Times media reporter David Carr has a great piece on the Aereo case
Aereo may be small — Mr. Diller called it “a pimple” — but it represents something mighty important. If Aereo is allowed to store and transmit signals without payment, the television industry will be profoundly reconfigured.
And this reconfiguration can’t come a second too soon. Telecom law is insanely complicated I’m sure, and probably ad hoc as all get out, but how the court could find that a scheme that lets you use a public good (the airwaves, granted via licenses by the government) is infringement, and also that retransmission fees and other behaviors of cable and network are in the consumers’ interest, is beyond me. It’s also an interesting case to see how a court that is sometimes seen to be pro-big business, will deal with a mouse (or as Barry Diller would say ‘a pimple’) that roars.
I agree with Carr, although Aereo may not be the case that rejiggers the industry, it’s at a minimum the “save the date” postcard. Their days are numbered. Some of us are not unhappy about that.
Today, the kickoff of George Saunders’ The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil
It is one thing to be a small country, but the country of Inner Horner was so small only one Inner Horenrite at a time could fit inside, and the other six Inner Hornerites had to wait their turns to live in their own country while standing very timidly in the surrounding country of Outer Horner.
And as a bonus, from his story “Downtrodden Mary’s Failed Campaign of Terror”
My first and favorite task of the day is slaving over the Iliana Evermore Fairy Castle.
Somebody or other quipped that he is sort of Dilbert crossed with Pynchon. I doubt he would mind the comparison.
At some point I will get around to my theory of first lines (and my perhaps potted justification for thinking they let me know whether a novel is worth reading). But for this entry, I’ll just say that it’s this opening, a bit self-effacing yet so elegant, that started me reading Penelope Fitzgerald. Not something that I have any plan of stopping.
In 1959 Florence Green occasionally passed a night when she was not absolutely sure whether she had slept or not.
Today the start of story by William Gass. I’ve blown hot and cold on him: a reading I attended during my college years was mostly mystifying (if memorable, for, among other things, the rapt attention all the creative writing students gave him). His essays and short works have often been engrossing, though, and this, the opening of “Quotations from General Flaubert” is from a collection of his called “Tests of Time.”
“Heinrich Zeitung Muller-Müller sat silently in the speeding cab and tried not to overhear let alone listen to his wife complaining about the risk inherent in wet roads, about the traffic, heavy already although it was early in the day, about the draft the driver had created by cracking his window, and the smoke of his cigarette, which was inconsiderately circulating across the back seat before finding its way out into the street. “So you say,” she said, though he had said nothing.”
“Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
The opening of The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, not a tracking shot from a helicopter, but a Sargent watercolor, seemingly slight, yet profound, and perfectly judged.
Anthony Lane sent it, and the book, a valentine in a NYKer piece in 2012. “So begins “The Portrait of a Lady,” and its opening chords, quiet as they are, have almost no match in English-speaking literature.”
Perhaps the simplest way to open is to have the reader meet the character, set the scene, and start the action:
“When Caroline Meeber boarded the afternoon train for Chicago, her total outfit consisted of a small trunk, a cheap imitation alligator-skin satchel, a small lunch in a paper box, and a yellow leather snap purse, containing her ticket, a scrap of paper with her sister’s address in Van Buren Street, and four dollars in money.”
Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie.
Another approach is to deploy a little cheerful bombast. Here’s an example from the opening of “In Defense of Woman” essays by Dreiser’s sometime friend, H.L. Mencken, a master of rhetorical flourish:
“As a professional critic of life and letters, my principal business in the world is that of manufacturing platitudes for tomorrow, which is to say, ideas so novel that they will be instantly rejected as insane and outrageous by all right thinking men, and so apposite and sound that they will eventually conquer that instinctive opposition, and force themselves into the traditional wisdom of the race.”
“The schoolmaster was leaving the village, and everybody seemed sorry.”
Jude the Obscure
When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.
A person who differed from the local wayfarers was climbing the steep road which leads through the sea-skirted townlet definable as the Street of Wells, and forms a pass into that Gibraltar of Wessex, the singular peninsula once an island, and still called such, that stretches out like the head of a bird into the English Channel.
The lean first line of Christopher Isherwood’s spare novel, A Single Man. Worth reading, even if you saw that overly opulent film. The book, in contrast, is down to earth, mundane even, yet spiritual. The structure is remarkable as well, an ordinary day that refracts an entire life story. I remember being thunderstruck encountering it as a teen–that gay novels could be grown up was a surprise. It was not (and often still isn’t) a nuanced genre.