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Eventually we pile into a luxury bus and head out to the highway, where traffic is stopped so that truly important citizens can follow state and city police escorts through the traffic while the rest of us wait for them to pass. In America, you don’t have to be the President’s brother or cousin to merit special treatment. Anyone with money can buy the local cops, along with the obeisance of fellow motorists; for a brief moment it must feel amazing. As we sit in traffic, bets are taken on who will get the high score on a new iPhone app called Urinal Test. I like these men. They behave like animals because that is what the orderly functioning of the markets demands. –“Are you ready for some free fall?” by contributing editor David Samuels, in The National
Travis swatted the side-view mirror off the squad car “like it was butter,” Officer Chiafari said. As Officer Chiafari puzzled over how he could help the victim, Travis returned to the porch, then calmly walked around his car and approached the driver-side door.
“I forgot I had the door unlocked,” Officer Chiafari said. He had unlocked it to help Ms. Nash before the chimp distracted him. “He pulls the door open. Now we’re, like, face to face with each other. Our eyes met.”
There was blood all over the chimp, whose owner had stabbed him in the back with a butcher knife. The chimp seemed as surprised that he had opened the door as Officer Chiafari, who was pinned in his seat by a computer console and again drawing his pistol.
“He gave me a split second to react,” he said. “He shows his teeth, a snarl, and I see blood. I see his fangs. I just start to shoot.” –“After Shooting Chimp, a Police Officer’s Descent,” Michael Wilson, The New York Times
The quest for innocence in political journalism means the desire to be manifestly agenda-less and thus “prove” in the way you describe things that journalism is not an ideological trade. But this can get in the way of describing things! As it did in Barstow’s account. Now let’s speed up the picture and imagine how this interference in truth-telling happens routinely, many times a day over years and years of reporting on politics. What’s lost is that sense of reality Isaiah Berlin talked about. In its place is savviness, the dialect of insiders trying to persuade us that they know how things really work. Nothing is more characteristic of the savvy style than statements like “perception is often reality in politics.” –“The Quest for Innocence and the Loss of Reality in Political Journalism,” Jay Rosen, PressThink
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”