31 octubre 2008

Happy Reformation Day!

thought one: Luther, the movie (2003)

i like movies about how i like politics... not very, hardly at all, but every now and then, i'm pleasantly surprised.

i liked Luther. not sure how it fared critically, but i enjoyed it. a lot. of course, low expectations are my key to a happy life, but i think this movie did alright, [and by "alright," i mean "alriiight"] even without expecting the worst. for the medium, a lot of it felt really real, if that makes any sense...

i felt the faith was presented well, although they did not detail the theology behind Luther's conversion, which was, um, kind of important. i wasn't fond of the chick, who was very much 21st century and very much not nun-ish. the film producers could have done a lot with a marriage like that, but with their depiction, fortunately Katharina was just an aside.

there were some words and scenes a little much for kids under 13, [well, of my ilk, at least] but i'd recommend it for anybody else. as in, it's one of five or so movies that i would recommend, ever.

the film contained some witty stuff, historic events/quotes better than fiction could come up with, Luther's Worms speech is off the cadena forever and always (amen), and the truth that the movie speaks of [in particular, the sermons] are strong. his prayers in the cell...

thought two: Meet the Luthers

Luther, on marriage:

before: "...my mind is averse to wedlock because I daily expect the death of a heretic." ~1524

after: "Catharina, my dear rib ... is, thanks to God, gentle, obedient, compliant in all things, beyond my hopes. I would not exchange my poverty for the wealth of Croesus." ~1526

[for some reason, that just makes me smug. i'm smirking right now, even. because, you see, i so appreciate marriage in theory, and the difficulty and burden that it seems to be more often than not disillusions me. so happy marriages make me smirk. blessed be God. ]

segun wiki, Luther called her "my Lord Katie." she and he lived in a former monestary called "the Black Cloister," a wedding gift, where she farmed and ran a brewery when she wasn't caring for the sick at the on-site hospital. (she woke up @ 4 a.m.)

Her deathbed quote? "I will stick to Christ as a burr [sticks] to cloth."

thought three: "Here I Stand" Diet of Worms, 1521

"[Dr. Ecken:] . . . Do you wish to defend the books which are recognized as your work? Or to retract anything contained in them?"

. . .

"Luther then replied: 'Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted [convinced] of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted [convinced] by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God's word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us.

On this I take my stand. I can do no other.

God help me.

Amen.' "

doesn't get any better: Martin Luther. Tr. Frederick Henry Hedge (1483–1546)

A MIGHTY fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper he, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.

For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great;
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,—
Were not the right man on our side,
The man of God’s own choosing.

Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he,
Lord Sabaoth his name,
From age to age the same,
And he must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us;
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.

The prince of darkness grim,—
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,—
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers—
No thanks to them—abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through him who with us sideth.

Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,

His kingdom is forever.


29 octubre 2008

language and words

thought one: if you can't express what you know, to others you don't know it.

along with taking plane rides, learning a language is good for perspective. for the full impact, during the early stages of learning, one really needs to go to another country and practice that language. see the natives' condescending smiles. shield your ears from their raised voices. ask them to repeat more slowly. misspeak. stutter. have awkward moments. point and make hand motions. smile because you're clueless and you don't have anything else to do. you don't know what they're talking about. you can't express yourself even if you did know what they were talking about. if they talk at above a kindegarten level, you're lost... miss out on their jokes. wonder what they're laughing about. get frustrated...

...because, you see, no one knows how intelligent you are when you sound like an slightly handicapped 3 year old.

then go back home and be empathetic.

thought two: appropriating language

what is the process for internalizing language? truly appropriating concepts [vocabulary acquisiton] and not just trying to sound smart... owning a word. i noticed that in Spanish, a good deal of the language i've acquired comes not by making little sentence diagrams in my head but by rattling off word phrases that feel like they "fit" in the context of what i'm saying. i sometimes pause to panic, "was that even a word? it sure feels like a word..."

thought three: on vulgarities and word power

A very nice young lady i have the pleasure of knowing dropped a word or two the other day that took me aback. They weren't obsceneties; they were just so... perplexing.

Language is power. If using a dirty word can bring more power to the good and more happiness to God, by all means, spit it. But vulgarity for the sole purpose of distinguishing yourself from all the quaint, cautious, easily- scandalized souls about you, is so... self-conscious. juvenile. the preceeding pause or the resolution with which certain individuals disgrace their language frustrates me. if you notice yourself cussing, you don't need to be cussing. why be self-conscious and juvenile? why not be reserved? what's wrong with being discreet? gracious? subtle? ironic?

actually, 'twould be wise for us all to avoid all language we can't "back up" within us- be it high-falutin' words or catch-phrase descriptions. it's hard to filter, though... sweet it would be to be real with what i say. to be simple. to speak truth, unforgettably. not to cheapen my tongue with nothingness, pretension, perspectiveless complaining, or unsubstantiated opinions...

thought another: Josh and "yet"

I have a friend who's 15 years old and gets excited about reading The Economist. He explained the whole gas price hike to me a couple of months ago in three simple points. [1. demand 2. taxes by importing countries 3. i don't remember but i promise it has entered the mesh of my economic understanding.] He's going places.

But I remember one time, someone dropped a term he didn't know. His reply killed me:

"I'm sorry, I don't know that word yet."

that "yet." goood heavens. THAT is the attitude that kids ought to have. carambas... everybody ought to have. how to inculcate?

thought the last: to have smart kids:

~ converse together.

~ don't solve their problems for them, but let them see you solve yours

~ explain stuff.

~ be socratic while doing so.

~ be observant. listen to their observations

~ shoot, blow up, or smash your t.v.

~ don't buy toys.

~ outlaw the word "bored" and all derivatives thereof.

~ give them detailed tasks.

~ emphasize the implicit... don't spell everything out.

~ teach manners (will cause greater awareness of surroundings and implicit messages)

~ have them memorize things of great, although perhaps unknown value. it'll stick just as well as absurdities can. " 'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear" v. "The wheels on the bus go..."

~ read to them. a lot. they can understand a much higher level of oral language than they could handle reading on their own. read poetry. prayers. the Bible. Have you ever met someone who thinks in Scripture?! That's cool.

hey, i wonder if this'll work if i try it on me... detailed task: finish writing. go to next tab. do not switch to another until finished with the contents therein. go to third. do likewise. all the way down to tab nine. then place cursor on small white x on the square red button on the top left hand corner. click once. alt-F4 works similarly. key in ctrl + alt + del.

oh, wait, that's not being implicit...

21 octubre 2008

IQ, intelligence, and taxes

formatted by bold print! italics! (parentheses!) links! enlarged text! and "thought" breaks to belie the many, many words contained therein...

thought one: reflections on a 1st grade IQ test

so i "monitored" for a 1st grade IQ test today. [it was the oral vocabulary and verbal reasoning portions.] there was a row of 4 simple images with a small answer bubble underneath each one. the teacher read a description (once) and the student had to bubble in the right answer.

as i was walking around noting those small gray bubbles so often in the WRONG places, i was struck by two things.

firstly, if you have been learning Inglish since K-5 and you are now in 1st grade, you have a hard time matching descriptions to simple images. some kids would repeat (quietly) what the teacher had just said in a charmingly native accent, but there was no synapsis connecting the words to the right answer bubble.

secondly, propositionally, IQ tests (like the one i observed anyhow) don't measure intelligence, they measure knowledge. [i'll define terms in a second.] you could be a smart cookie among smart cookies, but if you have never heard the words "edge," "furry," or "mane" before, your little pencil lead has only a 25% chance of finding that one and only right bubble.

this is public school, so all munchkins present should have gotten the same school exposure. the test was not cumulative, which would have assessed how much they had "gotten" from the curriculum. the only "difference" between the kids would be brute smarts and vocabulary from home. "brute smarts" were sometimes inaccessible due to language (or better put, were limited to word familiarity) narrowing down the difference almost entirely to just how many of the given words were put into them from their home.

basically, the test i observed this morning (verbal reasoning) measured not the kid's capacity for reason or learning or problem solving, but instead assessed the amount of vocabulary the child's parents had exposed him to. is that all intelligence is? input (and modeling of interaction) from family in the early years of your life?

can you be intelligent despite your family? (i wouldn't know.)

which leads me now to wonder... what exactly is intelligence? pure memory and speed of connection? where does critical thinking come from? asking a question because what is given is not enough... does not satisfy what you want to know. how do you know what you're supposed to want to know?

are knowledge and intelligence the same thing?

thought two: lets get some wiki.

per la Wikipedia, intelligence "encompasses many related abilities, such as the capacities to reason, to plan, to solve problems, to think abstractly, to comprehend ideas, to use language, and to learn." there are "multiple intelligences" theories, a big concept in education that i'm not getting into at the moment, and there is also, more historically, the concept of "general intelligence." the Darwinist Francis Galton thought it to be a biological thing that could be measured by "reaction times to certain cognitive tasks."

[hence the famous middle school put-down, "you slow, man, you real slow..."]

the "intelligence quotient" idea comes from the Frenchman, Alfred Binet, who believed (as far as i can tell from a line in wikipedia) that intelligence wasn't a "thing" but an average of "numerous dissimilar abilities."

"Intelligence comes from the Latin verb "intellegere", which means "to understand". By this rationale, intelligence (as understanding) is arguably different from being "smart" (able to adapt to one's environment), or being "clever" (able to creatively adapt)."


QUOTE TIME (from American Psychological Association, 1995):

"Individuals differ from one another in their ability to understand complex
ideas, to adapt effectively to the environment, to learn from experience, to
engage in various forms of reasoning, to overcome obstacles by taking thought.

Although these individual differences can be substantial, they are never
entirely consistent
: a given person’s intellectual performance will vary on
different occasions, in different domains, as judged by different criteria.
Concepts of "intelligence" are attempts to clarify and organize this complex set
of phenomena. Although considerable clarity has been achieved in some areas, no
such conceptualization has yet answered all the important questions
and none commands universal assent. Indeed, when two dozen prominent theorists were recently asked to define intelligence, they gave two dozen somewhat different

[oh. well, that helps me somewhat, i guess.]

i will return to this... but first, a break for pseudo-ADD activity... known professionally as "multi-tasking."

thought three: Joe the Plumber

".... Mr. Obama's statement to Joe the Plumber, that some people should pay higher taxes, not because they need to shoulder a fair share of the burden for building things that contribute to the common good (although, as it's been pointed out in many places, the lower forty percent of tax filers are paying no federal income tax at all), but simply because some people in power believe that it would be a good thing merely to take money from Joe and give it to Ed.

Joe, in their august determination, has money to spare, and Ed would like some of it. At which point one wonders, morally, what the difference is, if Ed simply decided to cut out the middleman, to spare the taxpayers all the red tape, and maybe even to save Joe a little money too, by robbing him outright of, let's say, half of the money that the revenooers would have taken from Joe (while skimming their take from the top, for the laborer is worthy of his hire)."

[huh. but that's what redistribution of wealth tries to avoid, right, the cruelness of leaving the element to desperate measures?]

17 octubre 2008

"the only one to get us out of this mess is the One who put us here."

Thought one:

"How could I forget my son's name?! Alderberon!" – Bracy, a blood relative, age 6

Thought two:
"Irony disappears when revolutionary politics triumph.

The possibilities of truly fundamental change and the writer's conviction that he might contribute to it tend toward humorlessness. Moreover, the writer is inclined to regard himself as part of his age and its movements, denying the speculative distance that earlier writers believed they had attained." Touchstone, August 2008

[i could really get in trouble here for lack of citation. i'll add it ASAP, but me gots to write!]

the problem I have with multiculturalism is that it takes itself so seriously and culture so sacredly. if I think aspects of my culture are retarded or reprobate or inflated, i'm going to either criticize it, laugh at it, and do my best to FIX it. why would i suspend my rights to analysis and duty to evaluation when looking at YOUR culture, even if you have better music than we do?

Thought three:mornings are great for writing, terrible for reading

thought last:

kids are good for the ego...
~ they love your personhood! you are finally inimitable!
~ they view your physical appearance by your smile, the way you treat them, and how much candy proceeds from your hands to theirs.
~ unless they have older siblings, sarcasm (until grade 4 or 5) is rare. (in me evaluation, less sarcasm = more respect.) after that, kids can be trained out of sarcasm (with you, at least) if you consistantly take them seriously, joke without cynicism, and are affectionate. thusly lured into security, they will say and do some of the sweetest things you can imagine. (" 'ey, Miz Hernandez... you want the rest of my hot Cheetoes? i don't want anymore."

... and because humility is also good for the ego...

they tell the truth!!!
~ "I'm your beauty hair dresser. and you are going to make me retire!!! your hair is tooooo long. you neeeeed to cut it. it's too nappy!!!"

~ "you don't write very well in Spanish, do you? my mom said so..."

kids... they're inimitable.