Who would believe it anyway?

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Image available from IMDB.com

God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen;
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us . . .

And please, God, please, make her look good on Netflix.

Since 2016, the streaming service has been home to The Crown, a series about the life and reign of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. Over 73 million households have watched the series; mine is one of them. Season 4 just dropped, and it looks like it will be even better than the first three. …


Even if it’s whiny, hammy, and full of lies

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Image by johnhain freely available on Pixabay

Ever seen the movie The Love God? Set in swinging 1969, Don Knotts — yes, Barney Fife! — plays Abner Peacock, publisher of a soon-to-be-insolvent birdwatching magazine.

Desperate for funding, Abner is tricked into partnering with smut peddler Osborn Tremain, who turns The Peacock into a, uh, gentlemen’s magazine. This lands Abner on trial for trafficking pornography by mail. His attorney is Darrel Evans Hughes, a Clarence Darrow knock-off. Hughes wins the case for Abner with a florid, unctuous speech:

“This is a dirty case, and a dirty little man. It is with disgust to the point of nausea that I find myself sitting next to this filthy little degenerate. But when I see this filthy little degenerate’s constitutional rights being threatened, then I must take this filthy little degenerate into my arms, clasp him to my breast, and fight for this filthy little degenerate’s constitutional rights and liberty with my very life!” …


It’s the kind — and strategic — thing to do.

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Image freely available from Pixabay

Assuming Joe Biden becomes the next president, and assuming a lame-duck Donald Trump does not pardon himself — a dubious move — or resign and let Mike Pence pardon him — a weaselly move — Biden should do the deed himself.

Biden should pardon Trump.

He said before that he wouldn’t. Back in May, during a virtual town hall, Biden was asked whether he would be willing to commit “to not pulling a President Ford” — i.e., …


A new report fills the information gap

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Image freely available from Pixabay

We’ve read the stories. Heard the stats. Seen the woe.

It has wrecked us to our bones, this pandemic. Some say we’ll never recover. Others say the best is yet to come. No matter which outlook is right, one thing we know for sure: every cranny of American life is being affected.

One industry we hadn’t heard much about is libraries — until now. Last month, Innovative, an information software company, published Centuries of Resilience: Public Libraries Still Crucial During COVID-19. …


On structure, style, and writing with a purpose

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I recently read an essay about how watching stand-up comics can improve one’s writing.

The author emphasizes style and wordplay — puns, non-sequiturs, double entendre — as the tools most transferable from comedy to prose. These are good points.

But what about joke writing? There is a process to this as well, and it’s more complex than you’d imagine. Joke writing hones many of the skills in demand by novelists and nonfictionists.

In other words, if you want to be a good writer, try being a good comic.

January 28, 2015. A hundred pairs of eyes were on me as I stood on stage at Goodnights Comedy Club, blinking into the miniature sun of a spotlight. Me, a 42-year-old librarian and English professor. Father of two. Owner of seven cats and a corn snake. Plus my wife had crabs — hermit crabs, in an aquarium. …


Looking back at the book that started a phenomenon

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Steven Levitt (standing) and Stephen Dubner (image available from Wikimedia Commons)

Which is more dangerous: a gun or a swimming pool?

Do real-estate agents have their clients’ best interests at heart?

Is sumo wrestling rigged?

If drug dealers make lots of money, why do they still live with their mothers?

These don’t seem like the kinds of questions an economist would try to answer. Yet they are exactly the questions that interested University of Chicago economics professor Steven D. Levitt in 2003 when he sat for a legendary interview with New York Times Magazine writer Stephen J. Dubner.

Levitt was famous in economics circles for his gadfly approach. In Dubner, he found a kindred spirit. Their interview, which was supposed to last two hours, stretched over three days. When Dubner’s agent suggested the two write a book together, they demurred but then changed their minds. …


Modern Sex

Lessons in intimacy from America’s horror master

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Illustration: Nikita Klimov

I did not learn about sex in school. I did not learn about it from TV. I did not learn about it from Larry Flynt, Marvin Gaye, or Revenge of the Nerds. Aviaries and apiaries played no part in my coming of age.

I did not learn about sex from my friends, who were baffled and awkward like me. I did not learn about it from my father, who is a pastor, or my mother, who is a pastor’s wife. Older siblings have I none, so I didn’t learn that way, either.

I learned a little from the Bible. Song of Solomon says “Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon.” This is the Hebrew equivalent of “Say my name, bitch!” It raises more questions than it answers. …


The science fiction icon discusses creativity, fandom, and one of his hobby horses: the business of writing

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Image available from Wikimedia Commons

If there are still Renaissance men around, John Scalzi has to be one.

Best known as the New York Times bestselling author of Old Man’s War and its sequels, he has won three Hugo Awards, the highest honor in science fiction. Before that, he was a journalist, writing on a number of topics including finance, video games, films, astronomy, and writing. His blog Whatever, which he’s written since 1998, gets up to 50,000 visitors daily. He is currently executive producer for Old Man’s War and The Collapsing Empire, both in development for film/TV.

I got a chance to talk to John after one of his bookstore appearances. …


Does it hold up as well as the movie?

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Photo by Fausto García on Unsplash

It is a staple of book/movie discussions that the book is better. Google the phrase “book was better,” and you’ll get over 2 billion results. Etsy, ThinkGeek, and Amazon sell many versions of The Book Was Better T-shirts. And don’t get me started on the memes.

One reason books and movies are so different is they have different purposes. John Green, bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars, explains that a movie has to reach a larger audience and overcome higher costs to be financially viable. …


Express Yourself

We have more in common than you’d think

Photo of a Bible open on a pulpit in front of a church.
Photo of a Bible open on a pulpit in front of a church.
Photo: Stephen Radford/Unsplash

The way my father tells the story, I am four years old, and we are on our way to the beach, my arm in a cast. I had broken it falling off a swing set.

My parents have talked up the trip all week, and I am dying from excitement. We ride forever until my father stops the old Buick. He wants to show my mother a ritzy golf course where he played once. He parks beside a pond, pointing to it out the window. Then we’re off. As we drive away, I start to cry.

When he tells this story, he says I cried because I wanted to get out and play in the pond, being unable to wait for the beach. In my memory, however, things are different. …

About

Anthony Aycock

Writer. Editor (www.conventionscene.com). Librarian. Lover of books, cats, and comic cons. Hater of vegetables. Tweet: @anthonycaycock

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