Alpha Season X: Alphaday 4

Hi Alphas,

Welcome to Alphaday 4. We’re definitely in full swing now; there’s so much happening that it can be hard to keep up with it all. How much of it registers in the part of the brain that’s hooked on writing, I don’t know: All of it, in my view. Everything is sparked off by and relevant to some aspect of the writing life.

Today’s menu is as rich and filling as ever. The various courses are as follows:

  • The Log from Margie
  • The results of Ch.2 (the postcard) from Sue
  • The collation of entries for Ch.3 (food writing) from Christine
  • The brief for Ch.4 from Chris
  • The steady flow of Showcasing pieces from Clare

That should be enough to give you a very full stomach (and I’ll stop those food metaphors right now!).

General Alpha news:

The web site is up and running. It looks fantastic and is packed full of relevant material about the Alpha Group. A visitor from anywhere in the world can see us at work and leave us a message if they like. Check it out here: Many thanks to Sally and Rosemary for all their hard work.

The showcasing has grown into such a worthy part of the Alpha routine that we’d miss it sorely if it ground to a halt. The feedback indicates that members appreciate the opportunity to read each other’s work, and the good news is that Clare says she’s getting a generous supply of contributions.

Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat… But never mind the goose! Olaf tells me he’s been busy preparing the now well-established Alpha tradition of the Christmas quiz that will puzzle even the most learned Alpha and cause grinding of teeth and tearing out of hair… plus give us all the fun of solving an impossible puzzle; because somebody always cracks it sooner or later and we enjoy the battle. I can’t wait to see what this year brings.

My discreet little query re dashes and ellipses set off quite a debate about punctuation generally. In turns it elucidated and obscured some different usages in various parts of the world. Somebody came up with interesting examples of writers who insisted on using their own idiosyncratic variations. (I have a 1903 edition of Tristram Shandy. What a marvellous, punctuational muddle that is!) The great merit of this debate was to make us think about the knotty subject of punctuation and perhaps aim to be more consistent. In a group like ours we’re lucky to have people whose views are worth listening to.

We even had a swipe at the contentious issue of the split infinitive. I was not listening to a French radio talk about science fiction before the news, when the English sentence, “To boldly go where no man has gone before” hit my ears. It sounded familiar. I wondered whether they’d found the line in Kipling or perhaps Tennyson? I had to find out.

I’m not a “Star Trek” fan. To my knowledge I have never deliberately watched “Star Trek” films or episodes. If I have, it’s made a perfectly delible impression on me. Yet that line was lodged in my memory store.

I found out that it’s been used at the opening of every “Star Trek” episode from 1966 and that the line contributed towards legitimising the split infinitive and stamping those who opposed its use as deluded pedants.

Now there’s a cultural revolution I didn’t realise “Star Trek” had so boldly fought. It doesn’t even stop there. There was a sexism issue involved as well. “No man…” There’s the usual argument to accept the word as referring to humankind generally. But it rankles with some hypersensitive feminists. They crossed out “man” and put “one” – definitely sexless – in its place: “To boldly go where no one has gone before.”

I’m impressed. I have great respect for “Star Trek” now!