The Early Days of a Better Nation

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Actually about the WoT, but ...

... this is a rather vivid indication of how pervasive the B-movie model of science (see below) has become:
The bargain myopically forged by the US and Pakistan in training radicalized militias to fight as their proxies spawned a terrible monster that has effectively escaped from the laboratory, set it on fire and then evolved into a multi-headed hydra chasing its own creators.
It's quite an apt metaphor, but I can't help but wait for the fascist octopus to sing its swan song.



Last week I thought of that great and famous essay. It's one of the two texts that taught me how to write non-academically when I feel like it. The other is Strunk and White's ELEMENTS OF STYLE, a fine little book that has been in use since around 1910 (Strunk was a Cornell prof. It's called 'The Bible' there right now). I know people who swear by Orwell's essay. Samuel R. Delany teaches or taught creative writing, and insisted that he could do little more than beg his students to read Strunk and White. He should know!

Not uninteresting, and I agree with the fact that Strunk&White's book, is an excellent guide to you writing agreeably well.

Mixed joking and seriousness aside:

Happy International Women's Day!

Orwell would have approved of S&W, which I recently reread. Even with editor White's introduction and brief, delightfully opinionated final chapter, the whole thing is less than 150pp long. Strunk has about 8 or 10 simply stated rules, each of which is announced as a command! Each is divided into several subrules, with neat examples. It's fun to read and sticks even in MY mind, which cannot retain a novel's plot for more than 5 minutes. I love that book (and Orwell), as do more literary friends of mine. The most recent edition of several years ago leaves the message fully intact, by restricting its 'modernization' to references to computers instead of pencils, and to the use of PC phrases like 'he or she' instead of 'he'. I own an old edition and its as useful as it was upon publication. Save some money by buying the old edition online!

Solan, I'm humorless. It took me two hours to get your double-barreled joke. Orwell hated those pretentious, nonfunctional, double negatives. Prof. Strunk wanted to ban THE FACT THAT construction from The Language Of The Imperium. Although I've read both texts several times I missed your jokes.

That you have a sense of humour is testified to by the fact that you got the joke in the end.

I had another book on good writing style before Strunk&White: "Bugs in Writing" by Lynn Dupré. It had lots of pictures of her and her cats, lots of pages, and ... or should I say BUT not the least, it was teeming with the errors ("bugs") she herself warned against. I no longer have that book.

Yet another joke! I'm simply dense, so remarks sometimes sink in slowly. But I can think up jokes and puns spontaneously. as for those writing books, I wouldn't go near one with a ten-foot tractor beam. Why read such tomes when S&W has the essentials? Besides that book I own only an outdated dictionary of Amerikano Anglic and an equally outmoded Thesaurus. At this moment both are in boxes, so my current writing is filled with bugs.
Oh yes: BUT is better.

I am an encyclopediholic or whatever you call people enamoured with reference books. Not because they are authoritative, but simply because I learn so many interesting things from reading them.

The 24-volume Oxford dictionary can be fun

Britannica is excellent for learning a new subject (see: Macropedia), even though Wikipedia is slowly becoming my source of choice.

But for writing style, it is the short and sweet S&W.

White, who really could write, seems to have been taking the piss when he edited Strunk. He certainly broke every single one of his own rules in his own writing.

Usually to good effect. Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little are his best-known books, but there is a lot of other good stuff.

And why would anyone write "he or she" instead of "he"? If they had any feel for English they would know that the correct thing to do is use "they", as we all did for centuries before pedants obsessed with Latin tried to force us to use "he".

Thanks for that, Ken Brown. I knew almost nothing about White until I read your post. As for myself, I never took a course in writing, just one or two semesters in undergraduate literature. So I need S&W, am glad that it's brief, and appreciate White's editing.

I must be turning into a worse geek than I thought, when I saw WoT I thought it was an abbreviation of Wheel of Time...

For Washington, the most serious problems posed by Afghanistan and Pakistan - the Taliban, al-Qaida, and associated tribal militants - arise from the Pashtun regions of both countries. Thankfully, Afghanistan is not likely to be a world power in this century, although Pakistan could certainly pose a threat in the near future with the Taliban in their midst.

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