A collection of successful complaints, and more
SAME NEWS, THREE WAYS
1. On Monday, the novel “The Life and Adventures of Jack Engle” found its way back into print, courtesy of University of Houston grad student Zachary Turpin. Starting from a 1852 newspaper ad, Turpin traced the six-part tale back to famed poet Walt Whitman and brought a long-forgotten work to public attention.
2. Last fall, Quinnipiac University introduced a new logo that billed the school as “Quinnipiac university.” But capitalization still matters. A student petition blasted the “outrageous decision” to use a lowercase “u.” Recently, Quinnipiac said uncle — or Uncle. A new logo has “university” in all caps.
3. In the catalog, West Elm’s “Peggy” sofa looked great, but it wore poorly, a blow to loft-dwellers who thought they’d spend years lounging in its stylish embrace. Soon after writer Anna Hezel published a ferocious anti-Peggy screed on The Awl last weekend — “one of history’s worst couches,” she called it — the item vanished from West Elm’s website.
— DANTE RAMOS
INNOVATION OF THE WEEK
What is it? “Calling Bull[expletive] In the Age of Big Data,” a course at the University of Washington
Innovators: Biology professor Carl Bergstrom and information science professor Jevin West
What were they thinking? Dismayed by a world “awash in bull[expletive],” as they put it on their website, Bergstrom and West wanted to help students penetrate the inflated claims in scientific journals, social media, and the popular press. Case studies include a dubious Fox News report on food stamp fraud and a popular infographic that suggests rap artists die 30 years younger than blues, jazz, and country musicians.
How did they do? According to STAT, the professors got book offers, and the course — capped at 160 students — filled in the first minute of online registration. Success! But if anyone thinks the class will slow the tide of nonsense in our culture, well, we’ll call bull[expletive] on that.
— DAVID SCHARFENBERG
THEY TROLL; WE EXPLAIN
From Armond White’s review of “La La Land” in National Review:
“Sorry to get all esoteric about <highlight>a movie most people will stare back at in dumbfounded disbelief,1 but ‘La La Land’ . . . is a departure from the old notion that movies should be edifying 2 (much as we’ve forgotten the idea of public service as a virtue and now see it as a reward of egotism). A certain fundamental spiritual belief is missing 3 from [this movie’s] ersatz movie-musical conceit.”
1When White’s negative review appeared in December, it read like a grouchy outlier. Most critics gushed over “La La Land,” which garnered a whopping 14 nominations for Sunday’s Oscars. Since then, others have come around to the view that the movie is a little dull.
2The lack of moral uplift in Hollywood films is a bugaboo for conservatives. Then again, “La La Land” raises eyebrows elsewhere on the political spectrum. How edifying is it to root for a white guy feebly attempting to save jazz by opening up an L.A. club for his rich white friends?
3Which is to say, the dialogue sounds as if written by a robot that gleaned the full range of human emotions by eavesdropping at Starbucks.
— RACHEL SLADE
ON SECOND THOUGHT
William Hart isn’t laughing now. In 2013, the University of Alabama psychology researcher published a paper asserting that people used different verb tenses depending on their state of mind. People who used the imperfect tense — “I was laughing” — to describe a past happy event tended to be happier at the moment than those who used the past tense — “I laughed.”
But a university investigation concluded that Hart’s results had been manipulated — and not by Hart, who was the sole listed author of the paper. So who did the manipulating? A graduate student, whom Hart will not name, according to the retraction notice. Clearly, that student’s contributions to the paper were significant enough to affect its findings, yet he or she was not named as an author — making it that much harder to say what happened.
— ADAM MARCUS