Wednesday, September 27, 2006

MEP: Calendars and exhibits

It's that time again:

The leaves are just starting to turn. The night air is cool enough for a sweater. And the summer reading racks in your local Borders are being replaced by scores and scores of calendars.

Of course there is always a trade off involved with buying a calendar: do I buy a pretty one? Do I buy a practical one? Vain as I am, I usually end up buying a pretty one, and hoping I remember when and where I have to be.

Luckily, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is always inventing news ways to bring art into everyday life, has designed THE BEST WALL CALENDAR EVER. I reapet: BEST...EVER.

It has ample room for the comings and goings of each person in the family. And each month we're greeted by a new design of the Met's on collection. Even with only two people at my house, we'll be so much better off with this!

As long as I am at it, the MET also has some outstanding exhibits coming up:
*Set in Stone: The Face in Medieval Sculpture. September 26, 2006*February 19, 2007
*Cezanne to Picasso: Ambrose Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde. September 14, 2006*January 7, 2007
*Children's Book Illustrations. October 17, 2006-January 7, 2007.
*Americans in Paris, 1860-1900. October 24, 2006-January 28, 2007.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Civic Literacy

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute has published their findings in their Civic Literacy report. Below are the findings per school. You can take a sample quiz yourself!

(ps. Hooray for Grove City College!)

A Report of the National Civic Literacy Board: The Coming Crisis in Citizenship
RankCollege Learning Added or Subtracted

1Rhodes College +11.6%
2Colorado State University 10.9
3Calvin College 9.5
4Grove City College 9.4
5University of Colorado, Boulder 8.9
6Spring Arbor University 8.3
7University of New Mexico 8.2
8University of Mobile 7.5
9Florida Memorial University 6.8
10Central Connecticut State University 5.0
11George Mason University 5.0
12Youngstown State University 4.9
13North Carolina Central University 4.8
14Utah State University 4.5
15Lynchburg College 4.0
16Catholic University of America 3.2
17University of Massachusetts, Boston 3.0
18Princeton University 2.8
19Eastern Kentucky University 2.7
20Baylor University 2.6
21West Texas A&M University 2.5
22University of South Alabama 2.0
23University of Texas, Austin 2.0
24Wheaton College 1.9
25Harvard University 1.9
26University of Washington 1.8
27Appalachian State University 1.7
28University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 1.6
29Capital University 1.3
30American University 1.0
31Stanford University 0.9
32University of West Florida 0.7
33Washington & Lee University 0.2
34Dartmouth College 0.1
35University of Michigan -0.1
36Ithaca College -0.2
37University of Chicago -0.3
38Massachusetts Institute of Technology -0.4
39Williams College -0.7
40University of Florida -0.8
41Wofford College -0.9
42University of Virginia -1.1
43Georgetown University -1.2
44Yale University -1.5
45State University of West Georgia -2.0
46Duke University -2.3
47Brown University -2.7
48Cornell University -3.3
49University of California, Berkeley -5.6
50Johns Hopkins University -7.3

Source: National Center for Education Statistics's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

Who Is Noam Chomsky?

Someone who should have stuck to syntax.


Noam Chomsky's popularity owes little or nothing to the eminent place that he occupies in the world of ideas. That place was won many years ago in the science of linguistics, and no expert in the subject would, I think, dispute Prof. Chomsky's title to it.

He swept away at a stroke the attempts of Ferdinand de Saussure and his followers to identify meaning through the surface structure of signs, as well as the belief, once prevalent among animal ethologists, that language could be acquired by making piecemeal connections between symbols and things. He argued that language is an all-or-nothing affair, that we are equipped by evolution with the categories needed to acquire it, and that these categories govern the "deep structure" of our discourse, no matter what language we learn. Sentences emerge by the repeated operations of a "transformational grammar" that translates deep structure into surface sequences: As a result, all of us are able to understand indefinitely many sentences, just as soon as we have acquired the basic linguistic competence. Language skills are essentially creative, and the infinite reach of our understanding also betokens an infinite reach in what we can mean.

Although some of those ideas had been foreseen by the pioneers of modern logic, Prof. Chomsky develops them with an imaginative flair that is entirely his own. He has the true scientist's ability to translate abstract theory into concrete observation, and to discover intellectual problems where others see only ordinary facts. "Has," I say, but perhaps "had" would be more accurate. For Prof. Chomsky long ago cast off his academic gown and donned the mantle of the prophet. For several decades now he has been devoting his energies to denouncing his native country, usually before packed halls of fans who couldn't care a fig about the theory of syntax. And many of his public appearances are in America: the only country in the whole world that rewards those who denounce it with the honors and opportunities that make denouncing it into a rewarding way of life. It is proof of Prof. Chomsky's success that his diatribes are distributed by his American publishers around the world, so as to end up in the hands of America's critics everywhere--Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez included.

To his supporters Noam Chomsky is a brave and outspoken champion of the oppressed against a corrupt and criminal political class. But to his opponents he is a self-important ranter whose one-sided vision of politics is chosen for its ability to shine a spotlight on himself. And it is surely undeniable that his habit of excusing or passing over the faults of America's enemies, in order to pin all crime on his native country, suggests that he has invested more in his posture of accusation than he has invested in the truth.

To describe this posture as "adolescent" is perhaps unfair: After all, there are plenty of quite grown-up people who believe that American foreign policy since World War II has been founded on a mistaken conception of America's role in the world. And it is true that we all make mistakes--so that Prof. Chomsky's erstwhile support for regimes that no one could endorse in retrospect, like that of Pol Pot, is no proof of wickedness. But then the mistakes of American foreign policy are no proof of wickedness either.

This is important. For it is his ability to excite not just contempt for American foreign policy but a lively sense that it is guided by some kind of criminal conspiracy that provides the motive for Prof. Chomsky's unceasing diatribes and the explanation of his influence. The world is full of people who wish to think ill of America. And most of them would like to be Americans. The Middle East seethes with such people, and Prof. Chomsky appeals directly to their envious emotions, as well as to the resentments of leaders like President Chavez who cannot abide the sight of a freedom that they haven't the faintest idea how to produce or the least real desire to emulate.

Success breeds resentment, and resentment that has no safety valve becomes a desire to destroy. The proof of that was offered on 9/11 and by just about every utterance that has emerged from the Islamists since. But Americans don't want to believe it. They trust others to take the kind of pleasure in American success that they, in turn, take in the success of others. But this pleasure in others' success, which is the great virtue of America, is not to be witnessed in those who denounce her. They hate America not for her faults, but for her virtues, which cast a humiliating light on those who cannot adapt to the modern world or take advantage of its achievements.

Prof. Chomsky is an intelligent man. Not everything he says by way of criticizing his country is wrong. However, he is not valued for his truths but for his rage, which stokes the rage of his admirers. He feeds the self-righteousness of America's enemies, who feed the self-righteousness of Prof. Chomsky. And in the ensuing blaze everything is sacrificed, including the constructive criticism that America so much needs, and that America--unlike its enemies, Prof. Chomsky included--is prepared to listen to.

Mr. Scruton, a British writer and philosopher, is the author of "Gentle Regrets" (Continuum).

Monday, September 25, 2006


This is a textile magazine. Now for those of you who at the very mention of textiles don't get all hot and bothered, I should say that it is really about what's happening in art today. And the reason that you should be interested is they express reasonable responses to art.

"As I get more and more steeped in the quilt and patchwork world, and spend time viewing thousands of contemporary pieces, I get more entrenched than ever in my passion for traditional designs. I don't dislike many contemporary quilts, I just find myself at a loss in front of many pieces where you need to read a label full of information before you can appreciate it. Call me old-fashioned but I want a quilt to be so sensitively or passionately coloured that I am moved by the work before having it explained."
-- Kaffe Fassett

Is the tide changing in the art world? This comment prompted me to think that perhaps there is. The cynicism and sarcasm and exclusive wit that most contemporary art expresses was bound to get tiresome... perhaps this turning back to old forms will excite new artists to really create an art for our time. Is a 21st Century Renaissance beginning?

Bible Exhibit Reminder

This is just a reminder about the Freer/Sackler Bible exhibit coming soon! They also have a free two day symposium on the subject, October 20 & 21, for which you can now sign up online.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Get Junk Food Out of America's Schools

CW sent me the newsletter for the Parents Against Junk Food:

Join Parents Against Junk Food and we'll send you (if you wish to receive it) a free newsletter with recipe makeovers (see Mac & Cheese recipe below), quick weeknight recipes, and fun, kid-friendly recipes such as Wacky Cake (included below in this email). Plus, you'll get tips, shortcuts, tasting results and equipment testing recommendations from America's Test Kitchen. Just click on the website address to join.

I am not sure what I really think about this, since I don't really think that we need more instances of government regulation. However, since the school cafeterias are already a part of the public school system, perhaps it would be a better idea to have some sort of regulations. I'll miss those old sloppy joes though!

Holy Mountain Teas

CC emailed:

Here's a fun one- Display teas...we saw them on a travel show on China--they weave tea leaves together so that when you put them in hot water they open up like a flower...they're very pretty & a neat display for when you have guests. I recommend snow Lotus, Peach Blossom Green, and Budding Flower

Splendid Items for Traditional Homes

I know that I have already posted on great places to get amazing wallpapers and other type items... but I couldn't pass this one up:

Charles Rupert's Shop
is a great place for reproduction William Morris wallpapers, etc.

MEP: Trodgor: Protecting Babies since 2002

Perhaps some of the adults who read this blog won't appreciate the power of the web-cartoon website HomestarRunner. Suffice it to say that the weekly Strong Bad Email could have an entire college campus laughing within the course of a few hours. This is not to mention the brilliant teenage satire Teen Girl Squad. I know Issue #3 could be quoted in its entirety by every girl on my campus.

But HomestarRunner's shining moment came with the creation of TROGDOR, the Burninator. So imagine our jubilation to find that HomestarRunner now has baby clothes dedicated to Trogdor himself. Let the Burninating begin!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Victorian Web

The Victorian Web is one of my favorite websites. The articles included are of varrying quality, but all are interesting. Best of all though, it is a great resource for pulling everything together to create a comprehensive picture of the time period. (And for all of you in the book club, there are some interesting articles on Possession).

On why you should be interested in the Victorians!:

or much of this century the term Victorian, which literally describes things and events in the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), conveyed connotations of "prudish," "repressed," and "old fashioned." Although such associations have some basis in fact, they do not adequately indicate the nature of this complex, paradoxical age that was a second English Renaissance. Like Elizabethan England, Victorian England saw great expansion of wealth, power, and culture. (What Victorian literary form do you think parallels Elizabethan drama in terms of both popularity and literary achievement?)

In science and technology, the Victorians invented the modern idea of invention -- the notion that one can create solutions to problems, that man can create new means of bettering himself and his environment.

In religion, the Victorians experienced a great age of doubt, the first that called into question institutional Christianity on such a large scale. In literature and the other arts, the Victorians attempted to combine Romantic emphases upon self, emotion, and imagination with Neoclassical ones upon the public role of art and a corollary responsibility of the artist.

In ideology, politics, and society, the Victorians created astonishing innovation and change: democracy, feminism, unionization of workers, socialism, Marxism, and other modern movements took form. In fact, this age of Darwin, Marx, and Freud appears to be not only the first that experienced modern problems but also the first that attempted modern solutions. Victorian, in other words, can be taken to mean parent of the modern -- and like most powerful parents, it provoked a powerful reaction against itself.

The Victorian age was not one, not single, simple, or unified, only in part because Victoria's reign lasted so long that it comprised several periods. Above all, it was an age of paradox and power. The Catholicism of the Oxford Movement, the Evangelical movement, the spread of the Broad Church, and the rise of Utilitarianism, socialism, Darwinism, and scientific Agnosticism, were all in their own ways characteristically Victorian; as were the prophetic writings of Carlyle and Ruskin, the criticism of Arnold, and the empirical prose of Darwin and Huxley; as were the fantasy of George MacDonald and the realism of George Eliot and George Bernard Shaw.

More than anything else what makes Victorians Victorian is their sense of social responsibility, a basic attitude that obviously differentiates them from their immediate predecessors, the Romantics. Tennyson might go to Spain to help the insurgents, as Byron had gone to Greece and Wordsworth to France; but Tennyson also urged the necessity of educating "the poor man before making him our master." Matthew Arnold might say at mid-century that

the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain.

but he refused to reprint his poem "Empedocles on Etna," in which the Greek philosopher throws himself into the volcano, because it set a bad example; and he criticized an Anglican bishop who pointed out mathematical inconsistencies in the Bible not on the grounds that he was wrong, but that for a bishop to point these things out to the general public was irresponsible.

Landow, George P. "Victorian and Victorianism." The Victorian Web. September 14, 2006.


"Put Your Personal Trainer in Your Pocket"

This is a new line of downloads available on iTunes. You can choose your workout program--there are 10 to choose from, including iStretch and iTread!

What we'va all been waiting for: The iCrib™ is a compact crib sound system that lets you choose the music that soothes your baby to sleep - because some kids are a little bit country, and others a little bit of rock 'n roll. (Also, there are free Mozart downloads available on the site).

Now I am just waiting for one for my RockStar stroller... :)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

If you haven't yet discovered this site--GO! It is the best online resource I have explored for finding new and good recipes. You can search by ingredient, occassion, and fork rating. You can even start your own recipe card index online, or print them out in three convenient sizes to however you store your recipes in the kitchen. The Guinness chocolate cake is amazing!

Daily Candy

My sister-in-law turned me on the Daily Candy. With Daily Candy, one receives a

Free Daily E-mail

The ultimate insider’s guide to what’s hot, new, and undiscovered.

They have editions for all the major cities in the US. You receive tips on what's going on in your area, new restaurants to check out, and deals. They even have a kids edition (for those of you with kids). It's an email I never get tired of receiving... partly because of the cute watercolors in each of them.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Address labels

Felix Doolittle carries the classiest address labels I have seen (too bad they are priced as such!).

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Great Prints!

A few years back, I bought some great post cards in MN. I loved them and have them hanging in the entrance to my attic lair. Miss Maggie P. saw them and got me some in CA! (Thank you ever so much, by the way). They inspired me to look up who this cool man is who makes these simple prints.

The origianls are expensive-ish. But I'm glad that they make post cards of them for the rest of us to enjoy. Check out his site.