Earlier Blog Posts

By Subject

science
06/08/2012 Consciousness and free willDaniel Dennett's and Sam Harris's take on how the mind generates consciousness. There is no specific central “I” in the brain. There is no module that sits on top, observing and editing. No homunculus. Several trains of thought are going on at any given time. Whichever of our many trains of thought has at any given time recruited the most circuitry is the one that rises to be our conscious thought.
07/13/2012 Free Will ReduxThe mind has become the tool that lets us revise our natural instincts. Reasons for and against a course of action can be weighed and negotiated. Our verbal ability gives us conscious access to this weighing, negotiating process. Daniel Dennett.
07/20/2012 The Scientific MethodBriefly lays out several components of the scientific method. Falsifiability. Peer review and the need to have other scientists replicate my results. The cumulative nature of scientific knowledge.
08/03/2012 Rational Emotive TherapyThis brief multiple-choice quiz will help you identify any self-defeating thinking that might be holding you back. Once you identify any such thinking, the next step is to write down the appropriate affirmations and repeat them to yourself strongly, often.
08/17/2012 Ego DepletionWillpower as a finite resource. And how to husband your reserves.
06/30/2013 The Evolution of Language Excerpts from E.O. WilsonE.O. Wilson’s The Social Conquest of the Earth covers The Evolution of Language. Language came as a by-product of the social nature of our species. Discussion of what sets human language apart from that of other species. When language came about it enhanced human consciousness.
08/23/2013 Aaron Aardvark — a tale of resourcefulness and ingenuity
poetry, writing, movies, music
06/15/2012 Book Discovery How do we discover the books that we read? I describe my own particular successful finds. Often a good movie points the way, or one good book points to another one. Some came from my parents' bookcase and attic. Assorted other sources.
06/22/2012 Recent landings: Books I have enjoyed recentlyBrief descriptions of a few books I have enjoyed in the last several months. Some well-known: Jackie Kennedy: Conversations with Arthur Schlessinger. I know why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. The Snows of Kilamanjaro by Hemingway. And the career memoir of editor Michael Korda, entitled Another Life."
08/31/2012 Two Favorite PoemsBlow, Bugle, Blow by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Meeting at Night by Robert Browning
02/13/2013 David L. Robbins' strong approach to writing his novelsInterview in The Writer of novelist David L. Robbins, author of Scorched Earth
04/11/2013 Act One by Moss HartMoss Hart achieves his first Broadway success with the play 'Once in a Lifetime'. Summary of his memoir Act One
04/25/2013 Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by Walt Whitman Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by Walt Whitman. Reveling in New York atmosphere. Connecting with past and future generations.
05/16/2014 Cole PorterHighlights songs of Cole Porter like "Anything Goes", "It's DeLovely", "You're the Top". Cole Porter wrote Broadway and movie musicals from the 1920s through the 1950s.
12/30/2015 Saving Mr. BanksBest movie of the last several years
editing
07/06/2012 Jackie as EditorJackie's experiences working for Viking and then Doubleday. The books she edited, the fine contribution to our culture and understanding that most of these books give us. Most telling - her battle with an author who refused to let the editors cut any of her 800 page novel.
10/05/2012 Perkins, Fitzgerald, and The Great GatsbyMax Perkins, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the birth of The Great Gatsby
10/07/2012 Editor to Author: Max PerkinsMax Perkins’ letters written to Scribners authors. The letter of most interest was one Perkins wrote to an author whose work he was turning down.
10/09/2012 The Nuts and Bolts of EditingReading and identifying issues in a manuscript. Communicating them to the author.
10/13/2012 Susan Bell editing sugestionsSusan Bell editing principles. Macro and detailed editing. Lessons from The Great Gatsby
10/16/2012 Susan Bell master classSusan Bell Master Class. Detailed editing. Lessons from photographer Mitch Epstein, film and sound editor Walter Murch, and quotes Milan Kundera's ideas found in his The Art of the Novel
10/18/2012 Robert Gottleib Part ISeveral major authors describe how Robert Gottlieb worked with them on their books. Paired with each segment, Gottleib tells us his understanding of the process.
10/20/2012 Robert Gottleib Part IISeveral major authors describe how Robert Gottlieb worked with them on their books. Paired with each segment, Gottleib tells us his understanding of the process.
10/22/2012 Robert Gottleib Part IIIAnyone can take a piece and tart it up, and in so doing layer another sensibility or another vocabulary on top of what’s there, but Bob doesn’t do that. He has a great ability to get inside a piece and instinctively understand the terms and the vocabulary of the writer, and make changes in those terms and that vocabulary. This is one of the hallmarks of great editing: when it is done right, you don’t notice it.
10/24/2012 Robert Gottleib Part IVHow Gottleib relates and works with different authors. How some need more encouragement than others. The one constant: he never imposes what the author should write in the book, he only makes comments on where the book needs strengthening or trimming.
10/27/2012 Thomas McCormack 1Thomas McCormack's The Fiction Editor, the Novel, and the Novelist. Sensibility and the Appropriate Reader. The writer should stay in his sweet spot
10/29/2012 Thomas McCormack 2Thomas McCormack's The Fiction Editor, the Novel, and the Novelist. Installment II laying out the ideas from this classic about editing. Diagnosis requires Sensibility and Craft
11/06/2012 Freedom of ExpressionMax Perkins, in letters to readers of Scribners books, resoundingly defended the right to publish unpopular ideas. The public can sort things out in an unfettered marketplace of ideas.
11/09/2012 Thomas McCormack - POV and OxygenThomas McCormack discussing POV in a novel. How an author can unwittingly choke off the level of personal detail in his story just when the story hits its climax.
11/12/2012 McCormack - One thing at a timeMcCormack addresses two specific flaws in the writing: the one-thing-at-a-time scene, and the premature flashback.
11/14/2012 Thomas McCormack - What is circuitryIntroducing situation and master-effect-wanted into the lexicon. The elements that set a story in motion: character, setting, and most of all, circuitry.
11/17/2012 The case of the missing characterThe subtlest circuit problem of all—and it's one that many editors go a lifetime and never identify—is the missing character
11/28/2012 Thomas McCormack. Energy in the Novel The optimal density of character and situation. When there is a lull in the characters interacting, the setting must unify the story and provide the interest. The ticking clock.
12/27/2012 What makes a life worth living also makes a book worth readingWhen we connect to something larger than ourselves. More about the need for circuitry—When the Principals Interact.
01/05/2013 What to put in, what to take outIt grows fatter each time I rewrite it, historical novels, Hollywood—admirably dramatic and concise.
01/21/2013 Kurt Vonnegut's writing tipsThe most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not.
01/23/2013 Character grid • What does he want or promise?
• What does he do to make it happen?
• Does he braid or conflict with others in the cast?
02/4/2013 Using the grid & other toolsusing a character grid to help us analyze how, and how well, a character fits into the story
politics, issues, & history
06/29/2012 Population & Wildlife. Immigration & UnemploymentPeak population will reach nine to ten billion in the latter half of this century. This will impact wildlife, encroaching on habitat and competing for fresh water. The immigration issue - The jobs taken by immigrants from south of the border - US citizens could get these jobs if the jobs were better paid and working conditions improved. Restructuring agricultural jobs to make them accessible to United States citizens.
07/27/2012 Money in PoliticsChris Hedges, interviewed by Bill Moyers, outlines the downside of corporate influence. Lawrence Lessig lays out a four point plan for getting money out of politics. One goal is to make tax policy fairer.
08/10/2012 Marijuana prohibitionSeveral reasons to end the prohibition against marijuana. The law was enacted at the prompting of special interests [named here]. The government does not belong in the business of telling its citizens whether or not they can get high. Economic pros and cons to prohibition.
08/24/2012 The Liquidity TrapPaul Krugman explains The Liquidity Trap, and the necessary demand for goods and services achieved via economic stimulus.
09/07/2012 The Dutch in ManhattanThe Dutch settlers of Manhattan practiced religious tolerance. The city was blessed with ethnic diversity. The Dutch believed in democracy, facilitated class mobility and allowed a wide swath of their people to participate in their strong economy. The melting pot of New Amsterdam enjoyed all these qualities in the mid-1600s. When the English took over, this society didn't go away. It merged into and influenced the larger fabric of the colonies, and then the new country. While the title of the book describes early Manhattan's strong global trading ties, the subtitle points to Holland's and Manhattan's liberal tradition which carries over into today's world.
09/30/2012 Twilight of the ElitesTwilight of the Elites panel discussion sheds light on the inner workings of our social, political, and economic scene. Plenty of blog and concrete examples included. The insights of Chris Hayes, whose book has already added to our framework of understanding, enriched by the perspectives supplied by speakers Stephen Holmes, Todd Gitlin, and Kim Phillips-Fein.
12/20/2012 Mentally ill — the kind of help they need.The distinction between temporary emotional difficulties and permanent mental illness. Humane way to interact with the mentally ill. Need for self-actualization. The role of pharmaceuticals. Living-arrangements. Stigma.
01/13/2013 Every Sandy ShoreWhy and How much we value our precious land and wildlife.
04/18/2013 Scoundrel Time by Lillian HellmanLillian Hellman, author of Watch on the Rhine and The Little Foxes, stands up to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952. Summary of her memoir Scoundrel Time
04/17/2014 The Education of Henry Adams We look at the original context of the phrase "Thus he found himself launched on waters he had never meant to sail."
05/08/2014 Keeping up with a changing world — Henry AdamsThe acceleration of changes, 1800 - 1905. Slavery, religion, science & technology, the automobile, the western frontier, Teddy Roosevelt and the Trusts, immigration.
10/08/2014 The AmistadThe Amistad, abolitionist Lewis Tappan, the founding of Dun & Bradstreet, Northampton MA, and author Olive Higgins Prouty.
06/13/2016 The Age of VoltaireVoltaire and his fellow philosophes made Europe a more secular place. The Enlightenment.
religion & secular humanism
01/29/2013 Joseph Campbell — The Power of Myth The Journey Within. Looking for common ground
10/12/2014 The Historicity of JesusRichard Carrier analyses, and reverse-engineers, how the Jesus myth was created.
06/13/2016 The Age of VoltaireVoltaire and his fellow philosophes made Europe a more secular place. The Enlightenment.
sports & social history
09/14/2012 The Color Barrier in the NFL - 1946Breaking the Color line in the NFL - Halley Harding started the ball rolling so that Kenny Washington and Woody Strode were signed by the Rams in 1946
05/01/2014 Southern Man by Henry AdamsSixty years before Neil Young’s song, Henry Adams does a take-down of the Southern Man. Adams' opinion of the Southern mind and southern attitudes.
biography
04/11/2013 Act One by Moss HartMoss Hart achieves his first Broadway success with the play 'Once in a Lifetime'. Summary of his memoir Act One
04/17/2014 The Education of Henry Adams We look at the original context of the phrase "Thus he found himself launched on waters he had never meant to sail."
04/24/2014 Henry Adams at HarvardHenry Adams, the grandson of John Quincy Adams, goes to Harvard and is named class valedictorian, but feels the four years was largely a waste.
06/13/2016 The Age of VoltaireVoltaire and his fellow philosophes made Europe a more secular place. The Enlightenment.
humor
09/21/2012 Food PyramidUpdating the food pyramid

By Date

2016

June 13 The Age of VoltaireVoltaire and his fellow philosophes made Europe a more secular place. The Enlightenment.

2015

Dec 30 Saving Mr. BanksBest movie of the last several years

2014

Oct 12 The Historicity of JesusRichard Carrier analyses, and reverse-engineers, how the Jesus myth was created. Oct 8 The AmistadThe Amistad, abolitionist Lewis Tappan, the founding of Dun & Bradstreet, Northampton MA, author Olive Higgins Prouty.
May 16 Cole PorterHighlights songs of Cole Porter like "Anything Goes", "It's DeLovely", "You're the Top". Cole Porter wrote Broadway and movie musicals from the 1920s through the 1950s. May 8 Keeping up with a changing world — Henry AdamsThe acceleration of changes, 1800 - 1905. Slavery, religion, science & technology, the automobile, the western frontier, Teddy Roosevelt and the Trusts, immigration.
May 1 Southern Man by Henry AdamsSixty years before Neil Young’s song, Henry Adams does a take-down of the Southern Man. Adams' opinion of the Southern mind and southern attitudes. Apr 24 Henry Adams at HarvardHenry Adams, the grandson of John Quincy Adams, goes to Harvard and is named class valedictorian, but feels the four years was largely a waste.
Apr 17 The Education of Henry Adams We look at the original context of the phrase "Thus he found himself launched on waters he had never meant to sail."

2013

Aug 23 Aaron Aardvark — a tale of resourcefulness and ingenuity Jun 30 The Evolution of Language Excerpts from E.O. WilsonE.O. Wilson’s The Social Conquest of the Earth covers The Evolution of Language. Language came as a by-product of the social nature of our species. Discussion of what sets human language apart from that of other species. When language came about it enhanced human consciousness.
Apr 25 Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by Walt Whitman Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by Walt Whitman. Reveling in New York atmosphere. Connecting with past and future generations. Apr 18 Scoundrel Time by Lillian HellmanLillian Hellman, author of Watch on the Rhine and The Little Foxes, stands up to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952. Summary of her memoir Scoundrel Time
Apr 11 Act One by Moss HartMoss Hart achieves his first Broadway success with the play 'Once in a Lifetime'. Summary of his memoir Act One Feb 13 David L. Robbins' strong approach to writing his novelsInterview in The Writer of novelist David L. Robbins, author of Scorched Earth
Feb 4 Using the grid & other toolsusing a character grid to help us analyze how, and how well, a character fits into the story Jan 29 Joseph Campbell — The Power of Myth The Journey Within. Looking for common ground
Jan 23 Character grid • What does he want or promise?
• What does he do to make it happen?
• Does he braid or conflict with others in the cast?
Jan 21 Kurt Vonnegut's writing tipsThe most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not.
Jan 13 Every Sandy ShoreWhy and How much we value our precious land and wildlife. Jan 5 What to put in, what to take outIt grows fatter each time I rewrite it, historical novels, Hollywood—admirably dramatic and concise.

2012

Dec 27 What makes life worth living also makes a book worth readingWhen we connect to something larger than ourselves. More about the need for circuitry—When the Principals Interact. Dec 20 Mentally ill — the kind of help they need.The distinction between temporary emotional difficulties and permanent mental illness. Humane way to interact with the mentally ill. Need for self-actualization. The role of pharmaceuticals. Living-arrangements. Stigma.
Dec 14 Show, don't tell me. Anton Chekhov Anton Chekhov's version of the well-known writing dictum. Nov 28 Thomas McCormack. Energy in the Novel The optimal density of character and situation. When there is a lull in the characters interacting, the setting must unify the story and provide the interest. The ticking clock.
Nov 17 The case of the missing character The subtlest circuitry problem of all—and it's one that many editors go a lifetime and never identify—is the missing character Nov 14 Thomas McCormack - What is circuitryIntroducing situation and master-effect-wanted into the lexicon. The elements that set a story in motion: character, setting, and most of all, circuitry.
Nov 12 McCormack - One thing at a timeMcCormack addresses two specific flaws in the writing: the one-thing-at-a-time scene, and the premature flashback. Nov 09 Thomas McCormack - POV and OxygenThomas McCormack discussing POV in a novel. How an author can unwittingly choke off the level of personal detail in his story just when the story hits its climax.
Nov 06 Freedom of ExpressionMax Perkins, in letters to readers of Scribners books, resoundingly defended the right to publish unpopular ideas. The public can sort things out in an unfettered marketplace of ideas. Oct 29 Thomas McCormack 2Thomas McCormack's The Fiction Editor, the Novel, and the Novelist. Installment II laying out the ideas from this classic about editing. Diagnosis requires Sensibility and Craft
Oct 27 Thomas McCormack 1Thomas McCormack's The Fiction Editor, the Novel, and the Novelist. Sensibility and the Appropriate Reader. The writer should stay in his sweet spot Oct 24 Robert Gottleib Part IVTouches on how Gottleib relates and works with different authors. How some need more encouragement than others. The one constant: he never imposes what the author should write in the book, he only makes comments on where the book needs strengthening or trimming.
Oct 22 Robert Gottleib Part IIIAnyone can take a piece and tart it up, and in so doing layer another sensibility or another vocabulary on top of what’s there, but Bob doesn’t do that. He has a great ability to get inside a piece and instinctively understand the terms and the vocabulary of the writer, and make changes in those terms and that vocabulary. This is one of the hallmarks of great editing: when it is done right, you don’t notice it. Oct 20 Robert Gottleib Part IISeveral major authors describe how Robert Gottlieb worked with them on their books. Paired with each segment, Gottleib tells us his understanding of the process.
Oct 18 Robert Gottleib Part ISeveral major authors describe how Robert Gottlieb worked with them on their books. Paired with each segment, Gottleib tells us his understanding of the process. Oct 16 Susan Bell master classSusan Bell Master Class. Detailed editing. Lessons from photographer Mitch Epstein, film and sound editor Walter Murch, and quotes Milan Kundera's ideas found in his The Art of the Novel
Oct 13 Susan Bell editing sugestionsSusan Bell editing principles. Macro and detailed editing. Lessons from The Great Gatsby Oct 9 The Nuts and Bolts of EditingReading and identifying issues in a manuscript. Communicating them to the author.
Oct 7 Editor to Author: Max PerkinsMax Perkins’ letters written to Scribners authors. The letter of most interest was one Perkins wrote to an author whose work he was turning down. Oct 5 Perkins, Fitzgerald, and The Great GatsbyMax Perkins, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the birth of The Great Gatsby
Sept 30 Twilight of the ElitesTwilight of the Elites panel discussion sheds light on the inner workings of our social, political, and economic scene. Plenty of concrete examples included. The insights of Chris Hayes, whose book has already added to our framework of understanding, enriched by the perspectives supplied by speakers Stephen Holmes, Todd Gitlin, and Kim Phillips-Fein. Sept 21 Food PyramidUpdating the food pyramid
Sept 14 The Color Barrier in the NFL - 1946Breaking the Color line in the NFL - Halley Harding started the ball rolling so that Kenny Washington and Woody Strode were signed by the Rams in 1946 Sept 7 The Dutch in ManhattanThe Dutch settlers of Manhattan practiced religious tolerance. The city was blessed with ethnic diversity. The Dutch believed in democracy, facilitated class mobility and allowed a wide swath of their people to participate in their strong economy. The melting pot of New Amsterdam enjoyed all these qualities in the mid-1600s. When the English took over, this society didn't go away. It merged into and influenced the larger fabric of the colonies, and then the new country. While the title of the book describes early Manhattan's strong global trading ties, the subtitle points to Holland's and Manhattan's liberal tradition which carries over into today's world.
Aug 31 Two Favorite PoemsBlow, Bugle, Blow by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Meeting at Night by Robert Browning Aug 24 The Liquidity TrapPaul Krugman explains The Liquidity Trap, and the necessary demand for goods and services achieved via economic stimulus.
Aug 17 Ego DepletionWillpower as a finite resource. And how to husband your reserves. Aug 10 Marijuana prohibitionSeveral reasons to end the prohibition against marijuana. The law was enacted at the prompting of special interests [named here]. The government does not belong in the business of telling its citizens whether or not they can get high. Economic pros and cons to prohibition.
Aug 3 Rational Emotive TherapyThis brief multiple-choice quiz will help you identify any self-defeating thinking that might be holding you back. Once you identify any such thinking, the next step is to write down the appropriate affirmations and repeat them to yourself strongly, often. July 27 Money in PoliticsChris Hedges, interviewed by Bill Moyers, outlines the downside of corporate influence. Lawrence Lessig lays out a four point plan for getting money out of politics. One goal is to make tax policy fairer.
July 20 The Scientific MethodBriefly lays out several components of the scientific method. Falsifiability. Peer review and the need to have other scientists replicate my results. The cumulative nature of scientific knowledge. July 13 Free Will ReduxThe mind has become the tool that lets us revise our natural instincts. Reasons for and against a course of action can be weighed and negotiated. Our verbal ability gives us conscious access to this weighing, negotiating process. Daniel Dennett.
July 6 Jackie as EditorJackie's experiences working for Viking and then Doubleday. The books she edited, the fine contribution to our culture and understanding that most of these books give us. Most telling - her battle with an author who refused to let the editors cut any of her 800 page novel. June 29 Population & Wildlife. Immigration & UnemploymentPeak population will reach nine to ten billion in the latter half of this century. This will impact wildlife, encroaching on habitat and competing for fresh water. The immigration issue - The jobs taken by immigrants from south of the border - US citizens could get these jobs if the jobs were better paid and working conditions improved. Restructuring agricultural jobs to make them accessible to United States citizens.
June 22 Recent landings: Books I have enjoyed recentlyBrief descriptions of a few books I have enjoyed in the last several months. Some well-known: Jackie Kennedy: Conversations with Arthur Schlessinger. I know why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. The Snows of Kilamanjaro by Hemingway. And the career memoir of editor Michael Korda, entitled Another Life." June 15 Book Discovery How do we discover the books that we read? I describe my own particular successful finds. Often a good movie points the way, or one good book points to another one. Some came from my parents' bookcase and attic. Assorted other sources.
June 8 Consciousness and free willDaniel Dennett's and Sam Harris's take on how the mind generates consciousness. There is no specific central “I” in the brain. There is no module that sits on top, observing and editing. No homunculus. Several trains of thought are going on at any given time. Whichever of our many trains of thought has at any given time recruited the most circuitry is the one that rises to be our conscious thought.