One of my favorite techniques when I’m writing is what I call the “head-fake.” It’s where I write several lines or paragraphs all going in one direction and at the conclusion, veer suddenly into a completely different direction. It’s a good style for me, comes easily and usually works.
But a couple times recently I’ve faked a bit too far, and committed a foul — the specific offense being not veering quite enough to make my point.
The first time was in when I recounted a little work anecdote. I hit a young colleague with the classic “Play it, Sam” quote from Casablanca, and challenged him to cite the source. He quickly replied “Quantum Leap?” A lot of readers piled derision on my friend, and that really wasn’t fair. When he guessed that, I groaned because while I never was much of a Quantum Leap fan, I did watch it enough to realize that there was a very good chance they had used that very line during the run of the show, and his answer was quite possibly a valid one. After all, I didn’t specify where it was from ORIGINALLY. He did recognize it, of course, but was just yanking my chain — a very ill-advised move on someone of my age and state of decrepitude.
And yesterday, I discussed the anti-Semitic cartoon contest being held by a bunch of Jews in response to Iran’s announcement of a similar contest. Iran, as a way of fighting back against the Mohammed cartoons, announced it was holding a “funniest Holocaust” cartoon contest. I thought that was a tad stupid, as I didn’t quite see the connection between a Danish newspaper and the Holocaust, but I thought it was a better response than killing, burning, and other forms of Muslim Mayhem (patent pending) we’re seeing around the world. And I thought the Jewish response — “anything you can do, we can do better!” — was brilliant, and entirely in character. I was delighted to link to those entries, but should have made it clearer I was NOT confusing the Iranian misguided attempt with the Jewish rebuttal.
I’m going to continue using the “head-fake” technique, but with a bit more caution. These two incidents have reminded me just what a tightrope it is to walk.