Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category


Is it better to be fucked up by religion than by life? And why is damage so sexy?
If I was going to choose, I’d rather be fucked up by religion. At least that is something I could feasibly escape and still be breathing.

Damage is indicative of vulnerability, which I think always feels a little dangerous. It is evidence that a person can feel deeply, that they can be open … then that delicious wall goes up and we just want to scramble over it and save (and feel) the person. It’s irresistible. I also think damage is a glimpse of something honest, and that’s always attractive.

Interview in The Guardian


The British analytical group, More in Common (“founded in memory of [British MP] Jo Cox [murdered by a neo-Nazi]”), reports that the vast majority of Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture.

The study has design problems, such as considering no political positions to the left of “progressive activists,” and defining “PC culture” only in terms of language. (Obviously, it goes far beyond this.)

Still, the study has some value. Among other things, it reveals that a full 80% of Americans (including 75% of Afro-Americans and 88% of Native Americans) “dislike” PC language and consider it a problem. As well, the single group most likely to view PC jargon favorably — though only a third do so — is “progressive activists,” 8% of the total population, who are overwhelmingly white, earn over $100K per year, and are most likely to hold advanced degrees.

In other words, “the liberal elite,” those most likely to control “progressive” media outlets (such as, to fairly single them out, Alternet), and to indulge in the use of PC terminology.

And PC terminology is to all appearances not intended to unite the oppressed against the common ultra-rich enemy, but to give its users a warm feeling of self-congratulation on being enlightened, morally superior, above the rest of us. It’s in-group, self-identifying, and self-congratulatory jargon.

Think about it for a moment. How many people do you know who use terms like “woke,” “people of color,” “white privilege,” “privileged”? I’ve lived for nearly 30 years in a barrio where maybe 25% of the people are white, and I have never heard any of my Mexican or black neighbors, or my poor white neighbors, use these or similar terms. Never. Over damn near 30 years. Never.

“Progressive activists” are not speaking the language of the people. They may want to shame people into using their jargon, but they are not speaking the language of the people.

It’s time for the “progressive” left to stop patting themselves on the back. It’s time for them to stop using jargon that alienates people. (Try telling someone who’s making minimum wage, spending 50% of their income on rent, has no health insurance, and can’t come up with $500 cash to cover an emergency, that they’re “privileged” because of the color of their skin — see how far that gets you; see how far that goes in building coalitions to build solidarity, to improve life for all.)

The PC left is a curse, navel-gazers intent on proving to themselves how virtuous they are in comparison to us unenlightened plebes, especially through use of their in-group jargon. They’re an ongoing disaster.

If the left is ever to make real progress in this country, to make concrete policies to benefit all, it won’t be through using bizarre jargon that plays into the hands of Trump’s “very fine people.” It’ll be through talking about economic policies that benefit all of us.


“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”

— George Orwell, Why I Write

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(Thanks to T.C. Weber for this one, who’s doing the same damn thing.)

 


Steven Pinker

“Let verbs be verbs. ‘Appear,’ not ‘make an appearance.'”

–“Cognitive Scientist Steven Pinker’s 13 Tips for Better Writing” on BoingBoing

(Amusingly, and showing just how difficult it is to follow one’s own advice, no matter how good, Pinker’s 13th tip is “Find the best word, which is not always the fanciest word. . . .” while his first tip is “Reverse-engineer what you read. . . .” which leads to the question, why should one “reverse-engineer” rather than analyze?)

 


campbell

“[W]hen you have trouble with the beginning of the story, that is because you are starting in the wrong place, and almost certainly too soon. Pick out a later place in the story and try again.”

–John W. Campbell, giving advice to a young Isaac Asimov, quoted in Astounding, by Alec Nevala-Lee


I’ve seen hundreds, probably thousands, of films over the years. Here’re the first few in my list of favorites. I’m not saying these are the best films ever made — far from it; my knowledge is far too limited to say that — just that I really enjoyed them and that there’s a good chance you will too, if you decide to give ’em a view. Here are the first ones, in no particular order:

  • The Third Man (1949, directed by Carol Reed, original screenplay by Graham Greene). A visually stunning, subtly menacing, intelligently written European film noir with great performances by David Niven, Joseph Cotton, and Orson Welles. This contains some of the most memorable images ever recorded. (Fun fact: for decades I assumed Carol Reed was a woman. Not so. He was — the Brits, go figure ’em — a guy.)
  • Double Indemnity (1944, directed by Billy Wilder, screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler). My all-time favorite film noir. Fred McMurray is absolutely great as a clueless insurance salesman manipulated by a femme fatale (the equally good Barbara Stanwyck) in this engrossing murder mystery that will keep you guessing until near the end. Edward G. Robinson is likewise great in a secondary role.
  • Life of Brian (1979, directed by Terry Jones, written by the Python crew). A fictional version of the life of Jesus, and one of the funniest films ever produced. As much about politics as religion, this incredibly insightful film remains as relevant today as it was four decades ago.
  • The Big Lebowski (1998, directed and written by Ethan and Joel Coen). Another nominee for funniest film ever produced. Great performances by Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, and David Huddleston. (As awful as it seems, The Dude reminds me all too much of myself — I even look like him.)
  • The Producers (1967, written and directed by Mel Brooks). Probably the funniest film ever made, it concerns the production by two Jewish hucksters of what they consider the certain-to-fail play, “Springtime for Hitler.” The choreographed scene is still jaw dropping four decades later.

As I said, enjoy ’em.

More to come.

It’s time for me to write some in-all-likelihood terrible fiction that will probably never see the light of day, and then practice guitar for a couple of hours for a band that will never be popular.

As some wise guy once said, “enjoy the trip, not the destination.”

Cheers


Barbara Kingsolver

“To begin, give yourself permission to write a bad book. Writer’s block is another name for writer’s dread—the paralyzing fear that our work won’t measure up. It doesn’t matter how many books I’ve published, starting the next one always feels as daunting as the first. A day comes when I just have to make a deal with myself: write something anyway, even if it’s awful. Nobody has to know. Maybe it never leaves this room! Just go. Bang out a draft.”

–Barbara Kingsolver in “5 Writing Tips: Barbara Kingsolver” on the Publishers Weekly site

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(Kingsolver’s five writing tips constitute the best writing advice in a short space I’ve ever seen. I’d highly recommend reading all of her tips.)