Monday, February 25, 2013

The Surprising Benefits of The Surprising Benefits of Being Unemployed

Ten years ago, during a period of stressful, worry-filled, and embittering unemployment, I wrote an essay about the experience, titled The Surprising Benefits of Being Unemployed. It was an attempt to talk about unemployment in a tongue-in-cheek way, and it served as therapy for me.

I put the essay on my Web site, although I worried that other unemployed people would see it there and would find it upsetting. After all, there’s nothing humorous about losing your source of income and not knowing when or even if you’ll secure another. Reading an essay that seems to be making light of that situation could result in anger and could deepen the depression that inevitably accompanies being unemployed.

Fortunately, it had the opposite effect: It cheered people up. Over the years, I’ve received a steady stream of e-mails from unemployed people thanking me for writing the essay and saying that it helped them cope with being unemployed. Some of the e-mail correspondences went on for years.

For me, following the writing of the essay, there were more alternating periods of employment and unemployment. I had more thoughts on the subjects of unemployment and job hunting, and I expanded the essay into a short book with the same title. People buy copies of the book from time to time, although the number of hits on the essay is far greater than the sales numbers for the book. When you’re unemployed, free is obviously better.

Out of curiosity, I started tracking the number of hits on the essay and found that it was a fairly reliable leading indicator of the economy, so I created the tongue-in-cheek SBOBU Economic Index. I haven’t updated the data in a while, however.

Today, I got another e-mail thanking me for writing the essay. The writer said she had just accepted a job offer after being unemployed for seven months. I realized that I’ve been getting very few of those e-mails lately. This is evidence either that the economy has improved or that the essay’s supply of comforting humor has been used up. I hope it’s the former.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s descendants refuse to give up

This puzzles me.

When I sold my Sherlock Holmes novel to Dodd, Mead about 30 years ago or so, lawyers for Conan Doyle's daughter (I think it was) contacted Dodd, Mead and threatened to sue if the book were ever published; they claimed control over the characters. The then-head of Dodd, Mead, who I think was a member of the Dodd family (I always think of him as Junior Dodd), told them to go ahead and sue. They backed down.

If they didn't think they were on solid ground 30 years ago, how can the estate think it has grounds now?



As an aside, I found their objections to my novel particularly laughable. They asserted that Conan Doyle would never have approved of my combining Sherlock Holmes with space travel and time travel. Given that Conan Doyle wrote a fair amount of what we now call science fiction, I wonder if his descendants had actually read much of his works.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

College alumni in a bar

Occasionally I get e-mail from the local chapter of the Indiana University Alumni Association announcing gatherings. The latest one invited me to a local tavern to watch a televised IU basketball game in the company of a bunch of drunken alumni. Woo hoo.

The most truly world-class organization at IU is the opera school, whose graduates typically head straight to the Met and other great opera houses. The opera school also puts on wonderful opera performances on campus. Now, if the alumni org invited me to a local tavern to watch a live televised performance from the IU opera school, I might be interested. But I'm not going to hold my breath for that.

Monday, February 04, 2013

A little knowledge is a dangerous etc.

A little knowledge is a dangerous etc.

Talking Points Memo has a brief note about the announcement that the skeleton recently found in England most probably is that of Richard III. The TPM news item is headed "Tear-Falling Pity Dwells Not In This Eye" — a line uttered by Richard in Shakespeare's play, Richard III. In the note, TPM refers to Richard as "the notorious Richard III".

Which makes me suspect that David Kurtz, who apparently wrote that TPM item, has drawn his knowledge of Richard from Shakespeare's version of the man. Shakespeare, who was writing during the reign of Elizabeth I, the granddaughter of Henry VII, the man who ended Richard's reign and life at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Shakespeare, who understood politics so well and understood the value of not pissing off Elizabeth by casting doubt on the rightness of her grandfather's violent takeover of the country.