Strange as it may seem Warning Signs are warning signs that society is in BIG trouble. They indicate that we have regressed to the level where we are allowing the stupidest people in society to dictate how the rest of us behave.
I disagree in the strongest possible terms with this trend. It is unnecessary and it is irritating for anyone with an IQ above 40.
If some dumb ass who knows they are allergic to nuts, buys a bag of nuts, then let them suffer the consequences of their stupidity if they eat them. Or if someone is in McDonalds or a similar establishment and buys a cup of hot coffee they should have the wit to realize that hot coffees is ‘hot’ and will burn them if they pour it all over themselves.
Harsh? Perhaps, but necessary.
Sadly the whole thing has deteriorated so far that, not only are there unnecessary warning labels on almost everything, but the morons for whom they are there now actually seem to be writing them too!
I could rant on, but better (and funnier) to show you some examples that make me shake my head in despair.
The World Wide Web, created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, turned 25 years old this year, 2014.
There has never been anything like it before, certainly not as regards the impact it has made on society and the way we live our lives. Many of those changes are good, many are not so good and a few are downright annoying.
Here’s my take on some of them.
To concentrate on the good parts first, the one thing the www has done, for those who can use it effectively, is to give access to information that was previously only available to the elite few who managed to claw their way into the lofty heights of academia, or who worked in places where information was readily available. Now the same information is accessible at the touch of a button to anyone and everyone with a smart phone, tablet or computer.
Another benefit, in my view anyway, is that is has sent a massive wake-up call to telephone providers world wide, many of whom were fast asleep, content to rake in healthy profits from antiquated systems. No longer do we have to settle for slow and temperamental data transfer lines. Nowadays, particularly in the last few years, people are demanding systems that can cope with download streams in the gigabyte range. If you are old enough to remember the first modems you will know you wasted too much of your life trying to download at 12Kb/sec., sometimes less.
Freedom is also a welcome by-product of the World Wide Web.
The freedom to work in any country in the world, from virtually any country in the world is one big plus – it is for me anyhow. Another one I particularly like is the freedom to watch TV programs that I like, when I like, no longer tied to the schedules of some brainless bean-counter working for a broadcasting company. And the freedom to have your say on things as and when the mood takes you – they call that blogging don’t you know! – is also a great advantage to the ordinary person.
As is the freedom to disseminate information across the globe instantly, as Mr Snowden ably demonstrated, although I would hazard a guess that the powers that be would not agree with me on that one.
Indeed, this is the one aspect of the www that really bothers big brother.
China for example is one country where access is controlled by the state. Coincidentally this year also marks the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, you’ll find articles about that if you do a search, but probably not in China. They get away with it because they are not a democracy and do not pretend to be one.
In other countries, like the good old Land Of The (Not So) Free (Anymore)), the powers still like to con their people into believing that they are living in a democratic nation and that the people have the power to vote for this or that. But think for a moment, when was the last time you got to vote on whether to start a war, or whether to give $billions of your money to the greedy banksters to pay themselves huge bonuses and gamble away the rest?
It is because they need to keep the pretence of democracy going, that they do not yet have the confidence to start overtly censoring the internet. But they do all they can to snoop on what people are reading, or writing, or looking at.
This is where the freedom the www and associated technology provides can also be a negative, when it is used by governments to surveil us and record every piece of data they can. If they were doing this selectively and targeting terrorists and criminals no one would be too worried. But they are doing it to all of us, guilty and innocent alike.
They are also doing everything they can think of to impose taxes on internet commerce – of course they have to coz they’re stoney broke.
The www has revolutionized business practices and created all sorts of new commerce opportunities, Amazon perhaps being the best example of a company that has gone from nothing to a multi-billion dollar business in just a few years.
Communication and social interaction are also areas where the www has liberated the ordinary person – first with email and more recently with social media. In the near future expect to see social media expanding to become much more than individual platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. We are already seeing many new applications that are allowing people to communicate more widely, more easily and more often.
Another negative is that the World Wide Web has unwittingly facilitated the proliferation of pornography and violence, and is teaching a generation of morons all the wrong things. Things that will ensure they become a burden on society, not an asset.
And it has also opened a whole new environment in which criminals can operate. Millions of dollars are being stolen every day through scams, confidence tricks and outright theft.
You could say (and I frequently do) that people dumb enough to fall for these scams deserve all they get, or all they lose, is perhaps a better way of putting it. You know, the idiots who believe they really have won a lottery they didn’t buy a ticket for, or who think that Dr Umbungo Watanga from Nigeria is being truthful when he tells them that someone they never heard of has left them $25 million and all they need to do is send all their personal details and a few thousand dollars to unlock the fortune that awaits them. There really is one born every minute it seems!
All that said, and twenty-five years on, the www is still in its infancy. We have come a long way in the past 25 years, but we have really only scratched the surface as regards what the web has the potential to do to further improve our daily lives.
Where the vision to develop the www will come from in anyone’s guess. The only thing we know for sure is that the initiative won’t come from governments or their bureaucratic servants, simply because the people we elect to those positions do not have the required intelligence.
So its up to you. If you have any great ideas you want to share, send me an email.
I missed marking my first year anniversary of this blog with an appropriate post and then not to be outdone by that, I also managed to miss the second year anniversary too. I guess I had other things on my mind at the time.
However this post marks another significant milestone in my blogging career, if I can call it that, because earlier today the fasab blog managed to push its way through the 100,000 page views threshold. Certainly a lot more than the humble beginnings when literally only a handful of people turned up!
I know it’s not a world shaking internet statistic, not even in the blogsphere either, but for me and this blog I think it is remarkable. Even more so since I have a tendency to sometimes write about people I know, so I can’t really publicize my blog via the usual “friends and family” route.
Before I started my blog I’d obviously heard about them, but I’d never even read one. I had a bit of time on my hands and I thought I would give it a go. As I’ve probably said before, I wasn’t really into social networking sites like “Myface” or “Spacebook” or whatever, not that there’s anything wrong with them if you like that sort of thing and many people I know do.
But I thought blogging might be my thing.
So I read blogs and I read about blogging and I created my own little niche of “Fighting Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”, which I found I was doing every day anyway, and mixed it with a bit of humor, politics and so forth – and here we are 100,000 views later, and counting.
It has been an interesting time.
Apart from a handful of hopefuls who think they’ll make a fortune out of it, I think most people are like me, blogging for themselves. But it is also very nice and very rewarding when other people stop by to read the posts and even better when they acknowledge them with a “like”, a “follow”, or a “comment”.
I am delighted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has visited the fasab blog and particularly those who have decided to follow whether on WordPress, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, or whatever. Some bloggers and readers, who I like to call my “blog-friends” have become regulars here. I very much appreciate your support. I have tried to reciprocate by visiting your blogs too when time permits.
One or two others – who I have no doubt are thoroughly ashamed of themselves 🙂 – have fallen by the wayside, but most visitors I do not even know. Which brings me to another thing that I wasn’t expecting, and that was the variety of countries visitors come from. The bulk are from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and India – which is more or less what you could expect for an English language blog. But interestingly there have also been visitors from many other parts of Europe, South and Central America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa too. And all are very welcome.
So what does the future hold for the fasab blog?
I don’t exactly know the answer to that. Probably more puns, and factoids. Maybe a few more quizzes. Definitely the odd rant about things that annoy me (that’s a lot of things, the list grows every day!). But hopefully a lot of humor too.
A smile never does any harm – unless some big stupid bloke thinks you’re laughing at him – so prepare yourself for more.
My sincere thanks to everyone who has visited and who reads this.
And don’t forget the “Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy!”
One of my blog friends, Kenton over at the Jittery Goat, wrote a post recently as part of the daily prompt series about the first book/story he read that gave him an interest in reading and writing. His choice was a good one, “To Kill A Mockingbird”.
On a few occasions I have been asked the same thing and it is a very good question to put to anyone who is interested in either reading or writing or both.
When I was growing up the main influence as regards reading and writing was school. I’m sure that is the same for many of you. I was both fortunate and unfortunate here.
For a few years I had an excellent English teacher. Someone who was interested in the subject she taught, but someone who was equally interested in passing on her enthusiasm for reading and writing to her pupils. She was a great teacher and a great influence on her pupils. One could not but develop a taste for English literature, for exploring other writers and for writing too.
Now for the bad news.
As happens in schools, as you progress through the grades sometimes your teachers change. And unfortunately mine did.
I got lumbered with the most awful teacher there has probably ever been. Another woman, but this woman was one of those self-absorbed dullards who would probably have made any subject the most boring and tedious thing in the world.
She could take the most exciting story and just drain the life out of it. With poetry she did the very same, just killed it stone dead with her monotonous voice and her complete lack of feeling for the subject.
Watching the proverbial paint drying or concrete setting was real exciting stuff compared to this woman’s classes!
Sadly, for a few years she turned me, and I would guess almost all her pupils completely off both reading and writing. I will never forgive her for that.
However time passed and although I’m not sure how exactly it happened, I got the urge to start to read again. Perhaps to ease myself back into it I decided to start with some short stories rather than a long book or novel.
And what a great choice that turned out to be.
The first story I read in my new life as a reader once again was called “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge”. It was a tale set during the American Civil War and was written by Ambrose Bierce, who himself was a veteran of that war, and a gentleman of whom you will hear a lot more in future fasab posts.
And so I have been reading and writing ever since, mostly for my own amusement and occasionally, as in this blog, also for the amusement of others.
I’d be interested to find out what you make of this story so I have reproduced it below. If you are unfamiliar with it, or want to refresh you memory if you have read it before, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.
And when you are finished let me know what you make of it.
AN OCCURRENCE AT OWL CREEK BRIDGE
A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack fell to the level of his knees. Some loose boards laid upon the ties supporting the rails of the railway supplied a footing for him and his executioners–two private soldiers of the Federal army, directed by a sergeant who in civil life may have been a deputy sheriff. At a short remove upon the same temporary platform was an officer in the uniform of his rank, armed. He was a captain.
A sentinel at each end of the bridge stood with his rifle in the position known as “support,” that is to say, vertical in front of the left shoulder, the hammer resting on the forearm thrown straight across the chest–a formal and unnatural position, enforcing an erect carriage of the body. It did not appear to be the duty of these two men to know what was occurring at the center of the bridge; they merely blockaded the two ends of the foot planking that traversed it.
Beyond one of the sentinels nobody was in sight; the railroad ran straight away into a forest for a hundred yards, then, curving, was lost to view. Doubtless there was an outpost farther along. The other bank of the stream was open ground–a gentle slope topped with a stockade of vertical tree trunks, loopholed for rifles, with a single embrasure through which protruded the muzzle of a brass cannon commanding the bridge. Midway up the slope between the bridge and fort were the spectators–a single company of infantry in line, at “parade rest,” the butts of their rifles on the ground, the barrels inclining slightly backward against the right shoulder, the hands crossed upon the stock.
A lieutenant stood at the right of the line, the point of his sword upon the ground, his left hand resting upon his right. Excepting the group of four at the center of the bridge, not a man moved. The company faced the bridge, staring stonily, motionless. The sentinels, facing the banks of the stream, might have been statues to adorn the bridge. The captain stood with folded arms, silent, observing the work of his subordinates, but making no sign. Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference.
The man who was engaged in being hanged was apparently about thirty-five years of age. He was a civilian, if one might judge from his habit, which was that of a planter. His features were good—a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his long, dark hair was combed straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well fitting frock coat. He wore a moustache and pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark gray, and had a kindly expression which one would hardly have expected in one whose neck was in the hemp. Evidently this was no vulgar assassin. The liberal military code makes provision for hanging many kinds of persons, and gentlemen are not excluded.
The preparations being complete, the two private soldiers stepped aside and each drew away the plank upon which he had been standing. The sergeant turned to the captain, saluted and placed himself immediately behind that officer, who in turn moved apart one pace.
These movements left the condemned man and the sergeant standing on the two ends of the same plank, which spanned three of the cross-ties of the bridge. The end upon which the civilian stood almost, but not quite, reached a fourth. This plank had been held in place by the weight of the captain; it was now held by that of the sergeant. At a signal from the former the latter would step aside, the plank would tilt and the condemned man go down between two ties. The arrangement commended itself to his judgement as simple and effective. His face had not been covered nor his eyes bandaged. He looked a moment at his “unsteadfast footing,” then let his gaze wander to the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet. A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move! What a sluggish stream!
He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children. The water, touched to gold by the early sun, the brooding mists under the banks at some distance down the stream, the fort, the soldiers, the piece of drift–all had distracted him. And now he became conscious of a new disturbance. Striking through the thought of his dear ones was sound which he could neither ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion like the stroke of a blacksmith’s hammer upon the anvil; it had the same ringing quality.
He wondered what it was, and whether immeasurably distant or near by– it seemed both. Its recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell. He awaited each new stroke with impatience and–he knew not why–apprehension. The intervals of silence grew progressively longer; the delays became maddening. With their greater infrequency the sounds increased in strength and sharpness. They hurt his ear like the trust of a knife; he feared he would shriek. What he heard was the ticking of his watch.
He unclosed his eyes and saw again the water below him. “If I could free my hands,” he thought, “I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods and get away home. My home, thank God, is as yet outside their lines; my wife and little ones are still beyond the invader’s farthest advance.”
As these thoughts, which have here to be set down in words, were flashed into the doomed man’s brain rather than evolved from it the captain nodded to the sergeant. The sergeant stepped aside.
Peyton Farquhar was a well to do planter, of an old and highly respected Alabama family. Being a slave owner and like other slave owners a politician, he was naturally an original secessionist and ardently devoted to the Southern cause. Circumstances of an imperious nature, which it is unnecessary to relate here, had prevented him from taking service with that gallant army which had fought the disastrous campaigns ending with the fall of Corinth, and he chafed under the inglorious restraint, longing for the release of his energies, the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction. That opportunity, he felt, would come, as it comes to all in wartime.
Meanwhile he did what he could. No service was too humble for him to perform in the aid of the South, no adventure to perilous for him to undertake if consistent with the character of a civilian who was at heart a soldier, and who in good faith and without too much qualification assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum that all is fair in love and war.
One evening while Farquhar and his wife were sitting on a rustic bench near the entrance to his grounds, a gray-clad soldier rode up to the gate and asked for a drink of water. Mrs. Farquhar was only too happy to serve him with her own white hands. While she was fetching the water her husband approached the dusty horseman and inquired eagerly for news from the front.
“The Yanks are repairing the railroads,” said the man, “and are getting ready for another advance. They have reached the Owl Creek bridge, put it in order and built a stockade on the north bank. The commandant has issued an order, which is posted everywhere, declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels, or trains will be summarily hanged. I saw the order.”
“How far is it to the Owl Creek bridge?” Farquhar asked.
“About thirty miles.”
“Is there no force on this side of the creek?”
“Only a picket post half a mile out, on the railroad, and a single sentinel at this end of the bridge.”
“Suppose a man–a civilian and student of hanging–should elude the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel,” said Farquhar, smiling, “what could he accomplish?”
The soldier reflected. “I was there a month ago,” he replied. “I observed that the flood of last winter had lodged a great quantity of driftwood against the wooden pier at this end of the bridge. It is now dry and would burn like tinder.”
The lady had now brought the water, which the soldier drank. He thanked her ceremoniously, bowed to her husband and rode away. An hour later, after nightfall, he repassed the plantation, going northward in the direction from which he had come. He was a Federal scout.
As Peyton Farquhar fell straight downward through the bridge he lost consciousness and was as one already dead. From this state he was awakened–ages later, it seemed to him–by the pain of a sharp pressure upon his throat, followed by a sense of suffocation. Keen, poignant agonies seemed to shoot from his neck downward through every fiber of his body and limbs. These pains appeared to flash along well defined lines of ramification and to beat with an inconceivably rapid periodicity.
They seemed like streams of pulsating fire heating him to an intolerable temperature. As to his head, he was conscious of nothing but a feeling of fullness — of congestion. These sensations were unaccompanied by thought. The intellectual part of his nature was already effaced; he had power only to feel, and feeling was torment. He was conscious of motion. Encompassed in a luminous cloud, of which he was now merely the fiery heart, without material substance, he swung through unthinkable arcs of oscillation, like a vast pendulum. Then all at once, with terrible suddenness, the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud splash; a frightful roaring was in his ears, and all was cold and dark. The power of thought was restored; he knew that the rope had broken and he had fallen into the stream. There was no additional strangulation; the noose about his neck was already suffocating him and kept the water from his lungs. To die of hanging at the bottom of a river! — the idea seemed to him ludicrous. He opened his eyes in the darkness and saw above him a gleam of light, but how distant, how inaccessible!
He was still sinking, for the light became fainter and fainter until it was a mere glimmer. Then it began to grow and brighten, and he knew that he was rising toward the surface — knew it with reluctance, for he was now very comfortable. “To be hanged and drowned,” he thought, “that is not so bad; but I do not wish to be shot. No; I will not be shot; that is not fair.”
He was not conscious of an effort, but a sharp pain in his wrist apprised him that he was trying to free his hands. He gave the struggle his attention, as an idler might observe the feat of a juggler, without interest in the outcome. What splendid effort! — what magnificent, what superhuman strength! Ah, that was a fine endeavor!
Bravo! The cord fell away; his arms parted and floated upward, the hands dimly seen on each side in the growing light. He watched them with a new interest as first one and then the other pounced upon the noose at his neck. They tore it away and thrust it fiercely aside, its undulations resembling those of a water snake. “Put it back, put it back!” He thought he shouted these words to his hands, for the undoing of the noose had been succeeded by the direst pang that he had yet experienced. His neck ached horribly; his brain was on fire, his heart, which had been fluttering faintly, gave a great leap, trying to force itself out at his mouth. His whole body was racked and wrenched with an insupportable anguish! But his disobedient hands gave no heed to the command. They beat the water vigorously with quick, downward strokes, forcing him to the surface. He felt his head emerge; his eyes were blinded by the sunlight; his chest expanded convulsively, and with a supreme and crowning agony his lungs engulfed a great draught of air, which instantly he expelled in a shriek!
He was now in full possession of his physical senses. They were, indeed, preternaturally keen and alert. Something in the awful disturbance of his organic system had so exalted and refined them that they made record of things never before perceived. He felt the ripples upon his face and heard their separate sounds as they struck.
He looked at the forest on the bank of the stream, saw the individual trees, the leaves and the veining of each leaf–he saw the very insects upon them: the locusts, the brilliant bodied flies, the gray spiders stretching their webs from twig to twig. He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass.
The humming of the gnats that danced above the eddies of the stream, the beating of the dragon flies’ wings, the strokes of the water spiders’ legs, like oars which had lifted their boat — all these made audible music. A fish slid along beneath his eyes and he heard the rush of its body parting the water.
He had come to the surface facing down the stream; in a moment the visible world seemed to wheel slowly round, himself the pivotal point, and he saw the bridge, the fort, the soldiers upon the bridge, the captain, the sergeant, the two privates, his executioners. They were in silhouette against the blue sky. They shouted and gesticulated, pointing at him. The captain had drawn his pistol, but did not fire; the others were unarmed. Their movements were grotesque and horrible, their forms gigantic.
Suddenly he heard a sharp report and something struck the water smartly within a few inches of his head, spattering his face with spray. He heard a second report, and saw one of the sentinels with his rifle at his shoulder, a light cloud of blue smoke rising from the muzzle. The man in the water saw the eye of the man on the bridge gazing into his own through the sights of the rifle. He observed that it was a gray eye and remembered having read that gray eyes were keenest, and that all famous marksmen had them. Nevertheless, this one had missed.
A counter-swirl had caught Farquhar and turned him half round; he was again looking at the forest on the bank opposite the fort. The sound of a clear, high voice in a monotonous singsong now rang out behind him and came across the water with a distinctness that pierced and subdued all other sounds, even the beating of the ripples in his ears.
Although no soldier, he had frequented camps enough to know the dread significance of that deliberate, drawling, aspirated chant; the lieutenant on shore was taking a part in the morning’s work. How coldly and pitilessly — with what an even, calm intonation, presaging, and enforcing tranquility in the men — with what accurately measured interval fell those cruel words:
Farquhar dived — dived as deeply as he could. The water roared in his ears like the voice of Niagara, yet he heard the dull thunder of the volley and, rising again toward the surface, met shining bits of metal, singularly flattened, oscillating slowly downward. Some of them touched him on the face and hands, then fell away, continuing their descent. One lodged between his collar and neck; it was uncomfortably warm and he snatched it out.
As he rose to the surface, gasping for breath, he saw that he had been a long time under water; he was perceptibly farther downstream — nearer to safety. The soldiers had almost finished reloading; the metal ramrods flashed all at once in the sunshine as they were drawn from the barrels, turned in the air, and thrust into their sockets. The two sentinels fired again, independently and ineffectually.
The hunted man saw all this over his shoulder; he was now swimming vigorously with the current. His brain was as energetic as his arms and legs; he thought with the rapidity of lightning:
“The officer,” he reasoned, “will not make that martinet’s error a second time. It is as easy to dodge a volley as a single shot. He has probably already given the command to fire at will. God help me, I cannot dodge them all!”
An appalling splash within two yards of him was followed by a loud, rushing sound, DIMINUENDO, which seemed to travel back through the air to the fort and died in an explosion which stirred the very river to its deeps! A rising sheet of water curved over him, fell down upon him, blinded him, strangled him! The cannon had taken an hand in the game. As he shook his head free from the commotion of the smitten water he heard the deflected shot humming through the air ahead, and in an instant it was cracking and smashing the branches in the forest beyond.
“They will not do that again,” he thought; “the next time they will use a charge of grape. I must keep my eye upon the gun; the smoke will apprise me–the report arrives too late; it lags behind the missile. That is a good gun.”
Suddenly he felt himself whirled round and round — spinning like a top. The water, the banks, the forests, the now distant bridge, fort and men, all were commingled and blurred. Objects were represented by their colors only; circular horizontal streaks of color — that was all he saw. He had been caught in a vortex and was being whirled on with a velocity of advance and gyration that made him giddy and sick. In few moments he was flung upon the gravel at the foot of the left bank of the stream — the southern bank — and behind a projecting point which concealed him from his enemies. The sudden arrest of his motion, the abrasion of one of his hands on the gravel, restored him, and he wept with delight. He dug his fingers into the sand, threw it over himself in handfuls and audibly blessed it. It looked like diamonds, rubies, emeralds; he could think of nothing beautiful which it did not resemble. The trees upon the bank were giant garden plants; he noted a definite order in their arrangement, inhaled the fragrance of their blooms. A strange roseate light shone through the spaces among their trunks and the wind made in their branches the music of Aeolian harps. He had not wish to perfect his escape — he was content to remain in that enchanting spot until retaken.
A whiz and a rattle of grapeshot among the branches high above his head roused him from his dream. The baffled cannoneer had fired him a random farewell. He sprang to his feet, rushed up the sloping bank, and plunged into the forest.
All that day he traveled, laying his course by the rounding sun. The forest seemed interminable; nowhere did he discover a break in it, not even a woodman’s road. He had not known that he lived in so wild a region. There was something uncanny in the revelation.
By nightfall he was fatigued, footsore, famished. The thought of his wife and children urged him on. At last he found a road which led him in what he knew to be the right direction. It was as wide and straight as a city street, yet it seemed untraveled. No fields bordered it, no dwelling anywhere. Not so much as the barking of a dog suggested human habitation. The black bodies of the trees formed a straight wall on both sides, terminating on the horizon in a point, like a diagram in a lesson in perspective. Overhead, as he looked up through this rift in the wood, shone great golden stars looking unfamiliar and grouped in strange constellations. He was sure they were arranged in some order which had a secret and malign significance. The wood on either side was full of singular noises, among which — once, twice, and again–he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue.
His neck was in pain and lifting his hand to it found it horribly swollen. He knew that it had a circle of black where the rope had bruised it. His eyes felt congested; he could no longer close them.
His tongue was swollen with thirst; he relieved its fever by thrusting it forward from between his teeth into the cold air. How softly the turf had carpeted the untraveled avenue — he could no longer feel the roadway beneath his feet!
Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene — perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have traveled the entire night. As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forwards with extended arms. As he is about to clasp her he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon — then all is darkness and silence!
Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.
If you prefer to listen while you do something else, here is an audio version of the story:
An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, narrated by Robert Englund, part one of four
An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, narrated by Robert Englund, part two of four
An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, narrated by Robert Englund, part three of four
An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, narrated by Robert Englund, part four of four
I wrote a post last week about now famous and successful authors who had been the victims of intellectually challenged publishers and who as a consequence had suffered the indignity of receiving letters and comments rejecting their work. (Possibly The Most Rejected Book Manuscript In The World)
Back on the theme of rejection letters I found a few other examples that I thought were interesting and, I hope, amusing. Here are three of the best.
The first was sent to an aspiring author of a novel. It was either a very bad manuscript or the publisher was having a particularly bad day.
Dear Bad Writer,
Unfortunately it falls to me to inform you that Harlequin will not be publishing your novel, Kisses In January.
While it is customary to send out a form letter in cases of such rejection, your novel was so strikingly inept, I felt I had to say a few words.
One, you are not welcome to submit any future work to our offices.
Two, both myself and my assistant are considering legal action against you for wasting our valuable time with your relentless tripe.
Among the areas needing vast improvement: Description, character development, and dialogue. The less said about the love scenes the better.
Should this novel have been published, it would have likely resulted in the end of modern book sales.
Trying to Forget,
Judith P Esterman, Editor
Harlequin American Romance.
The second is a curious letter of rejection. In fact you could say it is a rejecting rejection letter.
Herbert A. Millington
Chair – Search Committee
412A Clarkson Hall, Whitson University
College Hill, MA 34109
Dear Professor Millington,
Thank you for your letter of March 16. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me an assistant professor position in your department.
This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field of candidates, it is impossible for me to accept all refusals.
Despite Whitson’s outstanding qualifications and previous experience in rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at this time. Therefore, I will assume the position of assistant professor in your department this August. I look forward to seeing you then.
Best of luck in rejecting future applicants.
Chris L. Jensen
And the third is perhaps the letter we have all secretly wanted to write at some time in our lives. It is a farewell letter from someone who worked in the Dublin office of Ernst & Young. Now this is closure!
My leaving letter:
As many of you probably know, tomorrow is my last day. But before I leave, I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know what a great and distinct pleasure it has been to type “Tomorrow is my last day.”
For nearly as long as I’ve worked here, I’ve hoped that I might one day leave this company. And now that this dream has become a reality, please know that I could not have reached this goal without your unending lack of support. Words cannot express my gratitude for the words of gratitude you did not express.
I would especially like to thank all of my managers: in an age where miscommunication is all too common, you consistently impressed and inspired me with the sheer magnitude of your misinformation. It takes a strong man to admit his mistake – it takes a stronger man to attribute his mistake to me.
Over the year and a half, you have taught me more than I could ever ask for and, in most cases, ever did ask for. I have been fortunate enough to work with some absolutely interchangeable supervisors on a wide variety of seemingly identical projects – an invaluable lesson in overcoming daily tedium in overcoming daily tedium in overcoming daily tedium.
Your demands were high and your patience short, but I take great solace knowing that my work was, as stated on my annual review, “mostly satisfactory.” That is the type of praise that sends a man home happy after even a ‘10 hour’ day, smiling his way through half a bottle of mostly satisfactory scotch.
And to most of my peers: even though we barely acknowledged each other within these office walls, I hope that in the future, should we pass on the street, you will regard me the same way as I regard you: sans eye contact.
But to those few souls with whom I’ve actually interacted, here are my personalized notes of farewell:
To Caulfield: I will always remember sharing lunch with you, despite having clearly labeled it with my name.
To Mairead: I will miss detecting your flatulence as much as you will clearly miss walking past my cubicle to deliver it.
To Linda: Best wishes on your ongoing campaign to popularize these “email forwards.” I sincerely hope you receive that weekend full of good luck, that hug from an old friend, and that baby for your dusty womb.
And finally, to Kat: you were right – I tested positive. We’ll talk later.
So, in parting, if I could pass on any word of advice to the individual who will soon be filling my position, it would be to cherish this experience like a sponge and soak it up like a good woman, because a job opportunity like this comes along only once in a lifetime.
Meaning: if I had to work here again in this lifetime, I would sooner kill myself.
Very truly yours,
PS: I will be throwing myself a happy hour farewell party at the Oden 5.30 tomorrow evening if anybody is interested in drinks!
Gilbert Young was as aspiring writer, something that will find sympathy with many bloggers and blog readers I’m sure.
But Mr Young has not been the most successful of authors. In the 1970s he wrote a book, World Government Crusade, and last reports indicate that it was rejected by more publishers that any other manuscript. He even wrote to the Soviet Ambassador to see if Russian publishers might be interested. They were not.
He amassed a collection of 205 rejection slips.
It’s all hardly surprising since the subject matter of his book outlined the policies of the ‘World Government and Old Age Pensioners’ Party’ that he had founded in 1958.
But whilst Mr Young’s manuscript may well have been worthy of rejection, sometimes publishers have made serious errors when assessing work submitted to them by aspiring authors. Stupidity is indeed everywhere!
Take a look at these famous examples and the publisher’s comments. It’s a fairly long list, but interesting to see the variety of great writers who started off their careers being rejected. At least some of them will surprise you!
Thank goodness they were persistent enough to carry on. Another good lesson there for aspiring writers today.
Perhaps rather fittingly, whilst the authors and books they criticized have gone on to become household names, the publishers doing the rejecting have long been forgotten.
“Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by D H Lawrence
‘for your own sake do not publish this book.’
“The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame
‘an irresponsible holiday story’
“Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
‘an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.’
“Watership Down” by Richard Adams
‘older children wouldn’t like it because its language was too difficult.’
“Valley of the Dolls” by Jacqueline Susann
Susann’s “Valley Of The Dolls” received this response, “…she is a painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer whose every sentence, paragraph and scene cries for the hand of a pro. She wastes endless pages on utter trivia, writes wide-eyed romantic scenes …hauls out every terrible show biz cliché in all the books, lets every good scene fall apart in endless talk and allows her book to ramble aimlessly …”
“Crash” by J G Ballard
‘The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help.’
“The Torrents of Spring” by Ernest Hemingway
Regarding his novel, “The Torrents of Spring”, Ernest Hemingway was rejected with, “It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.”
“Moby Dick” by Herman Melville
Melville was told, “We regret to say that our united opinion is entirely against the book as we do not think it would be at all suitable for the Juvenile Market in (England). It is very long, rather old-fashioned…”
Faulkner may be a classic writer to this, as well as prior, generation, but back when he was trying to crack the publishing market, he had to read letters like this one, “If the book had a plot and structure, we might suggest shortening and revisions, but it is so diffuse that I don’t think this would be of any use. My chief objection is that you don’t have any story to tell.” This was kinder than the rejection he would receive just two years later, “Good God, I can’t publish this!”
“The Deer Park” by Norman Mailer
‘This will set publishing back 25 years.’
“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” by Anita Loos
‘Do you realize, young woman, that you’re the first American writer ever to poke fun at sex.’
“The Diary of Anne Frank”
‘The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the “curiosity” level.’
“Lust for Life” by Irving Stone
Stone’s manuscript “Lust For Life” was rejected 16 times, with letters like this, “A long, dull novel about an artist.” Eventually he found a publisher and went on to sell about 25 million copies.
“Barchester Towers” by Anthony Trollope
‘The grand defect of the work, I think, as a work of art is the low-mindedness and vulgarity of the chief actors. There is hardly a lady” or “gentleman” amongst them.’
“Carrie” by Stephen King
‘We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.’
“Catch – 22”by Joseph Heller
‘I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say… Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level … From your long publishing experience you will know that it is less disastrous to turn down a work of genius than to turn down talented mediocrities.’
“The Spy who Came in from the Cold” by John le Carré
‘You’re welcome to le Carré – he hasn’t got any future.’
“The War Of The Worlds” & “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells
Wells had to endure the indignity of a rejection when he submitted his manuscript, “The War of the Worlds” that said, “An endless nightmare. I do not believe it would “take”…I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book’.”
And when he tried to market “The Time Machine,” it was said, “It is not interesting enough for the general reader and not thorough enough for the scientific reader.”
“Animal Farm”by George Orwell
‘It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA’
Edgar Allen Poe
Poe was told, “Readers in this country have a decided and strong preference for works in which a single and connected story occupies the entire volume.”
“A Wrinkle In Time” by Madeleine L’Engle
L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle In Time” was turned down 29 times.
“Bridge Over River Kwai” by Pierre Boulle
A rejection letter said, “A very bad book.”
“The Clan of Cave Bear” by Jean Auel
Auel was told, “We are very impressed with the depth and scope of your research and the quality of your prose. Nevertheless … we don’t think we could distribute enough copies to satisfy you or ourselves.”
“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach
The publisher of a magazine refusing an offer to bid on the paperback rights to Bach’s best selling novel said, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull will never make it as a paperback.” Avon Books eventually bought those rights and sales totaled more than 7.25 million copies.
“The Fountainhead” & “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand
Before Ayn Rand became known as an intellectual and her books as classics, she too received rejections. Of “The Fountin Head” they said, “It is badly written and the hero is unsympathetic,” and, “I wish there were an audience for a book of this kind. But there isn’t. It won’t sell.”
Of “Atlas Shrugged” doing the rounds some fourteen years later, “… the book is much too long. There are too many long speeches… I regret to say that the book is unsaleable and unpublishable.”
“Lady Windermere’s Fan” by Oscar Wilde
‘My dear sir, I have read your manuscript. Oh, my dear sir.’
Jorge Luis Borges
Isaac Bashevis Singer
‘It’s Poland and the rich Jews again.’
‘There is no commercial advantage in acquiring her, and, in my opinion, no artistic.’
“too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.”
“The Tale Of Peter Rabbit” was turned down so many times, Potter initially self-published it.
Kipling received this from the editor of the San Francisco Examiner, “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”
“Journey Back to Love” by Mary Higgins Clark
Although mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark more recently has received a $60 plus million dollar advance on her next five books, in the early 1960s when she was sending out her manuscript of “Journey Back to Love” the publishers were not so generous, saying things like, “We found the heroine as boring as her husband did.”
Classic writer Colette was told in a letter of rejection, “I wouldn’t be able to sell 10 copies.”
Only seven of Emily Dickinson’s poems were ever published during her lifetime. A rejection early in her career said, “(Your poems) are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and are generally devoid of true poetical qualities.”
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
‘… overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.