Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Pretending: homeschooling in love 2

Friday, July 15th, 2011

 After establishing our password, Zion and I grabbed our browning automatics (broken broom handles), grenades (plastic donuts from Zion’s sister’s pretend kitchen set), and bowie knives (Karen’s carrots) and quietly, with great alacrity, approached the dangerous mail box.
Along the way, of course, we were attacked by banzai warriors (our four barn cats), a German Stuka (our Black Lab), and an enemy patrol (Our neighbors on a walk).  Against all odds we made it.
 But not without casualties.  I sustained a serious leg injury and Zion was nicked in the left arm.  In fact, we lost several good pretend companions. 
 Sly Zion, halfway, as we hid behind the chicken coup insisted on a field promotion to lieutenant or he would desert.  I reluctantly agreed.  In the midst of such carnage, what was I to do?
 After such an arduous and dangerous mission newly promoted Lieutenant Zion and I celebrated at Granna’s kitchen table.  She unceremoniously served us A-rations (Christmas cookies) and mess coffee (hot chocolate with marshmallows).
 It doesn’t get much better than this, 10-4?

No Books to Ban

Friday, April 1st, 2011

       I was reading an essay by Neil Postman, author of Amusing Ourselves To Death.  He reminds us that 1984 came and went and Orwell’s nightmare did not occur.  The roots of liberal democracy had held.

            But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another equally chilling apocalyptic vision : Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression–Big Brother. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

            What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of neglect. Orwell feared we would become a captive to ubiquitous culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture. As Huxley remarked in his sequel Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”. In Orwell’s 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

Buy a Field at Anathoth

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2: 3-5—“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? We don’t need letters of recommendation to you or from you as some other people do, do we?  You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone, revealing that you are a letter of Christ, delivered by us,   written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on tablets of human hearts.”  My dad’s life is written on my heart.  It gives me pleasure still to read his Bible.

But, parents, write in your Bible!  Even if you use squiggly lines.  Your kids will thank you someday!  But more important, write your lives on their hearts.  That someday, perhaps one cold night, as they wait to go asleep, they will read your Bible, see your marks, and, more importantly, remember that day, long ago, when you wrote your life on their lives.

Mark Jeremiah 32.

32:1 In the tenth year that Zedekiah was ruling over Judah the Lord spoke to Jeremiah. That was the same as the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. 32:2 Now at that time, 2  the armies of the king of Babylon were besieging Jerusalem. 3  The prophet Jeremiah was confined in the courtyard of the guardhouse 4  attached to the royal palace of Judah. 32:3 For King Zedekiah 5  had confined Jeremiah there after he had reproved him for prophesying as he did. He had asked Jeremiah, “Why do you keep prophesying these things? Why do you keep saying that the Lord says, ‘I will hand this city over to the king of Babylon? I will let him capture it. 6  32:4 King Zedekiah of Judah will not escape from the Babylonians. 7  He will certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon. He must answer personally to the king of Babylon and confront him face to face. 8  32:5 Zedekiah will be carried off to Babylon and will remain there until I have fully dealt with him. 9  I, the Lord, affirm it! 10  Even if you 11  continue to fight against the Babylonians, 12  you cannot win.’”

32:6 So now, Jeremiah said, “The Lord told me, 13  32:7 ‘Hanamel, the son of your uncle Shallum, will come to you soon. He will say to you, “Buy my field at Anathoth because you are entitled 14  as my closest relative to buy it.”’ 15  32:8 Now it happened just as the Lord had said! My cousin Hanamel 16  came to me in the courtyard of the guardhouse. He said to me, ‘Buy my field which is at Anathoth in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. Buy it for yourself since you are entitled as my closest relative to take possession of it for yourself.’ When this happened, I recognized that the Lord had indeed spoken to me. 32:9 So I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel. I weighed out seven ounces of silver and gave it to him to pay for it. 17  32:10 I signed the deed of purchase, 18  sealed it, and had some men serve as witnesses to the purchase. 19  I weighed out the silver for him on a scale. 32:11 There were two copies of the deed of purchase. One was sealed and contained the order of transfer and the conditions of purchase. 20  The other was left unsealed. 32:12 I took both copies of the deed of purchase 21  and gave them to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah. I gave them to him in the presence 22  of my cousin 23  Hanamel, the witnesses who had signed the deed of purchase, and all the Judeans who were housed in the courtyard of the guardhouse. 32:13 In the presence of all these people I instructed Baruch, 32:14 ‘The Lord God of Israel who rules over all 24  says, “Take these documents, both the sealed copy of the deed of purchase and the unsealed copy. Put them in a clay jar so that they may be preserved for a long time to come.”’ 25  32:15 For the Lord God of Israel who rules over all 26  says, “Houses, fields, and vineyards will again be bought in this land.”’

Jeremiah, knowing full well that he was going to die in captivity, without ever enjoying his homeland again, bought property in that homeland.  His investment was not for himself; it was for his children, his grandchildren, his nation.  Can you do that?  Can you live your life knowing that you might never enjoy your field at Anathoth?  Can you invest in the lives of things and people knowing you may never live to see the fruit grow on the bushes in the fields that you bought but will not enjoy?

You should see what is under my bed. (Part II)

Friday, April 9th, 2010

I keep one special book under the bed:  my dad’s Bible.  It is an old leather black Bible, expensive leather, worn now, with the edges exhibiting light brown cow leather intruding out of the faded black.  The cover has “Holy Bible” and “Billy Stobaugh” written in gold letters.

Inside the Bible in my Mammaw’s handwriting is “1939. To Billy from Mother and Daddy, 8 years.”  My dad was born in 1932 and apparently this was his 8th birthday present.  When my dad died on Father’s Day in 1982, when he was only 49, my mom gave me this Bible.

I imagine Dad got other things for his birthday.  Toy soldiers?  A pop gun?  I will never know.  But I know he got this Bible.  If you found your deceased dad’s Bible what would you do? I immediately looked for evidence that he read it.  I looked for a mark, any mark, that would evidence that he read it, studied it, applied it to his life.  Nothing.

Nothing.  Nothing in the family register.  Nothing next to John 3:16.   I know my dad knew God loved him.  I heard him say it a few hours before he died.  But no marks in his Bible.

I know I have lots of marks in my Bible.  I can’t keep up with Karen though.  She is the “master marker.”  Her Bible is full of underlines.  Her Bible underlines are straight and neat.  I can’t do it.  My lines inevitably invade other verses.  I gave up drawing straight lines under verses—I now put squiggly lines.  I once asked Karen to show me how she made straight lines under her Bible verses—sometimes without even a straight edge.  She ignored my question.

I don’t have my dad anymore but I have his Bible.  And there is nothing written in it.

I wish my dad wrote in his Bible, the Bible I keep under my bed.  I would like something—anything—that reminds me of him.  I am 56 now and it is 28 years since he died.  I can hardly remember what he looks like now.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2: 3-5—“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? We don’t need letters of recommendation to you or from you as some other people do, do we?  You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone, revealing that you are a letter of Christ, delivered by us,   written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on tablets of human hearts.”  My dad’s life is written on my heart.  It gives me pleasure still to read his Bible.

But, parents, write in your Bible!  Even if you use squiggly lines.  Your kids will thank you someday!  But more important, write your lives on their hearts.  That someday, perhaps one cold night, as they wait to go asleep, they will read your Bible, see your marks, and, more importantly, remember that day, long ago, when you wrote your life on their lives.

You should see what is under my bed. (Part I)

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

You should see what is under our bed (don’t tell Karen I shared this).

Stashed in disheveled piles are my World War II history books and other treasures.

Inevitably Karen (my wife) will spend eons of time preparing for bed.  While she is brushing her teeth, washing her face, and other necessary hygienic things, I grab a book from my history library and I read about the German U Boat campaign in the North Atlantic.

I have several libraries.  There is the academic library—full of literary criticism books.  That one is stashed in the basement next to my desktop computer.  The one with Windows 98—the last Microsoft software I fully comprehended.  Next, there is the classical library in the family room.  This is the library that is full of “pretty books.”  No one touches that library; it is there for show.  But across the room is the “grandchildren library” full of children’s classics that Karen reads to the grandchildren.

But my favorite library is the library under my bed.  It really is a good idea—you should try it.  Under my bed, safe and clear, are my treasured reading books.  I have perennial classics—Run Silent, Run Deep. Occasionally other favorites sneak in—Milton’s Paradise Lost—which I re-read bi-annually—is propped up next to Operation Barbarossa.  John Keegan’s World War II is a great read and can keep me awake through Karen’s most extensive post-day, pre-sleep preparations.

I hope you have things you treasure and that you keep them close at hand.

Webinar Vignettes – Part 8

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Hart Crane (1899-1932)

Hart Crane was a disturbed young poet who committed suicide at age 33 by leaping into the sea. He left striking poems, including an epic, The Bridge (1930), which was inspired by the Brooklyn Bridge, in which he ambitiously attempted to review the American cultural experience and recast it in affirmative terms. His exuberant style works best in short poems such as “Voyages” (1923, 1926) and “At Melville’s Tomb” (1926), whose ending is a suitable epitaph for Crane:

This fabulous shadow only the sea keeps.

Marianne Moore (1887-1972)

Marianne Moore once wrote that poems were “imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” Her poems are conversational, yet elaborate and subtle in their syllabic versification, drawing upon extremely precise description and historical and scientific fact. A “poet’s poet,” she influenced such later poets as her young friend Elizabeth Bishop.

Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

One of many talented poets of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s — in the company of James Weldon Johnson and others — was Langston Hughes. He embraced African- American jazz rhythms and was one of the first black writers to attempt to make a profitable career out of his writing. Hughes incorporated blues, spirituals, colloquial speech, and folkways in his poetry.

One of his most beloved poems, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” (1921, 1925), embraces his African — and universal — heritage in a grand epic catalogue. The poem suggests that, like the great rivers of the world, African American culture will endure and deepen:

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset
I’ve known rivers
Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Webinar Vignettes – Part 7

Friday, January 29th, 2010

E. E. Cummings (1894-1962)

A painter, e. e. cummings was the first American poet to recognize that poetry had become primarily a visual, not an oral, art; his poems used much unusual spacing and indentation, as well as dropping all use of capital letters.

Like Williams, Cummings also used colloquial language, sharp imagery, and words from popular culture. Like Williams, he took creative liberties with layout. His poem “in Just ” (1920) invites the reader to fill in the missing ideas:

in Just –
Spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman
whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring…

Webinar Vignettes – Part 6

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

William Carlos Williams was a practicing pediatrician throughout his life; he delivered more than 2,000 babies and wrote poems on his prescription pads. His sympathy for ordinary working people, children, and everyday events in modern urban settings make his poetry attractive and accessible. “The Red Wheelbarrow” (1923), like a Dutch still life, finds interest and beauty in everyday objects.

Williams cultivated a relaxed, natural poetry. In his hands, the poem was not to become a perfect object of art as in Stevens, or the carefully re-created nature scene as in Frost. Instead, the poem was to capture an instant of time like an unposed snapshot — a concept he derived from photographers and artists he met at galleries in New York City.

His epic, Paterson (five vols., 1946-58), celebrates his hometown of Paterson, New Jersey, as seen by an autobiographical “Dr. Paterson.” Williams wrote this very unpretentious narrative poem to celebrate the ordinary. Like Whitman’s persona in Leaves of Grass, Dr. Paterson moves freely among the working people.

-late spring,
a Sunday afternoon!
- and goes by the footpath to the cliff (counting:
the proof)
himself among others
- treads there the same stones
on which their feet slip as they climb,
paced by their dogs!
laughing, calling to each other -
Wait for me!
(II, i, 14-23)

Webinar Vignettes – Part 5

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

Born in Pennsylvania, Wallace Stevens was educated at Harvard College and New York University Law School. He practiced law in New York City from 1904 to 1916, a time of great artistic and poetic activity there. On moving to Hartford, Connecticut, to become an insurance executive in 1916, he continued writing poetry.

Stevens’s poetry dwells upon themes of the imagination, the necessity for aesthetic form, and the belief that the order of art corresponds with an order in nature. His vocabulary is rich and various: He paints lush tropical scenes but also manages dry, humorous, and ironic vignettes.

Some of Stevens’s poems draw upon popular culture, while others poke fun at sophisticated society or soar into an intellectual heaven. He is known for his exuberant word play: “Soon, with a noise like tambourines / Came her attendant Byzantines.”

Stevens’s work is full of surprising insights. Sometimes he plays tricks on the reader, as in “Disillusionment of Ten O’clock” (1931):

The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches tigers
In red weather.

This poem seems to complain about unimaginative lives (plain white nightgowns), but actually conjures up vivid images in the reader’s mind. Stevens is not easy but well worth the effort.

Webinar Vignettes – Part 4

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Robert Lee Frost was born in California but raised on a farm in New England United States until the age of 10. The New England countryside became Frost’s favorite setting. A charismatic public reader, he was renowned for his tours. He read an original work at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961 that helped spark a national interest in poetry. His popularity is easy to explain: He wrote of traditional farm life, appealing to a nostalgia for the old ways. His themes were universal and immutable– apple picking, stone walls, fences, country roads. His subjects were ordinary people. He was one of the few modern poets who uses rhyme. This endeared him to American readers.

Frost’s work is often deceptively simple. Many poems suggest a deeper meaning. For example, a quiet snowy evening by an almost hypnotic rhyme scheme may suggest the not entirely unwelcome approach of death. Beneath the falling snow and gentle raindrops are pain and unhappiness. Some critics blame Frost’s bitterness on the early years of his marriage when he tried to make a living on an inhospitable New England farm. From: “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” (1923):

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweepOf easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.