Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize

Bob Dylan recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature. (external link) The New York Times cogently framed the debate: do song lyrics have the same artistic value as poetry or novels? They do, especially when you consider Dylan’s gripping delivery and often haunting melodies. I’d trade my writing credits past and future to say I penned any of the following songs. Here’s just one paragraph from just ten.

Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues

When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez
And it’s Eastertime too
And your gravity fails
And negativity don’t pull you through
Don’t put on any airs
When you’re down on Rue Morgue Avenue
They got some hungry women there
And they really make a mess outta you

Desolation Row

Yes, I received your letter yesterday
About the time the door knob broke
When you asked me how I was doing
Was that some kind of joke?
All these people that you mention
Yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces
And give them all another name
Right now I can’t read too good
Don’t send me no more letters no
Not unless you mail them
From Desolation Row.

Girl From The North Country

If you’re travelin’ in the north country fair
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine.

It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry

Well, I ride on a mailtrain, baby
Can’t buy a thrill
Well, I’ve been up all night, baby
Leanin’ on the windowsill
Well, if I die
On top of the hill
And if I don’t make it
You know my baby will

Highway 61 Revisited

Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What ?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done ?”
God says. “Out on Highway 61”.

Like A Rolling Stone

You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all come down and did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain’t no good
You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you
You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain’t it hard when you discover that
He really wasn’t where it’s at
After he took from you everything he could steal.

Ballad Of A Thin Man

Ah, you’ve been with the professors and they’ve all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have discussed lepers and crooks
You’ve been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books
You’re very well-read, it’s well-known
But something is happening here and you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?

Tangled Up in Blue

So now I’m goin’ back again
I got to get to her somehow
All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenters’ wives
Don’t know how it all got started
I don’t know what they’re doin’ with their lives
But me, I’m still on the road
Headin’ for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point
Of view
Tangled up in blue

Maggie’s Farm

I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s pa no more
No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s pa no more
Well, he puts his cigar
Out in your face just for kicks
His bedroom window
It is made out of bricks
The National Guard stands around his door
Ah, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s pa no more.

Masters of War

And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
By the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead


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Are Long Paragraphs Dead on The Web?

And what can be done about it?

In my efforts to compose sparse and spritely pose I have become afraid of long paragraphs. Such paragraphs on a web page look dense, blocky, and impenetrable . I tend to write no more than four or five sentences in a paragraph, the better to keep the eye moving through the text. My fear of long paragraphs has followed me to print.

I recently wrote a hardcopy letter with a 126 word paragraph. I anguished over it for too long, trying to split it apart, trying to reword it, trying anything I could to cut it down to size. Nothing worked. The paragraph said exactly what I wanted to say. I wound up using it, even though it didn’t match the length of the rest of my paragraphs. Here’s what that blocky paragraph looked like, nonsense text aside:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vestibulum auctor facilisis dolor sed iaculis. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec sollicitudin nisi gravida, volutpat nibh in, dignissim eros. Aliquam eleifend sapien ipsum, sit amet sollicitudin tellus bibendum sollicitudin. Duis vulputate, metus et accumsan elementum, erat turpis bibendum justo, in fringilla risus erat sit amet sem. Vivamus ullamcorper, nulla et feugiat tristique, nunc sapien dapibus sem, et tempus ante nulla mattis massa. Aliquam erat volutpat. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Morbi nec risus elementum risus elementum faucibus sed eu ante. Morbi ullamcorper, libero facilisis pretium finibus, lacus tortor faucibus urna, eu luctus dolor justo eget lorem. Nullam in sodales magna. Nullam ut sem elit. Quisque congue, neque a fringilla finibus, felis.

With the exception of print, I fear a paragraph like that is not useful for the web. Perhaps occasionally?

The great authors, being great, cast longer paragraphs with great effect. I’ve written how  the least amount of words should convey a message. (internal link). Sometimes, though, we must cast aside our allegiance to brevity and boldly put what we need to say. At least in print.

Here’s Orwell at 298 words:

You discover, for instance, the secrecy attaching to poverty. At a sudden stroke you have been reduced to an income of six francs a day. But of course you dare not admit it–you have got to pretend that you are living quite as usual. From the start it tangles you in a net of lies, and even with the lies you can hardly manage it. You stop sending clothes to the laundry, and the laundress catches you in the street and asks you why; you mumble something, and she, thinking you are sending the clothes elsewhere, is your enemy for life. The tobacconist keeps asking why you have cut down your smoking. There are letters you want to answer, and cannot, because stamps are too expensive. And then there are your meals–meals are the worst difficulty of all. Every day at meal-times you go out, ostensibly to a restaurant, and loaf an hour in the Luxembourg Gardens, watching the pigeons. Afterwards you smuggle your food home in your pockets. Your food is bread and margarine, or bread and wine, and even the nature of the food is governed by lies. You have to buy rye bread instead of household bread, because the rye loaves, though dearer, are round and can be smuggled in your pockets. This wastes you a franc a day. Sometimes,
to keep up appearances, you have to spend sixty centimes on a drink, and go correspondingly short of food. Your linen gets filthy, and you run out of soap and razor-blades. Your hair wants cutting, and you try to cut it yourself, with such fearful results that you have to go to the barber after all, and spend the equivalent of a day’s food. All day you are telling lies, and expensive lies.

And Melville at 201:

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.


George Orwell

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Rocky Mountain Radical Update

I’m reading in draft form my brother’s account of  James A. Murray, a distant uncle of our family. Brother Bill (internal link) is under contract with Mountain Press Publishing Company to write Murray’s biography, with the publication date set in the fall of 2017. Bill has previously written on the radical Murray in Montana Magazine (internal link) and Wild West Magazine.

How best to review a nearly 200 page manuscript? For thematic questions and problems with continuity I think I can judge the document on-screen. It’s easier to move back and forth over dozens of pages. For proofreading, which I am not doing now, I think it’s wise to print the entire work out in double space. All final edits seem best done with hardcopy; there is something about computer monitors that fight against ready comprehension. Now, what is the best way to print enormous documents?

I’ve had good luck lately with Office Depot printing files. You create an account online, upload your document, then pick it up later at their nearest store. (Or take in a thumb drive if you are in a hurry and print it yourself.) While a copy shop is an economical and convenient choice for black and white printing, color remains stubbornly expensive. You’ll pay fifty to sixty cents for any color page, even if that color resides in simple pie charts. I think HP’s new color print program (internal link) remains a better choice if you can live with the quality of an ink jet image.


Jame’s Murray’s first resort was Hunter’s Hot Springs near the northern gateway to Yellowstone Park. The property included the Dakota hotels.


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Book Proposal Questions

“We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”

Henry James, The Middle Years

While I think over what James meant about doubt and passion, I continue to work on a book proposal. It is nervy stuff. Without a style sheet to go by I am making decisions that might jeopardize my chances for a good review.

All book proposals demand a sample chapter. I get that. But how long should that chapter be? At this late hour I fear I need more words for my sample, even though I’ve told the story in the amount I used. I have 4,700 words. Gleanings from the net suggest I should have 10,000. Perhaps I should have worked up two chapters. Hmm.

Proposals should be double spaced. I get that, too. But that means a space between paragraphs should be four spaces. Two hits of the return key, not one. Without additional spacing, how else could you tell your paragraphs apart? Yes, indenting would work. But how many spaces for the indents? Three? Five? Most web pages I’ve read say indents aren’t wanted. What is wanted is unformatted text. Like an ASCII text file.

What about sidebars and callouts? How to note photographs, figures, and tables? In each case the general rule is to have double spacing at the beginning and ending of sidebars and double spacing as well for images. Leave out the image itself and simply include the caption. 1 inch margins all around. Until you find your header is sitting at .5 inches, requiring the top margin to actually be 1.25 or 1.5 inches.

The resulting sample chapter I have looks so awkward and full of wandering white space that I prepared an additional file for my proposal. This .pdf file is formatted with all of the photographs and maps I’d like to see used. My thought is the publisher can ignore this document if they want. But it gives them a chance to see all the images that are not in the bare bones sample chapter. I hope they are not offended. I don’t want to make it seem like I am designing the book for them. Sigh.

“Our passion is our doubt.” So says James. Right now I have plenty of passion.

Henry James

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A New Printer

Time to junk the old printer. It was an inexpensive Epson, lasted about two years, had terrible print head problems. Always delivering fuzzy copy. And it ran through ink quickly, although all printers do. I remember a Consumer Reports’ article on ink cartridges. They cut open several and found half the space inside the cartridge was empty. I briefly looked at laser printers. In each case the cartridges upon replacement would cost more than the printer new. Sigh.

Went instead with a moderately priced HP inkjet.  A HP OfficeJetPro 8710. $129. Then I enrolled in their ink subscription plan. There are many price levels. I went with $4.99 a month for 100 pages a month. Unused pages roll over but the monthly cost stays the same. First three months free with the printer purchase. HP sends ink to my door when a cartridge gets low. Sixty dollars is about what I would spend on cartridges each year but this way I never run out of ink and I never have to find a store out of stock. The plan runs only month to month and can be cancelled at any time. The printer talks to HP over the net.

Setup took about an hour and fifteen minutes. There’s an incredible number of steps with a printer these days. You have to connect it to your wireless network, register the printer online, give your billing information to HP, download software drivers and so on.

And although it may not be worth it to most people, I am trying a fancy inkjet paper. It’s called HP Bright White Inkjet. Compared to my normal paper, this expensive paper has a wonderful sheen and a brightness to it. It’s a 24 pound paper so it will feed into your printer without a problem. But it’s denser and you can’t see through it easily. It’ll make double sided printing better, with less bleed-through. Maybe something to consider when you have to run a special report. $15 for a ream. Ouch.

Update: After 23 pages printed, HP is sending me three new color cartridges and one new black. The ink levels in the existing cartridges are in no way low, however, I think HP is sending me them in advance of what they predict my use will be. I recently printed a 16 page report that was heavy on graphics. HP must think I will be using ink at that rate for the rest of the month. (With a few free trial months on their plan I may be.🙂 ) At least I will have plenty of ink on hand, even if I don’t need the cartridges right away.

One last note. HP says “Monthly plans and savings are based on pages printed, not cartridges used.” This means people printing photos and using lots of ink will not be limited by the amount of cartridges they need. They’ll just be billed by the page. I wonder how long HP will keep this condition? I am always staggered by how much ink a simple color project requires.



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Ghostwriting for an Online Dating Service?

Through (internal link) I applied for a part-time writing position at ViDA, Though I didn’t get hired, I think the experience was fun and fair.

ViDA sells men on “Done For You Online Dating,” with ghostwriters handling most of the correspondence with women. The goal is to present the often busy man as witty, humorous, and articulate. At least online.

The writing test lasts 90 minutes although I finished early. You write a sample profile for a hypothetical man, relying on the information ViDA gives you about him. The details are abridged from a real client.

I soon realized the tone of their materials is conversational and quite informal, which my writing style is not. Never-the-less, I completed what they asked since any open writing test like this should be done without complaint. I have some pointers should you decide to take their test.

Their test materials are centered around Google docs, so use Chrome as your browser for best results. You’ll find a number of tabs and windows open as you move through the test, so by all means use a computer with a second monitor. If you aren’t using a second monitor for your desktop, this is a good time to think about it. (internal link). You’ll be faster and more efficient in everything you do.

Again, I didn’t pick up any work. But they did e-mail me just five hours after the test to tell me their decision. This is far better than 95% of the freelance sites out there, whose only response to your efforts is silence.

As I mentioned, I picked up the job link at Although I was initially happy with their site, their automated picking service is not reliable. The object is to e-mail you job links that fit your profile but in practice it just doesn’t work. It’s better to manually paw through links at their website and not let their algorithm decide what looks good. They lately sent me a link to a nursing job and also to a teaching position that required Mandarin Chinese. I’m talented, but not that talented.🙂




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More Delaplane

image08STAN DELAPLANE’ S POST CARD: October 23, 1959

The carpenters have arrived to put a guest room on the family scatter. It is not my idea. It is the banker’s idea. “It will increase the resale value 20 per cent,” said the banker, twirling the rubies on his gold watch chain, “Maybe 25 per cent.”

This is nervous talk; it makes me nervous, anyway. What is all this talk of resale? My banker has about 50 per cent of my house action. I look on a house as a home. A place to live.

My banker looks on it like a bag of groceries that he would unload if the price was right.

I see no reason for guest rooms. Because the minute you put in a guest room, you are likely to draw guests.

I will say that the house gets polished up when guests are on the way. But it is a wearing thing.

Rooms have to be swept. Floors must be mopped. Windows polished and drawers emptied. A new washer must be placed in the faucet that drips.

In fact, when guests are coming you would not recognize the old place.

Well, by and by the guests arrive (our guests usually arrive by car). There is then a great struggle who shall tote the suitcases upstairs.

I am a polite cat in such cases. Polite and insincere.

“You go right ahead. I’ll bring up the bags.” “No, I should say not. I guess I can carry my own bags up, ha, ha.”

We then go into a struggle who should carry the bags. “Let me have them.” “No, let ME have them.”

We both wrench our backs and bark the skin from our hands.

A state of strong distaste is firmly established on both sides.

That is just a good beginning. And it gets worse.

A guest room is not for guests. It is a second-best room and therefore is for the family. The guests get the good room.

This involves transfer of a good deal of clothing. And you always forget the right pair of pants.

You then stand around in your shirt tails until the guests rise and come down. Then you can sneak in and get your clothes. Guests rise very slowly and you can freeze while you are waiting for them.

After dinner is the jolliest time. It is the time when the women battle over who will do the dishes.

“Why, I wouldn’t THINK of having you do them. Now just sit down and relax.”

“I really INSIST on helping. Now you must be all tired fixing that LOVELY dinner. Joe and I will do those dishes in a jiffy. Won’t we, Joe?”

“Uh huh,” says Joe. And he says it without enthusiasm.

We have a spirited little struggle for the soap and the towel.

Meanwhile, their child has got your child’s toys. He has taken the toy fire engine and belted a welt on your child’s noggin.

Both moppets are screaming. You must face this with a smile. “Now it really is nothing. I’m sure he’ll be all right in the morning. It’s nothing but a bruise.” (It is a lump the size of a cantaloupe.)

“He should learn to let other children play with his toys —PUT DOWN THAT AXE! Oh, I really didn’t mean to yell at your boy. But we do have a firm rule here that they are not allowed to play with sharp things. LET GO OF THAT CAT’S TAIL!”

This is what comes of putting guest rooms on a house.

It is very good for the banker. But very bad for the householder. It adds 20 per cent to the resale value but takes a big percentage off your life.

The best way to handle visitors is to let the hotel put on an extra room. You like that idea? Be my guest.



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