Archive for November, 2009
My piece Satan, the Great Motivator was in Sunday’s Boston Globe, where it caught some eyeballs (probably fans of the 1943 version of Heaven Can Wait). The Arts & Letters Daily put it up as the top left item, ahead even of this New York Times essay on the evolution of the God gene(sic).Among the sites that linked to the piece:
hell is good for capitalism (interesting discussion in comments).
The economic utility of religion (part of an essay on the Wendell Berry book “Life is A Miracle.”)
the hell effect (includes some pointed reader comments)
It was a fun thing to write. I got to work with the Globe’s Steve Heuser, and I respect and like him even more after working with him than I did before.
My piece on passwords and how to remember them is up on Inc. magazines Web site.
If she’s been a veteran, a woman may have no place to call home, according to this poignant article by Susan Kaplan. That the percentage of homeless female veterans exceeds that of homeless male veterans has caught the military by surprise. We think of institutions like the military as training its soldiers both for war and giving them the discipline for life afterwards (my mother still aspires to make a bed as well as her ex-soldier uncle). But this article suggests that just leaving the safe routine of the military can disrupt some people, especially if they’re leaving the military because trauma has rendered them no longer mentally fit to serve. You get the odd sense that soldiers are like freed prisoners.
Ken Auletta’s new book “Googled” defines the present of the company and its impact on media and other things. But it cannot define the future, though Auletta seems to fear for us all. My review, Google’s Earth, tells why.
On a personal note, I found much of this book pleasurable, a rare thing for a business book. The one answer I personally didn’t get about Google was whether its venture capitalist backers tried to sell it when it was a very young company. A prominent VC in Silicon Valley once told me this, and I can see from his book that the VCs got so frustrated with the company one can imagine them shopping it around. But Auletta doesn’t mention it.
I ate breakfast this morning with some folks from BitDefender, a Romanian anti-virus company. Part of the conversation was the potential for personalized spam that appears to come from friends, not in email, but on Facebook, Twitter or other online social networks. It hasn’t happened yet, that they’re aware of, but they expect it will. Then CNET highlighted a possible problem with Facebook’s groups. If the problem is described accurately, it would be easy enough for spammers to take over an inactive Facebook group and create personalized spam notes from it.
Facebook appears to have responded, not to the writer, but in the comments. That’s an interesting way for a company to get its message out without being filtered by the press. But it’s counting on people reading the comments and also on them believing that a comment is genuine. On the Internet, nobody knows if you’re really just a dog.
Not exactly, looking at this piece on great writers and how they write. These novelists — Richard Powers, Nicholson Baker, Junot Diaz, Margaret Atwood, Anne Rice and 12 others — all have different methods. Some procrastinate, some don’t (none of them seem to always get it right the first time). Some write things out longhand, some type on the computer. We humans take so many paths to self-expression! My favorite comment was from Michael Ondaatje, who said “Some writers know what the last sentence is going to be before they begin—I don’t even know what the second sentence is going to be.”
Even though I’m a non-fiction writer living in an age when the novel supposedly has run its course, I enjoyed a focus on these great storytellers.