24 November 2016


0700 by Jeff Hess

24 November 2016


0600 by Jeff Hess

The Paris Review: “The Art Of Fiction No. 11” with Nelson Algren:

INTERVIEWER: Did you have any trouble getting The Man with the Golden Arm published?

NELSON ALGREN: No, no. Nothing was easier, because I got paid before I wrote it. It got a very lucky deal because they had an awful lot of money, the publishers did, during the war. Doubleday had a big backlog. I was working for Harper’s—that is, I’d done one novel. Under the way they operate—well, it’s a very literary house; I mean, they’d give you, oh, maybe a five-hundred-dollar advance and then you’re on your own. And then if the book goes on two years—well, but I mean, you take the risk.

They pay in literary prestige, they have an editor who once edited something by Thomas Wolfe or something; they figure that way. And I didn’t see it, just didn’t know what the score was, you see. So a guy from Doubleday came along, and I said what I wanted was enough to live on by the week for a year. And he said, “what do you call enough to live on?” and I said, “Fifty dollars,” which seemed like a lot to me then—and he said, “Well, how about sixty dollars for two years?” [Emphasis mine, JH]

He raised it himself, see; I mean, they were author-stealing, of course, and ah—well, I had a very bad contract at Harper’s anyhow. So they gave me that sixty-a-week deal for two years, which was very generous then, and—I told them I was going to write a war novel. But it turned out to be this Golden Arm thing. I mean, the war kind of slipped away, and these people with the hypos came along—and that was it. But they had so much money it was fantastic. It’s very hard to get out of the habit of thinking you’re going to kill them if you ask for fifty a week.

So, $50 a week in 1955 translates to $451 in 2016 and $60 to $541. Granted, we’re talking about New York city here, but I think I could live frugally on $26,000 a year as a writer in New York.

Found in my electronic chapbook

24 November 2016


0500 by Jeff Hess


Since last August I’ve been following Scott Adams’ Master Persuader theme concerning the inevitable (Adam’s called the election on 13 August of LAST YEAR) and no matter how much you hate our president-elect, you owe yourself the time to read Adam’s analysis, if for no other reason than to be best equipped to deal with the challenges of the next four years.

Keef Knight’s cartoon today is the first (there probably are others but I’m not aware of them) return fire to Adam’s in the comics. Jill Miller Zimon wrote today about Flamewars, could this be the start of the funny pages version?

23 November 2016


0500 by Jeff Hess

So, I’ve been a devotee of Julia Cameron’s morning pages from her 1992 book, The Artist’s Way, since the mid-90s when I began writing my first (yet unpublished) novel Cold Silence. My morning writing routine consisted of: Step 1—complete my morning pages, Step 2—read a Lawrence Block article from his collections of Writing Fiction columns for Writer’s Digest, and Step 3—begin writing.

That discipline has served me well over the years and gotten me through four completed works and keeps me going on my current in-progress novel.

This morning, continuing my reading of Oliver Burkeman’s This Column Will Change Your Life pieces for The Guardian, I came across Burkeman’s own take on Morning Pages. I can’t recall one of his columns with so many links. This is a shit-load of information in the links so I won’t attempt to excerpt them here. I’ll just commend them to you and wish you happy reading.

  • Why It’s Worth Making Time for This Lengthy Morning Ritual,
  • Write “Morning Pages” by Hand Every Day to Boost Productivity,
  • These 3 Pages Might be Your Key to a Clearer Mind, Better Ideas and Less Anxiety,
  • Writing to heal,
  • Sarah Lewis: Find Your Private Domain, and
  • A Room of One’s Own.
  • Enjoy!

    23 November 2016


    0400 by Jeff Hess

    22 November 2016


    0400 by Jeff Hess

    So, about two years ago Oliver Burkeman wrote in This column will change your life: false reasons for The Guardian, about how people convince us to elect them to public office. That column now, in retrospect, seems a template for the past 15 months.

    Everyone knows politics is a cynical game: to last a week in office, you need to compromise, tell half-truths, bribe voters and have a friends-with-benefits relationship to your principles. (People who deny this tend to end up offering further evidence for it: “I reject the cynical view that politics is inevitably or even usually a dirty business,” said—well, it was Richard Nixon.) So there was palpable surprise among political scientists the other day when two of them, David Broockman and Daniel Butler, published a heartening study: one good way for politicians to win converts, it concluded, is for them to state their beliefs honestly. And this was no artificial lab-based experiment. It involved real American voters and politicians. First, voters were surveyed by phone; then they got a letter from an elected official, supporting a policy the voter disagreed with. The result wasn’t a hardening of views. Instead, voters grew a bit more likely to hold that view themselves, and their overall opinion of the politician didn’t change for the worse.

    It’s the sort of finding to restore your faith in humanity: just be honest, don’t pander, and you’ll get a fair hearing. Democracy works!

    Or not. We don’t know yet. Why did Trump voters vote for him and not Hillary? That’s easy: in the privacy of the voting booth they liked him more than her. The reasons for those likes are myriad and there is no one answer, but from where I’m standing, the perception that Trump was a straight shooter and Clinton was not, had to have played a major role.

    Then Burkeman drops the other shoe:

    There’s a more jaded way to read the results. Voters actually received one of two different letters: one made a detailed argument for a politician’s stance; the other, a glib and vague one. (The policy was good because “it would have a positive impact”. Right, thanks.) In a rational world, you’d expect the detailed argument to carry more force. But no: the vague non-argument proved just as effective. You can persuade voters a policy’s good, apparently, by “explaining” that it’s good because it’s good.

    Which has to be the political version your parents’: Because I said so. I kept reading and then the fireworks went off when I read:

    The lesson often drawn here is that we’re mindless automata: Robert Cialdini, the leading psychologist of persuasion, compares humans to female turkeys, who’ll bestow affection on stuffed polecats, if they’ve been wired to make the “cheep-cheep” noises of chicks.

    No, this has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. What lit the fuse for me was the name Robert Cialdini. See, I’ve been reading a lot about Cialdini lately because Scott Adams has referred to him as Godzilla, the man who transformed—too late we now know—the Clinton campaign.

    Anyone who wants to understand the next four years, and how we got here, should start with a reading list of Cialdini’s books. Once you’re through those tombs, you might consider Adams’ wider reading list on the topic of persuasion.

    We are royally fucked only if we allow our own prejudices to blind us.

    22 November 2016


    0300 by Jeff Hess

    21 November 2016


    0500 by Jeff Hess

    I saw a lot of faces, that I haven’t seen in too many years at the memorial service for George Nemeth held at the Millard Fillmore Presidential Library in Collinwood last evening. I stayed about twice as long as I had intended and got to catch up people who were around in the beginning of Cleveland’s blogosphere.

    One of the faces I didn’t see was that of Adam Harvey, our Organic Mechanic. Checking in on Adam this morning I find that there is good news from Cleveland’s west side. Adam, posting in 7 Years of Political Silence, writes:

    I’ve spent 7 years with my lips zipped—which is not an easy thing for me to do. I’ve tried to be as non-partisan as possible in my dealings with everyone. Going along to get along. I’ve avoided engaging in anything that might be politicized, but what isn’t these days? Ain’t nobody playing for low stakes.

    I can continue to kibitz, or I can throw my two cents on the pile & see if anything shifts.

    Mainly, though, I’m tired of keeping my mouth shut.

    That is indeed news worth celebrating. Welcome back Adam.

    21 November 2016


    0400 by Jeff Hess

    So, who else should be in my Havin’ A Laugh rotation?

    20 November 2016


    0400 by Jeff Hess

    Yesterday I wrote that the barricades will crumble unless there are people standing behind them, adding to their strength against the barbarians at our gates. The Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus could be your barricade.

    You can’t have a revolution if you don’t show up.

    CCPC Political Director Steve Holecko emails:

    As the sobering impact of a Trump presidency sets in something else is also happening here and around the country—an exploding interest in progressive activism. We now have 821 members (200 added since the election). Welcome aboard new members! While our mission of continuing the Political Revolution in Northeast Ohio remains the same it is becoming clear that our work is even more important as part of the Trump Resistance Movement. As Trump continues to select advisers and fill Cabinet positions it is becoming clear that draconian far-right wing policy and legislation will be enacted soon after the inauguration. CCPC’s role then will then be to minimize the damage as much as possible at the local level and to move forward wherever we can on issues like The Fight for 15 campaign in Cleveland.

    Join CCPC and become part of the Trump Resistance Movement.

    Now more than ever we need your help! Our staff is all volunteer and we can only pay our office rent and buy office supplies with your help. Please help.

    Friday evening’s Love Trump’s Hate Protest was a great success! Several hundred people were at the event on Public Square including about 100 CCPC members. Special thanks to our CCPC volunteers who circulated through the crowd to recruit 81 new members! Thanks also to all of you who came out Friday and to those of you who came out Tuesday for the Keep Wayne Wild event in front of Rob Portman’s office. Photo’s and video’s of these and other CCPC events can be found on our Facebook page here.

    A Few Things You Can Do At Home

    Want to see Keith Ellison become DNC Chairman? If so, sign the petition giving your personal support, and then click here to find the names and contact information of the 11 Ohio DNC Executive Committee Members who will vote on Continue Reading »

    20 November 2016


    0300 by Jeff Hess

    19 November 2016


    0600 by Jeff Hess

    Yes, I understand that this posting violates my no news rule until after Thanksgiving, but I trust Ralph Nader far more than the usual crew and he’s offering his unfiltered opinion on events, not news, so deal.

    Optimists are hoping for a Trump makeover. They cling to his brief victory remarks suggesting that he wants to be the “president of all the people.” In his 60 Minutes interview following the election Trump said that the protestors were out in the streets because “they do not know me.” They recall his statement some months ago that he had to say outlandish things in order to get greater media attention and reach more people than his Republican primary competitors.

    Character and personality are not prone to change in most people. Especially in the case of Trump, who sees these campaign tactics as reasons for his “successes.” However, the assumption to exalted, higher offices of public trust and power sometimes brings out the better angels.

    So far, though, the signs are foreboding. Trump values loyalty, and people like Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich stuck with him at his lowest points earlier this year. Trump knows very little about the awesome job given him by that Continue Reading »

    19 November 2016


    0500 by Jeff Hess

    18 November 2016


    1800 by Jeff Hess

    I first came across Alfie Kohn’s work fifteen years, or so, ago when I read Punished By Rewards. The basic idea is that punishment and rewards are equally bad for a student’s education because the central message of both tactics is that the task at hand really sucks and that no one in their right mind would ever willing engage in that particular activity.

    Fair enough.

    Teachers shouldn’t pour learning into the empty skulls (which seems easy enough), rather they must light fires of curiosity under their students (which is very hard).

    Oliver Burkeman, writing in Why rewards can backfire for The Guardian, revisits the idea:

    Psychologists have studied [the idea that rewards can backfire] for years, and call it the “overjustification effect”. The traditional assumption was always that people worked essentially like BF Skinner’s lab rats: dangle an incentive, and you’ll train them to do what you want. But for humans, in certain conditions, the reward simply reinforces the belief that the task can’t be worth doing for itself. It locates all the pleasure in the future, when the reward will be bestowed, turning the present-moment doing into a grind. From this perspective, rewards aren’t the opposite of punishments, but basically the same thing: a way of pressuring people into performing activities you can’t rely on them wanting to do.

    This effect gets much discussed in the context of parenting and teaching (beware of giving your kids treats for doing chores, or awarding gold stars for work well done); and also sometimes personal habits (think twice before adopting a policy of rewarding yourself for going to the gym or writing the next page of your novel). But it applies more widely than that. The latest evidence, a study published in Psychological Science, suggests charity fundraisers bring in less money, and come across as less sincere, when they’re being paid – even if they started off genuinely committed to the cause. Come to think of it, since most of us are obliged to work for money, maybe the overjustification effect is built into the economy. Does the very fact we’re paid for what we do mean we could never extract the maximum meaning from it?

    I think so. I don’t get paid for the writing I’m doing—I’ve never made a penny off of either Have Coffee Will Write or The Writing On The Wal—yet I keep writing. I do a lot of extra, unpaid work, for my day job as a tutor, yet I keep doing the work. Getting paid is nice, freezing or starving suck, but that’s not why I do what I do.

    Expecting the carrot or the stick to inspire people to do their best work is just silly.

    18 November 2016


    0500 by Jeff Hess

    17 November 2016


    1700 by Jeff Hess

    17 November 2016


    1200 by Roldo Bartimole

    Mayor Frank Jackson is soft putty in the hands of the corporate downtown plutocracy.

    The mayor from the most deprived area of the city has allowed and perpetuated for a decade Cleveland’s downtown to become a city within the city—pampered and showered with freebies.

    What downtown wants downtown gets! It has self-determination. It gets what it wants.

    Concentrated wealth has been allowed concentrated endowment.

    The leeches have become a giant tick on the public teat.

    Jackson has become the tool of the Greater Cleveland Partnership and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance. They run the city.

    Jackson has commissioned two private corporate agents to determine public matters and continued the shower of scarce public funds for their agenda. The public be damned.

    I’ve seen mayors going back to Ralph Locher. None has been as compliant to the wishes of the downtown moguls as Jackson.

    Even George Voinovich was not as soft on corporate criminals as Jackson has been.

    Now, with passage of the city tax increase, as I’ve said, he’s prepared to seek an unprecedented fourth term.

    The ruling oligarchy will cheer this decision.

    The latest move—closing Superior Avenue to public transit is just another Jackson nose thumb to those who need help the most. This time another slap at Continue Reading »

    17 November 2016


    0600 by Jeff Hess


    17 November 2016


    0500 by Jeff Hess

    The Paris Review: “The Art Of Fiction No. 10” with James Thurber:

    INTERVIEWER: Is the act of writing easy for you?

    THURBER: For me it’s mostly a question of rewriting. It’s part of a constant attempt on my part to make the finished version smooth, to make it seem effortless. A story I’ve been working on—“The Train on Track Six,” it’s called—was rewritten fifteen complete times. There must have been close to 240,000 words in all the manuscripts put together, and I must have spent two thousand hours working at it. Yet the finished version can’t be more than twenty- thousand words.

    INTERVIEWER: Then it’s rare that your work comes out right the first time?

    THURBER: Well, my wife took a look at the first version of something I was doing not long ago and said, “Goddamn it, Thurber, that’s high-school stuff.” I have to tell her to wait until the seventh draft, it’ll work out all right. I don’t know why that should be so, that the first or second draft of everything I write reads as if it was turned out by a charwoman.

    Found in my electronic chapbook

    16 November 2016


    0500 by Jeff Hess

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