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Friday, May 21, 2010

CNBC yells "Fire" in a Crowded Theater ! Where's Justice Holmes when you need him ?

Philip Davis justifiably takes CNBC to task for stoking the Market panic yesterday, saying that the cable channel was essentially "shouting FIRE in a crowded theater."

Monday, May 17, 2010

' Beowulf on the Beach' , by Jack Murningham

Want to culture-up but don't have the time to read all 50 of world lit's greatest hits ? Get Beowulf on the Beach

Author Murningham--a self-described 'recovering academic'-- has been there, read that,  and gives you the skinny on each of fifty classics, providing you with an intro, The Buzz ( "your cocktail party Ph.D"), What People Don't Know But Should, Best Line, What's Sexy, Quirky Fact, and last but not least, What To Skip.

One can argue with M's individual assessments--e.g., that Ovid was a perv-- but not with his snappy style or more importantly the originality and practicality of his approach. Which I personally do not find offensive or extreme.

Then again, is extremism in defense of literacy a vice ? I think not. Morever, I'm sure no undergraduate or graduate students were harmed during production of this book, which I find, if not instructive, damned entertaining.

In fact,  I would venture to say that Beowulf on the Beach itself would be a fun beach read...  BUT IT WOULD BE WRONG !!!

Good News for Writers, and you too, Dano.

TV Networks have gone on a pilot-buying binge, and that's not all. CBS is bringing back Hawaii Five-O. Mahalo

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thoughts on the final voyage of the space shuttle Atlantis

With the final voyage of the space shuttle Atlantis, one chapter in the history of manned exploration of space nears its end. What should the next chapter be ? Some say Mars. But  for many reasons Mars is impracticable, especially because of the distance involved. Moreover, we have yet to prove ourselves in deeper space.

We still have much learn, far more than we will merely by maintaining current, limited "space-station"  environments where humans perform a handful of experiments, observe the cosmos, and leave. Deeper forays into the 'High Frontier' -- a term coined by the late Gerard O'Neill-- will require humans to spend protracted periods of time--years--in zero or artificial gravity. They will need habitats which are self-sustaining, i.e., capable of surviving without continual resupply from earth,  and furnished with integral, redundant "lifeboat" capabilities because timely rescue from Earth, in case of  serious problems, will be all but impossible. And these "space-workers" will also need  technologies and resources to mitigate hazards to themselves and to their habitats from constant exposure to cosmic radiation and to potential meteor or micro-meteor bombardment.

Moreover, as we know from the European experience in the New World,  exploration advances at a glacial pace without follow-on commercial exploitation.  And without the intensive investment of time, energy, and money that commercial exploitation typically brings, our forays in space will amount to nothing more than hyper-hyper-expensive tourism.

What,  then, should we aim for, over the next 10 or 20 years ?

We could take a page from Gerard O'Neill's book 'The High Frontier',  and begin working on building solar power plants at stable orbital points  (aka 'LaGrange points') . These plants  would then beam that power to Earth.  Abundant power,  generated without fossil fuels, without nukes, producing no pollution, no greenhouse gases. The material to build these plants mined on and transported from the Moon - far more easily than would be the case from Earth - refined, manufactured into parts assembled in space.

Sounds fantastic ? Maybe, but it's worth a try because it will have practical, productive results.  It's less of a pipe dream than going to Mars, at least until (a) we learn how to live and work in space not as tourists or highly-specialized appliance repairmen, but on a permanent basis,  and (b) we develop infinitely faster and efficient methods of propulsion.

At that point, we will have a workable and reliable infrastructure built,  from which to make a practicable, though still formidable, leap toward Mars.

Thanks to Jessica Page Morrell, for her book, 'Thanks, But This Isn't For Us'

Subtitled, " A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected ",  'Thanks, But'  is an insightful, practical, and readable guide to good writing, filled with helpful do's and even more helpful don'ts.

Each chapter contains 'Try This' exercises and 'Quick and Dirty Tips'  related to the given topic. At the close of each chapter, Morrell lists apposite works or websites. In addition,  there are two glossaries, on the "Lingo of Fiction" and "Lingo of Publishing". 

Some of Morrell's hints may seem obvious. And yes, some hints are repeated.  Which just goes to show that no one is perfect.  But overall, I'd say this book is right up there with Michael Lent's 'Breakfast with Sharks : A Screenwriter's Guide' and Brooke Wharton's 'The Writer Got Screwed (but didn't have to)' as must-haves for the writer's library.

Literary Quote of the Day #3

Isabel Allende, on erotica vs. porn : "Erotica is using a feather, pornography is using the whole chicken."

Literary Quote of the Day #2

Red Smith, Sports Columnist :"There's nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."
[ Interesting. Hemingway said much the same thing...]

Literary Quote of the Day #1

Stephen King, from On Writing :  "Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Ten Best Novels about Money

Usually I don't bite on " best of " lists of any kind,  but this one includes authors such as Flaubert,  Dickens, and Theodore Dreiser...

Monday, May 3, 2010

A few words about Grub Street's MUSE AND THE MARKETPLACE Conference, May 1-2

Great conference. Good range and variety of activities over the two days, with 500 participating.

Very well organized and run by Grub Street.  Park Plaza hotel facilities were more than adequate, and the hotel staff more than equal to the challenges posed by MWRA water emergency.

Keynote address on Sunday by Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, was... interesting.

'Literary Idol' sessions were the highlight for me,  even though neither of my submissions was read and critiqued by the panel of editors and agents.

On the more mundane side, both Saturday and Sunday lunches were plated,  and the food and service excellent.