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Showing posts from July 26, 2009

The Thinker -- Writer's Poke #257

One of the common criticisms of William Shakespeare's Hamlet is that he thinks too much. While there's nothing wrong with thinking, per se, and while most would acknowledge that thinking is probably a good thing when used in moderation, thinking too much can lead to the prison of inaction.

I don't know that Hamlet's flaw was over-thinking. And, it's not clear to me that Hamlet was guilty of inaction. But this isn't a lesson on Hamlet, and I don't want to spend too much time thinking about it. Let's just take as a starting place that Hamlet thinks a lot.

Othello, on the other extreme, is an impulsive chap. Some would say that impulse is his downfall, and that he acts too quickly and doesn't think things through sufficiently. Again, I'm not saying I necessarily buy into that analysis, okay? So cut me some slack here.

My point is simply thus: some of us are more like Hamlet, and some of us are more like Othello. And some of us are more like one of the…

Talking for a Living -- Writer's Poke #256

Yes, I used to listen to AM talk radio. Why? Well, back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I lived within range of WLS, the "50,000 Watt Flamethrower" out of Chicago. In addition to syndicated programs like The RushLimbaugh Show and Art Bell's Coast to Coast, I really enjoyed listening to local host Roe Conn's Saturday morning and weekday afternoon shows. All of these shows were entertaining, and that's why I listened.

By the end of the 1990s, however, entertaining no longer seemed to be a prerequisite to getting a show, or growing an audience. Have you ever heard The Sean Hannity Show? Here's a show with no redeeming value, and I say that not just because I disagree with the man's narrow-minded politics. Even today I can still listen to Rush, for example, because he's interesting, at least most of the time. Rush prepares for his shows and always has a "stack of stuff" to talk about. Hannity, on the other hand, never seems to prepare. I'm…

Under the Influence -- Writer's Poke #255

Last night I watched the final HBO special George Carlin filmed before he died. Some will say that he was smart, but too vulgar, that he was more than a comedian, but spent most of the time speaking to the already converted. Call him what you will, but I call him irreplaceable. We are not going to see another comedian/philosopher/prophet like him again for a long time, if ever.

And I started thinking about other individuals that have shaped my philosophy and worldview. In addition to Carlin, four others came to mind immediately: Socrates, Lao Tzu, Carl Sagan, and Kurt Vonnegut.

What attracts me to these men? All of them were thinkers. All of them were willing to question everything. On one end of the spectrum, Vonnegut and Carlin could come off as bitter, but part of that was simply part of their act. Both, I think, admitted that the spark of idealism was still within them. It might be deeply buried, but it was still there. On the other end of the spectrum, Sagan and Socrates exhibited …

The Sally Forth Affair -- Writer's Poke #254

Whenever people talk about their favorite syndicated cartoons, they usually mention strips like The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, and Dilbert. Sally Forth is not one that generally comes up, but I think it's pretty good. In a lot of ways, I think it's just as smart as the cartoons referred to above, but maybe it's just not as flashy. I guess you could describe it as understated, and not a cartoon for kids, per se. Nevertheless, it's funny enough that it probably should be appreciated by old and young alike.

One of the ongoing story lines is Ted's office romance with Aria. Ted and Sally's marriage seems solid. They don't have any issues that might cause Ted to stray. And if you asked Ted what his relationship with Aria is all about, he would most likely look at you blankly. In Ted's mind, he and Aria are just friends. They share a lot of the same interests, and the chemistry between them is clearly there. But Ted isn't a dog, and the thought of having …