"As long as we are not chased from our words we have nothing to fear. As long as our utterances keep their sound we have a voice. As long as our words keep their sense we have a soul." -- Edmond Jabes, from The Book of Yukel, Return to the Book

Friday, May 20, 2016

New Jersey's impoverished cities

My latest at NJ Spotlight is on a new report detailing the costs to cities of concentrated poverty.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Aubade as street art

My poem, "Aubade," which is dedicated to Kathleen Graber and appears in Palisades, Parkways, and Pinelands: An Anthology of Contemporary New Jersey Poets, has been given an amazing visual presentation by my friends at Petite Hound Press.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Note to reporters

Dean Baker, in a spot-on critique of a story in The Washington Post, offers this:
Reporters don't know what Republican politicians think, they just know what they say.
He was calling the paper out for sloppy language, and underscoring something I teach my students -- both my journalism and composition students. We are not mind readers. The best we can do is report -- or, in the case of composition writing, recount -- what is said or written. We don't know what people think or believe, only what they say they think or believe. It may seem a small distinction, but it is important to maintain accuracy.

Monday, April 25, 2016

How to say nothing in a lot of words

Here is Donald Trump's response to the news that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20-bill:
“Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it’s very rough when you take somebody off the bill. Andrew Jackson had a history of tremendous success for the country,” he said. “I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic. I would love to leave Andrew Jackson and see if we can maybe come up with another denomination, maybe we do the $2 bill or we do another bill.” He went on to call the change “pure political correctness.”
Forget whether the Treasury made the right decision -- it did. What I find do striking is Trump's non-specific language, which had been characteristic of his response to every issue:

Jackson had a "great history" and "tremendous success for our country." Tubman is "fantastic" too, but it's "rough" to remove someone from a bill (as if Jackson, dead 170 years, would notice). These are empty words -- a list of vague modifiers disconnected from the historical record or anything else that might be considered concrete.

In the end, Trump attributed it all to his favorite phrase, "political correctness," without bothering to say much of anything. This is the Trump way, of course, to rely on empty language ("we're going to win so much you'll get tired of winning") because he doesn't have much of an actual plan.

It allows him to be anything to anyone and nothing all at once. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Unacelike aces abound in 2016

Matt Harvey's very un-Dark Knight-like start has Mets' fans concerned -- but he's not the only elite pitcher struggling so far this year. Of the 117 pitchers who have thrown at least 15 innings this year, 31 have ERAs above 5.00. Of that 31, five are former Cy Young Award winners and three others have finished in the top-five in the vote within the last three years.

Here they are:

  • Zack Greinke, 1-2, 5.25 ERA
  • Matt Harvey, 0-3, 5.71 ERA
  • R.A. Dickey, 1-2, 6.10 ERA
  • Corey Kluber, 0-3, 6.16 ERA
  • David Price, 2-0, 7.06 ERA
  • Justin Verlander, 1-2, 7.16 ERA
  • Chris Archer, 0-4, 7.32 ERA
  • Adam Wainwright, 0-2, 8.27 ERA
There may be various reasons for this -- Ron Darling has wondered if Harvey pitched enough in spring training to get himself ready to start the season, while pitching coach Dan Warthen says there is a mechanical issue when he pitches from the stretch. I am sure that similar observations being made in Phoenix, Cleveland, Boston, Detroit, etc.

Whatever the reasons, there are a lot of starters not living up to their billing as we move toward the end of April.


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