Tuesday, July 29, 2008

July 29, 2008 Quickies

How do you suppose Monica Goodling and her cohorts at the Justice Department sleep at night, knowing that she and her ilk violated their oath to support the Constitution of the United States?

Whenever one sees a driver coming to a complete stop at an intersection with a stop sign, it's a sure indication of two possibilities:  1) that person is an above-average driver; 2) that person is within 18 months of the last time a moving violation citation was issued.  Just sayin'.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Deja Marshall Vu, All Over Again

This, Dear Gentle Reader(s), from The New York Times' web site:

Young people “aren’t as troubled as some of us older folks are by reading that doesn’t go in a line,” said Rand J. Spiro, a professor of educational psychology at Michigan State University who is studying reading practices on the Internet. “That’s a good thing because the world doesn’t go in a line, and the world isn’t organized into separate compartments or chapters.”

If that doesn't sound familiar, may one refer you to Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media.  In it, during the 1960's, McLuhan discussed the "linear" and the "mosaic" as metaphors for acquiring information.  Pre-electronic age Westerners (one hedges, just in case one doesn't remember accurately) learned to process information in a linear fashion...that is, a log line of information, analogous to the moving headline around the New York Times building in Times Square.  Electronic-age Westerners (same hedge) learned to process information in bits and pieces, analogous to a mosaic.

And that's what Professor Spiro is saying.

Good ol' Marshall.  We knew he was a prophet. 

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Did you pay attention?

Dear Gentle Reader(s), when you ere enrolled in your English classes in K-12, it is hoped you learned a lesson or two about reading...especially that it is important to think  as well as to call words. 

For instance, here's a quote from the White House web site:  "...a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals..."

Now, look carefully.  What do you remember about the word horizon, DGR(s)?  What is unique about the horizon?  It never can be attained.  By definition, it always remains unreachable.



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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Whither Reading Skills?

Alas, Dear Gentle Reader(s), somewhere along the way a child (or two) didn't get the message that reading involves understanding as well as calling words.

Take, please!, the example to be found today on Page A10 of the Riverside, California's The Press-Enterprise (print edition). We have this headline: U.S. wary of Israeli strike on Iran, and this sub-headline: HIGH-RISK: The Joint Chiefs chairman an air assault on nuclear facilities could destabilize the region.

Now, DGR(s), if you're thinking, as I was, that this chairman must've lost his chair if he thinks the region is stable--after all, "could destabilize" implies stability in the first place--you'd be correct, up to a point.

Here's the point. In the story the chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, actually is quoted thusly: "This is a very unstable part of the world and I don't need it to be more unstable."

Whoa! The chairman did not say "could destabilize." He said it is "very unstable."

The headline writer at The Press-Enterprise erred; the editor in charge of overseeing the headline writer erred.

Back to school, folks.

This time pay attention to your poor beleaguered English teacher.

[And I know, DGR(s), how dangerous it is for an ex-English teacher to point out weaknesses in language skills of others. Alas, I know all too well.]

Have a good 4th!

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Context Matters

Of course, Dear Gentle Reader(s), context matters.  There really isn't any discussion about that.  Why, then, does context so often disappear from discussion?

The current brouhaha regarding General Wesley Clark's comments about Senator McCain's Vietnam war experiences is an excellent case in point.

Here is a quote from Salon.com, it's from Joan Walsh's July 1, 2008, column

Slamming Wesley Clark

I was sorry to see the Obama campaign "reject" Gen. Wesley Clark's remarks about John McCain on Face the Nation yesterday. I think the context of Clark's remarks mattered (although that's gotten lost in the right wing blogosphere's attacks on Clark). Clark was baited into his statement by host Bob Schieffer, who took issue with some earlier, milder remarks Clark had made about McCain's military service not being direct preparation for the presidency.

Here's what was said:

Schieffer: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean --

Clark: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.

Schieffer: Really?

Walsh goes on to wonder why Schieffer said "Really?"  We should do that, too, DGR(s).  While McCain's subsequent POW status and the treatment he endured during that time might give us some indication of his character at that moment in time, it does nothing to tell us of his decision-making processes; it tells us nothing of how much the young serviceman of the 1960's has changed into the Republican nominee of 2008.


We should judge the presumptive presidential nominees in the context of 2008.  We should be careful about making a decision today based on what little we know of the context of various yesterdays.

We are going to have to be especially alert to what is being said in this presidential election year.

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