Saturday, October 8, 2011

Passive Voice and Information Underload

Geoffrey Pullam writes in defense of passive voice. He asks:
More generally, do the writing tutors of the world really think we should not report that a politician has been shot until we can specify the gunman?
Unknown gunman shoots Senator X. It's really not that hard and, as by the way, lets the reader know exactly what is currently known or not known about the event.  In another case, he argues:
The piece I was writing—a sad task—was an obituary. In one sentence I explained how I had met the deceased: “I was introduced to her while she was visiting California.” My helpful colleague asked: “Why the passive? What’s wrong with ‘We met …’?”—and the answer is: Nothing at all, except that it omits the very thing I was saying, namely that this was an actual old-fashioned introduction, not a random encounter in an airport bar. So I ignored that well-intended advice.
If the introduction is so important: A mutual acquaintance introduced me to . . . . Once again, the reader gets all the information necessary to make sense out of the event and, surely, if an event is important enough to introduce, it's important enough to explicate fully.  Passive fails to provide all the necessary information in order to fully understand, usually by leaving out  agents and actors.

His big mistake, I would argue, is that he thinks that people don't like the Passive Voice because of Strunk and White, which is -- again I think, wrong. It's about short declarative sentences and imparting  information. Plus and also, its usually advice reserved for papers and reports, as opposed to Obits, poetry, and novels.

I Know He Is Trying to be Funny; but, He's Right.

Over to the NRO Victor David Hanson, of all people, halfway understands the Occupy/99% guys and dolls. He needs, obviously, to include all the malefactors from his "side" of the ledger. But babysteps and all that. The comments on the post, on the other hand, are straight out of John Birch. Why it's almost as if Hanson is trying to be ironical, which can't be the case, can it?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Erin Burnet once argued that poisoned toys are necessary because they are cheap or cheap toys are necessarily poisonous or something or another.

Oddly enough, she find the Occupy Wall Street Crowd beneath contempt.

First Things First

First they ignore you, then they laugh, then they fight, then you win. Three down one to go.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wrong Yet Again

Eric Loomis and Matthew Yglesias are having an argument about technology and its ability to improve one's life. As Loomis points out, with becoming politeness, he knows quite a bit more than Yglesias about the subject under consideration and, as is usually the case, Yglesias misses the point.

I'd like to make a point about facts, reality, and Yglesias' resistance to both. Yglesias argues that
Once upon a time, middle class American households had to spend an incredible amount of time washing laundry and dishes by hand. Nowadays, the mass public can afford dishwashers and washer/dryers.
The facts of the matter are that technology hasn't changed the amount of time involved in managing a household; it just shifted it around:
Yet despite the introduction of electricity, running water, and "labor-saving" household appliances, time spent on housework did not decline. Indeed, the typical full-time housewife today spends just as much time on housework as her grandmother or great-grandmother. In 1924, a typical housewife spent about 52 hours a week in housework. Half a century later, the average full-time housewife devoted 55 hours to housework. A housewife today spends less time cooking and cleaning up after meals, but she spends just as much time as her ancestors on housecleaning and even more time on shopping, household management, laundry, and childcare.
So the problem here is that the best example he can come up with relies on his usual commitment to factiness while avoiding reality. This is made even more abundantly clear when one considers Yglesias admission that the alleged benefits of technology
hasn’t happened. But the world would be a better place if it had.
This isn't, as Yglesias seems to think, a defense of technological optimism; it's a reason to reject it. Relying on the automaticism of technological innovation has, time and again, failed to achieve the utopian society technological optimists promised.  The time has come, as the Walrus put it, to speak of many things chief amongst them the need to create the world we want by changing the rules, as it were, creating the world we want. Second among them is the admission that proponents of automaticism are apologists for a world made in the image and likeness of those with money.

As is his wont, Yeglesias argues that if only the world wasn't so stubbornly the way it is instead of the way he wishes it were he'd be right.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I Call Bullshit

Ryan Lizza suggests that
 next year is looking very much like a Republican year
On the basis of what now? There is not one Republican contender who scores better that Obama; the Tea Party is nearly as disliked as Palin. Perry's recent polling plummet indicates the the more people know about the idiots running for the Republican nomination the less they like them. So, and I mean this seriously, who among the Republicans is a "serious" candidate for office? 

The rising tide is those who oppose all that Christie et alia stand for. As too Obama's electoral outlook see also. And, for that matter, this in which a crazy denounces another crazy.

Quick Point, Grumpily Made

To the nitwit who nearly run  into me on the multiuser path, it wasn't the pedestrian's fault that you crossed over and nearly ran into me; it was your fault for failing to be in control of your bike. Ride, why don't you, like you know what you're doing.

Stupid People

I really like The New Yorker.  But there are staff writers who, I would argue, ought not have jobs.  John Cassidy is one such nonesuch. He solidified his standing as master of the vicious aside that destroys credibility with this:
What does Christie represent? Union-bashing? School vouchers? Unhealthy diets?
Why is that people who are more than well paid for being serious commentators on this or that matter of alleged import suffer from the delusions that they are funny and that sophomoric "snark" is funny. Twit.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Luddites Had a Point

If you can replace many workers with a machine all of those workers are out of a job and their children need to find new careers. As each career becomes victim to increased productivity most workers have nothing to do. Because they have nothing to do they earn nothing; earning nothing they have no means of taking care of themselves. Not being able to take care of themselves, they die or descend into some form of servile labor forced to compete with their fellows for some crappy, ill-paid job or another. This is, in fact, the story of mechanization from weaving to welding. Machines replace labor power as capital improves its profits and workers stand about cleaning the rich folks windows. The promise of robot labor and such like failed to account for the mass of unemployed and unemployable. A reasonable person surveying the current catastrophe, it seems to me, would conclude that the erroneous optimism was, you know, erroneous and shift gears or change horses or some other metaphor that includes the notion of being wrong. Not so our neoliberals. Rather they would condemn more of us to repeat the follies of the past. Efficiency, productivity, and machine power haven't yet, they seem to argue, created the utopia Neoliberalism promised; however, they insist, if we just continue . . .

What are we for? Work that offers remuneration sufficient to live. What are we against? Nearly 30 years of political decisions that make that impossible; a continued commitment to economic efficiency that dooms generations to vile underemployment. Consider or remember why it was that Solon reformed Athens.

Nun So Blind as Those Who Will Not Look

Today we were working on the Reformation and part of the discussion dealt with the Catholic Church's structure, popes, monks, nuns, priests, and laity.  At least one of the students was unclear if monks and nuns still existed. After straightening that out, I left to ride home and was about to cross a boulevard when I stopped because there was a car approaching.  On the other side of the street was a kiddie wink, maybe 12 or thirteen, who bolted onto the street and was about to get herself run over.  I took, I admit, one third of the Lord's name in vain, shortly after which both the car and the cyclist slammed on their brakes missing one another. I looked at the driver; she was a nun. Honest to goodness. The choice is yours look both ways before crossing or hope for divine intervention.

What They Really Really Want

Lot of tedious tedium inducing lovers of banalities and point missing have some time now been musing about the occupywallstreet 99 percent movements desires. Sort of like Ted Kennedy in The War at Home telling the anti-war protesters he knew what they were against now tell him what they were for. So you could read this or consider the case of HP's failed CEO or the Koch Brothers or the now endemic economic inequality of 30 odd years of neoliberal orthodoxy or banks and their fees and conclude that they alike 99% of the population want crooks to be punished, the rich to be treated like other folks, and, in a more general sense, an opportunity to work at a job that pays a living wage and enjoy the refreshing beverage of their choice at the end of a day's labor, ideally sharing with a significant otherish thingy mabob.