Views of the Navidad River

April 2018


Showing as Opposed to Telling

Aspiring writers often get the criticism that they have merely told something as opposed to having shown it. I certainly got the criticism and occasionally still do. When first heard, the point can be hard to grasp. It took me a while to internalize what it meant.

I thought of the showing-telling dichotomy recently when I prepared for a critique session. The work, written by another member of the critique group, is an excellent example of showing. I pair it below with how a less skillful writer might tell a reader the same point. The latter I wrote myself for the purpose of contrast.

If you read the two passages juxtaposed below, you’ll quickly grasp what showing means and why it is better than telling.


He loved his son deeply, and his son returned the affection.


I pass her, pass whatever clutter there is, whoever else is here I don’t care, and reach for my son. He throws himself at me utterly recklessly, knowing that I will never not catch him.

Ah, the smell of him. The warmth. The softness. The strength in those little arms that clutch my neck, the fingers that pinch my skin, the head that butts my nose in his eagerness – and mine – to wrap him in my arms. It is only in the distant background that I hear my wife laughing.

Go forth and write likewise. I’ll try to do so as well.


Proving Consent in a Yes-Means-Yes Environment.

I’ve posted on this issue before. But the issue won’t go away, and the due process problems continue to arise. Although the linked article is from the UK, we have the same problems in the US.

Now we see that someone has written an app intended to evidence consent to sexual activity. As the discussion in the linked article notes, however, the app does not, and cannot, deal with revocation of consent.


To solve that problem, any agreement, whether digital or written, needs to address what I addressed in the Sexual Activity Consent Contract I proferred in the previous post. That contract offers, as an option, that the parties contract for a voyeur to be present during all activity so as to be a witness whether anyone revoked consent.





Admittedly, this contract is intended to be tongue-in-cheek. But to the extent there’s a problem with it, it’s probably not comprehensive enough to address the complex issues it concerns.

Rape is properly criminal and must properly continue to be punished as such. But to reduce the nuances of human sexual interaction to legalisms is absurd. If you disagree with that, read the above contract, noting (a) how absurd it is to expect a couple to sign such an agreement and (b) how inadequate it is to address everything that might come up.

Whither common sense, folks?

Oops. Need I be fearful that calls for common sense are a tool of the patriarchy?


First Amendment, Schmirst Amendment Redux

San Antonio is in the forefront of First Amendment news yet again, regrettably. The Higher Education Council of San Antonio, which includes among others the presidents of Texas A&M San Antonio and the University of Texas at San Antonio, has promulgated a letter that includes this passage:

As members of the Higher Education Council of San Antonio (HECSA), we — the presidents of colleges and universities throughout this community and supporters — feel that it is important for us to speak out and make a distinction between diversity of thought and disingenuous misrepresentation of free speech. We further attest that hate speech has no place at our colleges and universities. Inappropriate messages, banners and flyers that are meant to provoke, spread hate, or create animosity and hostility, are not welcome or accepted.

Disingenuous misrepresentation of free speech is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. As such, if it is an exception to free speech, free speech is gone. Hate speech, however deplorable, is not an exception to free speech and it cannot be if we are to have free speech.

I prefer to counter speech with more speech, but our society is experiencing a concerted effort by those who consider themselves our betters to stifle speech they find uncongenial. The constitutional protections we all enjoy are always  established by the treatment of those we abjure. If we do not protect them, we will have no protections.

As with the previous post, if you want to read more, read the discussion on the Volokh Conspiracy.

First Amendment, Schmirst Amendment

It appears that my fair city, San Antonio, Texas, is home to an establishment called the Bottom Bracket Social Club. I am unfamiliar with it, but it has intruded into national news. In an exercise of utter tastelessness, one of the owners of the Bottom Bracket Social Club’s owners wrote “f*&^ the police” and “f*&^ the TABC” on a Facebook post not long after the club was cited for a Alcoholic Beverage Code violation.

The violation, even coupled with past ones, was not the sort typically resulting in liquor-license forfeiture. But because of the owner’s crude post, The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission moved to block renewal of the club’s license. The club appealed through an administrative process and prevailed. The administrative law judge observed:

[The State Office of Administrative Hearings] has no jurisdiction to address constitutional claims, and Bottom Bracket has not made one. That said, the ALJ is concerned about the request to deny a permit based on speech that criticizes police. See, e.g., City of Houston v. Hill (1987) (“the First Amendment protects a significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers”); United States v. Poocha (9th Cir. 2001) (yelling “f*&^ you” or “that’s f*&^ed” at police officers during an arrest constituted protected speech).

Indeed. If crudity were grounds for withholding constitutional rights, lots of people would be without them. But I would prefer for San Antonio to make the news in other ways.

For more information, see the discussion on the Volokh Conspiracy.