What to do for W?

Writing something for the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge every day has been a good exercise but also a chore on occasion. Workload at work work (y’know, getting paid work) has increased as we reach mid-term, and it’s a week before a bunch of end-of-year exams pile the hyphens and stress on for everyone. Weightier matters of the world seem of distant concern, somehow.

Waxing Gibbous, Wibble, Woo, Wormwood, WWIII, and WWW: all topics commenced, considered and consigned to File 13, probably never to be seen again.

When in doubt, quote someone with greater wit… Within the pages of The Chickens are Restless, A Far Side collection by Gary Larson, lurks what I am fairly certain is my favourite cartoon (apart from “Cow Poetry”, of course).

“Well, sometimes..”

Why not set a reminder now to read next year’s W post, Welease Bwian?

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Skating around my enduring affection for verfremdungseffekt, I bumped into the marvellous vigintennial, or vicennial, meaning 20th anniversary.

As if that weren’t enough! Okay, delving into Stuff-Having-A-Vigintennial, I was delighted, but delighted, to see it has been 20 years since Quasi released the album Featuring “Birds”.

Quasi is a two piece, Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss. They used to be married, but, yeah, things happen… anyway, fortunately, they remained a musical item.

Featuring “Birds”, the duo’s third album, is a collection of lively yet lugubrious songs for roxichord and drums, with mordant, witty, often bleakly cynical lyrics. Thematically, they grapple with politics and relationships in particular.

Music lovers may recognise both names from other outfits – Weiss with Sleater-Kinney, for example. Quasi also toured with Elliott Smith, as support and backing band, which I was lucky enough to see in action. My then partner and friendship group found a rich seam of gigs In Them Days. We’re all largely scattered about the planet now, and breakups are never easy, but let the annals record those were also often the best of times.

Perhaps one of my favourite ever gigs was when we got to see Quasi do their own headlining set in September 1999 at the 13th Note Club in Glasgow… and here, he shuffled excitedly among his effects, is the set list:

…on lovely pink paper, you may just about discern.

The embedded tune is “It’s Hard To Turn Me On”, which came as an encore that night. There was Coomes, semi-seriously claiming to the rapt crowd to be running out of songs to play, when a slightly slurry Scottish voice suggested “Walt Disney!” He had to run it by them a couple of times, as I recall. “Walt Disney disnae make me happy!”. Quasi duly obliged.

Featuring “Birds”. Please seek it out and wish it a happy vigintenary year.

This month’s A-to-Z blogging challenge has been a bit of a distraction, from one point of view. I have fallen off my reading schedule because of the evening time spent composing these bits.

Then while I was trying to get this one down I was seized with the sudden absolute necessity of trying to set up Google assistant on my phone to see if I could get it to call me “darling”. (It wouldn’t seem to let me…)

There’s usually something to impinge or assist in a prevarication. As I suggested in that first paragraph, it depends on your perspective. It could be argued that my return to regular reading was getting in the way of a more prolific writing schedule.

Tonight I finished Wishful Drinking, the late Carrie Fisher’s brief autobiographical stage show-turned- book. Laughed out loud quite a few times. Found myself nodding in agreement. She is well known as a drug fiend, although she doesn’t glory in it or self-flagellate about it. Maybe a bit of both? There was a pertinent line about wanting things to be good all the time, the unrealistic need of an addict, that struck home particularly.

I found myself turning the endpapers, hoping there’d be more from her.

A propos of which… today is my 67th day without a drink. That figure is courtesy of the Loop habit tracker, by the way, which I recommend for your positive self-intervention needs.

That doesn’t mean I feel I’ve won, or that I’m living moment to moment in fear of the Demon Drink… Somewhere between? It’s maybe something I might write about more, maybe not. Depends what else comes up.

Feels great, though, thanks.

OK Google… How do I UNINSTALL you?

I’m sorry darling… I’m afraid I can’t do that.

A propos of it being a somewhat Blue Monday (back to work and miserable weather setting back in), here is a trio of New Order songs that all start with T.

Touched by the Hand of God. Highly diggable 80s rock video parody, directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

Temptation. Features vinyl shoplifting and indie disco moves.

And, of course, True Faith. First saw this on a cinema screen, as a pre-feature for (I think, based on 1987 as year of release) Good Morning Vietnam, though it might just as well have been Moonstruck, The Living Daylights or Spaceballs, all of which also came out that year. No Withnail and I, no. I was only 12. I recall not really getting it at the time, but later it made all the sense.

Terrific teen soundtracking there, then.

Super. Saturday, sunshine…

So, scant scribbling, sorry!

Q3: Analyse how the writer uses language and structure to interest and engage the reader. (15)

In this text, an examination board is stating a task for candidates to complete. The question begins with an attempt to engage the reader directly with an imperative (“Analyse”), which leaves no doubt as to the action required.

Two pairs of components then offer further detail of the task to the reader. First, the reader is informed that they must discuss how the writer uses “language and structure”. The conjunction “and” in this noun phrase is perhaps intended as a signal to the reader that they must address both linguistic, and structural, features of the text in their response. There is an implicit point made here that failure to mention one or the other may be important, but why this might be is not made clear.

Furthermore, the terms used are themselves quite vague, which may also impact the engagement of the reader. It could be argued that the terms offer open-ended scope for reader interpretation, which is potentially engaging. However, students unfamiliar with the exam format may not be entirely sure what aspects of language or structure they are supposed to discuss, unless explicitly coached on what they will have to discuss in the exam.

Given the wide parameters suggested by the vague terms of “language” and “structure”, different readers may respond more generally, for example, commenting on the use of English and the question format, rather than specific technical details of the content.

Following this, the writer has provided another pairing, this time in a verb phrase (“to interest and engage”). This offers a range of actions to complete. The conjunction here could also be important, although the use of near-synonymous words may lead to some confusion, hence causing disengagement. It is possible that a reader may interpret this phrase to mean they should not address ideas that fail to be both interesting and engaging, and in not doing so lose further marks.

The question closes with a reference to “the reader”, which in this text clearly refers to an examination candidate. Although the word “engage” can mean “occupy”, which the simple of act of reading the question achieves, the idea of a “reader” being interested by the bland terminology is not particularly convincing.

In addition, there is an implication from the wording employed that the student is expected to know how to respond to a question phrased in such a generalised way in the exam. This suggests that such knowledge is presupposed by the exam board (“the writer”), with a logical inference from that perhaps being that teachers are expected to make this mechanical awareness the point of their lessons, rather than, say, making words and reading fun activities.

The number “15” appearing at the close of the text, isolated in parentheses for emphasis, may be a mocking final note reflecting the idea that the only truly important outcome of any interest to the reader is how many marks they need to get.