have been out of print for ages!  This is absurd!  I rescued a box full of them today and will probably go back for more, but too many books will still tragically go to waste.  At least I got my own copy of Heart of Darkness out of it.