Wednesday, February 01, 2006

We must move forward, not backward...

... upward, not forward, and forever twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!

Things change. Preparations for the move continue, including all the necessary utility activations and cancellations, the address shifts, insurance transfers, etc. Meanwhile, Jane has also decided to make a move of her own. She gave official notice earlier this week, and will be leaving the company on the 17th. She's going to continue as a naval architect for another company, one that will pay her more in line with her talents. That's great for her, but now I have no one to dump all of my crazy on at work. To wit, the past two days alone have included discussions about the etymology of the phrase "could care less," the 80's cartoons Jem and Kidd Video, Battle Android Troopers (B.A.T.s) and synthoids from G.I. Joe, my addiction to Minesweeper, and whether knowing about Dungeons and Dragons automatically makes you a nerd. So I'm not looking forward to her departure.

I could not bring myself to watch the State of the Union speech last night. I don't think there is much substance in most recent State of the Union addresses, but that is not why I skipped it. My problem is it is just a bad speech, consistently. From a rhetorical point of view, most modern political speeches suck. A good speech would use imagery, build a theme using that imagery, or at least use classical figures of speech and rhetorical devices like alliteration, synechdoche, antithesis, etc. Really, just read almost anything Winston Churchill ever said, and you'll get an idea of how to speak well in public. Instead, we get an address of 'trigger phrases' that are designed to elicit applause. It's boring, and it doesn't inform me of anything, it doesn't persuade me of anything. A speech is an argument - a chance to convince your audience. But major public speeches today, like the State of the Union, Inaugural, and nomination Acceptance, are empty. The whole speech is a series of money shots.

Every step toward freedom in the world makes our country safer, and so we will act boldly in freedom's cause. (APPLAUSE)

...we will never surrender to evil. (APPLAUSE)

Together, let us protect our country, support the men and women who defend us, and lead this world toward freedom.
At times, it is a bit too informal for my taste.
This year, the first of about 78 million baby boomers turns 60, including two of my dad's favorite people: me and President Clinton.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

This milestone is more than a personal crisis.

(LAUGHTER)

It is a national challenge.

Otherwise, it's just repetitive bromides - haven't we heard most of this before?
We need to put aside partisan politics and work together and get this problem solved.
But look to past speeches. This is good stuff:
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
A great idea, presented in clear language that makes use of alliteration, repetition words and phrases (that are not cliches), and antithesis. Even a parody of Jesse Jackson on the old SNL "Dark Side with Nat X" sketch is better then most real speakers:
Who can answer such a speculative question? That’s nearly becoming the position of the day. I only know that your last name...your last name X, is a symbol, of which all African Americans from old Mississippi preachers to the Yankee Stadium bleachers. From the topper down, not the bottom up. Gibbety gibbety. Rat-a-tat-tat. I’m talkin’ about X. X as in great civil rights leader Malcom X. X as in 5-star Las Vegas hotel, Excalibur. X as in X-files, or the show Extra!, which is better than Inside Edition. X as in the movie Exorcist 3. X as in the band X, and not the Brand X. The X man, NightCrawler and Colossus. X as in I’ll..take..Charlie..Weaver...to block!
So that's why I didn't watch.

5 comments:

Commenter99 said...

Excellent post, with a clear reasoned argument that makes use of relatable examples, repetition of theme, and antithesis.

In the spirit of giving you a hard time, however, I note that you say for SOTU, repetition=bad. ("it's just repetitive - haven't we heard most of this before?"). Then for the JFK example, repetition is good. ("A great idea...that makes use of alliteration, repetition, and antithesis.")

I believe you meant this as the difference between good rhetorical repetition (repeating words and phrases within a single speech in order to emphasize a stand-alone theme), and empty repetition of bland catchphrases across several speeches, and indeed the entirety of your communication (as a substitute for a meaningful theme, and a disguise for the reality that there is none). Ahem. Before I cross too far into specific political criticism...

Nat X - ah, the one SNL vehicle that showcased a funny Chris Rock. I always liked the Jesse Jackson impersonation by Darrell Hammond. The essence of a great parody is that it allows a truer view of the subject than the real thing.

Commenter99 said...

I forgot to ask - with your little Minesweeper addiction, how good have you gotten? Best times, etc.?

By the way, you've inspired me to re-establish some sort of web presence for myself. Check out the link on my username. Remember that little page I designed for you?

Dan said...

Thank you for clarifying my point re: repetition. I should have singled out the quote about bi-partisan efforts as an example of a platitude, and a grossly overused one at that. Good repetition within a speech usually means use of a signature phrase, i.e. "we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

Let's not get into my skill or lack thereof at Minesweeper. I'm trying to kick the habit - I've been clean for 6 days.

Dan said...

Oh, I forgot that site. Awesome. It reminds me of advertising for Gabbo.

enjanerd said...

Aww, you just need to get onto IM. I'll still listen to your crazy. That's right... Your crazy. Not mine.

THE MIND IS NOT A VESSEL TO BE FILLED BUT A FIRE TO BE KINDLED