Thursday, July 26, 2007

Blog break (sorta, kinda, maybe)

I might put up a few posts now and then as time permits, but for a week or two or three yet I'm likely to be very busy offline, with not much time for the Internet in any form.

Amongst other things, I'm trying to help get some books ready to go to press. It's amazing how much time proofreading a full-length novel in page proofs can take. It's not like just reading it. You have to stop to quibble in writing as you go...

There are three books I'm working on, and none of them skinny. This could take a while yet.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The need for darkness and conflict

Lars Walker writes about it here. (By the way, I'm sure it's a coincidence that it's post 911 there at Brandywine Books. But an apt coincidence, I think. If it's a coincidence...)

Joe McKeever wrote about it the other day.

FYI: blog news

For what it's worth (and, at some level, I hope it isn't worth much), for several days now the number two entry page to this blog -- number one after the main page -- has been the post on the urban legend about the tiger raising piglets. (An urban legend that is, for a wonder, kinda sorta partially true, btw.)

From looking at the search phrases used to get here, it appears you could mindlessly raise your stats and improve your profile simply by publishing a post that mentions both tiger and piglets.

I don't know if posts about Tigger the tiger and Piglet would work, but... as of this evening, if you google tiger and piglets and nothing else, there are about 86,900 results, of which my post is, astonishingly, currently sitting at number 9. As in the top ten.

Go figure.

I hope you don't think I'm advocating that you put up an empty-ish entry just to raise your hit count. I'm not. I'm just amazed that, with everything else that's going on, that the internet would have this many people writing about, and searching for information on, a mother tiger caring for baby pigs dressed up in tiger-print clothes. Not that it's a bad story. And heaven knows I did my own googling when a friend sent us the email with the erroneous information in it. It's just that somehow this all strikes me as somewhat strange.

It's also not necessarily a niche I was hoping to conquer... ;)

Anyway, if you're here for the first time because you're hoping to run down the facts behind the legend, welcome. I appreciate people who research anonymous fad emails before passing them along. I wish more people would, actually. For info on this one, click over to my previous post (linked above), or go directly the articles at Snopes and/or (identical links also provided in my previous post).

Exploring Alaska, by hand tram

Technically, the hand tram covers just a tiny bit of the journey, but it sounds cool. Kind of. If you're not the sort to freak out hanging in a cage suspended a deadly distance above a creek... (That ought to weed out both the claustrophobics and the folks afraid of heights... as well as some folks who simply don't like to trust ropes and pulleys quite that much... and...)

I'm not well-suited to adventures like that, but I thought some of you might be, so...

roundabout hat tip: At A Hen's Pace (I clicked the link, and went from there...)

Rescuers' ingenuity gets 500 pound man to safety

Did you hear about this? A 500 pound man went tubing along the St. Croix River, and then needed be rescued. Oh, my, what a job the rescuers had.

At least the fellow who had to get rescued was out trying to be active after a fashion. But, still... Oh, my, what a job the rescuers had.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A booklist list

Melissa Wiley is in the process of listing her favorite booklists. It appears to be mostly kidlit, at least at this point.

Taking inventory: rare plant and animal edition

I spent part of my college years thinking I'd like to be a botanist so, naturally, I took botany courses. One day our botany teacher announced some of us were going on a field trip to check to see if a proposed mine site for diatomaceous earth had any of a specific rare plant, in which case, as I understood it, the plans for the mine would be halted or at least seriously curtailed. (In those days I didn't question whether we had any right to put plants over people, but that's another story. Nor did I comprehend how well nature could reclaim a place, given half a chance. And I had essentially no concept, none, of property rights in those days. And that, too, is another story, and possibly beside the point, because this might have been on BLM -- that's to say public -- land. I don't remember for sure.) Anyway, the good doctor (academic variety) piled a bunch of us botany students into a van and drove us to the almost-middle-of-nowhere, where, armed with a description of the plant, we fanned out, searching for this supposedly rare plant. The matter was complicated, as I recall, because the rare plant closely resembled a plant to which it was related, which was common, or at least relatively so. It was further complicated by the fact that, with the exception of the professor, we were all beginners at botany, just learning the basics of plant identification.

Are you sitting down?

One of my classmates, upon thinking he might have found a specimen of that for which we sought, and finding himself not within easy hailing distance of the professor, pulled. the. plant. up. by. the. roots. and. took. it. to. her. to. see. if. it. was. the. endangered. one.

You may file that bit of information under "how to give an environmentally-hyperconscious college professor a case of the vapors."

That blast from the past was prompted by the story of the Papua New Guinea tribesman who recently reported eating a creature that some folks thought had gone extinct. Just to make it more interesting, the creature had been named (by outsiders) for the naturalist Sir David Attenborough. From "I didn’t know creature was rare, says tribesman who liked it well done," by Lewis Smith (TimesOnline, July 16, 2007):

The expedition to find the echidna was part of the Zoological Society of London’s Edge programme which aims to find, learn about and help to protect some of the world’s most endangered animals. It was led by Dr Jonathan Baillie of the ZSL, who said the discovery that villagers in the Cyclops Mountains of Papua New Guinea were familiar with the echidna was immensely reasuring, even if they did eat them occasionally.

Now it has been established that they are alive, he is planning to return to set up camera traps in the hope of photographing one of the shy, nocturnal animals. He said that the conversations with villagers and the nose impressions in the ground indicated that the species had a much wider range than previously believed.

The original specimen was discovered at 1,600 metres up a mountain but it is now known that the animal can live much lower down, at 160 metres. They are estimated to live in an area of 100 square kilometres.

Tribesmen in the Cyclops Mountains provided scientists with information about the echidnas, for which the local name is Payangko. The animals are well-enough known to have a place in tribal culture. Peace is said to return to villages where families suffer long-standing rivalries if one of the protagonists catches an echidna and shares its meat with a rival.

Attenborough’s longbeaked echidna, Zaglossus attenboroughi, was first found in 1961 and the captured specimen was sent to the National Museum of Natural History in Leiden in the Netherlands for storage.

However, it was only in 1998 when the specimen was analysed by Professor Tim Flannery and Professor Colin Groves that it was realised the animal represented an unrecognised species.

Dr Baillie added: “In addition to Attenborough’s echidna, we found an astonishingly vast array of biodiversity, some of which is highly unlikely to be known to science.”

Figuratively speaking, I am laughing and crying at the same time.

Read the whole article.

hat tip: The Common Room: The Echidna; Tastes Great!

Book and movie note: American Girl films

I hadn't realized that there were films as well as books in the American Girl historical series. After reading this blog review, I want to see 'Felicity: An American Girl Adventure.'

More on that movie and others here.

"A Gray Blanket"

Sometimes a blanket is more than just a blanket. Like if it's your grandfather's army blanket.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Learning on the job: motherhood edition (updated)

Virginia Arbery"s "Ending Down syndrome pregnancies bears all the marks of a pogrom" (Dallas Morning News, Sunday, July 8, 2007) is a powerful message of love and learning from a mother of a young woman with Down Syndrome. An excerpt:

Julia's life soon began to bring out the excellences of others. She brought our little college community even closer together, a joy to the students and a prize to anyone who held her. Early Intervention trained us to stimulate areas of her brain by waking up facial muscles, working to get her to sit up or to crawl – a task she never mastered, scooting instead with her two hands and bottom.

I would go from teaching the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers, to a large room uptown with five other mothers propping up their floppy babies. Nothing else has ever quite brought home the meaning of "all men are created equal endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights and among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

We were all working for that fullest expression of life and happiness for our babies. I thought about the "prudent" mothers who had aborted their own children with Down syndrome. I grieved for those who, exercising their reproductive rights – a new appropriation of the older notion of liberty, which was rooted in duty – would never know the profound satisfaction of raising such a child.

Like many a mother of a child with Down Syndrome, she has found herself targeted and insulted by people who thought she was irresponsible for not having an abortion. After noting the increased push to kill people like her daughter when they are still in the womb, Arbery notes:

Ironically, scientific work on turning off the additional action of the genes that cause cognitive impairment in Trisomy 21 now offers more hope than ever before, especially at Stanford School of Medicine's Center for Research and Treatment for Down Syndrome (dsresearch.stanford .edu). More research dollars are going into killing these children before they are born than into this noble project of helping them. And why? Because citizens value their freedom?

I'm not doing the article justice with the excerpts. Read the whole thing.

Then there's this from another mother (you'll likely want to read the whole post, but here's a taste):

It seems to me that if God called only natural "supermoms" to have large families, there would be like five women in America with more than three kids. Maybe I'm doing some projecting here since I lack pretty much every skill one would want to be a mother to anything other than a Chia Pet, but I've come to believe that when it comes to having kids, nothing is more true than the old saying that "God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called."
On a slightly different note, and mostly just for fun: Danielle Bean and her husband have a large family - which means that when she is out and about with her children she is sometimes subjected to strange reactions from other people.

Update: I just have to add My Most Adventurous Moment from At A Hen's Pace. (Which raises a side question - does it amaze you how many current mothers entered motherhood with little to no prior experience with babies? I seem to run into a lot of them lately...)

Try Two Challenge

I've just done a somewhat major overhaul of the links list.

May I challenge you to sample two links there that you haven't visited before? (Or haven't visited recently?)

You can visit more than that, of course, but I'm daring you to try two... :)

Some are linked because they generally cheer me up or inspire me, others because they challenge my way of thinking, others because they generally agree with me but are better connected or have a knack for the well-turned phrase, others simply because... Oh, well, I guess I'm trying to say that I'm aiming for broader horizons, not an echo chamber. How am I doing so far?

VOA News Video of the Day: Eco-tourists jetting to Greenland in large numbers

I haven't figured out how to provide a permanent link to a specific video at Voice of America's website, but today's Video of the Day is about how the folks of Greenland are cashing in on eco-tourists who want to see a glacier 'before it's too late.'

If mention was made of the Gilbertian nature of global warming scaremongering of the mankind-is-killing-the-planet-by-carbon-dioxide-production variety prompting the addition of jet routes direct to Greenland from various points around the world, somehow I missed it.

See the VOA News - Video of the Day Archive for the video, as well as others from the last week. (It's a pretty varied offering: the demise of Coney Island as an amusement park, Appalachia's unique music, a website that posts personal secrets sent in by postcard, a former Minuteman missile site in South Dakota that is now open as a national park, one with the teaser "World Population Day reveals more than half the world lives in urban areas – often poor – and that women are key to societies’ welfare" for which the headline reads: "6.6 Billion and Growing," and, from last Tuesday, one titled "A Chilling Climate for Press Freedom" which is teased with "Since 2000, 13 Russian journalists have been mysteriously murdered. What’s it like to be so dedicated to your job in spite of death threats?")

Getting back to the topic of today's video, for their own sakes I just hope the Greenlanders are working on a Plan B for when the current hysteria dies down and/or 'global warming' gives way to the next round of "global cooling" fears. ("The climate" is always in flux. If you want to be scared by a lack of stability, you'll always have your chance, it appears to me...)

You don't think the hysteria will die down? Perhaps you're right. There are a lot of people who seem to be heavily invested in the global warming warning industry, including the folks who find it a very useful thing to use to promote the extension of government power, or a great excuse to sue somebody with a different outlook on life. (Sigh.)

On the other hand, I am seeing more articles like this one. Aren't you?

And more and more folks from 'developing' countries are managing to find an audience for their pleas for help getting out from under the hardships imposed on them by environmentalists. Live Earth Vs. Africa by Kofi Benti is a fairly good representation of what I'm talking about here.

And I like to think that the recently launched "I'm more worried about the intellectual climate" catchphrase might make a difference. It's from, which I found out about here. One of the biggest frustrations I have with many of the "global warming" partisans is that they act like science is a matter of setting up experiments -- or even just computer models, for goodness sake -- until you get the results you need to promote the goals you already have, and then declaring that the discussion is over. That is not science. Not by a long shot.

If it weren't so sad, and so harmful (and therefore, unfortunately, not all that funny at the end of the day), I'd probably laugh at the folks who point at scientists who don't march in lockstep with the "global warming consensus" crowd, scornfully calling them skeptics, as if skepticism were a bad thing for a scientist. Since when? Would we have had any advancement in science -- would we have "science" in the first place? -- would we have ever come to a better understanding of the physical world, if scientists hadn't ever wondered if somebody else's theory would hold up to another good, hard, carefully delineated look?

Saturday, July 14, 2007


A person could have been excused for thinking he was going blind today, if he was around here. There's just enough smoke in the air from wildfires that for much of the day the sun was a pale pink (OK, OK it appeared pale pink - I'm sure it's its same old self, up there the other side of all this stuff), and nothing looked quite normal. It's not so much that there wasn't as much light as normal, although that was a factor. It's that the light was incomplete, without all the usual parts of the spectrum. What my eyes registered just didn't seem right.

I got sort of used to it as the day went on, but never entirely used to it.

Just to make it more fun, my brain didn't always register it as the light not being right, but kept trying to tell me that my eyes weren't working right, that they were, in fact, failing. I could override the suggestion easily enough, since the air is obviously quite smoky, which nicely explained why I was having trouble seeing, especially since I have experienced red-shifted forest fire atmosphere several times before this -- but it wasn't pleasant being handed the thought to refute.

I suppose I might eventually adjust, if the lighting stayed this way a long time. I base that idea on personal experience. Fifteen/twenty years ago, something like that, I was involved in a freak accident in which one of my eyes got scratched. When I was in the ER, the doctor told me that I'd always have a scar on the eyeball, but eventually my brain would compensate for the distorted image and show me the world as it ought to look. He was right. I lived in a kaleidoscope world for a while, and then everything got normal again. I didn't do anything except hold out until my brain rewired itself. Well, I worried a bit, if you count worrying as doing anything. But the worrying proved needless.

The scar is still there. Sometimes I can trick my brain into acknowledging that. At night, if I cover my good eye and look at the moon or headlights with my wracked-up one, there are bent barbells where round discs are supposed to be. But otherwise I'd never know I was partially blinded, not from the evidence. I can't seem to get my brain to see distorted images, unless the overall light is very low and there's a bright object with definite edges, and I cover my good eye, and... especially if I then squint a bit...

Yes, Virginia, sometimes people really see what they want to see, without realizing how much they're editing the image...

I said above that I supposed that I'd probably adjust to strange light, but I do admit to some doubt about that. It seems to me that there have been studies about people who wear funny tinted glasses, or work in buildings illuminated with colored light bulbs. Haven't scientists found that, sometimes at least, abnormal light hitting the eyes for long periods affects brain activity or something?

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

Check out her Saturday Review of Books Reading Challenge while you're over there.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hamlet in an alternate universe

In case my husband is wondering why his wife just laughed out loud in the other part of the house, it's because I was sitting at my computer reading about Hamlet in a coffee shop.

(OK, I laugh easily. But still. It is funny, don't you think?)

hat tip: Mama Squirrel

Gardening notes: Growing self-bagging melons, etc.

The deer have come into town again (they trade off between town living and farm and forest living off and on through the year), and are doing a fairly good imitation of goats as far as my flowers go. And something is chewing on my tomato plants as well. I keep holding off and holding off putting up fences and netting, like most people do in this town. I'd rather try to find something mule deer don't like to eat. (Cue music for "The Impossible Dream"...)

This is not to mention that I tried several types of flowers I'd never grown before this year. With not very good results. Make that rather bad results.

All in all, the garden in its present state is nothing to write home about, unless you count one volunteer hollyhock plant way off away from everything, nearly lost in a sea of weeds in the transition zone into the vacant lot. This plant is only about three feet high but is blooming its fool head off, in the prettiest single-bloom hollyhocks you could ever hope to see. Sometimes the deer eat every bloom on my fancier hollyhocks that I planted near the house from nursery stock last year, but leave one or two of three of the primitive blooms on this one way off in no man's land. Sigh. Sometimes it gets crazy with blooms before they get to it, though. We enjoy it as we can.

On the upside, the deer feel so much at home in my yard now that a few nights ago a doe brought her very young fawn by to browse out back. How can you hold a grudge against an animal that brings her baby by, all legs and wobbles and appetite, and lets you watch out a back window, not more than ten or fifteen or twenty feet away? OK, so the light was fading fast and we could barely see the baby, except for its silhouette, but that was a treat.

On the further upside, I only bought the "fancy" hybrid hollyhocks at the nursery because I gave up trying to find the old-fashioned kind that I like best. I was hoping that the hybrids would produce seed that might revert, sooner or later, to single blooms -- exactly like I have on the plant out in no man's land. If the deer leave me any blooms long enough to go to seed, I'm going to have a heyday with that seed. And perhaps I will go to fences of some sort, at least for whatever part of the yard I designate for a cottage garden, thick with hollyhocks. Not to mention whatever area I give over to trying to raise vegetables. I don't mind sharing a few flowers with gourmet-minded deer, but this being wiped out over and over is getting real old.

Speaking of edibles, I have to admit I get a kick out of this idea for self-bagging melons left in a comment at a post over at The Common Room.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Nanny state, circa 1433

I am now in the "Of the Food and Diet of the English" chapter of A Description of Elizabethan England, as republished from the Holinshed Chronicles (c. 1577, 1587) in the Harvard Classics. Toward the front of it is this somewhat remarkable passage:

In Scotland likewise they have given themselves (of late years to speak of) unto very ample and large diet, wherein as for some respect nature doth make them equal with us, so otherwise they far exceed us in over much and distemperate gormandise, and so ingross their bodies that divers of them do oft become unapt to any other purpose than to spend their times in large tabling and belly cheer. Against this pampering of their carcasses doth Hector Boethius in his description of the country very sharply inveigh in the first chapter of that treatise. Henry Wardlaw also, bishop of St. Andrews, noting their vehement alteration from competent frugality into excessive gluttony to be brought out of England with James the First (who had been long time prisoner there under the fourth and fifth Henries, and at his return carried divers English gentlemen into his country with him, whom he very honourably preferred there), doth vehemently exclaim against the same in open Parliament holden at Perth, 1433, before the three estates, and so bringeth his purpose to pass in the end, by force of his learned persuasions, that a law was presently made there for the restraint of superfluous diet; amongst other things, baked meats (dishes never before this man’s days seen in Scotland) were generally so provided for by virtue of this Act that it was not lawful for any to eat of the same under the degree of a gentleman, and those only but on high and festival days. But, alas, it was soon forgotten!
Alas, my foot.

By the way, meat generally meant food in general a few centuries back, not necessarily flesh. So, I'm not sure what exactly was meant to be under Wardlaw's ban, but, well, nobody tells me what to cook in my kitchen or serve in my house, thanks, and I don't want others to be bossed in that way, either. Plus, I'm decidedly opposed to governments having one set of rules for persons of high estate and another for common folk. Silly me.

I am not advocating obesity, by the way. It looks so dreadfully uncomfortable, it does get in the way of being able to do some things, and it can cause problems for other people. (If you know a fireman or paramedic or mortician, and he feels comfortable taking you into his confidence, he could probably tell you some hair-raising stories about rescuing or transporting fat people. For that matter, nurses have their own experiences. And...) And of course I think people should be held accountable in some fashion if they are recklessly fatalistic about germs and are cooking for an unsuspecting public. I just don't think government exists to tell people what cookbooks to use or what food dishes may be invented or on which days you may cook what. Or, for that matter, to tell civilians at large how much they are allowed to weigh. Silly me, again.

By the way, I am beginning to think that one of the too-little-appreciated touches of genius in the founding of the United States of America is that our founders set up obstacles to litter the path of a do-gooder or busybody who wants to use government to punish anybody who doesn't want to ride his favorite hobbyhorse, particularly if the hobbyhorse isn't on the list of legitimate government functions. (Enough of a mix of metaphors for you there? My apologies to language purists. Well, and the rest of you, too. It's late and it's been a long day. May I use that for some sort of feeble excuse? No? Well, of course not. I'll try to do better from here on out...)

That so many social engineering types have managed to dance past the obstacles by declaring the rules passé is another story. (These folks are generally fond of calling the constitution a Living Constitution, by which phrase, as far as I can determine, they mean that they've declared parts of it dead. 'Reinterpretation' is so much handier than that pesky amendment process, I guess.) The fact remains that our founders drew definite boundaries and told government officials they couldn't step out of them in their capacity as governors, because (get this) they don't have any right to do so. There are, they said, limits to what government should even try to do. The founders even, bless their hearts, set up watchtowers and barricades and armories in the form of separation of powers, so that, if need be, one branch of government could beat back another branch of government that it caught trying to storm the realm reserved for personal responsibility.

It's a noble experiment, trying to establish a government that protects even otherwise-powerless people from abuse of power instead of (as has happened so often in history) shoving out-of-favor residents around however the wind blows, to please a covey of well-connected and/or wealthy and/or vicious and/or paranoid and/or power drunk individuals. Could we, possibly, try to get back to the nice experiment, please? I don't think we're giving it a fair enough trial these days.

For any of you scratching your heads, wondering how in the world you could make a better world without government taking charge of the project, may I just say that families, neighborhoods, churches, service clubs, and even total strangers who happened upon calamity have managed to help folks in need for centuries now (at the very least). For that matter, I doubt that the original Good Samaritan was the original compassionate fellow, nor even the first person to have a practical head as well as a caring heart.

And, how's this? If you'd like to change the world, have you heard of discussion? Of laying out your case in a polite, logical fashion to try to convince someone to change his opinion on something?

Have you heard of setting a good example?

Or offering even just a word of encouragement, when someone's trying to change for the better?

I know that simply assigning government to do the mucky work can seem like a good deal. But, it seems to me, it depends on getting very virtuous, intelligent and wise individuals in the right offices, and hoping they can, against the odds, be nimble and flexible enough to deal with problems as they are as they arise, and not problems as foreseen or guessed at by the folks who got on a hobbyhorse and passed however many laws they thought would promote their cause. (Or consolidate their power, as the case might be.)

We've tried that a while. The results have been less than stellar, I'd say, with a marked drop-off in civility as partisans fight down and dirty for a chance to wield instead of dodge the ever-larger sledgehammer that government has become.

And now, thanks to aggressive government (and government-backed) meddling in recent years, we have swarms of people more or less trained to stay out of the way and let government take care of an astonishing array of problems, either out of a strangely-optimistic view that 'the government' is good at this sort of thing, or out of fear that some perhaps unknown, possibly counter-intuitive, perhaps insane, regulation will be triggered and bring penalties down on their head if they get involved. (You may now invoke the sledgehammer mental image, if you'd like. Or envision a bulldozer, if you'd rather. Or a plow. Or a minefield.) This is, I would like to suggest, probably not the best sort of government/citizenry interaction possible.

I might also venture to say that, in and of itself, it seems, on the face of it, inherently unwise to train people to distance themselves from the concept of personal responsibility.

We also have swarms of people for whom the government is now seen, apparently, as Arbitrator of All Things, or something close to it; additionally, a Dispenser (and/or Guardian) of Respect. These people, I propose, are, for starters, perhaps a little confused on what creates respect. But I digress.

Previous related post: A course in the classics

Update: Later in the chapter, there's the following, which includes another 'how or when you are allowed to eat' edict. It doesn't qualify as Nanny State behavior, unless the Normans meant the restrictions for the improved personal health of the inhabitants (I doubt that, but any historians out there who know about this time period, please feel free to weigh in), but I think it's interesting, as long as we're discussing what people in power sometimes try to do. I've added the emphasis:

Heretofore there hath been much more time spent in eating and drinking than commonly is in these days; for whereas of old we had breakfast in the forenoon, beverages or nunchions 6 after dinner, and thereto rear suppers generally when it was time to go to rest ( a toy brought into England by hardy Canutus, and a custom whereof Athenæus also speaketh, lib. I, albeit Hippocrates speaks but of twice at the most, lib. 2, De rat vict. in feb ac). Now, these odd repasts—thanked be God!—are very well left, and each one in manner (except here and there some young, hungry stomach that cannot fast till dinner-time) contenteth himself with dinner and supper only. The Normans, misliking the gormandise of Canutus, ordained after their arrival that no table should be covered above once in the day, which Huntingdon imputeth to their avarice; but in the end, either waxing weary of their own frugality, or suffering the cockle of old custom to overgrow the good corn of their new constitution, they fell to such liberty that in often-feeding they surmounted Canutus surnamed the Hardy. For, whereas he covered his table but three or four times in the day, these spread their cloths five or six times, and in such wise as I before rehearsed. They brought in also the custom of long and stately sitting at meat, whereby their feasts resembled those ancient pontifical banquets whereof Macrobius speaketh (lib. 3, cap. 13), and Pliny (lib. 10, cap. 10), and which for sumptuousness of fare, long sitting, and curiosity shewed in the same, exceeded all other men’s feasting; which fondness is not yet left with us, notwithstanding that it proveth very beneficial for the physicians, who most abound where most excess and misgovernment of our bodies do appear, although it be a great expense of time, and worthy of reprehension. For the nobility, gentlemen, and merchantmen, especially at great meetings, do sit commonly till two or three of the clock at afternoon, so that with many it is a hard matter to rise from the table to go to evening prayer, and return from thence to come time enough to supper….

(I'd say the author, William Harrison, had some strong opinions on how people should eat, yes?)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Book note: The Mind's Adventure, by Howard Lowry

I don't mark up books as I read them. I put in bookmarks to show pages to go back to. On The Mind's Adventure, by Howard Lowry, c. 1950, published by The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, I had to give up on bookmarking. A book won't close properly with that many in them. And, besides, bookmarks cease being useful, if there are too many of them.

This is one of those books that sat and sat on my shelf, because I thought it would be perhaps interesting, but probably a hard, 'scholarly' slog. The full title is The Mind's Adventure: Religion and Higher Education. The contents page lists five chapters: 1. Halfway in the Century, 2. Vision and Revision, 3. Liberal Education and Religion, 4. Liberal Education and Religion: The Church College, 5. The Last Half of the Century. Then there's a References section.

Dry, right? Possibly even dusty and/or ponderous, yes?

Well, no. Now that I've read it I can see I was badly mistaken in my first impression.

Uhm. I hate to make comparisons to C.S. Lewis, since Lewis is held in awe by so many people, but off the top of my head I can't think of a closer comparison. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this book, both in content and in style.

In fact, if I could find the copyright holder I'd beg him to put it back into print. Or ask him to let me put it back into print. Or post it on the Internet. It has some of the best coverage of long-running worldview battles in colleges that I've read yet. But it's more than that. There's a good bit of American history in it, and philosophy, and... is reasoning the word I want here?

I'd recommend it to a Christian trying to better understand various secular stances, but also to any nonbeliever who wants to understand the Christian point of view.

I'd also recommend it to anyone who is appalled by the anti-Christian activities on many college campuses today, or discrimination against Christian professors, particularly in the sciences. By 1950, this sort of thing was already a problem, and to my mind Lowry suggests some good ways of addressing the conflicts. He also provides a good overview of what led up to the conflicts. And he's articulate. (Did I mention he reminds me, at least vaguely, of Lewis?)

Then, too, anybody who wants a snapshot of American culture a half century ago could do worse than to read this book. Just from a history of culture aspect, it has its merits.

From the preface:

The plan of this book is a simple one. It begins with an analysis of our contemporary situation, of some of the ideas and influences that have brought us where we are, midway in the century, and of the bearing of all this on colleges and universities. Then in the second chapter there follows, not an account of the growth of higher learning in America, or even of the colleges founded by the Church, but the story of how and why religion that brought forth most higher education in this country yielded its place very widely to the secular spirit. The Harvard Report, General Education in a Free Society, is examined as a part of this story, as are some recent educational trends and their significance.

The heart of this book is probably Chapter III, which considers the relations of religion and education. Can a liberal education include religion and remain what it is supposed to be? If, on the other hand, it ignores religion, can it, in the nature of things, be liberal at all? Anyone who knows our contemporary campus scene knows the reawakened and vital interest in these questions, just as he also knows that one small book will not exhaust any treatment of them. Chapter IV, on the Church college, is but the second part of this same discussion. It is not a case study in any sense. It is rather an analysis of the nature of those colleges, whose influence in American life is out of all proportion to their size, that have the task of trying to be true to their religious purpose and at the same time be genuine places of higher learning and free inquiry.

The last chapter looks forward to the second half of our century and to the part education may or may not have in achieving some of our democratic goals. It tries to suggest also the kind of Christianity likely to have much significance for education and for human living.

This book deals only with colleges and universities, and leaves untouched the vexed question of the general role of State and Church in public education -- a problem less troubling, incidentally, at the college and university level, where there is allegedly a greater level of maturity, than at the level of the elementary and secondary schools. Some matters treated here have, to be sure, great bearing on the general question. Any thoughtful college officer or teacher knows that what happens to young people of pre-college age crucially affects all higher learning. He knows how relatively unimportant he is compared with those who deal with boys and girls before he sees them.

It will be obvious that by the term 'religion' the writer is usually thinking of Christianity, though much of what is said here has bearing on other religions, as well, in their relation to education...

This book was written at the request of certain men and women who felt a need for it or, perhaps more exactly, for something like it. Its engendering spirit was Dr. E. Fay Campbell, Director of the Division of Higher Education of the Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.... Dr. Campbell secured the co-operation of and gave much preliminary detail for consideration to a committee that crossed denominational lines. This group, students of religion and education, met with the author twice...for detailed discussion...


Any thoughts or feelings I have about education owes so much to colleagues I have had at Princeton University and at The College of Wooster that I could not begin to detail the obligation...

As a side note, here's an article with a 1950 picture of Dr. Lowry with choral director Robert Shaw and playwright Thornton Wilder, on the occasion of Wilder going to Wooster to stage a production of Our Town, with Wilder himself starring as The Stage Manager. From the linked article:

During his campus stay, Wilder also received an honorary degree. Speaking to the new graduates, he praised Americans’ freedom to make choices and cited Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau.

Wilder’s visit may have been brief, but his bond with Wooster was strong. Writing to then-President Howard Lowry shortly after leaving town, he thanked him for “an Ohio college and for the opportunity you gave me to move around in it; for a re-dipping into a series of American ways and joys and hopes and strains and reminders that I could not have obtained in any other way... I feel a deep affection for Wooster, and if you ever get any flagging of heart about the college or your evident mission in it — write me! I’ll tell you some home truths! I’ll sound the clarion! That right, and that privilege you put into my hands, publicly. My deep regard to Wooster.”

Special Collections, in Andrews Library, holds a selection of letters and postcards that Wilder wrote to Lowry and [speech professor William] Craig. Circulation cards from books that Wilder checked out proved that he researched his commencement address thoroughly. — Emily Ryan ’05

Robert Heinlein, elites, the Latin American model, "little platoons" and more

Building on a John Derbyshire article, S.T. Karnick tries to figure out why the 'elites' of today are able to wield so much power. He and Derbyshire don't seem to agree on how much hope there is of changing things for the better.

There are some interesting theories there. I lean toward Karnick's views on this, by the way.

A course in the classics

We own a Harvard Classics Five Foot Shelf of Books, which, incidentally, is more than five feet long in the edition we have, which was printed mid-1960s. At any rate, these are supposedly the classics which all persons should read to have a good foundation in learning. Or, at least, they represent a version of a high-level liberal education as offered to the public nearly a hundred years ago. You know, back before the modernists and their intellectual cousins decided to reinvent the world, their goal to be accomplished in part by discouraging a solid knowledge of the past (or rewriting it).

Over the years, I've dipped into the set, but only read a few of the books in their entirety. Don't fuss. Please. I know that to dip into a classic is to invite misunderstanding: many classics build and twist back on themselves, posing argument only as prelude to counterargument, and must be read in whole or else you'll miss the main points or draw the wrong conclusions entirely. I know that. But... fifty-one books seemed a bit daunting, especially after dipping into a few. Besides, many of them seemed reads better suited to men than women, if I might put it like that. (No surprise, because when this set was originated, most college-level learning was geared toward men, or so I understand.) And, then too, some of them were simply great treats to browse in, and then put back. It's hard to be disciplined under conditions like that...

But several months ago I decided to put a priority on actually reading the set. The whole set. I'm alternating reading these with reading other things so I don't get burned out (or that's the theory, anyway), but I am doggedly trying to make my way through the whole anthology. I am not, as I probably should, starting at volume one and going through to volume fifty-one. I've tried that any number of times, and failed to keep up steam. Instead, I am happily choosing books at random, sometimes even closing my eyes and grabbing a book, with the promise to myself that if I haven't read it yet, then I will read it now. All of it. No skipping over parts I don't like. Sometimes I vary the routine by picking a book I don't think I'll like, just to get it over with. Other times I reward myself with a book that looks especially tempting. But, bit by bit, one way and another, I'm making my way through the set.

I should have done this earlier. Like years ago.

I am currently in the third part of Volume 35, Chronicle and Romance, which includes three books: The Chronicles of Froissart, Translated by Lord Berners, Edited by G.C. Macaulay, original book from the 1300s; The Holy Grail, by Sir Thomas Malory, from the Caxton Edition of Morte D'Arthur, 1485; and A Description of Elizabethan England, written by William Harrison for Holinshed Chronicles, issued 1577, condensed in 1876 for the New Shakspere Society, and brought into "modern dress" sometime after that by a Mr. Lothrop Withington. (Why the editors of the Harvard Editions often didn't put in when editing was done -- or anything about the editor of the entry himself -- annoys me, by the way. I like to know these things.)

At any rate, if I hadn't vowed to read these books, all of them, each all the way through, I wouldn't have stuck with this volume. The first two books, at least, were not my cup of tea, to put it mildly. (Although, honesty compels me to say that I liked them better as I learned the dialect, got my bearings, and also started feeling an investment in the stories...)

Froissart's chronicle has mass killing after mass killing, and bribes and corruption and burning of towns, and people getting chopped to pieces, and just all sorts of evidence that life was held cheap, and honor was oddly defined. Note to any potential time travelers: if you land yourself in either France or Great Britain in the 1300s, hie yourself to the nearest "closed" town (walled, walled with a moat, whatever), and establish yourself on good terms there. The kings and mobs of the day apparently had no compunction of burning a town to the ground and slaughtering every person in sight upon little or no provocation, but generally only if it wasn't too much trouble, and closed towns were often seen as more trouble than they were worth. At least in these accounts. And don't think that posing as a man of the church will help you. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury gets murdered.

The Holy Grail by Mallory is harder yet to read, and I wish I'd had more footnotes to help me through it. A very strange book this is, and all mystical and full of strange warnings, and prophets and false prophets, and visions and dreams and miracles, and holy men, and devils dressed as holy men. (Beware 'holy men' on big, black horses blacker than any bear, by the way. They're apparently all frauds. Gentlewomen aren't always what they seem, either...) And now I need to rethink how I think about Launcelot and Galahad and King Arthur, by the way. This book turned my ideas about them on their heads.

I did more than a bit of cringing reading these two books, but... now some of the other history I've read makes more sense, and now I can see where some of the later legends came from. So, yes, perhaps I'm slightly better educated than before I sat down and read them. Perhaps I understand 'human nature' just a bit better, too. (Or perhaps it merely confirmed my suspicion that humans can be a very currish lot unless, individually, they decide to be good -- and then they're still prone to bad behavior, gullibility, excitability, miscalculation, and just plain bad luck. And, oh yeah -- another suspicion enforced -- the culture in which you're steeped seems to make a huge difference in how you think and what you revere. Imagine that.)

And so now I'm embarked on A Description of Elizabethan England, from Holinshed Chronicles, supposedly one of the sources Shakespeare used for some of his plays. And some of it's dry, and some of it's witty, and some of it's heartrending; and some of it's definitely of a time long past, and some of it could be written today, about people of today. There's rather a lot of commentary mixed in with the observations and inventories. For instance, in the order they appear in the book:

Unto this place I also refer our bishops, who are accounted honourable, called lords, and hold the same room in the Parliament house with the barons, albeit for honour sake the right hand of the prince is given unto them, and whose countenances in time past were much more glorious than at this present it is, because those lusty prelates sought after earthly estimation and authority with far more diligence than after the lost sheep of Christ, of which they had small regard, as men being otherwise occupied and void of leisure to attend upon the same...

Knights be not born, neither is any man a knight by succession, no, not the king or prince: but they are made either before the battle, to encourage them the more to adventure and try their manhood; or after the battle ended, as an advancement for their courage and prowess already shewed, and then are they called Milites; or out of the wars for some great service done, or for the singular virtues which do appear in them, and then are they named Equites Aurati, as common custom intendeth. They are made either by the king himself, or by his commission and royal authority given for the same purpose, or by his lieutenant in the wars…

Sometime diverse ancient gentlemen, burgesses, and lawyers are called unto knighthood by the prince, and nevertheless refuse to take that state upon them, for which they are of custom punished by a fine, that redoundeth unto his coffers, and (to say truth) is oftentimes more profitable unto him than otherwise their service should be, if they did yield unto knighthood...

Whosoever studieth the laws of the realm, whoso abideth in the university (giving his mind to his book), or professeth physic and the liberal sciences, or beside his service in the room of a captain in the wars, or good counsel given at home, whereby his commonwealth is benefited, can live without manual labour, and thereto is able and will bear the port, charge, and countenance of a gentleman, he shall for money have a coat and arms bestowed upon him by heralds (who in the charter of the same do of custom pretend antiquity and service, and many gay things thereunto, being made so good cheap, be called master (which is the title that men give to esquires and gentlemen), and reputed for a gentleman ever after, which is so much less to be disallowed of for that the prince doth lose nothing by it, the gentleman being so much subject to taxes and public payments as is the yeoman or husbandman, which he likewise doth bear the gladlier for the saving of his reputation. Being called also to the wars (for with the government of the commonwealth he meddleth little), whatsoever it cost him, he will both array and arm himself accordingly, and shew the more manly courage, and all the tokens of the person which he representeth. No man hath hurt by it but himself, who peradventure will go in wider buskins than his legs will bear, or, as our proverb saith, “now and then bear a bigger sail than his boat is able to sustain.”

Yeomen are those which by our law are called Legales homines, free men born English, and may dispend of their own free land in yearly revenue to the sum of forty shillings sterling, or six pounds as money goeth in our times. Some are of the opinion, by Cap. 2 Rich. 2 Ann. 20, that they are same which the Frenchmen call varlets, but, as the phrase is used in my time, it is very unlikely to be so. The truth is that the word is derived from the Saxon term Zeoman, or Geoman, which signifieth (as I have read) a settled or staid man, such I mean as, being married and of some years, betaketh himself to stay in the place of his abode for the better maintenance of himself and his family, whereof the single sort have no regard, but are likely to be still fleeting now hither now thither, which argueth want of stability in determination and resolution of judgment, for the execution of things of any importance...
I've just finished the chapter on the history and state of The Church of England as of that time. Oh, my, I'd say the author had some strong opinions on that topic.

To see what the Holinshed Chronicles looked like when printed, go here (courtesy Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image, University of Pennsylvania Library).

More on Shakespeare and Holinshed here, at Internet Shakespeare Editions, affiliated with the University of Victoria (Canada). (This looks like a site that a person could spend hours at, by the way... Lots and lots of info, pictures, links...)

More on the Harvard Classics and the companion set of The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction here.

Ryan Rahe's generous heart

Ryan Rahe decided he'd send some of his Special Olympics medals to soldiers in Iraq for good luck.

I'm impressed not only with Ryan's generosity, but with the graciousness of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Anthony W. Grillett, who wrote to thank him. Well done, gentlemen.

Book note: Walter, the Story of a Rat, by Barbara Wersba

The blogger at Seasonal Soundings recommends the book Walter, The Story of a Rat, by Barbara Wersba, which is advertised for ages 5 to 8, but this blogger says would be good "for ages 5 to 80."

In short, Walter the rat is born with the ability to read, which, of course, would make life interesting for anybody.

If the pull quotes at Seasonal Soundings are any guide, this is not a lightweight book, but one with history lessons and mind stretchers. I haven't seen it yet. Have you? What did you think? Is it, perhaps, a bit too much to write about assassinations in a book supposedly appropriate for five year olds? (See the pull quotes.) At what age should kids start learning about bad stuff like that?

hat tip: A Circle of Quiet

Friday, July 06, 2007

Urban legend watch: tiger raising piglets

We recently got an email from a friend about a tiger in an unnamed zoo in an unspecified location in California being consoled after the loss of her cubs by being given piglets to raise, the piglets being "wrapped in tiger skin" to fool the supposedly depressed mother tiger into thinking they were her own offspring.

That sort of story screams hoax. Not that ranchers haven't been known to get a cow that has lost her own calf to accept an orphan calf by putting the skin of the dead calf on the orphan. Same with horses. Not that I think I would or could do it, mind you, (major blech) but I know it was recommended in how-to-raise-livestock books that I read when I was young and my brothers had Herefords (more here) and I had a horse. I'd rather bottle feed, thanks. Any day. Absolutely. And, no, I don't know if skin-suiting is still recommended, or how well it generally works or doesn't work. I just know we were told we might have to do that someday, so we'd better be prepared. (Perhaps it was just a way of trying to weed out sissies, or folks not really prepared to deal with animals that insist on being animals instead of fairy tale creatures?)

Oh, wait, let me google... Here you go, Maternal Behaviour of Beef Cows, by Joseph M. Stookey, seems to have about as much or more than I really want to know about mothering, mis-mothering, and fostering with beef cows. It appears to be a good overview, anyway. And it notes that grafting a skin onto the calf you want the cow to adopt can result in a successful bond - but often isn't necessary. Oh, good. Glad to hear it. Skinning baby anythings just strikes me as something to be avoided if possible, you know?

But, back to the story at hand, these "tiger skins" didn't look like tiger skins, and why in the world just say 'a zoo in California'? It just didn't scan.

So, here's what Snopes has to say about it, and here's what has to say about it. The write-ups are similar, and agree that the pictures come from a zoo/circus in Thailand, which does this sort of thing as part of its exhibits. The zoo is also proud of its ladies who wrestle crocodiles, btw, for all you who admire that sort of craziness. (Not my thing. By a long shot. But since I spent part of my youth planning on putting on shows with killer whales at Sea World or something like that when I grew up, I'm not sure I have a whole lot of room for fussing. Do I? I like to think that swimming with intelligent and sociable killer whales is somehow saner than wrestling massive-jaws-with-man-eating-incredibly-brainless-reptiles-attached, but... honestly, I'm not sure if that's a difference in degree or in kind. Although, to be sure, I do think it's possible to be ladylike while putting killer whales through their paces. Wrestling crocs, I don't think so.)

Motherhood, two looks

Wittingshire has an interesting excerpt from Robert Farrar Capon's book Bed and Board: Plain Talk About Marriage, about mothers as "geography incarnate," the 'effective symbol of place.'

At a Hen's Pace links to an article by Ann Voskamp, which works on the theme that a mother is a type of priest.

Book market watch: How to talk with practically anybody about practically anything, by Barbara Walters

Noted in passing. In today's stack of used books to go through for our bookstore is a copy of the c. 1970 book, How to talk with practically anybody about practically anything by Barbara Walters. Actually, it's a copy of the 1971 paperback edition by Dell. It is, frustratingly enough, in good minus condition, with watermarks in the green that lines the page edges, and a number written on the front. Even in this condition, though, the current market price is - to my surprise - about five bucks.

I wonder when it stopped being a one dollar book? And why?

That's not to say the prices might not crash again. You never know in this business. This afternoon's prices could be a fluke or some sort of publicity-related mini-boom. Or... it might be an early sign that supplies are getting scarce enough that prices could be headed up more or less for good. (Have I mentioned lately that you just never know in this business?)

Update: Over at Wikipedia (I know, I know, take it with a grain of salt, OK), from the Barbara Walters article:

Walters has been married three times. As she told The New York Times in 1996, "I'm convinced that you stay married when the days are bad only because you really want to be. But I always had an out. I had this job, and this life and enough money. I didn't have to fight the bad days."
I hope she was misquoted. If not, it would be nice to know the context and tone. Was she bragging, or mourning? Or what? It doesn't strike me as a healthy attitude, that's for sure, whatever spin goes with it.

And how do you write 'wedding vows' for a 'marriage' you're only going to honor if it's only full of good days? (As if that's possible?)

At any rate, it struck me funny, considering the title of her book. How to talk with practically anybody about practically anything apparently doesn't include talking to a husband or fiance about the things that really matter when it comes to going through life shoulder to shoulder come what may. Well, it struck me funny in a sad - very sad - way...

Hot, but dealing with it

In general, where I live now has slightly more moderate weather than where I grew up. Slightly. In fact, in general, when you check out a weathercast that features both places, we're generally a few degrees cooler in the summer, and a few degrees warmer in the winter. I'm going to knock on wood when I write this, but neither place is known for tornadoes or other extreme weather, unless you count thunderstorms which, truth be told, usually bring relief if there's enough rain with them. They can be a bit frightening, and sometimes they knock the power out or start a fire or two, but, on the whole, they're a gift, usually.

But, then, there are days like the last few days. We're still cooler here than where I grew up, which means that when they're clocking in 109 we're at 103, or something like that. Yigh.

Of course, if we regularly had weather in the triple digits I'd plan for it. I'd have trellises and shade cloth all over the sides of the house. I might add a screened-in porch or two, or an open-ended lean-to alongside the back side of the house. I'd plant more trees, tall flowers and vines where they'd count for something. I'd probably invest in a second air conditioner, for the bedroom portion of the house. (That's if my shade cloth and/or trellises, etc., didn't do the trick.) I'd figure out how to get into the attic and improve the venting during the summer. I'd increase the insulation. Well, I'd do those things as the budget and the landlord and time allowed, of course, but the point is, since we don't get this hot very often, and it never lasts terribly long, we don't go to any length to provide for it. And so, for a few days here and there we run around jerryrigging heat-fighting apparatus and strategies. And get a bit hot anyway.

Oh, well. I rather like sitting on the porch while the house cools down. I sometimes wonder what we lost when our technology got so good that we could comfortably stay indoors 24/7 in the summer, if we wanted.

Don't get me wrong. I have an ill husband, and I'm not as well or young as I used to be, either. I'm not arguing against air conditioning. I understand that for some people it is not so much a luxury as a matter of life and death. Yay, air conditioning!

I am saying that I spend a fair amount of time wondering about how reliant on fancy technology and electricity we've let ourselves become, and whether it's altogether a good thing. Here we are, with pretty much all of history's solutions to human comfort problems available to us, and we have this tendency to forget or scorn the 'easy' or the 'old': shades, shutters, cooling towers, grottoes, alignment, valley vs hillside vs hilltop placement, porches, courtyards, breezeways, vents, landscaping, etc.

Treat yourself someday to a copy of A Shelter Sketchbook by John S. Taylor, if you can find a copy. I currently don't have a copy (bookseller's remorse strikes again), but I remember spending rather a lot of time marveling at the ways that even very ancient people came up with to deal with whatever conditions needed to be dealt with locally. As an example, some cultures have had ingenious air conditioning systems, drawing air over water, for instance, or using that 'hot air rises' principle to suck the hot air out of the house using a cooling tower.

I remember many years ago reading in Sunset magazine that a house in a desert in California was built with a cooling tower, as something of an experiment, and that the homeowners were comfortable even in the height of summer, just from that. Why don't we do that sort of thing more often? Why do we settle for one-size-fits-all as often as we do, especially since it generally doesn't work all that well, at least in architecture?

I think one of the downsides of our age is that there are too many people walking around for whom pretty much everything is a matter of fashion, of style, of preference, or of convenience. They've either forgotten that there were reasons for something to be the way it was, or else they think they're somehow beyond all that. Well-watered lawns provide cool spots - and also fire protection, just for starters. Why are we so prone to forgetting that sort of thing? Why are so many people hung up on what's novel, or new, or fancy, or kinda sorta looks good to them?... On what is the current fashion - especially for their clique - and never mind if it makes any sense?

I have my theories. Do you?

On a slightly different note, the other day some of the neighbors had a young boy visiting, at a guess eight or nine or ten, something like that. He was running through the spray of the lawn sprinkler. He looked, to be honest about it, like your fairly typical couch potato of the overweight but not obese variety, but there he was, striding and leaping to the best of his ability, with the folks on the porch cheering him on. There was a light in his eyes that I'll bet you doesn't light up while he's sitting around the house.

Sometimes he had to force himself to face the spray, or to brave a mighty leap over the sprinkler itself, but force himself he did, to applause all around.

I had the feeling he wasn't used to pushing himself like that. I also had the feeling he liked it rather more than he thought he would. Heh. :)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

American by choice

Peter Schramm points out that Americans are made, not born. That it is principles that define us, not lineage.

Elsewhere, he links to two of his favorite speeches for the Fourth of July: Calvin Coolidge in 1926, and Frederick Douglass in 1852. He has a nice excerpt from the Coolidge speech.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Free speech and not so free speech, three takes

George Will brings to light the trouble faced by some Christian women in Oakland, California, who merely wanted to discuss marriage and family values. (Valuing Speech,, June 24, 2007) content warning

Jonah Goldberg inserts a bit of common sense - and history - into the discussion of what speech the Constitution protects, and why. ((Free) Speech Disorder,, June 29, 2007) content warning

Wilfred McClay finds a recent Supreme Court ruling on a free speech case full of "an almost ludicrous amount of huffing and puffing" about side issues, "all deployed to justify what ought to have been crystal-clear on entirely different grounds." (Never Reverse?, Mere Comments, June 28, 2007).

Both Goldberg and McClay take on, among other things, the often-repeated, too-little-examined mantra about 'students not shedding their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.'

Books about America

David Gelernter shares five of his favorite books about America (Five Best, OpinionJournal, June 30, 2007).

Another thumb's up (or two or three) for Ratatouille

I don't live anywhere near a movie theater (I think the nearest one is about an hour and a half away? If it even runs new releases? If it's even still in business?) so I'm somewhat out of the loop when it comes to movies. But, I can't help noticing that some folks are tickled with Ratatouille. Phil at Brandywine Books, for instance.

Orrin Judd links to some positive reviews in newspapers. That would be 'liberal-leaning' newspapers.

I guess that's what gets me as much as anything. Praise is coming from across the worldview spectrum, so to speak. That doesn't seem to happen very often, does it?

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Update: Frederica Mathewes-Green also likes it. (Pixar This, National Review Online, June 29, 2007)

Update: The official movie site is here, with clips and trailer and more. Caution: Soundtrack started all of its own accord.