Category Archives: tradition

5

Ritual

Earlier today, Rachel and I were talking music.  I’ve recently discovered that Rachel has pretty much my exact taste in music, but is also aware of a much larger list of musicians than I am.  She’s the workplace music soulmate I’ve been missing ever since Chasya left us for grad school.  She pointed me to a list of bands she loves that I should check out, which I decided to make my weekend reading background music playlist.

Toward the end of the week, when I have a big reading weekend planned (i.e. when life isn’t planning to intrude on my desire to curl up with a bunch of books and manuscripts), I start to get excited about the ritual of it.  If I’ll be reading at home, there’s preparation that needs doing.  For one, I need to know the order in which I’ll be reading things (so that I can disregard it later, oftentimes).  My Kindle and any books that will take part in our day together need to be stacked upon the coffee table in my living room.  Coffee, of course, must be brewed.  I will have to take the French press with me into the living room, even though pouring another cup will mean going to the kitchen to get milk anyway.  I’ll begin my reading with coffee in the morning, but transition to tea by early afternoon.  Perhaps at lunchtime, there’ll be a stroll about the neighborhood or quick bike ride, just to avoid losing my mind, or an errand to run.  Then, sufficiently wired from caffeine, in the late afternoon or early evening, it shall be time to break out the red wine.  If I can patiently make it through the day from breakfast through dinner—the reading compelling enough, the body not so fidgety, the soccer games of my favorite teams not beckoning me to distraction—then it’s probably time, before bed, to settle down with the thing I’ve most wanted to read, the one that I’ve been promising myself if I am good about reading the others without calling up a friend to make plans or watching TV or going for a bike ride.  And along with that dessert of a book, it’s probably time for a stiff drink of some kind (varying with weather and book).  Then, drained mentally and sleepy from the booze, it’ll be bedtime, eventually.

The reading will be done on the couch, because I lack an awesome reading chair like Michael’s, with liberal use of ottoman (of which I now own two—one bench-like, the other smallish and square).  There will be music, of course, as I mentioned—this weekend, Rachel’s favorite bands, but always something that I like enough to not feel the need to constantly DJ but don’t know well enough to know the words.  I read best with minor distraction from background noise, because total silence makes me look for something with which to distract myself, oddly.  Probably, given the weather, the windows will be wide open, with a cozy blanket close by for later in the evening, when it would be smart to close the windows but the chill is helping to keep me alert.  And of course, the clothes, they shall be comfy.

What about you?  Do you have reading rituals?  When you prepare yourself to really hunker down for a good spell with the written word, do you do things differently than you would to read on the morning commute or before bed or when just picking up the paper casually?  What helps you really immerse yourself in the worlds others present to you?

11

Antiquity

GalleyCat beat me to it, but when I saw this piece on the decision to let Indiana schools decide whether or not to teach cursive penmanship, I knew I had to blog about it.  A month or so ago, over a couple beers, a client and I got into a conversation on this very subject.  We were talking about our habits as students, and it suddenly dawned on us that school children might not be taught script anymore.  Learning JavaScript would probably have more use to them than knowing that an uppercase cursive Q closely resembles a 2.  Unless their names are Quentin or Quinn, they’re probably never going to use one anyway—besides which it’s a hideous letter, so I’d recommend they come up with a creative way around it in their signatures.

As with all questions about what the kids these days know, I base my opinions on surely 100% reliable anecdotal evidence from interns.  It seems every year or two I have to explain something new I assumed they’d know on arrival, so I use them as a gauge of how quickly the world is changing in little ways.  At this point, the majority of them have never photocopied anything before their first day here.  Ever.  I may have discovered my incessant Google habit in college trying to unpack the copious allusions in Paul Muldoon’s “The More a Man Has the More a Man Wants,”* but I still spent seemingly half of my college income buying Bobst copy cards.

A few times a year, we have to handwriting test our interns for the odd task that requires handwritten legibility.  You’d be surprised how often I get a stack of 12 subrights contracts all missing the same clause, already signed by a far flung publisher who’d taken 6 months to put pen to paper to begin with on a contract they didn’t even have to draft.  Handwritten contract changes require printing, of course, but I’ve found that whether we want print or script, it can be hard to find even one intern who can write legibly anymore.  There have always been people who never learned or quickly unlearned how to write clearly, but the number of reasons to actually write with pen on paper just isn’t as high when you carry a computer in your pocket everywhere you go.  The number of interns who can be counted on to handwrite a mailing label that we can be confident will arrive at its destination decreases yearly.  The odd scribbled post-it to a roommate isn’t going to keep your penmanship in shape.

I’ve always prided myself on having nice handwriting (my Catholic school-reared mother has penmanship so impeccable that the bar was set very high in my household), but I wonder if Indiana isn’t on to something.  Other than signing our names, how often do most of use cursive?  You’ve got to be able to write clearly somehow, but these days, doesn’t print cut it for most things?  Schools have a finite number of hours to instruct students, and penmanship instruction is probably not getting them anywhere productive.  Yes, sure, they should learn to use a keyboard efficiently as early as possible—perhaps even instruction on predictive text and thumb typing would benefit them.  I say they should get more spelling lessons as well, since the deep recesses of their brains will need reinforcing against the detrimental effects of text speak and internet acronyms.  Let’s truly prepare the kids of today for the world of tomorrow!

What do you think?  Anyone clinging to fond memories of that weird beige paper with really widely spaced lines?  Are there still good uses of cursive?

P.S.  It’s been a quiet week on the blog, between the holiday Monday and three agents being on vacation, but we’ll return you to your regularly scheduled programming next week!  I’m sure you wait with bated breath.

*Nerd that I am, I count among the seminal weeks of my life the one I spent in the computer lab googling phrases in every poem in Quoof trying to figure out what Muldoon was getting at.  It’s what made me realize that the internet knew the answers to virtually everything one might wonder, and it’s the first time I really put a great deal of research time into anything I was studying.  It’s also the week I discovered the internet could lead you down a rabbit hole of fascination, obsession, awe, and disgust at the human condition, since the aforementioned googling led me to the transcripts of the then-ongoing Saville Inquiry.  I basically lived in the computer lab that semester, devouring knowledge the internet could offer me.  Man, I bet the interns don’t even set foot in the computer labs any more, do they?