Some Effective Opening Paragraphs


jriggenbach

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Subject: Trivial Pursuit, Snipe Hunting, and the "Long-Winded Academic"

(1.) I just read that piece on the differences in capitalization in French and English and they do say that geographical names are less likely to be capitalized in French, so perhaps Eco is correct and the Google entries use the -English- way of capitalization.

Still not sure, because in my French reading / trips to Paris I seem to recall seeing the convention I described. Also, note that ND's above about.com entry has a further link to this, also in about.com's section on French capitalization--bottom of the page, click the link on 'variable capitalization': http://french.about.com/library/writing/bl-capitalization2.htm

" Proper Nouns Proper names that refer to places are capitalized. J'habite en Champagne. I live in the Champagne region. Il a visité Pont l'Évêque et Roquefort en 2009. He visited Pont l'Évêque and Roquefort in 2009. "

Note that it is Pont l'Eveque. Not pont l'Eveque! --- So, lets' put the shoe on the other foot: How's -your- integrity? Can you admit -you- might be wrong?

(FYI: I read and speak French. "Pont" means "bridge").

Objectively, I'd say I'm now in doubt after reading ND's about.com entry. The about.com entry has two different positions: on the main page and on the linked page. I suspect if the geographical name is famous or distinctive you often use the place name as if it were a proper name - e.g., Place Vendome, Bois de Boulogne - rather than as if it were a generic adjective of description. Whether Eco's location is that famous or a landmark, I have not the slightest idea.

I did learn more about French capitalization in general, though. More than I'd ever want to know....

(2.) Actually this issue of "more than I'd ever want to know" on a trivium is part of my wider complaint about what I've seen of Eco and why he seems very much as if he would likely fall into the 'Pretentious Academic' category for me:

I just realized ND had once posted on my 'great literature' thread a much more detailed defense of Umberto Eco with long passages from Foucault's Pendulum. I had a more mixed reaction there: I liked 'Umbert 'Umbert's verbal pyrotechnics and cleverness and obscure patience-trying references while on the other hand being annoyed by his obsessive-compulsive clever-dick "overkill".

In that extended discussion by ND, I suspected it was an optional mater of taste.

A question of whether one is so impressed by the wordy academic cleverness and obsessiveness that he was able to put up with the annoying parts. In my case, it's more been there done that, so my guess is I wouldn't have patience to sit through Eco in order to find the juicy or clever 'nuggets'. I have too much else to read and seldom find even highly intelligent wordsmiths to be interesting if they tend to lack self-control or have a tendency toward obscurantism or highly academic jokes.

It comes across as pompous and pretentious and irrelevant to me. Like learning "more than I'd ever want to know" in a super-specialized or too 'academic' (unreal, impractical, trivial area). Met too many of those types in college. And in college readings as well as some of my current 'great books discussion group' readings.

(And Eco's initial stupidity in the interview above, unless it was just humor, was another strike against the guy for me and caused me to bail on the interview.)

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It comes across as pompous and pretentious and irrelevant to me.

C'mon, stop going off script: "I regard him as an obnoxious braggart as a person, and a pretentious ignoramus as an intellectual."

Like learning "more than I'd ever want to know" in a super-specialized or too 'academic' (unreal, impractical, trivial area).

Exactly how I felt about certain parts of Moby Dick. Some people feel that way about Galt's speech (or is it Galt's Speech?).

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A bit tangential, but while I'm thinking of it here's a favorite example from the Adventures in Translation file:

It is a bleak Day. Hear the Rain, how he pours, and the Hail, how he rattles; and see the Snow, how he drifts along, and oh the Mud, how deep he is! Ah the poor Fishwife, it is stuck fast in the Mire; it has dropped its Basket of Fishes; and its Hands have been cut by the Scales as it seized some of the falling Creatures; and one Scale has even got into its Eye. And it cannot get her out. It opens its Mouth to cry for Help; but if any Sound comes out of him, alas he is drowned by the raging of the Storm.

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I just realized ND had once posted on my 'great literature' thread a much more detailed defense of Umberto Eco with long passages from Foucault's Pendulum. I had a more mixed reaction there: I liked 'Umbert 'Umbert's verbal pyrotechnics and cleverness and obscure patience-trying references while on the other hand being annoyed by his obsessive-compulsive clever-dick "overkill".

When Phil’s right, Phil’s right:

You don't play pinball with just your hands, you play it with the groin too. The pinball problem is not to stop the ball before it's swallowed by the mouth at the bottom, or to kick it back to midfield like a half-back. The problem is to make it stay up where the lighted targets are more numerous and have it bounce from one to another, wandering, confused, delirious, but still a free agent. And you achieve this not by jolting the ball but by transmitting vibrations to the case, the frame, but gently, so the machine won't catch on and say Tilt.
You can only do it with the groin, or with a play of the hips that makes the groin not so much bump, as slither, keeping you on this side of an orgasm. And if the hips move according to nature, it's the buttocks that supply the forward thrust, but gracefully, so that when the thrust reaches the pelvic area, it is softened, as in homeopathy, where the more you shake a solution and the more the drug dissolves in the water added gradually, until the drug has almost entirely disappeared, the more medically effective and potent it is. Thus from the groin an infinitesimal pulse is transmitted to the case, and the machine obeys, the ball moves against nature, against inertia, against gravity, against the laws of dynamics, and against the cleverness of its constructor, who wanted it disobedient. The ball is intoxicated with vis movendi, remaining in play for memorable and immemorial lengths of time.
But a female groin is required, one that interposes no spongy body between the ileum and the machine, and there must be no erectile matter in between, only skin, nerves, padded bone sheathed in a pair of jeans, and a sublimated erotic fury, a sly frigidity, a disinterested adaptability to the partner's response, a taste for arousing desire without suffering the excess of one's own: the Amazon must drive the pinball crazy and savor the thought that she will then abandon it.

Yeah, that’s pretty bad. “Kick it back to midfield like a half-back”, what’s that supposed to mean? A half-back is for receiving hand offs, or else the quarterback might use him for a screen pass. Stupid, obvious error. Then comes “say Tilt”. Like a machine can “say” anything. And obviously this moronic hack believes homeopathy works, and doesn’t know better than to say so in a crow choking run on sentence. But the worst is these pseudo-intellectual interjections like “vis movendi” and “ileum”. Who does he think he’s fooling? This is literature?!?!

http://www.objectivi...indpost&p=86802

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Subject: Another thing to dislike about 'Umberto 'Umberto - his philosophy of literature

"in 1962 he published .."The Open Work". In it, Eco argued that literary texts are fields of meaning, rather than strings of meaning, that they are understood as open, internally dynamic and psychologically engaged fields. Literature which limits one's potential understanding to a single, unequivocal line, the closed text, remains the least rewarding" [wikipedia]

Pretentious "postmodern" lit crit gobbledygook?

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Pretentious "postmodern" lit crit gobbledygook?

In other words, better literature engages the reader, makes one work to extract meaning, and rewards repeated readings. This doesn’t even strike me as a controversial point.

Keep trying.

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If you think that's what he's saying, you need to brush up on your high school reading skills.

Oh come on, you're not even trying. I need you to put some work into this. The formula is: Phil's potty mouth effluvia followed by The Doctor's almost unnaturally dignified response.

Now, open vs. closed texts (damn that sounds familiar), here, let him explain it to you:

Don't want to listen? Can't take the accent? I went to see him in 2005 and got a big headache from it. Ayn Rand's accent could be pretty rough going too, but you get used to it. Anyway, you can get this lecture (with some others) in book form:

http://www.amazon.co...20973355&sr=1-7

I have his earlier collection called On Literature, and also the Six Walks in the Fictional Woods one from the early nineties Harvard series that I linked earlier, so the new one didn't have much draw for me.

When's your book coming out, again?

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You don't play pinball with just your hands, you play it with the groin too. The pinball problem is not to stop the ball before it's swallowed by the mouth at the bottom, or to kick it back to midfield like a half-back. The problem is to make it stay up where the lighted targets are more numerous and have it bounce from one to another, wandering, confused, delirious, but still a free agent. And you achieve this not by jolting the ball but by transmitting vibrations to the case, the frame, but gently, so the machine won't catch on and say Tilt.
You can only do it with the groin, or with a play of the hips that makes the groin not so much bump, as slither, keeping you on this side of an orgasm. And if the hips move according to nature, it's the buttocks that supply the forward thrust, but gracefully, so that when the thrust reaches the pelvic area, it is softened, as in homeopathy, where the more you shake a solution and the more the drug dissolves in the water added gradually, until the drug has almost entirely disappeared, the more medically effective and potent it is. Thus from the groin an infinitesimal pulse is transmitted to the case, and the machine obeys, the ball moves against nature, against inertia, against gravity, against the laws of dynamics, and against the cleverness of its constructor, who wanted it disobedient. The ball is intoxicated with vis movendi, remaining in play for memorable and immemorial lengths of time.
But a female groin is required, one that interposes no spongy body between the ileum and the machine, and there must be no erectile matter in between, only skin, nerves, padded bone sheathed in a pair of jeans, and a sublimated erotic fury, a sly frigidity, a disinterested adaptability to the partner's response, a taste for arousing desire without suffering the excess of one's own: the Amazon must drive the pinball crazy and savor the thought that she will then abandon it.

Damn!

Thank you ND.

As a fanatical gravity fed pinball competitor, that is a brilliant passage.

You've convinced me to read the author.

Adam

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> When's your book coming out, again?

What about yours?

I haven’t claimed to have one.

Ever read one of the many utterly ignorant critiques of Ayn Rand, where it has you saying: this person obviously hasn't read anything by her, and has no idea what he's talking about? That's you on this thread.

As a fanatical gravity fed pinball competitor, that is a brilliant passage.

You've convinced me to read the author.

That’s good, but I should mention that this is just about the full extent of his writings on the subject. The next question is probably: where to start? The new book certainly ranks with his earlier ones. I’m thinking about doing an Amazon review focusing on its contemporary relevance. I’m coming round to the view that this one is the flip side of Foucault’s Pendulum, which deflates conspiracy theories, while The Prague Cemetery might scare you into hiding under the bed. I’m seeing the pattern at work in the Hermann Cain sex thing. The material on Ippolito Nievo might even have you giving 9/11 truthers a second look. There’s a scene late in the book that I believe is modeled on the Grand Inquisitor’s scene in The Brothers Karamazov (btw, Dostoyevsky is a character in the book, basically an extended cameo) that amounts to a how-to manual.

So, may as well start here. Aw hell, I don’t know.

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> When's your book coming out, again?

What about yours?

I haven’t claimed to have one.

Speaking of books coming out, did you see that Peikoff has made an announcement on Facebook about his DIMwit Hypothesis:

I did it! I sent the DIM Hypothesis to the publisher a day before the deadline. New American Library now has the complete book, from title page to references. I get to edit this two more times: a few months from now, when they show me the changes they want to make, usually just copy editing—and a few months later, when page proofs arrive. But by that point the changes are very small.

And then comes publication day in September.

Thank you for caring,

Leonard Peikoff

J

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> When's your book coming out, again?

What about yours?

I haven’t claimed to have one.

Ever read one of the many utterly ignorant critiques of Ayn Rand, where it has you saying: this person obviously hasn't read anything by her, and has no idea what he's talking about? That's you on this thread.

As a fanatical gravity fed pinball competitor, that is a brilliant passage.

You've convinced me to read the author.

That’s good, but I should mention that this is just about the full extent of his writings on the subject. The next question is probably: where to start? The new book certainly ranks with his earlier ones. I’m thinking about doing an Amazon review focusing on its contemporary relevance. I’m coming round to the view that this one is the flip side of Foucault’s Pendulum, which deflates conspiracy theories, while The Prague Cemetery might scare you into hiding under the bed. I’m seeing the pattern at work in the Hermann Cain sex thing. The material on Ippolito Nievo might even have you giving 9/11 truthers a second look. There’s a scene late in the book that I believe is modeled on the Grand Inquisitor’s scene in The Brothers Karamazov (btw, Dostoyevsky is a character in the book, basically an extended cameo) that amounts to a how-to manual.

So, may as well start here. Aw hell, I don’t know.

Dennis:

I did not expect any more comments on pinball, lol.

What impressed me is his ability to describe the gestalt of pinball. I reject his restricting the ability to the female frame, but I will admit it is much more interesting to watch a nicely turned female behind play pinball.

I remember Jimmy Stewart commenting on Lee Remick's pinball playing in the Otto Preminger film Anatomy of a Murder. Interesting piece of movie trivia on this 1959 movie which was based on a true story of a Michigan trial which was that the gentleman who played the Judge was none other than Joseph N. Welch http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_N._Welch of the Army McCarthy Hearings who made history with:

Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us. Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is true that he will continue to be with Hale and Dorr. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think that I am a gentle man but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me.

When McCarthy tried to renew his attack, Welch interrupted him: Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

McCarthy tried to ask Welch another question about Fisher, and Welch cut him off: Mr. McCarthy, I will not discuss this further with you. You have sat within six feet of me and could ask – could have asked me about Fred Fisher. You have seen fit to bring it out. And if there is a God in Heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further. I will not ask Mr. Cohn any more questions. You, Mr. Chairman, may, if you will, call the next witness.

The gallery erupted in applause.

In fact, I have, because of my skill at pinball, been able to work with a female and help her play better, very erotic exercise to teach a female to play better, especially when you have to be behind her behind to properly instruct her.

In all seriousness, that is a great passage.

Adam

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A bit tangential, but while I'm thinking of it here's a favorite example from the Adventures in Translation file:

It is a bleak Day. Hear the Rain, how he pours, and the Hail, how he rattles; and see the Snow, how he drifts along, and oh the Mud, how deep he is! Ah the poor Fishwife, it is stuck fast in the Mire; it has dropped its Basket of Fishes; and its Hands have been cut by the Scales as it seized some of the falling Creatures; and one Scale has even got into its Eye. And it cannot get her out. It opens its Mouth to cry for Help; but if any Sound comes out of him, alas he is drowned by the raging of the Storm.

What is this wonderful quote? It surely can't be translated from French... who wrote it? The poor Fishwife, reduced to an it although her screams are male!

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"In the second century of the Christian era, the Empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the most civilised portion of mankind. The frontiers of that extensive monarchy were guarded by ancient renown and disciplined valour. The gentle but powerful influence of laws and manners had gradually cemented the union of the provinces. Their peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages of wealth and luxury. The image of a free constitution was preserved with decent reverence: the Roman senate appeared to possess the sovereign authority, and devolved on the emperors all the executive powers of government. During a happy period (A.D. 98-180) of more than fourscore years, the public administration was conducted by the virtue and abilities of Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the two Antonines. It is the design of this, and of the two succeeding chapters, to describe the prosperous condition of their empire; and afterwards, from the death of Marcus Antoninus, to deduce the most important circumstances of its decline and fall; a revolution which will ever be remembered, and is still felt by the nations of the earth."

Still felt, indeed.

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Of course I am overwrought on this subject. " I been there before." Maple Leaf Gardens, Graham James. Why did nobody learn from us? We learned. After the coverups, after the courage of the victims who came forward because nobody else would, we learned, and things are better and safer here now because we had to learn. Pedophiles will always go where the children are. It is illegal, everywhere in Canada, to observe or suspect child sex abuse and not notify authorities, directly, yourself. The penalty is 6 months in jail and a $2000 fine. As if it needed to be.

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What is this wonderful quote? It surely can't be translated from French... who wrote it? The poor Fishwife, reduced to an it although her screams are male!

Mark Twain. He was making fun of German, particularly the noun genders. Notice that a fish's scale is feminine, while a Fishwife is not.

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> I thought we were doing fiction here

Pay attention: The thread title only says "some effective opening paragraphs".

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btw, Dostoyevsky is a character in the book, basically an extended cameo

Correction: there’s a series of quotes from another character describing her meeting with Dostoyevsky and conveying his dialogue. This is part of a conversation among anti-Semitic plotters, and Dostoyevsky’s attitude towards the Jews (he's shown not to have been anti-Semitic) gets perverted and torn to shreds for lack of a defender. So he doesn’t actually walk in, sit down, and start talking. But Dumas plays a substantial part, and Hugo gets a cameo, in their cases the villain actually meets and interacts with them.

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