Saturday, September 30, 2017

Trump's language deficit

Speaking vs Writing - the two things that linguists and anthropologists point to as hallmarks of our exceptional human capacities for symbolic thought and communication. 
Our abilities to speak and write are our greatest "social technologies" - these two humans capacities allow us to manage the demands of ever more sophisticated lives.  Some evolutionary biologists argue that we developed such a precise and rich language system because we, more than other species, had something to talk about. Sure, other animals, communicate.  Bees can communicate the direction of more honey; and birds can chirp to find a mate; and prairie dogs can contaminate the pack with fear of an oncoming predator. 

But humans - well we do all of it so much better. 

And sometimes, in the heat of the moment, we dis someone in an email or text...then OOPS.  We stop and think, YIKES there it is right there on the screen!  I sent that.  It's there and not going away.  Stupid me.  So glad I didn't put that in an email or a love letter!

This is to say,  for most of us, most of the time, we are sensitive to the basic differences between saying something and putting it down on a page.

Speech - through the air or airwaves - here/ heard and then gone - somewhat ephemeral.
If something stupid or hurtful comes out of my mouth I can do a repair, "What I meant to say was....."   Our tone can soften, or we can change pitch and pace and voila, our sloppy stutter becomes  a self deprecating. "Good, Chris,  try putting the other foot in your mouth now." Or, a softened apology, "I only say this because I love you and I want you to be happy."

And while some of us are far better than others at using speech to negotiate our lives, we all get the job done.

Writing - on the page or screen - preserved/ there to be read and re-read - permanent. Irrefutable.   Written words come back to haunt us more than our spoken ones do.  The very act of writing implies we've had to think about what to write.  And that very thinking process serves as a filter for the thoughts, feelings and the language that will best help us communicate our intent.

And then there is TRUMP SPEAK
On display almost everyday is a native speaker of English who seems not to grasp this basic distinction between ephemeral speech and written language.  

Or perhaps my diagnosis of a language deficit is completely off. 
As a speaker on the election trail and since, you might condemn Trump's speeches as disjointed - delivered somewhat like a standup comedian without any of the self effacing grace of one.  

But he does understand public speaking and the power of simple name calling and repetition - "crooked Hillary," "it will be fantastic", "stupid" and  "loser".

So if it's not a fundamental language awareness deficit - what is it?
Is our SMS infused society made speaking and writing/text essentially equivalent for many people?
Is the written form going to become more monologue - stream of consciousness writing - an accepted form of logoria?

Will Trump come to abandon his twitter account and move to Instagram?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Leaves of Glass: Daguerrotype to IPhone X

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln made by Nicholas H. Shepherd 1846
Author of today's blog post:  
 Emily V., Hunter College

This daguerrotype is the first photograph of the future President Abraham Lincoln, taken in 1846. In this early form of photography, images were produced on a silver coated plate. The images were very fragile and had to be protected with a glass covering. As the process of taking photographs evolved, inventors used, alternately, glass plates and tin plates, being able to produce images on less fragile and less expensive surfaces.  Taking a photo continuously became more accessible and affordable. George Eastman with his company, Kodak, created a camera that required a roll of film - a much more user friendly and portable device, in the year 1888.

 Photo from

By 1900, Kodak came out with a camera aiming to make photography even more affordable, at $1 for the price of a Brownie camera, and $.15 per roll of film.

The first digital camera was introduced in 1991. You can see how large it is – it is NOT what springs to mind when asked today about taking digital photos.

So when I came across a commercial for a new photo service, I thought I had stepped back in time; please take a look at this:

The future of photographic display
Fractures are different from traditional pictures and frames. Instead of printing on paper, we print directly on glass. Instead of separating the picture, frame, and mount, a Fracture combines all three into a beautiful, lasting, final product.

For the full website, please see :

In brief, this service is offering to print your photos onto glass, then ship them to you with a hole in the back and a screw so you can hang it up. 

Interesting, huh?  And what also is of particular interest is the verbiage I am copying here, also on the same webpage:

Do more with your pictures

Taking pictures is great. Printing pictures can be time consuming, overwhelming, and not all that fun. Fracture was founded around a simple idea: there should be a better way to print and display your photos.

What does this mean?  I thought taking pictures on glass was something we were trying to get away from?  I thought printing photos on paper was faster and better?

And in juxtaposition, I also want to point out the latest in user-friendly photography: the iPhone X.

“These are the coolest features of the new iPhone X”

With a completely glassed front and back, this iPhone has upgraded camera capabilities allowing one to take improved selfies and more professional portraits with depth, shading and nuance. And the price: around $1,000.

Has technology really come full circle?  Or is this all the consolidated effort of marketing teams?

Would you pay to have your photos printed on glass and shipped to you? Is this a return to fragility or something else?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Rocket Man-Count war mongering terms in Trump UN speech

OK Class....

Shall we take bets...
How many times in today's "speech" to the UN will President Trump will use the term "Rocket Man".

Or, if not the endearing "RM"  let's see how many cold war, fear mongering, rhetoric-escalating terms he deploys to take nuclear threat discourse to the next level. 

There will be "extra credit" on this impromptu assignment. ✅

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Hurricane Harvey and the Storms to Come

Blog Post Written by Emily V., 
Hunter College, New York

Star Tribune, Steve Sack, December 3, 2015

I recently read Elizabeth Kolbert's Commentary in the New Yorker entitled, Hurricane Harvey and the Storms to Come - about climate change. The comments of President Trump and of various regional representatives  are something I want to closely examine here.
After the damage of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, there was much agitation in the press and in scientific circles.  In obeisance to this agitation, action was taken by the subsequent presidential administration that was an attempt to both diminish this country’s impact on the global weather system, and also to prepare for what may be the new norm, i.e. monster storms.

However, in the current administration, President Trump has made clear his understanding of climate change; he has said it is an “expensive hoax”, and with an indirect speech act, he announced in June that “the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”

Image from “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”, appeared in Business Insider June 2, 2017

Scientists are still extolling the detrimental nature of warmer oceans and their influence on these storms. And accordingly, the financial costs are also extremely high.
In The New Yorker article, President Trump is quoted as saying during his visit to assess the damage from Harvey that he wanted “a recovery effort ‘better than ever before’”. What do you think about his declaration here; is this a speech act?
As the storm was still in progress, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly told Congress he was “planning to eliminate his department’s special envoy for climate change”.  Is this also a speech act, and what else does this tell you about his position, and his connection to the President’s agenda?

Finally, in examining the tweet of Long Island Republican Representative Peter King, when asked about financial support for Texas, he tweeted “I’ll vote 4 Harvey aid”. What do you think about the platform and the informality of this message, and is this a speech act as well? There are members of my family who are, as I type this on Saturday, September 16, attending a fundraiser for Mr. King in Nassau County. Would you think this tweet about aid for Hurricane Harvey might be something used as a fundraising tool? (I plan to ask them if this was mentioned.)

And late breaking news: this was just tweeted from the Wall Street Journal under an hour ago:

Trump administration won't pull out of Paris accord, offers to re-engage in climate deal, EU official says

We have been reading about cognitive dissonance.  What clear examples do you see of that above?

Hurricane Harvey and the Storms to Come: In the lead to the historic flood, Texas Republicans abetted Trum's climate-change delusions.   Elizabeth Kolbert, New Yorker, Sept. 11 2017