Bieber Marley Alvin

As the final web-based event of the old year, I just downloaded Bieber’s “Baby” onto Is.’s ipod (at her unceasing request). Yes, please feel free to hear it for yourself. She tells us that everyone in her class sings the chorus often and ably during clean-up time: baby, baby no, the chorus during chores.

This means I will continue my 2010 anthem as my 2011 anthem, which will make this the first repeat anthem of my life (since I began thinking of years as warranting dedicated personal anthems three years ago, in 2009). Last year’s anthem and next year’s anthem shall be

With a little bit of good luck, this will be the earworm to sound my path next year. The melody to heat these earbuds! Although, since rhythms are difficult to keep steady in an age of unpredictably mutated dromos (i.e., timetracks), no doubt some days it will end up sounding like this.

May those days in the year ahead be few. And phew.


My two Twitter accounts unexpectedly synchronized yesterday, matching in number for the first time ever. Two-hundred forty-three tweets in each. #sotta

Right-o: #sotta is a hashtag for State of the Twitter Accounts. Of course, I realize that hashtags don’t help organize blog entries the way they do Twitter updates. So much runs together nowadays.

Their unplanned alignment, though not especially remarkable for everyday people (even Digg overlooked this happening), was just uncanny enough for me to justify taking a step back, a deep breathe and reflective, 24-hour pause. Could be a conductive, insightful occasion, or not. The two accounts resemble fraternal twins. One came first. They have much in common, but they do not quite look alike: different avatars, different personalities, different aliases, different habits of writing and linking.

I keep the older account around because it follows and is in turn followed by a somewhat more collegial and professorial company than the other. The second account is more teacherly; it fills a pedagogical need for the activity streams ENGL328ers write throughout the semester. In other words, the second account is more for orchestration and course-specific guidance.

Two-hundred forty-three tweets: that’s nothing. Even multiplied by two, it’s in the shallow end of the pool some measure away from Twitter users who have upwards of two thousand entries. So in this, my first half-year of tweeting, I’m still trying to figure out where my own writing and working rhythms blend in with the Twittersphere, whether I’m being (perhaps somewhat willfully) negligent of the accumulative effects of writing not only in a networked platform but in a networked platform with such a boundless temporality as this.

Short Sentences

Tomorrow in ENGL328, we’re working with “Short Sentences,” the first chapter in Virginia Tufte’s Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style. The chapter presents four basic sentence types or kernels: equations with be, equations with linking verbs, transitives, and intransitives. In the first half of the chapter, Tufte attaches numerous examples to each type of short sentence. I find the types to be fairly intuitive and, perhaps because they are short, easy to identify. Only the equations with linking verbs give me pause because the linking verbs tend to stoke a deeper philosophical question concerned with being and transformation, i.e., whether the subject is altered by the piling on of noun complements.

In the second half of the chapter, Tufte switches scales, moving from the local logic of these four sentences to their paragraph-cumulative effect, whether one type is deployed repeatedly or whether they are working in combination with other types. Here the idea is basically that the two equative types stroll along at a slow pace, intransitives elicit slightly more movement or action, and transitives deliver the most bang because they maximize one thing’s verbing of another thing (the direct object, required for the transitive form). Tufte’s paragraph-long examples highlight the cumulative effect of these short sentence types in context.

A couple of tweets from students today have forewarned me (whether they were meant for me or not) that we will have a fair amount of skepticism to work through tomorrow. As far as I can tell (from their own short sentences, of course) the value of this framework is in doubt. That’s fair. And, in fact, I’m glad to see that they are not only reading Tufte but tweeting about it before class. I think of Tufte’s opening chapter as offering both an analytic method and a heuristic, or generative guide, for revision. The analytic method amounts to a vocabulary and a set of techniques for differentiating sentence types. It’s difficult, without seeming enamored of current-traditionalism, to say that grasping such principles as these helps writers. But it does offer us a scheme for talking about prose style, for pinpointing in yet one more way a sentence’s distinction.

Also, I’m interested in establishing tension between Tufte’s approach and Lanham’s Paramedic Method, which we will look at for Wednesday. Lanham, after all, insists on the importance of concrete subjects and action-packed verbs. Tufte’s attention to equatives and to pacing lends something of value to the subject-verb or character-action patterns so conspicuous in Lanham’s method (also in Williams’ Style). So, while I recognize the value in keying on vivid subject-verb couplings relatively early in sentences, I also appreciate Tufte’s recognition that equative forms may bear strategically on the acceleration (or idling speed) of a passage.