Friday, October 26

Ah. Finally, a bit of peace. Just a few things to share before I go to The Corrections for a while.

Speaking of Harry Potter, apparently, the movie is clocking in at about two-and-a-half hours, and some are fretting that it can't possibly hold a child's attention at that length. Whose children are they talking about? The kids who've sat all but motionless for hours, reading all four books in the series, over and over? Those kids? Nah. As the article I've linked mentions, Harry Potter fans would be far more irritated with a shorter film that leaves out the cool stuff they're looking forward to seeing on the screen. They'll only be bored if the movie's boring.

Maybe smallpox wouldn't be such an absolute nightmare scenario as we think, according to this article in Slate. (Hate the redesign, by the way.) Some evidence indicates that the immunity given by the vaccine can last up to fifty years, and experience has shown that aggressive vaccination once the disease pops up can stem an epidemic.

Tommorow, Michael and I are giving presentations at our parish's Spiritfest, a day-long adult education event. He's speaking on Discernment of Spirits, while I'm speaking on Answering Teens' Tough Faith Questions. He's threatening to do his in the voice of Billy Bob Thornton as Carl from Sling Blade. Mustard and biscuits anyone?

Figured the whole Halloween/All Saints' costumes dilemma. We found a pattern in which the same dress could serve as the basis for both costumes, so maybe the Nightmare Weekend of Sewing won't be so bad, after all.

According to Michael, Prove It: Church is #2 on the Catholic Booksellers' Association bestseller list of books for children and youth. For next month. Don't quite know how that works, but I guess I'm proud anyway.

One thing I'm not looking forward to this fall is yet one more round of the Harry Potter Wars, undoubtedly on the way as sure as the movie is about a month from release. After three years of this, I find my patience with PotterPhobia just about at its end. No, we don't want kids getting into Wicca or the occult, but Harry Potter is not about that. They are certainly not the greatest children's books written, either (the fourth one, in particular was at least 250 pages too long, in great need of editing), but they're not harmful. Magic in these books is a metaphor. It's a metaphor for personal power and the Potter books are about a group of children's (especially Harry's) discovery of how to use that power - for good or for evil.

I've not a great deal of hope in the film, though considering that it's directed by Chris Columbus, he of Home Alone fame. We'll see.

For a good defense of Harry Potter, especially in these post 9/11 days, see this article in the weekend's National Review Online. For a rather unusual endorsement of the Harry Potter books - from a magazine associated with Opus Dei, go to this article from last year.

Perhaps one of the slightly positive unintended consequences of this war will be the universities of this country revealed for what they are: massive wastes of money.

Mind you, I say this as a University Brat myself, being the daughter of a retired professor who taught at several public universities. We know of what we speak.

Over the past weeks, those watching for stupid statements (National Review Online in their "Kumbaya Watch", The New Republic in their "Idiocy Watch", among others) have never failed to include at least one deeply fatuous statement from an academic, a phenomenon which should make all parents of college-age students sit up and righteously wonder, "And I'm paying this guy's salary?"

It's not news, of course, to anyone who's been paying attention to higher education since the sixties knows. A couple of articles today add to the mix: In NRO, a piece on racial preferences in college admissions, which includes the following frightening data from a survey of Illinois residents:

. "What should a student gain from college?" That was the question put to residents in a recent survey, highlighted in a report written by the Committee on Access and Diversity of the state's Board of Higher Education and adopted two months ago by the full board.

At the very bottom of the eight answers ranked was "Exposure to Great Writers and Thinkers." Next to last was "Responsibilities of Citizenship." These were the only two that most residents did not think were "absolutely essential." Indeed, half thought they were not essential at all, and 14 percent and 9 percent, respectively, said that they were in fact "not too important."

The top two vote getters were "Sense of Maturity and How to Manage on Their Own" and "Ability to Get Along with People Different from Themselves." Only 2 percent viewed these as "not too important," and 71 percent and 68 percent, respectively, called them "absolutely essential."

There's another article on the different responses to the war in secular and religious universities in The Wall Street Journal. The latter piece is interesting, but doesn't really represent the reality which it indicates - the "religious colleges" the author cites are Bob Jones, Southern Virginia (small Mormon school), Brigham Young, and Ave Maria (a relatively new, very small Catholic liberal arts and law school in Michigan). I'm sure that if you went to Notre Dame or even Baylor or any other large, more mainstream religiously-affiliated university, you'd find your share of hand-wringing about root causes and jingoism.

Will be getting some work done today: I hope. One more Living Faith devotion, then maybe some work on the interminable book proposals I'm constantly toying with. If I could just get them done, I could get the money, and I'd feel much better. So why can't I get them done?

Today's distraction will be Katie, , home from school at noon. (parent- teacher conferences this afternoon.) I suppose we'll use the time to go get the costumes she needs for next week together. A disadvantage of Catholic schools: two costumes for the Halloween/All Saints nexus. Unless your child really wants to be St. Catherine or St. Dominic for Halloween, and who can blame them if they don't? She's going to be Kateri Tekakwitha for All Saints (a city-wide Catholic school celebration at the Cathedral), and wants to be some sort of Egyptian princess for Halloween. The first will be easier to do that the second.

I'll also try to make more progress on The Corrections which, after a good start, has struck a rough patch, although the nature of the patch has given me a good starting point for criticism - a character is getting interested in a scheme to fool with the "hard-wiring" of the brain in the interest of better mental health for humanity (and himself, probably)....Walker Percy, anyone? Think Love in the Ruins, but without the wit and (so far) without the soul.

Someday, I'll post new articles to the main page. Someday. I have several book reviews and columns I'd like to get up there - maybe next week. I guess I'm getting spoiled by this blogger stuff - no html, no graphics to find - just vent, rant and type. Way too easy!


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