Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Remove YouTube history

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation: How to Remove Your YouTube Viewing and Search History Before Google's New Privacy Policy Takes Effect. Google’s new policy takes effect on March 1.

A related post
Remove Google search history

[Did you know that YouTube tracks your viewing history? I didn’t. As we used to say in Brooklyn, “It’s none of your bee-eye-business.”]

Remove Google search history

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation: How to Remove Your Google Search History Before Google’s New Privacy Policy Takes Effect. Thanks to this leap year, you have one more day to remove and pause your search history before Google’s new policy takes effect on March 1.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Faux classic typewriter

Hammacher-Schlemmer calls this machine “the classic manual typewriter reminiscent of those used by Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and Jack Kerouac to create their classic literary works.” No, it’s not “the classic manual typewriter,” or even “a classic manual typewriter.” One giveaway: “lightweight plastic housing.” This typewriter is something new, meant to vaguely resemble something old, and it has no more relation to Hemingway than present-day Moleskine notebooks do. The Classic Manual Typewriter, so-called, sells for $199.95. Caveat emptor. Or Caveat hipstor.

Related posts
Hemingway’s typewriter
Jack Kerouac’s last typewriter
The legendary notebook of . . .
Montblanc “Yes We Can” pen

[What is the Latin for hipster?]

The “FaceTime Facelift”

Washington, D.C.-area plastic surgeon Robert K. Sigal offers the “FaceTime Facelift”:

“Patients come in with their iPhones and show me how they look on [Apple’s video calling application] FaceTime,” says Dr. Sigal. “The angle at which the phone is held, with the caller looking downward into the camera, really captures any heaviness, fullness and sagging of the face and neck. People say ‘I never knew I looked like that! I need to do something!’ I’ve started calling it the ‘FaceTime Facelift’ effect. And we’ve developed procedures to specifically address it.”
For readers of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (1996), life is once again imitating art. In the novel, the use of video telephony via teleputer (TP) results in “Video-Physiognomic Dysphoria”:
People were horrified at how their own faces appeared on a TP screen. It wasn’t just “Anchorman’s Bloat,” that well-known impression of extra weight that video inflicts on the face. It was worse. Even with high-end TPs’ high-def viewer-screens, consumers perceived something essentially blurred and moist-looking about their phone-faces, a shiny pallid indefiniteness that struck them as not just unflattering but somehow evasive, furtive, untrustworthy, unlikable.
Thus they turn to “High-Definition Photographic Imaging,” plastic masks, and “Transmittable Tableaux” before returning to “good old voice-only telephoning” — “not Ludditism but a kind of retrograde transcendence of sci-fi-ish high-tech for its own sake, a transcendence of the vanity and the slavery to high-tech fashion that people view as so unattractive in one another.”

Related reading
All David Foster Wallace posts (via Pinboard)
Infinite Jest, video telephony

[I discovered the “FaceTime Facelift” via kottke.org.]

The picky ones

One small pleasure in life for me is local commercials — sometimes so local (or insular) that advertisers are identified by street address alone. A jeweler on a street about ninety miles from me has been advertising himself on television as le difficile: his commercial shows a series of men “here in Antwerp, Belgium” speaking in French and accented English about “the picky one” and his insistence on the best diamonds. O small-town jeweler, thy reputation fills a metropolis in two languages!

It turns out though that a surprising number of American jewelers are known in Antwerp as le difficile — or la difficile. So many picky ones! Even more surprising: the Antwerp diamond dealers speak of these many picky ones in exactly the same words (in French and accented English). These jewelers hail from Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. And from Florida, Florida, Florida, Florida. And perhaps from other states.

A cynic might think that these spots were made by inserting a couple of brief clips of a local jeweler into a ready-made commercial. A cynic might even do a quick search and find a source for these commercials online. I refuse to bow to such cynicism.

Monday, February 27, 2012

On retronyms

On retronyms, from Bryan Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day:

When roller skates were invented in the 19th century, it became necessary to refer to the kind used on ice — originally just “skates” — as “ice skates.” When cars began appearing on turn-of-the-century roads, old-style carriages came to be called “horse-drawn carriages” to distinguish them from the new “horseless carriages.” In the 1910s, when sound first came to be synchronized with motion pictures (in “talking movies” or “talkies”), the original type of movie came to be known as the “silent movie.” That is, nobody ever referred to “silent movies” until sound was added to the newer type.
And speaking of silent films: I was very happy to see the Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist do so well at last night’s Academy Awards. I love everything about The Artist but its typography.

Wikipedia has a list of retronyms.

[Bryan Garner, author of Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009), offers a free Usage Tip of the Day. You can sign up at LawProse.org. Orange Crate Art is a Garner-friendly site.]

Batshit crazy

Recent developments in American political life have made me curious about the expression batshit crazy. The words come unbidden to my lips when I hear a certain sweater-vested man pronouncing upon matters of contraception, education, marriage, and everything else.

The Oxford English Dictionary explains it all. Since 1971, batshit has meant “crazy, mad, insane.” The OED notes that batshit may also function “as an intensifier, esp. in batshit crazy.” The OED ’s first citation dates from 1993: “His mug is emblazoned with the words: full-blown bat shit crazy.”

A shout-out to that sweater-vested man: Shine on, you batshit-crazy diamond, all the way to your party’s nomination if possible.

[“Since 1971” is a bit of a joke: that’s the year for the first citation. Why the hyphen in batshit-crazy ? “When a phrase functions as an adjective preceding the noun it modifies — an increasingly frequent phenomenon in 20th- and 21st-century English — the phrase should ordinarily be hyphenated”: Bryan Garner, Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009). Garner does not give batshit-crazy as an example; I am applying his maxim here.]

Friday, February 24, 2012

Read Charles Bukowski 4 what?

Read Charles Bukowski 4 social enlightenment? Well, maybe. Bukowski’s poetry often presents the rest of the world as stuck in hapless darkness: people are stupid, their lives are small and petty, men chained to their wives, and so on. But the poet — he’s the one guy who knows the score. And yes, I find that pose tiresome. Bukowski can though be a useful gateway poet, one whose work can lead a reader to stronger, harder stuff. For me, Bukowski’s work helped point the way to poetry beyond the academic traditions I absorbed as an undergrad.

I snapped this photograph in The Red Herring Restaurant and Coffeehouse in Urbana, Illinois. The words appear on a paper-towel dispenser. I noticed the rejoinder, written in a lighter hand, only after taking the photograph.

On a non-poetic note: The Red Herring’s vegan chili and cornbread are out of sight.

A related post
Homework (on developing a “poetry base”)

[My favorite Bukowski: the 1971 novel Post Office.]

Overheard

“And they’re naked — they’re like not even wearing spacesuits.”

Related reading
All “overheard” posts (via Pinboard)

[Context? Don’t know, and not sure I want to.]

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Barney Rosset (1922–2012)

From the New York Times obituary:

Barney Rosset, the flamboyant, provocative publisher who helped change the course of publishing in the United States, bringing masters like Samuel Beckett to Americans’ attention under his Grove Press imprint and winning celebrated First Amendment slugfests against censorship, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 89.
The first Grove Press book I ever read: Waiting for Godot or Eugène Ionesco’s Four Plays, in high-school English, with a very hip teacher, Beverly Jones. I can’t recall which book came first. Many other Grove Press books followed. The one that probably means the most to me: The New American Poetry 1945–1960, edited by Donald Allen. Think scales and eyes.

Related reading
Grove/Atlantic (publisher’s website)
Interview with Barney Rosset (Paris Review)

[Slugfests? In the New York Times?]

“No Ordinary Pencil”

At Blackwing Pages, Sean has written the greatest Blackwing post of all time: No Ordinary Pencil.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How to improve writing (no. 36)

When the context is serious, and a pun would do no more than call attention to its maker’s cleverness, block that pun. From a New York Times article on suspected forgeries of modern American painters:

A few details, however, have dripped out in court documents and through interviews with other players in the case, enough to sketch out what happened.
Notice that the metaphor is mixed: it would be awkward at best to sketch with what’s been dripping. Better:
A few details, however, have come out in court documents and in interviews with other players in the case, enough to suggest what happened.
[This post is no. 36 in a series, “How to improve writing,” dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Related reading
All How to improve writing posts (via Pinboard)
1 PUN MULTI

Resurrect Dead

The documentary Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles (2011, dir. John Foy) tracks three self-made researchers in their effort to unlock the secret of the Toynbee tiles, mysterious messages embedded in city streets in the United States and several South American countries. The tiles offer several variations on the above message:
TOYNBEE IDEA
IN MOViE ‘2001
RESURRECT DEAD
ON PLANET JUPiTER
Who’s creating these tiles? What do they mean? With determined effort and remarkable luck, Justin Duerr, Colin Smith, and Steve Weinik push forward to an answer.

Like the 2010 documentary Catfish (dir. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman), Resurrect Dead is best viewed with little or no foreknowledge. If you plan to see the film, I’d suggest not following the link below.

[Image from the film’s website.]

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My name is [your name here].

E.B. White, in a 1969 Paris Review interview:

Television affects the style of children — that I know. I receive letters from children, and many of them begin: “Dear Mr. White, My name is Donna Reynolds.” This is the Walter Cronkite gambit, straight out of TV. When I was a child I never started a letter, “My name is Elwyn White.” I simply signed my name at the end.
This observation reminds me of what I wrote in my post on how to e-mail a professor:
Why sign with your name, class, and meeting time? It’s a courtesy, yes, but it also avoids the awkward “My name is . . . , and I am a student in your such-and-such class,” all of which is taken care of in the signature. It occurs to me that “My name is . . . , and I am a student in . . .” is telling evidence of the unfamiliarity of e-mail as a way for students to communicate with professors.
“My name is” does sound childlike, doesn’t it? Or spammy: “Hello My Dear One, my name is,” &c.

Edward Luttwak on Homer Inc

“The old firm is doing very well in new markets far from America”: Edward Luttwak on the Iliad in Arabic, Chinese, and English: Homer Inc (London Review of Books).

Monday, February 20, 2012

Esther Williams’s
Proust questionnaire

Esther Williams responds to Vanity Fair’s Proust questionnaire:

What is your greatest fear?

The pool is unheated.
Related reading
All Proust posts (via Pinboard)

The Alabama Syncopators

[Click for a much larger view.]

In November 2006 I wrote a post about a little piece of ephemera in my possession, an invitation to a 1927 Chicago dance. (That post is still one of my favorites.) Back then I could find no information about the orchestra hired for the dance, A. Pellegrino and His Original Alabama Syncopators. But I just did, on a page from the Chicago newspaper the Suburban Economist, May 13, 1925:
There are few dance orchestras more “zippy” than this one, to be at WBCN about 11:45 o’clock Thursday night, and which is shortly to take to the stage for a few weeks. While these boys, who travel under the name of the Alabama Syncopators, have been heard before from WBCN, their last appearance was several months ago and many who heard them may have forgotten their unusually “dancy” tempo. From left to right, those in the photo are: Pasquale Venuso, trombone; Frank Martello, trap drums; Joseph Pellegrino, cornet; Edward Kapek, piano; Anthony Pellegrino, saxophone and clarinet (director); Nicholas Pellegrino, saxophone and clarinet; James Tarentino, banjo.
The Social Security Death Index lists just one Edward Kapek (1901–1985) and one Pasquale Venuso (1907–1979). There’s a Frank Martello (1905–1976) whose last residence was in Chicago, and an Anthony Pellegrino (1902–1979) and a Nicholas Pellgrino (1906–1970) whose last residences were in Illinois.

Looking at the faces in this photograph, particularly those of Martello and Venuso, I see a group of kids, really — school friends perhaps? — all together on an adventure in music. I wonder how long it lasted.

[This journey into the past has been brought to you by the Internets. The Internets: making the past present for the future.]

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Timothy Barrett, papermaker

At the New York Times, Mark Levine profiles Timothy Barrett, papermaker:

Barrett, who is 61, has dedicated his life to unlocking the mysteries of paper, which he regards as both the elemental stuff of civilization and an endangered species in digital culture. . . . “Sometimes I worry about what a weird thing it is to be preoccupied with paper when there’s so much trouble in the world,” Barrett told me, “but then I think of how our whole culture is knitted together by paper, and it makes a kind of sense.”
Bonus: there’s a slideshow.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Kay Davis (1920–2012)

Kathryn McDonald sang as Kay Davis with the Duke Ellington Orchestra from 1944 to 1950:

Kay Davis was an honor student of Northwestern University, where she studied opera and majored in music. She had perfect pitch, could sight-read, and had all the gifts, so we decided to use her voice as an instrument. . . . I shall never forget her first Carnegie Hall appearance in January 1946. Subtitled “A Blue Fog You Can Almost See Through,” “Transblucency” was a last-minute kind of composition, and the two featured musicians (Jimmy Hamilton on clarinet and Lawrence Brown on trombone) had to have music stands at the mike, because it had been completed too late for them to memorize. So we put Kay’s part on a music stand at the mike, just like those of the musicians, and the performance was a smash.

Duke Ellington, Music Is My Mistress (New York: Doubleday, 1973).
Here from 1946 is “Transblucency.” And here from 2009 is a short film about Kay Davis, The Voice of the Ellington Orchestra. Are Herb Jeffries and Maria Cole (Marie Ellington) now the last links to the 1940s Ellington orchestra?

Related reading
Soprano was one of last links to Duke Ellington (Chicago Sun-Times)

[For any singers out there: yes, Ellington should have written instrumentalists, not musicians.]

Friday, February 17, 2012

Betty Flowers: madman, architect, carpenter, judge

Betty S. Flowers says that one who writes must be, in turn, madman, architect, carpenter, and judge. I’ve found this four-part metaphor tremendously useful in helping students to see the different kinds of work that good writing requires.

A related post
Granularity (“one thing at a time”)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Margaret Edson on writing

From a New York Times article on playwright and teacher Margaret Edson, author of Wit:

Writing itself . . . is something to which she is deeply committed, and she usually ends each class quietly, with a writing assignment. “Sitting by yourself, forcing the swirl of thoughts into a linear, systematic journey forward — it makes you smarter,” she said. “It’s like a pastry bag, literacy is. It presses you into one clear line.”
Don’t miss Edson’s 2008 Smith College commencement address: “I love the classroom. I loved it as a student, and I love it as a teacher.” Here’s a transcript if you’re pressed for time.

OSS 117: Lost in Rio

[Click for a larger, more 1967ish view.]

Michel Hazanavicius’s OSS 117: Rio ne répond plus [OSS 117: Lost in Rio] (2009) is the sequel to OSS 117: Le Caire, nid d’espions [OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies] (2006). Here OSS 117 (Jean Dujardin) travels to Rio to deliver payment to the escaped Nazi Von Zimmel (Rüdiger Vogler) in exchange for a list of 50,000 French collaborators. (Talk about your politically incorrect plot premise.) Once in Rio, 117 ends up helping Mossad agent Dolorès Koulechov (Louise Monot) track Von Zimmel down. The Dujardin-Monot partnership lacks the comic zest of the Dujardin-Bérénice Bejo partnership in Nest of Spies, and some of the jokes we’ve seen before. But there are wonderful moments: a drug-fueled orgy (it’s 1967), a fight in a chicken coop, a costume party with Dujardin as Robin Hood (or is it Dujardin as Errol Flynn as Robin Hood?). And there are delightful over-the-top homages to North by Northwest and Vertigo. Not as funny as Lost in Rio, but very funny.

A related post
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

[Above, OSS 117 and CIA agent Bill Trumendous (Ken Samuels).]

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chris Matthews disappoints

Every time I think I should be more generous toward Chris Matthews, he disappoints me anew. The other day, after showing a clip of Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo in The Artist (2011, dir. Michel Hazanavicius), Matthews remarked, “I don’t know where they found those guys.” Interviewee James Cromwell, who appears in the film, was too tactful to respond. But it couldn’t have been too difficult for Hazanavicius to find those guys. Dujardin and Bejo both have long careers in film. Both have worked with Hazanavicius before. And Bejo and Hazanavicius are married.

Is it all right not to know these things? Sure. But when you’re on television, you should try to know what you’re talking about, or at least know what not to talk about.

Related posts
The Artist (and typography) (“ ” v. " ")
Chris Matthews explains it all for you
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (Bejo, Dujardin, Hazanavicius)

Doyald Young, Logotype Designer

From Doyald Young, Logotype Designer:

“To learn to draw a letter well takes a lot of time. I’ve been drawing letters since 1948, and I’m still learning how to draw.”
Dictionaries, pencils, pencil sharpeners: this beautifully made film has it (them) all.

Related reading
Doyald Young (his website)
Doyald Young, 84, Designer of Typefaces, Dies (New York Times)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bill Withers on wanting to be cool

From the documentary Still Bill (2009, dir. Damani Baker and Alex Vlack), Bill Withers addressing an audience of young and younger people:

“When you’re a kid, you want to be cool, and you want to be cool with the cool people. And that doesn’t always happen. So if you can learn to value the people who value you —”
Still Bill answers the question “Whatever became of Bill Withers?” and reveals a man who is kind, patient, and endlessly wise. Especially when he’s schooling Tavis Smiley and Cornel West on the meaning of sell out: kind, patient, and wise. One of the best scenes is stuck in the DVD extras: Withers in conversation with Jim Brown, Bernie Casey and Bill Russell. Not to be missed.

Related posts
Ben Folds on the tyranny of cool
Bill Withers and John Hammond

Valentine’s Day

[“Whelan’s Drug Store, 44th Street and Eighth Avenue, Manhattan.” Photograph by Berenice Abbott. February 7, 1936. From the New York Public Library Digital Gallery. Click for a larger view. Happy Valentine’s Day.]

Monday, February 13, 2012

Selling the Iliad

On the back cover of the new University of Chicago Press edition of Richmond Lattimore’s 1951 translation of Homer’s Iliad, there’s an appraisal from Robert Fitzgerald:

The feat is so decisive that it is reasonable to foresee a century or so in which nobody will try again to put the Iliad in English verse.
Yes, Fitzgerald wrote that sentence, in “Heroic Poems in English,” a review of Lattimore’s translation published in the Autumn 1952 issue of the Kenyon Review. Sometime after writing that sentence, Fitzgerald translated the Iliad (1974). His Odyssey (1961) though is far better known.

I’ll admit: if I were tasked with selling the Iliad, I’d like to quote great reviews too. But quoting a nearly sixty-year-old undated sentence on the likely longevity of a translation, a sentence whose writer went on to make his own translation of the poem, seems, well, odd.

Related posts (Homer in translation)
“Kchaou!”
Translations, mules, briars
Translators at work and play
Whose Homer?

[I’m unable to find a date for this edition’s other jacket quotation, from Peter Green, writing in The New Republic: “Perhaps closer to Homer in every way than any other version made in English.” Which versions did Green have in mind?]

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Overheard

Last night, a well-dressed, middle-aged woman in a bookstore:

“I did, and I thought it was excellent. And I don’t do vampire.”

Related reading
All “overheard” posts (via Pinboard)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Jacques Barzun on multiple-choice

Jacques Barzun on multiple-choice tests:

Multiple-choice questions test nothing but passive-recognition knowledge, not active usable knowledge. Knowing something means the power to summon up facts and their significance in the right relations. Mechanical testing does not foster this power. It is one thing to pick out Valley Forge, not Dobbs Ferry or Little Rock, as the place where George Washington made his winter quarters; it is another, first, to think of Valley Forge and then to say why he chose it rather than Philadelphia, where it was warmer.

Multiple-choice tests, whether of fact or skill, break up the unity of knowledge and isolate the pieces; nothing follows on anything else, and a student’s mind must keep jumping. True testing elicits the pattern originally learned; an essay examination reinforces pattern-making. Ability shows itself not in the number of accurate “hits” but in the extent, coherence, and verbal accuracy of each whole answer. Science and math consist of similar clusters of thought, and, in all subjects, to compose organized statements requires full-blown thinking. Objective tests ask only for sorting.

“The Tyranny of Testing” (1962). In A Jacques Barzun Reader, edited by Michael Murray (New York: HarperCollins, 2002).
Why Valley Forge? The National Parks Service explains.

A related post
Whitehead on primrose paths and external examinations

[A relevant anecdote: A student once asked, only semi-seriously, if our final exam would be multiple-choice. In life, said I, there are no multiple-choice tests. People expect you to develop answers, not choose them. A second student suggested that there was indeed one multiple-choice test in life: marriage. No, said a third student, marriage is a true-false test. No, said I, marriage is a matching test. It was a lively class, with an essay exam.]

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Whitehead on primrose paths and external examinations

Alfred North Whitehead wouldn’t have approved of the collegiate “study guide,” the simple pre-exam handout (handout indeed), often requiring (I am told) no more than fifteen or twenty minutes of effort to memorize. From The Aims of Education (1929):

In education, as elsewhere, the broad primrose path leads to a nasty place. This evil path is represented by a book or a set of lectures which will practically enable the student to learn by heart all the questions likely to be asked at the next external examination.
Nor would Whitehead approve of what we now call the standardized test, what he called the “uniform external examination”:
We do not denounce it because we are cranks, and like denouncing established things. We are not so childish. Also, of course, such examinations have their use in testing slackness. Our reason of dislike is very definite and very practical. It kills the best part of culture. When you analyse in the light of experience the central task of education, you find that its successful accomplishment depends on a delicate adjustment of many variable factors. The reason is that we are dealing with human minds, and not with dead matter. The evocation of curiosity, of judgment, of the power of mastering a complicated tangle of circumstances, the use of theory in giving foresight in special cases — all these powers are not to be imparted by a set rule embodied in one schedule of examination subjects.
Nothing in my experience does more to kill intellectual curiosity and effort in young adults than schooling focused on the work of standardized tests. When every question has only one right answer, any thoughts you think will most likely be wrong.

[Whitehead’s understanding of culture: “Culture is activity of thought, and receptiveness to beauty and humane feeling. Scraps of information have nothing to do with it.” My knowledge of the “study guide” comes from conversations over the past few years with students who have studied in many different institutions. A “study guide” often includes both questions and answers.]

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Abby and Austin

[Click for a larger view.]

I rediscovered the above clipping between pages 10 and 11 in my copy of J.L. Austin’s How to Do Things with Words (1962). On page 10:
“For one who says “promising is not merely a matter of uttering words! It is an inward and spiritual act!” is apt to appear as a solid moralist standing out against a generation of superficial theorizers: we see him as he sees himself, surveying the invisible depths of ethical space, with all the distinction of a specialist in the sui generis. Yet he provides Hippolytus with a let-out, the bigamist with an excuse for his “I do” and the welsher with a defense for his “I bet.” Accuracy and morality alike are on the side of the plain saying that our word is our bond.
Other posts with J.L. Austin
William Labov
Write 5 sentence [sic] about cat

[Austin gives this translation of a line from Euripides’ Hippolytus: “My tongue swore to, but my heart (or mind or other backstage artiste) did not.” “Our word is our bond” alludes to the motto of the London Stock Exchange: “Dictum meum pactum,” My word is my bond.]

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

“Rewording”

A surprising number of college students are devoted to what they call “rewording”: the practice of taking a passage from someone else’s writing and, uh, rewording it, without attribution. More surprising is that many such students see nothing wrong with this practice. More surprising still is that some of their professors see nothing wrong with it either and even encourage it. I suspect that the Dunning-Kruger effect is at work here: such professors must lack the competence to understand that what they’re encouraging is in fact plagiarism.

There are many authoritative explanations in print of paraphrase, plagiarism, and the inappropriateness of rewording without attribution. Here’s an excerpt from a helpful online explanation, from the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill:

What About Paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing means taking another person’s ideas and putting those ideas in your own words. Paraphrasing does NOT mean changing a word or two in someone else’s sentence, changing the sentence structure while maintaining the original words, or changing a few words to synonyms. If you are tempted to rearrange a sentence in any of these ways, you are writing too close to the original. That’s plagiarizing, not paraphrasing.

Paraphrasing is a fine way to use another person’s ideas to support your argument as long as you attribute the material to the author and cite the source in the text at the end of the sentence. In order to make sure you are paraphrasing in the first place, take notes from your reading with the book closed. Doing so will make it easier to put the ideas in your own words. When you are unsure if you are writing too close to the original, check with your instructor BEFORE you turn in the paper for a grade. So, just to be clear—do you need to cite when you paraphrase? Yes, you do!

Plagiarism (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
When I talk with students about these matters, I always point out that no matter what they’ve been told, “rewording” without attribution is plagiarism, though perhaps in a hapless and unsophisticated form. Imagine getting an F for a paper or a course without even realizing that you’re engaging in academic misconduct. That’s the Dunning-Kruger effect with a vengeance. Yipes.

Related posts
“Local Norms” and “‘organic’ attribution” (writing without quotation marks)
Old and unimproved (“How to e-mail a professor,” “reworded”)

[My knowledge of “rewording” comes from many conversations over many years with students who have studied in many different institutions. My syllabi and other course materials make clear that “rewording” is a no-no.]

Monday, February 6, 2012

VDP on time

Van Dyke Parks, from the stage in Santa Barbara last week:

“Time is our only common enemy; the rest of it is just bar talk on a sinking Titanic.”

Domestic aspirations

As heard on Modern Family, Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet) speaking:

“You know, I just wanna be home, reading on opposite ends of the sofa.”

[That’s how I feel today. Elaine, are you with me?]

“People are getting rid
of bookshelves”

J. L. Sathre:

1. People are getting rid of bookshelves. Treat the money you budgeted for shelving as found money. Go to garage sales and cruise the curbs.

2. While you’re drafting that business plan, cut your projected profits in half. People are getting rid of bookshelves.

25 Things I Learned From Opening a Bookstore (Open Salon, found via Coudal)

Barthes on pens

Roland Barthes on writing as ritual:

Take the gesture, the action of writing. I would say, for example, that I have an almost obsessive relation to writing instruments. I often switch from one pen to another just for the pleasure of it. I try out new ones. I have far too many pens — I don’t know what to do with all of them! And yet, as soon as I see a new one, I start craving it. I cannot keep myself from buying them.

When felt-tipped pens first appeared in the stores, I bought a lot of them. (The fact that they were originally from Japan was not, I admit, displeasing to me.) Since then I’ve gotten tired of them, because the point flattens out too quickly. I’ve also used pen nibs — not the “Sergeant-Major,” which is too dry, but softer nibs, like the “J.” In short, I’ve tried everything . . . except Bics, with which I feel absolutely no affinity. I would even say, a bit nastily, that there is a “Bic style,” which is really just for churning out copy, writing that merely transcribes thought.

In the end, I always return to fine fountain pens. The essential thing is that they can produce that soft, smooth writing I absolutely require.

“An Almost Obsessive Relation to Writing Instruments.” From a 1973 interview with Jean-Louis de Rambures. In Barthes’s The Grain of the Voice: Interviews, 1962–1980, translated by Linda Coverdale (New York: Hill and Wang, 1985).
Barthes writes about felt-tipped pens in the essay “Stationery Store”:
The felt-tipped pen, of Japanese origin, has taken up where the brush leaves off: this stylo is not an improvement of the point, itself a product of the pen (of steel or of cartilage); its immediate ancestry is that of the ideogram.

Empire of Signs, translated by Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1982).
There are many photographs of Barthes with a cigarette in hand, but none that I can find in which he holds a pen. The New Yorker though has some samples of his handwriting.

Related posts
Five pens (reveries)
R. Crumb’s supplies (steel nibs, Pelikan ink, Strathmore paper)
Nabokov’s supplies (pencils, index cards)
Proust, Barthes, involuntary memory
Proust’s supplies (a Sergeant-Major fan)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

This is not your song

Republican strategist Steve Schmidt:

“When you think about every iconic song that has emotional resonance for millions and millions of Americans, in almost every instance, Republican candidates can’t use the song because the artist is not supportive.”

G.O.P. Candidates Are Told, Don’t Use the Verses, It’s Not Your Song (New York Times)
Caution: the article includes a photograph of Survivor, c. 1979. What were people thinking back then?

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

[Click for a larger, more 1955ish view.]

From Michel Hazanavicius, director of The Artist, OSS 117: Le Caire, nid d’espions [OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies] (2006) is a smart and funny secret-agent spoof, with beautiful and dangerous women, international villains, and brilliant cinematography and special effects. Jean Dujardin seems to be channeling Cary Grant and Sean Connery (out of character, he resembles neither). His OSS 117 is charming, dim, self-satisfied, yet remarkably capable. Bérénice Bejo’s Larmina though is much, much smarter. As with The Artist, cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman shows himself to be an ace at capturing older styles of moviemaking. I love the period-perfect color and cheap projected background in the scene above.

Speaking of Cary Grant, I wonder how many viewers will recognize the Grant–Randolph Scott element in the flashbacks to 117’s relationship with Jack Jefferson (Philippe Lefebvre).

[Jack and 117, hitting a ball back and forth. Click for a larger view.]

Related posts
The Artist (and typography)
EXchange names on screen (Cary Grant and Randolph Scott)
Jean Dujardin Sings (Elaine’s post on 117’s performance of “Bambino”)

Friday, February 3, 2012

xkcd: “Wrong Superhero”

[xkcd, February 3, 2012.]

From the Life Photo Archive

[“534-Stephens College.” Photograph by Nina Leen. From the Life Photo Archive. Click for a larger view.]

Wikipedia reports that Stephens College is “a women’s college located in Columbia, Missouri.” I have David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest on my mind — thinking about the novel’s many masks (figurative and literal, some worn while engaging in “video telephony”) led me, idly browsing, to this photograph.

The record store as public good

Leon Wieseltier on Amazon and the closing of Washington, D.C.’s Melody Record Shop:

How easy must every little thing be? A record store in your neighborhood is also convenient, and so is a bookstore. There is also a sinister side to the convenience of online shopping: hours once spent in the sensory world, in the diversified satisfaction of material needs and desires, can now be surrendered to work. It appears to be a law of American life that there shall be no respite from screens. And so Amazon’s practices raise the old question of the cultural consequences of market piggishness. For there are businesses that are not only businesses, that also have non-monetary reasons for being, that are public goods. Their devastation in the name of profit may be economically legitimate, but it is culturally calamitous. In a word, wrong.

Going to Melody (The New Republic, found via Music Clip of the Day, where you can read more)
Record stores I have known
Relic Rack, Sam Goody’s, J&R
Record Service

Arteries of New York City

“Buses are slower than the subway, but they offer the pleasure of being able to see store windows and the people of the city as they work and play.” From the Prelinger Archives, it’s Arteries of New York City, a 1941 Encyclopedia Britannica film (found via The Atlantic).

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Life in colledge

In the news: “A college student claims he was injured when a fraternity member in a ‘drunken stupor’ decided ‘that it would be a good idea to shoot bottle rockets out of his —

I’m stopping right there. You’ll have to click through to read the rest (found via Boing Boing).

Why colledge? That’s my word for “the vast simulacrum of education that amounts to little more than buying a degree on the installment plan.” Colledge cheapens the experience of students who are in college. Colledge students and college students are often found on the very same campus.

Related reading
All colledge posts (via Pinboard)

Same time, next year (plagiarism)

February 2011: dozens of MBA applicants at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business are found to have submitted plagiarized essays.

February 2012: a dozen MBA applicants at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management are found to have submitted plagiarized essays.

A plagiarized grad-school application essay suggests a long and successful undergrad history of academic misconduct, don’t you think? Professors who discover plagiarism and are thinking about proper penalties should always ask themselves: how likely is it that this is the first time the student has plagiarized?

Related reading
All plagiarism posts

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mysterious apologies

“I take back any false or bad remarks, any rudeness or negative actions.” Mysterious written apologies are baffling the town of Whitstable, Kent.

[My guess: someone in a twelve-step program is making amends.]

Social relations and technology

Dartmouth student Benjamin Schwartz:

When we draw our social experiences, including our most solemn and profound ones, out of the well of personal interaction and cast them into the public domain, they often are swept up in the current of exhibitionism. Genuine connections are made when people can let go of the notion that they might be judged and make self-expression the priority rather than endearment. Facebook crowds out the opportunities for this to happen. Ironically, this can render a tool meant to foster “connections” a profoundly isolating force.

Social Relations and Technology (The Dartmouth)
A related post
Infinite Jest, telephony

From The Waste Books

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799) was a professor of experimental physics and a keeper of Sudelbücher, “waste books”:

Merchants have a waste-book (Sudelbuch, Klitterbuch, I think it is in German), in which they enter from day to day everything they have bought and sold, all mixed up together in disorder; from this it is transferred to the journal, in which everything is arranged more systematically, and finally it arrives in the ledger, in double entry after the Italian manner of book-keeping. . . . This deserves to be imitated by the scholar.
Sounds like proto-blogging. One more sample:
It is strange indeed that long syllables are designated with a ˉ and short ones with a ˘, since the former is the shortest way between two points and the latter is a crooked line. The inventor of these things must therefore have been been thinking of something else when he invented them, if he was thinking of anything at all.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, The Waste Books. Trans. R.J. Hollingdale (New York: New York Review Books, 2000). Originally published as Aphorisms (1990).
[The macron and breve mark long and short syllables (and sometimes stressed and unstressed syllables) in metrical poetry.]