Chicago vs MLA

I wrote this many years ago, while I was in college.   I happened upon it again as I was searching for something else in my files and thought it would make a few of you smile.   So here is a short satire piece on a subject near and dear to my heart.                                                              

Chicago vs. MLA

My friends, I am here today to speak on a matter of the gravest importance. This matter has divided our disciplines for a number of years, caused an untold amount of grief for millions worldwide.  How to properly cite your sources in an academic essay, research paper, or a thesis; do we italicize the titles or do we underline them.  Where do the quotation marks go?  We are one world and in this world we need to be united.  United against ignorance, united against the death of all we hold dear, united against revisionist acts, and united against the death of culture.    But such unity cannot ever be achieved while we in academia are split into so many different factions on the basis of this one crucial detail, so small, so vital to the works that we do.  

How to cite your sources is an issue that has been fought and battled over for centuries.  We are all professionals here; we are all well versed not only in our chosen fields of study but often in other disciplines as well.  We can agree on other things.  What makes for a topic sentence is one example.   What makes for a good paragraph and what makes for a poor one is another.   But on this issue no one can see clearly, no one can compromise, and compromise is severely needed for both major parties in this struggle.  Academia cannot stand up proudly, united against the world, if indeed we have such divisions under our own roof.  President Lincoln stated, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”   In this he speaks very clearly, Academia cannot hope to influence the world around us and work to bring change without being united in spirit and in truth.

 “To footnote or not to footnote” is a question that millions of students over the years have asked themselves.  Some professors prefer in-text citations or endnotes.  This is a matter of personal preference and as such we are not advocating that everyone adopt footnotes as the universal standard[1].  However, in the formatting of these footnotes and other citations, we do have cause for some alarm.   MLA, a format used and beloved by all English majors and professors is one of the most widely used styles.  This is the style that they pound into our heads all throughout high school and through all of the college English courses.   The problem with MLA is that not only is it complicated to learn and remember; it is also an inflexible style.   It was created for in-text citations and in-text citations alone.  

The Chicago style, preferred by historians and several of the other humanities, unlike MLA, is quite the opposite.  It has the flexibility to encompass in-text citations and footnotes and endnotes.   It is relatively simple to memorize and use.  It is, by far, one of the better choices, yet it is often laid by the wayside, untaught, and unacknowledged in the public and private schools.   This is a serious matter which needs to be addressed, ladies and gentlemen.   Only being taught one method of style can be a serious handicap for a young college freshman in their first semester. Citing sources goes hand in hand with writing papers and essays. When you write papers in college and you will write papers, that is an absolute basic fact of life, along with death and taxes. You will die, you will pay taxes, and you will write papers in college. Citing sources is a very integral part of that process, having more than one style often tends to confuse and befuddle students.  Some students entering college, it is sad to say, don’t even know what a footnote is, much less how to correctly format one.   Think of the children, the children who write, who want to contribute, but suffer under the burden of not knowing how to correctly format a simple footnote because of the problems inherent with having more than one style.

A prominent military journalist and English major torn between Chicago and MLA, who spoke to us on condition of anonymity due to fears of Oxford Comma Hit Squads, suggests that standardization is called for. “All citations are sacred, you know. If we allow this so-called “choice” in citations, what we’re really doing is killing words,” he said. “By killing words, aren’t we really killing the authors’ souls?”   A bit drastic, we feel, but we sympathize with his sentiments.  We agree wholeheartedly that standardization is just what we need to solve this issue.  A melding of the two camps, healing the breach between the two major disciplines involved in this dispute. 

To that end we suggest a committee be commissioned to explore the possibilities of paving a way so that a new style can be developed, a style that can encompass everything that citations should be, need to be in a way that would satisfy all the disciplines.  Because if this does not reach a peaceful compromise, I fear that the continuing battles back and forth could lead to something even greater and far uglier than the current struggles.    I fear an all out war between the disciplines could arise if middle ground cannot be found.   So many papers have already been sacrificed to the continuing strife between the departments.  Let us act now and save the future papers from this horrible struggle.   

In all seriousness, standardizing the style guides completely across the board (barring technical or scientific papers as the exception) so that there is only one style that students need to learn throughout all of high school and college would be an excellent move on the college’s front, especially for those lucky few double majoring in two separate disciplines.  It would make formatting papers more efficient and easier to do and also easier to grade.  There are more benefits than downfalls to standardizing the style with which we format our papers and citations.  Thank you, ladies and gentlemen for your time.

 

 

 

 

[1] As useful and pleasant as we find them to be, we understand that not everyone shares our love for the footnote.

 

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Movie Review: Murder On the Orient Express

So earlier this week, I had the honor of being asked to be on a podcast for the ESO Network who are a large group of amazing geeky people.  I’ve had run-ins with them before at conventions and technically I’ve been on a few podcasts of theirs by virtue of simply being on a panel they were recording, but this was the first formal invitation.   So I got put into the Geek Seat.

Ya’ll.  I have hardly ever giggled or laughed that much in such a short period of time, it was amazing.   So if you want to hear me answer some hysterical questions all about nerdity and geekery and then a panel review with me and several of the other amazing ESO hosts about the latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, give this episode a listen.   Click on the picture below to take you to the direct link for the podcast OR  find it where you find all great podcasts.

I really enjoyed the movie itself, though I will freely admit that I walked into it having freshly re-read the book so I could do a better compare and contrast and with having seen several of the other adaptations.   The book is a wonderful character piece and the movie portrays that well.  Kenneth Branagh does a great job with the role of Hercule Poirot, though much like with Doctor Who, he’ll never be my Poirot ( David Suchet, if you wondered, I watched a lot of PBS as a kid).   He did the role justice though and it’s my second favorite adaptation of this book.    The rest of the cast is fabulous and there’s a lot in there to unpack.  The movie isn’t as long as I thought it would be and it drags a little in some odd places.   Overall, I give it a 4.5 out of 5 (with the .5 attributed to nostalgia because I love Poirot and hope this will inspire fresh interest in Agatha’s works).

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Self-Care and Writers: An Update

Writers are not really great about this self-care thing.  Just ask the Internet or any writers you know.   We forget food, errands, sometimes hygiene, all because we’ve got fictional words driving us to type them out and make them real on paper/word processor.    It’s a thing.    The frustration when we’re not producing up to our own standards is also a thing (see above for helpful links regarding all of that).

Self-Care is important. 

I have a double-dose of forgetting about self-care because not only am I a writer, my family is also the worst at this.   We grind and grind until we drop and then once we’re back upright, grinding more.   We never stop and we’re not overly fond of slowing down from the things we need to get done.

So in a move that really surprises no one at all, least of all me, because of all of the compounded stuff in the last three-four months (okay really since April to be honest) – I  hit the actual burnout point.  Technically I hit it at the beginning of last month, but I still had a con to do at that point, so I pushed through it.   Which meant that I spent the entire rest of the month of October reaping the whirlwind exhaustion and fatigue from having just pushed myself so far without a whole lot of down or recovery time.

I did 37 total panels at four conventions in between  a trip to NYC, my baby brother leaving for college, my best friend coming for a weeklong visit, and a whole wealth of immediate and extended family events, house issues and the ever present, always fun medical issues.    I’ve been to Atlanta three times and Louisville once. I’ve had a short story published and invites to submit to three other anthologies, the Patreon is still running for various short stories and novellas, and we’re coming up on the major holiday season.  It’s been a lot lately.

I’m an introvert so recharging generally means I’m sitting somewhere comfy by myself, enjoying the quiet and stillness of just being inside my own brain and not needing to respond to any exterior stimulae unless I wanted to.  Unfortunately with a day job and cats who demand to be fed at regular intervals, recharging had to come at points where I wasn’t working at the full time day job.  So literally everything else had to get reshuffled around to make sure that I could have the time to refresh and recharge.  So that’s why there hasn’t been a lot of posting here from me here (if you follow on me on Twitter, different story, but Twitter doesn’t lend itself well to good thinky posts like I prefer to do here).   You’ll see more posting now, some of it normal updates like the reviews and the wednesday reads, some of them will probably be hilarious posts about November and writing/writers.   It’s deep into NaNoWriMo after all (i’m at 18k and change and I hit the part of loathing all the words ever, so really I’m right on schedule for the nanocycle of writing or if you prefer, I’m right at “The Tango of Mirth and Shame” ).

So hi, everyone!  I’m back and you’ll start to see a lot more posts floating your way very soon.

 

 

 

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The Mad Visions of Al-Hazred Is Out Today!

 

Cover for the anthology

So this came out today and I am super thrilled about it!!   I’ve got a story in there, along with stories from super talented and amazing people.   If you like Cthulhu Mythos stories, then pick this up!    If you would like a signed copy from me,  please comment here or DM/Email me.   It’s 13$ plus shipping and I am more than happy to personalize it any way you like.

Otherwise, it should be available in short order wherever you buy your books!

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Drabble Treat and Shannara Reviews

New October Treat up at the Patreon. This month, $1 buys you access to all the short stories from the last couple of months as well as the story for this month and the drabble treats. Because I love this month and all my patrons!
So if you want to see what it’s all about, click here to go to the Patreon
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And in the other bit of news for today,   The Shannara Chronicles comes back with season two tomorrow.   Watch this space for episode reviews and I’ll be live tweeting every episode I watch live (which should be all of them, life permitting).   I’m super excited to see where they’ll go from here.   Last season was a hell of a ride and I’m so intrigued to see where they take us from where they left off.    You can see all the Season 1 Reviews here  if you want to read my thoughts on last season.
Thanks to Spoiler TV for the promo image.
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Wednesday Reads and Readathon:

Welcome back to Wednesday Reads!

Having finished Ahsoka and Shadows Over Baker Street and still working my way through New Amsterdam (it’s amazing, but parts of it hit a little close feelings wise, so I am taking my time with it)  and State of Fear,  I’ve also added some books about the Voynich Manuscript and The Sword and The Shield:  The Mitrokhin Archive ( and the Secret History of the KGB).

Some of which is just casual light reading and some of which is research for pieces I am working on.   Reviews on the books I’ve finished will be coming soon.   I’ve got a convention this weekend, but I’ll be working on slinging them up as soon as I can.

What are you reading?   What would you like to see me read?  I always take requests (for just about everything except horror with very few exceptions).   Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

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Renaissance Research: Book Edition

A friend asked me what were some good books to read if one wanted to do more research into the Renaissance. I assembled this list for her and thought it might also be of some use to people reading this blog!   So here you go – if you want to research the Renaissance, this is where I would start.   This is not an exhaustive list, but it’ll give you a good comprehensive grounding on some of the ins and outs and how to structure any further research you choose to do.

Margaret King’s The Renaissance in Europe
This is a fairly good informative textbook – King works more or less thematically through the Renaissance and it gives you a nice grounding in just about everything. It is definitely the book I would go to first before delving into more heavier researching.

Gene Brucker’s The Society of Renaissance Florence – A Documentary Study
My Renaissance and Reformation professor made a comment once in class, that just about everything that ever happened in the European Renaissance – you could find an example of that happening in Florence. He’s yet to be proven wrong. Florence is an amazing case study for the Renaissance as a whole, and that’s due in no small part because Florence is obsessively well-documented. Where the rest of Europe will have a hundred documents or so total – Florence (not to mention the rest of Italy) has thousands upon thousands of documents. Like King, it is organized thematically – but the documents that Brucker has selected give a very good picture of what day to day life was like.

Kenneth Atchity’s The Renaissance Reader
This compilation gives access to selections from the important literary, artistic, social, religious, political, scientific and philosophical texts of the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Louise Labe, Bruni, Dante, Chaucer, Villon, Malory, Copernicus and Shakespeare, as well as illustrations representing the work of Giotto, Donatello, Bellini, Da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael and Brueghel. It also provides first-hand encounters with the Renaissance in the form of letters, diaries, poetry and art.

Michael Baxandall’s Painting and Experience in 15th century Italy 2nd Edition.
The Renaissance was a highly material and visual culture – there are social cues and codes incorporated into the paintings of the time. This book is both an introduction to fifteenth-century Italian painting and as a text on how to interpret social history from the style of pictures in a given historical period, this examines early Renaissance painting, and explains how the style of painting in any society reflects the visual skills and habits that evolve out of daily life. Renaissance painting, for example, mirrors the experience of such activities as preaching, dancing, and gauging barrels. The volume includes discussions of a wide variety of painters, including Filippo Lippi, Fra Angelico, Stefano di Giovanni, Sandro Botticelli, Masaccio, Luca Signorelli, Boccaccio, and countless others. Baxandall also defines and illustrates sixteen concepts used by a contemporary critic of painting, thereby assembling the basic equipment needed to explore fifteenth-century art. This new second edition includes an appendix that lists the original Latin and Italian texts referred to throughout the book, providing the reader with all the relevant, authentic sources. It also contains an updated bibliography and a new reproduction of a recently restored painting which replaces the original.

Craig Harbison’s The Mirror of the Artist – Northern Renaissance Art in its Historical Context
This book looks at the Northern Renaissance and how that transformed differently from the Southern (Italian) Renaissance – it places the art inside the historical context of the time and overlaps with the Reformation. Fascinating reading and has some amazing pictures of the kinds of Northern Art that existed or developed.

These last two names are more along the lines of primary source material, but both are rather essential for sort of understanding Renaissance-era thought.

Niccolo Machiavelli – The Prince and Discourses I & II (Free)
Machiavelli wrote more than just the Prince -which should be required reading for everyone, everywhere, but I digress. His Discourses are also very valuable readings with regards to political thought – and he was more than a simple theorist, being the foreign minister of Florence in the early 1500s–until thrown out of office and tortured by the Medici in 1513–his Discourses and the Prince illustrate Renaissance Italy’s dangerous political environment, on which Machiavelli drew for his insights on political conduct.

Baldassare Castiglione – “The Art of the Courtier” (free)

This book is amazing. It addresses the constitution of a perfect courtier, and in its last installment, a perfect lady. It is the definitive account of Renaissance court life. The book is organized as a series of fictional conversations that occur between the courtiers of the Duke of Urbino in 1507 (when Baldassare was in fact part of the Duke’s Court). In the book, the courtier is described as having a cool mind, a good voice (with beautiful, elegant and brave words) along with proper bearing and gestures. At the same time though, the courtier is expected to have a warrior spirit, to be athletic, and have good knowledge of the humanities, Classics and fine arts. Over the course of four evenings, members of the court try to describe the perfect gentleman of the court. In the process they debate the nature of nobility, humor, women, and love.

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Dewey’s Readathon!

Wow.  This October marks the 10th anniversary of Dewey’s Readathon, and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, I urge you to check this link out.    It’s an amazing thing that I look forward to every time it rolls around.    This year they are doing 30 Days of Readathon leading up to it and it looks like a blast.   So here’s the chart if you want to keep up with me.

 

I’m a few days behind, but I’ll try and catch up as quickly as possible, when life allows me to.  Being a writer with a day job does have it’s downsides.

30.  Favorite Book

Gosh, that’s like trying to pick a favorite child or pet.  My library isn’t 2500+ strong because I’m not really a big reader.  There are a few that I habitually go back to, some that I own in several formats, and then there are some that I continually buy and re-buy because I keep flinging them at people (Good Omens, if you’re curious. I’ve bought it about 19-20 times by now).  So I will talk about one of the books that I re-read frequently.   It’s an old book, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs back in 1912 and it’s the first in the Barsoom series.  I’m talking, of course, of A Princess of Mars.   You might be more familiar with the movie based on it that Disney put out years ago, titled John Carter.  The movie itself is excellent and a fairly decent adaptation of the first two Barsoom books.   This book mixed my love of fantasy and history with my love of space and gave me exciting adventures

Cover (taken from wikipedia.com)

on a far away planet. It gave me a heroine that wasn’t the traditional damsel in distress.   She’s a competent adventurer, fully capable of defending herself and surviving the wilds of Mars without John’s help.  The movie made her the leading scientist of Helium, which was something I adored.   It gave me a healthy romance pairing and aliens who weren’t humans in funny costumes.  It gave me a world that felt alive and lived in.

It’s the first out of a long series and overall, it’s one of my favorite reads and re-reads because it’s all around a great story.

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Wednesday Reads:

Welcome to Wednesday Reads.

Ahsoka (cover of the novel taken from Amazon)

Currently I am working my way through E.K. Johnston’s Ahsoka book (available here)  and it’s a delight so far.  I really love her character and I was very excited to get my hands on this.  My friend Bryan recommended it to me (you can find his stuff here) and so far I have not been disappointed.

I’ve recently finished Garrett Investigates by Elizabeth Bear, a short story compendium of Abby Irene shorts.  It’s a fantastic universe and I definitely recommend it if you can get your hands on it.   I’ve also finished American Assassin by Vince Flynn,  The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle,  The Alpha’s Home by Dessa Lux, and The Birthday of the World by Ursula K. LeGuin.

More reviews about those to come.   Currently on my reading list after I finish Ahsoka is New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear,  State of Fear by Michael Crichton,  and Shadows over Baker Street – an anthology mixing Sherlock Holmes and the Cthulhu mythos.

What are you reading?  Tell me in the comments!

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