Writing for real

I have to consider the possibility that all this writing I do is driven by a compulsion similar to what I regard as my graphomania, a sometimes uncontrollable urge to make marks on paper.   I write that sentence not to castigate or judge myself, but to view myself for a minute as others, untroubled by a need to set their thoughts and feelings down clearly in words, must sometimes view me.  

Put it this way, you can tell a complicated story to a friend who is quite interested in what you are talking about and they will always hear you out.  That same story, set out in 1,500 words, might well be unbearable for them to read.   Why is this insane bastard sending me this long section of his obsessive personal diary?   This insane bastard sings like a bird, why doesn’t he perform in a coffee house instead of madly singing to me?    We have coffee houses and clubs for singing birds, why is this bird sitting on my shoulder and singing directly into my ear?   Ewwwww…

Years ago, when I drew a lot, everywhere, somebody sitting next to me on the subway would from time to time ask me if I could always draw.   They sometimes seemed to be looking for a tip about how to draw.   I used to tell them that I always loved to draw, though I wasn’t especially good at it when I started, though I always found it great fun.   If you love something you will keep doing it and it’s natural that you’ll get better and better.   The love of the thing will keep you delighted to do it.   The delight will keep you at it and your mastery of the thing will improve.

I have often thought of this in regard to other things.   When you strike a note on a guitar, if you love the sound of the guitar, you will notice there are different ways to sound the note.   There is a great pleasure in this discovery.   If you strike the note with the soft pad of your finger the note has one sound, kind of round.   Think of the great bossa nova guitarists.   If you strike the note hard with a pick, your finger immobile on the note, you get a certain sound, you can also “attack” softly with a pick.   The kind of pick, hard or flexible, influences the sound of the note as does the gauge of the strings.   In addition to picking the note, you can hammer the note on, you can pull off to get another note.   If you fret the note below where it naturally sounds on the fretboard and bend the string up to it, you get another sound entirely, a singing sound.  You can bend the note one whole step, as blues guitarists and rock stars generally do — one distinct sound, or you can bend the note up a half step, as Django used to, a much different, and playful, sound.  There are also countless microtones you can stop on as you bend from one tone to another.   Mr. Clapton is a master of this, as is, more notably perhaps, and more masterfully, Mr. Beck,  Jeff Beck.  There is vibrato, plucking, tapping, fast picking, sliding a la glissando, harmonics, all kinds of ways to play a note.

All to say, if you love a thing, it is not work to learn more about it, to study it, to be so compelled that the thing itself is of infinite value to you.

I appreciate, more deeply than I can say, that in a robustly commercial society where all real value is monetary (and an unmonetized space, like the ad-free hold time of a business phone call, is a sadly wasted space, to those who love monetization above all else) what I have said above makes absolutely no sense.   A psychologist may agree that in terms of stress reduction, or increasing self-esteem, daily engagement in activities you do well and enjoy greatly are ‘mastery exercises’ that have mental health benefits to the individual.   Don’t found your life on them, mind you, but they have a certain value.

Found your life on your love of them at your peril, friends.   You may find yourself with excellent control of pencil, pen and brush, able to “kill an edge” with great precision in a way that will impress your friends if they are watching.   There used to be an ad on matchbooks “learn to drive the big rigs, flash a big bill-fold and impress your friends!”   If you’re doing it to impress your friends,  I completely understand.   Who am I to opine about what motivations are more noble or laudable than others?  As a teenager I deliberately set out to master a little piano, which I taught myself from what I knew on guitar, to impress girls.   It once actually worked!  She sat on my lap as I played Beatles songs with my arms around her, and the rest, a veritable magical mystery tour.

I sometimes imagine the electronic book of my life.  It would be lavishly illustrated, with some of the millions of images I continually make with no purpose except love of making the marks.  My desk is continually overflowing with them.  It is horrible in a way, this profusion of useless but largely beautiful debris.  I would select a hundred compelling images  and put them in the colorful book.  I would take a hundred pages of my best writing, maybe two hundred, place them between the pictures.   Since the technology is there, I’d add sound files, with some of the music I have come up with over the years.   You’d be happy to buy it.  You’d love it, if you were the right kind of person.

I try not to judge, though I am often unsuccessful in this.   People have very different experiences and expectations of life.  My own are eccentric in the eyes of many people, I realize that.  It comes with dancing to your own idiosyncratic rhythm section.  

I love reading well-written history books sometimes.  I love Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, a masterpiece.   She writes, about the assumption, in the Jerusalem court that tried him for his enormous bureaucratic crimes,  that Eichmann was a normal middle class German of his time:

They preferred to conclude from his occasional lies that he was a liar — and missed the greatest moral and even legal challenge of the whole case.  Their case rested on the assumption that the defendant, like all “normal persons,” must have been aware of the criminal nature of his acts, and Eichmann was indeed normal insofar as he was “no exception within the Nazi regime.”  However, under the conditions of the Third Reich only “exceptions” could be expected to react “normally.”   This simple truth of the matter created a dilemma for the judges which they could neither resolve nor escape.  (p.27)

As for the title of this post, real writing, at its best, makes you stop to wonder.  It changes, even for only a moment, how you think and feel and makes you consider your own life and the world around you in a different way.   It is wonderful shit.

Worth knowing by heart


This is from Isaac Babel’s  immortal short story Guy de Mauppassant, perhaps the greatest story ever written about the love of reading and writing.  

These line below were set forth by a less skilled craftsman, but they are good enough.  They worked.  They’ve been rattling through my head a lot since I heard them recently.  I need to set them down to study them a bit.

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I know, I know.   A dead horse, a dead horse, stop whipping!   I jotted these lines down the other day.  I will explain.   I am using a pen and ink a lot lately, because I suffer from graphomania, an idiopathic, little understood and apparently incurable condition.  [1]   I need to make marks on paper sometimes, it can become urgent.   It’s good to have a few words handy to practice, otherwise the words are completely random and the pages look a little batty.  

So these words were handy, since I noted them the other day, and I used them to practice my handwriting and try to master the new pen I need to dip into ink in order satisfy my graphomania.  My graphomania has gotten worse over the years.  I become quite desperate if I ever find myself without a good writing implement   and some nice paper [2].   So, anyway, because I like to have a passage handy to write, unfortunately, I seem to have chosen this one.  

While we’re here, let’s examine the banal and unconvincing nature of each element of this half-assed non-defense.   These lines were passionately delivered in opening remarks by someone defending himself against charges that he is an angry partisan, an evasive lawyerly crafter of arguably non-perjurious but deliberately misleading answers given under oath [3], and also, of course, to drive home a strong, full-throated, sometimes tearful blanket denial of every detail of every allegation mercilessly made by those tools of the Clintons and George Soros — never drunk, never disrespectful, never out of control, never  did anything bad, ever!

Let us take them line by line:


This is standard for any political conspiracy theory — an elite of smart, powerful people making devious calculations to advance their goals and then skillfully orchestrating the actions of a group of disparate conspirators in what amounts to a mob style rub-out, an assassination.    I give him points for the two words used like that, calculated and orchestrated, they underscore how much thought and planning go into this kind of partisan torture and execution of an innocent opponent.


The first of these assertions blames the pitiful losers for being so doggoned enraged and desperate they’re prepared to believe ANYTHING that could discredit a good private school boy who has led a storybook life and is a wonderful dad and husband.  Their pent-up rage, you understand, makes them irrational, hysterical, capable of insanely justifying any viciousness you could imagine.   They are mad, nuts, blinded by anger, in a blind rage, a blindly raging mob, because they’re losers.  

This kind of in-your-face violent talk about pent-up anger plays great to the Trump base– anything that makes a libtard cuck look like a loser is gold for this fist pumping MAGA demographic.

The fear that has been stoked about his twelve year federal judicial record is real. It is based on his actual record.   So he takes pains to insert “unfairly”, to show that he is the victim of a coordinated effort to make him look bad.   Here they go again, the haters, unfairly stoking unreasonable fear.   He asserts the fear has been unfairly stoked, though he says this in passing without pause, on his way to his next serial accusation.  

But if we pause to have a look at his judicial record on the federal bench we would see a straight line of decisions and dissents that are the proof of the staunchness of his political bona fides.   He grew up a Federalist Society member, he resigned briefly, for the optics when he was up for appointment to the federal bench by G. W. Bush, and then rejoined the Federalists as soon as he was informed it was no breach of any kind of judicial ethics to be a member in good standing of an ideologically pure libertarian legal society.  

His judicial record reflects his belief in a particular notion of American liberty– business should not be fettered, nor any citizen, corporate or human, coerced, nor is business often unduly accountable to people it may harm, in the service of the common good,  corporations are persons with rights and feelings as important, and often more important, than individual human plaintiffs or groups advocating on behalf of the environment, worker safety, non-discrimination, voting rights and so forth.


This is the bit that reveals, more than any other part of his long angry opening, what an insanely partisan fuck this man is.  After clerking for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, upon the recommendation of disgraced former federal judge Alex Kozinsky [4], he assisted Ken Starr in the far-ranging investigation that led to Bill Clinton’s famous perjury charges for lying about oral sex in the White House, perjury that was used as the grounds for his impeachment.   Kavanuagh was one of the most extreme and zealous of Starr’s advisors.  He urged Starr to aggressively press Clinton under oath, without a break, as the best way to get him to slip up and say something that could be used for a perjury charge. Talk about hypocrites… He references the second Clinton too, Hillary, one of the most divisive and hated personalities in American politics.   She has reason to hate him too, according to his tribe, because Trump beat her, because she sucks and because she’s an angry, vindictive loser bitch.

The rest of Brett Kavanaugh’s independent, impartial legal career was no less partisan.   After his work with the Independent Counsel Ken Starr he worked for the Bush/Cheney campaign and was one of the lawyers who successfully prosecuted Bush v. Gore which stopped the Florida recount and led to George W. Bush being declared president by a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court in a special one-off decision that instructed posterity that it could not be cited as a precedent.  He then worked loyally for the Bush White House and Bush appointed him to the federal bench a few years later.   Virtually every piece of controversial legal advice he ever gave President Bush was classified and off-limits during his confirmation hearings.  Deemed top secret by his friend who got to make the final call on every document.

There has never been a time in his ambitious, well-connected life when he has been impartial or independent, especially when it comes to his strong activist political ideology, his deepest convictions.

But we really should take him at his word, when he speaks to Fox News during the hearings, on the eve of his accuser’s testimony, or when he writes an editorial in the Wall Street Journal about his impartiality and independence on the eve of the Senate Judiciary Committee vote to send his name to the full Senate, and tells us again that he is not only an impartial judge, but independent.   He amply demonstrated both of those things in this articulate denial of the fake charges against him.   The People rest.


[1] See Confessions of an Aged Graphomaniac, E. Widaen (coming soon to a university press near you),   This book combines writing with a generous portion of visual art and graphics.

[2] In the days before we finally had to put the beloved Baron down I finally broke down and paid $160 for a fountain pen.   It was a beautiful pen with a unique, soft, flexible nib, and I began immediately working on writing in a more elegant hand.   It was a pure pleasure to write and draw with that soft, flexible nib.  Sadly but predictably, my graphomania worsened with this beautiful flexible nib fountain pen always in my shirt pocket.  After six months, the nib — the part that actually makes the marks on paper —  was irreparably ruined and replacing the delicate nib would cost at least $140.   I was too bitter to even consider this, but later found readily available Speedball C-4 nibs that, if dipped in ink, could make a line very similar to the beautiful flexible line of the defunct $160 pen.  The Speedball rig costs about $5.

[3]  One seemingly petty example to stand in for many:  asked by Senator Whitehouse for a definition of the term “Devil’s Triangle” on his printed yearbook page, he invented a drinking game of that name.  Any search of the internet would show a definition for the term that was a sexual act, two males one female.   Kavanaugh made up a drinking game by that name that was nowhere referenced on the internet, the repository of the world’s accumulated knowledge, fact and opinion.

Almost as soon as he was done falsely testifying, a new Wikipedia page was suddenly on-line, describing a drinking game similar to the one Kavanaugh had just made up.   The authors of LikeWars, a recent investigation into the weaponization of social media, were interviewed recently on Fresh Air.  Here is a link to the interview.  

According to them, Wikipedia was updated to include the fanciful new drinking game by someone connected to the House of Representatives.   Apparently, because every computer and location have a particular IP address and some other location data indicators, it could be determined that the new Wikipedia information had been uploaded by somebody sitting in the offices of the House of Representatives.

One data point, lost among billions in lightning paced cyber space, but fuck.   Talk about your calculated and orchestrated political hit squad work!   Nice going, Team Brett!!! 

[4]   Wikipedia:   Alex Kozinski (born July 23, 1950)[1] is a former United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where he served from 1985 until announcing his retirement on December 18, 2017, after a growing number of allegations of improper sexual conduct and abusive practices toward law clerks.[2] Kozinski was chief judge of that court from November 2007 to December 1, 2014.

During his tenure as a court of appeals judge, he has become a prominent feeder judge. Between 2009–13, he placed nine of his clerks on the United States Supreme Court, the fifth most of any judge during that time period.[13] He has been particularly successful placing his clerks with Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom he had himself clerked.