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AuthorChris Lott

10 Things That Scare Me

One of my favorite new podcasts is WNYC’s 10 Things That Scare Me, a “tiny podcast about our biggest fears.” The premise is simple: someone (the guests, sometimes famous, often anonymous, are unidentified until the end of the show) shares—directly into the mic—ten things that scare them, each with little bit of narrative.

Sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing, mostly brutally honest…there’s just something beautiful in the simplicity of this direct sharing of fears. To get a taste, here’s a random sample of fears from recent episodes:

  • climate change
  • the marionette in my mom’s bedroom
  • my Google search history being made public
  • becoming irrelevant
  • hospitals
  • breathing tubes
  • being shot by law enforcement.

Also, the relatively lo-fi (but very much intentionally so) format and editing fit the idea perfectly.

Best listened to without looking at the title of the show which, unfortunately, gives away the guest’s identity.

This is not the Comma You are Looking For

This tweet has been making the rounds as an illustration of why the Oxford (serial) comma is necessary, including a few gloating notes from friends (because those are the kinds of friends I have):

But, while Stephen Harper isn’t in my top 5—or 5000—politicians, this example doesn’t mean what my friends think it means. Adding a comma just creates a different ambiguity. Who in the “fixed” sentence, “Special mention to @LaureenHarper, my mother, and daughter,” is Laureen? Harper’s mother or someone else?

As with many such examples here, the problem isn’t a missing serial comma (for the record, I am 100% pro-Oxford comma where needed to prevent ambiguity), but a sentence that needs to be rewritten.

Noah Rasheta: Six Tips for Mindful Communication

Photo by Gradikaa on Unsplash
  1. Listen deeply. Try to understand where the speaker is coming from and why they are saying what they are saying.
  2. Be present. Give the speaker your undivided attention. Put down your phone, turn away from the screen, put away other thoughts. Your attention is a gift.
  3. Make an effort to understand. Communication is bi-directional. Try restating what you heard.
  4. Be non-judgmental (skillful). Dispense with assessing if you or they are right or wrong.
  5. Don’t make it personal. It’s not about you. It’s not about your identity. It’s about what you are each trying to accomplish.
  6. Exercise non-attachment. Recognize neither of you are what you say; there is no permanent self attached.

From Secular Buddhism with Noah Rasheta (#72 – Yanny or Laurel? A Lesson in Mindful Communication)

Noted: In Defense of Puns

In Defense of Puns

A sweet excerpt from James Geary’s latest book. He is punstoppable. I am punapologetic.

Puns straddle that happy fault where sound and sense collide, where surface similarities of spelling or pronunciation meet above conflicting seams of meaning. By grafting the idea of evil onto the word for apple, Saint Jerome ensured that every time we recall Adam and Eve’s fateful disobedience in the garden we are reminded of the fruit of a deciduous tree of the rose family. 

From the beginning, punning has been considered the lowest form of wit, a painful fall from conversational grace. What other form of speech is so widely reviled that we must immediately apologize for using it? “Sorry, no pun intended.”

But puns do not deserve such a bitter appellation. Despite its bad reputation, punning is, in fact, among the highest displays of wit. Indeed, puns point to the essence of all true wit—the ability to hold in the mind two different ideas about the same thing at the same time. And the pun’s primacy is demonstrated by its strategic use in the oldest sacred stories, texts, and myths.

Punning folds a double knowledge into words. To make and understand a pun, you must grasp two things at once: the primary, apparently intended import of a word or phrase, and the secondary, usually subversive one.

The frisson in the ship captain’s reply to the first-class passenger who asks if he can decide for himself whether to help row the lifeboat—“Of course, sir, either oar”

Coleridge considered punning an essentially poetic act, exhibiting sensitivity to the subtlest, most distant relationships as well as an acrobatic exercise of intelligence, connecting things formerly believed to be unconnected.

Lamb did write several essays on punning before he breathed his last, including one entitled “That the Worst Puns Are the Best,” in which he vigorously defended paronomasia, arguing that “the pun is not bound by the laws which limit nicer wit. It is a pistol let off at the ear; not a feather to tickle the intellect.”

Author: fncll

Austin Kleon’s Ten Ways to Stay Creative

I must not be the only one looking forward to the release of Austin Kleon‘s latest book Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad…it isn’t due out until April but it is #1 in a couple of Amazon sales categories.

Until then, as Kleon shared on his page about the book, here are the 10 methods described in the book (and Kleon’s own talk that inspired it):

  1. Every day is Groundhog Day.
  2. Build a bliss station.
  3. Forget the noun, do the verb.
  4. Make gifts.
  5. The ordinary + extra attention = the extraordinary
  6. Slay the art monsters.
  7. You’re allowed to change your mind.
  8. When in doubt, tidy up.
  9. Demons hate fresh air.
  10. Plant your garden.

Gail Sher’s Four Noble Truths for Writers

Gail Sher’s One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers is a quick, insightful read. I recommend it. But the core principles, those four noble truths, are right on the back cover and worth making of (literally) what you will:

  • Writers write
  • Writing is a process
  • You don’t know what your writing will be until the end of the process
  • If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is not to write

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