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food-for-thoughtVisions and Revisions

William Zinsser on “writing On Writing Well, and keeping it up to date for 35 years”. He goes through the process of how the book came about and through the reasons behind the revisions. I wrote a review of the book a while ago and I still think it’s required reading for any aspiring writer. Which reminds that I have to give it another read.

Here’s Zinsser on his biggest influence, E.B. White, and The Elements of Style:

The dominant manual at that time was The Elements of Style, by E. B. White and William Strunk Jr., which was E. B. White’s updating of the guide that had most influenced him, written in 1918 by his English professor at Cornell. My problem was that White was the writer who had most influenced me. His was the style—seemingly casual but urbane and wise—that I had long taken as my own model. How could I not agree with everything he said about language and usage in The Elements of Style?He was Goliath standing in my path.

But when I analyzed White’s book, its terrors evaporated. The Elements of Style was essentially a book of pointers and admonitions: Do this, don’t do that. As principles they were invaluable, but they were only principles, existing without context or reality. What his book didn’t teach was how to apply those principles to the various forms that nonfiction writing can take, each with its special requirements: travel writing, science writing, business writing, the interview, memoir, sports, criticism, humor. That’s what I taught in my course, and it’s what I would teach in my book. I wouldn’t compete with The Elements of Style; I would complement it.

The Elements of Style is the Kabbala of writing; On Writing Well is the Bible.

Why Money Messes With Your Mind

While reading this, I kept hearing Frito Pendejo’s voice saying “I like money”. The New Scientist article is about how money has a psychological hold on us and can even be as addictive as drugs for some people. From the article:

Lea and Webley propose that money, like nicotine or cocaine, can activate the brain’s pleasure centres, the neurological pathways that make biologically beneficial activities such as sex feel so rewarding. Of course, money does not physically enter the brain but it might work in a similar way to pornographic text, argue Lea and Webley, which can cause arousal not by giving any biochemical or physiological stimuli, but by acting through the mind and emotions.

Wikipedia: Exploring Fact City

NyTimes piece on Wikipedia as a City analogy.

Like a city, Wikipedia is greater than the sum of its parts; for example, the random encounters there are often more compelling than the articles themselves. The search for information resembles a walk through an overbuilt quarter of an ancient capital. You circle around topics on a path that appears to be shifting. Ultimately the journey ends and you are not sure how you got there.