Smarts

All you have in life is time; and if you're not getting paid by those who willfully waste it, you're being ripped off.

“Combating Corporate Marauders” (2000)

Any builder taking 50% longer to complete a promise is incompetent; 100% measures monumental incompetence. Those taking yet longer should have their licenses taken away and find some other way to earn a living, if they can stay out of jail. Time doesn't lie, though people lie about time.

“Theres's No Such Thing as a No-Cost Delay” (2011)

Persuading strangers is a crucial measure for me, as I'm reluctant to meet editors until they publish me, in part to discourage ass-kissing and other peculiar self-defeating distractions to which aspiring writers are prone. I was never a pretty girl.

“Conversation with David Hoenigman” (2009)

Individual patrons tend to be smarter than any committee, in part because they are giving away their own money, but also because the results of their patronage reflect them, rather than an institution. Not too long ago, don't forget, an individual named George Soros seemed a lot shrewder than the almighty U.S. government at supporting dissidents in Eastern Europe.

“The Revival of Literary Patronage” (2009)

The influence of constructivism also confirmed my earlier commitment to the principle of "working things up"--to work and rework something until it became greater than what could be done spontaneously. Innate genius will take an artist only so far, where so much excellence in art and writing depends upon the ability to make something better--smarter, more resonant, more percipient--than its author is.

“Person of Letters in the Contemporary World” (1988)

One practical function of unprecedented (aka “avant-garde”) art is preparing the perceptual faculties for those puzzling, disorienting forms in the changing scene around us. Constant change in art restimulates perception by enhancing the audience's capacity for understanding. People who are blindered by innovative art (or allow themselves to be) are liable to be similarly befuddled by what is most original in contemporary life.

An ABE of Contemporary Reading (1994)

Having learned as a libertarian how the state can be used to "redistribute" natural social inequities, I see this Starr-Clinton combat as government-leveraged revenge of the have-nots against those thought to have. Have what, I can hear you asking? Admiring young people voluntarily offering sexual services gratis, let's be frank. You don't need to call yourself a Freudian to imagine this motive operative here. (When was the last time you were so fortunate?) To my mind, government-leveraged "redistribution" is no more acceptable in rectifying or assuaging sexual envy than in redressing other inequities. Who will object when a state requires that all black basketball players put five pounds of lead in their shoes?

“When Will Tailgate End?” (1999)

Disillusioned idealists can be bitter, to be sure; but nothing can equal the anger and self-loathing of the disillusioned cynic.

“Kinds of Literary Magazines” (1997)

What is revealed here is the gulf between those who are sexually sophisticated and innocents (bless 'em) that is comparable to the difference, say, between those who can decipher a balance sheet and those who can't, the latter in both pairs resembling each other in typically not knowing what they are missing. Need I say again that nothing makes me doubt Paula Jones's claims, no matter how successfully a shakedown was leveraged by Clinton's enemies, than her visibly “challenged” appearance.

“Reviewing Recent Richard Posner” (2002)

Publishers who placate bullies think they are earning the bully's respect, while in truth they are setting themselves up for disrespect, if not further bullying, which, you can wager dollars to donuts, happened again to other writers in most of the magazines noted above. Conversely, dear reader, whenever you see anything strong in a magazine who never publishes that writer again you have good reason to doubt that magazine's character. Even by saying nothing they speak volumes about themselves. One sad truth of this memoir is that weakness plagues magazines both avant-garde and retrograde, both academic and independent, both “left” and “right.” How depressing it must be for wise guys to discover recognition as duped jerks.

“Victims of Literary Bullying” (2010)

A copyeditor friend once noticed my unusual capacity to look at a page of prose and quickly find an error, always irrefutable, even though spelling gaffes and typographical mistakes, likewise irrefutable alas, routinely escape me.

Skeptical Essays (2010)

When you write severe criticism of someone, he or she is implicitly given an opportunity—to prove you wrong or to demonstrate you are essentially correct. Bluff and disclaimer by oneself or one's flunkies is no more sufficient than snotty strategic silence, as actions always articulate a surer truth.

“Charles Bernstein Thrice” (2010)

I fear that libertarian publicists have been far more focused upon capturing established cultural celebrities than building prominence from within their own ranks.

“The Fate of 1960s Libertarian Writing” (2010)

Butt-kissing is a cynical strategy, to be sure, assuming that even "distinguished writers" can be more impressed with supplicants' flattery than their independent excellence or integrity. However, not unlike other cynical strategies, butt-kissing has distinct practical limitations, being first of all vulnerable to changes in power. Butt-kissers frequently discover that an earlier object of their selective attentions has been replaced by someone else. Since ass-kissers instinctively treat those below them differently from those above, perhaps this new powerhouse was incidentally slighted in the past.

“Kinds of Literary Magazines” (1997)

In most pre-election surveys, one general option commonly omitted is Third Party, in principle any third party, even marijuana or monarchist, should you wish. If you reside in a state whose electoral college results are uncontested, where the two most prominent presidential candidates don't bother to advertise, as I do (NY), your vote for either major candidate is unnecessary and thus wasted. By contrast, a third-party vote counts to keep that option on the ballot and thus to publicize in public sight all the alternatives it presents. A lot of third-party votes would keep either behemoth from attaining a majority. Thus, even when I don't much like the candidate, I vote Libertarian.

“Vote Third Party” (2010)

Whenever you see a “leader” as persistently incompetent as Yassar Arafat not only surviving but getting personally very rich, consider that he might be a greedy double agent, taking money not only from his flock but from the people he claims to be opposing.

“Double Agents” (2010)

Why is it that the news media repeatedly broadcast a story about the inaccuracy of yesterday's primary-voting predictions, whether by pundits of pollsters, without coming to the conclusion, obvious to me, that such predictions are essentially fictitious? To wit, pay attention, kiddies, don't bet the Family Fortune on any of them. One reason for my skepticism about global-warming hysteria is the claim for infallible predictability. Don't weathermen tell us that their predictions are unreliable for periods more then five days; and even they, we all know, are scarcely 100% reliable in shorter runs. If predictions about the day after tomorrow are chancy, anyone predicting further into the future necessarily depends upon appeals to faith or an ulterior agenda.

Skeptical Essays (2010)