Paper books rool, OK!

One more advantage of paper books. Once upon a time before e-book readers, on an upcountry excursion in Burma, I was smitten with acute diarrhea in a land without toilet paper. But I was equipped with a fat paperback on Chinese history and politics. Over the next few days an assortment of conveyances jounced me along back-country roads as I attempted to learn about China fast enough to stay ahead of immediate needs for paper. I never did get to … Read more

Starbucks and the social construction of reality

Sara and I are having breakfast at Starbucks. Being a kee niaow species of curmudgeon, I’m complaining about everything from the prices to the clonish docking of people and their digital devices. Discerning impatience in her manner, I eventually desist.

“Give me a break,” she says, going on to explain that Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee; it sells a lifestyle experience, and I should dummy up about it, she’s trying to relax.

Ah, I reply. So we’re banking some sort of … Read more

Graphically engaging: The sequel

Has anyone else noticed what’s happening with skirts and short-shorts around Bangkok? (Or are writers just unusually perceptive?) Are there such things as benign epidemics?

Haikus are so much easier to write than novels. Of course the commercial prospects, including their chances on the Big Screen, are even more uncertain. Whatever. Here’s what I’m going to call a mixed-media haiku.

A spiritual (to be sung with full chorus)

God is there in the hemlines

Ascending, praise be,

Heavenwards. Oh, Lord.

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Terminating terminal preposition bloggers

And another stereotype bites the dust. The language mavens are getting feistier, siccing hit squads on people who annoy them, in this case those who post items saying how ending a sentence with a preposition is okay, pace gangs of tsking grammarians from another age roaming our streets. The problem is, say the Language Log hosts, they get the same darned thing, again and again, and they’re sick of it. From now on, in fact, offenders will themselves be … Read more

E-readers need serendipity buttons

One burning issue du jour concerns the relative merits of Kindles and iPads. But rarely, now, does discussion swing around to the real advantages of traditional paper books.

If only paper books could perform word searches, eh? How I wished for the missing function when I went looking for a passage I dimly remembered reading somewhere—something to the effect that night air was sweating the fragrance of jasmine. I wanted to use something dangerously similar in a story I was … Read more

Sky gravid with precipitate disaster II: The haiku

In the interests of conciseness, a fundamental rule of good writing style, and seeing how much Jack likes my turns of phrase, I’ve converted much of my lengthy “Licking doorknobs” post of 19 June — a tribute to investors and  financial analysts everywhere — into a haiku:

Dark skies gravid with

Precipitate disaster.

Bears sail arks of gold.

Hey, it’s got 17 syllables. What more do you expect? Maybe Jack or his “nameless scrivener” can tell me if Read more