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Clay Shirky tells no fewer than five separate stories in his short essay. He explains how his title is taken from a book called The Collapse of Complex Societies; he tells a story about a consulting engagement he had at AT&T; he spins his short MIT story; he talks about a web video comedy called In the Motherhood and how ABC failed to turn the web video into a successful TV series; and he talks about Charlie biting his brother’s finger on YouTube. Charming, each and every one, but what you might not notice on a first casual reading is that there is little to hold them together or back them up. Switching from story to story keeps the reader off-balance and makes it seem plausible that there is, in fact, a coherent mechanism behind the anecdata if only we were quick enough to catch it as the stories fly by. But there isn’t. The resolution never appears. There is nothing behind the curtain. –“Wikibollocks: The Shirky Rules,” Tom Slee, Whimsley
PM: I blame the deconstructionists.
GM: Yeah. Deconstruction, you know, it started out as fun. How does this thing work, what makes this tick? And that’s fascinating and can be illuminating and instructive. But let’s say you have a clock. And you love this clock, it’s handed down in your family many generations, it’s beautiful, it always works, the alarm always goes off when it’s supposed to… and then one day you take it apart. You can have two reactions when all the pieces are lying on the floor. You can say, “Isn’t it incredible that all these little pieces—each of which is nothing by itself—can combine into this marvelous artifact?” Or you can say, “Look! It’s just a bunch of stuff!” –“High Stakes Criticism: An Interview with Greil Marcus,” Robert Loss, Pop Matters
The death of the wise rapper–tragedy or farce?
into what tropical abyss disappears this nation’s most efficient tyrant?
not really a sport: the dog does the work, the coyote does the dying, and you’re the only one who’s heard of it
Consider the contradictions: It was the first medicine ever designed to be taken regularly by people who were not sick. Its main inventor was a conservative Catholic who was looking for a treatment for infertility and instead found a guarantee of it. It was blamed for unleashing the sexual revolution among suddenly swinging singles, despite the fact that throughout the 1960s, women usually had to be married to get it. Its supporters hoped it would strengthen marriage by easing the strain of unwanted children; its critics still charge that the Pill gave rise to promiscuity, adultery and the breakdown of the family. In 1999 the Economist named it the most important scientific advance of the 20th century, but Gloria Steinem…calls its impact “overrated”…Today more than 100 million women around the world start their day with this tiny tablet. So small. So powerful. But in surprising ways, so misunderstood. –“The Pill at 50: Sex, Freedom and Paradox,” Nancy Gibbs, Time
More from TedRoss:
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”