Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

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Asking a Slightly Less Useless Question Because I Probably Owe It Some Consideration

September 21, 2016

A’ight, fine. Okay.

The thing is that part of the problem is skipping the politics. Here, for instance, is a sentence … er … ah … kind of:

“Relatedly, because the campaign has had to [something something] in order to [something else], their [something goes here] has often been [something you don’t care about].”

Okay, kids: “has had to”.

Anyone? Anyone?

(sigh)

-bd

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Asking a Useless Question for the Good of All Humanity

September 21, 2016

Why is “relatedly” a word?

-bd

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Coffee Quotes

July 6, 2016

Okay, this is fun. (Ha!)

Er … uh … (ahem!)

Right. Anyway, I’m going to give you three quotes―

photo by bd“In order to answer this question, it seems that immigrants in Queens and New Jersey, Catherine the Great, Russian oligarchs, Imperial relics and top auction houses had to all get involved.” (Irina Reyn)

“Someone on Goodreads took the time to write out “Meh” as their whole review. I admire that dedication to sharing your indifference with the whole Internet forever.” (Bob Proehl)

“In my heart, I’m a comedian—not a successful comedian, but one who is both sad and deeply committed to the art.” (Hannah Pittard)

―and then you’re going to go read the rest of Teddy Wayne’s July Q&A with five authors: Jennifer Armstrong, Patrick Flanery, Hannah Pittard, Bob Proehl, and Irina Reyn.

Sound good?

Excellent! Thank ye!

―bd

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Wayne, Teddy. “Life of an author on the internet: ‘Someone on Goodreads took the time to write out ‘Meh’ as their whole review'”. Salon. 5 July 2016.

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Can You Imagine the Rumble?

February 25, 2016

In truth I was not aware of any particular rivalry ‘twixt authors of novels and memoirs, but neither is that definitive … or indicative of pretty much anything. Nonetheless, here we go:

Salon.comBy the end of this treatise on “appropriate choice of vocabulary” and the human impulse to “relativise” emotions, the reader still has no clear sense of how [Catherine] Millet feels about her mother’s suicide or what, if anything, this suicide has to do with her pained relationship with her husband. We learn more in one sentence of [Edouard] Levé’s about both the precise nature of the narrator’s feelings for his dead friend and the complications of intimacy in general.

And while I will not take a side―nor even try to figure out what the sides are, or if they actually exist at all―in Hannah Tennant-Moore’s introspection, I would at least go so far as to note she would seem to have a point with that paragraph.

Yeah, I know. Everybody’s a critic. Doesn’t mean a one of us has an answer. The answer. I mean, you know. An answer? Do I need an umbrella today? “Nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nineteen! Nineteen!” Yeah, you know? It’s an answer.

―bd

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Tennant-Moore, Hannah. “Too real for reality TV — or even memoir: The new novels that dare use fiction to reveal secret truths”. Salon. 14 February 2016.

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Style and the Twenty-First Century

November 26, 2015

I am sorry to drag political writing into this, but it happens to be where the example arises. In truth, you can ignore the politics, inasmuch as that is possible. Writing for Salon, Heather Digby Parton notes:

Huh?The CNN story goes on to interview various scholars who all say that to one degree or another Trump is, indeed, fascistic if not what we used to call “a total fascist.” Historian Rick Perlstein was the first to venture there when he wrote this piece some months back.

It’s hard to understand why this has been so difficult to see. On the day he announced his campaign, Trump openly said ....

As long as I have been aware of Digby, it has been through electronic media. And in the question of the ever-growing online world, I have tended to compare the reading experience to paper; this might well be the wrong context in the twenty-first century. She is good at what she does, but this is a quirk of the new era that continues to defy me.

That truncated second paragraph is not a quote; it is the next paragraph of her narrative. As one raised on paper, the last sentence of that first paragraph just reads strangely to me; without the embedded hyperlink, it makes no sense.

Historian Rick Perlstein was the first to venture there when he wrote this piece some months back.

Or … am I being pedantic?

Maybe I’m just too accustomed to the idea of the Martian eye, or alien anthropologists. Even as we find the internet today, hyperlinks can break. Imagine trying to put the record together sometime in the future.

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Digby Parton, Heather. “The unprecedented nightmare of Donald Trump’s campaign: We’ve openly begun using the F-word in American politics”. Salon. 25 November 2015.

Perlstein, Rick. “Donald Trump and the ‘F-Word'”. The Washington Spectator. 30 September 2015.

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Familiar Desolation

July 23, 2015

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 22 July 2015.Ever have one of those days?

Okay, here’s another one. Ever have that urge to do the old Bugs Bunny bit with Yosemite Sam, the one about okay I’ll shut up because I’m not the type of guy who keeps on blabbing after someone tells me to shut up … Shut up shuttin’ up!

It was that or the bit about doing the Whatchamacallit advert, and you do the “What’s right?” part, except do it in Scooby Doo’s voice. You know, one of those random things that comes up during the set break at a Phish show. Never mind.

Sometimes writer’s block is best. Just ask Adam.

―bd

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Huber, Adam. “Writer’s Blockhead”. Bug Martini. 22 July 2015.

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The Story, and the Stories Behind the Story

May 8, 2015

Alright, easy enough. In no particular order, except, well, it seems a reasonable enough order:

'My Life Is a Joke', by Sheila Heti (Illustration by Mark Smith for The New Yorker)“My Life Is a Joke”, a short story by Sheila Heti, published in The New Yorker, 11 May 2015.

“Sheila Heti’s Short Story in the New Yorker This Week Only Exists Because of Hugo House”, by Christopher Frizzelle of The Stranger, 6 May 2015.

“Good Writing Matters: A Conversation With Tree Swenson, the Director of Seattle’s Hugo House”, by Russell C. Smith and Michael Foster for Huffington Post, 9 December 2014.

“Seattle Dispatch: The Richard Hugo House”, by Ming Holden for Huffington Post, 9 July 2010

• And after all that I would be remiss if I didn’t point to Hugo House itself.

True, this one’s up in my corner of the world, but remember that good writing is everywhere, and always waiting. And something goes here about a village, or how it could be you, or … or … er … right. Anyway, have fun.

―bd

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But How Could I Not Mention It?

April 29, 2015

Raymond Carver

So here’s a question: Do I promote a contest with an entry fee?

Or perhaps the entry fee ($15-17) isn’t so substantial for the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest via Carve magazine.

Six-thousand words, maximum, with prizes ranging from $125 to $1,000. Deadline is 15 May.

Right. Have at it. I have no affiliation with this magazine or contest, but won’t mention this sort of thing again if people object. Meanwhile, it’s Raymond Carver. It’s short stories. It’s a contest. It’s a chance.

Go. Do. Write.

―bd

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Stick Figures and Stories

April 23, 2015

Randall Munroe.  "PermaCal".  xkcd #1514.  19 April 2015.It is not unheard of to sit motionless in a moment of private dazzle over the most ridiculous of details, thinking, somebody had to draw that! And, yes, it is true that better writers can give animators a reason to draw pretty much anything. Never mind.

Meanwhile, when one’s business is drawing stillframes of stick figures, it almost makes sense that somebody took the time to draw it. To wit, a metajoke from Randall Munroe:

The flood of PermaCalNTP leap-second notifications was bad enough, but when people started asking for millisecond resolution, the resulting DDOS brought down the internet.

So, yeah. The cartoon itself is obviously one of those ideas that strikes a writer, and if his medium happens to be stick-figure cartoons—one-panel wonders welcome!―the only remaining question is why would he not do the bit.

Yet, this is also one of those occasions when it seems like the whole point is the metajoke. As in, you know, that whole cartoon exists so he can deliver the DDOS joke.

Maybe. It’s as good a speculation as any other. But consider the stories we tell.

No, really. Consider the world that goes into that joke. Consider the users―the consumers, the people―who could make that happen. And, well, what is up with their stories? What does life look like in that condition?

Really, even the metajoke was inevitable, one way or another. The rest is just luck of the draw. Somebody thought of it, and somebody had to draw it. Even stick figures tell stories. Pretty cool, eh?

―bd

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Munroe, Randall. “PermaCal”. xkcd #1514. 19 April 2015.

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They Rises

April 15, 2015

The ACES conference is getting more attention; we had cause to take a moment in order to wonder about pet peeves, but one of those questions persists. Ben Zimmer explains for Wall Street Journal readers why copy editors need to get over themselves and accept the “singular they”.

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 1 April 2015.According to standard grammar, “they” and its related forms can only agree with plural antecedents. But English sorely lacks a gender-neutral singular third-person pronoun, and “they” has for centuries been pressed into service for that purpose, much to the grammarians’ chagrin. Now, it seems, those who have held the line against singular “they” may be easing their stance.

Mixed feelings are fair enough; my objection to the singular they is simply that while the larger academic argument about the lack of a gender-neutral singular third-person pronoun is exactly useful, it is also true that the singular “they” has always, in my experience, been simply about sloth, and much like “transition” as a verb, is intended to improve people’s vocabularies by reducing them.

I cannot speak for the copy editors; I do not and cannot count myself among their numbers. Still, though, if the increasing acceptance of the singular they Mr. Zimmer suggests is actually occurring, we can still expect our manuscripts to flame with red ink over that many of our singular theys. If this is the reason we should adopt the term, then let us adopt the term; but let us not replace “he” and “she” entirely. The evolution of language is supposed to improve communication, not muck it all up.

―bd

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Image note: Detail of Bug Martini by Adam Huber, 1 April 2015.

Zimmer, Ben. “Can ‘They’ Be Accepted as a Singular Pronoun?” The Wall Street Journal. 10 April 2015.