Tuesday, October 19, 2010

For Aspiring Writers

If you want to write a book and make any money doing it, the odds are stacked against you, I'll admit. It's tough to get an agent to look at your work. And even if you do get published...well, book sales are down. Even a writer as well known as Robert Reich is bemoaning the necessity of promoting himself.

Well, there is hope. The Pentagon made Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer a best-selling author when they bought and destroyed the entire print run of Operation Dark Heart, his account of fighting in Afghanistan, on the grounds that the book revealed military secrets. Never mind that the final version of the text passed the Army's operational security review.

So if you've written a book--no matter what it's about, say it's about Afghanistan. Because clearly what's actually in the book doesn't really matter. The publisher will know they'll have a guaranteed best-seller. Nobody will have a chance to read it, but who cares?

Another trick you can try: put pictures of train stations in your book: what reader halfway through the latest Jonathan Franzen novel or triumph-over-addiction memoir wouldn't want to take a break by look at pictures of Union Station? A couple of years ago I was taking pictures in a Chicago commuter rail station and was stopped by the police on the grounds that my pictures posed a security risk. I'm not kidding. And remember the photographer who was handcuffed for not deleting photos he had taken in Penn Station?

So whatever you're written, whether it's serious literary fiction, a memoir, a mystery, slap in some photos of train stations. Then make an anonymous tip to Homeland Security. They love those.

Janet Napolitano will be writing a check to your publisher in no time.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Week in Food

What's Proto-Indo European for "Got Milk?"

Koreans are having a...what shall we call it? Cabbage crunch? Kimchi crisis? A cruciferous calamity?

Does news get any better than one more reason to eat dark chocolate?

You've always known airplane food sucks: here's the science.

The new Halloween greeting: "Trick or Bacon."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Been There, Done That

Despite definitive assurances that the recession is over, somebody forgot to tell the 14.8 million people out of work. So Fed chairman Ben Bernanke has decided he needs to come up with his own stimulus package.

Economists are speculating that the Fed effort to boost the economy will be in the form of Treasury Bill purchases. Billions of dollars worth. The idea is that these purchases will lower long term-interest rates, making it cheaper for individuals and businesses to borrow to money to (using the examples from the Washington Post article) take out a mortgage or build a factory.

However, Bernanke seems to ignoring the fact that not only do most banks seem unwilling to lend, but most businesses and individuals don't want to borrow. What makes this putative Fed initiative seem even more surreal is that we've tried giving banks lots of money before.

And they didn't lend then. Why would they now?

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