Best Excuse to Go Fishing

“I spend a lot of time killing fish so I won’t kill myself.” Ernest Hemingway*

*It should be noted that Hemingway did eventually kill himself, after which he was no longer able to use this excuse.


Best First-Person Description of Species Extinction

From “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” by Jim Shepard, an under-read master of the short story form, from his collection Love and Hydrogen:

Once in the water I sank to my knees down a slope, the muck giving way in clouds. I was happy they’d turned me out. I was rooting against me. I was less their shadow side than an oafish variant on a theme. Extinction was pouring over me like a warm flood, history swirling and eddying one last time before moving on, and I was like the pain of a needle frond in the foot: I filled the moment entirely, and then vanished.

And now for some statistical fodder

As Recession Watch continues, eMarketer weighs in with further evidence that the online channel may get to sit this one out, assuming the news doesn’t get any worse. (Probably a false assumption, given the news today on Wachovia). The prediction of continued growth is heartening; the predicted allocation of budget by tactic is, I think, about as reliable as investing in sub-prime securities. Who knows what tactic will prevail in the distant future, four years from now. We’ll all be piloting personal spaceships by then, won’t we?

A Frappuccino Too Far

An Irony Deficiency Award goes to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who, having systematically destroyed coffee culture, now complains to anyone who will listen that coffee culture has been destroyed. I feel you, Howard. Fortunately I can just trot on down to authentic barista Torrefazione — oops, no, Starbucks bought them up just to shut them down. Well, at least there’s Coffee People — oops, no, another local beneficiary of Starbucks’ efforts to become the McCoffee by eliminating the competition. But Schultz’s lack of irony is still inspiring: I’m rereading Julius Caesar’s Conquest of Gaul to see if he complains about the Gauls being surly.

Say it with me now: R-E-C-E-S-S-I-O-N

Watching the non-story of the current recession unfold in the press has been slow-drip torture. Can we all please just agree that we are in a recession and get on with it? If there are any remaining economic indicators that say otherwise, please raise your hand.

Economists seem to agree that the primary engine of the economy is consumer confidence, which is largely a psychological factor, is it not? Then consumer confidence can only be eroded further by another 6 months of are-we-or-aren’t-we, as opposed to buckling down and getting through it. The problem, of course, is that news cycles and economic cycles move at very different paces, and the need to fill 24 hours of financial news with economic predictions helps fuel the hysteria, albeit a low-key, slow-paced, tremendously dull hysteria.

All of which has nothing whatsoever to do with the real purpose of this post, which is to gloat about how online marketing, which was effectively blown to bits by the bursting dot-com bubble in the last recession, seems poised to weather this one just fine, thank you very much. Somewhat premature but still compelling data from a Marketing Sherpa survey shows a trend we’re fairly confident will continue to hold up: marketers are actually shifting budgets toward online as the most efficient and measurable channel during the downturn.

Watch for further updates from the cat-bird seat as the situation develops.

Open Letter to The Oregonian

The Oregonian is apparently not going to print my letter regarding their ever-diminishing standards for book reviews (They didn’t publish my previous one either). They needn’t be so touchy; after all, they’re right in line with national trends. But what’s the point of having a blog if I can’t rant and rave, so here it is:

The Oregonian seems determined to make its own contribution to the national decline in book reviewing, despite its status as paper of record for a town of bibliophiles who deserve better. Marc Mohan’s review of Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke displays the part-time reviewer’s typically anxious need to play Guess the Author’s Intentions instead of taking the book on its own terms. Baker’s manifold history of the pre-WWII public conversation offers dozens of competing perspectives, all of which could enlarge any thoughtful reader’s understanding of events. But Mohan frets about the lack of an “explicit authorial voice” and clings to the single-page Afterword, in which Baker briefly accounts for his own views, as proof of the book’s failure. Mohan even goes so far as to label Baker’s narrative style “dangerous,” a reckless charge that has no place in respectable reviewing. In the marketplace of ideas, only ignorance is dangerous.