Elmo? Yes, I do mind. I learned far more from Bert.

Like plenty of people my age, I grew up watching Sesame Street. As a parent of kids born in 1998 and 2002, the dominance of Elmo was notable. We purchased a handful of videos and games, and regularly cycled through the videos and games at our library. I remember being disappointed that the other characters were getting sidelined to make room for more and more Elmo, whose stories skewed young. When…

I’m Gradually Losing My Hearing. (It’s Part of Aging.)

During a department meeting today, I noticed I was feeling very disengaged. I was having trouble following what my colleges were saying, unless They were speaking one at a time They were projecting (no sotto voce or vocal fry) I could could see their lips. I could usually get by with 2 of the 3, but only sometimes with 1 out of 3. I found myself scrolling through emails and…

This 8-Year-Old Chess Champion Will Make You Smile

In a homeless shelter in Manhattan, an 8-year-old boy is walking to his room, carrying an awkward load in his arms, unfazed by screams from a troubled resident. The boy is a Nigerian refugee with an uncertain future, but he is beaming. He can’t stop grinning because the awkward load is a huge trophy, almost as big as he is. This homeless third grader has just won his category at…

Why teens need live theater in the age of YouTube

A good article from the Boston Globe. The plays I saw with my dad handed us a script on every uncomfortable topic parents and children both painstakingly avoid and desperately need to discuss. If YouTube’s current teenage audience is anything like my teenage self, they won’t take kindly to their parents telling them to get offline. At that age, my dad disparaging a website I genuinely loved felt like proof…

What Can Science Tell Us About Dad Jokes?

Beyond making the audience cringe and, hopefully, bring a father a little closer to his son or daughter in a healthy manner, puns have given researchers insight into how the left side of the brain engages with the right side. Researchers showed that the brain’s left hemisphere processes the language of the pun first, while the right side takes a few beats to catch the ambiguous dual meaning in a 2016 study…

Enjoying my “Dystopia in American Literature” class.

After a kind of prelude in which we looked at Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” as proto-dystopias, my “Dystopia in American Literature” class looked at Jack London’s post-apocalyptic “The Scarlet Plague” last week. Because it’s an online class that never meets face-to-face, I’ve been posting regular 15-20m context lectures, in order to convey the kind of background info that I would ordinarily just slip…