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Michael Ubaldi, November 24, 2003.
But there's one point Mr Teachout makes that I think is really important: we seem to be producing very little indeed in the way of lasting literature these days -- by which I mean literature that will be read in a couple of hundred years. And I'd argue that the reason this is true is that our literary writers have jettisoned the things we know readers respond to -- plot, character, and narrative -- for Language and Relevance.
A little painful, isn't it?
Well, it ain't Hemingway. And though baroque stuff like that is taxing, it's not bad once you fall into the author's rhythm (and familiarize yourself with a few of those 35-cent words). A lot depends on our reception. Modern American penmanship not only prizes itself on transparency and expedience, but derides and rejects anything sufficiently wordy or multi-claused as pretentious. For better or worse, that desire for frankness and informality is ingrained in our writing - and in some cases, communication in general. Trying to carry on a conversation at a loud, preferably urban social using sentences longer than ten words is a good comparison. Can't do it and remain the center of attention, can you? Contrast your average American blogger with an Englishman who's not trying to be hip; the difference in language is enormous.
But I digress.
[O]ne too often sees novels driven by plotting and narrative dismissed as some kind of cheap pandering to men's basest instincts.
It's not just writing, Megan - it's modern art. Style over substance. The culture making art values a sensational experience over a lasting one, so shouldn't that be the way for everyone? Movies are sold on novelty, shock, special effects or celebrity; lacking any sort of transcendental qualities, they earn their box office share in early weeks and more often than not fade from view. When Frank Stella beat Clement Greenberg at his own game and killed avant-garde-as-craftsmanship, fine art began a spiral around concept and novelty, and everyone started racing each other to be the first one to deconstruct art into sheer absurdity. They succeeded, and "modern art" is as much a cliché as it is a euphemism. In my last days as a painting undergraduate, I wrote a dismissive review of a graduate show that amounted to a stinging indictment of craftless Postmodernism itself. I'll never forget the stares in class answering my suggestion that art as ephemera was a "waste of time." The radio? I think we can all agree that auto-tuned voices, quantized rhythms, fancy engineering and flawless video choreography a timeless single does not make. And so the fancy novelette passes quietly.
But thinking that you can build great literature solely on inventive uses of language...
Then what's poetry, goddamned awful poetry?
The more relevant and topical a novel is, the less likely it is to speak to anyone uninterested in political or cultural quarrels that faded out before their grandparents were born.
Another analogy to popular music: songs whose lyrics are contemporary run the risk of becoming obsolete and irrelevant if they're not considered, much later after their time, to be windows into a given period. You can trace that back through centuries. Going universal - songs or books - is tricky to get right, but if it works, it works. We'll always have Holden Caufield.
And finally, the challenge:
I confess, I'm hard pressed to think of literary writers whose work will still be read a hundred years from now. Perhaps my readers have some suggestions?
I wonder if the answer is more sociological and scientific than critical. Anybody whose work is over fifty or sixty years old should manage - at least among the well-read - throughout the ages. That's on account of my assuming anything that can survive two generations removed will withstand all but wholesale cultural annihilation. Ephemeral works stand the least chance of escaping the collapse of trend. Modern archiving, however, barely a century old, increases the chances of relevance (or at least proximity) even more. It would be interesting to see how the works of our decades perform in ten more.
We'll always have Flannery O'Connor. And John Steinbeck. And Douglas Adams.
Michael Ubaldi, November 24, 2003.
Playing nurse to a computer whose registry has gone on the fritz. We're ribbing its operator, calling him "corrupt." Even if the weather weren't in the wonderful throes of transition from autumn to winter (read: cold rain now, then sleet and snow by midday) today would be one of those fun, serendipitous days.
CHANCE NEVER FAILS: Windows was unrecoverable (thankfully, we evacuated all personal files). So while snow flies, we reinstall.
Michael Ubaldi, November 21, 2003.
How about an amusing holiday animation? Even if you're not into graceful, psychokinetic potpourri assembling - you know, neither am I - give it a watch. Get into the spirit.
Michael Ubaldi, November 19, 2003.
A correction in Cleveland's Plain Dealer (via the Corner):
Because of an editing error, a story on the front page yesterday misattributed a quote from the speaker on an audiotape purportedly of Saddam Hussein as coming from Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. It was the speaker on the tape, not Daschle, who said, "The evil ones now find themselves in crisis, and this is God's will for them." The only solution for Iraq was for "the zealous Iraqi sons, who ran its affairs and brought it out of backwardness . . . to return . . . to run its affairs anew," the speaker on the tape said, referring to the Ba'ath leadership.
Michael Ubaldi, November 17, 2003.
It's been slow today, so I've kept myself busy by brushing up on photo touch-up and paste-up skills using whatever's handy - which just happens to be a pile of the photos I've been taking from my apartment balcony all summer long. Click above for a full-size, composite panorama from early May. You're looking south/south-east: Columbia Road (not visible but for telephone lines) divides a cliff face from the Cleveland Metroparks valley, with Cleveland Hopkins Airport and the city of Berea on the distant horizon. Mastick Road can be seen in the lower left-hand corner.
I see this view every day and yes, after living in a suburb all my life, hemmed in by houses and treetops, I love it. Summer was fantastic - sunny days were as beautiful as the one I've captured; rain showers would leave strips of fog hanging in the forest, tracing the valley's curves. Autumn turned the trees into a chorus of yellows, reds and ochres, from which I managed to make a panoramic set of snaps. I'll develop those soon in time for winter, where snow and ice are sure to provide for me the wonderful sights my sister would always talk about (and photograph, occasionally) when she lived in the building years ago.
Michael Ubaldi, November 14, 2003.
YOU KNOW: That guy would be perfect on a mug. I'd buy
Michael Ubaldi, November 12, 2003.
Sometimes, winter announces itself subtly; poetically. At other times, it walks in with a full brass ensemble set to fortissimo. The cable satellite feed for my television just broke up - and that doesn't happen unless a storm is approaching. So I checked the Weather Channel. We've got a tornado watch.
And I've got a meeting. See you, somewhere over the rainbow.
THERE AND BACK AGAIN: An excellent meeting with the city's GOP organization. It was a special one, too, as I presided in the absence of the president and first vice-president. With a special presentation by a potential benefits client, a couple of candidates looking to unseat Dennis (more on that later), an election and a bit of heated debate over a couple of issues, it was a fine warmup for my tenure as president next year. We're only about one hundred strong, but boast a rich history stretching back decades and are buttressed by a group of older, chartered members who still have quite a bit of kick in them. I'm looking forward to it.
ON WEATHER: Waiting for snow? Find out your region's prospects in the NOAA Winter 2003-2004 Outlook.
Michael Ubaldi, November 11, 2003.
I was off today. The company for which I work was helped founded by a couple of fellows who left state jobs to start their own business; as a result, several perks and quirks are drawn from government habit. Payday, for example, is Thursday; not Friday. A few federal holidays otherwise ignored by the private sector we observe. Funnily enough, Veterans Day was not one of them until the boss decided to add the day after years of taking the day off himself for his own personal tradition.
Today wasn't exactly exuding energy and earlier in the afternoon, I attended the wake of our former secretary: a good woman who led a good life. So the reverence meter for the day has the needle buried; I assume less words (and less blogging) would be wise. I may sit down again later on this evening and finish a brief review of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie, having watched the utterly artsy-French movie this past weekend. We'll see. In the meantime, count your blessings and give thanks for someone whose life touched yours for the better.
NICE JOB, STORYTELLER: According to the boss, Veteran's Day always has been a day off, hence his tradition. It just goes to show you how readily a guy like me, who came of age in the Nineties, will assume irony.
Michael Ubaldi, November 8, 2003.
The only kind of Saturday morning better for getting out of the house by a quarter to eight than one in warm, sunny May is one in cold, crisp November. Returning from my errands, I spied a snowflake or two. Welcome home, Old Man Winter!
Michael Ubaldi, October 28, 2003.
I'll be at an Ohio Aviation Association conference in Toledo today, so this evening will be the first chance for blogging. An Afghan Watch entry has been accumulating, and I may begin with that. Good hunting!
THERE AND BACK AGAIN: Twelve-hour days are good for the soul. And overtime. More to come in a little bit but for now, know that the keynote speaker was an absolute ham. A great fellow, from North Carolina; thanks to his presentation, I remembered how hilarious this little un-proofread gem is.
THE CONFERENCE IN PERSPECTIVE: Our party arrived just after seven this morning. Festivities began at eight, so we joined the boss who'd spent the night at the hosting resort, tended the vendor booth and engaged in the old meet-and-greet (which was fine, since I don't have any hypochondriatic tendencies). The most interesting and politically pertinent information came from presentations by an Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) representative, a former homicide cop and an aviation lawyer.
The fellow from ODOT informed us of a tax on airport storage, including aircraft in hangars, being debated in Columbus. Poor returns on new taxes levied in an economically sagging state seem not to be on the minds of legislators; luckily for pilots, active aircraft may not be considered storage and would therefore be exempt from the tax. But of course the best choice would be abandoning a market-killing bill such as this one.
ODOT addressed another issue. In the 2004-2005 state budget, aircraft registration fees were significantly altered to transfer more funds from aviation to the state's coffers. Previously, planes were classified by passenger capacity: up to two seats would cost $6; $8 for three seats; $12 for four; $15 for five; and $15 plus $5 for every seat over five for planes seating six or more. Under House Bill 0095, legislation recently signed into law, the registration fee has been made a flat $100. Do the math: a two-seater Cessna 150, a staple of private pilots and flight schools, now costs the same as a commuter workhorse Beech/Raytheon Kingair. Private pilots and commerical airlines flying a handful of planes are likely to bear the additional burden; after all, a few hundreds of dollars amount to small change compared to equipment upgrades, maintenance costs and inspection fees. Moreover, the minimum charge of $3 per seat has escaped inflationary increases for decades. And even though this additional duty will be directed to a relatively new dedicated aviation fund, does that obviate any responsibility to fair application? There's a fine line between efficient public institutions and taking a man's money away from him so you can demonstrate your generosity by lending part of it back to him.
We know the ODOT representative well, of course: he's just as loony as the rest of us, and added a bit of spice to the conference by ending his presentation with an airsickness story I'll never forget.
The former police officer used the death of Aaliyah as a springboard for his topic on the scope of preventative measures airports can take against unauthorized flying, negligent behavior and dangerous circumstances, overloading and potential acts of terrorism. How far can a fixed base operator go to question a pilot or suspend his activities before requiring law enforcement agencies? Some interesting comments came from the audience; operators felt that most pilots, particularly post-September 11th, would be happy to flash their credentials. The officer agreed; he could not remember a situation in which unlawful restraint was filed against a ground administration wrongfully accusing a pilot.
The lawyer touched on many of the officer's points, speaking on a legal case-by-case basis. From his most vivid story, I've taken the following notes:
When piloting a loaded MD-80 in winter, pay special attention to weather advisories and observed conditions. If hazards are not properly considered, do not engage ILS autoland. If said feature is engaged and said MD-80 hurtles out of control down a Cleveland-Hopkins runway, do not reverse jets, particularly if jet is hurtling perpendicularly. If none of these suggestions are followed, do not be surprised to hear an attorney for Cleveland-Hopkins Airport refer to you not as, say, "Captain Jones" but instead "Passenger Jones."