Happy Canada Day!

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A very great Canada Day to all Canadians across the provinces and the world. I’d like to be in Ottawa or Toronto or Montreal tonight. Or London, England to watch the hockey in Trafalgar Square.

Chico Marx at the piano

This is apropos of no writing or any other business than perfect movie making. This clip of Chico Marx in A Night at the Opera has him playing the piano surrounded by children. Their mothers and other older folk are in the background. Whatever else this movie is about falls away at this moment. The Marx Bros do this in almost every movie but perhaps works the best here.

Look at the joy on the faces of those watching him. Look at the curiousity of the kids watching his fingers work. They draw around him as if it were unexpected – Chico Marx just decided to sit down and play the piano in the middle of his movie.

It’s a complete and perfect scene and Chico plays it as if it were no scene. And indeed, it isn’t a scene. He most likely never even got this close to his audience in vaudeville. It’s a true moment made by movie-making, capped by movie-making in the final close-up of kids laughing because they were told to laugh. But for a minute there, no one needed to act except Chico and even then he’s merely playing off his audience in the purest way possible. We are lucky enough to peek around the corner into this private party.

How I wish film could have this sense of abandon. We’re much too smart nowadays to have this kind of fun.

Run for Boston

Several Canadians were among the thousands affected by the events in Boston. Some from Calgary are beginning to return home where Trevor Hofbauer, a long-distance runner not in attendance at Boston, is organizing a run of support for the killed and injured. Taking place Saturday April 20 at 11 am through Edworthy Park, it may do little more than spread good will and restore the faith and resolve of runners shaken by the attack.

My sister-in-law’s a runner. She’s run the Philadelphia Marathon several years now. Her resilience and determination is no different than any other marathoner, a resilience to be relied upon now more than ever. The original Marathon was a call to arms. Hofbauer’s initiative, however small, shows marathons have since become a call of community. Here’s the story from CTV News. Hopefully it will do some good and be a model across both Canada and the US.

And we were worried about termites…

The Giant African Land Snail is invading South Florida. They are voracious eaters of 500 plant species but, as they need can grow as large as a rat, need a healthy supply of calcium for their shells. Where do they find this balanced diet? Stucco.

They last invaded in 1966 from Hawaii. A boy returning to Florida after a family vacation brought several of these snails with him and the snails took over. It took ten years to fully eradicate the population of 17000, an extremely big family on a very long vacation.

In 2010, snails of this species were discovered in the possession of the Santeria religious community of Miami. Santeria may use them in religious ceremonies and speculation points to that as the source of the new infestation. A parasitic lungworm carried by the worms can infect humans though no cases have yet to be reported.

That’s a bit more serious than I thought this would get. I started posting because in this video it looks like they’re here for our credit cards and quarters.

Writing Tips – “… to and … from”

Not a big tip but it alters flow. Or should I say, improves it. The “…to and … from” sentence has always been a clunker for me. Serviceable, it conveys the proper information but it’s like eating an ash sandwich: very dry and leaves me asking if there’s anything else I could have.

Example: “The wealth given to and taken from Mr. Moneybags created a cyclone of bad decisions everybody suffered for.” Writing in this way delays introduction of your subject and deadens the action. Instead of that, this: “The wealth given to Mr. Moneybags, and just as quickly taken from, created…” We’ll skip the suffering. We’ve had enough of it from this sentence’s first draft.

Isn’t the second version better? More direct, it gives wealth to our subject and then, as we’re comfortable with Mr. Moneybags’s station in life, creates the shock of taking it away again – the cyclone everybody suffered for.

If the meaning should convey a circular motion of wealth in Mr. Moneybags’s life, “… to and … from” still doesn’t satisfy. Move Mr. Moneybags up in the order and we have: “Wealth for Mr. Moneybags came in an unending cycle of giving and taking, creating…” Again, enough suffering.

This isn’t an example ready for all instances where “… to and … from” can occur. But I hope it illustrates the ability to always find a better way, one with more finesse and oomph, to deliver information without it reading like bookkeeping. That and the benefit of a good writer.