Highlights from Dr. John Cook’s Lecture at GMU about Misinformation on Climate Change

Dr. John Cook lectures students at George Mason University about the challenges professionals face when communicating information about climate change to the general public.

 

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The Green Little Shamrock of Ireland – Andrew Cherry

Performed by Mohammed Michael Harfoush. Accompanying music by Celtic Crossroads, from the album “The Unique Irish Music Experience.”

Lough Bray – Rose Kavanagh

Performed by Mohammed Michael Harfoush. Accompanying music by Celtic Chillout Relaxation Academy, from the album “Irish Music to Relax: Celtic Music for Massage – Harp Melodies and Nature Soundscapes for Wellness, Celtic Meditation and Yoga.”

To God and Ireland True – Ellen O’Leary

Performed by Mohammed Michael Harfoush. Accompanying music by Celtic Harp Soundscapes, from the album “Celtic Harp Soundscapes – Relaxing Celtic Music & Traditional Harp Music.”

Get Lucky or Get Lost: Takeaways from Chris Matthews’ #RealNews2017 Keynote Speech at George Mason University

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Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen

 

True to journalistic form, the communication forum dubbed #RealNews2017, didn’t bury the lead and hold off on what many considered the event’s main draw but, instead, after a few brief words from sponsors and organizers, put MSNBC’s “Hardball” host, Chris Matthews, front and center on stage, and from the audience’s resounding applause, the event seemed to be kicking off in a grand fashion.

 

Being a political commentator, an author, a talk show host, as well as a former speech writer with experience serving in the Peace Corps, Matthews brought a unique perspective to the forum as he doled out personal insights about the business to tomorrow’s future journalists.

 

Starting out, Matthews, in an obvious attempt to connect with his largely local George Mason University audience, decided to rhetorically fumble out of the gate and quote, not the man for whom the university he was speaking at is named, but for some inexplicable reason that must have seemed like a good idea in his “Hardball” mind, quote another famous Virginian by the name of Thomas Jefferson, stating, “… were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

 

One can forgive the obvious rhetorical faux pas, given the nature of the event but, although the quote was technically relevant, given the context of the forum, it still seemed like a negligent slap in the face to another founding father and drafter of the original Virginia Declaration of Rights—the basis for the United States Bill of Rights, in his own house.

 

Matthews continued on by making the point that access to newspapers and media is of paramount importance, but even more important is the general masses’ ability to interpret and understand what they are being told by the media.

 

Matthews then went on to list a series of newspapers and media outlets by name, in what seemed like a transparent attempt to stretch his keynote speech to a length permissible to forum organizers, before making an antagonizing reference to our president’s primary means of communicating with the public (Twitter), and asking the audience how they could possibly know where to go for, and what to take as, truth.

 

Continuing with his flawed approach to connect with his audience—this time with the youth—as an elderly, wealthy, white male, Matthews decided to explicitly paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson, and ask the audience, “What’s in your brain?”

 

Matthews went on for a few additional minutes asking a series of half-hearted rhetorical questions such as, “Who do we trust, when knowing the truth requires judgement?” for which he gave no clear-cut answer, but given his having a show on MSNBC, one can safely assume that he’d like his own program to be where the audience attending goes for said answers, if for no other reason than a quick boost in his ratings.

 

“We cannot automatically trust our leaders to give us the facts,” said Matthews, followed by a quick, what seemed to be, pandering recommendation list to the youth, of today’s most popular left-leaning political satirists.

 

Matthews then, in a blatant disregard for the environment in which he was speaking, asked his audience consisting of media professionals, college professors and journalism students, in a skeptical and condescending tone, “Do you really want to get into this world of media?” Further showcasing his speech’s out of touch and tone-deaf messaging.

 

Matthews wound down his speech by stating, “[In this business] you can push like mad, and you still need breaks.” He went on to confess that all the work he’s put into his career over the years, probably wouldn’t have gotten him as far as he’s made it if he didn’t catch multiple breaks along the way, due to pure luck—disheartening words for the future journalists in the room that have spent thousands of dollars, and were likely to spend thousands more, to get a leg up and be successful in a business that Matthews says, comes down to a few lucky breaks, if you’re fortunate enough to stumble onto them.

Book Review: “Ernest Hemingway on Writing”

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Photo taken from rawpixel.com

 

Although Ernest Hemingway never published a single work explicitly addressing his thoughts on, and approach to, writing in a single, cohesive format, one can scour his existing body of work, as well as personal correspondences, and find source material for what could become a fairly comprehensive look into the methodology of one of America’s most renowned and celebrated authors.

 

This is exactly what Larry W. Phillips and Scribner have done in “Ernest Hemingway on Writing.” By researching and extracting Hemingway’s most insightful and enlightening thoughts and meditations on the writing process, from personal letters, published works, and various other sources, what they have collected is a broad and revealing philosophy on the craft of writing, that both new and experienced writers can learn from and enjoy.

 

“… writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done—so I do it. And it makes me happy when I do it well.” This quote typifies the attitude of this collection, and embodies the approach Hemingway took in his writing and his life. Paired alongside quotes like that above, are reflections such as, “there’s no rule on how it is to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly. Sometimes it is like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.” It’s imagery such as this, that demonstrates Hemingway’s strong visuals weren’t reserved solely for his novels, but had a place in his everyday writing as well.

 

When it comes to injecting your own opinion into your writing, Hemingway has this to say; “as a man you know who is right and who is wrong. You have to make decisions and enforce them. As a writer you should not judge. You should understand.”

 

In conducting interviews, Hemingway has this advice to offer. “Listen now. When people talk listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say. Most people never listen. Nor do they observe. You should be able to go into a room and when you come out know everything that you saw there and not only that. If that room gave you any feeling you should know exactly what it was that gave you that feeling. Try that for practice.”

 

Concerning punctuation, Hemingway states, “my attitude toward punctuation is that it ought to be as conventional as possible. The game of golf would lose a good deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green. You ought to be able to show that you can do it a good deal better than anyone else with the regular tools before you have a license to bring in your own improvements.” Placing emphasis on the bare essentials and basics of prose writing was a hallmark of Hemingway’s style, and can be seen from analogies through this collection—the quote above serving as an example.

 

Some characteristically brash advice, that some may find a bit harsh, but highlights Hemingway’s self-deprecating sense of humor, can also be found in “Ernest Hemingway on Writing.” Hemingway has this to say about the use of dictionaries; “actually if a writer needs a dictionary he should not write. He should have read the dictionary at least three times from beginning to end and then have loaned it to someone who needs it. There are only certain words which are valid and similes (bring me my dictionary) are like defective ammunition (the lowest thing I can think of at this time).”

 

“Ernest Hemingway on Writing,” is full of more interesting and provocative perspectives on the art of writing than can be expressed here. Neatly categorized, with sources for all quotations cited throughout, “Ernest Hemingway on Writing” is an essential addition to any Hemingway fan’s library, and a rare, focused glimpse into the mind of a master of his craft.

 

As an excerpt from the book’s preface states, “some writers, as Hemingway said in Green Hills of Africa, are born only to help another writer to write one sentence,” and in a strange twist of fate, for many aspiring writers, due to this book’s existence, Hemingway may end up being just that to a whole new generation of writers.