I’ve recently noticed a new (to me) kind of annoying clickbait that seems to be designed to see how long you are willing to read about nothing before you find the bit of information you clicked to get — or give up in frustration.
The headline might be, say, “What Paul McCartney really said when George Harrison wanted to leave the Beatles.” You click and find, not an anecdote about Harrison being dissatisfied and how McCartney responded, but a chronicle of how the Beatles were the most significant musical force of the 1960s, and it all started when McCartney met Harrison and John Lennon, and they started out calling themselves the Quarrymen, and one day after years of struggle they were kings of pop music and then they made movies and the hits just kept on coming.
Eventually you may read about what Paul really said when George wanted to quit — whenever that was. More likely you realize the writer and the website have been stringing you along because the longer you stay on the site, the better it looks for their analytics. These days, if the article doesn’t jump into the advertised subject almost immediately, I realize I’m on the edge of a rabbit hole and should flee at once.
I’m racing through a 1986 book called How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less. Author Milo O. Frank wrote about how making your point in 30 seconds is key because that’s the average person’s attention span. These 35 years later I suspect we’re down to 30 nanoseconds or less.
I’m grateful that you took a minute to read this. I can’t imagine wasting your click like that, and I hope that’s why you’ll come back tomorrow or sometime soon.
I just found out typewriters are cool again. There’s even a documentary called California Typewriter about preserving and using typewriters in contemporary life.
So: Vinyl records, printed books, typewriters. Was I ahead of the curve when I purchased a couple of reel-to-reel tape recorders at the last picker sale? Are people escaping the digital, interwebbed world in favor of mechanical reproduction and analog? Clock faces, not readouts? Does it turn out, after all, that time makes more sense as something that constantly sweeps in a circle rather than as a set of blinking numbers?
We own (but rarely use) a 1950s-era vacuum tube radio and turntable console — it’s a lovely piece of furniture — but when we moved it from one side of the living room to another the other day, we recalled on advantage of digital tech: the old stuff is very, very, very heavy in comparison.
The new stuff is definitely more convenient — all the music in the palm of your hand instead of a wall of LPs. But the LP has some heft to it; it’s substantial — it’s not a birdsong streaming from afar, it’s a physical manifestation, with measurable weight, and a box of them will lift only with a little effort. It’s harder to envision something as a physical product when it’s miniaturized and nearly weightless.
Conversely, the weightlessness of music is part of its beauty. I never thought to consider a piano is a 500-pound instrument until I was on the cusp of buying one and bringing it home. It was hard to visualize, because a melody doesn’t weigh an ounce.
Is it merely a sign of my advancing age that I call back to the technology of my youth? Or is there lasting value in the old methods, the ancient electronics and machines? A 1957 Chevrolet is a magnificent machine, but only if you never mind its miles per gallon, the planned obsolescence, no foldback seats, no air conditioning … Those cars had only five figures on the odometer, because reaching 100,000 miles was improbable and 200,000 almost unheard of.
My dream car would be a Studebaker Golden Hawk on the outside, built with modern materials and technology on the inside. Now that I say that, newly minted vinyl albums seem to be crafted with more care now that they’re not manufactured by the million. Perhaps there’s something to be said for using the new methods to advance old tech.
I seem to be the antithesis of NaNoWriMo. During the month of November this year I contributed fewer than 500 words to the future of Jeep Thompson, heroine of my next (unless some bizarre inspiration strikes and I write something completely different from my in-progress) novel, working title Jeep Thompson and the Lost Prince of Venus.
Meanwhile, with an hour left before the clock strikes December, NaNoWriMo.org — official chronicler of National Novel Writing Month — is recording about 368,000 completed novels by the more than 798,000 writers who pledged to write a 50,000-word novel over the past 30 days.
My hearty congratulations to you all, who proved to yourself that generating 1,666 words a day is far from impossible.
Putting one sentence after another after another until you’ve completed telling a complex story is a challenging endeavor, which is why only half of the folks who try manage to reach the finish line. Completing any challenge is worth a celebration.
A hat tip to the other half, however, for setting a goal and going after it. Most people, I dare say, do not set goals, or if they do they’re along the lines of “I want to write a novel someday,” not “I want to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days,” which is a defined, measurable goal. The people who did not complete their task by the end of Nov. 30 don’t have the luxury of saying, “Well, it’s not someday yet,” but I bet they wrote more of a novel than the someday dreamers.
My consolation prize is that I wrote 30 more blog posts this month and haven’t missed a day since the day before Aug. 1, 2020. It’s not as good as having Jeep solve her Venusian problems, but December is another month — and it’s got one more day, so I only need to hit 1,613 words a day.
Layne splintered the door open and strode to the center of the lush office. Fitzsimmons, leaning back in his chair, raised his eyebrows slightly at the intrusion.
“I’m taking you in,” the gumshoe snarled. “Can’t believe it took me this long to figure it out.”
“I am innocent of any foolishness you believe,” the CEO said smoothly, leaning forward. “What is it you think you’ve figured out, old man?”
“I followed the money. I found out how you work the bribes.”
“All the dirty money the politicians have been taking all these years, it got pumped into media ads.”
“That has absolutely nothing to do with —“
“Just listen. So when people call for taking the dirty money out of politics, the media ignore it. They can’t lose all that revenue, they’d be cutting their own throats. You started to notice how many politicians who never worked an honest job were buying second and third homes.”
“You’re still not connecting any dots to me or my company.”
“OK, dot this. You used to have an army of sales reps going from doctor to doctor peddling your newest drugs, but it was taking too long to get rich and you had to pay all those reps, so you greased some politicians to make selling medicine on TV legal again. You fired the reps and turned the patients into your sales force. ‘Ask your doctor if this pill is right for you. Oh, it could kill you, but you’ll feel better and your skin will clear up.’”
“Oh, puh-leeze —“
“But that wasn’t enough. You wanted it all. So you and the state got married — you sell them the drugs, they give them out ‘free,’ and they make it a law to take them. Why not, it’s free, and you and your family could die if you don’t.”
“Are you serious? We’re saving lives here.”
“You’re getting filthy rich, filthier and richer than you ever imagined, and the media watchdogs — what a laugh — they’re laying down and shutting up anyone who’s onto you because politicians and drug companies are their two biggest sources of income.”
“This — conspiracy theory — is what you ‘figured out after all this time’? These absurd lies and misinformation? You foolish man.”
“I’m bringing you in, Fitzsimmons. The game’s over.”
The man at the desk began to chuckle.
“Oh, I don’t think so.” He pressed a button.
Three burly men entered the room.
+ + + + +
“…And that’s the real story,” the homeless man told the reporter. “Next thing I knew, I was out of a job and on the street. No one would believe me, or if they did, they didn’t have the guts to buck Big Pharma and the state.”
“That’s a lot of — I don’t know what it is, but it’s a lot of something,” said the reporter. “You got any proof, any documents, any shred of evidence?”
“It was all in my computer and my files,” the raggedy man said. “Erased and burned long ago, I suppose.”
“Right. Well, I can’t take this to my editors like this. It would make sense to the conspiracy nuts, but you have one thing right — all those drug and political ads pay my salary.”
“And to hell with the truth, right?”
“That IS the truth,” the reporter said. “People gotta eat. Gotta feed the family.”
“Yeah, tell me about it,” the disgraced cop said. “Maybe I just thought I’d let you know what kind of people are paying your salary.”
“I guess I’ve always known,” the reporter said. “But it’s bigger than us. And I do like knowing where my next meal is coming from.”
“I hear you,” said the homeless man, turning to the door. “Have a nice life, and remember to take your pills.”