If you could imagine a TV show you’d want to watch what would it be like?
Deron asked if I’d be willing to do a weekly update highlighting some of the stuff from the other places I post things. I said yes, especially because it sounded like a few others might be doing the same thing, which I know I would really enjoy. So, here goes. I’ll show you mine if… you know.
The main thing I’ve been throwing internet time at is a Tumblr where I post writing prompts.
Tussel kept the pedal to the floor, pushing through resistance. The dusky, snow-blown scenery in his frost-glazed periphery, rushing and slowing as gusting wind pushed against him. Tussel’s car the beleaguered transport toward a what he could not yet name a why for.
Troy Davis died yesterday by the hand of justice. Many factions fought both sides. When does truth lie?
Tussel bore left on the wye West–North, West-northish. Nosing his old de Ville into wind-chill rushing across glacial tundra and down, from a thousand miles ahead. Forty-five miles an hour, nine miles a gallon, Tussel gripped the wheel, leaned into the accelerator, pressing the head-wind.
I already screwed up. They’re not “self-contained.”
Well, it seems an appropriate response to a new condition in writing: With an unprecedented amount of available text, our problem is not needing to write more of it; instead, we must learn to negotiate the vast quantity that exists. How I make my way through this thicket of information — how I manage it, parse it, organize and distribute it — is what distinguishes my writing from yours.
Before I can tell my story, I’ll need an old pickup truck. Ford or Chevy, it doesn’t matter. Not a Dodge. A little rust around the wheel wells is fine, but not so much of it that the fenders are flapping like a killdeer’s wings. Faded, powdery two-tone paint is acceptable. An old comforter covering the duct tape covering the high-mileage driver’s seat is okay, too. The truck should graze in clover and timothy up past the hubcaps. Yes, the windshield is cracked.
Kenneth Goldsmith in The Chronicle Review:
For the past several years, I’ve taught a class at the University of Pennsylvania called “Uncreative Writing.” In it, students are penalized for showing any shred of originality and creativity. Instead they are rewarded for plagiarism, identity theft, repurposing papers, patchwriting, sampling, plundering, and stealing. Not surprisingly, they thrive. Suddenly what they’ve surreptitiously become expert at is brought out into the open and explored in a safe environment, reframed in terms of responsibility instead of recklessness.
I don’t mean to end on a crushing note. There’s huge value in internet publishing beyond its minute potential for saving you from ever needing “a real job.” But for a while I thought it would have that potential for me and it didn’t. Instead, what I got was an unexpected community of people to learn from, and a chance to work with people like Lloyd. People interested in making good stuff on the internet, even if it never gets us anything. That’s the reason to try your hand at web-publishing: it’s a beach-head onto the wider world of substantive accomplishment and relationships than any Twitter account or Facebook page is. But it hardly guarantees you of anything but a modest square of sand.
When I sit down to work, I keep a small bowl of garlic croutons on my desk. These are little rewards for good ideas and strong lines, Pavlovian pellets to keep my spirits up. Recently, I began to wonder what fuel writers have relied on, and the answers turned out to be all over the culinary map.
Slam dunkin like Shaquille O’Neal, if he wrote informative airctles.
Way to go on this essay, hleeped a ton.
In my ongoing quest to find college money, I came across a work related email listing all the scholarships available to undocumentated workers. Mentioned in this list was the Ayn Rand Foundation writing competition. So flock, has anyone read an Ayn Rand novel that is worth writing an essay in hopes of getting scholarship money?
The programming has shifted to music we hear before the scene has transitioned.
Bobo is still asleep. The lights shine against the trees and vines.
Something twitches in the leaves, and a deer moves slowly into the light, staring back, eyes red, momentarily blinded.
Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.
There, it was only place that could
claim purpose, and it didn’t.
Start again, start again, start again.
Look at starting. Look away.
That sound–a limb moving in
light wind, faintly touching
shingles on the roof.
The bird compared its feet.
So quick bright things come to confusion
We see a van in the woods, midafternoon. The light through the trees and vines is full but not overpowering. It is quiet.
The van is old. Not beat up, worn. Missing hubcaps and faded. It is parked, facing into the woods, the path it made to get there visible behind it.
We hear a voice inside the van before we know who it belongs to.
A discussion of whether the Inca method of archiving information using a system of knotted cords, called khipus, constituted a written language.
Individual khipus seem to have varied widely in color and complexity; most of the surviving examples generally consist of a pencil-thick primary cord, from which hang multiple “pendant” cords. From those pendants hang ancillary cords called “subsidiaries.” One khipu has more than a thousand subsidiary cords. Sixteenth-century eyewitness accounts describe khipucamayocs studying their khipus intensely to access whatever details had been recorded on them. According to Spanish chronicles of the 1560s and 1570s, some khipus appeared to contain information of the sort that other cultures have typically preserved in writing, such as genealogies and songs that praised the king. One Jesuit missionary told of a woman who brought him a khipu on which she had “written a confession of her whole life.”
I stopped being so amenable once my kid starting talking, because I was explaining shit all the time now. “Daddy, why is the sky blue?” “Daddy, how do fish swim?” “Daddy, where shall I keep my secret fears of the world, and tend to them like my private garden?”
Regardless of context, John Gruber speaks the truth:
Why do we put bylines on stories in the first place? Because writers deserve credit, obviously. But bylines also serve the reader. All work is better when it is signed by its creators. Edward Tufte says:
Agencies, departments, and organizations don’t do things — people do things. People’s names should be on things to foster both accountability and pride.
“So?” she said. “Watch my show yet?”
He sees her more now than he ever did when she mattered.
He can’t turn on the television without her big head bitching and moaning about something.
She’s like the Wizard of Affectation and he’s like Dorothy with the broom.
She’ll raise an eyebrow or touch her ear or smile mid-phrase or tilt her head just so and he thinks about the language of her face and about what it took to become fluent in that.
Her voice makes his skin crawl – like stubbing his toe or remembering the time he cut his thumbnail off with a pocket knife (he was making a stick sharp to cook a wiener over a campfire out at the Silent City Cemetery when his buddy John distracted him with a truly amazing feat of hands-free urination and jogging).
“Not yet,” he told her. “But I’ve been meaning to catch it.”
There was weeping and gnashing of teeth tonight.
I said, “Well, I guess this is it.”
She never got good at losing stuff. Not after the Lord took her boy without so much as an explanation.
She sort of flew at me and hung off my neck and I held her up until I reckoned she was done doing that.
“Don’t cry, you,” I whispered. “We have to go now – that’s all.”
“Promise me you’ll come back,” she said, her eyes flickering like ice cubes on a boardwalk.
“I promise,” I told her, but she knowed I was already gone.
I didn’t turn to look but heard her back there for a bit.
Wish I’d played that different now.
McWhorter on the Palin emails:
To get a sense, it helps to see a few of these emails. Because email is written speech, it’s easy to miss artfulness in them. Yet, take this Palin passage: “Even CP has admitted locking up tax rates as Glenn suggests is unacceptable to the legislature, the Alaskan public, this administration, and the Constitution.”
The spelling is flawless—and unlikely to be completely a product of spell-check, which misses errors and often creates others. More to the point, she has an embedded clause (“locking up tax rates”) nested into a main one, with another clause “as Glenn suggests” nested within the embedded one. That’s good old-fashioned grammar school “syntax.” I have known plenty of people with B.A.s who could barely pull it off properly at gunpoint, and several others who would only bother to at gunpoint.
He then goes on to explain why she is facile with the written word and how it speaks to the current, failing models for educational writing.
In honor of Bloomsday yesterday Tim Carmody pointed to this beautiful reading of the Molly Bloom soliloquy at the end of Joyce’s Ulysses.
Josh Rothman says:
In my opinion, the best audio recording of Molly’s soliloquy appears in the Naxos audiobook of the novel; it’s read perfectly by the Irish actress Marcella Riordan. As it happens, you can listen to the last few minutes of her performance on YouTube. Molly thinks about nature and God, recalls her childhood in Gibralter (she’s half Spanish), and relives the moment she accepted her husband’s proposal of marriage.