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The Surprisingly Savvy Weird Al Internet Machine

When he talks about his business being threatened by YouTube parody video-makers, he’s talking about the fact that the public’s yen for parodies is being met by amateurs. Earlier this week, a young woman turned an infamous recording of a Comcast customer service call into a belty ballad. Between the release of that recording and its conversion into digital video fodder, fewer than 24 hours had elapsed. This is an…

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Stop Using ‘Poet Voice’

This article analyzes (and skewers) that lilting steamroller tone of voice that so many poets use when reciting their work. During this banter the poet uses a slightly performative but mostly natural voice. It’s the voice they’d use to introduce you to their grandmother. Then they read the title of their first poem and launch into the first line. But now their voice is different. It’s as if at some…

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Language Log » 25 Questions for Teaching with “Word Crimes”

A little perspective is good. So is genre awareness… anybody who takes this song literally is missing the point of satire. After the apocalypse happens and society collapses, my knowledge of the difference between irony and coincidence won’t help me escape the zombie hordes. While “grammar nerds” are psyched about Weird Al’s new “Word Crimes” video, many linguists are shaking their heads and feeling a little hopeless about what the…

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Listening to Weird Al’s “Word Crimes.” Awesome.

My teaching method does not involve shaming students who make mistakes, and I’m not in the habit of correcting my peers and acquaintances when they make typos or use internet shorthand. I use abbreviations myself when I text message, and I make mistakes when I am distracted or when I’m more concerned with finding out when my daughter needs to be picked up than in writing complete sentences on my…

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The 3 Scariest Words A Boy Can Hear (“Be a Man”)

Former NFL player and current pastor Joe Ehrmann reflects on the power coaches have over the identities of boys. There’s two kinds of coaches in America: You’re either transactional or you’re transformational. Transactional coaches basically use young people for their own identity, their own validation, their own ends. It’s always about them — the team first, players’ needs down the road. And then you have transformational coaches. They understand the…

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The Truth About Test Scores

It’s not hard to design a test that has a high likelihood of producing just about any outcome desired. Let’s not forget that a test cannot possibly measure all that is taught. Therefore, designers rely on sampling what they believe are the most important concepts in any given subject. But suppose the mission is to sort out students (e.g., the SAT). If the test were heavily loaded up with items…

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What Happens When Digital Cities Are Abandoned?

“The great paradox about these digital communities is that they’re easily kept around forever, and they are even more easily deleted utterly,” said Jason Scott, an Internet advocate and archivist who launched a digital preservation team that year…. I recently tried to revisit my own first homepage, a wonder of center-aligned blinking text, purple tiled backgrounds, clever “Under Construction” gifs and pixel-art icons I had traded with other GeoCities page…

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Busy NYC Restaurant Solves Major Mystery by Reviewing Old Surveillance

Restaurant studies surveillance footage to reveal how customers on smartphones take up waiters’ time. Customers fiddle with their phones before ordering, they ask their waiters to snap group photos, they take pictures of the food and themselves with the food when it arrives, they send it back because it’s cold. 14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they…

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The Uses of Being Wrong

Unlike that of most physical and natural scientists, the ability of social scientists to conduct experiments or rely on high-quality data is often limited. In my field, international relations, even the most robust econometric analyses often explain a pathetically small amount of the data’s statistical variance. Indeed, from my first exposure to the philosopher of mathematics Imre Lakatos, I was taught that the goal of social science is falsification. By…