Quote from The Master Switch by Tim Wu: History shows a typical progression

The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires by Tim Wu(Vintage)
History shows a typical progression of information technologies: from somebody's hobby to somebody's industry; from jury-rigged contraption to slick production marvel; from a freely accessible channel to one strictly controlled by a single corporation or cartel--from open to closed system. It is a progression so common as to seem inevitable, though it would hardly have seemed so at the dawn of any of the past century's transformative technologies, whether telephony, radio, television, or film. History also shows that whatever has been closed for too long is ripe for ingenuity's assault: in time a closed industry can be opened anew, giving way to all sorts of technical possibilities and expressive uses for the medium before the effort to close the system likewise begins again.

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The Real Theme of Charlotte’s Web

It's a story about the vagaries of the writing process and not about the cycle of life, but then again writing is life...

E.B. White’s backstory

Elements of Style Elwyn Brooks “E. B.” White (July 11, 1899 – October 1, 1985) was an acclaimed American writer who contributed to The New Yorker magazine and co-authored the quintessential English language style guide The Elements of Style, which is commonly known as “Strunk & White” ostensibly making him the writer’s writer.

He is probably best known by most as the author of children’s books Stuart Little (1945), Charlotte’s Web (1952), and The Trumpet of the Swan (1970).

While re-reading Charlotte’s Web and then watching the movie version of Charlotte’s Web (Paramount, 2006) while thinking about the struggling writer in White (and all of us really), I’ve found a completely different theme in the piece as an adult that I certainly didn’t consider as a child when I viewed it simply as a maudlin, coming-of-age, commentary on the cycle of life.

An Alternate Theme

One can think of the characters Charlotte, the heroine spider, and Templeton, the despicable rat, as the two polar opposite personalities of almost any (good) writer. Charlotte represents the fastidious, creative, thinking, and erudite writer that writers aspire to be–which White espouses in The Elements of Style.

The rat was swollen to twice his normal size, Charlotte's Web, page 147 illustration, 1952, GM Williams
The rat was swollen to twice his normal size, Charlotte’s Web, page 147 illustration, 1952, GM Williams

Templeton is a grubbing, greedy, and not-so-discerning writer who takes almost any word to get the story written so he can feast on his next meal of left-over slop.

Wilbur, the runt Spring pig desperately wanting to live to see the first snow, represents the nascent story. It too starts out stunted and scrawny, and it’s not really quite clear that it will live long enough to get published.

Wilbur summersaults like any developing story
Wilbur summersaults like any developing story
The writers struggle represented by Charlottes Web
The writer’s struggle represented by Charlotte’s Web

And so the struggle begins between the “Templeton” in the writer, and the “Charlotte” that the writer wants to become.

Charlotte represents care, devotion, creation, and even life (she not only desperately tries to creatively save Wilbur’s life, but dies to give birth to hundreds), while Templeton is a scavenger, doing the least he can to get by and generally taking advantage of others. Charlotte is crafting art while Templeton represents the writer churning out dreck in hopes of making a buck.

Alas, once the written work emerges to finally see its first “Spring”, one finds that Charlotte has died the death we knew was coming, while Templeton remains–as selfish and dreadful as before–ready to gorge himself once more.

There’s also the bleak and looming fact that Charlotte is now gone and only the vague hope that one of her few progeny will survive to live up to even a fraction of her good name. (Will my next book be as good as the first??)

The Writer takes on the Editor

The other two voices a writer often hears in her head are those represented by the characters of Fern, the doe-eyed youngster, and John Arable, the pragmatic farmer whose sir name is literally defined as “suitable for farming”, but not too coincidentally similar to parable, but without the ‘p.’ The sensible farmer (editor) says kill the runt pig (read: story) before you fall in love with it, while Fern (the creative writer) advocates to let it live a while longer–naively perhaps–wanting to know what results.

Dont Kill Wilbur! John Arable fights with his daughter Fern over an axe as he intends to kill the runt Wilbur.
A visualization of the struggle between the creative author and the sensible and pragmatic editor.

Who will you be?

So as you work on your own writing process, who will you be? Templeton, Charlotte, Fern, or John Arable? Whichever you choose for the moment, remember that all of them are ultimately necessary for the best story seeing the proverbial Spring.

Though your story may not win the “blue ribbon at the fair”, the fact that it has a life that extends the winter is a special prize all on its own to the team that created it.

On Why E.B. White Actually Wrote Charlotte’s Web

E.B. White, author (September 29, 1952)
in a letter to his editor Ursula Nordstrom of Harper & Row, who asked him why he wrote Charlotte’s Web

 

Now that I’ve sketched out the argument, I suspect that most writers will now know, as I do, why E.B. White wrote Charlotte’s Web.

–Achoo!

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I’ll meet you tonight under the moon.

a post by Rick MendesRick Mendes(Rick Mendes)
“I’ll be your friend in daylight. I’ll treat you as a comrade in every gas-lit ballroom. But alone, under moonlight, I’ll not pretend that I want you for anything but mine.” - Courtney Milan #quote
Groucho Marx (), comedian
in The Cocoanuts (1929), written by George S. Kaufman

 

Meet me under the moon.
I’ll meet you tonight under the moon.
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A lady doesn’t discuss her age or her budget

Paula Wagner (1946– ), producer
on finance in the entertainment industry
in Paula Wagner Turns to Producing on Broadway in The New York Times on 11/4/12

 

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David Quammen on Books

David Quammen (1948 ― ), science, nature, and travel writer
in The Boilerplate Rhino: Nature in the Eye of the Beholder

 

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Two Types of Hipsters

César A. Hidalgo (1979- ), Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT and the director of the Macro Connections group at The MIT Media Lab
in Cesar Hidalgo on economic complexity: Why information grows | Economist.com on June 15, 2015

 

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How to Steal a Million

Some satiric commentary on the American condition
Msr. Charles Bonnet, painter, art forger, conman
counter-scolding his daughter who has called him a fraud
in How to Steal a Million (1966)

 

Then, just a bit later in the film:

Msr. Charles Bonnet, painter, art forger, conman
ironically speaking to his daughter after forging and selling several major artworks
in How to Steal a Million (1966)

 

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On Being a Secretary

The philosophy of how to have a fulfilling secretarial position.
Daniel N. Robinson, (March 9, 1937-  ), philosopher
in Great Ideas of Philosophy, 2nd Edition, Lecture 28 “Hobbes and the Social Machine”

 

Great Ideas of Philosophy

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Sir Francis Bacon smacks down Republican party front-runners

Advice for laying down the law of the land

A

s I watch the unfolding of the 2016 presidential election, I find myself wondering more and more where I can register to vote for the “scientific party?”

The electorate seems to want to focus primarily (only?) on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which our country was founded. Though I have no qualm with these principles, they seem to miss the firmer and primary base upon which the country was built at the dawn of the Age of Reason.

Sir Francis Bacon, (22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626), English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, essayist and author
in the preface to Novum Organum (1620)

 

Pourbus' Francis Bacon

Read the original 1620 edition in Latin

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No, It’s Not Your Opinion. You’re Just Wrong. | Houston Press

Before you crouch behind your Shield of Opinion you need to ask yourself two questions: 1. Is this actually an opinion? 2. If it is an opinion how informed is it and why do I hold it?

This has to be the best article of the entire year: “No, It’s Not Your Opinion. You’re Just Wrong.”

It also not coincidentally is the root of the vast majority of the problems the world is currently facing. There are so many great quotes here, I can’t pick a favorite, so I’ll highlight the same one Kimb Quark did that brought my attention to it:

“There’s nothing wrong with an opinion on those things. The problem comes from people whose opinions are actually misconceptions. If you think vaccines cause autism you are expressing something factually wrong, not an opinion. The fact that you may still believe that vaccines cause autism does not move your misconception into the realm of valid opinion. Nor does the fact that many other share this opinion give it any more validity.”

Jef Rouner
in No, It’s Not Your Opinion. You’re Just Wrong | Houston Press

 

Pictured: A bunch of people who were murdered regardless of someone's opinion on the subject
Pictured: A bunch of people who were murdered regardless of someone’s opinion on the subject
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BoffoSocko.com Now Supports Fragmentions!

A fragmention is an extension to URL syntax that links and cites a phrase within a document by using a URL fragment consisting of the phrase itself, including whitespace.

I’ve been meaning to do it for ages, but BoffoSocko.com now supports fragmentions.

“A fragmention is an extension to URL syntax that links and cites a phrase within a document by using a URL fragment consisting of the phrase itself, including whitespace.”

IndieWebCamp.com

 

Proposed Fragmention Icon
Proposed Fragmention Icon

To take advantage of the functionality, append a # and the text you’d like to highlight on the particular page after the address of the particular web page. Add a + to indicate whitespaces if necessary, though typically including a single, unique keyword is typically sufficient to highlight the appropriate section.

Examplehttp://boffosocko.com/about/website-philosophy-structure/#I+try+to+follow 

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Game Theory’s Tit-for-Tat is Just a Mathematically Complete Version of Religion’s Golden Rule

Francis Fukuyama (1952- ), American political scientist, political economist, author
in The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011)

 

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Don’t get the impression that I actually read more than a few pages

Michael Harris, number theorist,
on why his book Mathematics Without Apologies has so many footnotes.

 

Mathematics Without Apologies by Michael Harris
Mathematics Without Apologies by Michael Harris

 

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An Asterisk Does Not Denote a Hard Problem†

Richard Millman & George Parker in Elements of Differential Geometry

 

Dagger Graveyard by Natalie Slack
Dagger Graveyard by Natalie Slack

 

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Nothing Would be More Devastating than Reduced Access to a Technical Library

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, flâneur
in the Financial Times in response to the question:
“If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?”

 


 

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