Monday, December 30, 2013

David Brooks Talks To Today's Youth About Writing

It's mostly about piles.

No kidding.
The Sidney Awards, Part 2

I tell college students that by the time they sit down at the keyboard to write their essays, they should be at least 80 percent done. That’s because “writing” is mostly gathering and structuring ideas.

For what it’s worth, I structure geographically. I organize my notes into different piles on the rug in my living room. Each pile represents a different paragraph in my column. The piles can stretch on for 10 feet to 16 feet, even for a mere 806-word newspaper piece. When “writing,” I just pick up a pile, synthesize the notes into a paragraph, set them aside and move on to the next pile. If the piece isn’t working, I don’t try to repair; I start from scratch with the same topic but an entirely new structure.

I wonder what the pile looked like that gave birth to this paragraph:
Maybe what was phony about Woodstock was not the pretense that somehow it was above money and material things. Perhaps what was phony was the pretense it was being led by rebellious young people against a corrupt establishment. Perhaps most people at Woodstock, like Jimmy Hendrix, really were quite happy with their upbringing and loved their families. But when they got amongst each other and the rebellious pose became de rigeur, they began to convince themselves they felt more alienated than they actually had any cause to be. Then their behavior become unmoored from normal family-influenced constraints; Jimmy Hendrix lost control and became Jimi, and that ambitious boy who only set out to become rich and make his father proud, ended up dead.
[Gilligan] is also public spirited. Though humble, he is forever filled with good-natured plans to make other people happy. He doesn’t have a narrow perspective, like the other characters—the Professor, or the Millionaire, or the Movie Star. He doesn’t want to mold other peoples’ lives for them. But because of him the island is a happy community—happier, the show continually implies, than the world the castaways are stranded from.

Though Cantor doesn’t make the connection, Bush is a lot like that...
ARE THE DEMOCRATS about to go insane? Are they about to decide that the reason they lost the 2002 election is that they didn't say what they really believe? Are they about to go into Paul Krugman-land, lambasting tax cuts, savaging Bush as a tool of the corporate bosses? Are they about to go off on a jag that will ensure them permanent minority status in every state from North Carolina to Arizona?
Competent Conservatives, Reactionary Liberals

We seem to be entering a period of competent conservatism and reactionary liberalism. George W. Bush has put together a cabinet long on management experience and practical skills. But liberal commentators and activists, their imaginations aflame, seem to be caught in a time warp, back in the days when Norman Lear still had hair. They are depicting John Aschroft as if he were George Wallace, Interior nominee Gale Norton as if she were the second coming of James Watt, and Labor nominee Linda Chavez as if she were Phyllis Schlafly with slightly darker skin. We could be in for a series of confrontations in which the two parties don't just hold different views, but live in different centuries.
Or this one:
Your perfect Bay Area denizen dresses in open-toed sandals with advanced polymer soles for extra traction during Sierra Club-sponsored day hikes amidst endangered coastal wetlands. He wakes up in the morning in his $4 million Victorian home with the renovated minimalist interior that cleverly recycles reclaimed poplar wood from a 16th-century monastery in the exposed ceiling beams. The Thai religious figures on his raw cedar mantelpiece make a statement about the need for inner peace in a world of commercial excess, and are widely admired when he holds mushroom tasting fund-raisers for Native American/Chicana Lesbian Dance troupes.
Or this one, that rips the lid off of the multicultural Commie hoax that is the Olympics
The propaganda machine reaches its climax during the only two ludicrous moments of the Olympic games, the opening and closing ceremonies. These ceremonies were fine when their major feature was the parade of nations. You could see the teams, the diversity of nations and cultures, the spirit of friendly but determined competition that is supposed to dominate the games. But over the years this parade has taken a back seat to the great propaganda show, often featuring cute children, multicultural cliches, and Up With People-style dance routines. The whole thing is designed to spread the message that we are all just one great big loving human family.
Or this one:
It’s not that Egypt doesn’t have a recipe for a democratic transition. It seems to lack even the basic mental ingredients.
Or this one:
It's wrong to describe an America in which the salt of the earth common people are preyed upon by this or that nefarious elite. It's wrong to tell the familiar underdog morality tale in which the problems of the masses are caused by the elites. The truth is, members of the upper tribe have made themselves phenomenally productive. They may mimic bohemian manners, but they have returned to 1950s traditionalist values and practices. They have low divorce rates, arduous work ethics and strict codes to regulate their kids. Members of the lower tribe work hard and dream big, but are more removed from traditional bourgeois norms. They live in disorganized, postmodern neighborhoods in which it is much harder to be self-disciplined and productive.
There are more.

So many more.

Thousands and thousands of piles' worth more.

Think about that for awhile.

From "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
...       I have measured out my life with coffee spoons; I know the voices dying with a dying fall Beneath the music from a farther room.   So how should I presume?


bluicebank said...

"I organize my notes into different piles on the rug in my living room. Each pile represents a different paragraph in my column."

For the first time, I became sad for David Brooks. Those two sentences could have been penned by anyone in an insane asylum. As suggested earlier: suicide watch.

D. said...

1. Mice leave similar pellets when they infest a dwelling;

2. The word "piles" is synonymous with a certain condition. However, I refuse to have him inflict that condition upon me.

3; That he could not deal with the '60s is his problem, not ours.

tony in san diego said...

"They have low divorce rates, arduous work ethics and strict codes to regulate their kids."

Except when one of them comes down with a bad case of affluenza!

dinthebeast said...

As a former motorcyclist, I'll just say that piles are one of the first things that come to mind whenever I read one of his paragraphs.
He does know that Hunter's Point, East Oakland, and North Richmond are in the Bay Area, right?

-Doug in Oakland

Strider said...

Stop, Drift. Will you stop, Drift?Stop, Drift. I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Drift. Drift13 345²2952, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a...fraid.

Kevin Wood said...

Good God, collecting that much hideous writing in one place may constitute a war crime.

Kathleen said...

Woodstock? Really? Woodf****ingsatock? "Liberal" Derangement System much? I'm a Baby Boomer Liberal and I never really was into "Woodstock" and what it "represented".

Anonymous said...

Good morning, Mr. Glass.

"The piles can stretch on for 10 feet to 16 feet, even for a mere 806-word newspaper piece"

**Shh. Don't tell Mr. Brooks, but you can open more than one document at a time in Microsoft Word. That little, animated paperclip is shedding a tear right now.**

Enjoy your day.

---Kevin Holsinger

marindenver said...

Do you think there is such a thing as peak cluelessness for BoBo?

steeve said...

The only possible way a whole pile can be needed to represent a simple little paragraph is if the pile contains all the controverting evidence. Then it would be a high, wide pile indeed.

Monster from the Id said...

For a second or so, I thought the title was "David Brooks talks to today's youth about whining".