Spin, Spin, Spin

Kellyanne Conway, speaking to reporters following the first Presidential debate, on 26 September 2016:

“I love the fact that he restrained himself tonight and he was a gentleman toward her. He definitely could’ve gone where a lot of America was thinking he should or could go, which is to talk about her husband and women, and he did not. He restrained himself, and you know what? Restraint is a virtue, and it is certainly a Presidential virtue, and I think many voters today, particularly women, probably saw that and respected that a great deal.” — from the article “Taming Trump,” by Ryan Lizza

Woman, what planet are you on?

Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, Kellyanne Conway: the new triumvirate of ridiculous

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: His Familiar

Kellyanne Conway, aka Trump’s Attack Dog, from an article by Ryan Lizza in The New Yorker, 17 October 2016:

“Did you see the people asking me to sign their posters and hats?”

“Don’t be fooled, because I am a man by day.”


  • When Conway took over as Trump’s third campaign manager, “the campaign was foundering, owing to Trump’s repeated insults to the parents of Humayun Khan, a soldier killed in action in Iraq. Polls showed that Trump was losing to Hillary Clinton by up to 10 points. By the time of the Chester (Pennsylvania) speech, four days before the candidates’ first debate, Conway and her team had brought the race to a near tie.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Two 1/2 Years Later, Nothing’s Changed

The Economist, 14 June 2014: Terror’s New Headquarters

  • Perhaps Iraq’s humiliated army will muster the resolve to make a stand, or even retake Mosul. But, with its symbolic victories and an endless supply of young men, that will be of little comfort. ISIS aims to withdraw the map of of the Middle East by creating a Sunni state, starting with Eastern Syria and the heart of Iraq. Its brand of militancy is spreading poison and terror across the Arab world. One day, if they have their way, ISIS’s suicide bombers will also target Europe and America. Without a change of heart in Baghdad and Washington, groups like it will continue to cause mayhem. Even with a new approach, it will be hard to stop the jihad.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Fairy Tales and Women

Yes, you know it.

From Maria Tatar’s essay, Reading the Grimms’ Children’s Stories and Household Tales:

“. . . oral storytelling is often affiliated with labor traditionally carried out by women: spinning, sewing, weaving, and cooking. That many of our metaphors for storytelling — spinning yarns, weaving tales, cooking up a plot — derive from the domestic arts suggests that fairy tales were indeed related to ‘old wives’ tales,’ stories told by midwives, nursemaids, female domestics, and others to transmit wisdom from one generation to the next.

“Gossip and narrative are sisters,” the British writer Marina Warner suggests, “both ways of keeping the mind alive when ordinary tasks call . . . “

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: T. J. Stiles

It was reading this quote that persuaded self she needed to join the Authors Guild:

I have supplemented my income with secondary activities. I teach now and then on a freelance basis. I have done some freelance commercial writing. But two years ago I lost my big freelance client, and my income has dropped by 20 to 40 percent a year. In the past, I have resorted to desperate measures. I like to say my last book is so big because it’s a tombstone to the 401k that gave its life so the book could live.

— from “Among the Digital Luddites,” Authors Guild Bulletin, Winter 2015

Jill Lepore on the State of Debate: The New Yorker, 19 September 2016

How to argue is something people are taught. You learn it by watching other people, at the breakfast table, or in school, or on TV, or, lately, online. It’s something you can get better at, with practice, or worse at, by imitating people who do it badly.

— Jill Lepore, “The State of Debate,” in The New Yorker, 19 September 2016

Self begs to differ. She actually doesn’t think people can improve their debating skills by watching other people.

She also thinks that the rules of debate are rendered bizarrely unimportant when the debate is being televised. Because, whether consciously or subconsciously, the debaters will start to “perform.” Of course they are not their true selves. Hello! It’s like Judge Lance Ito in the OJ trial — he was a judge but he was sort of being a certain kind of judge. You cannot tell self that television did not influence his behavior: it could have gone two ways: Ito could have been a little more spontaneous, perhaps to get more of an emotional rise out of the crowd. Or he could have become more “judge-y” — projected more of what television viewers might expect to see from a judge. Self thinks Ito took the second route, and the one who paid was Marcia Clark.

The ones who get better at debate are the ones who see some sort of advantage accruing to themselves as a result of being better (more argumentative) people. The people who see absolutely no point to debate will continue to do their own thing in their peaceful little corners of the world.

When a committed debater meets another committed debater, the debate ceases being about words. It becomes a power grab.

It’s such an empty enterprise, really. All bells and whistles and see-who’s-paying-attention. Especially when it’s conducted for television.

Just self’s two cents.

(Self, when did you get so cynical? Dunno. Mebbe from watching/observing from the sidelines for so long?)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Mourning for Isotope, edited by Christopher Cokinos

Filipinos once had an ancient written language. If I were to show you what the marks look like on a piece of paper,they would look like a series of waves. Like the eye of the Pharaoh I saw in my old high school history books.

— from self’s hybrid essay/memoir/short story The Lost Language, published in Isotope

Isotope was a literary journal based in Utah State. When that university began to make steep budget cuts, the magazine lost the heart of its funding. In 2009, editor Chris Cokinos issued an appeal for support. Terrain.org posted it.

Alas, Isotope lost the fight. Self mourned. It was the only literary journal of its kind, combining science writing and creative writing, a place that joined physicists and playwrights, biologists and memoir writers, and created an exciting new kind of community.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Quote of the Day: Alice Gregory

From Gregory’s review in The New York Review of Books of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan (August 13, 2015):

  • This capacity for geographical familiarity — knowing exactly where the neighbor’s fence warps slightly — is a visceral kind of knowledge, gained organically, and it atrophies as we age. Learning a place by heart is a luxury rarely afforded to adults, and unless absolutely forced to, one seldom even notices that the ability has been lost.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

“The Mystery of ISIS” by Anonymous

The New York Review of Books, 13 August 2015

Self is not kidding: for the first time ever in her many years of reading The New York Review of Books, there is a piece whose writer is identified only as “Anonymous.”

It’s a review of two new (well, relatively new; the issue self is reading is a year old) books about the rise of Islamic State aka IS/ISIS/ISIL/Army of the Levant and its founder, Ahmad Fadhil aka Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan (Regan Arts) and ISIS: The State of Terror, by Jessica Stern and J. M. Berger (Ecco)

The reviewer asks:

  • “Who (in 2003) could have imagined that a movement founded by a man from a video store in provincial Jordan would tear off a third of the territory of Syria and Iraq, shatter all these historical institutions, and — defeating the combined militaries of a dozen of the wealthiest countries on earth — create a mini-empire? The story is relatively easy to narrate, but much more difficult to understand.”

The piece is very long and dense with information. Among its many references is one to Lawrence of Arabia (who said “. . . insurgents must be like a mist — everywhere and nowhere — never trying to hold ground or wasting lives in battles with regular armies.”) and another to Chairman Mao (who insisted that “guerrillas should be fish” swimming “in the sea of the local population”)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Beautiful Passage

This is from Essay # 3 of The Lonely City, a collection of essays which so far are all about New York, and the special loneliness of being lonely in a city of so many millions of people (Self actually appreciates that kind of loneliness; she loves the angst of it).

Self took the picture below last spring. She was looking across Park Avenue from a building on the east side:

DSCN0133

Sunset, Manhattan: May 2016

On East 9th Street there was a café that looked out over a community garden planted with an enormous weeping willow. It was populated almost exclusively by people gazing into the glowing clamshells of their laptops and so it seemed a safe place, in which my solitary status was unlikely to be exposed.

— “My Heart Opens to Your Voice,” Essay # 3 in Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

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