Friday, September 28, 2012

Various & Sundry, too random to categorize

Sorry I'm so late! Today, I was working on the revisions for Confirm not Conform Adult and came across this great TED talk of Karen Armstrong explaining the Charter for Compassion. There are worse ways to spend 20 minutes.

Anyway...let's see what else I've got here. It's fairly minimal this week. I guess I've been doing other things.

I have found a new blogger that I like a lot: one Lance Mannion by name. This week he had an interesting post proposing that "the object of liberalism is to create more conservatives." It's a fascinating argument, which you'll just have to read for yourself. I'm still pondering how this actually works in real life.

In election news, I was very glad to see Greg Sargent ask Can we please talk about torture?
The executive order banning torture was the very first one signed by Obama, to improve America’s image abroad, explicitly repudiating a major policy of his GOP predecessor. The Romney camp is internally debating whether to rescind that order, which would represent a return to those policies. There are only five weeks until the election, and we still don’t know what Romney will do on an issue with far reaching moral and international implications.
I'll be watching to see if this comes up at any of the presidential debates.

One of the people who played a role in the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act died this week. Jennifer Jaff, who had Crohn's Disease and was an advocate for the chronically ill, wrote an amicus brief in one of the cases brought to the court, arguing against insurance policies denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.
After the Supreme Court ruling, Ms. Jaff told The Hartford Courant: “I live and breathe chronic-illness law, and in my estimation this is the most important civil rights advance for people with chronic illnesses ever. There can never be equality if we can’t get health insurance.”
I can't imagine what it must have felt like to her to see that law upheld before she died. She was 55.

On a completely different note, Peacebang offers some helpful suggestions for cultivating a personal sense of style, something I'm working on. Here's the essence:
Style can be beautiful, pretty, dramatic, shocking, erotic, and many other things. Whatever it is, it is mindful. It is intentional. It is knowing. The stylish person knows a few things: 
1. What they love.
2. What kind of impact they want to create with their apparel, accessories and personal grooming.
3. How to use fashion to communicate their inner vision of who they are.
She then goes on to give some exercises to help you do just that.

Here's someone with a definite personal sense of style. Well, point of view, at any rate.

And with that, I hope you have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Opening Act

You know how I said on Sunday that that wasn't a video of my cat?

Yeah, well, this is a video of my cat.

That sound in the background, incidentally, is the Herbert Lom video from the blog post below.

I promise this is not going to become a cat video blog. Not exclusively anyway.

Obit du jour: Herbert Lom

I was sorry to read that Herbert Lom died, although since he was 95 and died in his sleep, that's not so bad. Lom was Clouseau's supervisor in the Pink Panther movies, and was so wonderful in that role. But he had an interesting life beyond that, starting with escaping from Czechoslovakia ahead of the German invasion, then studying philosophy at Cambridge. He wrote two scholarly books: one on Christopher Marlowe and a novel on Dr. Guillotine. Who knew?

 Still. Let's face it. We want to see the twitching, don't we? I hadn't remembered this scene, but it is brutally funny. Watch and admire. Enjoy.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Unless you want my tomatoes, quit asking for my tithe!

Seeing Father Tim's great post asking for music to put on a Stewardship Soundtrack made me realize I'd better get in quick if I wanted to get this off my chest:

It is just as inaccurate to talk about the Biblical tithe as proof you should give 10 percent of your income to the church as it is to talk about selected passages in Leviticus as proof that homosexuality is a sin.

I ask you: how many times has your church talked about tithing as the Biblical standard of stewardship? And that tithing means you should give 10 percent of your income away? In all that time, has anyone actually ever even shown you the passages where it says that? It was only a couple of years ago that I realized I'd never actually looked at the texts, and since then each year I've only grown more peeved at how we have abused the Bible to, frankly, no good end.

Let's visit our old friend Leviticus, shall we? Here's Leviticus 27:30-32:
All tithes from the land, whether the seed from the ground or the fruit from the tree, are the Lord's; they are holy to the Lord. If person wish to redeem any of their tithes, they must add one-fifth to them. All tithes of herd and flock, every tenth one that passes under the shepherd's staff, shall be holy to the Lord.
Now from Numbers 18:11-13, 21
[The Lord spoke to Aaron:] This also is yours: I have given to you, togther with your sons and daughters, as a perpetual due, whatever is set aside from the gifts of all the elevation offerings of the Israelites; everyone who is clean in your house may eat them. All the best of the oil and all the best of the wine and of the grain, the choice produce that they give to the Lord, I have given to you. The first fruits of all that is in their land, which they bring to the Lord, shall be yours; everyone who is clean in your house may eat of it...To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for a possession in return for the service that they perform, the service in the tent of meeting.
And Deuteronomy 14:22-27
Set apart a tithe of all the yield of your seed that is brought in yearly from the field. In the presence of the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose as a dwelling for his name, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the firstlings of your herd and flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. But if, when the Lord your God has blessed you, the distance is so great that you are unable to transport it, because the place where the Lord your God will choose to set his name is too far away from you, then you may turn it into money. With the money secure in hand, go to the place that the Lord your God will choose; spend the money for whatever you wish—oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or whatever you desire. And you shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your household rejoicing together. As for the Levites resident in your towns, do not neglect them, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you.
Got that? Tithing applies to agricultural products. This is why Jesus talks to the Pharisees about tithing "mint and rue and herbs of all kinds." And if you preferred to do cash instead, well, it cost 20 percent more, according to the Leviticus reading above.

Seriously, can you take those passages above and make a case for saying "This means today that you should give 10 percent of your income to your local parish"? If we are serious about Biblical context for other Old Testament texts, it's rather sloppy of us to say there's an easy equivalence between these texts and the annual pledge drive.

Here's the context: Unless you owned land and had crops and flocks, tithing did not apply to you. What applied to you non-landowner types was offerings.

Take a look at Exodus as an example. In Exodus 25,
The Lord said to Moses: Tell the Israelites to take for me an offering; from all whose hearts prompt them to give you shall receive the offering for me. This is the offering that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, blue, purple, and crimson yarns and fine linen, goats' hair, tanned rams' skins, fine leather, acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones and gems to be set in the ephod and for the breastpiece. And have them make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them.
So here you see that gifts are asked of people--in no particular amount, but for the specific purpose of worship, "from all whose hearts prompt them."

But here's what's particularly interesting to me: in Exodus 36:2-6, we read
Moses then called Bezalel and Oholiab and every skillful one to whom the Lord had given skill, everyone whose heart was stirred to come do the work; and they received from Moses all the free-will offerings that the Israelites had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, so that all the artisans who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task being performed, and said to Moses, "The people are bringing much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do." So Moses gave the command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp: "No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary." So the people were restrained from bringing; for what they had already brought was more than enough to do all the work.
So you've got two kinds of freewill offerings: the offerings of goods, and the offerings of services. And at a certain point, they had enough to do the work God wanted of them. It wasn't a set percentage based on income; it only had to do with the actual ministry and tasks to be performed!

Tithing is a quick and easy short-cut; 10 percent, done. You know you're set with God and the church for the year. But a) should we be bound by Old Testament law in the first place? and b) does setting the tithe as a standard do anything to help us examine either our hearts or understand our ministries? I would argue no, and no.

I feel that using the tithing short-cut actually damages our churches. Tithing sets up a disconnect between stewardship and mission, making giving all about "how much" and not what the gifts are supposed to do. In asking for a tithe, we ask church members to conform to an external standard rather than the more challenging work of coming to terms with God and one's own conscience.  It encourages guilty giving rather than joyful and generous giving. How can we be generous people if all we know is the demand of a certain dollar amount?

I really wish churches would think about stewardship in terms of getting the resources to do mission that stirs people's hearts to give rather than targeting people to commit a particular percentage amount of income to the church. The case for the Biblical tithe is flimsy at best, to begin with. Given that as Christians, we are no longer bound by the Law, it's irresponsible to use the tithe as our standard of giving, even if it weren't applicable to agricultural products.

On the other hand, I do have some zucchini to share.

Various & Sundry: In which I first vent about then calm myself about Mitt Romney

Boy, did Mittens get on my nerves this week. Of course, I'm not the only one, and lots of people had lots of insightful things to say about the leaked Boca Raton fundraiser video, in case anyone is still obsessing interested. Here are some of the things that I thought captured well my feelings of utter disgust some salient points.

Charlie Pierce writes, "when the One Great Scorer comes to write against Romney's name, he's going to be stumped as to whether the man was a bigger jerk than he was an incompetent. There won't be enough whiskey in heaven for the OGS to resolve this, so he'll just fill in the box marked "Both" and move right along."

Jonathan Chait writes, "the video exposes an authentic Romney as a far more sinister character than I had imagined. Here is the sneering plutocrat, fully in thrall to a series of pernicious myths that are at the heart of the mania that has seized his party."

And Ezra Klein writes, "The working poor haven’t abdicated responsibility for their lives. They’re drowning in it."

In the "rather laugh than cry" column, Hitler has a few words to say about the video leak, and John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman profile Empathy Magazine's 2012 Man of the Year award winner in this week's The Bugle podcast.

In the more cheerful world of obituary news, this week we mark the lives of Sister Mary Rose McGeady who resuscitated Covenant House, an organization that helps homeless youth; Joshua Morse III, the dean who integrated Ole Miss law school--in 1963; and Jerome Horwitz who created the AIDS medication AZT, and didn't get a penny for it. Makers not takers, all.

Oh, did I say that out loud?

Deep cleansing breaths.

And if there's one thing that will give me some perspective and empathy, it is reading this beautiful letter by Ted Hughes to his son about the suffering of the child within.
Usually, that child is a wretchedly isolated undeveloped little being. It’s been protected by the efficient armour, it’s never participated in life, it’s never been exposed to living and to managing the person’s affairs, it’s never been given responsibility for taking the brunt. And it’s never properly lived. That’s how it is in almost everybody. And that little creature is sitting there, behind the armour, peering through the slits. And in its own self, it is still unprotected, incapable, inexperienced. Every single person is vulnerable to unexpected defeat in this inmost emotional self.
Followed by The Maccabeats who have taught me everything I now know about Rosh Hashanah. Be sure to check out the lyrics on their YouTube channel.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Who do YOU think leaked the Mitt Romney tape?

Could it have been...Eddie Murphy?

10 things I've learned from working at the winery

As of this week, I will have worked at Hendry Winery for one full year, which I find hard to believe. I thought I'd mark the occasion by sharing some things I've learned from working there, some wine-related and many not.

Pinot Gris grapes can change from white to red!
1. Wine grapes are intensely sweet. Much sweeter than table grapes. I hadn't realized that, but it makes sense when you realize that the sugar in the grapes is what turns into alcohol.

2. Visa cards always start with a 4. And Master Cards always start with a 5. And AmEx always starts with a 3. I don't know what Discover always starts with because no one ever tries to use a Discover card.

3. Leave your phone number twice. I can't tell you how helpful it is when you're picking up messages to have the phone number twice. It helps you catch up with the numbers on the message. You can also double-check that you got the phone number right.

4. If someone doesn't call you back, it is likely they couldn't hear your phone number. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to not be able to call back a potential visitor because I couldn't hear the friggin' number! We want you to visit, really! We're not blowing you off!

5. Sometimes it's worth ignoring the "by appointment only" sign. As much as it pains me to admit this, because it's very disruptive to go out and deal with people who drop in, there is sometimes a chance that you'll get what you want. This goes along with the "just because someone doesn't call you back doesn't mean they're not interested." Persistence has its virtues.

6. No still means no. At the same time, if you show up without an appointment to a place that's "by appointment only" and the person says, "I'm sorry, there's no more room today," you know what? That means there's no more room today. We are not in the habit of turning people away for fun. We actually like having customers, you know. I really don't care that it's "just two people;" the tour is full.

7. Bottlecaps really are better. For many wines, anyway. Bottlecaps are actually going to be better because air won't get into the bottle. Oxidation can allow wine to be "corked," which I will explain below.

8. "Corked" wine has a wet newspaper taste. Or so I'm told. A "corked" wine, or "cork taint," is a wine affected by TCA or tricholoroanisole. (I looked that up.) At the winery, when a "corked" wine gets opened in the tasting room, it's added to the tasting as a way to help people understand what that tastes like so they don't drink bad wines. Folks keep trying to help me taste it too, so far with limited success. "It has a musty, dank smell, like old newspapers," they tell me. I haven't been able to sense it yet. Angela very kindly told me it took her a while too.

9. People taste different wines differently. Because people have different taste receptors. Some are particularly sensitive to bitter tastes so wines with high tannins (aka red wines) will be unpleasant. Not liking a highly rated wine is not a sign of moral failing. If you like it, drink it.

10. Wow, is making wine a complicated business! It's expensive, time-consuming, complex, weather-dependent, market-dependent, and just plain hard work. Enjoy that glass of wine. A lot more went into it than you know.

OK, I'm off to work!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday Funnies, September 16 Quote of the Day

A friend of mine is a child and family therapist and posted these wise words from a 10-year-old client on Facebook.
"The thing is, about this therapy always seems to come back to Me. I guess, I'd hoped it would be more about changing other people." 
Don't we all.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Various & Sundry, now with 82% more snark!

Just a few tidbits for you this week, which is probably just as well after the deluge of links a week ago.

First of all, $26.99 seems a mite steep for a collection of theologian trading cards. I don't believe they even come with gum. Still, for geekery alone, they are compelling. Behold the description:
Patterned after the all-American baseball card, Theologian Trading Cards provide essential information about the major teachers, leaders, and trouble-makers throughout the history of the church, including the time they lived, their contribution to the church, major significance, and the location where they lived.
Start saving your pennies; they don't come out until November.

On the Art of Non-Conformity blog, Chris Guillebeau gives excellent advice on How to Be Unhappy. Meanwhile The Lark described what happens when a man starts a church for jerks.

To round out this segment of our broadcast, Father Tim asks the perennial question, Is Snark Unchristian? Given that he and few other ne'er-do-wells on Twitter have now established #Snarktoberfest, I believe it is safe to say the answer...depends on what you think of Tim as a human being.

Finally, the obituary for Nicole, Duchess of Bedford reads like a romance adventure novel. Until you get to the end. But let's focus on the happy times, shall we?
Nicole, Duchess of Bedford, who has died in Monte Carlo aged 92, was the third wife of Ian, 13th Duke of Bedford. From 1959, when the press first seized on the story of their romance, until their sudden departure to France in 1974, the Bedfords were seldom out of the news, flamboyantly leading the stately home business as they promoted Woburn Abbey all over the world.
And don't forget her part in the French Resistance: "she conveyed messages and sometimes machine-gun parts past the German occupiers, occasionally using her children’s pram."

A technique to remember.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Obit du jour: Dr. Ruth Etchells

Let us take a moment to celebrate the life of the remarkable Dr. Ruth Etchells, former Principal of St. John's College with Cranmer Hall, Durham. Take it away, Telegraph:
A kind, humane person, she was endowed with considerable pastoral skill and as capable of setting a shy student at ease as she was in dealing with a bishop. A special gift for friendship widely extended her influence.

These gifts were no less valuable when she became Principal of St John’s. Women had still to be admitted to the college, and the male ordinands were unaccustomed to having a woman as their head; she soon won their confidence. Another five years would pass before women could be ordained to the priesthood, but admission to the diaconate became possible in 1987 and candidates for this office were admitted for training. She spoke powerfully in the 1992 General Synod debate when the admission of women to the priesthood was authorised.
The obit in the Guardian calls her "the best female bishop we never had."

It would be nice if the Church of England could take its head out of its collective ass--oh, excuse me, "arse"--so it could actually have some of these women bishops instead of eulogizing them once they're dead.

Although I have to think she was probably better off never needing to wear the purple.

Still, the principal of a college has got to have a high degree of tolerance for bureaucratic indifference and administrative tedium. And it would have been wonderful if she'd had the friggin' option!

Deep breath.

In calmer news, I love that she called ordinands "my lambs."

I'll have to check out some of her books. She wrote several books of prayers along with her scholarship. This is the only prayer of hers I could find in a Google search:
Father of all…, make the roof of my house wide enough for all opinions, oil the door of my house so it opens easily to friend and stranger, and set such a table in my house that my whole family may speak kindly and freely around it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On the 11th anniversary of 9/11

I woke up this morning with the song Englishman In New York in my head. One line in particular kept coming back to me, "Be yourself, no matter what they say."

I didn't even know I knew the lyrics. In fact, I went back to check them and make sure I wasn't making that up. And there they were, but it's the line before that got me:

It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself no matter what they say

In my email today, the daily article from Obit Magazine suggested I go to what they called an exquisite web-based 9/11 memorial. The Make History page of the National 9/11 Memorial is soliciting stories from people's experiences of 9/11. I have to admit, I didn't even look further than the opening page.

On her blog today, Brene Brown writes that her 9/11 tradition is to buy a couple dozen petit fours and drop them off at a local fire station with a note that simply says, "We appreciate you." She writes,
I started my research right before 9/11 and if there's one thing I've learned over the past decade, it's this: We're still in a lot of fear and pain about the events that took place that day and how they marked a huge change in our world. I also learned that the best way to overcome fear and to heal hurt is by practicing gratitude and kindness.

In this big, loud, anxious world, the small things matter so much.
I'm not sure why this year's commemoration of 9/11 seems particularly tender to me. Perhaps because it's a Tuesday, and that was a Tuesday. Perhaps it was realizing that the youth going through the confirmation program I worked to develop are not going to have any memories of that day. Perhaps it's simply because it's a quiet morning and I can allow myself to sit and think and feel, and there they are, thoughts and feelings, looking for a little attention.

And so I'm going to allow myself to feel tender, despite the voice in my head that says, "why is this troubling you? Why aren't you over it? How did this really affect you?" I'll suffer the voices' ignorance and smile. My tenderness is my own, whether it should be there or not. I'm grateful for the chance to sit in silence and reflect.

Be kind to one another today. And every day.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Funnies, September 9

I don't know why I keep posting Star Wars stuff. I'm not that huge a fan. But I love these WPA-style posters for a galaxy far, far away. More here.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Garden Update, September 2012



More dahlias!


Ummm...a mess!

A zucchini! (Or perhaps a green, legless puppy)

A pepper!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Various & Sundry: Patriotic Food, as women bring home the bacon and Alan drinks his tea

Well, I'm not done with all the work I set for myself today, but I crossed a good chunk off my to-do list and I've hit a wall on the lesson I'm revising for CnC Adult, so I'm taking a break to write another blog post of odds and ends goodness before taking the dogs for a walk. Ready? Here you go:

Let's start with bacon. September 1, as I'm sure you know, is International Bacon Day and to celebrate, Archie McPhee posted this 1901 essay on the patriotic nature of American Bacon. "Without bacon, this superbly flourishing domain would in all probability be a howling wilderness at the present moment," it explains.

Let's follow this up with some patriotic ale. I'm pleased to report that, in response to an on-line petition, the White House has released the recipe for its Honey Brown Ale, reportedly the first alcohol brewed or distilled on the White House grounds. Kegger at Obama's!

And while we're talking about food and politics, I'd like to point out the article headlined Canadian Thieves Pull Off  Big Maple-Syrup Heist. Note the lead (emphasis mine):
TORONTO—Sticky-fingered thieves made off with as much as 30 million Canadian dollars (US$30.4 million) worth of maple syrup from a little-known strategic reserve in rural Quebec—leaving authorities to investigate just how much is missing and where it has gone.
Yes, my friends, if they can tap Canada's strategic maple syrup reserve, America's bacon is next! Be alert!

On a less frivolous note (not that there's anything frivolous about maple syrup), PeaceBang explores the "woeful undercompensation" of new clergy
For too long, ministers have jumped with joy at the very notion of getting a pulpit. It’s time to partner more respectfully and professionally with our churches, to negotiate ethical compensation packages and to nicely inform underpaying, over-demanding congregations that you’ll work X amount of hours or weeks for what they’re able to offer. Be clear about that hours, and keep them firm. Then get a second job at someplace local and interesting, tutoring or teaching or making coffee or selling books. The church won’t get into the cozy habit of exploiting clergy and you’ll get to hold a healthy boundary around your professional obligations to them, while staying in touch with non-parish sources of income.
Preach on, PeaceBang.

Tangentially related, I'm interested in the new book The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povitch, coming out next Monday, that describes the fight of the women at Newsweek over the opportunity to become writers and reporters. The New York Times has a good write up about it.

Meanwhile, Hanna Rosin, author of the new book The End of Men, also coming out next week, thoughtfully answers the question Why are boys doing so badly?

And then, to finish with a cup of tea, please settle in for seven minutes of Alan Rickman intensity. Oh, I do love this.

Or you can watch it in real time, which is 11 seconds.

Various & Sundry: The Political Edition

I'll be doing 2 V&S posts today (depending on how much work I get done--it may be tomorrow for the second one). Here for you political junkies are the various posts I've seen during the political conventions that I thought were most interesting.

First of all, if you've ever wondered what it was like to be on one of those Sunday morning political shows, you should read Dan Drezner's Diary of a Wimpy Sunday Morning Pundit. Actually, you should read it anyway because it is hilarious.

Responding to the Republican National Convention, Lance Mannion writes about a Nation of little would-be Mitts on the make and Ta-Nehisi Coates sees something different in the chair that Clint Eastwood addressed.

Responding to the Democratic National Convention, aribundel shares How to Wear Pink High Heels.

Responding to how people respond, Scientific American looks at the Unconscious Reactions that Separate Liberals and Conservatives.

And finally, in case you missed it last night, The Onion shares highlights of President Obama's speech. Screenshot below:

Isn't that what you heard?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The conventions of rhetoric: Bill Clinton's seductive speech

Leaving aside politics for a moment as best I can (probably "not very"), I wanted to talk a little bit about the rhetoric being used at the two political conventions before the last speeches tonight, in hopes of keeping an eye/ear out for them.

I wish I were an expert at rhetoric instead of merely an interested observer, and a fairly ill-informed one at that. But let me explain that what I mean by rhetoric is the classic dictionary definition: the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing.

In fact, I think saying "inflammatory rhetoric" or "divisive rhetoric" is an inaccurate use of the word. Mostly, I'm interested in what makes speeches (and sermons) persuasive. If all you're able to do is confirm the previously held beliefs of your listeners, you are not good at rhetoric. Good rhetoric changes people's minds, or at least opens them to new perspectives.

That's what I found so compelling about Bill Clinton's speech last night. It was designed to persuade. It was, dare I say, seductive.

If you look at the transcript, you'll see how he pulled listeners in deeper and deeper, and how very geared this was towards Republicans and undecideds.

He starts by talking about how grateful he was to Eisenhower, Reagan, and both Presidents Bush. He told listeners that Democrats are not always right ("nobody's right all the time and a broken clock is right twice a day"). He explained how Republicans devour their own who disagree with them. And he showed how Obama included Republicans--and former competitors--in his cabinet. That "Heck, he even included Hillary" line? That's an implicit, "Boy, do I understand that you didn't get the person you wanted to be president." All of this sets him up in the listener's ears as a friend and ally, not foe. It softens the listener up to receive the arguments that follow.

[an aside: look at how often he says "grateful" at the beginning of the speech. That is a modest word, putting him in the one-down position, a receiver of good things.]

His next move is to point out the good things about the Republicans and what they said at the previous week's convention:
They looked good, they sounded good. They convinced me that they all love their families and their children, and we're grateful they've been born in America, and all -- really, I'm not being -- they did. And this is important. They convinced me they were honorable people who believe what they've said and they're going to keep every commitment they've made.
Note the "really, I'm not being..."  First of all, if you saw it, that little phrase came across as (and I think it was) an unscripted remark--responding to the reaction of the crowd at that moment. (Update: That whole thing about how they love their families was ad libbed.) That's a good public speaker: able to take in the crowd's reactions and incorporate it into the moment. Secondly, what's the word after "being"? Sarcastic? Disingenuous? Dishonest? That, my friends, is a brilliant public speaker who can in the instant leave the perfect gap for listeners to fill in.

Note too how he repeated his point in new words: "They convinced me" and again with the positive take-away "they were honorable people who believe what they've said and they're going to keep every commitment they've made."

HERE IS THE KEY TURNING POINT IN THE SPEECH--do you remember what he said next? Here it is:

"We've just got to make sure the American people know what those commitments are."

That is the turn. He's made nice, he's gotten people to believe he is a fair actor, he has been reasonable, grateful, friendly, and sincere. And now he is going to spend a great deal of time unpacking the policies set forth during the Republican convention.

Note the "we." It's not "I've got to make sure." He has seduced you, hasn't he? He's brought you right in next to him. Up until this moment it was "I want to nominate," "I'm grateful," "Did you watch the convention? I did." And now it's "We" and you're right there next to him.

I won't go through the rest, though it's also fascinating. But for anyone in a public speaking role, please note how much time Clinton spent getting the crowd on his side--and that the crowd includes people who detest him. You can't just make your case and expect people to agree with you. Woo them, people. Use your words.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Review: The Descendents, movie and book

I watched the movie version of The Descendents on the flight out to Hawaii, and I finished reading the book version while I was there, and they were both lovely.

As a general rule, I think it's easier if you watch the movie version of any movie-book combination first. That way you're not disappointed at the changes that are made and you can simply watch the movie as a movie. I set this general rule after being crushed by the movie version of The English Patient--completely unacceptable.

Anyway: The Descendents is a family drama about the King family in the midst of some major decisions. It's a Hawaii movie about people who actually live in Hawaii with all that a normal life involves: family, conflict, tough decisions, small triumphs, the possibility of error. I don't want to give away too much because if you choose either the book or the movie, I think you'll enjoy it a great deal if you let it unfold around you and don't know what to expect. I know the chances that you don't know what the plot is are slim, but still. I thought I'd give you the option.

I liked the movie a lot. I didn't love it, but I liked it. I thought the two girls playing the daughters were particularly terrific, not that I have any problems with George Clooney. Nope. No problem at all. I also loved seeing Robert Forster as Clooney's character's father-in-law, though I wish I could see him cast as Clooney's father in some movie or another; they look like they could be father and son. There were a few moments when I felt like they were trying too hard for the Big Moment, but overall I thought the performances were tender and touching.

I loved the novel. Written by Kaui Hart Hemmings, the novel is told entirely from the point-of-view of the father, Matt King. The movie stayed quite true to the novel, though there were some understandable changes in details and nuance; the younger daughter, for example, wears a T-shirt that says "Mrs. Clooney" which never made it to the screen.

One thing I appreciated about the novel is its simplicity in the telling. It doesn't work hard to be a Literary Novel with a Capital L. The language is straightforward, clean, and lovely. And the language makes sense for the narrator himself: decent, confused, intelligent but not academic, not terribly good at emotion, and a devoted father.

Here's an example of what I mean, as the narrator describes carrying his drunk teenage daughter to bed:
She is so heavy, her limbs seemingly drenched. I strain to get her to her room. I could stop and let her sleep on the sofa in the den, but I want her to sleep in her old bed, which used to be my bed, and part of me enjoys carrying her, the way she's curled into my chest like a baby. 
The most complicated and non-literal word in that paragraph is "drenched," but it's still so beautiful.

If you're going to do one or the other, I suggest reading the book, but truly, both are worth your time. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

If you teach someone to think critically, maybe they'll understand that "fish" is a metaphor

Found on Facebook. Of course.

Oh for God's sake.

Nice use of the singular they, however, as she damns with the faintest of praise.

Sunday Funnies, September 2

So I'm back from Hawaii. *sigh* and though I'd like to post something related to a  post-vacation let-down, really I think you should just spend most of your Labor Day weekend reading the Dogshaming Tumblr.

Here's one example: Insult to Injury


It's a tremendously reassuring blog, I have to say.