Friday, March 20, 2009

WORDS HURT

My current light bed-time fare is Alberto Manguel's rather fun historical romp The Library at Night. He re-reminded me of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's 2003 comment to a writer of an anti-Harry Potter book (Herr R. currently occupies a post a tiny step up from cardinal n the hierarchy of the Catholic Church) :
"It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly."
First point: the Harry Potter series deal with magic, or so it is claimed. The idea that magic exists and works is not just "opposed" to the Christian faith, it is also opposed -- more directly so, I would venture -- to the idea of science. Yet I don't think I've heard any academic or engineer or researcher exclaim, a propos these books: "Those are subtle seductions and by this deeply distort the sense of logic and the thirst for experimentation in the mind, before it can grow properly." I kinda think we scientists simply assume that the young mind outgrows childish stuff and that by the time the prefrontal cortex kicks in comfortably, said mind turns its sense of wonder to the natural world, and applies thought to it. And neatly shelves HP as neat and wondrous entertainment.

Put differently: If the very foundations of your worldview can be shaken by mere words and thought (and therefore you have to ban such words and thought), maybe you should reconsider those very foundations. (Or at least give 'm some thought. He-he.)

Second point: unthinking Holocaust denial, dear Herr-Mister-Pontiff-Sir: Not as vile, dangerous, and distorting as Harry Potter, it seems, hm?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ON THE BEAUTY OF LANGUAGE (2)


Yesterday, George W. Bush gave his first post-presidency speech (you apparently had to pay more than 3,000$ for the privilige). In Calgary, that hotbed of, uh, uh, that center of, uh, uh, that wellspring of whatchamacallit. Right: petroleum industry!

The big news is: Bush is going to write his memoirs. Here is a press account:

Bush said that he doesn't know what he will do in the long term but that he will write a book that will ask people to consider what they would do if they had to protect the United States as president.

He said it will be fun to write and that "it's going to be (about) the 12 toughest decisions I had to make."

"I'm going to put people in my place, so when the history of this administration is written at least there's an authoritarian voice saying exactly what happened," Bush said.

Did you catch that? An authoritarian voice.

And then we cog psych types claim the Freudian slip is dead.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ON THE BEAUTY OF LANGUAGE

Today, in the aptly named Pharr, Texas, a man used a drive-through bank lane to stick up the Lone Star National Bank.

Me, I got stuck at the semantic implications and phonological resonance of the AP headline: "Bank drive-thru hold-up".


A drive-through hold-up! If that ain't cowboy poetics, I don't know what is.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

PV PODCAST

Jewish Book Week (shout-out to the wonderful and amazing Geraldine D'Amico!) has their 2009 audio/video clips up.

Are they freakishly fast, or what?

You could listen to the clever and alert Boyd Tonkin interviewing clueless and winding me, if you must, by clicking here.