Sat Feb 11, 2012
UT Austin, MBA Program, 1971
There was this one skinny kid in my MBA classes, back in the days of black and white 13 inch televisions when MCA bragged that you could get a meal and change back from a dollar, yeah that long ago...
Anyway, he was always popping off in class. Then as now, most of the students had little to say or offer up. And gee he could be irritating. I mean we are all or were in this together, let's have a little mutual respect eh, but not this guy. He was as liable to jump on a less than perfect presentation Word was going around that more than a couple of class was laying in wait for his verbal faux pas.
And he wasn't content to quote some dead English author or perhaps a politician to make a point. No, this geek quoted from car magazines, about good writing no less. As long as one was not the target of his critiques, I guess he was kind of entertaining. One day when he missed class the Prof did note that his absence seemed to leave a hole in the discussion. He did back off after a few got riled at the criticisms but what the heck, geeks never change much.
That geek was yours truly. I did frequently quote David E Davis, recently deceased, the dean of American Auto Writers. This past week I was in not one but two meetings with accounting and IT professionals. At each one the speakers bemoaned the lack of clear writing skills by their recently hired students. The first meeting was SA Internal Auditors. A panel of Senior Internal Audit pros noted that good writing was the sine qua non of their profession. At the end of th day, the report in the file was the work product. Come to think of it an Audit Partner at a major SA regional firm made the same point to me years ago. And then just yesterday the head of a SA IT firm said the same thing-better technical writing, please.
And since most IT and Accounting pros are writing to an audience which is NOT composed of IT or audit pros, it becomes even more important to
Write something that someone wants to read!
It's Saturday morning. I feel like Ralphie at the end of Christmas Story. All is right with the world. For Ralphie it was his blue beauty of a a Daisy-brand Red Ryder repeating BB carbine with a compass mounted in the stock. For myself it is my Saturday morning cyber-ride with two of the better auto writers around. Yep in the best David E Davis tradition, they don't list specs or colors or droll on about the gas mileage. Nope, their metaphors and similes leap off the page. It is as though I'm riding shotgun in that right front seat. The visceral thrill of high performance cars or the smug practicality of a small SUV proves newsprint is hardly out of style, just re-packaged on the net.
Students become better writers by reading better authors, period. Most students do not seem to read anything, I never see anyone at school with a novel, fiction or non, or a newspaper. What do I mean, well here are a few samples from Dan Neil's review of the new Porsche 991. Apparently Porsche is numbering backwards rather than vault the 1,000 mark, the last iteration was the 997, go figure. Terry Box follows.
Dan Neil on the Porsche 991, WSJ Feb 11, 2012 Page D 13
The new cockpit, with its banked and switch-laden central console like the Panamera, is futuristic, sternly elegant and purposeful, limned in rich alloys of aluminum and wrapped in more taut, tanned hide than a Miss Hawaiian Tropic pageant.
A ripping, scalping, torque-wrenching, swivel-hipped snake of a car—and that's just so far.
I get out of this car very much inclined to bite the head off a pigeon or something.
The suspension compliance is velvety, the throttle response relaxed. Porsche's product planners would like the new 911 to appeal to more women. Just call me Nancy.
Terry Box, Dallas Morning News, Saturday Feb 11, 2012
NIssan GTR born to Really Run
Godzilla growls at 3,000 rpm, a final warning to the foolhardy
The 2012 GT-R that recently arrived at The Daily Planet, coated in a fine shade of arrest-me-officer red, practically crackled with radioactivity.
A typical run goes something like this: Nail throttle. Body and head slam into seat. Engine feels like a nuclear device. Grab second with the paddle shift. Body and head slam into seat. Engine seems to be making my hands glow. And so on.
See what I mean? Most newspaper accounts of cars are thinly disguised ads for cars to further induce dealers to advertise in the saturday classifieds not these guys. You are there, in the car, riding along with Dan or Terry.
I can almost smell the leather of the taut tanned hide.
I can feel the push back from the 530 bhp of the Nissan V 6.
As LJK Setwright observed at Car and Driver years ago, there is no Refrigerator Monthly. One does not experience a refrigerator, one uses it. Cars are a visceral experience and writers that convey that mechanical emotion rise to the top of the genre.
So, I don't expect students to be a gearhead as I am, but what blows your skirt so to speak, what sparks your interest? Fashion, food, music, what?
How about some examples of great writing. I have enjoyed reading the classes reflections on Emerson's Self Reliance. And indeed some of you are quoting famous authors with gusto, as I said on BB, setting the bar high for your classmates.