Monday, June 27, 2005

Food for Thought

'Never underestimate the Internet. Manipulate it. Respect it. But don't try to dominate it.'
--Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang

'I am continually fascinated at the difficulty intelligent people have in distinguishing what is controversial from what is merely offensive.'
--Nora Ephron

Calling all bloggers: if you maintain a weblog, please consider helping the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by spending a few moments responding to this survey. After all, MIT has been extremely supportive of the blogging community. Now, it's payback time.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Support the Independents!

It suddenly dawned on me about a month ago. I was at a Border's Bookstore, about to make a purchase after having cruised around for an hour. And then I realized: Suzanne at Mac's Backs may not have this book in stock at the moment, but she can certainly order it and have it to me in a few days. And I can surely wait for it. I figured it's a small price to pay to keep the handful of remaining Cleveland-area indy bookshops alive and healthy. Or at least alive. In the month or more since, I've ordered a couple more books from her that way. And perhaps in the fall, I'll begin doing the same with the Learned Owl in Hudson, and then maybe Fireside in Chagrin Falls. I'm already in the habit of stopping by Loganberry Books in the Larchmere area and at the lovely Appletree books on Cedar Hill in Cleveland Heights, and chatting briefly with the ever-knowledgeable proprietor, Jane Kessler (who's nicely profiled here by my old Cleveland Edition colleague Kathy Ewing). Eventually, I'll get in a routine of more regularly patronizing all half dozen remaining indy bookstores in this area. And I hope you'll do begin doing the same, gentle reader. I plan on occasionally reminding you about it.

But why stop at getting in the habit of supporting these community jewels, these food-for-the-brain emporiums? How about doing the same with locally owned and operated restaurants, which are just as threatened by national chains as their bookstore counterparts. But how can you tell an indy eatery from a chain, you ask? There's one really easy way. Go to this site, and graze around. I guarantee you you'll find several places that will make you happy (Gavi's in Lake County is a special treat). Your stomach will thank you for it. And I will too.

Monday, June 20, 2005

On Beginning Well

Employment counselors, parents and tailors have always espoused the wisdom encapsulated in the familiar saying that 'you only get one chance to make a first impression.' And writers know all about that, too. As I recently told my wonderful class of students at the Poets' and Writers' League of Greater Cleveland (more about which in coming days), some magazine writers have been known to spend half their time crafting the lead paragraph (or 'lede' in journalism speak) and the other half writing the rest of the piece. After all, if you don't begin well, if you don't induce a reader to stay with you from the outset, if each sentence and paragraph doesn't propel a reader on to the next, you might as well not bother.

Which is why for years I've tended to collect great lead paragraphs. You can find them everywhere, in any kind of writing. What these shimmering openers have in common is that they grab you by the lapels with their vivid images and crisp language. Sometimes they make you laugh, other times they leave you shaking your head at their elegance. But always they dare you to stop reading. In that grand tradition, is this lede from Joe Queenan's piece in the current Town & Country Magazine:
In the autumn of 1990, when my son turned four years old, he began to make specific, detailed inquiries regarding the possibility of obtaining an ATM card. I believe it was at this point that my wife, Francesca, a refined and elegant native of England's lovely Cotswolds, finally threw in the towel and realized she was parenting children who inevitably were going to grow up to be American and not English. Aggressive, acquisitive, demanding, precocious, entitlted. Tykes who not only demanded ATM cards but wondered what was causing the delay.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Our National Amnesia

Vanity Fair is rightly making a lot of noise for its historic article in the July issue about Deep Throat. But a far more important statement appears in Graydon Carter's editor's note in the June issue, especially in light of our feeble-minded president's recent interview with the Republican Propaganda Network, Fox, in which the interviewer failed to ask and he failed to bring up (even once, even glancingly) the war in Iraq. Take it away Graydon:

Excuse me, but what ever happened to the war in Iraq? You remember it, surely.
You must--it's still going on. It is the war that has taken the lives of more than 1,550 U.S. troops and an estimated 20,0000 Iraqi civilans and caused life-altering injuries to more than 6,000 other American soldiers and countless more Iraqis. It is the self-financing war that has cost tthe U.S. upwards of $165 billion and has contributed to a 23% increase in the price of gas since we invaded Baghdad. It is the war that divided our nation, earned the mistrust and animosity of many allies and neighbors and established Iraq as ground zero for further terrorist recrutment. It is the war that was not mentioned once in President Bush's 21-minute 2005 Inaugural address. And it is the war now buried back around page A12 of the New York Times and relegated to the "Iraq Watch" ghetto of the NBC Nightly News, sometimes trailing the health update.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Beauty of the Blogosphere

Long-time readers of Working With Words may recall that I have a longstanding aversion to that word, blogosphere, which can often sound trite and contrived to my ears. And yet it worked for a poetic, alliterative touch in my headline a moment ago. As it does in my reading habits. And so I've broken my own rule. And rule-breaking is what writing should be all about.

In this context, I'm thinking specifically today of a guy I know named Tim Bakke. More acquaintance than friend, I've perhaps had all of about eight minutes of interchanges with him in the last 18 months, as we would bump into each other at this event or that, and chit-chat about our several mutual friends or our work. Tim is a talented designer, and he takes the online name Geek Zen. After even brief chats, it didn't take a genius to conclude that he's a special person, a guy of quiet moral power and impressive intellect, though one of relatively few words.

But none of that background could prepare me for his impossibly evocative, beautifully written tribute to his dad. I'll link to it
here, so that you might look around at his other work, but just in case the link fails at some later point, I wanted to preserve this entry in full here:
Theodore Rex
"It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause. Who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."-
Theodore Roosevelt

My dad has this on his wall in his office up in Duluth. Over the years my father has seen much, done much. A boy born and bred in Northern Minnesota; a young man at sea in the Navy; a man knee deep in the car culture of Southern California in the 60's; a young husband and father of an only child; back to MN and from locomotive mechanic to Division General Foreman in less than than anyone in the history of the Chicago Northwestern Railroad; round about and in crazy days raising a boy and managing a far-ranging career all over the West Coast; now, full circle, back in Duluth, his childhood home - a consultant, free-agent, entrepreneur ... and a guy who just hit one OUT OF THE PARK. My dad has just wrestled a deal that is quite impressive and may be the deal of a lifetime. I've learned much from my dad over the years but no lesson more well learned than that of perseverance. No matter what shit the world places at your feet. No matter what roadblocks get in your way. No matter what people say about you or think about you and don't have the balls to say it. No matter what - hold your head high, believe in your God-given abilities and DO IT. Don't talk about it. Don't think about it. DO IT.My dad did. And he still does. Everyday.And so shall I. And as I look in the beautiful blue eyes of my only child, my son, I pray by all I hold holy that my boy learns this same lesson from his father

Good for you, Tim. On the very day when we writers, journalists, bloggers and other wrestlers with words will be gathering this evening to explore what we share, rather than what we don't, you've provided yet another timely reminder that no one has a monopoly on the power of the pen to incite and inspire. May that pen of yours keep scribbling, and may your finely tuned heart keep reaching out to readers.

Monday, June 13, 2005

On the Search for Life's Meaning

'We are not human beings on a spiritual path, but spiritual beings on a human path.'
--Dr. Lauren Artress, Episcopal priest

'We are born for meaning, not pleasure, unless it's pleasure that is steeped in meaning.'
--Jacob Needleman

'You're not going to find the meaning of life hidden under a rock written by someone else. You'll only find it by giving meaning to life from inside yourself.'
--Dr. Robert Firestone, author and psychotherapist

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Keys to the Kingdom Are Changing Hands

'The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind--computer programmers who could crank out code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person, with a very different kind of mind--creators and empathizers, pattern recongizers and meaning makers. These people--artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers--will now reap society's richest rewards, and share its greatest joys. This book describes a seismic--though as yet undetected--shift now underway in much of the advanced world. We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computerlike capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what's rising in its pace, the Conceptual Age.'
--Daniel Pink, from the introduction to his new book, A Whole New Mind--Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Program Not To Be Missed

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Cleveland Chapter
and the Bloggers Network of Northeast Ohio
Bring You an Evening with Professor Heywood Sanders
Tuesday, June 14th, 6:00 p.m.
Artefino Gallery and Café
1900 Superior Ave.,in the Tower Press Building

On June 14th, the Cleveland Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, in partnership with an emerging alliance of bloggers who live in and write about Northeast Ohio, hosts Professor Heywood Sanders for a program that explores what has been called a municipal convention center arms race, and how it has been covered by the media. The session begins at 6 p.m., at Cleveland artist Hector Vega’s Artefino Gallery, which has graciously donated the meeting space. The sponsors are proud to offer this important program on a vital public issue (quickly coming to a head in Cleveland) free and to open it to the general public. Participants, however, are encouraged to purchase food and/or beverages at the gallery. A day later, Dr. Sanders will appear at the City Club of Cleveland, where he is scheduled to debate Anthony Coyne, who chairs the City of Cleveland’s Planning Commission.

Over the past decade, public capital spending on convention centers in the U.S. has doubled to $2.4 billion annually, increasing convention space by over 50 percent since 1990. Nationwide, 44 new or expanded convention centers are now in planning or construction. Dr. Sanders, a professor of urban studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio, has emerged as perhaps the nation’s leading critic of this building boom. His influential study for the Brookings Institution in January 2005 argued that the results of all this investment in convention centers has been disappointing. “Existing convention centers have seen their business evaporate, while new centers and expansions are delivering remarkably little in terms of attendance and activity,” he concluded.

Details on and directions to Artefino are available on the gallery's
You can learn more about Prof. Sanders’ work, read his entire study and sample some of the press coverage by visiting the Brookings Institution website
To learn more about the City Club program, click

*Note to podcasters: as a courtesy to the City Club, which is underwriting Dr. Sanders’ visit, he asks that you please respect a brief embargo on his June 14th presentation, and not make that material available until after his City Club appearance a day later.