Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting

Thoughtful essay from Julio Vincent Gambuto. Get ready, my friends. What is about to be unleashed on American society will be the greatest campaign ever created to get you to feel normal again. It will come from brands, it will come from government, it will even come from each other, and it will come from the left and from the right. We will do anything, spend anything, believe anything, just so we can take away how horribly uncomfortable all of this feels. And on top of that will be the only effort even greater — the all-out blitz to make…

Disagreement Hierarchy: Arguments, ranked from name-calling to the careful refutation of an opponent’s central point

My weekend coronavirus lockdown project was writing up a new handout devoted to Graham’s “Disagreement Hierarchy” for academic arguments. Does the word “argument” make you think of angry people yelling? This document presents Graham’s “disagreement hierarchy,” which catalogs multiple stages between juvenile name-calling and carefully refuting an error in your opponent’s central point. Siblings might “argue” over who gets the comfy chair. Persuasion in that case might involve out-shouting or wearing down the other party with distractions (“Why are you being so mean?” “You always get your way.”) Your task when writing an academic argument is very different. For a…

“You work for the @CollegeBoard?” the bright-eyed teen behind the fast food counter asks. I tell her I sometimes mark #APEnglish tests. “I’m taking three AP classes now!” she says. “After I go to college, I want to be the #POTUS!”

“Unsweetened tea. And can you use this cup?” “You work for the College Board?” the bright-eyed teen behind the fast food counter asks, spying my branded mug. I tell her I sometimes mark #APEnglish tests. “I’m taking three AP classes now!” she says. “After I go to college, I want to be the president!” I give her quick pointers on the essays. Don’t start churning out filler right away. A high school student who can string together three grammatically correct sentences gets praise. But at the college level, what you actually say really matters. Read the prompt, and write what…

James Comey: Trump won’t be removed. But we’ll be fine.

Here’s an editorial by someone who feels a heck of a lot more optimistic than I do right now. The free press fostered and protected by the genius of the First Amendment has let Americans know the truth, if they wish to. They can see the facts and the process, and they will be shaped by that, both now and for the long term. In November, Americans, fully informed, will have the chance to decide what kind of country we are and what we expect of our leaders. I don’t buy the stuff about the United States’ democracy dying. Its…

On the Hatred of Literature

Going back to Plato—perhaps the first hater of literature on record—philosophers and religious authorities have attacked art for the same reasons our professors taught us to deconstruct and distrust it: because it is unpredictable, unreasonable and often inconsistent with their preferred politics or morality. It was also a lesson that was destined, in the years that followed, to seep off campus. Even as New Historicism fell out of fashion in literary studies—along with the broader postmodern notion of “critique” that had produced it—the students it had trained were taking up positions in the public intellectual magazines and book reviews, where…

My semester with the snowflakes

Insightful essay from a US Military vet who went to college at age 52. Let me address this “snowflake” thing. According to the “Urban Dictionary” a “snowflake” is a “term for someone that thinks they are unique and special, but really are not. It gained popularity after the movie “Fight Club” from the quote “You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.” I hear the term occasionally from buddies of mine who I love, they say things like; “how are things up there with the liberal snowflakes?” Let…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In October, 1999 I was blogging about college application essays, Willie Crowther, and Elizabethan English for RenFest workers

Jessica found herself wishing that somebody — anybody — in her family had died: ”Because then I could write about it.” — College application essays. >As a young man I needed someone to look up to, someone to emulate. I was something of a nerd: I needed someone who’d integrated highly technical talents with the basic social graces. —Tribute to Willie Crowther, by Martin Heller Proper Elizabethan is more akin to the speech of backwood communities on the East Coast of the United States, where language has not changed significantly since the founding of those communities. —Proper Elizabethan Accents (for…

What Critics of Student Writing Get Wrong

  [T]o improve as writers, students need to write frequently, for meaningful reasons, to readers who respond as actual readers do — with interest in ideas, puzzlement over lack of clarity or logic, and feedback about how to think more deeply and write more clearly to accomplish the writer’s purposes. There is no shortcut… When opinion columnists opine that “our students can’t write,” they mean that students can’t put together a sentence or paragraph that appeals to their sensibilities or adheres to the norms of writing in their disciplines or professions. However, the characteristics of “good” writing differ dramatically for…

Brooke Kile (professional headshot)

Branding Essentials for the English Major: 4 Examples of How to Re-package Your Skills for Employers

It seems every week some “expert” publishes an article lamenting on the fact that if college students want to ensure they can get a good job after graduation, they should steer clear of “worthless” majors. Go into business or technology, say the authors. Stay away from things like English literature or creative writing. This argument comes from the erroneous assumption that a college education is best spent developing a repertoire of “hard skills” for immediate transferability to your first employer. What this argument misses is two crucial things: one, hard skills are easy to teach a new hire; and two,…

Video-Game Violence Is Now a Partisan Issue

Scholar and essayist Ian Bogost traces the history of video game scapegoating, noting that while the panic used to be bi-partisan, and then-senator Hilary Clinton targeted video games in 2005, now it’s mostly GOP voices who blame video games for violent actions such as mass shootings. (Incidentally, the Va Tech shooter preferred Sonic the Hedgehog, and the Sandy Hook shooter liked Dance Dance Revolution.) In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court finally got to weigh in on violent video games. The case, Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, affirmed that a California law restricting the sale of violent games violated the First Amendment.…

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 that the two of us were fundamentally incompatible. We simply didn’t have any cultural common ground — that is, until we experienced live theater sitting side by side in identical…

Twitter and the “Two Minutes Hate”

Another of the many, many reflections on the big story of the weekend. In 1984, George Orwell famously described a totalitarian political order in which people were kept as docile subjects in part by a daily ritual called “Two Minutes Hate” in which the population directs all of its pent up fury at “Goldstein,” a possibly fictional enemy of the state. Thanks to Twitter, we now know that the same dynamic can arise spontaneously, with fresh ire directed at a new manifestation of the partisan enemy nearly every day. It shows us that under certain circumstances — our circumstances — people…

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Hide and Q (TNG Rewatch, Season 1, Episode 9) Riker, buffed up by Q, grants desires of the crew; that’s a-facepalm

Rewatching Star Trek: The Next Generation after a 20-year break. The powerful, unpredictable Q conjures a Napoleonic scenario from Picard’s mind and takes the rest of the bridge crew there, leaving Picard on the Enterprise. Memorable not for the fuzzy-faced toy soldiers that get way too much screen time, but for a Shakespeare quote battle between Q and Picard, and Riker’s misplaced magnanimity when given the powers of Q. We’re barely a minute into an episode about an emergency mission to save hundreds of injured colonists when Q appears, prompting Picard to rant about Q’s meddling ways, for the benefit…

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Lonely Among Us (TNG Rewatch, Season 1, Episode 6) Blue energy sparks cause chaos

Conflict between two species who petition for membership in the Federation turns out to be the B-plot. On its way past a mysterious optical special effect, the Enterprise picks up a strange glowing spark via the sensor array, and as such entities tend to do in Star Trek, it starts wreaking havoc. We get a lot of exterior shots of the ship, some alien character designs that would have worked better in background shots, a glimpse at a sensor relay room we’ve never seen before (though it’s pretty obviously a redress of Engineering), and some glimpses of the Crushers at home.

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Where No One Has Gone Before (TNG Rewatch, Season 1, Episode 5) Wes’s warp-drive guru helps him save all the crew (he’s an ensign)

Rewatching ST:TNG after a 20-year break. While I wouldn’t say this was a strong episode, of the first season episodes I’ve rewatched, it’s the first that really felt like the Star Trek: The Next Generation I grew to love. The young director Rob Bowman went on to direct about 12 more episodes. The arrogant Starfleet propulsion expert Kosinski makes neither friends nor sense as he smirks and bullies his way through his scenes of techno-magical warp drive flimflammery. His alien assistant, whose elaborate facial makeup defines “supercilious,” works humbly in the background, noticed only by Wesley (who’s conveniently in main…

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The Last Outpost (ST:TNG Rewatch. Season 1, Episode 4) Riker shouts from a cliff while Ferengi use whips, that’s a-facepalm

Rewatching ST:TNG after about a 20-year break. This odd episode introduced the Ferengi, a parody of the capitalist patriarchy. I only remember bits and pieces of this episode, possibly because the pieces really don’t fit together very well. The long opening sequence gives us a good look at how the bridge crew deals with an evolving situation. We open with a chase scene, that quickly becomes a standoff, then morphs to Picard talking tough with the Ferengi, and then expressing a willingness to do business so reluctantly that the Ferengi (rather implausibly) interpret it as a demand for unconditional surrender.…