Bulwer Lytton of the Caliche

“The corporate communist globalist satanic Uniparty is the faction our founders warned us about,” Arizona Senator Wendy Rogers tweeted August 4

It’s the type of unhinged comment we now expect from Sen. Rogers, but it would also make a great first sentence for a spy thriller— okay, a hilariously-awful one. 

Or take the grandstanding of state Senate President Karen Fann, August 3: “Build the case, set the trap, and boom the Maricopa lies will come back to haunt them.” 

Not exactly brimming with clarity or insight into her twilight struggle against the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, but wow, you could imagine this spinning into the worst Philip Marlowe novel that Raymond Chandler never wrote. 

Senators Rogers and Fann have an untapped skill as bad novelists, and I for one wish they’d entered these sentences into the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest, that annual homage to “It was a dark and stormy night,” and which honors the worst first sentences of unwritten novels. Here’s the grand prize winner for 2021, from Stu Duval of New Zealand:

A lecherous sunrise flaunted itself over a flatulent sea, ripping the obsidian bodice of night asunder with its rapacious fingers of gold, thus exposing her dusky bosom to the dawn’s ogling stare.

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Cover letter advice

How do you write a cover letter in applying for a full-time faculty job? This blog entry is a complement to my advice on crafting the curriculum vitae, and was originally a twitter thread in May 2021, responding to two colleagues from the University of North Carolina.

Like a vitae, a cover letter is purpose-built, and it has THREE purposes, two open purposes and one secret. But to get to the secret, you have to satisfy the open purposes.

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The grammar of schooling and testing mandates in a pandemic

Why did the Biden administration deny the request by Georgia and South Carolina to waive federal requirements for achievement testing in schools this year? According to Aaron Pallas and many others, there is no discernible added information we can expect from state-level testing that is only for a summative judgment of schools, in a year when those judgments are suspended. But the federal government will still require that states conduct the tests, even when participation is likely to be far lower than before the pandemic.

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March 2021 changes to CDC guidance on schools: brief comment

Five weeks ago, after the CDC released its first set of new school operations guidance under the Biden administration, I wrote in summary, “Remember: [these recommendations come] three and a half weeks into the new administration. In reality, that’s fast. There were bound to be omissions or emphases that are wrong in retrospect.”

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Marginalized college radio: past, present, and future?

Not once but twice in the last century, major movements in radio policy marginalized a range of radio stations licensed to colleges and universities. In the 1920s, that marginalization was part of the disappearance of dozens of college radio stations. In the 1970s, college radio stations became divided into two broad segments: those who had the resources to become part of the new National Public Radio system with a professional staff and fundraising ties to local listeners, and those who remained independent, small, often run by students. The repeated marginalization of college radio stations raises important questions about the costs of systematization for small operations, and it tells us something about that for higher education in general, not just radio or broadcasting.

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