What is the Secret Behind the Bad Writing of Lost Symbol Author Dan Brown?

The-Lost-Symbol460

By Tom Chivers

TELEGRAPH UK

15 Sep 2009

If Dan Brown’s new novel The Lost Symbol is anything like his previous works, it will not go down well with the critics. Famously, comedian Stewart Lee mocked him for using the sentence “The famous man looked at the red cup” in his bestselling The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown’s conspiracy theories: six of the best

In fact, Lee was making that up – the sentence never appears in the book. So are the critics unfair on Brown?

They’re certainly harsh. Edinburgh professor of linguistics Geoffrey Pullum says “Brown’s writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad.” He picks out some excerpts for special criticism. The female lead in Angels and Demons learns of the death of her scientist father: “Genius, she thought. My father . . . Dad. Dead.” A member of the Vatican Guard in the same book becomes annoyed by something, and we learn that “his eyes went white, like a shark about to attack.”

Below we have selected 20 phrases that may grate on the ear. It’s not a definitive list. It couldn’t be: he has published five novels, each around 500 pages long, and the arguments over which are the worst bits will go on for a while. But it’s our list. Add your own in the comment box below.

20. Angels and Demons, chapter 1: Although not overly handsome in a classical sense, the forty-year-old Langdon had what his female colleagues referred to as an ‘erudite’ appeal — wisp of gray in his thick brown hair, probing blue eyes, an arrestingly deep voice, and the strong, carefree smile of a collegiate athlete.

They say the first rule of fiction is “show, don’t tell”. This fails that rule.

19. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 83: “The Knights Templar were warriors,” Teabing reminded, the sound of his aluminum crutches echoing in this reverberant space.

“Remind” is a transitive verb – you need to remind someone of something. You can’t just remind. And if the crutches echo, we know the space is reverberant. [Read more…]

We are the most powerful nation in the world. There is no excuse, only corruption.

We are the most powerful nation in the world. There is no excuse, only corruption.

On a Plane Ride Home From Paris Sitting Next to a Douchebag With an Ed Hardy Shirt Reading Glenn Beck’s Book

TEEVEE1

1441!

by John Tully
The New York Herald Sun
July 26, 2009


Whether it was Michael Wolff’s “piece” in Vanity Fair on Politico or the Paris tap water that produced the explosive diarrhea on a hot sweaty July night in the City of Lights, we’ll never know…

Time moves both slow and fast in these Dog Days of Summer and the memory hole of the past eight bloody years is fading and digging deeper.

I take you back to the city of D.C.

A few years ago…
A quaint city, soon to written about like Rome, gilded on their own lily and pathetic to boot.

Sucked in to television, watching the camera moves, editing, and heavy music to a story about a mom and a dad and a wife who lose their little/big man to a fiery explosion in Iraq. The soldier leaves a “just in case” final video for his bride, tells her of his deep love, and urges her to go on with life: “get married, have kids”  It’s a noble gesture from a brave young man and the camera cuts to the weeping widow watching the tape.

The evening news comes on and the 80 year-old man who marched against Iraq in a February freeze watches a report on two dead Marines and 17 Iraqi dead civilians . Remember seeing that look on the face of the Marines’ mother or the site of yet another widow with two babies that finally punches the gut.

At this point in the war,  President Bush hadn’t been to one funeral service for them.

Remember.

Remember banned television cameras at the arrival of the bodies from Germany, at the base in Delaware .

The cowering, obedient press corpse giving the President a free pass after 9/11 and the Administration using it to make the United States less safe, less secure, and spoil environmental and geopolitical progress for years to come.

Remembering Television and Freedom Fries and Terror Alerts here in Paris 6  years later, the mind once again boggles and crunches the serious, sad, mistaken war of choice that ignored all plans and warnings of consequences.

Powered by arrogance and breathtaking hubris and television’s Meet The Press and This Week With Will for the latest talking points of the day.

MR. RUSSERT: All right, this way: Should the blogs, talk radio, cable TV—should people lower their voices, and, and, and control their rhetoric?

Remember that very same week when the Vice-President poked a fat finger in the eye of Russia while the Bush Administration reflexively rejected the first written communication from Iran in seventeen years. Neither Vice President Cheney’s speech or the letter was ever mentioned on either program.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney had blown the cover of longtime C.I.A. agent Valerie Plame who it turns out was working on nuclear proliferation. Her contacts through front company Brewster Jennings were actively working the underground nukes world. That intel might have been helpful that very same week in dealing with Iran.

Instead, the latest Cool-Kids Media Club Memes emerged: “Anger on the Blogs”

That’s right. Three different allusions to blogs and anger on both Meet The Press and This Week complete with an obligatory question from Tim Russert to new/old ham Newt Gingrich.

Schmuck David Brooks, perpetual mealy-mouthed defender of the Bush administration throwing out his  shoulder shrugging off the incident at Haditha in front of two shocked Marines: Mark Shields and Jim Lehrer.

Remember when columnist Tony Blankley said the war protests were organized by the communist party and the Press corps labeled Al Gore as Crazy for his pre-war criticism about invading Iraq.
How about when war hero Max Cleland was derisively compared to both Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in a television advertisement by his republican opponent, Saxby Chambliss during their Senate race? Mr. Cleland lost his legs and an arm during Vietnam but the republican claimed the democrat was soft on National Security. Mr. Chambliss sat out the war with a bad knee.

Go back in time and recall when Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz had no idea how many Americans had been killed in Iraq and called the idea of two hundred thousand troops needed in Iraq as  “wildly off the mark”

It’s apparent that there Was Not a massive intelligence failure and the administration indeed was warned about the vagueness of the information about Iraq.

Remember that classic “Everybody thought-even-France and Germany” song about W.M.D.’s.
The Memory-Hole pieces together the events of the past six years but can never illuminate fully how one of the most brilliant countries in history could now be cowardly defending war atrocities and blaming, as Mr. Blankley said that very same week about the incident at Haditha: “Over reporting by a gleeful media is more damaging than any single fact”

Come to think of it-maybe that gleeful, fluffy, Politico piece that completely failed to mention the publication’s Reagan connection was responsible for that gut bomb the other night.

Either way, I’m still sick as a dog.

JT

Paris, France

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Post-Scandal, John Edwards Finds a Quieter Purpose

By Alec MacGillis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 18, 2009

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John Edwards says he has few illusions. He knows the picture many Americans hold of him is not a pretty one. He also knows that even before he was engulfed in tabloid scandal, his electoral appeal had limits. And he believes that President Obama, the man who stole whatever rising-star magic he once had, is doing a good job.

Yet as he spends his days in his family’s mansion on the outskirts of Chapel Hill, N.C., Edwards can’t help but fret about how Washington and the country are getting on in his absence. He worries about the concessions that may be made on health-care reform, which he was promoting more aggressively than anyone on the presidential campaign trail. He worries about who will speak out for the country’s neediest at a time when most attention is focused on the suddenly imperiled middle class.

“What happens now? If you were to ask people during the campaign who’s talking most about [poverty], it was me,” he said in an interview a few days ago. “There’s a desperate need in the world for a voice of leadership on this issue. . . . The president’s got a lot to do, he’s got a lot of people to be responsible for, so I’m not critical of him, but there does need to be an aggressive voice beside the president.”

It has been 10 months since Edwards looked into a TV camera and said that in 2006, while preparing for his second run for president and while his wife’s cancer was in remission, he had an affair with a videographer working for him, Rielle Hunter — and then decided to run for president anyway, risking a scandal that could have devastated Democrats’ chances had he won the nomination.

He has hardly been seen since. In October, he mourned the death of his close friend and biggest financial supporter, trial lawyer Fred Baron, the man who had paid to move Hunter and her baby to Santa Barbara, Calif. In December, after being contacted by anti-poverty groups, Edwards helped deliver food and medication to Haiti. He learned in the months following that federal agents were investigating whether his campaign had funneled money to Hunter, an allegation he denies.

Last month his wife Elizabeth went on a media tour for her new memoir. She told Oprah Winfrey that she had “no idea” whether her husband was the father of Hunter’s baby girl, despite his earlier avowal that it was not. Asked whether she still loved her husband, Elizabeth Edwards said, “It’s complicated.”

John Edwards had left the country for much of the book tour. He was in El Salvador, helping a group called Homes From the Heart with its work building houses and clinics and distributing sewing machines. The group’s director, Michael Bonderer, was surprised when Edwards accepted his invitation.

“Obviously he’s got some problems, but he’s a nice guy,” Bonderer said. “I kind of didn’t know that. I thought, ‘What in God’s name am I going to have when he gets here?’ But he’s a pretty down-to-earth guy.” Edwards was funny, Bonderer said. “He jokes about how it’s obvious that the American people don’t want him to be president.”

But mostly, there are the many long hours in the big house. Edwards spends time with his two younger children, taking them on a trip to the beach last weekend. He keeps company with Elizabeth, whose cancer returned in the spring of 2007. And through it all he contemplates a lifetime of recovering from a steep fall from public grace.

“The two things I’m on the planet for now are to take care of the people I love and to take care of people who cannot take care of themselves,” he said.

In agreeing to his first extended interview since confirming the affair, Edwards refused to talk about Hunter, the baby’s paternity, his wife’s memoir or the campaign investigation. But he spoke expansively over the phone for 90 minutes about his tumultuous decade in politics, which began when, after the death of his teenaged son in a car accident, he left behind a career as a trial lawyer to run for the U.S. Senate in 1998.

He said that for all the trauma that came of the 2008 campaign, he is not ready to declare that it had been a mistake to run, calling that a “very complex question.” He believed, he said, that he had pushed Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton in a more progressive direction on issues including health care — Edwards was the first to propose an individual insurance mandate — and that the value of his run will be determined partly by what Obama achieves on these fronts.

“Did it make sense to run and stay in the race? Time will tell,” he said.

He said he has no plans to make a push to restore his name, along the lines of what former New York governor Eliot Spitzer has embarked on. Reputation “is not something I’m focused on,” he said. “The only relevance of it at all is my ability to help people. That’s the only reason it matters. I’m not engaged in, or interested in, being in a PR campaign.”

But he did not rule out a return to politics. He said it was too early to say what the future held — though an Al Gore-style advocacy role is more likely than elected office, given the scandal. He thinks “every day” about what form his future role in activism or public life could take, but “right now, a lot of that is unanswerable.”

“Sometimes you just keep your head down and work hard and see what happens,” he said.

After a strong showing in the 2004 primaries and his ultimately unsuccessful campaign as John Kerry‘s running mate, Edwards left the Senate to prepare for a second presidential run, positioning himself as the more progressive alternative to Clinton despite a voting record that was decidedly centrist on many issues. But then Obama came along. Edwards placed second behind the relative newcomer in the Iowa caucuses, then dropped out of the race in late January. He endorsed Obama in May, putting himself in the mix for vice president or attorney general.

Then came confirmation of the affair. So total has his disappearance been that there has been little accounting of what he left behind. Many of his supporters have yet even to attempt to reckon with the meaning of his campaigns in light of last year’s revelations.

Some Democrats still argue that he pushed Obama and Clinton to the left. But others say his outspoken progressive platform was flawed from the outset — it was better, they say, to frame a progressive agenda in the way Obama did, with broad themes of societal uplift, instead of an explicit appeal on behalf of the poor. These critics say the sincerity of all of Edwards’s rhetoric is in question now, potentially undermining future attempts by politicians to try to focus on poverty.

“The reaction going forward to a politician accepting the mantle of poverty the way Edwards did is that he would be dismissed as insincere,” said Margy Waller, a policy adviser in the Clinton administration. “The risk always was that that would happen to Edwards — not related to the way he treated his wife, but the way he treated the issue overall always seemed insincere. His whole history of working on the issue was fairly limited and always somewhat suspect.”

One legacy still stands: a poverty think tank that he created in 2005 at the University in North Carolina. It is now led by law professor Gene Nichol, who puts on occasional events and oversees student fellowships. The center is funded by a $2 million pledge by a Chapel Hill couple who were strong Edwards supporters. But his name has all but disappeared from the center’s Web site.

It bothers Nichol that Edwards’s many skeptics have used his troubles to justify their cynicism. It is a sentiment shared by Edwards’s former advisers, many of whom have found jobs in the Obama administration and on Capitol Hill. “People say in effect, ‘Well, John Edwards fell off a cliff so poverty obviously isn’t a question for American politics,’ ” Nichol said. “How that can be? I don’t understand.”

Edwards rejected the notion that questions about his credibility would hurt future efforts to combat poverty. “Helping the poor was never about me, and never should have been and isn’t today,” he said. “Whether I did extraordinarily superhuman things or had frailties has nothing to do with people living in the dark every day of their lives.”

Other Edwards initiatives have fallen by the wayside. One week before confirming the affair, he pulled the plug on College for Everyone, a program he started in 2005 at Greene Central High School in Snow Hill, N.C., which paid the first-year college tuition of any graduate who stayed out of trouble and worked 10 hours per week, at a total cost of about $300,000 per year. Edwards touted the program often on the campaign trail, calling it the first step toward a nationwide financial aid initiative.

But Assistant Superintendent Patricia McNeill said many had been bracing for the program’s end once Edwards dropped out of the presidential contest. “Our children today are very astute and they are cognizant of what goes on in the political world,” she said.

Among those who were taken by surprise was Lavania Edwards (no relation), a pre-kindergarten teacher who is still looking for help to cover the college costs of her son Malik, who graduated from high school last week. “We were really planning on that helping,” she said. “I was disappointed and I wondered what happened in that they couldn’t continue with the program — or why no one came out to us with a definite answer.”

Edwards said he had to pull the plug because campaign supporters were less likely to give money to the program once he was out of the race. “But it served its purpose,” he said. “A lot of kids benefited.”

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, residents who had been foreclosed on after Hurricane Katrina by subprime lenders owned by Fortress Investment Group, a hedge fund that Edwards worked for and invested with, have not received the special assistance that Edwards promised after their troubles were reported by The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal in 2007.

Edwards, who launched his campaign in a Katrina-stricken section of New Orleans, had vowed in 2007 that he would raise $100,000 to set up a fund that, administered by the anti-poverty group ACORN, would see to it that the 32 affected homeowners would be made whole.

Among the homeowners were Ernest and Ollie Grant, whose storm-damaged house faced foreclosure by Fortress-owned Nationstar Mortgage, on an adjustable rate loan that shot to $1,200 per month. The Grants said that after months of waiting for ACORN to call them, they reached out on their own and found a helpful employee, “Miss Kristi,” who got their monthly payment down to $649.

But six months ago, Nationstar started sending letters saying the payment was going back up above $900. The Grants called ACORN back, but Miss Kristi was gone, and others there provided no help. With their home finally fixed up, they are again worried about losing it. They bristle at Edwards’s name.

“I just thought he was trying to cover his tracks while he was a candidate. I even told my wife that if he didn’t win, we would feel these repercussions just like we’re doing,” said Ernest Grant. “It was probably all for show in the end.”

Another resident, Eva Comadore, said she never heard from anyone after the day a TV news crew came to ask her about the promise. Comadore had lost her home to foreclosure by Green Tree Servicing, another Fortress company, in May 2007. Since then, she has been paying $400 a month, two-thirds of her Social Security income, to rent a trailer owned by her sister.

“All I know is they were supposed to make some kind of agreement to settle with us but they never did,” she said.

ACORN spokesman Scott Levenson said the group had trouble finding the 32 homeowners. He said the group received $50,000, not $100,000, and that it went to the group’s general mortgage-counseling program in New Orleans.

Edwards said the $50,000 came from him. “I wanted to make a good faith effort,” he said. “Obviously, a problem this deep and widespread would not be solved by an individual presidential candidate.”

In 2007, Edwards said he had gone to work at Fortress because his family needed the income, despite holdings then estimated at $30 million. But in the interview, he said he was no longer fixated on finding lucrative work. “When I’m on my deathbed, I don’t think I’ll be thinking, did I work enough or earn enough money,” he said.

He plans to return to El Salvador next month. “Whether I’m digging a ditch or hammering a nail, I don’t have any pride in this anymore, I just want to help,” he said. “If I can help the most by working quietly, that’s what I’ll do. If as time goes by I can be more helpful with a public role, that’s what I will do.”

He realizes that his transgressions had only bolstered his longtime skeptics, but said that any cynicism about his motives on fighting poverty was “complete foolishness.” “There’s a reason why it’s been many years since a politician made this issue central to him — and, I might add, I didn’t get elected,” he said. “There aren’t many votes in helping poor people.”

Most of all, he wants his most ardent supporters to believe that the message that drove his campaigns was solid, despite all later revelations about the candidate himself.

“It was real, 100 percent real,” he said. “I want them to be proud of what I stood for, and of what the campaign stood for. The stands were honest and sincere and idealistic. They were what America needed then and needs now.”

Paul Krugman: “On the Edge”

February 6, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist
On the Edge

A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to economic recovery. Over the last two weeks, what should have been a deadly serious debate about how to save an economy in desperate straits turned, instead, into hackneyed political theater, with Republicans spouting all the old clichés about wasteful government spending and the wonders of tax cuts.

It’s as if the dismal economic failure of the last eight years never happened — yet Democrats have, incredibly, been on the defensive. Even if a major stimulus bill does pass the Senate, there’s a real risk that important parts of the original plan, especially aid to state and local governments, will have been emasculated.

Somehow, Washington has lost any sense of what’s at stake — of the reality that we may well be falling into an economic abyss, and that if we do, it will be very hard to get out again.

It’s hard to exaggerate how much economic trouble we’re in. The crisis began with housing, but the implosion of the Bush-era housing bubble has set economic dominoes falling not just in the United States, but around the world.

Consumers, their wealth decimated and their optimism shattered by collapsing home prices and a sliding stock market, have cut back their spending and sharply increased their saving — a good thing in the long run, but a huge blow to the economy right now. Developers of commercial real estate, watching rents fall and financing costs soar, are slashing their investment plans. Businesses are canceling plans to expand capacity, since they aren’t selling enough to use the capacity they have. And exports, which were one of the U.S. economy’s few areas of strength over the past couple of years, are now plunging as the financial crisis hits our trading partners.

Meanwhile, our main line of defense against recessions — the Federal Reserve’s usual ability to support the economy by cutting interest rates — has already been overrun. The Fed has cut the rates it controls basically to zero, yet the economy is still in free fall.

It’s no wonder, then, that most economic forecasts warn that in the absence of government action we’re headed for a deep, prolonged slump. Some private analysts predict double-digit unemployment. The Congressional Budget Office is slightly more sanguine, but its director, nonetheless, recently warned that “absent a change in fiscal policy … the shortfall in the nation’s output relative to potential levels will be the largest — in duration and depth — since the Depression of the 1930s.”

Worst of all is the possibility that the economy will, as it did in the ’30s, end up stuck in a prolonged deflationary trap.

We’re already closer to outright deflation than at any point since the Great Depression. In particular, the private sector is experiencing widespread wage cuts for the first time since the 1930s, and there will be much more of that if the economy continues to weaken.

As the great American economist Irving Fisher pointed out almost 80 years ago, deflation, once started, tends to feed on itself. As dollar incomes fall in the face of a depressed economy, the burden of debt becomes harder to bear, while the expectation of further price declines discourages investment spending. These effects of deflation depress the economy further, which leads to more deflation, and so on.

And deflationary traps can go on for a long time. Japan experienced a “lost decade” of deflation and stagnation in the 1990s — and the only thing that let Japan escape from its trap was a global boom that boosted the nation’s exports. Who will rescue America from a similar trap now that the whole world is slumping at the same time?

Would the Obama economic plan, if enacted, ensure that America won’t have its own lost decade? Not necessarily: a number of economists, myself included, think the plan falls short and should be substantially bigger. But the Obama plan would certainly improve our odds. And that’s why the efforts of Republicans to make the plan smaller and less effective — to turn it into little more than another round of Bush-style tax cuts — are so destructive.

So what should Mr. Obama do? Count me among those who think that the president made a big mistake in his initial approach, that his attempts to transcend partisanship ended up empowering politicians who take their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh. What matters now, however, is what he does next.

It’s time for Mr. Obama to go on the offensive. Above all, he must not shy away from pointing out that those who stand in the way of his plan, in the name of a discredited economic philosophy, are putting the nation’s future at risk. The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe, and much of the Republican Party is trying to push it over that edge.

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