Selected Writings


About James Harbeck


institute Sesquiotic


Useful things

Text test patterns
get rid of lorem ipsum and replace it with placeholder text that reflects actual English word length and usage patterns

HTML tags and characters and CSS properties
a reference sheet originally prepared for "Things you should know about HMTL"

Things you should know about HTML
the script for my presentation at the 2004 Editors' Association of Canada conference, with links to the examples, for the reference of those who were there and those who would have gone but couldn't

An appreciation of English: A language in motion
a presentation for the 2006 Editors' Association of Canada conference on change in the English language

A brief history of English
the handout for my presentation at the 2006 Editors' Association of Canada conference: a timeline of English with details on English through the ages, plus a look at the histories of some interesting words and points of usage

A historic(al) usage trend: An historic(al) usage trend
a paper on the "a historic" versus "an historic" issue

How to explain grammar
a presentation for the 2010 Editors' Association of Canada conference, giving some basics of syntactic theory and some recommendations for explaining it; includes this useful reference handout

Our changing language: When does wrong become right?
a presentation for the 2014 Editors' Association of Canada conference on our changing language and how you can decide when to go with a change and when to resist it

Translating medicalese
the handout from my presentation at the 2019 Editors Canada conference

Well Begun Is Nearly Done: Desktop publishing workflow at warp speed
a presentation for the 2011 Editors' Association of Canada conference on things you can do to make your life a lot easier when preparing text and doing layout in desktop publishing

When an "error" isn't
a presentation given at the Editors' Association of Canada Toronto branch meeting, September 24, 2007, on how to approach changes in the English language

What flavour of English do you want?
a presentation for the 2008 Editors' Association of Canada conference on register, collocation, and reflected meaning – or, to put it another way, how the language you use is known by the company it keeps

What's up with English spelling?
a presentation for the 2009 Editors' Association of Canada conference on how English spelling got to be the crazy, capricious gallimaufry that it is

Why is it spelled that way? A ghotiun expedition
the handout for my presentation at the 2009 Editors' Association of Canada conference: an enumeration of various ways words came to be spelled as they are, plus a timeline of English (the same as in A brief history of English, above)


Essays and other non-fiction

Admit It: You Have Problems
a sermon on the things in our lives that clash with who we feel we should be

Art for Whose Sake?
a sesquipedalian screed on the nature and function of "art," whatever that is

The Attraction of Nipples
an exploration of our culture's fascination with mammaries and, in particular, nipples. No pictures. Far and away the most visited page on the site. Probably the shortest average visit time, too, once they see what it is.

Back on the Boards Again
a humiliating recounting of my first time skiing in thirteen years, including a thoroughly ridiculous photo of myself. I've improved my technique since then.

A case study in the pragmatics of American theatrical programs (PDF, 100 KB)
an article that was published in Semiotica on the uses served by those playbill booklets you get if and when you go to see a play

By Their Fruits You Will Know Them
a sermon on one of Jesus' key teachings

"Containment Is the Enemy": an Ideography of Richard Schechner (PDF, 804 KB)
my doctoral dissertation, in which I look at the development of the theories of the inventor of performance studies

Exaltation: music (MP3, 6.7 MB)
a sermon on self-transcendence, exaltation, and song

Give It a Rest
a sermon on the sabbath, rules, and rest

The Good Wife
a sassy sermon on a difficult text

Help Stop a Word-Lynching
an earnest plea for people to check their facts before spreading hateful lies about words people use. Don't roll your eyes! These people are calling you a racist if you've ever been on a picnic or even spoken of one.

How Do We Approach Scripture, Anyway?
a sermon on how to deal with the many often diametrically opposed interpretations of the Bible

The Imaginary Other: Synthetic Interculturalism in Star Trek VI
an essay on interculturalism with a fictional other culture

In Praise of Preposterous Propositions
a letter that was published in TDR about the need for more BS in scholarship

Los Angeles Without a Car
a recounting of several days' masochistic, fetishistic [that ought to get me more page views] exploration of LA, mostly by foot
Version 1 (basic travelogue)
Version 2 (shorter and more intellectual)
Pedestrian in Los Angeles (final version – trimmed, tighter, with a couple of errors corrected)

Okhlopkov and the Nascence of the Postmodern (PDF, 80 KB)
an article that was published in Theatre InSight on a Russian director of the earlier 20th century and what his work manifests of postmodernity

The People of the Maze
a story and sermon on us versus them

The Piping Fisherman
a sermon on being bossy

Primary Sources
a sermon on where we turn for authority

Publish or Perish
a sermon on what Amos did that John the Baptist didn't

A Reading for a Wedding
a meditation on love and romantic ideals

Relative Use of Phonaesthemes in the Constitution and Development of Genres (PDF, 9.8 MB)
my master's thesis in linguistics, in which I quantitatively analyze the way words such as splash, gleam, and clump help us know what kind of thing we're reading

The Rest Is Silence
a sermon on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I

Rumsfeld's Square
a sermon on believing and seeing

The Silence of the Sheep
a sermon on why the analogy of Christians to sheep who recognize their shepherd's voice doesn't always seem to hold true

Sometimes Things Turn Out Differently from What You Expect
a sermon on ends and means using The Matrix as an example

Sour Grapes
a sermon on what to do about the sins of our ancestors

Take Out the Trash
a sermon on wishing people would go to hell

To Have or Not to Have
a sermon reexamining temptation with a story about the angel Annette and someone who couldn't possibly be me

The Transcendent Function of Interculturalism (PDF, 106 KB)
a Jungian analysis of cross-cultural borrowings

a sermon on water and the spirit, for the second Sunday of Advent

Your Gold Medal
a sermon on exaltation, earned and unearned, for the fifth Sunday after Epiphany


Fiction and plays

The Annunciation
a chronicle of a nasty patch

Cordelia: A Noh play
a treatment of King Lear in the style of a Japanese theatre form

a spell of anxiety with just way too much paronomasia

Woman at the Well
a play, or something like that, based on the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman



11/8 Thursday

Atlas, Behind the Theatre

Face Unknown

In front of M.I.T.

I will never be satisfied

I wish to write in praise of being flippant

Kitchen poem

Personal Effects (a growing series of poems):

Reading the Paper on the Subway

Sunday in Guildwood

Three Haikus


Tony in the afternoon

To the Finish

water balloon

Why is this your cat?

Your Feet




(written for the Church of the Holy Trinity, but others are welcome to use them with permission and credit. Special thanks to Becca Whitla for putting them in proper sheet music.)

Hush, Little Child (PDF, 38 KB)
a Christmas carol

Whose Blood (PDF, 23 KB)
a bluesy song in a Good Friday mood

Christians Live in Hope (PDF, 38 KB)
an easy-to-sing song about the imperative Christians face

Climb a Tree (PDF, 39 KB)
a song about Zacchaeus

Tiny Little Baby (PDF, 33 KB)
a song for Epiphany


Special things

James and Aina, December 9, 2000
a wedding photo

Iceland with James Harbeck and Aina Arro
a recounting in pictures of our trip to Iceland at summer solstice, 2003




All contents © 2000–2015 James Harbeck