Monday, October 29, 2018

Law Of Southern Discourse

Back in the days of analog modems, online chat rooms and bang path email addresses there was Godwin's Law. Even then, when only the brighter among us had internet access, online discourse degenerated and according to Godwin, ultimately ending with someone, or someone's argument,  being somehow related to Nazis or Hitler. Or both.

My how times have changed.

Internet speeds are faster and technology more pervasive driving online conversations from "flame-on" to "flame-out" in the blink of an eye. And, as the Greatest Generation fades into graves and from the memory of those whose freedoms they secured the currency of "you're a Nazi" has faded with them. Godwin's Law has been replaced with the Law of Southern Discourse (LSD).

The LSD could be viewed as a derivative form of  Godwin's with "Nazi" replaced by "Racist" but using the same tactic to recover from, by ending, a losing rhetorical engagement. LSD is, as everything seems to be these days, most closely associated with political issues and what is more political than matters of our public schools. This area of discourse is particularly susceptible due to historical issues around segregation and white flight, the hidden politics of what is allegedly a non-partisan government bureaucracy and the fact that parents' children are in play. Monetization of the Civil Rights Movement left society without a platform for intelligent discourse with the vacuum filled by shouting and hashtag hysterics.

The LSD differs from Godwin's largely in degree...severity of execution. LSD-ers a enormously self-righteous, entitled, immune to logic and allergic to facts. They are lightening quick to overreaction, vehement in their condemnation and severe in their demands for complete annihilation of those with whom they, often without material justification, take umbrage. They are interweb vigilantes acting as judge, jury and executioners in the virtual world, summarily, seemingly arbitrarily, executing those who meet with their displeasure.

They're like Nazis.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Guest Post: Beaten With A Culture Club

We interrupt our regular programing for a PSA from outside The Other Dunwoody. Unedited and without further ado...

culture, noun. the cultivation of microorganisms, as bacteria, or of tissues, for scientific study, medical use, etc.; the product or growth resulting from such cultivation.
Some bacteria is good. Probiotics (allegedly) are good bacteria. Some bacteria is...not so good. Staph comes to mind.

Of course, that's not the only meaning of the word culture.
culture, noun. the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.
This is where we get the idea of "pop culture". This is why almost every newspaper has some section related to "Arts and Culture". This definition really all but excludes the sciences, but we'll even grant it the "human intellectual achievement" part. Why not?

That's it, though. Those are the only two definitions of "culture" (at least according to google).

Now, while these arguably are the only two definitions, there are more uses of the word. People on college campuses LOVE to use that word. Here are a few instances from my own life, and from colleagues who wish to remain even more anonymous.
  • "It's the culture here to handhold our scholars through their lifelong journeys of education and development." (spoken by a Dean telling a faculty member to be more flexible with students handing in work late)
  • "Just to tell you a bit about the culture, typically someone in my position does not grade homework." (spoken by a TA to the professor they "work" for)
  • "Well, my other professors give us typed notes of lectures. Isn't that the culture?" (spoken by many students to many professors)
  • "It's not that he's necessarily a misogynist. He's just Russian, and you have to understand their culture." (spoken by a male superior regarding a male insubordinate to a female colleague)
In each of these instances, the speaker did NOT mean the word "culture" (you might think in some weird way the Russian case was the closest appropriate use, want to talk about a comment that insults absolutely everyone involved...).

These speakers mostly meant the word "custom":
custom, noun. a traditional and widely-accepted way of behaving or doing something that is specific to a particular society, place, or time.
So why not use the correct "custom" over the incorrect "culture"? Simple. "Custom" implies tradition, tradition implies stuck-in-your-ways, stuck-in-your-ways implies inflexible, inflexible implies intolerant, and that's just bad. Even if it's what you really mean--you can't use the word nowadays without risking sounding like a bigoted oaf. "Culture", on the other hand, implies intellectual and well-rounded, intellectual and well-rounded imply of-the-world, of-the-world implies open-minded, open-minded implies good. Moreover, using the good word "culture" in reprimanding or dismissing conversations makes the person being reprimanded and dismissed feel in the wrong. Who can say you're an oaf when you're winning TWICE?!

But this is creating a wide-spread issue. Words are no longer being used because of their definitions, but because of their connotations, because of the feelings they elicit. This makes listening to others remarkably confusing--what is this person really trying to say? It also makes speaking a frightening thought--what if you don't realize a word you're using has a connotation that's going to come back to haunt you? Even I have to admit, after 15 years as a student and faculty member of various colleges, I hear/read the word "culture" and cringe.

If you're unconvinced that these seemingly minor things are having an impact, let me present one more bit of evidence (which I will completely admit right now is personal). I do contract work for a company providing pay-by-the-course online classes for 3rd thru 11th graders. The classrooms are chat-based with no video or audio. Weekly all online course instructors get a newsletter with "tips of the week" and other typical newsletter items. Here is one recent tip from a fellow online course instructor:
Teaching in the classroom happens in real time, so it's natural to make a conversational remark here and there. However, be aware of the impression your words leave on students and the classroom environment you’re creating.

For example, in a younger class, there was this [idea] that we covered, and after passing some students' positive comments about the [material], I said something like, "Yeah, it is an intriguing [idea]."  The students then began to [use] that word, "intriguing," later on in the lesson. It made me realize the impact that my descriptors have, and made me want to be more careful to ensure that my descriptors are as accurate and positive as possible.
We are joking, right?

Once more unto the lexicographic breach (but I'll take it away from here). "Intriguing" means creating a sense of intrigue. Intrigue has as synonyms fascination, wonderment, and curiosity. I will now argue that especially in a classroom setting, this word being used by faculty and student alike is GOOD. And yet this example of the use of the word "intrigue" is in a paragraph in the "pro-tip" section for online course instructors which ends with the punchline that descriptors need to be as "positive as possible".

Clearly (though this is a low blow) at least one person does not know what the word "intrigue" means. But doesn't it make you wonder what inappropriate prior uses of that word have made the pro-tip writer think it's so negative? What word was actually meant instead? Is it not sad that an instructor uses the word "intriguing" in a classroom and almost immediately regrets it?

Just remember: "culture" is a plate of bacteria. Not a socially-accepted form of traditionalism to which you must conform. Don't follow the culture--you're a better life form.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Dunwoody Refurb

Recently the Blue Bag Rag reported our Mayor lecturing on the relative cost benefits of refurbishing existing buildings rather than doing a teardown-rebuild:
Mayor Denis Shortal said that space in Dunwoody is expensive, hard to find and would have to be built. To refurbish is usually cheaper than to build from scratch, Shortal said.
This was true when the theatre at Brook Run was torn down and it is true now. We didn't need to spend tax dollars on a consultant to tell us that. We didn't need to spend money tearing down a theatre but since we did let's not waste money building another one. Let's accept the reality, as demonstrated by a six to one vote, that this city had no compelling interest in the arts.

If council have changed their minds, individually or collectively, voters deserve an accounting.  And council deserves to be shown the door. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Nailed It!

To a pole:

Signs nailed to phone poles in the same week folks down at Taj Mahal nearly dislocated joints patting themselves on the back over what a great job they think they do. They cannot keep their own signs up and the illegal ones out. Only in government is that just cause for a raise. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Tale Of Two Cities

A Heartfelt Welcome
A Hollow Threat

Monday, October 8, 2018

THEY Said It

They Don't Think We're So Smart
Nailed It!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Libertarians And Government

What They Wanted
What They Got

Monday, October 1, 2018

No Constitution For New Cities

A judge threw out video evidence unconstitutionally obtained by the Dunwoody Police Department in their ill-conceived and poorly executed prostitution sting. Now we find that the Georgia Supreme Court has reversed a murder conviction because the Milton PD refused to recognize the suspect's Miranda rights, an action the justices characterized as 'incomprehensible' and 'scary' in arguments put forth to rationalize this blatant attack on civil and constitutional rights.

What these cloistered justices do not understand is these new cities see themselves as sovereigns above and beyond any other law or constitution--state or U.S., it doesn't matter. These cities are operated that way by people who think that way, including those otherwise sworn to honor and uphold the laws and constitutions of this state and country. Higher courts must remain vigilant unless and until the state intercedes to remedy, by re-organization or dissolution, these "failed state" cities.