Monday, August 6, 2007

1955 1955, a robot at the University of Manchester wrote a love letter that could quite easily have passed for an example of automatic writing by a gifted surrealist.

- "The Bitter Victory of Surrealism", Internationale Situationiste, 1, translated by Reuben Keehan, 1958.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Advertising in China

If you had to make a speech to-morrow night, and you had never made a speech before in your life, one of the hard facts of the moment awaiting solution would be to know what on earth you could talk on.

Even if you knew your title for the address, your difficulty would be increased rather than lessened, for your field of enquiry would be narrowed.

If you ever encounter a difficulty of this sort, remember that the Encyclopaedia Brittannica is the public speaker's friend. So is any other reliable encyclopaedia for that matter.

But, of course, there is even a better way, and that is to start preparing now for the day you will eventually speak.

Start this habit to-day. Cut out of any paper or periodical any item that you think interesting, and which may be of use to you in the future.

Just clip out story, incident or speech, or what not, and put the cutting in a vest pocket. Empty the cuttings at intervals into a large envelope, and label it "Newspaper Cuttings."

The next step to be taken is to acquire 26 large envelopes, 8" x 10" will do, and in the right-hand corner letter the envelope with the letter of the alphabet. And on the left, write down the little heading of the cutting, for example:-

Advertising in China.
Advertising and Sales.
Advertising hints.
Advertising, money spent on.
Advertising for Retailers.

And if this is done with all the letters of the alphabet, and cross-indexed in the manner above indicated, you will soon have a rather excellent series of cuttings. You can get a clerk to do the indexing if you wish, and many interest their wives in the plan, although it is better if you do it yourself, because the extracts will be impressed upon your mind.

Another method of keeping these cuttings is to paste them into a newspaper cutting book, but the disadvantage of this is that when you want to use the extract you have either to cut out the page or make a copy, which is really a waste of time.

When your envelope becomes too full, you can still further sub-divide your cuttings. For instance, you can gather together all cuttings likely to help you in after-dinner speaking, and if you do that, get a cloth pocket file, sub-divided in alphabetical receptacles, obtainable at any stationers for a few shillings, and file your extracts alphabetically, clipping a list of contents on each division, so that you will not have to look at all the contents of one division in order to find the extract you are looking for.

The next stage, particularly if you are in public life, is an upright filing cabinet, not necessarily expensive, but this is the means of keeping at hand for quick reference those valuable pointers so handy to the public speaker.

I shall be very pleased to offer you any further advice on the art of gathering subject matter, or to shew my own personal system that I use, to anyone interested.

- William G. Fern, The Master Speaker, 1931, pp. 93-95.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Problem of Treatment (Contd.)



MECHANICAL. A complete therapeutic system will not ignore the effect upon bodily function of dislocations or subluxations of vertebrae; whether accidental or resulting from toxic conditions.

Many sick individuals - and some well ones too - are benefited by expert Chiropractic and Osteopathic adjustments. In numbers of instances, symptoms can be dispatched by no other means. In others, improvement ensues. Stimulation or inhibition of excretory and secretory action is easily possible. Pain is relieved.

Deformities and disabilities of many kinds are put right by these means. Only the hidebound bigotry of orthodoxy prevents their wider adoption.

Manipulative measures of all kinds, including skilled massage, particularly by responsives who understand something of the operation, through physical contact, of spiritual healing Power, are among the most effective of physical helps.

Discriminating co-relation of all good methods is desirable; for which is worst - trying to reduce displacements by psychological means, or neck-thumping selfish neurotics?

The ECONOMIC are among the worst of the secondary causes. Perhaps more than ever to-day the people languish and anguish and die, for want of a little obedience. Self-interest and financial considerations impede, but need not. In an age of unprecedented plenty, any struggle for a living should be an anachronism. Good health and prosperity may be ours almost for the mere taking. Natural resource is unlimited. Productive capacity is virtually as great. We are richer than Croesus. The principal reason we cannot enjoy as much as we like, as well as all that we need, is WE SCRAP FOR IT INSTEAD OF WHACKING IT UP - "but if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another." - Gal., V, 15.

Natural animal man is selfish, greedy, lustful of power, lazy, thriftless, improvident, stupid, ignorant, apathetic. But the greediest, most ruthless and powerful have usurped control of financial wealth.

Such of our real wealth as they permit us access to is capitalised, and the costless corresponding financial "wealth" issued in the form of interest-bearing debt which continually grows.

When, but never before, sufficient of us are willing to compete for the common good instead of for gain, we can resume effective control of our credit and currency; and, deciding our policy ourselves, vest responsibility for administration in a body appointed for the purpose.

Instead of heart-breaking taxation we should be drawing dividends from the national increment of association. Emancipation and freedom are within our reach. We must strike off the shackles of moral and financial servitude, and enter into our glorious inheritance as sons and daughters of God.

Balking the banditti, however, will not, alone, solve many problems. So many other factors are involved. Malnutrition, for example, is as much a matter of unwise as of under-indulgence; and self-control is a virtue of Spirit.

- Dr. Ulric Williams, N.D., M.B., Ch.B., Hints on Healthy Living: The "New World" Order, 4th ed., 1939, self-published, pp. 80-81.

American hashish

I poked at one of the long Russian cigarettes with a finger, then laid them in a neat row, side by side and squeaked my chair. You don't just throw away evidence. So they were evidence. Evidence of what? That a man occasionally smoked a stick of tea, a man who looked as if any touch of the exotic would appeal to him. On the other hand lots of tough guys smoked marijuana, also lots of band musicians and high school kids, and nice girls who had given up trying. American hashish. A weed that would grow anywhere. Unlawful to cultivate now. That meant a lot in a country as big as the U.S.A.

I sat there and puffed my pipe and listened to the clacking typewriter behind the wall of my office and the bong-bong of the traffic lights changing on Hollywood Boulevard and spring rustling in the air, like a paper bag blowing along a concrete sidewalk.

They were pretty big cigarettes, but a lot of Russians are, and marijuana is a coarse leaf. Indian hemp. American hashish. Evidence. God, what hats the women wear. My head ached. Nuts.

I got my penknife and opened the small sharp blade, the one I didn't clean my pipe with, and reached for one of them. That's what a police chemist would do. Slit one down the middle and examine the stuff under a microscope, to start with. There might just happen to be something unusual about it. Not very likely, but what the hell, he was paid by the month.

I slit one down the middle. The mouthpiece part was pretty tough to slit. Okey, I was a tough guy, I slit it anyway. See, can you stop me?

Out of the mouthpiece shiny segments of rolled thin cardboard partly straightened themselves and had printing on them. I sat up straight and pawed for them. I tried to spread them out on the desk in order, but they slid around on the desk. I grabbed another of the cigarettes and squinted inside the mouthpiece. Then I went to work with the blade of the pocket knife in a different way. I pinched the cigarette down to the place where the mouthpiece began. The paper was thin all the way, you could feel the grain of what was underneath. So I cut the mouthpiece off carefully and then still more carefully cut through the mouthpiece longways, but only just enough. It opened out and there was another card underneath, rolled up, not touched this time.

I spread it out fondly. It was a man's calling card. Thin pale ivory, just off white. Engraved in that were delicately shaded words. In the lower left-hand corner a Stillwood Heights telephone number. In the lower right-hand corner the legend, 'By Appointment Only.' In the middle, a little larger, but still discreet: 'Jules Amthor.' Below, a little smaller: 'Psychic Consultant.'

- Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely, 1940, chapter 14.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Three letters to The Economist, December 16, 2006

The dating game

SIR - I found your article on the fashion for purity in America to be, well, quaint ("In praise of chastity", November 18th). As an evangelical Christian man who, in keeping with his religious convictions, has remained chaste before marriage into his 40s, my experience with women, including Christian women, has been that they care not one jot about pairing with a spouse who is chaste. In fact, I have had a few instances where a chaste woman actually preferred a fellow to have a resume, especially if he was a little older. It does not mean that an otherwise attractive buck-a-roo is taken out of the rodeo, but being chaste does not appear to move one from the runner-up category to the leader board. Christian guys go down in flames in the proverbial dating dogfight. Until women really care about their partner being chaste and use it as a criterion to select a spouse the concept of chastity will remain drivel, fantasy and wishful thinking.

Fairfax, Virginia

Coffee circle

SIR - Your article on Ethiopia's conflict with Starbucks challenged the motivations behind the Ethiopian government's initiative to trademark its coffee brands ("Storm in a coffee cup", December 2nd). You did this with an air of great certainty, pointing out that Ethiopia ranks horribly low on indices of investment and corruption. However, the indices to which you refer are constructed largely on the basis of surveys of perceptions of investors and consultants, that is of readers of publications like The Economist. Think about it: you tell your readers the government is up to no good, and you, in turn, use that "evidence" to support your argument that the government, indeed, is up to no good. Ethiopia's government may or may not have benign intentions, but your argument would be more compelling were it less circular.

Ken Shadlen
Lecturer in development studies
London School of Economics

SIR - As a Starbucks barista, I was pleased to read your even-handed treatment of the Ethiopian trademarking controversy. Anyone who studies the way Starbucks buys its coffee (which is required of all employees) knows that it lives up to its goal of "contributing positively to our community and our environment". But you made one error. At Starbucks the wetness of a drink refers to its proportion of foam to steamed milk. A latte is almost entirely steamed milk with only a dollop of foam. Thus, your "grande extra-wet triple latte" is actually a triple grande no-foam latte.

Steven Crawford
Tuscon, Arizona

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Progress of the Huns

In the second year of the reign of Valentinian and Valens, on the morning of the twenty-first day of July, the greatest part of the Roman world was shaken by a violent and destructive earthquake. The impression was communicated to the waters; the shores of the Mediterranean were left dry, by the sudden retreat of the sea; great quantities of fish were caught with the hand; large vessels were stranded on the mud; and a curious spectator amused his eye, or rather his fancy, by contemplating the various appearance of valleys and mountains, which had never, since the formation of the globe, been exposed to the sun. But the tide soon returned, with the weight of an immense and irresistible deluge, which was severely felt on the coasts of Sicily, of Dalmatia, of Greece, and of Egypt: large boats were transported, and lodged on the roofs of houses, or at the distance of two miles from the shore; the people, with their habitations, were swept away by the waters; and the city of Alexandria annually commemorated the fatal day, on which fifty thousand persons had lost their lives in the inundation. This calamity, the report of which was magnified from one province to another, astonished and terrified the subjects of Rome; and their affrighted imagination enlarged the real extent of a momentary evil. They recollected the preceding earthquakes, which had subverted the cities of Palestine and Bithynia: they considered these alarming strokes as the prelude only of still more dreadful calamities, and their fearful vanity was disposed to confound the symptoms of a declining empire and a sinking world. It was the fashion of the times to attribute every remarkable event to the particular will of the Deity; the alterations of nature were connected, by an invisible chain, with the moral and metaphysical opinions of the human mind; and the most sagacious divines could distinguish, according to the color of their respective prejudices, that the establishment of heresy tended to produce an earthquake; or that a deluge was the inevitable consequence of the progress of sin and error. Without presuming to discuss the truth or propriety of these lofty speculations, the historian may content himself with an observation, which seems to be justified by experience, that man has much more to fear from the passions of his fellow-creatures, than from the convulsions of the elements. The mischievous effects of an earthquake, or deluge, a hurricane, or the eruption of a volcano, bear a very inconsiderable portion to the ordinary calamities of war, as they are now moderated by the prudence or humanity of the princes of Europe, who amuse their own leisure, and exercise the courage of their subjects, in the practice of the military art. But the laws and manners of modern nations protect the safety and freedom of the vanquished soldier; and the peaceful citizen has seldom reason to complain, that his life, or even his fortune, is exposed to the rage of war. In the disastrous period of the fall of the Roman empire, which may justly be dated from the reign of Valens, the happiness and security of each individual were personally attacked; and the arts and labors of ages were rudely defaced by the Barbarians of Scythia and Germany. The invasion of the Huns precipitated on the provinces of the West the Gothic nation, which advanced, in less than forty years, from the Danube to the Atlantic, and opened a way, by the success of their arms, to the inroads of so many hostile tribes, more savage than themselves. The original principle of motion was concealed in the remote countries of the North; and the curious observation of the pastoral life of the Scythians, or Tartars, will illustrate the latent cause of these destructive emigrations.

- Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1781, Volume II, Chapter XXVI, Part I.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Burger King

Flipping hamburgers began to pay off in some unexpected ways for Tim, who had grown into a handsome young man with wavy brown hair. In the winter of 1985 he began flirting with a woman he'd met at the restaurant. She was married, and at least ten years his senior - but her husband worked nights, she told him, and their flirtations soon heated up. One night after Tim finished work, they started fooling around, and Tim finally worked up the nerve to invite her over to his house.

"My dad goes to work at ten-thirty," he told the woman. Invitation accepted.

Inside the Campbell Boulevard house, Tim offered a confession. "I don't know what to do," he admitted.

"Well, first turn on some music," she said. She relished the job of teacher.

They whipped off their clothes and climbed into his bed. She climbed on top of him and showed him exactly what to do. "I love to fuck!" she said - words Tim never forgot.

"I'm on the pill," she told him later, as they lay together. She complimented him on his endurance, which caused Tim to suspect that her husband must be an older man. That was all right with Tim: he would play the young buck.

After that relationship fizzled, Tim turned his attention toward another young woman who worked at the restaurant, one much closer to his own age. A senior at the nearby Sweet Home High School, she became Tim's first real girlfriend.

- Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & the tragedy at Oklahoma City, Avon Books, 2002, pp. 39-40.