Archive for the ‘Language’ Category


Did you know there are rules for screenwriting? Actual rules. And when you don’t follow the rules, you get beaten with a yardstick — or ignored by Hollywood. Whichever hurts worse. Now that I fancy myself a screenwriter, I’ve hired an assistant to help me follow the rules. OK, “hired” is perhaps too strong a word; “downloaded” may be more accurate.

Celtx is a terrific little piece of software, absolutely free, that will write scripts, storyboard scenes and sequences, sketch setups, develop characters, breakdown & tag elements, schedule productions, and prepare and circulate informative reports for cast and crew. (Yeah, I plagiarized that description from Celtx’ website. Ssshhhh.) In between screenplays, it also writes comic books. Not kidding.

Now if Charlie Sheen could just download an assistant to help him follow the rules, all would be well in Hollywood.


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The OWL at Purdue

Online Writing Lab

It’s finals week for the college kids, and they’re frantically dashing off papers and sitting exams. Mom’s helping the essay writers, natch’, by being harder on them than their own English professors would be. And I’m insisting that their papers reflect perfect MLA style.

My go-to place for online MLA style arguments: The MLA style guide page from the OWL at Purdue. It’s just one of dozens of OWL writing resources that every parent of a high school- or college-aged student should have available.

Honestly, how often do we get to prove we’re smarter than our teenagers?

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MDBGI’m teaching a Chinese class to the kiddies in my daughter’s homeschooling co-op next quarter. But my fluency ain’t what it used to be. To bone up on my 中文 vocabulary I’ve been playing with the MDBG Chinese-English dictionary. It’s fascinating. Enter a word in English, if you wish, or in Pinyin, or even in characters, and get a list of every permutation of that word.

Click the icons to hear pronunciation, read etymological details, and even watch the character being drawn in a Flash demonstration.

Fēi cháng hǎo!

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Arts & Letters Daily

Arts & Letters Daily

Pseudo-intellectualism is way more fun than the real thing. When you’re a fraud, as I am, you can still gorge yourself on intellectual ding-dongs such as country music and Go Fug Yourself.

When my brain looks for healthy fare, it noshes at Arts & Letters Daily, a web portal that tracks interesting books, essays and articles that are all sort of au courant.

Then when I’ve had my fill of intellectual snobbery, I take a breather at The Smoking Gun, where I can be first on my block to find out which celebrity has been arrested today.

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We love, love, love our local bibliothèque, and in particular, we love our books on tape.

But sometimes, getting to the library is a chore, and sometimes we just need to listen to something other than radio pop. So we turn to our good friend LibriVox.

LibriVox is home to hundreds and hundreds of books — classic, mostly — in audio form. Listen to podcasts, subscribe in iTunes, or hear them using the media player on your computer.

It’s a good time to be alive. Found any other amazing uses of technology on the Web? Share by clicking that Comments link, below.

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Mixed MetaphorSo I was sitting in my seat one Shabbat listening to the sermon, when the speaker began describing a sudden flash of inspiration he’d experienced. “This idea struck me like a lightbulb,” he said with great solemnity.

Ouch! (But high-props for having the chutzpah to hold forth! It’s more than I can normally manage myself.)

If you don’t relish the though of someone stifling a smirk when you speak, consider carefully this contribution from Calvin College: Mixed Metaphors…to delight and amaze you. My favorites: “It’s not rocket surgery.” “The monkey is in your court.” And best of all: “Marching to the beat of a dead horse.”

Have any amusing mangled maxims to communicate? Convey ’em by clicking that Comments link. Let us laugh along!

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