Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Who Needs to Read a Book About Writing?

I really shouldn't post this, but I simply can't resist: it's just that funny.

So as I posted earlier, I've had this ongoing email exchange with a young conservative blogger here in Philadelphia, thanks to a post my brother made in her comments. For the past couple of days, she's been trying to enage me in a political discussion about "why I don't like republicans".
Here's my initial email:

Apparently my brother linked my site to yours when he
made a comment about my piece "Fighting Words" at your
site. I wish he had not done that, because he didn't
have my permission to do so. I would appreciate it if
you deleted the link he included from his comments, as
I don't want the increased traffic, especially not
from right-wing, pro-Iraq war Republicans (no

I will point out that I did YOU the respect of not
naming names and not linking to your site so no one
would have to go through further harassment, and I
expect the same in return. My readership is 3-10
people and I want to keep it that way. I have already
reamed my brother out about linking me to you. Please
delete the link from your comments; unless you say
otherwise, by the end of the day, I will delete your
comments from mine.

No disrespect, but I want nothing to do with your site
or your visitors. As you may infer, I have strong,
negative opinions about Republicans that are simply
not up for debate, and unless I know you personally,
you're not welcome here. After reading some of your
site, and seeing some of your comments to others,
you're really not someone I care to include in my
circle of friends and readers.

This site isn't part of the blog wars, and I don't
want it to get dragged into it. If your friends come
here, I will delete their comments immediately.
Thanks for visiting!

I got a response:
I would have never known that your site existed if the
link had not been put on my page. I was unwillingly
drug into this --with my link being put all over the
left wing sites with no say from me. However, I was
glad that I could point out some of the things that
you said that were dead wrong though. As you can see
by the liberals that defended me on Matt's site (where
it all started) -I am never nasty, but you can imagine
if all my friends started linking to your post and you
were inundated with would you feel?
One tends to get a bit pissed off. You may be
interested to know (since you seem to think that I was
the one in the wrong and a mean person) that
-from the LBV- emailed me and apologized for
his actions. I found that dead decent of him. I will
take off your link --it's not a problem.

P.s. RE should have said "PLEASE" remove any links to
my site... ;)

Pleasant enough, but a bit dishonest, and I couldn't help but respond:

I would have never known that your site existed if the link
had not been put on my page.

Yes, but I didn't put it there. Nor did I want it
there. It is through no action of mine that it IS

I was unwillingly drug into this --with my link
being put all over the left wing sites with no say from me.

Again, I deliberately left links to your site off of
mine, for that very reason. I have no desire to
further a sandbox fight.

However, if I am not mistaken, your comment signature
links to your blog, and this is a function one can
turn on or off (for instance, I never include my url
when I comment). Thus I would argue that you want
people to visit your blog, otherwise you wouldn't
include a link to it. Furthermore, as you say an "echo
chamber" would bore you, it is clear that you want
people with differing opinions at your blog. So I
don't see how you were "unwillingly" dragged into

I am never nasty,

I would disagree: personally speaking, in your writing
I find you to be highly unpleasant, rude, and vulgar
(present email exchange excepted). this may not be
your actual personality in person, but then again,
people tend to be a little less hardline when they
deal face-toface with people as opposed to behind the
anonymity of a keyboard.

Richard-from the LVB- emailed me and apologized for his actions.

I noted that in my piece: in fact he apologized
everyone for wading in, publicly at lbv. I also noted
that in your closing piece in this imbroglio you used
lines like "calling all moonbats," "This guy, I am
pretty sure his name is Dick (quite appropriate
actually)", and "kool-aid drinkers". Hardly stepping
above the fray, eh?

I found that dead decent of him.

It's a pity you didn't remark on this decency at your
site, or admit your own complicity in the
name-calling. It's funny how easy it is to recognize
the faults of others but none of one's own, eh?

I will take off your link --it's not a problem.

Thank you. I appreciate it. And i will do the same,
so my 3-10 visitors won't drop by iwth any snark of
their own.

P.s. RE should have said "PLEASE" remove any links to
my site... ;)

You need to read more closely. Scroll down to my
second paragraph where I explicity write "Please
delete the link from your comments; unless you say
otherwise, by the end of the day, I will delete your
comments from mine."

To her credit, she removed the link, and I wrote her a thank you note, that does not bear copying. She responded with this

No problem.
I hope that you re-visit your 'I don't like
Republicans' thinking... My life has been made better
by many from the other side of the aisle --just
because I hate their politics doesn't make them bad
people. It's hard for me to like Dems too -especially
living in Philly and seeing what 30+ years of Dem
power has done to this city --but I have many friends
of both parties and I think it has broadened my

I made the mistake of honestly explaining myself, and why I have strong negative feelings about the Republican Party, so I responded:

I hope that you re-visit your 'I don't like
Republicans' thinking.

No can do.

Once your party started in with the "with us or
against us" nonsense, and started equating democrats
(and anyone who wasn't on board with the Bush agenda)
as traitors and terrorist sympathizers, y'all lost me

Also, the decision to do away with the estate tax made
my job that much harder: I work in development in a
social services ministry, and for all the claptrap
about "faith-based" legislation, that estate tax
decision will "reduce annual charitable by about $10
billion, the equivalent of eliminating all current
grantmaking by the country's 110 largest foundations."
(Brookings). I work in an environment in which the
feds are cutting funds for anti-poverty programs,
while enacting tax policy that discourages private
givers as well.

In other words, your party hurts my clients by
reducing the money available for our programs, which
include adult education, employment training, homeless
services, and domestic violence services. I'm not
saying that to score some sort of partisan point: I'm
basing that on our budget, our prospectus, and the
funds available from private foundations. We serve
over 10,000 of the poorest and most vulnerable
Philadelphians every year, many of them families.
Although I am not particularly religious, I am
remidned daily of Jesus' lesson in Mark, 10:21. "Go,
sell whatever you have, and give to the poor..."

I could go on, but will refrain. My anger toward your
party is very deep and based on solid foundations.
Have a nice evening.

I got a response, that can be described as "red herring":

Brendan (caution –long-winded rambling reply) LOL…
Truthfully you can't blame Republicans for that! Do
you know that welfare recipients get like 26 cents on
the dollar... that is GROSS mismanagement and if a
charity did that they would be shut right down. I give
to Women for Women (I sponsor a woman in Afghanistan
and one in Bosnia) and the women get 97 cents on the
dollar --I also give to the Freedom Alliance
(scholarships for kids whose parents are
killed/injured in combat) and they get (drum roll) 98
cents on the dollar! Now why does the welfare system
need 74 cents on every dollar in administrative fees
--the answer...they don't. The waste is sickening.
This is what conservatives mean when they say OVERHAUL
--not that we don't believe there is a need for it
--but that we think they people that TRULY need it
should be getting a HELL OF A LOT more! I also think
prolonged welfare/public housing is a major enabler of
laziness, entitlement and poor self-esteem. I speak
from experience here. My husband's father was an
abuser and a heroin addict. He disappeared when my
hubby was 7 and his mom was left with three kids and a
crappy job. She made my husband drop out of school in
10th grade and took his gas station paychecks each
week. His hard luck story is a bad as anyone’s --yet
he is now a business owner that worked his ass off to
get where he is. He will work from 5am to 11 pm if
that's what it takes. He did it with NO HELP -not a
dime -from anyone. He felt ashamed and inferior as a
child and empowered now. There are no victims. And
yes, we hire hard luck stories that most people
wouldn't hire --because we believe in people doing
hard work to make it...
As for the estate tax --there are very few Paris
Hiltons out there. After causing my husband nothing
but hardship when he was alive --his father died in
TONS of debt to Fox Chase Cancer Center-- he left us
his small savings in hopes that we could bargain the
Cancer Center down and pay his bills --the estate tax
was taken regardless of the fact that all the money
and more was owed to debtors --it ended up costing us
money to be willed money (and that was 2 weeks after
our wedding) --we were newlyweds that had to start out
in debt thanks to the damn estate tax....
So, you see everyone has a personal story -and
personal reasons why they believe the things they
believe. I hate to think you write people off because
of a party affiliation. I believe they way I do
because I think it's better for people in the long run
--my family took over 23 foster children in Philly and
I saw what "good" the system did them --and I saw how
they grew and blossomed when my parents EXPECTED
things from them and forced them to take personal
responsibility. One even owns his own house in
Mayfair now....
Anyway, that's my two cents...

I was amazed by this concern about government waste from someone who supports the war in Iraq, a war that has cost FAR more than we were told it would cost; has gone on far longer than we were told it would go on; and has been marked by dishonesty, corruption, and waste. Go figure.

My response, which was tart, followed:

Please stop writing to me. I really don't have
any interest in anything you have to say, as noted in
my primary email. You're not going to change my mind,
as I don't respect you or your point of view.
I wrote you and the rest of your ilk off a long time
Enjoy your war.
Operation Yellow Elephant

She didn't like that one very much. Nope, not at all:

I could have sworn that I was getting emails from you
too --that must have been an apparition in my inbox...
No problem dude, I was surprised you kept writing back
after saying you hate Republicans --I thought you were
actually being open minded enough to have a civil back
and forth.
You should try smiling more --the tone of the writing
on your page seems flat and sad. Sorry.
Have a good life...

Excuse me? This arrogant little bitch was criticizing my writing? Scroll back up and review her emails to me and mine in response. Pay attention to sentence structure, to arguments made, to coherence and logic. Shit, just look at that punctuation! It's enough to make you want to rip out your eyes!
Let me cut and paste a sample from her blog, so you realize this isn't just her email style. It's the way she writes ALL THE TIME:

Or THIS STORY... Do you remember the three boys from Camden, NJ that died in the trunk of their grandmother's broken down car? Well, the horrible news from the autopsy that was just released is that the boys could have been alive for up to 33 hours. Truly Horrible.
But here's the kicker...there is now talk of a lawsuit against the Camden Police Department. WHAT? You practice poor parenting and leave your children unsupervised to play in abandoned cars and it's the fault of the police? They couldn't have gotten off their asses and looked in the trunk before they even called the police? True, maybe the police should have checked in the trunk, but when did it become police responsibility to watch people's children? I know that the parents are most likely grieving and they feel the need to blame someone --but they need to look in the mirror...if they had been supervising their very young boys, they would still be alive. Am I heartless?

This isn't writing. This is bloviating and hectoring. This fool is criticizing my writing? It was clearly time for another letter:

I did not plan to write back to you, but you wrote
something that struck me: "the tone of the writing on
your page seems flat and sad."

I just paid a visit to your page to do a little
reading so I wouldn't go off half-cocked. I'm glad I
did, because your site verified what I already
suspected to be true: you have no platform upon which
to criticize my writing, at all. In fact, "the tone
of the writing on your page seems flat and sad" is
poorly written, suffering from passive voice and poor
economy (I deleted the two unnecessary hyphens you
used where a semi-colon or colon should have gone).

On just about everything, from mixed metaphors to
elipsis abuse to subject-predicate agreement to simple
grammar to capitalization errors to having no sense of
narrative, your writing is preposterously bad. While I
do not pretend to be Kurt Vonnegut, in comparison to
the dreck you churn out, I might as well be. I don't
know where you went to college or what your major was,
but clearly your professors did not require strong
writing skills.

I say this with no small measure of authority, because
I have been writing for a living now for almost a
decade, in a wide array of fields: copywriter, editor,
proofreader, abstractor, and currently grantwriter (I
confess that I am a poor fiction writer, and have
never mastered the art of the denouement). I would
not have been hired for these jobs if I didn't have
the portfolio to back it up.

Before you utter one more word about my writing, go to
the bookstore, buy yourself a copy of Strunk and
White's "Elements of Style", read it, and begin
applying what you learn. In its pages, you will find
a wealth of information on how to be a good writer.
In fact, you can find Strunk's original online here:
Strunk and E.B.
White's update here:
That's my good turn for the day, and I even did it for
a Republican.

I'm being 100% serious: you need to work a lot more on
your own writing before you start criticizing other
people's work.

As for my tone, which you say you object to (but which
I think is a case of wanting to have the last word
with someone who just told you to go away), I will
leave you with a citation from the book:

"Write in a way that draws the reader's attention to
the sense and substance of the writing, rather than to
the mood and temper of the author. If the writing is
solid and good, the mood and temper of the writer will
eventually be revealed and not at the expense of the
work. Therefore, the first piece of advice is this: to
achieve style, begin by affecting none — that is,
place yourself in the background. A careful and honest
writer does not need to worry about style. As you
become proficient in the use of language, your style
will emerge, because you yourself will emerge, and
when this happens you will find it increasingly easy
to break through the barriers that separate you from
other minds, other hearts — which is, of course, the
purpose of writing, as well as its principal reward.
Fortunately, the act of composition, or creation,
disciplines the mind; writing is one way to go about
thinking, and the practice and habit of writing not
only drain the mind but supply it, too."

Please do not write back until you have read "Elements
of Style", as your letter writing skills leave a lot
to be desired as well.
Good luck.

She didn't like that much either:

Be flattered --I get tons of email a day and I rarely
answer anyone more than one line --the only reason
that I took the time out of my busy day was because of
how sad and bitter you seem... Me and my damn Savior

I said nothing about your writing skills -but please,
add "arrogant" to my previous list... I was speaking
of your tone...your "voice". And who needs to read a
book about writing? You say you have 3 - 10 readers a
day...and I average about 800. It will also gall you
to know that I have a weekly column in a newspaper. It
will upset you even further to know that it is a
widely read advice column...hahaha. I also write
product descriptions for a very large website. So the
money that I get (and the readers/comments) validates
me a 'bit' more than your criticism belittles me...
And that would be what schoolS that I received my
DegreeS... plurals there. ;)

Smile or your face may freeze that way!

I have written my email back, but have not sent it. This is what it says:

And who needs to read a book about writing?

Anyone who starts a sentence with "And" needs to read a book about writing.

Am I being a pendantic asshole? Am I being arrogant? Of course I am.
But I would rather be a pendantic, arrogant asshole who knows how to write properly than an equally arrogant dumbfuck who doesn't.
Yes, I know I just started a sentence with "But". Poetic license is a lovely thing.


Blogger Phillybits said...


9:56 AM  
Blogger somegirl said...

leave that cunt alone already!

12:38 AM  
Blogger somegirl said...

yo, when i was in college we had a tradition in my dorm - 12:38, time to bone up...

12:39 AM  
Blogger Brendan said...

how can i? she's got a hot taco salad!

12:19 PM  

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