Most of my writing about technology, I reserve for my day job. Today, a break from tradition, wherein I run down the software tools I use as a writer for the curious. Read for flavor.Read more
When people talk about "civilization falling apart" or "the death of manners" I can't help but think they are either looking for those things in the wrong place (like, say, a prison or a stockyard), or just sensitizing themselves to those particular offenses against their sensibilities because it gives them something to be good and steamed about.
This isn't me saying that anyone who gets offended is just being touchy. Rather, it's about the way cultivating a sense of offense is insidious.Read more
If you have forty-five minutes or so to kill, you could do far worse with it than to watch this video, in which a number of innaresting postulates are, um, postulated:
Bear in mind, I'm no fan of most of what passes for purportedly counter-intuitive wisdom (BREAK THIS ONE RULE AND YOU TOO CAN THINK AND GROW RICH). This lecture, though, hits on a few things that I can confirm on my own.Read more
One of the lines that gets tossed around about Donald Trump goes something like, "If this person were a fictional character, no one would ever believe in them" or "If this real-life event were a novel, it would be dismissed as implausible".
I think this only says that we haven't begun to explore just how refined and perceptive a good piece of fiction can be. Imagine a novel (or a movie, or a stage play) about an outsized real-life character like Trump. Imagine it embracing all of his maddening and galling contradictions; imagine it actually making sense — emotional sense, human sense — of such a figure. Not glorifying him or justifying him, but seeing him, understanding him, dissecting him without merely sneering or laughing him off.
Still, two things come to mind:
1) We'll probably have to wait a few years before we can do that, and
2) there's far more interesting people who deserve the attention in the short run.
I meet a lot of people who ask me how to become a writer. Some of these people are serious and will eventually go on to write great stuff I’m sure. But most of them want to be A Writer without actually having to write anything. They want what they imagine to be the results of having a book published without putting the work into it. I don’t think most of these folks get it. To me, being a writer is almost like having a disease like alcoholism. It’s a kind of compulsion. If I were to try to stop writing, I think it would be as hard for me to kick the habit as a heroin addict trying to quit smack. I go through withdrawals when I can’t write. This blog is often the result. You’re welcome. If you don’t have that kind of an addiction, you can’t be a writer. And, honestly, you may be much better off.
I suspect the same people who bugged Brad have at some point come along to bug me as well, or maybe vice versa.Read more
From the archives of Harper's comes a remarkably perceptive 1941 article, "Who Goes Nazi?" The premise is simple: those who go Nazi are people who feel, on some level, disenfranchised and dissatisfied. Levels of status or wealth have little to do with it; a frustrated sense of entitlement is everything.Read more
Not long ago, I noted to a friend how certain people with engineering and math backgrounds seem peculiarly susceptible to fringe theorizing of the most stomach-turning sort: crackpot history, conspiracy theory, antisemitism, the whole rotten tamale. What is it that takes someone who really ought to know better and turns them into a dolt blithering nonsense that withers under thirty seconds of critical thinking?Read more
The title of this post is one of my favorite metaphors about mystery in art, and how sometimes trying to explain too much is fatal to what you're trying to do.Read more
I imagine a fair number of people reading this are familiar with Shin'ya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo: The Iron Man, that grotesque little masterwork of Japanese indie cinema — "like H.R. Giger and Yukio Mishima had each other's body-horror babies," as a friend of mine once quipped. What's odd is how Tsukamoto's follow-up, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer, had a bigger budget and better production values, and yet is far inferior on almost every other level.* Thomas Weisser's capsule description of the two films in one of his Japanese cinema guidebooks provided the single best sussing-out I've seen to date of what went wrong: Tsukamoto had "replaced the nightmare with insanity."Read more