GRAVITY SUCKS

Gravity scksby Kenneth Harper Finton ©2017

Some years back, I believed that people  grew old and died because they became ill and their bodies deteriorated. As I age myself, I wonder if that is so. Could it be that people pass on because the world about them changes so much that they no longer feel attached to it? Can a person evolve to the point where withdrawing from the world seems the best logical choice? Does this changing of the world about us affect our consciousness and then our health? Does life culminate in the desire to no longer desire? Is death the natural end because we lose the desire and will to persist? Or is the will to persist yanked from us despite our rage against the darkness of the unknown night?

What is true for one might not be true for another. The sheer variety of humanity and the vast complexity of nature creates a different world for each entity that lives within it.

Inequality is everywhere because inequality is essential for movement. Inequality is gravity. It is that weak force that binds things together, feet to the earth and planets to the stars, friends to friends.

Each individual life is a cosmos unto itself.

As a young man, I easily saw the truth in the unity of all being but saw also that the world is a game of one-upsmanship. People compete to produce winners and losers. The world around us is stratified, socially and economically.

Social inequality is a constant, but nature demands a balance for stability. The highs must not be too high and the lows must not be too low.  When things are too far out of balance, they explode and gravity is overcome.

Gravity is the result of inequality. When things are equal, there is no push nor pull.

Each side of the equation is different, but the equality creates the balance.

For most of us living on Earth, there is nothing as fine as the era in time in which we now live. How could this not be so, when this time is all we have? Are we not practical? We cannot live in another era.

Yet, eras change, and change brings new actors to the stage, new athletes to the field. Soon enough, we barely know the rules of the game because it has changed so much.

We spend our lives speaking our lines and doing our work. We seek what makes us feel good—through pleasures, work, pastimes, and relationships. It becomes the driving factor that motivates and moves us.

It is movement that produces the gravity that keeps us centered enough to survive. We—like our Earth, our Sun, and our Galaxy—must evolve and revolve as we orbit around something much bigger than us. Heinlein wrote: “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” Love is one of the gravitational anchors that hold us in place.

Health does get worse with time and wear. Physical strength does deteriorate. Passion itself takes a tumble with age. We know this is so. Yet, our fast-changing world can become so unfamiliar that we can easily become those Strangers in a Strange Land that we heard or read about years ago.

Heinlein’s character said: “Thinking doesn’t pay. It just makes you discontented with what you see around you.”  Time passes and consciousness is overloaded with evaluations and judgments made by past choices. It becomes harder to distinguish the winner from the loser when you know each all too well. We can become confused or dismayed about the directions our society and nations are going.

“Thou art god, I am god. All that groks is god,” Heinlein wrote.

Grok may be the only English word that is derived from a fictional Martian language. “Grok” was introduced in Robert A. Heinlein’s 1961 science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land. It means to understand fully and intuitively with empathy or intuition. It is hard to grow old and not see the reality of these observations. “Random chance is not a sufficient explanation of the Universe—in fact, random chance is not sufficient to explain random chance; the pot cannot hold itself.”

Everything living has a blind instinct to survive built into its system.

“The only religious opinion I feel sure of is this: self-awareness is not just a bunch of amino acids bumping together.”  ― Robert A. HeinleinStranger in a Strange Land

 

 

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HOW TO CREATE WITTY, ANTI-SEMITIC JOKES: A PRIMER FOR BIGOTS

by Hershey H. Friedman, Ph.D. and Linda Weiser Friedman, Ph.D.

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Humor is an extremely powerful tool: It can build rapport and strengthen relationships. It can serve as a major social bond; this bond can be used either for positive or negative purposes (Friedman & Friedman, 2003). Racist and sexist humor are not benign. Bigoted humor can, in fact, affect the tendency of people to discriminate against others. Disparaging humor will strengthen the prejudiced attitudes of people who are already bigoted. According to Greengross (2011):

… when we consider groups that most people discriminate against, and feel they are justified in doing so, disparaging humor towards that group does not foster discriminatory acts against them. On the other hand, for groups for whom the prejudice norm is shifting, and there is still no consensus not to discriminate against (women, gays, Muslims and so on), if you hold negative views against one of these groups, hearing disparaging jokes about them “releases” inhibitions you might have, and you feel it’s ok to discriminate against them. 

A similar effect was found with sexist humor. Sexist jokes do not have any impact on those who are not sexist; on the contrary, such humor made them willing to donate more to a fictitious women’s organization. However, for those who are sexist to begin with, sexist humor will significantly affect downward how much they would be willing to donate to the women’s organization (Weems, 2014).

If you want to know whether individuals are bigoted or sexist, listen to the jokes they tell. Indeed, Helmreich (2004) examines humor and anecdotes in order to better understand stereotypes. Davies (2011) believes that jokes often tap into strongly held stereotypical beliefs. For example, politicians are seen as corrupt, mothers-in-law as unlikable, economists out of touch with the real world, waiters as rude, and psychoanalysts as crazy.

IN GROUPS / OUT GROUPS

Schutz (1995) feels that ethnic humor plays an important social function by helping in-groups bond and reinforce their values. Humor can be used to deride others but it can also be used to enhance the image of a group. Of course, one joke can sometimes do both jobs at the same time: mock one group while at the same time making another group appear smarter than everyone else. The jokes of victims and oppressed groups very often have this dual purpose. Lowe (1986) makes this observation about certain kinds of ethnic humor: “it produces simultaneously a strong fellow-feeling among participants and joint aggressiveness against outsiders.”

Freud (1960, p. 103) made the following observation regarding hostile jokes which he believed served the purpose of aggressiveness or defense: “By making our enemy small, inferior, despicable or comic, we achieve in a roundabout way the enjoyment of overcoming him.” When it comes to most bigots, however, all they have to do is tell an anti-Semitic joke and it becomes quite clear how inferior they are. It takes intelligence to tell a clever joke that disparages an entire group and it is difficult for anti-Semites to tell original, smart, funny anti-Semitic jokes. If you want to tell a witty anti-Semitic joke, listen to the jokes Jewish comics tell about Jews. This way you might not sound too moronic. Know your target. One trick to telling a good anti-Semitic joke is to base it on a stereotype that is partially true.

With ethnic humor, it becomes crucial to know who is telling the joke and who is listening to it. Some jokes are very funny when told by a member of the group to a listener who is also of the group, about some real or perceived shortcoming of their shared ethnicity. This is a true bonding experience. The same joke, however, told by one outsider to another outsider is highly likely to be derogatory (deprecating, rather than self-deprecating). Racist humor often falls into this sinkhole. For example, the following:

Two Jews are about to face a Russian firing squad. The two condemned men are offered blindfolds. One of them accepts it, but the other does not, defiantly saying: “I don’t want your blindfold.” His friend urges: “Shh Izzy… don’t make trouble.

When told by one Jew to another, this joke is a gentle acknowledgement of the tendency of Jews in the Diaspora to keep quiet at all cost, rather than attract unwelcome attention. On the other hand, when this joke is told by one non-Jew to another, especially with humorous Jewish-sounding names and dialect as in Gruner’s book (2000, p. 101), it definitely comes across as disparaging to Jews.

Some examples of Jewish self-deprecating humor. These jokes work quite well when told by a Jew to a Jewish audience.

The following joke, often told by one Jew to another, feeds into the ugly stereotype of Jews doing anything for money. When a Jew tells it to another Jew, it actually is meant to take make fun of the anti-Semitism of gentiles: Ten minutes after a Jew converts he takes on the bigotry of the anti-Semite.

Two Jews pass a church displaying a sign promising $5,000 to all new converts to Christianity. After much debate, one of the men decides to go for the money and enters the church. Several hours pass as his friend waits outside. Finally, the Jew comes out of the church and his friend excitedly asks: “So, did you get the money?” The first man gives him a dirty look saying: “Is that all you people ever think about?” 

Certain behaviors that would be considered bigoted coming from a non-Jew are just fine – and even give us a warm, fuzzy, friendly feeling – when engaged in by a Jew. For example, Jews love to devise lists of well-known or important individuals – such as celebrities, scientists, athletes, etc. – who are Jewish; take Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song,” for example. Many jokes about Jews are funny when told to one Jew by another Jew, but bigoted when told by one anti-Semite – er, a non-Jew – to another. For example, many of the gags in Sacha Baron Cohen’s movie, Borat, fall into this category. 5

Telushkin (1992) feels that if you really want to understand the Jewish people, examine the humor told by both Jews and non-Jews about the Jewish people. The best jokes about Jews are told by Jews. Jews are aware of their weaknesses and shortcomings so they know how to tell a joke that works. Freud (1960) recognized the importance of self-deprecation in Jewish humor. Davies (1991) made the following observation in his research dealing with Jewish self-deprecating humor: “ethnic jokes told from outside as mockery can become assertions of autonomy and vitality when told by the subjects themselves.” This is probably true of all ethnic groups: Comics from a particular ethnic group tell the best jokes about their group. As Martin Grotjahn put it:

One can almost see how a witty Jewish man carefully and cautiously takes a sharp dagger out of his enemy’s hands, sharpens it so that it can split a hair in midair, polishes it until it shines brightly, stabs himself with it, then returns it gallantly to the anti-Semite with a silent reproach: now see whether you can do it half as well (Grotjahn, 1957, p. 23). 

Christie Davies (1991) appreciates Grotjahn’s imagery but considers it misleading. According to Davies, “the point of getting hold of the dagger is not only to demonstrate superior dexterity but to switch daggers so that an innocuous rather than a potentially envenomed weapon is used.”

Jewish self-deprecating humor may be one tool that can be used to show the anti-Semite how it’s done. Bigots in general are not known for their intellectual acumen – their wit, if you will. For the most part, the humor that bigots tell each other has the character of the obscenities and come-ons to which women may be subjected as they pass a construction site. Bigots of all stripes – anti-Semites, racists, misogynists – know very little about the true character and behavior of their targets. The advice “know your enemy” never applied more. Self-deprecating humor on the other hand, has the distinct advantage of being created, told, and often heard by the very group to which it is applied. 6

THE UNFORTUNATE CURRENT STATE OF ANTI-SEMITIC HUMOR

There is a sense that the humor of bigots toward their targets is simply not funny because bigots, like many individuals with a fixation, do not possess a sense of humor. That this is especially apparent in the so-called humor of anti-Semites may be, at least in part, because it invites a comparison to the very large oeuvre of Jewish self-deprecating humor which is smart and witty rather than pathetic and stupid.

The authors believe that most of the anti-Semitic jokes told by non-Jews are pathetic. These bigots need help so that they understand how to tell a good joke. First, let us examine some fairly typical anti-Semitic jokes. The jokes that follow are not the very worst (in the lack-of-wit sense) anti-Semitic jokes out there. Out of pure pity for the reader, those have been left out.

Why are Jewish synagogues round? So they can’t hide in the corner when the collection box comes round! 

Why do Jews have big noses? Because air is free. 

What is faster than sound? A Jew eating at a buffet. 

Have you heard of the Jewish “Catch 22”? Free ham! 

Why do Jews watch porn backwards? Because their favorite part is when the hooker gives the money back. 

How do you get 100 Jews into a car? You throw in a dime. 

What’s faster than a speeding bullet? A Jew with a coupon. 

Did you hear about the Jewish Santa Claus? He came down the chimney and said “Kiddies, do you want to buy some presents?” 

The ubiquitous anti-Semitic joke that attempts to reinforce the stereotype that Jews will do anything for money is a perfect example of toxic ethnic humor. It is also a good example of an idiotic stereotype. Are Jews actually cheap? On the contrary, study after study shows how generous they are when it comes to  charity. Oh and by the way, synagogues are not typically round and collection boxes are not sent around during services. In fact, no money is collected at all on the Sabbath. Big noses – really? Do Sephardic Jews have big noses? Do Dutch Jews? Ethiopian Jews? Fifteen percent of Jews are converts (Huber, 2008): Do their noses grow once they convert to Judaism? It seems like an appropriate point here to call to mind that episode of the television show Seinfeld, in which Jerry Seinfeld took umbrage that Tim Whatley, his dentist, converted to Judaism for the jokes. Jerry claimed that he resented it, not as a Jew, but as a comedian.

This next joke got then National Security Adviser, General James Jones into some hot water. We are quite certain that he did not realize that this joke was anti-Semitic if told by a non-Jew. It feeds into the ugly stereotype of Jews being greedy, unscrupulous businesspeople. General Jones apologized for the joke (Jackson, 2010).

A Taliban militant gets lost and is wandering around the desert looking for water. He finally arrives at a store run by a Jew and asks for water. The Jewish vendor tells him he doesn’t have any water but can gladly sell him a tie. The Taliban, the joke goes on, begins to curse and yell at the Jewish storeowner. The Jew, unmoved, offers the rude militant an idea. Beyond the hill, there is a restaurant. They can sell you water. The Taliban keeps cursing and finally leaves toward the hill. An hour later he’s back at the tie store. He walks in and tells the merchant: ‘Your brother tells me I need a tie to get into the restaurant.’ 

Other ugly stereotypes about Jews deal with Jewish women. The stereotypes about Jewish women usually indicate that they are cold, spendthrifts and ostentatious. This is something of a twofer – humor that is at the same time anti-Semitic and misogynistic.

What do Jewish women make for dinner? Reservations! 

Why are Jewish men circumcised? Because Jewish women won’t touch anything unless it’s at least 20% off 

What’s the difference between a Catholic wife and a Jewish wife? A Catholic wife has real orgasms and fake jewelry! 

We always hold hands. If I let go, she shops. 

Jewish foreplay: Two hours of begging 

A Jewish boy comes home from school and tells his mother he has a part in the play. She asks: “What part is it?” The boy says, “I play the part of the Jewish husband.” The mother frowns and says, “Go back and tell the teacher you want a speaking part.” 

Interestingly, there is a contradiction between how the same Jewish woman is perceived in her role as a wife and mother. Jewish mother jokes can be very anti-Semitic and suggest that Jewish mothers are overbearing and create dysfunctional families.

What is the most common disease transmitted by Jewish mothers? Guilt 

Why do Jewish mothers make great parole officers? Because they never let anyone finish a sentence. 

What did the waiter ask the group of dining Jewish mothers? “Is ANYTHING all right?

There are some excellent examples of jokes about Jewish mothers – told by Jews, of course.

A man called his Jewish mother in Florida, ‘Mom, how are you!?’ ‘Not too good,’ said the mother. ‘I’ve been very weak.’ The son said, ‘Why are you so weak?’ She said, ‘Because I haven’t eaten in 40 days.’ The son said, ‘That’s terrible. Why haven’t you eaten in 40 days?’ The mother answered, ‘Because I didn’t want my mouth to be filled with food if you should call.’ 

What about those vicious jokes that allude (favorably) to the mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust (see below)? These are, in fact, closely related to many “lawyer” jokes. Lynch & Friedman (2013) highlight the fact that it is rare for the humor dealing with professions to indicate that the only good <insert professional here> is a dead one; the exception is law. Many lawyer jokes are filled with such hate that the punchline makes it clear that the only good lawyer is a dead one. For example: “What do you call 5000 dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start!” Or, “What do you throw to a drowning lawyer? His partners.” This type of humor only works with lawyers; it does not work with, say, nurses. Many of the anti-Semitic jokes targeting Jews have the same kind of sick hatred attached to them. It may not be a coincidence that law is often perceived as a profession filled with Jews. The term “shyster” may have not started out as a term “loaded with anti-Semitism” but it certainly is used that way by some (Kornstein, 2017). The fact that many gentiles think the best lawyers are Jewish is not necessarily a compliment.

What’s the difference between a Jew and a pizza? Pizzas don’t scream when they are put in the oven! 

What’s the difference between Santa Claus and a Jew? Santa Claus goes down the chimney. 

THE BEST ANTI-SEMITIC JOKES

Are there anti-Semitic jokes out there that are actually funny? A few. At the very least, a good joke should be entertaining and witty. Here are some fairly good ones:

There is safety in numbers. Unless there are six million of you. And you are all Jews.

What did the Jewish pedophile say to the little boy? Hey kid, want to buy some candy? 

How did German men pick up Jewish women in the 1940’s? With a dustpan and broom. 

Question: What’s the difference between a circumcision and a crucifixion? Answer: In a crucifixion, they throw out the whole Jew! 

Some of these are funny enough to have been written by Jew—and probably too witty to have been written by anti-Semites.

Of course, Jewish comics know how to make fun of Jewish foibles but still demonstrate love for their people. Jackie Mason has many routines where he teases Jews. Mason claims that the biggest insult to a Jewish woman is that she looks Jewish. Jews are not happy unless they sound and look like a gentile. Jews change their names so they do not sound Jewish; one has the name Crucifix Finkelstein. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeVTtfk0oI8). Would this work for bigots? Probably not. But at least they will have demonstrated that do they know their target. (Anything for a dime? Please!) For more examples of Jewish comics and Jewish self-deprecating humor, see the Appendix to this paper.

PRIMER: HOW TO WRITE A GOOD ANTI-SEMITIC JOKE

Can the creation of good humor be taught at all? There are strong opinions on both sides of that issue and outside the scope of this paper. Certainly, for those like bigots who are so obsessed with their targets that they lack the essential knowledge, wit and, most important, a sense of humor, we offer here a few simple rules to follow. We keep them short and simple. We know how difficult it is for lackwits to follow complex instructions.

1. Be witty and clever

2. Get to know your target. Don’t expose your ignorance with an easily disproved stereotype.

3. Try it out on Jews first. Of course, this will work better if you are Jewish yourself; and, so, finally 11

4. Be Jewish.

Case in point: One of the wittiest Holocaust references ever was made by a young Jewish stand-up comic, David Finkelstein. In his perfectly deadpan delivery, he discusses finding a swastika spray-painted on the street in his home neighborhood. Instead of reacting with horror, he says, he “gets it” since he is, in fact, a comedian. What’s so funny? For one thing, the swastika is captioned with “Kill the Jews.” Just in case one might think it is simply, say, a symmetrical design. This bit may be found on YouTube and other online sources (e.g., https://youtu.be/kLhF478q3g8 at 1:30).

CONCLUSION

We see that bigoted humor often reveals more about teller and audience than about the target of the joke. Sometimes, the joke can bring a wealth of content with it regarding the experience of memberhood in the victimized group. In the following joke, with its convergence of Holocaust and Jim Crow references, the bigot gets a twofer – two targets for the price of one.

What is the worst part about being a Black Jew? You have to sit at the back of the oven. 

This is reminiscent of the blogger MaNishtana’s (2012, p. 117) answer to the question, “What’s it like being a Black Jew?” He says “Well, it’s a lot like being Black with more Black added on.”

Sometimes, bigotry is revealed in the telling of the joke; metahumor, if you will. In the interest of the continuing education of our bigoted would-be comics, we offer the following true story under the heading “How not to tell a joke.”

A building manager in LA came to make some minor repairs for a young couple Recently transplanted from New York City. The chatty guy said.“Oh, you’re from New York. I know a lot of good New York jokes. Want to hear one?” 

“Sure.” 

“Okay, there was this – Pause. “Uh, you’re not Jewish, are you?” 

“We are Jewish.” 

Pause. “It’s not that funny.” 

Not that funny? It’s hilarious. And also a very serious commentary on bigoted humor. Is bigoted humor truly not that funny? Or is it only funny when the teller and the listener share the same sense of bigotry? Probably a little bit of both.

In the final analysis, if you are going to engage in racist, sexist, anti-Semitic humor … at the very least, for God’s sake, make it funny.

APPENDIX: SOME EXAMPLES OF SELF-DEPRECATING JEWISH HUMOR

Jackie Mason claims that Jews are the only people “who gain weight when they join a health club.” He has a hilarious routine where he describes the difference between a Jew and a gentile going to a restaurant. A Jew goes into a restaurant “like a partner.” According to Mason, gentiles can’t get “emotionally involved with food.” You also never see a Jew in a real bar. Jews are not comfortable in a bar and gentiles are not comfortable in a restaurant. “If you don’t serve a Jew for a minute, he is going to complain” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5V4zYe23QLg). This is a famous Jackie Mason joke.

It is easy to tell the difference between Jews and Gentiles. After the show, all the gentiles are saying ‘Have a drink? Want a drink? Let’s have a drink!’ While all the Jews are saying ‘Have you eaten yet? Want a piece of cake? Let’s have some cake!’

 

David Steinberg describes his Jewish Italian family when they get together at a barbeque. Italians know how to have a good time and fix things; Jews come with their pills, are always worried about their health, and break things. If Jews had a bumper sticker it would read “fun kills.” (https://vimeo.com/24436948)

One of the most Jewish television shows is Curb Your Enthusiasm. The show does get many things wrong but is unabashedly Jewish. Larry David is an expert on self-deprecating Jewish humor. Salkin (2016) lists the most Jewish moments on the show:

“The Ski Lift.” Larry is desperate to find a kidney for his friend, Richard Lewis (so that he doesn’t have to be the donor). He ingratiates himself with an influential Orthodox man and his daughter, and invites them to his ski lodge for the weekend. Watch Larry feign Yiddish and knowledge of Jewish observance. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUc77Dn8Me0

Larry pretending to be an Orthodox Jew: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iENMor5V5o) 14

“Palestinian Chicken.” An expedition into the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, played out in a Palestinian restaurant. Larry hits it off with a Palestinian waitress. Larry is turned on by someone “who doesn’t even acknowledge your right to exist, who wants your destruction — that’s a turn on.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Anel6bvrbWA

“The Larry David Sandwich.” Larry scalps tickets for High Holy Days services. It’s not only the use of tickets; it’s the absurd idea of scalping them, as if the services were a performance. Which, come to think of it, worship has become for so many Jews. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCGOFKC7-uY

In the fifth season finale, Larry “discovers” that he was adopted. He searches for his birth parents. They are a nice, elderly gentile couple in Arizona. Larry tries on being a gentile, complete with being told to practice love and forgiveness a la Jesus, fishing, duck hunting, bar room drinking games, and horseback riding, complete with cowboy hat. An obvious satire on Jewish stereotypes of gentile culture. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrnA1Wu3qgM

“The Seder.” Larry invites a sex-offender to a Seder, which, of course, raises the unasked question: are there actually limits and boundaries to the fabled Passover hospitality of the Jew — “let all who are hungry come and eat?” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9O1vzGROg8

“The Baptism.” Larry inadvertently stops a baptism, preventing a Jew from converting to Christianity. The Christians who are present our outraged; the Jews are grateful (“Will you speak at my daughter’s bat mitzvah?”) Larry becomes an unwitting, temporary poster boy for Jewish continuity. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhJFhA2kIIk

“The Survivor.” Few “Curb” episodes deal with so many Jewish themes. Larry is tempted to have sexual relations with an Orthodox woman, which brings up stereotypes about Jews and sexuality. A Shoah survivor and a survivor from the “Survivor” series get into an argument about who is the “real” survivor. A great reflection on the meaning of memory and its distortions. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=In2XfN3hIi4) 15

REFERENCES

Davies, C. (2011). Jokes and targets. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Davies, C. (1991). Exploring the thesis of the self-deprecating Jewish sense of humor. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 4 (2), 189-209.

Freud, S. (1960). Jokes and their relation to the unconscious. (James Strachey, translator). New York: W. W. Norton. (Original work published in 1905)

Friedman, L. W. & Friedman, H. H. (2003). I-get-it as a type of bonding humor: The secret handshake. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=913622.

Greengross, G. (2011, July 18). Does racist humor promote racism? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/humor-sapiens/201107/does-racist-humor-promote-racism

Grotjahn, Martin (1957). Beyond Laughter. New York: Blakiston Division, McGraw Hill.

Gruner, C. R. (2000). The game of humor: A comprehensive theory of why we laugh. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Helmreich, W. (2004). The Things They Say Behind Your Back: Stereotypes and the myths behind them. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Huber, J. (2008, March 4). Convert’s path reflects study’s findings. NJJN. Retrieved from http://www.njjewishnews.com/njjn.com/030608/moConvertsPathReflects.html

Jackson, D. (2010, April 26). Obama national security adviser Jones apologizes for joke. USA Today. Retrieved from http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2010/04/obama-national-security-adviser-apologizes-for-joke/1#.Ul3gB1CkoSU

Kornstein, D. J. (2017). Is ‘shyster’ anti-Semitic? New York Law Journal. Retrieved from http://www.newyorklawjournal.com/id=900005387204/Is-Shyster-AntiSemitic?slreturn=20170429212921

Lowe, J. (1986). Theories of ethnic humor: How to enter laughing. American Quarterly, 38(3), 439-460.

Lynch, J. A. & Friedman, H. H. (2013, July 29). Using Lawyer Jokes to Teach Business Ethics: A Course Module. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2302910.

MaNishtana (2012). Thoughts from A Unicorn: 100% Black. 100% Jewish. 0% Safe. NY: Hyphen Publishing.

Salkin, J. (2016, June 22). ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ is pretty, pretty, pretty Jewish. Religious News Service. Retrieved from http://religionnews.com/2016/06/22/curb-enthusiasm-larry-david-jewish/

Schutz, C. (1995). The sociability of ethnic jokes. Australian Journal of Comedy 1(1).

Telushkin, J. (1992). Jewish humor: What the best Jewish jokes say about the Jews. New York: William Morrow & Company.

Weems, S. (2014, September 11). Why offensive jokes affect you more than you realize. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-s-so-funny/201409/why-offensive-jokes-affect-you-more-you-realize

Linda Weiser Friedman, Ph.D.

Professor

Paul H. Chook Department of Information Systems and Statistics

Baruch College Zicklin School of Business

and the Graduate Center, CUNY

Email: prof.friedman@gmail.com

Hershey H. Friedman, Ph.D.

Professor of Business

Department of Business Management

Murray Koppelman School of Business

Brooklyn College, CUNY

Email: x.friedman@att.net

HOW THE TRUMP STOLE AMERICA

December 5, 2016

by JOHN PAVLOVITZ

unknown

In a land where the states are united, they claim,
in a sky-scraping tower adorned with his name,
lived a terrible, horrible, devious chump,
the bright orange miscreant known as the Trump.

This Trump he was mean, such a mean little man,
with the tiniest heart and two tinier hands,
and a thin set of lips etched in permanent curl,
and a sneer and a scowl and contempt for the world.

He looked down from his perch and he grinned ear to ear,
and he thought, “I could steal the election this year!
It’d be rather simple, it’s so easily won,
I’ll just make them believe that their best days are done!
Yes, I’ll make them believe that it’s all gone to Hell,
and I’ll be Jerk Messiah and their souls they will sell.

And I’ll use lots of words disconnected from truth,
but I’ll say them with style so they won’t ask for proof.
I’ll speak random platitudes, phrases, and such,
They’re so raised on fake news that it won’t matter much!
They won’t question the how to, the what, why, or when,
I will make their America great once again!” 

The Trump told them to fear, they should fear he would say,
“They’ve all come for your jobs, they’ll all take them away.
You should fear every Muslim and Mexican too,
every brown, black, and tan one, everyone who votes blue.”

And he fooled all the Christians, he fooled them indeed,
He just trotted out Jesus, that’s all Jesus folk need.  
And celebrity preachers they crowned him as king,
Tripping over themselves just to kiss the Trump’s ring.

And he spoke only lies just as if they were true,
Until they believed all of those lies were true too.
He repeated and Tweeted and he blustered and spit,
And he mislead and fibbed—and he just made up sh*t.

And the media laughed but they printed each line,
thinking “He’ll never will win, in the end we’ll be fine.”
So they chased every headline, bold typed every claim,
‘Till the fake news and real news they looked just the same.

And the scared folk who listened, they devoured each word,
Yes, they ate it all up every word that they heard,
petrified that their freedom was under attack,
trusting Trump he would take their America back. 
from the gays and from ISIS, he’d take it all back,
Take it back from the Democrats, fat cats, and blacks.
And so hook, line, and sinker they all took the bait,
all his lies about making America great.

Now the Pantsuited One she was smart and prepared,
she was brilliant and steady but none of them cared,
no they cared not to see all the work that she’d done,
or the fact that the Trump had not yet done thing one.
They could only shout “Emails!”, yes “Emails!” they’d shout,
because Fox News had told them—and Fox News had clout. 
And the Pantsuited One she was slandered no end,
and a lie became truth she could never defend.
And the Trump watched it all go according to plan—
a strong woman eclipsed by an insecure man.

And November the 8th arrived, finally it came,
like a slow-moving storm but it came just the same.
And Tuesday became Wednesday as those days will do,
And the night turned to morning and the nightmare came true,
With millions of non-voters still in their beds,

Yes, the Trump he had done it, just like he had said.

And the Trumpers they trumped, how they trumped when he won,
All the racists and bigots; deplorable ones,
they crawled out from the woodwork, came out to raise Hell, 
they came out to be hateful and hurtful as well.
With slurs and with road signs, with spray paint and Tweets,

with death threats to neighbors and taunts on the street. 
And the grossest of grossness they hurled on their peers,
while the Trump he said zilch—for the first time in years.

But he Tweeted at Hamilton, he Tweeted the Times,
And he trolled Alec Baldwin a few hundred times,
and he pouted a pout like a petulant kid,
thinking this is what Presidents actually did,
thinking he could still be a perpetual jerk,
terrified to learn he had to actually work,
work for every American, not just for a few,
not just for the white ones—there was much more to do.
He now worked for the Muslims and Mexicans too,
for the brown, black, and tan ones, and the ones who vote blue.
They were all now his bosses, now they all had a say,
and those nasty pantsuited ones were here to stay.
And the Trump he soon realized that he didn’t win,
He had gotten the thing—and the thing now had him.

And it turned out the Trump was a little too late,
for America was already more than quite great,
not because of the sameness, the opposite’s true,
It’s greatness far more than just red, white, and blue,
It’s straight, gay, and female—it’s Gentile and Jew,
It’s Transgender and Christian and Atheist too.
It’s Asians, Caucasians of every kind,
The disabled and abled, the deaf and the blind,
It’s immigrants, Muslims, and brave refugees,
It’s Liberals with bleeding hearts fixed to their sleeves.
And we are all staying, we’re staying right here,

and we’ll be the great bane of the Trump for four years.
And we’ll be twice as loud as the loudness of hate,

be the greatness that makes our America great.
And the Trump’s loudest boasts they won’t ever obscure,
over two million more of us—voted for her.



 

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INTELLECTUALS ARE FREAKS

http://thesmartset.com/intellectuals-are-freaks/?utm

images

BY 

Intellectuals — a category that includes academics, opinion journalists, and think tank experts — are freaks. I do not mean that in a disrespectful way. I myself have spent most of my life in one of the three roles mentioned above. I have even been accused of being a “public intellectual,” which sounds too much like “public nuisance” or even “public enemy” for my taste.

My point is that people who specialize in the life of ideas tend to be extremely atypical of their societies. They — we — are freaks in a statistical sense. For generations, populists of various kinds have argued that intellectuals are unworldly individuals out of touch with the experiences and values of most of  their fellow citizens. While anti-intellectual populists have often been wrong about the gold standard or the single tax or other issues, by and large they have been right about intellectuals.

The terms “intellectual” and “intelligentsia” arose around the same time in the 19th century. Before the industrial revolution, the few people in advanced civilizations paid to read, write, and debate were mostly either clerics like medieval Christian priests, monks, or secular scribes like Confucian mandarins who worked for kings or aristocrats, or, as in the city-states of ancient Greece, teachers whose students were mostly young men of the upper classes.

The replacement of agrarian civilization by industrial capitalism created two new homes for thinkers, both funded directly or indirectly by the newly enriched capitalist elite. One was the nonprofit sector — the university and the nonprofit think tank — founded chiefly by gifts from the tycoons who lent these institutions their names:  Stanford University, the Ford Foundation. Then there was bohemia, populated largely by the downwardly-mobile sons and daughters of the rich, spending down inherited bourgeois family fortunes while dabbling in the arts and philosophy and politics and denouncing the evils of the bourgeoisie.

Whether they are institutionalized professors and policy wonks or free-spirited bohemians, the intellectuals of the industrial era are as different from the mass of people in contemporary industrial societies as the clerics, scribes, mandarins, and itinerant philosophers of old were from the peasant or slave majorities in their societies.

To begin with, there is the matter of higher education. Only about 30 percent of American adults have a four-year undergraduate degree. The number of those with advanced graduate or professional degrees is around one in ten. As a BA is a minimal requirement for employment in most intellectual occupations, the pool from which scholars, writers, and policy experts is drawn is already a small one. It is even more exclusive in practice, because the children of the rich and affluent are over-represented among those who go to college.

Then there is location. There have only been a few world capitals of bohemia, generally in big, expensive cities that appeal to bohemian rich kids, like the Left Bank of the Seine and Greenwich Village and Haight-Ashbury. In the U.S., the geographic options for think tank scholars also tend to be limited to a few expensive cities, like Washington, D.C. and New York. Of the different breeds of the American intellectual, professors have the most diverse habitat, given the number and geographic distribution of universities across the American continent.

Whether they are professors, journalists, or technocratic experts, contemporary intellectuals are unlikely to live and work in the places where they are born.  In contrast, the average American lives about 18 miles from his or her mother. Like college education, geographic mobility in the service of personal career ambitions is common only within a highly atypical social and economic elite.

In their lifestyles, too, intellectuals tend to be unusually individualistic, by the standards of the larger society. I am aware of no studies of this sensitive topic, but to judge from my experience the number of single individuals and childless married couples among what might be called the American intelligentsia appears to be much higher than in the population at large. The postponement of marriage in order to accumulate credentials or job experience, the willingness to move to further career goals, and — in the case of bohemians — the willingness to accept incomes too low to support children in order to be an avant-garde writer or artist or revolutionary sets intellectuals and other elite professionals apart from the working-class majority whose education ends with high school and who rely on extended family networks for economic support and child care.

The fact that we members of the intellectual professions are quite atypical of the societies in which we live tends to distort our judgment, when we forget that we belong to a tiny and rather bizarre minority. This is not a problem with the hard sciences.  But in the social sciences, intellectuals — be they professors, pundits, or policy wonks — tend to be both biased and unaware of their own bias.

This can be seen in the cosmopolitanism of the average intellectual. I was the guest of honor at an Ivy League law school dinner some years ago, when, in response to my question, the academics present — U.S. citizens, except for one — unanimously said they did not consider themselves American patriots, but rather “citizens of the world.”  The only patriot present, apart from yours truly, was an Israeli visiting professor.

Paranoid populists no doubt would see this as confirmation of their fear intellectuals are part of a global conspiracy directed by the UN or the Bilderbergers.  I see it rather as a deformation professionelle.  Scholarship, by its nature, is borderless.  The mere phrases “Aryan science” and “Jewish science” or “socialist scholarship” and “bourgeois scholarship” should send chills down the spine. Furthermore,  many successful academics study, teach, and live in different countries in the course of their careers.

So it is natural for academics to view a borderless world as the moral and political ideal — natural, but still stupid and lazy. Make-believe cosmopolitanism is particularly stupid and lazy in the case of academics who fancy themselves progressives. In the absence of a global government that could raise taxes to fund a global welfare state, the free movement of people among countries would overburden and destroy existing national welfare states, or else empower right-wing populists to defend welfare states for natives against immigrants, as is happening both in the U.S. and Europe.

The views of intellectuals about social reform tend to be warped by professional and personal biases, as well. In the U.S. the default prescription for inequality and other social problems among professors, pundits, and policy wonks alike tends to be:  More education! Successful intellectuals get where they are by being good at taking tests and by going to good schools. It is only natural for them to generalize from their own highly atypical life experiences and propose that society would be better off if everyone went to college — natural, but still stupid and lazy. Most of the jobs in advanced economies — a majority of them in the service sector — do not require higher education beyond a little vocational training. Notwithstanding automation, for the foreseeable future janitors will vastly outnumber professors, and if the wages of janitors are too low then other methods — unionization, the restriction of low-wage immigration, a higher minimum wage — make much more sense than enabling janitors to acquire BAs, much less MAs and Ph.Ds.

The social isolation of intellectuals, I think, is worsened by their concentration in a few big metro areas close to individual and institutional donors like New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. (where I live) or in equally atypical college towns. It was never possible for Chinese mandarins or medieval Christian monks in Europe to imagine that their lifestyles could be adopted by the highly visible peasantry that surrounded them. But it is possible for people to go from upper middle class suburbs to selective schools to big-city bohemias or campuses with only the vaguest idea of how the 70 percent of their fellow citizens whose education ends with high school actually live.

Universal national service would be a bad idea; the working class majority is hard-pressed enough without being required to perform unpaid labor. But it might not hurt if every professor, opinion journalist, and foundation expert, as a condition of career advancement, had to spend a year or two working in a shopping mall, hotel, hospital, or warehouse. Our out-of-touch intelligentsia might learn some lessons that cannot be obtained from books and seminars alone

SAYING WHAT YOU DAMN WELL PLEASE

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by Erica Verrillo               Feb 14, 2016:  5 minute read

Saul Bellow (June 10, 1915 — April 5, 2005) was one of our most famed American writers. He won the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts; and he is the only writer to have won the National Book Award for Fiction three times.

In spite of all the accolades Bellow received during his lifetime (and after) Bellow thought of himself as a “working stiff.”

“Celebrity interferes with the business of writing,” he said. “But it gives you a certain amount of confidence. Before, I said anything I damn pleased, and I did it defiantly. Now, I say anything I damn please, but I do it with confidence.”

Bellow was not afraid to say what he pleased, ever. At a PEN conference, he stated (like Churchill) that democracy was the worst form of government, except for all the others. Predictably, he “had a fight on his hands.” But Bellow was not one to back down. And, as it turned out, neither was I.

Developing judgment

One of the hardest things to learn during the publishing process is judgment. Writing alone, in your garret, does not demand anything from you other than time and thought. But once your work is exposed to the world, critics emerge from the woodwork. Everyone has an opinion. If they like what you have written, you feel confident that you have done a good job. And if they don’t, doubts creep in. The question you face is whether those doubts are justified.

My editor at Random House had a great deal to say about everything I had written — every word, every sentence, every paragraph, every chapter (some of which she crossed out in their entirety). We did revision, after revision, after revision.

At the start, I assumed she was right, and I did everything she told me to do. I eliminated anything she might remotely find objectionable. But, by the end of that three-year period, I learned not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead of eliminating, I simply tweaked. And, in some cases, I outright refused to make the modifications she suggested.

What had changed?

I had finally learned to “say what I damn well pleased.” I had learned to block out the advice that wasn’t consistent with what I wanted to say. And my work was all the better for it.

The last book in my series was the one in which I finally learned to stick to my guns. It was published just as I wrote it, and it got the best reviews of any of my books. Critics remarked that my writing had “really come along.” What they didn’t know was the writing had been the same in all three books. The difference was that by the time book number three came along, I had developed enough confidence to tell the difference between a good suggestion and a bad one.

The trick is to develop that confidence early — before you sacrifice your integrity.

Integrity

What constitutes integrity for a writer?

Your first loyalty is to your manuscript. You must tell your story as best you can, realizing its full potential. You must ignore the distractions of what people say will sell, or what you think readers may like. You are not a panderer, you are an artist. Your job is to interpret reality through language.

Your second loyalty is to your readers. You have offered to tell them a tale. So, do it. Don’t try to impress them with linguistic gymnastics. Don’t point a finger at yourself. “Look at me!” is for actors, not writers. (Yes, I am thinking of Cloud Atlas.) Your readers shouldn’t even know you are there. You are your story.

Your third loyalty is to yourself. Nothing is more frightening than writing fiction. It lays you bare. So, don’t lie. Don’t shy away from emotions that are difficult, and from scenes that leave you raw. Tell the truth as only you can tell it.

Here is some of what Saul Bellow had to say about writing. I guarantee Saul will help you on the road to saying what you damn well please.

“You must either like what you are doing very much, either like your characters or hate them, you can’t be indifferent.”

“Your own natural, original voice provides the engine for your writing.”

“The Bible says, ‘Woe unto you when all men speak well of you.’ That’s where the critics come in.”

“The writer cannot make the seas of distraction stand still, but he can at times come between the madly distracted and the distractions. He does this by opening another world.”

“When you open a novel — and I mean of course the real thing — you enter into a state of intimacy with its writer. You hear a voice or, more significantly, an individual tone under the words. This tone you, the reader, will identify not so much by a name, the name of the author, as by a distinct and unique human quality. It seems to issue from the bosom, from a place beneath the breastbone. It is more musical than verbal, and it is the characteristic signature of a person, of a soul.”

“The most pleasurable moments in writing are when you are either laughing or weeping, and scribbling at the same time. That’s what one lives for in this trade.”


 

Erica Verrillo has published five books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on how to get an agent, lists agents who are looking for clients as well as publishers accepting manuscripts directly from writers, explains how to market and promote your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews, how to self-publish, and how to keep your confidence on Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity.

This collection is sister to The Curious Cat Project (CCP), a website that connects writers from all over the world. Follow CCP on Facebook.

 


7094134Erica Verrillo was raised in Syracuse NY, the daughter of classical pianist, Violet Silverstein, and noted psychophysicist, Ronald T. Verrillo.  At age seventeen Ms.Verrillo moved to England, where she performed in the Oxford Symphony Orchestra. On her return to the U.S. she attended New England Conservatory. She finished her undergraduate education at Tufts, where she majored in History.

Erica's website is ericaverrillo.com. Her blog, Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity can be found 
at http://www.ericaverrillo.com as well.


 

Erica is also the writer of Stella’s Star Wish found here in Helios. https://heliosliterature.com/2014/11/13/stellas-star-wish/

CHANNELING OUR WORLD

READ FIRST: https://heliosliterature.com/2015/02/26/does-the-universe-have-a-brain/

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Have I confused you with information that you have a hard time processing? Bear with me while further explain.

We concluded the chapter about a universal brain with these words: “Experience is born in a timeless dimension and brought into the world by interconnected series of events that continued to experience being long before and long after our temporal existences became evident and actual. Ultimately, we are the experience and the experience is eternal. 

“Memory is a tool of awareness, a process that continually blinks in and out of existence with observation and relationship to other temporal events. Our world and universe is the physical counterpart of an infinite experience that never began and will never end.”

We can think of it this way: all time exists in the NOW. The fact that we view time as a continuous progression does not make it so. What we see is from our viewpoints in the dimensions we perceive, which is only one of many ways to scan existence.

For example: think of the universe and all the time and events contained therein as a television broadcast network that contains many trillions upon trillions of individual channels and stations. All the information that is broadcast already exists, but the tuner isolates one particular program, one particular set of frequencies, and we see a continuous program. That is what the world and our lives are in a simple analogy.

Consciousness is the tuner and the broadcast comes from zero dimension. Unlike television, there is no script nor writers and no schedule of events. Events and actions exist in potentiality until they are realized and made actual. The essence of the information is composed of vibrational waves like digitized pictures in computer code. Our personal tuners filter out anything other than what pertains to us. Our electrical fields and currents have interference patterns when they encounter one another.

The only reason that we are not someone else is because our personal ‘tuners’ or ‘self’ filters out the rest of the events and our unconscious deals only with that which it has experienced and felt in our dimensional actuality.

The NOW is always current in several senses of the word. It exists in the present and is only palpable when the current is flowing. When the current is not flowing we have a blank screen with no visible information. Like a television channel, we are limited to what is filtered for us and by us. A memory exists only as a thought and a remembrance. We cannot physically revisit the exact time and space of the recalled event because we have no access to the currents actualized in that time and space.

This does not mean the events are forever lost and stilled. They have made physical changes in our material world. What we are, in essence, is not the event, but the current itself that in the infinite zero dimension contains all that ever was and all that ever can be. All events and all time is in the NOW. They become actualized through the collapse of the infinite fields of probability into one course of action, a material decision that sends the flowing currents that define us into a particular arrangement and negates the other probabilities.

These other probabilities are not forever destroyed in this negation. They continue to be probabilities, as nothing is gained or lost in the zero dimension. The universe is eternal and recurring, so in the vast expanse of infinite time, other probabilities likely become actuated. Instead of a multiverse, we find multiple dimensions and multiple viewpoints existing within our own universe. We need only one world with infinite probability and multiple dimensions to create all that is and is yet to be and bring it into eventual actualization.

Our nightly dreams are considered unreal because they have not effected a major change in our material universe. Who we are in our dreams is formed of the same current that we are when we are awake, but in different patterns and dimensional viewpoints. We are the wispy ghosts of experiential beings, the products of the informational data that created us and brought us into an actual world.


FOR FURTHER READING:

https://heliosliterature.com/2014/12/10/whoarewe/

https://heliosliterature.com/2015/02/26/does-the-universe-have-a-brain/

https://heliosliterature.com/2015/11/13/channeling-our-world/

https://heliosliterature.com/2014/12/21/much-ado-about-nothing/

https://heliosliterature.com/2014/12/26/the-perpetua-lsearcyh-for-truth/

https://heliosliterature.com/2015/01/03/of-god-man-nature-and-zero-dimension/

https://heliosliterature.com/2015/01/05/metaphysics/

https://heliosliterature.com/2014/12/21/much-ado-about-nothing/

https://heliosliterature.com/2015/02/12/thought/

https://heliosliterature.com/2015/03/20/god-infinity-and-the-mobius-universe/

 NOTHING

GREAT SONG LYRICS

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33282745

A Point of View: What’s the secret of writing great song lyrics?

by Adam Gopnik

  • 26 June 2015
  • From the section Magazine
Music score with the words
Having written words for someone else’s music, Adam Gopnik finds there’s a common factor behind all great lyrics, from Mozart opera to Taylor Swift. 

Everyone thinks he can write a song, and now I have. The haunted, wild look you see in the eyes of professional songwriters at cocktail parties rises from the popular idea that any of us, given the chance, can do what they do as well as they do it – the fur earmuffs you see them wearing even on the hottest summer days are there, too, from a desperate attempt not to have to listen to the songs the rest of us write and insist on playing for them. “I think I just feel how everyone feels, that I have three or four really great folk albums in me,” Hannah says complacently on the US television comedy Girls. Everyone thinks that.

But now I have done what all of us amateurs dream of doing – written words to someone’s music and heard it sung. Not a song alone, but an entire work – called (when I am in a puffed up mood) an oratorio, and when I am feeling more modest, a mere song cycle, and when I am feeling more modest still, a concept album, as yet unrecorded. It’s called Sentences, with music by the inspired young composer Nico Muhly, and seeing it premiere a few weeks ago, at the Barbican Centre in London goes high on my list of things I did that made my life matter – like the birth of a child, only with less sweat and better dressed.

The story we told was that of the great computer scientist Alan Turing, and it was sung by the amazing counter-tenor Iestyn Davies – but I won’t detain you with its genesis or my own sense of what in it works and what doesn’t. I will say that I was working on the libretto for the song cycle even as I was also writing the words for a musical comedy, properly so-called, and I discovered that in work meant or dreamed of for the commercial theatre, every syllable gets argued over. Is the emotional logic entirely lucid? In our Barbican-directed oratorio a great deal of indirection and obliquity was welcome. In our age, I’ve decided, the difference between entertainment and art is that in entertainment we expect to do all the work for the audience, while in art we expect the audience to do all the work for us.

But the deeper relation between words and music – the way they land in the listener’s ear, and then her soul – is more complicated than it seems. Music alone is puzzling enough – how it is that the mind makes sound into music and music into meaning is one of the big unanswered questions. No matter how hard we craft them for lucidity and shape and dramatic clarity – and it’s the good faith of the librettist’s art form to do so as elegantly as he can – music and words together exist in the end in an older realm of magic and enchantment, a place where the nursery rhyme and the church hymn and the pop single all meet. They work as spells do – that is, either entirely, or not at all. We sing and the magic door swings open, or it doesn’t, and there’s no explaining it. Three boys from Liverpool sing “She loves you, yeah, yeah yeah ” and the world turns off its axis. Had they sung, as Paul McCartney’s father wanted, “yes, yes, yes”, the old path would not have changed.

The Beatles in concert, 1964

Yeah, yeah. yeah. The Beatles in concert, 1964

The libretto writer, I should add at once, is merely the junior partner in the enterprise – or not even a partner, more like the man who sweeps out the candy wrappers from the theatre floor after the patrons leave. Who now remembers the name of the man who set the text for Handel’s Messiah? Well, it was Charles Jennens. The only libretto writer whose name anyone remembers – other than the great lyricists of the American musical theatre, the sacred law firm of Mercer, Loesser and Hart – is Lorenzo da Ponte, who is my hero. He was Jewish and a priest, and a Venetian and a New Yorker. It’s a sympathetic package, and he wrote for – more than “with” really – wrote for Mozart, the three operas that may well be the height of all artistic creation: The Marriage of Figaro, Cosi Fan Tutte and Don Giovanni.


Lorenzo Da Ponte 1749-1838

Lorenzo da Ponte
  • Born Emanuele Conegliano, to a Jewish family in Venice. converted to Roman Catholicism in 1764 and was baptised with the name Lorenzo da Ponte
  • Ordained as a priest in 1773 but nevertheless fathered two children, and was subsequently banished for 15 years from Venice
  • Moved to Vienna where he scored Mozart’s best-known Italian operas – The Marriage of Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787) and Cosi Fan Tutte (1790)
  • Later moved to London and then the US where he ran a grocery store, gave Italian lessons and was eventually appointed professor of Italian literature at Columbia College

If the aliens arrived on earth from Neptune and asked me “what should we go out to see first that you humans have made?”, I think I would say Cosi Fan Tutte. (Though I also think I would add “Oh – and watch Cary Grant in North By Northwest” – but then the aliens would say, “Yeah: we saw that already on Neptune. Everybody in the galaxy has seen North By Northwest.”)

But a single touch of contrivance spoils it all. Any time we feel the authors creating coincidence or engineering emotion, making melodrama rather than musical drama – shoving incidents around rather than exploring character in collision with itself or another – we rebel inside. In Cosi Fan Tutte we accept the convention of disguised Albanians. But we accept it because Mozart writes his most sublime music for the silliest parts. If it sounded cute, we would rebel against it. That “yeah, yeah, yeah” mattered because it was exactly what such a boy would actually say to a friend about a girl. The smirk, or the hack’s weary knowing devices, are both enemies of enchantment and, without enchantment, music and words together mean nothing.

A 2009 production of Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte, performed at the Salzburg Festival

A 2009 production of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, performed at the Salzburg Festiva

Music is so emotionally overwhelming that it pushes the discursive and explanatory roles of language aside – and it is part of the job of the libretto writer to get out of its way. Even in Handel’s Messiah we recall lyrical fragments more than whole stanzas. “Unto us a child is born, “How beautiful are the feet…” “All we, like sheep”. When we think through our experience of our favourite oratorios, our most important pop songs, our favourite operas, they are almost always the experience of a forceful fragment – three or four words – “How beautiful are the feet”, or “Shake it off”.

It is a mysterious, semi-physical response, in which the audience does as much work as the artists. It works or it doesn’t. Small fragments of sound and sense strike our hearts as shrapnel strikes our skin. They lodge and wound us, independent of their intended trajectory. The audience responds or it doesn’t. The audience is less like a crew of supercilious analysts and more like a magnet set to one pole or the other. If the pole is right, the audience is drawn irresistibly to the sound on stage. If it isn’t, no amount of seduction or intelligence can draw them in, any more than a physical magnet can be made to adhere to metal by good will or affection. Sung words belong more fully to the world of ritual and routine, of incantation and mother’s murmurings, than to the fully lucid and well-lit world of argument. The words work or they don’t.

Sigrid Thornton in an australian production of A Little Night Music, 2009

Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns” is sung by Desiree (Sigrid Thornton) in this 2009 production of A Little Night Music.

The one thing I have learned through the process is this – our minds make meaning out of music by not making too much meaning out of it. One learns as a librettist to tiptoe to the edge of argument, and then back off to the limbo-land of implication and indirection. The most popular lyric of Stephen Sondheim is, after all, the most offhand – a rueful farewell, but exactly to whom or exactly why we don’t always know. I hear the producer or the scriptwriter asking “Send in the clowns? Shouldn’t it be call off the clowns?” But in the clowns must come for reasons only clowns and composers know.

I have not learned why music matters most – but I have learned a great deal about the power of voices, the limits of language to insist and its power to invoke, and about the mysterious magnetism that passes between an audience and its art. Above all, I have learned that musicians are a superior race. We are lucky to share this planet – or any other – with them.

  • Adam Gopnik has lived in Paris and wrote the book Paris to the Moon

A Point of View is usually broadcast on Fridays on Radio 4 at 20:50 BST and repeated Sundays 08:50 BST

GOD, INFINITY AND THE MöBIUS UNIVERSE

by Kenneth Harper Finton ©2015  (03.14.15, 9:26:43)

Beyond the edges of the universe is an infinity of nothingness. In order to understand existence, we need to attempt to understand this infinity. Infinity is not emptiness or space. It is has no beginning and no ending. In our minds, infinity is a concept, an idea where everything that is probable is possible. In mathematics and literature, infinity is a series of events and ideas and numbers that have no endings. Mathematics stretches into infinity from the start at zero. There is no end to numbers. They constantly become bigger and bigger.

THE UNIVERSE IS A PLANE 

The universe is flat and shaped by geometric principles according to the latest astronomical observations.That time and space are bent is a fact that is well proven mathematically.

A Möbius strip made with a piece of paper and tape. If an ant were to crawl along the length of this strip, it would return to its starting point having traversed the entire length of the strip (on both sides of the original paper) without ever crossing an edge.

A Möbius strip made with a piece of paper and tape. If an ant were to crawl along the length of this strip, it would return to its starting point having traversed the entire length of the strip (on both sides of the original paper) without ever crossing an edge.

Anything curved on a flat plane (i.e., the universe) will eventually return to its starting point and start the journey again. If the universe is in the form of a möbius strip, as some have come to believe, then it curves back upon itself so that it has no beginning nor ending. it repeats itself endlessly. A möbius strip has one boundary. A line drawn on this strip does not cross its point of origin until it has traversed both sides of the paper. In doing this, the line doubles the original size as opposed to a line drawn on a piece of paper not joined with a twist. A good explanation of this is found in the Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Möbius_strip

infinity

The möbius strip with one twist and pinched in the middle looks like the symbol for infinity. Some believe that our universe is actualized as a möbius strip with a finite number of twists of the vibrating strings in space. It is finite in that by going forward it transverses time and space, turning in a warped circle as it experiences its own starting point. It recurs over and over again, perhaps eternally.

The universe came from nothing; the nothing that formed the being and existence of the universe is the Infinite. That this has to be so is inescapable. People have long argued about first causes, but nothingness had to come into existence. There is no other logical answer. Infinity is needed to have the Finite. A solitary, non-dual Infinity precedes the yin and yang of existence itself.

The nothing that is beyond the boundary of our universe is Infinity. It both exits and does not exist simultaneously. It has never been actualized because it has no dimension. Nothingness has everything to do with being and existence because everything is made manifest through nothingness. Nothingness is not temporal. It is non-dimensional. The closest we can get to it is to know that it is not a thing at all, but ‘NoThing’.

Nothing actually does exist and it has always been that way.

The duality of being disappears in the infinity of nothingness. When we realize that nothing really exists, this is not the height of nihilistic thought, but a universal condition that implores understanding. The sentence itself implies that nothing does exist, but that nothing is neither material nor spacial nor a part of time. This discovery does not negate the chemical composition of matter in our actual world, but helps to further refine its essence. That nothing exists does not mean that the world is an illusion or organic chemistry cannot help us lead better lives. It means that the world developed from nothing and exists despite its ghostly origin. No matter how you try to rationalize it away, the world had to come from nothing at all because that is the supreme and only reality. Within time, space is filled with virtual energy, not nothingness. We can even tap this source for power and we will probably draw most of our power usage from that source in the future.

See:  https://scriggler.com/DetailPost/Opinion/10265

A TALE OF TWO POINTS

In a single dimension we have a point. In two dimensions we have a line and other flat objects that exist on a plane. In three dimensions we have depth by the actualizing of space. In the fourth dimension we have time by the actualizing of duration in spacetime. Möbius forms are the gateway to the fourth dimension.

[See references to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holographic_principle at end of article.]

Bonan-Jeener's Klein Surface 2 
Courtesy of Jos Leys

Bonan-Jeener’s Klein Surface 2 
Courtesy of Jos Leys

But what does this have to do with the concept of infinity, which we have determined is beyond time and space? Infinity, in this sense, is non-existence. It is nothing. Nothingness has everything to do with being and existence because it is the source of everything. The actualized world is similar to a holographic projection on the one boundary that separates our actual world from the Infinity of spirit and nothingness. Infinity actualizes the world and universe that we conceive on the plane boundary between our existent universe and the infinity of nothingness.

Upon the closest of inspection there is much nothing in matter. Most of it is space. Of the particles that make up the actualizations of matter, many are wave forms without mass and small particles composed of energy that were originally waves that have been actualized into having mass. There are not really any smallest particles. Wave forms that have no mass are spread completely through space. In quantum physics, this is called vacuum energy.

[See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_energy .]

This phenomena is a manifestation of infinity within time. This is the lesson we should learn from quantum physics. The universe about us is a ghostly materialization, a projection from the infinity of nothingness. Our physical world can best be understood as information–events and experience actualized from an infinite pool of possibilities and potentialities.

The connection of the physical world to the unrealized nothingness of infinity is partly explained by the idea of unrealized potential that has never come onto being. One part of this physical world has been realized and actualized. We call this the present and the past. It exists in the dimensions of space and time. We imagine it to be the future. The world itself is part of an infinite system that comes from a zero dimension without time and space.

In zero dimension there is not even a point, as points are one dimensional. This also means there is no point to infinity. It simply is. The math and the patterns which make up our physical world have always existed by necessity. These are the laws that create the pattens and systems that make up our actuality. Those laws and patterns of geometry, like infinity, have no beginning nor ending. They did not evolve into laws, but nature followed these mathematical laws. Beginnings and endings are defined by space and time. Since space and time and nature itself follows the forms of process expressed in mathematical principles, then these principles have to precede existence and are existent in some manner outside of time and space.

How this can be so in something that does not exist is perplexing. What is it that can both not exist and exist at the same moment? Is there something in that nothingness after all? If so, what is it? It is what we can call infinity. Infinity can probably best be defined as the awareness which precedes consciousness. We have to come to grips with what infinity is, as all things finite are necessarily incorporated in infinity.

You cannot have a finite world without infinity. Yet, infinity has no known plan or purpose, as religions lead us to believe. It has no need for a point because a point is dimensional. Even plans and purposes are human values and ideas. There are both mathematical and communicational uses for a point. In math, it refers to a particular object that cannot be defined in terms of previously defined objects. In communication, it is an idea that you use to try to express a view from information.

That infinity has no point is an expression of both definitions. Further, because this infinity is present in everything (there is no smallest anything), everything is part of infinity. That is all there is. All is nothingness and matter is incidental. Matter simply records events. Events are objects relating to one another. This relating is information. This nothingness is not the God of religions, it is not Void, it is not a master plan. It is another dimension to which we have no access at all because we are in time and space and infinity is not.

Infinity can be pictured as the spirit hidden in the nothingness that is everywhere and present before the universe and world was materialized. It is complete within itself and holds all that is made manifest and actualized. It is the one thing that exists and does not exist simultaneously. That which is actualized is part of infinity itself. The Native American term of Great Spirit seems to be a valid expression and description of how infinity is actualized into being. Infinity is an idea.

Although it is a human idea and discovery, it appears and is made manifest without the need for humans at all. Infinity precedes existence itself. Infinity projects nothingness into existence through the actualization of dimensions such as space and time, depth and duration. It should not surprise us then that we are a part of an existence whose most basic substance is simply an idea formed from imagination and built through the accumulation of information. It should not surprise us that we are actualized from the infinite spirit of nothingness. Infinity is timeless and eternal. For infinity, there is only a manifested Now. Time and space is not a concern in a zero dimension.The world and the universe about us is finite and repetitive because of its dimensions, its circular shape and orbits and the processes that infinity forms for existence to be actualized.

This video may be a bit misleading if you find that the future is fully determined. The idea is to show that in infinity all time is now. How it is recorded and how the future comes to be will be addressed later. The future is still undetermined and not actualized. It exists in an infinite field of things that can potentially happen and is not realized until free will and choice makes a decision and action that brings it into being. Similarly, the past has already been actualized and the record of it exists in the matter in the world we inhabit.

According to quantum theory, there are at least twenty-three dimensions that we cannot see in our three dimensional world. Everything that ever existed still lives there in some form. That would have to be the case if there is only a NOW.

There is a newly discovered ability to freeze light. Perhaps that has something to do with the way the world freezes out existence moment by moment. That the past is still in the now as much as the present and the future is surely an existential revelation that can have great emotional repercussions on our individual lives. See: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130806111151.htm

To my way of thinking, we are as eternal as the now. Those experiences that we lived and loved have moved on in time but exist as memories etched in mental processes. Why should death and extinction reign in a universe that only contains the Now? Somewhere, someway, we are missing something. The people we loved and lost still live in our memories. Those things should be able to live on as mental processes in infinity as well. Why should anything be lost in infinity if infinity can hold all that exists or can exist? If energy cannot be created of destroyed, then why should we as living organisms composed of energy be less than energy?

Nothing is lost. Nothing is gained. Why? Because all is nothing, all is spirit, all is unconscious awareness. That is what the world is about: the growing of unconscious matter into organisms and the perceptions of conscious experiences made manifest in myriads of forms and times. Time is the creator and space is the place where worldly existence dwells.

Consciousness is that which observes and experiences this world and makes it actual. Consciousness is eternal in that it too springs directly from the awareness of the Infinity which has no being and is not of time and space.

The Concept of Heaven

The concept of heaven has always been disturbing and very unclear. When we abandon our ideas of heaven, do we gain eternity? Heaven cannot logically be without pain. One cannot live in eternal happiness and still recognize joy. Heaven, as idealized by many, makes no logical sense whatever. It breaks the natural laws that form the basis of our dualistic world. Can you even imagine a man who had dozens of dogs and many wives reunited with all of them in a blissful afterlife? No, heaven would have to be devoid of emotion and dead to logical thinking and the imagination.

Infinity, however, can hold all possibilities that can become probable. It can hold endless fields of probabilities and possibilities that can come into existence over endless amounts of time and space. It can hold alternative universes where things evolved differently. It can hold parallel universes that mirror our own.

Our flat universe is just one dimension of many. Like a book laid flat and stacked on the projection screen of time, universes can be viewed as pages of a book,each page holding another dimension, each book telling of a different experience. Deep within our consciousness is the observer who experiences all things. Our lives and times are a product of these observations as we seem to be both the observer and the observed. We are not as limited in time and space as we think ourselves to be. It simply appears to be that way.

Logic is an important component of universal laws. Does this mean that the universe is logical?  Mathematics and logic both testify that this is likely so.

Does this mean that the universe has a plan and a place for everything? No, it does not mean that. People have plans. The universe has occurrences. There is a mighty gulf between the two concepts. Infinity seems to be more an informational library than a creative master or designer. The geometry, the mathematics and the logic has always been hidden away in the zero dimension. They are rediscovered as we grow in our own understanding.

What fun would it be to spill a huge bag or marbles into the universe and track them all through eternity? What purpose could possibly be shown by the predestination of the course of these simple glass balls? Surprise and wonder are the basic rewards of our existence. Why should it be otherwise?

It is  much more likely that the universe is a random experience and that we are the ones who assign arbitrary value to that which was never meant to be more than a a play to occupy the time and space we envision.

The universe is you and me. We are not only a part of the universe, but we are the universe. It is only our self-consciousness and the actuality of our existence that keeps us from knowing the reality.

As we were before birth, so will be be after death. We sleep without awareness of time and the spirit within us awakens again and again. Time itself is a viewpoint, an experience of actions and reactions within a specific dimension. There are an infinite number of dimensions. And this is a good thing. We all love experience and that is what the universe is all about.

REFERENCES:

MOBIUS knot“Cutting a Möbius strip along the center line with a pair of scissors yields one long strip with two full twists in it, rather than two separate strips; the result is not a Möbius strip. This happens because the original strip only has one edge that is twice as long as the original strip. Cutting creates a second independent edge, half of which was on each side of the scissors. Cutting this new, longer, strip down the middle creates two strips wound around each other, each with two full twists.

“If the strip is cut along about a third of the way in from the edge, it creates two strips: One is a thinner Möbius strip – it is the center third of the original strip, comprising 1/3 of the width and the same length as the original strip. The other is a longer but thin strip with two full twists in it – this is a neighborhood of the edge of the original strip, and it comprises 1/3 of the width and twice the length of the original strip.

“Other analogous strips can be obtained by similarly joining strips with two or more half-twists in them instead of one. For example, a strip with three half-twists, when divided lengthwise, becomes a strip tied in a trefoil knot. (If this knot is unravelled, the strip is made with eight half-twists in addition to an overhand knot.) A strip with N half-twists, when bisected, becomes a strip with N + 1 full twists. Giving it extra twists and reconnecting the ends produces figures called paradromic rings.”

Vacuum energy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article needs attention from an expert in Physics. Please add a reason or a talk parameter to this template to explain the issue with the article. WikiProject Physics (or its Portal) may be able to help recruit an expert.(November 2010)

Vacuum energy is an underlying background energy that exists in space throughout the entire Universe. One contribution to the vacuum energy may be from virtual particles which are thought to be particle pairs that blink into existence and then annihilate in a timespan too short to observe. They are expected to do this everywhere, throughout the Universe. Their behavior is codified in Heisenberg’s energy–time uncertainty principle. Still, the exact effect of such fleeting bits of energy is difficult to quantify.

The effects of vacuum energy can be experimentally observed in various phenomena such as spontaneous emission, the Casimir effect and the Lamb shift, and are thought to influence the behavior of the Universe on cosmological scales. Using the upper limit of the cosmological constant, the vacuum energy of free space has been estimated to be 10−9 joules (10−2 ergs) per cubic meter.[1] However, in both quantum electrodynamics (QED) and stochastic electrodynamics (SED), consistency with the principle of Lorentz covariance and with the magnitude of the Planck constant requires it to have a much larger value of 10113 joules per cubic meter.[2][3] This huge discrepancy is known as the vacuum catastrophe.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holographic_principle

In 1993, the physicist Gerard ‘t Hooft put forward the holographic principle, which explains that the information about an extra dimension is visible as a curvature in a spacetime with one fewer dimension. For example, holograms are three-dimensional pictures placed on a two-dimensional surface, which gives the image a curvature when the observer moves. Similarly, in general relativity, the fourth dimension is manifested in observable three dimensions as the curvature path of a moving infinitesimal (test) particle. Hooft has speculated that the fifth dimension is really the spacetime fabric.

The physical universe is widely seen to be composed of “matter” and “energy”. In his 2003 article published in Scientific American magazine, Jacob Bekenstein summarized a current trend started by John Archibald Wheeler, which suggests scientists may “regard the physical world as made of information, with energy and matter as incidentals.” Bekenstein asks “Could we, as William Blake memorably penned, ‘see a world in a grain of sand,’ or is that idea no more than ‘poetic license,’”[14] referring to the holographic principle.

Unexpected Connection

Bekenstein’s topical overview “A Tale of Two Entropies”[15] describes potentially profound implications of Wheeler’s trend, in part by noting a previously unexpected connection between the world of information theory and classical physics. This connection was first described shortly after the seminal 1948 papers of American applied mathematician Claude E. Shannon introduced today’s most widely used measure of information content, now known as Shannon entropy. As an objective measure of the quantity of information, Shannon entropy has been enormously useful, as the design of all modern communications and data storage devices, from cellular phones to modems to hard disk drives and DVDs, rely on Shannon entropy.

In thermodynamics (the branch of physics dealing with heat), entropy is popularly described as a measure of the “disorder” in a physical system of matter and energy. In 1877 Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann described it more precisely in terms of the number of distinct microscopic states that the particles composing a macroscopic “chunk” of matter could be in while still looking like the same macroscopic “chunk”. As an example, for the air in a room, its thermodynamic entropy would equal the logarithm of the count of all the ways that the individual gas molecules could be distributed in the room, and all the ways they could be moving.

Energy, matter, and information equivalence

Shannon’s efforts to find a way to quantify the information contained in, for example, an e-mail message, led him unexpectedly to a formula with the same form as Boltzmann’s. In an article in the August 2003 issue of Scientific American titled “Information in the Holographic Universe”, Bekenstein summarizes that “Thermodynamic entropy and Shannon entropy are conceptually equivalent: the number of arrangements that are counted by Boltzmann entropy reflects the amount of Shannon information one would need to implement any particular arrangement…” of matter and energy. The only salient difference between the thermodynamic entropy of physics and Shannon’s entropy of information is in the units of measure; the former is expressed in units of energy divided by temperature, the latter in essentially dimensionless “bits” of information, and so the difference is merely a matter of convention.

The holographic principle states that the entropy of ordinary mass (not just black holes) is also proportional to surface area and not volume; that volume itself is illusory and the universe is really a hologram which is isomorphic to the information “inscribed” on the surface of its boundary.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four-dimensional_space

Vectors Mathematically four-dimensional space is simply a space with four spatial dimensions, that is a space that needs four parameters to specify a point in it. For example, a general point might have position vector a, equal to This can be written in terms of the four standard basis vectors (e1, e2, e3, e4), given by so the general vector a is Vectors add, subtract and scale as in three dimensions. The dot product of Euclidean three-dimensional space generalizes to four dimensions as It can be used to calculate the norm or length of a vector, and calculate or define the angle between two vectors as Minkowski spacetime is four-dimensional space with geometry defined by a nondegenerate pairing different from the dot product: As an example, the distance squared between the points (0,0,0,0) and (1,1,1,0) is 3 in both the Euclidean and Minkowskian 4-spaces, while the distance squared between (0,0,0,0) and (1,1,1,1) is 4 in Euclidean space and 2 in Minkowski space; increasing actually decreases the metric distance. This leads to many of the well known apparent “paradoxes” of relativity. The cross product is not defined in four dimensions. Instead the exterior product is used for some applications, and is defined as follows: This is bivector valued, with bivectors in four dimensions forming a six-dimensional linear space with basis (e12, e13, e14, e23, e24, e34). They can be used to generate rotations in four dimensions.

How to Write an Award-Winning Novel starring… The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

(image via wikimedia)

Originally posted on Dysfunctional Literacy:

In some ways, it’s better to write an award-winning novel than to be a best-selling author.  You might make more money with a best-seller, but in a few years your book could be forgotten, lost in the ash heap of other replaced best-sellers.  On the other hand, if you win an award like the Pulitzer Prize, your book will be on that list forever.  Even if your Pulitzer Prize winning novel isn’t read much after a few decades, the title will still be on the list.  As long as there are literary critics, there will be a Pulitzer, and as long as there’s a Pulitzer, your book title and name will be on that list.

Reading a Pulitzer Prize winning novel isn’t always easy.  In 7th grade I was forced to read The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings.  Yeesh!  Does anybody read The Yearlinganymore?  Back then, I disliked it, and I haven’t gone back to see if I was wrong to dislike it.  In 9th grade we were forced to read To Kill a Mockingbird, but at least nobody hated it.  If kids hated it, they kept it to themselves.  Even then, students knew it was wrong to hate that book.

As an adult, I read The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara because I went through a Civil War phase (without growing a long beard and dressing up in old musty uniforms).  I read The Shipping News because everybody else in my writers group had read it (but I don’t remember a thing about it).  I recently read The Road by Cormac McCarthy and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

Writing a novel that’s considered for a Pulitzer Prize isn’t easy either.  An author usually has to do more than just tell the story.  An author has to use literary devices that catch readers’ and judges’ attention.  If devices like symbolism and figurative language aren’t enough, authors then have to throw in some literary gimmicks too.  A gimmick is a device that’s easy to do but doesn’t really add anything to the story.

For example, some Pulitzer Prize winning novels (The Road and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) don’t use quotation marks for dialogue.  Maybe leaving out quotation marks makes dialogue more meaningful than dialogue with quotation marks, but I’m not sure.  I’ve always used quotation marks with dialogue.  That’s how I was taught, but I’ve never won a Pulitzer Prize.

The Road also used nameless characters like “the man” and “the boy” (I probably shouldn’t have put them in quotation marks since the book doesn’t use them at all).  Plus, there was a double space between every paragraph, even the one sentence dialogue paragraphs that didn’t have any quotation marks.  I don’t know if The Roadwould have won a Pulitzer if the characters had had names, or if the spaces between paragraphs were normal, or if the author had used quotation marks.  It still probably would have been a good book.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, along with no quotation marks, used several other literary gimmicks.  The novel had really long sentences with lots of Spanish and Dominican slang thrown in too.  The story was told out of order from several different characters’ points-of-view.  Plus, there were lots of nerd culture references.  Even though I’m a fan of nerd culture references, I thought there were way too many nerd culture references in this book.  Even nerd writers for The Big Bang Theory probably think there were too many nerd culture references inTBWLOOW.  I’m not saying you need to use nerd culture references to win a Pulitzer.  You need to pick a topic and drown your novel in references, like Donna Tartt did with the topic of art in The Goldfinch.

But if you want to emulate a Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction that uses a ton of literary gimmicks, try  A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.

A Visit from the Goon Squad uses six literary gimmicks (that I noticed):

  1. Telling the story out of order.
  2. Switching points of view (3rdto 1st to 3rd…)
  3. Switching tenses in various segments (past to present to past…)
  4. a chapter of only power point/ flow charts (don’t use an e-reader for this book)
  5. lots of stream-of-consciousness
  6. And the worst gimmick ever… 2ndperson present tense!  I call it the worst gimmick ever because I tried using it in a college writing class, got yelled at by my writing instructor for using it, and then two months later Bright Lights, Big Citybecame a bestseller. Now I’m biased against 2nd person present tense.

At any rate, six literary gimmicks is a lot for one book.  There were so many literary gimmicks, I expected the author to resort to the 1st person present tense narration death scene.  I was wrong.  Instead, she used the 2nd person present tense narration death scene.    I hate being wrong.

Having so many literary gimmicks in one novel makes it look (to me) like the author is trying too hard.  My writing instructor might have declared that using all these gimmicks took away from any merits A Visit from the Goon Squad had as a story.  But he probably would have shut up once he realized the novel won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

*****

What do you think?  Is using so many gimmicks good story-telling, or is it trying too hard?  What other literary gimmicks have you noticed in award-winning novels?  How many literary gimmicks should an author be limited to?  What literary gimmicks do you dislike the most?  If you were limited to one literary gimmick, which one would it be?  If you had a choice, would you rather write a bestselling selling novel or a major award winning novel?

Dysfunctional Literacy

(image via wikimedia) (image via wikimedia)

In some ways, it’s better to write an award-winning novel than to be a best-selling author.  You might make more money with a best-seller, but in a few years your book could be forgotten, lost in the ash heap of other replaced best-sellers.  On the other hand, if you win an award like the Pulitzer Prize, your book will be on that list forever.  Even if your Pulitzer Prize winning novel isn’t read much after a few decades, the title will still be on the list.  As long as there are literary critics, there will be a Pulitzer, and as long as there’s a Pulitzer, your book title and name will be on that list.

Reading a Pulitzer Prize winning novel isn’t always easy.  In 7th grade I was forced to read The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings.  Yeesh!  Does anybody read The Yearling anymore?  Back then, I disliked…

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