The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“For me, the most ironic token of that moment in history is the plaque signed by President Richard M. Nixon that Apollo 11 took to the moon. It reads: ‘We came in peace for all mankind.’ As the United States was dropping 7.5 megatons of conventional explosives on small nations in Southeast Asia, we congratulated ourselves on our humanity: We would harm no one on a lifeless rock.” — Carl Sagan

PAY ‘EM: DAY 1

Give teachers the dough they deserve. Do not increase class sizes. Do not extend the school day.

And if necessary, raise taxes.

Let’s cut the bullshit now.

The Chicago Teachers Union strike is everybody’s business.

LUCKY US

Steve the Dog and I took a walk at dusk yesterday on the shore of Lake Monroe in the Paynetown State Recreation Area.

A blue heron flapped past a few hundred yards off, probably heading home for the night. Fish feeding on surface bugs splashed in the water around the marina.

This Is Minutes From Home

Paynetown was a bit lonelier than it’s been for months. The temperature hung around 64 degrees.

We walked fast — well, as fast as my creaky ticker would allow us. I may have to wear a long-sleeved shirt tonight.

Our hellish summer is nothing more than a memory.

KNOW THINE SELF

Author Philip Roth takes Wikipedia to task in the New Yorker this week.

Philip Roth

Apparently, the Wikipedia entry on his novel, “The Human Stain,” recently contained faulty info on the inspiration behind the story. Wikipedia says the book is based on an incident in the life of Manhattan writer Anatole Broyard. Roth says it’s really based on something that happened to Melvin Tumin, a noted researcher in race relations in America.

Roth states in an open letter to Wikipedia that when he contacted Wikipedia in an effort to get the entry corrected, he was told he was not a credible source.

Hah!

Apparently, Wikipedia needs its info verified by third-party independent sources. Roth, per the online encyclopedia’s own guidelines, is not.

All this makes a whisper of sense, when you think about it for a moment. Wikipedia doesn’t want people editing their own entries. Hell, I’ve been tempted more times than I can remember to create my own Wikipedia entry, describing myself as the Midwest’s greatest unheard-of writer. My newspaper and magazine articles, my books, my online posts have thrilled readers and moved them to tears. History, my fantasy entry would read, will recognize Mr. Glab in much the same way that Van Gogh in the art world was celebrated after his death.

Vince And Me

But then I remember that Wikipedia won’t allow me to define myself in its database at all.

Can you imagine, for instance, how noted self-admirers like Richard Nixon or Donald Trump would portray themselves?

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’ve occasionally fantasized hinting to someone I know and trust that I really deserve a Wikipedia entry. Now, I wouldn’t suggest anything outright, but if the person whose ear I bent might take it upon her- or himself to immortalize me thusly, well, who am I to protest?

Anyway, Roth goes on for 2677 words to correct the bit of false information. I suppose that’s what a prolific writer would do. The Philip Roth bibliography entry in Wikipedia states he’s penned 27 novels. He hasn’t challenged that bit of data.

A “writer” such as Ayn Rand could have easily dashed off, say, half a million distorted, specious, and borderline psychotic words correcting some minor point in her Wikipedia entry.

“Writer”

Writers write. Even “writers” write.

Roth’s open letter is fascinating because it reveals a bit about the life of Melvin Tumin, who was grilled for using “hate speech” in a classroom once. It seems he’d discovered in the middle of a semester that two students had not attended one of his classes. Taking roll one day, he asked the class if anyone knew the students. “Does anyone know these people?” he asked. “Do they exist or are they spooks?”

Ha ha. Spooks, meaning phantoms or wraiths. But at the time Tumin uttered the word, it also was a more “palatable” substitute for “nigger.” Archie Bunker on “All in the Family” regularly referred to black men as spooks.

Lovable Hater

Tumin was subjected to a grueling inquisition, even thought he’d been known for years for his sensitive work in race relations.

Roth’s letter, like the novel, explores the issues of character assassination, hysteria, and groupthink. In the letter, he also ruminates on what it means to be black.

So it’s much more than a run of the mill letter to the editor demanding a correction. It’s a neat little look at us.

Aren’t you glad writers write?

THE LITTLE THINGS

Here’s a picture of sand, magnified 250 times.

From I Fucking Love Science

One thought on “The Pencil Today:

  1. david paglis says:

    mike: how do we know the teachers deserve a raise (and how big a one) if we don’t know their current wage and benefit package? and, why doesn’t the tv news tell us what the package is and what promises have been made to teachers that must be honored? so many questions, i’d ask carl sagan but he’s dead and i doubt i would agree with him. americans and s. vietnamese did not die in vain in that war.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: