Farnsworth Says: Anaphora

Farnsworth says [click for GIF]

Read the previous post with the Introduction

Martin Luther King wanted to see his nation rise up and “live out the true meaning of its creed.” He wanted the descendants of slaves and slave owners to sit down as equals ending “the heat of oppression”, transforming it into an “oasis of freedom and justice.” He wanted little black boys and black girls to hold hands with little white boys and white girls. He didn’t want to force them or anything, he just wanted to let them do it, if they wanted to. He also wanted some Biblish thing.

People listened to his speech and were inspired by it. The “I have a dream speech” remains inspiring to this day. Martin Luther King had a dream, and he wasn’t afraid to say it. In fact, he said it eight times, always at the beginning of his sentences. Returning to the same sentence, he empowered it, lending it a hammering effect, an involving rhythm, making it more likely to be remembered. It worked.

This is called an anaphora, Farnsworth says: “it occurs when the speaker repeats the same words at the start of successive sentences or clauses.” They can be used differently for several purposes. I’ll enunciate and give the best examples:

1. Repetition of the subject with changes in the verb: the auxiliary verb is repeated while the main verb changes (produces a sense of inexorability).

“But the ordeal sharp or long, or both, we shall seek no terms, we shall tolerate no parley: we may show mercy – we shall ask for none.” Churchill, London Radio broadcast (1940)

“He’s too delightful. If he’ll only not spoil it! But they always will; they always do; they always have.” James, The Ambassadors (1903)

2. Repetition of the subject with different complements, as applying more than one modifier to the same person or thing.

“I shall lay this siege in form, Elvira; I am angry; I am indignant; I am truculently inclined; but I thank my Maker I have still a sense of fun.” (to highlight the contrast between negation and affirmation) Stevenson, New Arabian Nights (1882)

I was in mortal terror of the young man who wanted my heart and Continue reading “Farnsworth Says: Anaphora”

Farnsworth Says: Introduction and Repetition

Farnsworth says [click for GIF]

“God help us if blog writers get their hands on this book. It’s a lot more fun than it may appear. Farnsworth identifies types of rhetorical strategies and illustrates each one with a wealth of quotations which make the book wonderfully readable. Not dry as dust but lively and inspiring.”

Above is the reason a broke, unemployed part-time blogger spent 18$ (plus taxes, plus customs, plus delivery).

Roger Ebert has been a big influence on me for a long time. His word means a lot to me. His reviews made me watch countless movies I wouldn’t have watched otherwise, his journal made me rethink some of my ideas on subjects like “are videogames art”“how the media should cover mass-murders”, and improve my knowledge and even give me arguments to support my biased opinions. His suggestion that a single book could improve my blogging chances success, was enough to dig up my deepest hat and sit in the streets to raise my balance to those 18 dollars, plus taxes, plus customs, plus delivery.

This happened a year ago or so. When the book arrived a few weeks later, I had already forgotten that I ordered it and my blog had gathered more dust than the desk I was supposed to do all that writing, that would get me all that success.

A few months ago I restarted where I’d left off: the beginning. The fact that I’m no longer a student had something to do with it. I have yet to pay my tuition and pick up that sheet of paper, proof I’m now a qualified contributor to society’s work market. My Peter Pan complex has delayed the inevitable. I guess sneaking around at night into little girls’ bedrooms sprinkling fairy dust around me, leaves no time to pick up diplomas.

Despite delaying the inevitable, I knew that I now have no real goal, I’m done with school for now, and I doubt I’ll be able to find a job and… I do have a blog. So I’ve been working on it. For the first time, I managed to stay mildly consistent for a few months. Three or more posts a week, creating images for them, even GIF’s (yes, those are my tiny hands), I’ve even gotten a few Facebook followers. So yeah, things are getting pretty serious. Time to shake off the dust of Farnsworth’s Classic Rhetoric, have an asthma attack, and get serious about writing.

“EVERYONE SPEAKS and writes in patterns. Usually the patterns arise from unconscious custom; they are models we internalize from the speech around us without thinking much about it. But it also is possible to study the patterns deliberately and Continue reading “Farnsworth Says: Introduction and Repetition”

Mr. Arkadin or How Welles Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Short Shot

[read the review] of Orson Welles "Mr. Arkadin"

“A certain great and powerful king once asked a poet “What can I give you of all that I have?”

He wisely replied “Anything Sir… except your secret.”

Orson Welles never had the same financial or artistic freedom since the moderate commercial success of Citizen Kane. Those limitations are clear from near the beginning of the film. In the initial lengthy dialogue, most shots are short and done with stand-ins. Over-the-shoulder visual bores. In some of those the words are still sounded after the actors mouths have quit. There’s maybe one longer shot that comes close to the length and quality of the initial shot in Touch of Evil, and close is not the right word. It’s both interesting and painful to think how much more could he have achieved with deeper pockets, with a faster scissor in them – he was famous for slow editing, which drove the studios to finish the editing themselves; Mr. Arkadin took him 8 months and the studio removed him and finished his editing. Despite these limitations, Welles print is visible throughout the film. One of the first shots uses depth-of-field making me reminiscent of Kane playing in the snow and Continue reading “Mr. Arkadin or How Welles Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Short Shot”

Spring Breakers

Review of Spring Breakers (2013)

Within the first few minutes of Spring Breakers I got up and turned off my TV. I wiped the moist that it was soaked in and turned it on again. 47 oiled boobs, 18 ass cheeks, 12 popsickles sucked in the least orthodox way possible and 8 nipple piercing appeared on screen in those first minutes. I couldn’t risk my flat-screen.

The movie was accused of exposing too much the bodies of the actresses. Ex-Disney stars aren’t supposed to be sexualized. I say the way they use guns and partake in robberies is more offensive than their partially naked bodies, but very few people make that argument. I would even understand the protests if that exposure was gratuitous, but I don’t think it is.

Spring Breakers starts with 4 pretty girls trying to make money to get to… spring break. Three of them rob a restaurant and the religious one, Faith, is slightly disconcerted with their actions, until she sees the produce of the deed, and those 14 years of Catholic School get thrown off the window. We see them in their natural habitat. Normal girl, partying or singing in a Church group. They get to spring break and, after a very graphic night of partying they get thrown in jail. They need to pay their bail but have no money. The answer falls from the sky in the form of Alien (James Franco), a metal toothed gangster with a fantastic musical taste.

The movie shifts with the introduction of this character. It whirls into decadence as he brings them into his world. Alien’s the local dealer with a Continue reading “Spring Breakers”

Isaac Asimov’s 20 Quotes on Writing

His series "Foundation"
His series “Foundation”

1. “Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”

2. “It’s the writing that teaches you.”

3. “Writing is a lonely job. Even if a writer socializes regularly, when he gets down to the real business of his life, it is he and his type writer or word processor. No one else is or can be involved in the matter.”

4. ” For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.”

5. “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”

6. “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’Continue reading “Isaac Asimov’s 20 Quotes on Writing”

Kurt Vonnegut’s 20 Quotes on Writing

Click the image for 19 more Kurt Vonneguts's quotes on writing

1. “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

2. “Novelists have, on the average, about the same IQs as the cosmetic consultants at Bloomingdale’s department store. Our power is patience. We have discovered that writing allows even a stupid person to seem halfway intelligent, if only that person will write the same thought over and over again, improving it just a little bit each time. It is a lot like inflating a blimp with a bicycle pump. Anybody can do it. All it takes is time.”

3. “Once I understood what was making America such a dangerous, unhappy nation of people who had nothing to do with real life, I resolved to shun storytelling. I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order, instead, which I think I have done.
If all writers would do that, then perhaps citizens not in the literary trades will understand that there is no order in the world around us, that we must adapt ourselves to the requirements of chaos instead.”

4. “I think I succeeded as a writer because I did not come out of an English department. I used to write in the chemistry department. And I wrote some good stuff. If I had been in the English department, the prof would have looked at my short stories, congratulated me on my talent, and then showed me how Joyce or Hemingway handled the same elements of the short story. The prof would have placed me in competition with the greatest writers of all time, and that would have ended my writing career.”

5. “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”

6. “Don’t you think that’s the main reason people find [writing] so difficult? Continue reading “Kurt Vonnegut’s 20 Quotes on Writing”

Stephen King’s 20 Quotes on Writing

Click the image for 19 more Stephen King's quotes on writing

Most of the quotes were taken from this book.

1. “Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.”

2. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”

3. “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

4. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

5. “In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.”

6. “Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

7. “So okay – there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or Continue reading “Stephen King’s 20 Quotes on Writing”

Favourite Comedians: Louis CK

Click the image to learn about why Louie CK is great

It was an interview he heard that made him change his stand-up to what it is now. It didn’t one-handedly put him in the place he is right now, but it set him in the course to now be able to say that we could end peanut allergies by letting some millions die. The interviewee was George Carlin.

Curious George had an unusual approach. Like a snake he shredded his material when he was done with it. The unusual side of it was that it happened once a year. Louie had been working for 20 years to get one hour of material that he refused to abandon, because he feared he couldn’t do better than those rotten comedic scales. It wasn’t awful comedy, Louie was the proud number 98 on a list of Comedy Central 100 Greatest Standups of all Time. But they were funny musings at best. What Carlin said that stuck with him was that after you exhaust your ideas on making jokes about dolphins’ flippers or hats, you have to go deeper to find material. If you do it long enough, you get to places most comics can’t or won’t go.

The first bit that did it consisted on him saying Continue reading “Favourite Comedians: Louis CK”

6 Writing Tips By George Orwell

They're really 7... Shhh...

There’s a lot you can learn from Orwell’s writing. His Animal Farm and 1984 are now considered masterpieces – ironic, given the difficulties in getting them published – and are studied in school, I hear. “Intelligence and wit, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and commitment to democratic socialism” are some of his traits. Some of them are impossible to emulate or even approximate. If you did, your work would be described as Orwellian, which shows how difficult the task would be.

He set the bar high, though he would never have said so as you’ll see in point 3. But we can at least take a few hints from him. I’d counsel you to read his “Politics and the English Language” where you’ll find most of this counsel in better form. Continue at your peril:

1. Learn from the best.

“The writers I care about most and never grow tired of are: Shakespeare, Swift, Fielding, Dickens, Charles Reade, Flaubert and, among modern writers, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence. But I believe the modern writer who has influenced me most is Somerset Maugham, whom I admire immensely for his power of telling a story straightforwardly and without frills.”

2. Ask yourself:

  • What am I trying to say?
  • What words will express it?
  • What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  • Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
  • Could I put it more shortly?
  • Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly.

3. Avoid metaphors. Not all, just the dead ones. A metaphor you create evokes a visual image but a metaphor you recycle from current use loses its vividness. Toe the line, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles’ heel. To use these and Continue reading “6 Writing Tips By George Orwell”

Into the Abyss

Michael Perry and Jason Burkett are both 28 years old and currently reside on the state of Texas. Both stand guilty of murder. They killed three people in order to drive a red Camaro. Both blame each other, and innocence is claimed by both.

Michael Perry is set to be executed in 8 days. Jason Burkett will serve 40 years. We later learn that he was saved from the needle by a convincing testimony from his father, in which he blamed the outcome of his son’s actions on his upbringing.

These are no Red and Andy. They are both equally guilt. So why will one live and the other die? We infer that question, but that question is not asked.

In this movie, unlike most of his work, Herzog avoids saying much.

He doesn’t judge, criticize or condemn.

He asks.

He looks.

He shows.

In his first interaction with Michael Perry, Herzog says something to the effect of “I don’t need to like you to know that killing you is wrong.” This is the one time he states his opinion, and the documentary doesn’t go about to prove his point. He lets the facts and the people he interviews tell their story.

We see a lot of footage of the crime scene. Liters of blood partially hidden under a rug, blood spatter painting a white all, a body floating on a lake, the shape of a man in the distance, covered in blankets. There is no question of the wickedness of the crime.

His interviews help to paint the picture more than the facts could. His questions are honest questions. He means to get to know the subjects and not the facts or their opinion on the facts. Herzog talks with one friend of the killers and little is said of them. He tells his story, which adds so much more to our understanding than his recollections of the killers would. In an interview Herzog recollects this moment:

When I have this chapter, the dark side of Conroe, you know who you are watching? You are watching a man who has learned how to read and write. What a glorious achievement, very admirable, and a young man who was stabbed with a screwdriver and his friend throws him a knife, and he does not pick it up. He looks at the knife, and he does not pick it up because he wants to see his children at night. So the dark side of Conroe isn’t that dark, because there’s such a phenomenal, phenomenally wonderful young man like Jared Tolbert.

He talks with the family of the victims. With a man who lost his little brother and with a woman who lost both her brother and her mother. Their pain is unmistakable.

He talks with Delbert, the father of Jason Burkett. He talks from prison, the place where he will most likely spend the remainder of his life. His was a life of violence, but years in prison seem to have improved him. They might do the same to his son, but Michael Perry won’t get the same chance.

He talks with Captain Fred Allen, who was directly involved in the execution of more than one hundred men until he just couldn’t do it anymore.

He talks with Reverend Richard Lopez, a man who spent a great deal of time with Death Row inmates, and asks him about a squirrel.

As I met these people, something stuck out. Two things seemed to tie all of the subjects. God, and violence. All believe in both. Guilty and innocent alike seek comfort in God and find consolation in Him. Their certainty is scary. Michael Perry is at his scariest when he talks with unassailing confidence of God.

He and Jason committed violent crimes. But they were also surrounded by violence. I’ve never met a person who was in jail. They had. Family and friends. Being stabbed with a screwdriver and cutting a throat weren’t rare occurrences. Yes, they could have led honest lives free of violence, but they were in the worst place to do so. There are studies that backtrack the violence in the south to the violence culture of Irish sheep herders of the mountains, who had to kill to keep their life sustenance. It’s the only civilized place in the world where Death Penalty is still in practice. The sister/daughter of two of the victims found solace in watching Michael Perry’s heart beat its last beats.

God and violence go hand in hand. If you kill your God will send you to Hell. If you kill in Texas your senator will. Herzog tells us that this is wrong one time, but his movie repeats it relentlessly.

I’m not the messiah, but you can follow me:

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