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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

5 Words that do not exist

Language is difficult. To help you out I will tell you about some words* that do not actually exist. You can improve your use of language by not using these non-words ever again. Some appear in dictionaries, and seem to be real words, but they are not, actually. They are used mostly by people with names that do not exist either.


What you mean to say is "parent." So say, "I am going to visit my parents this weekend, not "I am going to visit my parentals."


Some use this non-existent non-word to refer to a rather bitter kind of green plant. But if you think about it a little this is not really a word in English.


"Moreso" is not a word either. It is unclear what it is supposed to mean or how it is supposed to be pronounced. Perhaps it is corruption of the word "morsel."

Grown child

This is not a word, but a phrase, and it actually does exist, but it makes no sense. Instead of saying "adult child" or "grown children," say "adult" or "adults." You see, a child is a human being who is not an adult, or grown. By the way, the correct plural is "children," not "childs" as many people think.


Not a word. We use -ly to form adjectives of manner, like "softly." But "thus" is already an adverb so the suffix isn't doing much, is it?

You're welcome.


*Some say that these words exist, but are not really words. Others claim that they do not, in fact, exist at all. A third position holds that they exist, and are actually words.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

5 Words you are using wrong in the English language


What you think it means... a human child.

What it really means... a young goat.


What you think it means... an inconsiderate person, a jerk.

What it really means... the back part of human foot.


What you think it means... a division in a road.

What it really means... an eating utensil.


What you think it means... to make an automobile accelerate rapidly with your foot on the gas pedal.

What it really means... the lower surface of a room


What you think it means... an essay or school assignment, a scholarly article.

What it really means... "material manufactured in thin sheets from the pulp of wood or other fibrous substances, used for writing, drawing, or printing on, or as wrapping material"

Monday, July 21, 2014

Samizdat Blog: How I Wrote Certain of My Books

Samizdat Blog: How I Wrote Certain of My Books

I believe that we should listen to Bob because he has written the books to back up his opinion. He is a productive scholar. His method might not work for everyone, but it is a good example of how one productive scholar gets it done.

Crowdsourcing review

Would crowdsourcing peer review work? Probably not, at least in fields I know anything about. What you need for a peer review is the guy (the gal). The gal or guy who knows the lay of the land, who can compare the article with existing literature. Crowd sourcing works best with lowest common denominator tasks. If I were to ask someone to read an article or chapter for me, it would not just be any old person. Of course, you can also have a reading by someone who knows nothing about your particular topic. Then the reading serves a different purpose, because you have to be more clear about your assumptions to convince that kind of reader.

The reader slightly out of your field can be good, to bring another perspective. So I might be a good reader for your paper on French poetry, say. I wouldn't have any hobby-horses about the subject matter.

But generally you want the guy.


I am keynote speaker for this conference.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Peer review

This article by Rebecca Schumann is really, really bad. Peer review works really well, actually. Of course, anyone can collect horror stories, but even these must be taken with a grain of salt. Some stories amount to: my article was rejected. Curiously, the comments to her article just skewer it, pointing to its multiple inaccuracies. There are 271 comments and most are critical of her argument. She is losing a lot of credibility because academics know she is full of shit. One comment compared her perspective to that of the typical grad student gripe session. How true.

I've probably done an average of 6 reviews a year since 1990 or so. I've also been on the other side of the process for a quarter century. I know I'm good at it because the editors who use me keep asking me to do it again.

In my view, what is more important than peer reviewers is a good editor. This editor will

*Redact or simply not use reviews that are unhelpful.

*Stop using reviewers who are dilatory or too hostile in tone.

Problem solved!

Rebecca's suggestions make no sense because they are addressed to a misconceived notion of what the problem is. She states that someone should earn the right to submit to a journal by doing peer reviews. But a good editor will only ask established scholars to do reviews. Her notion that most reviews are done by grad students or recently minted PhDs is simply not true.

I haven't agreed with all my peer reviews. I have had a few articles rejected. Usually a grown-up will just learn from those experiences and move on. It is probable that a reviewer has saved me from the embarrassment of publishing something that was not yet ready to be published.

My recent experience suggests that articles being submitted are worse than ever. This is likely to increase the number of horror stories, since someone clueless enough to submit utter crap might be clueless enough not to know that a reviewer is saving him / her from embarrassment.


One question is whether it is legit to say that an article should cite me. I have mixed feelings. Sometimes I have felt that an article should cite me, but haven't said so. Instead, I'll give a list of other scholars that also should have been cited. Sometimes, I'll include myself in a list of names that the article should have cited. Sometimes, I feel that if have written on the topic, in a way relevant to the article, and my name is on the editorial board of the journal, the writer should have known that the article would be sent to me.


I have had people cite me and disagree. That makes it very hard for me to reject an article, because I would never want to reject someone because they disagree with me.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sorry, NC

The literary community of NC was outraged by an amateur poet being appointed as laureate. She quickly resigned before even really taking the post. But I wonder whether the pro who was laureate before is also not an amateur:

"Joan and I were in Raleigh together
for the first time to take the tour
for new vista volunteers
at North Carolina’s Central Prison..."

Ouch. It's fine to use seemingly plain language, etc... but no rhythm, nothing going on in the language. This kind of writing just causes physical pain to me. From my vantage point the other woman appointed carelessly by the governor is not much worse:

"I’m grateful for my car, he says,
voice raspy with hard living.
Tossed on the seat, a briefcase
covered with union stickers,
stuffed with unemployment forms,
want ads, old utility bills,
birth certificate, school application
papers for the skinny ten-year-old
sitting beside him who loves baseball..."

More is going on in her language, actually. It's not exactly good, but it's salvageable, with some concreteness there at least.

Sorry, NC.

Lowered Expectations

Lowering expectations is right.
Conversely, we often pad our arguments with citations to things we haven’t read well or at all. Not only because that’s what's expected but also because doing so allows us to cover our arguments with a supposed mastery of a literature that is virtually impossible for any one person to master. Whoever says that he or she hasn’t done as much either is lying or hasn’t published.
Well, no. I would never cite something I haven't read. If I haven't read it "well" then I will cite it for a peripheral point, not for something central to my argument, as Zizek did. This is an extremely weaselly article and I recommend that you read it and kick some ass in the comment thread. Someone is wrong on the internet!

I do, in fact, master my field. That's the point of being a scholar. I would suggest that this person, so much in awe of Zizek, does not even know enough to know whether Zizek is full of shit or not. After all, if you don't master the same body of philosophy and theology and psychoanalysis that (you assume) Zizek masters, then how do you know he does? He could be totally full of shit and you wouldn't have any clue, right? I guess the argument that all scholars are incompetent is convenient if you yourself don't really know enough not to fake it yourself.

Friday, July 11, 2014


Swallows in circles bewildered
whirl from the dark iron bells,
and over the square the gitana
cannot work her spells.
The room is shadowy, tall,
and filled with the murmur of rain.
Indians crouch in the corner
with moonlike saucers of grain.
The bottles of Lachryma Christi
are stored on the spidery shelves,
and the saints of tomorrow groan
as they flagellate themselves.

So what do you think? Dose this sound like a translation from Lorca's gypsy ballads (or imitation) or not? Expain your answer. For bonus points guess the author (without googling please). If you want to google to find out who it was, then does the answer surprise you?

(Hint, an author not primarily known for his poetry.)

Dream Seminar

I was teaching my Lorca seminar. We began by introducing ourselves around the room. There were about 40 people there, more than our actual seminar room would fit, and nobody I recognized. One severe looking woman of about 40 was a visiting professor specializing in Gabriel García Márquez. I thought of making a joke about "Federico García Márquez" but thought better of it. When the time came for me to introduce myself a woman standing to the right began to talk instead. I cut her off. But when I started to explain who I was, that I was the professor for the course, I noticed that many of the people had left the room for a break. Given the length of the introductions, an hour had passed and it was time for our first break. There were only 10 people left, so I started to teach the class to them, trying to explain first why I hadn't ordered books for the course.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Roth, Bellow, Updike

My father and I would give each other novels by Roth, Bellow, and Updike for Christmas. (This was the late 70s.) I might give him a Bellow novel and receive from him an Updike novel, or vice-versa. Then we would pass along the novel to be read by the giver of the gift as well. Once, we gave each other the same Updike novel at the same time, and so we had two copies of this novel in the house. I don't remember giving or receiving a novel by Malamud.

I can't say when this exchange of novels came to an end. We exchanged other gifts, later, but not in the same predictable pattern.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Falange did not kill Lorca

Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. The Falange was one right-wing group among many others at the beginning of the Civil War. Franco was not a member of it, though later he folded it back into his own movimiento in order to control it. Franco, ideologically, was a Monarchist, although he never restored the monarchy except by a posthumously executed decree.

The man who arrested Lorca, Ramón Ruiz Alonso, was a Falange reject, and Lorca was hiding in the home of his own Falangist friends, the Rosales family. It could have been Ruiz Alonso's resentment against the Falange that helped to get Lorca killed.

I have no love for the Falange, a Spanish Fascist organization founded by José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the son of a dictator in power in the 20s. I do have a certain love, or respect, for historical accuracy. Not even Franco killed Lorca, if we must be precise. He was not the general in charge of Andalusia, at the time.

Of course, later on, in the war, the entire conflict was seen internationally and to some extent internally as one between communists and fascists. At the beginning of the war, though, there were numerous political factions on the right, the left, and the center. Falangists, Carlists, Anarchists, Socialists, Communists, other Monarchists, and even some liberal Republicans.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"you'd already be doing it"

A facebook friend of mine, Robert Archambeau, a very productive scholar, noted recently that advice on how to be productive is useless. What he said was "if you wanted to do it, you’d already be doing it, and if you don’t want to do it, you probably shouldn’t.” You have to kind of want to do it, because the external motivators are not that strong. There is no real fame in our profession, very little money or social prestige. The only external motivation is to get tenure, but that's just a way of keeping one's job, a job which requires us to keep publishing.

Outside of academia, the social standing of a professor is the same for a deadwood non-publisher as for a publishing star. It's even worse to be a productive scholar, in some cases. Every few years, I may or may not get some serious sign of how great I am, winning something major, etc... but I could go five or six years without anything like that as well. 15 or 20 colleagues at other universities might understand and appreciate my work. Some of those might think I'm ok but not really understand it too well. Others might think I have a name in the field but without having ever read me. That's really enough, though.

Once I got my first taste of being published I needed that from then on.


If you wanted to do it, you'd already be doing it. So if you're not, you have admit that either: you don't really want to, or: you do, in theory, but that it is low on your list. You can only write if you have watered all your plants, if everything else has been done.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Beardstubble Punctuation

Here is a new poem I wrote. I wrote it in the car in my head but then wrote it down in its present form here. The idea is that the poem would not be written or performed twice the same way. The poem is just an example of what a poem called "Beardstubble Punctuation" might look like.

(A group of singers improvises on the theme of “beardstubble punctuation.” When a singer introduces a new element, like “emotional truth,” the others stop for a moment before joining in again. The results might sound like this.)

The brain’s angry beardstubble chatter
The brain’s angry beardstubble punctuation
Tiny angry beardstubble, stubbly dots and dashes
Coarse beardstubble commas and dots
Bearded punctuation and emotional truth...

The brain’s empty emotional beardstubble chatter
Emotional beardstubble and emotional truth, emotional commas and dots
Coarse truth, coarse salt and pepper punctuation. Ground pepper and truth...

Salt now. The brain’s chattering, punctuated salt. Give me some peppered
Beardstubble, coarsely ground, emotionally salted truth and pepper.
Emotionally punctuated truth and pepper, salt and pepper.
Now salt, now pepper, tiny and angry like punctuation ants...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


The funnel is everything that flows into Lorca. Everything "Lorca Knew."

A second image would be everything surrounding Lorca, "Lorca y sus circunstancias."

A third conception is everything based on Lorca, flowing out of him.

So there are three conceptions of Lorca, past, present, and future. Apart from the idea of "Lorca, himself." That makes four.

You can talk about what traditions Lorca took from the past (the funnel).

You can talk about Lorca in his own historical context, his historical present.

Or Lorca's after-life.


So an example of the first: Lorca and Góngora.

2: Lorca and Dalí.

3: Lorca and Jack Spicer.

4: An analysis of a work by Lorca himself.