A Series of Open Letters, vol. 1

Dear Glee:

You make me sad.  Your last two episodes were weak.  No.

They were worse than weak

They were the same contrived, plotless excuses for musical numbers that got you into trouble early in the first half of Season 1.  My wife pointed this pattern out to me last night: "Sue Sylvester says something outrageous; Will Shuester reacts; the Kids act out; we all learn a lesson."  And that's completely true.  There were flashes of brilliance in the first half of the Season: the Rachel-crush episode (Pepper Potts!), the Puck-comes-to-Torah episode, the Sue-Sylvester-has-a-handicapable-sister episode.  But the reason they were brilliant was the story: plot, dialogue, characters, drama, etc.  The music was a nice accent for the story line, not the focus.

But now you've turned that around.  The Madonna-centric episode was nothing more than a slap-dash plot written to connect up some of Madge's more famous songs. And now you're planning to produce more of these?  The Britney Spears episode?!  What, is her catalog so rich and deep that it's just begging to be storylined?

In the words of GOB Bluth: "Come on!"

Honestly, Glee, the reason I liked you in the beginning was because you weren't formulaic.  No other TV show was quite like you.  You were fun and engaging.  You had relatable characters, hilarious dialogue, and plot lines that sizzled with both off-the-wall craziness and believability.  The music, often, was choice and appropriately placed.

Then you started to follow your own perceived formula.  And now we just get over-produced, often nonsensical music that was performed better by the original artists in the place of plot, drama, and anything else that could be considered a coherent story.

Structure and formulas aside, I have serious plot concerns too:

(1) Where is Quinn Fabray living? Her parents kicked her out months(?) ago and she stayed with Finn and his Mom, presumably... so, is she still living in Finn's basement? Is she out on the street? Does she live in the school gymnasium, fending off hobos and vagrants for the leftover Little Caesar's crusts? What the heck is going on with her baby? For the love of all that's silly and whimsical and used to make us grin silly grins, just tell us!

(2) Ummm .... do these kids just perform without practicing?

(3) Wait... that's it.  There is no more plot.

Sigh.  I'm quickly losing faith, Glee.  Prove to me I should stay.




I Have Spelling (and Grammar and Etiquette) Nazi Tendencies

And I'm kind of proud of them.

But I also know they can annoy the heck out of people (just ask my lovely bride).

So, with that in mind, here are some of my biggest spelling/grammar/word usage/etiquette pet peeves.  Please tuck them away for future reference.  And, if any of these faux pas(es?) apply to you, be strong. Make the change. You'll be better for it. (My apologies to those who live outside of Deseret. Some of these peeves are very Utah-centric. We have our idiosyncrasies just like everybody else...).

1. YAY! vs YEAH!

Look, I'm all about expressing e-enthusiasm through texts, emails, chats, whatever.  But when you are spelling it out, you must recognize that these two are distinct and different words.

Yay-- reads as a long a. Rhymes with hey and hay.  This is the word people often use to express genuine excitement.

Usage: "The Legislative Session is over?  YAY!!!"

Yeah-- reads as a shortened eh sound.  The vowels form the same vowel sound as lamp, pal, and gal. This is the word people often use in replacing yes, or to indicate that they're going to do something, but less than enthused about it.

Usage: "So, Disneyland really costs 50 dollars a person?" "Yeah, it does."

(Note: sometimes, YEAH! can be used as an exclamation of joy. See picture above).

2.  Proselyte vs. Proselytize

This one kills me, but up until about five years ago, I made the same error over and over again because, well, so did everyone else in Utah.  I fear that this is already a lost cause.  But I will not go quietly into the night.  I will rage against the dying of the light! (at least for today).

A Proselyte is a noun, people.  It is NOT a verb.  A proselyte is a someone.  You don't go "proselyting" and you don't "proselyte for two years" as a missionary, just as you don't go "mechanicing" and you don't "mechanic for two years" as a form of summer employment during college.

A biblical term, proselyte refers to an individual, "a Gentile who had converted to Judaism."  In modern usage, the Mormon community--who can sometimes still be heard to refer to non-believers as "gentiles"--would consider any person who converted to the Mormon faith from a previous faith or state of unbelief to be a proselyte.

Proselytizing is the verb form, my friends.  To proselytize is "the act of attempting to convert people to another opinion and, particularly, another religion."  If you want to go out and convince Gentiles to become believers for a period of time, you will be spending your time proselytizing. NOT proselyting.

I understand that the Mormon community has taken to referring to proselytizing as proselyting. Heck, even my spell check doesn't try to correct it.  But trust me on this one--at the best it's colloquial.  At the worst, it's grating.

3.  Answering Cell Phones in Meetings

Thesis:  You know the bad rap the Millenials get for being tied to their cell phones, iPods, laptops, etc.  We are supposedly incapable of going five minutes without texting, calling, or otherwise communicating with our peers.  (This also gets wrapped up into the ages-old contention that we are infinitely lazier than our hard-working, salt-of-the-earth parents...who are relying on us to bankroll their retirements...but I digress).

In my generation's defense, I must admit that, in my admittedly limited experience, I have seen the worst phone etiquette come from the Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation.  Bar none.  This includes answered phones in the middle of church.  Ringtones that are not muted after the first three courtesy rings.  And game playing during meetings.

Don't believe me?  Here are just two of the most recent examples I've experienced.

Example 1: I was sitting in a very sensitive, important meeting (only held once a month), when one of the team leaders pulled out his cell phone like it had bit him.  He hastily answered and everyone else around the table stopped what they were doing or saying.  I imagine we were all thinking something along the lines of "His wife is sick" or "There's an emergency at home" or, at the very least, the cable guy was calling.

But no.

He held a five minute conversation with his "sweetheart" about how she should go ahead and fill a bag with canned food for the Scouts to pick up.

While the rest of us watched.

And listened.

With our mouths slack-jawed.

Example 2:  I am currently covering the traffic judge position in municipal court.  I like it because it's interesting, interactive, and different each week.  Plus, I get to wear the black robes (power trip!).  But sometimes, the job is frustrating.  For instance, I get lots of excuses as to why someone failed to appear for their court date--"I have lots of classes and it just slipped my mind" or "I thought it was somewhere else" 78 miles from where they got the ticket.

But the most galling of all behavior is how many people answer their phones in court.   

On one special day, a seemingly sweet old lady interrupted me mid sentence so she could answer her phone.  Turns out, her daughter was waiting in the parking lot with the engine running, and could we please hurry things up.

Needless to say, I was not very much in the mood to be lenient.

Conclusion:  Shut your phones off in semi- to fully-formal occasions, please.  Or at least silence them. I don't care that the judge in front of you is "too young" or that the meeting you're sitting in is dull.  You insult everyone around you and make yourself look foolish when you answer your phones there.  Worse, you not only lose your own attention, but you distract others as well.


4.  The "Wave"

When someone lets you merge your car into their lane, give them the wave.  In fact, when someone does anything to assist you in traffic, give them the wave.  It's the least you can do.

I think that for every bird flipped, there should be at least two more waves given somewhere else in the world.  We would live in a much a happier place.

5.  Obscure Latin Phrases are NOT Your Friends

More often than not, they do not make you sound smarter; they make you sound pretentious.  Imagine if you will, a young man in a tweed sport coat approaching you, and between chewing on his ivory pipe and twisting monacle, utters (with a slightly nasal lisp):

brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio.  [Sigh...].

Now, unless you speak Latin and understood that this man was simply trying to explain to you his educationally weary frustration, you missed his ironic point: "In trying to become concise, I become obscure."

What this speaker of dead tongues doesn't realize, however, is that a goodly percentage of the world knows he's using latin.  And even the small percentage of the world that understands what he's saying thinks him a twit. 

At my job, I see far more latin phrases than I ever care to see.  And unless these phrases have become some kind of shorthand for a principle where the latin really is the most concise thing (e.g., quid pro quo or ex post facto), the latin just becomes buzzy buzz words that are trying desperately to tell you how smart they are without ever realizing that they are skimmed over and disdained like some bunch of grammatical mosquitoes.

All that said, it would be really cool if Google had a latin translator function.  Then we could all sound smart, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

6. Using ALL-CAPS and Quotations "Marks" to Prove a "Point" Proves Another Point Entirely: You're an Ass

You've all had individuals do this to you at least once.  This person sends you an email or text message that just drips with confrontational sarcasm. Something like: 

"You had NO RIGHT to 'vote' me off the island!"


"I CANNOT believe that YOU had to 'go to your sister's wedding.'"

Look, there are many reasons that we write our language down.  One of those reasons is so that we can express ideas to each other calmly and professionally when we might otherwise backhandslap our best friend in the mouth want to respond immediately and in anger.

Which is why it always amazes me when people can sit down, pour their immediate frustrations and temporary anger into an email and, before they've had a chance to rationally think about it, hit "Send to All."

I imagine that many relationships, careers, and maybe even lives have ended because of the simple click of the button and a few "quotation" marks and ALL-CAPS scattered throughout an email that never really needed to be sent.

Please.  Let your cooler head prevail. Don't send angry emails for at least an hour after drafting them.