USC Injects Excitement to End Blasé Contest with UCLA


USC 28, UCLA 7

Malcolm Smith scores on an interception against UCLA

I’m happy with the score . . . and the final play. But that last play, with Matt Barkley throwing long into the end-zone to extend the score, has tongues wagging. Some seem to think that the highly competitive and generally brutal arena of college football should be tempered by sensitivity to opponents when time is running out and the play has been close—especially in a cross-town rivalry as hoary as the one here in Southern California.

Pete Carroll called the right play and Barkley made it happen. The decision needs no defense, but here goes anyway. Read more of this post

Writing Tips: The Moleskine Method, Part 3


This part of the series describes a way of setting up your new Moleskine for writing, keeping it organized as you write, and preparing it for future reference after it’s been filled.

There’s not much to setting up your Moleskine. Read more of this post

Writing Tips: The Moleskine Method, Part 2


In the previous entry, I introduced the Moleskine, describing its features and plugging it to writers who are on the go or need help with organization. In this entry I explain why I think writers should get comfortable with writing in longhand—a skill that’s required if you’re to make use of what I will now call “The Moleskine method.” Read more of this post

The Stimulus of Teaching


karl-barth_with-pipeWhy did Karl Barth’s productivity as a writing scholar diminish following his retirement from teaching? Some say it’s because the pressure to produce had run out [see here].

What T. H. L. Parker wrote is that Barth “lost the stimulus provided by the need to give lectures.” The key word here is “stimulus,” not “pressure.” Teaching is the ideal stimulus for scholars who write, especially if they teach graduate courses to gifted students. The stimulus of teaching can be likened to the frequent re-lighting of tobacco in a well-used pipe.

Who Is the Commander in Chief?


So it’s official . . . kind of. Major Hasan is a zealot for “radical Islam,” and people knew it. Doesn’t give you too much faith in the system, does it?

In an earlier post about the Fort Hood incident, I suggested that the question is: How could this happen? Though I suspected it then, it’s obvious now that part of the answer is our faith in political correctness. Yes, PC is an abstract concept, not a person. So having faith in it sounds preposterous. So what I should say is that because of the insidious influence of PC, we have faith in people we never should trust. PC blinds us to the importance of knowing whom we trust.

I did not knowingly trust Maj. Hasan. But I surely did indirectly. More important, the people he gunned down trusted him. That trust has always seemed warranted and invulnerable to suspicion. Not any more. Read more of this post

Writing Tips: The Moleskine Method, Part 1


I always have an unwieldy number of writing projects doubtfully spinning into existence at the same time. One tool that has proven its value is the Moleskine. Read more of this post

What Made Him Do It?


Yesterday, United States Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan shot and killed 12 people and wounded 31 others at the Fort Hood Army base. He survived four shots and is now hospitalized.

Wild speculation began immediately. Fueling speculation are reports that Maj. Hasan is a Muslim Read more of this post

Chris Matthews an Authority on Negative Campaigning and Wing-Nuts


WingnutsTonight, on MSNBC’s “Hardball” show, Chris Matthews says he “can’t stand” negative campaigning, from Republicans or Democrats. But earlier in the same segment he repeatedly calls right-wing conservatives “wing-nuts.” His Democrat strategist guest was more honorable. Even he couldn’t  call them wing-nuts, after being pressed to do so by Matthews.

Who’s the real wing-nut here?

Sixteen Works of Creative Nonfiction


Here are sixteen works classified as “creative nonfiction” and called “superlatively entertaining and artful” by Michael Dirda, in loose chronological order: Read more of this post

First Lines: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy


9780141439778Laurence Sterne’s ironical work of fiction, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, was first published in 1759. It baffled and intrigued Sterne’s contemporaries. You may feel the same way after reading the opening sentence:

I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had duly considered how much depended upon what they were then doing;—that not only the production of a rational Being was concerned in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind;—and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions that were then uppermost;—Had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly,—I am verily persuaded that I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that in which the reader is likely to see me.

Come again? Read more of this post

Bearing Books from New England


A week ago I returned from a New England holiday with my family. We journeyed to Maine and New Hampshire in quest of respite from the cacophony of California. We found it. Harbor views, the Maine woods, marine vessels, lobsters, crisp air, and fall leaves.

And I found bookshops—with mountains of second-hand books—ranging from the maximally disheveled to the customary semi-organized to the immaculate (for example, The Old Professor’s Bookshop in Camden, ME). Read more of this post

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