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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 12, 2006 / 16 Tamuz, 5766

Scribbling rivalry

By Dan Neil

Dan Neil
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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I am writing this at a cafe table on the city square in Strasbourg, France, literally in the shadow of the city's infamously tall Gothic cathedral. Somewhere in the course of this trip my laptop has gone hors de combat, and so I've brought pen and notepad to the table, pulled up a cafe au lait and started writing out a story in longhand, which I haven't done in about 20 years. This bit of process would be unremarkable except for the fact that — I just noticed — there is a large and rather unflattering bronze of Johann Gutenberg directly ahead. Strasbourg claims the inventor of movable type as its own, though the residents of Mainz, Germany, have something to say about that.


I suppose I could lay it at the pigeon-soiled feet of Gutenberg, or Christopher Latham Sholes, the inventor of the typewriter, or Bill Gates, the man who killed the typewriter, but somewhere along the way my handwriting has gone from merely awful to just plain pathetic, a half-seized scribble and jot that appears to have been written in the back of a speeding buckboard. This is the handwriting of the criminally insane.


No master of the Palmer method was I, but in college I could write legibly for hours on end. I remember that my writing hand, my left, was more thoroughly muscled, and I had a nice, thick callus on my middle finger. Today, thanks to keystroking, I am so estranged from the manual process of writing that it takes several trial runs and many minutes of tongue-biting concentration to complete a postcard.


How odd it is to sit here and watch my hand twitching and itching across the paper, leaving a broken wake of demi-words behind. The only weak consolation is that my handwriting, like da Vinci's, could thwart those who would try to learn my secrets. A room full of Robert Langdons and the NSA wouldn't stand a chance.


The decline of handwriting associated with electronic text — word processing, e-mail, instant messaging — is well documented, as are its costs. Back in the '90s there was a spate of patient deaths associated with doctors' scrawl, prompting the American Medical Association to make changes in the way prescriptions and medical charts are recorded. Handwriting is apparently destiny. According to graphologists, it's nearly impossible for educators and employers to separate bad handwriting from larger, grosser forms of incompetence — that's not good news for high school students facing the new essay portion of the SATs.


Mahatma Gandhi himself said that bad handwriting should be regarded "as a sign of an imperfect education." And he didn't even have to take the SATs.


The sociology of clumsy cursive doesn't bother me half so much as my own decline. I'm feeling a real loss here, as if I've forgotten how to play the violin. As an experiment, I write out the old practice sentence: "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party." I study the paper. It says: "Naw, is thistime for all good mento come tis aid f thur party." It looks like I've been eating flaking paint.


I don't want to get carried away here. I mean, I can get along without longhand. Good penmanship can also be read as a sign of a repressive perfectionism. No kid ever says, "When I grow up, I want to be a penman!"


But something is definitely missing. Back when I could write in longhand, I read an essay by the poet Louis Simpson, who said that poetry should never be written on a word processor because its environment of endless and effortless revisability dulls the keenness of poetic thought. It's like rhetorical T-ball, where you have endless swings of the bat until you connect. Simpson argued there was a concentration, and consecration, of verse that happened while the poet considered the commitment of pen to paper.


The same must be true of personal communication. Why is a word-processed love letter problematic? Beyond lacking the warmth and intimacy of script, it is inevitably calculated, the product of careful revision and perfecting polish. As we struggle to get it right, we dissemble, trading sincerity for legibility.


I'm sorry to say that the last love letter I wrote was channeled through Microsoft Word.


Oddly, just as handwriting is heading for the door, it has become an immensely powerful means of communication. College football recruiters now make it a point to send handwritten letters to the most desirable prospects. Think of the thunderclap of excitement, the sense of occasion, when you last received a handwritten letter or even a thank-you note.


Which brings me to the collection of postcards on the table. I'll have to write very slowly, and may even resort to block printing, architect-style. I may waste a few cards, and I probably won't get the words exactly right, and yet every one will say: "Wish you were here."

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Previously:

05/06/06: Fashion victim
03/01/06: TALK ABOUT A JOB!
02/21/06: Cowboy down
02/07/06: Superman, we need you now more than ever
01/11/06: All that sass
01/06/05: Is debonair even possible in 2006?
12/26/05: Be careful what you ask for
12/20/05: Monster's Ball: Reconsidering ‘Beowulf’



© 2006, Tribune Media Services, INC. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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