Monthly Archives: April 2007

Stay tuned, bat watchers

The next book I’m reading is

I hope to have a review of it by the end of the week!

[in the meantime, check out the author’s blog]

The lovely book

Thanks to a couple late night marathon reading sessions (and Emma’s three hour! nap today), I just finished my first “for me” book since the baby entered our lives – The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

Great read! I had heard of it before, and I guess it made a huge splash in the book world a couple years ago — but I only bought it last week for $2 at the SSO book sale.

I had this great review post of it planned after I finished the last page — but it’s lost now. Let’s just say it’s one of those books that completely immerses you in its world, where you want to quickly finish it in order to find out what happens … but you also want to linger, in order to make the experience of reading last as long as possible. I can only think of a few books I’ve encountered where I literally miss the characters after I’m finished reading — this is one of them.

My favorite quote:

These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections — sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent — that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events that my death wrought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous body had been my life.

[The last book that I felt this way about was Gilead, by Marianne Robinson — another book I’d recommend. That book was a bit wiser in its reflection, but that could because the narrator of that book is an old man looking back on his life. The Lovely Bones has a young girl as a narrator — which makes the book just as poignant, but in a different way.]

[[I just saw on Wikipedia that there is a film in development for The Lovely Bones. My heart skipped a beat as I saw who is steering its production — none other than Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. I know that they’ll do a respectful adaptation of this amazing read.]]

Quotable.

Beliefs are not like clothing: comfort, utility, and attractiveness cannot be one’s conscious criteria for acquiring them.

“The Empty Wager”
Sam Harris

Read the rest of the essay here.

She’s our little monster


She’s our little monster, originally uploaded by becky b..

You should hear her howl!

Why did the shootings at VA Tech occur?

Watch this video to see what the American Family Association (big-time fundie politico group in the States) has to say about it:

“The Day They Kicked God Out of the Schools”

Where to begin when you see such claims as these?

[necessary digression: This is where my studies in rhetoric come in handy. What we have here is a prime example of the use of a rhetorical device, the enthymeme. The enthymeme is an argument structure that invites audience participation, in that one of the premises of the argument is purposefully omitted, inviting the audience to “fill in the blank” by inserting what is missing.

The best way to explain this rhetorical device is by giving an example. So, here’s a joke — have you heard the one about Randolph the brown-nosed reindeer? He flies behind Rudolph, but can’t stop as fast. (thanks to my supervisor for this gem!)

Get it? If you do, then you’ve just participated in an enthymeme. Other good examples of enthymemes are found in advertising. Nike’s slogan “Just do it” is vague (and enthymematic) enough to invite the consumer to insert whatever is relevant to “do” as a result of buying this product.

An enthymeme is the result of a participatory process in which the hearer actually helps to convince herself of the argument, since the link between the premise and conclusion is left unstated. Because the generalization on which an enthymeme depends is embedded, it is not available for examination, and may even pass unnoticed by a reader as she “fills in the blanks” from her own common sense.

It is the audience involvement that makes an enthymeme such a persuasive tool – if speakers were to expressly explain each step of their argument, it would not be as engaging as having the audience contribute to the argument themselves. The effectiveness of the enthymeme demonstrates that rhetoric can be the most powerful when its operations are not completely in view.]

So, back to the video atrocity above — what enthymemes are at work in this video? Or, as my supervisor would ask, what do you have to believe in order for this video to make sense?

As Jerry and I watched this video, here is some of the rhetoric we saw at work:

  • When the student asks where God is in these school tragedies, God’s reply is “I am not allowed in schools.” First of all, what is meant by the “not allowed” portion of his answer? Just because explicit biblical teaching (and proselytizing) — ie., Christian dogma — is not allowed in a public school setting, does it remove God’s presence from the school?
  • Later the video laments the removal of reading the Bible in school, with its lessons of “thou shall not kill, thou shall not steal, [and] love your neighbor as yourself” — Oddly enough, the video chooses to only state widely accepted lessons (not expressly Christian) from the Bible. Not mentioned are the passages that advocate or endorse murder, slavery, sexism, or genocide.
  • Oh, and what about the part where the video blames Dr. Spock’s recommendation to not spank children — and the recent turn against corporal punishment in schools — by linking the diminishment in these activities to the violent shootings? Does this mean we are meant to physically abuse children in order to prevent these atrocities from occurring? (I have yet to understand how punitive morality is practical OR ethical)
  • Then there’s the sarcastic statement: “Some of our top elected officials said, ‘It doesn’t matter what we do in private, as long as we do our jobs’” — I am fascinated that these people are more hung up over a blow job in the Oval Office than a president who has involved our country in a war under false pretenses! Let’s see, which should we as a country be more angry over — marital infidelity or thousands of soldiers and civilians dead?

Ultimately, the video asserts that the shootings at VA Tech were caused by our culture’s supposed relativistic morality. What does this video implicitly advocate to prevent this type of evil from occurring again? A nostalgic return to an authoritative, explicitly religious morality. Otherwise, we ourselves are to blame for this type of ominous tragedy.

It is unbelievable what mentality this video represents.

All campus alert:

At approximately 5:00 pm today (April 20, 2007), Campus Safety received a report of 6′ tall, dark-haired male, dressed in a light shirt and camouflage pants, walking through campus possibly armed with a gun.

Saskatoon Police are on the scene, sweeping the campus. Members of the campus community are advised to leave immediately or remain behind locked doors.

Further developments will be shared with the campus community as soon as possible.

Campus Safety advises that everyone be alert of suspicious persons or activities and report anything unusual to 966-5555 immediately.

I live across the street from school — after the events in VA this week, this is scary.

EDIT: As of 7:45pm, no additional sightings. The police cleared the area. Funny how much more sensitive we get to these warnings when tragedies strike elsewhere in the world.

The perils of mat leave mind melt-downs:

Earlier this week I booked tickets to fly home at the same time as the 2007 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences [Canada's largest academic conference]. This year, the Congress will be held at the U of S, right across the street from me, and I’ll be in another country.

D’oh!

I’ve only been looking forward to the conference for a couple of years now, especially since it’s being hosted in my home town!

Figures, seeing as most of my days are filled with a whole lot of nothin’ — but when I finally plan something, it’s during a special event. Oh well.

[I am, however, looking forward to 3 weeks with my family! I'll be visiting both Virginia and New York this May-June.]