Those who can, do.
Those who can’t, teach.
Those who care, do and teach and sit on committees.
Those who smear, defame.
Those who generalize, reduce.
Those who aphorize, trivialize.
Those who categorize, divide.
Those who can, do.
Those who can’t, teach.
Those who care, do and teach and sit on committees.
Those who smear, defame.
Those who generalize, reduce.
Those who aphorize, trivialize.
Those who categorize, divide.
Fourteen Poems of Fourteen Words,
contributed to 14 Words For Love
They say, “love the one you’re with.”
But what if I’m with Granny Smith?
Can’t sell me Love™, but keep on trying.
I’m sure someone else is buying.
Ginsburg is better than lingerie.
Congress, in truth, is not always play.
You call me a lesser cut?
My loin’s too tender for your tasteless butt.
Valentine’s sentiment is but a veneer
To obscure the outrage that we live in fear.
Keats was sweet on unheard music.
If only he’d lived long enough to sing.
[Keats’s Grave. Photo By Giovanni Dall’Orto, via Wikimedia Commons.]
We’ll be ashes before long.
Shall we gasp the Valentine song?
Is that wrong?
If it’s not love, it need not—can’t— do.
Gamergate, Rodger, Rice. And you?
“My Funny Valentine”:
Chromatic inner line.
I’d walk miles to hear that muted trumpet.
[“Miles Davis by Palumbo” by Tom Palumbo from New York City, USA. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.]
Fourteen, and fourteen.
Spent am I.
Time to stop, sleep, and snore.
A diptych frequently circulated online:
This has nothing to so with sex or gender. It is about how things have changed over time. The image is not sexist, or misogynist, because it does not represent all women. It is just one example. It is comparing then and now, not men and women. And especially not grown-up, lionized, male historical figures with well known identities to young, anonymous, fictitious women. It is just one example. This image is not representative of women as a whole [sic], and you are sexist to say that it is. The image does not target any behavior that is specifically feminine [sic]. It is just an accurate example of what women do. It is just true that girls and women spend a lot of time in the bathroom and take a lot of selfies; ergo, they take a lot of selfies in the bathroom. That is just logic. Plus, it would be just the same if it was [sic] a picture of a guy taking a selfie. But guys just don’t do that. I know, because I use the men’s bathroom, and I never see them taking selfies in there.
Women are a conglomerate as members of the female sex. Your comments do not represent women as a whole [sic]. You can’t just give one example, like, what if we compared Betty Friedan with Justin Bieber? That’s not a counterexample, because it is not based in statistics. Using a handful of feminist women [sic] that fit your criterias [sic] is not indicatory [sic] of our society. You need to use statistics and prove your point. (And remember, the image of Armstrong and Selfie Girl is just one example; it does not make any point about gender. It’s just like if you said all black men are rapists.)
And don’t over-analyze. The image is not academic and has nothing to do with semiotics, “the gaze,” identity, anonymity, or “representation.” It has nothing to do with women in general, because it does not represent all women. Your [sic] just hiding behind big words, in some intellectual fantasy that has no connection with reality. By the way, your analysis is misguided, and you are miseducated too.
You are looking to be offended by everything you see. You’ve created enough straw men to distract all of the wicked witches [sic] monkeys. It isn’t my goal in life to memorize as many fairy tales as possible.
[I am not making this up.]
Diptychs circulated infrequently online:
This has nothing to so with sex or gender. It is about how things have changed over time. (Etc.)
Neil Armstrong et al. (1969)
Paul Ryan et al (n.d.)
Hugh Hefner et al (n.d.)
Robin Thicke et al. (2014)
Puerto Rican Day in Central Park (2000)
Shoshana Roberts Street Harassment (2014)
Sue Lyon in Kubrick, Lolita (1962, based on 1955 novel)
Pharrell Williams, “It Girl” (2014)
Montréal Massacre (1989)
Still from Elliot Rodger’s video “selfie” made before his Isla Vista Killings (2014)
In an unsurprising development yesterday, the combined faculty of all United States institutions of higher learning voted to terminate employment of any scholar who had previously uttered the word “b—h.” This sweeping reform applies to utterances in the classroom and outside; to loud statements and to soft, tentative ones alike; and to self-scolding. The intercourse at the First National Epithet Caucus was cool, calm, and collected, the discussion genteel, peppered with academically appropriate expressions such as “gentlemen” and “esteemed colleagues.” Tea was served, with an herbal option available. There were gluten-free muffins, and no one complained about the taste.
The meeting was inspired by an online discussion regarding the famous and little-known “Salaita Affair,” in the course of which a bravely anonymous faculty member advised, “Perhaps a better way to look at this is to rely on George Carlin’s old comedy skit about ‘seven dirty [sic] words.’ In short, don’t use them to maintain civility.” The subtlety of this recommendation was appreciated by all, and there was a unanimous vote to adopt the “Carlin Standard” as a measure of civility on campus, which promised to ensure that all language would remain harmonious for all.
Music faculty from across the country did not mobilize, become heated, or express concern about the proper procedure for citing Miles Davis’s “B——s Brew”: they’d always been puzzled by the title’s grammar anyway, and there are plenty of other Miles albums to work with. Women’s studies professors did not raise questions about assigning B—-s, B—-s and B———–s: The Guerrilla Girls’ Illustrated Guide to Female Stereotypes.
No faculty member asked for special dispensation for a colleague who had called him or her a “b—h”: there was no report that they had later discussed the matter, learned from it, agreed that the term was counterproductive, and had gone on to teach a gender studies seminar together. Indeed, since any remedy and/or rapprochement would require both parties to utter the verbum non gratum, it seemed moot.
No professor who, upon being appointed chair of his or her department, had anointed himself or herself “Head B—h,” mentioned the possibility of reclamation or destabilizing meaning. There was no panel on socialization or Stockholm syndrome.
There was no concern about addressing the reality that coarse and crude language is ubiquitous in the culture at large or that expunging it completely could make it difficult to discuss important matters.
It was agreed that the 🙂 be included in all communications henceforth, which will allow Tweets, blogs, text messages, peer-reviewed articles, tenure statements,—as well as notices of disciplinary action—to remain free of any appearance of antagonism. All applauded demurely at the Smiley Initiative, which promises to ensure a “positive, welcoming, fair and open environment” for all members of the higher-education community. (A subcommittee has been appointed to develop a technology that will enable the Smiley Initiative to be used in face-to-face meetings.)
As the terminations were effected, there was no uproar. Petitions did not circulate. Neither boycotts nor strikes took place.
As classes began this week, students were not ill-served by finding that the vast majority of their courses were unstaffed due to the termination of the “b-worded.” It has been confirmed that there are seven professors in the nation whose records are clear and who retain their positions; they have agreed to increase enrollment in their courses in order to accommodate the students whose mentors are no longer available. It is not yet clear how this reshuffling will affect grading policies or the implementation of new measures aimed to curb sexual assaults, which are being proposed at many universities.
Students’ assigned work this week, in tweet and text-message format, frequently featured the new expression “WTF,” said to be an acronym for “Wow, that’s fabulous.” However, other interpretations have been proposed, among them “Whoa; très freaky,” and “Wonderful! They’re free.”
In response to IAmNotMakingUp’s tweet to all the nation’s faculty asking for comments, the response was a unanimous 🙂
—Guest Post by Rosie Router
“I object to the hegemonification of the verbed noun.”
“Shouldn’t that be hegemoni—?”
“I love it when you talk sub-altern-dirty.”
“Shall we interrogate the ‘cleanliness’ construct?”
“As long as we problematize the discursive paradigm.”
“No worries, I’ve got my arsenal of non-binary identity-destabilizing implements handy.”
“Would ‘bouquet’ be better?”
“Still too dualistic. Supply?”
“Age construct. Infantilization and projection.”
“Ah, let’s just watch Fox.”
“Transactional term supporting the dominance of the market state.”
“OK, ‘Finding Nemo’?”
“I love the turtles.”
“They go all the way down.”
—Posted by IAmNotMakingUp
My Harvard Facebook group has been discussing an article Ellen Jovin shared: Nothing Says Over 40 Like Two Spaces after a Period!
I was blissfully unaware of this seismic shrinkage until a month or two ago, and several months before my fall from grace, I was reading student papers and observing that the use of just one space after a period looked underwhelming (all the more so when there were other infelicities in the writing). I had no idea that it was the new normal. Thus, having brought the two-space-embrace with me into the computer era—twenty-five years ago!—I am having a hard time adjusting to my sentence, to this notion that I should halve my space. And it has thrown me to think that I had failed to notice the new standard.
And, my spacing shows me to be . . . over 40! Bless me, youngster, for I have sinned. By surviving four dozen years without dying. (My shame was eased ever so slightly when I read that I have classmates who, like me, prefer the two-space program.)
A couple of weeks ago, I read another account of the same phenomenon. When first I heard, I figured it must have been a Twitter repercussion, a capricious notion arising from that character-meter that tells you how many spaces you have left in your microtext.
At last having time to satisfy my curiosity, I just now took a moment to look at some academic journal articles, choosing one by Harvard’s Daniel Albright—and, well, I remained vexed, because academic articles are right/left justified! (In addition, there is approximately one punctuation event per paragraph, so the data set is unreliably small.) No wonder I had not noticed the disappearance of the sous-space. So, am I now to understand that these articles circulating and proselytizing about saving space apply only to texts such as this blog, type[sic]scripts, and the like? And æther-mail? It seems odd for dual-spacing to be considered such an offense when people are hyphenating adverbs and using colons after verbs and stuff. Not to mention all the nouning and verbing that I see every single day. (It’s a fail-ure, not a fail!) I just don’t get it. Why is there suddenly so much attention to decreasing the space between words when the words themselves are so often shabby?
And how is it that being over forty has now become a sign of being a poor writer? I thought we were the ones always telling the hipsters to shape up. On the contrary! This new generation is so judgmental:
And yet people who use two spaces are everywhere, their ugly error crossing every social boundary of class, education, and taste*. . . . What galls me about two-spacers isn’t just their numbers. It’s their certainty that they’re right.
—Farhad Manjoo, “Space Invaders”
*I have yet to receive word of the fate of the four-dot ellipses used at the end of a complete sentence. Did anyone think about that before they voted to semi-space all sentences? Does a proportional font—the reason given for the new zoning regulation—obviate the need for a distinction between the end of a sentence and an unfinished sentence? The marker of omission—the series of three mute dots—has already been brutally smooshed together . . . as if the mysteriously unstated is merely nonexistent. Do I understand correctly that it is of urgent importance to save a space after every sentence, while it is acceptable to use three question marks just before??? And what about the poor em dash—which has so often suffered drafts from either side, not to mention getting replaced inexplicably with the inadequate little hyphen?
And how is that the space between sentences is getting all the funding for repair, when there are still so many extra spaces between words within so many sentences? We seem to be losing sight of the everyday here, focusing on the dramatic, to our detriment.
I cannot help but think that this coup de point arises from broad cultural shifts. Bad ones, of course. Do we want to give in to them? We complain about being busy and rushed—and people write about our complaints with sentences that I now realize are granted only a single space to breathe before the next begins. Is that really a coincidence? And more and more people are staying single. Could they be behind this eschewal of the paired space? On the other hand, our culture seems to have trouble with boundaries, and we are flirting dangerously with word disindividuation here: how long will it be before we abandon punctuation altogether and every sentence is one breathless portmanteau word with indistinguishable syllables?
I get it.
It doesn’t matter whether what I write is intelligible, or meaningful, as long as it looks good.
Now, that makes sense.
There is no penalty for describing oneself as “reticent” to adopt a dog. As long as the dog gets one space and one only. Consider this pair of sentences: “Old Québec, a UNESCO World Heritage treasure, is walkable and safe. Stroll the only walled city North of Mexico and its cobblestone streets.” I gather no one will be confused about the location of those cobblestone streets as long as they don’t wait too long after the safety announcement before commencing their stroll.
And to make it worse, I look at this absurdly long disquisition and now think there is too much space after my sentences. I have been tamed. But, before letting go the second space, I’ll remember these words:
When I write, therefore, I enhance the meaning borne in my sentences—not only in dialogue but in narrative—by imposing on them silences tailored through heavy use of commas, semicolons, dashes, ellipses, and line breaks. It is something that gives my copyeditors hypertension, yet I encourage students to write this way, and to read their pieces aloud as often as they can, to an audience if possible. An audience furnishes feedback, tells you by its response how well your scansion’s working. Thus, I tell my students, silence boosts the import of the words you write.
—George Michelson Foy, Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence
Of course, the book where I read this is also fully justified.
—Posted by IAmNotMakingUp
“Our brains have evolved to help our bodies find their way around the world on the scale at which those bodies operate.”
—Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion
To Richard Dawkins, DSc, FRS, FRSL:
Following up on your recent Twitter Conference on rape rankings, I wonder whether you might be willing to answer the following questions. Your reasoning ability is much needed. One of your conclusions follows:
Following up on this, and taking advantage of the copious space afforded off-Tweet, a few questions follow. I would like to get at some of the subtleties of your point of view—ones you could not have expressed in a mere 140 characters.
1. Which is bad and which is worse: to agree to go on a rape date without being informed that it is to be that sort of date, or to be held at knifepoint and raped by a stranger without being informed ahead of time?
1a. Which rape date is worse: one with someone you have met in a bar and never have to see again? Or one with an acquaintance you will see in evo-bio class on Tuesday? Or one you were introduced to by your best friend?
1b. Which is bad and which is worse: to be threatened by a dull carving knife, or a sharp serrated knife? Or to submit to the rape in order not to be cut? Or to be cut and raped both? And if so, by which knife?
1c. Which is bad and which is worse: to dress up, go on a rape date and have a nice dinner first, including fine wine? Or to dress casually, go on a rape date and get raped before dinner and drinks? Or, to go on a rape date and later be interrogated about what you drank? And wore?
1d. Which is bad and which is worse: to be raped by a classmate and receive little or no assistance from campus authorities? Or to be raped by a stranger and receive little or no support from the legal system?
1e. Which is bad and which is worse: to be raped by several young men in your school, and for them to put pictures and/or videos on the Internet, and, as a result, to take your own life at the age of 15? Or to be raped and take one’s own life right away?
1d. Which is bad and which is worse: to be raped by your partner? Or by your mother’s partner? And does a pregnancy resulting from either experience change the ranking?
1e. Which is bad and which is worse: to be sexually assaulted (without penetration) by one’s father at 6, or to be raped (with penetration) by one’s uncle at 3? (Those are ages, not times of day.)
1f. Which is bad and which is worse: to be sexually abused by a distant family member and to keep quiet about it for decades? Or to be ostracized by the family when you at last choose to speak out?
1g. Which is bad and which is worse: to witness a man without understanding or compassion opine on grades of rape in 140 characters? Or for him to publish more than one 140-character statement? Or more? Or for these micro-statements to get so much news coverage that you cannot but see him everywhere?
1h. Which is bad and which is worse: that inhumane acts such as sexualized violence continue to be tolerated, or that a prominent male intellectual, whose speciality lies elsewhere, chooses to focus on degrees of suffering rather than degrees of misdoing? Or, just to leave the discussion to those who are equipped to undertake it? (To “go away,” one might say.) And, if he is taken seriously on the topic of rape, does that mean we should believe what Jenny McCarthy has to say about the link between vaccination and autism? And should we all be making appointments with homeopaths?
1g. Which is bad and which is worse: to opine on the significance and degree of others’ suffering without listening to what they have to say themselves? Or to deny others’ suffering altogether? Or to consider oneself irreproachable by virtue of one’s (ostensibly) superior intellect?
1h. You say that you can reverse the “X and Y”—that is the rape date and the aggravated assault—and retain the same logic. Might one contend then, that “acupuncture is bad, and that homeopathy is worse?” And that neither is commendable? And then reverse the X and the Y? Could one say that sudden death is bad but slow, agonizing death is worse, and then reverse that? Or that death by 1000 cuts is bad, but by 1001 is worse, or maybe the opposite? Could one say that one offensive tweet is bad and two are worse and reverse that too? That confronting inhumanity before death is bad and that finding it the afterlife too—hypothetically speaking, of course—would be worse? Or would the afterlife, even in the presence of others who scorn compassion and mutual understanding, have other advantages that make the big picture worth it?
Semantics, Virtuality, God, and Delusion
Richard, please tell us what, in this era of virtuality, “go away” means. If there is an “away,” must there be a “here”? Are we to assume that “here” is where you are? If so, most of us, statistically speaking, are likely “away” already. And to confuse matters, I have a hard time thinking of the sofa on which I sit as anything but “here,” though if I expend some effort, I can understand that to you it may be considered “away.” Where, then, am I to “go”?
Richard, do I understand correctly that your experience of sexual abuse was rendered innocuous because you did not believe in evil (and, presumably, God)? You mention that your schoolmates suffered (more) at the hands of the same offender while your “mental trauma was soon exorcised.” Does that mean that God, not the human being who did the “fondling,” sexually abused these children? And if God does not exist, who sexually abused these children? Who is responsible for their suffering? (Extra credit: can you explain your choice of the word “exorcised”?)
Describing your resilience, you write, “Thank goodness, I have never personally experienced what it is like to believe – really and truly and deeply believe – in hell. But I think it can be plausibly argued that such a deeply held belief might cause a child more long-lasting mental trauma than the temporary embarrassment of mild physical abuse.”
So, Richard, why are you speaking out about degrees of sexualized assault? And why are you comparing the effects of different sorts of rape if you yourself were so unaffected by your childhood experience? If your trauma was “exorcised,” why do you think rape is “bad” and can be even “worse”? Can’t those who have experienced rape access your form of “exorcism” too? Isn’t the real offender, not the sexual predator, but God? And since there is no God to hold accountable, does that mean that rape does not exist?
And how is it that your brain is helping your body find its way around the world? Does it help you find your way around Twitter? Maybe your brain could help me figure out where I should go to learn to think. I would like to think better. Although, like you, I hold a doctoral degree and a professorship,—albeit without such a public profile—I am not sure that my Ph.D. in Music Theory and Composition qualifies me to compare different degrees of rape. But you appear to know better than I do about applying one’s training in unexpected areas.
Richard, please critique the following statement: “As an eminent evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins has become known as a public intellectual. As an eminent evolutionary biologist and public intellectual, Richard Dawkins compares varieties of sexual assault in order to rank them. As an eminent evolutionary biologist and public intellectual who compares varieties of sexual assault in order to rank them, Richard Dawkins unwittingly exposes the limitations of logic.”
I like to think that your brain can help my brain help my body find its way around. I will appreciate any assistance you can offer.
Oh—one more question: Can you define “syllogism” for me? Is it something like “solipsism”?
“Life is short; play with your dog.”
“Life is short; play with your human; they’ll give you lots of treats.”
“Life is long; write everything down, and get Netflix. Don’t forget to vaccinate. Watch out for those death panels.”
“Life is long. Take ‘er easy, but take ‘er. Teach your kids lots of tunes. They’ll be grateful, and they’ll make lots of friends. If your hands get tired, they’ll come by to play the music you taught them, and they’ll pass it on too. Others will travel from afar and be envious of your deep roots and rich culture. (Some of them won’t leave.) And remember all your funny stories, because they’ll love hearing them. (Make sure to tell your son how much you love his biscuits and lemon pie, and he’ll make them for you every chance he gets. More often than for he makes them for his girlfriend, but she won’t mind.)”
“I am awake. Life is suffering, but not to worry.”
“Life is great. May I have more ice cream? (Why am I asking? Of course I can! I’m a Prince. Life is great.) You!—get me more ice cream. You know, one of these days I’d like to go for a walk outside. How do I get there?”
—The young Buddha
“Boy, do I wish I hadn’t written that book. . . . It won’t die. Now they’re using it as a guide to business. Ah, que buffone! I guess those wannabe Princes don’t know it got me sent to prison. And can’t they tell it’s <satirico>?”
“Life is a mystery. Light the fire, smith the metal, and you’ll have a poem.”
“I’m not sure; there is a new life policy coming into effect. Go check with that young man who’s all over the news these days. You’ve seen him; the one with the long hair and sandals. He has lots of followers. Sheesh, this celebrity culture is really getting out of hand.”
“Life is short; play with your dog.”
“It is what is is, and it sounds beautiful.”
—Finn Mac Cumhaill
“Not so fast. Wait for Nietzsche. (And what are you doing here anyway, Finn? You do not exist.)”
“It is not what it is. Well, maybe what I said isn’t it . . .”
“God is dead.”
“Nietzsche is dead. Um, God, can I have a treat now?”
“Life is in and out and up and down. Make sure you give your humans lots of chances to pass the time: go over to the door every few minutes so they can drop what they are doing and open it for you. They love that. You can tell, because they give you treats after. Or before, depending on your perspective. Plus, they even make videos and show them to people all around the world on that weird flat fishbowl thingie they’re always hunching over and swearing or laughing. (Hence my suggestion about the door.) So try to do lots of outlandish things so they’ll get lots of likes. I dunno how it works, but no matter; I’m up to my tail in toy mice and purple haze thanks to the royalties. You should come over some time; we’ll party.”
—Schrödinger’s neighbor’s cat
“There, there. I hear you. I send my compassion.”
“Happy 82d birthday, Grandpa! Can you remind me who won the 1947 World Series? I always forget.”
“The Yankees beat the Dodgers. (That’s when they were the Brooklyn Dodgers.) Seven games. Jackie Robinson played for the Dodgers. I hope the Red Sox will win just once in my lifetime; it’s been since before I was born. That Darned Bambino. (Not you, Bambina.)”
—Joe’s father-in-law, Giuseppe
“Wasn’t that the first year Jackie Robinson played with the Dodgers?—Ergo, the first World Series with a desegregated statius? In the Coliseum, they would have called that intermisceo. That reminds of something funny . . .”
—Joe’s husband, Professor of the History of the Culture of the Economics of Roman Sporting and Comedy
“Wow, you must have read my History™! I said that long before we became æther-Friends™. No, you didn’t do research? Are you sure? You seem to know a lot. I guess you must have a prodigious memory. Anyway, moving on. . . . But wait, are you sure? Really? Okay, okay.”
“You’ve been in here a long time. You really should get outside. You already posted and still you keep revising. Plus, your list keeps getting longer. Blagues are supposed to be pithy. If you confuse ’em, you’re gonna lose ’em.”
—IAmNotMakingUp (to me)
“What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?”
“Um, are you guys done? Can we play fetch now? [Diabolical laugh. Wag wag wag.]”
—Posted by Rose Marie McSweeney