Writing – A Review

I recommend two books on writing: Gotham Writers Workshop: Writing Fiction edited by Alexander Steele and Essentials of Screenwriting: The Art, Craft, and Business of Film and Television Writing by Richard Walter.

GWW covers the fiction writing craft–character, plot, point of view, etc.–suitable for all formats: short stories, essays, novels, etc. If I had to guess, this is one of the sources from which the myriads of writing books on the market draw their lessons. GWW purports to give the same materials you might get at an expensive writers workshop (except without the feedback, or the expense).

There’s a remarkably detailed overview of EoS on its Amazon page. I was interested in screenwriting which is covered in the first third of the book. I didn’t read the rest of the book which describes the sales and management involved in a screenwriting career.

My major take away from GWW is: rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite a third time. The idea of writing a draft, rewriting it from memory, and rewriting that one, again from memory, strikes me as an excellent way to deeply involve the subconscious in the story’s development.

I admit it goes against my personality to do this repetitive process. But I acknowledge its value and will endeavor to reduce it to practice in some form or other. My stories need more than just multiple revisions before sending them off for professional editing. These editors have never urged total rewrites because of policy (i.e., they like the return business).

EoS emphasizes developing an integrated story. Any element that advances the story and/or develops the characters is in; whatever doesn’t do these two things is out. If it moves the story or characters forward almost anything is in. However, if the story starts out as a sweet romantic comedy set in the South Bronx, don’t have the Martians invade and conquer the Earth in chapter 7.

Here’s an entire ‘Essentials of Screenwriting – Complete Film Courage Interview’ with UCLA Professor Richard Walter on YouTube. Please be aware that there are a few instances of coarse language during the interview. The following is an excerpt from this interview with a self-described crazy old hippie.

‘Most Important Thing I Teach My Screenwriting Students,’ UCLA Prof. Richard Walter, June 11, 2013

The Fourth Revolution – Beatrice and Sidney Webb Laid Foundations for the Welfare State

Last week, we reviewed the book: The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State, by former Economist Editor in Chief John Micklethwait and Management Editor Adrian Wooldridge. This week, we summarize how two individuals: Beatrice and Sidney Webb, laid sure foundations for the third revolution: the welfare state.

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Prelude

The world lurched leftward in second half of the nineteenth century. The British elite recognized their poor needed support to escape crushing poverty. More insidiously, they realized hands off politics had left them unable to, as Lloyd George would later phrase it in the early twentieth century, “…maintain an A1 Empire with a C3 population.” They were falling behind Germany with its successful government intervention in business and social welfare. In response, Britain embraced state activism.

Around the same time period, Abraham Lincoln said: “The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot, so well do, for themselves, in their separate and individual capacities.” Some would claim him as progressive, others as aspirational .

Marx formulated his communist ideology over the same half century. He theorized that government was merely the way one class controlled another. Once classes were abolished, the government would wither, reduced to the administration of things. The form of government did not much matter to Marx.

By ignoring Thomas Hobbes’s statement [not original to him, of course] that a state is necessary for the peaceful conduct of human affairs, Marx prepared the way for dictatorships that treated people as nothing more than things to be administered. The next century would put Marx’s theories into practice.

The Webbs

Living on her Victorian father’s fortune, Beatrice Potter (b. 1858 – d. 1943) was characterized as: “the cleverest member of one of the cleverest families in the cleverest class of the cleverest nation in the world.”

Beatrice met the tireless, brilliant, and homely Sidney Webb in 1890. She was swept off her feet by his vision for expanding government: “collective ownership wherever practicable; collective regulation everywhere else; collective provision according to need for all the impotent and sufferers; and collective taxation in proportion to wealth, especially surplus wealth.”

Beatrice Webb’s vision—the state as the epitome of reason and truth—enabled her to develop the ideology adopted by pro-statists worldwide. The state stood for: planning versus confusion, merit versus privilege, and science versus prejudice.

Her modus operandi to spread this ideology was one of progressive suffusion. Why cause revolution when the same change could be brought about more lastingly through subversion of society using propaganda and recognized committees of experts.

The Webbs founded the Fabian Society as guardians of this socialist transformation. They established the London School of Economics to train a global cohort of social engineers. The Webbs also founded the New Statesman, a weekly review of politics and literature, as the clarion of their revolution.

Since people are the constituents of the socialist state they wished to build, it made sense, the Webbs said, for Leviathan to regulate society’s reproductive practice. They embraced eugenics as eagerly as they did town planning. The Webbs trusted the judgment of professional experts over the “average sensual man” when it came to bettering the life of commoners.

They ingeniously formed the inchoate anxieties and idealism of their age into political action of all three major British parties. The Webbs pushed collectivism using Labour’s penchant for social justice, Liberal’s national efficiency, and Conservatism’s desire to preserve the Empire. Within a generation, they converted educated opinion to the view that the state must provide “a national minimum” of education and social welfare.

In the period 1905-1915, sympathetic British governments passed legislation that provided: free meals for needy school children (1906), old-age pensions (1908), anti-poverty budget provisions (1909), national sickness and unemployment insurance (1911), and sterilization for the unfit (1913).The Webbs helped enact redistributive taxation to pay for these programs and lessened the stigma of “Poor Laws.” The poor became “victims,” not layabouts.

The Webbs, through their vast influence, helped redefine classical liberal principles. Freedom, which used to mean freedom from external control, became “freedom from want” and equality before the law became “equality of opportunity” and, to a lesser extent, equality of respect. This shift required activist government intervention. The government now provided social services and primary and, to the talented poor, secondary education.

Propagation

The Webbs were not alone in this socialist revolution. A prominent liberal ally, John Maynard Keynes, advocated for government intervention to aid Adam Smith’s hidden hand of the market. Although he spelled out caveats to his philosophy, these were conveniently forgotten over the years. His philosophy, Keynesianism, still powers big government.

The British Statist model was adopted by Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, and Peron. They all blended Hegelian state worship into their dictatorships and used the state to control their economies. America, however, took a different turn under the Roosevelts.

Theodore Roosevelt (US president 1901-1909) acknowledged that the Webbs were right when they said that laissez-faire capitalism was over. He established regulatory bodies to constrain the power of corporations over the American people: “The Corporation is the creature of the people, and must not be allowed to become the ruler of the people.”

He was not a socialist. He saw capitalism for the wealth creator it was. However, he used state power to make it work better by suppressing “crony capitalism” which arose from the collusion of “corrupt politics” with “corrupt business.”

TR’s goal was to use the state to provide a “square deal,” a safety net in rough times, and to improve the quality of America’s workforce. By not embracing European style statism, with its comprehensive welfare state, he squared-the-circle through his progressive republicanism and saved the US from Europe’s excesses.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for his part, imposed tighter regulation instead of nationalizing broad sectors of the economy in the face of economic collapse and world war.

Establishment

World War II demonstrated big government’s ability to marshal all of industry to the service of war through detailed planning, financial incentives, and coercion. The same occurred on both sides of the Atlantic and the Pacific.

In post-war Britain, the Education Act, the National Insurance Act, and the National Health Service Act were formulated by a Conservative (Butler), a Liberal (Beveridge), and a socialist (Bevan), respectively. The Webb’s cross-politics approach was further validated when the Conservative Party, under Winston Churchill, returned to power in October 1951 and did nothing to roll back the welfare state.

On the continent, the state ran companies, universities, research institutes, libraries, and broadcasting corporations. In the closing days of World War II, international supervisory organizations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were created under Keynes influence as a result of the Bretton Woods international agreements.

***

As counterpoint, Philip Hamburger writes in his book about US executive branch agencies that administer regulations, Is Administrative Law Unlawful:

“There is a jarring disconnect between what is taught and celebrated in constitutional law and what is accepted in administrative law…” and “…[Only] the shell of [the American] republican experiment remains. Within it, however, another government has arisen, in which new masters once again assert themselves, issuing commands as if they were members of a ruling class, and as if the people were merely their servants. Self-government has given way to a system of submission.” [Emphasis mine]

Hamburger reasons that judicial pushback at the Appellate and Supreme Court levels is necessary to head off a more Lockean approach. Read more about Hamburger’s book in Myron Magnet’s City Journal book review.

Finally, here is another lecture and Q&A by Micklethwait and Wooldridge:

John Micklethwait & Adrian Wooldridge, “The Fourth Revolution

Reassurance

If you google (yes, to google is a verb) you’ll get:

re·as·sur·ance /ˌrēəˈSHo͝orəns/

noun

noun: reassurance

  1. the action of removing someone’s doubts or fears.

“children need reassurance and praise”

  • a statement or comment that removes someone’s doubts or fears.

plural noun: reassurances

“we have been given reassurances that the water is safe to drink”

This is interesting, because we all need some reassurance lately. Whether it’s because our health insurance has been cancelled, the insurance company hasn’t offered an alternative, and we’re forced to try the exchanges. Or, we’re a newly minted graduate with unproven skills that we’d use for mutual benefit like gangbusters, if only someone would give us a chance. Or, we’re a displaced older worker that still wants to contribute their skills to society and can’t seem to find anyone who will hire us for anything near (even half) what we’re worth to the employer.

Well, I don’t see it. If left to our own resources (just check the heavily commented websites) we almost squeal with glee at the displacement of humans by technology. Overpopulation, some say with the obvious solutions in mind. A mark of progress others say as they cite previous technology revolutions (market, first industrial, second industrial, digital, etc.).

All of these ‘revolutions’ recast how human labor was employed. Each caused worker dislocations. Some caused worker revolts. None were deterred (only derailed to the average worker’s detriment). They’ll tell you it will all work out. But we’re being inhuman of we go on like that. It won’t all work out. People are suffering needlessly. But we can’t return to the past.

The pundits on one side say if you get more of the pie I get less. So I should take your pie (oh, wait, they call it ‘re·dis·tri·bu·tion’). Some see nothing wrong with this. Others call it theft. The pundits on the other side say business should grow the pie. But business men just take more of the pie that’s left (I’m talking to you, Wall Street). We’ve been told to go shopping and buy from government exchanges, as if all will be better then. But that doesn’t grow the pie, either. It’s plain old manipulation. However, someone has to start growing the pie. It’s not going to grow itself, you know.

a work of the National Institutes of Health, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Pie slice, NCI at NIH, public domain

At lunch one day, I was discussing this problem with a friend whose politics differ from mine. We discussed the pie. However, neither of us had any since we’re both trying to lose weight after our job losses. I said we need savvy folks to start enterprises online and in bricks & mortar that use our displaced workforce and apprentice our new grads. Businesses are so refined now that training and loyalty has gone by the wayside. How will young workers grow into positions of responsibility? Why aren’t older workers tapped for their knowledge and expertise?

Now, you could say, these unemployed are the dregs of the workforce. They deserve what they got. And you’d be dead wrong in many cases. Good workers are being let go and not hired to boost stock performance. If you’re so concerned about quality employees, test them as a prequalification step. Give objective, targeted proficiency and psychological tests online as a gate of entry to the interviews. Grow and use trained interviewers with subject matter and social interaction expertise. You’ll be surprised what treasures you find.

Now what would you have them do? Well, figure out what we really need as a society and as a world and have them either make it for or serve it to us. We don’t need more pet rocks. But the world does need more energy, more clean and fresh water, safer roads and neighborhoods, better education independent of economic background, life mentoring, better preventative health care access, etc. You get the idea. Find a need and fill it.

Our technology can be leveraged to support these new enterprises in ways we don’t even bother using. Virtual offices will work if they’re managed well. The usual computer snooping software is unnecessary when folks are measured on productivity and results. When continued employment hinges on good cooperation and quality outputs, a factory, virtual service, or distributed design house (as examples) can flourish.

Meetings can be held online (many outplacement services work that way). Folks can gather centrally on a quarterly or less frequent basis once they’ve been vetted and oriented to the enterprise. Better minds than mine have worked all this out. Look for it and get cracking.

Funding can be raised via loans or investors. While loans may be hard to come by, more investment crowdsourcing is becoming acceptable and available. Check with your accountants and lawyers. I can’t figure it all out for you. You have to pitch in.

Think of it, how many billions of dollars are being left on the table in the interest of the bottom line because social responsibility and innovation are seen as what the other guy does? Granted it won’t be as profitable in the short run as the status quo of squeezing the life out of remaining workers. But in the long run it will pay dividends in work satisfaction, increased tax base, and societal growth and prosperity.

Responsible folks need to give this country (and this blogger) some reassurance and get ‘er done.

Mandated Memoranda Publishing LLC announces new book

Mandated Memoranda Publishing LLC announces their first book: Tiānmìng – Mandate of Heaven. It is a reluctant journalist’s tale of geopolitical conflict and geologic catastrophe that upends the worldwide status quo.  It is approximately 138 pages long. You can read the somewhat breathless product description here. If you don’t have a Kindle reader and want to read it on a device you own, here are some software readers from Amazon. We plan to offer the book free on Friday June 14, 2013 (Midnight to Midnight, Pacific time) to boost “sales” numbers. You may want to purchase then. Thank you for your support for Mandated Memoranda Publishing LLC.