One Hundred Monkeys in Texas

October 27, 2008

Cloaked in shadow

Filed under: Books,Work,Writing — alancochrum @ 10:10 pm
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Late in Frank Herbert’s classic novel Dune, the psychic Paul Atreides spots an unfamiliar face in the entourage of a galactic ruler.

The Emperor’s errand boy, Paul thought. And the thought was a shock crashing across his consciousness because he had seen the Emperor in uncounted associations spread across the possible futures — but never once had Count Fenring appeared within those prescient visions. …

“Something in his own secretive depths stayed the Count [later], and he glimpsed briefly, inadequately, the advantage he held over Paul — a way of hiding from the youth, a furtiveness of person and motives that no eye could penetrate.

“Paul, aware of some of this from the way the time nexus boiled, understood at last why he had never seen Fenring along the webs of prescience. Fenring was one of the might-have-beens, an almost-Kwisatz Haderach … his talent concentrated into furtiveness and inner seclusion. A deep compassion for the Count flowed through Paul, the first sense of brotherhood he’d ever experienced.”

I identify with the count. In some ways, I am always more comfortable in the background — if I’m going to be out in front, I like it to be on my terms. (And yes, it is sort of counterintuitive for a sometime columnist and book critic to be that way, but … what can I say? There it is.)

And oddly enough, I find this trait to be handy when I put on my blogging hat these days.

The Internet seems to bring out a certain mental incoherence in some people, particularly younger ones. They metaphorically (and sometimes literally) strip down to their birthday suit in terms of personal revelations, leaving the rest of us slack-jawed and thinking: “They do understand, don’t they, that a gazillion people can see this? And that once it’s out there, you can never erase it?” Apparently discretion is not the better part of valor in some people’s books.

At the moment I find myself caught between two imperatives. On the one hand, I am blogging, tossing my two cents out onto the street like alms in reverse. On the other hand, I am looking for a new job in a professional world in which I must assume that one of the first things that any halfway interested employer will do is run my name through an electronic search and see what pops up.

So I am forced to think twice — yea, thrice — about anything I might post. If I gripe about an unpleasant job-search experience, well, the person responsible might see it. That might come back to bite me. On the other hand, a specific reference to a pleasant experience might tip a different party off to the fact that I’m interested in some other job.

So it’s actually rather handy to be someone with a liking for being only half-seen, with no urge to lay it all out for everyone. It makes blogging harder but restraint much easier.

October 14, 2008

Tell us what you really think, Miz Flannery

Filed under: Books,Writing — alancochrum @ 4:16 pm
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So I’m about two-thirds of my way through The Habit of Being, the several-times-previously-referred-to collection of letters by Flannery O’Connor, and I run into this in a missive from May 1960:

“I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.”

O’Connor doesn’t elaborate — at least in this collection — on what she found so offensive about Rand’s writing. They certainly were of differing minds about religion, O’Connor being a devout Catholic and faith being an F-word to Rand.

The ironic thing is O’Connor’s comparison of Rand to Spillane, given that the latter two liked each other’s work. Nathaniel Branden writes in his memoir Judgment Day about the period after the 1957 publication of Rand’s massive novel Atlas Shrugged:

“Ayn admired the ‘black-and-white moral absolutism’ of Spillane’s writing and also felt he was underappreciated as a stylist. ‘Granted his writing is uneven,’ she said, ‘and some passages are crude, but his descriptions at their best are excellent. Compare his descriptions of New York City in One Lonely Night with Thomas Wolfe’s descriptions — and you’ll appreciate the difference between a writer who knows how to make you see and one who just throws adjectives at you.’ I agreed with her, at least to some extent, but I was uneasy about the degree of praise she heaped on him publicly, as if she enjoyed shocking everyone — or as if she wanted to do for him what no one had done for her. At that time liberal reviewers went literally berserk on the subject of Mickey Spillane; I would not have imagined that a writer of thrillers could push so many hostile buttons.”

I have yet to read O’Connor’s fiction. But after reading a good number of her letters and a considerable amount of Rand’s work, I know which of the two I find more congenial.

October 7, 2008

None of that around here

Filed under: Christianity,Spirituality — alancochrum @ 9:28 am
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Quote for the day:

“I attended a Christian college at a time when a sister school, Moody Bible Institute, posted instructions on what to do in case of ‘Emergencies,’ which they defined as fire, tornado and air raid, bomb threat, emotional upset and/or suicide, sickness or injury, and ‘charismatic activity.'”

— Philip Yancey, Reaching for the Invisible God

Passing through ripples in time

Filed under: Business,Work — alancochrum @ 8:20 am
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I had no idea how off my clock was.

I spent almost twenty-five years in the newspaper business. That meant that every 24 hours, we were putting out a new product. (My last paper had an afternoon edition for part of my tenure, so you could say it was every 12 hours, but that didn’t really affect me.)

And in my part of the paper, planning was almost exclusively short-range — very short-range. Generally speaking, a week or so at the most. Definite decisions about the next day’s page were made less than 12 hours before it was sent to the presses. (Now, of course, with cable TV and Web pages, a once-a-day news cycle is a dinosaur. But I digress.)

Stepping out of that environment and into my current job-hunting situation is like going through a time warp. All of a sudden, everything … has … slow…ed … doowwnnn …

I recently received one of those “Thanks, but we decided to go with another applicant” notes. (Make no mistake — it was nice to get the note. At least I know what happened. These days, e-mailing a job application is like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s verse: “I shot an arrow into the air / It fell to earth, I knew not where.”) The pertinent point: I had applied for this job 10 weeks before.

Of course, the nice thing about the Internet for employers is that it enables you to find all those candidates who otherwise never would have known about your opening. And not having been responsible for hiring decisions, I’m sure that I don’t appreciate all the problems involved.

But after spending half my life in an environment where the time frame for decision-making was usually less than one day, and almost always less than one week, it’s quite a jolt to find myself in one where taking months is not unusual.

Signs of the times

Filed under: Business,Economy — alancochrum @ 7:46 am

Recently spotted in Tarrant County, Texas:

  • At a Sonic restaurant: “Help the economy / Eat here”
  • At a strip shopping center: a small sign with the name of a mortgage company, and immediately above it (presumably referring to a small church/ministry): “Leap of Faith”

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