Amusing business writing

I started a new gig this week, consulting at a very big corporation.  It’s been close to a decade since I worked in a large corporate environment, but I spent enough time there early in my career to know what to expect.  I haven’t been surprised, though I am noticing little things I might not have in the past.  Not sure if that’s because I’ve been writing so much more myself, or it’s just my quirky sense of observation.  I have spent my first few days reading various documents, and yesterday, I stumbled on these definitions in a training presentation…


An issue is defined as a situation, problem, or an activity that has happened or is happening which impacts upon the [project]. A project issue needs to be addressed, either immediately or during the project.

Issue: While crossing freeway I got hit by a bus


A risk is something that may happen in the future and have a positive or negative effect on the project.

Risk: When crossing the freeway I might get hit by a car and get hurt.

Mitigation: Find the nearest pedestrian bridge

An Excerpt from Art Objects

I just finished Art Objects (read ‘objects’ as a verb), which I gave you a quick taste of recently.  First, let me admit – again – that I am so enamored of Jeanette Winterson’s writing that I can’t express the impact is has on me.  I believe everyone should have an author whose work they love so much – or multiple authors – the more, the better, really.  So, while Winterson is considered controversial and there are many out there that do not give her words the prominent place in their soul that I do, I cannot help myself from sharing a bit more from this book.

Art Objects is a collection of essays about art, all kinds of art, and people’s relationship with art.  I come from a place where art, except literature, has always seemed out of reach to me.  It was something I associated with wealthy people – snobby people, even.  The worst course I took in college was History of Modern Art.  My other half is an art and theater lover, and I have softened my position some due to her influence – but, I still struggle with unreasonable feelings of self-consciousness in a museum or at the theater – somewhere in the back of my mind, I still feel I don’t belong in that crowd.

Art Objects addresses many aspects of art, and has given me pause to rethink my attitude.  This book alone is not enough to wipe away years of weird discomfort about certain kinds of art, but it did make me think about my own writing as art, among other things.  That said, here is one of a dozen or so passages I earmarked in the book:

Against daily insignificance art recalls to us possible sublimity. It cannot do this if it is merely a reflection of actual life. Our real lives are elsewhere. Art finds them.

Should people be treated as fictions? The question is an ethical one only if we assume that fiction is a copy of actual life. If we do, then art always is autobiography or biography and the skill of the artist is making it into a pretty toy or perhaps an educational instrument. Art should not drag unwilling actors into its animation. … Instead of art aspiring towards lifelikeness what if life aspires towards art, toward a creative controlled focus of freedom, outside the tyranny of matter? What if the joke about life imitating art were a better joke than we think?

Are real people fictions? We mostly understand ourselves through an endless series of stories told to ourselves by ourselves and others. The so-called facts of our individual worlds are highly coloured and arbitrary, facts that fit whatever fiction we have chosen to believe in. It is necessary to have a story, an alibi that gets us through the day, but what happens when thes tory becomes a scripture? When we can no longer recognise anything outside of our own reality? We have to be careful not to live in a state of constant self-censorship, where whatever conflicts with our world-view is dismissed or diluted until it ceases to be a bother. Struggling against the limitations we place upon our minds is our own imaginative capacity, a recognition of an inner life often at odds with the external figurings we spend so much energy supporting. When we let ourselves respond to poetry, to music, to pictures, we are clearing a space where new stories can root, in effect we are clearing a space for new stories about ourselves.

Follow the links

Callie Leuck really grabbed me with the opening paragraph of her very well written rant about discrimination.  Check it out.  You’ll enjoy it.  Thanks for speaking up, Callie!

I’m not normally a “life lessons” kind of person, but maybe it’s because I just haven’t read the right lists.  This post by Julie Farrar is really great.  Julie’s sense of humor and her writing style are a bit understated – this combines for a read that will make you smile more than once.  In fact, while you’re at it, read this awesome graduation speech she wrote for parents.

You’ll also get some laughs from the transcripts of hilarious conversations Heather Davis has with her kids.  She posts a Conversation of the Week, and this is a link to the entire category.  Her other posts are funny, too, but I particularly love the Conversation of the Week.

I only recently started reading Nathan Bransford’s blog, but I love it that he has tons to say about tons of stuff.  This post about the future of publishing is very straightforward, and I really enjoyed his take on what the future will hold for all the major parties in the ecosystem – publishers, agents, authors, bookstores, and readers.

And, speaking of publishing, Graham recently wrote a wonderful counter to another Huffington Post contributor’s opinion that blogging, or  “uncontrolled publishing”, and the Internet in general are leading us on a “path of literary extinction.”  While I imagine most of us will identify more with Graham’s position, Saadon’s writing is interesting regardless of what you think of his opinion.  It’s well-written, with the exception of a sentence or two that make their point, but do so using nonsensical language – a bit ironic for someone who purports only to respect intellectual writing.  Both pieces are thought-provoking, though.  Check them out.

Mother’s Day Traffic Spike

My most-read post in the past week has been Quotes from my crazy Great-Grandmother, driven by many searches for “great grandmother quotes,” and “great grandma quotes.”  I imagine the web surfers that stumbled on my small collection of my great grandma’s quotes got something other than what they were really looking for.  Oh well, maybe they got a little laugh.

I am woefully behind in posting here and reading other blogs because I’ve been focusing my energy on finishing a few essays, getting some critiques at, interviewing for another new job, starting a professional blog, and writing a bunch of business articles for it.  It seems my brain can only handle a couple of kinds of writing at the same time.  I have the rest of this week, and possibly next, to wrap up some of my projects before I dive into my new job as a management consultant.

Yesterday, I began reading Art Objects, a collection of critical essays by Jeannette Winterson about art.  The writing is dense, the kind you need to really focus on, re-reading paragraphs as you go, turning over in your mind the ideas on the pages.  I’ll leave you with this bit from the first essay, also titled Art Objects.

Every day, in countless ways, you and I convince ourselves about ourselves.  True art, when it happens to us, challenges the ‘I’ that we are.  A love-parallel would be just; falling in love challenges the reality to which we lay claim, part of the pleasure of love and part of its terror, is the world turned upside down.  We want and we don’t want, the cutting edge, the upset, the new views.  Mostly we work hard at taming our emotional enviornment just as we work hard at taming our aesthetic environment.  We already have tamed our physical environment.  And are we happy with all this tameness?  Are you?

Tom Robbins

I have been reading Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, by Tom Robbins.  I bought the book in the indie bookstore in the Milwaukee airport – it’s an odd location for what I’d call a traditional old bookstore.  It’s not a chain, not the typical ‘newstand’ style of airport store that sells overpriced candy, a zillion magazines, and bags of mixed nuts along with t-shirts for the local sports team, but an independently owned store that has a locked up section of rare first-editions and autographed old books, with no discernible Best Seller section.

When I was much younger, I devoured Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Still Life with Woodpecker, Skinny Legs and All and Jitterbug Perfume.  I couldn’t get enough of the wild irreverence and oddly (but interestingly) placed philosophical meanderings in his writing.  Those same qualities are present in Fierce Invalids, and the book is a supreme example of Robbins’ acrobatic ability with words.  It opens as follows.

“The naked parrot looked like a human fetus spliced onto a kosher chicken. It was so old it had lost every single one of its feathers, even its pinfeathers, and its bumpy, jaundiced skin was latticed by a network of rubbery blue veins.  “Pathological,” muttered Switters, meaning not simply the parrot but the whole scene, including the shrunken old woman in whose footsteps the bird doggedly followed as she moved about the darkened villa. The parrot’s scabrous claws made a dry, scraping noise as they fought for purchase on the terra-cotta floor tiles, and when, periodically, the creature lost its footing and skidded an inch or two, it issued a squawk so quavery and feeble that it sounded as if it were being petted by the Boston Strangler. Each time it squawked, the crone clucked, whether in sympathy or disapproval one could not tell, for she never turned to her devoted little companion but wandered aimlessly from one piece of ancient wooden furniture to another in her amorphous black dress.”

and a few pages later:

” … [Switters] was remembering an actress he used to know, who, in order to entice a tiny trained terrier to follow her around during a movie scene, had had to have scraps of raw calf’s liver stapled to the soles of her high-heeled shoes. Thinking of that terrier magnetized by meat-baited slippers reminded him then of the old bald parrot that had waddled after its mistress … many months before … That’s the way the mind works: the human brain is genetically disposed toward organization, yet if not tightly controlled, will link one imagerial fragment to another on the flimsiest of pretense and in the most freewheeling manner, as it if takes a kind of organic pleasure in creative association, without regard for logic or chronological sequence. Now, it appears that this prose account has unintentionally begun in partial mimicry of the mind. Four scenes have occurred at four different locations and four separate times, some set apart by months or years. And while they do maintain chronological order and a connective element (Switters), and while the motif is a far cry from the kind of stream-of-consciousness technique that makes Finnegans Wake simultaneously the most realistic and the most unreadable book ever written (unreadable precisely because it is so realistic), still, alas, the preceding is probably not the way in which an effective narrative ought properly to unfold – not even in these days when the world is showing signs of awakening from its linear trance, its dangerously restrictive sense of itself as a historical vehicle chugging down a one-way street toward some preordained apocalyptic goal. Henceforth, this account shall gather itself at an acceptable starting point (every beginning in narration is somewhat arbitrary and the one that follows is no exception), from which it shall then move forward in a so-called timely fashion, shunning the wantonly tangential influence of the natural mind and stopping only occasionally to smell the adjectives or kick some ass.”

I am again amazed at his ability with words, and how easily he breaks the rules of fiction, as seen above when he abandons the story line abruptly and speaks directly – author to reader.

More Blog Spam

I have a few lengthier entries to share this time, but I think you’ll see the brilliance and decide they are worth a read…

For a start, everyone is welcome to internet marketing. That is beautiful. The young is welcome additionally as the old. The tiny is welcome still as the great. The weak is welcome still as the strong. Everybody is welcome. This makes internet selling a lovely home to remain and enjoy yourself to the fullest. It welcomes an Yank; it welcomes an European. It welcomes an Asian the same manner it welcomes an Australian. It’s indeed a home for all. It’s thus lovely that it will not examine you age or perhaps strive to authenticate, validate, or verify how previous you are. It’s therefore beautiful that it will not think about your temperament; it will not check your family background, community, nation, continent, race, tribe, creed, and tongue before permitting you to hitch the train.

It is likewise a good idea to specify who you desire the proceeds of your life policy to go to when you perish.
And that breaks my heart. Yours too, huh?

And, an interesting group of spam comments that have scrambled the letters in just one word.  Check them out. You could make a game out of unscrambling these.

Being new to social kowterning, I haven’t had time to figure out the protocols so thanks for the tips.


Very impressive your art. Like to know what kind of paper, snickhetses and sizes. And are those his nibs to which your refer? grin!


Both books are great, total classics for twriers.


before you spend your money free advice, i would ccntaot a funeral home and have the ashes moved. you are not exhuming anybody (only a body can be exhumed not an urn)and it is relatively simple to get this done.let your aunt and uncle try to contest the children’s wishes and have them find out how much a standing they really have. none.but in case you need to litigate this any private practitioner can represent you in this matter.i hope this helps you.


You’re not stalking, you are ipkeeng tabs. Stalking is peering into windows and following the person a few feet behind. Keeping tabs is ipkeeng up with the person online (Note to Graham:  I guess I’m not stalking you after all!)

If I gave out blog spam awards, I think this one would win for its obvious, though warped, reference to many things I have actually written about.

Hi, Janell! I’ve just been romping around in your blog and it’s a feast so many delicious topics. This post about Jeannette Winterson opens some doors for me; I’m intrigued by her approach to alone-ness, how she describes it as springing from having felt invaded in the past. So often we’re made to feel there’s something wrong with us at our core if we truly prefer to be alone most of the time. It’s a relief to know this is normal for some people (if using the word normal ever makes any sense!) Some people consider being alone punishment. Some consider it a reward. And that’s o.k.And I love the way you combine socializing with learning, while discovering ways to enrich your poetry (weaving in what you learn from a show on the Jewish use of trees) now that’s intelligent multi-tasking!I also really enjoyed your earlier post about memoir writing, and was struck by the similarities to writing fiction when you wrote of how vital it is to know what to leave out. This is a lot more difficult than it might seem, to the uninitiated; it’s a mighty effort of discipline and clear sight.This blog is an oasis for anyone caught up in the writer’s life. Thank you, Janell!