The Pepe the Frog Meme Is Probably Not Worth Understanding

image“Life is short, much of Internet communication is more Dada-esque than denotative, and mastering dank memes has an effort-to-payoff ratio that really, truly is not worth it.” –NPR reporter Camila Domonoske, taking a cleansing breath before explaining the Pepe the Frog meme.

Ode to Huckleberry Finn, Dec’d

(Inspired by Emmeline Grangerford, Dec’d.)

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-10-58-01-amGirls, take his cold dead hand and kiss
The knuckle – very thin,
And bid adieu and ballyhoo
Poor Huckleberry Finn.

And was it prowling cannibals
Or adversary’s sin
That spilled the flood of crimson blood
Of Huckleberry Finn?

O hear my sad, sad words of woe
(As I more clement wax)
And mark! His brain was cleft in twain
By yonder guilty axe!

What “trouble t’was to make a book,”
Said Huckleberry Finn.
By reading close his text morose
We find our souls therein.


(Originally submitted as an appendix to a college literature paper, circa 1991. I’ve improved it over the years. –DGJ)

How to Make a Website: Guide to Web Creation, Design & Styling

I am a textual thinker, not a visual thinker. The resources I create for my own students focus on my own strengths and needs as a college English teacher:  the writing, basic conventions, and genres such as instructions and emails, and user-focused areas I’ve picked up out of necessity after watching my students learn to write for the web (there’s nothing in a typical composition class that will help them understand the importance of site navigation or usability testing).

While I have tried my hand at creating graphics to help me teach various concepts (such as the difference between revising and editing, or the difference between active and passive verbs), I have no training in graphic design, so my online resources don’t address that part of new media.

Cartoon portrait of blogger, consultant and entrepreneur Matt Banner.

Matt Banner;

Fortunately, there are good resources that fill the gap, such as Matt Banner’s How to Make a Website: Guide to Web Creation, Design & Styling

Assuming that you already have well-written content and you want to know how to present it, Banner’s page offers tips on choosing a platform (with an emphasis on WordPress), “The Four Pillars of Web Design” (Size, Color/Spacing, Layout/Navigation, and Style), user experience, and a collection of general tips.

While I’ve seen more detailed resources elsewhere, each section in this site contains helpful links to more detailed resources. Total beginners who have never set up a web domain, edited a CSS page, or installed a WordPress theme will likely need more detailed step-by-step instructions (or a patient in-person mentor) to go from zero to webmaster, but the site does boil down some complex issues into an accessible framework.

The neglected history of videogames for the blind

What kind of a “videogame” has no video? Nomenclature aside, this is an interesting exploration of audio-only games.

imagePlaying Real Sound as a sighted player, it’s hard not to be disoriented at first. Its dialogue—better acted than in any game I’ve played—cannot be skipped over or sped up by mashing a button repeatedly. We’re used to visual distinctions between “gameplay” and “cutscene,” where the former requires our active attention and the latter for us to sit back and relax; in Real Sound, the player must hang on every word, always listening for the next chime that indicates that you have to make an immediate decision as to how the story will go. I wasn’t sure what to do with my body at first; whether to close my eyes, look at the blank screen, or vaguely stare into space (I chose the latter). Small sonic details that I never would have noticed in a conventional videogame—like the moment-to-moment interactions between the musical score, the actor’s voices, and the elaborate sound effects—suddenly came together to form an entire world in a way I had never experienced. —Kill Screen

Dear readers: Please stop calling us ‘the media.’ There is no such thing.

When my students refer in passing to “the media,” I know what they mean, but I ask them to be more specific, noting that handwritten notes, carvings on stone tablets, and papier mâché are all examples of “media.” So I agree with this WashPo observation that the term is so general it is meaningless. Not too long ago “the press” was a perfectly well-understood nickname for print journalists. When working as a radio reporter I was trained to avoid terms like “press conference” or “press release,” and instead say “media conference” or “media release,” on the grounds that our operation didn’t use a printing press. So, in my reckless youth it seems I played a small role in generalizing the term “the press” and replacing it, in the public’s mind, with “the media.” Terms like “news media” or “tv journalism” or “broadcast news” or “mainstream media” or “digital journalism” or “magazine reporters” are more specific, but even so they still cover a lot of ground.

Those who work in the media don’t gather in our huddle rooms each morning and light up the teleconference lines with plots to nettle and unsettle you. There is no media in the sense of a conspiracy to tilt perception. | Instead, we are tens of thousands of people making millions of individual decisions about how we perceive the world and how to characterize it. We all don’t agree on how to frame a candidate, an issue or last night’s ballgame. | So even if something on Fox News alarmed or infuriated you, Fox isn’t “the media.” Nor is NBC or MSNBC. Nor The Washington Post, the New York Post, the Denver Post or the Saturday Evening Post. | Lumping these disparate entities under the same single bland label is like describing the denizens of the ocean as “the fish.” It’s true, but effectively meaningless. —Washington Post

STEM Education Is Vital–But Not at the Expense of the Humanities

imagePromoting science and technology education to the exclusion of the humanities may seem like a good idea, but it is deeply misguided. Scientific American has always been an ardent supporter of teaching STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But studying the interaction of genes or engaging in a graduate-level project to develop software for self-driving cars should not edge out majoring in the classics or art history.

The need to teach both music theory and string theory is a necessity for the U.S. economy to continue as the preeminent leader in technological innovation. The unparalleled dynamism of Silicon Valley and Hollywood requires intimate ties that unite what scientist and novelist C. P. Snow called the “two cultures” of the arts and sciences. —Scientific American

A Dance Mom Gets Schooled by a Ballet Mistress Who Can Write

Someone using the handle “Simpcodancer mom” posted to a public email list at my daughter’s ballet school:

Just wondering when the cast list will finally be out. It is late. It was promised last week, and now it is almost October. We pay our fees on time. I teach my kids to always be on time where ever they go, especially dance. We received the email to donate to the school’s fundraiser this week on time. But no cast List. This is a teachable moment to demonstrate that being on time, especially when a promise is involved, is important.

About a half hour later, this response came from the school:


Creative Commons image by Peter Voerman. “Dance Perdormance.”

I understand that waiting for the cast list can be frustrating. Unfortunately for me and very fortunate for our dancers, it is my obsessive need to make every child as happy as possible, provide the most individualized educational experience possible and leave the best memories as possible and that can delay the process. Other factors such as illness, the last minute knowledge of some dancers not returning, staff suggestions all complicate matters. The cast list this season should have been easy but it has not. It has become a bit of a nightmare. Most parents are aware of the quality of our school, the dedication of myself and staff to their children and they fully appreciate the expertise behind everything we do, as well as every sacrifice and decision we make. Acknowledging those facts, they use moments such as these to teach patience, to reiterate that a delay in cast list is an indication of our genuine affection and dedication to our students and getting it as perfect for them as possible. Patience is definitely a virtue and you are correct in that this is a teaching moment.

I sent the list and a request for it to be posted on-line this afternoon but have rescinded that request. A hard copy would have been posted tomorrow at the studio but I’m not certain I can do that now either. It would seem as if I’m bowing to parental bullying and I’m definitely sure that is not the lesson I want to teach so I may have to wait until Monday to ensure the point.

Emailing a private request for the cast list release would have been more appropriate and a more reasonable, well thought out avenue for your frustration. Emailing and appearing to chastise me publically shows a genuine lack of knowledge, appreciation and respect. Emailing using an address we can not identify and failing to sign your email shows a lack of conviction. Failing to understand that it is a relatively easy thing to discover your identity through your IP address is another indication that your action was not thought through. If the lessons you wanted to teach here were your own ignorance, arrogance and cowardice, you’ve succeeded.


Judy Rae Tubbs
Resident Choreographer/Instructor
Laurel Ballet Theater

Headphones, Croutons and Rhetoric

Happy Person Wearing Headphones (unknowingly blocking access to salad bar; to friends): Ha ha!

Me (with crouton tongs in one hand and salad plate in the other; cheerfully): Excuse me.

Happy Person Wearing Headphones (to friends): Ha ha ha!

Me (less cheerfully): Excuse me…

Happy Person Wearing Headphones (to friends) Ha ha ha ha!

Me (a little louder): Excuse me?

Happy Person Wearing Headphones (backing up into my food plate) Ha ha ha ha ha!

Me: Whoa! (Pulling plate out of the way.) Excuse me!

Formerly Happy Person Who Has Just Removed Headphones and Turned Around: (cold glare)

crouton_7059Me: (awkwardly scooping croutons) I was worried you’d bump my salad and get dressing on your back.

Formerly Happy Person Who Is Now Glaring Coldly: It’s cool.

(Later, in my anxiety-fueled imagination.)

Formerly Happy Person Who Is Now Upset: At lunch today, some guy who really needs to chill hated on me for no reason.

Revision: Don’t just wash off your old sedan. Turn it into a pink monster truck or a solar-powered j

Jerz > Writing >  Revision vs Editing

If your writing teacher lets you revise your first draft, don" t just submit a cleaner, less-beat-up version. Instead, take it apart, hold each piece in your hand, and make your second draft a pink monster truck, a time-traveling DeLorean, or a solar-powered jetpack. That"s revision.

If your writing teacher lets you revise your first draft, don’t just submit a cleaner, less-beat-up version of the same old sedan. Instead, take it apart, hold each piece in your hand, and make your second draft a pink monster truck, a time-traveling DeLorean, or a solar-powered jetpack. That’s revision.