Daniel Menaker

TED Talk

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I did this TED Jr. talk at Stony Brook University–

Forgot to use what was probably the best part, which was a way of showing that a word’s derivations, its history, is always inside the word. Here’s the TV ad that sums up the idea.

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Dead Metaphors

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I posted this on facebook, but then I figured why not make it a blog post too? Twofer. Saves trouble.

Giving a TED Talk junior tomorrow about language and metaphor (I know, I know), and the rehearsal was today at Stony Brook University, which is incredibly vast to a boy used to the urbanly condensed Columbia campus and the excellent but single-floor offices of the Manhattan Stony Brook MFA program and a small liberal-arts college, and they said the presentation was “good” and then said:

Don’t look down so much; I didn’t understand that bit about your mystical belief; You said that all language is metaphorical except for certain rudimentary words and then you said that they were metaphorical too and I didn’t quite understand that; You don’t have to be defensive at the beginning and say you’re no expert; Don’t look back at the screen filled with cliches, just memorize a few.

Here is the trouble: They were RIGHT in every instance and so tonight, fueled by what the waitress in the Hilton Garden Inn called “sahv”–sauvignon blanc–I must retool, with very little chance of success. Plus I’m using my “travel deodorant”–Mennen Speedstick, or something antique like that–and I have serious axillary pruritus. Sorry. Its the “sahv.” The waitress said, “We’re at the end of the bottle–why don’t you just finish it off for us, gratis. I’ll drive you home.”

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“Loaded to the Brink”

Saturday, October 05, 2013

I thank Mr. D. Wayne Dworsky for this four-star review of “A Good Talk” recently posted on Amazon.  As he has so many reservations about the book, I am particularly grateful for the four stars. Every star counts, and to over-star someone despite your apparently better judgment is an act of true generosity. I think the review speaks eloquently if sometimes mysteriously for itself. I particularly admire “Loaded to the brink.” That’s the way I feel many evenings, me and my sauvignon blanc.

4.0 out of 5 stars
A Good Talk Escapes the Prose, September 29, 2013
By D. Wayne Dworsky (New York City)
This review is from: A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation (Kindle Edition)

Since pre-civilization people have told stories and related new ideas. They talked. How can we mark this accomplishment among humans? While the author agrees with one scalar that gossip may have begun as a hands-free grooming practice among primates, he manages to bury important concepts by allowing his arguments to sit too loose.

With only seven chapters, the author attempts to define, categorize, discern and derive the concept of talk in a palatable way. Unfortunately, this organization is missing.

I found many of the so-called humorous anecdotes rather stilted and not so funny. In Chapter One, he uses a forkhead box protein P2 diagram to remind the reader not to forget the mutated gene for language skills; perhaps he meant it in jest. He proceeds to make use of arbitrary expressions to mull over a point.

The book is loaded to the brink with name-dropping, the kind of prose that forces you to stop reading in order to incorporate the importance of the mention of a particular person. These cause the author to stray too far from his point. It’s not that the book does not have something important to say, it’s just that it could have been said better.

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