Pride and Prejudice - The STORY GRID edition - Annotated by SHAWN COYNE

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ARCHIVES OF December, 2017

What It Takes

What It Takes

The Road Not Taken

By Callie Oettinger | Published: December 29, 2017

Exit the main streets of Washington, D.C., and you’ll find yourself driving through narrow chutes lined with parked cars, wishing your ride was a Mini Cooper.

The same situation plays out in cities around the world, where buildings were constructed, and inner-city neighborhoods established, long before the rise of the automobile.

A few weeks back, my mother visited Washington, D.C. She found herself near Eastern Market, behind a delivery truck on one of those narrow, one-way roads. Just before the intersection, the truck pulled tight to the right and stopped for a delivery. This left Mom with three options: 1) hold her breath and try to squeeze between the truck and the parked car on the left side of the street; 2) back up and turn down the alley she’d just passed; or 3) wait for the truck to finish its delivery and then move forward.

She eyeballed the open space and decided to keep her side-view mirrors. She looked in her rearview mirror and saw an SUV pulling up and blocking the exit to the alley. She stared at the delivery truck driver and the number of packages on his dolley, and settled on waiting for his return.

The SUV driver had something different in mind.

(more…)

Posted in What It Takes
22 Comments

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

The Villain Believes in “Reality”

By Steven Pressfield | Published: December 27, 2017

 

It seems like a long time ago—pre-Trump, pre-Obama—but I remember vividly when Vice President Dick Cheney declared in the wake of 9/11 that to counter the threat of terrorism the U.S. was now going to have to start “working the dark side.”

Robert Redford in "Three Days of the Condor"

Robert Redford in “Three Days of the Condor”

Cheney articulated this thought with barely-suppressed glee. I remember thinking at the time, “Wow, this guy is the ultimate movie villain,” not just because he was expressing a classic Dr. No/Dr. Evil/Dr. Strangelove sentiment but because his point of view contains more than a modicum of truth.

I’ve always wished that Dick Cheney would write a book. Not the typical self-serving, bullshit politician’s book but a straight-ahead, from-the-heart articulation of his brass-knuckles worldview.

Why? Because that worldview contains a lot of truth.

We should hear it.

We as Americans should debate it.

What I’m getting at is the “this is reality” school of villainy.

In Three Days of the Condor, Cliff Robertson plays senior CIA officer J. Higgins whose secret war plan for the U.S. to invade Saudi Arabia and capture its oil fields has been exposed by the movie’s hero, Joseph Turner (Robert Redford).

Does Cliff react with regret or shame over his nefarious deeds? (His operatives have also murdered seven Americans to cover up their scheme). Hell no. He doubles down.

 

CLIFF ROBERTSON

It’s simple economics. Today it’s oil, right? In ten or fifteen years, food. Plutonium. Maybe even sooner. Now, what do you think the people are gonna want us to do then?

 

ROBERT REDFORD

Ask them.

 

CLIFF ROBERTSON

Not now—then! Ask ’em when they’re running out. Ask ’em when there’s no heat in their homes and they’re cold. Ask ’em when their engines stop. Ask ’em when people who have never known hunger start going hungry. You wanna know something? They won’t want us to ask ’em. They’ll just want us to get it for ’em!

 

ROBERT REDFORD

Boy, have you found a home.

 

Cliff remains unfazed. His position: “This is Reality. This is the way the world works. Only sentimentalists and weak-minded dreamers believe otherwise.”

Mike Myers as Doctor Evil.

Mike Myers as Doctor Evil.

How many villain speeches have begun with this phrase:

 

VILLAIN X

Oh come, come, Mister Bond …

 

How about his exchange from an interview between Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump? O’Reilly was questioning Trump’s often-stated admiration for Russian president Vladimir Putin.

 

O’REILLY

But he’s a killer!

 

TRUMP

There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?

 

Villains love “reality,” i.e. the hardball view of the world, which declares that human nature is inherently evil, that left to their own devices people will always choose the selfish, the vain, and the expedient.

It is their role, the villains claim, to counter humanity’s innate wickedness. They will take it upon themselves to act preemptively to quash this evil for the greater good of the slumbering masses. Here’s Jack Nicholson, from Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men:

 

COLONEL JESSUP

Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

 

Remember what we said in an earlier post, that the villain doesn’t think he’s the villain?

To these “reality villains,” the believer in progress or human good is a self-deluded fool. Worse, he is a clear and present danger to the survival of the greater clan/community/nation.

Is there truth to this?

How much?

Does the arc of the moral universe bend toward justice, as Martin Luther King said?

Or was MLK, for all his greatness, deluding himself and the world with a dream that, however brave and kind and noble, will, given the reality of human nature, never come true?

Reality to a reality-villain is always zero-sum, dog-eat-dog. It is the world described by Thomas Hobbes in his book, Leviathan, where life without an externally-ordered structure would be

 

            solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

 

Is that reality?

Is he or she who believes this a villain or a hero?

(more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
27 Comments

What It Takes

What It Takes

Making Connections

By Shawn Coyne | Published: December 22, 2017

So it’s the mid-1980s and as young men do, Malcolm Gladwell and his friend Jacob Weisberg throw a lot of parties at their Washington D.C. rental on Adams Mill Road and Kenyon Street.

At one such low rent Bacchanalia, Gladwell shoots the breeze with Jefferson Morley, an assistant editor and one of the supervisors along with Michael Kinsley and Dorothy Wickenden of the bright young politico Weisberg at The New Republic.

Gladwell brings up a story Morley wrote for the July 9 1984 edition called “Double Reverse Discrimination.”

In The Washingtonian “Gladwell’s Brain” profile by Chris Wilson on January 8, 2007, Morley recalls:

I remember Malcolm questioning me closely both about the sociology and the ethics of the story.

(more…)

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