Poor Writing Skills, If U Can Call’em That

What is the purpose of public education? Is it only to employ teachers? If I was were an English teacher with hopes to achieve certain goals with my class, I would scrap those goals if my kids couldn’t write. See another sad example: failure to communicate. The writer observes, “Many of the students whose work I correct are smart, motivated, and quick to incorporate suggestions. But they have either forgotten the rules of writing, or they never learned them in the first place.”

Call it a draw

I got into a disagreement with the gang over at Threedonia today, and found myself decidedly in the minority. They are participating enthusiastically in “Draw Mohammed Day” today, and I said I couldn’t support that.

The odd thing is that, unlike most instances where I find people I like disagreeing with me, I remain pretty sure I’m right.

Which doesn’t necessarily mean I think they’re wrong.

I think we’re dealing with essentially different goals.

I believe I see the point of “Draw Mohammed Day” pretty well. In fact, for a short time I was considering participating. I can see it as a line drawn in the sand against Islamic noodgery, the constant “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine too” mindset that says they are free to insult our religion, but we have to keep our unclean hands off theirs. “This is America,” the Mohammed Drawers are saying. “In America, we may not like it if somebody insults our religion, but if somebody does, we don’t kill them. They don’t even go to jail. If you want to live here, then get used to our rules. Otherwise, go back to the Sharia paradise you came from.”

If promoting Americanism is your primary value, I entirely understand.

But my primary value is not Americanism. It’s the Kingdom of God. I want to win the Muslims for Christ, and Christ’s commandment is to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.

I don’t want anybody to insult my faith. So I won’t insult theirs. Even if they started it.

Seems pretty simple to me.

Augmented Living

Concept for Augmented Reality Mobile Phone

Here’s a list of videos show what they call Augmented Reality. The first film, I believe, is student film illustrating the consequences of augmented reality. “Augmented reality may recontextualise the functions of consumerism and architecture, and change in the way in which we operate within it,” as noted on the Vimeo host page. Other videos show darn cool phone apps for navigation and identification. This is wild. (via Jeff Jarvis)

(Photo by The Lightworks/Flickr)

Sigrid Undset

It was some time ago that Bill Bennett, on his morning talk show, asked, “Who is Sigrid Undset?” I tried to call in and help him out, but there wasn’t time.

The fact that Bennett, an extremely erudite Roman Catholic, knew nothing of Sigrid Undset, saddened me. (I’m not a Catholic myself, but no man is an island, and all that).

Gone are the days when a popular writer like Ogden Nash could say, in the midst of a light poem:

“Or you stand with her on a hilltop and gaze on a winter sunset,

And everything is as starkly beautiful as a page from Sigrid Undset….”

…and everybody would know what you were talking about.

That’s a tragedy. Not just for Catholics (like Bennett) or Norwegian buffs (like me), but for all lovers of great Christian prose. Continue reading Sigrid Undset

Tweet Round-up

I’ve been tweeting on a BwB profile here, saying things like this:

  1. People can’t talk about themselves with total honesty, but its harder 2 avoid t truth when you pretend 2B other people http://bit.ly/baPrBB
  2. “Massive Oil of Olay slick causing fresher, younger-looking fish” http://bit.ly/9PXrqR HT:Lars Walker, http://bit.ly/16Ujpg
  3. RT: jaredcwilson “The very thing we are allergic to — our helplessness — is what makes prayer work.” — Paul Miller
  4. RT @bwladd: Spurgeon:The greatest enemy to human souls is the self-righteous spirit which makes men look to themselves for salvation.
  5. “It will be a Republican year. The question is how much.” Joe Savino #p2
  6. Read O’Connor’s “The Life You Save May Be Your Own.” Didn’t get it. Is the incomplete man acting dishonorably b/c he’s incomplete?

Interview on Acting White

Blogger and scholar Stuart Buck has a book on American education coming out this month. Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation describes the history and present reality of peer pressure on black students to underachieve. He reports on studies and articles written over the years that show black students suffer with identify problems in some situations, being accused by their fellow students of “acting white” when they study hard or join certain school clubs.

Rod Dreher of BeliefNet has a three part interview with Stuart starting here, continuing here, and concluding here (these links will help when the navigation on BeliefNet is challenging). I will review Acting White for BwB later this month.

Faceless Killers, by Henning Mankell

Faceless Killers

I caught a few minutes of a BBC dramatization of one of the Kurt Wallander mysteries this season, but I was distracted and don’t even remember which story it was (it might even have been this one, the first novel of the series). Still, I’ve decided I need to acquaint myself with the booming Scandinavian mystery scene, and so I picked up Faceless Killers. I enjoyed it, with some reservations.

The hero is Detective Kurt Wallander, a policeman in the rural town of Ystad (pronounced EE-stad), Sweden. Wallander is no McGarrett, no supercop. He’s barely keeping it together, in his personal life and his profession. His wife recently left him, which spun him into depression and heavy drinking. His adult daughter simply disappeared from his life, though she makes occasional contact. His artist father is sliding into dementia. Meanwhile at work, it’s his bad luck to be the senior detective on the squad (his superior is on holiday) when an elderly farm couple is brutally murdered in their home. A whispered statement by the female victim suggests a “foreigner” was responsible. Somehow the word gets out, and there are reprisals against local refugee camps.

Wallander manages to do his job creditably, but sometimes it’s touch and go, thanks in particular to exhaustion and imprudent drinking. Leads are followed until they play out, and Wallander manages to get himself pretty severely beaten up more than once. There’s even an almost-comic car chase, in which Wallander follows a suspect driving a stolen car, in a commandeered horse van.

The story lost some steam toward the end, though I had no trouble sticking with it. As a conservative American, I had mixed responses to the ethos of the story. Wallander is surprisingly conservative (it seems to me) for a Swedish cop. Although heartily anti-racist, he has serious doubts about Sweden’s open borders policy, a sentiment which sat pretty well with me. On the other hand, as a typical Swedish civil servant, the idea of a right to bear arms is entirely foreign to his universe. I had a hard time, puritanical American that I am, swallowing his guilt-free pursuit of another man’s wife.

Still, it was an interesting story, and not quite what I expected. I may read more Henning Mankell.

A note on the translation—it could have been a lot better. The translator opted too often for literalism over idiom, and the story suffered for it. I need to get into the translation business. It would appear they need me.

Sure, You Can Pay

I am not familiar with this term: Morton’s Fork

“A situation involving choice between two equally undesirable outcomes

“ETYMOLOGY: After John Morton (c. 1420-1500), archbishop of Canterbury, who was tax collector for the English King Henry VII. To him is attributed Morton’s fork, a neat argument for collecting taxes from everyone: those living in luxury obviously had money to spare and those living frugally must have accumulated savings to be able to pay.” (via Wordsmith.org)

That’s Constitution Day to you, buddy


I took this picture of the town of Olden, Norway from the cruise ship in 2005. It’s the jumping off point to visit the Briksdalsbreen glacier.

As mentioned below, today is Norwegian Constitution Day. In spite of what is often said (even in a book I reviewed recently), it’s not Norwegian Independence Day. The Norwegians adopted their constitution in 1814, in an abortive attempt to achieve independence. The Swedes marched in to nip that idea in the bud, but (being Swedish) they were nice enough to let them keep their constitution, with a few editorial changes. For almost a century after that, the Norwegians celebrated Constitution Day (often in defiance of the law), to keep the fires of independence burning. By the time they managed to get loose in 1901 (through the most passive-aggressive revolution in history) the tradition of Constitution Day as the great patriotic holiday was firmly established, and so it remains to this day, even though there’s a genuine independence day (June 7) to celebrate too. Plus Liberation Day (May 8) if you’re in a party mood.

I love Norway for many reasons. For all its progressivism and secularism and social democracy, it hasn’t yet joined the European Union and has not adopted the Euro (a decision that looks better and better every day). It ain’t easy for a country with three independence days to give up its sovereignty. Norway has the largest (though still vestigial) evangelical Christian population in Scandinavia. It possesses (imho) the greatest concentration of natural beauty in the world. And it’s full of really wonderful people, several of whom are my friends, or (lucky them) related to me.

So, God Syttende Mai (again) to our Norwegian readers. Of course our Norwegian readers are mostly in bed by now, and won’t see this until tomorrow morning their time, when we’ll be in bed ourselves.

But then it’s light in Norway till around 11:00 p.m. this time of the year, so maybe we’ll catch some of the hard partiers.

At the End of the Day: Voted Most Popular

Chris Pash reports the phrase at the end of the day “is the most popular cliche in journalism globally. It is all-pervasive.” Headline writers also love “Man Bites Dog” in some fashion. For example:

  • “Man bites dog: Pawlenty has kind words for Obama” from the Minneapolis Star Tribune on May 4
  • “The Nation: What Happens To Welfare Mothers?” Lead sentence: “It’s the man-bites-dog story that never ends.” from NPR today
  • “Groin ailment slows St. Louis Cardinals’ Holliday” leading with “This is man-bites-dog material.” What the? That’s from the St Louis Post-Dispatch May 8.
    1. Get more fun journalist’s cliches through the link.

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