Archive for March, 2017

Self-driving cars

Almost nothing is more personal, in the modern world, than the choices one makes while driving. People hardly recognize how often they improvise behind the wheel, how tickled they are by banners at Target, or by memories fortified driving toward some surprising point.

Saying something nice

This New York Times feature on former Commentary magazine editor Norman Podhoretz reminded me of much I loathed this man back in my English Major undergraduate days at the University of Buffalo. In his essay “The Know-Nothing Bohemians,” Podhoretz had written of my literary heroes Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg that their “worship of primitivism and spontaneity is more than a cover for hostility to intelligence; it arises from a pathetic poverty of feeling as well.”

Indeed, he wrote, they and their friends in the so-called Beat Generation wished to “kill the intellectuals who can talk coherently, kill the people who can sit still for five minutes at a time, kill those incomprehensible characters who are capable of getting seriously involved with a woman, a job, a cause.” What a prick.

I was surprised – dismayed, really – at how the years had changed my opinion of this now very old man. I was a long-time professional editor looking at him as an editor, not a young writer looking at him as some literary critic. Here was a man who attracted a very large roster of superb authors to his magazine. It is hard for me to name an equal from his generation. As an editor with most of his career as one behind him, I now find his achievement astonishing.

My comment for the New York Times: “Norman Podhoretz was a very fine editor indeed if judged by the cast of writers he attracted to the pages of Commentary. It seems even by his own accounting, though, that he was far less successful as a friend.” This measured tone might have nauseated me in my youth.

“I go back to …

… us …”

Kwantlen accolades

From the news release:

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) is a top employer in B.C.—again.

In an annual competition that is widely considered the “Oscars of Employment,” the university has been named a B.C. Top Employer for 2017 for the 10th year in a row. …

Employers are evaluated based on physical workplace, work atmosphere, benefits, employee communications, training and skills development, and community involvement, among other criteria. …

I love my university and am endlessly grateful for my gig there.

A new publication from Miles Basil, MD

Weight Loss and Abdominal Pain Caused by Pancreatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma.”

The closing sentences are close to poetry. Really.

“Strong Claims, Inadequate Evidence”

From Emory University professor Scott Lilienfeld’s recent paper on “microaggressions”:

The microaggression concept has recently galvanized public discussion and spread to numerous college campuses and businesses. I argue that the microaggression research program (MRP) rests on five core premises, namely, that microaggressions (1) are operationalized with sufficient clarity and consensus to afford rigorous scientific investigation; (2) are interpreted negatively by most or all minority group members; (3) reflect implicitly prejudicial and implicitly aggressive motives; (4) can be validly assessed using only respondents’ subjective reports; and (5) exert an adverse impact on recipients’ mental health. A review of the literature reveals negligible support for all five suppositions. … Although the MRP has been fruitful in drawing the field’s attention to subtle forms of prejudice, it is far too underdeveloped on the conceptual and methodological fronts to warrant real-world application. I … call for a moratorium on microaggression training programs and publicly distributed microaggression lists pending research to address the MRP’s scientific limitations.

Columbia University professor Musa Al-Gharbi’s response to Lilienfeld’s paper provides some edifying context.

This is a very contentious topic on campuses, as you can imagine. This New York times story from last fall gives you a good picture.

h/t to C on clarissasblog