matter of facts

truthReposted from Inside Higher Ed; image courtesy of Martin Sommer

Remember “truthiness”? Stephen Cobert, in his parodic role of a brash conservative talk show personality, coined it in 2005 and it seemed to nail a fact of political life: politicians often said things that seemed true, that felt true, that appealed to an audience as true while sliding off to one side of demonstrable facts. He was giving a name to the political polarization that made Americans line up behind different sets of known “facts” along with a tendency to prefer assertions that carried an emotional charge.

“Truthiness,” named the 2005 Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society, has given way to the Oxford Dictionaries 2016 Word of the Year, “Post-Truth,” which was a bit depressing until it was eclipsed by the furor over “fake news.” That last shape-shifting phrase means all kinds of things, including any news you don’t like. Entire news organizations have been labeled “fake news” by our president. Continue reading “matter of facts”

commonplace newsletter #1

lettersThis has been one hell of a week. I suspect there will be many more like it. The bad news is that we’re this close to a coup led by nihilistic Nazi, Steve Bannon. The good news is that a lot of people are taking to the streets. We are not alone. We are not accepting this. We are paying attention.

So what a weird time to start up a newsletter, eh? I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling as if I’m dog-paddling as fast as I can in a fast-running current of massive amounts of information. I probably shouldn’t add to it. Continue reading “commonplace newsletter #1”

a Woody Guthrie moment

Woodie Guthrie photo by Al Aumuller, courtesy of Wikimedia and the Library of Congress.

Woody Guthrie famously had a sign on his guitar: THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS. I’ve been thinking about that line a lot in the past week, this strange new world in which a man-child signs orders written by a nihilistic Nazi, throwing the world into chaos gleefully and viciously. It’s encouraging to see mass resistance form spontaneously, though I remind myself that there were mass protests against Hitler, too. There’s work to do. There are values to defend. It won’t be an easy road, and I’m not sure where it will all lead.

I am printing up some stickers for my laptop, which is about as close as I get to a guitar.  I wimped out and used “fights” instead of “kills” because I’m an angry pacifist who likes to think libraries, books, and writers can all oppose this violence with words and ideas. Continue reading “a Woody Guthrie moment”

burning Issues for Operation 451

Welch-McCarthy hearings, 1954
Welch-McCarthy hearings, 1954 via Wikimedia

Reposted from Inside Higher Ed.

A lot of people were disgusted when they heard Simon & Schuster will publish a book by Milo Yiannopoulos, a notorious right-wing troll who makes a career of offending people and hounding his chosen enemies through mass intimidation. He has even been banned from Twitter, which is incredibly difficult to do. He tried to offend his publishers with grotesque jokes as well, to no avail. They really wanted to publish his book.

Continue reading “burning Issues for Operation 451”

my top reads of 2016

I made a habit of sharing my top ten crime fiction reads of the year over at my former blog, and I want to carry on the tradition. But first, I’m going to mention some other books that left an impression.

First, three non-fiction works that I keep urging on everyone.

EvictedMatthew Desmond / EVICTED: POVERTY AND
I am not sure what impressed me the most about this book: the extraordinarily deep and respectful research into the lives of people that includes ethnographic and quantitative methods, the power of the narrative about these people, or what I learned about the complexity of daily life when the rent’s too damn high. All three, really. It’s incredibly moving, informative, and in a year of great disappointment, profoundly decent. I hope it’s widely read and creates the momentum for change, though that’s a difficult hope to hold onto, given we just elected a rapacious racist property developer as president and Tweeter-in-Chief.

Continue reading “my top reads of 2016”

make America [fill in the blank]

liberty club neon signReposted from Inside Higher Ed; photo courtesy of Jasperdo

I’ve been giving a lot of my Twitter feed a raised eyebrow lately. No, it’s not at all likely that electors will denounce Trump and vote differently. Huh, that must-read thread seems kind of dumb. No, I don’t think calling for recounts is a great idea just after we kept insisting the vote couldn’t possibly be rigged.

Continue reading “make America [fill in the blank]”

British libraries under threat

5th of November library demonstration

Reposted from Inside Higher Ed ; photo courtesy of @5thNovDemo

There’s something pretty amazing about the idea of a public library. It’s the one place where everyone in the community is welcomed – all ages, all races, all religions, all political persuasions. It’s a place where you can borrow things for free and nobody sneers at your taste or uses marketing techniques to persuade you to choose differently. It’s a place where you can hang out for hours without having to buy coffee to justify the space you’re taking up. It doesn’t invade your privacy in order to “improve the user experience.” It’s a place that, according to Pew Research, has amazingly high approval ratings, rare among social institutions these days.

Continue reading “British libraries under threat”

hello world!

typewriter innards[waves] Yes, I’m starting a new website. I have a couple of reasons to do this. First, I am working on a book proposal, and if this goes well, I’ll probably be blogging the process here, just as I previously blogged my sabbatical project a while back. Consider it my messy but public scratchpad for ideas. This also seems like the right time to renovate my public identity, which has always been held together with string, duct tape, and bad html.

Second, I’m beginning to revise a course I teach and one of my goals is to have students create their own website. I haven’t totally figured out how I will do this as an assignment. I want students to fully control their own web presence, which would include not having one if that’s their preference. But I think it’s time to shift from having students contribute to a joint blog (an assignment they’ve never loved) to inviting students to craft their own online identity for academic and professional self-representation. Who knows – they may not love that, either, but it’s time to try something new. I’ve been interested in the Domain of One’s Own project (see Audrey Watters being intelligent as usual about the concept), and while my institution isn’t doing that, it would be easy for students to get a domain and hosting from Reclaim Hosting. One they can keep for as long as they like.

Of course, if I’m going to assign creating a website using this service, I have to do it first myself, which is why I have this new front door for my own online presence. It will take a while to finish painting and cleaning and get my stuff moved in, but it’s a start.

(image courtesy of Rachel Knickmeyer)