writing

The lies we tell, part 2


A better title for this post might actually be, “The lies we don’t tell.” Not long ago I wrote a bit about how I’m going to handle my bright, lovely, and inquisitive daughters and the questions they’re almost certainly going to ask one day about difficult topics. The original post is here, if you’d like to check it out.

The gent that commented, bless him, said basically this: be honest; appropriate to the point of their maturity and emotional ability. Good advice, right? It was this kind of thinking, coupled with the Graham essay I quoted in the post, that caused me to blink, shake my head a bit, then re-read a post titled, “Talking to children about evil.”

It’s by a wonderful and witty writer named Delia Lloyd; a journalist who currently lives in London and writes about adulthood, politics, family, and a host of other topics definitely worth reading. Check her out.

You can find the post I’m talking about here, but the first paragraph reads thus:

My daughter came home from school yesterday and told me that her best friend had a “hate list.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s a list of all the people in the world that she hates.”
“Don’t make one yourself,” I said quickly. “That’s not nice.”
“Yeah, but I only have one person on it,” she responded.
“I don’t care. You’ll hurt someone’s feelings.”
She looked up at me, wide-eyed. “But it’s Hitler.”

“But it’s Hitler.” What the hell do you say to that?

I won’t spoil her post, but I’m left with another point of view that’s both valid and worth consideration. It doesn’t conflict with Tim’s comment, necessarily, but it might provide a different definition of what’s “appropriate.”

What do you think? 

Image by John-Morgan

A word or two about distance

I’m reading a book called A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. I’m not too far into it yet, but so far I’m struck by a couple of things. First, he’s got a nice, easy-going style that manages to take complex thoughts, break them down into digestible pieces, and does so in a voice that’s both engaging and funny. I dig it.

The second thing is this: there’s a veritable ass-ton of things I don’t know.

Take the following excerpt from the chapter describing our Solar System:

Now the other thing you will notice as we speed past Pluto is that we are speeding past Pluto. If you check your itenerary, you will see that this is a trip to the edge of our solar system, and I’m afraid we’re not there yet. Pluto may be the last object marked on schoolroom charts, but the system doesn’t end there. In fact, it isn’t even close to ending there. We won’t get to the solar system’s edge until we have passed through the Oort cloud, a vast celestial realm of drifting comets, and we won’t reach the Oort cloud for another – I’m so sorry about this – ten thousand years. Far from marking the outer edge of the solar system, as those schoolroom maps so cavalierly imply, Pluto is barely one-fifty-thousandth of the way.

Balls.

More to come.

The lies we tell

Rummaging around my bookmarks not long ago I found a little treat I’d set aside to read. It’s the homepage of a writer named Paul Graham and you could do worse than spend a bit of time reading his essays. One in particular, titled “Lies we tell kids,” dovetails nicely with the thinking I’ve done about the challenging, inevitable conversations I’ll be having with my daughters in the years to come. You know what I mean – the conversations where they’ll ask if I’ve ever smoked, experimented in other, let’s say less legal pastimes, and how I’m going to handle those questions.

I’ve pulled out one of the paragraphs from Mr. Graham’s essay below but you can find the entire piece here. Definitely worth your time. If you’re interested, I originally stumbled on his work from a list Inc. Magazine put together – 19 blogs you should bookmark right now – and you can find that here

For you parents who have already crossed that bridge, how did you handle it? Or, for those of you like me who are still on the front end, how do you think you will?

“Innocence is also open-mindedness. We want kids to be innocent so they can continue to learn. Paradoxical as it sounds, there are some kinds of knowledge that get in the way of other kinds of knowledge. If you’re going to learn that the world is a brutal place full of people trying to take advantage of one another, you’re better off learning it last. Otherwise you won’t bother learning much more.”

2010

A great writer named Chris Brogan provides, in one of his many, many posts about the topic, a list of ways to improve your blog. I’ll try to find the specific post I’m talking about shortly, but the list I’m referring to offers dozens of pointers on the subject and includes ideas like keep it short, use smart headlines/titles, link often, engage with your audience, and so on. The one that I’m thinking about right now actually goes something a little like this:

Stifle, with wild abandon, the urge to begin any post with, “I’m sorry I haven’t written in a while.”

Yeah, sorry about this, Chris.

So I’m sorry I haven’t written in a while. I can give you sound, reasonable explanations for my absence (a bizarre and somewhat ironic twist at work, surgery, the loss of a family member, the stress that inevitably goes hand-in-hand with the holidays, and on) but baseline is the fact that I just didn’t get here.

In fact, it’s quite possible that writing about some of those things above would have been helpful. As to whether or not they’d be interesting I couldn’t say. Regardless, it’s now a new year and one (of the many) things I’d like to do this year is post with a little more regularity. 

So, old friends, stay tuned. If there’s a topic you’d like to see addressed here don’t hesitate to let me know. For now, I’d like to know about the things you’re going to work on this year. What does 2010 have in store for you?

Take a closer look

jaguar

Not long ago my buddy Tim did something interesting. Basically, he asked his readers to think about an image – specifically the tasty little automotive morsel you see above – and offer suggestions on how he could use it in a post. It was a good idea. Not only did it give him the opportunity to shake things up a bit and have fun, it also provided a fairly cool way to interact with his readers. 

I offered my two cents with the following ideas::

  • Classic vs new approaches (in sales, marketing, relationships, whatever) and how sometimes tried-and-true is better (or not)
  • Implications of perception
  • What can be conveyed with a single image
  • What new icons are being established right now

A couple of good ideas in there, right? More the fool, me. In his maniacal consistent effort to get me writing on this blog with a bit more frequency, Tim pulled a fast one: “Why don’t you write a post about it?”

Balls.

Over the last week I’ve had multiple false-starts; writing about how we recognize or define beauty to dialing it back and examining fond memories of my first set of wheels. But each time I kept getting pulled back to the image of the car.

But not the Jaguar.

Me, I keep thinking about the beat-up POS peeking out from behind the corner and wondering what the story is there. And as I didn’t even see that humble little auto the first dozen or so times I looked at the picture, I started thinking about just how often that happens.

Meaning, given the massive amount of information we see or hear or read every day, culling that stream into bits or chunks we can deal with absolutely makes sense. And the structure of online data only reinforces that scan/discard process.

I’m not railing against technology here – a clearer example of tilting at windmills I couldn’t imagine – but I do have to wonder: what are we missing?

Photo by PedroSimoes7 

So pretty, so graceful. Right up until they tear a hole through your chest.

unicorn

I, like many in my generation, am a child of divorced parents.  They split for good the summer before my 5th grade, so I guess I was somewhere around 9 or 10 when they finally called it quits. My sister, Sarah Shay, was the ripe old age of 1. And out of that entire nasty business, one real, unexpected tragedy was that because I lived with our dad and Sarah lived with our mom, for many years ours was a relationship far closer to cousins than brother and sister.

That changed when she moved to Austin (awesome) but the the point is this: there weren’t a lot of fairies, ballet slippers, or tea parties growing up. Nor were there unicorns.

If you check the links to the right you’ll see, near the bottom, one titled Whatever. It’s a blog written by a gent named John Scalzi, and in addition to being just a great read, his blog also provides a platform for writers to introduce and talk about their books. Very cool. It’s called The Big Idea and you can find that particular section’s main page here.

Not long ago the featured book was about, you guessed it, unicorns. I’ve included the first paragraph of author Diana Peterfreund’s introduction below and after reading her big idea I’m definitely going to pick up a copy. You might want to do the same.

I feel sorry for unicorns. No other mythical monster has suffered such brand degradation. Nowadays, unicorns are synonymous with weak, childlike, unrealistic naivety. You don’t see folks dissing dragons the way they do unicorns. No one ever equates griffins with rainbows, glitter, and six year olds. The sphinx isn’t cheesy. But the unicorn? The symbol of kings, the darling of artists, the keeper of a magical horn whose rumored mystical properties once made it worth more than its weight in gold and almost drove a real species (the narwhal) to extinction? The unicorn has become laughable.

Photo by Snappa2006