Thursday, October 13, 2011

We're Back (?) You Decide, People...

Should we return? Do we have anything more worth saying that we haven't already said here a hundred times? We've been so busy for the last year and a half, on so many mind-numbingly cool and compelling things (writing projects, editing, coaching, speaking, you name it) that we unfortunately had to put Working With Words up there on the shelf. What was initially only going to be a week-long pause to refresh (or as my old comrade Jeff Hess -- Yo, Jeff!-- so vividly puts it on a recurring basis, Gone Thinking) turned into a month, then a year, and now more months than I care to count (okay, it's been just over 17 months). Do we feel refreshed? Invigorated? Full of enough subjects, obsessions, riffs and piss & vinegar outbursts we've been aching to share en masse, rather than one by one? Perhaps...

But enough about us. What do you think about us? Help us decide, cherished reader. Shall we or shan't we return to the battlefront? Should this be a wholly new animal, with a different approach, different platform, different personality, different voice? Should it be weekly or twice weekly rather than daily? Should we open it up to multiple writerly voices? Should it be full of inspiring and invigorating video chats, podcasts or perhaps just vivid photos of me thoughtfully scratching myself in my office? Or should we just take a virtual torch to the whole shebang? Share your comments, thoughts, rants, indecipherable mental effluvia, whatever feels appropriate for you. We'll read and consider it all with great interest. Hell, with intense fondness. Okay, you got me: with real love (the kind that's in italics, for reasons not entirely apparent to the naked eye). After all, gentle readers and friends, I found the old saying to be bracingly true: absence makes the heart grow fonder. How we've missed talking to you here. So here's your chance to do some talking right back, via the comments section. Let 'er rip...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Carlo Takes Note Of
Cindy's Anniversary

I loved this story for its sedimentary layers of personal connections. It was written by an old friend and colleague, about an old friend and colleague (about whom we've written often here), and it appeared in a new online pub established by yet another old journalism comrade. The result made us smile. Anyway, I hope you'll stop by the Beachland Ballroom sometime and wish Cindy a happy anniversary yourself. The person and the place are eminently worth the visit.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Our Favorite Book
Title, Part 24

This month the top slot goes to a book with the oddly appealing title God Explained in a Taxi Ride (has anyone read it?). The runner-up is not quite so concise, but it also has an odd appeal to the eye and ear, at least for me: Getting Naked Again--Dating, Romance, Sex & Love When You've Been Divorced, Widowed, Dumped or Distracted. You can review earlier OFBTs here. As always, feel free to comment on these, share your own favorites, tell us we're half-baked nitwits or ignore us completely. After all, you're in control, people. We're just the hired help around here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Power of Word of Mouth

First, my friend Amy Mac kept telling me about it, and how people would stand in long lines to get in to the Lakewood location. Then word came it would be opening another location on my side of town, in Cleveland Heights. And now, Twitter is alive with breathless reports that the signage is actually going up as we speak. What's all the fuss about? A restaurant called Melt Bar & Grill, reputed to be one of the greatest and most creative purveyors of cheese-based sandwiches in the history of cheese-based sandwiches. I'm quite sure there have been admiring restaurant reviews galore, but I haven't seen them. What I have noticed with great interest is all the excitement and conversation about the place from people I know, like and trust. And that's more than enough for me. Stay tuned for a report on our first dining experience there. In fact, why don't you join me? The best comment on this string wins a free lunch (with me) there, at our earliest mutual convenience. A distinguished panel of judges is standing by. Meanwhile, my apologies to those readers outside the region. Still, we'd love to also hear your thoughts about the power of viral marketing--with restaurants, or any other damn thing you care to sound off about.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Teaching Others to Fish By Helping
Them Reveal Their Own Inner Riches

'The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.'
--British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Humor That Cuts a Bit Too Close
To the Actual Truth to Be Funny

The satirical Onion newspaper offers this take on the sluggish job market for new college graduates. We'd laugh, except for the fact that behind the humor lies a sea of actual pain for millions of young people eager to find work. The saddest part of all is that your first job after college tends to set your expectations for the world of work over one's entire career. Let's hope this situation turns around soon. Meanwhile, there are plenty of ways to help, besides pointing folks to the Wall Street Journal's thought-provoking career section, which is always rich in actionable insights. This piece outlines five tangible things you can do to help a friend or contact who's hunting for a job. They all apply equally to recent graduates looking for their first career position. We'd love to hear your stories of how you or others are helping, or perhaps being helped.

Friday, March 19, 2010

It Mostly Depends On
Your Preconceptions

'The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.'
--Leo Tolstoy, as quoted in the opening of Michael Lewis's new book on the near-meltdown of financial markets. You can review an earlier Tolstoy mention here and a prior mention of Lewis here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Happy Irish Day

'My Irish side is craving the Guinness I'll have at 4pm. My Ukrainian side clipped the recipe for Lola's Beef Cheek Pierogis in today's PD.'
--our favorite St. Patrick's day-related comment, noticed on the Twitter feed of a lively young woman who was nice enough to coach a friend of ours in her job search. We think Irish and Ukranian is a pretty good mix. Okay, now it's your turn.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Few Things We Couldn't Help Noticing

The Next Big Things: home tests for sperm count (gentlemen, drop your drawers). After that: using brain scans to help sell you things. A brave new world, isn't it?

Gender Balance. Not long ago, we brought you word of some memorable movie dresses. So for some gender balance, GQ mag takes a look at its 50 most stylish Hollywood leading men. Favorites, anyone?

One Hundred Places...In Italy every woman should go. Do drop us a postcard if you're there, will you?

Do Me a Favor, If You Would. Someone sent me this academic site from Penn State about language development and related topics. I haven't spent enough time on it to tell if it's worth adding to my list of places to occasionally graze. So I'm up for your suggestions on that.

Gone But Not Forgotten. Someone compiled their list of favorite out-of-print books, which got me to thinking: which would I add to that list? None came to mind immediately. You?

Obnoxious Commercial Pitchwomen. I can't decide (do you notice a theme here? I'm just damn undecisive lately) where Flo, the chipper character in all those Progressive Insurance ads, fits on my list of commercial pitch people I'd just as soon do without ever seeing again. The thought of appearing in a commercial with her left me a tad cold. On the other hand, when it comes to obnoxiousness, she's got quite a ways to go before she could ever compete with those jilted cave men that are somehow supposed to make me want to do business with Geico Insurance. That wins my vote, hands down, for dumbest ad campaign in history. All the brain scans in the world couldn't change my mind about that one.

Finally, We End on a High Note...With this look back at an important moment in Abe Lincoln's career. Even at 201 years of age, old Abe still somehow always manages to raise our spirits.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Favorite News Photo & Video of the Week

A 42,000-year-old baby wooly mammoth, preserved intact by the Siberian permafrost. Whether you're an animal lover, a science person or just into history and archeology, this is a photo and an accompanying story almost guaranteed to draw your attention. It certainly got mine. And speaking of science, you seriously need to check out this video. It gives the lie to the notion of humorless scientists, grimly laboring away in their lab. We'd love to hear your thoughts about either or both of these.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Stop the Presses!

Karl Rove's new book contains serial falsehoods. Who would have thought such a thing was possible? You can review earlier STPs here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

'Mere Knowledge
Is Not Enough'

'Man has two windows to his mind: through one he can see his own self as it is; through the other, he can see what it ought to be. It is our task to analyze and explore the body, the brain and the mind of man separately. But if we stop here, we derive no benefit despite our scientific knowledge. It is necessary to know about the evil effects of injustice, wickedness, vanity and the like, and the disaster they spell where the three are found together. And mere knowledge is not enough; it should be followed by appropriate action. An ethical idea is like an architect's plan.'
--Gandhi. You can review earlier mentions of him here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Please Join Me Next Week for a Session
On Using Linkedin To Build Your Network

I welcome readers from the Northeast Ohio region to join me next Tuesday evening for a seminar at the Beachwood Library on using Linkedin to build and maintain your human network. I've written about the power of this unique virtual tool a little in the past, and it will no doubt come up again. Meanwhile, I'm pleased that so many readers have taken me up on my invitation to connect there as well. I hope others will as the spirit moves them. And naturally, I'd love to renew acquaintances and/or meet some of you next week in Beachwood.
UPDATE: I'm told the library has closed registration for this event because 80 folks have signed up, and there's no more room at the inn. The power of Linkedin once more! But my apologies to anyone who wanted to come and couldn't. I'll be sure to do this again somewhere, soon.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Best Lead of the Month

'Last summer in Seattle, Starbucks opened 15th Avenue and Tea, an unbranded café featuring “small batch coffees sourced from individually owned farms” and a variety of fussy brewing methods designed to appeal to those connoisseurs who believe a cup of $4 coffee ought to be at least as complicated to make as a Big Mac. Live music is provided by a small-batch indie rock piano band sourced from a tiny town in Wisconsin. There’s an in-house “tea master,” and occasional outbreaks of poetry. Starbucks is 39 years old now, and like a lot of 39-year-olds, especially those who’ve experienced great success in their salad years but are beginning to wonder if they’ve lost their touch, it’s having a bit of an identity crisis.'
--from a splendid little piece in the libertarian movement's bible, Reason magazine, on the Starbucks chain's mid-life crisis. The San Francisco-based writer of the piece, Greg Beato, always seems to have his name attached to good writing in various venues. Our runner-up this month goes to this quietly fine New York Times piece about how Einstein's manuscripts that revolutionized physics are now on display in an Israeli museum. You can check out our earlier thoughts on Starbucks here, and review prior best leads here. And finally, class, we're granting extra credit for the first reader who can recall why we pay so much attention to lead paragraphs.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Some Iconic Celluloid Gowns to Remember

We liked the gentle play on words in this L.A. Times magazine headline, and the accompanying article was pretty interesting too. As for our favorite movie gown, we'd have to call it a draw between Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. You?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Why You Really Should Send That Letter

The tongue is prone to lose the way,
not so the pen, for in a letter
we have not better things to say,
but surely say them better.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Lebron: Will He Stay or Go?

The Cavs' Lebron James has formally petitioned the NBA to change his uniform number next year. Veteran NBA watchers say that means he's decided to stay with the Cavs next season, passing up the chance to test free agency, since NBA rules allow him to change uniform numbers without that formal process if he were to join a new team. A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times Off the Dribble hoops blog took a hard look at the possible suitors for his services. You can read part one here and part two here.
UPDATE: Kobe Bryant tells the L.A. Times that the Cavs seem like the hungrier team this year than his own Lakers.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Amen To That

"It is a continuing scandal that this vicious demagogue is kowtowed to by Republican politicians and enabled by nominally respectable media corporations and advertisers."
--Hendrick Hertzberg, writing recently on his New Yorker blog about bully boy drug addict Rush Limbaugh's persistent race-bating.
UPDATE: Bully boy vows on his show to move to Costa Rica if Obama's health care bill is passed, and the liberal Guardian newspaper asks its readers in a poll: should he stay or should he go? Not surprisingly, 85% of respondents, at last count, voted sayonara, Rush.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Humbling Thought for Teachers,
But a Good Reminder for Mentors

'You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it in himself.'
--Galileo Galilei

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Stop the Presses!

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reports that a recent study found that too much TV can hurt children. The shock waves are still vibrating through our body. Gee, we always thought it was perfectly healthy to put the wee ones in front of the tube for 15-16 hours a day. With major news media such as this, who said Canada is the land of the bland? Anyway, you can review earlier iterations of Stop the Presses here, and then we invite you to share your thoughts on the week's most shocking news stories.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Pardon Us While We Try Not to Lose Our Lunch

Sarah Palin, the leading emblem of the return of the American No Nothing movement (you can learn more about its original flowering here) gave us not one but two reasons to cringe this week: Word that she'll be having a book written in her name about "values" and the news that she's shopping some kind of show about her life and times, which will no doubt fit nicely into the idiot culture. Good god, won't this lady just go away and leave us alone?

Monday, March 01, 2010

Our Favorite Book
Title, Part 23

In a modest change of pace, this month's favorite--I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This--A Step-By-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work--doesn't so much win the nod for especially memorable wordplay, but rather for its admirable straightforwardness (the nice cover art doesn't hurt, either). This book title is similar in its crisp directness. As always, we'd love to hear your nominees. Meanwhile, you can review earlier fav book titles here.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


You need not see what someone is doing
to know if it is his vocation.

You have only to watch his eyes;
a cook mixing a sauce, a surgeon

making a primary incision,
a clerk completing a bill of lading,

wear the same rapt expression, forgetting
themselves in a function.

How beautiful it is,
that eye-on-the-object look.
--W.H Auden

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Lost in Translation
Between the Genders

'The word love has by no means the same sense for both sexes, and this is one cause for the serious misunderstandings that divide them.'
--Simone de Beauvoir, author of The Second Sex. You can learn more about her life and work here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Support the Independents, Part 6

'Few independent bookstores are more iconic than Powell's Books. Even readers who've never been to Portland, Oregon, know about the store from its ads in places like the New Yorker, or from its prominent online presence, or from its reputation as the largest new- and used-book store in the world. The "City of Books," as the four-story flagship store on West Burnside is known, occupies an entire city block, and carries more than one million books. The sixty-eight-thousand-square-foot space is divided into nine color-coded rooms, which together house more than 3,500 sections. From the moment you walk in, it feels as if you could find anything there.'
--from a great new piece on one of the country's great independent bookstores, Powell's, in the new issue of Poets & Writers magazine, which we've pointed you to in the past. You can review earlier iterations of our ongoing series about supporting indy bookstores here, and check out my original love song to indy bookshops, posted just months after this blog started, here. If any of this moves you to share your own bookstore stories, we won't be disappointed.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Food for the Hungry Mind

In our continuing quest to understand all sorts of things and all sorts of people, we find ourselves occasionally checking out a weird and wonderful assortment of publications. The habit was first planted nearly 20 years ago, when giant book superstores (first Borders and then Barnes & Noble) brought us the wonders of a giant assortment of publications about nearly any topic you could imagine. A few years after that, the web began serving up a thousand, or perhaps a million, times more than that in terms of variety. We love coming across articles such as this, from a magazine for chief information officers: about the weirdest online niche social networks. Any of these appeal to you?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Seven Ways to Revive Your Marriage

We're not usually given to reading magazines such as Woman's Day, but somehow we happened to come across this piece, and thought it might be useful for some of you. It's hardly rocket science, and if you're married, you've heard it all before in various venues. But it never hurts to hear it again, we figure. Since we're coming up on our 25th wedding anniversary this summer, it seems especially timely.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Good Coaches & Good Editors Are Alike

A few months ago, I posted this vivid quote about the eternal hankering to fiddle with someone else's writing. It prompted an interesting comment string, especially the first question, which I think may have been from an old friend and a former editor of mine (since it was anonymous, I can't be sure). Anyway, I never really got around to answering it completely, but the wonderful questions have lingered in my mind ever since.

This tribute to a recently deceased editor brought it to mind again. While the writer was doing her best to do what we all naturally try to do for understandable reasons--speak well of the dead, especially the newly deceased--the vignette about how this editor had operated brought back to me the universality of all bad editors. They preach, proclaim and order rather than do what all good editors do: teach. They demand instead of persuade. And for those reasons, in the end, they generally fail.

The spirit in which you do things is ultimately what really matters. Good editors, teachers and coaches impart their knowledge with love, and tend to discharge their duties with some measure of warmth. Because they really know what they're doing, they don't have to bluster and demand (which is generally a sign of insecurity rather than mastery). Instead, they draw you into the process through genuine concern and by radiating a feeling that you're colleagues and collaborators in a shared cause.

In the sublimely wonderful new film The Last Station, about the final months of Tolstoy's life (go see it soon), there's a telling moment that makes this point better than I ever could. The bearded bard, by then the most celebrated writer in the world, welcomes his nervous young research assistant by asking about the young man's writing before saying anything about his own work. The young man tears up, overcome by the great man's humility and interest in him. With that moment of warmth and genuine interest in his protege, he's made a convert for life.

I add coaches to this lineup for a particular reason, because they're also teachers (or at least the good ones are). Today's New York Times carried an evocative piece (which I can't seem to find anywhere online) about the late New York Knicks coach Red Holzman's style of teaching. Like all great teachers and coaches, his lessons stayed with his players for the rest of their lives, and touched them not only as players but as people. The thing that comes through most clearly is how much respect he showed for his players. They weren't merely chess pieces for him to move around, but smart people who could be invited to contribute their own ideas to the game. "Holzman preached defense, teamwork and ball movement but gave his players great latitude to figure out the details. His playbook was thin by today's standards, and he asked his team to suggest plays." And now one of his then-players, Phil Jackson, puts those lessons into practice with his own team, the L.A. Lakers. He's become only the most successful NBA coach since Red Auerbach, and the winner of 11 championships.

Now that's the power of good editing, coaching and teaching.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Reading List for Futurists

Okay, I'll admit it: I'm more interested in the past than the future, at least intellectually. It's why I majored in history in college, and history and biography represents the bulk of the books I read. But the future does have its uses, I suppose, since we'll all be there one day, or at least I hope we will. And good magazines such as Good like to help us think about what that future might look like. And so they published this reading list for futurists. If this subject interests you, please feel free to add your own books to that list.
UPDATE: this subject reminded me of this extended conversation Art and Bluster had about science fiction a couple years ago.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Power of Half

This story--about a privileged family that collectively decided to give half its wealth away, and everyone (including the kids) got an equal vote in selling the family's house--has struck a deep chord in these difficult economic times. I first heard about this uniquely inspiring family on NPR, but there's also been a book and plenty of media coverage about their story. We'd love to hear your thoughts about it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Things You Learn By Reading

I never knew until reading this New York Times piece that 125 million people have ITunes accounts (the number is perhaps four or five times larger than I would have guessed). And I never knew until reading this Smart Money article that my home state of Ohio permitted folks 60 and over to attend classes at all public universities for free. Kind of amazing all the things one can learn by reading, isn't it?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tackling the Fear of Self-Employment

Q: Among the big hurdles to self-employment are self-doubt and fear of failure. How did you deal with them, and what's your advice?
A: You know what? I never had fear. What was more fearful for me was going to a job every day that made me unhappy. That was what worried me every day about my future. . . . I know it is an obstacle for a lot of people, and again I think the answer to that is networking, meeting with some people who are in the business that you want to start and finding out how they get past that because it can be scary, especially in these uncertain times.

--from an interview the Plain Dealer recently did with an old writing buddy of mine, Mary Mihaly.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Go For the Heart

'It's easy to fool the mind but it's hard to fool the heart.'
--Al Pacino

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Muscles of Writing
Are Not So Visible

'Writing is an athletic activity. It comes from your whole body, your knees, lungs, spine--all organs and body parts leaning in with you, hovering in concentration over the page. And just like any other sport, it takes practice. Behind the football we see on TV, the players have put in hundreds of hours before the big game. The muscles of writing are not so visible, but they are just as powerful: determination, attention, curiosity, a passionate heart.
--from Natalie Goldberg's Old Friend From Far Away--The Practice of Writing Memoir. If you've never read her 1986 classic, Writing Down the Bones, I urge you to do so soon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How Parents Live On Through
the Memorable Things They Say

'When kids are young, they step on your toes. When they're older, they step on your heart.'
--a lovely thought my friend Don Southard (pictured here), recently shared with me, which his late father had often said. Don is a gifted, nationally recognized veteran science teacher, and a man who says the kinds of things his two children will also remember for the rest of their lives. We'd love to hear the things your loved ones have said that still resonate for you.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Our Favorite Headlines of the Week

We had a bunch lately, so why not share the abundance, we figured? This one nicely plays off the title of Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope. Better yet, the piece contains a sublime phrase that we'll be sure to adopt from now on: "dyspepsia is the new equilibrium." We thought this headline served as a nicely counterintuitive come-hither device to read the piece, and we loved this headline for its playful sense of humor (though this classic Andy Borowitz spoof headline in the Huffington Post really took the prize for sense of humor). This odd headline in the Seattle Times wins the award for countercultural oddity, going out of its way to keep the word 'sex' out of the headline, even when it not only belongs there but is almost misleading without it (now there's a first). We attribute that to metro dailies' prudish sense of rectitude, which is overdone in this case. Finally, we mustn't forget the lowly subhead, which can be raised to a high art in the hands of accomplished headline-writing artists. This subhead in Slate takes the prize for wicked irony. Okay, now it's your turn. Share your thoughts, send your favorite headlines, or just tell us about your bad hair day, if you'd prefer. We like hearing from you, no matter what the message might be. You can also bathe in headline nostalgia by review earlier favorite headlines here.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Is Your Reader
Inside Your Mind?

"My own favorite writer of essays is Emerson. Why is this? Because he writes as if I am inside his mind, a mind that is, as Robert Richardson expressed it, 'on fire.'"
--the poet Mary Oliver, from her introduction to The Best American Essays 2009.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Voice Tumbling Into Your Ear

'Prose should have a flow, the forward momentum of a certain energized weight. It should feel like a voice tumbling into your ear.'
--the late John Updike, in perhaps his last published essay, The Writer in Winter. You can review earlier mentions of the literary lion here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Here's Something You Don't
Always Understand At First

"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."
--the late opera diva Beverly Sills

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Employment vs. Freelance: Pros and Cons

'If you want to make a career of writing, should you look for a full-time job in a company or strike out on your own as a freelancer? Good question. I’ve done both and have come to the conclusion that freelancing is what I like best. I earn good money, set my own hours, and I don’t have to deal with the stress of traffic, corporate politics, and an office full of idiots and suck-ups. Oh, and no ties. I hate ties. I work in jeans and Hawaiian shirts. Yes, I know I’m wearing a tie in my publicity photos, but I did it just that once. And with therapy, I’ve recovered from the experience fairly well. But that’s just me. I know plenty of people who prefer having a writing job working for one company. They like getting a regular paycheck, having a set schedule, and socializing with co-workers every day. Just because freelancing is best for me doesn’t mean it’s best for everyone.'
--from a recent post on the Men With Pens blog.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

You Gotta Be
Tender & Tough

'Each morning I place on my writing table a carnation and a hammer.'
--Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet who we once called the Poet Laureate of Love. Turns out he also believed in mixing a soft heart with a firm discipline for his craft. But then, no real surprises there. Anyway, you can sample his poems here.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Catching Up on the Death
Of the Author of Catcher

J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye, died recently, touching off the felling of many trees in tribute. We can't say we were similarly caught up in all the literary mourning. To the contrary, the guy has always seemed quite creepy to us, with his weirdly gothic insistence on being left alone (if you really want to be left alone, we figure, do something, anything, besides publish a popular book). A preference for quiet and semi-isolation is one thing, and we share that instinct. But he took it to such an extreme that it seemed to border on a mental disorder. Anyway, Gawker has a nice roundup of coverage and tributes to the late author. And Working With Words reader and frequent commenter Kass posted this nice tip of the cap to him. Finally, we remembered this two-year-old piece about Salinger and Catcher by an aquaintance of ours, Anne Trubek, an Oberlin College English professor and prolific writer (her new book will soon be making its debut, and she recently published this interesting piece in the American Prospect about the Langston Hughes house). The Salinger piece was published in an interesting new magazine, Good, which I hope you'll check out a little. She argued that, while the character Holden Caulfield has entered the canon as our 20th century Huck Finn, the book doesn't really deserve the central place it still occupies in the curriculum. At the very least, she wrote, it should share some room with more recent coming-of-age novels.
UPDATE: I should have included this rave from my friend and mentor Bill Gunlocke, who had this to say about Catcher on his blog: "I tried this just now. I opened The Catcher in the Rye randomly to 10 different places and read the first sentence my eyes fell upon. Not one wasn’t interesting. It didn’t surprise me. If it surprises you, you haven’t read it in a while, or maybe you’ve never read it. There’s nothing like it." While you're there, consider taking another couple minutes to read his thoughts on New York's decision to cut library hours.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Group Coupons

In our continuing quest to share ideas consistent with what's being called the New Frugality (you know how hack journalism always puts the word new in front of everything and capitalizes it all)--which is not really new for most people I know--we thought we'd note this interesting website, which harnesses group purchasing power for coupon offers. I haven't really checked it out much yet, but plan to. In the meantime, I was eager to get your input. Does it look worthwhile to you?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Here's One of The Best
Definitions We've Heard

'The purpose of marketing is to make selling superflous.'
--the late management guru Peter Drucker. You can review earlier mentions of the great one here, check out his many books here, and learn a little about his vast intellectual legacy here.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Busting Myths With Style

For decades, Popular Mechanics has been known as a prime destination for geeks. But you don't have to be a geek to appreciate how well the magazine covers its subject, and often in ways that speak to much larger audiences, if only the audience will momentarily suspend its preconceptions of that publication. This wonderful series, Mythbusters Workshop, is as good an example of that as we've seen. It's yet another reminder of how you can sometimes find great journalism and storytelling from the most unexpected sources. We'd love your thoughts.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Our Favorite Blog Name of the Week

Field Notes from the Future has the ring of something that seems worth a look, doesn't it? Our incessant focus on naming/titling things well--be they books, articles or blogs--may strike you as a bit much (and if so, please do tell us). But we think that's half the battle of attracting a reader's attention in these distracted times.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Lebron to be Featured in Super Bowl Ad

The advertising industry bible Ad Age says it's been long in the works, and that it'll feature the NBA's two leading physiques, Lebron and Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, in a reprise of the famous Larry Bird/Michael Jordan commercial that ran during the '93 Super Bowl. You can even see a brief video teaser.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

No, This is Not a Joke
Headline in The Onion

Bristol Palin Sets Up PR Firm. She's 19, by the way. If you're in the market for such senior-level counsel, do give her a call. While we're ordinarily the last ones to rain on anyone's entrepreneurial dreams, and believe that starting as early as possible is generally the right thing to do, this does stretch things a bit.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Meet the Madoff Minions

More than a year after Bernie Madoff's massive ponzi scheme rip-off culminates with his imprisonment, Mother Jones magazine takes a look at what's happened to his inner circle since then. The answer: Nothing much, really. But it got us to wondering: has this story continued to resonate for you, if indeed it ever did? And for readers outside the U.S., has it succeeded in changing your view of America somehow?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

We Can't Decide if This is Useful,
So We Ask Y'All to Help Us Decide

'Visuwords uses Princeton University’s WordNet, an opensource database built by University students and language researchers. Combined with a visualization tool and user interface built from a combination of modern web technologies, Visuwords is available as a free resource to all patrons of the web.'
--from the Visuwords website. Thoughts, anyone?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

On the Need to Find a Fresh Way
To Say Something Quite Familiar

'I am able to say that while I am not ruggedly well, I am not ill enough to excite an undertaker.'
--Mark Twain, in a letter to a friend late in life. We were struck by how familiar this underlying thought was, and yet how novel (and of course humorous) was his way of putting it. We welcome your similar examples.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Ridiculous Sign of the Month

'Become an intellectual for under $20.'
--a sign hanging over a table at Joseph Beth Bookstore. The table contained, among other titles, Dan Brown's potboiler Angels & Demons. Beside the fact that such a book hardly belongs in any such discussion, we take issue with the whole idea that reading any book can make someone an intellectual. Processing the world through one's head, our definition of an intellectual (and one that leaves the door just as wide open to truck drivers as college professors) is really an in-born trait, not something you can acquire through any recommended reading list. But enough about what we think. What do you think about what we think?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Emails From Beyond the Grave

Dearly beloved, let me apologize right now for the fact that I won't be posting anything nor responding to your comments or emails after I've passed on to the next life. I don't happen to know when that will be, but whenever it eventually happens (pray that's later rather than sooner), I won't be using services such as this to continue to do virtual business post-expiration. When I've kicked the can, that's it. Finito. Please consider this my advanced apology. On the other hand, should you want to wipe the slate clean of your social media/Web 2.0 profile while you're still among the living, this ought to help you accomplish the task. Now please, go back to whatever you were doing before this interruption.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Advantage of Belief

'Most people do not believe in anything very much, and our greatest poetry is given to us by those who do.'
--Cyril Connolly, the late British literary critic, whose influence is sometimes compared to his American contemporary, Edmund Wilson. Isn't that sentiment true in just about every aspect of life?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Microlending for the Urban Poor

Since the subject of microlending came up recently in one conversation here (in the context of developmental aid to Haiti), I thought I'd direct your attention to this interesting article about how the microlending community is beginning to turn its attention to the U.S., and particularly to harnessing the hustle and energy of inner city entrepreneurs. If you have a further interest in that subject, check out what is perhaps the leading online microlending platform, Kiva. Then, should the spirit move you, please share your thoughts.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Internet's Effect on the Market
For Freelance Writing & Journalism

'What's sailing away, a decade into the 21st century, is the common conception that writing is a profession -- or at least a skilled craft that should come not only with psychic rewards but with something resembling a living wage. Freelance writing fees -- beginning with the Internet but extending to newspapers and magazines -- have been spiraling downward for a couple of years and reached what appears to be bottom in 2009. The trend has gotten scant attention outside the trade. Maybe that's because we live in a culture that holds journalists in low esteem. Or it could be because so much focus has been put on the massive cutbacks in full-time journalism jobs. An estimated 31,000 writers, editors and others have been jettisoned by newspapers in just the last two years.Today's reality is that much of freelancing has become all too free. Seasoned professionals have seen their income drop by 50% or more as publishers fill the Web's seemingly limitless news hole, drawing on the ever-expanding rank of under-employed writers.'
--from a recent article by the L.A. Times' excellent media reporter, James Rainey. We had many reactions to this piece, but figured y'all should have first crack at commenting.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How to Avoid Gobbledygook Phrases

In our continuing series on small but crucial ways to improve your writing, we've focused on the plague of unneccesary quotation marks and missplaced apostrophes. Today, we turn the spotlight on identifying (and of course then removing) the kinds of gobbledygook phrases that tend to creep into our writing. Thoughts, anyone?

Friday, January 22, 2010

How Kafkaesque...

A woman who recalls knowing Franz Kafka. You can review an earlier mention of the author/mystic and man about town (the town of Prague, that is), who died in 1924, here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Our Favorite Headline of the Week

This surely caught our attention and lured us into reading the story. Would it do the same for you? For its sly irony, this headline deserves at least a nod for runner-up. You can review earlier favorite headlines here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Can You Read Your Way Out of Depression?

This fellow is sure that Saul Bellow's work helped him do just that. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Our Favorite Book Title, Part 22

This month, we're calling it a toss-up. We thought it was a dead heat between two great titles: The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun and Your Butt's in the Wrong Seat: A Manifesto for Public Transportation. The latter is the first-ever e-book we've recognized with this distinction. You can download it for free, as you can all the scores of other books at this remarkable site, which I've only been meaning to recommend for about, oh, two or three years. Anyway, you can review earlier favorite book titles here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Forget Leno & Conan: Just Bring Back Arsenio

We couldn't agree more with what The Root had to say on this topic. At the risk of sounding provincial, it doesn't hurt that Arsenio happens to be a Cleveland native. His iconic moment with Clinton and his sax was merely the most memorable of the show's many high points.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Remembering a Life With the
'Cadence & Fervor of Poetry'

'My dad and I were as different as could be (I made sure of that), but his life had a clarity that I find in poetry. He was a carpenter, and if I close my eyes I can see him, thirtyish, handsome, sawdust in his hair, running a two by four through a circular saw, trimming it, holding it up to the studs, pulling a nail out from between his front teeth, taking the hammer from the loop of his pants where it hung, and pounding in the nail, three whacks, and a tap for good luck. This simple act, repeated a thousand times as he built the house up over our heads, had the cadence and fervor of poetry. He didn't earn his daily bread sitting in a conference room, manipulating people, moving big wads of cash around, spinning a web of hogwash; compared to that, his life was poetry. When he bowed his head and gave thanks before a meal, it was always the same words, the same cadence. When he took a chicken by the legs and laid its neck against the block and lifted the axe and chopped its head, there was a plain cadence to that. I hear that whack in poetry...Poetry is church. What animates poetry is faith, the same faith that moves the builder and the butcher. My dad died in the first-floor bedroom of the house he built and his death had a plain cadence to it. When I brought my three-year-old daughter to see him two weeks before he died, he wriggled his toes under the blanket to make her reach for them and then he withdrew them to make her giggle. He had been making children giggle all his life. His voice and the heat of his life can be found in poetry and nowhere else: poetry is about driving the nail in the pine, killing the chicken, mowing grass, putting luggage into the car, gratitude for food, the laughter of a little girl, about our common life.'
--from Garrison Keillor's introduction to Good Poems for Hard Times. If there has ever been a more eloquent tribute to a parent by a son or daughter, I'm not immediately aware of it. If you know of one, we'd sure like to hear about it, as of course we would also welcome your reactions to this one. And with this post, we're initiating a new policy, which we should have begun long ago: when we link to a book, it will be to the site that helps you find it at an independent bookstore near you, rather than the omnivorous Amazon. As we've said in the past, we all should support the independents!

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Recipe for Staying Fresh

'In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things and happy in small ways.'
--Edith Wharton, the celebrated novelist, whose eventful life stretched from the Civil War to the Great Depression. Her masterpiece (or one of them), The Age of Innocence, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1921. You can review ealier mentions of her
here and here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words,
Especially When It's a Photo Like This

All the endless coverage of the disaster in Haiti didn't really begin hitting home to us in a real way, at least not until we came across this chilling, unforgettable photo, snapped by Juan Barreto of AFP/Getty Images. It's all the reminder we'll ever need of the power of good photojournalism. Meanwhile, we'd love to see the stories, photos or video that affected you, and hear your reactions to this event.
UPDATE: The New Yorker, befitting its status as one of the world's great (if not the greatest) magazines, offers this roundup of Haiti material, a blend of fresh reporting by its sublime staff and golden oldies from its archives, to add the leavening of historical perspective. Hats off to you, Mr. Remnick.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Sublime Frank Deford
On How NY Covets Lebron

We've long admired veteran sportswriter Frank Deford's graceful essays, which can be heard weekly on NPR. This week, he tackled the subject of New York's hankering to land Lebron James, and did so in his usual way, with piercing insights as well as lilting phrases. He makes the interesting argument that with Tiger Woods now out of the sporting picture, Lebron becomes Nike's #1 man, and thus the pressure to be in a media capital is even greater, though he also notes that these days, the world's media comes to Lebron. And he wonders aloud whether the Akron-born superstar would "abandon the unfashionable land of his nativity" for glitzy Gotham. You can learn more about the old warhorse stylist, who first made his name at Sports Illustrated, here.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A Lovely & Concise Thought for the Day

'Science is the poetry of reality.'
--English biologist Richard Dawkins. You can learn more about him at his website, which bills itself as "a clear-thinking oasis." Judging by this line, we'd be hard-pressed to disagree.

Monday, January 04, 2010

An Experiment in Living Simply--In College

This is one of the more uplifting things I came across over the holiday weekend--students at my alma mater, John Carroll University, living simply, in a community that goes several steps beyond the standard dorm environment. You can click on the video to see the whole story. Here's hoping this experiment catches fire and spreads in the new year.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

How Do You Jiggle Your Synapses?

'Educators say that, for adults, one way to nudge neurons in the right direction is to challenge the very assumptions they have worked so hard to accumulate while young. With a brain already full of well-connected pathways, adult learners should “jiggle their synapses a bit” by confronting thoughts that are contrary to their own, says Dr. Taylor, who is 66.'
--from a recent New York Times article on training the aging brain. We liked the reminder about the need to confront thoughts contrary to our own.
UPDATE: With Baby Boomers beginning to hit the retirement age (and with this cohort group being among the most attentive readers) we're beginning to see an avalanche of coverage about how to better maximize our brains. Here are a couple of other recent articles we noticed on this topic (here and here).

Friday, January 01, 2010

A Very Happy New Year To You All

The wife is in India on a long-awaited trip, the OSU Buckeyes just won the Rose Bowl, it's cold and snowy (after rain on Christmas), and I'm home-bound, tending to my son after his recent knee surgery. All in all, a marvelous way to reconnect with the things that really matter, and to silently appreciate all the tremendous blessings that have rained down on me in 2009. But few can really compete with the relationships formed here and the conversations that have taken place. They've somehow touched and informed everything else I do. Here's hoping your holiday weekend is a memorable one. We'd love to hear about your assessment of 2009 and/or your hopes for 2010.
UPDATE: My friend Miles calls holiday-weekend overdosing on TV sports a "sports coma." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I Prefer Reading

'People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.'
--Logan Pearsall Smith. This line brought to mind an earlier sentiment from Marcel Proust.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Keeping You Apprised Of All Things
Awkward in the World of Punctuation

A few months ago, we brought you news about the plague of unnecessary quotation marks, which prompted a lively conversation. Now, we feel duty bound to note its kissing cousin, the missplaced apostrophe. The always-attentive Columbia Journalism Review has the whole sad story. We heartily welcome your thoughts on the matter.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Our Favorite Book
Title, Part 21

Our winner this month: First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process. The nod for runner-up goes to Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, a collection of stories. You can review earlier favorite book titles here, and as always, we invite you to share your favorites.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Truth is Tough

'Truth is tough. It will not break, like a bubble, at a touch; nay, you may kick it about all day like a football, and it will be round and full at evening.'
--Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. He made a previous appearance here two years ago.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

This Wins Our Nod for Most Imaginative
Alternative Street Festival of the Decade

'In Argentina over the weekend, Buenos Aires held its annual Noches de las Liberias--Bookstore Night. The city closes a main avenue, and places sofas and chairs where cars and trucks normally idle. People with books from the many bookstores lining the avenue lounge in the seating, and a festival atmosphere replaces traffic.' NPR has the full story, which you can either read or listen to.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The History of Christmas

Ever wonder how December 25th came to the date on which we celebrate Christmas? I know I have. Luckily, Biblical Archaelogy Review has what seems to me to be perhaps the most authoritative answer I've yet come across.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Few Things to Think About at Christmas

Are you looking for ways to cut out gift-giving in this season? Here's an economic case for doing so. Or, like Frank Costanza, you can simply start your own alternate holiday, involving feats of strength and aluminum poles replacing Christmas trees. Perhaps the best idea of all: be like my friend Dick Clough, and start your own nice annual tradition to mark the holidays. That's what he did 25 years ago, rather than wallowing in misery and loneliness over his divorce, and it's steadily become a larger event, bringing smiles to many. Christmas is of course a time for several layers of memories, so before it's too late, don't forget to gather family stories while you have your family elders close at hand. And in what may be the most charming Christmas story we've yet come across, this touching little tale reminds us not to spoil the magic for those who are determined to hold onto it. Anyway, we'd love to hear your Christmas stories--favorite memories, plans for this year, or whatever else you feel like sharing. Meanwhile, Merry Christmas, everyone.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Best Lead of the Month

'In choosing our teachers,” Garry Wills once observed, “we do not have to depend on lucky accidents—on finding the one person among our contemporaries who has the time and will to enlighten us: the great Academy of the Past is open to all who would use it.” And use it Wills has. There may not be a historian or critic in America of greater breadth—his subjects range from George Washington to Jack Ruby, from Saint Paul and John Wayne to Pius IX and Ronald Reagan—or greater acuity. A former Jesuit seminarian (and still a Catholic), Wills reads Latin and Greek and moves easily across the millennia. Religion, politics, ideology—these are his staples. He was trained as a classicist, but a book about the 37th president (Nixon Agonistes) landed him on the infamous “enemies list.” For Wills, even romance has a scholarly tinge. He met his wife of 50 years, Natalie Cavallo, a flight attendant, on the New York–Washington shuttle in 1957. She had noticed Henri Bergson’s The Two Sources of Morality and Religion in his lap, and asked, “Aren’t you a little too young to be reading that?”'
--from a brief piece on the impressively prolific writer Gary Wills, in the current Vanity Fair. We thought this better captures the man, in but a single paragraph, than most writers could accomplish in thousands of words. You can review earlier best leads here.