Category Archives: Uncategorized

I May Require Shaming or Even Shunning

Excellent meditation on the nonverbal power of words, especially 140 characters at a time!


Twitter has been central to a number of controversial cases that have tested the definitions and the limits of academic freedom. The brevity and compression of tweets means that they exist outside of any fixed context and they are therefore very frequently tonally ambiguous. What seems very provocative or even outrageous to one reader may seem edgily ironic or just mildly sarcastic to another.

Yet, the one thing that tweets share with other types of written–and oral–communication is that if you have to start explaining what you intended, you are already in trouble.

It does not require the prophetic gifts attributed to Nostradamus to predict that Donald Trump’s enthusiasm for Twitter and his often unrestrained and seemingly impulsive use of the medium are going to make these kinds of issues a central part of our public discourse for at least the next four years. The core issue for academics may…

View original post 939 more words

Twelve Fiction Pet Peeves

Dear readers: You will LOVE this, by a friend and former colleague. Sort of “You Knew What I Meant” macro….

Sonya Huber

Me in sophomore year of high school, I think. All those things we shouldn't have done.  That hair.... another pet peeve. Me in sophomore year of high school, I think. All those things we shouldn’t have done. That hair…. another pet peeve.

I’m reading fiction for Dogwood today, and here’s what I’m noticing in stories that strike me the wrong way. Some of these, of course, irritate me because I have done these exact things when I used to write fiction.
1. When a main character’s first problem is that he or she is bored.
2. Puns in the title. I love puns. But not in the title.
3. A flurry of people introduced in the first paragraph.
4. A flurry of people with trendy androgynous names in the first paragraph. Karp, Jae, Ren, Jasp, whatever. People often have dorky and awkward names in real life, not these little moments of sculpture. Don’t give them the names you wish you had.
5. A kid setting a fire for no reason.

View original post 155 more words

The soft bigotry of low expectations.

The title is an important reminder of why we bother. The post is a warning about what we would see if the MOOC people succeed in creating a future without genuine professor-student interaction

More or Less Bunk

“We’re moving into a world where knowledge, base content, is a commodity, which allows anyone who is smart and motivated and passionate to make something of themselves and open doors to opportunity. But at the same time, the much deeper cognitive skills that are taught in the face-to-face interaction—they’re still going to be a differentiator. The best place to acquire those is by coming and getting an education at the best universities.”

– Daphne Koller of Coursera, WSJ, November 24, 2013.

“Coursera founder speaks the truth,” is the way that Gianpiero Petriglieri described that quote on Twitter this morning, and of course that’s right. You can only get those deeper cognitive skills through face-to-face interaction, which means (by implication) you can’t get those skills through a MOOC. So why then is yet another MOOC maven acknowledging the inadequacy of their product?

To borrow a phrase from the Bush years…

View original post 620 more words

best-laid plans…

Well, I’ve been so busy trying to juggle the beginning of the semester and a show I was both producing and acting in— “Once the show is open I’ll get back to me BLOG.” I told myself. And then, at the final dress rehearsal, I fell down the stairs from the dressing room to the stage and broke my left wrist. Not my leg, blessedly, and not my eye socket (which happened the last time I took a header down some stairs…)

Anyway, typing is not easy, quick, or accurate. I will be, essentially, taking a hiatus here. I hope you’ll browse in the archives, where I believe many gems lurk. I will continue with my classes, so I expect to collect more Horrors for when I can write them up. Perhaps I’ll be able to post from time to time during recovery—I will if I can.

Meanwhile, please hang in and hang out with me.

Love to all those who follow this blog!

Some good reading for a lovely Sunday

If you haven’t read Verlyn Klinkenborg’s piece in today’s New York Times, here’s a chance to read it now.

Called ‘The Decline and Fall of the English Major,” it considers the tangible and intangible benefits of reading good literature.

Klinkenborg is one of my favorite writers, and in this piece he seems to be speaking for me as well as for himself. Click the link above and enjoy.

update on sharing…

So sorry that the hot link doesn’t work. But if you just copy the url and paste it into your browser, it should work for you. (Works for me.)

On the subject of the Internet and the English language:

The Lead In Your Pencil

The Lead In Your Pencil. Take a look at what else can be done with that writing implement. As I commented on the site where this is posted, I live in the same area as the artist and have had the joy of seeing an exhibition of his skillful and witty work.

just a test post

to see if the Facebook publish link is live again….

“He worried that his son would fall down the slippery slope…”

This is killer-father again.

In class discussion we explored ideas that might explain the probated sentence. Because I require that students defend that sentence, I try to get them to see the story from angles they might not have thought of. One is the possibility that the judge felt prison would be too easy for the father to handle—certainly easier than having to stay in the house where he had shared such happy times with his son—and so chose probation as the harsher punishment. Another is the possibility that the judge saw the father as confused and well-meaning and therefore not deserving of prison, and saw probation as the more humane punishment.

To develop the latter, I try to walk students through a story that might explain the father’s claims that “any use of drugs is dangerous” and that he had to save his son from a certain horrible end. To do that, I remind them (or inform them) of the “This is your brain on drugs” commercial, all the Law and Order scenes of discovering teens dead in crack houses, and all the claims that marijuana use leads inexorably to addiction to “harder stuff.” Then I explain the idea of logical fallacies and present the “slippery slope” fallacy.

You know what that is: an argument or interpretation based on the claim that one step in the wrong direction is inevitably followed by a process of sliding downhill to a dire conclusion.

No matter how carefully I explain this, a lot of students make statements later that suggest they have a literal slope in mind and that people slide down it simply because it’s there.

My student has made this assumption:

“He worried that his son would fall down the slippery slope and end up in a world of drugs.”

Notice that this young man is going to take a regular tumble, not merely slide. I get the picture of a rather Jack-and-Jill hill, with the son just beginning to tumble down it toward a little drug city at the bottom. No shrubs or outcroppings offer handholds or brakes along the way; the tumbler evidently falls, without thought or effort, down a slick mudpath.

My student (and many like him) completely overlooks the term “fallacy,” substituting a presumption of fact. I enjoy figurative language, but this landscape is mixed and unrealistic.

Max Shulman, in his Dobie Gillis story “Love Is a Fallacy,” does a better job than I at demonstrating the whole idea of the logical fallacy. I used to teach it; I should put it back on the reading list.

Have a nice weekend…

No new youknewwhatimeant posts for the weekend. I’m tied up here:

Pequot Library Book Sale. Also see our historic video. You will LOVE it.

If you’re within reach of Connecticut, it’s worth a trip!

Back with my Horrors on Monday or Tuesday.