One Hundred Monkeys in Texas

November 29, 2008

Ray Bradbury as prophet

Filed under: Culture — alancochrum @ 11:44 pm
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“A regrettable situation … for the Yuletide merchants who, toward the last there, as I recall, were beginning to put up holly and sing Noel the day before Halloween.”

— A fictionalized Ambrose Bierce in the short story “The Exiles,”
set in the year 2120 and written in 1950

November 24, 2008

Great work if you can get it

Filed under: Humor,Work — alancochrum @ 6:42 pm
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Today I ran across a posting on a job board seeking a “reality editor.”

I had NO IDEA that was a possible career. Where do I sign up?

November 20, 2008

The writer’s constant difficulty

Filed under: Books,Writing — alancochrum @ 10:57 am
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“You are absolutely right to consider nothing but major problems. My major problem is finding the next word.”

— Flannery O’Connor, June 1963 letter in The Habit of Being

November 19, 2008

Why corporate America needs copy editors

Filed under: Business,Journalism — alancochrum @ 2:55 pm
Tags: ,

I recently received a mailer from a major U.S. entertainment company reminding me that it was time to renew my participation in a particular program. This is a multi-multi-million-dollar company that undoubtedly spent many thousands of dollars to print and mail out these cards.

At the bottom of the card’s front, in all-cap, 24-point type, it said: “Pay’s for itself in just two visits!”

Pay’s. With an apostrophe.

I also recently filled out an electronic job application for an editing position. One of the items said, “Detail your Copy Editing experience” — with the word experience misspelled.

I report; you decide.

November 3, 2008

Wisdom from the tiger

Filed under: Comic strips,Humor,Life — alancochrum @ 7:24 pm
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Second quote for the day:

“The problem with new experiences is that they’re so rarely the ones you choose.”

— Hobbes in “Calvin and Hobbes,” Dec. 17, 1995

Reading this after being laid off gives it a whole new meaning …

Just wondering

Filed under: Humor,Internet — alancochrum @ 2:32 pm
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Would the culture benefit from YouTube-al ligation?

Don’t we all …

Filed under: Books — alancochrum @ 2:04 pm
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Quote for the day:

“I hope that before I die I either mend my manners or have less occasion to employ them.”

an April 1961 letter by Flannery O’Connor in The Habit of Being on what she viewed as her too-harsh response to a letter about her story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”

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
Tags: ,

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
Tags: , , ,

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

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