Welcome to www.comprofessor.com a.k.a. Lynch Coaching: Media and Communication Prof's News and Views from Art Lynch. This blog exists to stimulate critical thinking, provide information on communication and media, stimulate discussion and share ideas. For additional media and other news see also sagactoronline.com. Thank you and tell your friends. - Art Lynch
Emily Musette Hays performs in the 2012
Poetry Out Loud finals in Washington, D.C. The U.S. competition served
as a model for the U.K.'s Poetry By Heart contest.
James Kegley/The Poetry Foundation
When the Internet offers a superabundance of material to read,
watch, listen to and play, it's easy to skim over text and half-listen
to broadcasts. But the British government is inviting schoolchildren to
put down their cellphones, turn off their news feeds and spend a long
time lingering over a poem — so long that they learn it by heart.
The United Kingdom's Department for Education is funding a nationwide poetry-reciting contest called Poetry By Heart, similar in structure to Poetry Out Loud
in the U.S. and other poetry competitions in Canada and Ireland. The
contest, at the county level, requires students to memorize two poems
from a list of 130 choices and recite the poems by heart in a series of
English poet Jean Sprackland helped select the
poems at the heart of the contest. She joins NPR's Scott Simon to
discuss the pleasures of poetry memorization.
On learning by heart, not by rote
I suppose there's a great difference between learning by heart and the
old-fashioned, rather dusty phrase 'learning by rote.' So there's a
thought that if you learn by heart it means you take the poem right into
yourself, it becomes part of you. And it remains with you, probably for
the rest of your life. I think a lot of us can remember bits of poetry
that we learned when we were very young. So it's something that lives
with you forever."
On selecting the poems for Poetry By Heart
wanted to represent a great variety, a great richness of different
sorts of poems in there. So it starts — the earliest poem is a
14th-century poem called 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,' by an
anonymous poet, and then we go right up to the present day. ... We
wanted to build a lot of variety into there so that young people could
choose something to memorize and read aloud that appealed to them and
that really was exciting and enjoyable for them to engage with. And we
chose everything with that in mind, with memorizing and speaking aloud
in mind. But as you can imagine, it was a terrifically difficult set of
decisions to make because with anything like this there are always many,
many more poems that you would like to include. And this is just for
the first year, so we're hoping that the selection will grow and change
as the competition continues in future years."
On a poem she learned by heart
"One of the first poems that I began to learn was [John] Keat's 'Ode to a Nightingale,'
which of course I know as an adult is one of the great English Romantic
poems and is full of all this stuff about the ephemeral nature of love
and youth and life. But I think probably as a 10- or 11-year-old I
didn't know that at all. I just loved the sound of the words, and the
sound of the words held meaning for me and the way the words tasted and
felt in my mouth when I spoke them. So that's what I first loved about
the poem, and then it's been a lifelong love affair. I've read the poem
so many hundreds of times and remembered it and gone through it in my
own head when there's nothing else that I need to be doing. So I think
that's a good example, really, of how you can learn something very early
in your life and it lives with you always."
Bike shop owner Kevin Breitenbach rides a fat bike in the White Mountains National Recreation Area in Alaska in March.
The plummeting mercury in Alaska this time of year doesn't keep
bikers inside. More and more of them are heading to recreational trails
and to the office on "fat bikes." They look like mountain bikes on
steroids, with tires wider than most people's arms.
Breitenbach runs the bike shop at Beaver Sports in Alaska's
second-largest city. He makes his way down a trail that winds through a
forest, and wet, quarter-sized snowflakes drop from the sky. Visibility
is low, and the snow hides the roughest spots on the trail.
His bike is Breitenbach's primary form of transportation. When he's not commuting to work, he's racing in ultra-distance events.
if we were out here on regular mountain bikes, you'd just be all over
the place. The bikes are set up to be stable, and so you can go much
slower and still maintain your balance," he says.
The wider tires on fat bikes roll over the
snow better than regular mountain bikes. The first fat bikes were made
by welding the rims of three mountain bikes together.
In the late 1980s, cyclists in Alaska were looking for a good way
to tackle snowy trails, so they welded three mountain bike rims
together. That allowed for fatter tires that almost float on top of the
snow. Today, fat biking isn't quite so "do it yourself."
market for a bike like this is still small, but it's the fastest-growing
segment of the cycling industry. At Goldstream Sports, just north of
the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, owner Joel Buth specializes in
cross-country skis and road bikes. But four years ago, he added fat
bikes to his winter inventory.
"The bikes are typically a
$3,000 sale, versus a ski package, which is much less. So there's more
customers in the ski, but the bike market is growing rapidly," he says.
$3,000 isn't just for the bike. It includes all the other gear as well,
like extra tire tubes, shoes and lots of winter clothing. It's the fat
bike clientele that surprises Buth most.
"Mostly what I see is
the backcountry enthusiast and older couples, too, that just want to get
out and get exercise in the winter and don't want to mess around with
skis, and they just like to bike," he says.
Back on the trail, Breitenbach says fat biking is more fun than skiing, even when temperatures hit 50 degrees below zero.
The office of the president offers a lot of responsibilities and
privileges. Your actions drive the world's most powerful military,
billions of dollars worth of domestic policy and, perhaps most
importantly, the way the country speaks.
That's what linguist and writer Paul Dickson contends in his new book, Words From the White House.
It's a look back through history at the words and phrases popularized
by our presidents — including the ones they don't get credit for
Teddy Roosevelt, for example, loved language, Dickson
tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "He would create a word like 'mollycoddle,'
for sort of somebody you would say was timid, and 'bully pulpit,' you
know, the bully pulpit being the presidency itself." Presidents, Dickson
says, have to be eloquent. "They have to be able to get up there and
Dickson says the most eloquent and convincing
president was Thomas Jefferson. "To this day, in the Oxford English
Dictionary, there are 114 terms which are laid at his feet — either pure
coinages or him being the first to use it," he says. "And some of them
are quite interesting."
Did you know that Jefferson was
apparently the first to use the word "ottoman" to refer not to the
empire, but to the footstool? And Dickson says words like "pedicure" and
"lengthily" are also attributed to our third president — along with,
appropriately enough, "neologize."
"He writes a letter to John
Adams, who's another very good creator of language, ... and says, 'It's
our obligation as Americans to neologize, to create a new language,
which is the American language,' " Dickson says. That language would be
full of Americanisms like "OK" and "slam dunk," which might be sneered
at by a speaker of the King's English.
The new American
language is curter and more direct. "You say mob instead of 'a large
group of angry people.' That's Americanism," he says.
Paul Dickson is the author of more than 55 books. His latest, Words From the White House, describes the lexical innovations of America's presidents.
In the modern era, Dickson points to Harry Truman as a master of
presidential language. "He brought back old folk terms like
'snallygaster,' and he had wonderful slogans like 'the buck stops here.'
" One of the most interesting terms Truman brought back, Dickson says,
was the word "trocar," which was an instrument farmers used in rural
Missouri, where he was from, "when a bull or a cow had eaten too much
clover and had amassed a huge amount of gas inside of them. ... They
would use this instrument to allow the gas to come out through the
proper orifice." There was, he adds, the occasional joke about a
whistling noise sounding across the plains when farmers applied the
trocar to their livestock.
"Truman actually, in a letter to one
of his aides, said that he felt ... 'somebody should take a trocar to
Congress and use it to deflate the egos,' " Dickson says. "I like
Truman's stuff because he was a very plain-speaking man who used these
rural things that were probably a great puzzlement to more urban
Speaking of plain-spoken, George W. Bush also makes an
appearance in the book. Bush was known for scripted phrases like "Axis
of Evil," but also spontaneous utterances like "embetter."
gave him the benefit of the doubt because everybody was howling and
yelling and screaming ... 'embetter' was first cited in the Oxford
English Dictionary, with the same exact meaning that George Bush gave
it, in 1583," Dickson says, though it has since dwindled into obscurity.
Likewise, the OED traces "resignate" all the way back to 1531.
"One of the ones they really tried to nail him with was 'strategery,' "
says Dickson. "Which of course was not Bush himself but was Saturday Night Live ... but 'misunderestimate,' which was one of the real howlers that a lot of people cited, is actually fairly useful."
need to be spontaneous, but also have a good understanding of the
language in order to coin new words, Dickson says. "When Roosevelt first
gave his fireside chats to coach the country out of the Depression,
[he] made a very conscious decision to use the language of baseball, as
opposed to the language of politics. ... The president, in order to be a
really good communicator, has to realize that he can't talk to the
people with the same metaphor they would talk to, you know, someone in
his party hierarchy, that if he really wants to get to people, he's got
to give them something they can latch onto."