Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ten Things That Scare Freelancers

Just in time for Halloween, freelancer Michelle Rafter offers a top ten list of things that scare her tribe. Do any of these sound familiar to you?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Till Death Do Us Chaste

'Personally I know nothing about sex because I've always been married.'
--Zsa Zsa Gabor

Thursday, October 29, 2009

We All Need Help Sometime

'{Georgetown University Sophomore Charley Cooper} logged on to the university's student employment Web site last week and posted an ad for someone to tackle "some of my everyday tasks," such as organizing his closet, dropping him off and picking him up from work, scheduling haircuts, putting gas in the car and taking it in for service, managing his electronic accounts and doing laundry (although the assistant will be paid only for the time spent loading, unloading and folding clothes, not the entire laundry cycle). The successful applicant can expect to work three to seven hours a week and make $10 to $12 an hour, although "on occasion it will be possible to work additional hours and/or receive bonuses at my discretion."'
--You can read the entire article here. We can't quite decide whether this fellow is a budding dynamo or simply a kid in need of some attitude adjustment. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

That's the Spirit

'I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.'
-- Pablo Picasso (a tip of the cap to our friend Scott Crawford, the branding guru, for finding this quote).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A New Blog That's Worth A Look

My beloved New York Review of Books was founded nearly 50 years ago out of a concern that a long New York newspaper strike was preventing readers from learning about important new books. For decades, it was lovingly tended by a pair of publishing dynamos. The NYRB, contrary to its fussy intellectual reputation in some quarters, was among the first major pubs to use the web smartly to expand its reach. It puts much of its content online for free, adding in regular podcasts. And it famously has one of the world's great destinations for personal ads, for discerning readers who are searching for love or perhaps just companionship. Now, it's also just launched an interesting new blog. I recommend to you this entire intellectual feast.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Thought for Our Friends in Transition

'The world is round, and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.'
--Ivy Baker Priest, who may have been an obscure mid-century political figure, but who evidently understood some important things about life.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cutting Through the Statistical Quagmire:
Here's NE Ohio's Chief Economic Problem

Richard Florida, a controversial guru of regional economic competitive advantage (with whom I don't generally agree) does nicely cut to the chase about Northeast Ohio's number one economic problem: the unnervingly low rate of college graduates in this region. In this article for a publication by the McKinsey consulting firm, he highlights what he calls a "means migration" that "can be seen most clearly in the increasing geographic concentration of college graduates." And as he often does in his various writings (this article is an excerpt from his latest book), he rightly uses the Cleveland area as a prime example of the negative side of the equation, pointing to its low rate of college grads, which is lower than even Detroit's.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Are You Tending to the
Weeds or the Flowers?

'Gloom we have always with us, a rank and sturdy weed, but joy requires tending.'
--Author and writer Barbara Holland. You can learn more about her at her website. Given the long conversation touched off by our previous post, we couldn't help noticing that she says she "started out in poetry...but converted to prose when faced with a living to earn." Anyway, please don't hesitate to send us your stories about gloom or joy. Who knows? Maybe some stray comment from another reader will inject you with an unexpected dose of the latter.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Why Don't People Read Poetry Anymore?

'On my morning commute, I often check people out, their heads buried in newspapers or portable Web browsers or beauty magazines. On the whole bus, I’m always the only person with a poetry book in my hands, and I often wonder how different this world would be if more people read poetry. I don’t know — maybe that’s just something that I tell myself to make myself feel better, a kind of self-validation. Maybe it’s just a dream I have, that this world could change, and poetry is the only way I know how to do it.'
from a recent piece in Smart Set. We'd love to hear why you do or don't read poetry. Send us your poetry-related stories. And don't worry, they don't have to rhyme.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Earth To Not-So-Breitbart: Please
Take Yourself a Tad Less Seriously

This fool--a protege of the egregious Matt Drudge, no less--tells the Financial Times that his goal is to be a kingmaker. Someone please tell this human dunce cap that leading the "conservative agenda" in America these days amounts to being idiot-in-chief. Not something any serious adult should be striving toward.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Erin Knows Sexy When She Sees It

My friend and fellow scribbler Erin O'Brien has done some great work in the past, including this well-reported cover story last month in the Scene. But this week she tops even herself with this inspired riff on what constitutes real sexiness for those of a certain age:

I'm not going to give you that tired old list of looking-into-my-eyes, rubbing-my-feet, champagne and strawberries stuff. I am 44 years old for chrissake. I can do a little better than that. Here goes:
-Overtipping the overworked lunch waitress is sexy (and I mean just slipping a few extra bills under the sugar bowl without making a big showy deal of it).
-I do not miss smoking, but I do miss men lighting my

-Whispering something sophisticated and funny in my ear at a dinner party is sexy.
-Work Chinos are sexy. So are the men in them. I don't care about that beer belly, darlin'.
-Desire is sexy. I'm not talking about simply being horny, I'm talking about profound desire, the sort that says I want you. I want to be as close as two people can be, to draw you into me and put my mouth on your mouth and have you so completely that the edges between us blur.
-Taking both my hands in either of your hands and pulling them up above my head and holding them there with our fingers interlaced while we kiss in bed is sexy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stop the Presses!

'Contrary to the hopes of some advocates, the internet is not changing the socioeconomic character of civic engagement in America. Just as in offline civic life, the well-to-do and well-educated are more likely than those less well off to participate in online political activities such as emailing a government official, signing an online petition or making a political contribution.'
--a conclusion from the most recent "no-duh" report assembled by the Pew Internet organization, producers of a series of studies that point out the painfully obvious. You can review earlier iterations of our Stop the Presses series here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

We'll Survive, Somehow

A dispatch from the Idiot Culture notes that Tom Delay is apparently leaving a show called Dancing With the Stars. If you've seen this show (I witnessed a few clips of him shaking his booty on the Internet) you're perhaps left shaking your head that a guy famous for political corruption is reduced to trying to change the subject in such humiliating fashion. If it's a little hard to remember what all that fuss was about, we outlined it here two years ago, when he left Congress.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

How to Recycle Anything

Do you want to be more environmentally responsible, and yet feel overwhelmed by where to begin? I know that describes me. This feature in Real Simple magazine might be a good place to start. It provides a simple guide to what can be recycled, and how. I found it to be eye-opening. Here's hoping you will too.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

We Can't Say We're Surprised: Mediterranean
Diet is Linked to Lower Rates of Depression

'People whose diets were more strongly associated with the Mediterranean diet were less likely to be diagnosed with depression during the four and a half years they were followed up. They had about one third of the risk of those who ate a diet least like the Mediterranean diet. The researchers say that how much fruit, nuts, and legumes (such as lentils and beans), as well as the types of fats or oils they ate, were strongly linked to a lower risk of depression. They think that the fatty acids found in olive oil may be one factor in lower rates of depression, although they conclude that the overall effect of the diet may be more important than singling out individual foods.'
--from a recent article in The Guardian, part of a series published in conjunction with the British Medical Journal. This is especially worthy of attention for Northeast Ohioans, since our unusually overcast weather--especially the long, pewter-colored gray skies of endless winter--lead to what I think of as a generalized form of low-grade regional depression. The psychiatric community has a name for this--Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. You can review the American Psychiatric Association's suggestions for counteracting SAD here.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Just in Time for Thanksgiving,
Your Chance to Bag A Turkey

"Are you fed up with meaningless gobbledygook? Words that mean little or nothing? Empty phrases? Vague writing that confuses rather than communicates? Now is your chance to fight back against bureaucratese, legalese, technobabble, government-speak and other assaults on the English language. Announcing the first Online Gobbledygook, Gibberish and Jargon Awards(TM)." You can nominate some bad examples you find by sending them here. I think you already know we're in sympathy with any attempts to stamp out assaults on clear language. If you do send along a bad example or two, we hope you'll also share it with us here.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

There's Just Something About Red

"The color red represents life, blood, passion, anger, desire, luck, love, to name just a few." Slate explores the topic with this photo montage. Please, feel free to share your red-themed stories, class. We'd be interested.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Our Favorite Headline of the Week

Are Married White Men in Convertibles Doomed to Deafness? The headline on this CNet story does what good headlines are supposed to do: it stops you (or at least it stopped me) and beckons your attention. I don't know about you, but I couldn't resist reading on to learn more. Is it only because I happen to share two of three attributes mentioned (I'm a white married guy, but alas, I'm convertible-less)? That doesn't hurt, I suppose. But I think it's also just inspired headline writing. On the other hand, does the story deliver on the headline's promise (another important but often overlooked element of good headline writing)? On this question, we report; you decide. Meanwhile, you can review earlier favorite headlines here.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

First, Work on Yourself

'Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.'
--Leo Tolstoy

Monday, October 05, 2009

You Know You've Hit Rock Bottom When...

Your city can't afford to bury its dead people. How much more pain can Detroit take? Thoughts, anyone?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

An American Dream Fades in the Suburbs

The Soviet leader Josef Stalin famously observed that "a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic." In today's Plain Dealer, my friend Maria Shine Stewart manages to put a human face on the convergence of twin American crises, the healthcare and foreclosure problems. She does so by writing a haunting essay on her cousin's tenuous attempts to cling to the American dream. I hope you'll click through and read it all. I've been privileged to know Maria, a writer and English teacher, for more than 20 years. Last year, she wrote this wonderful guest report on her experience attending the Neiman Conference on Narrative Journalism, and she regularly contributes fine essays to the excellent online-only pub Inside Higher Ed. May your writing fingers continue to find their way to these essential stories for many more decades, Maria.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Ladies, Your Travel Worries Are Over...

This revolutionary device will no doubt make your life simpler. Just imagine what it would have meant for that lovelorn astronaut. Leave it to the Germans to come up with something like this. Anyway, please let us know how it works out for you. But please, no photos.

Friday, October 02, 2009

One Writer's Nostalgia for Former Subjects

'The pile of old newspapers and magazines sat weathered and dusty on my office floor. It was hard not to notice them when you entered the room, yet I managed to block them from my peripheral vision for more than two months. Once our two new kittens began to use the pile of reading material as a bed, however, I knew it was time to do something. There aren't many things worse than the smell of newspapers on which almost-totally-trained cats have lounged.The reason I'd been putting off going through those old publications was simple and understandable, if you're a long-time writer, as I am. That seemingly annoying stack of slush represented ten years of my career...They dated between 1995 and 2005, and most of the articles I'd written for them had not been placed on the Internet. They existed only in ink...As I read through articles from several years ago, I recalled vivid details, not so much of the actual writing process, but of meeting the people and visiting the places described in the articles. There was the dad who painted a mural of the Wizard of Oz across all four walls of his daughter's bedroom, the florist whose dog liked to wear cool sunglasses while riding in the car and the homeowner who happily gave my two-month-old daughter a bottle while I jotted down notes about her living room. I remembered lugging an infant to interviews when I couldn't find a sitter, and the extremely considerate interviewees who never complained about the extra bundle at the interview. I recalled the quote from a longtime Browns fan who was selling off his extensive memorabilia: "When I got married, I told my wife the Browns come first on Sundays. As you get older, you realize it's not that important." I can see myself sitting in the home of two prominent lawyers, who welcomed me in as though they had all the time in the world to talk with me.The articles reminded me of the people I'd met and the kindnesses they'd offered me. I thought about the joys and sorrows they shared with me, the way they confided in me as though I was a good friend and how thrilled they were to read about themselves, their business or their home in a publication.'
--From my friend Diane DePiero's recent blog post. Veteran writers will recognize the way she fondly recalls former subjects of her writing.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Some Call it Meditation, Others Prayer

'Half an hour's meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.'
--St. Francis DeSales