J. Hillis Miller

Professor Miller was a genial man whose ardent advocacy of the “deconstruction” movement in literary and cultural criticism was notable for his uncommonly graceful prose style. His early book “Poets of Reality” was a revelation to me my first year in grad school at Stanford. In my first scholarly publication, an essay on William Carlos Williams, I awkwardly attempted to imitate his methods. RIP.

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You got to dance with who brung you

A year or two ago a colleague who teaches business classes at my university suggested allowing students – whose term projects focused on opportunities in nations where English was not the predominant tongue – prepare their final reports/portfolios/presentations in Cantonese, Punjabi, Farsi, whatever the case may be. That is, students would create work in the language their intended recipients actually speak (a really good idea!).

I was thinking of these students the other day after reading a CBC article which noted that, starting this fall, “students studying traditional Chinese medicine in B.C., will no longer have the option to take their exams in the Chinese language.” Why? It costs too much to translate these exams into Chinese.

John Yang, chair of the Traditional Chinese Medicine Department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, has criticized this development.

The change is a problem for students who are proficient in Chinese, according to Yang, because the practice is so old and was originally recorded in traditional Chinese. Some nuances have been lost in translation so anyone who can read and understand the original text has an advantage, he said.  

“In the English dictionary, there is no one-to-one translation for every concept,” he told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn. “When there is a question or debate arising, we will always go to the origin of Chinese doctrine or textbook to find an answer, so that’s why it is important to keep the Chinese language in the traditional Chinese medicine profession,” Yang said.

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The mess of thinking

Inaccurate interpretations of a particular data-point can nonetheless provide metaphors that describe a lot.

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Picturing the news

Peter Maass of The Intercept asks a really good question: “Why have Americans seen relatively little imagery of people suffering from Covid-19? While there is a long-running debate over the influence of disturbing images of death and dying — whether they actually move public opinion — the relative paucity of videos and photographs of the pandemic’s victims might help explain why Covid-19 skepticism has thrived as the death toll in America reaches the level of a 9/11 every day.”

The quick answer to Maass’ question is that the Trump administration has been enforcing a very strict interpretation of America’s HIPAA regulations, originally put in place to protect medical patient privacy.

Before letting journalists inside Covid-19 wards, hospitals needed prior permission from not only the specific patients the journalists would interview, but also other patients whose names or identities would be accessible. … The guidelines made it extremely difficult for hospitals to give photographers the opportunity to collect visual evidence of the pandemic’s severity. By tightening the circulation of disturbing images, the guidelines fulfilled, intentionally or not, a key Trump administration goal: keeping public attention away from the death toll, which has surpassed 300,000 souls.

Takeaway quote from a nurse in Seattle: “We’re all experiencing the most difficult working conditions we’ve ever faced. And everybody who is speaking out is doing so to advocate for patients, ultimately. It looks like hospital administrations tend to run to HIPAA for their protection, not so much patient protection.”

The Intercept’s entire discussion is really good.

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Being on paper

One of my favourite publishing ventures is the “Certain Days: The Freedom for Political Prisoners” calendars, “a joint fundraising and educational project between outside organizers in Montreal, Hamilton, New York and Baltimore, with two political prisoners being held in maximum-security prisons: David Gilbert in New York and Xinachtli (s/n Alvaro Luna Hernandez) in Texas. Founding members Herman Bell and Robert Seth Hayes were happily welcomed home from prison in 2018.” As a publication, it is simply beautiful, and the art and writing are marvellous. I purchase a bunch of calendars every year to give out during the holidays.

A publication like this reminds me, an old publisher and editor, how worthwhile it is to print such work on paper, to be able to hold and smell – and to really keep it.

This year’s theme is “A Generation of Support Through the Bars” and features art and writings by Grae Rosa, Herman Bell, Veronza Bowers, David Campbell, Saima Desai, Damon Locks, Tom Manning, Monica Trinidad, Nidal el-Khairy, David Gilbert, Gord Hill (aka Zig Zag), Eric King, Jaan Laaman, Paul Lacombe, Joy Powell, Richard Rivera, Laura Whitehorn, Linda Evans and Susan Rosenberg, Xinachtli and more!

While COVID-19 makes its way around the world, causing massive shut downs, prison officials make measly attempts at controlling the spread to the most vulnerable inside.  Let’s raise the voices of prisoners, now more than ever.

Proceeds from Certain Days 2020 were divided amongst Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association (Palestine), Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP), Civil Liberties Defense Center and the Rosenburg Fund for Children. This year’s proceeds will go to some of the same grassroots groups and more.

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I seem to have come to the point where I no longer recall the exact word but I do recall exactly why only that exact word will do.

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Road to improvement

Published in 1903. Found near Haro and Bidwell, Vancouver.

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Continued enchantment

I’ve lived in Vancouver for almost 25 years and I’ve never, not for one moment, gotten over my luck. Recently, finally, I found an easy way to convey my continued enchantment to people:

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Communicators identifying threats

These are the “ideal changes” we should be looking for in American political journalism going forward, according to No Contest favourite Jay Rosen:

* Defense of democracy seen as basic to the job

* Symmetrical accounts of asymmetrical realities seen as malpractice

* Use of the game schema seen as low quality, downmarket, amateurish, silly

* Bad actors with a history of misinforming the public seen as unsuitable sources

And don’t forget “threat modeling teams.”

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Scholar Strike Canada

Here’s the schedule of events to be broadcast live and then video-archived. And here are some very illuminating resources. My university’s president and my dean both support the scholar strike, as do my teaching colleagues, of course.

Scholar Strike originated in the U.S from a tweet by Dr. Anthea Butler who, inspired by the striking WNBA and NBA players, put out a call for a similar labour action from academics. The Canadian action is aligned with the one in the U.S., in its call for racial justice, an end to anti-Black police violence and it adds a specific focus on anti-Indigenous, colonial violence.

I will be attending numerous sessions. My class-work will be limited to fielding student queries about their upcoming studies as well as about this action.

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