Thursday, October 23, 2008

Friday Diversion

The Friday Diversion is back after a six week hiatus. Let me tell you, editing a manuscript down from 450 to 350 pages is not the easiest thing in the world to do while you're trying work a full-time job. Now that I finally have some semblance of a life back, expect a little more love for the Blog.

As always, here is some of the best reading I've come across in the past few weeks to help get you through to the weekend.

The Choice, by the editors of The New Yorker

A ringing endorsement for Barack Obama by the editors at The New Yorker. It's hard to believe that an entire editorial staff can agree on the same presidential candidate, but low and behold, here you have it. Such is the landscape of this particular political world.

The editors succinctly sum up how the Bush administration has been the worst since Reconstruction, they illustrate how electing McCain will give us four more years of the same, and they explain why Barack Obama is clearly the best best choice for president. It is time for a changing of the guard.

We cannot expect one man to heal every wound, to solve every major crisis of policy. So much of the Presidency, as they say, is a matter of waking up in the morning and trying to drink from a fire hydrant. In the quiet of the Oval Office, the noise of immediate demands can be deafening. And yet Obama has precisely the temperament to shut out the noise when necessary and concentrate on the essential. The election of Obama—a man of mixed ethnicity, at once comfortable in the world and utterly representative of twenty-first-century America—would, at a stroke, reverse our country’s image abroad and refresh its spirit at home. His ascendance to the Presidency would be a symbolic culmination of the civil- and voting-rights acts of the nineteen-sixties and the century-long struggles for equality that preceded them. It could not help but say something encouraging, even exhilarating, about the country, about its dedication to tolerance and inclusiveness, about its fidelity, after all, to the values it proclaims in its textbooks. At a moment of economic calamity, international perplexity, political failure, and battered morale, America needs both uplift and realism, both change and steadiness. It needs a leader temperamentally, intellectually, and emotionally attuned to the complexities of our troubled globe. That leader’s name is Barack Obama.

Drunk and Dangerous at the Keyboard, by Alex Williams

A look into Google's new "Mail Goggles" program, which will essentially prevent drunk people from sending regrettable emails between the hours of 10pm and 4am on weekends by making them answer a series of skill testing questions within a limited time frame. Think of it as the email equivalent to the age questions you used to have to answer whenever you wanted to play Leisure Suit Larry as a kid.

13-year old: Hey Mom, what was the result of Watergate?
Mother: Richard Nixon resigned. Why?
13-year old: Just wondering...

Thanks to Flats for the link.

Late Bloomers, by Malcolm Gladwell

A look into creative genius, and why it comes to some so easy (and at such a young age), and why for others it doesn't culminate until much later in life. In comparing Picasso and Cezanne, and Ben Fountain to Jonathan Safran Foer (the fact that Foer wrote the first draft of "Everything is Illuminated" at the age of 19 simply boggles the mind), Gladwell assures us all that if we haven't gotten around to writing the next great American novel yet, there's still hope. It might just take a little more hard work, re-writing, and rejection than we'd like... Oh yeah. And it helps to have a team of people to support your late-bloomingness; financially, emotionally, and otherwise.

We'll go ahead and just deem this blog a late bloomer and leave it at that.

Ten of the Least Consequential Players in White Sox History, by Jon Bois

A strangely fascinating journey through the ten most irrelevent players in White Sox history, as determined by the guys at Mouth Piece Sports.

Rock, Paper, Scissors, by Jill Lepore

From the Annals of Democracy comes this history of ballot voting in the United States. We've come a long way since the days of viva voce (literally, voting with your voice), counting beans, or having to arrive at the polling station with a ballot cut out from the newspaper or worse yet, having to have every single candidate memorized so you can write each on a blank piece of parchment (spelling counted back then).

Amazingly, after all of the work that went into the voting reform, it seems as though the easier it became for people to vote, the less they did so:

By 1896, Americans in thirty-nine out of forty-five states cast secret, government-printed ballots. The turnout, nationwide? Eighty per cent, which was about what it had been since the eighteen-thirties. It has been falling, more or less steadily, ever since.

Let's hope that come November 4th, more of those American voices are heard.

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