Bring/Take and the Surrender of Grammar to Chaos

This morning, the Sunday New York Times delivered a shot upside the head before I even read about Ebola or the insanity that is ISIS.NYT paper bagThe bag.  It was the bag.  There, in the upper right corner

NYT closeup“Bring it Back” from the NYT. Bring it Back? Really?  Not “Recycle it?”

Since the delivery person already brought it to me, it has no further place to be brought, does it?

Seems to me (and very few other curmudgeons, apparently) that we are in an era of grammatical entropy. Articles on the subject seem to concentrate on the reality that language evolves (Duh…), that grammar really needs to represent what people speak, and so on. Maybe it’s that the brave new 140-character thought processes we seem to be bathed in so much of the time just can’t contemplate fine distinction, but the bring/take distinction is, it seems to me, different than, e.g., the who/whom distinction. Making all mentions of movement become ‘bring’ loses an important distinction, possibly … no, probably … causing confusion. Who/whom rarely does that, because it’s usually obvious to whom we are referring in a sentence. (And then there’s the issue of ending the sentence with a preposition.) (And sentence fragments.)

Maybe I need to find the address of the presumably long-suffering NYT delivery person and add to what must be a mountain of plastic bags in his/her living room.

Of course, it’s possible that all material things are meant to be brought to that black hole where odd socks and occasionally car keys are said to reside, from which they can never be taken out (of). Now, that’s entropy.

Ahhh … the Internet!

I am constantly astounded by the Internet.  It has changed fiction writing, at least genre fiction.  If your story has an involved plot, you have to love the Internet.

Last night, I was knocking around cyberspace, looking for a few details for my current writing project and second novel, Skins and Bone.  I was able to get a detailRoyal Societyed map of the road Fiskani Chomba (see, 100 common Zambian names in Nyanja and Bemba languages, available on several websites) needs to travel from Lusaka, the capital of Zambia (Google Maps), to a small airport in Congo.  (I know the airport’s fully functional; I saw it right down to the tarmac on Google Earth.)  The time differential between Lusaka, her destination in Dubai, and the bad guys she reports to in New York?  A snap on  Oh, and a quote from the statistician Thomas Bayes?  Google has scanned the Transactions of the Royal Philosophical Society for 1763, and there he is in his glory.  Inside dope on Charles Ponzi and his scheme?  Dozens of articles.  (His full name was

Charles Ponzi

Charles Ponzi

Carlo Pietro Giovanni Guglielmo Tebaldo Ponzi. Phew!)

In short, I think writing as an art form has been more heavily affected (no, not impacted … that’s still a dental term in my lexicon) by the Internet than music, and that’s saying a lot.  Twenty years ago, you had to travel to an area you expected to write about to get details.  That’s still essential for places your story spends much time in, but you can do peripheral locations from you computer, in your underwear.  (And no, you can’t go entirely naked even indoors in Minnesota in winter.)  Books that needed a minimum press run of 1,000 and an investment of $50,000 or more can now be printed as singles or as electronic files.

That’s the good part.  The other part is that Twitter can make a perfectly bland observation moronic and blow it to a thousand inboxes, and there is an enormous amount that probably none of us really want to know on social media.  (Your dog did what on the rug?)

I think the amount of important information in the world is growing at a slow, steady rate.  That’s an optimistic vision, as you surely know if you have been given the “magic of compound growth” talk by a life insurance agent.  The Internet has provided access we’ve never had before … a good thing.  But it’s also added an enormous pile of manure to dig through on the way to finding that pony.

Overhead … if a Tweet falls in the blogoshere and there’s no one there to ‘like’ it …

MechanicIn a prior life, I knew quite a bit about overhead.  It’s that mysterious add-on the mechanic uses to explain why a $20-dollar-an-hour guy is charged to you at 60 bucks an hour.  Or why a lawyer has to charge $400/hr.  (Never mind … lawyers never explain overhead.)

I have read quite a bit recently about writing.  There’s hardship, writer’s block, the pain of loneliness.  The creative process, like any birthing, is supposed to be painful but ultimately rewarding.  At least, that’s the take of the great writers of, say, the 19th and 20th centuries.  But those writers from days of yore (like, you know, before 2002) never seem to talk much about overhead.  Modern treatises on writing must understand that overhead is an issue, because they allude to it.  They’re often telling you that you have to “make time for writing!”  That chapter is followed by the one called Optimizing Your Social Media Platform.  The subtext is that you’d better do both.  In this connected twenty-first century of ours, everything … everything … needs a marketing component, right?

As an unpublished writer (well, almost published … see self-congratulatory post immediately preceding this one), I guess it’s my lot in life to spend a great deal of time on the pick-and-shovel work of writing.  But it does get old.

I looked back over the last several weeks, and I see that I spent my ‘writing’ time thusly:


Writing blog entries (and I’m behind the sensible prescription to ‘write a short entry every couple of days and a longer one every couple of weeks’)


Figuring out what the #$$% HootSuite is good for


Trying to understand the byzantine kluge of software called Facebook.  (Oh, yes … they changed format a couple of weeks ago, just when I’d got used to the old one)


Rewriting my pitch (aka Query) for novel #1, Hack the Yak (that’s edition 8)


Reading other people’s blogs.  After all, when blogs follow you, you have to follow them …


Cleaning up e-mail from the 85 blogs I follow.


Getting distracted and going on bird walks to find really interesting stuff on Wikipedia, YouTube, etc., etc.


Reformatting and extracting short stories and parts of current writing for submission to writing groups, as well as commenting on others’ writing.


Searching for publishers, agents and literary journals to submit to (I’m mostly on vacation from that for the moment.)


WRITING.  Happily creating, investigating, winding up and unwinding the story of the next novel and watching the people of the novel grow, struggle, fight and fornicate.

So, when I say, “I’m going in to write for a couple of hours,” I guess I have to multiply by 4.

TechnoMania … Getting the drift of social media

Man, this blogging business has already been an experience, and I’ve only been at it for a few weeks. WordPress, facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and a host of wannabes. Pinterest, Flickr. Oh, Yah … YouTube of course. Widgets. HTML.
Having gotten the basic blog together, I was feeling like I was at the top of a long hill, only to look across a misty valley to see yet another, higher mountain ahead.

In my case, it’s Web 2.0. I think I may have conquered Web 0.85, working manfully on 1.0. One of the curious aspects of social networking is all the vehicles offer solutions that are INCREDIBLY SIMPLE, just ask their homepages. Just a few keystrokes and … you can do something trivial. Want to do something interesting? Well, guess what, it’s convoluted. It’s hard. Leaves one with the impression that the social network software world is run by guys and gals who are incredibly clever at very obscure stuff and bear grudges against the regular people out there that got more dates than they did back in high school.
HINT from a Web 0.85 kind of guy: If you’re just getting into this stuff, start out at Jennifer Wylie is the librarian at the very fine Cotuit, Massachusetts library and an expert on the kinds of skills and activities that will define ‘library’ in a few years. Her website has a collection of articles and lists on this tech stuff that is a great place to start. It got me from 0.85 to 1.0, and I think I see her standing on top of that next higher hill…

Now, back to the writing …