Doubly framed by Boston Red Sox, I'm celebrating. This is not to say I'd not like my own sox washed, Mariner-Style, in Simple Green, but it's to express gratitude that one curse (the Babe's) is behind us, and another (Bush's) maybe in eclipse. A true patriotism, I mean to say, seems to be on a roll! Go Kerry!Stop Bush!
But I come by my theme honestly. I mean, I was getting fitted Sunday afternoon for a quite classy, stylish sport coat hereabouts. As you'll likely not see it, I'll just say that it's a Hickey-Freeman bought so cheap that tailoring wasn't included. The thing does need, perhaps, "Carlylean" editing.
Indeed, I just had a chance to say so in a comment posted Sunday at Jocalo's A Writing Teacher's Blog. Conveniently linked there (as "Sartorial Rhetoric") in a follow-up post Monday, Close, Cloze, Clothes, I thought you might like reading it. Its ironic subject is Dressing for Success.
· On Student Stylechoice: Naiveté and Irony and GWB ·
I've been out and about attending to elective stylechoice recently. Riding a bus last Sunday in New Jersey, I had thrust into my hands a New York Times Magazine article on the much-contested faith-based presidency of George W. Bush. I couldn't help but note the article today, Ron Suskind's aptly-titled "Without a Doubt" (10/17/04), since Suskind marks a split I'd seen the previous week in reading scores of student essays on President Bush's beliefs. They divided along religious lines essentially, turning on whether students took a naive or ironic, a stylishly straight or slanted view of the Bush presidency.
Though I can't begin to epitomize the wide variety of opinions read, I can mark their extremes at least. Without further comment, here are two stylishly varied takes on George Bush. You should know they're the impromptu essays of non-voting teenagers asked to reflect on "great decisions" reached in human history.
A great decision was made when Mr. George W. Bush was elected President of the United States. President Bush is a dedicated man, not only to God and his country but also to his family. He rises early every morning to spend time in prayer and to study the Bible. Once he has completed his daily devotionals he awakens his wife with a hot cup of coffee. He then goes on to greet the day and to do his best at running the country.
President Bush is a compassionate man. He cares about the people of this country. His desire is that no citizen would live in fear. He may not be the smartest or the toughest but his desire to do the right thing outweighs the rest. He is a man of integrity and he relies on his faith in God and his country to help him get through the daunting task of running the most powerful country in the world.
Truly, a great decision was made when George W. Bush was nominated by the Republicans to run for the presidency. A masterful Republican think-tank must have come up with that one. He is the people's man in the truest sense of the word. No president since Jackson has exuded such unbridled populist charisma, and no opponent could ever hope to overcome his impenetrable foolishness.
George W. Bush is the perfect president. With no political history of any kind to hang around his neck like an albatross of experience, he is free to think boldly about the course our country must run. And with an austere, almost prophetic quality to his thinking, he can walk across any mud his opponents may throw at him. He ascends above the coarseness of partisan politics and transcends political discourse altogether.
Even if events should seemingly turn against his logic or show that he appeared to have no logic at all, he can bare his soul to the electorate and show us he means well. Let him take on the heavy burden of thinking about politics. He has a plan, and it may or may not come from God himself. So rejoice, people of America! Throw off the shackles of self-doubt and introspection and rejoice in the knowledge that a great choice was made when George W. Bush was allowed to descend onto the political scene. Rejoice, my brothers. Rejoice.
You should know Styles' own choice falls somewhere in between.
· Encouraging Simplicity: Denis Diderot on Style ·
My latest marked a departure last week, in that I leaned on local lore to teach America's "Other Washington" a lesson. I thought Finley Hays — like other Loggers on the Pacific Slope indebted stylistically to Mark Twain — might have a thing or two to teach our political leaders.
I didn't say so, but I had in the back of my mind an apt quotation from Denis Diderot:
C'est que le bon style est dans le coeur; voilà pourquoi tant de femmes disent et é comme des anges, sans avoir appris ni à dire ni à écrire, et pourquoi tant de pédants diront et écriront mal toute leur vie, quoiqu'ils n'alent cessé d'étudier sans apprendre.
Although I know only ironic pedants knocking recent efforts to make French Fries into Fresh Cut Fries would employ French here, as old Finley might say, there is nothing lost in translation:
The truth is that good style is found in the heart. Hence the reason why so many women talk and write like angels, without ever having learned either to talk or to write; and why so many pedants will talk and write badly all their lives, though they have studied ceaselessly, without learning a thing.
"When Professor Gilbert Murray," as F. L. Lucas writes in his fine book Style (where I found Diderot's passage),
confesses to sometimes wishing that the inhabitants of University towns were rather more like Polynesians, I know what he means. But at this point prudence enjoins silence. . . . My point is merely that the sophisticated (ready though they may be to suppose so) do not necessarily express themselves better than the simple — in fact, may often have much to learn from them.
This should not be construed, of course, as any endorsement for politicians merely simple-minded.
· Veepstake Styles: Family Resemblances from the Rigging Shack ·
Last night I took in the vice-presidential debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards. I heard it first on radio — then TV. Frankly, there wasn't much difference. It was like Darth Vader going up against Luke Skywalker, though depending on your party, roles can, of course, reverse. I thought family resemblances mattered more at last.
Consider Gwen Ifel's asking Cheney how the men differed. Jabbering on about similarities, Cheney said, "My grandfather never finished high school," while John Edwards added, "And I'm the son of a millworker." Well, as Buffon says, if style is the man himself, why this macho ID shifting?
The reason is simple: the substantively educated (politicians, especially) know they haven't much low-life style. Take me: though I'm "Styles the Logger," I admit (on my About page here) that I'm not "The Real Thing." So, what is? I'd suggest Finley Hays.
Here's his "Foreward" to Finley's Rigging Shack (1996) — a set of short columns from Loggers World from 1966 to 1979 — catching better than I can the "low-life point" of last night's debate. Running commentary is but "high-life delineation."
When we started our 'word processor' was a manual desk model Olympic typewriter. The cost was about $140.00 for this machine. We graduated from there to IBM electric models and from there to a Macintosh Computer that cost over three grand. Same man, same words but more expense. I write about logging and loggers. That is what I know the most about and that ain't much. I don't know as much as I think I do because things change rapidly and what you knew last year may be, and often is, obsolete this year . . . and therefore worthless.
"The fact of the matter is," chimes in old Darth Vader.
I have found a way around this by declaring myself a "Logging Historian". This is an enviable position. Many of the men I've worked with have gone to that Heaven specially prepared for Loggers. Thus when I write about those 'miserable old days' there are not too many who can dispute my memory or writings. This allows a freedom to writers in their eighties. I am often asked to give speeches about Logging and how it used to be.
"We have a plan," notes young Luke Skywalker.
The more I learn about the old days the more I distrust Historians generally. They are always talking about a slice of time that is incorrectly remembered, falsely documented and wrongly guessed at. If you take this to mean I'm not to be trusted you made a shrewd guess. But then I'm the best you've got. Me and men like me. Our memories are true although they are often in conflict with each other. We tend to get the names wrong, to remember ourselves as heroes and mighty men of the woods. The truth often is that we couldn't find a good job and had to go to the woods. There are some of us who selected logging as a career. Most of us got there because that's where we got our first job. During the following years many of us were always looking for a safer and more comfortable occupation. Some of us became machine operators, saw filers, mechanics and such so we could get out of the blistering sun and the freezing wet weather to protect our bones and our attitudes. Most loggers of long duration did try other work from time to time.
"I'll drink to that," winks old Yoda.
Many of us had our careers interrupted for several years by one of the several wars we've lived through.
"And which one," smiles Styles Stylechoice, "has the last word here?"*
*You might note the low imprint — Maverick Publications — of Finley Hays's book.