Friday, October 31, 2014

Trick or Treat!

candy_corn.jpgVirginia Postrel interviews Samira Kawash, the author of
Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure.
Would you believe the earliest trick-or-treaters didn’t even expect to get candy? Back in the 1930s, when kids first started chanting “trick or treat” at the doorbell, the treat could be just about anything: nuts, coins, a small toy, a cookie or popcorn ball. Sometimes candy too, maybe a few jelly beans or a licorice stick. But it wasn‘t until well into the 1950s that Americans started buying treats instead of making them, and the easiest treat to buy was candy.
Via Instapundit, my principal news aggregator these days.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Why Academic Writing Stinks

In any other publication that would have been the title. But Steven Pinker's writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education so he calls it Why Academics Stink at Writing. Yes, you. I'm talking to you.
The preceding discussion introduced the problem of academese, summarized the principal theories, and suggested a new analysis based on a theory of Turner and Thomas. The rest of this article is organized as follows. The first section consists of a review of the major shortcomings of academic prose. ...

Are you having fun? I didn’t think so.
Thus he introduces metadiscourse. Next up is professional narcissism, followed by apologizing, shudder quotes, and hedging. And then, just when his subjects ought to dying of embarrassment, he eases up and talks about metaconcepts and nominalizations. Just to prove he’s one of the guys, I guess.

I've never read anything boring by Steven Pinker, although one of his books I thought was 300 pages too long. His latest is The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.

I’m sure I’ll read it too, as soon as it’s out in paperpack.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tabby Feet

tabby_feet_10_2014_thumb.jpg

Friday, October 24, 2014

Grab your bug-out bag...

Derb’s optimistic.
I get that a lot. Yep, I’m the designated pessimist. It behooves us all, though, to keep in mind what Oliver Cromwell told the Scots: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

In obedience to the Lord Protector’s injunction, I’m going to take a break from doom and gloom to ponder the possibility that we may not be doomed. Yes, this is the optimistic column.
Don't miss it, folks — we’re sure it’s just a passing phase.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pull Yourself Together

Theodore Dalrymple wonders about the overdiagnosis of depression.
If it is always absurd to tell people to pull themselves together, is it sensible always to tell them the opposite, namely not to pull themselves together, that they should collapse in a heap? Or is it that the behavior known as pulling-yourself-together either doesn’t exist or is simply irrelevant to human life?

An appeal to pull oneself together is an appeal to fortitude, a virtue that was once regarded as cardinal, though it seems since to have become the subject of a gestalt switch and relegated to being, if not a vice exactly, at least a form of treason to the self. Far from pulling yourself together, then, you should let yourself fall apart. That, at least, is the natural thing to do, the default setting of the human character in difficulty.
Fortitude. What a quaint idea. I hope I can gin some up when I’m facing dementia.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Recalled to Life

That's a blazing strange message. Much of that wouldn’t do for you, Jerry! I say, Jerry! You’d be in a blazing bad way, if recalling to life was to come into fashion, Jerry!

— Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Yeah, the woof is back, and resolved to plow on. Bad timing, as usual; we're in the middle of an election, an epidemic, a war, a mess of family and personal problems, but there's no good time to start blogging again, so this is it.

The next post will have real content.