bad writing

A Note on Narrative (Gregariously Pensive)

Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, speaks at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Florida International University in Miami, Saturday, 23 July 2016. (Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP Photo)

Setting aside the extraordinarily stupid headline … okay, look, Trip Gabriel explains::

The meeting of Mr. Pence, a Republican, and Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, two pensive and little-known nominees, might be the least anticipated vice-presidential debate in 40 years.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on February 27, 2015.  (Photo: Gate Skidmore)Pensive? I’m sorry, but, really?

When Sen. Kaine was named the Democratic running mate, “gregarious” is a word that went around quite a bit. And while the two words are not specifically listed as antonymous, the one includes synonyms like affable, convivial, and outgoing, while the other matches up with absorbed, wistful, and withdrawn.

How about a show of hands among the press: How many of you just say or write whatever because the word sounds sexy or artistic or, you know, like, whatever?

This is a fun challenge for the day: Craft a narrative sentence properly describing someone as “gregariously pensive”.

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Image notes Top ― Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, speaks at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Florida International University in Miami, Saturday, 23 July 2016. (Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP Photo) Right ― Indiana Governor Mike Pence speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on February 27, 2015. (Photo: Gate Skidmore)

Gabriel, Trip. “After Trump-Clinton, Vice-Presidential Debate Isn’t Exactly ‘the Return of Elvis'”. The New York Times. 1 October 2016.

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David Brooks Being David Brooks

Detail of frame from FLCL episode 2, 'Firestarter'.

So, right. I mean, sure, it’s David Brooks, and that, you know, generally means something, but still―

The big historical context is this: Something fundamental is shifting in our politics. The insiders can’t see it. Outsiders get thrown up amid the tumult, but they are too marginal, eccentric and inexperienced to lead effectively.David Brooks of The New York Times

Without much enthusiasm, many voters seem to be flocking to tough, no-nonsense women who at least seem sensible: Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton and, now, the Conservative Party front-runner, Theresa May.

We probably need a political Pope Francis-type figure, who comes up from the bottom and understands life there, but who can still make the case for an open dynamic world, with free-flowing goods, ideas, capital and people. Until that figure emerges, we could be in for a set of serial leadership crises.

―could somebody please be so kind as to tell me what those paragraphs mean?

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Brooks, David. “Choosing Leaders: Clueless or Crazy”. The New York Times. 5 July 2016.

A Brief Note About Nothing (Ask My Doctor Edition)

In a way, I’m surprised I haven’t noticed before; to the other, maybe it’s because this one is so blatant. An advert for a respiratory drug running in the background, a silly, touching narrative of a grandfather having to explain the problem to his granddaughter during story time, because he’s just like the big bad wolf, huffing and puffing. All of which leads to the setup, and the first joke to mind really is straightforward: So I asked my doctor, and she read me a script written by a pharmaceutical company that wants me to take their drug.

Can of corn, right? Don’t need to hack up a lung chasing that one down.Say what?

But right on its heels another thought struck, as the doctor played on TV read the standard plea: So I asked my doctor, and she told me to ask my doctor.

Maybe it’s time to rework the script template.

Just sayin’.

What Bottom Shelf Comedy Looks Like

Onion Sports NetworkThe folks at The Onion brought a few tears to their own eyes today with a demonstration of how to absolutely embarrass oneself by telling a bad joke. The headline is a variation on as stale a theme as one can find: “Alex Ovechkin Having Trouble Following Puck On TV“. And the detail? Well, yeah. One can certainly appreciate the Onion Sports Network’s self-deprecating sense of irony.

A Disgrace

Consider, if you will, Maria Popova’s review of Brain Culture: Neuroscience and Popular Media:

A book maligned by a positive reviewWhat makes Thornton’s take most compelling is the lucidity with which she approaches exactly what we know and don’t know about the brain. Every day, we’re bombarded with exponentially replicating headlines about new “sciences” like neuromarketing, which, despite the enormous budgets poured into them by the world’s shortcut-hungry Fortune 500, remain the phrenology of our time, a tragic manifestation of the disconnect between how much we want to manipulate the brain and how little we actually know about its intricately connected, non-compartmentalizable functions.

Actually, you’re probably better off if you don’t.

You know, everybody has a bad day, sometimes. But if e’er there was a book review that made me not want to read something I otherwise might find compelling, this would be it.

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