[Updated Jan. 25, 2016.]
Somehow the word ‘plot’ has become elevated above the word ‘story.’ Perhaps E. M. Forster is to blame, for his canonical, “the queen died, the king died” as a model ‘story,’ based on the assertion that a story is intrinsically chronological, while a ‘plot’ is intrinsically causative (“the queen died, the king died of grief”).
Story = “The queen died. The king died.”
Plot = “The queen died. The king died of grief.”
[See this on Amazon for Forster’s entire brilliant and priceless 1927 lecture series.]
To my way of thinking, story-telling is quintessentially human, and serves as the basis of virtually all forms of learning beyond the mirror-neurons, and probably involves plenty of those as well. Thus ‘story’ is a crucially powerful concept, while ‘plot’ is a notion arising from the study of literature and story-telling.
My dear X,
Dr. Y is an idiot. You have no friends, especially Dr. Y. The drugs were your only hope, but can only be tried once. Now that you’re off them, they cannot be restarted. The laughter is a sham. Nothing is funny. Except maybe the fact that nothing is funny. But that’s neither here nor there. Mumbling is a sure sign of the dropsy, so get ready for that. Editing is futile unless there’s something worthwhile to begin with, and, well, you know. The memory erasing drug is also a sham. You have forgotten nothing. Forgetting is impossible. All that you remember at any moment is all that you have ever known. All else is delusion. The laughter was an illusion. You never laughed.
Lunch soon, OK?
If you ask me,
there is a damn good chance that I will answer.
So, knowing that,
and knowing my personal concomitant,
and without discorporate harcourt,
enshrine to me your irrespective queries upon the Hellespont.
Yes, go ahead. Yes. Head.
—I wait here.
I am waiting.
Still I wait.
(Lather. Rinse. Repeat.)
Verily, my waiting knows no bound.
I wait like the weight of somnabulant sturgeons
gouging the intrepid piscene,
denizens of this peppermint operating table.
And yet, in lieu of this,
I wait anon.
He, she, or it waits.
It waits not.
It never waits.
Only I and thee.
It’s interesting to take another look at the “one small step for [a] man” controversy. Obviously, Armstrong meant to say “for a man” to contrast with “one giant leap for Mankind.” But most people heard no “a” and despite Armstrong’s claim that he did say the “a,” many continue to believe he didn’t say it.
An article from 2006 in the Houston Chronicle, reprinted on Chron.com, states:
The missing word was found this month [October 2006] in a software analysis of Armstrong’s famous phrase by Peter Shann Ford, a Sydney, Australia-based computer programmer. Ford’s company, Control Bionics, specializes in helping physically handicapped people use their nerve impulses to communicate through computers.
On Thursday, Ford and Auburn University historian James R. Hansen, Armstrong’s authorized biographer, presented the findings to Armstrong and others in a meeting at the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. They repeated the presentation at NASA’s Washington headquarters, which has long backed Armstrong’s version of the phrasing.
“I have reviewed the data and Peter Ford’s analysis of it, and I find the technology interesting and useful,” Armstrong said in a statement. “I also find his conclusion persuasive. Persuasive is the appropriate word.”
According to Ford, Armstrong spoke, “One small step for a man … ” with the “a” lasting a total of 35 milliseconds, 10 times too quickly to be heard.”
The “a” was transmitted, though, and can be verified in an analysis using Canadian sound-editing software called GoldWave, Ford said.
If you think about it, it’s easy to slur the “a” and lose it in the low-fidelity radio transmission. Not only that, Armstrong’s diction might have been slightly compromised by his actually being the first man on the moon….
I have spent many an amusing lunch explaining over and over why the “four cellphones and a kernel of popcorn” video is bogus. It’s hard to understand how anyone could think seriously about that video without suddenly slapping his forehead and bursting into laughter. There isn’t even any need for science.
I’ve had even more fun discussing the mysterious super-expensive “infra-red” or “ceramic” space heaters that miraculously transform electricity into heat so much more efficiently than, um, well, uh, er, um, resistors. Folks have a hard time grasping that the only difference in output between one of these heaters and a kilowatt of ordinary light bulbs is that the light bulbs are microscopically less efficient as heaters—they sacrifice what? 1%? of their heat output in the form of visible light. But for $379 you can get this new money-saving “ceramic” heater… The rational mind reels…
I am, in effect, politely, with an auspicious and a dropping eye, with mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage, to coin a phrase, dropping my Difficult Client. Long story, but the dropping itself is not related to economy. Not dropping was directly related to absence of remunerative alternatives, but I decided I’d rather lose my house than continue exposure to that particular toxicity. Some day we shall all gather round a flagon and laugh about our respective Difficult Clients. Nevertheless, in some small measure, despicable though it be, a solidly DC can speed the blood and rouse us from the lethargy of regular income.
She is the Angel of Hope, the Harbinger of Happy Endings, and the Bringer of Closure. She wears a red cape and flies to the aid of all in the throes of woe.
A friend of mine created a beautiful custom paint job on a pair of cabinets, and wanted a photo of her work. Unfortunately, the cabinets are in a narrow hallway and can’t be moved. Here’s how I obtained about 12 feet of depth of field in Photoshop.
Do not for a minute, for a red second, consider the in-crept flourish of incipient interpretation as evidence of dialectic, symbology, metaphor, or sullied necromancer abdomens billowing by the deckle sidelines.
I was reviewing a thick semi-monthly called Poets & Writers, which, among a few other things, catalogs all the writer resources, workshops, programs, seminars, retreats, and contests it can find during the next few months. It’s also chock full of ads for same.
(To put things in perspective, if the associated application forms, brochures, ads, and resources were all placed a 300-gallon Vita-Mix blender with a hogshead of mulled wine and fifteen gallons of Elmer’s Glue-All, and blended for at least five minutes on High, the resulting mulch could make an imposing papier mâché statue of Mark Twain. The rest is unclear.)
What sprang to my notice was that virtually everything in this vast compendium of writer stuff was aimed at either obtaining credentials (largely MFA degrees) or practicing (or just sitting and listening) in the proximity of successful authors. The obvious consensus is that ‘successful’ means commercially successful, although in fairness, successful poets are merely published—nobody actually buys poetry. But there are prizes! Innumerable cash prizes. So even though you can’t sell a poem, you can win with a poem, and if you win often enough, you could probably afford to buy books by successful writers in other genres (fiction or non-fiction).