recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : brevity   18

Is "Show Don't Tell" a Universal Truth or a Colonial Relic? | Literary Hub
"In his essay “The Storyteller” (1936), cultural critic Walter Benjamin mourns the death of oral and communal storytelling, taken over in modern history by the novel, the “birthplace of the solitary reader,” and information technology with a rise in capitalism. Yet, what Benjamin posits as the organic evolution of oral, communal practices of storytelling into modern modes of storytelling, consumed by a reader in “privacy,” is in fact, the understanding of a Western history of storytelling as a universal one. As Maggie Awadalla and Paul March-Russell suggest in the introduction to their anthology The Postcolonial Short Story (2012), many non-Western countries did not transition “organically” from oral to written storytelling with a rise in capitalism. For many formerly or currently colonized spaces like South Asia, Africa, Caribbean, American South and Native America, there has always existed a rich, vibrant tradition of oral storytelling, one that was marginalized, often violently, through an imposition of an allegedly modern, white Western language and culture. In their study, Postcolonial Studies: The Key Concepts (1998), Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin defend “orality” not as a cultural precondition that morphed into a more advanced written culture, but orality as a counterpart to writing, where both co-exist, complement and transform each other constantly. This coexistence of oral and written modes of storytelling continues to thrive in postcolonial spaces, including those of Asia and Africa.

In her now-canonical essay “Characteristics of Negro Expression” (1934), Zora Neale Hurston makes a strong case for the use of vernacular—especially dialect and rhythm—in Black writing. In his story collection, Creole Folktales (1988) and equally canonical co-authored essay, “In Praise of Creoleness” (1989), Patrick Chamoiseau offers a manifesto for Caribbean storytelling that aims to free itself of French colonial gaze by transforming Martinican-French literature through a militant use of Creole. And while not through cultural theories or essays, contemporary writers like Salman Rushdie, Vikram Chandra, Roxane Gay, Junot Díaz, and Edwidge Danticat, among others, bring a strong, self-conscious vernacular in their stories. Their fiction questions not only an allegedly mainstream Euro-American storytelling marked by narrative brevity and an economy of words, as lauded by Edgar Allan Poe, John Barth and Francine Prose in their critical writing, but also the dominance of visuality in many fiction writing workshops with their show-don’t-tell credo, bolstered by our cinematic and digital age with its preference for images over sounds."



"James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Sandra Cisneros, Gish Jen, Tiphanie Yanique, ZZ Packer, Rajesh Parameswaran—the list of contemporary writing affirming oral and aural alternatives over a sight-based focus of storytelling is long. And I haven’t even gotten started with poetry-in-color, including an aesthetic legacy of rhythm in writing spawned by Papa Césaire and the Négritude movement. What I’ve explored above is a brief sampler on a multifaceted use of orality that challenges the boundaries of a more standard Euro-American literary English with its emphasis on brevity, clarity, and good grammar. In playing persistently with language, sounds and syntax, multiethnic fiction does not shy away from “writing in scenes,” however, it does dethrone the reign of eyesight to stress the importance of other senses in fiction, and hearing in particular.

That said, the use of vernacular or dialect is far from unique to non-Western writers writing within or outside the West. Time and again, major writers across the world have challenged the status quo of a hegemonic language by using the vernacular in different ways. I’m thinking here of Shakespeare and Louis-Ferdinand Celine’s linguistic innovation within English and French respectively, and of pioneering poets like Kabir who used the vernacular in Bhakti poetry to challenge the rule of Sanskrit in medieval South Asian literature.

And yet, the examples of multiethnic fiction I’ve shared above have all been published in the last couple of decades, following complex literary and historic changes that include mid-20th century’s wave of decolonization that swept the “third world,” the Civil Rights Movement in the US, the institutionalization of Ethnic Studies in the American Academy, and the literary canon wars that followed. This recent, layered, global history has led to a higher visibility of non-white, non-Western voices in the Western metropolitan publication scenes of New York, London and Paris. The content within contemporary multiethnic fiction often talks of identity, home and displacement; they ask questions like who has power and voice and who gets marginalized or silenced, these ideas fleshed out obsessively in stories through plot, theme, form, language, or a combination.

Orality within fiction that is deliberately engaging with power dynamics between the West and non-West—as evident in the title of Rushdie’s story collection East, West—thus becomes more than just a stylistic device or virtuosity with craft. The shift in sensory focus within multiethnic fiction from images to sounds holds a mirror to our contemporary, complex literary history, guiding the reader further to ways in which these stories maybe constructed, read, or deconstructed. Orality here becomes a political stance, an ideological move reminding the reader over and again that what we consume as universal in story craft, literary history, or aesthetic taste is anything but universal."
orality  oraltradition  visual  via:vruba  2018  storytelling  walterbenjamin  culture  tradition  namratapoddar  globalsouth  maggieawadalla  paulmarch-russell  billashcroft  garethgriffiths  helentiffin  vernacular  zoranealehurston  creole  creoleness  folktales  writing  salmanrushdie  vikramchandra  junotdíaz  edwidgedanticat  edgarallanpoe  johnbarth  fancineprose  criticalwriting  howwewrite  literacy  multiliteracies  dialect  rhythm  patrickchamoiseau  caribbean  africa  asia  colonialism  english  alicewalker  imperialism  gishjen  jamesbaldwin  tonimorrison  tiphanieyanique  zzpacker  showdon'ttell  sandracisneros  roxanegay  ajeshparameswaran  négritude  papacésaire  haiti  aural  oral  sight  brevity  clarity  grammar  fiction  aimécésaire  martinique  léopoldsédarsenghor  léondamas  postcolonialism  louis-ferdinandceline  latinamerica  indigenous  canon 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Second Sight - The New Yorker
"Movement in the margins is not enough. Regularity becomes invisible. You switch up the moves, you introduce irregularity, in order to maintain visibility."



"The neurons in the visual system adapt to the stimulus, and redirect their attention."



"Years later, I lost faith. One form of binocular vision gave way to another. The world was now a series of interleaved apparitions. The thing was an image that could also bear an image. If one of the advantages of irreligion was an acceptance of others, that benefit was strangely echoed in the visual plane, which granted the things seen within the photographic rectangle a radical equality. This in part was why signs, pictures, ads, and murals came to mean so much: they were neither more nor less than the “real” elements by which they were framed. They were not to be excluded, nor were the spaces between things. “We see the world”: this simple statement becomes (Merleau-Ponty has also noted this) a tangled tree of meanings. Which world? See how? We who? Once absolute faith is no longer possible, perception moves forward on a case-by-case basis. The very contingency and brevity of vision become the long-sought miracle."



"The stage is set. Things seem to be prepared in advance for cameos, and even the sun is rigged like the expert lighting of a technician. The boundary between things and props is now dissolved, and the images of things have become things themselves."



"The body has to adjust to the environment, to the challenges in the environment. The body isn’t wrong, isn’t “disabled.” The environment itself—gravity, air, solidity or the lack of it, et cetera—is what is somehow wrong: ill-matched to the body’s abilities, inimical to its verticality, stability, or mobility."



"I rest at a concrete outcrop with a bunting of vintners’ blue nets, a blue the same color as the lake. It is as though something long awaited has come to fruition. A gust of wind sweeps in from across the lake. The curtain shifts, and suddenly everything can be seen. The scales fall from our eyes. The landscape opens. No longer are we alone: they are with us now, have been all along, all our living and all our dead."
tejucole  2017  margins  edges  attention  regularity  everyday  irregularity  visibility  invisibility  acceptance  belief  vision  photography  borders  liminalspaces  perception  brevity  ephemerality  adjustment  adaptability  disability  stability  mobility  verticality  body  bodies  contingency  sign  pictures  ads  images  advertising  between  betweenness  stimuli  liminality  ephemeral  disabilities 
june 2017 by robertogreco
10 ways to have a better conversation
"Celeste Headlee is an expert in talking to people. As part of her job as a public radio host and interviewer, she talks to hundreds of people each year, teasing from her guests what makes them interesting. At a TEDx conference two years ago, Headlee shared 10 tips for having a better conversations that work for anyone:

1. Don’t multitask.
2. Don’t pontificate.
3. Use open-ended questions.
4. Go with the flow.
5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know.
6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs.
7. Try not to repeat yourself.
8. Stay out of the weeds.
9. Listen.
10. Be brief.

Watch the video for the explanations of each point. I’m pretty good on 1, 5, & 7 while I struggle with 3, 4, and sometimes 6. 9 is a constant struggle and depends on how much I’ve talked with other people recently."
conversation  classideas  listening  howto  tutorials  celesteheadlee  multitasking  pontification  questionasking  questioning  flow  notknowing  uncertainty  experience  repetition  brevity 
june 2017 by robertogreco
The subscription paradox - Six Colors
"When Todd Vaziri recently updated his chart of the length of John Gruber’s The Talk Show—which prompted me to update my chart of The Incomparable’s length—I’ve been reminded of something I learned from my days in the magazine industry. As P.T. Barnum (presumably) said, “Leave them wanting more.”

This isn’t showbiz claptrap—it’s a real effect. What makes someone a happy magazine subscriber, newsletter reader, or television viewer is the feeling that you’re consuming all of something you enjoy. You get to the end and still wish there were more, making you anticipate the next installment.

There are two danger zones. The first is if people just don’t like what you’re making. That’s an obvious one. If they’re not buying what you’re selling, you’ll lose them as a customer, and rightly so.

But then there’s another, less obvious danger zone: People who like your stuff but just can’t finish it all. You’d think that this shouldn’t matter, that if you only ever consume half of everything but enjoy it all, that should be good enough. But it’s not. Most people hate feeling that they’re not using everything they’re paying for. (I know the feeling, at least when it comes to Dropbox storage.)

I’ve had this described to me as “The New Yorker Problem.” People who enjoy reading The New Yorker still cancel their subscriptions, because they’ve got a few issues piled up. When we were designing the digital edition of PCWorld magazine after the print edition shut down, we spent a lot of time debating what the ideal magazine length should be. We could’ve put all the stuff we were generating on the web in there, making it seem like a great value… but it would’ve resulted in enormous issues that few, if any, readers could get through.

I’ve had the same experience with newsletters I’ve subscribed to on the Internet. I get a few daily newsletters, and I like them, but the fact that I just can’t find the time to read every one of them makes me frustrated. Yes, it would literally make me a happier subscriber if they gave me less of what I’m paying for. Any more and it might be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

This may not be entirely logical, but I believe it’s true. And that’s one of the reasons I’ve tried to bend the average run time of The Incomparable, which was at one point threatening to break 90 minutes, back toward an hour. Of course, some people would love it if we’d do two hours every week—but I feel like we’d be risking overstaying our welcome if we did that. I don’t want episodes to pile up. If you get many episodes behind on a podcast, unsubscribing starts to seem like a logical next step.

It’s something for all of us who create things on the Internet to keep in mind: People have a near-infinite supply of content at their disposal now. We should be respectful of their time and always leave them wanting more. There is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.”"
subscriptions  2017  brevity  attention  newsletters  jasonsnell  thenewyorker  longform  podcasts  time  completion  finishing  guilt 
may 2017 by robertogreco
That Way We’re All Writing Now — The Message — Medium
"[When you(r)…
That moment when…]

This style has been huge for some time now. Do you love it, or hate it?

Me—I’m in! Mind you, I’m a fan of all the betentacled linguistic lifeforms that have emerged from our cambrian explosion online. These days, people write insanely more text than they did before the Internet and mobile phones came along. So the volume of experimentation is correspondingly massive and, for me, delightful. One joy of our age is watching wordplay evolve at the pace of E.coli.

But this trend: What’s going on with it? How does it work? Why do people employ it so frequently?

It turns out there are four big reasons why.

To suss this out, I called up some linguists: Gretchen McCulloch, a who specializes in analyzing netspeak (her Toast essay explaining “the grammar of Doge” is a gorgeous example), and Ben Zimmer, a linguist with Vocabulary.com who writes for the Wall Street Journal. As they pointed out, this style of wordplay initially appeared—like most online memes — on image-boards, Tumblr and Youtube. An early version was the meme “that feel when”; variants morphed into the standalone phrase “that awkward moment when”, which by last year was common enough to appear as a movie title.

But it’s more than just movie titles. This stylistic gambit— “that moment when …”, “the thing where …”, “when you realize …” — is omnipresent now. And that’s because it achieves a few conversational goals:

1) It creates a little puzzle. …

2) It makes your feeling seem universal. …

3) It’s short. …

4) It’s a glimpse of the next big way the Internet is changing language. …

For the first fifteen years of the mainstream Internet, the main way language changed was at the level of the individual word. We invented a lot of ‘textisms’ — short forms like ‘ur’ for “you’re”, LOL-style acronyms, or alphanumeric l33tspe@k. And of course, a lot of words got invented, like “selfie”.

What’s happening now is different. Now we’re messing around with syntax — the structure of sentences, the order in which the various parts go and how they relate to one another. This stuff people are doing with the subordinate clause, it’s pretty sophisticated, and oddly deep. We’re not just inventing catchy new words. We’re mucking around with what makes a sentence a sentence.

“Playing with syntax seems to be the broad meta trend behind a whole bunch of stuff that’s going on these days,” McCulloch tells me. And it goes beyond this subordinate-clause trend. Many of the biggest recent language memes were about syntax experimentation, such as the “i’ve lost the ability to can” gambit, or the gnarly elocution of doge, or the “because” meme. (Indeed, Zimmer points out, the American Dialect Society proclaimed “Because” the Word of the Year for 2013, largely because it had been revitalized by this syntax play.)

Why would we be suddenly messing around with syntax? It’s not clear. McCulloch thinks it may be related to a larger trend she’s identified, which she calls “stylized verbal incoherence mirroring emotional incoherence”. Most of these syntax-morphing memes consist of us trying to find clever new ways to express our feelings.

“You want to convey that you’re kind of overwhelmed by your emotions,” she says. “But you don’t want people to think that you’re completely naive about it. So you’re maintaining a certain level of sophistication. You need to stylize your incoherence, so that it’s part of a broader thing people are doing. You don’t just kind of keysmash all over the place. You also want to be witty while you’re doing it.

“You get more attention online if you’re witty, and people actually engage with you if you’re witty about your feelings.”

On the other hand, if you really don’t like this trend, there is—as it happens —an image-meme for your feelings, too. Better yet, it’s a complete sentence!"
clivethompson  2015  language  internet  memes  syntax  linguistics  writing  howwewrite  gretchenmcculloch  doge  grammar  text  texting  play  communication  brevity  universality  belonging  humor  emotions  benzimmer  wordplay  words  sentences  that 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The atomic sentence - Bobulate
“If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?”

That’s Richard Feynman from Lectures on Physics. While he’s referring to scientific knowledge, I considered how his question might apply to what we do. How could we meaningfully sum up what we do in a few words?

I love these sorts of challenges, forcing us to be brief, working with constraints. No small task. Yet, encapsulating an entire design profession seemed a rather daunting — and fleeting — task, thus, I developed a daily practice.

At the end of each day, I write an “atomic sentence,” a single statement that summarizes the most vital lesson about that day.

More than zero

At times where I flail, fumble, and otherwise seek a signpost, these sentences have helped — personal lifelines indicating a larger story. Each day, an atomic unit in a living network.

Over the years, my atomic sentences have included:

• "Make sure you believe in what you start as there are only two ways it can end: you will finish it or it will finish you."
• "When you step in the stream, the water doesn’t pass you by (although the risk of drowning does increase)."
• "Letting go is in fact — or perhaps only sometimes — letting in."
• "Certainty made clear by uncertainty; safety by danger."
• "Every person is just a person trying to be a person."
• "Make starts, not ends."

Hurry off, for at least a sentence’s worth of time, to make your own."
lizdanzico  summary  writing  sentences  atomicsentences  brucefeynman  brevity  contraints  thinking  2014 
september 2014 by robertogreco
The Conscientiousness of Kidspeak - The New Yorker
"Often enough, something we propose as a serious idea turns out to be more or less a joke. It’s much rarer that something proposed as a joke—or, at least, proposed as a semi-serious conceit, offered in the spirit of what’s often called, grimly, “tongue in cheek”—turns out to be, or to have the germ of, a serious idea. So I was startled and delighted the other morning to find out that a small joke I made a few years ago turns out to be true (or true-ish, anyway) and can be shown to be so by a recent scientific (or scientific-ish) paper. It started when, in 2011, I was writing about attempts to computerize the translation of natural language. I touched on the omnipresence of “like” and similar verbal tics in Kidspeak—the language of twelve- to fourteen-year-olds, particularly girls—a dialect about which I have what social scientists refer to as “a strong informant” right here at home. The ubiquitous qualifiers in this dialect—the constant “um”s, the continual “you know”s, and, above all, the unending stream of “like”s—are, it’s usually said, a barrier in the way of lucidity, brevity, and making a point.

But, as I wrote then, we’re all naturally quite good at compressed, or telegraphic, speech, where what is omitted is implicitly understood by the listener. For the sake of economy, we have to leave a lot of information out of everything we say, and one of our special human abilities is to make that economy itself eloquent and informative. Kidspeak is a classic instance of compression in balance with concision. What sounds limited and repetitive to the outsider is, to the knowing listener, as nuanced as a Henry James passage.

If, for instance, a fourteen-year-old girl says, “So we, like, um, went to the pizza place, but the, uh, you know—the guy?—said, like, no, so we were, like, O.K., so we, uh, decided that we’d go to, like, a coffee shop, but, uh, Colette can’t—she has, like, a gluten thing. You know what I mean? So that’s, like, why we came home, and, um, you know, would you, like, make us eggs?” To a sensitized listener, who recognizes the meaning of the circumlocutions, the nuanced space between language and event, the sentence really means: “So we tried, as it were, to go and enjoy a pizza, but the, so to speak, maître d’ of the establishment claimed—a statement that we were in no social position to dispute—that there was, so to speak, ‘no room for us at the inn.’ And then Colette insisted—and far be it for me either to contest or endorse her self-diagnosis—that she could not eat wheat-based food, so, knowing full well that it is likely to be irksome and ill-timed, could you feed us with scrambled eggs?” The point of the “likes”s and other tics is to supply the information that there is a lot more information not being offered, and that the whole thing is held at a certain circumspect remove. It didn’t happen exactly this way, and, of course, one might quibble with a detail here or there, but this is the gist of what happened. Each “like” is a Jamesian “as it were.”

It turns out that three sociolinguists at the University of Texas at Austin have been studying these things systematically. The paper they produced, published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology, has the beautiful title “Um … Who Like Says You Know: Filler Word Use as a Function of Age, Gender and Personality.” The study they conducted “aimed to investigate how the frequency of filled pauses and discourse markers used in the English language varies with two basic demographic variables (gender and age) and personality traits.” The researchers explain that, to do this, they “focused on three common discourse markers … (I mean, you know, and like) and two filled pauses (uh and um).”

They recorded and transcribed interviews with the speakers, noted how often the speakers used so-called “discourse markers,” and concluded that these markers are, indeed, used most frequently by women and girls. More important, the study also shows that the use of the discourse markers is particularly common among speakers who score on a personality test as “conscientious”—“people who are more thoughtful and aware of themselves and their surroundings.” Discourse markers, far from being opaque, automatic, or zombie-like, show that the speaker has “a desire to share or rephrase opinions to recipients.” In other words, those “like”s are being used to register that what’s being narrated may not be utterly faithful to each detail—that it may not be, as a fourteen-year-old might say, “literally” true—but that it is essentially true, and, what’s more, that an innate sense of conscientiousness and empathy with the listener forbids the speaker from pretending to a more closely tuned accuracy than she in fact possesses. As one commenter on the paper writes,
The researchers believe the explanation is that “conscientious people are generally more thoughtful and aware of themselves and their surroundings,” and their use of discourse markers shows they have a “desire to share or rephrase opinions to recipients.” Stated slightly differently, discourse fillers are a sign of more considered speech, and so it makes sense that conscientious people use them more often.

So it seems that the conscientiousness of “like” is what makes it appear so often. All of the circumlocutions of Kidspeak underline not sloppy indifference but undue scrupulousness. We should admire, not belittle, kids who use it. Far from being banished from polite or public dialogue, their discourse markers should mark our own—they should be imported as a sign of a meticulous grasp of the truth that there is no settled truth, that all narration is subjective, that every account must always be qualified. A headline in the Times, to be so, might read: “SCALIA, LIKE, SAYS THAT OBAMA, IS, YOU KNOW? LIKE, NOT COOL, BUT, O.K., DO IT. WHATEVER.” If the people at the Times wanted to run a truly conscientious newspaper, anyway, they would.""
language  conscientiousness  adamgopnik  2014  kidspeak  awareness  discourse  empathy  thoughtfulness  fillerwords  communication  like  research  linguistics  brevity  lucidity  compression  concision  henryjames 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Teaching to the Text Message - NYTimes.com
"I don’t expect all my graduates to go on to Twitter-based careers, but learning how to write concisely, to express one key detail succinctly and eloquently, is an incredibly useful skill, and more in tune with most students’ daily chatter, as well as the world’s conversation. The photo caption has never been more vital.

So a few years ago, I started slipping my classes short writing assignments alongside the required papers. Once, I asked them, “Come up with two lines of copy to sell something you’re wearing now on eBay.” The mix of commerce and fashion stirred interest, and despite having 30 students in each class, I could give everyone serious individual attention. For another project, I asked them to describe the essence of the chalkboard in one or two sentences. One student wrote, “A chalkboard is a lot like memory: often jumbled, unorganized and sloppy. Even after it’s erased, there are traces of everything that’s been written on it.”

This was great, but I want to go shorter. Like many who teach, I keep thinking the perfect syllabus is a semester away — with just a few tweaks, and maybe a total pedagogical overhaul. My ideal composition class would include assignments like “Write coherent and original comments for five YouTube videos, quickly telling us why surprised kittens or unconventional wedding dances resonate with millions,” and “Write Amazon reviews, including a bit of summary, insight and analysis, for three canonical works we read this semester (points off for gratuitous modern argot and emoticons).”

The longest assignment could be a cover letter, and even that might be streamlined to a networking e-mail. I’d rather my students master skills like these than proper style for citations.

A lot can be said with a little — the mundane and the extraordinary. Philosophers like Confucius (“Learning without thought is labor lost. Thought without learning is perilous.”) and Nietzsche were kings of the aphorism."
communication  twitter  writing  brevity  via:lukeneff  teaching  exercises  2011  andyselsberg 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Landays: Poetry of Afghan Women
"In Afghan culture, poetry is revered, particularly the high literary forms that derive from Persian or Arabic. But the poem above is a folk couplet — a landay — an oral and often anonymous scrap of song created by and for mostly illiterate people: the more than twenty million Pashtun women who span the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Traditionally, landays are sung aloud, often to the beat of a hand drum, which, along with other kinds of music, was banned by the Taliban from 1996 to 2001, and in some places, still is.

A landay has only a few formal properties. Each has twenty-two syllables: nine in the first line, thirteen in the second. The poem ends with the sound “ma” or “na.” Sometimes they rhyme, but more often not. In Pashto, they lilt internally from word to word in a kind of two-line lullaby that belies the sharpness of their content, which is distinctive not only for its beauty, bawdiness, and wit, but also for the piercing ability to articulate a common truth about war, separation, homeland, grief, or love. Within these five main tropes, the couplets express a collective fury, a lament, an earthy joke, a love of home, a longing for the end of separation, a call to arms, all of which frustrate any facile image of a Pashtun woman as nothing but a mute ghost beneath a blue burqa.

From the Aryan caravans that likely brought these poems to Afghanistan thousands of years ago to ongoing U.S. drone strikes, the subjects of landays are remixed like hip-hop, with old words swapped for newer, more relevant ones. A woman’s sleeve in a centuries-old landay becomes her bra strap today. A colonial British officer becomes a contemporary American soldier. A book becomes a gun. Each biting word change has much to teach about the social satire that ripples under the surface of a woman’s life. With the drawdown of American forces in 2014 looming, these are the voices of protest most at risk when the Americans pull out. Although some landays reflect fury at the presence of the U.S. military, many women fear that in the absence of America’s involvement they will return to lives of isolation and oppression, just as under the Taliban.

Landays began among nomads and farmers. They were shared around a fire, sung after a day in the fields or at a wedding. More than three decades of war has diluted a culture, as well as displaced millions of people who can’t return safely to their villages. Conflict has also contributed to globalization. Now people share landays virtually via the internet, Facebook, text messages, and the radio. It’s not only the subject matter that makes them risqué. Landays are mostly sung, and singing is linked to licentiousness in the Afghan consciousness. Women singers are viewed as prostitutes. Women get around this by singing in secret — in front of only close family or, say, a harmless-looking foreign woman. Usually in a village or a family one woman is more skilled at singing landays than others, yet men have no idea who she is. Much of an Afghan woman’s life involves a cloak-and-dagger dance around honor — a gap between who she seems to be and who she is.

These days, for women, poetry programs on the radio are one of the few permissible forms of access to the outside world. Such was the case for Rahila Muska, who learned about a women’s literary group called Mirman Baheer via the radio. The group meets in the capital of Kabul every Saturday afternoon; it also runs a phone hotline for girls from the provinces, like Muska, to call in with their own work or to talk to fellow poets. Muska, which means smile in Pashto, phoned in so frequently and showed such promise that she became the darling of the literary circle. She alluded to family problems that she refused to discuss.

One day in the spring of 2010, Muska phoned her fellow poets from a hospital bed in the southeastern city of Kandahar to say that she’d set herself on fire. She’d burned herself in protest. Her brothers had beaten her badly after discovering her writing poems. Poetry — especially love poetry — is forbidden to many of Afghanistan’s women: it implies dishonor and free will. Both are unsavory for women in traditional Afghan culture. Soon after, Muska died."
afghanistan  beauty  poetry  2013  brevity  culture  drones  war  sisters  gender  hiphop  oppression  poems  projectideas  photography  nomads  landays 
june 2013 by robertogreco
BUS YOUR OWN TRAY — On the Virtue of Brevity in Email
"Long emails are, more frequently than not, the worst. When you send someone an email, you make a demand on their time. If you use more words than necessary, you waste their time. Sure we’re talking maybe a fraction of a minute, but given the number of emails the average person sends in a day those fractions add up pretty quick.

This conflicts with an older style of correspondence that associated pleasantries with tact. Tactful emails now are efficient, and pleasantries are a waste. People accustomed to pleasantries see their absence as rude, or a sign of being cross. They infer a tone that isn’t there, while people accustomed to brevity know how difficult it can be to ascertain tone from an email.

The efficient emailer often has to conform to the old style to assuage hurt feelings. This is just as terrible as the other thing, because it requires the sender to waste time and energy creating more words than necessary…"
etiquette  norms  texting  twitter  change  cultureshifts  brevity  2012  adamlisagor  siri  communication  email  ericspiegelman 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Why Tweet? (And How To Do It) | A.T. | Cleveland
"Effective tweeting requires effective writing. The short form—each tweet is 140 characters or less—requires discipline. Tweets reward clarity, wit and concision. You could train yourself to be a better writer by using twitter effectively. It hones your focus on the sentence level, and the sentence is the most important unit of composition.

Once, I asked a group of students to take an essay they had written for class and tweet it, sentence by sentence. By forcing them to fit each sentence into that white box, I was asking them to analyze every word they used and to consider how they constructed the clauses in the sentence. They were furious with me: they hated the exercise. But they all agreed they thought about their sentences more than they had when they first wrote the paper…

I have broken down effective tweets into four categories: headline, questions, self-contained quips and comments…"
tutorials  howto  questions  comments  quips  headlines  2011  communication  howwewrite  practice  efficiency  brevity  sentences  classideas  writing  twitter  annetrubek 
january 2012 by robertogreco
Simple English Wikipedia - Blog - Matthew Culnane
[A great reminder from Matthew Culnane on the value of Simple Wikipedia, even for native speakers of English. I also like the "Further Reading" component of the post.]

"When I need a clear, straightforward summary of a topic, I’ve started reading the ‘Simple English’ version of Wikipedia. It’s primarily written for people whose first language isn’t English, but I’ve used it profitably."

[Followed by an example.]
wikipedia  simplewikipedia  classideas  rampingup  forbeginners  2011  matthewculnane  learning  anything101  english  starting  brevity  simplicity  language 
september 2011 by robertogreco
Save Our Inboxes! Adopt the Email Charter!
"We're drowning in email. And the many hours we spend on it are generating ever more work for our friends and colleagues. We can reverse this "spiral only by mutual agreement. Hence this Charter..."
culture  writing  business  communication  email  emailcharter  2011  brevity  etiquette 
june 2011 by robertogreco
The class I'd like to teach - (37signals)
"…a writing course. Every assignment would be delivered in five versions: A three page version, a one page version, a three paragraph version, a one paragraph version, & a one sentence version.<br />
<br />
I don’t care about the topic. I care about the editing…constant refinement & compression…taking three pages & turning it one page. Then from one page into three paragraphs…into one paragraph. & finally, from one paragraph into one perfectly distilled sentence.<br />
<br />
Along the way you’d trade detail for brevity. Hopefully adding clarity at each point…editing is an essential skill that is often overlooked and under appreciated. The future belongs to the best editors.<br />
<br />
Each step requires asking “What’s really important?” That’s the most important question you can ask yourself about anything. The class would really be about answering that very question at each step of the way. Whittling it all down until all that’s left is the point.<br />
<br />
I hope to be able to teach this class one day."
education  learning  design  teaching  web  37signals  jasonfried  classideas  editing  communication  colleges  universities  brevity  editors  condensation  2011 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Less Is More: Using Social Media to Inspire Concise Writing - NYTimes.com
"How can online media like Twitter posts, Facebook status updates and text messages be harnessed to inspire and guide concise writing? In this lesson, students read, respond to and write brief fiction and nonfiction stories, and reflect on the benefits and drawbacks of “writing short.”"

[Related: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/opinion/20selsberg.html AND http://www.pdscompasspoint.com/?p=4466 ]
writing  literature  twitter  facebook  brevity  classideas  fiction  stories  storytelling  socialmedia  summary  texting  constraints 
april 2011 by robertogreco
How not to do it | The Compass Point
"So once we are over the shock horror of the faux fears that this means the end of literature, let’s remember the distinction between the leisurely novel and the haiku. Both have their place. And with the time saving from precise non-literary and meditative communication there is time for both.

Maybe Jane Austen who wrote of “… the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush” is the model. She certainly knew how to skewer  human absurdity with the tightly constructed sentence."

[Related: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/opinion/20selsberg.html ]
josieholford  writing  brevity  twitter  literature  humor  precision  classideas  communication  history  summary 
april 2011 by robertogreco
'Hint Fiction' Celebrates The (Extremely) Short Story : NPR
"Can you tell a whole story in 25 words or fewer? Inspired by the six-word novel attributed to Ernest Hemingway — "For sale: baby shoes, never worn" — Robert Swartwood has compiled a new anthology of bite-sized fiction.<br />
The stories in Hint Fiction are short enough to be text messages, but the genre isn't defined only by its length. It's characterized by the way the form forces readers to fill in the blanks, Swartwood tells NPR's Scott Simon. Most fiction hints at a larger story, he says, but the brevity of these stories really challenges the reader's imagination."
books  culture  fiction  language  classideas  writing  brevity  hemingway 
december 2010 by robertogreco
More time = shorter letter | Dangerous Intersection
“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” Blaise Pascal, (1623-1662) Lettres provinciales. “If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today. If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.” Mark Twain
time  brevity  simplicity  speaking  quotations  writing  communication  creativity 
december 2008 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read