Thursday, December 08, 2016

CBU Students Set To Hack the Future on December 10th

For the past two months, students at Christian Brothers University have been working in small groups on the Technology and Human Values Project, which requires them to "devise a merely-possible technological solution to a real-world social, political, or moral problem." Yesterday, five different classes chose the top two projects in their section to represent them this Saturday, when each group will present their projects for the public in the #CBUTechValues competition finals.

For the first half of the semester, students spent a great deal of time and effort reading, learning, analyzing, reflecting upon, and discussing moral theories. That was just the groundwork, the preparation necessary for seriously and critically thinking about the primary subject of our course, “contemporary moral issues.” In the second half of this semester, we focused our attention on our lives qua moral agents who are shaped, influenced, and oftentimes determined or restricted by our interactions with various technologies, as well as the merits and demerits of our (social and political) interactions with each other via various technologies. The Technology and Human Values final project is students' opportunity to put all of that knowledge and reflection to good use.

The philosophical and theoretical work students have done this term, the discoveries they’ve made about the way they value and evaluate their world, its problems, its virtues and vices, is not merely "navel-gazing" work. Philosophy equips us with the skills for honestly and critically evaluating our world, permits us to conceive of a different and better world, and provides us with the tools for figuring out how to make it so. Technology, in different but equally important ways, does the same. As I tell my students when I assign the project:

Not every idea needs a tool, but every tool needs an idea.

The Technology and Human Values Project is students' opportunity to think, critique, imagine, evaluate, collaborate, and innovate in all the ways that their generation is uniquely capable of doing and which they are (unfortunately) so infrequently given the chance to do. They have the ideas and the skills to make the world better than it is. Now, they have invented the techne, the tools, to make that "better world" possible.

I encourage you to join us this Saturday, December 10, from 12-2pm in Spain Auditorium (Buckman Hall) on the campus of Christian Brothers University for the #CBUTechValues competition finals. (Let us know you're coming on the Facebook event page here.) This event is free and open to the public. Winners will be determined by audience vote.

The finalists' technologies will be addressing a number of contemporary moral, political, and social problems, including (but not limited to): illiteracy, campus safety, depression and anxiety, homelessness, educational inequalities, childhood and adolescent obesity, social "disconnection," and the many and varied challenges arising from language barriers. Come see CBU students hack the future this Saturday!

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The Root of Fear is Madness: On Black Mirror's "Playtest"

[NOTE: This is the second in a series of reviews of Black Mirror Season 3. These posts DO include spoilers. Stop reading now if you don't want to know!]

The second episode of Season 3 ("Playtest") is what I imagine many people who have heard about Black Mirror but never actually watched the series would expect the show to be like. "Playtest" is a straightforward horror film and, for that reason, I wanted to turn it off about halfway through.  I hate, hate, HATE horror films. I do not find the experience of being afraid exciting or thrilling or enjoyable in any way whatsoever. In fact, I don't think that anyone enjoys being really afraid. (So, if you say you enjoy haunted houses or roller coasters or bungee jumping, that is evidence enough for me that those things do not truly frighten you.) Real fear paralyzes, incapacitates, terrorizes. It cannot be reasoned with. It is immune to grit or determination or willpower. And it is intensely, radically idiosyncratic.

"Playtest" is, in part, about that idiosyncratic element of what frightens us, something we might call the fundamental own-ness of our fears. The story revolves around a new virtual reality game being beta tested by the eponymously-named company Saito Geimu (a Japanese transliteration for "sight game"). The game immerses you in a too-real experience that is designed to frighten, during which it "learns" the nooks and crannies of your subconscious mind, and then employs the deepest, darkest things it finds there to (literally) dial you up. For the playtester Cooper (Wyatt Russell)-- who isn't really a "gamer," just a dude looking for a side-hustle and some easy cash-- the virtual experience starts out with giant spiders, things-that-go-bump-in-the-night, and apparitions uncannily resembling his childhood bully, but it ends with a terrifying descent down the Escher-esque stairs of madness.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

#ImWithSusan: Finding Friends in the Black Mirror "Nosedive"

[NOTE: This is the first in a series of reviews of Black Mirror Season 3. These posts DO include spoilers. Stop reading now if you don't want to know!]

All of the episodes of Charlie Booker's brilliant sci-fi series Black Mirror take place in a near-distant future, but in the first installment of the newly-released third season ("Nosedive") that future is far more "near" than it is "distant." And it is the uncanny nearness of the "Nosedive" world that makes it both almost-unbearably uncomfortable to watch and deeply, at times painfully, disturbing. And/yet/but, if watched with one's head tilted askance at exactly the right angle, I think, "Nosedive" is perhaps the most potentially hopeful Black Mirror episode so far.

Booker's imagined world in "Nosedive" is somewhat unusual by Black Mirror standards for its lack of "futuristic" technologies. In the "Nosedive"world, realtors can holographically "insert" you into a home you're considering buying to help persuade you the home is a good fit. People have eye-implants that allow them to see important information about others' digital selves projected onto their meatspace selves. The automobiles in"Nosedive" are eco-friendly, battery-powered iCars that you plug in with a USB cable. But, all in all, that's about it as far as the imagined "futuristic" technology goes.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, and the APA's "Code of Conduct"

by Edward Kazarian and Leigh M. Johnson
A little over two years ago, more than 600 philosophers petitioned the American Philosophical Association to “produce a code of conduct and a statement of professional ethics for the academic discipline of Philosophy.” The immediate motivation for the petition was several high-profile cases of sexual misconduct by philosophers, which together amplified what many viewed—rightly, in our estimation—as a widespread and endemic culture of hostility, predation, exploitation, and intimidation within the profession.  Shortly thereafter, in March 2014, we co-authored a piece entitled “Please Do NOT Revise Your Tone,” articulating our concerns about the problematic effects of tone-policing, generally, and about the drafting and institution of a “Code of Conduct” by the APA, specifically.  In that piece, we argued that there was good reason to worry that such a Code would:

1) impose a disproportionate burden of changing their behavior to "fit in" on those who are members of out- (that is, underrepresented or minority) groups within the profession; 2) likely be applied disproportionately against those expressing dissenting views or criticizing colleagues for lapses in judgment or perception; and 3) tend to reinforce or provide opportunities to reiterate the structures of privilege and exclusion already operating within the profession. 

The Executive Board of the APA subsequently decided in favor of producing the document and, earlier this week, published the final version of the discipline’s official “Code of Conduct” here.

Reading that document over, our original worries remain unassuaged and unabated. We are especially concerned now that this quasi-official document—which elaborates a set of norms, but does not include any mechanisms for enforcement, adjudication, or sanction—will inevitably be used at the local (department-, college-, or university) level in unofficial, ad-hoc ways to undermine or sabotage already vulnerable members of the profession. Worse, we worry that this document will provide pretext for attempts to pressure APA members by complaining to their employers that they have in some instance or another behaved ‘unprofessionally.’ We recognize that any law or regulative code as such allows for the possibility of perverse application, but we maintain that the current iteration of this Code of Conduct is particularly susceptible to manipulation for a number of reasons.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Sick Of This Sh*t: On Professional Philosophy's Boiling Frogs

There's an old anecdote about boiling frogs that is often employed by philosophers to explain the sorites paradox. If you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, the story goes, it will immediately sense the heat and the danger, jump out of the pot, and be spared its life.  But if you put a frog into a pot of cold water and only incrementally increase the heat, the frog will not realize it is boiling until it's already too late.

I was reminded of the boiling frog syndrome last night as I watched the 24-hour news cycle shills practically induce their own brain aneurysms attempting to feign shock at Donald Trump's most recently revealed buffoonery. Of course, there is nothing in the least bit surprising about "new" news of Trump's crass misogyny, pathological narcissism, or boundless sense of entitlement. But here they were on my television-- CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the whole lot-- collectively gasping, double-taking, and fanning-themselves like Southern debutantes, exclaiming who could ever believe such a thing?! as if Trump had just donned a post-Labor-Day seersucker suit.  And here we are with them, we American frogs, looking around at our cushy, comfy democratic melting pot and saying, yeah, how DID it got so hot in here all of the sudden?

It didn't get so hot in here all of the sudden.  We've been blissfully basking in increasingly warmer water for a long, long time.

Mirroring the very worst of American politics, my discipline of professional philosophy also experienced a cranking up of the climate-heat this past week, If you have international friends, you are doubtlessly already aware how hard it is to explain the complete sh*t show that the 2016 Presidential election season has become here in the United States. Now, imagine if the phenomenon you were trying to describe included not distant and powerful plutocrats like Trump and Clinton, but your actual friends and colleagues.  And imagine if, instead of being a metaphorical sh*t show, it involved actual feces.

Yes, you read that right.  Actual feces.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Well Actually, This Is How Erasure and Appropriation Happens

Women's voices, ideas, engagements, and critiques are constantly being erased and/or appropriated-- in academia, on the internet, at workplaces of every ilk-- sometimes through slick and malicious moves, but much more often as a consequence of careless inattention.

Also, water is wet.

I was just recently "disappeared" in an essay by my friend Joshua Miller ("Friendly Fire and Fiery Friendship"; also reproduced on Daily Nous here).  Because this is not the first time I've experienced such, and because I want to think that something might be done about the "careless inattention" that so frequently causes it, I will, in the following, walk you through the anatomy of this case.  But first, three important caveats:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 23: Your Favorite Song This Time Last Year

It's funny how quickly pop songs start to sound "old." In order to figure out what I was listening to this time last summer, I'll admit that I had to consult iTunes and a couple of music blogs to see what the top tracks were for June 2015.  In almost every case, my first thought was whaaaa? that seems like AGES ago!, but nah, in every case I was wrong, because it was just one measly trip around the sun ago.

My pick for today is a song that I was 100% obsessed with around this time last year.  In retrospect, I don't think I'd put it in my top 50 Songs of All Time, but it could possibly squeeze its way into the top 200. Ask me again next year and I'll likely have changed my mind.

Before you get all judg-y about my selection, keep in my mind that I was not alone in my Rihanna-love last year.  This track was hotttttttt.

Here's my pick for Day 23, Rihanna's "B*tch Better Have My Money":

Pay me what you owe me.  Don't act like you forgot.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 22: A Song You Wish You Had Written

Ok, at this point-- I'm writing this on June 37-- I'm already six days behind on the 30 Day Song Challenge.  I was just about to give up and call it quits, but then I remembered that I've been doing this for a long time and, even if this year's iteration ends up being the last hurrah, I ought to see it through.  So, I've got a little less than 3 days to catch up and finish.

Hide and watch me do it.

My pick for today is Willie Nelson's "Always on My Mind," first released on his 1982 album of the same title.  It goes without saying, I hope, that Nelson is among the greatest of American singer-songwriters, but God also gifted that man with a very unique kind of warbly voice that somehow manages to caress and expose every bit of human vulnerability in its most rarefied form.  This little ballad of love and regret is one of his best.  Here it is:

Little things I should have said and done.  I just never took the time.

I could throw all of Willie Nelson's song lyrics into a bag, randomly pick out one line, and almost certainly find in my hand a First Principle for Living and Loving.  He's that good.  But "Always On My Mind" is my pick today because I wish I had the courage to be as honest, as vulnerable, as self-critical and as gracious as Willie is in this song.

This, to my mind, is the song that says all the things that everyone, at some point in their lives, need to hear... but which hardly anyone takes the time to say to those who need to hear it.

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 22: A Song You Want Played at Your Wedding

I won't ever get married-- partly because I object to the state institution of marriage, but also because I'm old and ornery and too attached to my own independence now-- so today's prompt is a bit of a strange one to answer. For the record, I love weddings, I love couples who pledge their lives and fidelity to one another, I love cake and flowers and Vitamixes and the chicken dance...I love love.

I just don't love the fundamentally exclusive, overdetermined and state-sanctioned cultural institution of marriage-- which bestows civic and economic rewards, for thoroughly undemocratic reasons entirely unrelated to merit, right or desert, which does so at the expense and to the detriment of more than half our democratic citizenry, which has no governing interest other than the managerial consolidation of private property and the compulsory regularization/normalization of sexual behaviors, familial structures and gender expressions-- and which has now been marginally modified by the highest court in the land to be a slightly-less-exclusive exclusionary institution.


Anyway, in a compossible world where marriage wasn't the horribly unjust institution that it is in this world, if I were forced to choose a song I would like played at my wedding, it would be this one, sung by Otis Redding, "The Glory of Love":

Give a little. Take a little. Let your little heart cry a little. That's the story of, that's the glory of love.

Y'all know what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 21: A Song That Is Best Heard Live

Most of the kinds of music I like-- blues, gospel, country, rock n' roll-- are better heard live.  I don't know if this is true of all genres of music.  I've heard my jazz-loving and classical-loving friends speak of some of their favorite albums as if the recording were absolutely perfect, as if no "live" reproduction could ever do justice to the infinitely and perfectly repeatable production.

I love to hear live music and I try to get out and do so at every opportunity.  That's easy to do in a city like Memphis, where there is live music every night of the week, much of it "free." (I put "free" in scare-quotes because NO ONE should EVER think that musicians in this town work for free. If they're getting paid at all by the clubs, it's a pittance, so do not ignore the call of their tip buckets!)  There's something about the energy of listening to loud, live music in a small space with other people that feeds my soul.

Monday, June 20, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 20: A Song You Listen To When You're Angry

NOTE: I've gotten behind in my posts for the 30 Day Song Challenge, so the next few days are going to be short and sweet, so I can get caught back up.

If I choose to listen to music when I'm angry, more often than not I'm looking for some kind of cathartic release, rather than searching for a way to amp myself up further. Anger is something that ought to be discharged as soon and as nonviolently as possible.

My pick for today is a fairly peppy song, so it might seem like a counterintuitive selection, but the lyrics are where it's at, really.  You held me down, but I got up. Get ready 'cause I've had enough. I see it all, I see it now.
'Cause I am the champion and you're gonna hear me roar.

Here it is,Katy Perry's "Roar":

Sunday, June 19, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 19: A Song That Bar Bands Should Stop Playing

For the most part, bar band songs become "bar band songs" in the first place because they're the sort that people can hear over and over again without tiring of them. So I don't really have a beef with most bar band songs.  I wish that Beale Street bands didn't play "Sweet Home Alabama" so frequently, for what I hope are obvious reasons, and there are a few Elvis songs I could stand to hear less often, but other than those I really don't mind hearing the same stuff over and over.

Since I must choose one, though, I'm going with Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl," which is not one of my favorite songs to begin with, which is played too often and which has that unfortunate la-la-tee-dah-ing at the end that I find super-annoying.  Here it is:

For the record, I really like Van Morrison quite a bit.  "Brown Eyed Girl" is just a little too chipper-cheesy for my tastes, and it's gotten more insufferable over the years. I'd be fine if bar bands just stopped playing it altogether, but since that is unlikely, I suppose it serves as a good excuse to go to the bathroom during a show.

Click here to return to the "anchor page" for #30DaySongChallenge2016 with the full list of this year's picks

Saturday, June 18, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 18: A Song That Every Bar Band Should Know

I'd give roughly 10 to 1 odds that you don't know who that guy is in the picture to the left.

That's Rupert Holmes (born David Goldstein), British composer, singer-songwriter, musician, playwright, and novelist. He won two Tony Awards for his musical Drood and has released no fewer than 16 albums over the course of his lifetime (the most recent in 2005).

For our purposes today, however, Rupert Holmes is notable for penning the super-cheesy but deliciously addictive song that I think every bar band should know. When you're picking among "bar-band cover songs," the very best are always going to be super-cheesy and deliciously addictive in my book, and Holmes' is one of the best.

And, if you like making love at midnight in the dunes of the cape, you're going to loooooove this.

Friday, June 17, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 17: A Song You Hear Often On The Radio

A little more than a year ago, Memphis got a second classic hip-hop radio station when Cumulus switched the format of WKIM from talk radio to "100% Throwback." For the first week or so that WKIM ("The Vibe") was on air, I listened to it nonstop and, since then, it remains one of the pre-set stations programmed into my car radio.  I listen to NPR every morning and evening at home for the news, but I rarely ever listen to the radio anywhere else other than my car, so to pick a song that I "hear often on the radio" means (for me, anyway) that I'm basically picking from the regular WKIM rotation.

Lucky for me, there's a wealth of awesomeness to choose from there.

I'm at the age now where I can be non-ironically nostalgic about "throwback" stuff.  And since the birth of what we now call "classic" hip-hop pretty much coincides with my own entry into the world, stations like WKIM are right up my alley.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 16: A Song You Used To Love But Now Hate

The vault of go-to stories that, in one way or another, capture something of what we understand to be the American experience is both deep and diverse.  There are the Horatio Alger-esque "bootstraps" stories. There are "The New Colossus" stories of immigrants, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. There are the "underdog" stories of athletes and artists, scrappy young Davids who come from behind and, against all odds, with hustle and heart alone, defeat Goliaths. There are a thousand different stories of justice won, justice delayed, and justice denied, each as representative of these United States as the other.

And then there are the one-hit wonders.  A truly American story.

We joke about one-hit wonders, but I imagine it must be an incredibly deflating, demoralizing, and disheartening experience for those poor artists who manage to feel the contours of their dream realized, only to have it slip every so quickly from their grasp.  Pop music and pop music audiences are fickle creatures.  They love you one day, hate you the next, and there is often neither rhyme nor reason to be found in their affections.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 15: The Theme Song To Your Life

It seems like bad juju to pick the theme song to your life before you've finished living it, but oh well.

[*throws salt over shoulder*]

I miss the days when television gave us real theme songs, by which I mean songs with words, not the sonic mood-setters typical of so many popular programs now. (Listen: Breaking Bad, Game of ThronesMad Men)  Maybe everyone thinks this, but I think a very good case can me made for my childhood years being the Golden Age for great TV theme songs. Whatever happened to them, anyway? Remember The Greatest American Hero? The JeffersonsThe Facts of LifeCheersDiff'rent StrokesGimme A BreakThe Brady Bunch?  Theme songs have been around since the beginning of television, of course, but they were really perfected in 70's and 80's television. Then, it seems like people just gave up on them sometime in the late 90's.  Weird.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 14: A Song No One Would Expect You To Love

As I've grown older, I've become far less confident in my ability to correctly predict what other people think. That seems counterintuitive to me, since one would expect that more years of experience-- more interpersonal "data points"-- would make it easier to recognize patterns and improve one's predictive capabilities.  Not so in my experience.  Rather, people just seem more unpredictable, more idiosyncratic, more mysterious.

Today's is a difficult prompt, because it requires me to step outside of myself and try to think about what others think about what I think about music. Others know that I think a lot about music, so what I really have to consider is what others think about my tastes, my prejudices and biases, even my own image of myself as a music-lover. Meta-meta post here, for sure.

Of course, no one who has read my music posts over the years would expect me to love a Celtic song, or death-metal song, or an experimental jazz song, all of which fall within genres of music that I don't like and don't listen to.  I won't be upsetting those expectations today.  And even though there are specific artists/bands within my preferred genres about whom I have made my dislike clear-- Taylor Swift, The Doors, etc-- it would be a stretch to say that no one would expect me to love at least one of their songs.

Monday, June 13, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 13: A Song That Is A Guilty Pleasure

Oh man, seriously, I love ABBA soooooo much. I once said that if I were ever to get a tattoo, I would have "Super Trouper" tattooed on my shoulder. For the record, no tats here. My skin remains as clean as the driven snow. I kind of wish I did feel guilty about my ridiculously unrestrained ABBA fandom, but I don't. ABBA was not only one of the most iconic bands of the disco era, but also one of the best.

[Insert very awkward break here.]

I began writing this post a couple of days ago and, when I came back to finish it, the world had changed.

Wikipedia describes "disco" as a musical genre that "had its roots in clubs that catered to African-American, gay, psychedelic and other communities" in NYC and Philly in the late 60's and early 70's. I think a lot of people make fun of disco, or count disco as a "guilty" pleasure, in part because of its association with queer people and queer places.  But disco remains, and persists, as one of the most joyous, most exuberant, most life- and love-affirming musical genres ever.  I'm reminded of this on what is a tragically sad day today.  Early yesterday morning, more than a hundred people were wounded or killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando, the worst mass shooting in United States history. No doubt they were dancing together, living together,loving together, laughing together, and listening to disco together at some point that night, before their joy was transformed into a nightmare for all of us.  The pulse of LGBTQ nightlife has always been 120 beats per minute.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 12: A Song From A Band You Hate

I don't actually "hate" a lot of bands, mostly because I don't really listen to bands that I don't like long enough to log the emotional time it takes to generate real hatred. For today's 30 Day Song Challenge selection, I was going to pick a song by Creed... but then I figured everyone with any kind of musical taste at all hates Creed, so what's the point? So instead I'm picking a band that I've actually put some effort into disliking: The Doors.

Why it is exactly that I dislike The Doors so much, and Jim Morrison in particular, is kind of a mystery even to me. In general, I'm a fan of a lot of music that is very much like theirs. I like classic rock-n-roll and, when I'm listening with my most unbiased and sympathetic ears, I can hear in The Doors' sound a lot of what I like in some of my favorite bands. There's a little bit of The Who sound, a little bit of The Velvet Underground, a little bit of Cream, and I like all of those bands. So what is it that just turns me off to The Doors?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 11: A Song From Your Favorite Band

My favorite band, The Rolling Stones, has probably appeared more often than any other band or artist in my 30 Day Song Challenge picks over the last several years. Their music sits right in the center of my sweet spot.  It's great "pop,"of course,  but it's messy, sloppy, lazy even. All rock n' roll is formulaic, but the Stones execute that formula like they're always a little high or a little hungover (which they were). There's something about their sound that is always a tad under-practiced and un-polished, with a close-is-good-enough attitude that falls just behind the beat. And I can hear distinctly in the Stones' music all of the ingredients that combined to make the mish-mash genre that we call rock n' roll today: country, blues, jazz, gospel, folk.

Nothing in the world grooves like Keith Richards' guitar lick on "Beast of Burden." That song is not my pick today, but it is the epitome of the Stones' sound and the Stones' feelJagger asks: Am I hard enough? Am I rough enough? Am I rich enough? In love enough? Of course, the answer is "yes, yes, yes, yes" for the Stones, just as it is for most rock n' rollers. The difference, I think, is that everything about the Stones' music suggests that they need to ask. What I love about the Stones, unlike The Beatles, is that they always sound like the wrong side of the tracks: the speakeasy, the dive bar, the juke joint, the jailhouse. They still, and always, got to scrape that sh*t right off their shoes. That's what rock n' roll is, in my book. If it ain't got something messy to scrape off, then... well, it's just too pretty.

Friday, June 10, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 10: A Song That Helps You Fall Asleep

I don't usually listen to music when I'm trying to sleep, mostly because I find it difficult to not actively listen. At the same time, I absolutely cannot abide total silence. When I'm in my office, I always have earbuds in. When I'm at home or in my car, there is always something playing. And so, against all expert medical advice, I tend to sleep with the television on.  (Not that anyone asked, but the TV show that helps me fall asleep is "30 Rock.")

Paying attention or not paying attention to TV feels more like a choice to me than paying attention (or not) to music.  In fact, I often come home from work at the end of the day, sit down on the couch, and "watch" television for a while just to unwind and re-center myself.  Most times, I forget during the commercial breaks what it is that I am watching. I've explained it like this: I'm not really "watching" TV so much as the TV is just occupying my face while I sort out my thoughts from the day.

Those idiosyncrasies aside, I take it that what today's prompt is looking for is a song that is relaxing, de-stressing, capable of easing and soothing and maybe even lulling.  And I know just the song for that.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 9: A Song That Makes You Want To Dance

Every person should have a song that makes them involuntarily raise up out of their chair and shout to the entire world "This. Is. My. Sooonnnggg!" whenever somebody punches its magic numbers into a jukebox. There's nothing quite like that feeling of your body beginning to move on its own-- foot tapping, hips swaying, head bobbing, shoulders scrunching up and then dropping back down to the beat, in sync with the groove-- as if your mortal coils were being compelled by the mathematical order and beauty of Nature herself to make itself known as a living, breathing, animate thing.

Every person should have a song that not only makes them want to dance, but to actually dance.

Better still, every person should have a song that makes them want to get up and act a fool.  Dancing is a skill and an art form, of course, but there isn't now and never has been a rule that requires that you be a good dancer in order to dance. In fact, I love to see people who "can't dance" throw caution to the wind and cut a rug anyway.  There's just a simple, beautiful, and immensely contagious joy in that.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 8: A Song You Know All The Words To

I don't really consider it a particular accomplishment to know all the words to a song. In fact, I'd happily give up some of the space currently being used in my brain as song-lyric storage if I could consistently remember how to spell avocado or where I left my keys. The truth is that I know all the words to probably thousands of songs at this point in my life, not to mention also television themes, commercial jingles, and entire musicals.  I could sing all the parts of Pirates of PenzanceJesus Christ Superstar, Rent, et al by myself without missing a word. Oh, and pretty much the entire ABBA corpus as well.

There aren't many thing funnier than misheard or misremembered lyrics, though.  If you haven't done so already, check out some of the "misheard songs" videos on YouTube, especially this one. Thinking about those common mistakes motivated me to pick a song today that I not only know all the words to, but that I also think has more-difficult-than-most lyrics to hear, to understand, and to remember.

Lyrics like: Music loud and women warm, I've been kicked around since I've been born.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 7: A Song You Never Tire of Hearing

I have a terrible habit of taking songs that I love and putting them in regular rotation on my iPod, or using them as the ringtone (or worse, the wake-up alarm tone) on my phone, and it never fails that, over time, I grow very very sick of them.  This is a worse offense than tiring of a good song because it's overplayed on the radio, because in this instance the wrong (and the loss) is self-inflicted.

I've tried to switch out my ringtones and alarm tones before I tire of them over the last several years... but that's the thing, isn't it?  There's just no determining in advance exactly when that one time you hear a song is going to be the time that you realize you've worn it out.

All that is to say that I doubt there is a song that I think it would be impossible to tire of hearing, but some definitely have more resilience than others.

Monday, June 06, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 6: A Song That Reminds You of Home

Instead of choosing a song that reminds me of Memphis, I've decided instead to pick a song that reminds me of my family home.  In particular, this song reminds me of waking up on Sunday mornings and getting ready for church in my childhood and young-adult years.

Mine has always been a church-going family. In fact, my father was a preacher for some time in my youth and so I was, and I think I will always remain, a PK. We were Nazarenes, a Protestant Christian denomination on the holiness side of the 19thC Wesleyan realignment. On the positive side, that meant I grew up in a tight-knit congregation of believers in grace, in the power of spiritual healing, and around a lot of amazing music, On the considerably less-positive side, that meant I grew up in a very socially- and politically-conservative world where the "wages of sin" were never metaphorical.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 5: A Song That Reminds You of Someone

Before I reveal my pick for a "song that reminds me of someone," let me say a little bit about the someone in advance. My "someone" is not just one of the best best friends in the whole wild world, not just any grossly-underappreciated poet and philosopher, not just any garden variety wunderkind, not just any old holy-ish-that-guy-is-freakishly-special sort of guy, but a very special sort of all of the above.

For the record, I'm talking about the one and only Ammon (Ra) Allred, aka, "Ideas Man, Phd." author of the one and only blog that I've ever cried real tears over the demise of and submitted heartfelt petitions for the resurrection of, "The Mostly Moribund Sylings of Ideas Man, PhD." Ammon is the only living writer who I wish I had the luxury of interacting with every day, which I do, but can you wish to have more than what is reasonably permitted for a non-spouse?

For anyone who does not know him, because those who do know him will no doubt take this as an axiom, Ammon is nothing short of a genius. Insert all the 19th and 20thC critiques of the cult of genius here, sign me up for all of them, and then register my exception for Ammon. Q.E.D.

When you are lucky enough to know someone like Ammon, and when you're given a #30DayChallenge prompt like today's, here's the quandary: how does one capture in song the genius of a genius?

Saturday, June 04, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 4: A Song That Makes You Sad

As I've said many times before on this blog, the four essential ingredients of a great song (in my estimation) are three chords and a sad story.  I think I've always had a particular affection for sad songs, one that has only grown over the years, and my guess is that if I made a top-100 list of my Favorite Songs of All Time, a good 85% of them would qualify as bona fide heartbreakers.

In fact, I consider myself a connoisseur of sad songs, which may be a strange claim since, technically speaking, "sad songs" is not a "genre." There are, of course, generic sonic and narrative threads that can be traced throughout the majority of sad songs, especially in popular music.  But there are also many distinct and identifiable variations-- whole categories of narrative flavor, emotional bouquet, psychological nuance, affective subtlety, and discrete gradations of need and of desire--  to be found in sad songs. When you spend a lot of time listening closely to sad songs, as I have, you come to develop a palate for those differences, as the sommelier has for wine or the charcutier has for meat.

Sad songs are my meat and wine, to be sure.

Friday, June 03, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 3: A Song That Makes You Happy

For today's pick, I'm returning home to Soulsville, to draw from one of our deepest cultural and musical wells: Stax. The Stax "sound" is the sound that I most closely identify with Memphis, my home, and even the saddest of songs from the Stax vault has always possessed the power to cheer me up. Those horns, that driving rhythm section, that B3 organ, those stories of piety and drunkenness, of romance and infidelity, of justice and injustice, of hopes cautiously cultivated and cruelly shattered: these are the ingredients of Memphis soul music.  And the Stax studio-- an old converted movie theater with sloped floors and an idiosyncratic, practically unreproducible, almost mystical echoey effect-- was the tabernacle of the Memphis sound, a portal to transcendental sonic ratios that structure Nature herself, the earthly dwelling-place of something divine.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 2: Your Least Favorite Song

First, see yesterday's post for my caveat about picking "favorite" and "least favorite" songs.

The category "least favorite song" is a weird one, since it presumes there is something at least minimally favorable about the pick. It needs to be a song that is not so awful that you actively avoid hearing it, but still awful enough that, when you do hear it, you note to yourself that you probably should avoid it next time. There are entire genres of music that I don't like and don't voluntarily listen to--experimental jazz, death metal, most jam-bandy stuff, any of that godforsaken Celtic noise that Fiona Ritchie punishes us with every week on The Thistle and Shamrock, just to name a few-- so it's hard for any song in those genres to earn enough of my time and attention to rise to the level of a "least favorite." For similar reasons, I didn't want to pick any of the widely-panned, universally-reviled, epically terrible songs (like this one) as my choice for today. We're not just shooting fish in barrels here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 1: Your Favorite Song

As I've done for the last several years, I'll be posting once a day throughout the month of June for the #30DaySongChallenge. (Here is the link to the "anchor" page for this year's iteration of the Challenge where you can keep up with my daily picks.) There is a prompt for each day, and today's prompt is "Your Favorite Song."

I'll begin with a caveat: I don't have a Favorite Song of All Time anymore.  It used to be the case that when someone asked me what my "favorite" song was, I could say with relative confidence that it was The Rolling Stones' "Beast of Burden"-- and that definitely remains among my favorites-- but I no longer think of it as having a singularly privileged status among my many other favorites. As I've gotten older, I've come to think of the "favorite" song designation a little like the "best" friend designation. Songs, like friends, have situation-specific virtues.

My pick for today, my favorite song right now, is Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" (written and recorded in 1980 for the side-splittingly funny and not-so-subversively feminist film of the same name). Dolly Parton has always been a idol of mine, partly for her gifted-by-God voice and incredible songwriting ability, but more so for her perfection of a uniquely Tennessean flavor of sass. Dolly says "bless your heart," and you understand full well that what she means is "eat sh*t and die," but you just can't help but be besotted anyway.

Friday, May 27, 2016

"Trial by Internet" and the Presumption of Innocence

Only a couple of weeks ago, I noted on this blog (in "Philosophy's Gatekeepers") that it had been 190 days since the last major breaking-news story about sexual harassment or assault in professional Philosophy. That was a noteworthy fact,

And then, last Friday, the Thomas Pogge story broke.

I'll just direct readers to the news coverage already out there on the Pogge scandal (here, here, here, and here) to learn the details of it. This post is not about Pogge.  I will not (directly) address the specific allegations against Pogge here. Rather, I want to look at the assumptions at work in (and implications of) one particular passage in Pogge's "Response to the Allegations by Fernanda Lopez Aguilar," in which Pogge cautions against what he calls "trial by Internet."

Thursday, May 26, 2016

#30DaySongChallenge 2016

Each summer, I participate in the #30DaySongChallenge. As regular readers of this blog already know, what that entails is my posting a song in response to a daily prompt for each of the 30 days of June, accompanied with some (long or short) post that accounts for why I chose that song for that day's prompt.  June 1 is next Wednesday, so this year's challenge is just around the corner!

This year, I've decided to return to the the "original" list of #30DaySongChallenge prompts, copied below. I've experimented with several iterations of that prompt-list over the last few years and none of them have worked out to be as generative and satisfying as the original list, so back to the basics it is. You know what they say: if it ain't broke....

As I've done in the past, I will post a link to my picks each day on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. And, also as I've done in the past, I invite everyone to play along. You don't have to write an explanation of your picks (like I will) and you don't need a blog (like this one) to participate.  You can just add your pick in the comments here each day, or you can post your pick on your own Facebook or Twitter feeds.

If you're interested, you can see my selections for the previous years by clicking on the following links:
2011 #30DaySongChallenge
2013 #30DaySongChallenge
2014 #30DaySongChallenge
2015 #30DaySongChallenge

What follows is the #30DaySongChallenge prompt-list for June 2016 that I will be using.  I invite all of you with blogs, Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter to join me in posting one song per day in response to the following prompts throughout the month of June. As in previous years, I'll use this page as an "anchor" page for my #30DaySongChallenge, which means that I will continually update this list with a link to my pick for each day as the month progresses.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Twitter: Now With More Characters, Less Character

Twitter has changed a lot over the last few years, but until recently there was one inviolable rule to which all users were obliged: tweets must be limited to 140 characters or less. Because a computer "character" is a unit of information that roughly corresponds to a grapheme-- letter, number, punctuation mark, or whitespace-- the challenge of saying what one means in 140 characters or less is colossal.  So, Twitter users adapted their communications to their medium, producing a number of compressions, modifications, mutations, and (some would say) perversions of language that must be genuinely fascinating to linguists, curious and strange (but eminently useful) to the rest of us.

.The new changes that Twitter announced today are, basically, "workarounds" for the longstanding 140-characters-or-less limit.  Twitter says that it's still maintaining that rule, but their announced changes allow for at least two significant exemptions to what counts as "included" in that 140 count.  First, in both tweets and replies, @names will no longer count and, second, media attachments won't be counted as used characters.  As regular Twitter users know, both those exemptions make a huge difference.

I, for one, am sad to see these changes, The three great virtues of Twitter, to my mind, have always been (1) hashtags, (2) real-time access to developing news and events, and (3) the very unique character of wit and insight produced by the requirement to be concise.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

"Grace and Frankie" and the Right to Die

There are so many things about Netflix's original comedy series Grace and Frankie (now in its second season) to recommend it, not least of which is its pitch-perfect gallows humor.  Orbiting around the decidedly 21st century lives of four septuagenarians-- the eponymous Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) and their now ex-husbands, Saul (Sam Waterston) and Robert (Martin Sheen), who came out as gay men, divorced their wives, and married each other very late in life-- Grace and Frankie never has to reach to far for a joke, whether of the garden-variety old folks' ilk (Viagra jokes, menopause jokes, hip replacement jokes, old people doing technology jokes) or the more story-specific sort (infidelity jokes, divorce jokes, coming out of the closet jokes). For a show with all the trappings of a situation comedy, Grace and Frankie is anything but formulaic. Its humor is brutally honest, impressively thoughtful, shockingly politically progressive, equal parts probative and revelatory. And, for a series that draws the bulk of its subject matter from trials and tribulations that attend only those very near the end of life, it is also surprisingly, refreshingly smart and tender-hearted.

Those last two merits are perhaps nowhere more evident than in one of the sub-plots that emerges near the conclusion of Season 2, focusing on Babe (played the inimitable Estelle Parsons), who has decided to relinquish her "fight" with cancer and has enlisted her old friends, Grace and Frankie, to assist her suicide. The show's writers never accord Babe's story anything other than subplot status. And that decision is a credit to the show.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Philosophy's Gatekeepers

Yesterday's piece by Jay Garfield and Bryan Van Norden's in NYT's The Stone ("If Philosophy Won't Diversify, Let's Call It What It Really Is") has already generated some of the most interesting online discussion about the discipline and profession of Philosophy that I've seen since our last salacious exposé. (What are we at now, philosophers? 190 days since the last major breaking-news story about sexual harassment or assault in our discipline?  That must be a record!) Anyway, Garfield and Van Norden's central thesis is that what gets called "philosophy" in the United States is, in fact, an "area study" with a decidedly limited Euro-American focus.  If departments are going to continue only teaching courses in what Garfield and Van Norden call "Western" philosophy, they argue that we ought rename those departments in a manner that is more descriptively accurate. Garfield and Van Norden recommend "Department(s) of European and American Philosophy" and, in doing so, imply a number of complicated presumptions about philosophy, about "Western" philosophy, and about what counts as better or worse ways to "diversify" the discipline.

There are a number of excellent critical engagements with Garfield and Van Norden's piece already out there in cyberspace --see in particular the response essays by John Drabinski ("Diversity, Neutrality, Philosophy"), Eric Schliesser ("On the Very Idea of Non-Western Philosophy"), and Justin Smith ("Garfield and Van Norden on 'Non-European' Philosophy")-- so what follows is just a few passing thoughts on this very interesting discussion.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Not Every Idea Needs a Tool, But Every Tool Needs an Idea

Last semester, I conducted a test-run on a new assignment I had devised for my courses-- the "Technology and Human Values" project-- and I was, quite frankly, floored by the work that students did for it. The basic assignment is for students to work in groups of four or fewer to devise a merely-possible technological solution to a real-world "value-laden" (social, political, or moral) problem. Each group is required give a 50-minute presentation of their project and each individual group member must write a 2-page analysis of the project. After last semester's experiment, I made a few minor adjustments to the Technology and Human Values Project assignment and, this semester, I unleashed it on all three sections of my Contemporary Moral Issues classes (which is the gen-ed requirement, intro-level Ethics course at my home institution, Christian Brothers University.) And, again, I have been absolutely astonished at the sophistication, innovation, and genuine thoughtfulness of students' work this semester.

So, I thought I'd share the details of this assignment for anyone out there interested in mixing things up a bit in their classrooms.  Consider this Open-Source pedagogy.  If you like this idea, feel free to take it and use it. If you want to tweak it, no problem. (But please do send me your suggestions for improvement!)  I'm only a couple of terms into using this assignment, but it has already had a major impact on my courses, so for whatever it's worth, I highly recommend giving it a try,

[NOTE: This is a long post, most of which includes details of the actual assignment.  If you want to see examples of the best of last year's student projects, here are the 2015 Standout Projects.  If you want to skip all the hullabaloo and just get to examples of this year's best projects, just scroll on down until you see the "2016 Standout Projects" section waaayyyy below.. If you want to download a copy of my "Technology and Human Values Final Project" explanation and instructions to read later, just click here. For the rest of you dear, patient folks, what immediately follows is the blow-by-blow account of this assignment.]

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Reading Amoris Laetitia, Part 2: The Introduction

I'll just assume that many non-Catholics, like myself, have absolutely no idea what authority Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia exerts (or exhorts) as a "Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation." So, first, a primer on Papal texts.

An apostolic exhortation is but one of many different types of communications from the Pope to the community of clerics and laypersons that constitute the Catholic Church.  It doe not define Church doctrine, so it ranks lower in Church authority than a papal encyclical.  An Apostolic Exhortation is meant to encourage the Catholic community (broadly conceived) to undertake some attitude, disposition, or activity. (If you're familiar with Paul the Apostle's epistles-- to the Romans, to the Corinthians, to the Philippians, to the Ephesians, to the Galatians, etc-- you should think of Pope Francis'  most recent Apostolic Exhortation in the same vein.) Pope Francis has so far issued only two encyclicals in his time as successor to St. Peter, one on climate change (Laudato Si': "On Care For Our Common Home") and one on charity and hope (Lumen Fidei: "The Light of Faith"). So, to begin, we should take into serious consideration the fact that Pope Francis opted to issue Amoris Laetitia as an Apostolic Exhortation, an encouragement to action or disposition, instead of a Papal Encyclical, which is second in authority only to an Apostolic Constitution (constittuo apistolica), the highest possible level of decree issued by a Pope.

Reading Amoris Laetitia, Part 1

Earlier this week, I finished reading the recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis entitled Amoris Laetitia ("The Joy of Love"). Subsequently, on various news outlets and social media, I have seen a number of so-called "summaries" of Amoria Laetitia that can at best be described as grossly inadequate and ungenerous readings of it and, at worst, as fairly convincing evidence that Pope Francis' text was not read in its entirety (or, more likely, not read at all) by the authors attempting to summarize its content.  Amoris Laetitia is a long text-- roughly 300 pages-- but it is not what I would call a "difficult" text. (As a Philosophy professor, I concede in advance that I may not be the best judge of what counts as a "difficult" text.)  I think it will be clear to any reader that Pope Francis intended for Amoris Laetitia to be accessible/understandable to both Catholic and non-Catholic laity. As a member of the non-Catholic laity, I think he was largely successful in that endeavor.

The last time I found myself so genuinely befuddled by the many and varied misreadings of a non-philosophical text was shortly after the release of the 9/11 Commission Report, which I also suspect most "reviewers" did not actually read in its entirety. So, this time I've decided to make some effort to present my own summary of the text in question.

First, let me just note that if you are significantly or materially (or spiritually) invested in the content of Amoris Laetitia, you should read it yourself. (You can download the entire text here.)  If you don't want to do that, for whatever reason, you can follow this thread of my readings of it over the course of the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Campuses Are Not Sovereign Nation-States

The photo to your left is of a sock-monkey, hung by a noose from one of the windows on the campus of Rhodes College this week. It should go without saying, I hope, that not only is the sock-monkey itself a manifestly racist symbol (echoing the colonialist project of comparing blacks to apes in order to justify their exploitation and repeating many of the stereotypes of blackface minstrelsy), but hanging the monkey by a noose is also an obvious symbolic reference to the long and terroristic history of anti-black lynchings in the United States.

Rhodes' sock-monkey-lynching came on the heels of several reported incidents of sexual assault on campus. I don't know how many incidents or the details of those reports, but it was enough to motivate students and sympathetic faculty to organize a forum last week to discuss the growing and pervasive problem of sexual violence on Rhodes' campus, which I came to know about through multiple Facebook postings.  For the record, the problem of increasing and increasingly-unaddressed sexual violence is not a "new" problem at Rhodes College. Around this time last year, statistics showed that Rhodes had one of the highest numbers of reported on-campus rapes in the state of Tennessee.  Those statistics only count "reported" cases.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

It's Time To Get Rid of Formatting Guidelines for Academic Journals

This morning, I was reading an engaging and superbly well-written book that I've been asked to review for philoSOPHIA and found myself, in spite of its merits, grumbling aloud about the very experience of reading it.  Why? One word:


I truly hate the maddening inconvenience of endnotes. All those unnecessary interruptions, all that flipping back and forth... who ever thought this was a good way to arrange a text? Endnotes are like the brussel sprouts of formatting. I'm sure there are people out there who like them, but those people are in the minority, and the reasons for their affection are as mysterious to me as endnotes are irritating.

There are plenty of things to complain about in academic writing-- obscurantism, clunky prose, solipsistic indulgence, the internment of otherwise meaningful insights in maximum-security jargon camps--  but none of them, to my mind, are as exasperating as our continued fealty to outdated, impractical and obstructionist formatting guidelines. The differences between citation styles (APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, IEEE) are at once massive and insignificant.  Given that they all aim at accomplishing the same basic function, i.e., providing a map for the reader to travel from reference to source, one would think that allegiance to any particular citation route is a waste of time. The point is-- should be-- that the reader can get where she needs to go, no more, no less. Many paths to the same summit and all that.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Lone Wolves, Together: On Trump's Curious Farrago

Like many people, I've found myself referring to "Trump supporters" in the last several weeks as a conceptually coherent, identifiable category of voters/citizens and, correspondingly, referring to the things "they" do as the actions of that collective. And every single time, I feel the words slipping, grinding, and catching, as if the very transmission system of my thought were breaking down.

What we know of the tens of thousands who are attending Trump's campaign rallies, not to mention the millions who have already made their way to the polls to cast a primary vote for him, is a lot less than we think we do. In the left-leaning echo-chamber that is my world, people speak of Trump supporters as a homogenous mass of white (read: racist), conservative (read: hawkish and angry), provincial (read: xenophobic), working class (read: poorly educated) men (read: sexist).  But that is a reductive, cartoonish rendering of what is, in reality, a far more disparate and sundry group of citizens. As Trump himself noted after his landslide win in the Nevada caucuses, "We won the evangelicals.  We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated." (He loves the poorly educated!) And that wasn't even close to an exhaustive list of the sorts of people for whom his rhetoric, his personality, if not also his platform resonate deeply. Even those for whom Trump's trumpeting has no meaningful resonance, there are other draws. A recent study by Mercury Analytics research firm found that nearly 20% of Democrats would switch parties and vote for Trump if he ran against Secretary Clinton in the general election.

"Trump supporters" is not a conceptually coherent category. It's a farrago.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


I can't quite remember exactly when email became such a nuisance in my life, but it must have been a long time ago now since I can barely remember it not being a nuisance anymore.  I think I got my first (AOL) email address in 1994.  Then, the familiar modem-screeching and you've got mail! alert were the soundtrack to a new life, a new Digital Age, about which hardly anyone understood very much. Today, of course, we take constant connection (and the constant surveillance that comes along with it) to be an indisputable (even if not "natural) fact of the human condition. We parse increasingly fine distinctions between our meatspace selves and our digital personae. We carry around instant access to the equivalent of a million Libraries of Alexandria in our pockets, or at least those of us who are "connected" do. And those of us who are connected find it almost impossible to disconnect.

I can still not answer my phone, of course, but refusing to take a call these days doesn't accomplish the same thing that it did in my pre-digital life. Because of caller ID, the caller always knows that I know s/he called.  Because of voicemail, s/he can still communicate with me, and s/he can still maintain a reasonable expectation for an acknowledgment or reply. The same goes for the relationship between snail mail and email.  I open snail mail even less often than I answer my phone, and it's relatively easy to just throw away that unopened mail once a day.  Not so with email.  Spam-filter all you want, but you still can't get away from maddeningly regular accumulation of emails that maddeningly insist on acknowledgment or reply.

Monday, February 15, 2016


I got behind a bit on this #BloggingEveryDayFebruary project, so I'm playing catch up right now.  If I'm being completely honest, I knew this would happen at some point during the month. Blogging every day is hard. It doesn't take a lot of time to write a post each day, but it takes a lot of time to think about writing a post each day in advance. I'm busy. Things come up. Et cetera. Et cetera.

It would be easier to say ah well, I tried, and just let it go. And I definitely considered quitting after the second "missed" day. There are no stakes here, really, if I finish or don't, but I really want to try to see this through to the end. I may even especially want to see it through to the end because there are no stakes.

Everyone fumbles.  Sometimes you just can't "find the handle on the ball," as my dad used to say. The game goes on.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


As a general rule, I'm not a fan of the contemporary obsession with gerunding (#seewhatIdidthere), i.e., turning words that were perfectly fine being nouns, perfectly fine accepting the assistance of helping verbs to make sense of some phenomenon, into stand-alone verbs themselves. My allergy to this practice is, for the most part, a consequence of countless, maddening hours spent experiencing first-hand the frequency (and sloppiness) with which nouns are gerund-ed in academic-assessment-speak (see: tasking) and business-speak (see: leveraging).. My suspicion is that there is a deep, unacknowledged, and fundamentally utilitarian impulse at work in this tendency, which subordinates being to doing, and which would explain its popularity in academia and business. At any rate, in neither case is anything substantially meaningful added to the gerunding of so many poor, defenseless, perfectly and independently functional nouns, in my view.