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Jack's house was sittin' in a old cemetary... He used to tell me, 'Boy, sometimes when I be out here, I have them jokers cuttin' up out there in them graveyards.' 'What you be doin' Jack?' 'Boy, playin' that guitar and havin' a durn good time out there' - Jack Owens, remembered by Jimmy Holmes, Living Blues #137

Author Topic: Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come From  (Read 5627 times)

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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come From
« Reply #15 on: February 10, 2009, 04:52:45 PM »
I've certainly had to read all sorts of academic abominations in my education and career, many examples of which make most blues scholars look like paragons of clarity. I'm not saying the essays in this collection fall into Lindy's "fog factor" scheme at all -- love the bourgeois quote, Lindy. In their content, the essays are in fact quite clear, if occasionally sterile, and for the most part avoid the obscure jargon one can get in other disciplines. Citations of other works without even minimal summary is an annoyance (as if we all have access to the world's blues library), but I'm talking more about basic editorial courtesies, like paragraphing.

Perhaps Stuart is right. But isn't an academic press with no editorial staff then simply a vanity press?  :P

I hope my whining doesn't turn anyone off the book, as so far I'm enjoying it. The subject matter is certainly fascinating, even if the presentation is sometimes lacking.

Offline Stuart

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Re: Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come From
« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2009, 05:50:23 PM »
But isn't an academic press with no editorial staff then simply a vanity press?  :P

I probably overstated or misstated the case somewhat. Many of the academic presses are quite good with a lot of hands on editorial engagement, but with a few others it is a case of accepting an author's manuscript, and then telling the author what has to be done on his or her part to get it into print (and I'm not talking about corrections or revisions). In other words, between the time that the ms is accepted and the submission of camera ready copy, everything is the responsibility of the author. None of the editorial engagement that is normally done by the staff of a quality press is provided or available.

Vanity press? Probably not--just not the way things ought to be done, IMHO.

Offline dj

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Re: Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come From
« Reply #17 on: February 10, 2009, 06:28:40 PM »
Quote
I hope my whining doesn't turn anyone off the book

It hasn't turned me off.  I've just put it on my "imminent" list.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come From
« Reply #18 on: February 10, 2009, 06:49:51 PM »
But isn't an academic press with no editorial staff then simply a vanity press?  :P

I probably overstated or misstated the case somewhat. Many of the academic presses are quite good with a lot of hands on editorial engagement, but with a few others it is a case of accepting an author's manuscript, and then telling the author what has to be done on his or her part to get it into print (and I'm not talking about corrections or revisions). In other words, between the time that the ms is accepted and the submission of camera ready copy, everything is the responsibility of the author. None of the editorial engagement that is normally done by the staff of a quality press is provided or available.

Vanity press? Probably not--just not the way things ought to be done, IMHO.

Yes, I was being somewhat facetious. Thanks for the link to the Dancing with Professors article. Very amusing! Probably the best analogy comes towards the end:

Quote
A carpenter, let us say, makes a door for a cabinet. If the door does not hang straight, the carpenter does not say, "I will not change that door; it is an expression of my individuality; who cares if it will not close?" Instead, the carpenter removes the door and works it until it fits. That attitude, applied to writing, could be our salvation.

Eerily similar to Lindy's experience.

There are so many factors that go into the creation of bad academic writing. The "publish or perish" problem being uppermost, but one can blame all sorts of influences. I have a wildly speculative pet theory that much writing in the humanities has been hobbled by the dominant (or is it domineering?) influence of bad translations of equally bad writing from academics like Derrida or Foucault. Heidegger bears his fair portion of the blame as well. Assuming that someone can write simply because he can speak and read is like assuming he can cook because he eats.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come From
« Reply #19 on: February 10, 2009, 07:57:09 PM »
Lindy's my name, academic editing is my game, I help foreign researchers get published in English-language journals to beef up their CVs.

Once I met an anthropology professor from an American university who was famous for doing things such as starting his manuscripts with 200-word quotes in German without any translation or effort to explain them in his text. A couple of his students and I used the "fog factor" to calculate the density of his text. The fog factor takes the number of sentences in a paragraph, number of words with multiple syllables in the same paragraph, then you say "hocus-pocus" and multiply something by .4, and the result is supposed to be the number of years of education you need to understand the writing. Most daily newspapers have fog factors between 6 and 8. This guy's text had a fog factor of 32, equal to 2-1/2 Ph.Dees. When I asked him about it he told me, "Writing for clarity is a bourgeois restriction on my creativity."

TOO FUNNY!

I am not making this up!

Lindy
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline oddenda

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Re: Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come From
« Reply #20 on: February 11, 2009, 01:03:15 AM »
In my younger days I was on the faculty of a college... in biology, as a matter of fact. It was determined that various fields of study developed vocabularies that made their work impenetrable to those outside the field. It was a conscious act to block peoples' understanding of the simplicity of what was being written/said, and make them seem brighter than they actually were! When I taught, I remembered what it was like to be a student and tried not to subject my students to this "vocabularic" cloak of invisibility. In fact, since most came from high school experiences of not understanding biology as a normal way of life, my putting things in "real" language was appreciated... even got a few interested in the field. Plain speaking, uber alles, please.

Peter B.

Offline Stuart

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Re: Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come From
« Reply #21 on: February 11, 2009, 08:30:20 AM »
...Plain speaking, uber alles, please...

Amen to that, Peter!

When I taught at Rutgers, I would hand out the course outline and info sheet on the first day of class. I always included a line that said, "...clear writing presupposes clear thinking..." and would tell the students that I expected their papers to be the result of rigorous thinking, not wishful thinking. Naturally, there were always a few dissenters, but that's okay as the university is supposed to be the free marketplace of ideas.

Some subject areas, by their very nature, require a lot of background knowledge and specialized terminology. Still, if someone has control of the material and a clear understanding of it, giving a clear description and explanation should not be something that is beyond the realm of possibility. Refusing to acknowledge one's shortcomings and weaknesses re: speaking and writing clearly, together with refusing to make the required effort to correct and improve, is just another manifestation of intellectual laziness, IMHO.

Offline dj

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Re: Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come From
« Reply #22 on: March 25, 2009, 05:08:12 AM »
I've just finished Nobody Knows Where The Blues Come from, and I have to say it's by far the best book of its type (a collection of academic papers) that I've read.  The writing is generally at least decent - far better, for example, than a lot of the writing in Ramblin' On My Mind - and the fact that the first five essays focus on how blues lyricists handled actual events gives the book a cohesive feel not usually found in such collections.

Offline Chezztone

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Re: Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come From
« Reply #23 on: March 25, 2009, 01:12:36 PM »
Yes, some interesting and illuminative stuff in Nobody Knows... But a couple big howlers, too. The experts don't seem to get that it's "worry you off my mind" (not "wear you off"), and they don't get the joke of "Matchbox Blues"' key verse, either.

Offline dj

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Re: Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come From
« Reply #24 on: March 25, 2009, 01:40:05 PM »
True.  But of course, one must take any lyric transcription with a grain of salt until it's been vetted by the collected wisdom of Weeniedom.  Sometimes even after that!   ;D

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