Thursday, November 29, 2007

Duly noted

I was baptized yesterday evening.

More later, but right now I need some extra time offline.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Call me a true klutz, I guess...

... because I've done this. More than once. (But I help run a bookstore. It's an occupational hazard.)

I like her follow-up post, too. Funny stuff. :)

"Beatrice's Feast"

Here's a story of a young lady who rose to the occasion. Bravo. (And pass the hankies, please. It brought a tear to my eye.)

Actually, it's more than the story of the young lady who rose to the occasion. It's about a family coping with cancer, from the point of view of a mother who sometimes has to let her children help her these days.

hat tip: Dewey's Treehouse

Blog find: Deliciously Clean Reads

How can I resist a blog called Deliciously Clean Reads? With a tagline of "Clean books that are delicious to the soul."?

From the welcome post, March 8, 2007:

Welcome to my brand-new blog. Here's the gist of why I'm here...

The last few books I have started, I have not been able to finish due to pages full of swearing/sex scenes. It is extremely frustrating to get halfway through a page-turner and find that your conscience will not let you continue. I wish there was a rating system for books similar to movies. Then, I would know not to pick up R-rated books. Few Pg-13s would make my to-be-read list, to be honest.

In other words, I hope this blog will be a valuable resource for people who, like me, want to read clean books. I am a huge advocate for reading. And I hope that this will become a place where many people will feel free to comment, discuss and make recommendations for future clean reads in the novel-length fiction category...

Hear! Hear!

I see that the sidebar has links to other "Clean Lists."

hat tip: Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books

Umbert strikes again

Who but cartoonist Gary Cangemi could have taken the statement that as far as famous people go, "Of course, nobody knows you're famous BEFORE you're born" - and extend it to Umbert concluding that "In the womb, it's much easier to hide from the papparazzi."?

I also like this send-up of Star Trek, which is today's strip.

I realize that this sort of humor isn't for everyone, but I have to say that Mr. Cangemi routinely cracks me up.

You can find the current cartoon at

Bike ride across America planned

Katherine notes that her youth group leader from high school has decided that now that his kids are in college he's going to bike from Washington to Maine next summer to raise money and awareness for his work in Europe for Youth for Christ International. Well, it won't be just him.

The proposed route for "Sea to See" is mapped out here, if you're wondering whether they'll be coming through your area.

Five books reflecting the spirit of Scotland

Every week, runs a "Five Best" feature, in which someone touts five books on a chosen subject. This week, Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party and former economist for the Royal Bank of Scotland, takes a turn.

Reining in AIDS estimates

The BBC made my husband gnash his teeth a bit earlier this week. (This happens fairly frequently, actually.) He'd been listening to the BBC on NPR radio and he'd heard a story about the UN admitting that it had been off on the number of AIDS cases by millions and millions and millions of people. But, he said, the radio guys were spending their time commenting that perhaps Bush had been right for once. They seemed focused on the President Bush angle, when perhaps the real news was that the UN had once again been caught using bad figures to promote a cause and raise money and extend its reach. He wanted the news, and they got caught up in their sidebox commentary, and it was a bit frustrating.

Today I had time to follow up so I spent some time googling trying to find the story, but found it hadn't seemed to make much of a splash. Either that, or I was using the wrong search words. But then I went to Considerettes, and there it was, with a link to a Washington Post story from Tuesday. A page one story, no less. And hey, if you go all the way to the end of the article, it notes that variations in behavior are the biggest determining factors in how severe the HIV epidemic is from region to region and from group to group. News you can use, that is, even if it isn't politically correct.

The Washington Post article quotes two authors: James Chin, author of "The AIDS Pandemic: The Collision of Epidemiology With Political Correctness," and Helen Epstein, author of "The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS."

Girls get curls

If you've ever wondered how to do "rag curls," Higher Up and Further In has a how-to post.

I will admit to some disasterous attempts at rag curling as a child. But nothing that a shampoo session didn't cure. :)

More praise for 'Bella'

Baptist Press - 'Bella' receives critical acclaim while literally saving lives' by Michael Foust has more information on the movie, and its success so far.

I haven't seen the movie yet (where I live, I have to wait for a DVD), but that's not keeping me from cheering on the founders of this little, start-up movie company and their first film. From the Foust article:

Bella is the first film released by Metanoia Films, a new company formed by Verastegui and four other partners. Verastegui himself is well-known in Hispanic cultures, having starred in Spanish soap operas and even being named one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in People en Espanol. But after taking the lead role in the U.S. film "Chasing Papi," Verastegui had a change of heart as to his involvement in edgy productions. Metanoia Films subsequently was formed.

"In my opinion I was poisoning our society with the projects I was involved 'with'," he said. "One day I made a decision, made a promise to God that I would never use my talents to do anything that will offend my culture, my family. That's when I had this conviction to open a production company to produce films that will have potential not only to entertain but to make a difference."

Verastegui, one of the movie's producers, said he wanted to make films so clean he could "invite my mother or my grandmother."

"At the same time I was so passionate about promoting the gospel of life, the sanctity of life -- to show in a very subtle way and a very artistic way why life is sacred, life is a gift from God," he said.

I get so frustrated when very talented people use their talents to produce something toxic. At the same time, when they do pick up a moral compass and go where it points, they can do a tremendous amount of good. Here's hoping Metanoia Films continues to help lead the way in producing worthwhile entertainment.

How share and share alike led to starvation

John Stossel provides some background on the Pilgrims and their ill-fated first policies in The Tragedy of the Commons. (via Bookworm)

It's my understanding that the Jamestown colony had much the same problem, which cleared up when a "If you don't work, you don't eat" policy was instituted. But I like the Pilgrims' solution better. (See Stossel's column for how they finally learned how to produce enough food.)

The Saturday Review of Books... up at Semicolon.

If you're not familiar with The Saturday Review of Books, it's a hub for blog book reviews. Bloggers leave links to reviews they've written during the week. I've found some good books through this project - and some interesting blogs, too.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Book note: Fighting Angel, by Pearl S. Buck

So, I finished a really big project a few days ago, and to reward myself I sat down with a book I'd never read. The paperback edition I have is an old one, a Giant Cardinal edition that sold originally for 50 cents. It appears to be a second printing, from May 1964. The book itself is copyright 1936.

At any rate, the cover copy and the inside blurbs couldn't praise this book highly enough. On the front, it blares:

The heroic portrait of her father - described in her citation for the Nobel Prize as a "Masterpiece of Biography"
On the back, it says (ellipsis in original):

An American Missionary in China

One of America's greatest and most beloved writers, Pearl S. Buck never saw this country until she was eighteen years old. Born and raised in China, she was the daughter of American missionary parents.

FIGHTING ANGEL is Pearl Buck's deeply felt portrait of her father, a man who in true pioneer spirit was willing to leave his own country for an unknown land halfway around the world. It is the story of an heroic man with a calling, a faith that could move mountains and withstand countless trials and dangers.

"In the limpid flowing beauty of her writing, in the unerringly clarity and directness of every word and image and expression, Pearl Buck... has drawn a portrait with far more than personal vividness, touched problems as deep as all humanity." -- The New York Times

So, a lot of high praise, yes? And I have a weakness for biographies. And I love 'man moving mountains' stories. And so I settled in to read.

And things got strange. The last thing I expected from all that build-up was to find myself in something of a 1930s version of a modern day television talk show wherein a daughter airs her father's perceived shortcomings as a father and a man, much less a book that often seemed clueless about Christianity. (I think it's fair to say an author is clueless about Christianity if she holds herself superior to her father because he claims there's a fundamental difference between Christ and Confucius, and she can't see any difference that matters. Just for starters.)

By the time I got to page 31 the author's take on Christianity and her father were getting pretty clear, but this paragraph laid it on the line:

Nor can I tolerate for a moment any mawkish notion that it was his religion that filled him with that might. Religion had nothing to do with it. Had he been a lesser mind he would have chosen a lesser god, had he been born for today he would have chosen another god, but whatever he chose would have been as much god to him. Whatever he did he would have done with that swordlike singleness of heart. As it was, born of the times and of that fighting blood, he chose the greatest god he knew, and set forth into the universe to make men acknowledge his god to be the one true God, before whom all must bow. It was a magnificent imperialism of the spirit, incredible and not to be understood except by those who have been reared in it and have grown beyond it. Most of all are those yet in it unaware of what they are.
I guess she wanted people to know she'd "grown beyond it," as she liked to think. But the funny thing is that she goes on to write a biography that I think turns that paragraph into so much wishful thinking, not to mention wrong. If her portrait of him is at all accurate, her father wasn't forcing anyone to "bow" to his God. He was sharing the Gospel, letting those come to Christ who felt called to come, baptizing those who seemed to be sincere (some of his fellow missionaries were horrified at his willingness to baptize what they considered questionable converts, but his policy, he said, was to leave it to God to sort the wheat from the tares). And he was setting up schools and handing out food and in general trying to help people, whether they were Christian or not. And he was friendly toward Chinese non-Christian priests, too, at least in her telling of things; he disagreed with them, but gently, and with humor.

It never occurred to me that Pearl Buck might not have been Christian. Is not the fact she was born to and raised by missionaries in China prominently noted in practically every mention of her, even in thumbnail sketches of the briefest sort? Have I not stocked and sold and read "Story Bibles" by her, both Old Testament and New? I have no idea what her stance was later in life, but in 1936 she was holding herself out as too sophisticated to be lumped in with those poor misguided persons like her father. It's pretty sad, actually.

I think it's pretty telling that she describes spending some of her playtime pretending that there is no God, because God gets so much of her father's attention. She also describes going to bed one night rebelliously not saying her prayers - and finding herself alive in the morning decides she doesn't have to be as afraid of either God or her father as she had been.

The lady had issues, people. Not to mention some strange ideas about God.

To be fair, certainly some of the missionaries she describes should be held to account for bad behavior, both inside their circle, and out amongst the Chinese. Some of them acted very badly indeed. But she seems to confuse the wannabe poster children for Christianity with the religion itself - hardly something that holds up intellectually, in my view. And she seemed to relish the chance to point out where and how missionaries didn't act like saints. (Did I mention that the lady seemed to have some unresolved hostility issues?)

And yet, for all that, once I got into the book, despite a cringe here or there (sometimes for her father's sake, and sometimes for the author's) I found it a worthwhile read.

Her father comes across as one of those men who hasn't much idea how to be a father, to be sure. But then he also comes across as a man who is horribly unsure of himself where women are concerned. He hadn't planned to marry, but his mother conned him into making her 'just one promise' before he went to China, and after he'd agreed to honor that 'just one promise,' she told him he had to marry before he could leave, because she'd worry about him without a wife to take care of him. Oh, my. What a thing to ask of a man, especially a man like that. (She didn't want him to go to China, if you're wondering.)

So, then, finally, being a man of his word he manages to round up a wife, and then finds himself married to a woman who gets used to ruling the roost when he's off on trips, who won't paddle the children herself but has him do it when he gets home, who is openly relieved when he heads off for a few days or a few weeks, who imposes suffocating rules on her children when he's home, but teaches them they can relax when he's gone... hmmm... I guess I'm not horribly surprised he wasn't always comfortable in his own home, or that his daughter grew up with a few issues...

Luckily, the book has enough meat in it that Buck's resentments and recollections of petty misunderstandings don't take over the book. I think they mar the book, but I still found it a worthwhile read. I wouldn't hand it to a snarky atheist, though. Not unless you want to enforce their disdain of Christianity. Buck can't seem to get past the personalities of the people of her childhood, and lets their many and serious shortcomings serve as illustrations of her idea of Christianity. Snarky atheists in my experience being prone to that sort of thinking, I wouldn't want to encourage them in that 'logic,' just speaking for myself.

A plus: there's some good history in here, despite the ax grinding.

But it certainly wasn't the book I expected, especially after reading the cover blurbs.

And, oh, speaking of the cover blurbs: According to chapter eight, when Buck describes her decision to join the church while visiting relatives in America (so that she could wear her new frock - honestly, she says she decided on the spur of the moment to 'join' the church because her favorite cousin was joining and was going to wear a pretty frock, and here she had a new white frock she'd never worn because there had been no occasion for it), well, anyway, she sure seems much younger than eighteen in that chapter, yet there she was in America, using her uncle's church for a fashion show. So I don't know where that "Pearl S. Buck never saw this country until she was eighteen years old" business comes from. (Pause while your hostess googles...) Here we go, that trip was right after the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, and she was born in 1892, so... yeah, she was a lot younger than 18.

A side note: In this biography of her father, her father is never named. Not that I saw. I had to look up his name on the internet: Absalom Sydenstricker. In the book he is only Andrew, except where he's called by a nickname the Chinese hung on him. I guess she thought we should be happy to think of him merely as the father of Pearl S. Buck? What? But then, Buck almost never names herself either, except as "Carie's daughter," or "one of Carie's daughters." Did I mention there are some strange things about this book?

But, on the other hand, one of the really interesting things about this book is that in the end I thought Buck's father comes across as a better man than perhaps she knew: flawed, and hemmed in by his times, and wrapped up in his work, sure - but heroic and noble and tough and unselfish, a man with a lot of integrity and courage.

Buck wrote a biography of her mother called The Exile, also copyright 1936. I haven't seen it yet, but in Fighting Angel she clearly favors her mother over her father, so I'm guessing it would be a more sympathetic portrayal.

Added: Just so you don't think I'm declaring Pearl Buck a nonbeliever based on my own take of her religious views as presented in this book, the following is from page 194 in this edition (Buck is in this instance referring to herself as "Carie's daughter" again):
...Carie's daughter listened and never argued with him, or ever showed her unbelief. Not for her life would she have robbed Andrew of one atom of that faith that had made life so worth living for him, not now when he was old and needed the faith by which to die. And he never thought to ask her what her own faith was, being so full of his own.
(Or, maybe, since she'd insisted upon joining the church when she was young, it might have led him to think that it wasn't his business to quiz her on her faith, especially now that she was a grown woman, and responsible for herself?)

Imagine that, it's cold this time of year

Hey, I have the office up to almost sixty degrees now, so I guess I can go to work...

My office is in our little library, which is in a part of the house that doesn't get heated in winter. I have a space heater I crank up to make it usable, but I'm not inclined to pay for the electricity more than a day or two or three a week if I can help it. Much of my work can be moved to the dining room for the duration, but anything to do with the internet requires this computer, which requires connections over here in the Arctic sector. It's one way to break yourself of spending too much time online, I guess...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Having a "Les Miserables" Day

First I ran across a blogger writing about a children's theater performance of Les Miserables (and discussing a truth she can't shake after watching), and then I ran across a recommendation for a 1930s French movie version of Les Miserables (in a post where the blogger notices something that story has in common with the currently showing movie Bella).

Is it something in the air?

Pop quiz: Which classic book...

..."...describes a society that has allowed mindless entertainment to replace genuine human connection and discourse. Written in 1953, elements of the story are positively prophetic..."?

I had to read this one in school, but reading this review makes me think I probably was too young to get the main points. And so another book goes into the to-be-reread-now-that-I'm-older stack...

Child-friendly candlemaking

As Cozy as Spring: Making Candles with Children has info on making beeswax candles. The blogger says even her three-year-old can make a candle this way. (And she claims there's almost no mess.)

His movie, her movie, etc.

After you've been married a while, it occurs to you that you can have two different tubes of toothpaste (if you harbor/cherish opposing theories on how to squeeze the tube), or you can even go on a date where you go to different movies and rendezvous after. Heh. (Young love is sometimes highly overrated. Properly seasoned love doesn't get sniffy or insecure about things like liking different movies...)

In the same post, Debra recommends the movie she saw:

I totally recommend Dan In Real Life. I came away feeling like I'd attended my own family reunion in the most amazing old house (complete with a 'kids' table') on a misty-grey lake. Such a decent movie and I never once felt embarrassed for the two teeny-bopper girls in front of me in the nearly-empty theater (our theater is nearly always nearly-empty, that's why I love it). Yes, it was so devoid of bad language, sex and violence that at one point I asked myself, "Do they even make movies like this anymore?"

So refreshing... and such a simple, fun Saturday here in our tiny spot of the world.

Easy/hard gift givees

A middle-aged friend of mine was talking to a mutual friend of ours, a young single man, who (my middle-aged friend tells me) is trying to buy gifts for members of his family. The young man's mother and sister are easy, being currently gaga for anything Charles Wysocki. (No, I don't think anyone in that family reads this blog. If I've given away any secrets I'll try to think of some way to make it up to them. And apologize profusely, of course. And promise to never mention them again, even anonymously and vaguely at third hand, like I'm doing now...)

His father, on the other hand, is hard because he already seems to have everything he needs, and as a matter of course goes right out and buys whatever he wants, if he decides it's worth it. While this keeps his own life on a steady-ish keel, it would tend to make it hard for would-be gift-givers to stay ahead of him, I think. Either he has the thing already, or he's decided it's not worth the money. Either way, it's not making life easy for the would-be generous around him.

But this young man's brother is hardest of all, because his brother is currently in a minimalist phase, bragging that everything he owns he can fit in the trunk of his car. My middle-aged friend is of the opinion that everyone should go through a phase like this at least once in his or her life - having tried it himself and having found it a very satisfying way to live, at least for a while - and so is happily siding with the minimalist brother, who wants no extraneous stuff. After a bit of thought, he suggested that perhaps a gift certificate for a service or for gas might be a good idea? (Full disclosure: Our bookstore is inside a gas station, and so a gift certificate for gas would be nice for us as well as for the brother. And please don't yell at me about gas prices. We don't set them, and we get paid per gallon pumped, which means that when people cut back, we have to cut back.) It was also thought that perhaps an offer to do something for the brother might be a good idea? I also thought food would be good.

But that's assuming the brother wouldn't be upset by getting a gift. In our experience, a goodly percentage of people going through a minimalist phase would rather not be handed a gift, it being seen as something of a burden one way or another, a tie to a way of life they're trying to leave behind, or at the very least an unwanted distraction.

So, if you've been in a gift-giving mode and the givee was in a I-don't-want-any-more-stuff mode, what did you try that worked? Or didn't? (Assuming you can share the story without betraying any confidences, of course.)

If there's anyone out there who has taken a vow of poverty, perhaps you could give us a hint or two from the other side?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another Bella fan

Add Rebecca Hagelin to the growing list of people who recommend seeing the movie Bella. (But, she says, it's not for little ones.)

Information sought on old baseball franchise

A reader has left a comment on a post in my archives which linked to an article about baseball in early Washington state. She writes:

My great-grandfather, Johhnie Schroeder played outfield for the Everett Washington Smokestackers. I am looking for photos, articles, stats, etc. on the Smokestackers. I have an old newspaper article with no date and it says that one season he batted .310. Any other information that you could give me would be greatly appreciated...
If you can help her out, please click through above for contact info. Thanks.

If you're just looking to read a bit of history on early pro ball in the Pacific Northwest, complete with slide show, the article to which I linked in the earlier post is here.

The slaughtered show this 'hero' for what he was

Che Guevera has, for whatever reason, become an icon of the Left. I like to think that most of the people who sport his most famous photo on their clothing, etc., are only trying to be chic, and are merely too ignorant to know better. If they wanted to be less ignorant, they could use this version. It uses tiny photos of people killed by Cuba's communist regime to replicate the famous image. My thanks to the Young America's Foundation for coming up with this. Well done. Touché, even.

My thanks also to reporter Robert Stacy McCain and The Washington Times for the story: ("Poster relates Che's dark side," November 5, 2007).

hat tip: Denny

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Frugal but rich

See The Common Room: Thrift and Miserlyness, for a Phyllis McGinley quote that helps explain the difference between meanness, economy, and thrift.

If history provides a foundation of knowledge...

... then some of today's kids are going to be building their opinions on cracked bricks if we and they aren't careful, it seems to me. That's if the contents of this email I got from Terri S. Leo are any guide:

Rewriting History – An Erosion of Our Standards
By Mike Pearce

The great Roman historian Tacitus once penned, “This I regard as history's highest function, to let no worthy action be uncommemorated, and to hold out the reprobation of posterity as a terror to evil words and deeds.” In short, we owe it to ourselves to respect and honor our history.

But today in Texas schools, the study of our history is under assault by academic elites and education bureaucrats under the guise of multiculturalism and political correctness. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has developed college readiness standards for the high school curriculum. These proposed standards abandon the instruction of traditional history and replace it with vague feel-good “diverse human perspectives and experiences.” Texas parents must take a stand against this erosion and demand that our history be taught as it really happened.

America’s greatest generation, our World War II veterans are dying at a rate of 1,000 per day. But you won’t find mention of them or their heroic deeds in the proposed social science standards. What you will find is a recommendation that our students explain the impact of World War II on the African-American and Mexican-American Civil Rights Movements, how the policies changed our economy, and whether the decision to drop the atomic bombs was correct. Our high school students will now study the impact of WW II, but not the War itself.

There are no recommendations on how industrialization led to the betterment of mankind. Instead, students must evaluate the impact of the Industrial Revolution and rapid urbanization “on the environment”. Where is the standard that asks one to evaluate the quality of life in America before and after industrialization? Our scholars in high school will be figuring out much deeper problems, like “how climate change might affect the US economy.” So, the Industrial Revolution is out and global warming is in.

Not yet convinced? The standards have no mention of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, or the Magna Carta. But what did make the list was a recommendation that students listen to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and summarize 5 main points. While King’s historic speech is very worthy of study, so are many other monumental events.

What the standards do is to provide an “approach” to questions under the guise of trying to make the students believe that they are developing their own conclusions. It is the belief of the academic elite that the “broad” should be substituted for the “narrow”; and they set the parameters of academic importance. You will not find a standard that asks students to learn about the beautiful melting pot that is America; but our students will study “xenophobia and its impact on immigration policies in the United States.” Our students will not be learning about the Judeo-Christian values that were the foundation of our nation; but our students will “analyze how conflicting religious values create social conflict in local communities.” Students will not learn about how the United States has stood as a beacon of liberty for the world, but they will learn about various important civil rights cases, including Lawrence v. Texas which mandated an end to anti-sodomy laws.

There were few things I enjoyed more about teaching American history than covering the Declaration of Independence. From the philosophy of John Locke to the poetic words of Thomas Jefferson; from the faith in the idea that men had divine rights rather than mere secular ones, to the notion that liberty was an institution for which all men yearned. Now, under these proposed standards, our children will no longer hear any of that. Instead, they will “analyze the Declaration of Independence from the perspective of men and women, and people of Native American, European, and African descent.” In other words, The Declaration of Independence was merely a document wrought with chauvinism, racism, and could just as easily be viewed as a “declaration of treason” by the British.

Texas parents must stand up to this erosion of our historical standards now. The Higher Education Coordinating Board is accepting public comments online now through December 10th at In the words of Tacitus, “Noble character is best appreciated in those ages in which it can most readily develop.” We must teach our students integrity, leadership and character and use the heroic figures in our history as models. If we allow the purveyors of political correctness to re-write our history, we sentence our greatest patriots to death through their expulsion from our history books.

Michael Pearce taught history and social studies for 10 years in Texas schools. He is the founder of MVP Education Products, a computer-based education curriculum for history students.

Terri Leo

State Board of Education District #6

...[ed. note: she included her address and phone number here]...

Now, I'm a firm believer in the ability of kids to eventually overcome a bad education, especially if they learn to read enough books that wouldn't pass muster with the PC police, and otherwise discover the joys of feeding their mind with quality ideas, pertinent facts, and plain, old-fashioned inspiration. But, of course, I'd rather they have a good education in the first place.

I do have hope, folks, if for no other reason than I've seen a fair number of teens and twenty-somethings buying history books and classics and non-PC books in our bookstore. They know they've been shortchanged, if nothing else. They're starved for their heritage. Their real heritage. Some of them know they've been handed counterfeit. I wish there were more of them, but I assure you there are some smart and savvy young folks out there who are determined not to be conned or led around by the nose by the 'multiculturalism' crowd. It's a start.

Not to put you on the spot, or anything like that (she types, knowing full well she hopes to put you on the spot ;), what have you done lately to help someone else learn enough history or perspective to have a fighting chance of recognizing nonsense or propaganda when it's handed to him or her as something else?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Some Chinese babies...

... have received an unusual name in honor of the upcoming Olympic Games.

hat tip: Cindy Swanson

Tony Snow discusses the news business

Tony Snow discussed the current state of American journalism and how it got this way, in remarks made Oct. 16, 2007, while accepting the Freedom of Speech Award from The Media Institute. For an overview of the speech, see Snow Sees First Amendment Threat from Media Practices, by John Eggerton (Broadcasting & Cable, 10/17/2007).

hat tip: Bookworm Room

Peer culture and its downsides

Back in my youth, I was a huge fan of columnist Ellen Goodman. And then, as I grew up, I wasn't. (I became more conservative. I got tired of reading her stuff and sputtering, 'I used to believe this? I used to hold this point of view?!? What was I thinking?!!' It was, on the whole, embarrassing.)

Still, though I'm no longer a fan, giving credit where credit is due, I'm pretty sure it was Ellen Goodman who cured me of my opposition to home schooling. (People who know me these days will be surprised to hear this, but back in the day I wanted home schooling to be illegal. Ahem. I'm sorry. I was wrong. Also misinformed, but that's another story.)

I suppose you might be wondering how a liberal-leaning columnist cured me of my objections to home schooling? It's simple. She wrote a column on an educational program that combined senior citizens and kids. I can no longer remember the details (perhaps it was a senior center located on a school campus???), but I remember that it involved interaction between old people and young people, and it had proved to be very good for both young and old. More to the point, she discussed in this column what we'd done to our kids - how much damage we can do to them - by segregating them in "age ghettos." That turn of phrase - age ghettos - zinged right into my brain, and I've never been able to shake it.

Looking around after that, I decided it wasn't just a catchy phrase, but one with stark truth in it. Public schools have their good points. But that whole age ghetto thing isn't one of them, in my view. And so I started to give other ways of doing things a second look. When I took another look at home schooling it was through new eyes.

See "Et tu?": The lost children for the very interesting post that prompted this post (it's not on home schooling, but on peer-oriented children and teens), and a review of the book Hold On to Your Kids, by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate.

This and that

Time flies when you're having fun. I knew it had been a few days since I'd been to this part of the house, into my office, and had this computer on, but I didn't realize it had been a whole week. I have been more or less camped, you see, in the dining room, which doubles as our living room, where I have been reading and writing. I am up past 66,000 words on the first draft of the book I'm working on, and that project is devouring the time I usually devote to surfing and blogging. Beyond that, my hands, wrists, arms, etc. are whimpering, and do not want to participate in any typing that can be avoided. Yinga, even. Ouch, even. Beyond that, trying to keep everything tied together in my mind is taking pretty much all my brainpower right now. (My husband could probably verify this for you, were he the sort of man to tattle on his wife.)

I did want to share a funny story from the day before Halloween, though. That evening, my husband was outside in a parking lot, chatting with a friend, when from the neighboring parking lot came a child's voice, very loud, proclaiming, "I will not play games. I will not have fun. It isn't Halloween!" There was a short pause, and then the screaming continued. "I don't care if anybody gives me candy. It isn't Halloween. I. Won't. Have. Fun!"

That's it, fella. Stick to your guns. Don't let anybody bribe you into having fun on the wrong day. :)

Perhaps I should mention that around here, there is a Halloween party for big kids at the Elks Lodge on Halloween, and one for the little kids at the Elks Lodge the day before Halloween. Perhaps part of the problem might have stemmed from the frustration of being designated a little kid. I don't know. I do know that he cracked people up out beyond where he could see.

The poor kid. It's so hard to have a sense of propriety in a world that doesn't understand.

Changing gears here, I also wanted to note that the October 2007 Imprimis has a great interview with Clarence Thomas, much of it about his recently published book and his grandfather. In addition to it being an interesting interview, I'd like to note that it was conducted by student journalists. It gives me hope for America, when I see actual reporters entering the field (as opposed to, say, activists wielding keyboards, so to speak).

An excerpt (Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College):

Q: What is your purpose in writing your opinions?

CT: What I try to do first in my opinions is to apply the Constitution. But also, I look on the Constitution as the people’s Constitution. And so I try to make the Constitution accessible again to people who didn’t go to Harvard Law School. Of course, some of it gets involved because you have to deal with a lot of case law. But I want people to understand what the cases are about.

As for how I think about my opinions, imagine a train with 100 cars. The cars are the previous cases dealing with some issue—the meaning of the Commerce Clause, for instance, or of the First Amendment. Often what our decisions do is just tack on a new caboose to the train, and that’s it. But here’s what I like to do: I like to walk through the 100 cars and see what’s going on up front. I like to go back to the Constitution, looking at the history and tradition along the way. Because what if there’s a flashing light on the dashboard up front that says “wrong direction”? What if we’re headed the wrong way?

My job is to apply the Constitution. And here’s a useful lesson: You hear people talk all the time about the Bill of Rights. But you should always keep in mind that the Bill of Rights was an afterthought. That’s why it’s made up of what are called amendments. It was not in the original Constitution. The rights in the Bill of Rights were originally assumed as natural rights, and some people at the time thought that writing them into the Constitution was redundant. Read the Declaration of Independence. We should always start, when we read the Constitution, by reading the Declaration, because it gives us the reasons why the structure of the Constitution was designed the way it was. And with the Constitution, it was the structure of the government that was supposed to protect our liberty. And what has happened through the years is that the protections afforded by that structure have been dissipated. So my opinions are often about the undermining of those structural protections.

People need to know about that. Many might say, “Well, they are writing about the Commerce Clause, and nobody cares about that.” But they should care about it. The same is true of the doctrine of incorporation. The same is true of substantive due process. People should care about these things. And I try to explain why clearly in my opinions.

OK, that's a relatively dry part. Important, I think, but dry. If you're looking for something less dry, how about:

...Have you ever read Modern Times, by Paul Johnson? I read it back in the ’80s. It’s long, but it’s really worth the effort. One point it makes clearly is the connection between relativism, nihilism, and Naziism. The common idea that you can do whatever you want to do, because truth and morality are relative, leads to the idea that if you are powerful enough you can kill people because of their race or faith. So ask your relativist friends sometime: What is to keep me from getting a gang of people together and beating the hell out of you because I think you deserve to be beaten? Too many people think that life and liberty are about their frivolous pleasures. There is more to life. And again, largely what relativism reflects is simply a lack of learning.
Um, actually, I don't think I'll ask my relativist friends just exactly that, thanks, but I certainly do see his point. (I suspect, however, that my relativist friends, many of them at least, would naively reply that government would stop me, if we just passed the right laws. Government, you see, is the Great Channeler, that teaches non-elites how to think and what to do, and what is right and what is wrong. Supposedly. In their dreams, at least.)

I was talking to a friend who listens to NPR and BBC radio a lot, and he said that some of the folks at the BBC were practically gushing over this interview, saying that overall it was one of the best interviews with Justice Thomas they've seen. Hey, how about that? Somebody at the Beeb reads Imprimis? Good on them.

Imprimis home page here