August Wilson House officially opens in Pittsburgh’s Hill District

The August Wilson House officially opened over the weekend in a tearful and emotional ceremony, bringing over 500 residents, celebrities, officials, and local Black leaders to Pittsburgh’s Hill District. The Bedford Avenue childhood home of Hill District native August Wilson, one of the greatest playwrights in history, was unveiled as a new community arts center, with a goal of connecting Black artists across the city. “I want to thank the community because he is yours and you are his,” said award-winning actor Denzel Washington, who returned to Pittsburgh for the event after taking part in a community ground blessing of…

Crossover (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 23) Kira and Bashir visit the Mirror Universe

Rewatching ST:DS9 Bashir thinks he’s bonding with Kira in a runabout as he namedrops and mansplains cheerfully about meditation and music, and asks her to call him “Julian.” Most of this happens in a single two-person take, and it’s delightfully cringeworthy to watch. A problem with the engines and an unusually rough return trip through the wormhole lead us to empty space where DS9 should be. A Klingon boarding party beams onto the runabout. Surprisingly, they apologize when they see Kira. We then visit an alternate version of Terak Nor, where Klingons supply the brute force, Garak is second in…

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Can AI write good novels?

I expect that this is probably the year I’ll need to consider how my profession will change if students start relying on AI writing software. Like many people in my social media feed, this summer I’ve been playing a bit with AI image software, and thinking about how all the photographers and artists whose work is being sampled and remixed, without compensation or credit, to supply a commodity that serves someone else’s needs. “Julia was twenty-six years old… and she worked, as he had guessed, on the novel-writing machines in the Fiction Department. She enjoyed her work, which consisted chiefly…

The Wire (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 22) While examining an ill Garak, Bashir discovers a mysterious implant

Rewatching ST:DS9 While sparring with Bashir over literature, Garak gets unusually cranky and headachy, but insists he’s fine.  Bashir pays a house call to Dax’s quarters, where he treats a plant that’s languishing because it’s away from its natural environment (an apt metaphor for Garak’s situation). This bit not only delivers exposition as Bashir talks to Dax about his arms-length friendship with the mysterious Garak, but also neatly establishes something that we take for granted some 30 years later — that Bashir can diagnose and treat an alien plant he’s never seen before, because he has access to a good…

Carolyn performed as Ariel yesterday in the New Renaissance Theatre Company’s production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Carolyn performed as Ariel yesterday in the New Renaissance Theatre Company’s production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.   The performers use an “unrehearsed” technique, where they are reading from scrolls that contain their lines and the cues they have to listen for. She’s put together scrolls for several different tracks (each track typically consisting of a main role and, when that main character is off stage, several random servant / supporting characters).   She doesn’t find out until the day of a show which track she’s doing that day.   Each run will probably feature a different configuration of cast members,…

Internet Explorer cheated its way to the top, and I won’t miss it

I started teaching myself HTML in earnest after I attended a crowded presentation at the Modern Language Association in the early 90s. Midway through his demonstration of what a mouse was, the speaker asked a crowd of hundreds who had used a graphical web browser (everyone raised their hands), and who had used the Internet in their teaching and research (everyone raised their hands), and who had coded a web page (I saw just three hands… one of which was mine). The most important thing I took away from that presentation was that I could have been standing up there…

What Jonson meant by Shakespeare’s “small Latin and less Greek”

Jonson famously eulogized Shakespeare thus:     For if I thought my judgment were of years I should commit thee surely with thy peers, And tell how far thou didst our Lyly outshine, Or sporting Kyd, or Marlowe’s mighty line. And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek, From thence to honor thee I would not seek For names, but call forth thund’ring Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles to us…   The apparent dig “though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek” is, according to Tom Moran, a hypothetical, akin to the King James translation of 1 Corinthians 13:1: “Though…

Clever Modernization of Hamlet: Polonius with an iPhone

I teach Shakespeare in a literature class. I encourage students to call up a college production on YouTube, or listen to a BBC radio adaptation, and read along with their script. However, I remind students that because I’m an English teacher, I’m asking them to focus on the script, not on any individual director’s production of the script. Students whose responses refer to line delivery, facial expressions, or camera angles may certainly be engaging with the choices that the actor made during that performance, but my task in the literature classroom involves asking them to pay attention to the words…

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

In May, 2002, I was blogging about… typefaces in period movies; poets Paul Dirac and Stewart Conn; web usability; fired for making a satirical game

In May, 2002, I was blogging about Rating historical movies on how accurately they represent period typefaces The average UK reader spends 17 minutes a day reading a newspaper, compared to 11 minutes reading a novel. Paul Dirac, honorary poet laureate of modern physics. Student web project on poet Stewart Conn’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party” Fired for making a game (a government meat popsicle creates a satirical game that his superiors never bothered to play) Creator of Nancy Drew dies at 96 Why won’t we read the manual? Put a search box on your home page, not just a…

How Not to Hate Shakespeare

The problem isn’t Shakespeare—it’s how he’s been taught. […] Since Shakespeare’s work is “not of an age but for all time,” as Ben Jonson famously put it, I suggest that you get over your Bardophobia and embrace your inner Bardolator. Trust me, it’s worth it. First, you need to relax. You’re not stupid. You’re not a philistine. Shakespeare didn’t write in “olde English” (a common misconception), but his “early modern English” still causes problems for audiences. Shakespeare’s language is about 90 percent the same as the English we speak today, but that ten percent can be irritating. For instance, certain…

The overlooked masterpieces of 1922

In literature the response to the challenges and opportunities of the early 20th Century was Modernism – the rejection of traditional linear storytelling and the use of more challenging styles to reflect the new world – and its annus mirabilis is usually seen as 1922. It was an apt time for breakthroughs: the same year saw, among other world-defining events, the appointment of Joseph Stalin as General Secretary of the Communist Party in Russia, the first treatment of diabetes using insulin, and the creation of the BBC. In literary terms, this was the year stamped at one end by James Joyce’s novel Ulysses…

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

In January, 2002 I was blogging about…

A 20-something former CEO takes a fast food job The death of Astrid Lindgren (creator of Pippi Longstocking) at 94 Isadore, patron saint of web surfing (who remembers when “surfing the web” was the dominant metaphor?) Teenager created a glove to translate ASL finger positions to speech On the implausibility of the Death Star’s trash compactor The death of Hemingway’s “Old Man” at 104 Bernard Shifman, the moron spammer 11 September 2001, the Response of Poetry A former student’s 9/11 poetry project (created for a technical writing assignment) Arts & Letters Daily (long-running blog that’s still going) More reasons not…

The eagles in Lord of the Rings are a plot hole, but also an us problem

Part of my enjoyment of genre franchises is looking for and appreciating continuity. The other side of that coin is, of course, pointing out continuity gaps. But a plot hole is just a plot hole, and means nothing without context. A logical inconsistency in a tense psychological courtroom drama would be more serious than a logical inconsistency in a jukebox musical. I don’t read Larry Niven for his dialogue, and I don’t read Jane Austen for action sequences. Romeo doesn’t check whether Juliet is still breathing, but 1) he’s a character in a tragedy, not a first responder in a…