Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cult of personality

On a few occasions lately, it has come to light that school children are being led in singing the praises of our President.

Lots of people find this deeply creepy. We always would consider it a hallmark of authoritarian places that they would have billboard sized posters of their leaders in public places. In the West the leaders were often in military uniform, in the East they would go for the more bland look. East is East and West is West & etc.

As if to answer the concerns, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, trotted-out footage of school kids singing some kind of pro-President Bush song. On a very superficial level this would seem to indicate that we live in a big country and you are bound to find pretty much every conceivable thing taking place. Hence, the songs for Obama mean precisely nothing. Not so fast!

I never got the impression President Bush wanted to be worshiped and I didn't see much evidence that many on the left thought that either. Plus, given that the education, entertainment and news media are almost monolithically to the left of center, it is not realistic to think any Republican could achieve cult of personality status, even if they wanted to.

Another question occurs to me: Why wasn't video of children singing the praises of GWB seen before now? That is, why is it only shown now and only as a counterpoint to the Obama videos? Obviously, because it didn't say anything "interesting" back when Bush was President. A huge number of things happen and they can't all be on the news. Nobody worried about a Bush cult of personality back then or it would have been in the news for the purpose of bolstering that meme. Why else put it on? It might seem odd that schools dominated by Democratic teachers would allow/lead students in a pro-Bush song, so there is a whole man-bites-dog angle but I suppose nobody thought of it till now...

Does consistency count for anything?

Taking on a major new constitutional dispute over gun rights, the Supreme Court agreed on Wednesday to decide whether to apply the Second Amendment to state, county, and city government laws.

It never made sense to me that the 1st has long been incorporated while the 2nd hasn't. The first amendment is written in a more limiting way: "Congress shall make no law..." while the 2nd is more general: "...the right of the people..." The first would seem to be a limit on what Congress can do while the 2nd is indicating a right that all the people should have.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I can't help but work word puzzles

Last Thursday my wife and I went to the Byam elementary school's open house. In the first room I noted a white board with lists of homophones. It was easy to think of ones that were not already listed, so that seemed too easy: I needed to think of one that was not listed and had not just two, but three spellings. The obvious ones like (to, too and two) and (there, their and they're) were already there. I came up with pour, pore and poor. Just now I came up with meet, meat and mete. My wife just came up with pair, pare and pear.

In the younger daughter's class the teacher was talking about the pattern: a_e where a consonant goes into the blank spot and creates a long a sound. The kids would group words by whether they make the long a, a short a or something else. "Make" would be long a, "have" would be short a and so on. Mentally, I decided that it would be interesting to find words that were only three letters long and satisfied the rules: "Axe"--short a, "Ale"--long a, there are lots of three letter ones so coming up with these two on the spot is looking less and less impressive.

Things you learn as a kid and then re-learn when you have them

I was handed a Slinky which was doing a pretty good impression of a knotted-up ball of wire. It took me about 10 minutes to figure out methods that would resolve tangles in a helix and then another 10 to straighten-out the whole thing.

As soon as I was done, I realized how much a waste of time it was: The thing is so deformed now that I doubt any play can be had from this toy. Unless you count the puzzle game called, "tangle-up the slinky and then figure out how to untangle it".

A lazy sunday--or how meta is this?

A while back my wife and I saw, probably on PBS, a show called The Natural History of the Chicken. We found it very entertaining and affecting in a way too. Now this weekend I read a story in The New Yorker by Susan Orlean which was inspired by the same show and where she writes about getting chickens.

Now I am writing about that and sort of halfway considering getting some,- point of lay hens. It is probably a bad idea since we have coyotes, foxes, raccoons, hawks, owls and our own little dog--all of whom would love to eat or at least chase chickens.

On the plus side, it would give me a lot of material for blogging.