Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Dumbing down - a complaint from 1621

'Heretofore learning was graced by judicious scholars, but now noble sciences are vilified by base and illiterate scribblers that either write from vainglory, need, to get money, or as parasites to flatter and collogue with some great men.'
Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

Nothing new there then...


'There are days when no one should rely unduly on his 'competence'. Strength lies in improvisation. All the decisive blows are struck left-handed.'
Walter Benjamin, in One Way Street.

The courage of one's convictions

'A very popular error - having the courage of one's convictions: rather, it is a matter of having the courage for an attack upon one's convictions.'

Walter Benjamin on Praxis, Knowledge and Education

'The slogan 'work and education' under which the patriotic associations of Schulze-Delitzsch had conducted workers' education, was countered by Social Democracy with the slogan 'Knowledge is Power'. But the party failed to perceive its double meaning. It thought the same knowledge that secured the rule of the bourgeoisie over the proletariat would enable the proletariat to free itself from that rule. In reality, knowledge with no outlet in praxis, knowledge that could teach the proletariat nothing about its situation as a class, was no danger to its oppressors. This was especially true of knowledge relating to the humanities. It lagged far behind economics, remaining untouched by the revolution in economic theory. It sought only to stimulate, to offer variety, to arouse interest.'

Walter Benjamin, in "Edward Fuchs, Collector and Historian", in Walter Benjamin Selected Writings, Volume 3 1935-1938, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2002, p260-302.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Making and teaching

After giving a lecture last week which explored the idea of teaching as craft, I am working on an article based on this theme for Adults Learning, which will also be posted here. As often happens when I am excited about a bundle of linked ideas, I seem to stumble across relevant work by other people all the time, without trying, by accident. Today I was catching up on some music programmes using Iplayer and I noticed a radio 3 talk given last week by Edmund de Waal, the author of The Hare with Amber Eyes, which is about the history of his collection of netsuke (see above for an example), on his enthusiasm for The Wrench, a novel by Primo Levi, a wonderful book I've been re-reading as part of my work on craft. A version of this talk was published in the Financial Times last week, at

There is an interesting commentary on de Waal's discussion at Annjrippin's blog at Ann Rippin is a quilter, but clearly language and concepts, perhaps what she calls 'embodied knowing' are shared. She notes that 'He describes the experience of reflecting on something that you have created and the surprises it can bring, as ‘the epiphany where you see what you have made is different from what you had conceived.’ Very often artists experience this as disappointment or failure, Turner’s famous gap between what was in his imagination and what he was able to put on the canvas and the sense of frustration that can bring, but de Waal sees it in a much more positive light. It is an epiphany, which suggests new beginnings, possibly the receiving of a gift, certainly a happy apparition.'

This realism, the recognition that perfection is an illusion and a distraction rather than a goal, combined with what de Waal describes bluntly as a 'contempt for shoddiness' is what we need to foster in our teachers - and this cannot be done by focussing solely on what they do, because ultimately it is an issue of character, about the kind of person they are. The craft attitude is about trying to lead what Montaigne would call 'a good life', understood in the moral sense. Craft is about morality...

More to come on this very rich seam.....

What I learned today from wikipaedia - this is meant to cheer you up

Variants of "LOL"

lolz: Occasionally used in place of LOL.[citation needed]

lulz: Often used to denote laughter at someone who is the victim of a prank, or a reason for performing an action. Can be used as a noun — e.g. "do it for the lulz." This variation is often used on the Encyclopedia Dramatica wiki and 4chan image boards. According to a New York Times article about Internet trolling, "lulz means the joy of disrupting another's emotional equilibrium."[26]

lolwut: lol + wut, used to indicate bemused laughter, or confusion.[citation needed]

Lawl or Lal: Pseudo-pronunciation of LOL. Saying "lawl" is sometimes meant in mockery of those who use the term LOL, and usually not meant as serious usage.[citation needed]

LOLOLOLOL: For added emphasis, LOL can be appended with any number of additional iterations of "OL". In cases such as these, the abbreviation is not to be read literally (i.e., "Laughing out loud out loud out loud out loud"), but is meant to suggest several "LOL"s in a row.[citation needed]

LEL: A variant sometimes construed as an acronym for "Laughing Extremely Loud" or "Laughing Even Louder."[citation needed]


laf (pronounced like "laugh")

Translations in widespread use:
Most of these variants are usually found in lowercase.

mdr: French version, from the initials of "mort de rire" which roughly translated means "died of laughter", although many French people now use LOL instead as it is the most widely used on the internet.[citation needed]

חחח/ההה: Hebrew version of LOL. The letter ח is pronounced 'kh' and ה is pronounced 'h'. Putting them together (usually three or more in a row) makes the word khakhakha or hahaha (since vowels in Hebrew are generally not written), which is in many languages regarded as the sound of laughter.

555: The Thai variation of LOL. "5" in Thai is pronounced "ha", three of them being "hahaha".[citation needed]

asg: Swedish abbreviation of the term Asgarv, meaning intense laughter.[citation needed]

g: Danish abbreviation of the word griner, which means "laughing" in Danish.[27]
rs: in Brazil "rs" (being an abbreviation of "risos", the plural of "laugh") is often used in text based communications in situations where in English lol would be used, repeating it ("rsrsrsrsrs") is often done to express longer laughter or laughing harder.[citation needed]

Also popular is "kkk" (which can also be repeated indefinitely), due to the pronunciation of the letter k in Portuguese sounding similar to the ca in card, and therefore representing the laugh "cacacacaca" (also similar to the Hebrew version above).[citation needed]

mkm: in Afghanistan "mkm" (being an abbreviation of the phrase "ma khanda mikonom"). This is a Dari phrase that means "I am laughing".[citation needed]

In Chinese, although 大笑 (da xiao; "big laugh") is used, a more widespread usage is "哈哈哈" (ha ha ha) or "呵呵呵" (he he he) on internet forums.[citation needed]
هاها: The Arabic هـــا makes the sound "ha," and is strung together to create the sound "haha".[citation needed]

In some languages with a non-Latin script, the abbreviation "LOL" itself is also often transliterated. See for example Arabic لــول and Russian лол.[citation needed]
In Japanese, traditionally the kanji for laugh in parenthesis was used in the same way as lol; (笑). It can be read as wara and so just w has taken over as the abbreviation.[citation needed]

In Korean, ㅋㅋㅋ ("kkk") and ㅎㅎㅎ ("hhh") are usually used to indicate laughter. 'ㅋ', is a Korean Jamo consonant representing a "k" sound, and 'ㅎ' represents an "h" sound. Both "ㅋㅋㅋ" and "ㅎㅎㅎ" represent laughter which is not very loud. However, if a vowel symbol is written, louder laughter is implied: 하하 "haha" 호호, "hoho."[citation needed]

jajaja, as the letter "j" is pronounced "h" in Spanish.:[citation needed]
Pre-dating the internet and phone texting by a century, the way to express laughter in morse code is "hi hi". The sound of this in morse, 'di-di-di-dit di-dit, di-di-di-dit di-dit', is thought to represent chuckling.[28][29]

ha3: Malaysian variation of LOL. ha3 means pronouncing ha three times, "hahaha".

Other languages: Lol is a Dutch word (not an acronym) which, coincidentally, means "fun" ("lollig" means "funny").

In Welsh, lol means "nonsense" – e.g., if a person wanted to say "utter nonsense" in Welsh, they would say "rwtsh lol".[30]

I particularly like Spanish morse code chuckling, the fact that the Japanese have been using a ideogram for the equivalent of LOL for centuries, and the cool Afghan version 'I am laughing', which sounds pretty threatening it's so understated. It's also great that LOL is a real welsh word. I am still working out 'lulz': can anyone help?