Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Taking Exception to an Experienced Writer’s Rules

A version of this post was originally published in January 2012.

The road to bad writing is paved with Experienced Writers’ rules. Developing a literary style is a long process with no real proven method to it; it takes guesswork, constructive criticism, and a bit of an ear for poetry. Suggestions from established writers are generally helpful. However, every now and again, an Experienced Writer will try to impose on others a set of rules that are almost guaranteed to generate bland, undistinguished prose.

For example: About three years ago, Grammarly.com published a meme titled, “How to Write Good”, by Frank L. Visco, listing 23 rules that Visco said he’d learned in “several years in the word game”. Let’s go through them, shall we?

  1. Avoid Alliteration. Always: If you’re going to alliterate that badly, by all means, refrain. Starting three successive words with the same letter is bad alliteration. However, Anglo-Saxon poetry was highly alliterative, and Shakespeare was a master of distributing alliterative sounds. Trust your ear.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with: This is the sort of absolute rule up with which no one should put.
  3. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat.): Okay, I’ll give him this one.
  4. Employ the vernacular: I think he means that polysyllabic words are pretentious and obfuscatory. Alas, unless he’s truly concerned that people might write essays in Latin, Cherokee, or Hindi for publication in English-language media, his choice of vernacular is singularly unfortunate (see No. 21 below).

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Bolton’s Hiroshima Defense Worst Kind of Patriotism

Pres. Barack Obama embraces survivor of Hiroshima bomb.
(Source: AP/Toledo Blade.)
The bromide tells us that “hindsight is always 20/20.” Well, perhaps individual humans can objectively recognize mistakes they made in  their pasts as individuals. But when it comes to history, hindsight is often just as myopic as foresight, as public discussion over Pres. Barack Obama’s apologetic non-apology at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park so tellingly demonstrates.

The President’s Highest Duty

Example: In the New York Post this last Thursday, former UN ambassador John Bolton (who, I am shocked to discover, is an executive with the American Enterprise Institute) defended the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “An American president’s highest moral, constitutional and political duty is protecting his fellow citizens from foreign threats,” Bolton declaims with a patriotic consequentialism verging on moral imbecility. “Presidents should adhere to our values and the Constitution, and not treat America’s enemies as morally equivalent to us. If they do, they need not apologize to anyone.”

Pearl Harbor was “a date which will live in infamy,” in Roosevelt’s words. Hiroshima (and Nagasaki) came after four years of brutal war and a desperate race against Nazi and Japanese efforts to develop atomic weapons. We won the race, and Truman acted decisively and properly to end the war.

Truman understood that not using the atom bombs would have condemned millions of service members to death or debilitating injury. Japanese resistance grew significantly as US forces neared Japan, and, expecting fanatical Japanese resistance, American military planners repeatedly increased projected US casualties. The calculus could not have been clearer.

This isn’t the first time Bolton has publicly defended the bombings. In 2001, while an Undersecretary of State, he published an essay in Duke Law School’s Law and Contemporary Problems arguing that the US should not be a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, arguing that a “straightforward reading” of the statutes’ language would leave the US open to charges of war crimes for its bombing campaign of Germany and Japan. “A fortiori, these provisions seem to imply that the United States would have been guilty of a war crime for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is intolerable and unacceptable.”

Friday, May 27, 2016

Interlude: The Shepherd and the Stranger

Image source: raykliu.wordpress.com.
Now there was in that same country a shepherd abiding in the fields, keeping watch over his flock one day. Suddenly a stranger appeared unto him, driving up the road toward him in a brand-new BMW. The stranger stopped his car and stepped out of it carrying an iPad, which he began to play with.

The shepherd approached and said, “Say, that’s a nice car. And a nice gadget.”

The stranger replied, “Yep. And I’m a whiz with this iPad, my friend. In fact, I’ll make a bet with you. If I can tell you how many sheep you have on this hillside, will you give me one of them?”

A little bemused, the shepherd said, “Okay, I guess.”

Friday, May 6, 2016

Why You Should Vote Third-Party

So, have you read Matt Walsh’s spittle-flecked nutty in The Blaze? If not, let me give you the quick-’n-dirty on it: Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee, so Walsh is quitting the party. That’s it, stripped of all the Sturm und Drang worthy of a Hollywood diva.

What a Primary Season!

I quit the Republican Party a couple decades ago. Even back then, it seemed the GOP’s sole interest was in punishing poor people and returning us to a laissez-faire economy under the guise of saving taxpayer dollars, working just hard enough for pro-life initiatives to keep the “values voters” in their camp. Despite all the press ballyhoo about the “Religious Right”, there was nothing really religious about Republicans save in their devotion to Mammon.

Nevertheless, I never predicted that the GOP, the Party of Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, and Reagan, would devolve so far as to become an inept, mindless pack of howler monkeys who couldn’t pick a suitable candidate if God Himself told them who to vote for.

Yesterday, a Republican in Indiana told the media she’s voting for Trump because he’s a “different kind of liar.” The day before, Cruz attempted to have a reasoned dialogue with a couple of Trump supporters who responded to all of the senator’s arguments by shouting slogans and pumping their fists. Trump fans perform even less admirably in cyberspace, where an impassioned collection of anti-Semites and white nationalists work tirelessly to confirm every negative and cartoonish stereotype liberals have ever concocted about Republicans.

For awhile, the Democrat primaries were actually interesting to watch. For a few months, it looked like the Dems actually had some steel in their spines and wouldn’t just lay down for Hillary Clinton to walk all over them. That is, it was interesting until it became clear even to hopelessly romantic dummies like me that the Democrat primary system was rigged from the beginning to produce a Clinton nomination. Now it’s become a dreary exercise in waiting for Bernie Sanders to throw in the towel.