If you're not a fan, it's from Arrested Development. I found it on the IFC and became addicted. I thought my family was dysfunctional!
Dysfunctions occur because of the need to be perceived as someone you ain't. Not saying I agree with everything Gide wrote, but there is a certain freedom with being simply who you are, without regard to how others may view you. My old writing coach called this authenticity. Remember your audience, write to them, tell your story. It took years for me to figure out that elegance in a writing style is not the same as being flowery. If you want to be read, figure out what you want to say, then say it. Simplicity is a key to authenticity. Ernest Hemingway understood this.
I avoid groups like the Rotary, the Elks, the Businessman's Coffee Group and the Chamber. Just as I rolled my eyes during seminars as an undergrad, I'm sure there are several Popes spinning in their graves as a reaction to the shift in meaning in a great word; pontification. The worst of these experiences take place in settings like seminars, retreats, and the Merchants' Association. It always happens. Somebody gets a lightbulb in their head and the need to expound on the perceived lightbulb overpowers the normally responsive impulse control. I've taught my kids over their lifetimes that simply because you can do a thing, it is not sufficient to choosing to actually do that thing.
I took a First Amendment course at Portland State years ago--think the professor's name was David Smith--and, it being summer and an upper division class on ConLaw, the class size was comfortably small. At the time I was living off Taylor's Ferry Road, not far from the law school library at Lewis and Clark. So, mornings it was off to PSU, afternoons spent at the Northwestern law library. Studying law is a precise endeavour; one wants to find citations that are brief, concise, germane and robust. Good judges write good opinions. Good judges write good opinions badly. Not all good judges write well. If you want to determine the thought processes that went into a judge's decision there's going to be a lot of time looking at footnotes. And then reading other decisions. The concise mind looks for the kernels, the grit, of decisions and begins to respond to questions of law in much the same way the carpenter goes about his business of building a home. And the first question is, are you building on sand or rock?
Irritatingly, one member of our happy little band of students was a City of Portland employee who was taking hours in order to fill some check mark box on his resume. While we were debating the merits of restrictions on speech, he would chime in with his opinion of how the world should be. If he were king. Or, whatever. It was always a gob smacking moment, when all thought would disappear from the room. Eyes would lower to the papers on the table before you. I would write brief notes to remind myself of where the conversation had been before this far from rare hijacking. Alternatively, I was impressed with Professor Smith's patience with this over-bearing gentleman.
But the thing that sticks with me, was the man's choice of words. Why use an ordinary, simple word when one can create the unordinary? Comment became commentation. Word constructions never before heard were uttered. The object of this impressification? I guess his fellows sitting around him. Sadly, no one ever uttered a correction. Which is one of the reasons you won't find me at the next meeting of the Rotary or the Merchants' Association. No one ever utters the corrections that are needed. It is impolitic. It is impolite. Who died and made you logic and grammar Hitler?
The unfortunate truth is, because we don't raise objection to the stupid that confronts us every day, we allow those who offer nothing more than Bob Loblaw when we speak are never confronted with the harsh realities of speaking, or writing, without concision, precision and relevance. To do so would be rude. But, I think, it is probably more correct to say, to do so would be to draw a line in the sand. You need to declare yourself as being on the side of clear, rational thinking, and an enemy of all the fuzzyheadednesses that populate the pages of your local newspaper, or the screen of your favourite talking head. So, with no further ado, I offer you one of the strangest dialogues I've ever come across. Two people, with rising inflection, talking nonsense to one another. With increasing passion.
The standard of debate for a new America.
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