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Showing posts from September 11, 2011

Keep Moving -- Writer's Poke #319

The lucky ones feel a deep sense of belonging. They know why they’re here, and that sense of belonging and purpose informs how they live their lives.

This doesn’t always happen all at once, this feeling of belonging, but it can develop over time. It can take root, and it can blossom.

Do you know why you’re here, or are you simply going through the motions for the time being? Perhaps “for the time being” has been going on for quite a while? Even going through the motions can be a positive kinetic experience. Every day at the gym, I see dozens of people working hard, going nowhere. These are the treadmill enthusiasts. Me, I prefer doing my walking on a real track, but whether or not walking around in a big circle is superior to walking in place is debatable.

The point is to keep moving. Don’t stagnate. Don’t allow yourself to die a little bit more inside each day. We all have the power within us to achieve greatness. This isn’t a cliché. Reaching one’s potential is achieving greatness.…

Knowledge with(out) Interest -- Writer's Poke #318

The 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress indicated that only 13% of American high school seniors achieved “solid academic progress in American history.” I would assume that there is a simple explanation for this. Students don’t read history books, they don’t take history classes, and the culture doesn’t reinforce the value of knowing historical information.
Did you take history classes in high school? I took two full years of history classes, but I was the exception. Some of us took history during the summer, but a lot of the people in that class simply wanted to complete in six weeks what would normally take a full academic year to sleep through otherwise. In other words, some just wanted to “get it over with.” When I took Modern and Medieval History during the regular year, almost everyone in there was simply looking for a place to hide. All of my friends were in Honors and Advanced Placement classes, and these History classes were filler classes, at best – a way to make …

Babbitt's Awakening -- Writer's Poke #317

Joseph Campbell is one of my personal heroes. This week, I stole some time to re-watch his amazing interview series with Bill Moyers, and I was reminded that many people live a life of excuses.

Campbell mentioned the ending to Babbitt, the classic novel by Minnesota author Sinclair Lewis. Babbitt's son tells him that he doesn't want to continue college; instead, he wants to drop out and work in a factory. To this, Babbitt responds: "I've never done a single thing I've wanted to in my whole life! .... But I do get a kind of sneaking pleasure out of the fact that you knew what you wanted to do and did it.... I'll back you. Take your factory job, if you want to. Don't be scared of the family.... Nor of yourself, the way I've been. Go ahead, old man! The world is yours!"

Babbitt supports his son's decision, even if it's one that society might not understand. In terms of Campbell, his son is "following his bliss." It might seem weird…

Blindness -- Writer's Poke #316

Prior to 9/11, water-boarding had long been described as “torture” in The New York Times. After 9/11, however, when the U.S. started using this “intensive interrogation technique” against “persons of interest,” the paper dropped the word “torture” from its description. For some reason, The New York Times determined that it was appropriate to describe how suspects were being interrogated by CIA agents, but that it was not appropriate to call such methods “torture.” Why?


This might seem like a small example, but what’s really at issue here is a form of censorship. Whether or not the paper still accurately describes the process of water-boarding, the fact remains that its decision to no longer label it as “torture” is significant.

It’s not unusual for The New York Times to be attacked as part of the “liberal media,” so why wouldn’t an organ of the liberal media want to continue using the word “torture” if doing so would make the Bush administration, the administration that had approved…

Girl Power! -- Writer's Poke #315

Part of me just wants to say “Girl Power!” but another part of me wants to say, “Why are we being asked to condone the promotion of junk food for the brain?”


In Sady Doyle’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fangs: The Unwarranted Backlash Against Fans of the World’s Most Popular Vampire-Romance,” focus for one moment on the key word in the subtitle: “unwarranted.”

For something that is “unwarranted,” Doyle certainly does spend quite a bit of time showing why the backlash may be warranted. In truth, she cannot defend the Twilight series. All she can do is defend the girls that like the series. She is probably right that it’s not fair to attack the fans themselves, but defenders of culture shouldn’t have to do that. Tearing down the books is easy enough to do, and the books are poorly written. Simple. And Doyle admits as much.

At the same time, she claims “they speak to a legitimate need.” That may be true, but what exactly is this “legitimate need,” and should we simply accept Twilight because…