Weekend Wonk

Whose Language Is It, Anyway?

  Jerome Shea       January 5, 2008

A friend sends along an item from the Christian Science Monitor entitled “Reign in those vocal chords.” Uh oh. The English teacher in me feels at once very annoyed and very tired. And it is as bad as I expected. Turns out, the Oxford University Press, in regard to its dictionaries, has decided to accept as correct spellings which were once deemed incorrect in certain stock phrases. OUP will accept these solecisms “simply because a lot of people use them.

Cape Cod

  Jerome Shea       December 29, 2007

I married well. I don’t mean just the Longsuffering Diana, that pearl beyond price. I mean the whole Dinsmore clan that she brought to the marriage with her. A wonderful dowry they have proven to be, generous and witty and convivial. I have known them for more than thirty years now and, like a good vintage, they only improve with age. By any measure I lucked out big time. And so we find ourselves here on Cape Cod—Falmouth, to be precise— this Christmas season and I find myself in my father-in-law’s study, working on this last wonk of the year.

Flannel sheets

  Jerome Shea       December 24, 2007

Backward, turn backward, O time, in your flight, Make me a child again just for tonight Elizabeth Akers Allen The World’s Greatest Granddaughters came to town this weekend. Their coming is always a glorious upheaval along the lines of a violent meteorological event. The older will jab the doorbell in staccato fashion, an eldritch grin on her face. Then their mother, our daughter, will give them the go-ahead. This breaching of the outer defenses signals the mad dash and ululating cries—POPPYPOPPYPOPPYNANANANAPOPPYNANAPOPPYNANA!

Celebs Sounding Off... Sort of.

  Jerome Shea       December 15, 2007

A few weeks ago, a friend forwarded to me, with tacit endorsement, an essay by Jay Leno that a friend had found on the Internet. I found the jingoistic ideas expressed in it repugnant, but that’s not the point (after all, I disagree with most of what is floating around on the Internet). No, the point is that Jay Leno—with the exception of one line of his that got lifted from an old Tonight Show monologue—had nothing at all to do with it.

Phantasmagoria: After the Sandia Report

  Jerome Shea       December 9, 2007

Back around 1989, Gentle Readers, when public education was the topic du jour, a research team under the auspices of the Sandia Corporation, here in Albuquerque, was charged with taking an honest look at our public schools in order to see if they were really as bad as everyone seemed to think. A preliminary report was issued (leaked?) in early 1991 and it said, to some people’s relief and to others’ outrage, that the public school system was doing a pretty darned good job, all things considered.

Whipping Boy

  Jerome Shea       December 1, 2007

I have taught in college for more than 40 years, and the Longsuffering Diana has taught in our public elementary schools for more than 20 years. That’s more than 60 years in the classroom, more than 60 years of frustration and, sometimes, elation. So when I say that we know something about education, I hope you will agree that we have real “street cred.” We can talk the talk because we have walked the walk.


  Jerome Shea       November 9, 2007

Where to start with this Bush crowd? It’s a smorgasbord of shame, a cornucopia of corruption. Where to start? Iraq? Or how about its more focused scandals, like Blackwater’s shootings, Halliburton’s gouging, or Abu Ghraib? Katrina? Signing statements? Neocon designs on Iran? A paralysis sets in: where to start? George W. Bush—you can take this to the bank—will go down in history as the worst president we have ever had. Beside him, Warren Gamaliel Harding is a flaming idealist, James Buchanan a model of can-do competence.

Anza-Where? Desert State Park

  Jerome Shea       November 3, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, Shea hit the road again, back to Southern California on his Fall Break at UNM. (Readers of this space know that SoCal is one of his favorite haunts.) My plan this time was to spend a couple of days in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. But there was time beforehand to hang out with Dan Shea (yes, that Dan Shea) in San Diego, visit a high school classmate in Del Mar, beg hospitality with my old friends Bob and Brenda in South Laguna (in return I lectured to a couple of Cosgrove’s classes at Saddleback College), and run up to Los Angeles to see my friend and mentor Dick Lanham and his wife.

Age... and Age

  Jerome Shea       October 27, 2007

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” (Satchel Paige) There is a wonderful scene early in the movie Men in Black where an elderly, ordinary-looking man has been stricken violently with something. His companion immediately grabs hold of the man’s forehead and yanks his face off. We see then that the old man was just a simulacrum of a human being. Inside his brain case there sits instead a tiny alien, himself dying but still trying to work the levers (he looks like a man operating a backhoe frantically), so as to keep up the pretense—to keep up, literally, the façade.

Three Score and Ten

  Jerome Shea       October 14, 2007

“Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age.” Ah, youth and age and the awkward in-between. Most of us, the lucky ones (“consider the alternative,” runs the joke), will reach a ripe age.* I have been thinking about age lately, now that I am 65 and counting. I don’t mean that I am getting morbid about it, just that I am curious about the way we view ourselves and others, and the way others view us.

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