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Web Monitor

15:49 UK time, Monday, 15 February 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: a spoil-sport, an unlikely threat to crossword writers and a caution against the life of the mind.

Christopher Hitchens.jpg• Contrarian Christopher Hitchens is being a spoil-sport - quite literally - in Newsweek. The Winter Olympics has got him arguing that sport isn't the diplomatic tool it is sometimes sold as:

"Whether it's the exacerbation of national rivalries that you want - as in Africa this year - or the exhibition of the most depressing traits of the human personality (guns in locker rooms, golf clubs wielded in the home, dogs maimed and tortured at stars' homes to make them fight, dope and steroids everywhere), you need only look to the wide world of sports for the most rank and vivid examples. As George Orwell wrote in his 1945 essay 'The Sporting Spirit,' after yet another outbreak of combined mayhem and chauvinism on the international soccer field, 'sport is an unfailing cause of ill-will.'"

• Here's one Paper Monitor should appreciate. The Crash Blossoms blog collects ambiguous headlines that can be unintentionally funny. There are some favourites chosen by Ben Zimmer of the New York Times:

"Nouns that can be misconstrued as verbs and vice versa are, in fact, the hallmarks of the crash blossom. Take this headline, often attributed to The Guardian: 'British Left Waffles on Falklands." In the correct reading, 'left' is a noun and 'waffles' is a verb, but it's much more entertaining to reverse the two, conjuring the image of breakfast food hastily abandoned in the South Atlantic. Similarly, crossword enthusiasts laughed nervously at a May 2006 headline on AOL News, 'Gator Attacks Puzzle Experts.'"

• William Pannapacker, an English lecturer has taken it upon himself over the last year to be academia's whistleblower against the university industry. He's been urging people not to bother studying humanities after an undergraduate degree and claimed universities have been deceitful in their claims about job opportunities in academia. He's back in Chronicle of Higher Education warning against "the life of the mind":

"If you are in one of the lucky categories that benefit from the Big Lie, you will probably continue to offer the attractions of that life to vulnerable students who are trained from birth to trust you, their teacher.
Graduate school in the humanities is a trap. It is designed that way. It is structurally based on limiting the options of students and socializing them into believing that it is shameful to abandon 'the life of the mind.' That's why most graduate programs resist reducing the numbers of admitted students or providing them with skills and networks that could enable them to do anything but join the ever-growing ranks of impoverished, demoralized, and damaged graduate students and adjuncts for whom most of academe denies any responsibility."

Links in full

NewsweekChristopher Hitchens | Newsweek | Fool's Gold
see alsoCrash Blossoms blog
New York TimesBen Zimmer | New York Times | Crash Blossoms
see alsoWilliam Pannapacker | Chronicle of Higher Education | The Big Lie About the 'Life of the Mind'

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