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Archive for July, 2011

Critics of the Book of Mormon often deride it for its apparent lack of archaeological corroboration.  Indeed, most of the evidence that bears on the authenticity of the Book of Mormon is “internal,” meaning evidence derived from the text of the book itself.  Those given to rejecting an ancient origin for the Book of Mormon often denigrate the value of internal evidence, perhaps considering anything not in the purview of Indiana Jones to not be “real” evidence.  For some, it seems, physical remains are all that counts.

As someone whose interests are primarily linguistic, and as someone who loves and believes in the Book of Mormon, I find this intellectually and spiritually disingenuous.  Frankly, ignoring the importance of linguistic evidence in a study is unscientific. 

Consider the study of the Indo-European language family, and its prehistoric origins among groups of people who spoke a language that we call Proto-Indo-European. 

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Two Tea Parties

Today, my two daughters had a tea party over here for their friends.  I was pretty excited when they had the idea–imagine, my precious little girls wanting to voice their concern over bloated government waste and dwindling civil liberties, mildly protesting the financial burden that our leaders’ policies are putting on them.

But, apparently, their idea of a tea party had more to do with sandwiches, fancy dresses, Kool Aid, and Taylor Swift songs.  Alas.

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Some people may think Shakespeare is difficult, elitist, old-fashioned, or whatever else they don’t like, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Like all permanently classic works–Mozart’s music, the Bible, The Simpsons–Shakespeare endures precisely because he’s the opposite of all those things.  Shakespeare speaks the truth of real, universal human experience so powerfully and honestly that he makes us see life more fully. 

Case in point: Shakespeare had no illusions that school was fun or popular.  He makes fun of how much kids hate school.  See?  Hundreds of years later, and people are basically the same. 

I recently finished reading Henry IV, Part 2, which wasn’t nearly as good as the other three plays in that series, but it did have one line that I really loved.  In act IV, scene 2, after being tricked into a truce by the prince, some rebels report that their armies have disbanded.  One leader tells the others just how quickly the soldiers have gone home after hearing the news:

My lord, our army is dispersed already;

Like youthful steers unyoked, they take their courses

East, west, north, south; or, like a school broke up,

Each hurries toward his home and sporting-place.

Heh.  That information could be visualized like this:

Things that run away quickly

A stressed out army after peace is declared

Farm animals after being unchained

Boys leaving school

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I haven’t seen any of the Final Destination movies, but from what I understand, they all start the same way: there’s a crowded place, and an interesting young person has a vision of imminent doom, which is heeded only by a few others.  They all escape while the rest of the poor fools are graphically butchered.

My question is this: by the fifth movie in this series, wouldn’t everybody be familiar enough with the events of the first four that they’d have enough good sense to listen to the kid?  If four public disasters were each immediately preceded by a teen loudly foretelling the event, don’t you think that would be pretty well reported? 

Extra 1: Hey, did you see that intense-looking teenager just run off this elevator screaming that it’s going to drop and we’ll all be killed? 

Extra 2:  Oh yeah, and then several other attractive young people followed him.

Extra 1:  Well, I know this might sound crazy, but…do you think we should go, too?

Extra 2:  What, are you nuts?  Do you believe in ESP now?

Extra 1:  I know, I know, but don’t you remember hearing about those other four times in recent years where all those people ignored the crazy kid and then blew up or something?  I’ve gotta say, I think I see a pattern here.  Better safe than sorry. 

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Clearing some old dead weight off my bookshelves (The Starr Report?  Um, pretty sure I won’t need to read that one twice…), I came across another late-90′s acquisition that was fun for a few minutes, but has long since lost its usefulness: celebrity martial arts movie star auto-bio I Am Jackie Chan: My Life In Action

Surprise!  It’s not that good.  The best part was a section on page 56 where Chan reflects on the horrendously gruelling training he underwent as a youth.  In short, the children at his school were forced to train from 5 AM to 12 AM seven days a week, for their entire childhood.  Cruelty and beatings straight out of Dickens was the norm.  Chan’s thoughts can certainly be tied into my larger worries about the world’s downhill slide:

As harsh as it may have seemed, it was a system that had worked for decades, even centuries, producing the very finest acrobats, singers, and fighters that the world has ever seen.

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But then again, who doesn’t?  I read somewhere that 85% of world music bought in the United States is Celtic.  I’m sure it’s no coincidence that PBS trots out these concert specials every pledge week.  

Celtic Woman web siteWiki

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3 Nephi 27:14 is one of the more rhetorically clever verses in the Book of Mormon.  It features an ironic parallelism that explains the point of the Atonement while emphasizing its apparent absurdity.

And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

The part in bold is what’s so impressive.  There are several other passages in scripture that speak of Christ being “lifted up” in crucifixion, and a few of those link that with the salvation of mankind, but this verse uses the phrase “lifted up” twice, first to describe the sacrifice of the life of Jesus Christ, and then to summarize the Father’s ultimate goal of saving mankind. 

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"The Epic Novel of Modern Hong Kong"

James Clavell’s Noble House is a novel about one week in the life of a Hong Kong business executive in 1963.  And it’s 1370 pages long.

No, wait, don’t stop reading!  That wouldn’t have enticed me, either, but it’s actually one of the most fascinating and exciting things I’ve ever read.  It’s full of espionage, drug gangs, political plots, natural disasters, kidnapping, hostile takeovers, seduction, ancient oaths being called into fulfillment…and, yes, quite a few business negotiations.

A story this large and detailed could be approached from many angles (I’d love to discuss its use of Chinese words and phrases–this book is packed with Chinese culture and treats it with unreserved reverence), but the biggest surprise for me was just how political Noble House is.

I guess I should have expected it.  The book is dedicated “as a tribute to Her Britannic Majesty, Elizabeth II, to the people of Her Crown Colony of Hong Kong—and perdition to their enemies.”  So the author’s perspective is pretty clear from the get go.

Noble House is a cold war novel—communist spies and leftist traitors abound.  (more…)

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A story in yesterday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal covered the sentencing of Stanley and Colleen Rimer, the people who left their disabled 4-year-old son locked in a vehicle overnight in June, 2008.  Little Jason Rimer died from the heat.  The parents were convicted of involuntary manslaughter for Jason, as well as for neglect and abuse of their other children.

With that in mind, note something that the end of the article mentions in passing:

Meanwhile, Stanley Rimer has said he’s written a book of scripture which he is submitting to the hierarchy of the Mormon faith.

Boy, I really, really wish the story said more about that.  As it is, I’m left to fill in the blanks with the obvious: a man convicted of hurting his children and letting one die horribly is sitting in his jail cell, and feels touched by a spirit of revelation enough that he composes a religious text, which he now wants the leaders of the LDS Church to accept as legitimately sacred, so, I suppose, it can be disseminated around the world and throughout history, to be studied for the edification of all. 

Sure, why not?  And that, ladies and gentlemen, probably tells us everything we need to know about Stanley Rimer.

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I know a young person with an inoperable brain tumor.  She was in one of my classes last year–just a wonderful, wonderful young lady.  She’s been in pain and been diagnosed with cancer only fairly recently–a couple of months ago–but her options are already pretty limited.  Still, she needs treatment and medication, and that’s not cheap. 

Here’s an introduction to her from the blog that her mother maintains to follow her progress:

Kassidy is 15 years old and on May 19, 2011 was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor located in her brain stem and spine called a ganglioglioma, a very rare type of tumor. Kassidy is a very strong and positive person. Her love is softball, but she also plays tennis and bowling at her school. She loves hanging out with friends and playing her violin, guitar, and piano. Her goal is to go to college and play college softball. Please help Kassidy reach her goals!

Her blog even plays U2′s “Beautiful Day.”  Yes, this is someone who is awesome and deserves help!  Kassidy was the subject of an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal last month, which would also help you get to know her better:

Kassidy was asked about her initial reaction upon learning her tumor was malignant and inoperable. It wasn’t “Woe is me.” It was woe for her letterman’s jacket, and the blank chenille bars stitched under the names of her sports, to be filled in after she earns subsequent letters in them. If she’s sick, how is she going to bowl a 160, or throw out would-be base stealers, or play her dad’s Stradivarius, the violin he handed down to her when she was in sixth grade?

Could you please help?  Here are some ways:

  • There is a car wash and garage sale at Centennial High School today and tomorrow (Saturday) from 8 AM-3 PM.  Centennial is at the end of Centennial Parkway, right in the northwest corner of the 215, just west of the 215 and Durango. 
  • Here’s a Facebook page sponsoring some nights at local restaurants next week for Kassidy–Macayo’s on Sahara on Tuesday, and Buffalo Wild Wings on Saturday.
  • You can also donate to Kassidy through the Las Vegas Cancer Foundation’s Livestrong fundraising bike ride on October 1st.  I’m going to sign up for the 60-mile ride.  Who’s with me? 
  • Please share this with anyone and everyone you know who could help.  I’m not usually a fan of passing along links that ask people for things, but this is important.
  • And could I also ask you to keep her and her family in your prayers? 

If raising a million dollars would help her have just five minutes of comfort, wouldn’t it be worth it?  Thanks for anything you can do.

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I remember when Northern European patronymics was explained to me, I felt like a whole new level of reality had opened up.  Here was a system that gave us so many of the names that are still common among us today, and I’d never realized it!  Seems pretty obvious now. 

In some European societies, a boy’s last name would be derived from his father’s first name, with “son” added at the end.  For example, if a man named Peter Williamson had a son named Jack, the boy’s name would be Jack Peterson.  If Jack had a son named Stephen, his named would be Stephen Jackson.  Etc. 

There were female suffixes, too, but these don’t seem to have thrived in the U.S.—I’ve never met anyone with the “dotter” (daughter) ending on her name.  I’ve only seen this in people’s genealogical research. 

It’s fun, I think, to see how many names we hear constantly but don’t think about which fall into this pattern.  Starting with the examples I gave above, one hypothetical family line could run as follows:

Peter Williamson

Jack Peterson

Stephen Jackson

Andrew Stephenson

Matthew Anderson (Andrew in English; “Anders” is the proper Scandinavian name)

Paul Matheson

John Paulson

James Johnson

Thomas Jameson

Carl Thomson

Eric Carlson

William Ericson

Peter Williamson

There are many, many more like this, most of which clearly have a Scandinavian origin (eg, Larson, son of Lars).  It would be interesting to see this reintroduced with the most popular names in 21st century America!

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One of the hardest things to do naturally as a teacher is to transition smoothly and logically from one topic or activity to another.  Sometimes lessons are closely related; often they’re not.  Sometimes a useful transitioning device will present itself; usually they don’t.  I’ve been quite fortunate to discover some pretty clever ways of connecting disparate material at times (“So that’s how Romeo and Juliet ends.  Speaking of teenagers wanting to kill themselves, it’s time for you to write an essay!”)

However, at some point over the years, when the muse failed to bestow upon my mind any genuinely useful means of segueing from one portion of class time to the next, I started to simply say, “Speaking of aardvarks,” and would then launch into whatever was up on the agenda, freely ignoring any need for continuity. 

Most students respond to this fairly well, except for those few who a) have no idea what an aardvark is or b) are now honestly confused because they think they missed something important in class about aardvarks. 

I suppose I could go with the old Monty Python standard of, “And now for something completely different,” but I like how the aardvark line hints at the frustrated desperation we pedagogues feel, and how funny it can be to give up on something. 

Oh, and speaking of aardvarks, you should like this blog on Facebook, recommend it to all of your friends, enemies, and in-laws, and patronize the nascent swag shop.

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Alas, yours truly has succumbed to a rampaging case of nap/sugar/vacation-fueled insomnia, so here’s a middle-of-the-night video for you: Gary Oldman and Tim Roth duke it out in a kinetic bit of verbal sparring, from Tom Stoppard’s weird but funny 1990 re-imagining of Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead:

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I’ve loved Dennis Miller since before he even became a conservative, and Ben Stein has written some very worthwhile stuff about economics and the culture wars (although he also made the movie Expelled, which I criticized here).  These are both very smart and very entertaining guys, so I was excited to hear that the former was hosting the latter on his radio show this morning. 

Audio of today’s interview is here.  Stein spent his air time endorsing higher taxes, mostly saying, “Rich people can afford it–they won’t be hurt if they pay more.”  It was almost shocking to hear such a brilliant thinker explain a point with no more intellectual grounding than a child would bother to use.  Literally–I remember a class in junior high where the teacher discussed the national debt, and one clown announced that he could solve the problem: “Let’s mug Donald Trump!” 

Miller, for his part, responded fairly well, but most of his time dwelt on the fact that government tends to waste money, and that new taxes would be largely wasted, also.

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