08 May 2007

Crap detector

Ernest Hemingway is reputed to have said that every writer needs a "built-in, shockproof crap detector." I see this attributed to him in lots of places, but I never bothered to do the research to find out if he actually did say it. Nonetheless it is part of Heming-lore, and it is as connected to our image of him as are bullfights and big-game hunts. I think it is a lovely phrase, and terribly truthful. Sometimes I look back over stuff I've written and a loud, grating CLANK goes off and I think--did I say that? I know my crap detector doesn't always work, but when it does it is like eating something nasty from an hors d'ouevre tray at a party. You have to maintain your cool, but you want to spit the stuff out. And you can't believe you didn't have better sense. The internet is a wonderful thing, no? The information density we have at our fingertips is astonishing, and if I think about it too much I get woozy. But M.C.'s Law sez that Bullshit flow is directly proportional to Information density, or BSf/Id = constant. We need bigger and better crap detectors in the 21st century because much of the fruit of the Information Age is rotten. This brings me to one of my favorite websites--Snopes. These guys are the Crap Warriors of Cyberspace and they are doing important work. I'm sure they get things wrong, but I love their thoughtful skepticism and their passionate desire to get the facts straight. M.C. sez "check 'em out."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Snopes is, indeed, very cool -- and I really like their occasional very wry asides over something particularly nutso. I, too, am very glad they are there. Do you get their weekly newletter update? Fun! All the best tomorrow a.m. -- the Giants and I are in your dugout. So to speak. NOC