Tag Archives: Saturday

The Devil’s Dictionary: “Egotist”

A young Ambrose Bierce

In our continuing quest to revisit a classic, or even a curiosity from the past and see how relevant it is, we continue with The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce. Originally published in newspaper installments from 1881 until 1906. You might be surprised how current many of the entries are.

For example, here is a definition for the word Egotist. The Old definitions are Bierce’s. The New definition is mine. From time to time, just as it was originally published, we will come back to The Devil’s Dictionary, for a look at it then and how it applies today. Click on Devil’s Dictionary in the tags below to bring up the other entries.

OLD DEFINITION
Egotist, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.

Megaceph, chosen to serve the State
In the halls of legislative debate,
One day with all his credentials came
To the capitol’s door and announced his name.
The doorkeeper looked, with a comical twist
Of the face, at the eminent egotist,
And said: “Go away, for we settle here
All manner of questions, knotty and queer,
And we cannot have, when the speaker demands
To be told how every member stands,
A man who to all things under the sky
Assents by eternally voting ‘I’.”

 

NEW DEFINITION
Egotist, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me. See, Donald J. Trump

Donald, chose to run for president
Saying only he could truly represent
The interest of those who had been ignored
Or in some other way had been deplored.
He marched into office, saying hugely
It was and always about yours truly.
What some still fail to understand
Is that “yours truly” is about the man
And not a form of salutation
Meant for the greater good of the nation.
It has always been about him:
The hymn of him, of him the hymn.

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The pot and the kettle

Letting off steam.

 

The pot and the kettle

The pot and the kettle /

made of weak metal /

are less than fundamental: /

They’re not right./

 

They put on displays /

In fundamental ways /

Undermining mainstays /

And creating only blight./

 

“My lies can’t compete /

With falsehoods you repeat./

Put down your tweet /

And tell me what to say.”/

 

But the pot said to the kettle:/

“You’ve got to keep your mettle/

Because I won’t settle/

For nothing less today./

 

“We remain on course/

In all our discourse/

There will be no divorce/

From my lies that are true.”/

 

Said the kettle to the pot:/

“You have said a lot/

Some of which has begot/

Us in a trouble or two.”/

 

“That doesn’t matter.”/

The pot said like a mad hatter./

“All the facts are but chatter/

That will go away./

 

“We must all remember/

The role of a dissembler/

Is not in any way render/

Anything that will stay./

 

“A lie we tell here/

We tell it loud and clear/

But we do not ever steer/

As if those words are right./

 

“We will lie as we must/

As on and on they discuss/

That in us they cannot trust/

And in that is our might.”/

 

“We start at the beginning/

And blame them for our sinning/

Grafting and grinning/

Together all the way./

 

“For the true believer/

Has a different receiver/

And it matters not which lever/

We jerk down today.”/

 

The pot and the kettle /

made of weak metal /

are less than fundamental: /

They’re not right./

 

They put on displays /

In fundamental ways /

Undermining mainstays /

Creating death and blight./

 

–by David E. Booker

 

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The Killer Nashville Jimmy Loftin and Lisa Jackson Scholarships

https://killernashville.com/killer-nashville-scholarships/

Have you wanted to attend Killer Nashville, but like a down-on-his-luck gumshoe finding it hard to crack the case that will save your, client, your reputation, and save you from the bill collectors?

Well, here’s a clue, maybe two that could crack the case wide open. You might just qualify for either the Jimmy Loftin Memorial Scholarship or the Lisa Jackson Scholarship. Both scholarships are aimed at helping those who have a desire to attend, but don’t have the lucre to lay down. Both scholarships are based on financial need.

The Jimmy Loftin Memorial Scholarship is in honor of Jimmy Loftin, who “was murdered in the prime of his youth,” according to the Killer Nashville web site. Jimmy family has several writers and an uncle who has been a long-time supporter of the Killer Nashville. Killer Nashville also accepts donations to this scholarship.

Before she was an internationally known, bestselling author, Lisa Jackson was a single mother struggling to make ends meet. The author of 85 novels, Lisa was also the 2014 Guest of Honor at Killer Nashville. She has been a big supporter of the conference and wanted to help those who are struggling with the bills while struggling with the writing.

Guidelines for the scholarships is as follows:

–write an essay that illustrates your financial need and why you want to attend the Killer Nashville Writer’s Conference.

–Entries should be 500 words long, double spaced, and in 12-point Times New Roman or Courier with at least 1-inch margins.

–Attach entries to the online form found at https://killernashville.com/killer-nashville-scholarships/

–The deadline is July 1, 2017.

 

The Killer Nashville Conference is August 24 – 27, 2017 in Franklin Tennessee. Details at https://killernashville.com/.

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Poet: Why I would never tell a student what a poem means – The Washington Post

Poet: Why I would never tell a student what a poem means

Source: Poet: Why I would never tell a student what a poem means – The Washington Post

Sara Holbrook, the author of books of poetry for children, teens and adults, as well as professional books for teachers, wrote a piece on this blog earlier this year that was, to say the least, jarring, if not entirely unexpected by those who have been paying attention to how poorly many standardized tests are constructed. That post, “Poet: I can’t answer questions on Texas standardized tests about my own poems,” started this way:

When I realized I couldn’t answer the questions posed about two of my own poems on the Texas state assessment tests (STAAR Test), I had a flash of panic — oh, no! Not smart enough. Such a dunce. My eyes glazed over. I checked to see if anyone was looking. The questions began to swim on the page. Waves of insecurity. My brain in full spin.

[Poet: I can’t answer questions on Texas standardized tests about my own poems]

Now Holbrook is back with a piece about why she never tells a student what a poem means. Why is that a big deal? It is in direct contrast to a good deal of literature instruction today, which is designed to ensure that students take away not their own meaning but what a standardized test would consider correct.

Holbrook also visits schools and speaks at educator conferences worldwide, with her partner Michael Salinger, providing teacher and classroom workshops on writing and oral presentation skills. Her first novel, “The Enemy: Detroit 1954,” was just released.

By Sara Holbrook

Seems fitting that April is poetry month, a season brimming with blossoming possibilities and longer days. Like jolly jonquils, in April poets are released from our winter hibernation, we shed our black attire and start popping up at readings, sprouting bright colors and (presumably) speaking in stanzas. Not sure how April came to be poetry month. Maybe because at the time of its designation, April didn’t already belong to women’s history, colon cancer awareness, or toenail fungus.

Of course as most of the educated world knows, April mostly belongs to taxes and school testing. Still, poets who chew pencils and chase cursors every day all year wait for this month for a little acknowledgment. It’s not too bad of a deal, really. The five-paragraph-essay is still waiting in the wings for its month.

The poem below was not written as a poetry month challenge. I wrote it while sitting in the back of a summer poetry-writing workshop. Mostly, I was biding my time for my turn to present. The instructor began by asking us to write the words, “I remember” and write for five minutes, not letting our pen leave the page (actually a writing exercise conceived by Natalie Goldberg, I later found out). If we got stuck, we were to write, “I remember” again and keep writing.

But I’ve always been a little ornery. I began with “I don’t remember,” and went from there. The image that came to mind was of my mother and the big family secret the entire neighborhood knew. Mom drank too much and took too many pills. I don’t think she would mind my telling this story now since she was sober for the last seven years of her life, and she was really proud of that. But believe me, we had our moments over the years.

A poem is a snapshot in time. Not an entire movie. A focused moment. I do remember the time she brought me brownies as an apology, but I can’t for the life of me remember what she was apologizing for. Memory is a pegboard punched with holes. The older I get, the bigger the holes become.

Still, I remember the brownies, the hug, my forced smile.

 

Remember

 

I don’t remember the first time,

how it started

or when.

But I remember

the night you brought me brownies

and said

it would never happen again.

 

I remember,

your hair was longer then

and how your eyes swam over to mine.

I remember,

my smile stuck to my teeth.

I knew it wasn’t the last time.

 

My eyes were sealed with tears

and it was hard for them to wake,

but that didn’t seem to matter.

We hugged.

And the brownies tasted great.

©1997 sara holbrook “I Never Said I Wasn’t Difficult,” Boyds Mills Press

 

Forty years after the brownies were delivered to my bedside, four or five years after the writing and publication of the poem, I was visiting a school in the rural Midwest. It was April, and in preparation for the poet/author visit, kids had been asked to respond to one of my poems with: one their own poems, a hand-drawn picture, or a paragraph. What a display!

Hundreds of responses were posted in the hallways. There was an entire wall in the foyer devoted to my poem, “The Dog Ate My Homework.” Middle-school kids love to laugh and the student poems told tall tales of dogs, goats, and chickens munching on math problems and swallowing spelling words. One, as I remember, involved no eating but did reference cat pee.

But down the hall, around the corner, out of the florescent glare of the reception area, on the tiled wall by the room where (before inclusion) they used to keep “those kids,” I found Paul’s interpretation of my poem, “Remember.” While his classmates were having fun with poetry, he was evidencing his understanding that all of life is not a sit-com.

Paul was 11 years old when he wrote this. I know. I asked. When students are 11, the topic of sex doesn’t come up in the classroom. Teachers and parents make sure of it. What Paul brought to the text of my poem is background knowledge he had acquired somewhere other than school. We can only speculate.

Paul and I are both more than 25 years older now. Still, that spring day is sealed in my memory. I visited two schools, Paul’s in the morning and then I moved on at lunch break. But I took time to make a big deal out of Paul’s response, taking it to the office to have it photocopied (era before cellphone cameras). The secretary read it and wearily sighed, “Yeah, there’s a lot of that ’round here.” I took it to the guidance office. I took it to the vice principal. I don’t know if Paul, age 11, ever got the help he needed. It haunts me.

But one thing I do know, I am not the one to tell Paul what the poem “Remember” is about. Paul knew and probably still knows what this poem means. In my mind, this is not even my poem anymore. It belongs to Paul, age 11.

Famed educator, guru, and overall smart person Louise Rosenblatt wisely distinguishes between interpreting expository writing (journalism, nonfiction) and aesthetic writing. “A novel or a poem or a play remains merely inkspots on paper until a reader transforms them into a set of meaningful symbols.” The reader creates meaning, I heard her explain in a talk she gave at the National Council of Teachers of English in November 2004 at the no-nonsense age of 100. She was peeking over the podium giving a roomful of academics what-for, explaining that the meaning of a poem floats somewhere between the page and the reader’s mind because each reader brings a unique experience to the piece.

A few months ago I wrote an essay, “I Can’t Answer These Texas Standardized Test Questions About My Own Poems,” in which I questioned those of unknown academic distinction who anonymously compose proficiency test questions. Many teachers wrote to tell me that they too are unable to answer these vaguely written test questions being used to evaluate their students. One teacher reported that her kids had to endure 17 days of testing this year. Considering there are only about 20 days of school in a month and that every test requires preparation on the devices and manner of testing, that’s a lot of lost instructional time.

Parents wrote. I did a few television interviews and radio programs. It was my 15 minutes. Additionally, I took some heat from a (very) few academics who jumped to inform me that authors do not own the meaning of a poem, it is up to literary critics to make this determination. Good grief.

It was not my intent to kick off an argument on of the relative merit of learned literary analysis. I’ll leave that to those with letters after their names. But friends, parents, educators, learned folks, please remember, middle-schoolers are not just short college sophomores. They are not lit majors. These are kids like Paul. Kids who are often grappling with a world of unseen and sometimes unspeakable challenges.

As teachers and parents, our main goal is to get them to love learning, to be curious, and grow to understand the difference between fact and fiction. Writing poetry can help with this by the way, poets are into facts, and not just in April. But how can testing help with this? Geez, Louise! Proficiency test questions don’t even have to be fact-based!

One industrious Advanced Placement student wrote to walk me through two of my poems and each STAAR standardized test question, dutifully explaining how to determine which of the right answers on a multiple choice test is the most right. Clearly he has mastered the game of analyzing minutia. A smart, articulate kid; I found his dedication to compliance, well, disconcerting.

“Big can’t get you if small’s got you,” civil rights leader Rep. Elijah Cummings said recently, quoting the wisdom of his sharecropper father.

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I worry we are raising a generation of students who view success as the ability to focus on marginal minutia while (too often) missing the big ideas in a piece of writing. Worse, children are learning to disregard their own instincts, their histories, their cultural references by devoting themselves to predetermined interpretations. When we tell students what to think, we short sheet their own thought processes.

What if, in that long ago April, some test had told Paul his interpretation was wrong?

I stick to my contention that if a child reads a poem or a story about a red house, it is fair to test the kid’s reading mastery by asking, what color was that house? Once we ask, why did the author paint the house red, we’ve slid off the pedagogical sidewalk. It may be a good question to stimulate rich discussion, but the answer, particularly when it comes to poetry, is not a right or wrong equation. Deciding why the house is red is where we meet, reader and writer as the reader brings a unique experience to the interpretation. This is how we nurture thinking in students.

Besides, if the author hasn’t told us why the house is red, we just can’t know. In fact, the author’s perception of her intent in writing, of the very meaning of her own poem, may in fact change over time.

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The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor | A poem each day, plus literary and historical notes from this day in history

A poem each day, plus literary and historical notes from this day in history

Source: The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor | A poem each day, plus literary and historical notes from this day in history

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Philip Pullman unveils epic fantasy trilogy The Book of Dust | Books | The Guardian

Author’s new novel series is set in London and Oxford and overlaps with hugely popular His Dark Materials

Source: Philip Pullman unveils epic fantasy trilogy The Book of Dust | Books | The Guardian

Philip Pullman has ended years of speculation by announcing that The Book of Dust, an epic fantasy trilogy that will stand alongside his bestselling series, His Dark Materials, will be published in October around the world.

The as-yet-untitled first volume of The Book of Dust, due out on 19 October, will be set in London and Oxford, with the action running parallel to the His Dark Materials trilogy. A global bestseller since the first volume, Northern Lights, was published in 1995, Pullman’s series has sold more than 17.5m copies and been translated into 40 languages.

Pullman’s brave and outspoken heroine, Lyra Belacqua, will return in the first two volumes. Featuring two periods of her life – as a baby and 10 years after His Dark Materials ended – the series will include other characters familiar to existing readers, as well as creations such as alethiometers (a clock-like truth-telling device), daemons (animals that are physical manifestations of the human spirit) and the Magisterium, the church-like totalitarian authority that rules Lyra’s world.

The Oxford-based former teacher said he had returned to the world of Lyra because he wanted to get to the bottom of “Dust”, the mysterious and troubling substance at the centre of the original books. “Little by little, through that story the idea of what Dust was became clearer and clearer, but I always wanted to return to it and discover more,” Pullman said.

In a description that will resonate with the current political climate, he added that “at the centre of The Book of Dust is the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organisation, which wants to stifle speculation and inquiry, and those who believe thought and speech should be free”.

But David Fickling, whose firm, David Fickling Books, will publish The Book of Dust in the UK jointly with Penguin Random House children’s books, warned readers not to draw too many parallels between the new book and the current political situation in the UK or US. “I think it is a really important book for now, not in an intellectual way, but in a storytelling way,” Fickling said. He said the book would “resonate on a psychological level” and added: “Some of the best people for telling us the truth about our times are our great storytellers and Philip is one of them.”

Exact details of the plot are a closely guarded secret. However, Fickling hinted that readers would not have to wait 17 years – the gap between the last volume of His Dark Materials and the first of The Book of Dust – before the new series would conclude. The BBC reported on Wednesday that Pullman had completed the first and second volumes already, and was working on the third. Asked when the second volume would be published, Fickling replied, laughing: “You need to ask him, but readers should know they have a big treat ahead of them.”

The puzzle of how Lyra came to be living at Jordan College, Oxford, in her alternative universe, initiated the new trilogy. “In thinking about it, I discovered a long story that began when she was a baby and will end when she’s grown up,” Pullman said. Describing it as neither sequel nor prequel, but an “equel”, he added: “It doesn’t stand before or after His Dark Materials, but beside it. It’s a different story, but there are settings that readers of His Dark Materials will recognise and characters they’ve met before.”

Speaking to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, Pullman said the first book of the trilogy opened roughly 10 years before the action of Northern Lights, and the series “continues roughly 10 years after His Dark Materials”.

“So we see Lyra both as a baby and we see her in the second book as an adult; she’s 20 years old,” Pullman added. “There she can fully take agency of the story, so to speak.”

Dust, as described in the original series, has been equated to dark matter. It is expected that Pullman will incorporate the latest findings about the substance, which scientists say exists because of evidence of its gravitational impact on the motion of visible matter.

Though Pullman’s publisher would not confirm how this research would feature in the book, Fickling admitted that it had some influence. “He has a capacious mind and is sent nearly every scientific book before publication,” he said. “If you visit his house, you will see all these books that are way above everyone else, he doesn’t miss much that is going on.”

The quest to understand, use and destroy Dust is central to His Dark Materials. But as well as being analogous to dark matter, Pullman has said that it is a metaphor for the original story, which he based upon Milton’s Paradise Lost. In His Dark Materials, the Magisterium regards it as evidence of original sin, which must be destroyed before children emerge from puberty into adulthood when their daemons, the animal familiars that represent their spirits, take their final form.

“Dust is an analogy of consciousness, and consciousness is this extraordinary property we have as human beings,” Pullman told the Today programme. “The story I’m telling in this book is more about in terms of William Blake’s vision, his idea of a fiercely reductive way of seeing things: it’s right or wrong; it’s black or white.

“He said that was far too limiting and we should bring out truer human vision when we see things, surround them all with a sort of penumbra of imagination and memories and hopes and expectations and fears and all these things.

“It’s an attack on the reductionism, the merciless reductionism, of doctrines with a single answer.”

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald in 2003, Pullman noted that the Harry Potter author, JK Rowling, had taken more flak for the magic in her books than he had for his overt criticism of organised religion. “I’ve been surprised by how little criticism I’ve got,” he told the newspaper. “Harry Potter’s been taking all the flak … Meanwhile, I’ve been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God.”

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Who doesn’t read books in America? | Pew Research Center

About a quarter of American adults (26%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year. Who, exactly, are these non-book readers?

Source: Who doesn’t read books in America? | Pew Research Center

by Andrew Perrin

About a quarter of American adults (26%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form. So who, exactly, are these non-book readers?

Several demographic traits correlate with non-book reading, Pew Research Center surveys have found. For instance, adults with a high school degree or less are about three times as likely as college graduates (40% vs. 13%) to report not reading books in any format in the past year. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey shows that these less-educated adults are also the least likely to own smartphones or tablets, two devices that have seen a substantial increase in usage for reading e-books since 2011. (College-educated adults are more likely to own these devices and use them to read e-books.)

Adults with an annual household income of less than $30,000 are about twice as likely as the most affluent adults to be non-book readers (33% vs. 17%). Hispanic adults are also about twice as likely as whites (40% vs. 23%) to report not having read a book in the past 12 months.

Older Americans are a bit more likely than their younger counterparts not to have read a book. Some 29% of adults ages 50 and older have not read a book in the past year, compared with 23% of adults under 50. In addition, men are less likely than women to have read a book, as are adults in rural areas compared with those in urban areas.

The share of Americans who report not reading any books in the past 12 months is largely unchanged since 2012, but is slightly higher than in 2011, when the Center first began conducting surveys of book-reading habits. That year, 19% of adults reported not reading any books.

Given the share that hasn’t read a book in the past year, it’s not surprising that 19% of U.S. adults also say they have not visited a library or a bookmobile in the past year. The same demographic traits that characterize non-book readers also often apply to those who have never been to a library. For example, men, Hispanics, older adults, those living in households earning less than $30,000 and those who have no more than a high school diploma or did not graduate from high school are the most likely to report they have never been to a public library.

 

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