Tuesday, October 15, 2013

On Yet Another Cultural Snubbing Of The Adverb

I generally do not pay attention to television commercials.  I seldom watch anything when it is actually aired anyway - I live the DVR lifestyle, recording and watching programs when I want to and usually fast-forwarding through the commercials. On the occasions when I do have to sit through the ads, I am certainly not focused on them.  That is, until the other night when a commercial's tag line forced my attention, the way fingernails being dragged across a chalkboard might force your attention.  Only this was even more unpleasant to my ears.

Capital Blue Cross has a new ad campaign, and the slogan the are using is an example of one of my biggest grammatical pet peeves.  It is the type of lax grammar that underscores my belief that our culture is hurtling ever more quickly toward the world that Mike Judge envisioned in the movie Idiocracy; a world where "the English language [has] deteriorated into a hybrid of hillbilly, valley girl, inner city slang, and various grunts."

Capital Blue Cross' new slogan is: "Live Fearless."

"LY!" I shouted at my television, which had already moved on to the next brain-numbing commercial. "Live fearlessLY! Do you people not know what a freaking adverb is?!?"

This isn't the first time a company has completely ignored the basic grammatical construction of an adverb. Back in the '90s I was driven batty by Apple Computers and their "Think Different" campaign.  "Think different?" I'd say to anyone who would listen. "Apparently someone on Apple's advertising team didn't proofread careful!"  I wish more people would have gotten the joke than did, but that too is a comment on our language dying: if it gets said on TV, it must be right.

Yes, I know, English is notoriously one of the most difficult languages to master. It is infamous for setting up rules of grammar and then offering a never-ending string of bizarre exceptions to those rules.  Adverbs, though, are pretty simple. 99% of the time, they're going to end in -ly.

He didn't run quick; he ran quickLY. She didn't yell angry; she yelled angriLY.  You shouldn't live fearless; you should live fearlessLY.  Simple, no?

I guess I had an advantage, being of grade school age in the 1970s.  We had songs to teach us things.  We had Schoolhouse Rock and Sesame Street and The Electric Company all throwing musical lessons at us about everything.  I still can recite the entire Preamble to the Constitution after all these years by hearing the Schoolhouse Rock song in my head.  We learned to count, we learned how bills become law, and we sure learned grammar!  Anyone my age remembers "Conjunction Junction" or that it's "quite interesting, a noun's a person, place or thing." 

We had two great lessons on adverbs, both of which I still hear in my head today, and both of which strongly underscored the -ly suffix.  Schoolhouse Rock offered us "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly (Get Your Adverbs Here)," which is quite fondly remembered by my circle of friends, but to me the one that really nails it was offered up by The Electric Company, who enlisted the incomparable Tom Lehrer to write the brilliant "L-Y." Anyone who grew up with this one has no excuse for improper adverb usage (and it's quite a snappy little tune, too!):

I don't suppose the folks at Capital Blue Cross will be making any changes in their advertising campaign based on my objections.  Still, I needed to rant, lest my head explode.  I've said my piece and will say no more, except to ask that please, anyone out there who is in charge of coming up with the next big slogan for the next national ad campaign for the next big brand, please do one thing:

Proofread careful!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Back to Baltimore

Man, I did not realize how badly I needed a night like last night.

It's been a slow process, rebuilding my world over the past year or so both emotionally and financially, and I still have more hills to climb before I'm truly at ease again in either aspect of my life. Hey, it took a nearly five-year tumble to create the rubble I'm climbing out of, it's going to take some time to rebuild as well.

One of the things that has been sorely missing in my world is live music. Hadn't gone to stand in front of a band since seeing Freezepop and Lifestyle in Philly over a year ago, and I missed the live band experience. It's as if a part of my soul wasn't being properly nourished. I had the chance to go see one of my favorites, One-Eyed Doll, in Allentown a couple weeks back, but those plans fell through at the last minute. When I saw that Peelander-Z was going to be at The Ottobar in Baltimore, I knew I had to be there! Still, I almost backed out at the last minute, not sure if I could (or should) afford the evening. Only $15 to get in, sure, but figure grabbing dinner somewhere and having a few beers at the show, possibly a purchase from the merch table, and it starts to add up when you're on a tight budget. Bless my brother, he basically said "don't worry about it, we're going!"

Four bands played last night; two of them I was very psyched to see again: Peelander-Z, of course, I had been blown away by when I saw them in Washington DC in early 2012 with One-Eyed Doll - a show which ranks among the flat-out best top-to-bottom live shows I've ever seen (neither are bands you just stand in front of - both are big on audience interaction and participation). Also, a local Baltimore band, Plurals, was on the lineup. I have raved about them since seeing them open for Shonen Knife the last time I was in Baltimore. So, I went in figuring even if the other two bands weren't any good, the night would still be fun.

I've mentioned before that there is a really cool scene happening in Baltimore lately. That was underscored again last night when the first band, Natural Velvet, took the stage. Fronted by bassist/vocalist Corynne Ostermann, they are a moody four-piece post-punk outfit relying heavily on reverb and echoey, distant vocals. They are also fan-frickin'-tastic. Ostermann gives off a coy Hope Sandoval vibe while guitarists Spike Arreaga and Kim Te scratch and slash, creating an ethereal yet agitated wall of sound. They've got an EP up on Bandcamp - check it out. As first bands go, they are one of the better I've seen.

Plurals were simply outstanding. I am a big fan of their modern take on an old-school new-wave sound, from Rachel Warren and Elena Fox providing the faux B-52's harmonies to Michael Bowen's Mark Mothersbaugh-meets-Frank Black lead vocals, combined with angular guitars and plinka-plinka keyboards, they've got the sound circa 1980 down without making it feel dated. Played some favorites including "Manic Depressor," "Mental Illness/Sooner Or Later," and "Clap Clap" (all of which can be found on their excellent Laced With Boniva EP, another Bandcamp offering which you must hear!), along with some I hadn't heard before: about mid-set, Warren took over lead vocals for "Look At The Nerds," seeming to channel both Nina Hagen and Klaus Nomi simultaneously. Simply put, Plurals are one of my current favorites - just wish there was more recorded stuff out there! (Hint, hint...)

I'm not exactly how best to word my reaction to Christopher Nobody & The Nothing. Don't get me wrong, they were quite good, but there was something just a bit off to my ears. My brother drew a comparison immediately to bands like Saccharine Trust which, while not exactly hitting the target, is pretty good jumping off point to describe them. Christopher Nobody shout/sings neurotic, hiccuppy songs while lurching about the stage, occasionally throwing himself bodily to the floor and occasionally stalking out into the crowd. The band was solid, loud and noisy - just the right accompaniment for songs like "I Love My Executioner" and "Sick Sick Sick." But I think somehow I liked the concept behind what they were doing better than the execution. Again, I liked their set and would gladly see them play again - maybe in a different context I'd be more in sync with their performance.

Speaking of not knowing how to describe a band - I've now seen the mighty Peelander-Z twice and am still not able to describe exactly what I've seen...or experienced. You do not simply stand and watch Peelander-Z. You can't. They refuse to let you. You become part of the show, whether you're one of those chosen to come up on stage to take over instruments for the band or don a foam rhino head and pound out a beat on a tom-tom or you're simply part of a crowd-wide limbo contest or circular conga line. Before the night was out, we had been part of a drum circle, watched a human bowling match, and pounded with sticks on pie tins. This old man tends to stay out of the mosh pits these days, content to stay on the edge and help rebound folks back into the fray, but when a Peelander-Z mosh pit breaks out, you can't not be a part of it - it engulfs everyone, and everyone is having a great time. They opened at breakneck speed with "So Many Mike," and tore through crowd faves like "Mad Tiger," "Taco Taco Taco," and "Ninja High School" before ending with the standard show-closing cover of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." If you've never experienced Peelander-Z before, do yourself a favor and go see them. They are much fun.

As I said, I really needed that night. It may be awhile again until the next live show I see, but if I only get to one this year, I do believe I chose the right one.

More pics from the show will be up on the That's What I Was Going To Say Facebook page later on tonight - please stop by and, if you haven't already, "like" the page so you don't miss out on any of the fun stuff coming up on the blog!

Enhanced by Zemanta