Enough Bold

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’m besieged these days, as I’m sure we all are, by emails from the political, or quasi-political, organizations to which, in weak moments, I revealed even the mildest interest in hearing what they might have to say. Worse, I am sent missives, though they are more like missiles, at far less frequency, from my more assertive friends on matters political.

It works out, given what comes out of my mouth, and the impressions I apparently convey to other folks, that my proclivities are liberal in nature. Hence, most of the epistolary traffic that ends up in my mailbox derives from individuals with a similar bent (and I mean that in many senses of the word, particularly with the sense of the peculiarly compelling insult that was current among my friends back in the 1960s).

I wouldn’t ordinarily think that I’d say this in any context, but I prefer the mail from the "Truthouts" and even from the noxious "Moveon" to that from the amateurs who seem to have decided, at any particular moment, that the sky is falling, and only we, "we happy few, we band of brothers [though the latest email was from a ‘sister’]" stand between utter destruction and the fate of civilization as we know it (in third millennium America).

The glibness and slickness that the more established liberal organizations have developed aside (and I worked in marketing and marketing communications for over 30 years, so I know glib, and I know slick) is preferable to the Chicken Little style of rhetoric that pervades most home-grown campaigns. These individual rally-criers could learn a little bit from the pros (though the pros could learn something about the frequency with which they inundate the ‘Net — they’re as insidious and unavoidable as the fund-raisers on NPR stations — from the amateurs).

Perhaps the most vexing aspects of the emails I get to join the latest fray — one of the latest frays, by the way, is to give the Democratic caucus in the Senate the steel required to mount and sustain a filibuster; some of that steel, according to one strategist at least, will apparently have to come from moderate Republican forges: the object of the filibuster, the defeat of the nomination of one Samuel A. Alito, Jr. to the position of Associate Justice of the United States of America Supreme Court — are the rhetorical and typographic strategies of emphasis.

Curse the day (and I say this as a professional graphic designer, who has also taught the discipline in university) that civilians were shown how to make type on a computer boldface. What those civilians don’t learn, apparently, is that, to use a culinary metaphor, boldface is like pepper. A little goes a very long way. And some people really don’t like any spice at all.

The presumption of these warriors is that we (we happy few, etc.) are possibly too stunned or distracted at most times ever to put our brains in gear. In any event clearly there is the expectation that we are, for the time it takes to read an email concerning a matter "that will have an enormous impact on all our lives, and the lives of our children and grandchildren [O woe that the baby boom is about to enter its dotage…]," no longer susceptible to reasoned argument with the objective of raising us from what is apparently a generation-wide torpor, sufficiently long and sufficiently energetic enough to send a line or two to our Senatorial delegation.

Those who know me, indeed, those who merely read this blog, will know the irony of my advice that, at least in this case, shorter is better. Simpler is better. Indeed, as Einstein allegedly advised, make it as simple as possible, but no simpler. He might have added, "and don’t repeat yourself, not even once."

Hence, these emails, without exception are repetitive, redundant exhortations.

The famous St. Crispin’s Day speech, from Shakespeare, Henry V, the opposite of exhortation, but the model of inspiration (to the point of cliché, I shamefacedly admit) is 223 words, 1175 characters, including word spaces.

The last email I got, as I say, mustering the troops to "pull out all the stops" and presumably all the boldface, in two different weights of type, but mainly bold, and two different typefaces (for no particularly good reason), and get those Dems and Mod Republicans to filibuster their little hearts out, was 690 words, 4,624 characters (with spaces). And I assure you, not the least bit of inspiration to yours truly to do a damn thing.

Worse, the tone of the piece is the rhetorical equivalent of pure boldface (I have another friend, who resides largely on the Right side of the tracks, as it were, equally exhortatory, who had a habit of sending all email in ALL CAPS, but he started the practice as a novice; then he tried to plead as an excuse a problem with dyslexia; all in all it took about two years of invariable responses simply saying, stop putting everything in all caps or I won’t read it, and finally ignoring all emails altogether, to get him to stop; his emails are no less crazy or convincing today, but at least they’re readable). Bold-face exhortation. Like they say, white on rice. Yuch.

Perhaps it’s petty of me. Perhaps the reason for my inaction is purely psychological, self-defeating resentment of the messenger, and not the message. But I must say, it is not in response solely to the message, as the messenger in this case is an inveterate exhorter, foam-at-the-lips, and gleam in the eye and she lost me a long time ago — though I remain sympathetic to many of the causes, and I believe I remain, as I characterized above, a reasonable person in possession of my intellect, and susceptible to rational argument, and even responsive to reasonable call to action. She also has not learned the value of intelligent typography, even in so mundane a thing as email. Even when the fate of American and the World is at stake.

In this case, this entry in the blog is my rise to action. I have only one piece of advice.

Can the bold in every sense, and maybe next time I’ll give Teddy K, and Big John F. K. a buzz…

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Short Takes I

Reading Time: 5 minutes

DUTY FOR MEHMET ALI AĞJA

So here’s this Turkish nutball, who attempted to put the big sleep on Pope John Paul II back in the days, released back among us (is it still January? yes, just this month). Why he did it, heaven knows, also John Paul presumably, as the two put their heads together a couple of years after the assasination try and the Pope, in his largeness and holiness said what they talked about was between him and Ali. Certainly no one has gotten anything cogent out of the irrepressible Turk as to motive, before, during or since.

He’s been in a Turkish prison lately, for crimes not related to the attempted murder of a pope (because John Paul pardoned him, he somehow got off that hook). Ali had already killed somebody in Turkey, but that only warranted a short prison term, and he escaped anyway. He wasn’t in prison most recently for that misdeed, but another. The details are not important.

In any event, you’d think, or at least I would, that the guy would be like 65 by now. His attempt on the Pope was back in 1981 (and remember he already had a yellow sheet, as they call it on those NYC crime shows that are so addictive, and a prison record, back in Turkey, but who knows if they differentiate between juvenile offenses and any other kind in that place no one in the West is ever likely to comprehend). But no, he’s only 47. Which means he was 22 when he took a shot at putting a cap in the Pope’s ass (I know it’s irreverent; but we don’t blink when they talk that way on Law & Order, and they’re still talking about killing a human being… so, like, what? The Pope is more important than an African-American in Harlem, more deserving of like rhetorical niceties?)

One of the results of Ali’s checkered life, and the facts on his rap sheet, is that, according to Turkish law he must now serve in the military, as he never quite managed to fulfill that obligation before taking to a life of demento crimes.

Turkey. You know. On the edge of Europe. Eligible for membership in the European Union in less than a dozen years. Mainly Muslim. The bridge and gateway to Asia. Capital is Istanbul, the cradle of the Caliphate. When what we can no longer can politely call the Infidel had overrun a significant part of Asia Minor and, well, Europe, and kind of ran the civilized world, they were based in what is now Istanbul, which was the center of Muslim political power. Where that is now is up for grabs and is, arguably in any number of places, including a really big, say half-dozen, including Saudi Arabia, and going around the world from there.

There are those, especially Europeans, who are afraid that Istanbul may very well lay claim, still, to the title. And if Turkey is admitted to the European Union, well wouldn’t that be a nice kettle of lentils, my pretty?

So, Turkey. An enigma. A problem (a political problem). Cradle to many facets of what we now call civilization, though we’re reluctant to say it.

Turkey. Where at the moment they don’t quite have a handle on this little problem with avian flu, which is scaring the bejesus (not to mention the bemohammed) out of epidemiologists who make a living in the Western world. You’ll recall from your recent current events not only that Mehmet Ali was let out of prison (convicted murderer, convicted attempted assassin, convicted of a bunch of other crimes) in Turkey, but that the Turks couldn’t quite seem to bottle up a little outbreak of avian flu among their human population. Seems they sent out teams to destroy infected birds, but they only managed to be effective in front of TV reporting crews. In the really little, really poor villages and towns, grandmas and grandpas simply locked their chickens away, and who knows how many sick birds, not to mention healthy ones, have been overlooked.

Anyway, now we’ve got Mehmet Ali, buck private, soon to be assigned once he finishes basic training (which he badly needs, one would infer, as he kind of didn’t quite get the hang of using a gun on his own). I would guess even the Turks would like to put him somewhere where he won’t attract too much attention and maybe get it into his sick little head to pull some new caper that will just add to the pile of reasons, big and small, that would vote them out of the EU when the time comes.

Well, I’ve got the perfect solution.

I know what Mehmet Ali Ağca’s military assignment should be. Let’s set him loose in those native villages, and let’s let him wring the neck of every bird he can get his hands on.

I’d even let him have a protective mask.

THE MEMORY OF SAMUEL ALITO

In the recently ended hearings in the U.S. Senate concerning the nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr., just one of the things that seemed to put every caring liberal person’s private parts in a vise was his less than forthcoming explanation for his membership in something called "Concerned Alumni of Princeton," which apparently has been characterized as a racist and sexist organization bent on restriction of admission to that hallowed academic institution of minorities and women. Indeed, he alleged, or at least implied, having no memory of membership whatsoever.

Those of us who recall Princeton from the 60s, and earlier, have to wonder where all these current conscientious objectors to such blatant prejudice were back in them days, when there were NO women in Princeton, not enrolled in the college anyway, and people of color were rare on the campus. It’s not my point here, but just an aside, that it’s a wonder there aren’t about 50 such organizations related to the return of Princeton and Ol’ Nassau to the status quo ante.

Maybe Alito is a racist and a misogynist — it was an old Princeton tradition after all among some small part of the student body and ensuing alumni body for many years — who knows?

What I wonder about is getting our knickers in a twist about whether he "remembers" belonging to such an organization.

Consider for a moment our esteemed president, George W. Bush, alumnus of two equally illustrious, and no less ivy bestrewn institutions (and, by indictment of the pious and sanctimonious left, as guilty of any number of similar racist, ethnicist, misogynistic crimes as any Princeton — or Dartmouth or Brown or Penn, you name them… — can be called to account for in its history).

Ask him what he remembers about his college days. Or any number of days of his early alumnus-hood, up to the age of 40 (Alito was 35 when he mentioned on a job application that he belonged to the "Concerned Alumni Etc…."). If Bush didn’t remember, or claimed not to, nobody would bat an eyelash.

We’d just figure, well he was probably smashed out of his gourd most of the time from early teenhood on, until Laura put the fear of God and no more sex into him, and it’s surprising he remembers his name.

So I figure, Samuel A. Alito, Jr. is a secretly redeemed coke head, or pot head, or drunk, or something like that. He certainly aspires to all those things those of a divergent ethnicity (divergent from pure WASPishness, the lifeblood of the Ivy League going back to the 17th century — yessirree, racism and misogyny with a three hundred year-plus pedigree) aspire to: prestige, power, control, money. And soon, the U.S. Senate will deliver to him on a platter a significant handful of the first three. No reason he would not also have succumbed to the excesses of those in power, prestige, and control: drugs and alcohol. At least while he was in training, back there in Princeton and thereafter — his Wanderjaren.

And we’re worried about his memory. Call him a coke-head and forget about it. We manage to do it most of the time with the President.

© 2006, Howard Dinin. All rights reserved.

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