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Welcome to Thinking Out Loud, a blog that contains postings from The Tampa Tribune’s Editorial Board and from various Tribune Community Columnists. Unlike the unsigned editorials that represent the newspaper’s institutional voice, the blog postings offer personal perspectives on the issues, personalities and events of Tampa Bay. We invite you to participate by posting your comments. We’ll do our best to respond.

Contributors:
Joe Guidry

Joe Guidry is the deputy editorial page editor of The Tampa Tribune. He is a Tampa native and a graduate of the University of South Florida. He is married and has an adult son.


Jeff Stidham

Jeff Stidham grew up and lives in Bartow. He has been with the Tribune for nearly 22 years, the last 10 on the editorial board.


William Yelverton

William Yelverton is a Tribune editorial writer who has worked for the paper nearly 22 years. He lives in the Dade City area.


Jim Beamguard

Jim Beamguard is a Tribune editorial writer. He is a native of North Carolina and a graduate of Davidson College. He and his family live in Brandon.


Jackie Papandrew:

Jackie Papandrew is a freelance writer and editor. Her syndicated humor column appears in publications in the United States, Canada and India. She lives in Largo with her husband and children. Visit her website at www.jackiepapandrew.com.


Camille Beredjick

Camille Beredjick is a senior at Chamberlain High School, an avid musician and a scribbler with a quirky sense of humor. In the fall, she will be attending Northwestern University to study journalism, political science and music, and she plans to pursue a career in journalism.


Jim Harnish

Jim Harnish is in his 17th year as Senior Pastor at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa. He and his wife, Marsha, have two daughters and two grandchildren. He is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary and received the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Bethune-Cookman University. He is the author of six books and numerous articles and studies. He enjoys playing with his grandchildren and cheering for the Florida Gators.


Angela Hunt

Angela Hunt is a novelist living in Pinellas County with her husband and two 220-pound mastiffs.


Sheryl Young

Sheryl Young was a Tampa Tribune Community Columnist in 2005-2006. A freelance writer since 1997, including the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Tampa Style Magazines, St. Pete Times and nationally in Better Nutrition, Today’s Christian Woman and more. She’s received a First Place Amy Foundation national "Roaring Lambs" Writing Award, and has lived in Tampa Bay with her family for over 20 years.


Christie Gold

Christie Gold teaches English and journalism at Freedom High School in Tampa where she advises Revolution, the school newspaper. She has been both the Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year and Florida Journalism Teacher of the Year. She lives on a small farm in Wesley Chapel where she trains as a competitive equestrian.


Natalie D. Preston

Natalie D. Preston is a karaoke singing, only-child pouting, Seminole Tomahawk waving, newlywed bride blushing, 50-state traveling, girlie girl who loves to shop, read, run and jump up and down on her soapbox.


Fernando Figueroa

Fernando Figueroa is a researcher, educator and lives in Riverview.


Gary Beemer

Interests include humor, politics, economics, community and world affairs, finance, people, religion, music, sports, current events, the arts and education.


Nicole Yunger Halpern

Nicole Yunger Halpern is an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, where she studies everything she can get her nerdy little hands on. Desired major: life. No, not necessarily biology. Life.


Kris DiGiovanni

Kris DiGiovanni is a Tribune Community Columnist, Huffington Post contributor, Daily Kos diarist, and teacher, who recently moved from NW Hillsborough to another planet - a small beach community in Pinellas County. She also blogs at www.sandscript.wordpress.com


H. David Braswell Jr.

H. David Braswell Jr. is an Information Systems Professional. He is a native New Yorker and a lifelong NY Giants fan. He attended college in California (Cal State Northridge) and moved to Tampa in 1998.


Sean Marcus

Sean Marcus teaches creative writing, journalism and reading at Chamberlain High School. He has one son and is expecting a daughter in early March. He can be reached at wuizabug@gmail.com


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The North-by-Northwest Path to Truth

Posted Jan 29, 2012 by Nicole Yunger Halpern

Updated Jan 29, 2012 at 06:09 AM

This past autumn, Wall Street Journal writers contracted Creative Analogy Disease (CAD). In every weekend Review section, one book-writer offered insights into wordsmithing. The column that hosted their work, The Writing Life, spotlighted juxtaposition, humor, endings…and misrepresented scientific ideas.


Between August 27 and November 27, four Writing Life guests explained writing-related concepts via analogies with scientific concepts. An analogy clarifies an unfamiliar idea by highlighting its similarities to a familiar idea. By guiding readers into unknown territory, an analogy resembles the Disney film “Beauty and the Beast,” which introduced me to selfishness, cruelty, and slavering wolves through song and dance. Science analogies convey the universe’s expansion in terms of balloons, string theory in terms of worms, and other mind-bogglers in terms of the humdrum. By elucidating everyday concepts like humor in scientific terms, the Writing Life guests inverted the science-analogy paradigm. “More power to them!” I’d cry—if these Creative Analogy Disease victims (CADs) understood the science they shanghaied.


Consider, as an example, Steve Almond’s November 5th article “Wisecracks as Wisdom.” Cracking the nut that is humor, Mr. Almond reveals the kernel of what tickles us. “[C]haracters make us laugh,” he explains, “because they tell us the truth at a velocity that exceeds our normal standards of insight.” When startled, we giggle. Characters shock us into laughing, Mr. Almond argues, by unmasking the nature of suffering.


Suffering rarely tweaks my funny bone. Still, Mr. Almond’s conclusion puzzles me less than his reference to velocity does. To untangle his meaning, let’s consider Holden Caulfield.


Mr. Almond portrays Holden, the star of J.D. Salinger’s coming-of-age novel The Catcher in the Rye, as a hilarious docent in the museum of suffering. Holden’s favorite teacher betrays him, his baby sister grows up too quickly, and he feels powerless to protect his childhood sweetheart from a lustful friend. What does Mr. Almond mean when writing that, by describing these challenges, Holden “tell[s] us the truth at a velocity that exceeds our normal standards of insight”?


By definition, Holden’s velocity consists of his speed and the direction in which he moves. His speed is the rate at which his position changes. Since Mr. Almond invokes speed metaphorically, let’s stretch our definition of speed. Instead of measuring speed only in terms of distance traveled per unit time—as in miles per hour—let’s measure Holden’s speed in terms of the units of truth he reveals per hour of his life.


Holden packs a zoo of activities, from a rumble with a roommate to the paying of a prostitute, into the day he shares with readers. Into a standard day, I pack only a commute, a trip to the grocery, and studies into the fundamental nature of reality (physics). Holden reveals more units of truth per hour of his life than I discover per hour of my life. In Mr. Almond’s terms, Holden tells the truth at a speed that exceeds my normal standards of insight.


How can we describe the non-speed component of Holden’s velocity, the direction in which he moves? Perhaps Holden makes a beeline for truth, while I zigzag across the Hills of Haziness. Just as we stretched our definition of “speed” to accommodate metaphors, we might stretch our definition of “direction.” But the latter definition rips like a teddy bear in a tug-of-war when yanked by Mr. Almond. Writing that Holden “tell[s] the truth at a velocity that exceeds our normal standards of insight,” Mr. Almond implies not only that Holden’s speed exceeds our speed, but also that his direction exceeds our direction. Does Mr. Almond mean that, if I discover truth north-by-northwest, Holden reveals truth northward? Mr. Almond’s claim makes little sense.


Because “velocity” contains more syllables than “speed,” it sounds more erudite. Pity that sense doesn’t accompany this apparent erudition. Mr. Almond would have benefited from researching velocity, although I cheer his interweaving of science with literature.


At least his error bakes a casserole for thought: I love the idea of approaching truth north-by-northwest. If you find a compass that points toward truth, do let me know.




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