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Friday, January 15, 2010

Word of the Day!

enjoin [en-join]
-transitive verb
1. To direct or impose with authority; to order.
2. To prohibit; to forbid.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Decline of the Humanities

It is a quanitifiable fact that humanities* education in American Universities is in free fall. The reasons for this are legion but William M. Chace does an astounding job of explaining them all and offering a few alternatives in this article in The American Scholar. Chace has been a professor at Berkeley, Stanford, Wesleyan, and Emory and served as President at the last two and has around 40 years experience in higher education.

Chace makes a great case for the continuation and importance of English education in American higher learning by focusing on the books themselves and the myriad things that can be learned by critical analysis of the canon of Great Books in the English tradition.

It's sort of strange that I would read this article so close to finishing Alan Jacobs' phenomenal study of C.S. Lewis, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis. Lewis had similar views on the importance of studying the Great English canon. He felt that literature was a function of language, and since language was so fully intertwined with thought, the only way to understand humanity** was to read, understand, and have a dialogue with these great books.

If you have the time I suggest that you read both Chace's article and Jacobs' biography of C.S. Lewis. They both have a tremendous bearing on the future of the humanities in America.

You can read William Chace's article here.

*Humanities being a catch-all term for English, History, Geography, etc.
**Or at least Western humanity.

Back to school

So, I meant to chat a bit about this on Tuesday but the internets' been cray cray lately so I'm shoehorning it in here, right before this next post*. I started grad school on Monday** and it was strange to me that, even at 29 yrs old, I felt like I was four all over again***. I was nervous and excited and afraid to look like an idiot. I found this sort of funny*^ since this feeling of perilous inadequacy was something that I thought I had done a pretty good job of squashing over these last few years, but then as soon as I step on campus BAM! it's back.

But this time around I'm more focused, more clear-headed about my purpose, and, of course, not concerned with fashion or being cool**^, so as I embark on this next grand adventure I will keep y'all updated and let you know what horrors I encounter along my journey into the stiff, wicked heart of academia.


*Which, conveniently, is about a similar topic.
**I am working on my MA in History from Georgia State University. Not sure what I want to write my thesis about, but the smallest speck of an idea has begun to germinate in the back of my head. A grandiose idea that, when completed, will not only earn me the respect and accolades of my colleagues, but also probably the Pulitzer and a spot on Oprah's Book of the Month Club. Not bragging, just stating the troof, y'all.
***True story. I started kindergarten when I was four years old and due to some terrible convolution of the Gods I was placed in a classroom with all girls. So, not only was I six months-to-a-year younger than everyone else in my class, but I was surrounded by nothing but chicas...and I was also really realy shy. Somewhere along the line in those first four years of life I'd missed the step where one learns to speak to members of the opposite sex so being in that classroom was like standing in a room full of mirrors and being horribly disfigured. Everywhere I turned, literally, there was a refelction of this embarrassing deficiency of mine. So, in response to all the freewheeling Estrogen, and filled to the brim with an overwhelming desire to do something, anything that wouldn't require me to actually talk to one of these girls, I proceeded to grab all the chairs in the room and stack them one on top the other in a single towering spire of plastic, primary-colored elementary school chairs. I'm not sure why I thought this was a good idea--perhaps I felt that building something would show how masculine I was--but it had the ironic effect of eliminating the very situation I was so desperate to avoid: after the tower, I really didn't have to worry about anyone talking to me anymore. At any rate, I did slightly better this go 'round; I didn't talk to anyone, but at least I left the desks where they were.
*^Funny, as in mortifying and horrible in a toilet-paper-on-your-shoe-upon-exiting-a-public-bathroom kind of way.
**^Let's be real here, to undergrads grad students aren't cool anyway, so why try?

Word of the Day!

pantheon [pan-thee-on; -uhn]
-noun
1. A temple dedicated to all the gods; especially (capitalized), the building so called at Rome.
2. The collective gods of a people; as, a goddess of the Greek pantheon.
3. A public building commemorating and dedicated to the famous dead of a nation.
4. A group of highly esteemed persons.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Beatles For Sale

Beatles For Sale was released a mere five months after A Hard Day’s Night yet the difference in tone, quality, and creativity is drastic. Where A Hard Day’s Night was buoyant, light-hearted, and rambunctious, Beatles For Sale is cold, downtrodden, and uncharacteristically bleak. Even the title suggests a sort of moral bankruptcy at the heart of The Beatles machine.

Yet, for all the cover-original ratio backsliding and drabness, Beatles For Sale is one of the most prophetic albums of The Beatles career. Besides the shift in tone, Lennon/McCartney’s songwriting takes on a decidedly more personal point of view in the original songs, which was a more revolutionary change than it might seem upon first listen. The Beatles had sung about heartbreak before, but never had they personalized it so completely. Songs like “I’m A Loser”, “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party”, and “Baby’s In Black” not only have somber overtones but they suggest a deeper emotional complexity than their previous output. Especially “I’m A Loser” which presents the audience with a protagonist who is devoid of redeeming characteristics, who is wallowing in self-pity and presented as one who is “not what he appears to be”. This is a far cry from “She Loves You” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and an almost ironic response to the mounting hysteria surrounding the band. Losers were about the only thing they couldn’t be accused of being.

A Hard Day's Night

By the time The Beatles landed at JFK airport in February of 1964 they had already ridden the wave of mounting British Beatlemania to the tune of two bestselling records and six Top Ten singles. In the US they had only “I Want To Hold Your Hand” which had been released against the fears of their record company, Capitol Records, because of a massive grassroots groundswell of support, yet when they landed they were hailed as the saviors of rock and roll and were met with the same screaming, hysterical crowds they’d come to expect in the UK. Over the next six months the backlog of Beatles releases finally hit American shelves and they were snatched up as quickly as they could be restocked. Beatlemania had finally reached the US.

Word of the Day!

surly [sur-lee]
-adjective
1. Ill-humored; churlish in manner or mood; sullen and gruff.
2. Menacing or threatening in appearance, as of weather conditions; ominous.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Publication!

I am finally a published author! A couple months ago two on-line markets accepted my story "Just A Feeling" and they both published this month.

"Just a Feeling" is a flash fiction piece loosely based on a conversation I may or may not have had the day after the Great Northeast Black Out of 2003. It has been published in Ascent Aspirations Magazine and can be read here. and was also published in Down in the Dirt Magazine as well.

Word of the Day!

gambol [gam-buhl]
-intransitive verb
To dance and skip about in play; to frolic.
-noun
A skipping or leaping about in frolic.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Writer Spotlight: Daniel Davis

Part of becoming a successful author involves spending a ridiculous amount of time submitting to, and reading, hundreds of markets (i.e. magazines, anthologies, websites) in order to determine where to place your work as well as check out your competition, monitor trends, etc. Occasionally in my reading I come across another author who is churning out tremendous work and starting to create a buzz.

One such author is Daniel Davis, a graduate student at Eastern Illinois University. He's been writing for nearly his entire life and started submitting his work for publication about two years ago. He has as of this post had nine works of short fiction published, with a few more slated for early in 2010.

Word of the Day!

nascent [nas-uhnt; nay-suhnt]
-adjective
Beginning to exist or having recently come into existence; coming into being.