Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘languages

Wednesday Morning

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spxdrop* The wisdom of markets: hacked @AP Twitter account sends Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbling 150 points in a few seconds.

* Handy charts reveal why you’ve never heard of most female SF authors.

* Florida approves online-only public university education.

* Graduate school and the peak-end heuristic. It’s a thing!

* The retirement scam.

* First lawsuits files in the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion.

* Reports trickling out about police interviews with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

* And the ricin case gets weirder and weirder.

* Bad news, Game of Thrones fans: You are mispronouncing Daenerys’s honorific, Khaleesi.

Peterson, who has a masters in linguistics from the University of California–San Diego and founded the Language Creation Society, spent twelve to fourteen hours a day, every day, for two months working on the proposal that landed him the Thrones job. When he was finished, he had more than 300 pages of vocabulary and notes detailing how the Dothraki language would sound and function. “The application process favored those of us who were unemployed at the time, which I was,” Peterson laughed.

* Cooper Union Trustees Vote to Impose $19,000 Tuition.

* Chicago Sun-Times begs students not to participate in standardized-testing boycott.

* A Conversation with a Single Mom Living on $40,000 a Year.

* School Principal Discouraged Teen Girl from Reporting Sexual Assault Because It Would Ruin Attacker’s Basketball Career. I mean really.

* And a little something for the whatthefuckaricans out there: Marc Maron…IN SPACE.

Breaking News: Humanities Dead

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I know I’ve gone on and on about this in recent years, especially when I have to deal with people who claim that humanities enrollments declined in “recent decades” because of icky things like “theory” and “racial and sexual identity,” or cranks who try to blame that nonexistent enrollment decline on “a virulent strain of Marxist radicalism” (hey, if you thought the virulent Marxism was bad, just wait ‘til we institute Shari’a law!).  But I just don’t know of any realm of human endeavor in which a precipitous decline from 1967 to 1987, followed by a couple of decades of stability, counts as breaking news. It’s the equivalent of saying “sales of Sgt. Pepper posters have declined sharply since 1967,” and trying to pass it off as tonight’s lead story.  But for some reason, when it comes to the humanities, it works every time.

More from Michael Bérubé at Crooked Timber. There’s also this open letter to SUNY-Albany President George Philip from Gregory Petsko, which doesn’t mince words:

Some of your defenders have asserted that this is all a brilliant ploy on your part – a master political move designed to shock the legislature and force them to give SUNY Albany enough resources to keep these departments open. That would be Machiavellian (another notable Italian writer, but then, you don’t have any Italian faculty to tell you about him), certainly, but I doubt that you’re that clever. If you were, you would have held that town meeting when the whole university could have been present, at a place where the press would be all over it. That’s how you force the hand of a bunch of politicians. You proclaim your action on the steps of the state capitol. You don’t try to sneak it through in the dead of night, when your institution has its back turned. 

No, I think you were simply trying to balance your budget at the expense of what you believe to be weak, outdated and powerless departments. I think you will find, in time, that you made a Faustian bargain. Faust is the title character in a play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It was written around 1800 but still attracts the largest audiences of any play in Germany whenever it’s performed. Faust is the story of a scholar who makes a deal with the devil. The devil promises him anything he wants as long as he lives. In return, the devil will get – well, I’m sure you can guess how these sorts of deals usually go. If only you had a Theater department, which now, of course, you don’t, you could ask them to perform the play so you could see what happens. It’s awfully relevant to your situation. You see, Goethe believed that it profits a man nothing to give up his soul for the whole world. That’s the whole world, President Philip, not just a balanced budget. Although, I guess, to be fair, you haven’t given up your soul. Just the soul of your institution.

I wish it hadn’t repeated the myth that humanities departments don’t pay their own way, but I suppose we can’t have everything.

Thursday Thursday Thursday

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* A filibuster too far? Granting that no one has ever been thrown out of office for underestimating the attention span of the American people, filibustering a jobs bill at a time of 10% (official) unemployment seems like a really bad idea for Republicans interested in capitalizing on their apparent political momentum. Of course, this is the same party that spent eight months needlessly blocking the appointment of a woman confirmed today 94-2, so obviously we’re playing by different playbooks here.

* More bad policy that is also bad politics: the Republican “shadow budget” apparently calls for an end to Medicare. I’m so old I can remember when the Republicans were pretending they loved Medicare last summer. Can Democrats find a way to miss this pitch?

* The White House is how quietly telling people they support the course of action that is obvious to everyone.

* Visit Kcymaerxthaere, “a parallel universe that shares, to some degree, our physical planet.” Via MetaFilter, where a commenter notes this is reminiscent of the plot of Borges’s “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.”

* Also at MetaFilter: great moments in prank wills.

* Vu and Kottke both have articles about proposed revisions to evolutionary theory, the first highlighting enviromentalistic biases in traditional evolutionary theory and the second suggesting horizontal gene transfer has been the dominant mode of evolution for most of life’s history on Earth.

* And today’s saddest headline: ‘Ancient tribal language becomes extinct as last speaker dies.’

Thursday Night

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* Every blog on the Internet is required to link to this Shakespearification of the entire script of The Big Lebowski.

BLANCHE
Whither the money, Lebowski? Faith, we are servants of Bonnie; promised by the lady good that thou in turn were good for’t.
WOO
Bound in honour, we must have our bond; cursed be our tribe if we forgive thee.
BLANCHE
Let us soak him in the commode, so as to turn his head.
WOO
Aye, and see what vapourises; then he will see what is foul.
[They insert his head into the commode]
BLANCHE
What dreadful noise of waters in thine ears! Thou hast cooled thine head; think now upon drier matters.
WOO
Speak now on ducats else again we’ll thee duckest; whither the money, Lebowski?
THE KNAVE
Faith, it awaits down there someplace; prithee let me glimpse again.
WOO
What, thou rash egg! Thus will we drown thine exclamations.
[They again insert his head into the commode]

* Sad news: New Jersey did not listen to Bruce. More here and here.

More on the heretofore unknown ancient civilization being uncovered by deforestation in the Amazon in the New Yorker.

* More zombie television: MTV has licensed Dawn of the Dead.

* Look At This Fucking Idea For A Blog-To-Book Deal.

* John McWhorter on the death of languages. Via io9.

* ‘Final Edition: Twilight of the American Newspaper.’

We will end up with one and a half cities in America—Washington, D.C., and American Idol. We will all live in Washington, D.C., where the conversation is a droning, never advancing, debate between “conservatives” and “liberals.” We will not read about newlyweds. We will not read about the death of salesmen. We will not read about prize Holsteins or new novels. We are a nation dismantling the structures of intellectual property and all critical apparatus. We are without professional book reviewers and art critics and essays about what it might mean that our local newspaper has died. We are a nation of Amazon reader responses (Moby Dick is “not a really good piece of fiction”—Feb. 14, 2009, by Donald J. Bingle, Saint Charles, Ill.—two stars out of five). We are without obituaries, but the famous will achieve immortality by a Wikipedia entry.

Via Kottke.

* And, for the first time ever, Fox News has been caught doing something dishonest.