Photo for tonight

Rockaway Boulevard Station. Queens, NY. Friday, December 28, 2012, 1:59 PM EST.

Rockaway Boulevard Station. Queens, NY. Friday, December 28, 2012, 1:59 PM EST.

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Gone fishin’

fishing

I’m leaving New York (and the country) today and won’t return until just past mid-January, so my posting will be very sporadic for the next few weeks.

December was another record month in blog visits. In fact, of the last four months of 2012, three of them set new blog records for visits (I fell behind a bit in November). As always, thank you all very much for reading and commenting, and now…onward to 2013! Stick around!

Happy New Year.

Writing, but only for the love of doing it

Jeffrey Eugenides reminds young writers to stay focused:

To follow literary fashion, to write for money, to censor your true feelings and thoughts or adopt ideas because they’re popular requires a writer to suppress the very promptings that got him or her writing in the first place. When you started writing, in high school or college, it wasn’t out of a wish to be published, or to be successful, or even to win a lovely award like the one you’re receiving tonight. It was in response to the wondrousness and humiliation of being alive. Remember? You were fifteen and standing beside a river in wintertime. Ice floes drifted slowly downstream. Your nose was running. Your wool hat smelled like a wet dog. Your dog, panting by your side, smelled like your hat. It was hard to distinguish. As you stood there, watching the river, an imperative communicated itself to you. You were being told to pay attention. You, the designated witness, special little teen-age omniscient you, wearing tennis shoes out in the snow, against your mother’s orders. Just then the sun came out from behind the clouds, revealing that every twig on every tree was encased in ice. The entire world a crystal chandelier that might shatter if you made a sound, so you didn’t. Even your dog knew to keep quiet. And the beauty of the world at that moment, the majestic advance of ice in the river, so like the progress of the thoughts inside your head, overwhelmed you, filling you with one desire and one desire only, which was to go home immediately and write about it.

What the presidents read

The literary site Full Stop has just posted my short piece on presidential reading lists:

In this golden age of American polarization, it is no surprise that even one’s reading is subject to the scourge of partisan bickering. During this year’s presidential campaign, Amazon.com actually produced an interactive map detailing which states’ customers were buying conservative versus liberal titles and coloring those states red and blue, respectively.

Even politicians are now just as often producers as consumers of the written word: today, penning a flag-waving bildungsroman-esque memoir is nearly a prerequisite for launching a presidential campaign. Obama authored Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope; Mitt Romney wrote No Apologies. If Herman Cain fends off his circling sexual harassment accusers in the dually relevant courts of law and public opinion, perhaps he will release a recipe book of pizza toppings.

Dan Amira to Howard Schultz: Run for President

The Starbucks CEO, having become quite the nonpartisan activist, needs to put up or shut up, says the New York Magazine writer in a hilarious little bit:

This isn’t an endorsement. We’re just letting you know that it’s gotten to that point. Run as a Democrat if Hillary Clinton hangs up the pantsuits for good. Or run as an independent. You’re worth $1.5 billion — put in $500 million and let your business friends and Tom Friedman cover the rest. Running without a party will be tough but so is convincing someone to pay $8 for a cup of coffee.

The other, better TED Talks

Disclaimer: I have never been to a TED Talk. In fact, I believe I’ve only watched one or two complete sessions (although I’ve seen clips of several more). Nevertheless, these Onion spoofs say pretty much all I’ve ever thought about the series, from what little I’ve seen myself and from much of what I’ve read by others who’ve seen more.

Open to having my mind changed, though.

Concern, misallocated

Kevin Drum examines the difference between civil liberties protection in relation to guns and terrorism:

The federal government can swoop up enormous databases, keep them for years, and data mine them to its heart’s content if it has even the slightest suspicion of terrorist activity. Objections? None to speak of, despite the fact that terrorism claims only a handful of American lives per year. But information related to guns? That couldn’t be more different. Background checks are destroyed within 24 hours, serial numbers of firearms aren’t kept in a central database at all, and gun dealers can barely even be monitored. All this despite the fact that we record more than 10,000 gun-related homicides every year.

Compare and contrast.