Notes and Quotes 2017-2018

Arts and Entertainment

Nordlinger, What Does It Mean For Art To Be “Relevant”? 

From Symphonies to Sonatas, Favorite Haydn Recordings

Burning Cole: On “Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Where Are Conservatives in the Arts?

“Supreme arbiter and lawgiver of music, a master comparable in greatness of stature with Aristotle in philosophy and Leonardo da Vinci in art.” No overstatement whatsoever attaches to this, the opening of the entry for Johann Sebastian Bach in Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. So vast and stunning is his achievement that Beethoven believed him misnamed: Playing on the German word Bach (brook), he said that the composer should, instead, be called Meer (ocean). —source










Why American Students Haven’t Gotten Better at Reading in 20 Years

What happened when I made my students turn off their phones

Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound


The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone

Why Senior Faculty Should Teach First-Year Students

“Despite being immensely popular―and immensely lucrative―education is grossly overrated. In this explosive book, Bryan Caplan argues that the primary function of education is not to enhance students’ skill but to certify their intelligence, work ethic, and conformity―in other words, to signal the qualities of a good employee. Learn why students hunt for easy As and casually forget most of what they learn after the final exam, why decades of growing access to education have not resulted in better jobs for the average worker but instead in runaway credential inflation, how employers reward workers for costly schooling they rarely if ever use, and why cutting education spending is the best remedy. Caplan draws on the latest social science to show how the labor market values grades over knowledge, and why the more education your rivals have, the more you need to impress employers. He explains why graduation is our society’s top conformity signal, and why even the most useless degrees can certify employability. He advocates two major policy responses. The first is educational austerity. Government needs to sharply cut education funding to curb this wasteful rat race. The second is more vocational education, because practical skills are more socially valuable than teaching students how to outshine their peers. Romantic notions about education being ‘good for the soul’ must yield to careful research and common sense―The Case against Education points the way.”    source


This won’t be news to anyone who teaches for a living, but recent research at the Reading Center of University of Stavanger in Norway shows that people who read words on paper remember them better than those who read words on a screen

Mark Bauerlein interviews Camille Paglia on teaching







Godfrey Elfwick on Titania McGrath

A Millennial Reviews

The second-worst poet in English, by Anthony Daniels

7 Brilliantly Useless Websites You Won’t Believe Exist


End of Semester Bingo

Dave Barry: 2017 Year in Review

Dan Brown is a very bad writer




Language and Literature

32 of the most beautiful words in the English language

Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell on why we need libraries – an essay in pictures

Browsing the Stacks: A Photo Appreciation of Libraries

Joseph Epstein, “The Bookish Life”

100 best books of the 21st century…so far

Barack Obama’s book recommendations

Five Reasons To Keep Track of Every Single Book You Read

Long ago I wrote off Christopher Tolkien as a mere slug riding on his father’s legendary coat tails, but this amazing article showed me how very wrong I was.

Poem: “The Tanager,” by Billy Collins

If only I had not listened to the piece
on the morning radio about the former asylum
whose inmates were kept busy
at wooden benches in a workshop
making leather collars and wristbands
that would later be used to restrain them.
And if only that had not reminded me,
as I stood facing the bathroom mirror,
of the new state prison whose bricks had been set
by prisoners trucked in from the old prison,
how sweet and free of static my walk
would have been along the upland trail.

Nothing to spoil the purity of the ascent—
the early sun, wafer-white,
breaking over the jagged crest of that ridge,
a bird with a bright-orange chest
flitting from branch to branch with its mate,
and a solitary coyote that stopped in its tracks
to regard me, then moved on.
Plus the cottonwood fluff snowing sideways
and after I stood still for a while,
the coyote appearing again in the distance
before vanishing in the scrub for good.
That’s the kind of walk it might have been.

The Hedonism of Reading Good Books

100-year-old Reviews of Classic Books by An Inmate at Sing-Sing

Mark Athitakis (newsletter #2) on Ove Knausgaard:

If you do want to give Knausgaard a try, a few tips.

1. Give My Struggle a hundred pages. Every book teaches you how to read it, and each author works at a different pace to establish style, theme, and so on. You can grok what James Patterson is up to within five pages, Henry James in 25, Toni Morrison in 50. I suggest giving My Struggle 100 pages not because he’s more complicated than James or Morrison but because his goal is to stretch out experience, to better evoke the feeling of living in it. That means it can take a while for him to flesh out a scene, and that’s the ding on him—his language is unlovely, quotidian, etc. If you love carefully crafted, gemlike sentences, he’s not your guy. He’s sawing planks, not hand-crafting armoires. But I’ve rarely found My Struggle slow or wasteful; give him the space to work and he can be one of the more powerfully immersive writers you read.

2. Those 100 pages shouldn’t be the first 100 pages of Book One. The defining element of My Struggle is its avoidance of prettified, figurative language, but the series opens with Knausgaard trying to figure out how to get into his narrative, which means he leans on those old familiars, making the opening pages feel labored. Luckily, you can start pretty much anywhere with Knausgaard, because the plot is effectively the same in each book—man lives in constant fear of becoming his father. I started with Book Three, a magnificent portrait of the tweenage boydom. (Book Six might be less seductive, being in large part a kind of metacommentary on the previous five, but what might generally be called “the Hitler stuff” is worthwhile, so you do you.)

3. Try Spring instead. Knausgaard’s “four seasons” books are generally easygoing observational essay collections on everything from plants to household gadgets to, yes, dogs. Spring is something of an outlier, billed as fiction and with the same kind of characterizations and style of My Struggle, addressing his concerns about being a husband and father at a smaller scale. If “My Struggle” feels like a double black diamond run, Spring is a bunny slope, but it’s no less emotionally potent.

Mark Athitakis (newsletter #1):

Everybody has daily reading goals, right? A few years back I began to feel exhausted with the stack of new books I was obligated to read for review and prize-judging duties. So I came up with a fix: Read more. Read something not-new every day, just 20-25 pages or so. It didn’t make my TBR stack any shorter, but it’s the smartest thing I’ve ever done as a reader: It’s how I got through Middlemarch, Anna Karenina, The Last Samurai, and more. My current not-new reading is Barbara W. Tuchman’s 1984 book, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. Doorstop histories aren’t usually my thing, but it was strongly recommended by two readers I respect, and she writes with admirable precision and an eye toward connections between our brutish past and brutish present.

She was inspired to write about the medieval era, she explains, due to its echoes of the WWI era—-plague, war, Christian ideals taking it in the teeth. But what mostly comes off the page is the sense that humanity’s station has always been degraded, in every era—-it is at once dispiriting and fascinating to read about pervasive anti-Semitism and institutional greed. So I’ve been taking a kind of comfort in the passages where I can tell myself, hey, at least we’re not that bad. To wit:

In village games, players with hands tied behind them competed to kill a cat nailed to a post by battering it to death with their heads, at the risk of cheeks ripped open or eyes scratched out by the frantic animal’s claws. Trumpets enhanced the excitement. Or a pig enclosed in a wide pen was chased by men with clubs to the laughter of spectators as he ran squealing from the blows until beaten lifeless. Accustomed in their own lives to physical hardship and injury, medieval men and women were not necessarily repelled by the spectacle of pain, but rather enjoyed it. The citizens of Mons bought a condemned criminal from a neighboring town so that they should have the pleasure of seeing him quartered. It may be that untender medieval infancy produced adults who valued others no more than they had been valued in their own formative years.

Arthur Henry King’s “Reading List For a Lifetime

Poem: Robert Hedin, “Owls

Owls glide off the thin
Wrists of the night,
And using snow for their feathers
Drift down on either side
Of the wind.

I spot them
As I camp along the ridge,
Glistening over the streambeds,
Their eyes small rooms
Lit by stone lamps.

Robyn Sarah’s Exquisitely Untrendy Poetry

London Review of Books on Hugo’s Les Miserables

For Centuries, Readers Annotated Books With Tiny Drawings of Hands

“The shaky writing of the 13th-century annotator known as the Tremulous Hand, who is believed to have made as many as 50,000 notes on Old English manuscripts in an attempt to make them comprehensible to later readers, is revealed in all its wobbly glory by a new project from the British Library.”

How the Alphabet Was Born from Hieroglyphs

7 Sentences That Sound Crazy But Are Still Grammatical

Milton’s blinding reading list

“My class meets for an hour at ten thirty every morning, and as I labor to decipher our daily Wheelockian pronouncements, I remember why I loved Latin to begin with. Each sentence is a little puzzle, a Rubik’s Cube of words to be rearranged into their proper order based on arcane rules and hidden clues. There’s a creative thrill, too, in the task of transforming Latin into English…More than anything, though, I love Latin because it has nothing to do with me. It has nothing to do with anything in my life. Classics evangelists who argue for the practical utility of Latin, its historical significance and English vocabulary-building potential, are profoundly missing the point: Latin is fun because all its native speakers are dead and will never have to meet you.”   source

My Sammelband has Frisket-Bite: A Short Glossary of Delightful Library Terms

People Share Their Best Bite-Sized Horror Stories, And They’re Terrifying


Poem: Donald Hall, “An Old Life

Snow fell in the night.
At five-fifteen I woke to a bluish
mounded softness where
the Honda was. Cat fed and coffee made,
I broomed snow off the car
and drove to the Kearsarge Mini-Mart
before Amy opened
to yank my Globe out of the bundle.
Back, I set my cup of coffee
beside Jane, still half-asleep,
murmuring stuporous
thanks in the aquamarine morning.
Then I sat in my blue chair
with blueberry bagels and strong
black coffee reading news,
the obits, the comics, and the sports.
Carrying my cup twenty feet,
I sat myself at the desk
for this day’s lifelong
engagement with the one task and desire.




Living Well

Fascinating profile with ideas from polymath David Gelernter



2018: The Year in Volcanic Activity

2018 Royal Society Photography Winners

100 best articles from 2017

On an old man taking walks: “Many write about walking as pilgrimage, as a stepping out into the unknown, a voyaging away from home and hearth. Like J.R.R. Tolkien’s protagonist Bilbo Baggins, we see the road as an invitation into strangeness and foreign territory, a means to adventure and change. Kierkegaard roamed the streets of Copenhagen, Dickens trekked through London, Whitman patrolled the streets of New York, and Rousseau rambled through Paris. These thinkers and literary men saw something exotic and freeing in the city streets. Walking, for them, was an individualistic and artistic endeavor. But Grandpa’s walking was neither of these things. He followed the same paths, past the same homes and shops, for decades. His walking was not a reveling in new turf or strange faces, but rather a ritual of commitment to the same earth, brick, and human components of place.”  —source

Surrounded by Books

The 25 Golden Rules of Running

The 1911 Heat Wave Was So Deadly It Drove People Insane

Another major difficulty that arises when thinking about which TV shows will last and be of interest to future generations is their length. Take, for instance, The Wire. A relatively compact series at 60 episodes over five seasons, the show would take about two-and-a-half days to watch from start to finish, assuming one forgoes sleep. Of course, no one who is employed (and no one who has a family) really binges like that; at two episodes a day, you can get through the whole thing in a month. That’s still a heavy commitment; two months, frankly, seems likelier. But what else could you have done with those 60 hours? According to, which measured my reading pace to be a glacial 259 words per minute, I could finish War and Peace (21 hours and 15 minutes), Don Quixote (16 hours and 16 minutes), Moby-Dick (12 hours and 36 minutes), and still have plenty of time to squeeze in Crime and Punishment (7 hours and 3 minutes). Alternatively, I could read much of Kingsley Amis’s and Graham Greene’s fiction—the stuff worth reading, anyway—in roughly the same span of time.

What about movies? With 60 hours, you could watch the entirety of Stanley Kubrick’s oeuvre—and then watch it again to pick up on all the nuances you missed the first time around. You could watch the first 27 entries on the American Film Institute’s 100 greatest American films of all time (more, if you skipped some of the lengthier, plodding works like Gone with the Wind). You could watch the last quarter-century or so of films to win Best Picture at the Oscars. You could take a tour through world cinema, watching the best of Akira Kurosawa and François Truffaut and Lindsay Anderson and Michelangelo Antonioni.

You could undertake any of those horizon-expanding artistic adventures—or you could watch one program that ran for a few years on HBO.  –source

O, Brave Old World! Conquering age through curiosity (Dalrymple)

The Tail End: visualizing how much time we have left

I tend to be skeptical of “life hacks.” It’s rare that we can use simple tricks make a major life change. But there’s nothing wrong with small life improvements. And using the Ratchet Principle I outlined in Masc #6, if you are continuously making small, incremental improvements over time, it will ultimately turn into real change.

So today I want to share some small things I do in my home in case you find them useful for yourself.  In return I’m asking you to email me any similar kinds of household habits you have.  I might want to use them myself. Also, if people send them to me, I will edit, anonymize, and compile them and send them out to everybody in a future issue so we can all benefit from each other’s discoveries.

To start off, here are some of my household habits.

1. Family Verse.  I took this idea from my friend Dwight. Every week his family recites their family verse at Sunday dinner. Not only did I take his idea, I took his verse. It’s Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” My in-laws also have a framed picture of this verse at their bedside.  I haven’t done something like that yet, but might well in the future.

2. Fishbowl Prayers. I have tried to make a point of adding some type of intercessory prayer at meals to make sure we make a habit of focusing outwardly as a family towards other people’s needs. I don’t do it 100% of the time because a) I’m generally ravenously hungry and b) I can’t often think of things to pray for on the spot. I read a story about a pastor – I think it was Russell Moore – who figured out an easy way to handle this by keeping a fishbowl of business cards of other pastors in the kitchen. At meals they pull one out at random and pray for that guy. I don’t personally have a fishbowl yet, but I can see the value in it to help further institutionalize our intercessory prayer habit.

3. Friday Fasting. My family fasts from meat on Fridays. No, I’m not Catholic. But it’s a practice I think makes a lot of sense for Protestants too, which is why I’m including it here. Why? First, it established a corporate family fast. It’s something we can all do together, even our 1yo, any of us who are sick, etc. Second, many Christians around the world do still fast from meat on Friday, so there’s also a greater sense of corporate fasting as the body of Christ. Third, the practice of fasting on Fridays is ancient. Why reinvent the wheel when there’s something we can do that Christians have always done? We’ve been very good at keeping this fast, though it isn’t fully meeting my expectations yet in terms of focusing our minds on the things of God. So I plan to make some tweaks – remember the ratchet. Note: we don’t refuse offers of hospitality in order to keep this fast. So if a family invites us over to their home on a Friday for a cookout or something, we are happy to accept.

4. Honor Thy Father.  I’m especially interested in ways that families can show honor to fathers.  There are obvious ones like having Dad sit at the head of the table, or say grace at meals. But my wife’s family had a rule when she was growing up that nobody could read the newspaper until Dad had read the paper. I’m still a newspaper addict, so I thought this was a great rule and have instituted it for our home.

5. Thanks Log.  I started keeping a “thanks log” in 2014. Whenever something good happens in my life, I try to just append a dated bullet point about it in an MS-Word document.  I don’t have to do everything as I don’t want to make this a huge chore or burden, but I end up including a substantial amount of stuff – maybe 3-5 things per week. It’s amazing the sheer number of things that go right in our lives on a daily basis that we don’t really remember or take stock of. Re-reading some of these periodically always helps keep me in a thankful and humble frame of mind.

None of these is earth shattering or totally unique I know. That’s the point. They are just simple, small habits. But there’s no reason not to do small things as well as large ones.     –Aaron Renn, The Masculinist #27

Majestic Mountain Views From Around the World

In pictures: Scotland’s far north

“Dark matter is as tangible as stars and planets to most astronomers. We routinely map it out. We conceive of galaxies as lumps of dark matter with dabs of luminous material. We understand the formation of cosmic structure, as well as the evolution of the universe as a whole, in terms of dark matter. Yet a decade of sophisticated searches has failed to detect the material directly. We see the shadow it casts, but are completely unaware of what the dark side of the universe may contain.”     –source




Politics and Society

Today’s teens are radically different from the teens of previous generations. They don’t care as much about freedom, take fewer risks, and live almost entirely online, which is making them “seriously unhappy”:
“One day last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a 13-year-old who lives in Houston, Texas. She answered her phone—she’s had an iPhone since she was 11—sounding as if she’d just woken up. We chatted about her favorite songs and TV shows, and I asked her what she likes to do with her friends. ‘We go to the mall,’ she said. ‘Do your parents drop you off?,’ I asked, recalling my own middle-school days, in the 1980s, when I’d enjoy a few parent-free hours shopping with my friends. ‘No—I go with my family,’ she replied. ‘We’ll go with my mom and brothers and walk a little behind them. I just have to tell my mom where we’re going. I have to check in every hour or every 30 minutes.’
“Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned. Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. ‘It’s good blackmail,’ Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. ‘We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.’  –source

The Trans Women Who Become Lesbians After Years As Gay Men

On the despair epidemic: Drug overdoses and suicide fuel drop is U.S. life expectancy


“Kirk wasn’t interested in defending a party agenda. He wanted to promote a cast of mind. In a 1963 letter to Jerry Pournelle, who would later make his mark as an author of science fiction, Kirk wrote, ‘There remains in this country a large body of support for an imaginative conservatism. Though the odds are against us, we may succeed in saving a good deal from the wreck of the modern world; and, as Henry Adams like to say in his mordant way, “The fun is in the process.”’ He sought to cultivate a moral imagination that allows us to see the world not only from the perspective of others but also from the standpoint of the past and the future. He had no grand plans of social regeneration, no aspirations for universal dominion. ‘“Politics is the art of the possible,” the conservative says: he thinks of political policies as intended to preserve order, justice, and freedom.’

“Above all, Russell Kirk reminded the world of what Edmund Burke described as the ‘partnership’ that exists ‘not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.’ He brought attention to what his friend and hero T.S. Eliot called the ‘timeless moments’ connecting us to both past and present.”       source

Ryan T. Anderson on the conservative vision of social justice

MIT Climate Scientist Dr. Richard Lindzen: Believing CO2 controls the climate ‘is pretty close to believing in magic

New Yorker profile: “Rod Dreher’s Monastic Vision

Why are our children so bored at school, cannot wait, get easily frustrated and have no real friends?

The Tech Industry’s War on Kids: How psychology is being used as a weapon against children

Thread: “Social justice attitudes…infecting areas of life/society affecting everyday people”

Who Are the Rich, White Men Institutionalizing Transgender Ideology?


“Identity politics cannot be understood apart from the preceding and concomitant social fact of family implosion. The year before the Combahee document’s publication—1976—was a watershed of a sort. The out-of-wedlock birth rate for black Americans tipped over the 50-percent mark (the 1965 Moynihan Report worried over a rate half as high). This rate has kept climbing and exceeded 70 percent in 2016. At the same time, other measures indicating the splintering of the nuclear and extended family expanded too. By 2012, Millennial women—who were then under the age of 30—exhibited for the first time the out-of-wedlock birth rate of black women in 1976: i.e., more than 50 percent. Millennials, of course, are the demographic backbone of identity politics.

“And the out-of-wedlock birth rate is just one measure of the unprecedented disruption of the family over the last half-century-plus. Consider, just in passing, the impact of abortion. In 2008, the Guttmacher Institute reported that 61 percent of women terminating pregnancies were already mothers of at least one child. Many children—and many grown children—have been deprived of potential siblings via pregnancy termination.

“Abortion, like single motherhood, is only one engine of a phenomenon that has come to characterize more and more American lives during the past half-century: what might be called the ‘family, interrupted.’ Many post-sexual revolutionary people now pass through life vaguely aware of family members who could have been but aren’t—whether via parental disruption in childhood or the long string of exes now typical in Western mating or abortion or childlessness by choice or other romantic and sexual habits that did not exist en masse until after the 1960s.

“Many of us now live in patterns of serial monogamy, for instance, in which one partner is followed by another. When children occur, this means a consistently shifting set of family members to whom one is sometimes biologically related and sometimes not: stepfathers, half-siblings, ‘uncles,’ and ‘cousins.’ As couples form and un-form, finding new partners and shedding old ones, these relations morph with them. The result for many people is the addition and subtraction of ‘family’ members on a scale that was unimaginable until reliable contraception for women—the FDA approved the first oral contraceptive in 1960—and the legalizing of abortion. Together they made the de-institutionalization of traditional marriage and family possible.”

* * *

“The result of all these shifting and swirling selves is that many people no longer know what almost all of humanity once knew, including in the great swath of history that was otherwise nastier, more brutish, and shorter than ours: a reliable circle of faces, many biologically related to oneself, present during early and adolescent life. That continuity helped to make possible the plank-by-plank construction of identity as son or daughter, cousin or grandfather, mother or aunt, and the rest of what’s called, tellingly, the family tree.”  –Mary Eberstadt, “The Primal Scream of Identity Politics

2017: The Year Reheated

2018: The Year Reheated





Excellent essay about our need for better resources for greater Biblical literacy in the LDS Church

Elder Holland Explains the Inexplicable Joy We Can Find in Belonging to the Church

An Experiment Upon the Word: A BYU advertising team finds that the best tool for changing perceptions about the Book of Mormon is the Book of Mormon.

Poem: “Creed,” by Maryann Corbett

Grace is not a Mormon heresy, LDS leaders and scholars say after doctrinal ‘climate change’

Ministering the Ordinances of Exaltation to Individuals and Families

How to Read the Bible: Slowly, and Sport with the Words

The Book of Mormon Gets the Literary Treatment

BoMC: Take Your Scripture Study to the Next Level

5 Things to Know Before Studying the Old Testament

“I, for one, would feel to walk on hot lava and chew broken glass,” he said, “if I could find a document, any document anywhere, containing any new words of Christ — 50 words, 20 words, one new word from the Son of God — let alone hundreds of pages that record the appearance, teachings, covenants and counsel he gave to a heretofore unknown audience.”  –Jeffrey R. Holland







gaechter and welch

Robert Pack Painting of Paul Gaechter and Jack Welch in Innsbruck in 1968


40 For 40 Progress Report 10/12

I finished five more goals in the last month. I now have two months left to do the final nine. All of them have progress made–most of them are mostly done–and I feel good about completing all 40 before November 2.

27. REVISED: Eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day for 40 days. This may well be the hardest one so far, and I gave myself far more leeway than usual. On an average day, I was really only getting about three servings, but I was doing my best and decided it was good enough. I felt like I was okay to check this one off because I resolved to keep working on it daily, and here I am a month later, still getting as many fruits and veggies as I can each day. Good habits are what I’m shooting for with most of these, anyway. It makes a big difference.

28. No sugary treats for 40 days. Following the lesson I’ve learned that abstinence goals work better in conjunction with replacement goals, I did this one at the same time as the one above about plant food. Much easier than I thought it would be! …perhaps because I let myself have soda as a cheat, and I greatly increased my salt intake. Still. This is surely the only time in my adult life I’ve gone a month without chocolate. Now, I can moderate my diet with much more awareness than I had before.

29. Eat at 40 new places. This is was such a great goal! I discovered so many fantastic new taco places, and have actually bonded with several new students this year by talking about it. I started by wanting to branch out into new foods, but I discovered that there was a whole deeper level of Mexican food that I had never tried. This project was delicious. What a great idea. I’ve posted updates a few times, but I’ll share the rest of the notes soon.

30. Watch 40 great films with my children. I started this one with an eye towards what I had done with my older children–Citizen Kane and such–but mostly I ended up showing them better stuff in areas they liked, just a little more mature than what they were already watching. It was a great start to sharing my passion for film. I originally understood this goal as meaning “grown up classics, not silly kid stuff,” but several of the films we watched were children’s classics, and it was time well spent. I think each kid found some quality new stuff for us to chew on. So, mission accomplished.

31. Listen to 40 works by Haydn. I decided to listen to the top 40 entries on a ranking of his symphonies, and to listen to each one twice. I’ll post the list with notes tomorrow. It was a great, deep experience with music. Honestly, I feel a bit wiped out after it. That was a lot of masterpieces to cram in one right after another. But, hey, #yolo, right?


Whatever Happened To Eric Coyle?

This spring marks 20 years since UNLV student Eric Coyle made national news when he took 64 credits in one semester, graduating with five degrees at once. I heard about it as I was a sophomore there at the time, and it made a big impression. I’ve told his story to many classes over the years, for motivation and perspective, but they always want a follow up that I can’t give–try as I might, I’ve never found anything else about him anywhere online.

The news reports at the time said that he’d be going to Georgetown for law school, but after that he basically disappears from public record. A Google search for “Eric Coyle lawyer” doesn’t bring up anything useful, and social media doesn’t provide any solid returns at all. His is a fantastic story, and I hope the last two decades have seen great joy and success for him, but I wish he’d pop up somewhere with an update. Eric, dude, where are you?

Best of the Internet: January-March 2017

Highlights of my online reading and viewing so far this year:


All-Female Orchestra From Afghanistan Is A Force For Change

I love the clip of them practicing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” in that story above; more of it can be heard in this video below:




In the above concert, watch the blistering 2-minute solo from 1:07:05 to 1:09:05


On the epidemic of unprepared college students:

“Our schools create a fog when it comes to academic preparation for college success. Concerned more with inclusiveness, validation, and graduation than with college preparedness, administrators encourage teachers to, for instance, consider pupil effort in their grading, and push students to take advanced courses for which they have the ambition but not the readiness. Those in charge have their reasons, which mostly turn out to safeguard the interests of adults and their institutions, even as they wreak havoc with the next generation. None of this is acknowledged, however, save by a handful of would-be illuminators, for the education system has generally persuaded itself that this fog is better for kids than clarity would be.

“And the colleges themselves are complicit in this fraud, often for similar reasons. They admit students who they know are not adequately prepared to take on credit-bearing courses, and then require them to complete remedial classes to catch up. Most students who are required to take these ‘developmental’ courses never make it to classes that earn credit, and in time they leave school with nothing but debt and disillusion.

The always amazing Anthony Esolen on how politics is ruining literature, education, and culture itself in schools:

If a young person comes to believe that education is to be valued as preparation for political action—if his English teachers choose novels not for their beauty and their insight into the human condition, but for their usefulness in advancing a political cause; if his history teachers encourage not that forbearance that tends to forgive the faults of those who have come before us or who lived under conditions whereof we have no experience, but rather an easy and self-confident judgment of their moral darkness because they were not like us in all things; if his art teachers foster contempt for the patient and heart-breaking quest for precision, and substitute for it indulgence in what is supposedly “edgy” but is merely tiresome and politically tendentious—then I fear that he will be, strictly speaking, ineducable, a monolith of manufactured stolidity….

You are discussing with another student Augustine’s tribute to his mother, Monica. It may be the first literary tribute to an ordinary woman—not a queen, not an object of erotic desire—in the history of the world. The student is upset. She has been taught that the lot of women from time immemorial was simply and unrelievedly oppressive, and she is disappointed to find something that does not fit the political template….

A student tells you that he is weary of learning about American culture in school. You say that you do not actually believe that his teachers have imparted much of that culture to him, or of what used to be a culture. You are thinking of the seaside observations of Winslow Homer and the plaintive love songs of Stephen Foster and the startling progressions of John Coltrane. You are thinking of Pickett and his men making their desperate charge at Gettysburg. You hear the plain and honest blank verse rhythms of Robert Frost: “I can’t think Si ever hurt anyone,” says the farmer of the hired man who has come back like a stray dog and who has, unbeknownst to him, just breathed his last. You are thinking of Protestants singing “Nearer, My God, to Thee” in four-part harmony; of John Greenleaf Whittier whistling along a country walk, and George Washington Carver patiently grinding peanut skins in a pestle. Henry Adams, John Ford, Herman Melville, Billy Sunday, Billie Holliday—how much of what is quintessentially American has he really encountered? But before you can ask a question probing more deeply into culture, he rolls his eyes and shuts the conversation down. Such is the certainty that the correct political position confers.

[I’ve had similar Kafka-esque experiences. It’s all too sad. Read the whole thing!]

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Literacy Victories!

One of the best things I get to be part of as a teacher is introducing young people to great books they love. Granted, 99% of what I do in this department falls on deaf ears, but those glorious moments of success–few and far between though they are–really do make it all worth it.

Here are a few recent ones:

Last semester for a book project, one girl chose to read The Handmaid’s Tale from a list of options I gave. She loved it and, when they all had to do presentations on their books, she was overjoyed to learn that it’s being made into a series on Hulu.

Cormac McCarthy is always a safe bet. I often recommend his books to students, and they tend to love him. So many kids read his various books last semester that some classes had spontaneous compare/contrast discussions where they picked up on stylistic and thematic trends across his works. They did this on their own.

Earlier this month I had classes take notes on a documentary about Moby Dick. At the end of class when they turned their notes in, one girl was so excited about it that she had already put the ebook on her phone and said that she’d start reading it that weekend. This wasn’t assigned–she just wanted to read Moby Dick on her own. For fun.

Nationalist Entitlement

A headline at Breitbart this week says, “Danes Should Not Become The Minority In Denmark.” A resolution just passed in their parliament to that effect. The article contains some predictably anti-immigrant sentiment.

So I looked up the birth rate in Denmark. It’s 1.7. Remember, 2.1 is considered steady, to keep the next generation the same size as the current population. Denmark has been below 2.1 since 1968. That’s nearly half a century.

I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to preserve “their” people–though to make it an issue of “us vs. them” is needlessly odious–since the loss of any ethnicity is tragic, but it bugs me when people say they want to preserve their culture…without ever doing what’s necessary to save that culture.

Nobody has a right to automatic cultural conservation. There’s hard work involved, and history teaches us exactly what that hard work is. It starts with creating a next generation. You can’t transmit your culture to children you didn’t have.

So don’t be surprised when others come in and that culture changes. Nature abhors a vacuum. Neither Denmark nor any society in a similar situation has a right to complain.

Notes and Quotes: December 2016

My online reading since last May in a nutshell. Note: Apologies and thanks to the fantastic Prufrock daily newsletter, which I’ve enjoyed for years now, and from which much of this content is taken. I can’t recommend subscribing to it highly enough!

*Arts & Entertainment*

“We made this guy listen to all 104 Haydn symphonies and put them in order of greatness”

The problem with contemporary art is that unlike modernism it “‘isn’t even contemptuous of old standards—it is wholly indifferent to them . . . . Sincerity, formal rigor and cohesion, the quest for truth, the sacred and the transcendental—none of these is on the radar among the artists and critics who rule the contemporary scene.’ Instead, Identitarians are obsessed with ‘a set of all-purpose formulas about race, gender, class, and sexuality on the one hand and power and privilege on the other.’”

J. M. W. Turner was ambitious and talented. He was also difficult: “A barber’s son, he rose through the class-bound ranks of late 18th- and early 19th-century Britain to become the nation’s most celebrated and controversial painter. And yet he ended life in scandal, living with a secret mistress under the assumed identity of a sea captain.”

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Shared Universes

Sometimes I wonder if very different stories might inhabit the same shared universe. It’s stylish now to pontificate about the wonders of a “Whedon-verse,” where all the films of Joss Whedon happen in the same fictional universe, or ditto for the movies of some other director, or the books of some writer…but what about different kinds of stories, ones that have nothing at all in common? Just imagine them happening at various times and places in the same world–no crossover, just independent living.

Bambi and A Walk to Remember and Blade Runner could all exist in the same world, in that chronological order–the talking animal fantasy could occur, and then decades later the romantic tragedy, and then decades later that same world could be a science-fiction dystopia. Why not? Or The Evil Dead and Fatal Attraction and Honey I Shrunk The Kids at more or less the same time. The world’s a great big crazy place.

Of course, not all universes are compatible. You can’t have a global apocalypse coexisting with a fluffy rom-com. No War of the Worlds happening with The 40-Year-Old Virgin in the same 2005. It’s not reasonable to suppose that the latter happened without any reference to the former, if they were occurring together.

Star Wars would be just fine paired with almost anything. Whether “a long time ago” refers to the time of Braveheart or to the time of Spartacus or to the time of The Flintstones, Earth could have gone about its merry little way as the Rebellion stood up to the Empire in a galaxy far, far away.

Try to challenge your imagination and figure out the most extreme set of seemingly disparate stories that could actually inhabit the same fictional universe. They’re incongruous, but not mutually exclusive. What do you come up with?


Notes and Quotes, July 2016

As always, these are things that have caught my eye and stuck with me over the last few months.


What are the most rock and roll sounding classical pieces?

Shakespeare in Art

The 40 Most Intriguing Musicians of 2016




Advice For the Untenured Conservative Humanist: Some good advice and examples here

6 Famous Documentaries That Were Shockingly Full of Crap



The Onion: College Encourages Lively Exchange Of Idea: Students, Faculty Invited To Freely Express Single Viewpoint

Are You Planning A Cake Hoax? These 5 Tips Will Make Sure It’s A Success



Aeneid book VI translated by Seamus Heaney

The history of English can be explained in five words

The Burning Ladder: a poem by Dana Gioia

The Secret History of One Hundred Years of Solitude



Photographs of 1870s London

10 Incredible Hikes Under 5 Miles Everyone In Nevada Should Take

30 Most Colorful Cities Around the World

North Las Vegas jogging routes

46 photos of life at a Japanese internment camp, taken by Ansel Adams

The 25 Golden Rules of Running

Interview with The Iron Cowboy

Abe Blair Photography

I really want to stay at the Wild Rose Inn in Genoa, Nevada

A Patriotic Wish,” by Edgar A. Guest

32 Legitimate Ways to Make Money at Home

Donna Torres photography of Yellowstone

Alessio Andreani photography

The Top 10 Best “Top 10 Best Lists of 2015” of 2015



I reflected at the lack of big families now and the derision that many people have for tight-knit families in general. Our society is now a culture of drifters who move place to place who seek solace in their hipster lifestyle and sense of social justice. Their sense of outrage is often a substitute for family or religion or both. There is less sense of community and human compassion for individuals now.

–Dr. Helen, “Love” — read the whole thing!

Jeannie Suk on transgender bathrooms

The Road to Serfdom in cartoons

Move over LGBTQ, the new acronym is LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM (No, this is not a joke)

The Culture War In One Graph: good discussion of values

And then there’s leftist religions.

Like a zealot or religious fanatic, leftist fanatics worship and use their made-up religions to fill the hole of nothingness that is otherwise known as their life.  This is why you NEVER see the captain of the football team with a 3.8GPA join the “anarchist/marxist/minarchist” trench-coat wearing, movie-theater-shooting, nerd crowd.  Or the studious Asian engineering major block the interstate near campus.  They have lives.  They have meaning.  They have purpose.  They have agency.  They have value to the rest of society.

But again, those things require work, effort, rigor, math, and intellectual honesty.

Ergo, why do all that hard stuff when you can just claim a religion?

You’re a feminist!
You’re going green!
You eat only organic/non-GMO/gluten-free/whateverthefrickthey’llcomeupwithnextweek!
You’re fighting racism!
You’re helping the poor!
You’re a pacifist!
You have a ADDHDHHDH Autism or Aspergers are bi-polar or whatever you want to tell yourself. 

You can claim allegiance to any one of an increasing number of bogus leftist religions and simply wear that trait on your sleeve like a badge of honor.  And the best thing about it, so AWESOME in fact that leftists masturbate to it, is…

you didn’t have to expend one calorie of energy on work to get it.  You simply “declared” you had this trait or believed this religion.  And now, not only does your worthless life have faux-worth.  You are a more intelligent, superior person to those troglodytes who don’t understand “intersectionality.”

–Captain Capitalism, “Traits Are No Substitute For Accomplishments” — read the whole thing! (And read Ed Driscoll’s expansion of the same)


Let’s play the ‘blame Israel game’ with The New York Times

It’s dangerous and wrong to tell all children they’re ‘gender fluid

I was a transgender woman

When I recently asked a class of undergraduates at Oglethorpe University if any of them thought there were “no meaningful differences between men and women,” two female students raised their hands. When I pointed to the obvious reproductive differences between males and females, which give young women the unique ability to conceive and bear children, they looked at me as if I had committed an act of hurtful bigotry.

–“The Problem with Gender Studies



L. Tom Perry, “A Meaningful Celebration

Christianity is a religion of losers. To the weak and humble, it offers a stripped and humiliated Lord. To those without reason for optimism, it holds up the cross as a sign of hope. To anyone who does not win at life, it promises that whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake shall find it. At its center stands a truth that we are prone to forget. There are people who cannot be made into winners, no matter how positive their thinking. They need something more paradoxical and cruciform.

First Things

Reprioritizing Our Life toward Choosing the One Thing Necessary and the Better Part

To The Mom Who Is Exhausted, Depressed, and Completely Overwhelmed…5 Lessons from the Prophet Elijah

We Need to Gather to Zion Culturally

Defending the Faith: ‘From Darkness unto Light’ takes a fresh look at recovery, publication of the Book of Mormon

The Fake Flanders Bible

By1mwXIIMAAvSBeIt’s been more than 20 years since the episode of The Simpsons aired where Bart and Lisa have to play Bible Bombardment with the Flanders family, leading an exasperated Ned to demand of the Simpson children, “Don’t you know anything? The Serpent of Rehoboam? The Well of Zohassadar? The Bridal Feast of Beth Chadruharazzeb?”

I don’t recognize any of those references, so I finally decided to look them up, and…nothing. I can’t find them in the Bible anywhere. Clearly, Ned Flanders is such a serious scholar that he knows about secret parts of the text that the rest of us can’t find.

*sigh* This is even more disappointing than when I saw Pulp Fiction and went home to look up Ezekiel 25:17. Alas, it’s not even close to the real thing.

R.I.P. Trump

The word, of course, not the celebrity. It’s become appallingly clear that we can no longer use the verb “trump” literally, as in “My evidence trumps yours,” because of the taint associated with the name now. A sad loss. It was a great word.

I don’t expect it to be resurrected any time soon. Several years later, I still can’t refer to that darkening period at the end of the day–“twilight”–without students giggling. And don’t even try to address an issue by suggesting that it has “shades of gray.”