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Archive for the ‘Festival of Bad Writing’ Category

In my everyday work-life, I have to protect my colleagues from predators.  Predatory publishers.  Parasites, might be a better descriptor, because under the guise of “providing opportunity”, some of these organizations steer otherwise clever scholars into self-defeating situations.  Sure, a line on a vitae is a fine brass ring to grab, but what if it’s more like fairy gold, a flash that fades away when the sun bears down upon it?  For what have you sold your reputation and credibility?

Academia Gateway Edit

But there may be a larger problem…. a break somewhere in the scholarly community.  I came up in a world where you presented ideas at conferences and in poster sessions before you ever tried publishing a research article or review.  Friends, colleagues, and strangers all battle-tested your ideas before a publisher ever took notice, or before you ever got round to writing a book proposal.

Broken chains.jpg

Did that kind of training stop?  Or have the predatory publishers offered a quick route to “getting a journal article” that bled scholars off that route?  “Why go through those gatekeepers and hurdles? — Here’s a little niche journal that will let you say whatever you want.”

The reward structure in academia that says “presentations are nice, but publications get you tenure”, falls right into the trap. And who has the standing [or the time] to intervene?

I dislike being the Clue Fairy in these settings; I really do.

Although I’m not the only one who’s been trying.  See here for one of the current listing sites: Stop Predatory Journals

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“[Our company] was built on a vision, a mission, and a framework of values that continue to ignite us daily.”

I am pretty such some anti-fungals can take care of that sort of problem…

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In a recent interview, I forgot to say what should have been at the tip of my tongue, namely that yes, of course I am familiar with motivating people who are not sufficiently engaged in the tasks at hand in the office: I was an English professor!  Rare is the student among hundreds who really latches onto assignments in freshman comp, eager to push their abilities to research, articulate, and argue according to the conventions laid down by Aristotle centuries ago.

Lady Rhetorica

I didn’t say that.  I didn’t say “I taught required courses for many years before I got to teach classes filled with students who chose to be there, deliberately choosing my sections, my topics, degree track, etc.  I said a few other things, and maybe those will lead to other interesting things; we’ll see where it all leads.  Hopefully forward, but at the moment there are so many, many things looping back again I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m told “no, not now, but later”…

Another example of scenarios looping around [other than Watergate and liberation theology] include the evergreen lament that students “cannot write”, which really is “students do not practice what x person remembers as prose style” and “teachers don’t seem to be making students do what x person recognizes as hard enough work”.  See the latest infuriating article here. That writer is shocked to find ‘little high-quality research’ on teaching writing, but doesn’t look hard enough to see that what she values is exactly what research over the last 35 years very specifically fails to support. In fact, based in part on the compilation of studies by George Hillocks in Research on Written Composition, we used to use grammar-driven writing lessons as our control groups because it was really well demonstrated that those had no lasting effect on writing quantity or quality.  Sentence combining does have evidence to demonstrate its success, but if you aren’t citing the Christensens, you’re missing the connection to both tradition and experiments.

<sigh>  But every so often, the “if only we drilled them on grammar” will come around again, and we’ll need people like George, Mina Shaughnessy, and other dogged, data-driven people to turn that tide back again.

 

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Years ago, a friend of mine was trying to make a casual reference to his wife, who he loved dearly, and I knew from the church fellowship we were all attending at the time. The phrase he was trying to avoid was “the little woman”, but then it was immediately clear that saying “the big woman” wouldn’t do either, and so what he ended up with was the awkward and funny [even to her] “woman of moderate size”….

So here, in a somewhat similarly awkward vein, is someone trying to decide if poetry is a lively art, a hobby, a craft, or, by a particular definition, a “minor art”: a craft whose audience is mostly other practitioners of that art…..

Poetry in the twenty-first century is like pottery, woodworking, or the making of carrot carnations. Sophisticated verse was never a major art, and having lost even a small non-practitioner audience, it has lost its status as a minor art. At hobbyist conventions, celebrated practitioners of a craft address an audience made up of other practitioners of the craft, who will then go home and work at the art themselves. Poetry has more residual cultural prestige than carrot carnation making and other hobbies, but that is only because most of the poet-hobbyists are professors with MFAs, while there are no professors of table-setting.From Poesey to Carrot Carnations

I suppose he is talking about “pottery” in the sense of the craft practiced in studio art programs, and “woodworking” in some sense that is similarly rarified — but if you walk around fine craft shows, there seem to be quite a few non-practitioners who come to admire, gawp, collect, and natter. The audiences for these items still do include outsiders: There are people who love a beautifully-sculpted chair arm whether or not they’ve ever picked out a spokeshave from the Veritas or Lie Nielsen. There are degree programs in interior design. There are blogs featuring elaborate tablescapes and business models based around floral sculptures made of fruits and vegetables.

The population of people who talk about politics may be larger [that’s Mr. Lind’s main audience and source of income], and it may be that these days you can get more notariety [or more dates] if you perform in that arena rather than in poetry. But I don’t think the system of political pundits talking about/at/with each other is any less insular [and potentially prone to omphaloskepsis] than specialized communities of discourse in other segments of life or art.  I remember my piano teacher, who traveled around the world on the basis of her skills, telling me once that she had started reading business magazines [Forbes, Fortune, etc.] to see if the world of finance was any less ‘silly’ than the music world….and she came to the conclusion that it wasn’t. If the inhabitants of humanities departments get more mileage [tenure, grants, etc.] by making pronouncements about pop culture than about poetry, that’s not just a “sense of cultural responsibility” owed to one genre over another — it’s just a human desire to be wherever the action is….

Until, with typical human perversity, it becomes more interesting/authentic/hip to be running off in some other, probably opposite, direction. I believe that’s what the Smart Set aims for in its articles most of the time, anyway: a provocatvie contrarianism that reifies the status quo of some earlier time.

And yes, that was a rubbish previous sentence.  Time to get some sleep!

Music: “She’s Actual Size, but She Seems a Lot Bigger to Me”, They Might Be Giants

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“Some clues that will indicate if a child is dyslexic are when they can’t help but to notice that their peers are doing better than they are.”

And

“The poem began with him setting the stage by describing the weather that night, a very rainy, windy, stormy night.”

Let’s look at a kitty instead.  Here is a fine kitty, complete with presentation box:

KittyUnwrapped

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“As with most technical advancements, there was at first a beginning that laid much of the groundwork”

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…but I must say, their bandages have been very good to my wounded knees.  From raw weeping dermis to nice fresh pink skin in under two weeks.

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