Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Dear family and friends,
Dear family and friends,
After Jen hit “print” on that 90-page honors project in May, I thought life would be easier. Right. We moved back home, and three days later, it was business as usual.
Most days, Jen has three to ten web pages running simultaneously. We also spend excessive time fixing commas in documents and typing commentaries on topics in education.
Occasionally I get so overloaded that I don’t have the energy to load another email. I suppose Jen gets the hint; she stops typing and cracks open a dictionary-sized book with a British or Russian name on the spine. But then, even after the workday ends, she’s back to French or Latin language study websites or writing on her two personal “blogs.”
Don’t forget the grad school applications. Eight, to be exact. As if four years weren’t enough, Jen wants to go back to school for another five to seven so she can teach other young adults about books that are thicker than the old Pride and Prejudice on VHS. Thankfully, she put the apps in the mail last month, so I don’t have to look at another existential exploration of her life purpose. In the evenings—
—How would you know? You start virus-scanning yourself at five and don’t have a spare byte of
—You’re one to talk! You’re just a shoe!
—Go defragment yourself. I’m telling this part.
You see, I’m a dancing shoe. I spin. I twirl. I waltz, swing dance, contra dance, and even throw in an occasional tango or salsa step. In Jen’s case, I travel along to late-night IHOP visits, and I help Jen make friends while she’s living at home, even if it involves getting her very, very dizzy.
—Umm, aren’t you forgetting something?
—Are you talking to me?
—Do you see another car with amazing gas mileage?
Who do you think gets Jen back and forth and everywhere else at ? With so many people getting married this summer, it was all I could do to make it to the next oil change!
—I don’t see your keys wearing off from—
—If my steering wheel was as twitchy as your touchpad, I’d—
—Why do you two think people go dancing—to get away from you!
** Massive smackdown ensues between computer, dance shoe, and car. Outcome unknown. Results TBA next year. Merry Christmas.**
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
"When you look back at older versions of dictionaries, there were lots of examples of flowers for instance. That was because many children lived in semi-rural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays, the environment has changed. We are also much more multicultural. People don't go to Church as often as before. Our understanding of religion is within multiculturalism, which is why some words such as "Pentecost" or "Whitsun" would have been in 20 years ago but not now."
The funny thing is, being prescriptive is exactly what OUP has done. They simply have a different opinion about what words should be used and not used. Once dictionaries start being prescriptive, everything is subject to what the people in power want to describe. And thus relativity encroaches on the English language as well.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The instructions in the "tag" were to go to My Pictures, open the 5th folder, and post the 5th picture I found. Here's the result. :) I think I was singing something from The Sound of Music.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
- Number of non-employees wearing Santa hats: 1
- Number of fathers sitting dejectedly outside a store: 15+
- Number of teenage couples holding hands: 9+
- Number of people asking help figuring discounts or deciding between two items: 2
- Number of people using hand sanitizer in the food court: 4
- Number of awkwardly loud cell phone conversations: 2
Monday, November 24, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
I have read 36, including 11 of the top 20.
How about you?
I find it fascinating that the three most popular non-fiction topics are God, self-help, and food and weight loss. What an interesting commentary on American culture.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
- The law points out our sin, because we cannot keep the whole law as commanded.
- The law, because of its authority as an arbiter of justice, thus has a claim on us to exact appropriate punishment, so that justice can be served.
- The law demands our death.
- We can only be free from the law's claim if we can pay that penalty.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
Imagining what freedom will feel like...
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Still working on Merry Wives of Windsor, Antony and Cleopatra, and Inferno. Finished reading A War of Gifts by Orson Scott Card. A very bizarre and philosophical story, with interesting and vague commentary on religion and nationalism. Anyone read it? Thoughts?
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
McCain: And I'll tell you, I had a town hall meeting in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, and a woman stood up and she said, "Senator McCain, I want you to do me the honor of wearing a bracelet..." And I said, "I will -- I will wear his bracelet..."Obama: Jim, let me just make a point. I've got a bracelet, too...
Thursday, September 25, 2008
The sworn enemy of college and grad school applicants.
Personal statement, I will face you, and you will lose.
It's funny how surreal a life decision seems until you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to begin to make it real. I have been talking about graduate school for over a year now, and (again) am now beginning the concrete steps of applying. There's something scary about it - it means putting yourself out there for possible rejection, and it means choosing one road instead of another. Robert Frost was right:
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
But the process of writing a personal statement (or many, since every school wants something a little different) forces you to think about who you are as a person and why you have chosen to pursue further study. Do you have the characteristics necessary? What in your life thus far has prepared you?
For me, the issue of the "gap year" still hangs over the statement. And as I write, I begin to see the ways that this year is beneficial, even necessary to my development. I asked a former professor what I should emphasize since I come from a small Liberal Arts college. "Evidence of independent work or thought" was his reply.
Hmm... I have spent the first few months of this year working from home doing independent writing, research, and editing projects. I have crafted a reading list to fill in the gaps of my literary experience. I have taken the initiative to relearn French and will have to do so again with Latin. I have had time (more than I wanted, actually) to think about what I want to study and what I really enjoy researching.
Don't misunderstand me, I still dislike writing personal statements, especially because there is a high likelihood that no one will read them. In addition to studying for the GRE subject test (a mere three weeks away now!), gathering transcripts, contacting references, filling in applications, and proofreading writing samples, the personal statement is just one more task.
But on the other hand, reflection, no matter how tedious, provokes thought. In that sense, maybe there is a purpose for the personal statement after all.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
"If people are in a lifeboat, the reason they feel passionately about being a good person and all is because if they aren't, they are going to be thrown overboard. ... when you really think about it, these wants we have, like wanting to be right, wanting to be good, wanting to be perceived as humble, wanting to be important to people and wanting to be loved, feel perilous, as though by not getting them something terrible is going to happen."
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Friday, September 5, 2008
Saturday, August 30, 2008
The number of people and vendors is astounding, and a few minutes calculating the profit earned by the lemonade stands resulted in another "astounding." The only thing that could improve the crowd would be if the event took place in Flatsville instead.
It was early, damp, foggy, and cool when we arrived. The day before, it had rained all day. Walking through the parking areas was like tramping over a water mattress, except with more mud. The smarter sellers had tarps and straw spread around their tables to soak up some of the wet.
During the course of the eight-hour day, I walked probably seven to ten miles. The sun came out mid-morning and by noon the mud was turning into half-baked clay.
The booths are laden with dusty glassware in green, red, and blue. Boxes of assorted, yellowed papers are shoved under the display cases of old coins, Pez dispensers, and antique fishing lures. Enormous shelves hold reusable window etchings, hand-crafted jewelry, stacks of LIFE magazines, and dilapidated old books. Canvas is the decor of choice, followed closely by plastic.
The people mirror the goods. Fanny packs are back in style. So are grocery-style carts and hand carts with milk crates and a bungee cord. Baseball caps and sunglasses are sold on every table, but most people bring their own. Some are members of the old crowd, darting from table to table at 7 a.m. with eyes squinted to find a particular item before their competitors do.
Teenagers tend to stroll among the streetside vendors, looking at puppies, cheap perfume, and the college boy running the Funnel Cakes booth or the scantily dressed girl beside the Nascar display. Parents roam the aisles to find second-hand furniture and bulk lots of picture books while their two year old strains at the furry brown harness and leash fastened around her waist.
The true collectors know what they're looking for. They have to scrounge through four dozen dust and grime-coated boxes of miscellany to find one postcard from the 1950s. They have to scour ten different lots to locate an original Don Knotts autographed photo. Sometimes the search seems endless and pointless. But if it were easy, it wouldn't be so satisfying.
Me? I like people-watching. I also like hand-painted glass and old books. My prize find was an 1819 edition of collected works by Alexander Pope, in good condition. I found it in the midst of a big, has-never-seen-the-light-of-day-or-a-dustcloth box full of 1860s Algebra books and 1990s comics.
Hunting through all the rubbish to find the treasure is kind of like dealing with life and people. All of us have a lot of mildew and broken glass inside - remnants of our pasts, our families, our mistakes, our choices. And yet we're made in the likeness of God. So somewhere, underneath all the mess, there is something worth noticing, worth honoring, and worth seeking out.
Too often, I forget to notice. To honor. To seek out. I am so grateful that God never does (see Luke 15:8-10).
At the flea market, I watched a man find the one coin he was seeking. He lifted it from among the rest, polished it on his sleeve, and immediately tucked it into the vendor's plastic baggie with all the care of a museum curator. To him, the grunge no longer mattered, because he had found the treasure underneath.
Pretty powerful image, right?
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Funny, though, I'm pretty sure it was worth it. Now starting the much shorter "Silas Marner" and considering reading kiddie lit for a while to recover. Almost to the 20th C in my review of BritLit for the GRE. Trying to relearn HTML and CSS for work. Labor Day upcoming!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Top schools for now - also taking suggestions:
-WFU (Masters only)
-UNC-Chapel Hill (Masters first)
With acceptance rates in the <5% range, I probably need a backup plan, but I have so many [application fees] already!
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Apparently the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts’ Big Read program) estimates that the average adult has only read six of these books. At least, that is the statistic that is bandied about the internet. So, basically, this is a random unverified list with a random unverified statistic attached to it.Here’s how it works:
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Mark in red the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your blog
1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare - still working on it...
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot - (Silas Marner...much shorter)
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky - if I ever finish Brothers K
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini - brilliant
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez - not big on mystic realism
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens - so much power
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov - in a word, disturbing
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo - masterwork
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
- Sonnet: Petrarchan or Shakespearean?
- Why did people in 16th C England write so much?
- Will I ever finish Brothers Karamazov? and...
- Why do decisions stress me out so badly?
I'm sure all of us have watched (or heard about) swimmer Michael Phelps make history with his 8 gold medals (100%) at the Beijing Olympics. One big story was the 200-meter butterfly, in which Phelps' goggles filled with water halfway through, leaving him blind.
Some people would have taken the incident as an excuse to fail. Phelps went on to win the race despite the incident. "From the 150-meter wall to the finish, I couldn't see the wall. I was just hoping I was winning," he told reporters.
As I think about it, I take a few lessons from Phelps and other Olympians.
Phelps was competing against himself and the clock as much as against the other swimmers. He would swim his best whether he was five lengths in front or a length behind. Slacking off when he was winning was not a consideration (see the 200-meter freestyle).
'Winning' does not always mean being better than the person next to you. 'Winning' does not always mean standing on the top of the podium. Just ask Oksana Chusovitina, the 33-year-old gymnast competing for Germany. In a sport dominated by 16 year olds, Chusovitina's reaction to her silver medal could hardly have been more jubilant.
And sometimes you just have to race blind, knowing that you are going in the right direction and using your best effort, even if you can't see the wall.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
...Read the book before you criticize it, I always say. And so I did. I encourage you to do the same.
Tragic. That is the one word that first comes to mind as I set aside the nearly 1,000-page collection containing Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.
The plot is compelling; the characters, alive and covered with skin and hair; the emotion, fierce.
If there are snags in the fabric of story and philosophy, it is because this book is, in many ways, a refutation. When establishing a new order, an author can simplify without losing the credibility of his or her world. When dis-establishing an old order, an author has less leeway for simplicity.
And Pullman’s novels are distinctly disestablishmentarianist. His premise is that the Christian faith is, as one character says, “a very powerful and convincing mistake, that’s all” (p. 871).
This is the problem Pullman’s novels face. In one chapter Lyra and Will are battling a harpy in the world of the dead, and in another Pullman is alluding to the questions of grace and works that have occupied Christian theologians: “But your reading will be even better then, after a lifetime of thought and effort, because it will come from conscious understanding. Grace attained like that is deeper and fuller than grace that comes freely, and furthermore, once you’ve gained it, it will never leave you” (p. 909).
For the reader, the plot has fallen into a crevice and is momentarily lost, but the philosophical treatise replacing it is only half-formed and simplified to a child’s level.
The metaphysics of His Dark Materials imagine a tri-part human, containing body, soul (daemon), and mind (ghost). The properties of mind and soul are incompletely distinguished, but the body is declared the most important.
The epistemology stems from the idea that consciousness (Dust, Shadows, original sin) is a fundamental force in the universe and is the root of knowledge. Knowledge, therefore, comes from the pursuit of knowledge. Pullman paints the overarching narrative of human history as “a struggle between wisdom and stupidity” (p.899) rather than between good and evil: “The rebel angels, the followers of wisdom, have always tried to open minds; the Authority and his churches have always tried to keep them closed” (p. 899).
The ethics of His Dark Materials are decidedly situational. Lyra, as the Eve figure, uses truth and lies, cheating, and betrayal to accomplish her ends. “She felt warm and virtuous, because she did it for Will, never for herself” (p. 674), Pullman tells the reader. She deals with a shifting sense of reality that is not simply caused by her growth and maturity, but it is related to the nature of reality itself, according to Pullman. “I came to believe that good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are. All we can say is that this is a good deed, because it helps someone, or that’s an evil one, because it hurts them” (p. 875), says Mary Malone.
As a consequence, Pullman’s is a dismal, self-preservationalist political world. Closing instructions tell Lyra and Will to “show [people] how to be kind instead of cruel, and patient instead of hasty, and cheerful instead of surly, and above all how to keep their minds open and free and curious.”
Other parts of the narrative invoke a Hobbesian view of reality that is parallel to rationales for the use of the atom bomb and for the ensuing arms race: “We never knew about [the subtle knife] when I first met you, Iorek,” Will says, “and nor did anyone, but now that we do, we got to use it ourselves—we can’t just not. That’d be feeble, and it’d be wrong, too, it’d be just like handing it over to ‘em and saying, ‘Go on, use it, we won’t stop you’” (p. 682).
Most classic (pre-postmodern) children’s novels carry the expectation that sacrifice will not go unrewarded and that beloved characters will be rescued from destruction, because there is someone who can always be trusted. Pullman’s protagonists are forced to realize that no one is safe or trustworthy, and that life does not have happy endings.
Elements in Pullman’s novel strike at comparable fantasy epics like The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and especially like The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, of whom Pullman was an especially vitriolic critic.
There are specific elements, like the names of the heroines: Pullman’s Lyra and Lewis’s Lucy. Motifs are echoed, like the beginning of both Lyra’s and Lucy’s adventures through an escape from censure into a wardrobe. Fierce, helpful animals (the lion Aslan and the bear Iorek) appear in both sets of novels. Powerful, magical objects appear in both Tolkien and Pullman. Parallel worlds, initially reached through a neutral world (Citagazze in Pullman, the Wood between the Worlds in Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew) are featured in Lewis and Pullman.
Even dialogue mirrors other works of fantasy. “I can feel war, Lyra Silvertongue; I can smell it; I can hear it” (p. 692), says Iorek at their parting. The quote has a parallel in The Return of the King, in which Treebeard says, “For the world is changing: I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air. I do not think we shall meet again” (p. 321).
Pullman readily admits the intertextuality of his books. “I have stolen ideas from every book I have ever read,” he said honestly in the acknowledgements. He cites Blake’s poetry and Milton’s Paradise Lost as central influences, but epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter also quote the Bible (angelic characters are drawn from the genealogies in Genesis), Emily Dickinson, Keats, and others.
Beyond the similarities, though, it is impossible to dismiss the extreme differences.
The worldview in Narnia and Lord of the Rings, from my perspective, is something pervasive and natural. It is inherently intertwined with the stories, as if the stories were created for their own merits and the worldview simply flowed into them (with possible exceptions in a few of the Chronicles of Narnia). By contrast, Pullman’s story and worldview are intertwined deliberately, as if the story was crafted to exhibit the philosophy.
Pullman’s novels centrally seek to remove something: the certainty and persuasion of the church. His attempts to set up an alternate worldview in its place are subtle and fragile in contrast to the crushing arguments he flings at Christian thought.
In The Amber Spyglass, there is a moment of realization and regret that, for me, was one of the most poignant in the entire trilogy. Mary Malone, who is called on by Dust (consciousness) to act as the serpent to Lyra’s Eve, pauses in relating the story of her downfall from faith. She says, “And then had come the discovery of the Shadows and her journey into another world, and now this vivid night, and it was plain that everything was throbbing with purpose and meaning, but she was cut off from it” (p. 878).
This is the emotion that Pullman’s His Dark Materials left in me. The threads of human love, sacrifice, honor, duty, and compassion are prevalent throughout the trilogy, but they always pause just on the edge of purpose, continuity, and meaning. It is as if their author, like Mary Malone, had come to that same edge and, turning away, were seeking desperately for an alternative way to find it.
For more on this topic, visit http://www.literatiworld.wordpress.com
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I just registered for the GRE subject test, Literature in English. Pocketbook = ouch, Brain = yikes. The test date isn't until October 18, but that's just over 2 months to study all of British and American literature, literary theory, terms, critical methods, and anything else the test makers can think of.
Eh. Why am I worrying? And since when do I study for two months for any test? Perhaps I'll start in this case, since I don't have other classes to worry about.
In any case, the gauntlet has been thrown down. Especially since I decided to send my scores to Harvard.
Monday, August 11, 2008
- Adam's sin? Running away from the responsibility. Protecting himself at her expense.
- Man's role? Staying. Taking responsibility. Loving his wife above himself.
- Eve's sin? Pulling him down instead of lifting him up. Using her power wrongly.
- Woman's role? Pushing Adam forward and allowing him to lead. Lifting/holding him up.
My pastor described men's "language of love" as respect, and he said women are very good at figuring out how to withhold it. I think it goes both ways, but since I'm a woman, I'll follow his angle of thinking as I muse about this topic of withholding respect.
It is one consequence of not being given the direct leadership role. The thought process is something like, "If he would do it my way, this wouldn't happen. He's a fool for not doing it my way. Therefore, I don't owe him my respect."
It's punishment. Like withholding food, company, or intimacy, withholding respect is a statement of disapproval, of the other's failure. "When you get it right, then I will respect you."
It's a substitute for communication. We allow others to sense our disapproval without being honest enough to tell them why. That's a major difference between training an animal and living in a relationship. It's good if the animal can read your body language. A person shouldn't be expected to do the same.
The question is how not to give respect too lightly, but how not to withhold due respect. The line is finer than I once thought. I guess that's one of those things married couples especially have to figure out, but it certainly is food for thought in regards to all relationships, among women as well as between woman and man.
Monday, August 4, 2008
-study for English GRE subject test
-research grad schools and narrow list to 5-6
-contact professors at top schools
-study for GRE subject test
-register for GRE subject test
-take GRE subject test
-begin writing personal statements for schools
-contact and line up references
-finish personal statements
-revise and proofread writing sample
-request GRE scores
-collect, compile, and send applications
We'll see how well I stick to the schedule. Along the way, I also intend to begin my study of Italian, possibly refresh my study of Latin, and continue to advance my study of French. Once I settle on a location for this upcoming year, I hope to take a few classes at a community college to work on my language skills.
Fingers crossed for a better outcome this year!!!
During the week, I read "The Other Boleyn Girl" by Philippa Gregory, an excellent historical fiction piece. Still working on "Brothers Karamazov."
Now back to the daily grind.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
On one hand, it seems unfair. Why bother getting good grades, high test scores, a strong resume, or racking up the leadership roles if none of it matters? Well, maybe because doing these things involves the same kind of character traits that forming relationships requires: dedication, patience, self-confidence, and high standards.
On the other hand, maybe it's not so unfair. Creating relationships and networking is not easy, especially if you are truly creating relationships, not just starting a collection of business cards. Maybe good grades and test scores actually are the slacker's route.
I'm not without people skills. In fact, especially in professional settings, I would say I can do fairly well. Informal settings are a little tougher, but I can hold my own. It's simply not my forte.
So now my question is how? For me, at least, throwing aside the achievement focus and becoming an extrovert are not options. Instead, I wonder how to transfer the skills I develop in one area into creating more real, beneficial, and lasting connections.
In a sentence, how do I become more than a piece of paper?
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
I like the site because it presents each section of text in the original language, then discusses the potential translations of each phrase.
As I go deeper into study, it is frustrating to find the discrepancies in Bible translation. Some, like Bart Ehrman of UNC-Chapel Hill, take these discrepancies as proof of the unreliability of the Bible. I read Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus last fall, and reached a different conclusion. To me, the amazing thing is how much of the Bible remains consistent, after several thousand years and thousands of hands touching it along the way.
Nonetheless, translation is a potential concern. It amazes me how much difference the small words, the prepositions and conjunctions, can make. See discussion of 1 Peter 3:18-22 for an example.
Using sites like Precept Austin, it is interesting to look at the Greek words. I plan to learn basic Greek at some point so that I can reach a deeper understanding. However, the presence of multiple translations can also be a gift, not just a curse.
In creative writing, we learn about creating word and thought clusters, allowing our minds to follow a chain of random associations. My favorite thing to do is reverse the process, looking at the cluster and figuring out what associations created it.
The same thing applies to multiple translations. If you study several versions in direct comparison, you begin to see a common thread. By looking at the pool of words translators have used, it is easier to see the Greek or Hebrew concept they were trying to embody.
I guess it's sort of like trying to use human concepts of time and space to capture the infinite. "Now we see in a mirror dimly..." (1 Cor. 13:12).
Monday, July 14, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
Patrick Henry College was founded by Christian lawyer and activist Michael Farris. The school’s stated goal is to transform America by placing highly qualified students in the highest offices in the land. During the year and a half that Rosin spent at the school, students, faculty, and administration wrestled to define and redefine how that mission would be acted out.
In the years since the school’s inception, PHC students have earned a reputation as hardworking, diligent, and determined individuals who are welcomed at internships and jobs on Capitol Hill. Activists at heart, the students are heavily involved in campus and local and national politics. A large percentage brings perfect SAT scores to the quest to defend Christian conservatism on a national level.
But the statistics are not what interested Rosin. Instead, God’s Harvard is about the individuals who comprise the PHC student body and community, affirming—and challenging—its codes. For example…
…Derek is a freshman and an idealist whose grand goals for political activism are tempered by losses in state campaigns.
…Elisa is a high-powered woman whose love of politics comes in conflict with PHC cultural expectations for women and her own desire to be a wife and mother.
…Farahn is a dancer, a rebel by PHC standards. A self-proclaimed “Christian nihilist,” she struggles to find a place in the community.
…Daniel is an aspiring filmmaker, whose pursuit of quality and desire to infiltrate Hollywood set him at odds with the more conservative PHC families.
…Nathan and Chris are roommates who are set at odds by a policy that requires students to inform the administration about their peers’ misconduct.
…Jennifer Gruenke is a biology professor and baraminologist who, along with her colleagues, walks a line between intellectual inquiry and theological certainty.
…Bob Stacey is a much-beloved political philosophy professor who is driven away from the college by his loyalty to the liberal arts and Socratic methods of learning.
These and other individuals provide the framework for God’s Harvard. As glowing reviews on the cover indicate, Rosin’s research is extensive and thorough. The characters are indeed real people; however, their portraits are not randomly grouped. Each one points to some aspect of Rosin’s premise.
“Is there a future for the evangelical college?” one of the PHC professors asks. A pervasive tone of skepticism and irony suggests that for Rosin, the answer is “no.” The gap between the intellectual and the political and the deeply religious is simply too deep.
In her eyes, the only way to bridge that gap is to compromise one set of values or the other.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Out of curiosity, I took the documentary website's "Third World Challenge," a series of tests that tenth graders in India must pass to progress to eleventh grade (the title is in mockery of a Harvard professor who dismissed the documentary on the grounds of the "third world" countries it compared).
I achieved a poor score in geography; average scores on math, history, chemistry, and physics; a good score in biology; and an excellent score in English grammar (whew!). I'm not sure what the test really demonstrated, other than my inability to retain the formulas and facts I once learned.
However, an earlier Business Week article reached a different conclusion: we need to "compete on our strengths, not theirs." Our strengths apparently include our "well-balanced" and "well-rounded" students. I wonder if that's a valid substitute for "well-educated"...
Reform, according to this writer, involves creating a culture in which science and technology are valued. In other words, replace "computer geek" and "science nerd" with more complimentary terms.
The question he was appropriately led to ask--but not answer--was, why are we not excited about academics, especially technology and science? Why are these career fields unpopular among teens?
I think the answer has a lot to do with the American "celebrity complex." Movie stars, American Idol winners, athletes, and even a few politicians are the glamorous in our society. These are the ones we want to emulate.
Until we tone down our obsession with Hollywood and its counterparts, it will be difficult to supplant the sorority with the academic honor society.
This still leaves a bigger question: can this be changed? If so, how?
Because after all, surely our strengths are closer to the broad-based flexibility of a liberal arts education than to the ability to stand in line for three days to appear on a reality show.
...I think I am a columnist at heart.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Friday, July 4, 2008
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Would you press your nose to the window, reach for your cell phone, or just sit there, reliving images of other falling people, framed by smoke and the trembling shadows of the two towers?
What you don't see is that he snaps up short a few feet below the platform, caught by a rudimentary safety harness. It is an act, performed citywide, that has earned him the name "The Falling Man."
Falling Man, by Don DeLillo, is not primarily about the stunts of the fictional David Janiak, the Falling Man. Instead, it chronicles the attempts of a few New Yorkers to make sense of September 11.
The book opens on a man named Keith, who escapes onto the street minutes before the collapse of the first tower. In his confusion, he returns to his estranged wife, Lianne, and his son, Justin. Unable to go back to life as usual, Keith travels extensively, playing poker, something he shared with his lost friends.
Justin has been deeply affected by the hush surrounding the facts about 9-11. Using binoculars, Justin watches the sky for the return of "Bill Lawton," the mystical man who was responsible.
Lianne works with dementia patients, encouraging them to write as a form of therapy. As the members of her group wrestle with God, justice, and anger, she tries to do the same. She is haunted by the image of the Falling Man and what he represents.
Lianne's mother, Nina, is an art historian and avowed rationalist. Nina is in a relationship with Martin, whose explanations for September 11 are concrete and academic: economics, politics, and history. Yet somehow they always end up talking about God.
Subtle, seemingly unrelated incidents capture the numbness and confusion that characterized the days after 9-11. On the wall of Nina's apartment are two still life paintings. Natura morta is the Italian title. At one point, Lianne compares the people in the room to a still life - natura morta in the wake of 9-11. "It's about mortality, isn't it?" Nina says. "Being human," Lianne says.
Keith struggles throughout the book to face his brush with death and mortality. His wrestling is mirrored in flashbacks to the preparations of one of the 9-11 hijackers. When the hijacker completes his mission at the end, the crash of the plane leads to the closing scene of the book, in which Keith finally relives what actually happened before he emerged onto the street.
Despite its realistic feel, "Falling Man" is a novel, and DeLillo encourages readers to recognize it as such. In a moment of self-mockery, Keith revisits his apartment to gather his things. Inside, he pauses, saying, "In the movie version, someone would be in the building, an emotionally damaged woman or a homeless man, and there would be dialogue and close-ups."
What about in the novel version?
For DeLillo, the meeting point of reality and illusion is central. In conversation with the one living member of his poker set, Keith sits in front of a hotel waterfall. "Did you ever look at that waterfall?" he asks, "Are you able to convince yourself you're looking at water, real water, and not some special effect?" Terry replies, "I don't think about it. It's not something we're supposed to think about."
Like Keith and the waterfall, the characters in "Falling Man" struggle to think about the unthinkable, to separate Bin Laden from the mystical Bill Lawton, and to find their way back to the towers to try to understand.
The raw emotion created by the Falling Man will not let them forget.
When David Janiak dies, Lianne reads a series of press clippings about his life. In the process, she finds pictures of the real people who leaped from the World Trade Center on September 11. Lianne remembers witnessing one of Janiak's falls. She thinks, "That nameless body coming down, this was hers to record and absorb." Her words can refer to both sets of images.
For Keith, Justin, and the real people of whom they are shadows, the task is the same: to record, to absorb, and to remember.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Monday, June 30, 2008
So...here are a few of the random thoughts that accompanied a sermon on Mark 15:33-47. Some are related to the sermon topic, some are not.
..."'leave me alone' is the one thing you never want to pray." All control-based alternatives seem to be cut off. No, "this is what you should do for me," and no, "leave me alone." Drat.
...When Sohrab in The Kite Runner film says he doesn't want his parents to see him because "[He's] so dirty," that's kind of like us being afraid to seek God until we straighten out. And probably just as heartbreaking to God as the line is to moviegoers.
...If it's easy to explain/understand God and the concept of regenesis, we must be painting too small and limited a picture.
...Every novel, from Paradise Lost and The Two Towers to The Picture of Dorian Gray has an element of His story and Truth.
...We all secretly desire truth, accuracy. It matters to us to correct errors and falsity: that's why Wikipedia works.
...As little as we like "the media" these days, imagine if they didn't exist and no one told you what was going on. Re: The Sky Unwashed about the government concealing Chernobyl.
...Writing is my pensieve.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Why are contra dancers so happy?
I sat out one dance, and the girl sitting beside me started talking. She had come with a summer school class and thought it was a great place to have fun and meet a lot of people.
I was in "hands four" with another new dancer when she remarked, "This is the most welcoming group of people I have ever met." I had to agree.
Another man I danced with told me that his partner had recently dubbed him "the happiest person in the room," but that he was passing the title on to me. For those of you who know me - somewhat a pessimist and not too quick to show emotion - his comment sounds a little bizarre.
I have been to quite a few different dance communities in the last four years. Some are reserved, some elegant, some enthusiastic, some relaxed. Although I have been welcomed at all, and have come to feel accepted, it took time. Not so here.
It could be true simply of my particular contra group. But I have been to another group once, and the same thing was true. All across the Internet are stories like mine. This blog post expresses the same.
But why? Does contra dancing attract cheerful people, or does it make them? I would say the latter. Here are a few thoughts on why:
1. You don't need a partner. It is expected that you change partners every dance, so even if you sit out one dance, you are almost certain to dance the next.
2. You have to make eye contact in order to keep from getting dizzy. After staring at a perfect stranger halfway down the hall, it's hard not to laugh at your own awkwardness.
3. Everyone is equal on the dance floor. Some people add more fancy spins or an extra strut, but you're all following the same steps. There are no star performers.
4. Everyone makes mistakes. Even the caller sometimes skips a measure, and bumping into people or missing a turn on a "hey for four" is just an excuse for a good laugh.
5. You will sweat, and it's okay; no one cares, because they're sweating too.
6. Every generation is represented. Older folks show the younger ones, parents bring their little children, college and high school students come en masse.
7. Groups are dissolved. There is no room or time for cliques. Someone will bump into you during an enthusiastic swing, and the group will be no more - they'll probably all be dancing in different parts of the room.
8. Goofiness is totally acceptable - the more the merrier. Showing off is not competition, it's a chance to watch someone else collide with the caller and ruefully settle to a quieter pace.
9. The music is foot-tapping, swirl-your-skirts fun, and usually live.
10. And overall, there is a general lack of taking oneself seriously. See this introduction to contra dance for a good example of the tone.
Addicting? Smile-producing? Yes. Find your own. Or come to mine!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Thursday, June 19, 2008
What with all the decisions about jobs, internships, and reapplying to grad schools, I have found myself thinking a lot about resumes. What would a resume look like if it was comprised solely of skills that correspond to my interests? Here's what I think it might look like:
Recently spent three hours alphabetizing list of books read in the last eight years. Maintains seasonal organization of clothing. Workstation is covered with post-it notes and to-do lists.
Writing random things
Has written and maintained five blogs. Specialized in mass emails telling quirky stories about college life and studying abroad.
Creating parodies of poems, quotations, and writing styles
Rewrote "The Night Before Christmas," "I heard the bells," selections from Shakespeare, and "The Tiger." Drafted a letter to evict college housemates using legal jargon and style.
Helping confused people
Served as a parking attendent at local functions. Assisted students with sending their papers to the appropriate printer. Gave visiting parents directions to appropriate campus buildings. Handled customer service at home school bookfairs.
Editing for good writers
Regularly marks typographical or grammatical errors in personal copies of textbooks and mass market periodicals. Known as the "comma police" and resident expert in obscure questions about grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
Recreated an electronic copy of an out-of-print mock trial guide. Standardized format for study and assignment guides written by five different authors. Known for spending excess amounts of time on the details of an assignment before beginning the actual work. Hates "widows" and "orphans" in documents. Will re-edit blog posts multiple times to avoid hanging lines.
Used basic photo software to add color to black-and-white images, edit, crop, and add elements to scenic photographs. Particularly specialized in adding people and switching elements in the picture to create an abstract effect.
Completed a 40-60 book reading list every summer since 2004. Received a B.A. in English. Had memberships at and regularly frequented four-six different libraries since 1994.
Reading out loud
Recites memorized passages from Shakespeare while exercising. Aspires to work in Reader's Theater at some point. Enjoys reading Shakespeare and Paradise Lost out loud when no one is home.
Learning...especially bizarre things
Learned elvish and translated several poems from Lord of the Rings. Took macroeconomics for fun. Enjoyed general education classes. Checks out non-fiction books from the library during the summer. Knows how to change a water filter. Wants to learn about car engines. Enjoys following skilled people around. Concurrently considered five different college majors.
...And I could probably come up with more. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of entry level jobs that match that set of skills/interests.
I guess there's always "Clean Sweep" or "Beauty and the Geek," right?
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Monday, June 16, 2008
Unfortunately, when a riding helmet is superglued onto a doll's head, removing it has the same essential effect as scalping. Not a pretty sight, and colored pencil can only do so much to repair the damage.
I promise, there is a reason for this story.
I went to a swing dance on Saturday night. I knew a few people, from my contra dance group, but not many. The group was almost completely bisected into newbies and experts. Unfortunately, I didn't fit into either group. As one of my dance partners candidly told me, "You're not the best dancer here, but you're pretty good." The whole experience made me miss my college dance club even more.
I often find myself in this troublesome middle ground. More motivated than some, but not quite enough to seek the greatest challenges and thrills. Not satisfied with the how-would-you-like-your-burger? job, but not a candidate for president either. I'm the one who recites Shakespeare while walking, but not the one who stars on Broadway. Not an optimist by a long shot, but deep down, not truly a pessimist either.
In literary studies, we talk about the concept of "liminality." Essentially, liminal space refers to the borders. Not one thing, but not the other. It is being in the middle, the undefinable space. C.S. Lewis might call these, "the Shadowlands"--impermanent and subject to displacement and dissolution.
People respond to uncertainty and liminality in different ways. Some of these "defense mechanisms" are barely recognizable as such.
Flippancy is one. If you convince yourself that nothing really matters, maybe the failure won't seem like a big deal. If you limit your conversation to the weather, you can pretend that everything is fine.
Cynicism is another. If you convince yourself not to care, maybe the failure won't hurt so badly. If you tell yourself to expect nothing better, you can pretend you aren't disappointed. Not allowing yourself to depend on other people keeps you safe when they let you down.
On the surface, either technique is successful. But what is frightening is the way that outlook becomes reality. Sweet, romantic movies strike a chord in me that I would prefer left unstruck. If I scoff at the "cheesy" parts often enough, I lose my ability to appreciate them. All of a sudden, you realize that the helmet you set on your head is stuck. Spend enough time convincing yourself of something, and it can come true.
Somehow, you have to find a balance between reality and the superglued helmets that scar what they are meant to protect. Enough dreams to stay hopeful; enough pragmatism to stay real.
So where do you go from the middle, from that liminal space, from the defenses? For me, it's ultimately about looking up instead of down, outside the shadows, where "...In your light we see light..." (Psalm 36:5-9).