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…

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

In December 2001 I was blogging about

In December 2001, I was blogging about Changes in Online Culture The End of Free (chronicles services that used to be free but that now cost money) Is the [Technology] Revolution Over? Imagine Silicon Valley Buried Like Pompeii Wil Wheaton While the character of teen wonder Wesley Crusher was annoying because weak scripts had him saving the ship too many times, I wrote this blog page that traced early references to Wesley on rec.arts.startrek, a Usenet fan site that predated the World Wide Web. The young actor who portrayed Wesley was sadly the target of some online abuse, but over…

‘Tragedy of Macbeth’ Review: The Thane, Insane, Slays Mainly in Dunsinane

What a headline. The poet John Berryman wrote of “Macbeth” that “no other Shakespearean tragedy is so desolate, and this desolation is conveyed to us through the fantastic imagination of its hero.” The universe of the play — a haunted, violent patch of ground called Scotland — is as dark and scary as any place in literature or horror movies. This has less to do with the resident witches than with a wholesale inversion of moral order. “Fair is foul and foul is fair.” Trust is an invitation to treachery. Love can be a criminal pact or a motive for revenge.…

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Schisms (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 6, Episode 5)

Rewatching ST:TNG Riker is having trouble sleeping, except during Data’s poetry recitation. (“O Spot! The complex levels of behavior you display / Connote a fairly well developed cognitive array.”) As the ship faces a labor-intensive task of charting the Space Thing of the Week, LaForge has made some adjustments to the deflector grid. Riker’s dozing is more than a teaser gag; he reports to sickbay, and snaps at Dr. Crusher when she waves equipment near his head. Meanwhile, Worf flinches at Mr. Mot’s barber scissors. The sensors seem jumpy too — they detect what appears to be “a massive EPS…

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

In November 2001 I was blogging about

In November 2001, I was blogging about Florida recounts would have favored Bush (contentions election famous for a Florida ballot that many voters found confusing) Is this a burger which I see before me, / The soft bun in my hand? Come, et me clutch thee. / I eat thee not, and yet I want thee still. (McDonald’s Soliloquy)’ The Tyranny of Nicespeak Treating users with disabilities as people What if David Mamet rewrote 2001: A Space Odyssey?  

Letter to the editor: Why our English department deserves more respect

I came very close to accepting an offer to Purdue’s Ph.D. program, so it’s heartbreaking to read about the recently announced cuts to the famous and influential writing program. (What English teacher or writing student hasn’t relied on resources from the Purdue OWL?) [A] university that is only good at STEM education is nothing more than a trade school. I came to Purdue to work in a university, and not in a trade school. The horror stories coming out of our English department — how else would you describe the stories when the department head feels compelled to use phrases…

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Time’s Arrow, Part 1 (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 26) Data’s head in a mine meets Mark Twain back in time, that’s a-cliffhang.

Rewatching ST:TNG An archaeologist who’s not very good at prioritizing natters on to Picard about finding some old glasses, a revolver, and a pocket watch in an old mine. When Picard asks why the Enterprise-D was recalled to Earth to investigate, only then does the archeologist say oh yeah, here in this old mine that’s been sealed under San Francisco for 500 years we also found the severed head of Data. (Cue the opening credits.) This Data-focused story gives us some touching moments as LaForge, Troi, and Riker adjust to the foreknowledge that their colleague will at some point be…

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Time’s Arrow, Part 2 (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 1) Data (fate preordained) scrums with skeptical Twain, that’s a-Part-2

Rewatching ST:TNG Some time has passed since Part 1, as Picard and the away team members, presenting themselves as a theatre troupe, are behind in their rent at a boarding house in 19thC San Francisco. (We already know [s5e16 “Ethics“] that LaForge’s visor lets him see through at least some playing cards, and Troi’s access to emotions and sometimes specific thoughts would presumably help her tell when players are bluffing, so presumably they could acquire plenty of money — but this script doesn’t go there.) Looking smashing in period costumes (Picard is a lamp lighter, Riker a cop, Crusher a…

WAOB MisSpelled (final episode airs)

The final episode of the fantasy/comedy audio miniseries “MisSpelled” drops today. A full voice cast, sound effects, original music, and a great story. I only wish I had met more of the cast in person!  We were churning out these recordings in groups right before the pandemic. As the lockdown eased up, I returned to the studio to record my lines separately. So I often didn’t know what some of the characters would sound like, nor exactly how they were delivering the lines I was reacting to. I often tried three or four different ways of delivering a line, trusting…

Loki’s Loop Escape Room

Great  concept for a virtual escape room devoted to debunking fake information online. For years a supplement called “Euphorigen” has been used by the very wealthy to boost brain activity and productivity. Now the Government wants to make the benefits of Euphorigen available to everyone by introducing it into the public water supply. The company that makes Euphorigen claims to have completed successful trials, and an announcement of the deal is expected shortly. But your investigator friend has suspicions, and has heard that a prominent scientist has recorded a statement on whether or not the company’s claims are to be…

Thornton Wilder’s Optimistic Catastrophe: “The Skin of Our Teeth”

From a review of a 2017 production in Brooklyn. “The Skin of Our Teeth” first opened in New Haven, at the Shubert Theatre, in 1942. It was directed by Elia Kazan, and starred Tallulah Bankhead, Fredric March, Florence Eldridge, and a very young Montgomery Clift; Variety wrote that the play “bewilders, bemuses, and befuddles, as it amuses.” When it moved to Broadway, to the Plymouth Theatre, it was met with mainly favorable reviews. Brooks Atkinson, in the Times, called it “one of the friskiest and liveliest plays written in a long time,” and Alexander Woollcott said it “was the nearest…

I’m really enjoying seeing how my students are responding to Hamlet.

As part of a class assignment, one student took some friends to see the Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Park all-female production of Hamlet. One of her friends is from Vietnam, and my student was very proud that she could answer his questions about what was going on. Many students, even the English majors, confess that in high school they never tried to read Shakespeare’s language, but instead depended totally on modern-language paraphrases. That means that from year to year, they never got any better at understanding Shakespeare’s original language. Early in the term, I usually walk students through the first…

Trying to Tame Huck Finn

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the most frequently banned books in America. I regularly teach it in my American Lit class. I never use “the n-word” in lectures, and I remind my (mostly white) students of the power of the word, but the version of the text I assign doesn’t edit that word out. I also have students listen to an audio interpretation of Pap’s tirade, in order to draw attention to how the author uses humor to mock the most openly racist character in the book. I think they recognize the stereotyping at the beginning of the…

I’m not a big fan of Disney’s corporate greed.

I’m not a huge fan of Disney, largely because as a grad student in the 1990s, I chose the 1920-1950 time period for my dissertation based on my expectation that the literary works I studied from that time period would fall out of copyright one by one during my career. I planned to mine my dissertation, using what I learned about the literary works in that time period to create free, annotated hypertext editions of those works. I’d schedule them so that they’d appear online as the copyright dates passed, and I could reap the intellectual rewards while wearing my…