June 14, 2002
Last week I mentioned that every time I start up my word processing program Albert Einstein comes out to help me. I’m still puzzling over the question, Why Einstein? Why not somebody more literary, somebody you’d associate with writing? And who would it be? The first name that comes to my mind is William Shakespeare, the Chairman of the Board, so to speak, but that’d just be too intimidating. Having to type out things like this under the watchful eye of the man who wrote "Hamlet" would be, well, more humbling than I need, and I haven’t got the mental focus to type and repeat to myself, "’Cymbeline’ was a piece of crap" over and over again.
Having Shakespeare look over my shoulder while I wrote would be like a sculptor having Michelangelo look over his or her shoulder, saying things like, "I not only carved the 14-foot ‘David’ but found time to paint the Sistine Chapel on the side." Or a musical composer having Beethoven stand there and glower and occasionally say, "My ‘Ode to Joy’ was the most overplayed piece of music of the 1990’s. What have you composed lately?" But I digress.
Back to literary figures. What about Jane Austen? She’d be an interesting choice–perfect for making your form letters witty, individual, and memorable, despite the fact that they all said the same thing. There’s Mark Twain–but he’d also be too intimidating, and he’d probably occasionally say things like, "Rumors of your writing ability have been greatly exaggerated." Ernest Hemingway would not only keep your sentences short and to the point, but he would sit at a nice cafe table and drink and occasionally shoot a large wild animal. Or he might catch a fish. It would be a big fish. A very big fish. W.B. Yeats would come walking in with a fairy hand-in-hand, Henry Thoreau would urge you to turn off the computer and go out to the woods, and Emily Dickinson would rewrite your letter to the bank so that it could be sung to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas". How about Kurt Vonnegut? When you started your word processing program, he would come out of a little door marked "No.5", and stand there and smoke, occasionally saying thoughtful things like, "Book burning is a sign of how civilized we’ve become. Four-hundred years ago we were burning writers." When you shut down the word processor, he’d collapse and a little gravestone with the words "So it goes" would pop up over him.
But wait, Chris! I hear you exclaim. Aren’t you being a literary snob? What about popular writers, writers of today? You’re right. It would be great to have Carl Hiaasen sitting there in a flowered shirt and bermuda shorts with a Labrador retriever at his side telling you hilarious things about environmental abuse and strippers in Florida. Amy Tan would not only give sage advice on how to write letters to your relatives, but if you needed a break from writing you and she could play Mah Jong. And let’s not forget contemporary literature’s most successful figure, Stephen King. Not only would he help you, for instance, write disturbing letters to the bank officials that keep harassing you, but any time you hit the delete key he would rip his still-beating heart out of his chest…and use it as an eraser.
Enjoy this week’s offerings.
Think about it…
Living on Earth is expensive, but it does include a free trip around the sun every year.
Birthdays are good for you; the more you have, the longer you live.
How long a minute is depends on what side of the bathroom door you’re on.
Ever notice that the people who are late are often much jollier than the people who have to wait for them?
If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy?
Most of us go to our grave with our music still inside of us.
If mega-marts are lowering prices every day, how come nothing is free yet?
You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.
Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.
Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.
We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some have weird names, and all are different colors…. but they all have to learn to live in the same box.
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.
A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.
Happiness comes through doors you didn’t even know you left open…unfortunately so do axe murderers.