Sunday, September 25, 2011

Spell Check

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew. 

I'm sure that most of us have come across the above poem and chuckled while reading it.  The point is to illustrate how your computer's spell check can be tricked, because it won't correct any of the words in the text (although mine puts a squiggly little red line under the word "chequer").  And while it may be great for a laugh, the above poem is slowly morphing into a sad reality.

Sure, every once in a while I misspell a word.  But every time I do, I know that I don't have it right, because something about it looks wrong.  I have always had a problem with the word "occasion", and I'm not sure why.  I used to think that the word had two c's and two s's.  I have made a conscious effort by learning how to spell the word, much like a child does.  This is not, however, the type of misspelled word that I am talking about.  I have seen people write "loose" when they mean "lose", "coarse" when they mean "course" and don't even get me started on "there", "their" and "they're"!  I was watching the news the other day and I noticed the ticker had at least one in every ten words spelled incorrectly.  There is also the misuse of the apostrophe and the overuse of the hyphen and grammatical errors that set my teeth on edge, but that's a separate blog topic altogether.

What is going on here?  Why are so many words being misspelled at such an alarming rate and everywhere we look?  At what point did bad spelling get overlooked?  Did the fact that it was being overlooked somehow result in it becoming acceptable?  Is it the use of abbreviated words while communicating electronically?  It may be acceptable in text messages to use the abbreviation "IDK" for "I don't know" or "IRL" for "In Real Life", but I have seen entire Facebook statuses with abbreviated or truncated words:  "I knw dat I shld b studyin but dis TV show rockz!"  (It does, does it?  That status right there suggests to me that you should be studying instead of watching television and updating your Facebook status!)  It seems to me that the progressive next step to this phenomenon is the general dumbing down of the generations to come.  We owe it to ourselves and to them to make sure this doesn't happen.  That is why we need to do something about it.  By the way, I never imagined that I would one day sound like my own grandfather. 

I am not suggesting that all of us collectively begin preparing for the Scripps Howard spelling bee.  I am not saying that we should become spelling Nazis, but we should try to correct the spellings around us, or at least recognize a misspelled word.  I also think we should get back to the lost art of reading a book.  Additionally, we should also practice our writing skills.  It has become more convenient than ever to be able to write.  Every household has at least one computer.  Every computer has the internet, which puts every resource we need at our fingertips.  It's interesting that we have resources online to check for words we may not know how to spell.  We can check the meaning of words and the context in which to use them.  We need to choose to avail of these resources. One of the reasons I began writing this blog is that I was beginning to feel my brain slowly atrophying from lack of use, if you will.  For every little task that required creative thinking and good motor skills, there now seemed to be an automated, quicker and easier solution.  While I am truly grateful for these solutions that make life more convenient, it seems like I am losing some of what had become an inherent part of my life.  This blog helps keep these skills honed.  Again, I am not suggesting that everyone write a blog.  I am merely suggesting that everyone do their little bit to remedy this trend of sloppiness.
I have written to the television station and made them aware of the rate of misspelled words on their ticker.  I don't know if they will read my letter.  If they do, I don't know if they will take any action.  But I have tried to make a difference in my own little way.  I am trying to keep in touch with people by writing letters instead of making phone calls.  These are baby steps to address a much larger, more global problem.  I think if everyone takes little steps to address the issue, the world will soon be a better place with no misspelled words.  One can only hope.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The "Brat Ban" Trend

Last month, Pennsylvania restaurateur Mike Vuick instituted a ban on children under the age of six at McDain's Restaurant & Golf Center.  Vuick claims to have received too many complaints about crying children.  The interesting outcome of this policy is that the restaurant is seeing more customers than before.   

This trend seems to be catching on in airlines, grocery stores and hotels as well, and may probably be enforced in movie theaters.  Is this trend justified, or is this just intolerance gone too far?   Does this truly make or break an evening out, or is this subtle discrimination cloaked in a veil of one's fundamental rights?

One might argue that the businesses don't want to be involved in any situation that may result from a child being a nuisance and someone who might decide to take matters into their own hands.  Case in point: two years ago, 61 year old Roger Stephens allegedly slapped a crying child at a Walmart store.  Stephens claims that he only touched the two year old on her face and that the media and law enforcement has blown his actions way out of proportion.  Could you possibly blame Walmart for not wanting to be culpable in this situation?  What could they have possibly done to avoid this happening?  By the way, it may be important to note that Stephens had no children.  Neither does Vuick, owner of McDains.  As a matter of fact, the brat ban is being blamed on childless adults with money to spend.

Being a childless adult myself, I don't think it's fair to paint all of us as crotchety and intolerant, just as I don't think it's fair to classify all children as brats.  I have been subject to a group of teenagers at the table next to me talking unacceptably loudly, their sentences peppered with swear words.  I am no prude, but if the f-bomb is being dropped at the rate of ten times per second, not to mention other swear words which were much more offensive to me, the discomfort I feel from a wailing child pales in comparison.  Nobody seemed to want to take any action in this situation, despite complaints to management.  

So, how does one come to a resolution that is fair to everyone?  Here's what I think. 

To the people who frequent restaurants, fly in airplanes, stay in hotels and go to movies, lighten up.  Children need to go to these places.  They need to learn how to behave in different social situations so they grow up to be productive members of society.  If they are cocooned in children-only environments, it will be detrimental to their emotional growth. Face it, you were't always the perfect child.  I know I wasn't.  If a child is truly misbehaving and affecting you, complain to the management.  If they don't do anything about it, get up and leave.  You do deserve to have a great evening and it will make the management think twice about not doing anything to address unruly behavior.  If you are flying in a plane, think of the discomfort you feel because of cabin pressure, high frequency sounds or a churning in your stomach.  Now imagine that discomfort multiplied by a hundred.  That's how a child feels.  Can you blame them for crying? 

To the parents of children, control your young ones.  While many of the childless among us don't realize what it takes to raise a child, some of us truly understand that no matter how good of a parent you are, children are unpredictable.  Which means they will misbehave in public, most of the time when you least expect them to.  The best of them will scream, cry, whine, and do whatever it takes to get their way.  Others will get up from their table and run around a restaurant.  When they do any of this, don't turn a blind eye and pretend not to hear them.  Do something about it.  Take them outside, discipline them, do whatever you need to.  Please don't subject the rest of us to your child when you know they are misbehaving.  Whatever you decide to do, just make sure that you don't yell louder than your child.  That just makes it worse for us.

To the owners of these establishments, take a stand.  Most places have a sign that says, "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."  Use those rights the way they were intended.  Put up a sign next to it that clearly spells out unacceptable behavior in your establishment.  A bar does not serve liquor to a person who seems even slightly inebriated.  Similarly, it can very easily be determined which children are being a nuisance to the rest of the patrons in a restaurant, and if nothing is being done about it by the parents, something can be done about it by you.  It doesn't have to be limited to children either.  If ANYONE is being generally obnoxious and ruining other peoples' evening, they can be asked to leave.  You just need to decide to do something about it.  Be honest - do you really want to encourage bad behavior at the risk of losing business?  Trust me when I say that in the long run, you will benefit from taking a stand.

I think if all of us decide to accommodate one another just a little bit, there would be no need for extreme trends like the Brat Ban. 

What do you think?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Now Hear This

You know how there are songs you hear that either remind you of an occasion in your life?  Then there are other songs that remind you of where you first heard them, or that stir up some kind of memory that makes you smile.  For example, when I hear the song "Don't You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds, I automatically think, "The Breakfast Club!"  Or when I hear Haddaway's "What Is Love" I want to nod my head like the Roxbury guys from Saturday Night Live.  I also think of the Diet Pepsi Max commercial that was made for a recent Superbowl, cleverly taking the Roxbury nod and adding the tag line "Wake Up People".  And at the end of that commercial we have Chris Kattan yelling "Stop It!" 

I could go on and on with examples, but you get my point.  Which brings me to the song "Forever" by Chris Brown.  I first heard it on the famous Wedding Entrance Dance,  which went so viral on youtube that it was recreated for the Today Show Plaza,  Everyone loved the dance so much that they even put it in the show "The Office".  Each time the same song, "Forever", was used.  The concept was even extended to the 2011 Royal Wedding, with a commercial made by T-Mobile.  Sadly, they used a different song.  

Back to the song "Forever", I really love the song.  However, I do NOT like Chris Brown and what he has come to represent.  The couple from the original wedding entrance dance has put a link on their video for donations to violence prevention.  As for me, I was in a quandary.  How do I enjoy a song made by a person I want to have nothing to do with?  I can almost hear people say that the person has nothing to do with the song, but that argument doesn't sit well with me.  

Enter Mike Tompkins, a youtube sensation I had never heard of, from North of the Border.  Apparently he is well known for covering songs by doing a full A Capella.  He takes beatboxing to a whole different level.  He provides vocal percussion for a bongo, kick and a snare.  He also vocally replicates a synthesizer,base, pad, guitar and does the lead vocals.  He records them separately and then superimposes all sounds over each other.  The end result is not too shabby.  I am so glad he covered "Forever", because here's a version I can truly enjoy.  I just hope he doesn't go beat up somebody.