The bright side #3: Reinforcements in the frog wars

Stumbling just now into my apartment in Beijing, some 24 hours after pre-dawn checkout from the airport hotel at LAX, I discover that my Atlantic colleague Jeffrey Goldberg has volunteered for the noblest of efforts. This is the long, twilight struggle to mock politicians, journalists, raconteurs, etc who repeat the stupid, cruel, hackneyed, and unscientific boiled-frog cliche, so that eventually people will stop saying it. I knew I'd find an ally some day.

We all pick our causes. During my brief and enjoyable stint at Microsoft long ago, I worked on various big-think projects. But my claim to have changed the world may rest on my all-out war against "Clippy," the moronic "help" feature that popped up to say "Hey, you seem to be writing a letter!" each time you typed "Dear ..." I don't want to overstate things, but before I arrived, Word came with Clippy turned on by default. Now it's turned off by default. Judge for yourself.

So may it someday be concerning the frogs, thanks to their new defender Mr. Goldberg. And I actually have frog news, which at some point after I get some sleep I may share.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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