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July 2005

A 167-word essay on one of today's most pressing problems. Letter perfect. Bravo, Mr. Felipe. See ten essays like this every Tuesday in the "Black List" at the indispensible Black Table.

MINUTE MAIDS ALL IN A ROW: We aren't any busier or harried than our parents or even Little House on the Prairie, for that matter. Our problem is the time it takes to wade through all of the choices we have. Send someone to the store for orange juice. Just orange juice. If you want to help them, specify Minute Maid. It will cut the search in half. But wait. Do you want pulp, some pulp, tons of pulp? Do you want extra calcium, light (from skinny oranges?), low acid, vitamin enriched, immunity enhancing (really!)? Do you want it from the grovestand or home style? Do you want orange juice for high mileage, extra shine and body or when the right moment comes? Remember when orange juice was just what you could squeeze out of an orange? To really mess with your shopper, tell them you want potato chips, too. They have an ENTIRE aisle all to themselves. Having too many choices? Beats having none, I suppose. A --

A lot of people have been coming here recently to learn more about the impending war between Denmark and Canada. I mentioned it briefly last year.

Here's a new link, with some interesting comments. ("That's the difference between Albertans and Canadians. Albertans prefer substance over image, while Canadians/Ontarians would kill each other for the image. It comes from Ontario having rich, easy, carefree lives.")

The Sci-Fi TV channel has posted a large collection of first-rate science fiction short stories, free for the clicking. Includes some classic stories by prominent authors. Such as Norman Spinrad's "Carcinoma Angels". I read it first when I was twelve; it took my breath away. And it indicated that I had no future as a fiction writer as long as I would have to compete with stories like this.

Thirty-six years later it holds up superbly.

To me, the key issue for a good short story is the ending. It's not all that hard to give the main character an interesting problem. But the trick is how the author resolves the problem. Every aspiring author should see how Spinrad did it here.

More about Higher Education:

I have heard that one of the rites of passage for undergraduates at Harvard University is to have sex in stacks of the vast, labyrinthine Widener Library. It's sort of an academic version of joining the "Mile-High Club."

. . .

What is the message of this new medium? What does it mean when the University of Texas at Austin removes nearly all of the books from its undergraduate library to make room for coffee bars, computer terminals, and lounge chairs? What are students in those "learning commons" being taught that is qualitatively better than what they learned in traditional libraries?