Why I’m Not Writing this Essay

Operation orange coneby Akim Reinhardt

I've been writing 3QD Monday columns for over six years now. Never missed a deadline. Not a one of ‘em. Every fourth Monday: Bang! 2,000 words. More like 2,500. I enjoy it. I look forward to it.

Each December, when the city of Baltimore mails every resident a Baltimore City Department of Public Works paper calendar, I open it up, flip through the months, and write 3QD in the box of every fourth Sunday, reminders to have my essay done in time for the Monday column to be posted. Right there, beneath color photos of workers standing in sinkholes and shoveling to get at busted water mains; of latex gloved volunteers picking up garbage; of jerryrigged snow plows rambling somewhat ineffectively through snowy streets; of schoolkids ogling a big truck at the city dump. That is where I make happy little notes so I don't forget: compose another essay for 3 Quarks Daily!

And lo and behold, today is that fourth Monday. Today I'm up to bat, along with a handful of other semi-esteemed writers, like Adam Ash (not his real name), Leanne Osagawara (not her real name anymore), and that guy who uses his real name while comparing cheesy Hollywood films to real world events (love it!). And all the others who've come and gone. There used to be some woman in Canada who was a nurse, maybe? Or a dentist or something? I don't know. She wrote good stuff. But she and a lot of others have burnt out or moved on. Yet here I remain. And it's my turn again.

But I'm not doing it. I'm not writing my essay this week. I'm taking early January, 2017 off. Why, you ask? How did it come to this? Well, there's a whole bunch of reasons, really.

I'm a Lazy Bastard: My whole life I've loved nothing better than doing nothing. Sometimes I come clean and admit my lethargy, but people often refuse to believe me. "You have a Ph.D. You've published three books. You helped negotiate the Peace of Westphalia. You can't possibly be lazy." I protest. I insist that I am. I remind them that professors are notoriously lazy, barely rousing themselves to sleep with their students. But the skeptics just pshaw and insist I'm energetic.

Yeah? Well not energetic enough to write this essay.

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Why You’re Going to Vote for Trump and How You Can Win a Free Ticket to Mexico

by Akim Reinhardt
2+2=5
Hello. My name is Akim Reinhardt, I was very, very wrong, and now it's time for me to pay for my mistakes.

The good news is, when I pay, you just might be the one to collect. My loss can be your windfall.

The catch? You'll have to publicly debase yourself almost as much I am about to do right now.

Sigh.

How did it come to this? You and I publicly shaming ourselves on the internet, each of us desperately hoping to salvage a little bit of joy as the world burns around us?

It's all because of that goddamned Donald Trump.

Trump is about to claim the Republican presidential nomination, and a whole lotta pundits got that one wrong. Legions of professional gabbers, from every corner of the political spectrum, badly missed the mark, assuring you that he'd never be the GOP candidate.

Despite their wishful thinking dressed up in high falutin' gibberish, it's happening anyway; Trump is poised to become leader of the pachyderm pack. And so a lot of the yakkers had to make amends.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post literally ate his words. Pass the salt and pepper.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times and David Byler of Real Clear Politics each created a laundry list of everything they got wrong, which like most analysts, was quite a lot.

Perhaps the oddest mea culpa came from polling wunderkind Nate Silver, who explained away his spectacular failure by saying that he had acted like a barbaric “pundit” instead of staying true to the “scientific method.” Rather than relying on statistical modeling to figure out if Trump would win, Silver says he just made “educated guesses.”

Since Silver never really explains why he traded in true reason for such wild tomfoolery, I'm just gonna assume he went on a months-long bender.

Normally, it would be very easy for me to look down my nose at these losers. After all, I'm not a statistician or a professional talking head. I'm a historian. And if there's one thing studying history has taught me, it's that trying to predict the future is pure folly.

What were these dullards thinking? Guess the future? Good luck with those crystal ball shennanigans. Studying history has shown me, time and time again, that the future is unknowable. The past is a mystery and the future is an illusion. So allow me to haughtily point a sanctimonious finger at these morons.

Except for one thing. It turns out that I'm one of those morons. I, too, am a loser.

I spouted off like all the others, publicly assuring people that Trump would not win the nomination, offering up historically informed ramblings as evidence. And just like the rest of them, I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

It was a fool's errand, of course. So why did I do it?

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How Not To Write: Maniza Naqvi’s Piece on Hitchens

by Tauriq Moosa

ScreenHunter_05 Dec. 20 13.12I had chosen not to write extensively about the late Christopher Hitchens, since his contributions to my life’s betterment is of no real interest to anyone save my future biographers. And in looking at Maniza Naqvi’s piece on Hitchens I am, in fact, still not focused on Hitchens but on a point much broader: using colourful language in place of arguments is unhelpful to, I think, everyone. To be clear and upfront, I adored Hitchens’ work but that is, in fact, irrelevant to why Naqvi’s piece is a thin piece of tripe that stays afloat on nothing but its own hot air and strained eloquence. This is the type of thing Hitchens attacked: obscurity dressed in eloquence, masking hollow ‘arguments’. Indeed, try and read the first sentence of her piece and see if it makes sense. Come back to me if you know what she's trying to say.

To summarise the entire piece: Ms Naqvi did not like Hitchens. The end.

It is one of many ‘critical’ pieces following his recent death. However, I find it doubtful you will acquire better critical pieces now that the great man is dead than were written while he was alive. No insight can, I think, be gained on his arguments now that his corpse is cold, except that critics can be certain that they will receive no brilliant and biting counter-attacks.

Naqvi’s piece contains things like:

This type of thinking is hitched to a fine pitch for the American audience, in the packaging and selling, in my opinion, of a slimy toad: the blow hard, alcoholic—poser, social climber, wannabe—the unoriginal mediocre cheerleader of war and mass murder who made a career of being draped in mounds of other peoples’ books and supposedly having been himself well read and writing well, all the while being a fraud—and an Iago to America’s Othello.

Oh, I see what she did there! Using colourful language and phrasing, Ms Naqvi managed to write an entire piece without saying anything. Even when dissected, this cumbersome paragraph tells us something extraordinary: Someone didn't like someone else. The world just became dimmer.

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