Author Topic: rewriting and transplanting political language  (Read 1436 times)

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Jeremy Blackman

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rewriting and transplanting political language
« on: November 15, 2004, 02:17:32 PM »
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I'm just starting on my final project for a class called "Imagining the Earth." What I'm doing is creatively rewriting environmentalist rhetoric. Here's my first attempt.

This is the quote I'm working with... the opening statement from a 2003 Howard Dean speech...
    "One hundred years ago, President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon for the first time. And he asked the people of Arizona to make sure that it stay unspoiled. 'Leave it as it is,' President Roosevelt said. 'Keep it for your children and your children's children and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American should see.'"[/list:u]
    And here's my version...





    It was a sun-burned morning in northern Arizona. The sand was everywhere—between his toes, in his hair, underneath his fingernails, nested in his twitching mustache, spread like butter across the rock-hard flatness beneath his tired feet.

    He stood with his back to the canyon, looking at the crowd. He brought his hand to his brow—it was nearly impossible to see them through the wall of sunlight. They were like children, jumping up and down on their dusty trampoline, heads bobbing like a sea of penguins, trying to get a good look at the well-lit man.

    “Mr. President! Mr. President!”

    He ignored them. His mouth opened and sucked in dry air, which he snorted out through his flaring nostrils in wounded rejection. He slipped out a little box from his pocket. It clicked open to reveal a row of cigars. They smelled like mold. The grinning man selected one at random and tucked it in the corner of his mouth. His molars squeezed the big brown organism. He produced a match in his other hand and dragged it across his two-day beard growth. The resillient little wooden stick flickered and flared up. He cupped his hand over the fat cigar and slipped the match under the modest shelter. His eyes bounced back to the crowd and widened. They gasped with anticipation. He swiftly removed his hand to reveal the glowing brown missile, which snarled at the crowd and puffed a few clouds of sour smoke.

    He cleared his throat of phlegm and introduced himself.

    “It is a pleasure to be in Arizona. I have never been in it before.”

    As cameras began flashing, his concentration drifted away, down to the dirt below his feet, where a little scorpion was running around. He crunched it under his boot. His face turned red. He paused for a moment. The crowd didn’t notice. He lifted his foot to reveal the mangled skeleton, which twitched and bled and bubbled. It was soon covered with dirt.

    He looked again at the children but quickly lost interest. His gaze pulled his head over his shoulder, where his eyes locked on the terrifying spectacle behind him. It looked like a pan of brownies that someone had stabbed with a spoon several hundred times. The rocks looked soft and friendly, and he could see his face in them. It would be so easy to swim here were it only five million years ago. He imagined networks of stairs and bridges, an ice cream truck braving the ravine, millions of children swimming in the river.

    He dropped his cigar and squeezed it between his boot and the hard dirt, twisting gently. He furrowed his brow, turned around, and pointed at the children.

    “Leave it as it is!”

    And with that, he mounted his horse, cracked a whip, and galloped into the distance.
"Hunger is the purest sin"

Ghostboy

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rewriting and transplanting political language
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2004, 08:54:15 PM »
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Your writing goes a little overboard in its descriptiveness. Most of my problems are nitpicky, but I must say that the brownie analogy is terrible.  Some of the other descriptive metaphors would get a red mark from me, too -- the 'glowing brown missile,' 'the big brown organism,' etc.

The first paragraph is the best, I think. The fourth is the worst -- too many adjectives (a trait continued in later paragraphs, magnified here).

The scorpion bit is interesting (although wouldn't it be exoskeleton?), as is the part where he sees his face in the rocks (the only line that suggests the granduer of this natural wonder) and imagines the river (I'd lose the ice cream truck, though). But other than that, you fail to suggest what it is that he's thinking that makes him utter those famous lines. He seems to waver between disinterest and awe, but you offer little reason for either.

Jeremy Blackman

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« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2004, 10:28:23 PM »
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Quote from: Ghostboy
I must say that the brownie analogy is terrible.

That was my favorite line of the whole thing!

I'm operating on the assumption that he's kind of confused about the whole thing, and the alienness of the canyon inspires all these awkward analogies, contrived descriptions, and inappropriate images (including the ice cream truck, which I thought was crucial).

Maybe my problem is drifting toward satire (and satire that's not obvious enough, or at least not practical enough)... and I'll probably have to avoid that later in this project.

Quote from: Ghostboy
Some of the other descriptive metaphors would get a red mark from me, too -- the 'glowing brown missile'

I got that one from Ralph Nader when he called hot dogs "deadly pink missiles"...
"Hunger is the purest sin"

Ghostboy

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« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2004, 10:41:21 PM »
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Quote from: Jeremy Blackman
I'm operating on the assumption that he's kind of confused about the whole thing, and the alienness of the canyon inspires all these awkward analogies, contrived descriptions, and inappropriate images (including the ice cream truck, which I thought was crucial).


Ah ha. That makes sense -- however, from the point of view in which I read the piece (and which I believe you've written it in), it appears that you, the writer, are confused, and not the character. Consider that while revising. For example, adding a to him or something like that to the sentence about the brownies transforms it from exceedingly awkward to quite funny.

Jeremy Blackman

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« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2004, 10:46:00 PM »
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Quote from: Ghostboy
Ah ha. That makes sense -- however, from the point of view in which I read the piece (and which I believe you've written it in), it appears that you, the writer, are confused, and not the character. Consider that while revising. For example, adding a to him or something like that to the sentence about the brownies transforms it from exceedingly awkward to quite funny.

I think I completely understand what you're saying. And I think it reveals this problem: I really wanted to write this in first-person.
"Hunger is the purest sin"

Jeremy Blackman

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« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2004, 11:09:32 AM »
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My professor made each of us write a poem on the spot that describes our project. I wrote a series of "oppositional similes" (I just made that up, but apparently they knew what I meant)...

    The inevitable byproducts of industrial productivity... flow from concrete fountains like rainbow-colored blood.

    Someone once said that, without the regulating state, capitalism would destroy all human life... like a sudden ice age, whose armies of glaciers and snowflakes blanket the earth in a cold, heartless, refreshing blizzard.

    The earth's inhabitants should take on proactive roles in protecting the sustainability and overall well-being of their own natural resources... like children, on a playground, in a flood.[/list:u]
"Hunger is the purest sin"

©brad

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« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2004, 11:15:14 AM »
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my favorite (by far) is this one-

Quote from: Jeremy Blackman
The inevitable byproducts of industrial productivity... flow from concrete fountains like rainbow-colored blood.

Jeremy Blackman

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« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2004, 11:17:25 AM »
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SPOILER

That was directly inspired by The Polar Express.

Quote from: Ghostboy
the North Pole looks like some sort of corporate nightmare universe...it's strikingly off-putting.

Quote from: Jeremy Blackman
I know... that was really creepy. Especially the rainbow-colored polution pouring out of smokestacks.
"Hunger is the purest sin"

Ghostboy

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« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2004, 11:01:41 PM »
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The first one is good, but I think think I like the last one the best. The contrast of the two sides is so radical that it's actually quite funny.

Jeremy Blackman

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« Reply #9 on: November 23, 2004, 12:22:52 PM »
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The latest...

    "When my parents were growing up, the world’s population was under 3 billion. During my children’s lifetime, it is likely to exceed 9 billion. You don’t have to be an expert to realize that sustainable development is going to become the greatest challenge we face in this century."
       
—Tony Blair, in a speech entitled Environment: The Next Steps, given March 6, 2001.[/list:u]

my version

When my parents were but small children frolicking in their childhood pastures, the world was a very different place, my friends. Their freedom grew from their open spaces. My father could awaken, and from his soft bed of grass and pine needles strike his gaze out upon the world, seeing green hills, fruit trees, and not a soul, because the miles of earth were there for his lungs to inhale, for his tongue to taste, for his feet to walk upon.

Freedom is a bean sprout, forever fighting its way toward the sun, aching for the flame, boiling with genetic energy, anxious to unfold and share its glory with the universe. That soft organism lying close to the ground is so quiet and vulnerable, yet the children who frolic do it no harm. My parents, your parents, our parents, our grandparents, those benevolent figures from generations past—they loved the earth, they ate its vegetables, and they walked upon it softly. They walked in small numbers, my friends, but that is a vision now changed, a sunlight now made dark by the cold storm of procreation.

As more humans slide into this world, we no longer walk upon the earth—we walk upon ourselves. It’s a geographic certainty that humans will soon replace the land, and those who do not take to the waters will tread upon the skin of others, as the bare feet of savages traversed the molten earth.

The world we see coming does not observe the laws of morality and does not listen to the cries of those crushed under its belly. People will be born in nakedness, they will live in nakedness, and they will die in nakedness. The gathering human biomass will drown the vegetables of the world and cast a shadow across the land, making the sun useless, strangling its light, keeping it from others. We will live in piles—unable to navigate, unable to wander, and often unable to breathe. We will soon begin to eat the flesh of others. Disease will spread. And life on this planet will be a sad memory for the clouds to cry over.
"Hunger is the purest sin"

Pubrick

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« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2004, 07:59:17 PM »
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Quote from: Jeremy Blackman
And life on this planet will be a sad memory for the clouds to cry over.

woah, that has to be stolen. if not, then henceforth u can consider it so.
endless 'nothing is what it seems'-isms

Jeremy Blackman

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« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2004, 06:50:18 PM »
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I presented this project today at the Senior English Symposium. (I edited the thread title to reflect the official paper title). It went really well, especially considering I'm a horrible public speaker. It was like a dramatic monologue and actually easier to present than a normal formal research paper.

I did pieces on Al Gore, Janet Reno, and another one on Howard Dean. I had to cut those from the presentation, but I included a new one with Ralph Nader. Here it is...


    "Who is going to use this sun? Does anybody doubt the power of the sun this morning to convert our society into renewable energy and all its manifestations—solar, thermal, wind power, photovoltaics?"[/list:u]


    Last night I fell asleep in a cold box, without the sun. As I curled and shivered and grinded my teeth, my aching body was slowly warmed and comforted by the objective knowledge that tomorrow, at 7:30 in the morning, that hot yellow globe will burn our faces again. Who among us doubts the great unfathomable force of that bright, boiling monster in the sky?

    I was walking through the hills of Virginia amongst the trilliums. The little white three-pronged flowers started spinning like propellor blades, catching the wind, twisting and growing by the pure force of air currents. Their rich green leaves were glowing, spread in a triangular symmetry which trapped the sun. I quickly sunk into the earth and spread my leaves, grabbing the white light that stared at me and demanded my submission.

    Today we merely walk under the blanket of light—tomorrow we shall be children of the flame, the newborn photosynthesizers of the land. The earth’s forces are turning round and round with nowhere to go, waiting for us to embrace them.
    "Hunger is the purest sin"

     

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