Tag Archives: New York Times

Links: Gaps between words, etc.

1. From a discussion at The New Yorker about the poetry of Rosmarie Waldrop:

The phrase [book title “Gap Gardening”] makes us think hard about the way language works, and about how words catalyze reality, rather than transcribe it. In nature, nothing can come from nothing, but in language it happens all the time.

and

What I love about Waldrop are the enigmas and paradoxes on every page, the belief that language is most beautiful when it slips or falters, and the sense that these linguistic short circuits most often happen in urgent verbal exchange.

2. Some context to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

3. NY Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan’s final blog post: “Five Things I Won’t Miss at The Times — and Seven I Will”

4. An article about a weird mid-20th Century cultural phenomenon: spanking.

5. NY Times article about how messages written on vase shards inform Bible scholarship.

6. Plato’s Academy versus Diogenes the Cynic: 2 ways of doing philosophy.

7. Brains aren’t computers because brains are analog: How brain capacity isn’t understood yet.

8. The Tree of Life is still being remodeled.

9. Some subjects “underrepresented in contemporary fiction” include joy —

“In our insistence on despair as the most authentic iteration of experience, we risk writing fiction that is hamstrung in its ability to represent our humanity with the necessary breadth and nuance. The despairing self, characterized by alienation and misery, is limited and incomplete, and not a particularly accurate representation of the lushness of life as it is lived, mingled thing that it is”

— and characters beyond the “bourgeois” —

“a writer might free herself from the tired pursuit of fiction as a matter of professional advancement and set out in quest of the stories that don’t get told”

10. A review of “At the Existentialist Cafe” points out that the author, Sarah Bakewell, “shapes her answers in the form of biographical narratives, because her central theme is that the large impersonal ideas pursued by much modern philosophy are less profound and illuminating than the varied and conflicting truths found in stories of individual lives.”

Link: Trend articles are B.S., or, Not everyone’s having lots of sex

This Slate article makes an interesting point in relation to the recent discussion of “hookup culture” inspired by a recent New York Times story that, while it did offer some anecdotes of people who aren’t having lots of sex, focuses mostly on collegians who are. The Slate article points out that particular demographic groups — wealthy white kids — tend to have more sex partners than college students in general do.

What I particularly like in the Slate article is where it points out that “people with privilege” are used as the default case for all college students:

Their ideologies dominate our discourses, their particular set of values gets to appear universal, and everyone is subject to their behavioral norms.

I know that news articles that attempt to point out social trends are often based on flimsy evidence from a narrow subgroup of people, but I’m glad to see this pointed out now and then. It’s helpful to me to be reminded (though I’m long out of college) that it’s OK to not be sharing the values (of various ways of being) that seem to be popular.

Links: 30 April 2013: Technology, pets, food stamps, etc.

Playing catch-up here with links to sundry articles:

1. Writing and reading as more interactive than before. (via The Dish)

2. Food stamp participation by county.

3. U.S. students make up the largest proportion of top-scoring students. It turns out that we don’t need education reform so much as we need poverty reform.

4. We have relationships with our dogs, which relationships we can tell stories about; but we only look at our cats, of whom we make images. Thus, there are more books about dogs but online video and photos of cats. From my experience living with both, I’d say that’s about right.

5. The first World Wide Web page, recreated. Already, I feel like a oldster, telling my students of the days when I was first online, 1992, when I used the Gopher program to find addresses of people at other universities, and when I had email but only had two or three other people with whom to communicate online. I liked this story above for both the Gopher mention and for the screen image from NeXT computers, which I also used in fall 1992 and which now seems like the Edsel of computers.

6. The New York Times Book Review may be on its last legs. , and with it, “Book reviews, I am afraid, are a downer, an outdated form. Literary editors – hell, literary people in general – are mightily outdated, too.” And as much as I enjoyed reading the Book Review as a younger person who wished to participate in the community represented by the Book Review, I’m not sure any more that the end of “literary people” is necessarily a bad thing. “Literary culture” now seems an idea founded as much on myth and opinion and posturing as much as anything else.

7. Birth of a new conjunction: “slash.”

8. What you eat help forms what you like to eat.

9. A “Lord of the Flies” real-life adventure that wasn’t so “Lord of the Flies”-ish at all. :

One day, in 1977, six boys set out from Tonga on a fishing trip. They left safe harbor, and fate befell them. Badly. Caught in a huge storm, the boys were shipwrecked on a deserted island. What do they do, this little tribe? They made a pact never to quarrel, because they could see that arguing could lead to mutually assured destruction. They promised each other that wherever they went on the island, they would go in twos, in case they got lost or had an accident. They agreed to have a rotation of being on guard, night and day, to watch out for anything that might harm them or anything that might help. And they kept their promises—for a day that became a week, a month, a year. After fifteen months, two boys, on watch as they had agreed, saw a speck of a boat on the horizon. The boys were found and rescued, all of them, grace intact and promises held.

10. A post about literary pets contains this quotation from William S. Burroughs about his cats:

Thinking is not enough. Nothing is. There is no final enough of wisdom, experience — any fucking thing. Only thing can resolve conflict is love, like I felt for Fletch and Ruski, Spooner, and Calico. Pure love.

Love? What is It?
Most natural painkiller what there is.

11. Pictures from the frontlines of TV news on-location reports, showing some of what the edited image excludes. This reminds me of some of the press conferences I went to as an agriculture reporter, where my first-person accounts could have easily been more interesting to read than the items being conferred.

12. Media reporting tends to misunderstand and misstate science results.

13. Andrew Sullivan considers how a lot of online media exposure may influence/alter our thinking.

Link: Standardized writing is an oxymoron

A New York Times article about machine-graded essays prompted me to write this comment:

The beautiful thing about writing (I say as a writer and as a writing teacher) is that it precisely is NOT objective, and of course we teachers are judging subjectively (so are employers, consumers, and voters, by the way).
The only way a program can grade is by comparing a sample of writing against a very narrow standard. The essays students are asked to write on standardized tests are artificial topics and the testing situation is also artificial (time-limited, w/o access to resources, revision, etc). Standardized writing is an oxymoron.

Update: I also like how this commenter points out the humanness of writing:
Creativity is human. Critical thinking is human. Empathy is human. Moral dilemma is human. And above all — meaning is human.

Technology should exist to empower, and strengthen, human relationship and meaning. Never should we allow it to replace it.