Tuesday, October 9, 2018

George Orwell

The Wigan Pier Project and following in George Orwell’s footsteps 

Harry Leslie Smith continued working and campaigning right up until his final illness and was among those who contributed to the Wigan Pier Project. Stephen McClarence reports. In 1936, Harry Leslie Smith was 13 years old and living near Barnsley when George Orwell spent a fortnight in the town researching his classic book The Road to Wigan Pier. They didn’t meet – a pity, as Harry, who died yesterday aged 95, could have given Orwell plenty of material for his stark study of the effect of the Depression on the Northern working class. “The places you lived in were nothing more than doss houses which housed as many as 30 or 35 people,” wrote Harry. “Most evenings my sister and I would go to bed with growling stomachs because we hadn’t had any supper.” When he was five and his sister Marion was three, his mother sent them out to forage for coal. “We would climb up the slag heaps and dig through to find some tiny scraps to give us a fire that night.” Marion died of tuberculosis seven years later – in a workhouse infirmary because their parents couldn’t afford doctors’ bills. She was buried in a pauper’s grave. Harry recalled all this for the Wigan Pier Project, an account of a modern-day journey through Britain following in Orwell’s footsteps, comparing then and now. Researchers explored places he had visited on his two-month winter trip, including Barnsley, Leeds and Sheffield which he memorably described as “a frightful place... one of the most appalling places I have ever seen”. What they found could have been the raw material for another book. Instead it has inspired a recently launched interactive website .wiganpierprojectm. Journalists Ros Wynne-Jones and Todmorden-based Claire Donnelly joined photographer Andy Stenning and set off on their own journey in January 2017, firm in the belief, says Ros, that “people’s voices ought to be heard”. They discovered that, in many respects, little has changed for the poor since Orwell’s day. They visited homeless shelters, foodbanks and community centres and interviewed, as the website says, “people barely surviving on zero and low hours, in slum housing, families struggling to clothe their children and eat, workers showering before work in homeless shelters after sleeping on the streets.” They interviewed around 150 people and their findings were first published in the Daily Mirror before going online. With its dignified portraits of interviewees, it’s a searing but compassionate reflection of the state of Britain today. Among the people they met was Jean Searle, whose late husband Gil gave up his bed when Orwell stayed for a week with his parents in their two-up, two-down house overlooking a Sheffield gasworks. “They always talked about being part of history,” says Jean. The Searles – Gilbert and Kate – recalled the writer’s stay when I met them in a key Orwell year – 1984. “He was a tall man, six-foot-three, and we only had a child’s bed,” said Kate. “So we put an armchair across the foot of the bed to give him a bit more space. He said: ‘It’ll do fine. I’ve slept on worse.’” They remembered the “shabbily dressed” Orwell typing at their kitchen table. They had no clue, however, that in his diary of the visit, he wrote: “I was quite sorry to leave the Searles. I have seldom met people with more natural decency.” They knew nothing about that tribute until 1981, when their other son Michael bought them a hefty 800 page anthology of Orwell’s essays and journalism. They kept the book on display in their front room. The edges of the dozen pages about them were darkened by constant re-reading. The Wigan Pier Project researchers revisited the site of the Searles’ long-demolished home. The area is now occupied by a community of 30 people living in vans and caravans. They also went to the city’s Victoria Hall, where Orwell was taken to hear a clergyman give a lecture which “consisted of incredibly silly and disconnected ramblings”. He reported that most of the audience were “unemployed men who will put up with almost anything in order to have a warm place where they can sit for a few hours”. Since then, Sheffield has become the UK’s first City of Sanctuary and the Victoria Hall hosts sessions run by a centre providing help including haircuts for asylum seekers and refugees. “People came to Sheffield through the Kindertransport in 1939 to escape Hitler,” says Sarah Eldridge, the centre’s coordinator. “The help we’re providing here is carrying on the tradition.” Orwell wrote about Sheffield’s “little mesters”, self-employed cutlery workers. The website features one of the last of them, Stan Shaw, a penknife maker still working at the age of 91, in a workshop at the city’s Kelham Island Museum. The knives made by this “living, breathing exhibit”, as he’s described, can sell for £1,800 and he has made a platinum pocket knife for the Queen. He was awarded a British Empire Medal in the 2017 New Year’s Honours. Leeds made a better impression on Orwell than Sheffield, partly perhaps because he was staying with his sister and brother-in-law in Headingley. Eighty years on, the project researchers visited St George’s Crypt, a homeless project, and talked to Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves. “Of course Leeds has changed beyond compare since Orwell’s day, but housing is still the main thing people come to the surgery with,” she says. “People are still desperately seeking decent, affordable houses and are battling with low pay and cuts to support.” At the very end of his Wigan Pier journey, Orwell moved on to Barnsley. “I have never seen such a dishevelled person in my life,” miner George Tennant recalled in 1984. “He was footsore – he looked as though he had walked all the way to Barnsley. He had no suitcase. His only possessions were the clothes he stood up in. He was very frail and did not eat much.” Orwell stayed with another miner, Albert Gray, and the house still exists – rented out by Albert’s grandson Dave to a zero-hours-contract factory worker from Bucharest and his family. “It’s an interesting snapshot of how things have changed,” says project researcher Claire Donnelly. While in Barnsley, Orwell heard the fascist Oswald Mosley speak at a public meeting. “He was booed at the start but loudly clapped at the end,” he wrote. “M. is a very good speaker. His speech was the usual clap-trap... the mainly working-class audience was easily bamboozled.” It was the appeal of demagogues, then as now. The project is ongoing. “The highlight has been meeting people who have said that they didn’t think anyone would be interested in what they had to say, or said that no-one had ever asked them their opinion,” says Claire. Now they have. .wiganpierprojectm
The One-Hit Author Whose One Hit Had 12 Volumes 

The socialite and writer Barbara Skelton even recognized herself as the irrepressible and seductive Pamela Flitton. “Dear Tony, I am suing naturally,” she wrote to Powell. “In the meantime can you advise me a good publisher for my new novel?” Long before “Dance,” though, Powell was himself learning the ways of love — sometimes being taught, as in his affair at the age of 22 with Nina Hamnett, a worldly bohemian 15 years his senior, who picked up “my little Etonian” in a Paris bar. As a badly paid editor in a publishing house, he was also soon moving in literary circles, with Waugh and Greene among his new friends. Powell’s first novels, while well received, sold poorly, all the more frustrating since Waugh had already achieved success with “Vile Bodies.” Powell’s closest friend at the time was another aspiring novelist, Malcolm Muggeridge later a famous television pundit, with whom he would wander Regent’s Park discussing ideas. After Powell’s largely uneventful army experience as a noncombatant in World War II, Muggeridge hired him as a book reviewer for the weekly Punch. Another good friend was Orwell, who had failed to win recognition with “Animal Farm” and was struggling to complete “Nineteen Eighty-Four” while terminally ill with tuberculosis. ing him months before his death in 1950, Powell and Muggeridge “found George dreadfully decayed but otherwise entirely himself, still smoking and coughing, with a bottle of rum secreted under the bed which the three of them finished off between them,” Spurling writes. By then, Powell’s social circle had been transformed by his marriage in 1934 to the daughter of an Anglo-Irish peer, Lady Violet Packenham. For a half-century, they held court in a manor in Somerset, although Spurling reveals that during the war Lady Violet fell in love with another man. “She never said who he was, when or where the affair started or how far it got,” but she reportedly later told Orwell’s wife, Sonia, that “he was the love of her life.” After the success of “Dance,” Powell wielded his increased power as an at-times caustic book reviewer for The Daily Telegraph and, in the remaining decades of his life, he published new novels, his memoirs and his journals. Then, in 1990, when The Telegraph ran a nasty review of one of his collections — a review written by Waugh’s son Auberon, no less — he resigned in a huff.
George Orwell's Advice on How to Tweet Effectively 

George Orwell has been in the news lately, not because he authored the classic dystopian novel 1984 but because he wrote a famous set of rules for clear writing that, if followed, can help you write better tweets.  I say "famous" with some reservations since I had never heard of them before or forgot about them if I had. Anyway, since I'm always looking for pointers on good writing, I decided to check them out. What I discovered is that, whatever his original intentions for these rules, they're a concise and valuable summary of how to write great tweets or, more generally, the short slices of writing that work well when you're communicating online. Here they are: 1. "Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print." Most journalists write on deadline and write articles that must be of a predetermined length. Since most journalists don't have much to say, they tend to add a lot padding to hit their target length. That's why you see figures of speech in mainstream journalism like "In this day and age," "ballpark figure," "when all is said and done," "make no mistake," etc. Such clich├ęs are boring and add bulk to your writing without adding meaning. They waste space even as they fade into the background. Brevity, however, is the soul of tweet.  When you're tweeting, texting, commenting, or doing anything online other than writing articles or long emails, you want everything to be crisp and vivid as possible. Online readers won't wade through fluff; they'll just move on. 2. "Never use a long word where a short one will do." Twitter famously has an artificial limitation of 140 and now 280 characters. While it's easy to do multiple 1,2,3... tweets, the more wordy you get, the less likely readers are to keep reading.  An easy way to shorten the character count of a tweet is to replace long words with short ones that have the same meaning. Examples: "use" rather than "utilize," "absurd" rather than "ludicrous," etc. However, when you apply this rule, the long and short words in question must have identical meanings. When words have different implications, a long word might pack more punch than a short one and thus be worth the extra length. For example, while "spectacular" and "showy" have almost identical meanings, the sentence "she wore a spectacular dress" has a different flavor and emotional connotation from "she wore a showy dress."  3. "If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out." Extra words add bulk without adding meaning. And since bulk is the enemy of good in the -sphere, removing words and restructuring sentences to eliminate words are good habits to cultivate. Examples: BAD: "The reason people believe in him is that they're gullible." BETTER: "People are gullible and hence believe him." BAD: "This application was designed to enable users to reduce cycle time." BETTER: "This application reduces cycle time." 4. "Never use the passive where you can use the active." There are two reasons why the active voice works better for online communications than the passive voice: The active voice e.g. "he hit me" is more vivid than the passive voice e.g. "I was hit by him". The active voice requires fewer words, thereby making your writing tighter.  I might note that this advice to use the active and eschew the passive is less important in longer form writing because the passive can be quite effectively used to throw emphasis on what's important in the next sentence. The sentence above "I might note"... makes this point. Converting it to the active voice... "If you want to throw emphasis on an idea that's going to appear in the next sentence, you can use the passive to stick the word you want to emphasize at the end of the sentence."  5. "Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent." Foreignisms, techie-talk, and jargon are how insiders communicate among their own. They must therefore be avoided whenever your intent is to transfer ideas to those outside your in-crowd. I might add that acronyms have the same limitation. Obviously, some tweets like the s my kids share with their friends are intended to be understood only by a limited audience not including parents and thus intentionally use jargon. That's fine, as long as you know what you're doing. LOL. 6. "Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous." Expletives, slurs, obscenity, and profanity, as communications tools, can be both vivid and crisp. As such, "barbarous" communication can easily fall within the restrictions of the five rules provided above. However, using such language can come back to bite you, big time, especially since nothing ever really disappears from the web. 
6 writing rules from George Orwell 

November 27, 2018 by Stephanie Valente On a quest for solid writing advice? Look no further than George Orwell.  The writer’s fine-tuned prose has remained fresh and clear. Orwell argued against unclear and clumsy prose in his essay, “Politics and the English Language.” Orwell went on to analyze a few elements that can bog writing down, particularly in the lenses of word choice, figures of speech, and passive voice. If your writing feels clumsy, obtuse, or cumbersome, these six key tips will tighten your prose. 1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous. Want more insights and strategies on writing craft? Read Orwell’s full essay “Politics and the English Language.” Stephanie Valente is the Digital Marketing Manager at Melville House.
George Orwell’s superstate has arrived 

DEAR EDITOR: The highly respected National Association of Scholars did a survey of books recommended to incoming freshman on college campuses. The top five books were all about racism. Basically, the books are to prepare freshman, black or white, to become social justice warriors, and to feel anger or guilt and shame. If you remove the hard science STEM courses from the curricula of our colleges and universities, you will get a list of quasi-academic identity courses to separate and alienate black from white, straight from gay, native from immigrant, male from female, and any other fragmentation that comes to mind. The target is to develop grievance warriors. We have arrived at a point in history where Western Civilization is being cast aside for a program of indoctrination that encourages division and segregation paid for by the taxpayers. While it is true that these groupthink institutions are encouraged to develop free thinkers, they are doing the opposite. There is now only one way to think. George Orwell’s superstate, Oceania, has arrived complete with its own “thought police.” Higher education’s fascination with diversity and multiculturalism has reached an impasse: a deep aversion within the university to its own foundation andor revulsion against Western civilization. The mavens of multiculturalism speak a language of “inclusion” but they are, plain and simple, wall builders. It is time that public colleges and universities open up to all opinions. Jim Cole Marietta
Google Bias Against Conservative News Is 'Much More Dangerous' Than China, Expert Says 

No result found, try new keyword!China's government seems intent to implement George Orwell's "1984" with facial recognition, data mining, a social credit system, and roving electronic "doves" to watch over citizens. Yet Epstein ...

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