17 Sep Read Both Martin Writing is Easy? and Ivins Is Texas America?? Write 1 page – 275-300 words – on one of the articles. What is the argument of the article and how well does the author
Read Both Martin “Writing is Easy” and Ivins “Is Texas America?”
Write 1 page – 275-300 words – on one of the articles. What is the argument of the article and how well does the author support and prove it? What is the most interesting part of the article and why?
Writing Is Easy! Steve Martin
I remembered when Stallone had turned in his first Rambo draft. Through all the rewrites, he was also quietly conducting experiments on the irregular movements of explosive sound. He conjectured that explosive sound will travel faster through air already jarred by another explosion, with the bizarre effect that between two simultaneous explosions, a perceiver will hear the farther explosion first. The studio head told me later that the studio wasn't too confident in the script at the time, bid the scientific work was so fascinating…
—From "The Nature of Matter and Its Antecedents” in Pure Drivel
Writing is one of the most easy, pain-free, and happy ways to pass the time in all the arts. For example, right now I am sitting in my rose garden and typing on my new computer. Each rose represents a story, so I'm never at a loss for what to write. I just look deep into the heart of the rose and read its story' and write it down through typing, which I enjoy anyway. I could be typing “kjfiu joewmv jiw" and would enjoy it as much as typing words that actually make sense. I simply relish the movement of my fingers on the key's. Sometimes, it is true, agony visits the head of a writer. At these moments, I stop writing and relax with a coffee at my favorite restaurant, knowing that words can be changed, rethought, fiddled with, and, of course, ultimately denied. Painters don’t have that luxury. If they go to a coffee shop, their paint dries into a hard mass.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
I would recommend to w'riters that they live in California, because here they can look up at the blue sky in between those moments of looking into the heart of a rose. I feel sorry for writers— and there are some pretty famous ones—who live in places like South America and Czechoslovakia, where I imagine it gets pretty dreary. These writers are easy to spot. Their books are often depressing and filled with disease and negativity'. If you’re going to write about disease, I would suggest that California is the place to do it. Dwarfism is never funny, but look at the result when it was dealt with out here in California. Seven happy dwarfs. Can you imagine seven dwarfs in Czechoslovakia? You would get seven melancholic dwarfs at best, seven melancholic dwarfs with no handicapped-parking spaces.
LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA: WHY IT'S A BAD TITLE
I admit that “Love in die time of…” Is a great tide, so far. You’re reading along, you’re happy, it’s about love, I like die way die word time comes in there, something nice in the association of love and time, like a new word almost, lovetime: nice, nice feeling. Suddenly, the morbid Cholera appears. I was happy till then. ‘Dive in the Time of die Oozing Sores and Pustules'’ is probably an earlier, rejected tide of this book, written in a rat-infested tree house on an old Smith Corona. This writer, whoever he is, could have used a couple of weeks in Pacific Daylight lime.
I did a little experiment. I decided to take the following disheartening passage, which was no doubt written in some depressing place, and attempt to rewrite it under the influence of California:
I did a little experiment. I decided to take the following disheartening passage, which was no doubt written in some depressing place, and attempt to rewrite it under the influence of
“Most people deceive themselves with a pair of faiths: they believe in eternal memory (of people, things, deeds, nations) and in redressibility (of deeds, mistakes, sins, wrongs). Both are false faiths. In reality' the opposite is true: every thing will be forgotten and nothing will be redressed.” (Milan Kundera) Sitting in my garden, as the bees glide from flower to flower, I let the above paragraph filter through my mind. The following new' paragraph emerged:
“I feel pretty, oh so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and bright.”
Kundera was just too wordy. Sometimes the delete key is your greatest friend.
WRITER’S BLOCK: A MYTH
Writer’s block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol. Sure a writer can get stuck for a while, but when that happens to real authors, they simply go out and get an “as told to.” The Alternative is to hire yourself out as an “as heard from,” thus taking all the credit. It is also much easier to write when you have someone to “bounce” with. 'Phis is someone to sit in a room with and exchange ideas. It is good if the last name of the person you choose to bounce with is Salinger. I know a certain early-twentieth-century French writer, whose initials were M.P., who could have used a good bounce person. If he had, his title might have been the more correct Remembering Past Things instead of the clumsy one he used.
The other trick I use when I have a momentary stoppage is virtually foolproof, and I’m happy to pass it along. Go to an already published novel and find a sentence you absolutely adore. Copy it down in your manuscript. Usually that sentence will lead you naturally to another sentence; pretty soon your own ideas will start to flow. If they don’t, copy down the next sentence. You can safely use up to three sentences of someone else’s work—unless they’re friends; then you can use two. The odds of being found out are very slim, and even if you are, there’s no jail time.
CREATING MEMORABLE CHARACTERS
Nothing will make your writing soar more than a memorable character. If there is a memorable character, the reader will keep going back to the book, picking it up, turning it over in his hands, hefting it, and tossing it into the air. Here is an example of the jazzy uplift that vivid characters can offer:
“Some guys were standing around when in came this guy.” You are now on your way to creating a memorable character.
You have set him up as being a guy, and with that come all the reader’s ideas of what a guy is. Soon you will liven your character by using an adjective:
“But this guy was no ordinary guy, he was a red guy.”
This character, the red guy, has now popped into the reader’s imagination. He is a full-blown person, with hopes and dreams, just like the reader. Especially if the reader is a red guy. Now you might want to give the character a trait. You can inform the reader of the character trait in one of two ways. First, simply say what that trait is—for example,“but this red guy was different front most red guys, this red guy liked frappes.” The other is rooted in action—have the red guy walk up to a bar and order a frappe, as in:
“What’ll you have, red guy?”
“I’ll have a frappe.”
Once you have mastered these two concepts, vivid character writing combined with adjectives, you are on your way to becoming the next Shakespeare’s brother. And don’t forget to copyright any ideas you have that might be original. You don’t want to be caught standing by helplessly while your familiar “red guy" steps up to a bar in a frappe commercial.
Many very fine writers are intimidated when they have to write the way people really talk. Actually it’s quite easy. Simply lower your I.Q. by fifty and start typing!
Because topics are in such short supply, I have provided a few for writers who may be suffering in the darker climes. File some of these away, and look through them during the suicidal winter months.
Naked Belligerent Panties: This is a good sexy title with a lot of promise.
How about a diet book that suggests your free radicals don’t enter ketosis unless your insulin levels have been carbo-charged?
Something about how waves at the beach just keep coming and coming and how amazing it is (I smell a bestseller here).
Visions of Melancholy from a Fast-Moving Train. Some foreign writer is right now rushing to his keyboard, ready to pound on it like Horowitz. However, this title is a phony string of words with no meaning and would send your poor book to the “Artsy” section of Barnes and Noble, where— guess what—it would languish, be remaindered, and die.
A WORD TO AVOID
“Dagnabbit” will never get you anywhere with the Booker Prize people. Lose it.
I have two observations about publishers:
1. Nowadays, they can be either male or female. 2. They love to be referred to by the appropriate pronoun.
If your publisher is male, refer to him as “he.” If your publisher is female, “she” is considered more correct. Once you have established a rapport, “Babe” is also acceptable for either sex.
Once you have determined your pronoun usage, you are ready to “schmooze” your publisher, let’s say your favorite author is Dante. Call Dante’s publisher and say you’d like to invite them both to lunch. If the assistant says something like “But Dante's dead,” be sympathetic and say, “Please accept my condolences.” Once at lunch, remember never to be moody. Publishers like up, happy writers, although it’s impressive to suddenly sweep your arm slowly across the lunch table, dumping all the plates and food onto the floor, while shouting “Sic Semper Tyrannis!”
A DEMONSTRATION OF ACTUAL WRITING
It’s easy to talk about writing and even easier to do it. Watch:
Call me Ishmael. It was cold, very cold, here in the mountain town of Kilimanjaroville.© I could hear a bell. It was tolling. I knew exactly for who it was tolling, too. It was tolling for me,
To be read if I win:
Thank you very much for this great honor. It was a collaborative effort and I would like to thank those who gave their comments, criticisms and suggestions.
To be read if I don’t win:
You pigs, you idiots. You wouldn't know a good screenplay if it walked up to you and vomited on your shoe.
—Steve Martin's acceptance speech upon winning the “Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium” Writers Guild Award for Roxanne
Ishmael Twist,© a red guy who likes frappe. (Author’s note: I am now stuck. I walk over to a rose and look into its heart.) That’s right, Ishmael Twist.®
Finally, I can’t overstress the importance of having a powerful closing sentence.
Reprinted with permission from Pure Drivel by Steve Martin. Copy right © 1998 Share Productions, Inc . Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold or by calling (800 ) 759-0190.
POLITICS FEATURE NOVEMBER 17, 2003 ISSUE
By Molly Ivins
OCTOBER 30, 2003
Is Texas America?
Bush's home is a damn peculiar place.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In the 1920s The Nation published a series of articles by
prominent writers about their home states. We have recently
commissioned a number of contemporary writers to do the same. The
result is the just-published These United States (Nation Books), several
articles from which have appeared in these pages. This is the last.
Well, sheesh. I don’t know whether to warn you that because
George Dubya Bush is President the whole damn country is about
to be turned into Texas (a singularly horrible fate: as the country
song has it: “Lubbock on Everythang”) or if I should try to stand up
for us and convince the rest of the country we’re not all that insane.
Truth is, I’ve spent much of my life trying, unsuccessfully, to
explode the myths about Texas. One attempts to explain–with all
good will, historical evidence, nasty statistics and just a bow of
recognition to our racism–that Texas is not The Alamo starring John
Wayne. We’re not Giant, we ain’t a John Ford western. The first real
Texan I ever saw on TV was King of the Hill‘s Boomhauer, the guy
who’s always drinking beer and you can’t understand a word he says.
So, how come trying to explode myths about Texas always winds up
reinforcing them? After all these years, I do not think it is my fault.
The fact is, it’s a damned peculiar place. Given all the horseshit,
there’s bound to be a pony in here somewhere. Just by trying to be
honest about it, one accidentally underlines its sheer strangeness.
Here’s the deal on Texas. It’s big. So big there’s about five distinct
and different places here, separated from one another geologically,
topographically, botanically, ethnically, culturally and climatically.
Hence our boring habit of specifying East, West and South Texas,
plus the Panhandle and the Hill Country. The majority of the state’s
blacks live in East Texas, making it more like the Old South than
the Old South is anymore. West Texas is, more or less, like Giant,
except, like every place else in the state, it has an incurable
tendency toward the tacky and all the cowboys are brown. South
Texas is 80 percent Hispanic and a weird amalgam of cultures. You
get names now like Shannon Rodriguez, Hannah Gonzalez and
Tiffany Ruiz. Even the Anglos speak English with a Spanish accent.
The Panhandle, which sticks up to damn near Kansas, is High
Plains, like one of those square states, Nebraska or the Dakotas,
except more brown folks. The Hill Country, smack dab in the
middle, resembles nothing else in the state.
On the John Deere Picket Line in Iowa With UAW
Plus, plopped on top of all this, we have three huge cities, all among
the ten largest in the country. Houston is Los Angeles with the
climate of Calcutta, Dallas is Dutch (clean, orderly and conformist),
while San Antonio is Monterrey North. Many years ago I wrote of
this state: “The reason the sky is bigger here is because there aren’t
any trees. The reason folks here eat grits is because they ain’t got no
taste. Cowboys mostly stink and it’s hot, oh God, is it hot…. Texas is
a mosaic of cultures, which overlap in several parts of the state,
with the darker layers on the bottom. The cultures are black,
Chicano, Southern, freak, suburban and shitkicker. (Shitkicker is
dominant.) They are all rotten for women.” All that’s changed in
thirty years is that suburban is now dominant, shitkicker isn’t so
ugly as it once was and the freaks are now Goths or something. So it
could be argued we’re becoming more civilized.
In fact, it was always easy to argue that: Texas has symphony
orchestras and great universities and perfect jewels of art museums
(mostly in Fort Worth, of all places). It has lots of people who
birdwatch, write PhD theses on esoteric subjects and speak French,
for chrissake. But what still makes Texas Texas is that it’s ignorant,
cantankerous and ridiculously friendly. Texas is still resistant to
Howard Johnsons, Interstate highways and some forms of
phoniness. It is the place least likely to become a replica of
everyplace else. It’s authentically awful, comic and weirdly
charming, all at the same time.
Culturally, Texans rather resemble both Alaskans (hunt, fish, hate
government) and Australians (drink beer, hate snobs). The food is
quite good–Mexican, barbecue, chili, shrimp and chicken-fried
steak, an acquired taste. The music is country, blues, folk mariachi,
rockabilly and everything else you can think of. Mexican music–
norteño, ranchero–is poised to cross over, as black music did in the
If you want to understand George W. Bush–unlike his daddy, an
unfortunate example of a truly Texas-identified citizen–you have to
stretch your imagination around a weird Texas amalgam: religion,
anti-intellectualism and machismo. All big, deep strains here, but
still an odd combination. Then add that Bush is just another li’l
upper-class white boy out trying to prove he’s tough.
The politics are probably the weirdest thing about Texas. The state
has gone from one-party Democrat to one-party Republican in
thirty years. Lyndon said when he signed the Civil Rights Act in
1964 that it would take two generations and cost the Democrats the
South. Right on both counts. We like to think we’re “past race” in
Texas, but of course East Texas remains an ugly, glaring exception.
After James Byrd Jr. was dragged to death near Jasper, only one
prominent white politician attended his funeral–US Senator Kay
Bailey Hutchison. Dubya, then governor, put the kibosh on the anti-
hate crimes bill named in Byrd’s memory. (The deal-breaker for
Bush was including gays and lesbians. At a meeting last year of the
Texas Civil Liberties Union board, vicious hate crimes against gays
in both Dallas and Houston were discussed. I asked the board
member from Midland if they’d been having any trouble with gay-
bashing out there. “Hell, honey,” she said, with that disastrous
frankness one can grow so fond of, “there’s not a gay in Midland
would come out of the closet for fear people would think they’re a
Among the various strains of Texas right-wingism (it is factually
incorrect to call it conservatism) is some leftover loony John
Birchism, now morphed into militias; country-club economic
conservatism, à la George Bush père; and the usual batty
antigovernment strain. Of course Texas grew on the tender mercies
of the federal government–rural electrification, dams, generations
of master pork-barrel politicians and vast subsidies to the oil and
gas industry. But that has never interfered with Texans’ touching
but entirely erroneous belief that this is the Frontier, and that in the
Old West every man pulled his own weight and depended on no one
else. The myth of rugged individualism continues to afflict a
generation raised entirely in suburbs with names like “Flowering
Forest Hills of Lubbock.”
The Populist movement was born in the Texas Hill Country, as
genuinely democratic an uprising as this country has ever known. It
produced legendary politicians for generations, including Ralph
Yarborough, Sam Rayburn, Lyndon and even into the 1990s, with
Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower. I think it is not gone, but
Texans retain an exaggerated sense of state identification, routinely
identifying themselves when abroad as Texans, rather than
Americans or from the United States. That aggravated
provincialism has three sources. First, the state is so big (though
not so big as Alaska, as they are sure to remind us) that it can take a
couple of days hard travel just to get out of it. Second, we reinforce
the sense of difference by requiring kids to study Texas history,
including roughly ten years as an independent country. In state
colleges, the course in Texas government is mandatory. Third, even
national advertising campaigns pitch brands with a Texas accent
here and certain products, like the pickup truck, are almost
invariably sold with a Texas pitch. (Makes sense: Texas leads the
nation with more than four million registered pickups.)
The founding myth is the Alamo. I was raised on the Revised
Standard Version, which holds that while it was stupid of Travis and
the gang to be there at all (Sam Houston told them to get the hell
out), it was still an amazing last stand. Stephen Harrigan in The
Gates of the Alamo is closer to reality, but even he admits in the end
there was something romantic and even noble about the episode,
like having served in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade during the
Spanish Civil War.
According to the demographers at Texas A&M (itself a source of
much Texas lore), Texas will become “majority minority” in 2008.
Unfortunately, we won’t see it in the voting patterns for at least a
generation, and by then the Republicans will have the state so tied
up by redistricting (recently the subject of a massive standoff, now
over, in the legislature), it’s unlikely to shift for another generation
beyond that. The Christian right is heavily dominant in the Texas
Republican Party. It was the genius of Karl Rove/George W. Bush to
straddle the divide between the Christian right and the country
club conservatives, which is actually a significant class split. The
politics of resentment plays a large role on the Christian right:
Fundamentalists are perfectly aware that they are held in contempt
by “the intellectuals.” (William Brann of Waco once observed, “The
trouble with our Texas Baptists is that we do not hold them under
water long enough.” He was shot to death by an irate Baptist.) In
Texas, “intellectual” is often used as a synonym for “snob.” George
W. Bush perfectly exemplifies that attitude.
Here in the National Laboratory for Bad Government, we have an
antiquated and regressive tax structure–high property, high sales,
no income tax. We consistently rank near the bottom by every
measure of social service, education and quality of life (leading to
one of our state mottoes, “Thank God for Mississippi”). Yet the state
is incredibly rich in more than natural resources. The economy is
now fully diversified, so plunges in the oil market can no longer
throw the state into the bust cycle.
It is widely believed in Texas that the highest purpose of
government is to create “a healthy bidness climate.” The legislature
is so dominated by special interests that the gallery where the
lobbyists sit is called “the owners’ box.” The consequences of
unregulated capitalism, of special interests being able to buy
government through campaign contributions, are more evident
here because Texas is “first and worst” in this area. That Enron was
a Texas company is no accident: Texas was also Ground Zero in the
savings-and-loan scandals, is continually the site of major ripoffs by
the insurance industry and has a rich history of gigantic chicanery
going way back. Leland Beatty, an agricultural consultant, calls
Enron “Billie Sol Estes Goes to College.” Economists call it “control
fraud” when a corporation is rotten from the head down. I
sometimes think Texas government is a case of control fraud too.
We are currently saddled with a right-wing ideologue sugar daddy,
James Leininger out of San Antonio, who gives immense campaign
contributions and wants school vouchers, abstinence education and
the like in return. The result is a crew of breathtakingly right-wing
legislators. This session, Representative Debbie Riddle of Houston
said during a hearing, “Where did this idea come from that
everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free
whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight
out of the pit of hell.”
Texans for Lawsuit Reform, aka the bidness lobby, is a major player
and has effectively eviscerated the judiciary with a two-pronged
attack. While round after round of “tort reform” was shoved
through the legislature, closing off access to the courts and
protecting corporations from liability for their misdeeds, Karl Rove
was busy electing all nine state Supreme Court justices. So even if
you should somehow manage to get into court, you are faced with a
bench noted for its canine fidelity to corporate
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