Thursday, February 21, 2013

You Mean I Wasn't Supposed to Laugh?

A friend tweeted this today.

A satire taking its cue from this amazing restaurant review for Guy's American Kitchen and Bar in The New York Times.

But what do you do when people write like this (Mikla) and are dead earnest?

I guess you mine it for those beautiful, I-could-never-make-this-stuff-up phrases like phantasmagorical tentacles; or euphoric visual and palatal counfoundment*; or the ‘Birdshit’ ice cream.

I guess in the spirit of transparency I should mention I interviewed with The Guide İstanbul - and well, let's just say I did not get the job. You are all bright people, you do the math. Also, in the spirit of transparency, this was the first review I clicked on. I don't believe it was just dumb luck. Fortunately, the 'birdshit' ice cream looks yummy and if I weren't deathly allergic to pistachios I might even try it.

*confoundment, maybe? And maybe that's not just my palatal;-)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Rakı, The Knockout Champ

I believe every tourist visiting İstanbul should get a card when they land. On that card should be the saying my wise friend and bff, Ezgi, coined about rakı. A glass of rakı is like a breast – one is too little, three are two many. (Implying, of course, that two are just right.) Now I know all across İstanbul Turkish men are saying two? Really? Two? Yes, more than that and you’re in trouble. (Goes for breasts too. Take my word for it.)

The first time I had rakı was in Beyoğlu, somewhere around the Nevizade. My Turkish ex, who wasn’t much of a drinker, called and asked me to meet his friends. I lived high on a hill in Yıldız then and was already in my pajamas. It was raining. Hard. What can I say? I heard the siren call of l… meze, those sexy little plates. Who could resist? When I got there my ex filled my glass. Rakı, water, ice – something like that. I was too busy looking at the meze – or something like that. I had one glass that night. It was a taste I knew well.

Italians and Italian-Americans both have an anise-flavored drink. The Italians have Sambuca, a sophisticated little cocktail usually served with three coffee beans floating on top that are called mosca (fly) signifying health, wealth and happiness. Sambuca is typically associated with Rome and is known as the Eternal City’s favorite drink. If Sambuca is a sexy Italian in mirrored aviator frames and a smile that can light up Piazza di Spagna, then Anisette is your old, bald grandfather in a dark grey suit and bow tie. (Just like mine was.) Anisette is found in every Italian-American home. It is usually served as an addition to espresso – the Italians would call it caffe’ corretto, corrected coffee, meaning that somehow the coffee on its own was terribly wrong – or, in a small liqueur glass alongside the espresso, usually after a large Italian meal and at least one shouting match. These were the anise-flavored liqueurs that had prepared my palate.

But they did not prepare me for the first time rakı knocked me out. Because, you see, rakı is the champ. There may be others, but there is only one rakı, the knockout champ. One, two, three and you don’t know what hit you. Let me tell you about the first time rakı knocked me out. My roommates and I were leaving our beautiful Barbaros Bulvari apartment. It was my dream apartment. The Bosphorus as far as the eye could see. A terrace as far as the eye could see. It also had black mold as far as the eye could see. We decided to have a little going away party - meze, of course, and rakı. How many? Well, who counts when you are chatting and reminiscing and you don’t have to worry about getting home, just down the hall to your room. Here’s what happened the next morning. I got up and went to the bathroom. As I walked to the kitchen, it was the strangest thing, Istanbul was somewhat crooked. Everything was off by 45 degrees and as soon as I bent at the waist 45 degrees everything was ok. But when I stood up straight again, all of a sudden İstanbul started to spin, the floor began to rock like a ferry on the Bosphorus, and everything else was moving too. So I threw myself on the couch and stayed there 8 hours staring at the blank TV screen. My arms were too heavy to lift up the remote or even to cover my ears because the dust was falling so loudly. The next night I felt somewhat better.

So you can say I had learned my lesson and when my friends came from New York, Ezgi had a new saying for all of us. Did I listen? I wanted to. Really, I did. I had two glasses, but we needed to finish the bottle. I had about a quarter of a glass more. I was fine until I got home to Yeniköy and got into bed. Round and round went my bedroom. Up and down went my stomach. I closed my eyes. Rakı had knocked me out again, because that’s the way rakı rolls. I’ve warned you now. Don’t say I didn’t. When you get into the ring with rakı, remember make it only two rounds or you’re going down, baby.

Now if I had mad skillz (yeah, skillz), I would change it to say 'Gonna Fall Now - The Theme from Rakı', but you can imagine that for yourself, right?

Dear Copyeditor,

It’s time we had a talk. As you know, I have been writing a blog since May. That makes ten months that I have been struggling with your “work”. When I write a blog piece, I give it all I have. I want to make it funny and interesting and fun. Writing gives me a lot of pleasure and I hope it gives my readers pleasure as well. I also want my writing to be the best it can be. I check what I write, then I double-check it and triple-check it for mistakes. After all that, I send it off and you “edit” it. It’s not gone well.

In my second piece, The Secret Garden, you decided what I had written needed quotes and you added them. Unfortunately, you added them haphazardly, using quotes in the first part of my piece and not in the second.

Here is what I wrote to my editor D1 at the time:

I see that The Secret Garden is now live and I have posted it to my Facebook profile. Unfortunately, I am not very happy because I see that quotes were added to the story. As I have mentioned it is important to me to see any changes to the story before it goes live - even if it is a matter of quotation marks, first of all because there are several errors that your copy editor [sic] made in using the quotation marks. And even more importantly, these are errors I would not as a writer/editor have made if I had decided to use quotes.

I prefer that you remove the quotations marks that were added, but if you decide to keep them in please be aware that when using quotations marks within a quote that those quotes that are enclosed within the quote now have single marks, as shown here:

"You go alone because if you go with someone they will say, 'Look at this.' 'Look at this.' You just go..."

And by the logic of adding quotes to my piece, then this line should also be in quotes:

"This moment makes me real, but just this moment not before or after."

Also, it would not be necessary to have each individual paragraph have an opening and close quote, since quotes can actually be more than one paragraph long.

I am not averse to having my work edited because as an editor I know the importance of having another set of eyes on the work. As a professional I understand that, and I have asked to see the edits because it is important that my work look professional, especially since it has always been throughout the many years I have worked online.

I knew that these kinds of mistakes did not bode well for me. My editors, both D1 and D2, allowed me to approve the edits before they went live. At one point, I got so frustrated with your “work”, I asked that my work go on the site unedited. I was told when I signed my blogger agreement I gave the company permission to edit my posts. While this is true, editing means you catch my mistakes and fix them, not add your own (as you have consistently done with your “edits”, which is a point I have had to make to both D1 and D2). Here are some mistakes I made in Turkish is Hard that you did not catch:

1. A comma should be added OUTside the single quote of 'smile and point',

2. A comma should go after the parenthetical phrase büyük and küçük (do you really want to know?),

3. The commas after heels-over-head and masa should be taken out since my usage earlier in the piece does not follow the serial comma format - and the standard journalistic form is usally [sic] not to use a serial comma. (AP Stylebook)

Recently, I discovered that you are, in fact, a native English speaker. Believe me, for all these months I had assumed that English was your second language. This information makes your mistakes all the more grievous. You need to do better.

I’ve looked you up on social media. I’ve looked at your LinkedIn profile and from that alone I know you are not qualified to be a copyeditor or an editor. It’s true that you are young and we all have to gain experience. Unfortunately, you do not have a grasp of the basic rules of English. Any third grader can find the mistake in this sentence describing your work: “Edits breaking news content for the publications website.” A more experienced reader would take issue with your inconsistent and whimsical use of hyphenated adjectives throughout that page. This is how you present yourself professionally.

That is why it is so galling to have this sentence:

On that card should be the saying my wise friend and bff, Ezgi, coined about rakı.

changed to: On that card should be printed the saying of my wise friend, Ezgi, coined about rakı.

and then to: “On that card should be printed the saying of my wise bff, Ezgi, coined about rakı.”

And have you insist that it is grammatically correct. (Not so, check here.)

It’s been ten months of this kind of thing and I am tired. I write because I am a writer and I have a passion for writing. I am not paid for the work I do. I do it because one day I want to be paid for the work I do. Honestly, it’s been a struggle. I know I am good and have worked very, very hard to get to where I am. I’d like to have an editor who helps me look better. I cannot catch all my mistakes and I would like to look damn-near perfect in print. I have something to say. I want to say it well and in my own voice. When I looked you up on Twitter your quote says that you are a “[m]ultimedia journalist traversing the world, sharing the stories of those whose voices are struggling to be heard.” I find that really hard to swallow along with your inept “editing”.

Because when I write a line like:

Use that thing your anne gave you.

and you change it to:

Use that thing your mom gave you.

It tells me two things. One, that you have no ear for voice and two, you have a tin ear for the vernacular as well.

I am frustrated, I’m very angry and I am tired of doing my job (writing), then editing my own pieces, and then editing and correcting your mistakes. Does that seem fair to you? I’m not getting paid for this, but you are. That’s why I am telling you, you need to do better. You need to step up or step out of copyediting. Learn the rules of grammar and punctuation, check and double-check your work and be consistent. If you don’t know something, look it up or ask someone more experienced. You have a lot to learn. I suggest you start today.