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Archive for April, 2012

Must Be Fourth Quarter…

It’s probably not a good thing if the most popular page on your school district’s web site is the one that teachers use to say that they’re not coming in to work today…

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Ah, Spring.  Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, allergy sufferers are sneezing.  Also, in another cycle of nature for this time of year, the local newspapers are piling on scary stories about the teachers’ union vs. the school district, where the outcome this time will certainly be massive teacher layoffs, horrific student deprivation in a barren campus wasteland, and the end of life on Earth as we know it.

I’m looking forward to summer as much as anyone, but I have to admit, this nauseating dog and pony show is enough to make a guy pine for November again.

It’s getting to be as predictable as Superbowl ads where GM hires some celebrity to tell us that Detroit is “making a comeback.”

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I recently rewatched one of my favorite movies, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.  I intended to read while it played, and just look up when the “best” parts came on, but I was instantly hooked again.  I had to to gaze, amazed, at every second.  Some parts of act III lag a bit, but it’s still a stunning masterpiece.

Anyway, watching that reminded me of Eumir Deodato’s jazz-infused reinterpretation of Straus’s famous theme used in the film.  Deodato took the 1896 piece of music, which Kubrick used in his 1968 movie about 2001, and remixed it in 1972.  So something from the past that was used to represent our future–which is now also in our past–was updated for a modern setting, which itself is now part of our past as well. And I was introduced to this song by my septuagenarian mother.

Talk about time warps!  Man, that just blew my mind.  It’s like watching 2001 or something.

 

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Just before the weekend, John Derbyshire published an essay that can only be called racist.  His advice boils down to making snap judgments, based on fear and faulty assumptions, and avoiding black people in general.  It’s awful.  It got him fired from National Review.

In the last few days, it has become understandably controversial.  Many parodies are going up.  I just finished my own version.  It’s not a parody.  If anything, I hope it’s a clarion call for clear thought and open hearts.  I believe the two go together.  It’s a draft, but I think it’s useful.

Derbyshire’s essay was about what white parents supposedly tell their children about blacks.  Mine is meant to be ready-made for people of any race in America to use with all other races.  Derbyshire said that his essay is what he tells his kids.  This is what I tell mine.

 

(1) You’ve noticed by now that there are a lot of colors of people out there.  You’ve probably also noticed that many people place a lot of value in those colors, both their own and everybody else’s.  What you need to know is that people have a right to claim pride in their heritage, including you.  You don’t have to do anything special to acknowledge the feelings of others, but you do have a social obligation to be polite.  If someone else has intense feelings about their race, don’t disregard it.  If they have no feelings for their race or others’, don’t disregard that, either.  If someone has strong feelings about another race, though, their opinion probably isn’t worth listening to.

 

(2) Don’t be obnoxious and make your own feelings an issue for those around you to deal with, though.  It’s rude.

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“Virtually all Christian churches teach some kind of doctrine regarding the Atonement of Christ and the expiation of our sins that comes through it.  But the Book of Mormon teaches that and much more.  It teaches that Christ also provides relief of a more temporal sort, taking upon himself our mortal sicknesses and infirmities, our earthly trials and tribulations, our personal heartaches and loneliness and sorrows–all done in addition to taking upon himself the burden of our sins….”

“That aspect of the Atonement brings an additional kind of rebirth, something of immediate renewal, help, and hope that allow us to rise above sorrows and sickness, misfortunes and mistakes of every kind.  With his mighty arm around us and lifting us, we face life more joyfully even as we face death more triumphantly…”

“So Christ came to earth, lived his thirty-three years, then fulfilled the ultimate purpose for his birth into mortality.  In a spiritual agony that began on Gethsemane and a physical payment that was consummated on the cross of Calvary, he took upon himself every sin and sorrow, every heartache and infirmity, every sickness, sadness, atrial, and tribulation experienced by the children of God from Adam to the end of the world.  How he did that is a stunning mystery, but he did it.  He broke the bands of physical death and gained victory over the grasp of spiritual hell.  A God himself came down and made merciful intercession for all the children of men.”

–Jeffrey R. Holland (LDS apostle), Christ and the New Covenant, 223, 224, 228

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As our society debates what the definition of “marriage” should be, we would do well to remember that by defining a term at all, we must exclude everything that does not fit that definition.

If we say that a chair must be a thing on which you can sit and which has four legs, we can say that a table is a chair, but a rock is not.  If we feel that that is unjust to the rock, we can remove the requirement about four legs, and then say that a rock is a chair, also.  But what if clouds feel left out of the status and benefits of being recognized as a chair?  Eventually, the good intentions of inclusion render reality silly.  Loosening a definition–stretching the field of things that can fall within its purview–weakens the nature of the thing being defined.

However we define marriage, we will, by the nature of “definition,” exclude some people and types of relationships.  It stands to reason that some of those excluded will be good, kind, decent people who only want respect and rewards for committed relationships.  But to expand the definition to a point where all such people are included would necessarily make the definition so broad as to be meaningless.

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The best quote from the best article about Charles Murray’s new book about the facts regarding faith and family in America:

In addition, he says, the upper class needs to abandon its nonjudgmentalism, start “preaching what it practices,” and stop being afraid to send the rest of America messages such as: People should not be having children out of wedlock. Hard work and religious faith matter. Contrary to the image of the rich conveyed by celebrity news, they are committed to their families and live fairly tame lives, and that’s a big reason why they raise high-achieving children and have money.

 

 

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In 1963, a precocious American student wrote to dozens of authors, asking them about symbolism.  This article collects some of the most memorable responses he got, including this one from beatnik auteur Jack Kerouac.  Others include Saul Bellow, Ayn Rand, John Updike, and Norman Mailer.

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This December, a new movie version of The Great Gatsby will be released, directed by Baz Lurhmann (Moulin Rouge!) and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Why?  This will be the fifth time the novel has been filmed.

Is this a series in need of a reboot?  Has the Gatsby franchise gone stale?  Was there some innovative new breakthrough in our understanding of the 1920s recently that demanded a revised vision of the story’s Jazz Age style? Will this portrait of post-WWI decadence somehow feature stunning CGI graphics?

This bugs me for the same reason I’m irked every time a publisher releases a new edition of Shakespeare or a revised algebra textbook.  What’s the point?  Nothing has changed.

Unless…the new Gatsby movie will be altered to suit a Gen Y audience…putting Kanye West on the soundtrack, adding a few car chases, etc.  Remembering what Luhrmann did with Romeo + Juliet (also, come to think of it, starring DiCaprio), that might not be too far off.

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It breaks every rule of modern teaching, but…

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I say that the best James Bond movie was 1963’s From Russia With Love.  My favorite scene is the fight on the Orient Express.

The trend in film has always been for fights to become more and more stylized, but this fight scene is the perfect balance of choreography and brutal, realistic brawling.  Add to that the fact that the scene is done in a confined space, in the dark, and you’ve really got a classic action achievement here.  Just shy of half a century has passed since this one came out, and it’s still one of the best fight scenes ever shot.

 

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Last Sunday in Gospel Doctrine, we discussed Jacob chapters 1-3 in the Book of Mormon.  I noticed that Jacob says that his sermon in chapters 2-3 was given “in the temple” (1:17).  I looked through the sermon to see if perhaps that setting influenced the content of his message.  Jackpot.

Consider just the broadest outline of the address.  Jacob begins his sermon by telling the people that he was fulfilling his duty as a servant of the Lord (the “all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth,” he takes pains to note from the start, in 2:4) by bringing them an authorized message (2:2-11, especially verse 11).

The first major doctrinal topic that Jacob broaches, in 2:12-22, is the necessity of giving up our worldly gain and selfish desires for the good of others and the work of the Church.  Look at some of the Topical Guide subjects listed in those verses: almsgiving, generosity, welfare, worldliness, good works.  Jacob ties these themes of sacrifice in to a general command to obey the commandments (2:21), and, being the Book of Mormon, warns against pride.

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Opposition to pornography has become associated with “prudish right-wing fundamentalists,” but as with many things, the growing body of social science research confirms that this debate should extend far beyond the boundaries of belief.

A recent editorial in National Review about Rick Santorum’s opposition to pornography links to several such important studies.  I’m less interested in Santorum’s desire to combat porn by government muscle than I am in bringing facts to an honest national conversation.  Follow the links if you want some truth:

Likewise, Santorum’s views on pornography are a natural extension of his views on marriage as a public good — a sacred, lifelong bond between man and woman, designed to unify the couple and create children who, in turn, will make faithful, committed spouses one day. Interestingly, Santorum’s position is consistent with a rapidly growing body of social-science research. The older idea of pornography as a harmless rite of passage for boys, and a potential boost for the sex lives of married couples, are being challenged by data which show a potential for real and measurable harm. Studies have revealed a clear connection between regular pornography use and a host of negative consequences, including: sexual deviancy (lower first age of intercourse, obsessive masturbation), belief in the “rape myth” (that women cause rape), and loss of interest in sex. More frequent users of pornography report higher incidences of having sex for money, substance abuse, conduct problems, and having feelings of sexual desire “almost all the time.” Among young adults, pornography use correlates with higher numbers of casual-sex partners and lower relationship satisfaction. Both infidelity and divorce have been linked to the use of pornography. But there is a striking dearth of longitudinal research on the latter relationship. NIH should fund a comprehensive, long-term research project devoted to the impact of pornography use on marriage and the family.

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April

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