Words To The Wise

I’m beginning to receive a lot of press releases promoting events and products. Whether or not these announcements might be of interest to you, I do not make a habit of posting the majority of them because my blog is not a public broadcast station and I do not consider myself to be a news service with a capital N as in The News, even when that news is entertainment-related. At those times when I am writing for “the press,” I do consider myself to be a journalist, and no matter what the outlet, I do hold myself to journalistic standards when writing nonfiction, but DevraDoWrite is a blog, and as such it is no more and no less than a platform for my thoughts and ideas, which hopefully hold some modicum of interest or entertainment value for you, my readers. Why else would you be here?

You might then wonder why I post the occassional press release and review the random CD, performance or movie. Usually it is because the annoucement has triggered some related thoughts that I wish to explore and share. Sometimes my discourse is right on point, but often times, like today, it is merely tangential. Today’s case is vocabulary-driven, truly an act of simple curiosity aroused by a press release from the USAF Band regarding “Acapella Music of the Empyrean.” I love coming across words that are new to me, and empyrean was an unfamiliar word.

“Acapella Music of the Empyrean featuring Members of The Singing Sergeants” is the title a December 9th concert that is part of The United States Air Force Band Chamber Players Series held at Anderson House Museum (2118 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.). This free concert starts at 1:30 p.m. but because I live on the left coast and have no plans to be in D.C. next month, rendering me unable to attend, listen, and learn, I turned to an alternative source of enlightenment: the Internet.

Looking it up in the Word of the Day Archive, I found the following definitions and examples:

empyrean \em-py-REE-uhn; -PEER-ee-\, noun:
1. The highest heaven, in ancient belief usually thought to be a realm of pure fire or light.
2. Heaven; paradise.
3. The heavens; the sky.

1. Of or pertaining to the empyrean of ancient belief.

She might have been an angel arguing a point in the empyrean if she hadn’t been, so completely, a woman.
— Edith Wharton, “The Long Run”, The Atlantic, Feburary 1912

In the poem — one he had the good sense finally to abandon — he pictured himself as a blind moth raised among butterflies, which for a brief moment had found itself rising upward into the empyrean to behold “Great horizons and systems and shores all along,” only to find its wings crumpling and itself falling — like Icarus — back to earth.
— Paul Mariani, The Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane

In my experience, the excitement generated by a truly fresh and original piece of writing is the rocket fuel that lifts Grub Street’s rackety skylab — with its grizzled crew of editors, publishers, agents, booksellers, publicists — into orbit in the empyrean.
— Robert McCrum, “Young blood”, The Observer, August 26, 2001

Empyrean comes from Medieval Latin empyreum, ultimately from Greek empurios, from en-, “in” + pyr, “fire.”

Wikipedia says empyrean can mean several things, and definitions range from the biblical to the brewery:

* In Christian theology, the Empyrean (also called the heavenly rose, or the mind of God) is the name of the highest heaven.
* In Paradiso, the final book of The Divine Comedy, the Empyrean, based on the above, is the abode of God.
* In Asheron’s Call, Empyrean refers to a race of highly intelligent humanoid beings inhabiting the planet Auberean.
* In Digital Devil Saga, Empyrean Halo is a powerful attack spell, the name referring to the heavenly rose in The Divine Comedy.
* Empyrean Brewing Company is a brewery located in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Although I do ponder the merits of using words that require readers to have a dictionary at hand, I am nonetheless on the perpetual quest to expand my vocabulary. To that end, I subscribe to a weekdaily email from wordsmith.org that serves up a word with definitions and sample uses, each week’s offerings being thematically related. Sometimes the words are new to me and on occassion I make a note to add one to my vocabulary list. A few weeks back the theme was words about books, and here are three of those words:

auctorial (ok-TOR-ee-uhl) adjective

Pertaining to an author

[From Latin auctor (author, creator), from augere (to create). Ultimately from the Indo-European root aug- (increase) which is also the source of auction, authorize, inaugurate, augment, august, auxiliary, and nickname (“a nickname” is a splitting of the earlier “an ekename”, literally, an additional name).]

fascicle (FAS-i-kuhl) noun

1. Part of a book published in installments. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary was published in fascicles.

2. A bundle. For example, a bundle of nerve or muscle fibers, or a bundle of leaves.

[From Latin fasciculus, diminutive of fascis (bundle).]

The word fascism is related. It refers to the Latin fascis (a bundle or a group) and also to the emblem adopted by Mussolini: a bundle of twigs that was carried as a sign of the power of a magistrate in ancient Rome.

hornbook (HORN-book) noun

A primer.

[From horn + book. In earlier times, a hornbook was a book containing the alphabet or other material for children. Though it would be stretching the definition of book by the present standard — it had a wooden paddle with a handle that held a paper with learning material protected by the transparent layer of a cow’s horn.]

See pictures of hornbooks here

By the way, WordSmith.org is also the home of the Internet Anagram Server that I had so much fun with early in my blogging days — Raison D’Etre (Monday May 02nd 2005), Word Trips (Friday July 08th 2005), and Caveat Lector Dictionaria/Encyclopedia (Tuesday September 27th 2005).

And in case you are wondering, the purpose of today’s tour-de-words is not to warn you off of sending me press releases. Au contraire. I love to read them, never knowing what serendipity-dowrite might stike. When my little gray cells are sufficiently stimulated, you’ll read about it right here. So stay tuned and keep in touch.

Web Humor: Silly or Scary

The following, emailed to me by a friend who is not usually prone to disseminating such things, is either really silly or very scary. Perhaps both.

What Makes 100%? What does it mean to give MORE than 100%? Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%? We have all been to those meetings where someone wants you to give over 100%. How can we achieve 103%? What makes up 100% in life?

Here’s a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these questions:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z is represented as:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.

8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%

11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%

1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%

On the other hand,
2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103%

AND, look how far ass kissing will take you.
1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+14+7 = 118%

So, one can conclude with mathematical certainty that, while Hardwork and Knowledge will get you close, and Attitude will get you there, it’s the BULL$HIT and ASSKISSING that will put you over the top !!!

D-E-V-R-A, alone, only gets you 50%, but D-E-V-R-A-D-O-W-R-I-T-E gives you 144% of your minimum daily requirement. (Of course T-E-R-R-Y-T-E-A-C-H-O-U-T scores even higher — 179% — so what else is new? Cheers TT, here’s to you — may you remain in the stunned but happy state of grace to which I will continue to aspire.)

Scribble Scrabble

My Scrabble© Score is: 20.
What is your score?

My friend Phil sent this to me because he knows that I like to play Scrabble. Also, he’s the Executive Director of Information Technology for the Pasadena Unified School District — computer code and internet, words and spelling — makes sense to me. Anyway, I come by the Scrabble affinity naturally as my mother is a Scrabble Queen. She even knows words that the English allow but are not found in our American Scrabble dictionaries. Many years ago Phil and I played a game of Scrabble with my mother, and all I had on hand was a regular dictionary. We doubted many of her words — jo comes to mind — but later found them all to be valid in the official Scrabble dictionary. She won, of course. I prefer to remember the day I beat Phil at Scrabble — I was in the hospital, dopey on pain killers….he must have let me win, but swears he didn’t. If you want to read up on the rules, go here, or visit The Official Worldwide Scrabble Home Page

Caveat Lector Dictionaria/Encyclopedia

Every once in a while, I share one of the anagrams I found when plugging DevraDoWrite in at the Internet Anagram Server. Derivate Word is one that is appropriate for this post.

In my quest for truth and the proper use and spelling of words and facts, I naturally rely on dictionaries and encyclopedias. Webster’s II New Riverside University Dictionary sits on my desk, a Short Oxford English Dictionary is in my computer (on CD-ROM), Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music is on my bookshelf with other specialized tomes, and links to a number of online resources are bookmarked in my browser.

For fifty years I have trusted completely the entries found therein. (Okay, maybe only forty-four years as I didn’t learn how to use a dictionary until I was six). It never occurred to me to question a single definition…until now. Henry Alford informs us, in the pages of The New Yorker (August 29, 2005, page 32) that a made-up word appears in the New Oxford American Dictionary, and Richard Steins, one of the editors of the New Columbia Encyclopedia says, “It was an old tradition in encyclopedias to put in a fake entry to protect your copyright.”

The fake in New Columbia is Lillian Mountweazel, a photographer who died while on assignment for Combustibles Magazine, and the culprit in Oxford American is esquivalience, purported to mean “the willful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities.”

Talk about derivated words. I feel betrayed.

Word Trips

Just about two and a half months ago, my second day on the blog, I mentioned the Internet Anagram Server and shared three of the anagrams derived from DevraDoWrite. (Click here for a reprise.) Today, as I prepare for a two-week trip to the other coast for a mixture of business and pleasure, two more phrases seem particularly apropos. I am truly a Road Wired Vet, ready for virtual action anywhere I go, lugging laptop, palmpilot, digital recorder, digital camera, wireless connector, and myriad cables power sources, and of course, a cell phone. A quick google has provided me with a list of locations with free wi-fi access, so I should have no technological excuse for not blogging. The next blog posting will come from an undisclosed location in big metropolis.

The first few days will be devoted to research for my next book, a biography of Luther Henderson. I will be blogging about Luther as the project progresses, but meanwhile, if you don’t know anything about him, read this brief bio on The African American Registry® website, and then check out this amazing CD (you can listen to some clips online). Don’t, however, pay any attention to the Editorial Review posted by Amazon.com because it lacks both understanding and accuracy. Clearly this guy was not aware that Ellington himself referred to Luther as his classical right arm, that their professional/musical relationship began in the 1940s, and their personal relationship even earlier than that when Luther, just a child, became neighborhood buddies with Duke’s son, Mercer.

It is with increasing frequency, and not a little dismay, that I notice and/or hear about factual inaccuracies created or perpetuated by the media. Just today, my husband sent off a Letter to the Editor at Jazz Times magazine to correct some misstatements in the Wes Montgomery feature. (If they don’t print his letter, I will post it on this blog.) But that is a rant for another day.

After a few days of intensive research in Luther’s personal archives, I will relax and visit with family and friends. On Thursday, July 21, 2005 at 8 PM, I will be at the 92nd Street Y (1395 Lexington Avenue) to hear a concert: Jazz Legacy – Portrait of Jim Hall, featuring Peter Bernstein, Bill Charlap, Terry Clarke, Tom Harrell, Steve LaSpina, Joe Lovano, and Strings. (The Box Office telephone number is 212-415-5500 — I heard tickets are going fast.)

By the time I cross back to the left coast and get home on Sunday, I am likely to wish that I had Arrived Towed.

raison d’etre

Dotard viewer and dotard review are just two of the many anagrams I found when plugging DevraDoWrite in at the Internet Anagram Server. Six months shy of my fiftieth birthday, I hardly qualify as a golden-ager or oldster, but I promise you that should my postings ever show signs of a “decline in mental poise” (Britannica’s definition of dotage), I will pull the plug. Still, I do find that this coming birthday occupies my thoughts more than any previous ones. It feels like a deadline or sorts – a time by which I should be able to mark some major accomplishment or achieve success, whatever that is.

Perhaps a more apt anagram for me at this time of self-reinvention is vita reworded. While my life as an author began with computer books published in the mid-to-late 1990s, it is only in the last few years that I have found my raison d’etre as a writer: to tell the stories of people who make a positive difference in the lives of others. The people I find of interest are not A-list names and their stories may lack broad commercial appeal, but their contributions merit recognition. Some of them, such as Johnny Pate and Luther Henderson, worked with well-known musical artists, but others are just average folks like the parents and teachers involved in the birth of the middle- and high-school students marching band in Pasadena, California.

I’ll be blogging about these and other people in future posts. Meanwhile, if I heed Arthur Schopenhauer’s words – “The first forty years of life give us the text; the next thirty supply the commentary on it” – then I have twenty more years to make good, and that should relieve this admittedly self-imposed birthday pressure.