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**PRINT: FRIENDS FROM CINCINNATI: Installment 24 features this part coming-of-age short by Chicago's Patrick Somerville, author of the Trouble collection of shorts out in 2006. | PAST BROADSHEETS |

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Shya Scanlon

So. Just like I promised. I'm not really assuming any of you are going to run out and follow these steps, but it's come to my attention that more and more learning is being done manual-ly, so I thought I'd throw it out there.

Fucking Kids (Fucking Kids!) expend far more energy learning how to play video games than they do in school, which they then drop out of (school) to get jobs in Flash production, etc….and aside from just jumping in and figuring it out, which makes up quite a bit of the education process, where do you think they get their information? Manuals. They're not going in and paying out the ass for a well-spoken professional to critique and outline the processes of each application. There is no teacher/student one-on-one time. No after-school study sessions. No. Have you read these things? I think, on average, they're getting better -- companies are actually hiring people with language skills to do the job -- but Jesus. Most of them suck. They're clear, kind of, if clear means having sentences void of personality: it's like they're written by the computers they're trying to describe. It's like people have forgotten that there's more to clarity than Really Simple Grammar. A human element, a 'voice' the reader can empathize with, can listen to rather than just read, will do a hell of a lot for the type of self-propagation Information seems to be so set on, that a simple list of facts won't ever achieve. If you've got something complicated to say, fucking say it! Don't beat around the bush with some perverted impression of Hemingway's mechanical clone and try to sneak the complexity past me, hoping maybe I'll just absorb it despite myself. Give me a break. Write like a human and it'll up my ability to comprehend difficult issues by a factor of 10, easy.

But like I said, some companies are catching on. It's no secret, after all. One look at the software section of any bookstore and you'll get the message -- multiple books on each application is no accident. People find the original manuals completely inadequate. They write their own. Then other people read those, find them inadequate too, and so on. Obviously this is going to happen no matter what; you just cannot write books that everyone will read, like, and understand. It's not going to happen. But surely you can try to broaden your appeal, am I right?

I'm offering this in the name of broadening my appeal. I know that what I said above is basically a knock against the whole enterprise, but I just had to get it out of my system. I had to add the caveat that there are other, perhaps even better, ways to communicate, but what the hell -- I have to take my audience into consideration. There just might be, I'm not in favor of there being, but there nonetheless still just might be people out there who, having grown up on manuals, can more easily glean information from a manual than from a standard, personality-filled text. I don't want to exclude you people. I want to be fair. Maybe personality gets in the way for some people. Who am I to judge? In an age when our bodies are seen as machines, our minds as just-really-sort-of-glitchy computers, yadda yadda, maybe a manual is actually more appropriate, more accurate. Get on with it. Forget all this personality-saturated introductory crap -- it doesn't move me. In one ear and out the other. Where's the real meat? The information, man!

Where's the information?!

Here it is:

I) On Conducting Self During Business Hours

A) be punctual and consistent
B) demand respect (not equality)
C) grow accustomed to motion

II) On Source Relations

A) say please
B) say thank you
C) say 'actually, I already have a date for tonight'

III) On Dealer Relations (use caution when relating to your dealers)

A) hide your social class
B) show respect for the street
C) don't buy ugly clothes and kiss the sidewalk

IV) On Conducting Self Within Organization

A) trust everyone -- give them the benefit of the doubt
B) keep your word
C) treat exceptions to A and B with the utmost discretion

Okay? Concise enough for you? Did you get what you needed and not one little hint of anything you didn't? Even in compiling the list above I had to make some important decisions that I hoped wouldn't come through as such, would instead roll right out as if off an assembly line, a neat little sequence of necessity. But I'm not sure that happened. 'Say "actually, I already have a date for tonight"'?! Now, being bent on deciphering the abstract code an author will use to say things without saying them (isn't this what writing is all about? Fiction, I mean…), I would probably not have too much trouble delineating the fact that this is a reduced explanation of a situation, perhaps one that will be included in the story, perhaps one that already has been included, where the Source (Chuck?!) wants (wanted) to date someone, one of us, but was refused. Since it is situated in the list as it is, I might even infer that it's recommended, and has thus some import other than simple novelty within the context of the Chronicle as a whole. Yet what could this be? you say, aghast. Well, asking someone on a date is an act that plays quite an important role in determining/propagating the power dynamic within a relationship. To refuse, one could therefore easily be relevant to this dynamic. I might juxtapose this induction, then, with the observation that the other two points (A and B) of this section (II) of the 12-SPFTW-BM-LDDWWTBITF were noticeably of consequence to intra-personal-relational power-dynamics, and were also noticeably subservient in nature. I could then use my knowledge of a basic human tendency toward 'balance' to further infer that what would be implied by the third point (C) might very well be something acting in opposition, power-dynamically, to the two before it. Would this not fit in nicely with the idea, gleaned from common experience, that to refuse someone a date is to hold in check any leverage they may have or intend to have over you, on emotional, or even motional levels?

My answer: yes.

But this is just one example. I'm not exactly sure you Manual Readers out there would necessarily make the same inferences as I. But what's my alternative? To increase the list 10-fold just so each individual step is the logical equivalent to Really Simple Grammar. Fuck that. What ever happened to compromise?

The point is that I listed things as best I could, without wanting to insult anyone's intelligence, making the product manageable, manual-like, without stripping it completely of its value to any of the rest of us who, for better or worse, stayed in school, and still haven't learned Flash.

For some of the best online manuals around, ourselves and the author recommend that you consult these links:


Shya, moored at the N.W. edge of our fine and/or not-so-fine nation, may be contacted: shya@nterrobang.com.