Saturday, August 21, 2010

Reading to kids

Since Michael and I are on the topic of dads reading to kids and since we've been talking about my dad's reading tastes, I'll just share a bit about my dad reading to me when I was little.

I would, of course, want him to read Green Eggs and Ham or something like that to me. I would get my book and climb into his lap. He'd open my book and begin:

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred...

I'd whine in exasperation, "DAAAAAADDYYYYYY, that's not how it goes."

He'd say, "Oh, I was on the wrong page.

 "Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'..."


Dad:  Just listen:

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;

Me:  MOOOMMMMYYYYYY!!! Daddy won't read it right.

He thought this exchange was hilarious and the madder I got the harder he laughed.

Yes, he knew many poems, or parts thereof, by heart, including Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade.

In the end, we'd often compromise and he'd read The Duel by Eugene Field or some Kipling.

In spite of our differences, which in later years were a bigger deal than getting him to read what I wanted to hear, I'm appreciative of the really cool stuff he exposed me to.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Imam Rauf to be exposed...

in 13 hours of audio tape. Now can we question his motives? Do you care about his motives?

The Debate is Over

Red hot and an intolerant neo-fascist wingnut. What’s not to love?

The 24-year-old Rima Fakih, is the first Muslim winner of the Miss USA contest and is preparing for the Miss Universe Pageant, scheduled for Monday in Las Vegas.

“I totally agree with President Obama with the statement on Constitutional rights of freedom of religion,” Fakih told “Inside Edition” in an interview that will air tonight.

“I also agree that it shouldn’t be so close to the World Trade Center. We should be more concerned with the tragedy than religion.”

From Allah.

Top 100 most skilled male rock vocalists from the DDD Music Forum

The Digital Dream Door music forum -- I have no idea who they are -- has generated a list of the top 100 most-skilled male rock vocalists. They place Adam second behind Jackie Wilson. There are 332 pages of comments on the thread wherein people debate the list's contents and order. It's, of course, an impossible silly task to rank musicians, as if what they do is quantifiable. It's fun reading, nevertheless, and they do work really hard to stay focused on the technical aspects of singing. Lots of links to performance video and audio are included so it's a treasure trove of great vocal performances.

There's a point by point breakdown comparing Adam and Freddie here. (H/t to Kate Ewing (aka Nolechica on Twitter) for the link to the list and h/t to Marjorie for getting me to the vicinity of the point by point discussion.)

Update: I see that by the time they get to page 331 in the comments, the group has changed the order and Adam is lower. But still in the top few no matter how you cut it.

Stewart doesn't begrudge the "sensitivity" issue. Otherwise, he makes perfect sense as usual.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Extremist Makeover - Homeland Edition
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Who exactly is lacking common sense and decency?

The debate about the mosque discussion is typically formulated in two parts: 1) does the Constitution guarantee the right to put the Cordoba House sort of near Ground Zero? and 2) even if they have a Constitutional right to put it there, is it bad manners to choose that location.

Tim Fernholz writing at TAP gets to the heart of the manners question:
The debate demonstrates how the project's critics simply assume that it is offensive for Muslims to celebrate their faith two blocks from the World Trade Center, to the point where they simply take the proposition as self-evident. Cupp kept repeating the phrase "common sense and decency," as if those terms are defined a priori, but couldn't explain why it's common sense that Muslims worshipping near the World Trade Center is indecent. That's because it's not common sense -- unless you happen to blame the religion of Islam for what happened on 9/11. It's an ugly kind of bigotry to admit.
It's offensive to even entertain the manners question.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Dad's Approved Reading List

I think I've told this story here before. Michael, my cool cousin six years my elder, influenced my reading choices when I was in junior high and he was in college. (That is a key job function of being a cool older cousin, right?)

My dad was none too happy that I was reading Breakfast of Champions in eighth grade; rather than forbid me from reading such things, Dad figured he could instead eat up all my reading time with other things -- books of his choosing -- if he offered big enough incentives. It was a move of parenting brilliance, I must admit. The deal he proposed was that for every book I read from a list of books he approved, I would get one flying lesson. I was going to try to solo before I got my driver's license.

I just found the book list. Here it is:
  • A Farewell to Arms, E. Hemingway
  • To Have and Have Not, E. Hemingway (For Whom the Bell Tolls, which he probably would have approved as a substitution)
  • The Old Man and the Sea, E. Hemingway
  • Tom Sawyer, M. Twain
  • Test Pilot, J. Collins
  • All Quiet on the Western Front, E.M. Remarque
  • Any 1 (only) by Edna Ferber
  • Any 2 (both count) by J. Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, East of Eden)
  • The Virginian, Owen Wister
  • Any 2 of (both count) Ernest K. Gann (e.g. The Aviator, The High & the Mighty)
  • The Caine Mutiny, H. Wouk
  • 4 short stories, R. Lardner
  • 4 short stories, E. Poe (Tell-tale Heart, Pit and the Pendulum, The Fall of the House of Usher; Poems:  Lenore, Annabelle Lee, The Raven)
  • 4 short stories or 1 novel, N. Hawthorne (Scarlet Letter)
  • 4 short stories, D. Runyon (Blue Plate Special, Money From Home)
  • Seventeen, B. Tarkington
  • The Three Muskateers, A. Dumas
  • 1 (only), Z. Grey
  • 1 (only), M. Albrand [? Can't read this or figure out who this is]
  • Up to 3, J. London (Call of the Wild, White Fang)
  • 1 (only), L. Short
  • 1 (only) J. Marquand
  • We, C. Lindbergh
  • Treasure Island, R. L. Stevenson
  • The Prince & the Pauper, M. Twain
That is one heck of a great reading list . . . for adventure-seeking boys. I read the bolded ones, for sure, and maybe a few more. A couple of these we read for school, possibly even the previous year, but he gave me credit for those to get me started.

Update:  I added blue bolding for things I know I read eventually.   Musing:  Jack London was a socialist.  I wonder if schools still assign his novels.

Update 10/28/14:  I did read The Three Muskateers a couple years ago and liked it alot.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Daily Show: on the mosque/community center

Daily Show on the mosque issue here.

Fernholz on Douthat: Mosque

Redux: Douthat's musings are like chum in shark-infested waters. My favorite liberal bloggers show up to feast.

Here now, Tim Fernholz, writing at The American Prospect:
In rejecting Cordoba House -- and saying that religious freedom doesn't apply to Muslims -- opponents of the Mosque are doing the exact opposite of encouraging assimilation. They're telling Muslims that even if you embrace religious liberty, we're not going to welcome you to our shores. What liberals worry about in the case -- aside from their normative support of religious liberty -- is the terrible message opposing the Mosque sends to Muslims around the globe about our country's values.

Picking up after Douthat. This time: the Ground Zero mosque/community center.

Ezra on the coverage of the mosque, here:
You get a lot of these mini-manias in the 24-hour news cycle, and it's always hard to say which you should take seriously and which you should ignore. After all, if you jump on everything that cable news makes into a big deal, you've become part of the problem, because you're helping the story along. But you don't want to just dismiss everything, either. The test I try to use is this: Could I imagine a world in which this thing was happening but no one ever thought to comment on it?

Well, yes. I can't imagine that world for unemployment, or financial-regulation reform, or the Afghanistan Wikileaks. But it absolutely could've been the case that Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf decided to build an Islamic community center and no one really noticed, or cared, and maybe a few local politicians from both parties showed up to help cut the ribbon. As it happened, a few opportunists went after it, which brought it to the attention of a few sensationalistic media outlets, and then some opportunistic politicians jumped on board, and then their colleagues felt compelled to comment, and then more legitimate media outlets had something to cover, and on and on. The story is a story because of the incentives of the people making it a story, not because there's something about an Islamic community center a few blocks from Ground Zero that just screams out for national attention.

Don't believe me? Then ask yourself why you've never heard anyone complain about the halal food carts parked outside the Ground Zero construction site. This didn't need to become a polarizing national issue. It was made into a polarizing national issue. And now the only thing to do is to wait for it to pass.

I'm inclinded to follow Ezra's example and not discuss the mosque mess, but, offline, Michael requested my response to Douthat's mosque piece, so I'll indulge him.

Douthat makes two common mistakes:

1) Treating the 9/11 terrorists as if their behavior informs us about Islam. It doesn't, any more than the bombing of abortion clinics by self-proclaimed Christians informs us about Christianity. There is an America that cannot get this concept through their heads and therefore insist on treating Muslims as a special class who are always suspect, who are not entitled to the freedoms that our country promises, who have to prove their trustworthiness in a way that non-Muslims do not, who are expected to employ more "sensitive" antennas than non-Muslims. It's THAT America that scares the sh*t out of me.

2) Watching and reading news stories and drawing the conclusion that what isn't presented there doesn't exist -- that if news stories don't present images and sound bites of Muslim Americans decrying the 9/11 terrorists, then that means Muslim Americans accept, support, and are in agreement with the 9/11 terrorists or other radicals. Douthat, and everyone else, needs to appreciate that the media doesn't give time or space to people spouting reasonable, temperate sentiments, so Muslims with reasonable, temperate sentiments are not going to be appearing in news stories or as talking heads in the proportions that they exist in the world. The Muslims being quoted or trotted out for inflammatory comments in news coverage are not a representative sample and that's what gives Douthat the impression that they "too often" do what they do. The real "too often" is that the news finds and quotes these folks but fails to quantify how prevalent their positions are. Also, "too often" the media automatically associates the views of an individual with those of an organization to which he/she belongs.

I don't know anything about Craig Berger writing at Future Majority, but he has already written a rebuttal to Douthat that addresses these points. He does a good job of putting the shoe on the other foot to illustrate the absurdity and unfairness of having an attitude that the events of 9/11 should have a bearing on selection of a mosque location.

I'm still calling him DOUGH HAT in my head. Will someone correct me if I've got that wrong, please? It's hard not to think derisively of someone you're calling DOUGH HAT.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chabon is a subtitle generator extraordinaire

Noir is perfect for blog subtitles. About 50% of the sentences in Yiddish Policemen's Union work as subtitles.

Update moments later: Our previous subtitle ("Sparkling with epiphanic dew") came courtesy of Chabon too, from an essay about short fiction. Quoting a Wikipedia entry:
In a 2002 essay, Chabon decried the state of modern short fiction (including his own), saying that, with rare exceptions, it consisted solely of "the contemporary, quotidian, plotless, moment-of-truth revelatory story." In an apparent reaction against these "plotless [stories] sparkling with epiphanic dew", Chabon's post-2000 work has been marked by an increased interest in genre fiction and plot. While The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was, like The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Wonder Boys, an essentially realistic, contemporary novel (whose plot happened to revolve around comic-book superheroes), Chabon's subsequent works — such as The Final Solution, his dabbling with comic-book writing, and the "swashbuckling adventure" of Gentlemen of the Road — have been almost exclusively devoted to mixing aspects of genre and literary fiction. Perhaps the most notable example of this is The Yiddish Policemen's Union, which won five genre awards, including the Hugo award and Nebula award. Chabon seeks to "annihilate" not the genres themselves, but the bias against certain genres of fiction such as fantasy, science fiction and romance.

Update another moment later: "An atmosphere of ruined festivity" by itself would have been more fitting for this blog, but the sentence as a whole is so great, it deserves full quotation.

Marriage in Minnesota is awfully "thin"

Neither K nor I are believers of any creed of any major religion, so we weren't married in a religious ceremony. We were married by a judge. In preparation for the ceremony, the judge provided us with the text of her typical marriage spiel for us to revise/edit as we wished. If we'd wanted to write it from scratch, she would have been happy to use our text.

The task made me wonder what EXACTLY were the vows that the state required. The state licenses marriage; the state uses the concept of marriage in a panoply of laws. Surely, I thought, the state must have minimum requirements for the promises exchanged in wedding vows in order for the marriage to be recognized by the state. What terms must be included in the marriage contract? No doubt, I thought, you'd have to express a life-long term to the contract ("until death") and probably a promise of fidelity ("forsaking all others").

But no. The State of Minnesota (and I suspect lots of other states) has almost no restrictions on or requirements for the promises that betrotheds must make in order to be legally married. You need not commit for life; you need not commit to fidelity. Besides a few technicalities (age, not already married, not related, not coerced), the only requisite vow is proscribed as follows:

No particular form is required to solemnize a marriage, except: the parties shall declare in the presence of a person authorized to solemnize marriages and two attending witnesses that they take each other as husband and wife; or the marriage shall be solemnized in a manner provided by section 517.18 [which deals with various religious authorities].
The only sentences in a Minnesota wedding ceremony that matter to the State are "I take you to be my husband/wife."

Minnesota's marriage statute (Chapter 517) is here.

That's an awfully "thin" definition of marriage, if I may abscond with Douthat's thin/thick lingo.

On a related note, I was surprised when we got our marriage license that there was no information provided by the State about the legal consequences of marriage. It seems to me that there should be a pamphlet or a required course in which the State identifies the legal consequences that flow from marriage. Minnesota does offer a discount on the license fee if you take a class that covers the soft topics of communication and conflict resolution. (Ugh. Well-intended, but even for this liberal, it strikes me as not an appropriate function for a governmental entity.) But there is no education about the hard aspects of property rights and the like. Who owns assets/debts you bring into marriage? Who owns what's earned during marriage? What does it take to dissolve a marriage? What happens to property on dissolution? What are one's obligations on tax liabilities incurred by earnings of spouse? That kind of information the state ought to provide to prospective wedders. (Weddees?)