anthony dobranski online


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On anger

The Promised Land, and its malcontents.

In the story of Moses, the aging Moses needs water for his people. Jehovah tells Moses to speak to a rock, but Moses strikes the rock twice. Jehovah lets the water flow, so the Jews can drink, but the cost is that Moses can’t enter the Promised Land.

This story is a cliché now, but I think we use it wrongly. It’s not about authority punishing misbehavior, but about the failure to change.

When the Jews are enslaved, anger and rebellion free them, at a horrible cost. One wonders if Jehovah, who created the Egyptians too, actually chose the angel of death. Maybe Jehovah just let Moses into the divine armory, to choose whatever weapon he thought best – and at the time, “by any means necessary” was enough justification for Jehovah to accept his choice.

Forty years later, not so much. For the independent Jewish people, forced by their years in the wilderness to survive on their own, now ready to build a new land, rebellion risks their new social order. Moses’s anger and rebellion have no place here. They are no longer liberating, only destructive, for there is no longer an other to escape, to destroy. This is not to say that the Jews will never need rebellion, but as the story of David later shows, it will never again be an unalloyed good.

I am an angry person. Continue reading


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Twenty lousy minutes on the Freewrite (review)

Less tool than fetish, and disappointing.

Funded on Kickstarter, the new Freewrite is a solid, lovingly-crafted device that promises to return writers to a place of distraction-free spontaneity. From its low-power e-ink screen to the aluminum case – with handle – to the deep-traveling satisfyingly-clicky Cherry keys, the Freewrite consciously recalls early computers, manual typewriters, and a more physical, engaged time. I love touching it. Really.

freewrite-blog-1

Alas, none of those keys moves the cursor.

“Distraction-free” writing is not a method like touch-typing, but an ideal. For some, it means paper. For others (like me), it means starting my work in a text editor, not a print-oriented word processor like Word or OpenOffice. For still others, it means gimmicky apps that literally delete your writing if you pause too long. Whatever works, right? And if it doesn’t work, you can do something else.

Not on the Freewrite. For the Freewrite, “distraction-free” means, and only means, a weirdly oppressive no-turning-back mentality, like Allen Ginsberg’s “first thought best thought” warped from liberating ideal into blind diktat without recourse.

You can only keep keying. You can’t go backwards, save to delete – and that has the acceleration of a Tesla, one word, two words, a paragraph whoa! You can’t go up three lines and add a header. You must go forward, only forward, like Orpheus leaving Hades.

I don’t even write that way on paper.

The Freewrite also requires a better computer to finish one’s work. Just getting text out of it – set up a special account, to either e-mail the work as an non-editable PDF, or to push it into Dropbox folders as Word .docx files – is a ridiculous kluge, a giant chicken-wire afterthought that makes the whole Freewrite process feel like something out of the movie BrazilContinue reading


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A Republican Hamlet

Blame the English teachers at those fine expensive schools, trying desperately to engage their bored charges with a play about reckless youth. If only the chattering classes had been taught how to read Hamlet properly, they might have better understood this year’s presidential primaries.

Let’s do a Republican Hamlet. Best thing is, you don’t have to change a single line. Continue reading