There's an art to our scribbles, and it's changing with our technology.
Ten years ago, as a reporter at a radio debate between then-Senator Joe Biden and his hapless, sacrificial-lamb of a Republican challenger, Ray Clatworthy, I asked a question about a bridge in southern New Castle County, and whether it should continue to be maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. Clatworthy hedged, seeming to imply that the topic was beneath consideration in a Senate debate.
Biden wrote "Bridge" on a folded piece of paper, underlined it once, and then sat there wearing the Ol' Joe smirk. After Clatworthy stumbled to the finish line, Biden waited a beat, then said, "The answer to your question is 'yes'..." and spun out a long, impassioned statement about the federal government's commitment to Delaware.
The answer no longer matters. What has stuck with me for a decade is the passionate answer Biden produced from the simple mnemonic of that one underlined word.
Harvard English professor Leah Price, one of the co-organizers of TakeNote, a conference dedicated to the history, theory, practice and future of note-taking, opened her introductory remarks with a much-circulated picture of Biden holding up his notes after this year's vice-presidential debate. To the extent Biden's jottings are decipherable -- "No Apology," "Egyptian People" and maybe a few others -- I recognized the method immediately. It's satisfying to laugh at -- the potential vastness of the subject each bullet point alludes to reinforces the theme of Joe Biden as larger-than-life cartoon. One would not be surprised to see on the list a twice-underlined "Malarkey".