Wednesday, May 1, 2019
I met Ian a couple of years before he performed this feat. For the first few weeks that he sat quietly in my Early British Literature survey class, I didn't know he was a genius. Even after he turned in his first essay, on Anglo-Saxon poetry, I didn't know. Instead, I thought he was a plagiarist. He had to be. This was an undergraduate survey course, and what I was reading was work of publishable quality that would have surprised me coming from a graduate student. Clearly it derived from someone else's pen -- or computer.
I spoke to Ian after our next class. I didn't tell him my suspicions, though he
Monday, April 1, 2019
So, in lieu of a joke post in the month of Shakespeare's 455th birthday, I'm going to make yet another list of modern terms and phrases which I don't like, and which I'm convinced Shakespeare would make fun of. There are so many! But, as in the past, I've limited my list to ten.
1. A piece of whatever. People who are speaking publicly in front of other people about some allegedly important subject, whether they are on the radio or the TV
Friday, March 1, 2019
That tape is the only record of a talk Borges gave in Washington, D.C., on the occasion of Shakespeare's 412th birthday, in 1976. Borges himself was 77, and mostly blind. He was helped to the microphone, but, unfortunately, not helped close enough to the microphone. According to one eyewitness, the audience was too
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