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”

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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”

Shift in Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

Zombie Survival Guide HERE
Zombie Survival Guide HERE

On a previous post I grazed a subject slightly tongue-in-cheek. I had paused my The Last of Us game at an interesting moment. Joe, the apocalypse survivor resignedly explained a massacre that occurred by saying, “You sacrifice the few to save the many.” Ellie, the 14 year old girl that accompanies him says, “That’s kind of shitty.” I jokingly extrapolated from this, by comparing these two apparently inconsequential states to the opposite utilitarian and Kantian moral philosophies. By opposing minimalism with an overwrought idea I intended to make humour happen. I failed in that, but the idea stayed with me.

In The Last of Us, like in all post-apocalyptic books, movies, TV shows, there is a shift of moral codes. In this setting your mortgage payments cease to be a priority, and fucking your new nanny loses, in the battle of importance, to filling your reserves with Twinkies*. In this setting it’s probably justified to kill your new nanny to get those Twinkies; but not to fuck her. No, necrophilia is still not cool in Zombieland.

The issue of morality and economic systems in a post-apocalyptic world is so rich, that I don’t know where to start. I’ll start randomly, a system of organization as good as any other and very dear to my heart:

One of the first things that would happen, should be the inversion of importance of roles. Basically, the people whose skillset we value the most and the people with the least valued skill-set would switch places (the only exception being immediate health care specialists). By value, I mean pay. Entertainers, professional athletes, highly specialized professionals and scholars would see their skills completely devalued. Army men, Handy men, plumbers, electricians, would see their value increase diametrally. This was covered for the first time (as far as I know) in World War Z. In the second moment of the zombie apocalypse, after survival to the first wave of zombies and the creation of a new society, famous artists were taught by plumbers or electricians a new trade. Imagine Jay Leno lisping “Oh, but this shit isn’t going down!”

This specific example shows the volatility of the current system of free enterprise. It can be used as the perfect argument for socialism: Cringe, Americans! While in World War Z this isn’t stated, the flaws of capitalism become evident. What we value today is decided by our society; the fact that Jay Leno gets millions of dollars for talking in front of a camera is decided by the people who want to sit and watch him. Easily enough, the paradigm in which his skillset is valued shifts. The same is true for any other profession. Michael Jordan made millions as a basketball player, because in the eighties and Continue reading “Shift in Post-Apocalyptic Fiction”

Favourite Comedians: Woody Allen

Louie CK with Woody Allen: Blue Jasmine

Woody Allen spent some time with Louie CK, shooting Blue Jasmine. Even if you’re not up to par with the comedy scene, you know Louie is THE stand-up comedian. Woody Allen is also THE stand-up comedian… of 1967.

In a recent interview, Louie described his audition with Woody – he was supposed to play a bad guy, a role that eventually went to the hands of Andrew Dice Clay. Woody grimaced at his acting and Louie understood why. He couldn’t play that character, but still auditioned for the chance of meeting his idol. He got another role, more suited to his skills and personality.

I learned about this a while ago, but this piece of news got a new meaning now that Woody announced to be toying with the idea of going back to stand-up. Woody is more into basketball than movies, nowadays, and I suspect he doesn’t watch much TV with Soon-Yi, but it’s in that medium that Louie shows his acting chops. He shows that he can play himself with some tweaks. He even mocks his acting skills in a hilarious sequence with Matthew Broderick. So, did he hire Louie just to measure himself against him? Continue reading “Favourite Comedians: Woody Allen”

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”