Ramblings & ephemera

Ray Bradbury on Edgar Rice Burroughs

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): But as it turns out—and I love to say it because it upsets everyone terribly—[Edgar Rice] Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world. INTERVIEWER Why do you […]

Kurt Vonnegut on the basic plots available to writers

From David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, & Richard Rhodes’s interview of Kurt Vonnegut in “The Art of Fiction No. 64” (The Paris Review: Spring 1977, No. 69): VONNEGUT The others aren’t that much fun to describe: somebody gets into trouble, and then gets out again; somebody loses something and gets it back; somebody is […]

John Steinbeck on Ernest Hemingway

From Nathaniel Benchley’s interview of John Steinbeck in “The Art of Fiction No. 45” (The Paris Review: Fall 1969, No. 48): The first thing we heard of Ernest Hemingway’s death was a call from the London Daily Mail, asking me to comment on it. And quite privately, although something of this sort might be expected, […]

Anthony Burgess on satire

From John Cullinan’s interview of Anthony Burgess in “The Art of Fiction No. 48” (The Paris Review: Spring 1973, No. 56): Satire is a difficult medium, ephemeral unless there’s tremendous vitality in the form itself—like Absalom and Achitophel, Tale of a Tub, Animal Farm: I mean, the work has to subsist as story or poetry […]

2 great examples of Tom Wolfe’s early New Journalism writing style

From Tom Wolfe’s “The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson. Yes!” (Esquire: March 1965): Ten o’clock Sunday morning in the hills of North Carolina. Cars, miles of cars, in every direction, millions of cars, pastel cars, aqua green, aqua blue, aqua beige, aqua buff, aqua dawn, aqua dusk, aqua aqua, aqua Malacca, Malacca lacquer, Cloud […]

How the Madden NFL videogame was developed

From Patrick Hruby’s “The Franchise: The inside story of how Madden NFL became a video game dynasty” (ESPN: 22 July 2010): 1982 Harvard grad and former Apple employee Trip Hawkins founds video game maker Electronic Arts, in part to create a football game; one year later, the company releases “One-on-One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird,” […]

A summary of Galbraith’s The Affluent Society

From a summary of John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society (Abridge Me: 1 June 2010): The Concept of the Conventional Wisdom The paradigms on which society’s perception of reality are based are highly conservative. People invest heavily in these ideas, and so are heavily resistant to changing them. They are only finally overturned by new […]

A great example of poor comments in your code

From Steven Levy’s Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution (Penguin Books: 2001): 43: [Peter Samson, one of the first MIT hackers], though, was particularly obscure in refusing to add comments to his source code explaining what he was doing at a given time. One well-distributed program Samson wrote went on for hundreds of assembly language […]

The Hacker Ethic

From Steven Levy’s Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution (Penguin Books: 2001): 40-46: Still, even in the days of the TX-0 [the late 1950s], the planks of the platform were in place. The Hacker Ethic: Access To Computers — And Anything Which Might Teach You Something About The Way The World Works — Should Be […]

The origin of the word “munge”, “hack”, & others

From Steven Levy’s Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution (Penguin Books: 2001): 23: The core members hung out at [MIT’s Tech Model Railroad Club in the late 1950s] for hours; constantly improving The System, arguing about what could be done next, developing a jargon of their own that seemed incomprehensible to outsiders who might chance […]

Luther & Poe both complained about too many books

From Clay Shirky’s “Does The Internet Make You Smarter?” (The Wall Street Journal: 5 June 2010): In the history of print … complaints about distraction have been rampant; no less a beneficiary of the printing press than Martin Luther complained, “The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no measure of limit to […]

The dangers of loyalty based on personality, not policies

This quotation is directly about politics, but it’s about anyone – or even anything – we emotionally attach ourselves to. From Glenn Greenwald’s “My friend the president” (Salon: 8 December 2009): Those who venerated Bush because he was a morally upright and strong evangelical-warrior-family man and revere Palin as a common-sense Christian hockey mom are […]

The Irish Church lies in creative – and evil – ways

From Patsy McGarry’s “Church ‘lied without lying’” (Irish Times: 26 November 2009): One of the most fascinating discoveries in the Dublin Archdiocese report was that of the concept of “mental reservation” which allows clerics mislead people without believing they are lying. According to the Commission of Investigation report, “mental reservation is a concept developed and […]

David Foster Wallace on the impossibility of being informed & the seduction of dogma

From David Foster Wallace’s “Introduction” (The Best American Essays 2007): Here is an overt premise. There is just no way that 2004’s reelection could have taken place—not to mention extraordinary renditions, legalized torture, FISA-flouting, or the passage of the Military Commissions Act—if we had been paying attention and handling information in a competent grown-up way. […]

Religion, God, history, morality

From Steve Paulson’s interview with Robert Wright, “God, He’s moody” (Salon: 24 June 2009): Do you think religions share certain core principles? Not many. People in the modern world, certainly in America, think of religion as being largely about prescribing moral behavior. But religion wasn’t originally about that at all. To judge by hunter-gatherer religions, […]

Bernie Madoff & the 1st worldwide Ponzi scheme

From Diana B. Henrioques’s “Madoff Scheme Kept Rippling Outward, Across Borders” (The New York Times: 20 December 2008): But whatever else Mr. Madoff’s game was, it was certainly this: The first worldwide Ponzi scheme — a fraud that lasted longer, reached wider and cut deeper than any similar scheme in history, entirely eclipsing the puny […]

COBOL is much more widely used than you might think

From Darryl Taft’s “Enterprise Applications: 20 Things You Might Not Know About COBOL (as the Language Turns 50)” (eWeek: September 2009). http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Enterprise-Applications/20-Things-You-Might-Not-Know-About-COBOL-As-the-Language-Turns-50-103943/?kc=EWKNLBOE09252009FEA1. Accessed 25 September 2009. Five billion lines of new COBOL are developed every year. More than 80 percent of all daily business transactions are processed in COBOL. More than 70 percent of all […]

Why Picasso charged a million dollars

Image via Wikipedia From Josh Olson’s “I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script” (The Village Voice: 9 September 2009): There’s a great story about Pablo Picasso. Some guy told Picasso he’d pay him to draw a picture on a napkin. Picasso whipped out a pen and banged out a sketch, handed it to the guy, […]

Apple’s role in technology

Image via CrunchBase From Doc Searls’s “The Most Personal Device” (Linux Journal: 1 March 2009): My friend Keith Hopper made an interesting observation recently. He said one of Apple’s roles in the world is finding categories where progress is logjammed, and opening things up by coming out with a single solution that takes care of […]

Who would ever think that it was a good idea?

Image via Wikipedia Read this article about Paul Krassner’s experiences with the Manson Family & note the emphasis I’ve added – is this not the greatest sentence out of nowhere you’ve ever seen? How in the world did that ever seem like a good idea? From Paul Krassner’s “My Acid Trip with Squeaky Fromme” (The […]