Murder your darlings: Writing rule of style du jour

 

johnson portrait
Murder your darlings

Read your own compositions, and when you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.

Samuel Johnson, from James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, 1791

 

Excellent advice. (I once presented this maxim to a writing class, trying to remember which great man had originally proposed it. In fact, half the great writers in history have said the same thing in one way or another.)

Lose a few chapters, gain Read more

Phobia or plain, commonsensical fear?

Do we need a word for the irrational fear of Trump policy initiatives (otherwise described as trump tweets‘tweets’)? Maybe not. Many will argue that such a fear is in no way irrational, and hence may not be properly described as a phobia.

Whatever. I hereby present three phobias I’ve mentioned before on this blogsite. All three, I’ll suggest, will serve while we search for a more Trump-specific expression.

“Trump?” Sara looks at me with concern. “Isn’t there anything else to talk … Read more

Do goldfish suffer paranoia?

bigdataweb

From the time you get up till the time you go to sleep—even beyond that, if you use a digital sleep tracker—the average twenty-first-century citizen is subject to constant surveillance, caught in a interrogative crossfire, a sticky network fixing your locational, attitudinal and general behavioral spoor 24/7, holding it for the digital spiders that come to collect all this lovely data and cart it off to Big Data centers for digestion and construal in ways that help the spider collective … Read more

God serves notice on Mel Brooks

mel brooks portraitItems overheard on BBC radio this morning: Japan is forbidding entry to anyone with tattoos; and Argentina is suffering a plague of beavers, a non-native species that has has changed water drainage patterns sufficiently that native plant species are going locally extinct. All this comes hot on the heels of Trump winning the US presidential election, and I take it to be further evidence of space-time dimensional slips that have us careening from one progressively less adjacent parallel universe to … Read more

Outsource our minds? What a good idea!

pre-internet boredom xkcdThe times, they are a-changin’.

Old news. But these days our technology transforms our environment, both external and internal, at an ever-accelerating rate. And we aren’t always conscious of how much or how fast we ourselves are changing in response to this.

Here’s just one example. More and more, people are consulting smartphones and tablets in mid-conversation. Only half attending to whatever any given speaker is on about, they’re digitally retrieving bits of information they think might add value to … Read more

How I quit smoking: And what climate-change deniers can learn from this

 quit smoking

My fix

I’m lucky to be alive. For one thing, I began smoking cigarettes at the age of nine. By the age of 12, I was smoking at least half a pack a day and, by the time I left home at the age of 15, I had a 40-50 a day habit. By the time I was 16 going on 17, I’d smoke another pack if I spent an evening in a tavern. I eventually stopped after 28 years … Read more

Mai pen rai (after all, mere humans could never change the climate)

Are you a Bangkok Old Hand?

bkk old hand coverTry this selection from the quiz, first published in 1993:

In which of the following situations would it be appropriate to use the common Thai expression mai pen rai (“never mind; no problem”)?

(a) A guest spills a little water on your coffee table.

(b) A waiter accidently dumps your beer into your lap.

(c) You go downstairs one morning in the rainy season and find that those of your possessions that float are

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What’s lurking beneath *your* garden?

 

Rude revision to one’s life plans: Florida man disappears with bedroom into sinkhole.

The news these days is enough to have us all hiding under our beds. Not that this strategem is foolproof, it seems.

 

Other network-newsworthy causes for alarm:

Near miss: asteroid.

Near miss: meteorite shower over Russia (largely spares pop. centers).

Near miss: fiscal cliff; sequester still plunging through atmosphere inspiring panic in many quarters.

Etc.

How many other near misses go unnoticed and unremarked? There’s … Read more

Never mind: Still plenty to worry about in 2013

Scratch the Mayan Apocalypse. One less thing to worry about, eh?

Of course we still have all the political issues du jour—left vs right, conservatives/conservatives1/conservatives2 vs liberals/liberals1/liberals2, pro-gay marriage vs anti-gays, legalize ganja vs leave the trade to the mobsters, red vs yellow, orange vs chartreuse, etc., etc.

 

 

 

Beneath these lurk more fundamental issues, among them these:

 

 

 

  • irresponsible and insufficiently restrained corporate éminences grises everywhere you look,
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Central irony of our age?

The central irony of our age: a powerful totalitarian drift promising individual empowerment. (Epigrams’R’Us, eh?)

Individually and collectively, we blithely speed towards a precipice. Or so it seems, of this jet-lagged morning, just back from a computer-, Internet-, and phone-less island sojourn.

Are we modern folk evolving as mere arms & legs for our smartphones? The reality of current tendencies may be even more sinister than that. I’m too sleepy to develop that notion any further just now. Here’s just … Read more