Monday, June 30, 2008

Can We Do Better?

I think one of the best uses of history is to help us look at ourselves in comparison. Consider this self-characterization by an Athenian citizen in ancient days:

We love beauty with simplicity, and we love the pursuit of knowledge without effeminacy. We employ wealth properly, for use rather than for noisy display, and we do not consider poverty to be a disgrace but do regard it as shameful for someone not to seek to escape poverty through labor. We citizens of Athens care for both our own domestic concerns and for the affairs of state; those of us engaged in business are not lacking in understanding of public matters. For we alone consider those who avoid engagement in public affairs not as "uninvolved" but as useless. And we, as we judge and reflect carefully on matters, do not consider words to be a hindrance to actions. Rather, the real hindrance to action is to enter into whatever must be done without taking forewarning through discussion.

--"Pericles Extols the Virtues of Athenian Culture. From the funeral oration of Pericles, as reported in Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 2.40, trans. by Duane Garrett." From my Archaeological Study Bible, commentary on the sidebar to Acts 17-18.

[Apollos] vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. --Acts 18:28

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I have been reminded in the last week or so of the value of correspondence-- thank-you notes to heirlooms:
  • David is graduating from high school, and I'm nagging in advance to keep him on top of the thank-you notes he needs to write for all the generous gifts he is getting. Writing a good thank-you note is a sign that one has successfully arrived at adulthood, I think.
  • My folks brought us a bunch of furniture and mementos last week, as they're downsizing, and among the items was a note I wrote my grandmother when I was David's age--mentioning two old boyfriends. With so many years behind me, and yet a different man my husband for the last 22 years, I can be pleased and amused at these old references, and this snapshot of my teenage self.
  • My mom carefully packed many family items for us to have here in our own home, and with them she wrote a lot of notes about their history. I will keep these notes for passing things on further in the future, to our own children.
  • My father-in-law lost my mother-in-law three years ago, and as I was cleaning in preparation for his arrival for our graduation party, I came across a stack of condolence cards our local friends sent us at the time. I sat my father-in-law down with them, so he could see that those who didn't even know her participated in our grief at the time. I think it meant a lot to him to look through those "strange" cards.
  • College-age-daughter Abby started a new job yesterday, and at the end of her shift she found a card in her locker, from her manager: "Abigail, Great job on your first day. You really hit the ground running! Keep up the great work! I can tell you will be a perfect fit here at Ann Taylor!" What a great ending to a first day of work!
  • To wind up with David again, we gave him a family heirloom for graduation--a gold pocket watch from my maternal grandfather's family, from over 100 years ago. I had to ask about the people represented by the initials inside, but that little correspondence has a story, too, conveying the relationship, the gift, the connection with us so long after: "C.C. to P.C." Those were David's great-great-grandparents, and I know very little about them. I think they died before I was born. But their little correspondence endures in a gold pocket watch this young man is now carrying in his own pocket.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Lesson in Rhetoric

Our culture surrounds us with rhetoric, and The Story of Stuff is full of it! A charming cartoon, with an earnest narrator and a lot of truth, this twenty-minute sermon contains all manner of material for students of logic and rhetoric. The site includes a transcript for those who would like to really dig in with research--I think a student of Modernity could do a valuable series of research papers and rhetorical analysis papers based on this presentation through the course of a whole school year!

If that's too much with everything else on your plate, just enjoy it. If you're suspicious of some of the claims, good for you--consider how the presentation is steering you to agree. If you are filled with satisfying joy that at last the truth is out, good for you--but consider how the presentation is steering you to congratulate yourself for holding a proper opinion. There's something for everybody! :-)

Thanks to Get Rich Slowly for the link.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Novel Start

As soon as I posted this morning about not having time to write, I saw Abby's post on Facebook (now on Xanga). She makes me realize how much writing is a lifestyle, and I'm doing it all along! :-)

"Why Do I Still Have This Thing?"
A note from a homeschooling day...

How to Write That Novel (And Why I Do Not Yet "Write")

Because I teach writing people are often interested in knowing what I have "written." Because I teach writing online and homeschool four children (oops--make that two now, with the second just now graduated!), a task I have now been embarked on for fifteen years (during which two of them were born), and because before that I had babies and before that a Job and before that was a student myself, I simply have not had the time. So I read and I jot down occasional Ideas for that One Day when I will Write.

When that Day comes, I hope to follow my own version of The Lonely Novelist's Five-Point Productivity Plan. If you read through the plan and consider how it might work with a houseful of children being children and also being students, and with a teaching-of-writing business going on as well, you can understand why I am not There yet.

PS Thanks, Honey, for earning a living that allows me this much freedom from a regular Job!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Summer Reading Challenge

I may be impulsive, but I'm going to take the challenge. Will you?

If I can do half of these this summer I will be happy, but I want to do half in each category, because half overall would probably result in my reading all the fun ones and few of the tougher ones. :-)

I'll report here whenever I finish one. Please comment if you want to warn me away or urge me on. :-)

Devotional, etc.
The Dead Sea Scrolls: After Forty Years
Shanks et al.I have been enjoying my new Archaeological Study Bible and wanted to peruse this title. FINISHED 6/12 (Interesting but poorly written/transcribed).

Pursuing Holiness in the Lord
Jonathan Edwards
I've dipped into this one in the past but want to give it a real go.

Signs of the Apostles
Walter Chantry
I want to see his Reformed perspective on Pentecostalism

History-related, Prep for our New School Year (Medieval focus)

The Silver Chalice
Thomas B. Costain
I love his editing of collections of short stories, and I need to find the Peggy Noonan intro in this edition that is not in my own. I want to get in the mood for our study of the early/medieval church, and I didn't realize this was such a popular novel! Abandoned about 1/3 through, when things popped up that just couldn't be right--the apostles commissioning a sculptured case for the True Grail, e.g.?

The Thousand and One Nights

I have always meant to read these...

Year of Wonders
Geraldine Brooks
One of my Paperback Swap titles, about a plague year Finished early October. Good, but implausible ending.

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
Barbara Tuchman
It's about time I read this one...I've had it about for years

Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love
Dava Sobel
I got this mostly for dh, and I wearied of it at first, but I want to give it another try

The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself
Daniel J. Boorstin

I got to hear Boorstin speak way back in the days when I was teaching at Auburn, and I like the concept of this big sweep through eminent "discoverers" including Herodotus and Freud, with Columbus in between. Finished early July. Good one, though I confess I skimmed over some of the later entries.

Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace
Joseph M. Williams
I got partway through this at one time and want to consider it to use with clients.
The Office of Assertion: An Art of Rhetoric for the Academic Essay
Scott F. Crider
I think this might be good for my more advanced students.

The Writer's Workshop: Imitating Your Way to Better Writing
Gregory L. Roper
I have begun this one and want to finish it! I created a one-semester course out of the first half and I'm beginning on the second. :-)

Paperback Swap Fun Finds

Life and Death in Shanghai
Nien Cheng
I am reading this now and am fascinated and appalled and wiser for it. COMPLETED 6/8. Worth it.

Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog
Boris Akunin
I've really enjoyed his Fandorin titles, and this is a new heroine. Finished July--lots of fun.

The Mind of the South
W.J. Cash
I want to understand myself better. :-)

Quite a Year for Plums
Bailey White

Because she understands me and people I know. :-) Finished August. The people are all alike! Tedious, unfortunately, but this Tallahassee girl enjoyed the recognizable local color.