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Commentary

Thought Showers?

According to a CNN.com report I saw this morning, officials at Tunbridge Wells council in southern England felt that the term “brainstorming” might offend people with epilepsy, a condition that involves periodic electrical storms inside the brain. As such, the Town Council decided that all representatives should use the term “thought showers” instead.

Really?

Apparently, the British Government decided to take a closer look at the words the government and its councils use from day to day. The result? A list of 100 banned words was released by the Local Government Association (LGA) in the UK.

I did a little digging and discovered that, while most major media are reporting that this list was released just this past Friday, it was actually first released on December 11, 2007: not just this past Friday. The list was released for “National Plain English Day,” one of Britain’s finer additions to the calendar, I’m convinced.

The word “brainstorm,” by the way, is not on the list of banned words. In addition to providing the words, the LGA also included suggestions for alternative choices to these buzzwords. One of my favorites is their suggestion to replace “coterminosity” with “all singing from the same hymn sheet.”

For those of you interested in seeing the entire list, I am making it available to you here.

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Poetry

For some reason I was feeling in a very poetic mood today, and I stumbled upon what I personally think is a pretty amazing – if completely bizarre – poem. It was written by James Joyce and comprises the opening of Chapter 11 of Ulysses.

I think that this poem work particularly well if you read it aloud while playing some soothing music. After all, this poem is meant to setup a series of themes in a musical style. As my friend Cliff says of this poem, “Joyce applies the intricate techniques of musical composition to literature.”

Read more »

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Movies Aren’t What They Used to Be

For at least the past 10 years I have been trying to remember the name of a movie that I remember loving as a child. About all I could remember about it was that it involved some character that walks to a castle and finds a tree, some type of glass key and a glass dome of some sort. Who was the character? I didn’t know. Where was the castle? No idea. What was the tree? Your guess… Who had the key? Yo’ mama. Was the glass dome over the key or the tree? Oooh, good question!

So for the past 10 years I have been trying to remember what the movie was. I could play parts of the movie back in my mind over and over again, and I was constantly amazed at how amazing the film was. But I couldn’t remember how much of what I imagined was real and how much I was making up. I’ve asked several people over the years if they remember what the movie was, but the closest I got was when someone suggested that it might have been “The Dark Crystal.” Considering that I had some vague recollection of a glass key, I thought that perhaps I was remembering a crystal as a key. I was reminded earlier this week about my long-time search when I noticed that “The Dark Crystal” was playing at a local cult movie theater.

So, I didn’t watch Dark Crystal in the theater, but I did watch a trailer for it on my Apple TV. Nope, that wasn’t the movie.

I decided that 10 years was too long not to know what the movie was, so I started a Google search. My search term was: movie glass key tree. The first 10 results didn’t really yield anything, but then I stumbled upon a result with the title, “I can’t find the title of a movie I saw as a kid in the 80s.” YES! This sounds like it could have what I want. Here was the text of the post:

I’m pretty sure it’s live action, but cartoon is possible. It is fantasy, and involved a group of kids (maybe brother/sister) that encountered a palace of some kind, which I believe sat atop a stone peninsula (there is a scene where the kids are travelling along the side of a cliff toward the palace). I believe a witch or evil sorceress lived there. The palace housed a large glass dome, under which a tree bore ‘eternal youth’ fruit (apples or peaches, I think). The dome protects/preserves the tree and is locked with a big golden key. The climax of the film is when the kids get the key, and somehow break the glass. I don’t recall if you see the witch age rapidly, but it’s possible. The kids may or may not have been accompanied by friendly monsters (though I think this may be a mixed memory from ‘my favorite monster’). Any thoughts, comments and details are *greatly* appreciated.

Alright, so this sounds almost identical to what I remembered, save a few details, such as the brother/sister pair. I was very excited at this point, sure that I was going to discover the name of the 1980s gem. Well, I got the name, alright. The film was called “The Hugga Bunch,” and it featured both live action and puppets. The puppets were apparently toys that were popular in the 80s called Huggables, or some such thing. Now these characters live in a land of fantasy where all they do is hug each other and live happily ever after. (Note: I have absolutely zero recollection of these characters in the movie – but there they are.)

I discovered that someone had posted the movie (which seems to be only about 45 minutes long) on YouTube, so I decided to watch it. At first I was convinced that it was a completely different movie. Here was this little girl sad that her grandma was going to be moving away and talking to her dolls and they were talking back. That’s not at all what a I remembered. Then all of a sudden this girl goes through her bedroom mirror and ends up in the land of the hugging dolls! What is that all about? This isn’t the movie I remember.

I skipped ahead and discovered that this was, in fact, the movie I had seen as a child. There was the castle, there was the evil queen, there was the tree under a glass dome and there was that key – that key that had haunted my mind for so many year, the key that unlocked the dome and allowed access to the tree. And best of all, there was the scene where the girl is walking on a sideways sidewalk and she says, “it sure does make your tummy feel curious.” I almost cried when I heard that line. As a child this was one of my favorite things to say. I was constantly talking about how my tummy felt curious – and it was all thanks to this movie.

But, somehow, re-discovering the film was in no way satisfying. In fact, it was depressing. I had such fond memories of this movie from my childhood. I had such a glamorous memory of it, but it turned out to be a silly, simple, ridiculous film with characters that were wholly unbelievable. I partly want to convince myself that I still haven’t found the movie – that this was just some cheap imitation of the real thing – but I know deep down that this isn’t true. I have found that movie that I had loved as a child. It was a film that clearly made an impression on me, enough of an impression that I have been trying for at least the past 10 years to remember what it was. And yet, to see it again has almost caused that little bit of my childhood to die inside me. While I remembered enough of the film to find it via Google, it is still nothing at all like I remember it. One thing is for sure, though – this movie just isn’t what it used to be.

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Don’t stand under that oak tree

So you’re out in the park on a sunny day when, all of a sudden and with no expectation, the sky fills with clouds and a storm erupts. Thunder and lightning are all around you, and the rain is relentless. You see an oak grove and you run for cover. Bad idea! Apparently your friendly oak tree is sixteen times more likely to be hit by lightning than that beech tree twenty feet away. The reason for this is that the oak tree has a vertical root system which brings it closer to groundwater than a beech tree, which has a very expansive, horizontal root system.

By the way, if you’re a man, you are 4 times more likely to be struck by lightning than your female companions. So, with some simple math, we can calculate that if you’re a man under an oak tree you’re 64 times more likely to get hit by lightning than a woman under a beech tree. Good to know.

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Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

So, what do you want to do 3 hours after your wedding? How about make an appearance on a game show where you could win a million dollars? How about showing up in your wedding dress? So, here’s the deal. You’re a high school English teacher and a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Pepperdine University. Three hours ago, you got married and hopped in a limo which took you to… no, not a reception, the TV studio where you are a contestant on the TV show, “Are you Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” Your newlywed husband is sitting in the audience, cheering you on to the million dollars you need to go on your honeymoon.

Let me tell you, I seriously can’t believe that someone who graduated Magna Cum Laude from Pepperdine and teaches high school can be as dense as this woman was.

Her first question: How many adjectives are in the following sentence? On Thursday, Siena had cold lemonade and spicy food for lunch. WHAT? How many adjectives? Oh, I don’t know… seven, maybe? Or is it four? No wait, I really have no idea. What was our brilliant contestant’s response? “Well, cold has to be one and I think spicy is, so two adjective are in the sentence.” Wow! What an amazing intellect! The fact that it took her 40 seconds to answer is hardly impressive.

Question two: True or False? The sum of two odd numbers is always an even number? People, of course the answer to this question is TRUE. How can you not know that? Seriously. But, guess what, she didn’t. She almost messed up when she realized that 2+3=5 (which is odd), but then she decided to go with true because 1+3=4 (which is even). Wow, since when is 2 an odd number? I missed that universe altering change…

Question three: What is the name for a female pig? A. Vixen, B. Mare, C. Sow “I have a gut feeling the answer is C. Sow, but I’m not sure. But gotta go with my gut, so C. Sow.” Guess what, bridey bride, you’re right… but not because you’re all that smart. You graduated from college?

Question 4: The majority of the State of Nevada is located in which time zone? Uh oh! No options on this one… Wow. Guess what, she didn’t know the answer. Thankfully, one of the fifth graders on the show did, and she was able to cheat and get the correct answer: Pacific. Wow. Brilliant. Cheating off a 9 year old.

Question 5: How many centimeters are there in three and a half meters? “I teach in high school, but not math!” What? You’re a freaking ENGLISH TEACHER which means you know how to think about WORDS, which means that you should know that “cent” means HUNDRED! But you don’t know that! Instead, you have to cheat off your 9 year old again, and when you see that she wrote 350, you say, “I think that sounds about right… OK.” Do they purposely choose dumb college grades for this show?

Question 6: What Scottish scientist discovered penicillin in 1928? OK, I will be honest, I didn’t remember the answer to this question, so I can’t give our newly wed bride the hardest of times on this. Sadly, she had used up her two cheats already, so she didn’t have that option. What did she go with? “Alfred Prescott.” Well, NO, that’s wrong. The actual answer is “Alexander Flemming.” Thankfully, this show anticipates stupidity and since her 9 year old classmate had the right answer, she was “saved.”

Question 7: The Danube River is located on which continent? Come on! The beautiful blue Danube is in EUROPE! E-U-R-O-P-E. Not Africa, as the bride thought. Thankfully, rather than guess Africa like an idiot, she “dropped out of school” and took her $50,000 winnings.

I wasn’t aware that there were people who were really quite this unintelligent in the world. OK, so the science question was hard, but the others were easy as apple pie. What would your score have been?

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Welcome to November

It’s November 1, and you know what that means: time for the Christmas music. That is, of course, if you happen to be Starbucks or some radio station in Kansas. For all I know, KOZY in Salt Lake City may have gone all Christmas today, too.
I first noted the Christmas tunes at Starbucks in the grocery store near St. Dominic’s. Granted, they had it mixed in with a few non-holiday tunes, but the fact that they’ve whipped out the Christmas music already suggests something has gone really wrong in America.
Actually, my Starbucks music experience is not the first vestige of Christmas ivw had this year. Believe it or not, the Macy*s near my condo had their Christmas displays up already when I was there in early September! That was almost 4 full months before the actual Christmas holiday.
Don’t get me wrong, I like “stuff.” I don’t really want to get rid of all my material possesions. (I know I’m exhibiting a little greed here.) While I like my “stuff,” at the same time I can’t help but feel that American society has degraded to a point where the meaning of life is now more about how much stuff you have and less about what you’re actually doing in the world. That Christmas has turned primarily into a commercial holiday, where happiness comes in boxes covered in paper and (hopefully) shiny bows, is distressing to me.
The messages we seem to be getting now are along these lines:

  • You’re a bad parent if your child doesn’t have the most presents on the block
  • You’re a bad child if your parents didn’t get you everything on your list
  • Forget about Thanksgiving. We don’t “get” anything out of giving thanks, so why bother

I think we all need to take a really close look at what the holidays mean to us this year.

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NFP vs. Contraception

In light of my previous blog posting which presents a video that ridicules the gift of life, I decided to post these humorous, yet true, videos. These videos take the concept of the Mac vs. PC ads that Apple produces and turn it into Natural Family Planning (NFP) vs. Contraception messages. NB: The claim that couples who practice NFP are far happier than couples who contracept is true – it is not just made for the sake of these videos. More details on this will be posted in God’s Promise soon.


See more of these on YouTube.

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Do we love our children enough?

I ran across this little video on YouTube today. The whole while I was watching it I kept thinking about how great it would be to have a child. I wonder if you’ll be as shocked as I was at the end, then:

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On Lies

Why do people lie? I’m no developmental psychologist, but I suspect that children get into the habit of lying in order to avoid getting into trouble. At some point, Jimmy realizes that he has a choice of what to say when his parents or teachers ask him, “Jimmy, did you break this window?” It probably doesn’t take long for Susie to realize that she gets grounded if she admits to having fingerpainted on the walls of the school. Children also lie to get things they want. For example, little Bobby might want a cookie. When his dad tells him to ask his mother, Bobby probably thinks himself very clever when he says that he already has and that “mom said it was OK.”
It is this second type of lying, I think, that extends into adulthood moreso than lying to stay out of trouble. Not to say that lying to stay out of trouble doesn’t exist – it certainly does – but I think it is less common in adulthood that lying to get what you want. Both of these types of lying share something in common – they are both about me telling someone else something that isn’t true. I know the truth, but I choose to pass on bad information for my own gain.
But with adulthood comes the advent of a new type of lie – lying to oneself. Generally, when we lie, we hope that somehow we won’t get caught. When we lie to ourselves, though, the odds are probably pretty high that we’re going to get caught. What is the benefit of this type of lie? Let’s assume I lie to friend Dan about not having any money because I want him to pay for my lunch. I choose to lie, apparently, because I suspect that what I want (Dan to pay for my lunch) is not what Dan wants. But this doesn’t extend well to lies to the self. I lie to myself because I don’t want the thing that I want? That questions makes no sense, and for good reason – because it makes no sense.
Lying to yourself is perhaps the worst possible lie. Things can only end badly in this situation because either I “find myself out” and my lying self ends up getting the stiff, or I don’t “discover the lie” and my lied-to self gets shafted. Either way, I’m screwed. So why lie to myself? Why?

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The Chocolate Messiah

Those of you who pay attention to the popular media have probably heard about the 6-foot-tall chocolate Jesus Christ that was meant to be displayed in a hotel in New York City beginning today (Palm Sunday). This life-sized figure of Christ was made out of milk chocolate and is said to be anatomically and proportionally correct. The chocolate Jesus is depicted nude.
Alright, now I’m not saying that I think making a naked choco-Christ is an amazing idea that should be replicated around the world, but I also won’t go as far as some quoted in the media who say that this is an assault on Christianity. How is this an assault on Christianity? Because the figure is made out of chocolate? Because the figure is nude? Because it is being shown during Holy Week? I’m really not clear on why people are so insulted by the sculpture, to be honest.
One person, in particular, has spoken out on this issue. His name is William Donohue, and he is the President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Donohue was recently featured on CNN in a video conference with the artist, Cosimo Cavallaro. In the video conference, Donohue accuses the artist of lying about his Christian faith, tells the artist that he should exhibit his art in “some dump down in SoHo,” and calls the artist a loser. I have a serious problem with this. Regardless of whether or not the chocolate Jesus is appropriate, Donohue has stepped way out of line with some of the comments he made about this particular artist. Donohue is the President of the Catholic League – an organization that sets out to defend the civil rights of Catholics in the United States. As one who claims to represent “civil rights” as guided by Catholocism, some of the comments that he has made have assaulted my Catholic sensibilities moreso than a nude Jesus would. (Remember, a nude depiction of Christ is the most historically accurate!)
Donohue, in a news release published on the Catholic League website, is quoted as saying, “All those involved are lucky that angry Christians don’t react the way extremist Muslims do when they’re offended—otherwise they may have more than their heads cut off.” I’m sorry, but this is one of the most appalling things that I think Donohue could have said. Not only is this an unfair stereotyping of Islam, but it could also be construed as a veiled threat. These people should feel lucky that we can’t chop their bodies into pieces? No, Donohue should feel lucky that he hasn’t been ousted from his position as President of the League with comments like that.
It shouldn’t come as much of a shock to my readers when I say that I am a Catholic, and proudly so. As a strong, active Catholic, I feel that Donohue has insulted Catholocism more than Cavallaro, the artist, has. It is not my place to judge, but I truly think that Donohue needs to take a step back and consider his irrational, childish, closed-minded behavior.

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