Monthly Archives: May 2014

Is it hopeless?

imagesI have a reputation as a “grammar/spelling Nazi” and I guess I have to cop to that. It’s not that I never make a mistake, but I find myself reacting—I admit sometimes even emotionally—when I see “it’s” when it should be “its,” “your” when it should be “you’re,” “there” when it should be “their,” and so on.

I’ve posted quite a bit about this on Facebook, and that’s how I got my rep. But lately I’ve been posting less and less about these egregious infractions. Why? Because I’m convinced that it’s hopeless.

Yes, hopeless.


Because it’s contagious. That’s right. Contagious.

You literally “catch” the wrong way of writing something, simply because it’s floating around in the general mental atmosphere. I know this is true, because I’ve found myself writing “it’s” when it should be “its,” etc. more than a few times, to my horror. When this first started happening, I asked myself: Why would I do this, when I know it’s wrong, and I’m totally opposed to anyone doing it, much less myself?

The only answer I could come up with is that I “caught” it—it was simply floating in the air.

Have you had this experience? I bet at least some of you have. This is how language changes, how things that used to be considered errors are now correct and you can even find them in the dictionary!

So this is why I say it’s hopeless. Would you agree? Or do you think it’s worth trying to fight it?

Of course this doesn’t mean I’m going to start writing “it’s” when it should be “its” on purpose—God forbid!


Filed under burning question, grammar

That’s the way things were in Rio…

Rio in the 1990s….
“The thing you have to understand about Rio is that the middle class—and yes, there is a large middle class—lives in very close proximity to the poorest of the poor because the favelas are usually in the hills up over the “regular” neighborhoods, which are referred to as the asfalto (asphalt, because they have paved sidewalks, unlike many favelas). But the favelas are a world apart—they essentially have their own “government”—the law in the favelas is the law of the gun, and many of the men and boys are armed. Rio itself is divided into two parts—the South Zone, which includes the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, where the middle and upper classes live, and where the tourists go; and the North Zone, a vast area where both lower and middle class people live. There are favelas in both areas, steadily growing larger and more widespread.
Some of the samba schools we played in held rehearsals in the favelas, where scrawny teenage boys, their eyes flat and expressionless, with old men’s faces from sniffing glue, stood holding machine guns with the nonchalant air of seasoned soldiers. The drug dealers ruled in the favelas, along with the police, and sometimes it was hard to tell which was which.”
This is an excerpt from my book, “Getting Down to Brass Tacks -My Adventures in Jazz, Rio, and Beyond. You can get the book here:


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