February 27, 2006

Writing as a contact sport

Have you ever tried writing? Not like addressing an envelope or jotting something on a post-it note or scrawling "Be back later" on the dry-erase board on your fridge.

I mean, like actually HAVING thoughts on something, then trying to record them by either making little squiggles on a piece of blank paper with a pen or pencil or tapping your fingers around on a keyboard in a way which results in your thoughts being reproduced in a such a way, that by using most of the 26 letters available and a few weird marks of punctuation, it's more or less readable by others? And tougher still, written in a way that actually gets across what you wanted to get across to a wide variety of people?

It's not as easy as it might seem. And on certain days, it seems damn near impossible.

After taking the head-first dive into putting up a blog, I suddenly realized that I'd obligated myself to doing this task on a regular (and non-stop) basis. And the more I do it, the more I appreciate those who do it well.

Among local bloggers, (taking nothing away from the others,) I feel that John Beydler and Dave Barrett are both excellent writers who are able to organize and present their subjects and thoughts in a very easy to read. clear, interesting and effective way. I admire both for their talent and skill and aspire to it myself. I read them both with mixed feelings, enjoying their writing on one hand, while feeling like a hack by comparison.

But one blogger, albiet a national one, truly stands out to me for sheer writing talent. Writers who have to produce a lot on a regular basis are very rarely able to be consistently excellent. They're subject to slumps like everyone who has to perform on a regular schedule. Tiger Woods isn't always consistent, nor was Michael Jordan or any other virtuosos you might name.

But James Wolcott at his worst is at least good, and has frequent runs of briliance. He seems to be in one at the moment.

No one can filet people as deftly as Wolcott, who could be considered the heir to Dorothy Parker in that department. Woe is the person who falls under his disapproval. But nothing is quite as delicious to read.

Consider this gem from a recent post on the passing of Don Knotts where he describes the show after Knotts' departure. (emphasis mine)...
Knotts was not only a comic great on The Andy Griffith Show, but there was a poignance and tender shoulder-sag to his overcompensating underachieving Barney Fife the likes of which hasn't been seen in a sitcom character since. Once he left the show it was stuck with the beyond-boring Howard Sprague (though it was cruel how Sam Peckinpah used that actor in The Getaway), Emmitt's Fix-It shop, and Andy's new deputy, Warren, who was so painfully unfunny he was almost dental.
Reading his post in which he eviscerates the "almost feline" Bill Kristol is like like being treated to your favorite dessert, especially if you're familiar with the figures he mentions, all of them fine, revered, neo-cons who were the principle cheerleaders for the disasterous Bush foreign policy. (If you can call it that.)
Ah, they're turning on their own. Sweet. Up to a few months ago, Rumsfeld was still a neocon hero--sharp, blunt, visionary. Indeed, the godmother of neoconservatism, Midge Decter (wife of Norman Podhoretz, mother of John), wrote a book-length mash note lauding the former wrestler to the heavens. And now comes the accusation from Kristol that a too-cautious, thrift-conscious Rummy has shortchanged the mission. Thus the CYA revisionism has begun, as the neocons agitate for yet more manpower and firepower to finish the job in Iraq that only they still see as as finishable (in a week in which William F. Buckley diagnosed the Iraq war as a dead duck). Kristol's antiterrorist policy in Iraq was simple and blunt: "Kill them. Defeat them." Of course if it were that simple, it wouldn't be as hard as it's proven to be. We barely have a decent photograph of Zarqawi, much less a bead on his whereabouts. Easy for Kristol to draw a stern line in the avocado dip. But it would be political suicide for Bush to follow such counsel and lift the troop levels in Iraq to crank the war up an aggressive notch: Iraq 3.0: This Time We're Not Dicking Around. Mind you, I'm all for Bush's political suicide, but what's in it for him? Not much and he knows it. He's lost too much political trust and capital, Americans are tired of the war (more tired than the political class and punditocracy), and the military is stretched max. It's too late for a Victor Davis Hanson cavalry charge into the black heart of the Sunny insurgency led by Kristol and his neocon comrades embedded in cable-news green rooms 3000 miles in the rear, cheering, "Kill them! Defeat them!" at the TV monitor in voices loud enough to be heard but not loud enough to disturb Richard Perle napping in his portable coffin.
If this is your cup of tea, I recommend Wolcott's book, "Attack Poodles and Other Media Mutants : The Looting of the News in a Time of Terror"


At 12/07/2007 12:34 PM, Anonymous Nevada Bob said...

Huzzah for Wolcott and others such as youself who " Calls em as he sees em " !

If it looks like a muck , walks like a muck and talks like a muck, you can bet it is a muck ....... or something that rhymes with muck .

Nevada Bob


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