Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I Me Mine: The Beatles and Their Pronouns

According to Bill Zimmer of the New York Times:

James W. Pennebaker’s new book “The Secret Life of Pronouns,” which I reviewed in The Times Book Review on Sunday, makes it hard to stop thinking about pronouns and the other little “function words” that Mr. Pennebaker, a social psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, sees as “the keys to the soul.” Mr. Pennebaker is admirably omnivorous when it comes to looking for material that will show how these stealthy words — which include articles, prepositions, conjunctions and auxiliary verbs — reflect our social psyche. One of his more unexpected sources is the lyrical canon of the Beatles.

Mr. Pennebaker crunches the numbers on Beatles songs using text analysis programs and arrives at some fascinating conclusions. As the band aged their lyrics grew “more complex, more psychologically distant and far less positive.” The increasing complexity of the lyrics is manifested in “bigger words and more prepositions, articles and conjunctions.” There was also a big drop in the use of first-person singular pronouns, from 14 percent in the group’s early years to 7 percent in the final years. Self-absorption, it seems, gave way to more socially involved perspectives.

As it happens, I’d been thinking about the Beatles and their pronouns because my 5-year-old son is currently working through a serious obsession with all things Fab Four. That includes repeated viewings of not just their films but also the “Anthology” DVD series about the group. At one point in the documentary Paul McCartney recalls collaborating with John Lennon on the song “She Loves You” in the summer of 1963. “All our early songs,” Mr. McCartney said, “had always had this very personal thing,” pointing to “Please Please Me,” “From Me to You,” “P.S. I Love You,” and “Thank You Girl.” Then he said, “we hit on the idea of doing a kind of a reported conversation: ‘I saw her yesterday, she told me what to say, she said she loves you.’ It just gave us another little dimension really.”

Mr. McCartney was clearly attuned to how pronouns could provide different perspectives in songwriting (even if he goofed when he told the biographer Barry Miles that “She Loves You” was a “personal preposition song”). But Lennon was no slouch in the pronoun department. He could take a third-person song like “Nowhere Man” and use pronouns to forge a sense of identification: “Isn’t he a lot like you and me?”

Lennon’s play with pronouns reached absurd heights, of course, in the first line of “I Am the Walrus”: “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” And let’s not forget about George Harrison. Even if the Beatles’ use of I-words declined over the years, Harrison penned the ultimate ode to first-person singular pronouns as badges of egocentrism in “I Me Mine,” the last song the Beatles recorded together.

Mr. Pennebaker also explores the songwriting partnership of Lennon and McCartney, comparing the songs they wrote mostly on their own to their true collaborations written “eyeball to eyeball,” as Lennon once put it. The songs on which they collaborated closely produced linguistic patterns strikingly different from those of either songwriter individually. The 15 songs that were true John-Paul partnerships, Mr. Pennebaker says, were “much more positive” in emotional tone and used “more I-words, fewer we-words and much shorter words than either artist normally used on his own.”

Mr. Pennebaker discerns that same synergy at work in a very different collection of texts: The Federalist Papers, three of which were written jointly by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. John and Paul and Alexander and James: now that would be a supergroup.

(For more, see Pennebaker’s 2008 article in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, “Things We Said Today: A Linguistic Analysis of the Beatles,” authored with Keith J. Petrie and Borge Sivertsen.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Trivia

  1. Nineteenth-century Shakespearian actor Edmund Keen collapsed onstage while performing the eponymous role in this Shakespearean tragedy. He died three months later, some say of having expended so much in his performance. (Hint: He collapsed during Act III, scene iii.)
  2. Nineteenth-century British actress Ellen Ternan may or may not have had an affair with this famous Victorian novelist, though he most certainly separated from his wife for her and provided her with a £1,000 bequest and a trust fund sufficient to guarantee that she would never have to work again.
  3. While most of this writer’s obituaries dismissed him as a writer of pornography who had “wasted his considerable talents,” colleague E. M. Forster praised him as “the greatest imaginative novelist of our generation.”
  4. In which Thomas Hardy novel does an adolescent murder his siblings and then commit suicide, leaving a note that says, “Done because we are too menny”?

Last Week's Answers

Which is the longest running play in history?

"The Mouse Trap," by Agatha Christie.

How many weeks was Barbara Bush's book about her English Springer Spaniel, Millie's book, on the bestseller list?

29 weeks

Which literary character was born on September 22 1290?

Bilbo Baggins

What was Cinderella’s glass slipper originially made out of?

Cinderella's slippers were originally made out of fur, but the story was changed in the 1600s by a translator.

Who introduced mystery fiction's first fictional detective?

Edgar Allan Poe introduced Auguste C. Dupin, in his 1841 story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."

Which was the first American novel to sell more than one million copies?

Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin"

Monday, August 29, 2011

Woot! New additions to dictionary reflect today's culture

According to

Don't be a denialist. Instead put on your jeggings (breathe in) or mankini (be careful) and retweet this article.

After all, it's hip to be in the know on the 400 new words and phrases in the 12th edition of Concise Oxford English Dictionary, the abridged version of the Oxford English Dictionary. The smaller dictionary is meant to "cover the language of its own time."

Beware: Not all words are built to last, wrote dictionary editor Angus Stevenson in a blog posting last week.

"Sadly, the new edition has no room for tremendous words like brabble 'paltry noisy quarrel' and growlery 'place to growl in, private room, den' -- what we might call a man cave these days," Stevenson wrote on a blog.

Some of the new words:

  • cyberbullying: n. the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.
  • denialist: n. a person who refuses to admit the truth of a concept or proposition that is supported by the majority of scientific or historical evidence.
  • jeggings: pl. n. tight-fitting stretch trousers for women, styled to resemble a pair of denim jeans.
  • mankini: n. (pl. mankinis) a brief one-piece bathing garment for men, with a T-back.
  • retweet: v. (on the social networking service Twitter) repost or forward (a message posted by another user). n. a reposted or forwarded message on Twitter.
  • sexting: n. informal the sending of sexually explicit photographs or messages via mobile phone.
  • woot: exclam. informal (especially in electronic communication) used to express elation, enthusiasm, or triumph.

The dictionary also adds new definitions of familiar words.

Thought a cougar was just an ornery old cat you might encounter in the American West? By now you know a cougar also is "an older woman seeking a sexual relationship with a younger man."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Literature Brings the Physical Past to Life

According to Scott Herring at

Recently, literary theorists have been making another of their occasional efforts to restore a trace of earthly reality to criticism. This time those efforts have taken the form of Darwinian literary studies, which attempt to relate the universal impulse to tell stories to human nature, as shaped by evolution.

My guess is that those theorists are motivated partly by a desperate realization that, in the process of deconstructing the profession, we in the literature business have shot ourselves not in the foot, but in the head. At a time of contracting education budgets, the public is no longer willing to pay for courses titled "Bat[woman] and Cat[man]: Queering the Canonical Comix."

If nothing else, people may appreciate the application of scientific thinking to a field that has known little of it. Americans admire practicality, and our profession has become esoteric and politicized. Today's literary scholarship too often serves as a vehicle for politics, and even professors who care little for public opinion are eager to indoctrinate students in their views. We seem to have given up on the notion that literature itself can be useful. But in doing so, we are forgetting a crucial function of the books we study.

History gives us the facts, sort of, but from literary works we can learn what the past smelled like, sounded like, and felt like, the forgotten gritty details of a lost era. Literature brings us as close as we can come to reinhabiting the past. By reclaiming this use of literature in the classroom, perhaps we can move away from the political agitation that has been our bread and butter—or porridge and hardtack—for the last 30 years.

Besides literary Darwinism, I suggest another way that scholars can ground their studies in reality: Start with a piece of the physical world. I, for example, recently had a major breakthrough that arose from a bit of junk engine iron.

In the autumn of 2009, I was kicking around the high sagebrush desert just inside the northern edge of Yellowstone National Park, in Montana, looking over the remains of a ghost town. In the process, I found an old dump. From the condition of the glass and the type of rifle and revolver cartridges lying around, I could tell that it dated back well into the 20th century. In one corner, I found the remains of a day—in about 1945, it seemed—when someone had finally gotten around to cleaning out the garage. Scattered around were a clutch pedal, a differential gear, an axle, a piece of tire, and so forth. The parts must have been old even in the mid-1940s, and should have gone for scrap during the war. Perhaps they had still been in use, driven to death by the car's owner.

One piece was evocative somehow: an engine head, the long, heavy piece of steel that sits on top of the cylinders on the engine block and contains the explosions of volatilized gasoline that drive the pistons up and down. I know a little about cars because before I went to graduate school, I spent some years running a service station and repair shop in Yellowstone, where I'd gotten hooked on the scenery. I took photographs of the engine head. It seemed familiar somehow.

Two days later, I was called home to California. My grandfather, who had just turned 85, was sick. When I visited him at home in the Sierra foothills, he was bedridden but otherwise still himself. We talked about my trip to Yellowstone, and I opened up my laptop to show him the photographs. When I got to the engine head, I asked if he knew what it was.

He squinted at the screen. "That's a head from a 1934 Ford Model B."

OK—more specific an answer than I'd expected. Then he surprised me again: "That's a head from the same kind of car I had during the war. That'd fit any model from a '32 to a '34. Mine was a '34."

I knew the car from family photos. Maybe that is why the head, lying out there in the desert, sparked my memory; it went with much of the other junk, which had come from a Model B. (That model wound up becoming famous. By the 1950s, the cars could be bought for a pittance, and kids began customizing them beyond recognition. They became the little deuce coupe the Beach Boys sang about in 1963—the "deuce" being the "2" in the year the car made its debut: 1932.)

Seeing that piece of the past turned loose a flood of memories in my grandfather. "I left Camp Carson in Colorado Springs—I got transferred to another unit, in Los Angeles," he continued in his Ozark accent. He was speaking, I think, of early 1945, when he drove his Model B with my grandmother and my mother, then a baby, across Tijeras Pass on Route 66. ("Tiger-Ass Pass," my grandfather would forever call it.) It was snowing. One would think the snow would keep the engine cool, but a head gasket blew, and the water supply of the engine spewed out onto the hissing block.

My grandfather hitchhiked and walked into Albuquerque, where he found a junkyard. "The owner had three sons in the service," he explained. "He saw my uniform. He let me have some tools, and I went out and got what I needed. When I tried to pay him, he said, 'You don't owe me anything.'"

The snow continued. He now had to get back to the car on Tijeras Pass, where my grandmother and the baby were stuck. He found a cabdriver who finally agreed to take him back to the Ford, he repaired the engine, and the family limped on toward California.

Then he told me something I'd never heard before. Years before the breakdown on Route 66, his family had been part of the great Okie/Arkie flight to California. They had left Little Rock in 1939, driving a 1937 Oldsmobile, "pretty much a brand-new car, in those days. But the trip destroyed it by the time we made it to Santa Monica. It never ran right again. The heat killed it." They had crossed the Mojave Desert in the usual way, which was to pull up near the California border, wait until nightfall, and make a kamikaze run to the other side. Desert temperatures usually drop after dark, but the Mojave can stay hot even at night.

"Why did the heat do that much damage?" I asked.

"Cars were different then," he explained. "On that Model B, the radiator was never big enough, and the water pumps were never big enough. The head cracked when they got hot. Mine got hot." The Oldsmobile had suffered similarly. As engines heated, every moving part—camshaft, crankshaft, rods, bearings, rings, and all the rest—was stressed and finally warped in ways that spoiled the fine tolerances any engine requires.

At the time, as he spoke, it seemed a minor point. We talked until he was too tired to go on. The disease—leukemia—had done more damage than I thought. He passed away the next day.

While I grieved for my grandfather, my mind kept returning to the way I had touched history that afternoon. I thought, for instance, about the great migration to California that Americans undertook every day during my grandfather's youth. I thought about the most famous document of that migration, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

Steinbeck, we know, had a habit of exaggerating. He made the flight from Oklahoma sound like it involved tens of millions, when in fact the numbers were closer to tens of thousands. Still, scenes in the book came back to me with a vividness they had never possessed before—especially the Mojave Desert, between the town of Needles and the Sierra Nevada, which the Joads had to cross to reach California's Central Valley:

"The truck took the road and moved up the long hill, through the broken, rotten rock. The engine boiled very soon and Tom slowed down and took it easy. Up the long slope, winding and twisting through dead country, burned white and gray, and no hint of life in it. Once Tom stopped for a few moments to let the engine cool, and then he traveled on. They topped the pass while the sun was still up, and looked down on the desert—black cinder mountains in the distance, and the yellow sun reflected on the gray desert. The little starved bushes, sage and grease-wood, threw bold shadows on the sand and bits of rock. The glaring sun was straight ahead. Tom held his hand before his eyes to see at all. They passed the crest and coasted down to cool the engine. They coasted down the long sweep to the floor of the desert, and the fan turned over to cool the water in the radiator."

Generations of high-school and college students have been told that these descriptions are (pause to write on the whiteboard) a literary allusion. The Joads are wandering through the desert of Sinai in search of the promised land. They are like the Israelites in the Book of Exodus, which is in another, bigger book called the Bible.

That analysis is good enough, as far as it goes. But it leaves out an important element: engine coolant.

Drivers during the Great Depression had coolant and antifreeze, but it was primitive stuff compared to the brews available today. Modern coolant, the green fluid that mixes with water in radiators, is part of the armory of sophisticated engineering that has eliminated heat as a threat to automotive engines. Today millions make the drive between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in 120-degree heat with the air conditioner on high, driving way over the speed limit and never giving the heat a thought unless they have to get out and buy gas.

On that last afternoon with my grandfather, he took me to an alternate reality—alternate, but not made up. It was a reality of hardship, suffering, and endurance that we seem to have lost. When his family reached the far edge of the desert in the '37 Olds, my grandfather was so desperately hot that he tried swimming in the Salton Sea. The result made me think of another literary allusion, to Lot's wife. "I come outta there white with salt, head to toe," my grandfather said. "I never suffered like that." He kept suffering until he reached a bathtub in Santa Monica, days later.

That kind of information is in The Grapes of Wrath, but we have a hard time recognizing it. When we read about the Joads' crossing, we assume that the problem is simply that their car is old and overloaded. The truth is that the sum of society's technology was not up to the challenge of moving a family across one of the world's most fearsome deserts.

The past is not another country; it is another life. The texture of daily living is different now than in the past, more different the further back we look, until we find people whose experiences created a psychology we might find baffling or rude. Many details that once made up the daily round are lost to us because people considered them too trivial to write down.

Knowing the past means knowing what people carried in their pockets, what they did with their sewage, where their dogs slept. Those details may seem unimportant, but what they convey is not. My bit of junk from the Montana sage taught me why millions of otherwise-modern people in 20th-century America feared the desert as much as the ox-drawn pioneers had.

Let the dead French theorists lie. Instead, literary scholars can become guides to the physical reality of the past. If you think about it, that's what we've been doing in class for the last hundred years: explaining how to pronounce "Doth not Brutus bootless kneel?" in Early Modern English, for instance, or describing a Boeing B-17 to help students understand Randall Jarrell's poem "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner." Once ordinary people note that we're doing something useful again, they might stop looking at us like we're nuts. And maybe we'll even get some jobs back.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Prestwick House Helps Its Employees Find Balance

This week, Prestwick House was featured in the Wilmington News Journal's feature on the Best Places to work in Delaware. Check out the full story written by Dan Shortridge here, or read more below.

Prestwick House CEO Jason Scott stands in the Smyrna warehouse where there are over 200,000 books ready to ship to schools throughout the United States.

A visitor walking into the offices of Prestwick House might be forgiven for thinking they've entered through the wrong door.

Instead of a reception desk, etched-glass logo or waiting area with magazines, you're greeted by what appears to be the interior of a comfortable coffeehouse, with wooden tables and tall chairs ready for people to lounge, lunch, brainstorm or banter.

Even the "work" areas are different. Cubicles are colored maroon instead of an antiseptic gray or green, and posters and fully loaded bookshelves abound.

The relaxed, comfortable atmosphere is all intentional, said CEO Jason Scott, as are the flexible work schedules and self-managed projects. .

"Sometimes people aren't sure what kind of business this is," Scott says with a chuckle.

Prestwick House, which employs about 30 workers at its Smyrna-area offices, publishes books, resource materials and teachers' guides in English and the language arts, targeted at 7th- to 12th-grade classes. Its team of writers, editors, artists, designers, marketers and distributors produces about 130 new products a year, in both printed and digital formats.

One of the best things about working for the company, employees say, is the flexible work system that's in place. Some employees can work -- within reason -- whatever hours they want. If a writer wants to start the day at 7 a.m., or an editor at 10 a.m., that's fine.

Even those who have specific tasks to do during specific hours praise the work-life balance the company allows them.

That moved Prestwick House into the top ranking this year for the workplace providing the best work/life flexibility in the News Journal's annual Top Workplaces survey, conducted with Workplace Dynamics.

Mandee Watts, 23, of Smyrna, has worked at Prestwick for eight years, starting as a temporary teenage warehouse worker for the summer shipping rush. If she needs to take off early to be with her daughter, she says, it's fine.

"As long as your job's done, it's no problem at all," Watts said. "It's the best place in the world."

Some employees on the creative side have the flexibility to work from home two days a week, if they're disciplined, Scott said.

"Our writers and editors have found that to be a very productive time for them," he said.

Employees also are responsible for setting their own annual and monthly goals, and many of the company's project ideas come from within -- at times from the bottom at one of the many meetings held in the main entrance area, with tables pushed together and everyone having a voice.

"If you propose a project, there's a good chance you're going to be heading it up," said general manager Keith Bergstrom, who worked his way up after being hired out of the University of Delaware in 2001 for a customer service job.

Other benefits include:

» A common "time off" pool, instead of divisions between sick time and vacation time. "If you need to take off, you can take off," Scott explains. "You don't have to call in" -- pretending to cough -- " 'I'm sick.' "

» A company-paid graduate education program, which has helped three employees so far earn their MBAs.

» A Christmas break when the entire company is closed down for a long holiday period, mirroring the shutdowns of most of the schools they serve.

The company still feels like the family-owned business it is, though it has grown substantially from its early days in the Scott family garage on Prestwick Court in Dover.

These days, the family includes all 30 employees, whose faces adorn goofy "class photos" in the main area, mimicking the Sgt. Pepper album cover one year, or dressed up as pirates to mark an edition of "Treasure Island" being put out.

"There are a lot of good people here," he said. "We have a good time together."

Tuesday Trivia

  1. Which is the longest running play in history?
  2. How many weeks was Barbara Bush's book about her English Springer Spaniel, Millie's book, on the bestseller list?
  3. Which literary character was born on September 22 1290?
  4. What was Cinderella’s glass slipper originially made out of?
  5. Who introduced mystery fiction's first fictional detective?
  6. Which was the first American novel to sell more than one million copies?
Last Week's Answers
Which author is sports a black eye in the dust jacket photo of his 1967 novel?

Norman Mailer appears on the inside cover of his novel Why Are We in Vietnam? with a spectacular shiner. Also odd is the fact that in the book, the word "Vietnam" occurs only one time — the last page.

Poet named Ernest Dowson wrote “To Cynara,” a work that contains a line which was used as the title of which world famous novel?

Gone With The Wind. The line is, 'I have forgot much, Cynara, gone with the wind, flung roses riotously to the throng,'

Which famous author held the position of Governor General of Canada in 1935?

Thirty-Nine Steps author John Buchan. He was also a barrister, a Member of Parliament, soldier, and publisher.

The epitaph 'Blest be the man that spares these stones, and curst be he that moves my bones,' was written by whom?


Which English Romantic poet was born with a clubfoot?

Lord Byron

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tuesday Trivia

  1. Which author is sports a black eye in the dust jacket photo of his 1967 novel?
  2. Poet named Ernest Dowson wrote “To Cynara,” a work that contains a line which was used as the title of which world famous novel?
  3. Which famous author held the position of Governor General of Canada in 1935?
  4. The epitaph 'Blest be the man that spares these stones, and curst be he that moves my bones,' was written by whom?
  5. Which English Romantic poet was born with a clubfoot?

Last Week's Answers

Which was the first novel ever sold through a vending machine?

Murder on the Orient Express was sold from a vending machine for the first time in 1989 at the Paris Metro. Interestingly enough, the first vending machine was invented in Alexandria, Egypt around 215 BC. When a coin was dropped into a slot, its weight would pull a cork out of a spigot and the machine would dispense a trickle of water.

The oldest surviving daily newspaper is the Wiener Zeitung of Austria. When was it first printed?

It was first printed in 1703.

Where does the “Hey Diddle Diddle” nursery rhyme come from?

This Nursery Rhyme originated in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. The queen is said to have teased her courtiers (not unlike a cat teases mice) and was very fond of dancing to fiddle music. One of her courtiers was called "Moon" and another "Dog," and there was also a gentleman of the court called "Dish" who eloped with Mistress “Spoon.”

And thus the rhyme was born: “Hey diddle, diddle, The cat and the fiddle, The cow jumped over the moon, The little dog laughed to see such sport, And the dish ran away with the spoon.”

There are 10 million books in the Russian Public Library in Leningrad — enough to supply every person in the city with two books. If the books housed in the United States Library of Congress were doled out to those living in the city of Washington, D.C., how many books would each person receive?

If the 72,466,926 books housed in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. were doled out to the 591,833 people living in the city, there would be approximately 122 volumes for each person.

Why was part of Lewis Carroll's classic, "Through the Looking Glass," featuring a giant wasp wearing a wig omitted from the original publication and only made known to the general public 107 years later?

The section, which featured a giant wasp wearing a wig, was left out because Carroll's illustrator, John Tenniel, refused to illustrate it. "A wasp in a wig," said Tenniel, "is altogether beyond the appliances of art."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tuesday Trivia

  1. Which was the first novel ever sold through a vending machine?
  2. The oldest surviving daily newspaper is the Wiener Zeitung of Austria. When was it first printed?
  3. Where does the “Hey Diddle Diddle” nursery rhyme come from?
  4. There are 10 million books in the Russian Public Library in Leningrad — enough to supply every person in the city with two books. If the books housed in the United States Library of Congress were doled out to those living in the city of Washington, D.C., how many books would each person receive?
  5. Why was part of Lewis Carroll's classic, "Through the Looking Glass," featuring a giant wasp wearing a wig omitted from the original publication and only made known to the general public 107 years later?
Last Week's Answers
Author Eric Blair wrote under what pen name?

Eric Blair, author of Animal Farm and 1984, wrote under the pseudonym George Orwell. Blair considered several names including P. S. Burton, Kenneth Miles, and H. Lewis Allways. He finally adopted the nom de plume George Orwell because, as he told Eleanor Jacques, "It is a good round English name."

Which Aldous Huxley work was the inspiration behind Jim Morrison naming his band The Doors?

The book The Doors of Perception, by Aldous Huxley, was the inspiration behind Jim Morrison naming his band The Doors. The book extols the use of hallucinogenic drugs.

Which classic novel was written based on a bet between several authors vacationing together in 1818?

Mary Shelley and her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, were visiting their friend Lord Byron when she got the idea for Frankenstein. The three friends agreed to see who could come up with the best ghost story to scare the other two.

Which piece of American literature containing over 50,000 words does not once use the letter “e”?

American author, Ernest Vincent Wright wrote Gadsby: A Champion of Youth, which, except for the introduction and a note at the end, does not use the letter “e.” Every word is properly spelled and all narration is grammatically correct. He actually taped down the letter “e” on his typewriter to avoid accidentally using it.

Which word in the English language has the most definitions?

Of all the words in the English language, the word ’set’ has the most definitions.

Matt Damon explains non-financial motivations and the education sector

Although his language is a little harsh during this video, actor Matt Damon gets his point across about the vocational nature of being an educator — or an actor.

At, Cory Doctorow explains, "In this brief video, Matt Damon is quizzed by a reporter who claims that he’s a good actor because he knows he’d be fired if he did a bad job, while teachers, with job security, have no such incentive. He persuasively lambastes the reporter, arguing that the reasons people do things — especially jobs like teaching (but also arts careers, which have a very low chance of succeeding) — are much more nuanced than a mere job-security-incentive 'MBA' model would suggest."

"It’s a very illuminating example of a clash of ideologies. Damon, after all, had no 'rational' business becoming an actor, since he was almost entirely certain to fail. Now that he is a multi-millionaire, he has no 'rational' reason to continue acting, because he’s assured of financial security forever. Clearly, Damon is someone whose lifelong incentives are not about 'job security.' Rather, his motivations are vocational — he does this because it fulfills him."

"And that’s the case with most of the teachers I know. The important thing about a vocational model of incentives is that it can be undermined by the 'rational' model preached by those who accuse teachers of sloth created by their “job security.” That is, when you go around calling teachers featherbedding losers who only do the job because it’s so cushy, you scare away all those people for whom the dignity of the vocation provides the low-cost workforce upon which the educational sector depends."