Friday, February 1, 2019
1. "Special ask": I heard this one over the radio during NPR's last pledge fund drive, as I was sitting in my car not pledging money because I assumed someone else would do it in my place. What confirmed me in the wisdom of my decision was the NPR fundraiser's suddenly making "a special ask to everyday listeners." If only she had made a special request, I would have stepped up to the plate. But I could not in conscience respond to a "special ask." In place of this vile term, I recommend what Orlando says in As You Like It
Tuesday, January 1, 2019
The idea that all our choices are predetermined, and thus not really choices at all, has acquired currency from recent psychological experiments demonstrating that the conscious experience of the choice to move one of one's body parts follows the neurological reaction that initiates the motion (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/neuraptitude/201608/illusion-choice-the-myth-free-will). In other words, scientists found that before their subjects were aware of having decided to move, something in the subjects' brains had begun preparing for the movement. This is creepy, suggesting that we are robots controlled by somebody or even by nobody (although the experiment doesn't actually prove we are robots. More on this below). Video games have given us, and Netflix, a lively and novel metaphor to express the vision of a reality in which, feeling free, we are actually mysteriously monitored PAC-men and Ms. PAC-men, with the PAC standing (as that Black Mirror episode suggests) for "Program-and-Control." This techy way of thinking is newish.
Saturday, December 1, 2018
Thursday, November 1, 2018
The Prince and the Pauper is a work of social criticism set in mid-sixteenth-century England. Superficially, the plot is that of a fairytale. A prince (in this case young Edward, son of Henry VIII) and a London pauper, of inexplicably identical appearance, meet by chance, spend a morning together, and at one point exchange clothes, after which circumstances drive them apart. Since no one will then believe their claims that they are not who they're dressed as, the pauper spends some months living as a prince -- and, soon, a king -- while the prince endures the hardships of poverty. Eventually the true young king's public revelation of a secret only he would know, and the pauper's weariness of royal life, ensure that order is restored. In relying on comic accidents and feigned and mistaken identities, Twain was imitating the tricks of Shakespearean comedy. But the book isn't comic. Twain
Monday, October 1, 2018
1. Saying a person is a synonym. Here's an example: "Sacha Baron Cohen is synonymous with irreverent humor." No, he isn't. What if I said to you, "A lot of my students are very good at . . ." and then I shoved Sacha Baron Cohen at you? Would you accept a 6 foot 3-inch, bizarrely disguised person as an acceptable alternative phrase for "irreverent humor"? No. You'd run away, terrified and confused, and for good reason. There is no way a living,
Saturday, September 1, 2018
That's not to say there weren't plenty of men there. There were just so many more women! This made sense to me, listening to the songs cranked out by a local radio station broadcasting from the site, enlivening the crowd, who were mostly singing
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Let me say that again. She was born in the sixteenth century and she died during the Restoration.
I know, you want dates. Here they are. Judith Shakespeare's life spanned the years from 1585 through 1662. At the age of 77, when she took her last breath, she'd lived through the second half of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the entire reign of James I, the full tragic reign of his son Charles I, the Interregnum, and the first two years of the reign of Charles II. She was born two