Tom Flanders World

All the stuff about me and my life
 
Hemingway App Review

The tag line for the Hemingway app is, “Make your writing bold and clear.” More like bland and dull.

Hemingway photo

OK, that’s a bit rough. The biggest problem with this program isn’t the writing rules it tries to enforce. The user interface was was designed by someone unfamiliar with computers. Basic functionality like opening and saving files is absent. The edit window disappears under the top menu, making editing difficult. The write and edit modes have so few differences, switching between them is useless. (Edit is the view with the reports.)

The Reports and rules are clear and accurate enough. However, if you follow them all to the letter you’ll be removing everything from your work that makes it your work. For example; the program complains that for one of my stories use too many adverbs. Three. Not three per sentence, or per paragraph, but three for the whole story. And none of them end in “ly.” The program suggests that I shouldn’t use more than one adverb per story. Yikes!

The rest of the rules are a bit more reasonable, but all should be considered suggestions rather than rules. The trick is to know the rules well enough that you can successfully break them. That takes some confidence in yourself. That’s still something of a struggle for myself.

Eating your own dog food

To give a real world example I ran the above text through the app.

  • It tells me that the writing is at a 5th grade level and that that’s good.
  • It says I’m using too many adverbs, successfully and “ly.” (Oops.)
  • One phrase, “however”, has a simpler alternative. (I assume they mean “but.” Not the same.)
  • Two of the sentences are “hard to read.” (An arbitrary word count. Not a test of complexity.)

So pretty good. Perhaps my writing isn’t as exciting a I imagine.

Note: This review is for the free Windows app, not the paid version.

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Review: I WAS A TEENY-BOPPER FOR THE CIA by Ted Mark

Before this book I did not know that comedy spy porn was a literary genre. Nor was I aware that a man named Ted Mark was that genres greatest scribe, having written dozens of such books.

I found this book at the last SF Library big book sale and thought owning a book with this title was easily worth a dollar. Several months later I finally got around to reading it.

Jaded as I am by the barrage of porn available on the internet I found the porn in the book to be almost quaint by comparison. It even seemed reserved by 1967 standards, which is when it was published. A modern romance novel would put it to shame. It does have however a certain naive charm. Genitalia are never named in vulgar terms. The writer uses either medical terms or cute euphemisms.

After a few chapters I started to wonder whether the book was porn disguised as social commentary or social commentary disguised as porn. After a few more chapters I decided that neither could stand on its own which is probably why the whole spy plot line had to be added.

The premise is that this handsome recently-divorced lawyer owes a Senator a favor and is recruited to investigate communist infiltration of community theater groups in middle class American suburbs. In the course of his duties he begins to have sex with each female member of his local theater troupe. I say begin because he is almost always interrupted in some humorous manor.

The humor is of course mostly juvenile and exceedingly chauvinistic. The old complaint of how porn objectifies and degrades women is truthfully founded in works like this. In the midst of the sexual revolution the author paints woman as opportunistic nymphomaniacs looking to avoid all responsibility in life.

While not apologizing for the sexist views of the author, like H.P. Lovecraft’s racism you have to take it as a symptom of culture and marketplace. It does detract for the work but it shouldn’t be banished because of it. The work should stand on it’s own. Though I doubt Mr. Mark’s work will ever be measured beside Lovecraft’s.

So what am I trying to say about this book? It’s interesting as a time capsule of a forgotten sub-culture and an artifact of a time in publishing of which I will always be jealous. A time when many new writers found an easy path to getting their little paperbacks published and distributed. Of course cable TV, the web and the publishing industry’s changes have done away with all that. It sounds like I’m down on how things have changed but I’m happy with the current state of things. My words find their way to my readers. I think I’m just romanticizing a bygone era.

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A Book Worth Reading

A MIND NOT WORTH CONTROLLING, by Joshua Price

OK, I need to say it, this is a stupid book, and I mean that in the best possible way. I don’t think there’s a humor writer who didn’t write at least one story featuring a silly, incompetent but somehow successful crime fighter. My own attempts featured the oddly-named Captain Calypso who I say humbly never had the gusto or outrageousness of A MIND NOT WORTH CONTROLLING’s hero Captain Rescue.

“Where are the bad guys?!” Captain Rescue bellowed. “I will kill them!”

To a fan of stupid heroes, as I am, this is poetry. The plot, the characters and especially the conclusion are audacious and ridiculous. For people unfamiliar with the stupid hero genre, forget it, you won’t get it. Though the story may be short enough to survive the average reader’s suspension of expectation of seriousness.

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Book Review: 101 Puzzle Quizzes

This book is very frustrating. Not because the puzzles are too easy or too difficult, but because many of the puzzles have multiple correct answers and only the author’s intended answer is accepted. This shows a lack of attention to detail, or at least a lack of imagination.

For example: Puzzle number 25 shows three unfolded shapes made up of attached triangles and asks which does not belong. There are four correct answers.

Shape A is the only one where the triangles laid flat form a larger triangle.

Shape A is also the only one where one triangle is completely surrounded by other triangles.

Shape B is the only parallelogram.

Shape C, when folded, does not form a solid object. (the “correct” answer)

This lack of a singular correct answer is a shame because the book contains a nice variety of difficulty and puzzle types.

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Book Review: Buddha in Blue Jeans – Tai Sheridan

I love this book. I don’t know if it will really help me to make meditation part of my life, but I feel like it will. It is short. It is simple. Both of the those can be both good and bad. I tend to be a bulk snob when it comes to information. The more information, and the more complex that information is, the more likely I am to trust in that information as truthful and useful. I have to throw those out for Buddha in Blue Jeans. My first reaction that it couldn’t be this simple has been dissuaded by some rather successful meditation sessions. Of course I’ve had many more attempts than successes. I’m so used to trying to analyze and understand every thought that it’s hard to trust and let go. But I’m trying, and every time I reread the book I get some new insight or trick to try.

Having said all that, I should state that if you are looking for a self-help book with lots of helpful hints and guidance, you may be disappointed. It leaves a lot up to the reader, which is the point, but still, some of us like being led by the leash into new experiences.

 

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