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

In June, 2002, I was blogging about… a female autistic scholars lament, Dr. Seuss, Orthodox Christianity and coding, Shakespeare, and weblogs after 9/11

In June, 2002, I was blogging about A female autistic scholar’s lament The origins of Horton Hears a Who A NatGeo article on the media-saturated life of Iowa college students The function of “er” in speech A Pravda article on parallels between Orthodox Christianity and computer programming Dr. Toast’s Amazing World of Toast (I really miss the Internet that contained such marvels.) The world has changed, but Shakespeare asked questions that are still worth asking.  How innocent we are were. In 2002 we were blogging about “A Writer’s Perspective on an Emerging Medium,” by which was meant electronic text. A…

Behind the art: The Westmoreland’s ‘Death of Elaine’ beloved of staff and visitors

I always slow down and spend some time with this painting when I visit my local art museum. This scene from the Arthurian legends has been out of exhibition for a while and will be back with a new frame Oct 16. A scene of mourning at Camelot, the castle of the legendary King Arthur, is depicted in Thomas Hovenden’s 1882 oil painting, “Death of Elaine.” The king and his queen, Guinevere, along with knights, ladies-in-waiting and servants, are gathered around a bed holding the body of the young noblewoman, Elaine. —Shirley McMarlin, Tribune-Review

Engrossing but difficult to watch: “Man in Cave” documentary on caver Floyd Collins

I’m conflicted. This is a very well done animated documentary, creating visuals that were not part of the original press coverage of Floyd Collins, the caver trapped in Sand Cave in 1925, and the subject of the first media circus, fed by the emerging new medium of radio journalism. The animation adds sight gags and sometimes crude humor, which is juvenile and not particularly funny. This story happened to real people, and I’m uncomfortable their suffering has been turned into entertainment. Yet here I am, watching. (That’s part of the discomfort I feel.) Even though I know how this story…

Between static hand-coded HTML pages and modern content-management systems, there used to be a wonderful bazaar of “mildly dynamic” websites

When I started my blog in 1999 (by adding a date to a “Link of the Day” archive I had been maintaining for a year or so), I coded everything in HTML, by hand.  This was before Facebook, before YouTube, before Wikipedia, and around the time that the domain google.com first went live. Most of the content on the Internet was hand-coded HTML, and instead of search engines, you would click your way through a hand-coded catalog — Arts -> Music -> Classical -> Mozart -> [scroll through a long list] This was perfectly normal, because it’s how libraries organized…

The Lost Art of Paste-Up

When I started using a word processor as a middle schooler in the early 1980s, I recognized the editing commands “cut” and “paste” as metaphors.  Here’s a short video showing the physical cutting and pasting that was required to arrange paragraphs of text prepare a document for mass production. According to layout rules, you’re not supposed to end a line with just a single word at the end of a paragraph, and you’re not supposed to break up a paragraph so that a single line from that paragraph begins or ends a column.  Note that this editor actually shaves slivers…

Past Tense, Part 2 (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 3, Episode 11) Sisko must channel social unrest on Earth in 2024

Rewatching ST:DS9 After the recap of Part 1, Sisko, in the persona of Gabriel Bell, reminds loose cannon BC (from the “ghost” gang) that they have to keep the hostages safe as their bargaining chips. Just when BC starts showing Sisko some respect, the veteran cop Vin tries to be a hero, and Sisko has to save his life. The “gimme” organizer Webb shows up, and agrees to Sisko’s request that he recruit more people like him — ordinary people who fell on hard times — to help guard the hostages.  BC is thrilled by the attention the newscasts are…

Past Tense, Part 1 (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 3, Episode 10) Plot contrivance particles strand Sisko, Dax & Bashir on Earth in 2024

Rewatching ST:DS9 The Defiant is ferrying Sisko, Dax and Bashir to Earth for a Starfleet symposium.  After a nice bit about how “There’s no place like home, no matter what color the water is,” and some social comedy about tonight’s formal dinner with an admiral, we get a video call from Quark that fills out the teaser but has little to do with the rest of the plot — except perhaps helping to establish the social pecking order — the Federation is calling the shots, Bajoran militia members Kira and Odo are along for the ride, and Quark is back…

‘I saw the possibility of what could be done – so I did it’: revolutionary video game The Hobbit turns 40

.. Realising that statistics wasn’t for her, Megler answered a newspaper advert for a part-time programming job at a local software company called Melbourne House. It was 1980, and she was halfway through a course that focused on designing operating systems and developing programming languages. “The day I was hired, the first thing my boss said to me was, ‘write the best adventure game ever,’” she remembers. The eventual result of this instruction was The Hobbit, a landmark 1982 text adventure game that’s still fondly remembered today. Though the 20-year-old didn’t have a lot of experience with video games, she’d…

Defiant (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 3, Episode 9) Riker visits DS9, and it’s he who’s titularly “defiant”

Rewatching ST:DS9 After an overworked Kira snaps at Bashir, the good doctor’s prescription is an evening at Quark’s, which includes a chance meeting with Commander Riker, on leave from the Enterprise-D. The next morning when Dax pries her for details, Kira insists they just talked.  That evening, Riker bumps into her on the promenade and she invites him on a tour of the station. He requests a visit to the Defiant. O’Brien is surprised and happy to see his former commander, but Riker turns cold: “I have nothing to say to you, O’Brien.” Riker seems to perk up again on…

Meridian (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 3, Episode 8) Dax falls for a man from a Bridgadoon planet

Rewatching ST:DS9 Kira tells Odo about the pleasure of drinking too-hot coffee and, in order to escape the attentions of the smarmy merchant Tiron, role-plays that she and Odo are lovers. (She doesn’t notice how Odo reacts when she takes his hand.) On the Defiant, a “commander’s log” lampshades the fact that this episode features a random exploratory jaunt in the Gamma Quadrant, despite the recent episodes carefully setting up the Dominion War story arc. When the Defiant stops to study the plot contrivance particles from a Space Thing, a planet suddenly appears out of nowhere. The cheerful leader Seltin…

Let’s Make the Academic Job Market More Humane

It’s been decades since I’ve had the “I’m in school again and I forgot to study for the test” nightmare, but it hasn’t been so long since I’ve had nightmares about the faculty job search. I did have one nightmare campus visit, where I was told I was one of six candidates brought to campus to interview for two positions, and that one of the other candidates was “unbeatable.” For my job talk I chose a topic related to the technical writing / media position I was applying for, and after it was over I saw the crowded room full…

Gen Z Never Learned to Read Cursive

When I used to teach a “Media and Culture” class, I had students do an oral project, a handwriting project, a typewriter/cut-and-paste project, and a digital project, and we spent quite a bit of time reading and talking about how the ways we read and write affect not only what we read and write about, but also how we conceptualize the world and our place in it. I do remember  a time about 16 years ago when I overheard a student in the hallway, during some good-natured teasing banter, saying to a colleague, “Email is for old people.” That was…

The Enduring Allure of Choose Your Own Adventure Books

I didn’t realize how involved the children of divorced dads Packard and Montgomery were in the creation of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” gamebooks. (The children of divorced dad Will Crowther were one motivation for, and were early playtesters for, Crowther’s original Colossal Cave Adventure; the history of parser text adventure games and branching path gamebooks overlap in time and theme.) You were a girl who wanted to choose your own adventures. Which is to say, you were a girl who never had adventures. You always followed the rules. But, when you ate an entire sleeve of graham crackers and…

Civil Defense (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 3, Episode 7) O’Brien accidentally triggers dormant Cardassian security protocols

Rewatching ST:DS9 Although some time ago Jake told his father he didn’t want to join Starfleet, the plot of this episode requires O’Brien to still be mentoring Jake as they putter about an unused ore processing room, so that when O’Brien enters the wrong passcode they can get locked in together with Sisko. A recorded image of Gul Dukat addresses the Bajoran workers who have presumably started to revolt, giving them a TV-friendly 8-minute deadline to turn themselves in. I was a little distracted during this episode because my Paramount+ account suddenly stopped playing nice with one of the of…